Fred Frith performs at Slim’s tonight, Aug. 25, performing the album Gravity with Dominique Leone’s band and Aaron Novik’s Thorny Brocky. Opening acts include the ROVA Saxophone Quartet. More info here, or check out the podcast interview.
It’s been so long since I posted a radio playlist, I forgot to do one this time.
I followed up my Aug. 20 Fred Frith special with an hour of related music. The full playlist, including a “regular” hour of non-Frith-related music, is on KZSU’s Zookeeper site. The post mortem is below.
Dominique Leone — “Sometimes You’ve Got To Be Happy” — Abstract Expression (Important, 2011) ….. I started out with Leone and Novik’s bands, since they’ll be performing Gravity with Frith. Of the songs on this list, this is the only one that was sampled for the special, only because I improvised this playlist and couldn’t get this one out of my head. Actually, I’d wanted to play “Tension,” but it’s got some clearly questionable FCC content right up front.
Aaron Novik’s Thorny Brocky — “Igor Stravinsky’s Memorial BBQ” — (unreleased, 2012) ….. A band that combines upbeat jazzy sounds, a touch of Klezmer (or maybe everything with clarinet sounds like Klezmer), and bits of rock and, for want of a better word, experimentalism. Aaron sent me three tracks to use with the special. During an intermission, I’d played one that sounded more typical of the band. This one opens up noisy and rocking. Based on the title, I would guess Frank Zappa had some influence on this song.
Samla Mammas Manna — “Andra Satsen” — Supernatural Fairy Tales (Rhino, 1996) ….. The only Samla (pronounced “Zamla”) track we’ve got in the KZSU library. It comes off a six-CD Rhino compilation of prog rock. The track selection is watery (Golden Earring? Moody Blues??) but it’s got some gems and, as you can see from the Samla inclusion, some nice discoveries, not to mention Roger Dean cover art.
The Muffins — “Come With Molten Cloud” — Chronometers (Cuneiform, 1994) ….. The Muffins are a new discovery for me, and the biggest surprise is that they did so many prog songs that are only 3 or 4 minutes long! The title track to “Chronometers” does span 23 minutes and includes lots of Rock in Opposition goodness, but they also did lots of snippets, like this one, that suggest prog didn’t have to be about 8-minute-long “singles.” My mind is blown.
Fred Frith — “A Spit in the Ocean”/”Navajo” — Speechless (Ralph, 1981) ….. Hey, look, an actual Frith track! Speechless was the followup to Gravity and used the same scheme of a different band on each side: Etron Fou Leloublan on Side 1, and Frith’s New York band Massacre (Bill Laswell on bass, Fred Maher on drums) on Side 2.
Cosa Brava — “The Wedding” — The Letter (Intakt, 2012) ….. Second album from Frith’s “pop” band, seen here in a more instrumental and less “pop” light. It’s a moodier album; I remarked to Fred that it felt like a stronger Carla Kihlstedt influence, but he countered that it’s Zeena Parkins whose musical voice and ideas came to the fore this time. Hoping to write a little more on this album later.
Henry Cow — “Half Asleep, Half Awake” — Unrest (East Side Digital, 1995; orig. released 1974) ….. During the Frith interviews, much was made about how un-dance-like and un-peppy Henry Cow and Art Bears were. Which is true, but then again, I find some of Henry Cow’s work to be quite uplifiting, such as this track. After some moody piano, there’s a quice dancy-y bassoon solo from Lindsay Cooper. Frith noted that Cooper was his model for the kind of musician who can straddle the classical and jazz worlds — specifically, that line between rigorous reading or interpretation and the freedom to explore and improvise.
Toychestra & Fred Frith — “Grover Rides a Happy Honker/3 Elephants and a Cow” — What Leave Behind (SK, 2005) ….. Movements three and four of a five-movement concerto for toy instruments and electric guitar, written by Dan Plonsey. Founded by Paula Alexander in 1996, Toychestra was an all-women, all-toy-instrument band. By 2004, the five-woman band had had enough turnover that most of the actual musicians were out, leaving artists who were learning music on the fly. Inspired by that naive sound, Plonsey wrote the concerto, “What Leave Behind,” which I saw them perform at the Starry Plough sometime around 2004. The two movements I played here capture a little of everything: a serenade by the toys alone, followed by lots of scribbly Frith electricity. (For more on Toychestra, look here.)
NOT included on the show: Fred Frith and Evelyn Glennie, The Sugar Factory (Tzadik, 2007). I’d forgotten about this one. The duo played at Stanford in 2008, and I previewed the show by building a playlist around the album. You can read about that on my pre-blog site.