Thursday, June 16, 2016

incidental lightshow

The Armoires reveal a great big musical world with the haunting heartfelt harmonic convergence of this eclectic power pop diary.   Originally brought together as part of a Talking Heads cover band that never happened, lead singers Rex Broome and Christina Bulbenko began to work on songs that Rex had written over the years.  This 'coffee house' duo expanded when Christina's son Ian began helping them record a demo.  As the sessions progressed, the band gained confidence; but after their first public performance, Ian was killed in a car accident.  In the aftermath of the tragedy, the band decided to continue with the recordings in his memory with Christina's daughter Larysa contributing viola and vocals; her bandmate Sean Barillas from symphonic metal band Mantis (referenced in "Playing With The Lights") on drums; multi-instrumentalist Nate Myer adding guitar, bass, keys, drums, and vocals; plus Derek Hanna and Clifford Ulrich who played with Rex in Skates & Rays (who get name dropped in "Doubtful Sound") on drums and on bass (and vocals) respectively.  Three of the songs ("Fort Ashby", "Unhaunted", and "Norma Corona, What Have You Done?") retain performances by Ian on drums.  Christina plays keyboards and Rex plays guitar, harmonica, and mandolin.  Recording took place at Burbank Music Academy Sound Studio, Causality Studios in North Hollywood, Roundhouse Recording in Encino (where producer Glen Laughlin sat in on guitar and bass), and "at home" in Burbank.  Much of the final mix for 'Incidental Lightshow' was done in Toronto by Alan Fraser.  

The Armoires have developed a network of likeminded musicians in the Burbank area with their monthly showcase “Big Stir: Power Pop and More” at the California Institute of Abnormalarts in North Hollywood, featuring some of the folks that helped to create their debut album and who share their genre defying mindset.  Christina considers: “We didn’t know how to start, and we didn’t know if we could go on after losing Ian.  In the end we had to. And now we’ve found ourselves welcomed into this beautiful community of amazing musicians and songwriters who get what we were trying to do all along. We’re flabbergasted, humbled, and happy to be home.”

The myriad musical styles in this mellifluous wardrobe run the gamut through Americana, sunshine pop, garage, throwback psychedelia, blue eyed soul, surf rock, new wave, shoegaze, and country.  Sometimes within a song. 'Incidental Lightshow' gets its title from the emotional centerpiece of the album, "Playing With The Lights", a touching tribute to Ian and the synchronous signs that the band experienced after his passing.  Mysterious dancing lights and mantis appearances leading to the question:  "Are you laughing in the stars and playing with the lights?".  Christina helped to compose the lyrics and Nate contributed the song's exploratory bridge.  

Each song has an emotional resonance that ties a thread through the entire album.  What are obviously very personal references seem somehow universal.  Although the lines are often blurred with alternately poignant and priceless phrases, there is a sense of a grieving process.  There is denial ("No one is to blame because no one is responsible at all") in the new wave powerpop of "Responsible", anger ("Violent revolution on behalf of the non-famous people!") in the surf rock complaints of "Norma Corona, What Have You Done?", bargaining ("Hearts might heal, but you can’t unbreak a home") in the domestic drama of "What You Don't Wish For", sadness ("Doesn’t get much lower than the waterline at Doubtful Sound") lurking under the surface of a doomed romance (or perhaps a new musical venture?) with a Mustang-less Sally, and acceptance ("Sometimes you feel like you get what you’re wishing for; sometimes you don’t even know") in the fleeting pop of the sweet album closer "Double Blades".       

Rex reveals:  “Our songs are stories.  Whether they’re dreamlike or straightforward, they always revolve around some kind of narrative, and above all, characters. The way Christina and I trade off lead vocals and come together for harmonies really allows us to bring those characters to life. There’s so much untapped potential in that male/female vocal approach. For all the classic duets in pop music, you don’t hear it much in bands. The New Pornographers are a big inspiration. Fleetwood Mac and X, as different as they are, both did it brilliantly. Those bands dig into multiple perspectives within a single song, and do it magically. That’s the starting point for The Armoires.”

