Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Free and Recycler-ed

It's quick and dirty, but it's FREE and that's usually a good thing.

For anyone out there, like me, who thought the Recycler remix of Warsaw Village Band's "Grey Horse" (see the 12/31/08 post on this blog) was an amazing juxtaposition of WVB's strings and Eastern vocal harmonies with some great industrial electronics, want some more of that?

Here's a site for Recycler with tracks to check out and some free downloads. Who could resist a remix titled "Five Minutes of Free Pornography?" I mean really. It kind of says something about the internet today and I'll let you decide what it that something is. There are a couple of hoops to jump through, but at least it's a Zip file. Check out "The Love Song vs Major Saab" for some heavy bangra-esqe sounds. Fun stuff.

Recycler making it happen.

I've got a sick kid here at home, so it's over and out for Mama E this week.

Next week: I will hopefully get a hold of the new Alamaailman Vasarat release and report in. An album inspired by an insect collection. Really. Hammers of the Underworld, baby!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Love: The Thermals

Just thinking about this weekend makes me tired. This of course, is a good thing. To recap what Main Figurehead shared earlier, on Saturday alone at The Cedar:

If you're looking for something to do following this epic day at The Cedar, may I recommend going to see The Thermals at The Triple Rock on Sunday night? It's a late start, and there are three bands on the schedule, so even if you're planning to see Julie Fowlis at The Cedar that night, you might be able to do both!

The Thermals' music really just makes me feel good. It is guaranteed to elevate my mood, and I would be thrilled if some of you were able to share that experience. Warning: I might dance. And to anyone who might see that, I apologize in advance.

With a brand new album, their bound to play some new tunes, like this one:

but I hope we will get to hear some old favorites, too:

Here's to a weekend of warm weather,  good music, fun and friends!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Gossip Column

I'm taking a gossip column format this week, with short little blurbs about Cedar pals and other great acts from all over, largely cribbed from their own blogs.

In the family album section, who are these guys?

Wait, they look somewhat familiar behind those goggles. And those mountains, doesn't Norway have mountains like that. And Norway is next to... Sweden and not very far at all from Ostersund, Sweden, home of old Cedar pals Hoven Droven. Look what they got up to last month!
So we had a little fun the other week. Our friend/hero/mentor/recordcompany/ex. bandbember Gustav Hylén recently turned fifty, and since Jens recently turned forty we decided we had to celebrate. We booked a show at Storulvån, a great skiing resort close to the Norwegian border. We invited Janne, our ex. organ player to join us and suddenly we had the Hoven Droven big band! Every member of Hoven Droven since 1991 on stage at the same time. One lengthy set filled with old favourites, some of wich hasn..t been played in a long time, and it was a blast! It spawned some ideas for the future...
Whee! The Hoven Droven big band hasn't played in Minneapolis in quite a long time. Sounds fun.

They really like us.
Here's what the Carolina Chocolate Drops had to say about the Cedar once they got back home. Always have to get in the weather joke, though.
We then drove seven (7!!!) hours to Minneapolis to see our old friends at the Cedar. This was our third time there and each one gets better and better - they treat us so nice and the audiences are so warm! (Maybe to compensate for the chilly weather... :) )

While we were there I went to the Mill Museum to find out more about Minneapolis and went up the Flour Tower (of Power, I like to add) - who knew flour could be so interesting?? Dom saw some great music and we got to hang out a bit with John Whitehead, one of our earliest champions and a great film maker.

We really like you, too. The 'Drops just signed a contract with Nonesuch Records and plan to put out an album with them early next year. More info on their website, and oh yeah, the baby's still due late in May.

