Monday, January 28, 2008

Bread and circuses

Image: Youngna Park

Serendipity Doodah - William D. Drake

William Middle-Initial-D Drake's pop is grandiose and OTT, bursting with bread and PT Barnum-gaudy circuses -- lions and tigers, gold leaf and scarlet silk flags, mellotrons, harmoniums, trumpets and shakers -- owing as much to the West End as XTC. Drake's lexicon is also ornate and delightfully decorative. I always think "serendipity" is too soft a word to trace the jagged lines where chance and good things collide, but it sounds so pretty scrolling off the tongue. And doodah's a nonsense word that privileges sound over significance, whose meaning depends on context more than usual. (First-known utterance: 1915 in minstrel song "Camptown Races" as a synonym for excitement. Famously revived in 1947 Disney animated pic Song of the South to signal something closer to joy [albeit joy inscribed with and complicated by racism].) In "Doodah" the word is vague -- expressing, perhaps, the inexpressible feelings of finding oneself oddly and comfortably at home on the road. Is this possibly a metatext about the emotions of performing music itself?

Drake's got a fascinating musical history -- almost three decades of playing in pop, folk and country bands and recording his own classical compositions. Check out the bio on his Myspace.

From Briny Hooves (Amazon), Myspace

Awo Dudu: The Skin I'm In - Afrologic

Isn't it just a little inconsistent to bemoan contemporary rock's appropriation of African idioms (BTW, this is not why I shudder at the words Vampire Weekend), but wave through African acts that plunder American jazz, blues and hip-hop? Is it a skin-color thing -- an implicitly racist stance predicated on the idea that it's ok for blacks to steal from blacks (skating over the differences of national origin and culture), but not whites from blacks?

A lot of African pop hosts at least a few strands of American and European DNA, and critics invoke "fusion" as often and imprecisely as they do "freak folk" when talking about eccentric vocals and meandering acoustic guitar lines or, ugh, "balearic" when discussing last year's dance sounds. But Nigeria's Afrologic does fusion by Webster's definition. In fact, this one remixed jam is an anthology-volume's worth of popular Western song forms of the past 100 years -- funk grooves, disco beats, blues chords, jazz riffs -- braided with indigenous folk traditions. A call for black unity, it's utterly joyous without seeming simplistic, suggesting that political unification can leave space for difference.

From Milliki Music: Society Sounds from 60s Lagos (regrooved) (eMusic), Myspace

I agree with Everybody Cares on music blogger's block, esp. the part about some blogs churning out content without heart. Notice I'm not posting so much this dry January...

And oh oh oh: Hype Machine aggregated bloggers' 2007 albums and songs and just posted it (now that it's almost February and post-Pazz n' Jop and all. Just joshing, you guys -- good work!).


Anonymous meg said...

i'm a lurker but i love this blog so much-- i've turned my friends on to so many great tunes through your recs and bought way too much music because of them, too. i'd much rather your posts be less often and still maintain the high level of quality you've set for yourself than find loads of posts from you that seem forced or uninspired. and hey- thanks for writing for us in the first place!

3:43 PM  
Blogger Neil said...

this is not why I shudder at the words Vampire Weekend

What is? A strongly held belief that the undead ought to confine their nefarious work to the workweek, the way the rest of us do?

I'll second Meg's point. You could post twice a year if that's what worked for you, and I would feel lucky to read both posts.

4:15 PM  
Blogger kickpleat said...

oooh, that photo is so lovely! i'm a sucker for ballons and the lighting is to die for. that song is pretty catchy too!

4:47 PM  
Blogger rowanllew said...

I only recently happened upon your blog, glad I did too! you've opened my eyes to some superior music. Fantastic to see your post on William D Drake today - what a talent he is. Please do check out his work with the mighty Cardiacs if you haven't already...

4:08 PM  

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