Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Great Brand Extension - Stones Throw's Ethiopium Coffee

Stones Throw, the hip-hop (etc.) label started by Peanut Butter Wolf, has just announced a pretty amazing brand extension / promotion via their website.

Timed with the release of Oh No's Dr. No's Ethiopium album, Stones Throw is offering a package deal that includes the album and a bag of Ethiopium Coffee from Intelligentsia Coffee. Intelligentsia are a fair-trade coffee organization that deals directly with coffee farmers in Southern Hemispheres.

By all accounts, Stones Throw higher-ups are absolute coffee fiends, and their commitment to fostering original music and quality community extends to this sort of bizarre / totally awesome package deal.

Pre-orders for the coffee can be made until October 30th, and the coffee will ship out -- literally ship out -- on November 1st.

Dr. No's Ethiopium can be acquired more expediently, via the Stones Throw site. If Oh No's new album is anything like his last, it will be a quality album to enjoy while sipping imported, high-end coffee.

Check it out and get your (ethical) edge-on!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

songs in B Flat major

screenshot of the In B Flat website

My accomplice recently brought BlipFM to my attention, which basically allows a user to construct their own radio station by creating playlists from songs hosted on YouTube. This same seamless use of YouTube files was also found in the original iteration of the much-loved, much-missed Muxtape site, which ended up changing its focus (to strictly band-submitted files) to avoid being scuttled upon the rocks of copyright infringement.

This creative use of YouTube is now being pushed a little further by musicians creating collage pieces (witness the very cool content created by Kutiman, whose "Mother of All Funk Chords" went viral this year), or those musicians who are putting the songwriting largely in the hands of the user.

On that front, I recently stumbled upon a project by Darren Solomon, called In B Flat, which allows users to create their own collage-based musical piece from a set of 20 videos hosted on YouTube. The project reminds me a little of the Buddha Machine, which also allows users to create a seemingly endless variety of pieces from a simple subset of loops, however, In B Flat offers far more textural variety for the user simply because there are more options to choose from.

These recent, user-and-accident-generated projects touch on the same ideas that Brian Eno put forward in his Generative Music discussions, where simple musical motifs are developed over time to create multi-layered, endlessly shifting tonal landscapes.

However, beyond such smarty-pants hoo-haw, In B Flat offers something interesting, fun and genuinely moving for a layman with one functioning finger. I recommend you check it out and play with the start / stop times of each video. Also, I find that if you trigger enough pieces to cause cut-outs in your internet connection, you can create another unique layer to your pieces.

Good fun!

Friday, July 10, 2009

what do geniuses talk about? well, let's just see...

Beck Hansen, otherwise known as "Beck", or, "that guy we're going to beat up after football practice," has added a new feature to his website. Called Irrelevant Topics, it features Beck interviewing writers, musicians and other artisteratti, about whatever pops into his tiny, scruffy head.

The first in this series is a fittingly rambling interview with Tom Waits. Topics discussed include: Los Angeles, wieners, spontaneous lightning strikes, awkwardness, best-of lists, Van Gogh, gold panning, Sinatra, and modesty.

If you've ever seen any other interviews with Tom Waits, you'll know that he's notorious for not answering questions and for fabricating information for the fun of it. This interview with Beck, then, as unlikely as it may seem, is probably the most sincere interview Waits has ever done.

Check it out, and see if you can spot the differences between musical geniuses and (the likes of) you and I.

HINT: Geniuses have the personal phone numbers of guys like Beck and Tom Waits.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

buy elliott smith's car, drive very, very sadly

According to a notably sarcastically-ironic / ironically sarcastic source, Elliott Smith's car is on sale via Craigslist in Austin, Texas.

The influential singer-songwriter, who committed suicide in 2003, had a troubled career full of depression, chemical imbalance and drug dependency. However, his stellar work cut across the musical landscape, bringing accolades from fans and critics and allowing him to maintain some level of indie-cred (which I strongly doubt he cared about) while also recording soundtracks and scores for feature films - most notably Good Will Hunting.

The car, a 1999 VW Passat, is being put up for sale by Smith's sister, with all proceeds going to the SIMS foundation.

If you have a spare $4000 and an interest in musical history, you can contact the seller here.

Of Note: I saw Smith play a couple of times, and am an enormous fan of his work. If I had the extra money - or ANY desire to own a car again - I think it would be worth the roadtrip to buy this Passat. Having said that, if any reader is considering going down to Austin ... get in touch. I could be up for some journalism from the field.

Monday, June 29, 2009

reviewing september 2007 through june 2009

I am happy to report that absolutely nothing happened between September 2007 (when I last posted to Urban Camouflage) and now, June 2009. Hence my silence here.

