listen.camp / episode 007 / field notes
episode 007 includes field recordings, spoken word, ambient, edited loops, and a four "normal" musics. Headphones are highly recommended. The emphasis in this episode is on looped song fragments. You will probably recognize the source material. Why? Because some times I like just one part of a song and the rest drags it down.
01. Mega Emotion (2017)
Reasons to love Mega Emotion - Ian, Lisa, and Jan are an extremely tight, and highly intelligent, three piece. Wall of guitar noise, stuttering vocals, angst. You might break out in a nervous sweat while listening to OK Maybe OK.
02. William S. Burroughs (1978)
This recording, from The Nova Convention album - sounded cynical at the time of release, but now is a disturbing analogue to the corruption found in most modern political entities. Above all, Burroughs gives a classic reading, midwestern drawl and sheer delight in the absurdity of the carnage he describes. Check the archive at UbuWeb to hear more.
03. Toshiro Mayuzumi (1953)
Speaking of UbuWeb - there is a section listed as Early Japanese Tape Music. Mayuzumi's piece, Works for Musique Concrete X. Y. Z. is a series of classical and field recordings that are edited/chopped/spliced together. I took the liberty of looping the cello section from the Z movement. Great stuff.
04. Brian Eno (1974)
Here Come the Warm Jets is one of my favorite Eno albums. This is a loop/edit of the intro to Dead Finks Don't Talk. It's a nice groove.
05. NASA / Perserverance (2021)
A field recording from Mars. Actually, this is a loop of three recordings from Perserverance, which is currently skittering, in slow motion, on another planet. Slight EQ enhancements and Dear Reality reverb.
06. The Feelies (1980)
Crazy Rhythms is a post-punk classic. This is a loop of the intro to Loveless Love- which is a great song, it grows organically. But I always get stuck on the harmonics in the introduction. Our Newfoundlands provide the barking at the end.
07. Talking Heads (1978)
Another heavy edit of a great song. There original version of Warning Sign combines the twitchy angular guitar and vocals of David Byrne with a solid groove put down by Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth. This edited loop focuses on the intro to the song, where the guitar comes in with a whisper. The groove of the bass and drums on this song totally make it. I saw them perform this in 1978 and it was a "transformative" experience.
08. Hand Habits (2014)
In 2014, Eschatone Records released a split album of Peg (Peg songs will be in the next epsisode) and Hand Habits. It is a brilliant and beautiful album- one side is psych-folk and the other side is psych-pop. This song, Bloom starts out as a very nicely reverb drenched folk/western ballad and over 12:00 minutes, descends into a psych/noise jam- which is not an easy thing to do well. This album is in my file of important music. Bloom is a trippy song. The best kind. Approved.
09. Clare Archibald & TVO (2020)
Slow Notes For Voegelin is field recording ambient music. The second track of the album, Whorls, is a very pretty piece of work. Heavy modulation of organic sounds- cool. Dark. Deep. Immersive. Archibald is a writer and visual artist- and her sensibilities translate perfectly into ambient music on this piece.
Note: Intro and Interstitial
SHR provided the field recordings for the spaces between chapters. Recorded in March 2021 in the lower Connecticut River valley (LCRV).
listen.camp / episode 006 / field notes
episode 006 includes some live music, spoken word, ambient, field recordings, and edited loops. And a couple of "normal" musics. Headphones are highly recommended. Approximately 90% DIY recordings. Strap it on. All the typos are mine.
01. Elf Power (no provenience)
This is an undated live recording of Elf Power doing a cover of Brian Eno's Needle in the Camel's Eye. This has been kicking around on my hard drive for a while and I love this recording. Great thrashing energy. A reminder of another time with hot nights and loud music.
02. Sweet Benfica (2021)
Kaleidoscope is from a soon to be released album by Sweet Benfica. They're the new sound of Neath! In this song, Stefan James drops layers of guitar tones and synth textures. It is hazy, in a warm psychedelic sort of way. The beat is strong. The multi-tracked vocals put you in the middle of a dream in progress.
03. Martin Johnson / Stephen McLeod Blythe (2021)
Unexpected Martin is an unplanned collaboration. In preparing for this broadcast, I separately asked Martin and Stephen to send me any random sounds/words they had on hand or wanted to make. I heavily edited Martin Johnson's reading of the Turner chapter from the book Portraits: John Berger on Artists was woven with sounds Stephen McLeod Blythe recorded from his bank of electronic text equipment. They paired nicely. The swelling sea sounds fit the nautical theme of many of Turner's paintings.
