TVD Washington, DC

TVD presents Respect the Architects: An All Vinyl Odyssey Mapping Future Funk ft. Jahsonic & John Murph at Den of Thieves, 9/18

For the our third installment of our monthly all-vinyl residency at Den of Thieves we present Respect the Architects: A Vinyl Odyssey Mapping Future Funk featuring two of DC’s most prolific and ubiquitous selectors: Jahsonic & John Murph. We issued the DJs a challenge to take listeners and dancers on a sonic odyssey mapping the family-tree of “Future Funk” using their extensive vinyl collections to map the course.

Funk is like an apple and there are tens of thousands of varieties of an apple. Enter “Future Funk.” Who is its daddy? How does one define it? Ask any funk expert and you will receive a variety of answers based on subjective tastes. Certainly you could get an academic ethnomusicologist to explain it but how fun would that be? The musical genre called “Future Funk” is so vast and means so many things to different people that it’s hard to pinpoint the mouth of the river from which it springs. So, for our purposes we turn to our topographic DJs—Jahsonic and John Murph—who will map our course at Den of Thieves this Thursday.

There was a plethora of technical innovation for keyboards and guitar effects in the ’60s and lots of musicians jumped right in. I often hear that Sly Stone sits near the source of “Future Funk” with his early ’70s output, specifically on There’s a Riot Going On and later on Fresh. Is it the drum machines? Miles Davis was supposedly inspired by Jimi Hendrix’s wah-wah pedal and put it to use on much of his funk/jazz explorations. Herbie Hancock never shied away from electronic gadgetry and synthesizers but always kept it funky. Noted jazz musician Eddie Harris spawned hits playing his sax with a Varitone effects unit in the late ’60s, but rather than playing bop he was definitely blowing a more groovy funk sound.

If someone were to ask me what an example of “Future Funk” is, I’d probably point to Stevie Wonder’s Clavinet-drenched mega hit, “Superstition” and the futuristic aesthetics of Funkadelic and Sun Ra. Where does “future funk” begin for you?

Murph: I think funk began well before we called it “funk.” You can hear traces of it in black American blues, gospel, and jazz. And certainly in a lot of Afro-Latin and West African music. Just listen to Johnny Lee Hooker’s “Boogie Chillun,” Muddy Waters’ “Mannish Boy,” Bessie Smith’s “Gimme a Pigfoot” to hear clear evidence. Then there’s the inherent funkiness of compositions by Count Basie, Fats Waller, Mario Bauza, Sun Ra, Machito, Charles Mingus, and many others.

Jahsonic: Like most people, I’m going to have to say at the twin poles of Sun Ra and Parliament Funkadelic.

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UK Artist of the Week: Einar Stray Orchestra

Einar Stray Orchestra are Norway’s latest shining stars as they return with their brand new album Politricks, out on October 6th 2014.

Formerly Einar Stray, this new direction for the band sees them explore the theme of “growing up.” Although there’s a distinct maturity to their sound, their youthful foundation is ever present with the band being led by Einar Stray, barely 24-years-old and producing a sound that would put many Mercury Music Prize nominees to shame.

The band have recently announced a string of European dates including one UK show on October 6th at The Islington. Tickets are available now and it’ll be UK fans’ only chance to see the band this side of Christmas.

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The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve:
P.J. Proby,
Three Week Hero

When it comes to bizarre, eccentric, and just flat-out inexplicable rock stars, it’s hard to top P.J. Proby (aka Jett Storm, aka Orville Wood, birth name James Marcus Smith), the wild Houston-born master of vocal histrionics who never made much of a dent in the American pop charts, but was (and still is) a legendary figure in English music circles. I’d heard the name, but I never thought to check Proby out until Ian Hunter, in his Diary of a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star, called him, “The ace punk of all time,” adding, “His own worst enemy, so what. P.J. Proby’s the greatest—he’s a fuckin’ pirate in this world of drudge. Wherever you are P.J., the world needs you now.”

Those words were written way back in 1972, but the world still needs P.J. Proby, because if there’s one thing he isn’t, it’s predictable. Over the course his 50-plus-year career Proby has released more outrageous—a word that hardly does his schlock-ridden catalogue justice—songs than perhaps anyone in the history of rock, and he has proven over and over again that there’s nothing he won’t do for a hit, or because he just fucking feels like it.

