RIP: Les Blank, filmmaker best known for his intimate documentations of musicians

RIP: Les Blank, filmmaker best known for his intimate documentations of musicians http://www.tinymixtapes.com/sites/default/files/1304/news-13-04-les-blank.jpg

From The New York Times:

Les Blank, whose sly, sensuous and lyrical documentaries about regional music and a host of other idiosyncratic subjects, including Mardi Gras, gaptoothed women, garlic and the filmmaker Werner Herzog, were widely admired by critics and other filmmakers if not widely known by moviegoers, died on Sunday at his home in Berkeley, Calif. He was 77.

The cause was bladder cancer, said his son Harrod.

Mr. Blank, who received lifetime achievement awards from the American Film Institute and the International Documentary Association, did not think of himself as a documentarian, his former wife Chris Simon said, but rather as a filmmaker whose work happened to be about real people.

And his films are hardly standard documentary fare, dominated by archival footage and interviews with talking heads; nor are they of the Frederick Wiseman-D. A. Pennebaker fly-on-the-wall exposé school. Rather, the films, most of them less than an hour long, are “brilliantly sympathetic, well-crafted essays,” as John Rockwell wrote in The New York Times in 1979, rife with deftly framed portraiture, cunningly observed social scenes, beautiful nature photography and the poetic juxtaposition of imagery and sound. […]

• Les Blank: http://www.lesblank.com

RIP: Les Blank, filmmaker best known for his intimate documentations of musicians

From The New York Times:

Les Blank, whose sly, sensuous and lyrical documentaries about regional music and a host of other idiosyncratic subjects, including Mardi Gras, gaptoothed women, garlic and the filmmaker Werner Herzog, were widely admired by critics and other filmmakers if not widely known by moviegoers, died on Sunday at his home in Berkeley, Calif. He was 77.

The cause was bladder cancer, said his son Harrod.

Mr. Blank, who received lifetime achievement awards from the American Film Institute and the International Documentary Association, did not think of himself as a documentarian, his former wife Chris Simon said, but rather as a filmmaker whose work happened to be about real people.

And his films are hardly standard documentary fare, dominated by archival footage and interviews with talking heads; nor are they of the Frederick Wiseman-D. A. Pennebaker fly-on-the-wall exposé school. Rather, the films, most of them less than an hour long, are “brilliantly sympathetic, well-crafted essays,” as John Rockwell wrote in The New York Times in 1979, rife with deftly framed portraiture, cunningly observed social scenes, beautiful nature photography and the poetic juxtaposition of imagery and sound. […]

• Les Blank: http://www.lesblank.com

RIP: Andy Johns, rock producer (Exile on Main Street, Physical Grafitti, Marquee Moon, etc.)

From Billboard:

Andy Johns, the veteran producer and engineer who worked on classic albums by Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Van Halen and many others, has died at the age of 61. The news was confirmed to Billboard.biz by guitarist Stacy Blades, who was working on an untitled project with Johns until the producer was hospitalized last week.

[…]

Born in Surrey and a student at the King’s School in Gloucester, Johns put aside an early ambition “to be the next greatest bass player of all time” to follow his brother into the studio world. “It looked a lot better than working,” Johns told Universal Audio. He began his career as a tape operator at London’s famed Olympic Studios, helping Eddie Kramer on sessions for the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s “Axis Bold as Love.”

“In those days you could go into one studio and Joe Cocker was working, and then you’re working with Jimi Hendrix in Studio One, or down the corridor Eric Clapton is doing something,” Johns recalled. “It was a serious center. A lot of talent was there.” Johns produced early albums by Blodwyn Pig (“Ahead Rings Out”), Humble Pie (“As Safe As Yesterday Is,” “Town and Country”) and Free (“Free,” “Free Live!,” “Heartbreaker”), as well as Television’s landmark “Marquee Moon” in 1977.

Johns’ engineering resume, meanwhile, was dotted with landmark sets by the Stones – including “Sticky Fingers,” “Exile On Main Street,” “Goats Head Soup” and “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll” – Led Zeppelin’s “II” through “Physical Graffiti” as well as albums by Mott the Hoople, Jethro Tull and many more. Johns relocated to Los Angeles during the 1970s, where he worked with Van Halen, Joni Michell, Ozzy Osbourne, Cinderella and Eddie Money. Over the past dozen years he worked on albums by Hughes, Godsmack, Taylor Hawkins & the Coattail Riders and others.

• Andy Johns: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andy_Johns

Wham City Comedy Tour hits the road again this week! (sorry, there’s still no stop in Wham City)

Okay, so, here’s the deal, folks: I want you guys to know all about the upcoming Wham City Comedy Tour that’s starting this Wednesday, and I want to give you the necessary background information that you might need, including the fact that the Wham City Comedy Tour “is a two-hour cross-genre variety show, showcasing the very best from Baltimore’s award-winning artist collective and fabled party starters” and that attendees can “expect stand-up sets, videos, dramatic monologues, and ensemble sketches in a tightly-run, visionary performance” and that Dina Kelberman is involved…

And, I totally want you to remember that they did this before a few years ago, back before dudes like Dan Deacon and Ben O’Brien were as popular as they are today (in the intervening years, the Wham City guys have “performed on stage with Chicago’s Second City, shared festival bills with Donald Glover, Neil Brennan, and Henry Rollins; O’Brien has opened for Parks and Recreation’s Nick Offerman; and Mason Ross won Best Comedic Performance in the City Paper’s Best of Baltimore issue”)…

Yeah, yeah, I want you to know all of that stuff and get excited for it and go to a show in a town near you and laugh yourself incontinent and all of that great stuff… but the thing is, I don’t want to have to embed or link to or even talk about “Drinking Out of Cups.” What do you say? Does that sound like a fair deal?