04. Robyn Hitchcock (1990)
Satellite is a short but intense song. The arrangement is simple: voice, guitar, piano, and a carboard box drum kit. The writing and performance are classic Hitchcock: impeccable.
05. Emperor X (2004)
Florencia Tropicana was included in episode 006 because it is a master-class for DIY musicians. This is just one, very impactful, track from the sprawling album Tectonic Membrane / Thin Strip on an Edgeless Platform. Florencia is a great mix of electronic beats and tones with bass, guitar, and drums. This is a song and album not just for listening, but for studying.
06. SARN (2017)
Drust Jive is more of a groove than a song. That is why it's a brilliant piece of music. It has that classic northern California vibe. Sonically adventurous through the engineering and mix by John Vanderslice but completely uniquely guided by SARN's words, composition, and performance. This song is like a long, lazy, summer evening. The synths twinkle around the edges. The beat is relaxed. The guitar riff is stoner solid- pushed to the back, played with no sense of urgency- but still there. Drust Jive has the perfect blend of sparse elements that come together and take you some where.
07. John Vanderslice (2002)
Much like Robyn Hitchcock, John Vanderslice knows how to write a song that is short, simple, and strong. Greyound is from a brilliant album Life and Death of an American Fourtracker. This is another DIY instructional piece that has been on the experimental trash syllabus since it was released. One guitar, one voice, that are engineered into a mix that hits you like a rock. Minimal is good.
08. Atlas Sound (2010)
The Bedroom Databank series by Atlas Sound / Bradford Cox is a sketchbook of songs- some of which were later re-recorded, and others- not. This is an archive of the early and personal work of Bradford Cox. Moonlight on Verlaine is a misty and slowly wandering piece. The entire collection is genius level writing.
09. Tremolo Ghosts (2016)
The Tremolo Ghosts entire catoluge has some very unique gems. This recording, 40-degrees North, 73-degrees West combines field recordings, found sounds, and drone organ. It's a seascape collage of sounds. Harsh ambient in the best possible way. And this piece is the perfect segue to:
10. Abby Newton (2001)
The Myrtle, as presented here, is an edited and looped version of a piece by Abby Newton. Newton is a performer and teacher of cello-folk music. Her pieces space the 16th-19th century and roam from Scotland, to Ireland, to Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia. The visceral sound of the bow scraping across the string is both harmonic and textural. This piece is just a looped version of the introduction to The Myrtle. I used the DearVR Pro software to add reflections to this solo recording. Occasionally the phrase is pitch shifted. Basically, I tried to take a fragment of a traditional folk piece and make it a more ambient space.
11. Wrightoid (2013)
Kid Kipling is one track from the brilliant album Modular Pursuits - where a number of very talented artists re-recorded songs written by Ash Cooke. This track by Wrightoid is one of the standouts and is the album closer. This song is like a quiet walk through a meadow. Field recordings of birds, a nylon string guitar, a soft voice, and comforting words. This is what I need to hear at the moment.
12. Clara Engel (2016)
Once a White Owl is a remix from Engel's 2016 album Visitors Are Allowed One Kiss. This song is long and hypnotic. Drone, psychedelic, folk, nearly ambient, and noise (yes, the ending is pretty awesome.) Another amazing DIY artist with a deep catalogue. Google it.
13. Nat Lyon (2021)
This is a work-in-progress for my next release. Field recordings from hospital visits as my mother slipped away. Bass and drums as a funeral march. What it is. What it was. The piano-like sounds are actually elevator gongs.
14. rift|fault (2019)
Cello, electric piano, drums with too much reverb, and ambient floorboards. That is what one does in the lower Connecticut River valley during winter madness. From the album The Swamp Yankee Ethnographic Series, Volume 1.
listen.camp / episode 005 / field notes
episode 005. Jesus fucking Christ on a crispy cracker I am behind schedule and I'm going to type quickly. This program starts with a track that came over the transom (more below) and curves through piano loops, noise loops, bluegrass (yes), narration, and some neo-classical shit. January has not been kind. Standby.
