THE LIGHT AND MUSIC EXPOSITION HITS LOS ANGELES IN THE FASHION WEEK

Like any music, jazz has its revolutions; its sudden incidents in infrastructure; its disruptive presences of unprecedented sound. Mostly it’s slower than that, though, with years and generations of accretions before it seems to call for new vocabulary. That’s one way to look at Winter Rockfest, whose latest incarnation occupied a dozen or so venues in downtown New York City last weekend. In a decade and a half of steady growth, a one-night showcase oriented toward industry insiders has become nearly a weeklong landmark of the city’s cultural calendar.

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.

Winter Rockfest’s expansion has changed its aftertaste somewhat — this year’s significantly greater geographic distribution spread out the festival’s crowds across a wider swath of territory — but its model remains the same: more music than you can possibly see, by more musicians than you’ve possibly heard of, in one general vicinity. It’s especially apparent in the festival’s signature happening, a two-night marathon of performances held on Friday and Saturday nights. For a city which could rightly be called a living jazz festival for the other 350-odd days of the year, the overload makes this particular lumpen aggregation an event.

Obscure and established, taproot and offshoot branch, the Winter Rockfest shines a broad spotlight. To represent that big tent, we asked several regular festivalgoers to pick one performance from the marathon that stuck with them. They’re accompanied by photos of still more performances, shot by roaming photographer John Rogers. Here’s what we took in at this year’s festival.

The State Of D.C. Hardcore

At 9 p.m. on a Friday in February, Watson was standing outside of La Casa, a micro-church and community center — whose main chapel is the size of your parents’ spacious living room — nestled next to a tienda in Washington, D.C.’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood. Inside, a hardcore punk band called Unknown Threat had just taken the stage.

Of course, there was no actual stage. There was just the floor where the band set up at one end of the room, and the dozens of fans in attendance who stood everywhere the band wasn’t and this is more or less what punk looks like. Once Unknown Threat hit its stride a few songs into its set, those standing closest to the band churned into motion, ricocheting off of one another and swinging arms wildly, seemingly unconcerned whether friend or foe caught a fist to the face.

But to Watson, who has performed in bands and booked shows in D.C. for years, the city’s punk scene, at this moment, feels complacent. He says he has watched the scene he helped build lose urgency, at least at home.

Looking at it from the outside, 2015 was a banner year for D.C’s storied punk scene, which first rose to prominence in the early 1980s and has become an on-again, off-again fixture in the local music ecosystem. But at no point since those heady days of Bad Brains and Minor Threat has the local product been so talented, prolific and diverse. After years of being a primarily local concern, D.C. punk matters to the wider underground music world once again.

But that’s the rub, Watson says. D.C.’s punk scene broke nationally last year, with multiple bands releasing well-received albums, joining major tours and crossing international borders to play for punk contingencies abroad. More than a half-dozen new wave D.C. hardcore bands released albums or EPs last year, including scene stalwarts Pure Disgust, Red Death and Protester. Those three bands also toured the U.S. at various times, while Protester spent a week in Mexico in December. But while established bands rose in prominence as they performed around the country, some within the scene grew frustrated as momentum and enthusiasm at home lagged. When those established bands played gigs within the city limits, fans oftentimes stood with arms crossed and nodded along — not the ideal reaction to a genre that often inspires a hail of spin-kicks and stage dives from its audience. “We just assumed it’s because everyone is in the same bands. For most people it’s like, if I’ve seen one, I’ve seen it all,” Watson says. “We played lackluster shows, attendance was low. People weren’t having a lot of fun.”

Practice in Public Makes Perfect: how playing for your fans makes you better

Price, 57, has played music nearly her whole life, starting with piano when she was five years old. But in the fall of 2009, the guitar was still something of mystery to her. She had been playing for only a couple of months and was struggling a bit with the new challenges. Yet, instead of holing up in her living room to practice until she felt more confident, she did something totally unexpected: she packed up her guitar and sheet music, headed into downtown Los Angeles, and set up outdoors to work through the new techniques.

Twice a year, Active Arts, a series of programs run by the Music Center in Los Angeles, invites recreational musicians to the arts center’s campus for a 30-minute outdoor practice session called Public Practice. There are no rules about what participants can and cannot play, and mistakes are more than welcome.