Remix as today's highest art form?
Somebody wrote that last year, like maybe Sasha Frere-Jones at the New Yorker, before Lawrence Lessig wrote Remix: Making Art and Culture Thrive in a Hybrid Economy. Anyway, everybody does a remix album these days...they're cheap, can be fun, and they bridge the gap for fans while bands write new tunes. I downloaded the new Watcha Clan remix disc that came out last week, Diaspora Remixed. Yep, didn't want to wait six months. No, they haven't played here...yet, but have been featured in this blog several times (1/20/09 and 10/22/08 ) and always do great blog posts to their Myspace when they are on tour. I've have only made it through the whole thing twice, but it features fun folks at the controls like Dunkelbunt, Transglobal Underground and DJ Click. So far I'm groovin' on the EarthRise Sound System's slowed down fiddle- and kora-enhanced take on "Goumari." I'm not sure exactly what you call that type of fiddle, but it sounds more like the one the guy in Habib Koite's band plays, kinda scatchy? Lots of fun mixes here, and although the same handful of tunes are chosen by the re-mixers, there are a great variety of sounds here. Good party fodder!

Look who's coming back to town!

It was one of those shows that not many people got to, but those who did each told about ten of their closest musical friends "Wow! This was so cool. You really need to to see them next time they come to town." Yep, I'm talking about Racheal Unthank and the Winterset's show at the Cedar last September. And hey! They're coming back to see us again on Memorial Day, Monday, May 25. After hearing something like the above from at least three Cedarheads whose musical opinions matter to me, I will SO not miss them this time.
The Winterset gang hangs with their small clothes. Or tea towels.

A band I really like, about whom I've written about on this blog several times will be returning to the Cedar in late October, but I'm holding in the details until tickets are actually on sale, so maybe late next week. I'm psyched and will write more soon. For now, here is a photo of them in rehearsal this winter.

Enough gossip for now? Tune in next week for exciting free download links and other fun stuff!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Next Weekend

We've got one of those weekends coming up at The Cedar where I'm tempted just to bring a sleeping bag for the Green Room so I don't have to leave. It starts with Friday night, April 24, where we have a unique opportunity from our Friends at the University of Minnesota's Department of Lusophone African, Portuguese, and Brazilian Studies to present an extraordinary singer from Cape Verde, Carmen Souza. This is going to be one of those special shows of a young, relatively unknown talent of extraordinary depth that only comes along every so often, and I strongly suggest not missing it. Her performance is part of an International Symposium on Popular Music Studies: African Musics of the Portuguese- and French-Speaking Worlds.

On Saturday at 2:00 pm The Cedar holds an Open Community Meeting, where we will be discussing our strategy for dealing with the economic challenges that so many arts organizations are facing in the current economic climate. Funding cuts have hit The Cedar hard in 2009, throwing a large gap into our budget and threatening our future. The Cedar's staff and Board have worked hard to develop action plans for the organization to survive, even thrive in the face of these challenges.

Later that evening, The Dakota will be presenting a special CD release concert by The Bad Plus joined by Wendy Lewis, performing music from the extraordinary For All I Care recording.

Following this show, at around 10:00 pm that night, just outside The Cedar, we will be celebrating the lighting of our newly restored marquee, with cheap drinks, fire dancers and stilt walkers! Some of us who've been with The Cedar for many years never thought we'd see the day where our historic marquee would be restored to its former glory. But thanks to support from McKnight and our patrons, we did it, providing a beacon for the avenue and an strong statement that The Cedar is indeed alive and well!

Finally, we'll close this extraordinary weekend on Sunday the 26th with another startling new vocal talent, this time from Scotland. The charming and beautiful Julie Fowlis will bring her band to The Cedar for her Twin Cities debut. Julie sings in a particularly rare form of Scottish Gaelic, and she has such a particularly sweet tone that it's hard to believe she was musically trained not as a singer but rather a wind player!

Quite a weekend... plan accordingly!

Friday, April 17, 2009


Some of you may have already seen this, but I didn’t want to risk it. David Byrne has decided to allow all his fans to see (or hear, rather) what he is listening to while on tour. 

On one quick scan of the playlist shows some Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Caetano Veloso, The Bird and the Bee, Fever Ray, Bon Iver (who joined Sarah Siskind on stage at The Cedar last weekend) and a couple of other artists that have been through The Cedar: St. Vincent and El Perro Del Mar. A few names I don’t recognize, and so far I have yet to hear anything I don’t like.

