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A Heavy Metal MONSTER: Obscure German band Night Sun and their 1972 vinyl bombshell
09.01.2017
08:32 am
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Night Sun cover
 
The little-known German band, Night Sun, is one of the earliest groups to blend heavy metal with progressive rock—and they did it really well. They were around for just a few short years, and released only one record, but it’s a MONSTER.

Night Sun were based out of Mannheim, and though many members passed through the Night Sun ranks—including former servicemen of the British army stationed in Germany—their identities are largely unknown. But we do know the lineup that appears on their lone album, Mournin’: Walter Kirchgässner played guitar; Ulrich Staudt was the drummer; multi-instrumentalist Knut Rössler took on piano, organ, saxophone, trumpet, and trombone; bassist Bruno Schaab was also the singer, voicing all of the lyrics in English.
 
Night Sun back
 
The most famous individual to orbit the Night Sun universe was the producer/engineer of Mournin’, the great Conny Plank (Krafterwerk, Neu!, etc, etc). In the LP credits, the producer is listed as “Aamok Musikproducktion,” which was the name of Plank’s company. The album was released by Zebra Records, a German label, and was distributed by Polydor International.

Night Sun comes out blazing with the opening track on Mournin’, “Plastic Shotgun.” The mix of Deep Purple’s organ-driven hard rock and heavy metal masters Black Sabbath, executed with the speed and precision of prog rock, is startlingly great. Get ready, ‘cause “Plastic Shotgun” is gonna blow your head off.
 

 
Other groups that come to mind while listening to Mournin’ include King Crimson, Led Zeppelin, and Billy Joel’s wild, pre-fame two-piece, Attila. After the jump, we’ll embed a few more of our favorites from the Night Sun record, but if you like what you hear—and we assume you will—check out the entire LP here.

DIG IT, after the jump…

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Posted by Bart Bealmear
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09.01.2017
08:32 am
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Lucifer rising: When the Stones were evil
09.01.2017
08:13 am
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Call me disputatious—or else DON’T, it’s entirely up to you—my favorite Stones album has always been Their Satanic Majesties Request. It’s practically the only one that I still play all the way through. It sounds so amazing as one great big, trippy chunk, that it would be a shame not to experience the whole thing in one go. Many Stones fans and music critics hated TSMR when it came out and saw the album as a weak attempt to out weird the Beatles after they’d unleashed Sgt Pepper’s on the world, but time has been very kind to Their Satanic Majesties Request. To me, it’s just a thing of great beauty, with the normal blues-based Stones sound thrown out the window and replaced with a colorful sonic palette the likes of which they would never return to.  It’s a fantastic headphones album, too, the closest they ever got to doing a Pink Floyd (and it’s NOT a Sgt Pepper’s wannabe, okay? Obviously TSMR (badly) wants to be the Stones’ Piper at the Gates of Dawn!)

Anyway, I’m not saying that it IS the best Stones album, I’m just saying that it’s MY favorite. (For the record, my favorite Stones song is “Monkey Man,” followed by “Stray Cat Blues,” then “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)”—dark horses, all, I grant you. I’m also partial to “I Don’t Know Why,” but the Glimmer Twins didn’t write that one—it’s a Stevie Wonder cover.)

Their Satanic Majesties Request is getting re-released on September 22 by ABKCO in a 50th anniversary deluxe box set that’s packaged in a slick, limited edition bespoke box set that comes with two records (a stereo and mono pressing of the album, remastered by Bob Ludwig, with the lacquers cut at Abbey Road Studios) and two SACDs (which will still play in a normal CD player) of the stereo and mono mixes. Overkill? Oh probably, but then again I already own two copies of the original stereo LP with the 3-D lenticular cover, the 2002 SACD and a DSD download of the mono mix from that recent Rolling Stones in Mono box set. Maybe I’m the wrong middle-aged guy to ask. (It sounds very nice, by the way. Not sure it’s going to displace my original wax, but it sounds quite tasty in case you were wondering. The mono mix reveals a far punkier-sounding album and is absolutely worth having.)
 

 
Anyway, if you ask me, the Stones’ “demonic” phase, inaugurated, if you will, by their association with the Magus of Cinema, Kenneth Anger, was when the band were truly at their peak. Mick was still quite into his Satan/Lucifer thing well into the Let It Bleed/Gimme Shelter-era, but after Altamont, Jagger was often seen wearing a crucifix around his neck, perhaps seeking to put down all that chaotic hoodoo Age of Horus energy he’d help raise? Have sympathy for the poor devil. Jagger had a shamanic current running through his body during the Sixties that killed quite a few of his friends and contemporaries. Today, like a rock and roll Dorian Gray, he hardly looks any worse for the wear.
 

