Tagged: Kraftwerk

Review: Utility Music

Gyratory System - Utility Music
Gyratory System – Utility Music

Utility Music is Gyratory System’s third album (out today!), and I feel a bit silly for having not known them until now.  It’s a combination of all sorts of things I like — electronica with live instruments in the mix, krautrock influences, and, well, the first track is named “John Frum” after the patron saint of cargo cults!  In fact, if you’re a fan of Krautrock in general, I’d highly recommend this album.  It’s not a mere pastiche, but rather an extension of the genre. Continue reading

Review: Hardcore DEVO

Cover of Hardcore DEVO (reissue)When you think about the band DEVO, odds are you think of those weird guys with the flowerpot hats, jerking around to synthesized robot pop music. Well, if you’re the sort who reads Kittysneezes regularly, you might not think that, but the ordinary people who may only know “Whip It” certainly think that way. It’s easy to assume that DEVO simply emerged out of nowhere, all stiff metronomic beats, synthesizers, and funny hats. Few are aware that DEVO began life as a satirical, performance art response to the Kent State shootings of May 4th, 1970, where four students were killed by the National Guard during a war protest. Continue reading

Review: OMD – English Electric

OMD - English ElectricWhen Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark reformed its original lineup and released History of Modern, I wasn’t sure what to expect. OMD’s post-Junk Culture material left me a bit cold, but I decided to give the album a chance. I was pleasantly surprised to find OMD keeping pace with contemporary electronic pop. Though the album was uneven, it showed that the band could still teach the kids how its done. It was enough to get me to see them live on the History of Modern tour, though I only bought my ticket after contemporaries The Human League cancelled their show. The show was a high-energy synth-fest, with new material standing side by side with tracks from across the band’s career. I left hoping they’d keep at it for a while. Continue reading

Review: How To Wreck A Nice Beach

When most people think of the vocoder, they think of the robot voice on the Kraftwerk records…. or perhaps the mangling that Cher’s voice goes through on “Believe” or T-Pain’s voice on any T-Pain record.  (That last one’s not actually a vocoder, though; that’s Auto-Tune, which is different.)  But most people don’t know that the vocoder was originally designed as a secure way for heads of state to talk to each other during World War II.  Dave Tompkins’ new book How To Wreck A Nice Beach goes through the history of the vocoder, from its militaristic roots to its more fun applications in music, radio dramas and film.

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The Opposite of Smoke is Egg Whites

Diagram of CD layers. :A. A polycarbonate disc...
Diagram of CD layers. :A. A polycarbonate disc layer has the data encoded by using lands and pits. :B. A reflective layer reflects the laser back. :C. A lacquer layer is used to prevent oxidation :D. Artwork is screen printed on the top of the disc. :E. A laser beam reads the polycarbonate disc, is reflected back, and read by the player. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Who don’t like hypothetical mix CDs? Nope — nothing better than a hypothetical mix CD, not at all! Nope! Can’t think of a thing! And the theme for this one is songs over 5 minutes!

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Music Review: Trans

Cover of

Cover of Trans

[Purchase CD]

“I’m in here.” – Hal Incandenza

Trans is quite possibly Neil Young‘s strangest album, and one of the hardest to find; it’s one of the few Neil Young albums that’s out of print in the US. On Trans, Neil Young explored synthesizers and vocoders rather than the expected straight-forward guitar sounds he’d been using. To placate his record company, the first and last songs (“Little Thing Called Love” and “Like an Inca”) are in the “standard” Neil Young style — the rest of the album, not so much. One of the tracks (“Mr. Soul“) is an old Buffalo Springfield song drastically re-arranged. This should have given people a hint for the tour promoting the album; when angry fans would shout out for his old songs, he’d play them… in the Trans style. (I’d love to hear some of this stuff, actually!) Some cuts from Trans can be found in Neil Young’s second feature motion picture, Human Highway — one or two of the songs can be heard coming out of car stereos.

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