ICE Fest Kicks Off Tonight!

Tonight, the International Contemporary Ensemble begins its annual weeklong concert series in Chicago at the Hot House. I could make some kind of lame joke about the initials of this well-known avant-garde chamber group and its relation to a "hot" house, but I feel that would undermine the seriousness of this article (it is classical music, after all). So instead, how about some background? ICE was founded in 2001 for the express purpose of promoting new music and young composers while bringing this music to audiences not necessarily associated with modern classical music. Since then, they've performed in Alice Tully Hall in New York and the Miller Theatre at Columbia University. Their debut there was hailed by the New York Times as a "Top Ten Musical Moment of the Year" for 2003. Now, I think a listing of some concerts is due:

09.12.06 – Chicago, IL – HotHouse

Tonight will feature "classic ICE repertoire," including work by John Cage, Iannis Xenakis, Louis Andriessen, "up and coming" Du Yun, and the night closes with Steve Reich's seminal piece "Different Trains."

09.13.06 – Chicago, IL – Elastic

Featuring the seldom-used duo of clarinet and percussion, this night will feature works by Donatoni, Stockhausen, Lobera, and Manoury, as well as new works by young composers.

09.14.06 – Chicago, IL – The Velvet Lounge

This night's performance centers around ICE and Chicago Symphony Orchestra member Katinka Kleijn and several of her musically inclined friends. There will be works by Alvin Lucier, Bruno Maderna, Dai Fujikura, Alexandra Hermentin, and Frederic Rzewski, and a world premiere by Greg Ward written specifically for this performance.

09.15.06 – Chicago, IL – Pressure Billiards and Café

ICE guitarist will be playing both nylon and steel strings tonight for pieces by Mario Davidovsky, Julia Wolfe, Elliot Carter, Toru Takemitsu, and Peter Gilbert. As an encore, he's preparing a new piece by Yngwie Malmsteen called "Dungeons of HELL!!!"

09.17.06 – Chicago, IL – Green Mill Cocktail Lounge
09.17.06 – Chicago, IL – The Hungry Brain

Thankfully enough, modern music fans will not have to make the tough choice of whether they want to see the balls-out craziness of eight piano hands performing pieces by Ligeti, Kurtag, Messiaen, Schoenberg, Brunswick, Bartok, Tsai-Yun Huang, and three (count 'em, three!) world premieres OR some of the more interesting improvised music in America. Your day's plan should look something along the lines of going to the Green Mill at two to see 40 fingers flying, then heading directly over to The Hungry Brain for the 10 P.M. improvised show (you'll need that much time to get there due to Cubs-related IQ-deprived activity... ugh).

09.18.06 – Chicago, IL – Katerina's

And for you classical lovers out there, the final night of the festival will feature works written before 1940 – outside ICE's usual scope. However, these pieces will be subjected to some interesting arrangements and will feature some very special guests from the Lyric Opera Company and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Among the advertised "four + hours of nonstop classical" will be Bach's "Brandenburg Concerto No. 5" as well as other popular favorites. Sorry, no karaoke.

European Indie Labels to Vivendi’s Universal Music: Put It Back in Your Pants; TMT to American Indie Labels: Take a Hint, Already

Well, at least the Europeans give a shit. You see, Vivendi's subsidiary, our good friends Universal Music, have announced plans to acquire an itty bitty company known colloquially to a few industry insiders as BMG Music Publishing. Now, before you shoot yourself in the head (in this case colloquially known to teenagers everywhere as "dying for the sake of art"), take some solace in the fact that a group of European indie labels are making their dissent known.

Impala Independent Music Companies Association, which includes such heavy hitters as Beggars Group and V2, has launched a formal complaint against the merger. Martin Mills (pictured), Chairman of both Impala and Beggars Group, commented, "The strength of Universal in recording music would make this merger bad news for artists and music. It will also be particularly difficult for the regulators." By way of a response, BMG financial director Thomas Rabe basically said, "Up yours." I mean, he didn't actually say it, but we all know that's what he was thinking.

