Agony Shorthand

Wednesday, May 19, 2004
STRANGE NOTES, 5/19/2004....We’re back with a collection of bon mots based around a broad “musical” theme, a little collection of thoughts and snippets of folk wisdom that we like to call “Strange Notes”. Welcome, and please enjoy the show! First up is a couple sentences on an posthumous, uh, “darkwave” CD from Australians WHIRLYWIRLD, a 1979-80 new waver electronic duo featuring this guy Ollie Olsen who once had a nice article written about him in Forced Exposure that led many down an oft-regretted path toward Olsen’s somewhat plodding, vaguely pretentious recordings. On “The Complete Studio Works”, all nine of ‘em, Olsen comes off as a hipster Thin White Duke acolyte who dips his toes into downbeat Indian ragas and Joy Division-esque dance/drones. Problem is, none of the songs are any good. Oh well.....Hey, did you see that the MISSION OF BURMA “ONoffON” LP release contains their version of The Dils’ “Class War”, and is not available on the CD? Was Tim Warren hired as a special marketing advisor?.....Also noted at the record store last weekend was this dirt cheap 2002 HANK WILLIAMS box set, retailing for a mere $21, called “Hillbilly Hero” on a label called Proper Music. Wow. It has about a zillion songs from a guy with a discography that went only slightly further than what’s on here – word on the street is this still misses some 1951-52 pre-death material. But the expiration of copyright on pre-1960s music has led to an incredible wealth of fantastic music (jazz, blues, country) for rock-bottom prices. Just the thing to clog up the house – remember to have ‘em ship it to your work address.

In other news, there’s this new raucous Providence, RI noise/electronics/metal compilation called “Old Tyme Lemonade” on the curiously-named Hospital Productions. It would appear that the Providence scene, as represented here, mostly eschews vocals and anything approaching subtlety in favor of full-boar feedback and screech – at least when it’s not trending toward perplexing and experimental laptop punk or ridiculously over-the-top, grinding metal/core. Where are the Buffy St. Marie-style singer/songwriters in this town?? The comp has got contributions from LIGHTNING BOLT, MINDFLAYER, KITES and many others clustered around the Load Records stable. For those of you who read the BLASTITUDE reviews and buy accordingly, this one has got to qualify as a sort of sacred text.....I may be the very last fella to figure this out, but apparently there’s this growing phenomenon called MP3 blogging. It appears to be the next phase in sharing your refined music taste with others, making “old school” word blogs like Agony Shorthand about as relevant as a buggy whip maker in 1950s Detroit. Sites like Fluxblog, Mystery & Misery and The Mystical Beast offer up MP3s from their proprietors’ personal collections, along with a brief spiel about the band or artist being pushed. So now I put it out to you: are there any really good ones out there? I haven’t had time to dig around much, but anyone with a perspective on this “milieu” would be much appreciated.....finally, I have to concede that there’s a reason it seems everyone’s starting point into African 70s music is the ETHIOPIQUES series: they’re just so damn good. I loaded up Volume 1 and listened to it a bunch this week, and it’s my favorite of the four I’ve heard (likely why it was the series’ first release). If you need an excuse to check out funky 60s/70s Afrobeat with loud, ultra-brassy horns and as much soul as anything out of Chocolate City, then let this be your entrée. That’s it for me today – keep your feet on the ground etc etc.