In case you don't know, an armoire is a type of fancy cabinet with lots of drawers and compartments.  The songs themselves are thick with metaphors and layers of meaning that reveal more with each listen.  Although you can look too deep.  Is the "Wire Girl" an art piece, an old sketch, or a dilapidated ship?  I originally thought "Newberry Spectacle" was a reference to the matching glasses that Rex and Christina wear (instead of some kind of art contest?), or that Norma Corona might be a reference to the murdered Mexican activist.  I still like to think that the crass countrified capitulation of  "Live And Direct" could be subtitled "The Chronicles of Ventura".  And that line "he can't keep it up, she can't keep it down" is too perfect.  

The first time I ever heard of an armoire was in the famous "Soup Nazi" episode of 'Seinfeld'.  As with the many wonderful recipes that the titular character had stashed away in his armoire, you'll be amazed at the variety of musical flavors; and like armoire-stealing "street toughs" Bob and Ray, you'll be intrigued by the gorgeous inlay and insist on taking it home for yourself.  And that's all there is to it.


"Fort Ashby" opens the album with a flood of childhood memories of the Mineral Country Fair in West Virginia.  

Out-of-tune piano, cylinder gramophone
Katydids, calliopes, big machines that buzz and groan
Down at the County Fair
There’s music in the air
It’s like a Tom Waits tune but with a different singer
It’s a great big world and it seems to me (it’s coming back to me)
It’s much bigger and it’s so much smaller than it
Ever used to be
In my grandma and grandfather’s backyard
They built a forty-foot slide
All I remember is the light
There’s a funhouse called Star Warz, it’s spelled with a “z”
Copyright infringement, it’s all coming back to me
Here comes a big bass drum
To rock my skeleton
There’s candy in the air, it’s slipping through my fingers
It’s a great big world and it seems to me
It’s much bigger and it’s so much smaller than it
Ever used to be
Now they tell me that it’s monster trucks and
Tractor pulls in the night
All I remember is the light
Put me in the moonwalk, I can’t even stand
Take me to the stage to see Daddy in a country band
Some kid who’s half my size
She won the livestock prize
She had a little lamb
And then the lamb got bigger
It’s a great big world and it seems to me
It’s much bigger and it’s so much smaller than it
Ever used to be
Got my baby beside me going eastbound
On a cross-country flight
All I can think of is the light
It’s coming back to me…

"Unhaunted" describes someone obsessed with the memory of a departed love.  

Empty house on my street with the doors chained up tight
And a window with candles that burn late at night
Children quicken their pace as they walk on by
From all the stories they’ve heard and they’re too young to die
And I miss her so badly I wish I were there
To see the spectral lights and feel the chill in the air
Empty bottle of wine and nobody to toast
I’m so jealous of other people’s ghosts
When I want her to haunt me she leaves me alone
No creaking floor, no flickering flame
Black candelabra and black cat bone
No disembodied voice to breathe my name
Got a box with a lock of her hair that I saved
And a bag filled with dirt that I took from her grave
Halloween once again and I’m here by myself
While her ghost is out haunting somebody else
When I want her to haunt me she leaves me alone
No creaking floor, no flickering flame
Black candelabra and black cat bone
No disembodied voice to breathe my name
She’s leaving me
Don’t want to be
And she had such faith in the world beyond
But I’m truly afraid that she’s truly gone
She won’t come to me as some tender wraith
In a column of vapor with her face
When I want her to haunt me she leaves me alone
No creaking floor, no flickering flame
Black candelabra and black cat bone
No disembodied voice to breathe my name
It’s November the First under a hangover sky
She’s bound to leave me unhaunted whatever I try
All my breaking and entering won’t raise the dead
And I’ll still be unhaunted tonight in her bed
All the leaves on the ground blow around in the wind
Like a family of rodents relieved of their skin
Halloween on a dirt road, 1983
I believed it was real, it could happen to me

The careening groove of "Caterwaul" could fuel a rave.  

