An Ovation for Zoe Keating, a Raspberry for NPR

Update, 02/24/09: Some good folks over at NPR (thank you, Andy Carvin and Bob Boilen!) are looking into the oversight written about here. They’ve since added proper credits to the piece. Also, Zoë is currently listed as the #2 seller on iTunes classical. All’s well that ends well.

Koko Theater, October 2008, London. ⓒ Polstar Photography.

I think my Coilhouse cohorts will agree that one of the very bestest things about being involved with this venture is being able to give props to lovable people who do lovely things. I’ve been meaning to sing the praises of cellist Zoë Keating for ages now. She’s a visionary artist with immense talent and soul… and a sweetheart to boot.

When we first met several years ago, she was playing second fiddle (so to speak) in Melora Creager’s honorable neo-Victorian outfit, Rasputina. At the time, I was astonished by Zoë’s incredible ear and deep, rich tone. As it turns out, I was only hearing select facets of what she’s capable of.

Zoë Keating opening for Amanda Palmer last year. Shot by AleXIXandra.

More recently, Zoë has been self-producing and releasing solo recordings of a project she calls One Cello x 16, in which she deftly uses live electronic sampling, looping and repetition to create lush, beautiful layers of sound. Zoë is classically trained but a swashbuckler at heart; her music builds a hypnotic, swaying bridge between the old guard and the new. Ambient, pop, and orchestral sensibilities trade off, with each distinctive element bolstered by her powerful musicianship and sensitivity.

Regretfully, the reason I’m finally getting around to writing about Zoë is a bit of frustration I’m feeling on her behalf. NPR’s show All Things Considered used a song of hers yesterday without permission or credit. Zoë’s been featured on NPR before –a great opportunity for her– but in my opinion, that’s no excuse for their programmers to assume she’d be fine with them arbitrarily yoinking her work and using it anonymously. NPR is supposed to support off-the-beaten-path artists, not exploit ’em, right?

World Premiere: David Garland’s “Diorama”

“Garland is a superb, crazily imaginative songwriter. Singing through a synclavier or banging on a piece of Styrofoam, he’ll sing about how insane the nightly news is, how painful true love is, how scary getting to know other people is, and it all quietly creeps up and hits you right where you live.”
—Kyle Gann, Village Voice

Upon first meeting David Garland a decade ago in NYC, what moved me most was the man’s remarkable voice. David has what I’ve often referred to as an “NPR voice”: calm, gentle, assured, reflective of a deep and kindly intelligence. I could happily listen to him recite the phone book, or Goodnight Moon, or Nietzche’s “Wahnbriefe” for hours on end. It’s no coincidence that he hosts and curates one of my all-time favorite radio shows, WNYC’s Spinning on Air. (If you have any interest in off-the-beaten-path, non-commerce-driven music, you should bookmark that link immediately.)

Photo by Anne Garland.

David’s also a gifted singer/composer, infusing his “control songs” with all of the qualities mentioned above. He’s been keeping busy recording new material with everyone from Sufjan Stevens to Greg Saunier to Diane Cluck. Catching up with me by phone recently, he said he’d just finished shooting his first music video with none other than Amber Benson and Adam Busch. (SQUEEE!!) Here’s what David had to say about the events leading up to their collaboration:

My wife Anne Garland and I had been introduced to the joys of Buffy the Vampire Slayer by our son Kenji in the summer of 2007. Anne and I were happily working our way through the many seasons of Buffy, and had just recently seen Amber’s character Tara killed by Adam’s character Warren. We went out to an Indian restaurant for lunch and waiting in line just ahead of us were Amber and Adam. We got talking, learned of Adam’s band Common Rotation, and enjoyed one another’s company. We’ve done a few projects together since, and now this video. Adam and Amber are creative, generous people, apparently willing to get involved in a project just for the fun and love of it, and I’ve really enjoyed hanging out and making stuff with them. Amber really likes Anne’s Luminous Playhouse photos, and suggested the effective idea of mixing and comparing the miniature and full-size scenes as a visual theme for my song “Diorama.” We borrowed a super-8 camera from Ken Brown and in two intense afternoons shot the footage, Amber and Adam co-directing and filming.

David, it’s an honor and a pleasure to premiere that video here on Coilhouse. Thank you, as always, for your wise and beautiful voice.

Diorama from David Garland on Vimeo. Directed, filmed and edited by Amber Benson and Adam Busch. David Garland’s songs “Prelude” and “Diorama” from the album Noise In You on Family Vineyard. Featuring Anne Garland’s Luminous Playhouse Theater Company. Singers: David Garland, Diane Cluck, Sufjan Stevens, and Mira Romantschuk. Appearing in the film are David Garland, Kenji Garland, his friend Aurora Cobb, Viking Moses (Brendon Massei), Golden Ghost (Laura Goetz), and Anne Garland.

More Garland-related clips, links and images after the jump.

Mark Gormley is Love.

Bricey, bless you. I don’t know where you discovered Mark Gormley, but he’s going to make our more adventurous readers extremely happy. The rest of you may want to stick with Panties With a Dick Hole and My Chemical Bromide or whatever else the kids are listening to nowadays, but for my money, none of that slick, overproduced teenybopper fare can compete with an honest, well-crafted song, a soulful voice, and cable access video stylings featuring a beautiful (if mildly befuddled) bikini model. Mark Gormley sends me over the moon:

Props to the Eccentric Phil Thomas Katt for giving Gormley this platform on his fine show, The Uncharted Zone. “The Most Important Music Television Show Along the Gulf Coast.” Hey, man, you’ve got my vote.

Click below for more Mark Gormley/Phil Thomas Katt productions.

The Intercontinental Radio Show

Serbian punk band Pekinška patka. Hear ’em on The Intercontinental.

