Archive for January, 2011



10
Jan
11

Dave Matthews and Friends (Boston 2003)

I’ve never been one to be obsessed about live concerts about my favorite musicians; often I have made the point not to buy anything live since it seems like a marketing ploy or filler album for the artist; buying them time since to release anything of substance at a later date. 

Recently, and in my old age, I’ve come to appreciate the art of the live concert and what gems they can provide with enlightening the listener with new perpectives and opinions about the artist.  Last month I posted my new discovery of the live music repository Nugs.net and the incredible vast assortment of live material recorded free to the masses; better yet is that the recordings were made directly off the soundboards, so the quality is near perfect!

This might be where my disdain for live shows may have root; the quality.  Back in high school the only live recordings you could get of shows were either the ones the artist released or some bootleg recording made with a hand held tape recorder (yes, I’m that old!).  I recall one trip to NYC in the West Village there was actaully a store (I think on MacDougall) that sold bootleg concert tapes; I think I picked up some random Rush and Van Halen shows and dreaded my purchase all the way home; that was the first and last time I invested in live material.

Yes, there have been the random quality live releases such as Rush’s first live album, 1976’s  “All The Worlds A Stage” and Peter Frampton “Frampton Comes Alive” (but to be honest “Do You Feel Like I Do” and “Show Me The Way” are the only two songs that anyone really remembers, the remainder of the album is not very impressive).  But really I cannot recall any live shows that really were worth the investment long term.  Of course, my new found interest in Phish has changed much of my opinion; Phish’s “A Live One” and “Hampton Comes Alive” are great examples of  incredible live material, but then with technology changing and also Phish taking true “pride in ownership” about their sound, they have redefined why live shows have merit and provide lasting listening pleasure.  The catalog of live Phish that LivePhish.net offers is astounding; and 99.9% is recorded directly off the boards; each show is a quality listening experience.

Although there are many incredible shows available on Nugs.net (I believe a sister site of LivePhish.net), the one I have been listening to non-stop has been the Dave Matthews and Friends show at the FleetCenter in Boston 2003.  Of course having lived in Boston for over a decade, the old Boston Garden has taken on too many names due to greedy corporate sponsorship, I think today it is called the “TD Banknorth Boston Garden North Station Thingy” or something like that, ugh.

The show is a culmination of various artists joining Dave on stage as he released his first solo album entitled Some Devil.  The biggest hit off of this album was “Grave Digger”, but during the concert he plays a plethora of both old and new material; some new solo work and classics from his well known band.  One of the highlights are the songs he plays with longtime friend Tim Reynolds; songs like “Dancing Nancies” and “Typical Situation” are just so well done that you find yourself listening to them over and over.   Matthews is accompanied by the legendary Emmy Lou Harris on songs like “Save Me” and “Oh Sister and the meloncoly sounds of both artists create a tempo that compliments both artists styles.  Trey from Phish accompanies Matthews on classics such as The Bands “Down on Cripple Creek” and Billy Preston’s classic  “Will It Go Round In Circles”.   It is a gem of a show and the sound quality is second to none.

You can download the show for free on Nugs.net (look at the top right of the home page “Free Stash” and scroll down to Dave Matthews and Friends) it is a two-set download and well worth your time, trust me.

We here at HiFi Central are curious on what you think about this show and about Nugs.net; have you found a show that is your favorite?

07
Jan
11

Spike Jonze Music Video Appreciation Post!

For no other reason than to have fun on a Friday, here are some of the best music videos ever made, courtesy of the great video/film director Spike Jonze.

The first is “California” by Wax, and it’s the first Jonze video I remember seeing. I’m not a big fan of the song, but the video is amazing…the end is pure genius.

The next one is very well known – it’s a great song made even better by Jonze’s 70’s cop show video. Unfortunately I could not find a version without an ad before it, sorry:

The next offering is an odd song by tat odd Icelandic nymph Bjork. And who better than to direct a video of an odd song by an odd artist? Spike Jonze of course:

The Pharcyde was a pretty cool group back in the 90’s, and Jonze puts his mark on this video of theirs…backwards!

