MP3 At 3PM: The Space Merchants

SpaceMerchants

Brooklyn quartet the Space Merchants play a unique brand of lo-fi psych rock and ready for the release of their self-titled debut, due out June 9. Now they offer haunting single “One Cut Like The Moon” for free download. The track exemplifies their huge-yet-minimal sound, mixing psych with blues and country-style riffs to make something great. We are proud to premiere “One Cut Like The Moon” today on magnetmagazine.com. Download it below.

“One Cut Like The Moon” (download):

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From The Desk Of Gang Of Four: The Music Of Erik Satie

Andy Gill has a relatively simple work ethic that’s guided him for years, ever since his legendary post-punk outfit Gang Of Four burst onto the staid scene with its jagged, jarring Entertainment! debut in 1979. “There are loads of bands that can chuck out the same album, year after year,” he says. “But that model is just not for me.” The group’s quantum leap forward to 1982’s more danceable third album, Songs Of The Free, might have clarified that tenet already. If not, the latest Gang Of Four record surely will—the aptly dubbed What Happens Next, Gill’s first after the departure of longtime vocalist Jon King. Gill will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on the band.

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Gill: Erik Satie was a quixotic man, of Scottish/French parentage. He was brilliantly eccentric—when he died, they found 20 identical grey velvet suits in his wardrobe along with 20 grey velvet umbrellas. He loved to drink absinthe. Back then in Paris, there were marks down the side of the bottle to guide the bartender as to how much he poured in your shot. Satie was convinced that the last measure was bigger than the others, and, to the irritation of the barman, would always demand to be served the last measure.

Space here is too limited to highlight all his incredible achievements, the ballet scores he wrote (for which Picasso did the backdrops) for example, but his music stands apart from all the other impressionist composers. It is profoundly modern in its sensibility, and yet it seems to resonate with something medieval. As you listen, you are not sure when or where you are anymore—it’s as Arabian as it is European. It feels like you are dealing with absolutes; space itself is being measured. His influence shaped the course of 20th century music probably more than any other composer.

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Gang Of Four: Numbers Racket

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A new frontman and plenty of guests keep post-punk legends Gang Of Four cool

Veteran English guitarist Andy Gill has a relatively simple work ethic that’s guided him for years, ever since his legendary post-punk outfit Gang Of Four burst onto the staid scene with its jagged, jarring Entertainment! debut in 1979. “There are loads of bands that can chuck out the same album, year after year,” he says. “But that model is just not for me.”

The group’s quantum leap forward to 1982’s more danceable third album, Songs Of The Free (featuring club smash “I Love A Man In Uniform”), might have clarified that tenet already. If not, the latest Gang Of Four record surely will—the aptly dubbed What Happens Next, Gill’s first after the departure of longtime vocalist Jon King, who returned to running his advertising agency after 2011’s Content.

Gill’s angular filigrees and sometimes static chords anchor Next. Especially on the guttural “Isle Of Dogs,” a punk-spiked (and Gogol-inspired) “Dead Souls” and the scratchy, squealing “Where The Nightingale Songs.” But the name of the game is collaboration now. German composer/actor Herbert Grönemeyer adds a Bowie-ish vocal flavor to “The Dying Rays”; the Big Pink’s Robbie Furze croons a funky “Graven Image”; Gail Ann Dorsey puts a soulful topspin on a sinister “First World Citizen”; and Kills/Dead Weather banshee Alison Mosshart snarls across two blatantly bluesy tracks, “Broken Talk” and “England’s In My Bones.” The rest are intoned by a new permanent frontman—John “Gaoler” Sterry, who Gill initially hired just to sing his demos.

“I don’t think that there are any rules that say you’ve got to stick to the same bunch of people, or you’ve got to be the same band forever, because otherwise you’re not authentic or something,” says Gill, who just turned 59. “It’s a really misplaced idea of authenticity that the same bunch of people that was in a band back in Year X will remain that same bunch, 30 years later, and maintain that same sound. Like that awful British band Status Quo that plays that weird, 12-bar rock ‘n’ roll, and that’s your characteristic sound and you’ve got to stick to it.” He snorts derisively. “All that stuff is total anathema to me. So, when Jon pulled out, I thought it was a good time to try out working with a few other people.”

