Category Archives: GUEST EDITOR

From The Desk Of Alasdair Roberts: Pixação

Alasdair Roberts’ songs are difficult to digest. Like a large pill you can’t quite swallow, that lodges toward the back of the throat, they are dense, layered, poetic ballads coupled with a forcefully picked acoustic guitar, abrasively fragile vocals and a thick Scottish accent. His new self-titled album is not the kind of thing you put on while washing dishes. But it’s the kind of album you go back to again and again, trying to parse the lyrics, trying to understand why these songs grate at the base of your spine. Roberts will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new feature on him.

Pixacao

Roberts: In September, I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to do three concerts in Brazil—in the cities of Porto Alegre, São Paulo and Recife. In my limited experience of the place, both on the ground and in my background reading, I sensed a huge, beautiful and bewildering country full of colour and life but also with a hugely complex, extremely dark and violent history. I was fortunate to be staying with some good old Scottish friends in São Paulo. I imagine that being alone for the first time without guidance or companionship in that vast metropolis would have been very difficult, so I am hugely grateful to my friends for their hospitality. I also thank them for introducing me to many wonders of Brazilian life, too many to mention—but one thing that remains in my mind when I think back now on walking with them through the streets of São Paulo was pixação—the city’s typical form of graffiti, visible on many of its buildings. When I first saw it I thought it odd that Brazilians had developed a form of script that so closely resembles Norse runes—I wondered fancifully whether these writings, once decoded, might proclaim such things as “I, Snorri, carved these words by my own hand—may Odin protect me.” In fact with greater familiarity that strange resemblance becomes less noticeable, and I understand that pixação is used primarily for serious sociopolitical commentary (for which there is, of course, as much need in Brazil as in any other nation you care to name) rather than for Viking-style bragging.

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From The Desk Of Alasdair Roberts: Sheila Stewart

Alasdair Roberts’ songs are difficult to digest. Like a large pill you can’t quite swallow, that lodges toward the back of the throat, they are dense, layered, poetic ballads coupled with a forcefully picked acoustic guitar, abrasively fragile vocals and a thick Scottish accent. His new self-titled album is not the kind of thing you put on while washing dishes. But it’s the kind of album you go back to again and again, trying to parse the lyrics, trying to understand why these songs grate at the base of your spine. Roberts will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new feature on him.

Sheila

Roberts: I was raised in the small town of Callander in central Scotland. There has historically been some dispute as to whether the town lies within the boundaries of Stirlingshire or of Perthshire, but now my family is no longer in Callander and some of them live near the town of Blairgowrie, which is definitely in Perthshire. Blairgowrie was traditionally a part of Scotland where the Travellers, the indigenous nomadic people of Scotland (ethnically distinct from other itinerant groups such as Roma but with a similarly itinerant lifestyle), would go at certain times of the year to pick berries (strawberries and raspberries) in the surrounding fields. The Scottish Travellers are renowned as carriers of an ancient oral tradition, and their culture has historically been rich with songs, ballads and wonder tales; one of the most well-known musical families of recent years were the Stewarts of Blairgowrie. The late Sheila Stewart, who sadly died in December 2014, was the daughter of Belle Stewart, the clan matriarch, and was more or less the last in the line of tradition-carriers within the family—a formidable performer with an astounding, unique voice and powerful delivery. I had the pleasure of hearing Sheila sing several times, usually at the Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow, and also had the great honour of appearing on the same bill as her a few years back at the Tolbooth in Stirling. Her command of what she called the “conyach”—that ineffable feeling at the emotional core of a song or a voice (perhaps akin to the Spanish concept of duende) can be heard in recordings of her performances of such auld Scots ballads as “The Twa Brothers” (a song I recorded myself on the album No Earthly Man).

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From The Desk Of Alasdair Roberts: Finland

Alasdair Roberts’ songs are difficult to digest. Like a large pill you can’t quite swallow, that lodges toward the back of the throat, they are dense, layered, poetic ballads coupled with a forcefully picked acoustic guitar, abrasively fragile vocals and a thick Scottish accent. His new self-titled album is not the kind of thing you put on while washing dishes. But it’s the kind of album you go back to again and again, trying to parse the lyrics, trying to understand why these songs grate at the base of your spine. Roberts will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our brand new feature on him.