Now, unlike the dear old US of A, where challenging a corporate quasi-monopoly is functionally equivalent to telling the President to steal a few million dollars out of his own pocket, Impala actually has European precedent working in its favor. Last year, the group's protest against the Sony-BMG merger influenced a European court to overturn the European Commission's original ruling in favor of the conglomeration. Way back in 2000, they were able to block a merger between EMI and Warner Music Group.

Moral of the story? Sometimes David does beat Goliath. Just, um, not in this country. And Merge, Sub Pop, if you're listening out there, maybe it's time to prove me wrong.

Arab Strap break up! Bolivian Benoit Balls now best band named after a sex device

The site message was polite and optimistic: "Yes, it's the end for Arab Strap. After 10 years, six studio albums, three live albums, and all manner of everything else, we've decided the story should come to a close. There's no animosity, no drama, we simply feel we've run our course and The Last Romance seems to us the most obvious and logical final act of the Arab Strap studio adventure. Everybody likes a happy ending!... It is midnight on the 8th of September 2006 and I have just opened a beer. Cheers."

Well it's 7:03 am on September 10, 2006 as I start to write this, and I have just opened a beer too, but it's not making me feel any better about the break-up of Arab Strap. It's true that everybody likes a happy ending, but everybody loves more tales of sexual conquest, crises, and confusion, bitter ass-ends of relationships, quick cummers and two-stroke wonders, nights of binge drugging and drinking, and "blood on the johnnie" too, don't they?

Malcolm Middleton (mostly music) and Aidan Moffat (mostly lyrics) started Arab Strap in the central Scottish town of Falkirk in 1995 and quickly gained a reputation as dour, snarky cynics. C'mon...you start singing stuff like "They've seen me in the shower with shit down my legs" and "Smelling my fingers on the way back home" and next thing you know you are pigeonholed into that commonest of labels, the miserable/drunk/pervert band (FYI... rumored to be the next new Grammy Award category). Fortunately, the band was more known and revered for its dramatic musical originality and lyrical nous, a heady concoction that few bands — especially two-piece-based ones at that — could ever equal. To rub salt in others' wounds, the 'Strap also pulled off getting a song in a commercial for a product that is actually cool. The classic debut single "The First Big Weekend" was snagged by stout giant (?) Guinness for one of their popular UK ads.

So now it's 9:34 am (yes, it took me that long to write the nonsense you just read), and I'm considering draining the maraschino cherries and vanilla extract from the cupboard for a quick brain buzz while I reminisce about embarrassing fumbles with ex-loves and lost plastered weekends, but mostly about a band that wrote about such things with much more thought and dauntless honesty than I ever could.

Not surprisingly, Moffat and Middleton will go out with a celebratory bang, not a confectionary-assisted whimper, by issuing a career-spanning compilation entitled Ten Years of Tears and touring the UK in November and December. The album is expected on October 23 in the UK through on-and-off-and-on-again label Chemikal Underground (early 2007 in North America) and will feature a good representation of the band's back catalogue of lusty smut: early demos, unreleased and live tracks, B-sides and sessions, plus all the "hits." Speaking to the NME, Middleton explained the track choices thusly: "Sometimes the albums were a bit stifled because we were worrying too much about making a good album. I think that live versions of songs and b-sides etc show a truer, more relaxed side to the band. Ten Years of Tears can serve both as an introduction to Arab Strap and also a fitting finale to those people who have followed us along the way."

The tracks of their Ten Years of Tears:

1 Preface: Set the Scene
2 Islands (original 1995 demo)
3 The First Big Weekend
4 Gilded (live from first ever show)
5 I Saw You (first John Peel session)
6 The Clearing (single version)
7 Packs of Three (acoustic, live in studio 2006)
8 (Afternoon) Soaps
9 Rocket, Take Your Turn (Fukd ID 12")
10 To All a Good Night
11 Turbulence (Bis remix, radio edit)
12 The Shy Retirer
13 Blood (live 2004)
14 If There's No Hope For Us (rogue version)
15 Where We've Left Our Love
16 The Girl I Loved Before I Fucked (full band version)
17 Oxytocin (first ever recording)
18 There Is No Ending (7" edit)

