Category Archives: Music

Transformations

The magnificent and difficult Lou Reed died in October of 2013. I was enough of a fan that I had to take a little time to grieve him, but not enough of a fan that  I’d been listening to his records regularly at that time. We’d played the occasional Velvet Underground track on my radio show in the few years previous to his death but his solo work had been out of my personal rotation for a long, long time.

At the time, I believed that I idolized David Bowie — his charm, his eccentricities, his beauty, his style and grace — and that Lou Reed was a laughable junkie poseur, dismissed by Burroughs as a tourist and never quite as interesting as he thought he was.

Reed’s death, however, unearthed the memories I had of listening to Transformer in high school, reveling in the junkie cynicism that turned the Bowie-produced glam-pop album into something more challenging, more honest, and more hateful than Ziggy Stardust or T. Rex could manage at the time.

I started to compulsively listen to Transformer again, cutting in a variety of other Reed work (even chunks of Metal Machine Music), and I felt myself recognizing my (perhaps unwelcome) affinity to Reed as an artist and as a person. I was not capable of the ethereal, sexy, compelling artifice of Bowie — I was stuck with the sharp, sour, and sometimes self-sabotaging inability to be anyone but myself.

As I remembered high school, I also remembered mix tapes, and I had an idea that was so luxuriously unnecessary I had to start it immediately.

I would sequence a set of eleven mixes, each built around the sound and themes of a song on Transformer. Each mix would contain eleven songs, and the instigating Lou Reed song would take the same slot in the mix as it does on Transformer. I had rules for the mixes: 1) I wouldn’t repeat any artist besides Lou Reed; 2) each mix would work as a loop, i.e. its last song would be an appropriate lead-in for the first song; and 3) the last song of each mix would flow into the first song of the next mix, i.e. the first song in the “Andy’s Chest” mix would be an aesthetically appropriate follow-up to the last song in the “Vicious” mix.

If I put all these together, it would make a 121-song mix, in which you could find the eleven tracks from Transformer in order. I called the project TRANSFORMATIONS, and I thought of it as the record Transformer, interpolated. I was finding what Transformer meant to me, what stories were hid in the songs, what feelings it aroused, and what tones and moods I heard in the arrangements.

I’ll post them all on this site, one at a time, and link to each here as I go.

Transformer Track Listing:

Side one

  1. “Vicious” mix
  2. “Andy’s Chest” mix
  3. “Perfect Day” mix
  4. “Hangin’ ‘Round”
  5. “Walk on the Wild Side”

Side two

  1. “Make Up”
  2. “Satellite of Love”
  3. “Wagon Wheel”
  4. “New York Telephone Conversation”
  5. “I’m So Free”
  6. “Goodnight Ladies”

Thursday Jazz Shift

I do a Just Jazz shift on WREK Atlanta (91.1FM or streaming at WREK.org) from 9am to 11am. This week, I played only artists I had not heard before:

Francois Carrier / Alexey Lapin / Michel Lambert, off Inner Spire, “Inner Spire”

Carlo De Rosa’s Cross-Fade, off Brain Dance, “Brain Dance”

Ceccato Christie Golinski, off gnash, “Gowpen”

The Claudia Quintet + 1 featuring Theo Bleckmann, off What is the Beautiful?, “Beautiful You Are”

Arrigo Cappelletti – Giulo Martino Quartet, off Mysterious, “Waves”

Faruq Z. Bey w/ Northwoods Improvisers, off Primal Waters, “Talon”

Cactus Truck, off Brand New For China!, “Search and Restore”

John Benrdt, off New Logic For Old Saxophones, “The Alloy of Summer and Mind”

Kris Davis, off Massive Threads, “Dancing Marlins”

Cactus Truck, off Brand New For China!, “La La La La Labia Time!”

Ensemble 5, off The Summary of 4, “Layers”

The Emergency String (X)tet Meet Rent Romus, off Emergency Rental, “6th Street”

Michael Bisio, off Travel Music, “Zephyr Revisited”

Steve Coleman and Five Elements, off The Mancy of Sound, “Air-Iwori”

Chris Taylor, off Nocturnal, “Voices In My Head”

The Clarke-Boland Sextet, off Swing im Bahnhof, “Invitation”

Adam Rudolph’s Moving Pictures, off Both/And, “Interiors”

Berthet, Vonlanthen, Bondi, off Silo, “Chimere”

Actis Dato Quartet, off Sin Fronteras, “Fela”

Harrison Bankhead Sextet, off Morning Sun Harvest Moon, “East Village”

Thursday Jazz Shift

This summer, on Thursdays at 9am, I do a two-hour jazz shift on WREK Atlanta. Here’s yesterday’s playlist with a few annotations and links to the bands.