Over the years, through Gang Of Four’s on-again/off-again career, Gill stayed busy with other projects. He produced several bands, composed music for TV commercials and BBC television soundtracks, and appeared on a show called Studio In Session, which documented his production techniques with three different groups—Hard-Fi, Cage The Elephant and the Kills—and was where he got to be good friends with Mosshart. She was one of his first invitees, once he’d hit upon his What Happens Next cameo concept. But he tries to keep outside assignments to a minimum.

“When you get into doing albums, like your own Gang Of Four thing, it’s very all-encompassing,” he says. “And at a certain point, you think, ‘If I don’t concentrate on this, I’m never going to get it finished.’ And I’m not the fastest person in the studio, either, so you really do have to stop and say, ‘I’m going to focus on just this and give it my full attention.’”

Which partially explains King’s exit, he adds. Which Gill had anticipated for a while, even when the original members all reunited for tours in 2007. “You can’t do this music stuff unless you’re putting 100 percent into it,” he says. “You have to be prepared to work long hours and not just like it—you have to love it. Jon had been around for a while over the decades, and sometimes he was really up for it, and other times really not up for it. So, that particular parting was probably long overdue.”

Gill told his old chum that he would be maintaining the Gang Of Four moniker, with the roster now including bassist Thomas McNiece and drummer Jonny Finnegan. King understood. Gill even chose to make Next a concept album of sorts, revolving songs around a dystopian view of the cultural melting pot that is his hometown, London. Which exemplifies another of his pet theories: Change is good. “Because it does give you a certain amount of freedom to do whatever you want,” he says. “To just do whatever you want and get on with it, really.”

—Tom Lanham

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In The News: Spoon, R.E.M., Ryan Adams, Faith No More, Jean-Paul Sartre Experience And More

Spoon

On April 28, Spoon will release an EP of remixes, Inside Out Remixes, featuring four versions of the band’s song by Fabrizio Moretti, Operators, Tycho and Brian Reitzell. The band will also hit the road for a North American tour in May … R.E.M. By MTV, the acclaimed documentary by Alexander Young chronicling the simultaneous careers of R.E.M. and MTV, will be available from Rhino on June 2 … Eyelids (which features members of the Decemberists, Guided By Voices, the Jicks and more) have announced the June 23 release of a new self-titled EP via Jealous Butcher/Schizophonic … Legacy will issue the soundtrack to Cameron Crowe’s upcoming film Songs Of Aloha on May 26. It features appearances by Fleetwood Mac, Kurt Vile, David Crosby, Daryl Hall & John Oates, the Tallest Man On Earth and more … The 2000 solo debut of Ryan Adams, Heartbreaker, will see a special reissue on CD and vinyl on May 26 via Pax-Am … After 25 years, Loop returns June 22 with the release of the Array 1 EP on ATP … June 23 marks the release of the new album from the Orb, Moonbuilding 2703 AD, via Kompakt … Midnight Mission and Cedar Creek, the first two records by the Textones, will be reissued in expanded editions by Omnivore on May 26 … The Old Ceremony is set to release Sprinter on July 14 via Yep Roc … Rhino will celebrate the return of Faith No More with deluxe reissues of The Real Thing and Angel Dust on June 9 … A comprehensive boxed set containing the work of the Jean-Paul Sartre Experience, I Like Rain: The Story Of The Jean-Paul Sartre Experience, will be available August 11 from Fire … On June 2, Specialty will issue Directly From My Heart: The Best Of The Specialty & Vee-Jay Years, a three-disc boxed set featuring Little Richard’s recordings spanning 1956 to 1965.

—Emily Costantino

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From The Desk Of Diamond Rugs: Live Shows

As was the case with Diamond Rugs’ 2012 self-titled debut record, much of the band’s sophomore album, Cosmetics, formed and grew in the studio. That’s an impressive feat, considering that Diamond Rugs is something of a weekender project for members of no fewer than five bands, all of whom keep moderate-to-ridiculous recording and touring schedules anyway: John McCauley and Robbie Crowell (both Deer Tick), Ian St. Pé (Black Lips), T. Hardy Morris (Dead Confederate), Bryan Dufresne (Six Finger Satellite) and the legendary Steve Berlin (Los Lobos, Blasters and about six dozen other outfits). The boys in the band will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our recent feature on them.

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Dufresne: The first live show I saw was Tom Jones with my mom and grandmother in 1975 or ’76. I do not remember it at all, unfortunately. Maybe it made an impact subconsciously, I don’t know. The first show I really remember seeing was Sammy Davis Jr. My parents were in shock when I asked if I could go. I was already completely immersed in rock ‘n’ roll at the age of 11, and more than quick to deny any of the old crooners that my dad grew up listening to and who he was still a huge fan of. Anything involving the Dorsey brothers, Glen Miller, or anything else of that ilk it seemed permeated my parents’ record collection and tastes. I had no idea that, in just a few short years, I would be riveted by the drumming of Gene Krupa, Cozy Cole, Buddy Rich and Louis Bellson.

