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Must-see footage from Samla Mammas Manna, Sweden’s prog-rock fusion jazz rascals
02:58 pm


Samla Mammas Manna

Samla Mammas Manna was a prog rock band that was active during the 1970s and later that seems to have been Sweden’s closest approximation to Frank Zappa. Samla Mammas Manna was musically accomplished and willing to wander all over the map into outright experimentation, and they were also quite funny, a bit like how Zappa was funny. Samla Mammas Manna maybe brought a little less edge to its humor than Zappa did. They were highly adventurous musicians of an exacting and exuberant nature.

The phrase “Samla Mammas Manna” is Swedish for “Collect Mama’s manna” and undoubtedly was chosen for its mellifluous ring, it’s something akin to a tongue-twister. According to François Couture, SMM’s second album Måltid (“Mealtime”) combined “free improvisation, Scandinavian folklore, progressive rock motifs, and Amon Düül II-like short songs.” Doesn’t that sound tasty?

In the late 1970s Samla Mammas Manna was one of the founding partcipants in the Rock in Opposition (RIO) movement, which was very influential throughout Europe. In 1979 SMM signed up to be Fred Frith’s backing band on his first solo album following the breakup of Henry Cow, 1980’s Gravity.

Klossa Knapitatet
In this clip, the year is 1974. The members of the band amiably answer a few questions from the noted guitarist Stefan Grossman before breaking into a phenomenal rendition of material off of SMM’s third album Klossa Knapitatet, which was a new album that year. Judging from the comments on the YouTube thread, Swedes are very familiar with this band.

If nothing else, Samla Mammas Manna had one of the most entertaining drummers it’s ever been my pleasure to watch. The creativity and joy on display here are positively infectious.

Should this clip appeal to you, I promise you there is much more of the same on the studio albums.


Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Post-mortem photographic portraits from the Victorian era unite the living and the dead
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It’s difficult for the modern mind to apprehend the importance of the invention of the daguerrotype in 1839. All of a sudden, people had the capacity to retain a perfect image of a loved one—it must have been mind-blowing.

As the cost of the technology went down, the practice of using photography to execute a proper remembrance of loved ones who had passed on must have been irresistible. Unlike today, when just about anyone you’d be likely to meet has been photographed countless times, in the late 1800s and early 1900s a person might live his or her whole life without leaving behind a photographic portrait.

Enter the practice known as post-mortem photography. In North America and Europe a practice arose of taking pictures of beloved relatives who had recently died—-and often including other family members who were still alive. It was a way to bring together the living and the dead, to establish continuity in the passage of time. We find it creepy today, but we’re happier with our deceased well out of view.
As Meghan of Cvlt Nation writes,

one hundred years ago in America and the UK, seeing portraits of dead relatives or children on people’s walls was totally normal, and in fact expected. While today, we prefer to remember our ancestors as they lived, the Victorians felt that capturing their dead flesh was a way to pay respect to their passing.

If you are interested in this subject, the aptly named Jack Mord (“Mord” is actually German for “murder”) provided the definitive account in his 2014 book Beyond the Dark Veil: Post Mortem & Mourning Photography.

Here are a few of Meghan’s bone-chilling finds, with, as she writes, “with a minimum of dead babies, they are by far the creepiest!”


More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
That time Ian McCulloch dressed up as Dorothy from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ for a photo shoot
11:38 am


Judy Garland
The Wizard Of Oz
Ian McCulloch

To greet the 1990s, NME commissioned a photo shoot for its last issue of 1989 (December 23-30 issue) featuring Ian McCulloch, the presiding genius of Echo and the Bunnymen, in which he dressed up as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz.

Here’s the original spread, which appeared under the banner “Screen-Age Kicks”:

The pictures are an undisputed success, due in no small part to McCulloch’s utter lack of distancing camp affectation or irony. It’s almost as if McCulloch knows damn well that he’s gorgeous, so why not go with it? (Actually, about that. See McCulloch’s remarks on the shoot below.)

Two years ago Buzzfeed did a list explaining why McCulloch was the 1980s version of Kanye West. The list is essentially a collection of astonishingly confident, self-admiring quotations from McCulloch, as in “The Bunnymen are the most important band to ever put an album out. And the Beatles, maybe the Stones. I think we’re up there in the top ten greatest bands of all time.”

Maybe something of that attitude is caught in the photo?