Finland

Roberts: Finland is a country I’ve had the pleasure of visiting several times over the past few years, thanks to the efforts of a good friend, Niko-Matti, who lives in Turku. Niko-Matti is in a great band named Kiila, which is associated with high-quality Finnish independent label Fonal. I find Finland, on the whole, very intriguing, with its distinctive non-Indo-European language (etymologically distinct from other nearby languages such as Swedish or Russian, and distantly related to Hungarian) and the things about it that are culturally unique, such as the oral history embodied in the national epic Kalevala. There’s something about the culture that I imagine has more in common with those of places I’ve never been such as the high Siberian steppes than with western Europe—there’s a definite shamanic vibe going on. The people have the quiet self-assurance, bordering on the taciturn, of those who are channelling something very deep and ancient (or maybe they’re just a bit shy … but they are nevertheless invariably friendly). Like many Finns, Niko-Matti is a big fan of the sauna. The last time I was there in December 2014, Niko-Matti and I went “winter swimming”—that’s to say, we plunged our bodies into the cold winter sea before hurrying into the sauna, where burly Finns ladled water onto the blazing hot coals to raise the temperature to the kind of heat which could almost cause the uninitiated (such as me) to pass out. Then the process is repeated to exhaustion. I think it is a very beautiful ritual, and one that defines Finland for me.

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Alasdair Roberts: Ever The Wiser

AlasdairRoberts

Alasdair Roberts’ pensive ballads reflect humanity, maintain modernity

Alasdair Roberts’ songs are difficult to digest. Like a large pill you can’t quite swallow, that lodges toward the back of the throat, they are dense, layered, poetic ballads coupled with a forcefully picked acoustic guitar, abrasively fragile vocals and a thick Scottish accent. His new self-titled album is not the kind of thing you put on while washing dishes. But it’s the kind of album you go back to again and again, trying to parse the lyrics, trying to understand why these songs grate at the base of your spine.

Part of Roberts’ appeal has always been the starkness of his music, the raw feeling you get from the songs, though with his new album he says he’s going for a warmer sound. “I think this is based on my conception that recording in the analogue domain will produce warmer-sounding results than recording digitally,” he says. “A Wonder Working Stone (Roberts’ previous album) was recorded entirely digitally, on Pro Tools, whereas much of the new self-titled record was recorded to two-inch tape at Green Door Studio … I suppose the new one is also a bit more of an intimate record.” This intimacy extends to the lyrics as well, which seem at times to be extended meditations on love, though meditations that are reflected back through Roberts’ lyrical thicket.

The old ballads of Scotland have always been a key influence on Roberts’ music, though he’s careful not to ascribe too much of his new album to them. “When writing songs, however much the influence of those older ballads might be felt within them, I am still conscious to create fresh new songs rather than retreads or—far worse—pastiches of traditional ballads,” says Roberts. “It’s true that those old Scots ballads often feature gruesome or otherwise dark narrative elements, which I suppose is reflective of the reality of existence at the time of their creation or emergence … but then, it could be argued that reality is no less dark or gruesome nowadays—I suppose it only takes a quick browse of any daily newspaper to realize that. It seems clear that art exists in some way to address those aspects of the world, and the ballads are one manner in which, historically, the people of Scotland and the wider world have done so. But more broadly, I think that the ballads as a whole do a pretty good job of covering just about every aspect of what it is to be human.”

With a rich heritage behind him, Roberts joins the long, historic ranks of Scottish ballad writers who molded the form of the tradition to fit their own art. His music today sounds timeless and arcane, yet also modernized. As you listen to the album, you find yourself leaning in closer and closer to your speakers, turning up the volume, and the more you focus on these songs, the more they push back on you.

—Devon Leger

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From The Desk Of Dengue Fever: The Integratron

MAGNET knows a thing or two about good music, art and interesting people, so when Dengue Fever was asked to be guest editors, we all replied within minutes: ”Yes, please!” We have had our noses to the grindstone as of late because that’s what you need to do when you release your latest full-length studio album, The Deepest Lake, on your own label, Tuk Tuk Records. It’s a hell of a lot of work, and us sitting down and writing about subjects other than ourselves sounded like a great respite. So thank you, MAGNET. Enjoy the info, rants and inspirations. Who knows where they’ll take you …

Integratron

Ethan Holtzman: One night George Van Tassel was sleeping outside beneath the Mojave Desert stars when he awoke to his dog barking incessantly. George was a former aircraft mechanic and flight inspector who operated a small airport runway and inn in Landers, Calif. He saw lights off in the distance on his airport runway. That night George met Solganda, a man nearly 700 years old from Venus. Solganda showed George his space ship that he’d landed on his air strip and gave him the secret blueprints to build the Integratron. It took George 18 years to almost complete the structure. Unfortunately, George Van Tassel died unexpectedly before full completion was achieved.

