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by Thomas Hauner

6 Mar 2009

The minimalist folk music of Ida was so ethereal, concentrated, and beautiful at times, it’s as if they had coaxed their sounds from the earth’s elements—air, for the bellows of various sound-boxes and the music’s lightness; fire, igniting and electrifying Dan Littleton’s guitar; earth, procuring their instruments’ bodies; and water, the common solvent, generating a lyrical flow. No other sources would be sufficiently raw or beautiful.

The intimate setting of Joe’s Pub was ideal to listen to Ida’s delicate harmonies and sentimental melodies. Though a time-constrained set, the group—consisting of Littleton, singers Elizabeth Mitchell and Karla Schickele, violinist Jean Cook, and percussionist Ruth Keating—relished the venue’s sensitive acoustics and the crowd’s attentiveness. 

Their first song didn’t start so much as emerge. Littleton and Mitchell played complimentary rolling patterns on mini hand-held xylophones, and as they ebbed and flowed together they slowly added harmonies, singing, “I have not been here before.”

The somber lucidity of Mitchell’s vocals were arresting and soothing at the same time.  And when paired with Littleton’s parallel intonations, or the entire band’s gentle backing vocals, their sound was sonorous and lush.

Ida sounded equally fragile and sparse too. The majority of their instrumentations and accompaniments began with faint strumming and would eventually swell into all-encompassing droning tones, with the help of Cook’s even-handed violin bowing or Mitchell’s harmonium. Their attention to sonic textures made for really interesting combinations of tones and layered together made Mitchell’s plain but increasingly gorgeous voice float above it all.

Their tactile focus made their song structure become increasingly repetitive, however, and one had to scrutinize the lyrics or melody to find distinctions between numbers.

Littleton added density with electric-guitar cadences on “Late Blues”, creating monstrous distortion and feedback during the chorus and bridge. It was a jarring contrast to the verse’s introspective shell.

The best song of the night used to be about America, we were told, but instead had simply become another Dolly Parton cover, “The Pain of Loving You.” The treat was that they ditched their mics and exploited the small room’s acoustics singing a cappella.

Ida’s last song was the closest they’ll “ever come to ‘We Will Rock You’”. They got everyone tapping the song’s simple beat in unison on tables/people, revealing further their elemental nature.


by Jason Gross

6 Mar 2009

As part of her dissertation, Sorcha Lewis at The Arts Institute at Bournemouth interviewed me about “How important is Visual Image to consumption of music.”  Lewis seems like a nice person but the end result is usually that I never hear anything about the paper afterward or if anything I said was used there.  So, just in case I had some interesting to say and that my answers don’t get lost in the virtual ether, here’s what I had to say.

1. What are your views on the level of consumption of music in our modern day society?

There’s plenty of consumption going on.  The problem for artists and labels is that the consumer market is shrinking so that more and more people are accessing music for free.

2. In your experience, do you feel that the use of visual images in the music industry has little or a large effect on the consumption?

If you mean album covers, since the CD market is shrinking, it has less impact now.  In terms of videos, there’s definitely less influence since MTV’s heyday but it’s still there and will always be to some extent.

3. In terms of the purpose of music films when they first developed in the early 1960’s, do you feel that music video’s as they are now known; have less or more significance to the song that accompanies them?
Music films actually pre-date the early 1960’s.  Duke Ellington and Fats Waller used the form decades before that as did a number of other artists.  Again, because MTV is on the wane (and isn’t known for showing videos) and record labels have less budgets for videos, their influences has definitely declined in the last decade.

4. Do you think that the contemporary pop culture and modern day music industry use sex to sell music?

Yes, but this is a phenomenon that’s been part of the entertainment industry since the 19th century, before the recorded age when bawdy burlesque revues were in vogue (actually, it predates that too but that’s a longer discussion).  And this is something that’s going to be true for generation after generation, in new and different ways as social mores evolve.

5. Do you feel that over the past 40 years, that the different generations value music differently, being that it is less or more important?

Every generation values music in some way as they use it as a touchstone to identify who they are.  The main difference now is that there’s much more available and it’s more easily accessible.  But how are you going to say that teenagers today value music more than their parents or grandparents?  They all do to some degree unless you’re talking about financially, in which case, younger generations now think that ‘free’ is the right ‘price’ for music (which doesn’t mean that they still can’t value music in the aesthetic sense).

6. Lastly, do you feel that we are living in an age of vanity and image is everything? (In relation to the production of music and the images that are use to go with them).

Again, this isn’t a new concept.  You could make a case that the age of the image and obsession with it began when printing presses began and that it’s only proliferated more and more since then as the technology has flourished.

by Sarah Zupko

6 Mar 2009

Eight years ago this week UK acoustic band Turin Brakes released their debut The Optimist LP. We loved the record back then and it still sounds fresh and timely. Devon Powers raved: “Turin Brakes have created a testament to singing and songwriting, and it’s impossible not to believe. The Optimist LP is a treasure chest of sparkly baubles and rare gems, and from top to bottom it is precious and priceless.” The record spawned a rash of videos highlighted below, plus, a live treat at the end of the batch.

Turin Brakes - Underdog (Save Me)

Turin Brakes - Emergency 72

Turin Brakes - Mind Over Money

Turin Brakes - The Door

Turin Brakes - Over & Over and Feeling Oblivion

by Sean Murphy

6 Mar 2009

Ming Xia.

Never heard of her?

You’ve probably had the pleasure of hearing her, via “Things I’ve Seen”, the hit from her band Spooks’ deubt album. But that was almost a decade ago. The follow-up Faster Than You Know didn’t exactly set the world on fire.

Unless she is operating under a different name or I am woefully out of touch (very possible), Ming Xia has been silent. This is unacceptable. The beef some had with her band was that her angelic voice was being wasted alongside second-rate rappers and uninspired music. Not sure I concur, particularly on their first album. But there is no question that within a band or solo, we need more from her.

Danger Mouse: please help her. Help us.

by Mike Deane

6 Mar 2009

Rick Ross has just stepped up the bougie-rap image to a new level.  In the video, Ross is a thoroughbred race-horse owner, dressed in an all-white suit and is sporting big, clear-framed ‘80s-style prescription glasses.  Usually with Ross, there’s some sort of thuggishness thrown in with the upper-class dress code, but in this video he does away with everything street, coming off like some sort of rich New England, nu-bourgeoisie, country club member.  I don’t think horse-racing has ever been approached with such sincerity in any music video.  The song is a nice and smooth, rap slow-jam with Ross’s signature smug, power-brags in full effect.  When he says “My money long / My money strong / If you ain’t getting money that mean you doin’ something wrong,” you’ll question your life choices, maybe.

//Mixed media

Con Brio: The Best New Live Band in America?

// Notes from the Road

"There’s a preciousness to McCarter and the rest of the mostly young band. You want to freeze the moment, to make sure they are taking it all in too. Because it’s going to change.

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