For a “Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes” feature in the pages of Uncut twenty years later, McCulloch reminisced about the photo shoot—his comments are frankly hilarious and a little bit baffling (calling Judy Garland “a bit iffy” and a “weirdo”):

The NME were doing this thing—who do you wanna be? Obviously Bono would’ve plumped for the hunchback of Notre Dame. But I thought Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz, ‘cos she looked a bit iffy. I thought, to get my own back at the girls on the bus who thought I had lippy on—and I knew at the time, I’m a better-looking girl than you are—let’s jazz this Dorothy up, give her some beauty, not the weirdo Judy looked. Mark E. Smith—whooh! Frank Black—I’d hate to see him doing a picture from Last Tango in Paris. It was down to me. And I did it well.


In 2011 the well-known someecards company concocted an ecard that poked fun at McCulloch:

“It was down to me. And I did it well.” As a reminder of what could have given Ian such a massive ego to begin with, here’s a hefty chunk of footage of Echo and the Bunnymen playing the Royal Albert Hall in 1983:

via Fuck Yeah Bunnymen

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Cooking with the Butthole Surfers: Gibby Haynes’ dessert and drink recipes
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Butthole Surfers
Gibby Haynes

If you were going to ask musicians for recipes, the Butthole Surfers might seem like unlikely candidates. There isn’t a Martha Stewart type among them; indeed, their dancer, Kathleen, once mixed her own urine in with the macaroni and cheese. But reading through the band’s old interviews has more in common with taking a Home Ec class than you might expect.

“I can cook a bad-ass peach cobbler,” Gibby Haynes bragged in the June ‘86 issue of SPIN. The interview concluded with the recipe for Gibby’s Spillane Peach Cobbler, named for Haynes’ old college basketball teammate Jeff Spillane, whom Gibby named alongside Ed Asner as one of the band’s heroes:

He’s this weird kind of straight guy with heavy beard growth and a hairy chest. He’s a nice guy, but he’s kind of geeky. He used to wear this lime-green polyester leisure suit. He’s the first person I ever saw light a fart. We usually sing songs that have Jeff Spillane in them, like “Back on Spillane’s Gang.” I think he’s now an accountant somewhere.


SPIN doesn’t say if Gibby read these very precise instructions off the back of a foxed, four-by-six recipe card inked with a grandmotherly scrawl, or (as I prefer to imagine) reeled them off from memory.


Stir together ½ t. salt and 2 c. flour. Cut in ½ c. shortening until crumbly. Add ⅓ c. milk and stir with a fork until the dough leaves the sides of the bowl. On a lightly floured board, roll the dough into a rectangle a little less than ¼ in. thick. Put it on a baking sheet and bake it at 425° until it’s lightly browned. Then put mixed-up water, brown sugar, egg white, and cinnamon [5 egg whites, ¾ c. water, ½ c. brown sugar, ¼ t. cinnamon] on top of the crust and bake it until it foams up like a custard. When it starts to look cooked, take it out and put sliced fresh peaches on it. It’s amazing. It’s a killer dessert.

Gibby also gave a cocktail recipe to Fiz, a short-lived, strongly pro-alcohol punk magazine from Los Angeles. In the 23 years since that issue of Fiz hit the newsstand, I’ve never mustered the courage to fix a Bloody Leroy for myself, but I imagine it would complement the peach cobbler very nicely when dining al fresco on a summer evening. The interview it accompanied outlined the band’s plans for a Joy Division game show in which contestants guess what Ian Curtis is singing (“You get points for correct answers and more points for better answers which are incorrect”), and is worth reading, though the transcription omits the drink recipe. From my personal tear-stained copy of the March/April ‘93 issue of Fiz, here’s the “BADASS BUTTHOLE BEVERAGE” you didn’t know you craved:


The best drink is barbecue sauce and vodka with a twist of lemon. The barbecue sauce has gotta be real thin. Stir it with a rip up. It’s badass. It’s cold. A Bloody Leroy!

Below, whet your appetite with the savory Buttholes rarity “Beat the Press.”

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Peep Shows, Pimps and Prostitutes: A Walk on the Wild Side of New York in the 1970s

Leland Bobbé started his career as a photographer in the mid-1970s shooting street scenes around Times Square and the Bowery in New York City. Bobbé was living downtown near the Brooklyn Bridge. He played drums with a band on the CBGBs/Max’s Kansas City scene.