Come down, catercorner
Carry me across the square
Come down, catastrophic
Crushed and quite beyond repair
Come down, calla lilies
Cold and lovely in a vase
Come down, cantilever
Can you lever me in place?
But if it’s not your time
You can’t make it your time
If it’s not your time
Come down, cat o’ nine tails
Count again, it’s more like ten
Come down, catatonic
Cannot wake her up again
And if it’s not her time
You can’t make it her time
Can’t make it her time
Come down, Cosa Nostra
Clarity and Claritin
Come down, catalytic
Car exhaust to do you in
Come down, cantaloupe and
Honey, do it while you can
Come down, caterwaul and
Honey can I be your man?
And if it’s not your time
You can’t make it your time
If it’s not your time
Caterwaul, catewaul, caterwaul

'Incidental Lightshow'
full album:

Fort Ashby
What You Don't Wish For
Playing With The Lights
Wire Girl
Doubtful Sound
Live And Direct
Newberry Spectacle
Norma Corona, What Have You Done?
Double Blades

Velvet Ties interview:

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

there is a light that never goes out

No theme for this show.  Just some songs I was feeling at the time.  Started late.  Here's the link for the show playlist:

Time Artist Track Album

09:15:07 Spectral Arts Love Will Find A Way Solar
09:20:55 Bob Marley Natural Mystic Exodus
09:24:11 Van Morrison Astral Weeks Astral Weeks
09:31:03 Jeff Buckley Calling You You And I
09:35:57 Sally Timms Horses      Somebody's Rocking My Dreamboat
09:39:57 Tom Waits Who Are You Bone Machine
09:43:45 Maria McKee If Love Is A Red Dress Pulp Fiction
09:50:59 Lou Reed Andy's Chest Transformer
09:54:11 The Smiths There Is A Light That Never Goes Out The Queen Is Dead
10:00:33 Roxy Music More Than This Avalon
10:04:23 Tears For Fears Broken Songs From The Big Chair
10:06:55 Tears For Fears Head Over Heels / Broken Songs From The Big Chair
10:12:23 Elvis Costello Opportunity     Get Happy!
10:18:43 Bebel Gilberto Mais Feliz Tanto Tempo
10:21:15 Bob Marley So Much Trouble In The World Survival
10:25:06 The Clash Armagideon Time Clash On Broadway
10:29:18 the English Beat Can't Get Used to Losing You I Just Can't Stop It
10:31:45 M.I.A. Galang    Arular
10:35:21 DIIV Take Your Time Is the Is Are
10:40:13 David Bowie & Queen Under Pressure      The Singles
10:47:10 The Chameleons UK Swamp Thing Strange Times
10:52:38 Doves Lost Souls Lost Souls
10:58:38 Goldfrapp Lovely Head      Felt Mountain
11:03:59 Prince Colonized Mind  Lotusflower
11:09:01 Michael Franti & Spearhead Stay Human (All The Freaky People) Stay Human
11:13:26 Ziggy Marley New Love Conscious Party
11:19:00 Shuggie Otis   Sweet Thang      Freedom Flight
11:23:03 The Soft Boys Human Music A Can of Bees
11:27:40 Led Zeppelin Friends   Led Zeppelin III
11:31:47 R.E.M. Me In Honey Out Of Time
11:35:49 The Mekons Only Darkness Has The Power Rock 'n' Roll
11:39:12 Savages Evil     Adore Life
11:42:45 Parquet Courts Dust Human Performance
11:49:41 Monty Python Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life Monty Python Sings
11:52:23 Frank Sinatra That's Life Sinatra
11:55:24 The Rolling Stones You Can't Always Get What You Want Let It Bleed