01.unsolicited submission / And Then Coda (Wire)
This track came from my email inbox. It seems to be a combination of And Then Coda by Wire, from the 1981 album Document and Eyewitness- mixed with snippets of audio from a recorded conversation between Donald Trump and the Secretary of State for Georgia, Brad Raffensperger. Gloomy tones. YaY.
02. Amulets (2020)
Quarantine is exactly what it is. A noise loop, bass, a twinkle of an emulated elecric piano. An internal soundtrack for the current time. That is the beauty of Amulets- simplist beauty with depth.
Then go to the Amulets web site to see the very instructive and hypnotic video for Quarantine and read and listen to more from this very gifted artist. Lo-fi tech genius with an extensive catalogue on
03. Yo La Tengo (2000)
Danelectro is an interesting EP. Five variations of a single track. Some re-interpreted by the band- and others handed over to some very creative hands. This track, Danelectro 3 is the Kit Clayton mix.
04. Yonder Mountain String Band (2015)
This month, Domino reissued a lot of Buzzcocks material. And then I stumbled on to this bluegrass version of a classic.
05. Terry Riley (1960)
This track is the introduction of the Terry Riley piece, Concerto for Two Pianists and Five Tape Reorders. This is an interesting document, given the time, to hear a classical musician attempt to describe "new" music. Nothing ever seems to change.
06. All Feels (2021)
All Feels is the latest incarnation of western Massuchessetts underground legend Candance Clement. This song, Absent has a long and lovely drone-guitar intro that stumbles into a great pop song. There is a video of another song
(We love this for you) from the EP Why Are You Like This?
on YouTube. This is good stuff. Pay attention.
07. SHR (2021)
SHR is a pianist that I know and love. Sometimes I stand in the doorway and record piano fragments on my phone. I asked, "What do you call this?" And she replied, "Why do I have to call it anything?" Working title, 122920. Piano loops.
08. David Byrne (1993)
This is one of my favorite "songs" by David Byrne. Field recordings, a basic beat, and squirrely guitar riffs. Cage and the Long Island Expressway is just one of many great tracks on the John Cage tribute album,
Caged/Uncaged - A Rock/Experimental Homage To John Cage (1993).
Go to UBUWEB and listen to the entire album.
09. Glenn Branca (1982)
Excerpt from Symphony 2 is a classic example of Glenn Branca's arrangements for a guitar orchestra. This piece includes Thurston Moore and Lee Renaldo.
10. The Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra (1993)
The Low Symphony is a brilliant work. Philip Glass e-imagined and scored an orchestral version of Low. Both Bowie and Eno are credited as collaborators. This is a beautifuly performance and recording of Warzawa.
listen.camp / episode 004 / field notes
episode 004 starts with a field recording and meanders through noise, feedback, drone, some post-pop, and punk. It's within the theme of how the year 2020 has gone for most of us. This episode only consists of only 10 long tracks. Long and painful. Cheers!
01. field recording, "the pink dog," and firewood (2020)
I recently received some great software from DearReality. The spatial plugins from the DearVR Pro pack were used on this track to spread the environmental sounds- and provide them with a more natural, or immersive placement. A cold night in Connecticut, a fire needed to be built, and then pitch shifted a mechanical dog. It's my postcard to Year 2020. That's what we do here.
02. Dezmo (2020)
Jaded is a new track from Dezmo, master of beautifully wrecking previously recorded songs by shredding the pitch, tempo, and harmonics. This piece defies classification. It is a beautiful collage of sounds.
03. #TheKanzler (2020)
sk8ters is a field recording of an "unofficial" skateboad race that recently took place down a very steep hill. In the middle of winter. This is a short recording- because the skateboarders were very fast. I have been informed that no one was injured.
04. Sharon Van Ettten (2010)
Peace Signs is one of my favorite tracks from Van Etten's 2010 release, Epic. The simmering rage of this song has been part of my personal soundtrack lately.
05. Euros Childs (2020)
Kitty Dear, Part 1 is the first side of the new Euros Childs album, Kitty Dear. I read somewhere that Euros used every keyboard in his house on this album. The resulting sessions, recorded by Stephen Black, aka Sweet Baboo are a series of audio vignettes that are stitched together in a very artful way. Childs is doing something very interesting on this album- it is very minimal- but the writing is, as always, brilliant.