Because I didn’t write music, I eventually realized through taking pictures I was able to make more of a personal statement than playing rock n’ roll written by others.

At night Bobbé drove a taxi. He scouted the streets in different neighborhoods. During the day, he returned to these neighborhoods to take photographs of the people who hung around the sidewalks, peep shows, bars, and flop houses.

Hard as it is to remember now, at that moment New York was kind of on its ass. Crime was at a high. Destitution and poverty were spreading like plague. Drugs and vice seemed to be the only booming enterprises. The Son of Sam slayings terrorized New Yorkers. The city was virtually bankrupt—President Gerald Ford told New York to “drop dead,” as the New York Daily News famously had it. He eventually relented and stumped up a loan to save the Big Apple. Bobbé‘s photos captured the city long before its gentrification as a rich hipster’s playground.

Bobbé often shot from the hip using a 28mm to avoid detection. Others were shot with a telephoto lens. The resulting photographs are stunning, gritty and powerful—filled with character and atmosphere that captured the city at an unforgettable point in its history.
More of Leland Bobbé‘s gritty photographs of New York in the 1970s, after the jump…..

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight: Watch Sha Na Na totally kill it live on German TV in 1973
10:17 am


Sha Na Na

The Kings of New York, Sha Na Na
Those of you that are of (ahem) a certain age will certainly remember faux-50’s band Sha Na Na not only for their music but also for their syndicated television show that ran from 1977 to 1981. I was absolutely obsessed with that show, and adored the band’s goofy antics and faithful fashion homages to the 1950s from the top of their greased back hair, to the seams on the famous gold lamé pants worn by Frederick “Dennis” Greene, Johnny “Kid” Contardo, and Scott “Tony Santini” on the show—one of the most popular in TV syndication at the time.

In addition to appearances in the film 1978 Grease (where the band was depicted as a fictional 1950s band called Johnny Casino and the Gamblers), Sha Na Na was also featured on the films wildly popular soundtrack, and the tearjerker “Sandy” (sung by John Travolta) was co-written by Sha Na Na’s Screamin’ Scott Simon, who got his start with the band playing piano back in 1970, and still performs with them to this day. In this footage (which I’m pretty sure is gonna blow your mind), the band performs nineteen songs for the enthusiastic studio audience in attendance for a taping of German music television show Musikladen in 1973.

From the minute they hit the stage, it’s clear that we are all in for some high-octane doo-wop, class-act choreography, and the visual treat that is the gangly, rock-and-roll Frankenstein known as “Bowzer” (Jon Bauman)—he’s probably the most recognizable member of the group, too. Since departing Sha Na Na, Bauman continues to tour as his alter-ego “Bowzer” with his group The Stingrays and was also instrumental in helping the passage of the Truth in Music Act—a law that protects musicians and bands from identity theft. Now that’s fucking rock and roll.

The gold lamé suits worn by Sha Na Na that drove my young libido into overdrive back in the late 70s
And what about those skin-tight gold lamé suits (pictured above)? While conducting my very important “research” for this post, I discovered that all three of them are currently up for sale (along with the matching gold lamé boots and belts, thank you very much) for the tidy sum of $2,500. A small price to pay for a piece of rock and roll history that I’d do almost anything to squeeze myself into (those boys were tight back in the day, to say the least). I’ve probably watched this footage at least five times since stumbling on it and every time I do, it gets better. As one commenter on the Youtube page said, “this deserves a million likes.” To which I say AMEN, brother. If you dig it as much as I do, you can get your very own DVD of the show, here. Enjoy!

Sha Na Na on German music television show, Musikladen in 1973.

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Walter Molino’s lush illustrations of people in peril
09:58 am


Walter Molino

These illustrations of people in various states of peril were painted by the extremely prolific Italian artist Walter Molino. Most of these pieces date from the 1950s.

Much of Molino’s work was produced for the Italian newspaper La Domenica del Corriere.

Born in 1915, Molino began his work as a professional illustrator in 1935. He started out working as a comic artist for satirical magazines until he became the official cover-illustrator of La Domenica del Corriere in 1941. It has been said that famous fantasy illustrator Frank Frazetta was a huge fan of Molino and drew inspiration from his work.

These paintings take on an almost sadistic quality, as Molino seems to revel in the beauty of human bodies being tossed about by dire circumstances. The mayhem is delightful.

