Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is perhaps (much like Labor Day) a holiday that never held much importance in my life until I had a proper 9-5 job with paid holidays. Money aside, I am genuinely thankful for this Thanksgiving. I have been meaning to add more to this blog recently but time has been hard to come by and tonight I am drunk from wine and stuffing. Thus, the only thing I can offer you is this new Voxtrot song from our forthcoming EP (Spring 2006, fingers crossed) entiteld Mothers Sisters Daughters and Wives.

Thus far we have three of the projected five recorded, and I can promise you it has been a lengthy yet rewarding process. One song had to be completely re-recorded, which resulted in kind of a major set back but it was completely worth it. In addition we were lucky enough to be helped out by some very talented musicians who contributed violin, cello, trumpet, and french horn to the new songs. They all played beautifully, and I cannot for the life of me remember their full names. I'm sure Jared would be able to fill you in on their names/side projects, if he happens to read this entry.

You can listen to the new song here.


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Five Great Dance Records (Modern Classics)

*Sorry, these picture are rather large and grainy. Still trying to master the blog format...

When I moved to Glasgow three years ago, I assumed that I would be entering into a world filled with retro-attired kids, all living and breathing for the same sort of brit-rock and indie pop music that captivated me, a kind of twee mecca if you will. Instead I discovered techno, or rather the marvelous world of dance music and the culture that surrounds it. This was amazing for me because I was able to unearth, for the first time, a plethora of new records about which I knew nothing. Most of these I heard in Glasgow at clubs such as Optimo and Divine, and there were several that I hold very near and dear to my heart and very rarely leave my playlist (I now do some DJing myself, primarily in Austin). If you were somebody who had grown up in Britain then some of these records might not have registered beyond something kind of new and catchy you heard in a club and then forgot about, but for me they still signify the beginning of what I'd like to consider a true affinity. They are a mixture of new and old.

PS. I don't consider myself an authority on music and I'm sure many readers will already know these tracks. so if you've no desire to read on, that's cool with me. I'm not trying to educate anyone, I'm just, well... blogging.

1. Dinosaur L-Kiss Me Again

This track is perhaps the most special to me and is by far the oldest on this list. It is an Arthur Russell composition from 1978 and I believe there are about twenty different versions of it floating around. Several years ago, it was reissued on a Disco Not Disco compilation, but I am not a very big fan of that remix. I recently obtained a copy on vinyl that had been issued on something called Underground Disco Classics, but it's not nearly as good as the version I will try to post in the next couple of days. For years I would hear it played at the Sub Club but nobody really talked too much about it. I remember one day obtaining a copy of it my friend Keith (Twitch of Optimo) who told me the history of the song and about its many incarnations, and the more I listened to it the more I began to appreciate the multiple instrumental layers (guitars, trombone, cello, etc...) and the constantly evolving feel of the song. Yes, that sounds a bit music school wanky but as a rule I am completely opposed to funk and soul and this track definitely swayed my feelings in the other direction. We would have these parties after Optimo that would go on for quite some time (that is, after all, the Glasgow way of doing things) and I can remember everybody listening to this song and singing in unison sometimes nine or ten times in the space of one night. For me it is a very sentimental tune.
*Interesting Side Note: David Byrne is playing the guitar.

2. Green Velvet-Flash

This is kind of an early nineties dance classic and it's difficult for me to explain why exactly it resonates so strongly with me. For a long time I had trouble figuring out who the song was by or what its title was because I could not discern the lyrics on the instrumental break (my favorite bit), but one day I was sitting in my parents' living room going through every song that had been imported onto my computer and I discovered that I already owned it, but had just never given it a listen. To me part of the magic of this song is that there is zero melodic content; it is all dance. (If anybody's interested in the marvelous and endless land of remixes I think the Timo Mas dirty dub version is amazing). CAMERAS READY PREPARE TO FLASH!

3. Monte Cazazza-Sex is No Emergency

This track is incredibly hard to find in its original format. Monte Cazazza seems an extreme character to say the least, a trait which is not incongruous to his Industrial Records counterparts, such as Throbbing Gristle. Anybody who is interested can find more information about him here. Perhaps the reason I like this song is because it is so continuously dark and the lyrical content is undeniably minimal yet smart, the best line being "love is more than just some fucking four letter word." I once tried to order The Worst of Monte Cazazza but the record store was unable to find a copy anywhere in the country. Now that I think about it, perhaps the Dinosaur L track is not the oldest on this list. I shall have to investigate...

4. Annie Lennox-Little Bird

Okay, this is not really a dance track but in my Glasgow life it was kind of an unintentional dance track. My friend marv and I used to do this night called Muzique, orginated and promoted by this crazy fashion designer who called himself Richie Sudo, and was undeniably larger than life. Sometimes he'd show up to the club wearing three pairs of ripped denim, a silk Louis Vitton neck scar, and a freshly shaven mohawk with a dollar sign drawn on the side of his head... with magic marker. His mission was to bring laughing gas parties and Italo Disco back in fashion and his charisma just might warrant him that victory, but when we were on the decks we played pretty much anything we wanted to. This Annie Lennox song became kind of a classic among our friends (still is)- probably because singing it makes you feel so damn good. It's the sort of thing that I would never have expected to like. but just grew on me over a period of time. At the end of Muzique dance night (which was about once every two months) we would play Enjoy the Silence (Marv's favorite tune) and loop the end refrain of "enjoy the silence" while fading in Little Bird. Then, depending on our particular state of sobriety, or lack there of, we would play about thirty more songs... just as a night cap of course.