The compilation will be preceded by a 7-inch single featuring the edit of "There Is No Ending" and backed with a remix of "The First Big Weekend" by Four Tet. The good news is that after the break-up, the remaining pieces will carry on their respective solo activities. Middleton is recording the follow-up to the superb Into the Woods album with ubiquitous studio helmsman Tony Dougan, and Moffat will continue to pen his personal poemsongs and record his ongoing Lucky/L. Pierre project (a new album, Dip, is due in early 2007). The farewell tour is being planned now and includes at least the 11 dates listed below. Even if Arab Strap always rubbed you against the grain, how could you not raise a pint (and a hug) to a band who were once "disowned" by their hometown of Falkirk after branding it as boring, run-down, and full of violent druggies and alcoholics?

The last live romance:

11.01.06 - Nottingham, England - Rescue Rooms
11.03.06 - Norwich, England - Arts Centre
11.05.06 - Portsmouth, England - Wedgewood Rooms
11.06.06 - Liverpool, England - Liverpool Theatre
11.07.06 - Bristol, England - Thekla
11.08.06 - London, England - Scala
11.29.06 - Manchester, England - Academy 3
12.01.06 - Edinburgh, Scotland - Cabaret Voltaire
12.02.06 - Aberdeen, Scotland - Tunnels
12.03.06 - Glasgow, Scotland - King Tut's Wah Wah Hut
12.04.06 - Glasgow, Scotland - King Tut's Wah Wah Hut

Cat Power has left something special in the litter box for you: A fresh new live EP!

Before I go on to tell you about the live EP that Cat Power has released on iTunes, I must get something off my chest.

I'll just let the "cat" out of the bag. I hate cats. Cats have ruined my life. Now don't jump to the conclusion that this is off-topic or irrelevant. This is an issue that must be addressed by using a sequential timeline beginning with my birth.

August 14, 1985 - Due to a simple mistake, my dad drives my mom to the wrong hospital when she goes into labor. It just so happens to be an animal hospital. After a veterinarian named "Shelly" poorly delivers me, I am forced to stay the night in cage surrounded by several hissing cats. It was that night that the cats created an official pecking order against me, and from that day forth I was on every cat's hit list.

December 25, 1991 - My drunken uncle Ol' Dirty Bastard surprises me with a kitten for Christmas. My face bright with joyful anticipation that a puppy would jump out of the little cardboard box is blown up in smoke when the box is just full of not one, but three dead kittens. Ol' Dirty forgot to put air holes in the box like usual. Of course, I am horrified, but I'm more disappointed that I didn't get a puppy.

April 3, 1993 - Cat Stevens's tour bus breaks down in front of our house. After his roadies eat a nice home-cooked meal with my family, Cat comes with me to my room. He says, "Hey kid, have you ever tripped?" After the night that I dropped acid with Cat Stevens, I began a disruptive downward spiral into "hardcore" drugs and impregnating various women. This lasted until I turned eight, and I got a hysterectomy after my fourth child was born.

February 17, 1996 - My parents announce to me that they are having a divorce while I am watching an episode of Dr. Katz. They also tell me that they don't like me very much, and my uncle gains full custody over me. That night, I cried so hard that my tears ran all the way down to my testicles. My testicles shriveled until they disappeared, and I haven't seen them since.

April 5, 1998 - My uncle legally changes his name to Big Baby Jesus.

October 31, 1999 - After debating for weeks over catsup vs. ketchup, my friend Alex goes on a shooting rampage at our school. Good thing I didn't go to school on that day!!!!

September 11, 2001 - I have a job in New York City as a delivery man for a catnip company called "Hey, It's like Crack for Cats!" While parked in an alley, a gang of badass cats bombard me with threatening hisses. The cats rape me and scar me for life. It is the worst event that happens on that day, and my story is all
over the news.

So...... maybe now you can see I am slightly shaken by Cat Power. However, I know that Cat Power is really Chan Marshall. I can also infer that she is one nice lady when sober. So without further delay, let me say that I don't hate all cats.