There are many more examples of Molino’s incredible work on the “Today’s Inspiration Group” Facebook page.




Lots more, after the jump…...

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Henry Rollins and Lydia Lunch in the erotic, violent ‘The Right Side of My Brain’ (NSFW)

Richard Kern was a big part of the underground cinema of the East Village in the 1980s. Among other things, he directed videos for Sonic Youth’s “Death Valley ‘69” (which featured Lydia Lunch, of course) and King Missile’s ”Detachable Penis.” Kern was very much a part of the same scene that was more or less defined by Nick Zedd. He made many experimental and sexual movies on Super-8.

According to Richard Kostelanetz in A Dictionary of the Avant-Gardes,

This fascination with the dark side of looking—with the dynamics and aesthetics of voyeurism—is Richard Kern’s theme and it runs through his films and photography. In many ways, Kern’s work is a culmination of self-referential approaches to depicting the artist’s relationship to his “subject.” And his subject is a kind of seeing. ... In many ways his movies are responses to popular film and commercial culture as a whole.

One of Kern’s early movies was The Right Side of My Brain, a 23-minute black-and-white experimental movie that is unabashedly about sex, violence, and control. This movie is about as NSFW as anything we’ve ever presented on the site.

The whole movie is told from the point of view of the character played by Lydia Lunch in a dreamy and sexualized and insular mode that was well-nigh invented by Maya Deren in 1943’s “Meshes of the Afternoon.” Lunch’s character goes through a series of assignations that involve varying degrees of violence. Around the 10th minute an actor credited as Clint Ruin (actually the musician J.G. Thirlwell) shows up and he proceeds to dominate Lunch’s character somewhat, after which she gives him a blow job. Yes, you read that right, most of that highly X-rated act is captured in the movie.

The bulk of the movie was shot in some claustrophobic NYC tenement, but in the sole outdoor sequence—possibly shot in Central Park?—Henry Rollins appears and follows the Lunch character. They too start making out and then the Rollins character has a kind of tantrum.

By the bye, when this was shot Rollins had the “SEARCH AND DESTROY” part of his back tattoo in place but not the rest. At one point Lunch is shown wearing a T-shirt with the Einstürzende Neubauten homunculus on it.

The images of sexual violence are, of course, disturbing; many ladies in the audience will enjoy the three smoking hot dudes in various states of undress.

The Right Side of My Brain is available on Blu-Ray in Hardcore Collection: Director’s Cut.


Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Gulf War kitsch: Some red-white-and-blue numbnuts reads his ‘Letter to Saddam Hussein,’ 1991

I’ve been waiting for this primo item of Desert Storm-abilia to turn up on YouTube for years, and Lord knows I have waited patiently; for as the Good Book reminds us, “the race is not to the swift” (Ecclesiastes 9:11), and some of these fuckers are anything but swift.

Back in ‘91, Jerry Martin (a/k/a Jerry Buckner) rode the tide of blood unleashed by the first Gulf War all the way to #71 on Billboard’s country chart. I’m still struggling to understand how this epistolary spoken word release qualified as a country song, but I’m going to bet it had something to do with the kinds of radio stations that played it and the obscure regions of our nation to which their signals penetrated. A cassingle issued in a plain gray sleeve, Martin’s “Letter to Saddam Hussein” had little in common with Jello Biafra’s contemporary Gulf War cassingle, “Die for Oil, Sucker,” which pointed out that we might not be fighting for the noblest of causes.

Martin left that kind of thinking to eggheads, Poindexters and Philadelphia lawyers. On his cassingle, he allowed as how he didn’t know much of anything, because being so ordinary, regular and real didn’t leave a lot of time for studies. But there was one thing he did know: our pride would be Saddam’s shame.

I mentioned that Jerry Martin was the pseudonym of Jerry Buckner. Now, I can’t be sure this is the Jerry Buckner of “Pac Man Fever” fame, but I do wonder how many vocal talents named Jerry Buckner might plausibly reside in the Atlanta area. To whom was Saddam supposed to address his reply? Whatever, I bet the dictator thought twice about showing his face down south after this tape came out. Cut way down on his trips to Georgia.

Now a quarter-century old—its sleeve no longer the shiny gray I remember from my Sam Goody youth, but the dull gray I see in my Sam Elliott beard—this curiosity fetches outrageous prices on Amazon. I can’t imagine why. I hope it’s because there are a lot of Big Lebowski and Nevermind fans researching the beginnings of American history’s most bogus journey.