Wham City Comedy Tour 2013:

4.10.13 - Pittsburgh, PA - Arcade Comedy Theater
4.11.13 - Cleveland, OH - Mahalls 20 Lanes
4.12.13 - Chicago, IL - The Hideout
4.13.13 - Detroit, MI - Jam Handy
4.14.13 - Toronto, ON - Double Double Land
4.15.13 - Buffalo, NY - The Vault
4.16.13 - Rochester, NY - Meddlesome Lab
4.17.13 - Troy, NY - 51 3rd St
4.18.13 - Williamstown, MA - Williams College
4.19.13 - Annondale on Hudson, NY - Bard College
4.20.13 - Purchase, NY - Purchase College
4.21.13 - Rosendale, NY - Market Market Cafe
4.22.13 - Worcester, MA - The Firehouse
4.23.13 - Torrington, CT - Snapper Magee’s
4.24.13 - Brooklyn, NY - Union Hall
4.25.13 - Baltimore, MD - Area 405
4.27.13 - Philadelphia, PA - Goldilocks Gallery
4.28.13 - Washington, DC - Sixth & I

• Wham City: http://whamcity.com

Ashley Eriksson (LAKE) and Mount Eerie to go on tour together, like a bunch of fancy people

Scientists theorize that the world is fancier now than the world has ever been before. I’m inclined to believe it. Only the fancy will survive, while the un-fancy will have their flesh picked off their bones, albeit very delicately. These are the times for the fancy people, the fancy people like Ashley Eriksson of Olympia’s LAKE. Ashley “Fancy” Eriksson is going on tour with fellow Washingtonians Mount Eerie, who also happen to be very, very, very fancy. Really, just the fanciest. The tour will be very Oregon- and California-centric, because all the dates are in Oregon and California. Afterwards, Mount Eerie will be heading to Europe, arguably the fanciest continent.

While I’ve got your ear, I’d like to mention one more thing to you, the possibly fancy. Eriksson has a new solo record titled Colours coming out July 16 through K Records. If you’d like to hear a preview of some of the record’s songs, go to one of her aforementioned shows with Mount Eerie. That is, of course, if you’re fancy enough. If you’re not, well, pity.

Ashley Eriksson + Mount Eerie dates:

04.11.13 - Portland, OR - Mississippi Studios
04.12.13 - Eugene, OR - Old Whiteaker Firehouse
04.13.13 - San Francisco, CA - The Chapel
04.14.13 - Oakland, CA - LoBot
04.15.13 - Santa Cruz, CA - The Crepe Place
04.16.13 - Los Angeles, CA - MiMoDa Studios
04.17.13 - Los Angeles, CA - The Smell

• Ashley Eriksson: http://www.ashleyeriksson.com
• Mount Eerie: http://www.pwelverumandsun.com

[Photo: Louisa Crowe]

Like a breath from nowhere: three unheard Arthur Russell tracks emerge

Arthur Russell… where to begin. Musically speaking, the guy was a renaissance man, a devastating (de)constructor of music, an amplifier of sounds, and engineer of imaginary worlds. (Deep inhale.) Russell was a formally trained cellist learned in Eastern classical music, an NYC underground music scene mainstay, a fluent mastermind of (mutant) disco singles (“Let’s Go Swimming,” “Is It All Over My Face,” “Go Bang!”), country ballads (Love Is Overtaking Me), new wave (Calling Out of Context), and whatever the hell World of Echo is. The last of which remains his most stirring statement.

World of Echo is an almost-too-personal portrait of a person frighteningly naked. It’s like peeking at someone’s soul through a keyhole. This is blues music for ghosts — a skeletal singer-songwriter blueprint all impossible cello patterns and narcotic, reverberating distortion. It is the most singular and individual of the lasting memories we have of the late Arthur Russell’s genius, though it is certainly not the only deep imprint he left behind. His heady brew of otherworldly compositions, always toying with spatial and temporal dimension, acted (acts) as a mutually beneficial catharsis for both himself and his audience. His music always had the hazy glaze of a dream state, easily lending itself to psychological escape and the capacity to provide an outlet for the moral and social burdens that accumulate during everyday life. In this way, Russell’s music is a therapeutic release of sorts, a purging of internal and external demons that transports the listener to uncommonly beautiful places.

In virtue of his immense variety and perpetually-in-flux approach, Russell showed himself to be an ever-shifting sonic puzzle with a body of work always in motion, always changing and always growing.

On that note, even in death his canon grows. Three new Arthur Russell tracks have been unearthed, and they are good, real good. As FACT report, these songs were spawned from a series of 1985 recording sessions with multi-instrumentalist Steven Hall. The story goes that Russell had been called in to mix and produce Hall’s own music, and ended up dominating the sessions (at least, that is what my ears are telling me). Like everything in his back catalog, these cuts have one foot in another world. The starkly dubby “Foxy Pup” is the most immediately recognizable as an Arthur Russell Product, and the best of the bunch as well.

You can hear “Foxy Pup” below, and stream all three tracks on Hollie Records’ SoundCloud page. “Foxy Pup” will be released on 12-inch via Hollie on April 20.

• Hollie: http://www.hollierecords.com