06. Spacemoth (2020)
This untitled feedback loop came about in a very odd way. Spacemoth (Maryam Quodus) is a muscian, engineer, and producer. The Spacemoth music project combines the nicest elements of psychedelia and rock- in a very modern, precise, and technical way, thanks to the engineering of her collaborator and husband, Beau Sorenson. Influences include Kraftwerk, Eno, and Daft Punk. But there is no mistaking the originality of the Spacemoth sound.
Regaring this piece, I saw a 20-second long video clip Spacemoth posted of a guitar, leaning against an amplifier, and feeding back. I assumed this was part of a new project. So, being the random idiot that I am, I drunkenly sent a tweet, something like, "This is awesome! Would it be ok if I looped this and put it on the Experimental Trash podcast???" And surprisingly, Spacemoth replied, "Yes!!" Hope I didn't wreck it. I also used the DearReality software on this one.
07. Ian Thistlethwaite (2016)
In 2015-2016, Ian Thistlethwaite asked a number of artists to re-record songs that he had written, but never released. He sent out "sketches" of songs which consisted of one track of vocals and one track of piano. I contributed a version of his song, I'll please you- which came out on the [sic] various artists album in 2016.
In this version of I'll please you- I restored all of Ian's piano and vocals, along with the tracks I had done. Then I looped several of my favorite measures of his piano melody and voice. It starts out a little ragged and then settles into a loop/drone kind of thing. Another application of the DearVR kit.
08. Avi Buffalo (2012)
This morning, while doing some research for this post, I discovered that Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg (Avi Buffalo) has been accused of sexual assualt. If I had known that I would not have included this song in episode 004. I retract my line at the end of the podcast where I refer to him as "...one of the best guitarists walking around." I don't like creeps. I don't respect creeps. DON'T BE A FUCKING CREEP.
09. Mission of Burma (1985)
Recorded in 1985, during their "farewell" tour, Heart of Darkness is one of the high points of The Horrible Truth About Burma. Brilliant cover of the Pere Ubu song. A long acid drone jam- from three pioneering musicians and the fourth behind the console making tape loops in real time.
10. Deerhunter (2013)
The album Monomania, was described by Bradford Cox as, "...a very hateful record...I was in a lot of pain and very lonely." The imagery in Nitebike rides true to that vibe. A song about being physically and emotionally stuck, on some road, out in the dark. This was 2020. Looped the last measure for the closing credits.
...and DON'T BE A FUCKING CREEP
see you next year
listen.camp / episode 003 / playlist
episode 003 includes a number of field recordings, some re-constructed pieces from found stem files, loops from the "good" parts of songs, and regular, untampered, post-rock songs.
01. XMTR Derailleur (2013)
No sleep ever is like a puzzle. This experimental group, from the Washington, DC area only has one album in its catalogue- and very worth multiple listens. No sleep ever consists of a few simple elements, a looping guitar riff, a looping keyboard line, that I have deconstructed for this transmission. When the drums come in, the piece quickly moves to an uptempo level and the half-spoken vocals deliver all of the anxiety of a Slint song. For a 2-minute long song there is a lot going on, with very few instruments.
Some tinkering on my part at the end. There's a two note riff at the very end of the song, which I found quite pleasing, and looped it for two additional minutes.
02. Field recording (2020)
This #fieldrecording is part of my audio journal from the month of November. Vignettes recorded on a mobile phone while walking the dogs, watching television, and wandering the yard. We live just over the hill from a small airport- and for some curious reason our house is directly on the landing approach.
03. John Autry (2014)
Olive Branch is the closing song from Autry's 2014 release, Beautifully Broken, which a very dreamy and solid piece of work. Almost entirely self performed and recorded- Olive Branch is the perfect song to withdraw and hibernate. The reverb is rich, but not overworked- which makes this song perfect for headphones and isolation.
noise drone interlude begins here.
04. Andrew Howie (2019)
Foreshadowing is the introductory track on Howie's second album of solo guitar loops, Solo Guitar Loops 2. Clocking in at only 55-seconds, this track is does not waste any time. It is a prelude to a well designed sonic tapestry. I like a good drone- if it has texture. This one does.
05. Sinnen (2020)
Wraec MMXX is from the 2020 self-titled album, Sinnen. I took the liberty of looping this piece twice, because I really liked where it was going. A feedback drone done properly. If you like noise and ambient music- you will really like the work of Sinnen and Andrew Howie.
noise drone interlude ends here.