As of now, the four-track, live session EP is only exclusively available on iTunes. If there is one thing that I don't hate, it would be giving all of my money to iTunes. Like Marshall has done before, there are three covers and an acoustic version of "Love and Communication" from her latest effort, The Greatest [TMT Review].

Tracklisting (Meow!!!):
1. Love And Communication (Acoustic Version)
2. House Of The Rising Sun
3. Wild Is The Wind
4. Who Knows Where The Time Goes

I'm all out of cat jokes. Remaining dates:

09.12.06 - Atlanta, GA - Variety Playhouse*
09.13.06 - Chicago, IL - Vic Theatre*
09.15.06 - Austin, TX - Austin City Limits Music Festival*
09.16.06 - Dallas, TX - Gypsy Ballroom*
09.17.06 - Austin, TX - Stubb's BBQ*
09.20.06 - Mexico City, Mexico - Venustiano Carranza 25 (solo)
11.01.06 - London, UK - Roundhouse*
11.03.06 - Amsterdam, NL - Paradiso*
11.04.06 - Brussels, BEL - Ancienne Belgique*
11.05.06 - Paris, FR - Grand Rex
11.07.06 - Zurich, Switzerland - Kaufleuten
11.09.06 - New York City, NY - Avery Fisher Hall (solo)#

* with Memphis Rhythm Band
# Bob Dylan tribute with Patti Smith and Phillip Glass

Dinosaur Jr Get Ganked Like A Week Ago; Get Bombarded With Emails From Fans Who Are, Like, Really Concerned They Won’t Have a Concert at Which to Show Off Their New Flannel

For those of you who thought there was already enough information about The Beatles out there – you were wrong! Just in time for Part 2 of my article on the Genius of Yoko, Mrs. Lennon herself has opened up her archives to documentary filmmakers David Leaf (who was also involved with America: A Tribute to Heroes in 2001 and John Scheinfeld for a new endeavour called The U.S. vs. John Lennon).

The film will take place between 1966 and 1972, the years when the Lennonos were very busy campaigning for Peace, with events such as their "Bed In" or "Bag Peace." Of course, we all know how much the United States loves the idea of Peace, so you probably get the picture as to what the tension was like between various U.S. Government officials and the newlyweds. For those who aren't familiar with the story, John Lennon faced many hurdles in his attempt to obtain U.S. citizenship. Apparently, Elvis wasn't too keen on the Peacemaker residing in his country and was out to ensure The Beatles collective were nowhere near it. Poor Presley didn't realize that the only thing Ringo was capable of was an atrocity, such as his cover of Hoyt Axton's "No No Song."

In a press conference regarding the film, Yoko stated, "Of all the documentaries that have been made about John, this is the one he would have loved." With footage culled from the couple's home movies and various incomplete cinefilm, the film will be one to watch out for. The U.S. vs. John Lennon is being shown at the Toronto Film Festival today and will open in New York on September 15. It will get a wider U.S. release on September 29.

Dinosaur Jr Get Ganked Like A Week Ago; Get Bombarded With Emails From Fans Who Are, Like, Really Concerned They Won’t Have a Concert at Which to Show Off Their New Flannel

Dear Whoever is Currently Thrashing a '61 Fender Jazzmaster and Pretending to Be J Mascis:

Great job. No, seriously, I bet you've got a ticker-tape parade in the streets of Brooklyn in your honor. Ripping off Dinosaur Jr is really one of the most rock 'n' roll jobs you could have possibly done. Hell, maybe if you'd told them about it beforehand, they would have congratulated you on your disrespect for authority and actually given you all the gear they've lovingly collected over the years.

Except for the fact that Dinosaur Jr bear little resemblance to anything even closely related to the so-called "Man," and you don't actually know how to shred an axe. Just coke. With strings from a B.C. Rich Warlock bass. Wow, how could I have been so stupid!? Everyone knows razorblades are like, so 1978.

I take it all back. Upon further introspection, it's obvious that you really, really needed a trailer's worth of equipment from Dinosaur Jr. I know you just don't have the patience to wait for Shakira's upcoming set at Madison Square Garden. Besides, her gear is totally beat. You made the right choice.

Love & Mace

heidi vanderslice

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