Proby began his career in the late fifties under the name Jett Storm, but both his acting and singing careers stalled in his own country so he set his sights on England. There he changed his stage name to P.J. Proby, perhaps because England already had a Rory Storm, who in a weird coincidence also briefly adopted the stage name Jett Storm. And before long Proby found himself a bona fide pop star with a series of saccharine, string-laden hits, including overwrought versions of “Somewhere” and “Maria” from West Side Story. He also appeared on the 1964 Beatles TV special and was given a song by Lennon and McCartney that they’d intended to include on “Help!” but could never get quite right.

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TVD Cleveland

The Orwells:
Escalating Quickly

PHOTOS: ORIANA BELAVIC | Mario Cuomo, singer from The Orwells, stands stage left, blankly staring. Is he pissed? Is he thinking? Is he just fucked up? It’s unclear.

He takes a step forward, and the magic happens. The crowd, both men and women, reach forward to touch him. To stroke his chest and long, curly hair; running their fingers over anything they can grab. Cuomo seems detached, in the most engaging way possible. His mental distance from everything casts a cloud. What the fuck is this?

Just then is the breakthrough. He soaks it in for a minute, takes a step backs and slyly smiles. That’s it. Just the softening of his eyes and a shit-eating grin shows that he knows he has everyone eating this up.

The Orwells are the wet dream for people with preconceived notions of how a band from the midwest’s backstory should read. Teenage kids in the suburbs get together and start fucking around with music while in high school. They make some stuff they think is cool, record it, submit it to an indie label with a blog, and get signed. Real storybook stuff.

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The TVD Storefront

Mia Dyson,
The TVD First Date

“I distinctly remember the smell of trawling through my parents’ record collection throughout my childhood—the slightly musty, old paper flavour of discovery.”

“I thought Howlin’ Wolf must be the coolest guy to have a record cover that just said ‘This is Howlin’ Wolf’s new album. He doesn’t like it. He didn’t like his electric guitar at first either’. Who is this guy??—my 10 year old brain asked.

Growing up in Australia, so many of my favourite records were by artists who came from so far away and seemed so exotic and there was no internet for me to go find out every damn last thing about them and ruin the mystery. I love vinyl for that mysterious quality it embodies. It’s like the music and the artist live inside the wax, but you can never quite get a hold of them. You can have your moment with the needle but once the album ends, where does the music go?

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The TVD Storefront

Graded on a Curve:
Mary Lattimore &
Jeff Zeigler,
Slant of Light

Mary Lattimore is a harpist of numerous credits and considerable ability. Jeff Zeigler is a busy recording engineer and capable multi-instrumentalist. On Slant of Light, due out next week via the venerable constancy that is the Thrill Jockey label, these two first-rate Philadelphians come together to produce a worthy duo statement. Abstract yet approachable while expansive and concisely focused, Lattimore and Zeigler’s successful collaboration is a solid effort holding promise for the future.

Ironically for an instrument that can be such a formidable beast to lug around, the harp’s long history has been dominated by delicateness of tone. Many have played it, including the appropriately-named Harpo Marx, naturally to his own tuning, as a few notables have sought to broaden its range; one of the more recent practitioners is Mary Lattimore.

Over the last five years or so Lattimore has been quietly chalking up a heavyweight list of collaborators. Amongst them: Fursaxa, Kurt Vile, Sharon Van Etten, Jarvis Cocker, Meg Baird, and Thurston Moore, whose 2011 solo LP Demolished Thoughts provided my introduction to the harpist. However, it was her membership in The Valerie Project that foreshadowed Lattimore’s eventual musical breadth.

Succinctly, The Valerie Project’s sole ’07 release was an alternate score to Jaromil Jireš 1970 Czech film Valerie and Her Week of Wonders, an enduring cult movie derived from the 1945 novel of the same name by Jireš’ countryman Vítězslav Nezval. Comprised of ten Philadelphia-based musicians including Fursaxa leader Tara Burke and directed by Espers’ Greg Weeks, The Valerie Project is accurately assessed as a prime byproduct of last decade’s u-ground folk-rock experience.

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TVD Washington, DC

TVD Live: Grouplove
and Portugal. The Man
at Merriweather Post Pavilion, 9/12

Friday night Grouplove and Portugal. The Man played Merriweather Post Pavilion as a part of the 2014 Honda Civic Tour. In a great bit of double billing, both bands brought something unique to the stage and were a nice complement to one another, giving the audience two different types of performances.