06. SARN (2020)
This #fieldrecording was kindly sent to me by SARN after I pestered him for a few weeks. In talking to him about his previous work, he said that he often uses evening dog walks as an important part of his writing process. He sees what he says, and then writes songs about the experience.
07. Yo La Tengo (2003)
Winter A Go-Go brings a much needed sunny breeze through this grim season. And we all need that right now. Vibraphone, a slightly salsa/Carribean beat, a rolling Hammond organ, and Georgia Hubley's lovely voice, are a tonic.
08. Ash Cooke / Pulco (2016)
A great poem and #spokenword piece by the Pulco incarnation of Ash Cooke, from his album Innovation in the Trade. A curious and disturbing short story, here framed by a field recording that he also recorded called Motorbike. Cooke has a sharp mind and a gentle voice.
09. Caroline Smith & the Good Night Sleeps (2008)
The album Backyard Tent Set is one of those haunting folk albums. A mixture of fun and tragedy with an upper-midwestern perspective. People come and go, just like the seasons. Grizzly Bear is one of my favorite tracks from Smith's first album- but I am sure that you will discover your own favorite.
10. Euros Childs (2013)
Trick of the mind is a long and textured piano composition that closes the brilliant album Situation Comedy. The album is a roller coaster of characters, emotions, and musical styles- and this track ties all of the pieces together, after they have come crashing down, with Childs's masterful writing and performance for piano.
11. Seazoo (2013)
When they first started out, Seazoo was just two smart people recording in their spare room. The band has changed a lot in the last few years. In 2013 they released two EPs, Ken and Uncle Ken. At the time, I described their sound as a cross between Yo La Tengo and Dinosaur Jr- and that still rings true. But on Uncle Ken- they did something different, letting five different people remix the songs from the Ken album. Little Boy Seazoo, in original form, was already an odd piece for them. A looping electric guitar with fragments of found sounds and voices. The Mr Dupret Factory Remix adds a little more grit.
12. of Montreal (2006)
This version of Bunny Ain't No Kind of Rider was recorded live in a Daytrotter session- and is very unique. Just a voice and an acoustic guitar. The lyrics are sly and smart and the tune is like early Bowie jangle.
13. Bearsuit (2005)
Bearsuit is part of the DNA of the bands Lady Di and Mega Emotion. This track, Minerals Made Me almost seems like something from a different era. Off kilter strumming, heartfelt vocals, and a small horn section. This song is now an artifact of artists that have evolved and moved on. But it is still a very precious piece of music.
14. rift|fault (2017)
Plate 12 sounds as creaky as the old house where it was recorded. A simple and slow piano line that wanders and wobbles, downtempo bass, occasional guitar harmonics, and found sounds. Like something you might hear as you're falling asleep.
#stayhome #stayhome #stayhome
listen.camp / episode 002 / playlist
episode 002 is a little scattershot. As my dear friend, Dr Carini, says- I've been in a dour mood. And I'm still trying to find my groove. Hit the play button.
So, here we are...
intro. Yo La Tengo (1995).
The first four notes of Blue Line Swinger.
01. Mission of Burma (1982)
Mica is a beautiful song. While Mission of Burma is often slotted as a heavy 3-piece- their early years included tape loops and engineering witchcraft by Martin Swope. Mica combines brilliant lyrics and gear grinding riffs, that are tempered by Swope's looping of guitars and vocals- giving this song, like many others, a sonic texture that had no real contemporaries.
02. Beauty Pill (2020)
In Episode 001 I played a track from the new Beauty Pill album, Pardon Our Dust. Then two weeks later they dropped a new single from an upcoming album, Instant Night. Another high-fidelity mind-fuck, that starts with that vampiric voice of Stephen Miller, and from there becomes an intricate web of electronics, a chamber group, and heavily filtered lyrics. Chad Clark is one of the most creative people making music these days.
03. Robyn Hitchcock (2020)
In anticipation of the 2020 election, Robyn Hitchcok released a single called, The President. As usual, Hitchcock takes us on a twisting and winding poem- with the imagery that makes him such a genius-level writer. Best line: When I hear the word democracy- I reach for my headphones....