Matana Roberts, off Coin Coin Chapter 1: Les Gens de Couler Libres, “Kersalia” (I started my last shift with Ms Roberts — whoops!)

Ken Aldcroft’s Convergence Ensemble, off Saskatoon Bassment 207, “X Marks the Spot”

Anat Cohen, off Poetica, “La Chanson Des Vieux Amants”

Blink, off Epidemic of Ideas, “Secret Weapon: Part II”

Brains, off Gristle and Skins, “Periscii” (someone called in to ask why I was playing this and why anyone would listen to it)

Dead Cat Bounce, off Chance Episodes, “Salon Sound Journal”

Cecil Taylor & Tony Oxley, off Ailanthus / Altissima – Bilateral Dimensions of 2 Root Songs, “Ailanthus”

Bann, off As You Like, “Will Call”

Ask the Oracle, off Ask the Oracle, “Curse of the Horns”

Red Holloway, off Go Red Go!, “Go Red Go”

Charles Gayle Trio, off Streets, “Doxology”

Rent Romus’ Life’s Blood, off Truth Teller, “Sydämestäni rakastan” (I always play Rent Romus — I might need to cool it)

Keith Jarrett / Gary Peacock / Jack DeJohnette, off Somewhere, “Stars Fell on Alabama”

New York Art Quartet, off Old Stuff, “Kvintus T”

Planet D Nonet, off We Travel the Spaceways: The Music of Sun Ra, “Love in Outer Space”

John Surman, off Flashpoint: NDR Jazz Workshop – April ’69, “Gratuliere”

Thursday Jazz Shift

This summer, on Thursdays at 9am, I do a two-hour jazz shift on WREK Atlanta. Here’s last week’s playlist (wow, time passed quickly! I missed this week’s shift) with a few annotations and links to the bands.

Matana Roberts, off Coin Coin Chapter 1: Les Gens de Couler Libres, “Libation for Mr. Brown: Bid em in…” (holy shit this record is good)

Rent Romus’ Lords of Outland, off Thee Unhip, “Get Hit”

Antonio Carlos Jobim, off Tide, “Tema Jazz – Master Take In Full” (by request)

Charles Lloyd Quartet, off Mirror, “Monk’s Mood”

Matthew Shipp and Sabir Mateen, off SAMA, “SAMA Seven”

John Carter and Bobby Bradford, off Tandem, “And She Speaks”

Ornette Coleman, off Broken Shadows, “Happy House” (by request)

Don Cherry, off Where Is Brookyln?, “Awake Nu” (because of the Ornette Coleman)

Preservation Hall Jazz Band, off That’s It!, “Come With Me”

Art Bailey Trio, off Quiet as a Bone, “O My Swineherd”

Hugh Ragin, off Revelation, “Next Time”

Andrea Buffa, off 30 Years Island, “Transizione (Scilla e Cariddi)”

Ivo Perelman / Gerry Hemingway, off The Apple in the Dark, “Lispector”

The Microscopic Septet, off Friday the 13th: The Micros Play Monk, “Epistrophy”

Charles Mingus, off Mingus Ah Um, “Boogie Stop Shuffle”

Go-Go Fightmaster, off Sound 1, “Sound One” (a blast of noise — one of three — that I inserted between each song in my penultimate set)

Damian Nisenson Trio + 3, off En Concert, “Chanson De Q”

Go-Go Fightmaster, off Sound 1, “Sound Two” (a blast of noise — one of three — that I inserted between each song in my penultimate set)

Henry Threadgill Zooid, off This Brings Us To Volume 1, “Mirror mirror the verb”

Go-Go Fightmaster, off Sound 1, “Sound Three” (a blast of noise — one of three — that I inserted between each song in my penultimate set)

Weasel Walter, Mary Halvorson, Peter Evans, off Mechanical Malfunction, “Organ Grinder”

Rent Romus’ Life’s Blood, off Truth Teller, “Infinitism” (I swear there are direct quotes from this song in the song after it)

Snap, off Boggy Creek Bop, “Wolftone” (I swear there are direct quotes from this song in the song before it)

Thursday Jazz Shift

This summer, on Thursdays at 9am, I do a two-hour jazz shift on WREK Atlanta. Here’s today’s playlist with a few annotations and links to the bands.