Kenneth Anger’s “Invocation of My Demon Brother” with a bleating one-note (but super effective!) Moog synthesizer soundtrack by Mick Jagger.

Much more after the jump…

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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09.01.2017
08:13 am
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Meet Negativland’s Christian rock alter egos, Positivland!
09.01.2017
08:10 am
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A press photo from Negativland’s It’s All in Your Head
 
Pastor Dick had good news to share on April 1, 1999. “This is a song I just wrote backstage with Steven Curtis Chapman!” Dick announced, as “Home Run”—which is in fact by the Christian rock juggernaut Geoff Moore & the Distance—blared from the speakers and rows of white crosses glowed on the screen behind the stage.

As Geoff Moore gave way to a church organ, Dick laid out the reasons to be glad: Satan’s plan to corrupt America through pop music, like San Francisco’s scheme to drag the God-fearing people of nearby Concord down into depravity, was coming to light. Almost imperceptibly, the organ music shifted into “Lay Lady Lay,” and Pastor Dick began to inveigh against the sinful works of Bob Dylan. Citing his recent audience with Pope John Paul II as evidence that the singer was “no longer walking with the Lord,” Pastor Dick concluded his homily by wishing that “another heart attack or stroke or age-related illness” would cause Dylan to repent.

Much of the rest of this half-hour cut of the show consists of Dispepsi-era Negativland material; happily, Negativland is the rare group whose music can stand up to choppy editing. Towards the end, the Weatherman completes the transition from faith to empiricism, demonstrating the sounds you can make with a bicycle horn submerged in a bowl of water, a bottle of Vaseline® Intensive Care™ hand lotion, and an ordinary cable TV remote control.

More after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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09.01.2017
08:10 am
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Russell MacEwan’s evocative portraits of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis
08.31.2017
02:20 pm
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Russell MacEwan was a member of the Canadian House of Commons from the late 1950s to the early 1970s before passing away in 2008.

Actually, that is not the Russell MacEwan we’re interested in today. That Russell MacEwan is a Scottish artist who is neither a politician nor dead and has produced a great deal of high-quality work of sci-fi subjects as well as portraits of postpunk and experimental music heroes.

MacEwan is an extraordinarily skilled draftsman, as you can see for yourself, who is currently Professor Emeritus at the City of Glasgow College. Virtually all of his output is black-and white, and he works in oils, charcoal, and pencils—his pencil drawings often resemble sketches that on other days might get “filled out” to form a painting, but he just leaves it as is for the viewer to contemplate.

The artist has mentioned that Joy Division is his favorite musical subject as well as the band he’d most like to be compared to, but he also has an abiding interest in the world of Coil, particularly How to Destroy Angels, the band’s first release from 1984. We’ve selected a few of the images of Curtis (whatever was available online, in fact) for your perusal.

MacEwan has an abiding interest in World War I topics and often draws inspiration from Hollywood and comic books, as his images of Logan, Clint Eastwood, and Catwoman indicate.

MacEwan has a book out called Black Sun: Art of Russell MacEwan and you can see much more of his portfolio here.
 

 

 
Much more after the jump…....
 

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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08.31.2017
02:20 pm
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Ex-Strangler Hugh Cornwell has an internet radio show about film history and movie music
08.31.2017
09:06 am
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Hugh Cornwell, who was once the lead singer and guitarist in the Stranglers, has a new internet radio show devoted to movies and their music. You wouldn’t know it from his most famous song about Hollywood, but Hugh loves the moving pictures.

MrDeMilleFM is Cornwell’s second internet radio venture dedicated to film. (The interviews he did with Debbie Harry and Brian Eno for the first one, the now-defunct Sound Trax FM, have vanished along with their former home, but Cornwell says they will return in time.)

Where else could you hear John Cooper Clarke set up the themes from Johnny Guitar and Vera Cruz? Only on the half-hour special on the career of onetime Universal City mayor Ernest Borgnine the punk poet guest-hosted for MrDeMilleFM, you lucky bum! Cornwell himself has hosted ten shows so far, among them affectionate looks at the careers of Lee Marvin (whose delivery on “Wand’rin’ Star” inspired JJ Burnel’s on the Stranglers’ “Thrown Away,” incidentally) and the Marx Brothers (whose “I’m Against It” preceded the Ramones’, of course).

More after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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08.31.2017
09:06 am
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Je T’Aime: Cool photos of Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg when they were in love
08.30.2017
12:58 pm
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Jane Birkin (with her famous wicker basket in hand) and Serge Gainsbourg, 1969.
 
According to Jane Birkin’s brother Andrew, Serge Gainsbourg was the love of her life. When he passed away in 1991 at the age of 62 from a heart attack (likely brought on by his epic chain-smoking and equally epic consumption of booze), Birkin, though she and Gainsbourg had long since separated, was devastated and she and her daughter Charlotte Gainsbourg mourned his death by staying with Serge’s body for three days. When Gainsbourg was finally laid to rest, Birkin placed her “Munckey” a toy monkey that she kept since childhood, in her former lover’s coffin.