04. Dream Syndicate (1982)
Too little, too late... is one of my all-time favorite songs. The song is a total downer- Kendra Smith sings with a flat affect- a slide guitar drones in the right channel, a heavy chord rings in the left channel for emphasis. This song is about the end, walking away, and not looking back.
05. Seazoo (2013)
I fell in love with Seazoo when I heard their first single, Royal Tattoos. Smart, crisp, well written, well played. They have a new album out called, Joy. This band from north Wales deserves more attention.
06. Pulco / Ash Cooke (2013)
I must have stumbled across Seazoo about the same time that I found Pulco. Ash Cooke is a great songwriter- simple words, basic thoughts, backed by a minimal soundtrack that creates an immense level of tension. Maybe you just vibrate is a great introduction to the music of Ash Cooke, formerly known as Pulco. A field recording from a crowded indoor space, paired with a nylon-stringed guitar, and words dripping with sadness- that is my jam.
07. John Vanderslice (2013)
Wow- there was a lot of good music in 2013. This is a deep cut from the extensive and very intense catalogue of John Vanderslice. In 2013 he did a below the radar release, covering of the entire Bowie classic, Diamond Dogs. A brilliant engineer, Vanderslice created a gritty version of This ain't rock and roll, this is suicide. His discography is a rabbit hole, lined with many different and curious artifacts- and new stuff is coming all the time. Keep an eye out.
08. Wire (1981)
12XZU (fragment) counts as a field recording. Doesn't it? Colin Newman taunts the crowd at Montraux, that apparently JUST WANTS TO HEAR ONE SONG. He makes sarcistic apologies, but can't seem to shake the drunk punks. Some people are never satisfied. From the brilliantly overlooked album, Document and Eyewitness.
09. Emma Swift (2020)
Do not be fooled by the slick Nashville-esque production of Soft Apocalypes. A piano-driven ballad. A well measured and known tempo. But here's the trick: the lyrics to Soft Apocalypse are completely incongruent to the music. We're riding a very slow spiral down the drain. This is a pandemic ballad. The anxiety and the fear in Swift's lyrics would have paired well with a noise drone, or a fiddle, or anything- because she's writing and singing in the moment- and this is a document of 2020. There is a reason why this had to follow 12ZU (fragment).
Disappointment. Wanting to move on when all forces say otherwise.
10. Nicole Lizée (2014)
Lizée is probably best known as the first composer to combine symphonic works with hip-hop turntablism. On her 2014 release, Bookburners, Lizée presents compositions that I like to call "aggressive ambient." The tones are pleasing, playful, and unpredictable. The mix on this piece, Ouijist is impeccable as the arrangement shifts between micro-movements of percussion, woodwinds, and strings- with an occasional sprinkle of xylophone, noise, tape hiss, and vinyl static.
11. Emperor X (2016)
There are many, many, very good songs on the 2016 album, Oversleepers International by Emperor X. But, Chad Matheny always has a way of slamming the door on the closing track of his albums. This one, 5-Hour Energy, Poland bookends an intense album that runs the full range of energy and emotion- which you should discover on your own.
12. Slint (1989)
Spiderland, released in 1991) is generally recognized as a lo-fi, post-punk, classic. The remastered version from 2014 included alternate takes and several live recordings. The live recording of Cortez the Killer is one of the highlights of the re-release. Timely and timeless.
As Cortez the Killer ends, we return to the final drone of 5 hour energy, Poland by Emperor X to close the program.
News reports this morning suggest that
@guitarcenter might be heading into bankruptcy. There will probably be some bargains in the near future. Stay tuned.
please STOP time stretching your tracks. it's embarrassing.
This is not the review that i expected to write:
Remain in Love
St. Martin's Press
My earliest memory of Talking Heads...
...was on a hot August night in 1978, when I found myself in an old stone mill, turned music club, with my childhood friend, "Tuna." We were quite stoned. There were a lot of out of town hipsters in the club that I did not recognize. We were sitting at a table at the edge of the stage- and when the band started everyone began surging forward. I climbed on top of the table and steadied myself by hanging onto one of the old ceiling rafters. After the first song, Thank You for Sending Me an Angel, ended- "Tuna" screamed in my ear, "WHO ARE THESE GUYS?" and I screamed back, "I DON'T KNOW, I THINK THEY'RE FROM CANADA- BUT THEY'RE QUITE GOOD!" The music was not something that I just passively enjoyed hearing- I enjoyed studying HOW they were doing it and the beautifully awkward sounds that rang in my ears.