Perhaps you thought that, like every other music information site, I had begun organizing giant festival concerts rather than writing about music?

The reality is that I landed a full-time gig as Lead Editor at a animation start-up. The harsher reality is that the Global Economic Apocalypse (TM) took that job away after about 2 years. While the gig lasted it consumed a lot of my energy and therefore, there was a long silence here on Urban Camouflage.

During this stretch I kept watching the traffic on Urban Camo and am pleased that the blog has maintained an audience even without regular posts. I guess the blog has been a resource for all those millions of people looking for info about hip hop action figures, obscure musical devices, oblique pastiche rock, and sub-sub-sub-genre music documentaries.

Either way, this post is to say that I will once again be posting to Urban Camouflage, simply talking about musical developments that catch my eye as a writer, musician and consumer of music.

However, I thought I'd also say that you can check out my content in a couple of other places as well. In case you have any interests beyond music.

For the last year I've maintained a blog about the Boston Bruins called Black, White and Gold. I've been a fan of the Bruins since I was about 8 years old, and finally began writing about the club this year. As an adult, I have been part of a community that combines hockey and the arts for a long time now, and while I realize that it may seem like a strange fit for most Urban Camo readers, I recommend you just give Black, White and Gold a try. Maybe you'll learn something...even if that something is just that I'm a jock dork (you would be half-right).

You can also check out my larger-scope content on the Fauna Corporation website, which is where I will be posting my more "legit" multimedia journalism pieces, as well as my thoughts on multimedia pieces by other journalists (and a few references to posts here and on BW&G). I hope you stop by to check it out. As of this writing it is still a work in progress, but progress (especially these days) is really under-rated.

And finally, I want to apologize to those of you who wondered where the eff I had effed off to. The reality of a writer's life is that there is only so many hours in the day and energy in the tank, regardless of how much interest there may be in various topics. I hope you stick around, and check out all three sites.

Thanks for your continued interest in Urban Camouflage, Black, White and Gold, and the rest of my content production through the Fauna Corporation.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The Graveyard in Matrix Sent To Graveyard

My tenure with Matrix Magazine has ended after three or more years. I was orginally brought on board to manage their album reviews section, and then about a year and a half ago, I was offered a column, which we called The Graveyard.

The Graveyard ran at about 1,000 words a pop, and I usually tried to avoid carrying them on Urban Camouflage, simply because most people don't want to read 1,000 words on their computer screen. I blame computers.

However, a couple of people recently asked about a couple of the columns, so I thought I'd carry a post that linked to all of them. So here are the collected Graveyard columns, for you to enjoy:

Graveyard - May 2006: This is the first column, and talks about the Exclaim Cup hockey tournament, indie rock and (at the time) new releases by Destroyer and Raising the Fawn.

Graveyard - September 2006: This column featured reviews of 5ive independent, Canadian albums, as my own version of the Polaris Prize (note: I did not give away $20,000).

Graveyard - January 2007: This edition of The Graveyard looked at Eno's idea of ambient music, and I related it to two glitch-hop inspired artists, EdIT and Murcof.

Graveyard - May 2007: When I wrote this column, I had spent a looooong time watching music documentaries, so I decided to write a top 5ive of ones I had recently seen. Obviously not an exhaustive list, but a fair assessment of some of the better music docs out there.

Graveyard - August 2007: Another "film" related column, this last edition of The Graveyard looked at three independent Canadian albums that took a 'cinematic' approach to songwriting.

To anyone out there who has read The Graveyard columns, or told me that they had enjoyed reading one - I just wanted to say thank you. I enjoyed writing The Graveyard, and I hope this small collection of columns, above, offers you something to read and enjoy.

I will not see you next time in the Graveyard. But I do appreciate you stopping by.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Gazette Piece on Alternative Spaces

Just a quick note to say that the piece I wrote on Montreal's alternative performance spaces (for the Gazette) was published today. It is available in print around the city (hurry! hurry!), or on the Gazette website for a week (requiring free registration after that).

However, I decided to also throw the full article up online, so if you are interested in reading it, please follow the link. I had a good time writing this and think it could warrant a much longer, more exhaustive piece at some point in the future. A future where I am not as busy and sleepy.

Let me know your thoughts on this article. I realize that there are all sorts of performance spaces that I didn't even mention (both legal and not), but must stress again how word-count became a factor in the overall presentation of the piece. The key was to keep the piece tight and focused.

I should also say again how working with the Gazette editors has been a professional and clean experience, as it continues to be notable. Also, the fact that my girlfriend is a genius and makes me look much smarter than I actually am.

Enjoy the article.