The purpose of the building was to rejuvenate human cell tissues, extend life and act as a high-speed time travel machine. The Integratron would generate electrostatic energy to suspend the laws of gravity. It was built without nails.

Dengue Fever shot their very first music video “Sni Bong” at the Integratron. I also tied the knot with my wife inside the acoustically awesome wood structure. For me, the Integratron will always be one of the most important structures on our planet.

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From The Desk Of Dengue Fever: “Shipwrecks” By Akira Yoshimura

MAGNET knows a thing or two about good music, art and interesting people, so when Dengue Fever was asked to be guest editors, we all replied within minutes: ”Yes, please!” We have had our noses to the grindstone as of late because that’s what you need to do when you release your latest full-length studio album, The Deepest Lake, on your own label, Tuk Tuk Records. It’s a hell of a lot of work, and us sitting down and writing about subjects other than ourselves sounded like a great respite. So thank you, MAGNET. Enjoy the info, rants and inspirations. Who knows where they’ll take you …

AkiraYoshimura

Zac Holtzman: Shipwrecks by Akira Yoshimura is a bleak folk tail of a small village living on the coast of Japan. It tells about the evil deeds they do to stay alive and is written in a way that has you sympathizing with these poor people and the horrible things they do to stay alive.

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From The Desk Of Dengue Fever: Cantharellus Cibarius

MAGNET knows a thing or two about good music, art and interesting people, so when Dengue Fever was asked to be guest editors, we all replied within minutes: ”Yes, please!” We have had our noses to the grindstone as of late because that’s what you need to do when you release your latest full-length studio album, The Deepest Lake, on your own label, Tuk Tuk Records. It’s a hell of a lot of work, and us sitting down and writing about subjects other than ourselves sounded like a great respite. So thank you, MAGNET. Enjoy the info, rants and inspirations. Who knows where they’ll take you …

Chanterelle

Ethan Holtzman: Having spent my youth climbing through the creeks and hillsides of Topanga Canyon, I would eventually find my golden nuggets. During one of my first “real” post-high-school jobs, when I delivered organic produce to the locals, I had encountered the coveted delicacy: the chanterelle mushrooms. My boss at the time had collected probably a half-dozen grocery bags full of these bright yellowish gold beauties. He cleaned them off with a toothbrush and said, “Ethan, these are gonna put my boy Conner through college.” The next day he was covered in poison oak. Not just a little red rash; he had pustules on top of pustules puffed out like his skin was covered in pink cotton balls. His wife banned him from ever going to collect the delicious chanterelles again. I asked him several times where he had found them. Yet he wouldn’t give me his secret spots, just waved me off with a general location.

So after the rains, I went mushroom foraging, which entailed combed the hillsides searching diligently beneath oak and bay trees, making a conscious effort to avoid areas that contained eucalyptus as they are a known natural fungicide. You could look under a thousand oaks and never find a single chanterelle, but when you do eventually find one, mark my words, there are always hundreds camouflaged nearby. With the current forecast predicting an El Nino winter, I know this year will be one decked in gold.

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From The Desk Of Dengue Fever: Secret Circuit

MAGNET knows a thing or two about good music, art and interesting people, so when Dengue Fever was asked to be guest editors, we all replied within minutes: ”Yes, please!” We have had our noses to the grindstone as of late because that’s what you need to do when you release your latest full-length studio album, The Deepest Lake, on your own label, Tuk Tuk Records. It’s a hell of a lot of work, and us sitting down and writing about subjects other than ourselves sounded like a great respite. So thank you, MAGNET. Enjoy the info, rants and inspirations. Who knows where they’ll take you …