The idea itself is not so unusual; Other bands blog about what they listen to on the road, so maybe this doesn’t interest you. Personally, I am thoroughly enjoying it. Try it out for yourself here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Going Primeval in Poland

Once upon a time I made a sort of pledge to myself that I wasn't interested in techno any more. I only planned to listen to bands that played real music on real instruments. Don't ask me was a long time ago, like before cds, OK? WAY before solo MacBook concerts. Obviously, I'm down with the techno in the 21st century; I love some well done electronics with my world music. It became clear to me while listening to Żywiołak for this review, however, how almost everything I listen to now is electronically enhanced in some way- and their cd Nowa Ex-Tradycja is SO not.

It's not just that there are not a whole lot of effects on the recording (Well, they do like their distortion pedals), and other than one remix, there are not really many beats or samples either. This may sound weird, but in these times this feels somehow clean, as well as the primal and raw feel I imagine they were seeking .

This is a record to let your inner pagan cut loose. It's crazed dancing around the giant flames under the big sky out there on the wild steppes. It's the Old Believers in the mountains where the Teutonic knights didn't quite manage to convert everyone to Catholicism. Hey , there's still some wilderness in Poland.

It's big slabs of guitar, grinding hurdy gurdy, throbbing bass and big drums versus female vocal harmonies that can scream like Hedningarna's wildest songs on Tra or make nice like the most delicate recordings Vartinna ever did. And whoa, these two women, Anucha Piotrowska and Iza Byra have some pipes! (Byra is on maternity leave and Monika Szadkowska is who you'll see in most of their recent YouTubes.)

The tension between restraint and exhuberant excess is well handled. "Ой Ти, Петре, Петре" (I'm translating this as "Oh You , Peter, Peter" with my limited Russian; it's a folk tune from Ukraine) is a aching lament (I think) elegant in its simplicity, the vocals barely augmented by a low background drone and what I think is a willow flute. When the vocal harmonies enter at the very end for just one line, the effect is haunting. This song captures that big open sky sound if nature is huge and unimaginably powerful and human lives are tiny blips.

"Oko Dybuka," in contrast, alternates screamed female and gutteral male vocals with chunky distorted guitars. This video of Dybuka is a little sanitized compared to the album sound; looks like it was filmed in a threatre for aTV show, perhaps. Anyway, it's fun to watch the vocalists get into it, but vids of their club shows are a little wilder.

According to their website, the name "Żywiołak" (Were-Upheaval, Were-Element) has no direct meaning, it's no name of any mythical character. It's just a word-game which is common in contemporary Slavic-type literature. Such words are to be found in book of beasts of Polish issues of RPGs, in poetry of Boleslaw Lesmian , or in artworks of modern generation.

They take on a Polish folk tune which may sound familiar to Warsaw Village Band fans, who called it "Who Is Getting Married" on their 2004 release People's Spring. Żywiołak calls it "Femina" and pulls out the distortion pedal rather than the lighter jews harp treatment WVB went for. An empowering song for all you gals who want to play music, dance and cut down trees (I think) instead of getting tied down. Shortly thereafter, on "Oj Ty Janie Sobótkowy," the hurdy is uncharacteristically restrained and the throbbing bass is replaced by a plucked mandola, leaving plenty of room for the delicate vocals.

It is impossible to ignore the Hedningarna influence, so why try? It's no secret multi-instrumentalist and co-founder Robert Jaworski is a huge fan of our old pals from Sweden and this recording pays homage to that sound. If you love getting primal with your old Hedningarna discs, Nowa Ex-Tradycja breathes new life into the bio-metal / heavy folk genre.

As WVB fiddler Wojtek Krzak said when he received the band's Best Newcomer award from the BBC in 2004 "Beauty and identity is still in the roots." I think this applies to Żywiołak as well. They are mining a deep vein of folklore that still, 20 years after the Iron Curtain came down, is so unknown to the West. They are keeping it real to the Slavic cultural identity, and showcasing an elegant timeless beauty amidst their distortion and noise.

Who knows if these guys will ever cross the pond, but they sure would be fun to get primeval with in a dark sweaty club, no? When I hear back from Poland I'll report about how it might be possible to obtain their discs or downloads over here.

