Archive for March 27, 2003


Finally met Anna, under-age Anna, high school Anna, very attractive Anna. As usual ended up at the lab. Travis and Liza came by Wills to see Joey play. Liza works with Joey now. Lisa C. and Joey are no longer together. Amanda’s wound is healing. Band of the Name rocked, fun was had by all, about an hour ago got my article for The Wire in. Here’s a few previews:

I’m two hours late getting into Miami and stuck in the inevitable traffic jam that precedes entrance into Florida’s dance capital. In it’s little over one hundred years of existence, Miami Florida has managed to spring enough suburban sprawl to ensure traffic jams are a regular fixture of life. Fed by the mass exile of Cubans fleeing Castro’s regime in 1959, this former spanish providence turned from European to Latin American in a little under 40 years. South America’s exiles formed studios, started clubs, and brought a good deal of their former home to the states. Miami’s influx of Afro-Caribbean culture is still running strong, with a good percentage of the populous dancing to the Latino beat. Standing outside the yearly Infiltrate anti-conference waiting for Schematic, Beta Bodega, and M3rck’s dance avant-garde and breakcore acts to perform, a full on Salsa beat emanates from less than a block away. Miami’s prolific IDM and hip-hop scene aside, an undercurrent of avant-garde activity has been brewing in this city centering on Gustavo Matamoros’ yearly Sub-Tropics festival.
The Sub-Tropics festival is part of the South Florida Composers Alliance, an organization that includes St. Petersburg’s free jazz trumpeter Dave Manson and other proponents of new music all over the Southern parts of the state. Their yearly series of concerts brings in the likes of Davey Williams, John Cage, Robert Dick, Chris Cutler, and Shelley Hirsch. The Sound Art Workshops are where local and a few international acts are given the opportunity to interact. The results of Gustavo’s fifteen years of consistent new music curatorship have been varied. While beat meddlers on Beta Bodega and Schematic regularly attend Gustavo’s events, the idm crowds those acts cater to have remained apathetic to the festival’s existence, while the transient nature of Miami’s residents ensures no interested party sticks around for long. As Edward Bob aka Sony_Mao puts it, “I’ve always thought you have 200 cheerleaders in Miami, the number stays constant, but the members change.”
Edward is the best link between the multifarious scenes operating in Florida’s metropolis. An electronic musician, he’s waded his ways through all the various scenes that have come and gone in his forty years in the town, “Every 4-5 years in South Florida there’s a music revival, we’re establishing this, we’re creating something that’s never happened here before.” These scenes include a remarkably under-documented electronic scene in the eighties, the unappreciated hardcore scene of the early nineties, and currently idm’s boom, which Bob, like many experimenters in South Beach, is quite proud of. As Needle or Sony_Mao Ed’s work is the most abstract electronica in a town of experimental labels, and along with his new contribution to the label glut Bonita, he’s providing a valuable counterpoint, exercising the geist of techno’s beat from electronica. But even Needle’s work is influenced by the pervasive Caribbean influence Miami holds over it’s residents. His earlier group The Happiness Boys launched eighties drum machines into percussive frenzies resembling Batcuda and Haitian drumming more than progressive trance. The influence is obvious, and Edward freely admits, “We drew in a lot from latin, afro-caribbean, and Haitian music.” This connection between the latin and electronic scenes seriously needs to be re-issued.
Such predecessors way even heavier on Miami’s most popular fusionist, Andrew Yeoman alias DJ Le Spam. A turntablist and sampler freak, Yeoman weekly improvises with a live band, freely mixing the many different rhythmic traditions little Haiti encloses. Andrew’s first love is as a funk DJ and he takes the different politics of Latin patterns into heavy bass-lines and classic funk orchestrations. It’s a surprisingly accessible music to be found on David Font’s Elegua Records label.
Font, like Le Spam, is another blender of afro-caribbean signature sounds. Yeoman’s work is sample based percussive funk, while Font’s work is more emblematic of the Miami experimental sound, “I’m straddling two very different communities, in one way I play purely traditional ceremonial music, on the other hand is the extreme of this experimental music scene.” Comparable in spirit to the fusion Pharaoh Sanders achieved on the saxophone by mediating post-Coletrane blowouts with Nigerian high life’s pop, Font stresses, in interview, his basis in traditional ceremonial music. For the past several years he’s made a living exclusively as a drummer no small feat in many towns, but Miami is a place where musicians, especially percussionists, can find work if their willing to play with in the lines or like Yeoman, blend them into a music that touches the neuvo-populous of techno listeners and traditional percussion lovers.
Outside of his ceremonial gigs, David has worked with a good assortment of Miami’s electronic and experimental acts. The first release on Elegua was one of Edward Bob’s soundtrack to silent movies project. For this release, Font played with Josh Kay aka Jeswa, Otto Von Schirach, and Needle. He’s also participated in Gustavo’s Sound Art Workshops and curates a series of releases from the Sub-Tropics Festival. Font’s work is minimal percussion, brisling between scenes of patterns and timings, his drumming takes twists and turns as the ear becomes adjusted to the puzzle box tension hearing him play takes on.
Another fuser of latin tones is violinist Alfredo Triff, “in my music I blend afro-cuban and caribbean elements with denser post-classical traditions.” A participant of the SAW groups, Triff makes a living playing with traditional Cuban groups, while engaging in an intellectual dialogue between the different spheres he inhabits, “I engage in a critique, but one which avoids didacticism, and in which the music speaks poetically…” Another way of saying that his experiments are accessible to even casual ears something that most experimenters in Miami agree is a necessity, “Miami is not a particularly fertile town for hardcore musical experimentation,” says David Font.
However, Gustavo Matamoros is a hardcore experimenter. Eschewing any Afro-Caribbean impulses his music is phrased in the language of international composition and improvisation. Working on scores, improvising on the saw, and inventing his own instruments that merge improvised passages with preset compositions triggered by electronics, Gustavo couldn’t exist outside of a supportive network of experimenters and funding. Recently he’s been commissioned by other festivals in the city to create compositions and his work has found a home in the emergent Gallery scene that Miami’s fostering. All of this doesn’t put Miami on the avant-garde map like other metropolises such as New York and L.A., but it’s ripening and more importantly, developing a sound of it’s own.