This last one is more famous for the actor dancing in it than for the song itself. It’s all-around genius at work here:

07
Jan
11

william basinski: the disintegration loops

Entropy is the physical process by which things fall apart. Order merges into chaos. Things decay and die. For those of you unlucky enough to have suffered through a full course in thermodynamics (by far my least favorite part of physics) you find out that it has a firm mathematical foundation in the physical workings of the universe as the Second Law of Thermodynamics. I firmly prefer Isaac Asimov’s treatment of it in his famous short story “The Last Question”. I’ve read this story aloud in my physics, math and astronomy courses as a special treat when the semester is coming to an end, with reactions ranging from awe to utter confusion.

It’s such a simple concept though, that it’s almost second nature to us, from the expected state of affairs in one’s house if you have small children, to the fact that food rots if you leave it out and “let nature take its course”. Perhaps as discussed in Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, we must in some sense be born knowing of our own mortality.

Whatever the philosophy of it may be, it is inevitable that things break, run down, become more randomized. William Basinski has managed to capture this concept of entropy in a unique and utterly effective way. A well-known figure in the field of ambient electronic music, Basinski’s compositions are definitely down-tempo, oozing sublimely usually without a hint of percussion over sedate but stark landscapes.

As the story goes, Basinski was in the process of digitizing some 20-year old tape loops when he noticed that the brittle magnetic coating was starting to flake off. These 5-10 second loops were disintegrating, and with them the music encoded on them started to die. Little by little, bit by bit, the sound would change subtly in an unpredictable and uncontrollable way. A way that could only come from the realm of analog sound reproduction. Basinski decided to capture this process of nature taking its course on the four album set The Disintegration Loops.

Now, a five hour selection of repetitive tape loops breaking down might not seem like something that would hold anybody’s interest for very long. However there is something compelling about it all. The loops themselves have a distantly resonant and solemn quality to them, as if coming from a string orchestra echoed to infinity. Haunting and somber tones ache with a sad beauty, and to hear them fail bit by bit is more than a little heartbreaking. Even if it is easy to restore the loop to its original glory by going back to the beginning of the track, the sense of loss is palpable and one feels powerless to stop the inevitable process, the sinister decay.

Each track falls apart in a different way. Some take much longer than others, stretching their death knells across the better part of an hour. For those with shorter attention spans who want to hear noteworthy changes after only a few iterations, the track “d|p 4″ from Volume III is your best bet. It decays in rapid fashion after about the half way mark 10 minutes in. The last few loops are merely fragments and pops and clicks.

To call it a gimmick seems grossly unfair. This is the universe, nature, doing what it does best: follow the rules built into the very fabric of itself. Is it the music dying, art destroying itself? Perhaps. But Basinski has merely shown us an accelerated version of the fated outcome of everything from magnetic tapes to buildings to people. The unique, almost loving treatment of it, of entropy, is what makes The Disintegration Loops mesmerizing, unforgettable, irresistible.

05
Jan
11

Gerry Rafferty – RIP

Cleary a sad day in music for those of us fortunate enough to have knowledge of music from the 1970’s.  Rafferty is probably best known for the songs “Stuck In The Middle With You” performed by Stealers Wheel, a band of which Rafferty was a founding member, and solo work “Baker Street”; a song that just brings back so many memories growing up in the late seventies and early 80’s.  Much like Al Stewart’s  songs like “Time Passages” and “Year of The Cat”, it evokes a mood that is very hard to create today.

“Stuck In The Middle With You” was a huge  hit  that actually helped define the 70’s sound; it had such a strong Dylanesque sound and style that Dylan (even today) is often wrongly credited with the tune.

The song re-gained popularity in the early 90’s when it was used by director Quentin Tarantino in his cult classic “Resevior Dogs”.

04
Jan
11

A Phishy New Year to You

Phish is legendary for their New Year’s shows, and this year’s may have topped them all. Here’s what went down at Madison Square Garden leading up to 12:00AM, and the celebration thereafter. Enjoy.




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