But as against all of it as I was at the time, I wanted to see this show for some reason, and I did. This man came onstage and sang with such an incredible voice, I had never heard anything like it in my life. Recordings are one thing, but to watch and listen to this guy perform was just electrifying. He sang like you couldn’t believe, he danced, he played the drums, he told jokes, he did impressions of other well-known performers, he played the piano, he was just unreal. It was the first time I realized that a concert was more than just what I had seen in photographs on live albums or on Saturday Night Live or some television special. It was pure energy between the performers and the audience, a back-and-forth, a trade off of excitement, understanding and relating to one another almost conversationally. That is a rush that cannot be fully articulated. That is a rush that you feel for weeks, or even months, leading up to a show that you can not wait to see—from talking about getting tickets, to actually scoring them, to the parking-lot hangs, to the last note of the night and beyond. That is a rush that I cannot ever get enough of, and a major catalyst for my playing music. Playing live—what a rush!

Video after the jump.

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Normal History Vol. 318: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 31-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

In 2009, Wendy Atkinson (whose three solo experimental bass albums are on Smarten UP!) played with Jandek at his Vancouver appearance. I don’t mean that she opened for him; I mean they played together. He selected her (and several other musicians) to work with.

It was all very exciting and totally out-of-the-blue, but my question was: What would it be like to play with one as uniquely unpredictable as Jandek? Thinking that it might be pretty uncomfortable, I suggested to Wendy that she and I get together a few times to get her warmed up for the show. I volunteered to act like Jandek, and yes, we video-ed the whole thing. Wendy played bass and I played kooky guitar and made up a pile of lyrics on the spot.

Anyway, as you can see I’ve gone and made the release of Wendy Atkinson’s new album The Last Fret all about me. What kind of person am I?

You can “Like” Wendy Atkinson’s Facebook page or “Like” the newly overhauled Smarten Up! & Get to the Point Editions page … I mean, you don’t have to choose … there’s plenty of Dave to go around … oops, I mean … she’s no Yoko Ono … I mean, she actually is, but not in that way …

OMG. I’ll stop now.

“Trapped Against” from Dovetail (K, 1992) (download):

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From The Desk Of Diamond Rugs: Music

As was the case with Diamond Rugs’ 2012 self-titled debut record, much of the band’s sophomore album, Cosmetics, formed and grew in the studio. That’s an impressive feat, considering that Diamond Rugs is something of a weekender project for members of no fewer than five bands, all of whom keep moderate-to-ridiculous recording and touring schedules anyway: John McCauley and Robbie Crowell (both Deer Tick), Ian St. Pé (Black Lips), T. Hardy Morris (Dead Confederate), Bryan Dufresne (Six Finger Satellite) and the legendary Steve Berlin (Los Lobos, Blasters and about six dozen other outfits). The boys in the band will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our recent feature on them.

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Dufresne: The earliest memory I can recall is of my brother pushing me, zooming me across the green-and-blue deep shag carpet of the living room as I sat in the dust cover of his turntable. A fair amount of photographs taken in our living room during that time period include myself seated in a giant blue bean-bag chair, wearing giant headphones tethered to the receiver by a coiled black cord. One is of myself sleeping with the headphones on, a plastic toy guitar across my chest. I must have fallen asleep “playing along” to whatever record was playing—most likely Led Zeppelin, early Aerosmith, Neil Young, Kiss, Beatles or any other rock ‘n’ roll that I was fortunate enough to be exposed to, thanks to my two older brothers. I remember staring at the Kiss Alive album cover and actively thinking, “That is what I’m going to be when I grow up.” While I did not become a member of Kiss, I did do all I could to ensure a life full of music, specifically rock ‘n’ roll.