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

first songs

My first official show at WUVT FM 90.7.  The theme was first songs, the opening tracks of some of my favorite albums.  I started early (the end of the first hour).  Here's the link for the playlist:

Time            Artist  Track Album

11:51:16 Black Mountain Mothers of the Sun Black Mountain
12:01:14 Genesis Where The Sour Turns To Sweet In The Beginning
12:04:22 U2 A Sort of Homecoming The Unforgettable Fire
12:09:43 Elvis Presley Stranger In My Own Hometown The Memphis Record
12:14:22 The Beatles Two of Us Let it Be
12:19:25 Jane's Addiction Up the Beach Nothing's Shocking
12:22:49 O Positive Talk About Love Cloud Factory
12:27:08 Warren Austin You Make The Rain        Young Life
12:32:18 Jack White Missing Pieces      Blunderbuss
12:35:41 Neko Case Things That Scare Me Blacklisted
12:38:08 Derek and the Dominos I Looked Away Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs
12:41:07 Robert Plant & Alison Krauss Rich Woman     Raising Sand
12:46:55 Bob Dylan Like A Rolling Stone     Highway 61 Revisited
12:52:59 Rod Stewart Every Picture Tells A Story Every Picture Tells A Story
12:58:49 Maria McKee I'm Gonna Soothe You You Gotta Sin To Get Saved
13:03:20 David Bowie Changes      Hunky Dory
13:06:57 The Doors The Changeling L.A. Woman
13:11:05 Paul Weller The Changingman Stanley Road
13:15:58 Love Alone Again Or  Forever Changes
13:19:09 Love Jones Here's To The Losers      Here's To The Losers
13:22:17 Icicle Works Whisper To A Scream (Birds Fly)    Icicle Works
13:25:51 Blondie X Offender      Blondie
13:29:06 Psychedelic Furs Forever Now Forever Now
13:34:30 The Only Ones Another Girl, Another Planet      Special View
13:37:30 Led Zeppelin Achilles Last Stand Presence
13:50:00 Radiohead Everything In Its Right Place Kid A
13:54:03 Sonic Youth Teenage Riot Daydream Nation
14:02:05 New Order Ceremony Substance
14:06:28 The Chemical Brothers Block Rockin' Beats Dig Your Own Hole
14:11:38 Fatboy Slim Right Here, Right Now You've Come a Long Way, Baby
14:18:01 Stereolab Wow And Flutter Wow And Flutter
14:20:54 The Avalanches since i left you        Since I Left You
14:25:06 Beastie Boys Jimmy James Check Your Head
14:28:21 Beck Loser Mellow Gold
14:32:14 Chumbawamba Tubthumping Tubthumper
14:36:05 Pulp Mis-shapes       Different Class
14:39:50 Howard Jones Things Can Only Get Better       Dream Into Action
14:43:46 Elvis Costello Welcome To My Working Week My Aim Is True
14:47:03 The Rolling Stones Miss You     Some Girls
14:51:16 Bee Gees Stayin' Alive      Saturday Night Fever
14:55:53 Prince and the Revolution 1999 1999

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

back on the radio...

It'd been more than a decade since I was on the air back in Boston at the now defunct Allston Brighton Free Radio.  I was inspired to go to the WUVT ORGY (their organizational meeting) and went through their AM training program.  One bright morning in April, I noticed that the automation was malfunctioning, rendering the station unlistenable with what sounded like two different channels playing simultaneously somehow.  Joe, who had supervised the AM training, happened to be there and agreed to let me go on the air under his sign-in name "Josee".

I was fumbling and nervous; but was just picking stuff off the fly and having a fabulous time.