Albert Ayler, off Nuits De La Fondation Maeght 1970, “Music is the Healing Force of the Universe”

Matana Roberts, off Coin Coin Chapter 1: Les Gens de Couler Libres, “Lulla/Bye” (I adore this album)

Gerald Cleaver, off Be It As I See It, “Charles Street Sunrise”

Soar Trio, off Emergency Management Heist, “Down River #1”

Rent Romus’ Life’s Blood, off Truth Teller, “Q’cee”

Rejuvenation Trio, off Rejuvenation Voyage, “Explosive”

Blink, off the epidemic of ideas, “Secret Weapon: Part 1” (skronky guitar jazz I just can’t resist)

The Clarinet Trio, off 4, “Catwalk Munzstrasse”

Jim Alfredson’s Dirty Fingers, off A Tribute to Big John Patton, “Daddy James”

Keith Jarrett / Gary Peacock / Jack DeJohnette, off Somewhere, “Deep Space / Solar”

Henry Threadgill Zooid, off Tomorrow Sunny / The Revelry, Spp, “A Day Off”

Wes Montgomery, off Echoes of Indiana Avenue, “Darn That Dream”

Nate Najar Trio, off Blues for Night People, “O Pato”

Perelman / Shipp / Bisio / Dickey, off The Edge, “Volcanic” (there is so much Matthew Shipp in regular jazz rotation!)

Red Holloway, off Go Red Go!, St. Thomas (a dancing-in-the-studio track)

Trevor Watts / Veryan Weston, off 5 More Dialogues, “Exchanged Frequencies”

Thursday Jazz Shift

This summer, on Thursdays at 9am, I do a two-hour jazz shift on WREK Atlanta. Here’s today’s playlist with a few annotations and links to the bands.

Snap, off Boggy Creek Bop, “Wolftone” (One of my favorite pieces, ever. I should be careful not to overplay it.)

Arthur Blythe, off The Grip, “The Grip” (Blythe was recommended by Rent Romus in a Twitter exchange.)

Jeff Coffin and Jeff Sipe, off Duet, “Scattering”

The Charles Waters Quartet, off Chroma Colossus – 13 Visions of the City, “City Limits” (Charles Waters was once an Atlantan, and I saw him play as part of the Gold Sparkle Band.)

Go-Go Fightmaster, off Sound 1, “President Ass”

Amir ElSaffar Two Rivers Ensemble, off Inana, “Journey to the Underworld”

The Sirone / Sabir Mateen / Andrew Barker Trio, off Infinite Flowers, “Flowers” (Andrew Barker was once an Atlantan, and I saw him play as part of the Gold Sparkle Band.)

Weasel Walter, Mary Halvorson, Peter Evans, off Mechanical Malfunction, “The Last Monkey On Earth”

Matthew Shipp / Sabir Mateen, off SAMA, “SAMA Six”

Revolutionary Ensemble, off The Psyche, “Hu-man” (features Sirone)

Don Dietrich & Ben Hall, off Spitfire, Side A Track 1 (Rough, rough sax-drums duo)

Dead Cat Bounce, off Chance Episodes, “Salvation & Doubt”

The McCarthy/Young Experience, off Nothing Gold Stays, “Come With Me”

Rent Romus’ Lords of Outland, off Thee Unhip, “The Blind Dead Rise Again”

Charles Gayle Trio, off Streets, “Compassion II” (I had never heard of him before; loved the song.)

Bela Fleck & The Marcus Roberts Trio, off Across The Imaginary Divide, “Across The Imaginary Divide”

Octobop, off Out Of Nowhere, “Cars And Coffee” (I chose this almost randomly because of Jerry Seinfeld’s web series.)

Preservation Hall Jazz Band, off That’s It!, “That’s It!”

The Question Concerning Radiohead

Seth and Lizzy invited me to join them for an episode of SETH AND LIZZY TALK ABOUT MUSIC (which was a blast) and one part of Lizzy’s prep advice was “Think about Radiohead because I want to get you and Seth to argue about it.” I came up with an analogy that I thought would be funny and useful for conversation.

You can hear what I had to say on the podcast but I wanted to write a little more on it and clean it up:

How Quentin Tarantino and Radiohead are alike

1) They each started with two high-quality, personal works that were twists on a specific popular genre: Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Pablo Honey, The Bends.

2) They followed those initial successes with a critically lauded postmodern-pastiche (that I think is a bloated, useless formalist exercise): Jackie Brown, OK Computer.

3) Those triumphs gave them the freedom to start making sprawling, derivative, incoherent spectacles that are progressively more about the artistic process and other people’s work (and yet are adored by fans): e.g. Death Proof, Django Unchained, Kid A, King of Limbs.

And in both cases I wouldn’t care nearly as much as I do if it weren’t for the incredibly high praise they each receive for the formalist exercise (in particular) and the oeuvre (in general), and they each are huge influences on artists I really, really enjoy. Now I’m going to go listen to some TV on the Radio, then watch True Romance.