I have been waiting for a very long time for THE book about Talking Heads. When Remain in Love was published in July 2020, I thought- FINALLY. I always found the band to be a mystery. The art-school pedigree was intriguing. The person/caricature of David Byrne always seemed vague and inaccessible (much like his own writing). The collaborations with Eno were both brillant and disappointing. The early music was minimal, yet painterly. Given this combination of art and intellect Talking Heads has been on my personal list of top 10 favorite bands of all time since I saw them in a sweaty old mill, at the ass end of the universe, in 1978.
I really, really, really wanted this to be my new favorite book.
A four hundred page book promised to be packed with information. I was hoping for geeky stuff about gear, the writing process, and I was less interested in reading gossip. But there are many unanswered questions in Remain in Love. And many missed opportunities to tell an epic tale.
I know that Chris Frantz knows how to tell a good story. He does a semi-regular radio program on a local station, WPKN, and he knows how to banter. I think that might be the reason for my level of disappointment with the book. Frantz has a good voice and a sharp wit when you hear him speak. But it just did not translate to the printed page. I did not hear the voice that I've heard on the radio. Do not get me wrong, this is one of the better memoirs of a musician that I have read- but I expected something different and smarter.
Remain in Love was short on details and substance. On paper, it reads like a bare-bones chronology of his life- with not enough color. There is a lot of name-dropping. The bands, the places, the dates- all just get strung along to form a linear narrative of a life and career. The affect is flat, other than his references to Tina Weymouth- and the story, at times, is a sleep walk through the life of a very influential group of musicians. Maybe it would have read been better presented as a cut-up, non-linear, and more expressionistic piece- similar to the way Talking Heads wrote their songs.
I have many questions.
SPOILER: The best part of Remain in Love is in the last 30 pages, and consists of just a couple of paragraphs where Frantz breezes over a period when his marriage almost ended due to substance abuse. After rambling on for about 300 pages that are punctuated by references to smoking weed and drinking, Frantz kind of drops a bomb about a serious drug habit. Yeah, the one episode where he accidentally snorted herion and "felt kind of funny" was amusing. But when you get to the point in life where your wife says she's taking the kids and going away until you get your shit together- well, that's sort of a big deal. And it is not the kind of thing that just sort of happens overnight. There was a history to his drug use that largely goes untold. That should have been the beginning of a book that focuses on a very long, and very intense romantic relationship. Perhaps Frantz found this subject too tawdry to dwell on in more detail.
Remain in Love provides mid-level details on the musical evolution of Frantz and Weymouth, but again- the details are slim. Frantz goes into more detail about his hand-built sailboat than about his drum kit. The lack of technical/artistic knowledge I was hoping for never materialized in this book.
I really was not reading Remain in Love to find juicy bits of gossip. I imagined that a 400 page book might have some tall tales or dispell some common rumors. It really did not do either. I was disappointed by the lack of anecdotes and quotes, from people that he had worked with for decades. Frantz has been married to another Talking Head for over 40 years- and while there are many fond memories of life with Tina Weymouth recounted in the book- there are very few quotes or specifics. A few offhand comments about how they tried to "manage" working with David Byrne, but almost nothing about Jerry Harrison- who probably made some of the biggest sonic contributions to the first three Talking Heads albums. Surprisingly, one of the rare Harrison quotes is one of the best in the entire book. When Talking Heads tried to recruit Harrison, his response was something like, "Yeah, I'll join your band if you can get a record contract." One might think this quip might generate an emotional response. Nope.
David Byrne, David Byrne, David Byrne. I really do not care where he is on the autism spectrum, but by Frantz's account, this fellow was always a pain in the ass, very high maintenance, and singularly made decisions that impacted the rest of the band that had carried him along for years. QUESTION: Why did the rest of the group put up with his shit for so long? One can only imagine that every member of Talking Heads had a difficult relationship with Byrne- yet there are no clues as to why his behavior was tolerated.