and the Jimmy article:

“I think for The Postal Service the big one [influence] would be the Pet Shop Boys,” says Jimmy Tamborello aka Dntel alias Figurine, explaining where his infectious electro-pop comes from, “in general the technopop had the songs and the more experimental stuff had the sounds.” Jimmy’s work straddles two scenes: the valuable indie-rock and electro-pop market, and the more obscure intelligent dance music enclave. Like many in the home-produced techno pack, James Tamborello’s experiences with experimental sounds came from industrial, “Skinny Puppy were one of the first groups I heard that were making things sound wrong on purpose. Lots of distortion and low bit-rate sampling…” and then he had the bedroom-tronica conversion experience, hearing acts like Autechre for the first time, “warp records- the more lo-fi stuff of the early to mid 90s┬ámade music seem less exclusive to professionals with big studios.”
Like indie rock’s ancestry in tape traded and basement recorded punk, idm has deep roots in the lo-fi industrial scene of the same period. As punk turned into the sedate emo of the nineties, industrial’s fan base matured from Ogre’s harsh skronk to the pleasant tones of acts like Telfon Tel Aviv, as James put it, “the extremities of industrial music haven’t been as much of an interest to me in a while… I got a lot of that out of my system in high school :)”
Maturing at the same rate, Emo and Electronica’s respective scenes sit across the way from each other. Tortoise, Radiohead, and a plethora of “post”-rockers take the grittier bleeps of experimental electronica’s lexicon as part of their rock diet, but few introspective laptopers have managed to penetrate the world of cashmere sweaters and bottle rims more than Figurine, DNTEL, and now The Postal Service. As Jimmy explains, “I guess I feel more comfortable in that world, the indie rock world… I’m not very technically complex with computers.” This rock love shows up both in James’ DJ spots on pioneering internet station Dub Lab and his music, “their more like pop songs than much idm stuff,” he says, “I think I’ve appreciate both [pop music and electronic music] pretty equally.”
This love for both schools began early, at 12 he started playing with his Dad’s 8-track recorder, sequencer, and keyboards. In high school he picked up bass and guitar later playing in an outfit Strictly Ballroom that garnered a good amount of press for their reflective style which frequently built to an intensity more on level with punk’s high-school thrash. His collaborators in Strictly Ballroom went their ways like most bands, to many conflicting ideas and schedules. Jimmy returned to working alone and DJ’n at Dub Lab. “Dub Lab gets together a good portion of the people doing electronic music in L.A., there’s not a big audience here at all.”
Despite modest audiences, the number of electronic acts continues to grow in L.A. due to Allen Avanessian aka Mannequin Lung’s Plug Research label. Plug Research houses many of Jimmy’s various aliases plus Daedelus, Low Res, John Tejada, and others since 1994. It took L.A. years to foster it’s now exploding club scene, and in Plug Research’s ten years, it’s acts have split into Figurine’s vocal drive idm and Daedelus or Headset’s more electronified hip-hop. Jimmy’s pop-song work began when he asked Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie to sing on DNTEL’s album, “Life is Full of Possibilities.” The fandom only went one way, “I don’t think he’d heard DNTEL before,” says James, “I’d heard Death Cab,” but the collaboration works, “It was easy from the start…We were both very happy with it.”
The facility which Ben and Jimmy collaborate is best explained by their similarity in styles. Death Cab’s sparse rock and DNTEL’s eased electronica come from a similar minimalism, “I think you can make a bigger impact with fewer things going because it’s direct to the listener,” Jimmy explains. Compared to the busier works of his contemporaries Jimmy’s work is less, “process oriented, your listening and appreciating the way it was made… I like to use the computer as a glorified multi-track recorder,” leaving room for vocals while letting the listener tune into Gibbard’s bleak lyrical output.
The Postal Service is emblematic of the latest wave in pop music. From Bjork, The Rapture, and even Madonna, pop’s stars are letting the accomplished sequencers of electronica take their music onto the dancefloor while maintaining it’s home listening history. On the order side indie’s stalwarts, such as Damien Jurado, are moonlighting by request on European techno tracks that frequently hit the top ten across the pond from America’s less club inclined populous. Recording and mastering even acoustic music has been digital for some time, but until recently the mixing of acoustics and the artificial tones of dance wasn’t desirable. As Jimmy sums it up, “I don’t know where the scene is going, although it seems like more and more rock musicians are buying computers.”

March 27, 2003 at 4:52 am Leave a comment


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