I was pretty excited for doing some of that primeval rockin' after hearing that Swiss Pagan Metal faves Eluveitie were co-headling Paganfest this year, and that the tour included a stop in St. Paul next month. But now Paganfest is still coming, but they're not. I am bummed. See what we're missing?

I was planning to go all rock in my old age and attend Paganfest late into the night just before getting up at 4 a.m. to work the Farmers Market. Without Eluveitie on board, it's probably not that important to me. Here' s the word from their web site.
We are very sorry to announce that we will not be able to make it to this years edition of Paganfest USA after all. We would like to make clear that this was in no way the decision of the band and that we all were looking forward to do this tour a lot. Also we are working on a replacement tour within 2009 where we'll hopefully also be able to play a special showcase featuring songs off our upcoming acoustic release "Evocation I: The Arcane Dominion" (due April 11th). We will be back for sure 'cause you guys truly rock and we did not forget the warm welcome we've received on Paganfest I & Death By Decibels!
There you have it. Let's hope for the two set loud plus acoustic tour of their hurdy/fiddle/gaida- driven metal sound coming through our town this fall!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Nineties Nostalgia

Don't be mad Mama E Dub. I will write about Kasbah rockers, just not tonight. Tonight there are more pressing matters at hand. Namely, some extreme 90s nostalgia.

"Speaking as a child of the 90s..." mutters Eddie Vedder on Pearl Jam's "Habit." Technically, I am not a child of the 90s, but, I tended to identify more with that decade than the neon, leg warmers, and synth of my own.

My first musical memory involves listening to my Dad singing Pearl Jam in the kitchen, and I've pretty much been wrapped up in grunge music ever since. While I wouldn't say I listen to it on a daily or even weekly basis, over the years it has become more like a comfort food than anything else.

I never quite fit the typical fan demographic. In fact, the first time I went to see Pearl Jam perform live (at the Fargodome in Fargo, ND), the woman running the lights pulled my family aside after the show and gave us the set list. I don't remember her exact words, but they were something along the lines of her being impressed that a) we were not frat boys and that b) we knew all the words to "Keep on Rocking in the Free World," which they played as an encore. But I digress. I never fit the fan demographic, so I tend to get a little (read: a lot) overexcited when I discover another non-traditional grunge fan. Let me tell you, I have not found many.

However, in the past month I have discovered three! Amazing, I know. Not only that, a coworker was spotted wearing an Alice in Chains T-shirt at the recent (and amazing) Alice Russell show at The Cedar. I was on to something! Ahead of the curve! Predicting the next big thing! That is until I opened the Rolling Stone magazine my roommate had abandoned on our kitchen table and found an article about nothing other than, you guessed it, nineties nostalgia.

This, which was released sometime in last couple weeks, probably has something to do with it.

Ah well.

In other news, Eddie Vedder recently announced a solo tour on which Liam Finn will be opening. Finn's performance at The Cedar last year, opening for Laura Viers, was one of my favorites and I hope we'll see him again in the future.

Until next week, I will leave you with this:

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Imam Baildi : Slinky Greek Remixes of Old 78s

Yeah, he fainted because the stuffed eggplant was so good goes the story, but I'm not talking about traditional hotdish. I'm talking about traditional old vinyl from the 40's, 50's and 60's in the hands of the Falireas brothers, Orestis and Lysandros, who as Martin Gordon on the Euro World Music charts says "took a bunch of samples from old Greek and Balkan tunes, chopped them up, added their instrumentation and the result was in the Greek charts for almost 2 years."

Here's the hotdish joke explained for you non-eggplant lovers, courtesy of the blog of someone named Anna at
Imam Baildi is a traditional Greek eggplant dish; Greeks of Istanbul created this recipe (hence the Turkish name) many many years back. [A translation of the name would be "The Imam fainted." ]
Imam Baildi is also a band, or a project, however you may prefer to call it, by two brothers, Orestis and Lysandros Falireas.