Without spoiling the dramatic ending of “Letter to Saddam Hussein,” I can tell you that we kept its promise. Our boys showed Saddam who was boss, thereby transforming the entire Fertile Crescent into a fiery whirlwind of widows’ blood and children’s limbs. Now our boys will be there showing Saddam who’s boss forever!

Mission accomplished, numbnuts!

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Awesome collectible action figure of Alfred Hitchcock
12:04 pm


Alfred Hitchcock

Mondo collaborated with artists Trevor Grove and Michael Norman to create this 1/6 scale collectible figure of filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock. The action figure includes:

Director’s Chair
2 Cigars (1 lit & 1 unlit)
Butcher Knife
4 Interchangeable Hands

In addition to the regular version, we’ll have a website exclusive version which includes a Seagull accessory ($190). The exclusive will be available for 48 hours from Thursday (5/26) at 12PM CST through Saturday (5/28) at 12PM CST.

The figure will be available to purchase today (May 26, 2016), starting at 1 PM EST. It’s selling for $185.00.



via Laughing Squid

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Someone put eyeglasses on a museum floor, people thought it was art
11:52 am



It seems like something out of a movie. In fact, if there isn’t a scene in some Mr. Bean joint in which people mistake something for art, I’ll eat my hat.

A couple of teenagers at San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art decided to place a pair of eyeglasses on the floor in one of the rooms just to see what would happen. Tentative visitors quickly treated the unassuming, er, spectacle, with the requisite respect owed to any duly accredited piece of conceptual or minimalist art.

On Twitter, the pranksters go by @TJCruda and @k_vinnn. After just a few minutes, a crowd of onlookers had gathered to investigate the unlabeled “artwork.” Seventeen-year-old T.J. Khayatan (@TJCruda) documented the public’s response on Twitter.

Conceptual art and minimalism are prone to this sort of thing. In 2001, a Damien Hirst installation consisting of a collection of beer bottles, coffee cups, and overflowing ashtrays was mistakenly tossed in the garbage by a janitor. Three years later at the Tate Britain, a Gustav Metzger artwork consisting of a bag of paper and cardboard was similarly thrown out, and in southern Italy in 2014, parts of a piece by Sala Murat were mistakenly discarded.

Just a few months ago, last autumn, an unruly installation by Sara Goldschmied and Eleonora Chiari at the Museion Bozen-Bolzano in Italy so resembled the aftermath of a riotous party—it consisted mainly of cigarette butts, empty bottles of champagne, and party streamers—that a cleaner put quite a bit of labor into tidying it up, prompting a memorable screed in the Spectator (U.K.) blog with the title “Hurrah for the cleaner who accidentally threw away a modern art exhibit.”

Before he started the band Pavement, Stephen Malkmus worked at the Whitney Museum in New York City as a guard—while he was there the museum displayed a work by the minimalist artist Richard Tuttle called “Ten Kinds of Memory and Memory Itself” that consisted of a few pieces of string placed on the floor. Malkmus has credited the piece as a contributing factor in deciding to start Pavement.


More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Blade Runner’ and ‘A Scanner Darkly’ reconstructed with an autoencoder

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe,” said the Nexus-6 replicant Roy Batty at the end of the film Blade Runner.

Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears ... in ... rain.

It’s a great speech—one written by Rutger Hauer—which suggests this bad boy android or replicant has experienced a state of consciousness beyond its intended programming.

While we can imagine what Batty’s memories look like, we can never see or experience them as the replicant or android saw them. Which is kinda damned obvious—but raises a fascinating question: Would an android, a robot, a machine see things as we see them?

It is now believed that humans use up to 50% of their brain to process vision—which gives you an idea the sheer complexity involved in even attempting to create some machine that could successfully read or visualize its environment. Do machines see? What do they see? How can they construct images from the input they receive?

The human eye can recognize handwritten numbers or words without difficulty. We process information unconsciously. We are damned clever. Our brain is a mega-supercomputer—one that scientists still do not fully understand.

Now imagine trying to create a machine that can do what the human brain does in literally the blink of an eye. Our sight can read emotion. It can intuit meaning. It can scan and understand and know whether something it inputs is dangerous or funny. We can look at a cartoon and know it is funny. Machines can’t do that. Yet.