I signed up for the school band as early as possible (around age 10) and while choosing an instrument, I remember being disappointed that there was no “guitar” option with a little checkbox next to it. I wrote it in, drew a box, and checked it, hoping for the best. I played tenor saxophone for a few years until setting my sights on the drums. I had no desire to play in the school band at age 14, and had made up my mind to form a rock band with my friend Jon, who had been playing guitar for a while. That Christmas, I was lucky enough to unwrap a snare drum and immediately sought lessons. I learned how to hold a stick and play a paradiddle. Keeping a steady beat came to me very easily. Four months later, I had gotten ahold of my first kit—a five piece with a crash/ride and hi-hat. I went back to the stereo, put on the headphones and played along with Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti until I could play it reasonably well (about a year, and I know I was doing a miserable job at it; hahaha) front to back. I’m still learning how to play that record, still learning from that record, and I still cannot get enough records-through-headphones in my life to this day. It has proven a great asset as far as gaining a musical education and as a way to really get into and study what’s going on in a particular song. How else would I have gotten a hold on Van Halen’s “Hot For Teacher,” if I hadn’t had the option to listen repeatedly with my finger up against the edge of the turntable, slowing it down to a graspable speed? Records and rock ‘n’ roll have obviously formed a great deal of my perceptions, learning processes, and abilities, and I could not feel more appreciative and fortunate to be able to play and record with a rock ‘n’ roll band and to put out copies of our efforts on vinyl. “Hail, hail, rock ‘n’ roll!”

Video after the jump.

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Film At 11: Today Is The Day

Active since 1992, Today Is The Day is still making music and recently put out the chaotic Animal Mother EP. Now, the band shares a frantic new video “Heathen.” The harsh music matches up with the eerie moments of the clip as colors flash brightly and destruction is shown. You shouldn’t watch this one at work, folks.

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MP3 At 3PM: Frog

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There is something about short, concise band names that’s becoming very appealing both aesthetically and mentally. Frog, from Queens, N.Y., falls into that category, and it will release new album Kind Of Blah on May 25. Frog shares frantic first single “King Kong” for free download. The song is a frenzy of fast guitar licks and off-kilter vocals, but it all comes together to form an impressive force. Download “King Kong” below.

“King Kong” (download):

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From The Desk Of Diamond Rugs: Sound

As was the case with Diamond Rugs’ 2012 self-titled debut record, much of the band’s sophomore album, Cosmetics, formed and grew in the studio. That’s an impressive feat, considering that Diamond Rugs is something of a weekender project for members of no fewer than five bands, all of whom keep moderate-to-ridiculous recording and touring schedules anyway: John McCauley and Robbie Crowell (both Deer Tick), Ian St. Pé (Black Lips), T. Hardy Morris (Dead Confederate), Bryan Dufresne (Six Finger Satellite) and the legendary Steve Berlin (Los Lobos, Blasters and about six dozen other outfits). The boys in the band will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our recent feature on them.

12Sound

Dufresne: Recently, I awoke far earlier than I would have liked due to the neighbor’s chickens having a heated six-way conversation. They’re adorable, but, at 7 a.m. on a Saturday, it’s just noise to me. Noise is everywhere in a city. Traffic, sirens, machinery, construction, voices, phones ringing, text messages, trains, alarms, the neighbors, the neighbor’s dog, televisions everywhere you go—the noise just does not seem to stop sometimes. You feel like you need to get away, maybe go back home where you remember it being so still and silent. Maybe a vacation, where all you’ll hear are waves and seagulls.

All of this noise, all of this sound, and despite all of it, what does everyone say? Put some music on! Once it’s on, if it’s good—if the DJ is just knocking it out of the park, or if your digital library is shuffling the songs just right—there’s just nothing better. Music can bring people together like no other tangible substance that I know of. It can heal, it can stir memories, it can forge and strengthen relationships, and it absolutely exemplifies humanity. Ever travel to a foreign country where you might not have a handle on the local language? You might have noticed that despite the language barrier, music permeates, breaks and pretty much denies barriers. It is a certain “glue” that can hold literally millions of people of differing faiths, races, ages and backgrounds together in unison and harmony.

It is a most literal magic, mystery of which can never seemingly be fully unraveled. Ears the world over agree on certain tones, notes, songs, albums, musical artists and groups. All pretense is not only pushed aside, but dashed to bits by the magic of music. It is a true healer, and a true unifying, intangible force unlike any other imaginable. Music is fortunately a massive part of my life, and of those whom I hold dear to me. I feel fortunate to understand what I can of it, while its literally boundless possibilities and depths simultaneously mystify me. I believe wholeheartedly that music is life—it is a totally conscious force that has and will continue to bring joy and tears, laughter and friendships, the feeling of possibilities and promise, and complete magic. Music. It is forever written about while eluding description altogether. I’ll end my attempt at doing so now, and just listen.

Video after the jump.

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