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Books
Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2010

Dave Tompkins traces the story of the vocoder

In How to Wreck a Nice Beach: The Vocoder From World War II to Hip-Hop, The Machine Speaks (Stop Smiling Books), Dave Tompkins traces the fascinating history of this device from its use in guarding a secure phone line for Roosevelt and Churchill through...
Books
Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Remembering the hi-fidelity era

If Gary Calamar and Phil Gallo’s book were written more carefully and with more extensive and better research, it would be an...
Album Reviews
Friday, May 21, 2010

Fresh Cut Collective (Uni-Fi Records)

Fresh Cut Collective, comprised of seven artists with extensive histories with other Milwaukee bands, play music live that otherwise would be presented using either pre-recorded sounds or a combination of that and, say, a couple of live players. This album is live music restoration, taking music back from...
Books
Monday, May 3, 2010

Tony Fletcher’s look at the vitality of live performance

Bruce Springsteen recently played the Super Bowl; Patti Smith did a fashion show; The Rolling Stones re-released Exile On Main St. at prices ranging from fairly reasonable to slightly fair to awfully expensive. All of this comes from artists who were once edgy, countercultural performers. Tony Fletcher’s All Hopped Up...
Books
Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2010

Robert Mapplethorpe prominent among evocative memories

Patti Smith is known for making mediocre poetry and music that exposes the sound of poetry in a furious rock ’n’ roll setting. It’s a pleasing shock to find that her prose is evocative, finely structured and elegantly delicate. In Just Kids (Ecco/HarperCollins), she is more than a mere...
Album Reviews
Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2009

Purgatory Hill (DarkPresents)

Veteran Wisconsin songwriter and singer Pat MacDonald recorded his latest album under the name Purgatory Hill. The CD is nothing less than a shocking reinvention of blues and rock music. Aside from numbers by PJ Harvey and Iggy Pop, a traditional entry and one co-written by others with MacDonald...
Books
Friday, Aug. 7, 2009

The Loss of the Long-Playing Record

The long-playing record arrived in 1948 and by the '60s had become an art object as well as a carrier of sonic material. However, the process by which we listen to music within the last decade has changed and therefore so has the cultural significance of the record album...
Books
Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009

The culture of an alternative

Old Roots, New Routes: The Cultural Politics of Alt.Country Music(University of Michigan Press) is a collection of in-depth essays approaching the subject matter with the best of intentions. Each explores characteristics of the music from thoughtful and well-researched perspectives. But most if not all leave no hint that they are investigating a musical idiom that possibly exists nowhere except in the minds of those for whom...
Books
Monday, Dec. 15, 2008

When British rock conquered the world

He does note that there is something special about the record, however, in that it was performed by a "vocal and instrumental quartet," and adds, "It's different." He is referring to it as being stylistically unique, but more specifically that it is performed by those who wrote it. A year later, on Feb. 9, 1964, millions watched the Beatles on CBS's "The Ed Sullivan Show" and rock 'n' roll stopped being singularly an American art form. In the United Kingdom, the famed Denmark Street (tantamount to America's Tin Pan Alley) commercial songwriting business was...

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