Pardon me, are you part shark? What I mean is, if you don’t constantly keep moving, exploring, and devouring, does it feel as though your organs might implode from sheer doldrums? Do unfamiliar smells and sounds intrigue rather than offend you? Are you an incorrigible know-it-all, scoffing openly at poor, unwitting souls who declare Mike Patton’s work to be the utmost pinnacle of musical wackiness?* Would you enjoy traveling to an exotic third world locale with nothing but a ukulele and a homemade shank?

Buddy, have we got a podcast for you.

Based out of WMBR in Cambridge, MA, The Intercontinental is a weekly radio program hosted and curated by one Mr. Jesse Kaminsky. Jesse has an uncanny knack for rooting out the most obscure and delightfully diasporic music you’ll ever hear. As of 2006, the U.N. recognizes 192 different countries, and according to Jesse’s last tally, The Intercontinental has played music from 119 (not counting New Caledonia or Bora Bora or Greenland or Somaliland or Western Sahara or French Polynesia).

Japanese whammy bar surf royalty and Intercontinental regulars, Takeshi Terauchi and the Bunnys.

Recently, Jesse started a podcast feed for the benefit of everyone who’s not living in Boston or near a computer each Wednesday from 6 pm to 8:00 pm E.S.T. So “tune into the sounds of the Finnish Underground, Tuvan Rock, Asian Psychedelic, Russian Lounge, and Inuit beat boxing” and be ready to shake your tuchus.

*Dear rabid Bunglers, please do not hurt me. I give mad props to Mr. Patton. But the world is vast and strange. I implore you: venture bravely beyond the Tzadik catalog on your next record-buying excursion.

An ocean of static, a desert of sound

Mer mentioned the Roadside Picnic podcast here a few weeks back. Hosted by a gentleman named Joshua Zucker, this podcast’s chewy contents are some of the best brain fuel I’ve had the pleasure to absorb in quite some time. The past couple of episodes were especially fitting with the belated arrival of rain in Angel City, and I must take a moment to reflect.

Each installment has a somewhat melancholy-sounding theme, but I’ve so far found this to be the ideal multi-purpose station. It’s marvelous for letting the sound flood and take over just as well as having it as low ambience while painting, writing, reading, or whatever sinister activity you choose to engage in. I suggest you try the former, first.

Roadside Picnic is a blend of ambient drone, atmospheric distressed instrumental, and occasional vocal tracks. At full volume the experience is akin to drifting through walls of dense noise, sometimes falling into pools of melody and being pierced with emphatic shrieks. Like tuning a radio in a radiation apocalypse; faint signs of life puncturing the static of a scorched world. Listen.

Scharpling and Wurster: “The Best Show” on WFMU

I’ve already mentioned the freeform radio station WFMU a few times on C.H. and I surely will again. Based out of Jersey City, this listener-supported outpost of obscure music and culture has been a constant source of delight to me since the mid 90s. Before then, I had no idea that kind of integrity or diversity existed in radio.

Today I’d like to make specific mention of Tom Scharpling’s modestly titled “The Best Show on WFMU”, a comedy segment that often features indie-rock luminary Jon Wurster masquerading as various call-in guests. I can’t think of anything more entertaining to listen to on this chilly Sunday evening than their mind-blowing gaff “The Music Scholar”. The Music Scholar

We all know at least one real-life Charles R. Martin: that elitist snob propped up at the end of every single hipster dive bar in the universe, oozing condescension and pretentiousness, a dismissive amateur musicologist given to Cooler-Than-Thou histrionics and compulsive one-upmanship. Wurster cranks these characteristics up to 11, reducing the most elitist Pitchfork writers or Bedford Avenue disputants to fleecy wee lambs by comparison.

Roadside Picnic Podcast

Musician/filmmaker Joshua Zucker is one of very few folks whose tastes I trust implicitly. Episode 13 of his thematic Roadside Picnic podcast just went up. As always, it’s an astonishing mix of sounds and genres, lovingly and seamlessly compiled. Put on your best pair of headphones, and drift.

Judson Fountain: Completely in the Dark!

Completely in the Dark!
, originally uploaded by Coilhouse.

Jackson Brain Griffith sums up the appeal of crackpot visionary Judson Fountain: “Imagine paint-sniffers aiming for the Firesign Theatre and hitting Plan 9 From Outer Space.”

Much like cult legends Shooby Taylor, Lucia Pamela and Gary Wilson, Fountain’s warped genius would not have survived these long decades were it not for the feverish worship of bootleggers. By the time his priceless “radio drammers” were officially released on CD in 2004, Fountain had long-since gained icon status among lovers of outsider music, cartoonists, and (somewhat redundantly) WFMU DJs and listeners.

From Innova’s artist one-sheet:

Judson Fountain (b. 1952) grew up after the heyday of classic radio theater, but as a child heard vestiges of programs that had enthralled his parents. He developed an obsession with suspense-filled shows like The Shadow, Inner Sanctum, and Lights Out! While most Americans were evolving into couch potatoes, Judson embraced radio as the superior theatrical medium, and felt compelled to single-handedly revive the art. That he lacked training, technology, skilled staff and a budget did not deter him. Ed Wood, Jr. made movies; Judson produced radio dramas.

Judson was between 17 and 22 when he produced these extremely primitive affairs. His simple, derivative plotlines employ Halloween kitsch — spooks, witches, haunted houses — as vehicles in morality plays about redemption for the honorable and damnation for evil-doers. The original recordings were pressed on LPs (reportedly about 200 copies of each). The jackets were hand-made, with grainy xeroxes pasted on otherwise blank cardboard sleeves.

Their limited edition CD (produced by foremost outsider musicologist Irwin Chusid and Barbara Economon) is itself growing difficult to score. But you can still grab the tracks off emusic, bless ’em.