Of the two headliners Portugal. The Man went on first amidst a sea of smoke and space lights, playing their take on “Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2.” They played a selection of songs primarily from last year’s Evil Friends, but also had a few older tracks like “People Say” pop up throughout their set. For a bit of added fun, they threw in a handful of covers in addition to the opening song. They played a bit from “The Dayman” from the “Nightman Cometh” episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” which always makes for a fantastic sing-a-long. They turned in a great performance that somehow mixed an aesthetic you would associate with a jam band, but was still well-balanced with a much more focused set of music than you may find with that type of act.

When we covered Grouplove earlier this year as a part of our Firefly Festival coverage, I went on at length about how impressed I was with the band, and thankfully not much has changed since then. They played a mix of songs off both of their releases including all of their most popular songs like “Tongue Tied” and “Colours.” This is just one of those bands who are so on point in a live setting that if you let yourself be into what they’re doing onstage you will have a great time. Sure, some may argue that it’s too catchy or too pop, but I think it’s ok to let yourself have some fun at a show every once in a while.

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TVD Los Angeles

TVD Ticket Giveaway: Big Star’s #1 Record
and Third performed live at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre, 9/27

Every now and again we find ourselves in the audience at an event so special and unique that the experience easily defies the normal concert going affair. Such was the case last month as we took in Big Star’s #1 Record and Third performed in their entirety at Washington, DC’s premier venue, the 9:30 Club. As we wrote back in August:

Once a decade or eon or so, an LP comes along that is simply too tortured and nakedly honest for human ears. 1978’s twisted and raw Third/Sister Lovers is such an LP. The final offspring of the seventies’ incarnation of Memphis, Tennessee power pop band Big Star—which never dented the charts during its lifetime but has achieved cult superstardom in the years since—Third is anything but a catchy power pop record.

As such, Third is every bit as nakedly powerful a work of art as Jack Kerouac’s Big Sur, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Crack Up,” or heroin- and booze-ravaged Charlie Parker’s tortured 1946 Dial Records take on “Lover Man,” which he couldn’t even stand on his own to record and which was followed by a long “vacation” in California’s Camarillo State Mental Hospital.

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TVD Washington, DC

TVD Live: Overkill at Empire, 9/11

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | For over three decades, Overkill has been beating audiences into submission with their merciless brand of thrash metal. Last Thursday night at Empire in Springfield, VA, they proved to be like a vintage bottle of bordeaux, only improving with age.

Formed in 1980, Overkill was part of the first great rise of thrash metal. While Slayer, Metallica, and Exodus, among others, were putting the Bay Area on the metal map, Overkill, along with bands like Anthrax and Nuclear Assault were rising out of the New York/New Jersey area. Many years later, they are back on the road supporting their latest release, the critically acclaimed White Devil Armory.

There was no national support for this show, as Overkill are playing headlining off-dates while touring with Prong throughout the fall. I didn’t catch the name of the first band, a trio of nervous teens, made up of two guitars and a drummer. A personal note: you’ve gotta have some bass, fellas. I need to feel it, not just hear it. They kicked off with a cover of the classic “Die By the Sword” by Slayer, and unfortunately rookie nerves took over, and they found themselves victim of hecklers. Personal note number two: when someone heckles and yells out “FREEBIRD!”do not actually try to play “Freebird.” No one ever said cutting your teeth was easy.

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The TVD Storefront

Surface Noise:
Martin Denny,
Quiet Village

Have you ever discovered a genre of music previously out of your range of musical vision and gotten a bit fixated? This very thing has happened to me on more than one occasion. I’ve gotten on “kicks,” whether it was early country, reggae, or Norwegian black metal. I come across a style of music and become enthralled, and for a while I need to immerse myself in it. Once again, i found myself flipping through records during my weekly pilgrimage to Som Records in DC. I spotted a record, and suddenly it was 1996 all over again.

In 1996, I was working at the gone but not forgotten Tower Records. Capital Records released the first of many highly successful CDs in what was called the Ultra Lounge series. I popped the disc in the store’s stereo system late one night and was amazed at what I had just discovered. Artists like Lex Baxter, Yma Sumac, Martin Denny, and more all finding fascinating ways to invoke a mood.

The timing was right for this release—lounge music was enjoying a resurgence, influencing modern acts like Combustible Edison and Japan’s Pizzicato Five. Lounge music was featured in soundtracks to movies like Swingers and Four Rooms, and suddenly what was disregarded for years as “easy listening” was cool again. Capital saw the opportunity and took it, releasing over twenty volumes of Ultra Lounge, plus special editions and multiple Christmas albums.

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