According to their website, "It is named after the dish because, just like we mix many different ingredients together to cook the dish, these lads mixed old Greek tunes they fancy from their father’s collection of 78rpm gramophone records with electronic sonical flavours & produced an album using samples from Greek tunes from the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s.

"The idea was to bring forward some of these forgotten gems from Greek artists of the past century and blend them with modern sounds and rhythm into something new and unique. It took a lot of experimentation and loads of time and effort because what we most feared was ending up with a cheap sounding boxy beat over an old sample pattern. We focused on truly blending old and new, in bringing every addition under the old recordings’ skin".
Here's a fun interview with the brothers from the website of the Turkish newspaper Today's Zaman. Here's a longer interview from about how they choose what to sample and about how the live version of the band came together.
Keeping it anonymous and respecting the vinyl

Sounds like great stuff for those of us in Boom Pam nation and lovers of other Balkan mixers and mashers like Shantel, the Balkan Beats crew and Balkan Beat Box. Don't expect every tune to be a crazy dance mix, however. Many of them are actually more of a chill tempo, which works perfectly with the throaty 50's lounge singers they are sampling. Who were these women?

Actually, the more I listen, the more I appreciate these guys' deft hands on the controls. There are not any big slamming beats; it's handled with just the right amount of new sounds on top of the crackling old 78s, similar to what dj Click does with his old vinyl and new worldwide sounds. Some tunes the sample is the whole vocal line, and others it's just a small instrumental piece and they build around it.

Not so into the video, but check out this tune "Samba Clarina." Love that sample at the beginning.

This is a bit more like it. Live at the Guru bar in downtown Athens. Sounds kind of traditional brassy until they kick in the old sample beats about 40 seconds in. I think this is more the sound of their live "big band" and the albums are more of the old samples.

But, how to obtain such a recording? This may take some work. The link at the World charts is not good. Missing a letter. I find the company. Not up to date, not listing this artist. Most of the press on their Myspace is in Greek. The record label on their Myspace sends me back to their Myspace. OK, I found a free download. I think. We really need a new router over here. But I would buy this. Really. If I could find it anywhere.

Well this is funny. Somebody else out there in the blogosphere called "Albums Everyone Should Own" had fun with this and directed me to the free download. He says:

"My good friend Becky is Greek and I gave it to her to play for her Grandma and Aunt. It ended up as an old lady dance party at her house…and I expect it would spark a kind of dance party anywhere. Whether its the moody ‘Samba Clarina’ you see above, or the intensely catchy ’O Pasatempos’ on top, Imam Baildi shows that the recipe started by St Germain can easily be applied to all kinds of world music."

Can't beat "old lady dance party!" But it's a .RAR file, not a Zip, so I had to download some software to unzip the thing. Quite a journey around the internet, but I am cranking "Samba Clarina" as we speak from my own ITunes, so it's all good now. I'm pretty sure this is a download of their first disc, from 2007. All but two of the song titles are in the Greek alphabet with this download, which came through as gobbledegook, but I found a playlist with Arabic letters to copy at Now you, too, will soon be slinking around your living room to "De Thelo Pia Na Xanarthis." Enjoy!

* * * * * * * *

I promise next week will be devoted to hurdy-enhanced Pagan Metal, as in a review of the Żywiołak album I got in the mail last month as well as wondering by Eluveitie won't be on the Paganfest II tour this spring. (But they are hoping to do a U.S. tour in the fall with acoustic as well as metal sets. Yeah!!)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Aye Hip Hopper! In a word: brilliant

While the rest of you gear up for the Morrissey concert tonight, I'm at work simultaneously procrastinating and staying occupied by listening to bits of new music. On a recent trip to India, I bought a bunch of Hindi albums to bring back to Cedar staff, choosing my purchases solely on the preposterousness of the album covers. One of these albums, titled "Aye Hip Hopper" by an artist named IshQ Bector was added to my shopping cart in part because of his self-assured visage on the front but primarily because of the back, which features the artist peeing on a wall.