The pair met on the set of the 1968 French film L’amour et l’amour (aka Slogan) and at first, Birkin was just not that into Gainsbourg and referred to her co-star as “horrible,” “arrogant,” and “snobbish.” Andrew Birkin also recalled that his sister was so turned-off by Serge that she had difficulty pronouncing his last name and would mangle it by calling him “Serge Bourguigon.” Birkin’s distaste for Serge would not last, however, and the two would become one of the most celebrated celebrity couples in France during the decade or so that they were together. As you might imagine, there are many mythical stories concerning the exploits of Gainsbourg and Birkin—many which have the lovebirds battling it out in public spats. One of the more infamous tales involves Birkin hurling a custard tart in Serge’s face after she discovered him digging through her wicker handbag. The skirmish continued with Birkin chasing Gainsbourg down the Boulevard Saint-Germain screaming before she jumped into Seine river. In 2013 Birkin’s brother Andrew published Jane & Serge: A Family Album, a beautiful book containing photos Andrew took of the couple during their time together, some of which have never been previously published. The book also contains Andrew’s intimate insights into Jane’s childhood and her deep connection to Serge.

I’ve posted numerous images of Birkin and Gainsbourg below looking happy and in love. Some are slightly NSFW.
 

 

 

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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08.30.2017
12:58 pm
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‘Designer Babies’: Lawrence Rothman and Kim Gordon’s lovely, spooky new video
08.30.2017
09:02 am
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David Bowie was noted for, among so many other things, for his chameleon-like assumption of drastically different performative identities every few albums. As if to up the ante, producer/songwriter Lawrence Rothman has assumed a different identity for every song on his forthcoming album The Book of Law. Rothman has created nine alter egos for the album, and many will star in their own videos, to be directed by Floria Sigismondi, an illustrious music video director with a CV too long to relate—it goes back 25 years and includes Sigur Ros, Bjork, The Cure, Marilyn Manson, and, um, Bowie. She also made the 2010 Runaways biopic.

Just based on its ambitious nature alone, that project seems like it’ll be worth a good close look and listen, but what concerns us today is a song that won’t be on that album, and which in fact was released about a year and a half ago. It’s “Designer Babies,” a collaboration with Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, and the video for it has been held up for all this time because the footage disappeared and reappeared under still-unexplained circumstances. The video is a strikingly simple vignette of a rough-looking marionette on a table engaging with doll parts, an artist’s articulated hand model, and the torso of a mannequin. The effect is at once eerie and elegiac. Rothman was kind enough to take some time to tell us about the video and the puppeteer.

Floria shot the video the night we mixed the song, but the footage disappeared for like months, and then randomly showed up in Floria’s Dropbox. We have no idea what the hell happened and how it got placed on her Dropbox months later—it was never stored on her Dropbox to begin with. The puppeteer’s name was Eli. He showed up out of nowhere the day before we were to shoot. Floria loved his puppets and scrapped her previous idea 24 hours before shoot and had Eli bring his puppet down. He never gave us his last name, so we have no more info on him.

Rothman also gave us some background on recording “Designer Babies,” and how he secured Kim Gordon’s involvement.

Seeing Sonic Youth’s “Dirty Boots” video on MTV when my mom first figured out how to steal cable television in the 90’s inspired me to pick up a bass and start a band. I even, for a while, dressed like her when I was in my reading-lots-of-Sylvia-Plath phase. Kim’s lyrics to me are fucking beyond perfection, I am shocked she has never written any fiction. When it came time to do make my album, crazy magician producer Justin Raisen asked me who was my favorite singer of all time. My response was it’s a tie between Kim Gordon and Arthur Russell. Justin was like well, Arthur is no longer here, so let’s get Kim. We literally cold-called her and got her down to the studio, and had a great time having her sing through her guitar amp and just freestyle. From there we built like 20 versions of the song. The final has Angel Olsen singing background vocals on it, Nick Zinner from Yeah Yeah Yeahs on guitar, Stella Mozgawa from Warpaint doing some drum stuff, Active Child on Harp, and Justin Meldal-Johnsen on bass. The song also features an organ rumored to have once belonged to Harry Houdini.

 
Have a look after the jump…

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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08.30.2017
09:02 am
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What if ‘Game of Thrones’ characters had released iconic albums?
08.29.2017
12:56 pm
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Jon Snow as Peter Gabriel
 
Well, another season of Game of Thrones has come and gone, leaving boffo ratings, now-useless .mkv downloads, and millions of thrilled fans in its wake. It’s enough to make you feel like you’ve been brained by the Mountain himself (who seldom seems to brain anybody, by the way, have you noticed that?).