5. Captain Comatose- $100

This for me is the perfect mix of pop and dark electro. There was a lot of great stuff with a kind of dark German edge that I was hearing at the time of its release, but this one for me just really epitomizes the kind of dance record that manages to be fun and trashy without being disposable. I have seen Kid and Khan (Khan being one half of C.C.) live before, but never Captain Comatose, a situation I hope to one day remedy. Khan's biography/discography is fairly amazing, as he's worked with Jimi Tenor and all sorts of other people. Long before Captain Comatose (in the early nineties I think) he released an album called 1-900-Get-Khan, and one of the tracks on that album features a sex-chat telephone intro. On a seemingly unrelated note, I spent much of the last year cat/house-sitting for my friend Jill Mingo in Glasgow, a wonderful woman who is a character in the truest sense of the word. One day we were talking about Captain Comatose and she happened to mention that she was actually the sex-chat voice, a fact that should have been more surprising to me. Apparently Khan also introduced her to Jungle Juice, a triple strength strain of poppers only legal in Germany. As I said earlier, the perfect amount of dirty.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Work Part Two (Baby Tiger)

NOTE: Please excuse spelling/grammar errors. I have not figured out how to use the editing tools just yet.

Once upon a time there was a Voxtrot weblog. That was before the site crashed for the five millionth time and everything had to be transferred over. During the transition all previous content was lost and therefore making reference to those posts might seem a little useless. I will do so anyway. (Hopefully the weblog will return in its original form soon, but until then this will have to be sufficient. The weblog was more aesthetically pleasing. If anybody has suggestions for attractive, free blogs, please let me know).

One of those posts was a chronicle of my work day in Glasgow, at a nice little cafe situated inside the Centre for Contemporary Arts. Every Saturday was kids day, and the various activities of these children provided me with endless amounts of amusement. Now that I have moved to Austin my job consists solely of child interaction. I am a pre-school teacher at a nice little church about ten blocks from my house, and the work is a delicate mixture of strenuous and fulfilling. For a while it seemed to be the most amazing thing in the world: eight hours of engaging and educating kids (2 year olds in the morning, 4 year olds in the afternoon), and at the end of each day I had a certain feeling of satisfaction, that my day had not in fact been wasted, but rather that I was doing something worthwhile and important.

Although this is still the case, these days I find that I am becoming inreasingly tired and perhaps this job is not something I can sustain very much longer. The thing is, children are inherently selfish and it’s an easy thing to forget when the teacher-student pretense dissolves and you begin to interact with them as people. This is particularly true in the context of the 2/3 year olds. They are at the specific developmental stage of having the power of speech, but not yet being toilet-trained. There are days when I have had to fight (with a stellar hangover, mind you) a child for a plastic bowl of his own shit, a process that makes changing diapers seem like a luxury holiday.

However, it’s not all bad. I am exposed to many dlightful little factoids, statements and anecdotes that make my day a little brighter, such as the notion that I should never return to Spain, because that’s where Darth Vadar lives. Recently I was sitting with a two year old girl who has not yet grasped the concept of speech, but is learning. At one point she sneezed and I said “bless you,” to which she replied “thank you,” to which I replied “you’re welcome,” to which she replied “thank you.” At this point I realised that there was no system of logic that would allow me to explain why that cycle of niceties should stop at “you’re welcome,” or rather why it should begin in the first place. It’s interesting that the specific dialogues we perceive as cute in children are really just non-conformities that can only occur before full homoginization has taken place.

And so I have come to a crossroads. Voxtrot leaves to go on tour December 2nd and chances are I will lose my job. Sometimes it seems like a blessing in disguise, that it’s too much work for to little pay anyway, and then there are moments of intense guilt. The other day, around the time of Halloween, my class had dwindled to about four people and having worked the morning shift as well, I was ready to shove off and call it a day. I announced this to the class and as I was walking out the door, a little boy looks up at me with big eyes and says, “Why can’t you stay and play with us today?” Later that night I saw him at party hosted by one of the parents, running down a grass hill in a littke skeleton suit yelling, “Ramesh is here!” At points it can make you feel like an errant father.

As a family friend explained to me the other day, I am one of the first people they are trusting outside of their parents, and their language does not correspond with concepts such as occupational mobility. In fact their language does not correspond with ours on many accounts. They are much more founded in emotion than words, which for them are still merely signifiers, and this is why they bite, hit, and construct sentences that have no discernable meaning yet still produce unanimous laughter among the other children.

Just before breakfast while the children are washing their hands, I sit outside the bathroom by the water fountain with a bucket of “clean hand toys,” meant to occupy the children until everybody is ready. The other day I was particularly tired, having played a show in Austin the night before. Eventually I snapped out of my daze to realise that a child was standing in front of me with out-stretched wet hands, repeating the phrase “baby tiger peas.” I reached around, ripped off a paper towel, and wrapped it around his fists.