Show 353: Elephant 6 Revisted, Antibalas Review
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1 A few weeks ago, Jim and Greg reported on singer Amanda Palmer’s landmark success raising over a million dollars for her new album on the crowd-funding website Kickstarter. This week, they talk to Yancey Strickler, one of the founders of Kickstarter. Yancey was working as a rock critic when he and a few friends had the idea for the site. They imagined a modern-day patronage system where fans could help finance new art by pre-paying for projects they liked. The timing couldn’t have been better for musicians. As the major labels have reigned in investment in new talent, Kickstarter has become an increasingly important source of funding for emerging artists. Since it launched in 2009, Kickstarter has funded more than 25,000 projects, including numerous debut albums. But Yancey is quick to point out that million dollar windfalls like Amanda’s are rare: most successful projects on Kickstarter raise around four thousand dollars.
2 The recent death of Olivia Tremor Control co-founder Bill Doss has Jim and Greg thinking about the legacy of the musical collective he was a part of: The Elephant 6 Recording Company. This week, they revisit their conversation about Elephant 6 with the collective’s chief producer, Robert Schneider. For those new to this crazy universe, Elephant 6 was a label started by childhood friends from Ruston, Louisiana. The bands that came out of this group of music-lovers included some of the most beloved of the indie rock nineties: Neutral Milk Hotel, Olivia Tremor Control, and Apples in Stereo. Schneider was the chief songwriter, producer, and lead singer of Apples in Stereo. He explains how he and his friends first heard the psychedelic pop of the Beach Boys, The Beatles, and Pink Floyd hanging around Ruston’s college radio station as kids. The collective’s most important albums, among them The Olivia Tremor Control’s Dusk at Cubist Castle and Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, bear the sonic mark of those early listening sessions.
Greg calls The Olivia Tremor Control the trippiest of the Elephant 6 groups. He and Jim discuss their debut release, Dusk at Cubist Castle, a double album whose subtitle, “Music from an Unrealized Film Script,” points to the music’s psychedelic nature. Greg calls Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel the “soul child” of the collective. Jeff went for a stripped down approach that was moving and easily identifiable for many listeners. This is evident in the band’s 1998 release In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, a concept album about tragedy, and at times, Anne Frank. The longest lasting of all the Elephant 6 acts is Apples in Stereo. In addition to being the collective’s 4-track guru, Schneider was always the “pop craftsman.” In 2007 Apples reformed and put out New Magnetic Wonder, a return to power pop form for the group, and one of their best recordings to date.
3 Next Jim and Greg review Anastasis, the first new record in sixteen years from longtime 4AD band Dead Can Dance. This duo began thirty years ago in Australia. Guitarist Brendan Perry got his start in punk circles, but turned in a more experimental direction after meeting vocalist Lisa Gerrard. Greg says in the eighties, no one sounded quite like Dead Can Dance. The band melded the ancient sounds of Gregorian chant and renaissance music with au courant ambient pop. Since splitting up in 1997, Gerard and Perry have pursued solo careers (Gerard composed the music for Gladiator, but recent brushfires in Australia brought the two together long enough to produce a new album, Anastasis. Are the dead still dancing in 2012? Jim says not nearly enough. He finds Perry’s serious, intoned lyrics laughable and Gerrard’s compositions plodding and overdramatic. He says Trash It. Greg admits to being a Dead Can Dance diehard back in the day, but even he admits the band’s slow tempos on this album aren’t doing them any favors. Not only are Perry’s lyrics annoying, he says, but they don’t seem to have anything to do with Gerrard’s beautiful, atmospheric vocals. He gives Anastasias a Burn It on the strength of Gerrard’s voice, but calls Anastasis second-rate work.
4 Jim’s been thinking a lot about Genesis lately – and no, not the most famous version of the band with Phil Collins on vocals. Before hits like “I Can’t Dance ” Genesis was an unabashedly nerdy prog rock band, and that’s the iteration of the group Jim wants to celebrate with his DIJ pick. 1971’s Nursery Cryme with Peter Gabriel on vocals fit wonderfully into Jim’s teenage world of renaissance fairs, Isaac Asimov, and Dungeons and Dragons. No track embodied the group’s proto-steampunk ethic better than “The Return of the Giant Hogweed.” Gabriel tells the story of a Victorian explorer who discovers the hogweed in Russia. Unaware of the plant’s carnivorous tendencies he brings it back to England to the royal Kew Gardens, where it proceeds to wreak havoc. Listen for Steve Hackett, mimicking the sounds of the murderous plant on his guitar.
Songs Featured in Show #353
Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra, “Want it back,” NA, Self released, 2012
The Olivia Tremor Control, “Hideway,” Black Foliage: Animation Music, Flydaddy, 1999
The Olivia Tremor Control, “No Growing (Exegesis),” Music from the Unrealized Film Script: Dusk at Cubist Castle, Flydaddy, 1996
The Apples in Stereo, “About Your Fame,” Tone Soul Evolution, Sire, 1997
The Olivia Tremor Control, “Marking Time,” Music from the Unrealized Film Script: Dusk at Cubist Castle, Flydaddy, 1996
The Olivia Tremor Control, “Define a Transparent Dream,” Music from the Unrealized Film Script: Dusk at Cubist Castle, Flydaddy, 1996
Neutral Milk Hotel, “The King of Carrot Flowers Pt. One,” In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, Merge, 1998
Neutral Milk Hotel, “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea,” In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, Merge, 1998
The Apples in Stereo, “Sunndal Song,” New Magnetic Wonder, Simian, 2007
The Apples in Stereo, “Tidal Wave,” Fun Trick Noisemaker, SpinART, 1995
The Olivia Tremor Control, “The Game You Play is in Your Head, Parts 1, 2, & 3,” The Game You Play is in Your Head, Parts 1, 2, & 3 (Single), The Olivia Tremor Control Sound, 2011
Neutral Milk Hotel, “Holland, 1945,” In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, Merge, 1998
Dead Can Dance, “Children of the Sun,” Anastasis, PIAS, 2012
Dead Can Dance, “Agape,” Anastasis, PIAS, 2012
Genesis, “The Return of the Giant Hogweed,” Nursery Cryme, Charisma, 1971
Wilson Pickett, “634-5794,” NA, STAX, 1965
Crass, “Punk is Dead,” The Feeding the 5000, Crass Records, 1978
The Shirts, “Teenage Crutch,” The Shirts, 1978
Antibalas, “Sa-re- Kon Kon,” Antibalas, Daptone, 2012
Morphine, “Thursday,” Cure For Pain, Rykodisc, 1993
Boomtown Rats, “I don’t like Mondays,” The Fine Art of Surfacing, Columbia, 1979