A raven recently brought dispiriting news that we might have to wait until 2019 (!) for the next season, but if that’s true we can at least take for granted that the six (extra long) new episodes that remain will be chock full of awesome shit. In the meantime, we have little recourse but to ponder the fate of Tormund Giantsbane (he died, right?) and enjoy amusing GoT/rock music mashups such as those perpetrated by the Why the Long Play Face Instagram feed.

Usually this feed is dedicated to Star Wars album cover inspirations, but in honor of the big season finale on Sunday, they put up a few Game of Thrones versions instead. Perhaps we can send whoever is responsible to undertake further such labors in the Citadel, where grim lectures from Archmaester Ebrose punctuate the day (but we benefit, at least).
 

The men of the Wall as the Ramones
 

Melisandre as Taylor Swift
 

Daenerys Targaryen as Lana Del Ray
 
More Game of Thrones album cover mashups after the jump…...
 

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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08.29.2017
12:56 pm
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Janis Joplin’s band play a wild, psychedelic version of ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’
08.25.2017
08:47 am
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Ball & Chain
 
In April 1967, a then little-known San Francisco group, Big Brother & the Holding Company, appeared on their local public television station, KQED. This was a few months before their legendary performance at the Monterey Pop Festival—which would make Joplin a star—and the release of their first album, which came out later in the year. Their live set for the KQED cameras is now appreciated for its documentation of Joplin pre-fame, but the highlight of the footage doesn’t involve her at all. It’s her band’s untamed interpretation of a nearly 100-year-old piece of music that made for unusually great TV. Still does!

“In the Hall of the Mountain King” was written by Norwegian composer, Edvard Grieg. It was commissioned for Peer Gynt, an 1876 play concerning the vagabond life of the title character. The Grieg piece is played during a fantasy sequence in which Grynt sneaks into the castle of the Mountain King.

The Charlotte Symphony Orchestra sets the scene:

The music begins with the tiptoeing theme in B minor, played slowly by the cellos and bassoons, indicating Peer Gynt’s careful footsteps as he creeps into the castle. A second statement of the theme, played at another pitch and on different instruments, represents the king’s trolls, who eventually give chase to Peer. The tempo gradually escalates, and the music gets faster and faster and louder and louder. A series of crashing cymbals and thunderous timpani rolls silence all the other instruments, as the mountain tumbles to the ground and destroys the trolls who have been chasing after the fleeing Peer.

Even non-classical music fans will probably recognize the piece.
 

Much more after the jump…

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Posted by Bart Bealmear
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08.25.2017
08:47 am
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Pharaoh’s Den, the Sun Ra-themed grocery store in Philadelphia
08.25.2017
07:50 am
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The Pharaoh’s Den sign in ‘Sun Ra: A Joyful Noise
 
“PHARAOH FED THE NATIONS OF THE WORLD FOR 7 YEARS,” the sign in Germantown proclaimed. “THE FIRST SUPERMARKET.” This was the entrance to Pharaoh’s Den, a grocery store run by Sun Ra’s saxophonist and manager Danny Thompson during the Arkestra’s Philadelphia period. When I finally get that time machine, I will do all of my shopping here and at Leonard Nimoy’s Pet Pad.

Just thinking about a day in Danny Thompson’s life during those years makes my feet hurt. Ra biographer John F. Szwed writes that running the store, which was financed by Thompson’s mother, was only one of the saxophonist’s responsibilities as the person tasked with keeping the Arkestra in funds. When he wasn’t busy in all-day rehearsals or running Pharaoh’s Den, Thompson wore a salesman’s hat, dealing stacks of El Saturn’s unlovely vinyl.

Danny Thompson’s approach to the sale of records was what he called improvisation, and what others might call shtick: a mixture of messianic zeal, hustle, and moxie. When he entered Third Street Jazz & Blues with handfuls of 45s, some of which looked warped, handmade, maybe not even recorded on, he launched into a pitch that assured the sales staff that no other store would be getting these records, that they were a unique product, collectors’ items, that they would immediately sell out…then, more ominously, that they were dangerous. After such a spiel, who could say to him only, “We’ll take a couple”? When asked what the returns policy was for defective records, Thompson would answer, “The Creator works in mysterious ways.”

Thompson described the grind of working for “the Creator” in a recent onstage discussion with his colleague, Marshall Allen. “It was like you going to a construction job,” he said.

I became Sun Ra’s manager for like 10 years. It will burn you out. Really, I’m not going to lie. If everything went wrong, it was on you. If everything went right, it was on, “Sun Ra did it.” It was just so much. It was so much that I left for a while, but you never really leave. I took a vacation like 10 years.

See film footage of the Pharaoh’s Den after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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08.25.2017
07:50 am
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