Just a few other questions:
Remain in Love is a guidebook to every Talking Heads tour- and on that front provides a brief chronology of punk and post-punk. All the names, dates, and places get neatly checked off. Yeah, the Ramones were idiots. Everyone knows that. But, by my count, there were ZERO references to XTC and Andy Partridge. In my opinion, Talking Heads and XTC were cut from very similar cloth- and they remain two of my favorite bands. There is a rumor/anecdote that Partridge suggested that Talking Heads title their second release, "More Songs About Buildings and Food." This seems like a very Partridge thing to say, since the Talking Heads '77 album had songs about buildings and food. A second XTC intersection/rumor was that Partridge was on a plane with Frantz, flying over Australia, when he found out that Byrne announced that the band was breaking up. I don't think Partidge even received a single mention in the book. Instead we get Johnny Ramone complaining about having to stop the tour bus to visit Stonehenge. Christ on a bike.
As mentioned, Chris Frantz knows how to tell a story. One part of the book that actually made me laugh out loud was when he ran into Patti Smith on a remote beach in Greece- and when Frantz greeted her- she ran away. This was a brief, but vividly rendered passage- and I was hoping the book would contain many more encounters like this.
In the late 70s, Talking Heads provided me with a template and a manifesto. They were the weird kids that studied art and made music. When I saw them in that sweaty mill in '78, I was studying art- and when the show ended, I knew that I had to start a band. They broke rules in writing and recording. The songs were about the mundane, abstract, and absurd parts of daily life. And I don't think I am alone in that sentiment.
For a book written by a trained artist, art is one topic sadly missing from Remain in Love. Yes, there is a gloss about painting in school, and there is a cute story about the band having boxed sandwiches with Andy Warhol. But there is maybe only a sentance about the involvement of Robert Rauschenberg in designing the limited edition cover for the Speaking in Tongues album. A couple of pages about eating sandwiches with Warhol- yet nothing about an actual artistic collaboration with one of Warhol's peers. I found this odd because I thought the collaboration would have an impact on the artist-turned-musician. I have a copy of Rauschenberg's Speaking in Tongues in my archive, and it is one of my most prized possessions.
Is Remain in Love a bad book? No.
Could it have been better? Yes.
Could we all be better? Yes.
Are there typos in this review? Highly likely.
today there are 102,336 microphones for sale on ebay. 99% of them are trash.
listen.camp / episode 001 / playlist
Look Homeward, Angel. Mix chamber music, electronica, looping, hiphop, and opera. Well crafted. Beautiful.
02. The Kanzler
Trolley 47, Trolley 48 Looped field recordings from an antique train yard. Sprinkle in ambient sounds and a cello note.
03. Lady Di
Peaunut Cup. The happy evil twins of Mega Emotion from Norwich have just dropped another fuzz drenched punk pop song. This is one of those rare groups that just keeps getting better. And you cannot beat a three-piece band. Ever.
04. Stefan James (Sweet Benfica)
Stub (in D). Lovely dark and pulsing ambient guitar tones from South Wales.
Beach Ecleta. Modulated field recordings. A human voice and a middle-aged BMW are the primary instruments used in a new private release from this outsider artist.
March. Modern protest music from the 2020 release Real Shit.
TYTYTY. A common refrain for these troubled times. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.
08. ATCO Corporation
DR_0055 and DR_0051 - Industrial and field recordings sent by a representative of the ATCO Corporation.
Beowulf. Heavy sludge post-rock. Best line, "Beowulf was one sick puppy."
10. Stefan James
Possessor. Another piece of dark ambient, with a beautifully rendered spoken word introduction.
11. Stephen Steinbrink
It's All Uphill. A dream-pop song about the apocalypse from the lushly crafted 2012 release, I Drew a Picture.
12. Kronos Quartet / Laurie Anderson
CNN Predicts a Monster Storm.
A deeply emotive piece about an impending hurricane that flooded an artist's archives.
13. John Vanderslice
Penthouse Windows (isolated clarinet track). A rare look at the genius of Vanderslice by focusing on only the clarinet on this piece from Green Grow the Rushes.
14. Beauty Pill
Pardon Our Dust. Beyond classification- a brilliantly structured piece that is a sonic experience and a literary treat. I LIVE INSIDE MY OWN HEART, MATT DAMON!
15. Young Marble Giants
Wind in the Rigging. An instrumental piece from a too short catalogue. This song never got a lot of attention, but set the bar for minimalist post-punk works 40 years later.
Heartache. Follow Dezmo on twitter. Ask Dezmo how the track was made. It is a great story. The spoken word introduction only scratches the surface in describing the sadness of this great song.