A neural network is a computer system modeled on the human brain and nervous system. One type of neural network is an autoencoder.

Autoencoders are “simple learning circuits which aim to transform inputs into outputs with the least possible amount of distortion.”

Here’s a robotic arm using deep spatial encoders to “visualize” a simple function.

Terence Broad is an artist and research student at Computing Department at Goldsmiths University in London. Over the past year, Broad has been working on a project reconstructing films with artificial neural networks. Broad has been

training them to reconstruct individual frames from films, and then getting them to reconstruct every frame in a given film and resequencing it.

The type of neural network used is an autoencoder. An autoencoder is a type of neural net with a very small bottleneck, it encodes a data sample into a much smaller representation (in this case a 200 digit number), then reconstructs the data sample to the best of its ability. The reconstructions are in no way perfect, but the project was more of a creative exploration of both the capacity and limitations of this approach.

The resultant frames are strange watercolor-like images that are identifiable especially when placed side-by-side with the original source material. That they can reproduce such fast flickering information at all is, well, damned impressive.

Among the films Broad has used are two Philip K. Dick adaptations Blade Runner and A Scanner Darkly, which is apt considering Dick’s interest in androids and asking the question “What is reality?”
Much more after the jump…....

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Technology/Transformation’: Funky ‘Wonder Woman’ mashup from 1978
10:28 am

Pop Culture

Wonder Woman
Dana Birnbaum

I was recently on vacation in Vancouver, BC and was lucky enough to take in a massive pop culture retrospective called “MashUp: The Birth of Modern Culture” at the gorgeous Vancouver Art Gallery. The show, which took approximately four years to curate, featured a huge array of works from pop culture heroes like filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, and many, many others.

One of the many delights the show had to offer fans of pop culture was an almost six-minute video by American video and installation artist Dara Birnbaum, a woman at the forefront of the feminist art movement in the mid-1970s. The video, “Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman,” was made in 1978 and 1979 and features Lynda Carter as her television super-hero alter ego Wonder Woman; explosions, imagery, and audio tracks taken from from her show, which ran from 1975 to 1979; and Carter’s trademark “Wonder Woman” spin—all scored to the show’s own cheese-tastic soundtrack as well as a few added disco fillips. According to Birnbaum, her use of repetition in the video is meant to expose the illusion of “fixed female identities in media” and attempts to show the emergence of a “new woman” through use of technology.

Since I first saw Birnbaum’s Wonder Woman video, I have not be able to get it out of my mind—it’s a strangely compelling and hypnotic piece of work. The video wraps up with an on-screen transcription of The Wonderland Disco Band’s homage to Wonder Woman, “Wonder Woman Disco” which is nearly as fantastic as the video itself. If you’re planning on visiting Vancouver, BC, I highly recommend that you check out “MashUp,” which runs through June 12.
“Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman” by Dara Birnbaum:

More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Ralf Hütter reviews Kraftwerk’s albums, 2009
10:20 am


Ralf Hütter

In 2009 Uncut magazine managed to get Ralf Hütter of Kraftwerk to go through the entire Kraftwerk discography and comment on the albums one by one. Because of his role in creating these albums it’s a bit silly to call his comments “reviews” but you know, it’s close enough.

When this piece was executed, the split between Hütter and Florian Schneider was quite fresh—Florian had played his last gig with Kraftwerk three years earlier, on November 11, 2006, at Feria de Muestras in Zaragoza, Spain, and the news of Florian’s exit from the band was only a few months old. Uncut addressed the situation in the introduction:

The acrimonious departure last year of Hütter’s fellow Kraftwerk founder, Florian Schneider, is still a sensitive subject. “We haven’t seen him for a long time,” Hütter shrugs. “I cannot speak for my former partner, friend and co-composer, but he always hated touring and concerts.”

Perhaps it was to assuage any doubts people might have about a touring four-piece Kraftwerk with just one member from the classic 1970s/‘80s lineup in it that Hütter chose to discourse so expansively on the legendary band’s illustrious catalog. Uncut skipped a couple of releases, notably Kraftwerk 2, Electric Café, and The Mix, but covered covered the entirety of what they surely saw as the meat of Kraftwerk’s golden period in the late 1970s.