SecretCircuit

Senon Williams: Secret Circuit is electronic music that bridges the gap between art and sound. His music is​ rooted in musicianship. Not just clicking buttons, but also playing keys and strumming strings. Mastermind Eddie Ruscha records his music in a warm magic light. Delve into visceral sounds and experimentation. One man’s view of a mass of electronics, twisted cables and buzzing speakers. Secret Circuit is always creating, changing, remixing and DJing. Often, he is rocking on a pile of synths in a tripped-out corner of the world. I don’t usually think of improvised sound when listening to music made by circuit boards, but when I am showering myself with Ruscha’s mystic wavelengths, I picture a man growing out of a dusty spaceship console surrounded by a geometrical light dance, creating as it comes, organic. Truly unique and daring, uncompromis​ing​ music, pushing forward and holds classic simultaneously. The world would be a harder place without Secret Circuit. I am going to pile into my space boat and live in the stratosphere.

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From The Desk Of Dengue Fever: “Coast To Coast AM With George Noory”

MAGNET knows a thing or two about good music, art and interesting people, so when Dengue Fever was asked to be guest editors, we all replied within minutes: ”Yes, please!” We have had our noses to the grindstone as of late because that’s what you need to do when you release your latest full-length studio album, The Deepest Lake, on your own label, Tuk Tuk Records. It’s a hell of a lot of work, and us sitting down and writing about subjects other than ourselves sounded like a great respite. So thank you, MAGNET. Enjoy the info, rants and inspirations. Who knows where they’ll take you …

CoastToCoast

Ethan Holtzman: Whenever Dengue is on tour and we end up driving long nights on the lonely highways, one of the band members inevitably scans the AM frequencies for Coast To Coast AM With George Noory. Whoever happens to be co-pilot will twist the knob back and forth until we either tune in with excitement or give up searching and listen to one of the band member’s iPod playlists. In Los Angeles, Coast To Coast starts at 10 p.m. on AM 640. The subject matters vary from conspiracy theories, latest UFO sightings, Bigfoot reports, cattle mutilations, mining on the moon, ghosts, psychics, weather control conspiracies, crop circles—all the good stuff. One part of the show is called “Open Lines,” where callers from across the country can call in and talk with George Noory and the featured guest of the night. You can hear some real whack-a-dos chiming in, but some can be surprisingly entertaining to hear on the long weary road trip. I can still recall a memorable C2C show while driving through Oregon late in the night. The host and expert were talking about a child psychologist who had recently seen a large male Sasquatch while hiking near the Oregon caves with his family. It was a daytime sighting, which is apparently quite rare as they were nocturnal creatures. While listening to this riveting report, I suddenly realized I was driving through that exact area where the sighting had occurred. In an instant, my eyes scanned the roads searching earnestly for a giant hairy hominid cloaked in shadows. There’s no doubt that Coast To Coast helped the interminable miles fly by no matter what side of the coast we were touring.

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From The Desk Of Dengue Fever: BBQ Corn

MAGNET knows a thing or two about good music, art and interesting people, so when Dengue Fever was asked to be guest editors, we all replied within minutes: ”Yes, please!” We have had our noses to the grindstone as of late because that’s what you need to do when you release your latest full-length studio album, The Deepest Lake, on your own label, Tuk Tuk Records. It’s a hell of a lot of work, and us sitting down and writing about subjects other than ourselves sounded like a great respite. So thank you, MAGNET. Enjoy the info, rants and inspirations. Who knows where they’ll take you …

BBQ

Chhom Nimol: I can’t wait for summertime, because I get to make my favorite food in the world: BBQ! I love every kind of BBQ cooking. I grew up in a refuge camp, and so we cooked a lot of food outside, and it reminds me of being with my family and happy times playing as a kid. I am so happy that Americans love to BBQ as much as Cambodians because it makes it fun to eat all kinds of food together. One of my favorite dishes is BBQ corn, and I was surprised to find out there is so many ways to eat it. Americans I meet usually eat it with butter and salt. I went to a Spanish Days festival in California and I saw that Mexicans like to eat it with mayonnaise, parmesan cheese and chili powder. Now I want to tell you how Cambodian people eat their corn: with coconut milk and green onions! I always put the corn on the grill and make a pot of sauce to put on the corn while it cooks. We mix coconut milk, fish sauce, a little bit of sugar and salt, and some sliced green onions and stir it until it boils. When the corn has cooked a little bit we use a brush to put the sauce all over the corn and let the flavor cook inside. When it is done it is sweet, a little salty, and the most amazing food to eat. I hope you will try it sometime! Recipe.

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