Here's the link for the archived setlist:
(broken down by hour, i didn't start until the first hour was almost over.)

                       artist             /     song     /      album

Bob Marley / exodus /  Exodus 

The Beatles /  Got To Get You Into My Life /  Revolver

Camper Van Beethovan / eye of fatima part 1/  Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart

Camper Van Beethovan / eye of fatima part 2Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart

Dinosaur Jr / Freak Scene / Bug

Blondie / Bermuda Triangle Blues (Flight 45)Plastic Letters

The Smiths / Ask / Ask

Genesis / Firth of Fifth / Selling England By the Pound

The Godfathers / When Am I Coming Down? / Birth School Work Death
Pink Floyd / Fearless / Meddle

Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians / Airscape / Element of Light

The Cure / 10:15 Saturday Night / Boys Don't Cry

Tim Buckley / gypsy woman / Happy Sad

Throwing Muses / Green / Throwing Muses

Liz Phair / May Queen / Whip Smart

Kate Bush / Hounds of Love / Hounds of Love

Sleigh Bells / Rill Rill / Treats

Belly / Gepetto / Star

Morphine / Dawna / Cure For Pain

Morphine / Buena / Cure for Pain

The Velvet Underground / Oh Sweet Nuthin' / Loaded 

The Rolling Stones / Can't You Hear Me Knocking / Sticky Fingers

Donovan / Hurdy Gurdy Man / Hurdy Gurdy Man

Grateful Dead / Serengetti /Shakedown Street

 Grateful Dead / Fire On The Mountain / Shakedown Street

The Clash / Police And Thieves  / The Story Of The Clash

The Replacements / Within Your Reach / Hootenanny

Roxy Music / Ladytron / Roxy Music

east of the river nile

Augustus Pablo legitimized the melodica in a natural way and gave new life to dub instrumentals.  Born Horace Swaby, he learned to play the organ while a student at the Kingston College School.  He acquired a melodica from "a little sistren" and began playing the instrument incessantly.  The blow-organ instrument had not been taken seriously at this point and was primarily used in school music classes.  

Herman Chin Loy, owner of the Aquarius record shop, heard him playing the instrument and booked him in a studio the next day.  He cut his first single "Iggy Iggy" as well as an instrumental track that would eventually become the title track for 'East of the River Nile'.   In the meantime, he recorded four albums   (This Is...Augustus Pablo  and Ital Dub in 1974,  Thriller  in 1975,  and  King Tubbys Meets Rockers Uptown in 1976) and set up his own Rockers record label.  

'East of the River Nile' was recorded at Harry J's, Channel One, King Tubby's, and Black Ark in Kingston.  Pablo produced the sessions and played organ, piano, strings, keyboards, clavinet, and melodica;  with  Aston "Family Man" Barrett, Clayton Downie, Robert "Robbie" Shakespeare, and Earl "Bagga" Walker trading off on bass;  Carlton "Carlie" Barrett, Noel "Alphonso" Benbow, and Max Edwards sitting in on drums;  Earl "Chinna" Smith on guitar; Everton DaSilva on percussions;  and the Ja-Malla Band playing on "Chant to King Selassie I" and "Natural Way".   The Upsetters played on "Upfull Living", "Unfinished Melody", and "Memories of the Ghetto".  King Tubby and Lee Perry did the mixing.  

East of the River Nile 
original version

Natural Way

'East of the River Nile'
full album:

00:00 - 1 - Chant To King Selassie I
03:42 - 2 - Natural Way
11:08 - 3 - Nature Dub
15:00 - 4 - Upfull Living
19:58 - 5 - Unfinished Melody
22:32 - 6 - Jah Light
24:48 - 7 - Memories Of The Ghetto
28:10 - 8 - Africa (1983) 
31:13 - 9 - East Of The River Nile
34:06 - 10 - Sounds Form Levi
38:06 - 11 - Chapter 2 
42:23 - 12 - Addis-A-Baba 
46:08 - 13 - East Africa 
48:56 - 14 - East of the River Nile (original)
51:54 - 15 - Memories of the Ghetto Dub 
55:28 - 16 - Jah Light Version 
58:00 - 17 - Islington Rock
1:00:00 - 18 - Meditation Dub