For every album, ranging from 1970’s debut Kraftwerk up to 2003’s Tour De France Soundtracks, I’ve excerpted a paragraph or so from Hütter’s full comments. For the full scoop, by all means check out Uncut’s page or the large-format images of the pages we’ve provided below.

We were finding Kraftwerk, setting up the Kling Klang studio, finding musicians to work with, discovering composition, discovering the German language, human voice, synthetic voice. Me and Florian had our Kling Klang studio since 1970, and before that we had a free-form music group. We used to play at universities or parties or art galleries. And one day we said: OK, there must be a mothership, a laboratory, a studio HQ where we put things together.

We listened to quite a lot of electronic stuff at that time. On the art scene, and on the radio. We were brought up within the kind of classical Beethoven school of music, but we were aware there was a contemporary music scene, and of course a pop and rock scene. But where was our music? Finding our voice, I think that was the use of the tape recorder. So that’s what happened, we tried to forget all the things we knew before. I think our contact to the tape recorder made us use synthetic voices, artificial personalities, all those robotic ideas.

It’s not about cars, it’s about the Autobahn. People forget that. It’s a road where we were travelling all the time: hundreds of thousands of kilometres from university to art galleries, from club to home. We didn’t even have money to stay in hotels so at night we’d be travelling home after playing somewhere. That’s very important, it’s not about cars, it’s about the Autobahn. It’s also a road movie, with a humorous twist.

It’s a science fiction kind of album. Horror and beauty. The concept was infiltration by radio station – which is maybe more dangerous than radioactivity. We worked with tapes, editing pieces, glue. All electronics. And more singing and speaking, like speech symphonies.

It was written in two languages, English and German. Autobahn was just one. It was not a statement, just these lyrics came to our mind—“Radioactivity, is in the air for you and me…” Just ideas coming together, and then anticipating the next album, which was all in two languages, like in films. There were always talks about Kraftwerk working with films, but they didn’t happen – apart from [German director Rainer Werner] Fassbinder, but he used finished pieces of our music in different interpretations in his films. Radio-Activity was a favourite of Fassbinder, he used it in Russian Roulette and in Berlin Alexanderplatz.

Much, much more after the jump….....

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Please Respect Our Decadence: The arch minimalism of Algebra Suicide
10:13 am


Algebra Suicide

In turn-of-the’80s Chicago, Trouble Boys guitarist Don Hedeker and the accomplished poet Lydia Tomkiw forged a romantic and creative partnership when they married and formed the band Algebra Suicide. They announced their existence to the world in 1982 with the 4-song 7” E.P. True Romance at the World’s Fair, and the title song earned the honor of inclusion on Trouser Press’ Best of the American Underground compilation the following year. The E.P. set the formula for the band’s entire 12-year career: Hedeker would play dreamy, unchanging guitar lines (I wonder if Lungfish were fans) over a simple drum machine pattern while the admirably advanced wordsmith Tomkiw cooly and astutely riffed on romance, culture, alienation, and death, delivering her recitations in tones that could have approached the snideness of the Waitresses’ Patty Donahue were Tomkiw’s delivery not so immaculately dry.

The band’s live performances were minimal but memorable. Taking a cue from the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, they dressed all in white and played side-by-side in front of a screen, immersed in projected art. The time I saw them, Hedeker was even playing a clear lucite guitar, allowing just that much more of the projected material to engulf him. Frustratingly, I’m unable to locate any motion footage of the band performing in that manner. Can you just trust me that it was freakin’ cool?


The band released several EPs and cassettes between 1982 and 1987, when RRR Records released the LP/CD The Secret Like Crazy. It was a best-of, but new fans could be forgiven for thinking it was their debut album, and it serves as a singular and definitive statement of the band’s most vital period. But though it’s essential, it’s out of print. Fortunately, Dark Entries came to the rescue of the fans and the curious in 2013 by releasing Feminine Squared, a compilation whose content overlaps Secret’s by enough to forego the crate-dig, and it’s bundled with a live DVD of excellent quality.

A 1992 European tour for the album Swoon produced tensions that ended Tomkiw and Hedeker’s marriage, but the band continued until the 1994 release of Tongue Wrestling. Tomkiw released a solo album, Incorporated in 1995, enlisting musical assists from smartass Midwestern art punks Sosumi, Pigface’s Martin Bowes, and Legendary Pink Dot Edward Ka-Spell, but that was her last musical release. She continued to publish poetry until her death in 2007.






Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
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