Here's his website: I've always thought it sort of arrogant to administer a website that requires the user to "enter" it, as if the content is so amazing that it needs a buffer or an additional step, that one might have to emotionally prepare to enter such an amazing virtual space. But in this case, it's sort of true.

The music is not nearly as abrasive as I thought it would be. When I see an album whose cover art features graffiti and wall-peeing, I prepare myself for something loud and angry. But IshQ's stuff has the ornamentations, rhythms, and darn catchiness of Bollywood music. It's nearly impossible to listen to it without giggling - or at least smiling.

This video of the first song on the album features a pretty Indian woman pampering IshQ as he soaks in a bath of roses. Work it, girl.

Here's another song on the album:

And another, titled Dakku Daddy.

I currently need a new project in my life, so perhaps I'll start an IshQ fan club.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Snowden's Jig: A Tale of "Dixie" Thievin'and Blackface

The Carolina Chocolate Drops are beloved around here (I can use that word, can't I?) because of their instrumental chops and their frisky stage manners, but I also really appreciate their respect for the history of the tunes they play. Whichever band member is calling the tune will dutifully explain who they learned it from, why it has the name it does and so on. Sometimes the stories are funny,sometimes it's"just the facts ma'am." Either way, it's cool.

So when they debuted "Snowden's Jig" here last weekend, not only did the tune blow me away, it has a great story. Check this story from the Greenboro, North Caroline News & Record for all the details, but the bare bones story goes a little like this.

"Dixie" was not written by a Southerner; the copyright is held by a white guy from Ohio who played minstral shows in blackface makeup named Dan Emmert. Apparently he did not write this or a number of tunes he had published under his name, such classics as "Turkey in the Straw" and "Blue Tailed Fly"as well as one called only "Genuine Negro Jig." A friend turned the 'Drops onto "Genuine Negro Jig" and they learned the history of Dan Emmert's tunes. According to their descendants, Emmert got many of his tunes from a black family of string band musicians who lived nearby, the Snowdens. "Dixie" is held to be one of those tunes he "borrowed" and took credit for, so is that crazy downtempo, minor key jig. The 'Drops are now calling the tune "Snowden's Jig" and had the honor of meeting some of the Snowden descendants last year.

Emmert in blackface. (Trying not to editorialize here, so just a big "No comment" on that one.) >>>

As far as "Dixie"? That battle may end up in court or something. Who knows? But the Snowden clan says Ellen Snowden wrote or remembered the lyrics to "Dixie" from her childhood as a slave in the 1820s and the inscription on the tombstone of her sons Ben and Lew Snowden reads: "They taught 'Dixie' to Dan Emmett."

Neither the Wiki article or the one at mentions these little details about his tunes. Anybody wanna set 'em straight?

Now, if only the Chocolate Drops would answer my email and tell me what key "Snowden's Jig" is in! Can't find a video of "Snowden's Jig" but here's "Cornbread and Butterbeans" another new old favorite.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

For Immediate Release

For Immediate Release to Twin Cities Media - April 1, 2009

The Cedar Cultural Center has Booked The World

Yes, Twin Cities. The day has finally come. Eclectic music venue The Cedar Cultural Center, celebrating its 20th season this year, has exceeded expectation in its presentation of international music. The globally-minded founders aspired to fill the Cedar’s hall with music from all over the world, but could not have anticipated how successful their dream would ultimately be.

With a final thumbtack in Antarctica, The Cedar completed its map of the world having booked at least one artist from every country and continent.

“Global warming and the world wide web have proved to be an unbeatable combination for me,” said Hailaeos, Antarctican musician and part-time penguin farmer. “Once some of the ice melted and my computer screen defrosted I was able to get in touch with the outside world. Now I’m finally able to share my music with others. The Cedar was my first stop because Minnesota feels about as close to home as I can get outside of Antartica.”

The concert is tentatively scheduled for June and will kick off with a celebratory globe-smashing to commemorate the historic performance.

Cedar Executive Director Rob Simonds said, “Come to The Cedar, and let the South Pole come to you. Take that world! Next up, outer space!”

To add a couple pushpins to your map, check out The Cedar's website for more information about the world of music available to you.