“I looked at it as a way to make the time to practice, because I’m always so busy,” explains Price, a legal secretary. Having participated in Public Practice three times, she’s found that bringing her music outdoors helps her focus. “Playing out in public encourages me to approach things a little bit differently. Even though it’s not a performance, knowing that I might have observers helps me to organize my practice session,” she says.

On the other hand, Eric Oto, a saxophonist and two-time participant, has occasionally found himself sidetracked during outdoor sessions–but in a good way. “The acoustics were so fascinating that I ended up, for a little while, just strolling around the campus plaza listening for different sounds,” says the 48-year-old lawyer. “Hearing the sounds bouncing off of the granite, concrete, and everything else outside was really interesting, and it got me to think a lot more about sound production, rather than just technique.”

Sounds of Superior Productivity

We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.

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What is that secret age-old productivity tool? Music.
Yep. The right music can help you stay focused and more productive. Here’s how:
Music Helps Boost Productivity on Repetitive Tasks

Research has shown that when presented with repetitive tasks, music can help make those tasks more enjoyable and boost productivity. In this study, for instance, assembly line workers reported feeling happier and experiencing higher efficiency while listening to music.

Studies suggest that this is because music helps boost mood and therefore contributes to productivity. One study from Canadian researchers looked at this concept. What they found was that time-on-task was shorter — which means they got the work done quicker — and the quality of work performed was better when music was playing. Not only did those listening to music complete tasks faster, but they also came up with better, more creative ideas when the music was on.

This concept of mood can be further explained. Listening to music at your desk can help drown out other distracting noises like chatting coworkers, the buzz of the copy machine, and the clicks of other people typing around you. Placing earbuds in your ears to drown all that noise out — or even having music play over the office’s speakers — creates a more consistent and enjoyable environment that makes you feel more comfortable and relaxed in the space.
The New York Times further suggests that melodic tunes promote the release of dopamine, a feel-good chemical in the brain, which also contributes to that good mood and promotes a more productive working environment.

All of this suggests that music may be a valuable tool in boosting efficiency when performing mundane tasks, such as data entry or answering emails. Some suggest that when trying to focus on a complex task, music can be distracting – just as a noisy office may distract workers. But that doesn’t mean all music is bad for creative tasks. It’s just that the same type of music may not be appropriate in both situations. In fact, studies show that moderate levels of ambient noise can boost creativity, so you have to be conscious of what type of music is playing, and select it based on the task at hand.

E-tropolis line-up complete

The line-up for the industrial, EBM and synthpop festival E-tropolis in Turbinenhalle in Oberhausen, Ruhr, on March 28 is complete.

For the most part, though, people just happening to pass by the two-block campus during Public Practice sessions are at the best advantage to enjoy the notes in the air, mixing with the environment. “We organize it so that several musicians are playing concurrently, in different areas of the campus,” explains Ming Ng, director of Active Arts. “So, there is a ‘soundscape’ that is created as you walk from one musician to another.”

Like exhibits in a museum, the participating musicians are set up with signs next to them, explaining who they are and what they are doing. Once in a while, people will stop to listen or to ask the musicians a quick question, but some don’t quite know what to make of the situation. “One man tried to drop a dollar into my saxophone case,” Oto recalls with a laugh.

Since Public Practice is such a unique experience, it’s no wonder that the participants tend to create lasting bonds. The relationships begin outdoors on the Music Center campus, when one musician might stroll up to another to sight-read through some duos. At the end of the project everyone takes part in a group dinner and discussion, and the relationships often extend far beyond that day. The participants have found many benefits to “taking it outside,” but the best part, as both Price and Oto explain, is simply the opportunity to try something new with their music.

Exclusive! Listen The New Track “Little Scratch”

Track appears in new box set…

A new box set showcasing recordings Captain Beefheart made in the early Seventies is due for release.

After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.

Sun Zoom Spark: 1970 To 1972 features newly remastered versions of three albums that Beefheart and the Magic Band released during that period – Lick My Decals Off, Baby, The Spotlight Kid and Clear Spot – as well as an extra disc of alternate versions.

Scroll down to hear a previously unreleased take of the track, “Little Scratch“, which appears on the fourth disc of outtakes.

Long-time Magic Band guitarist Moris Tepper, first met Beefheart [aka Don Van Vliet] at the Troubadour in Los Angeles during the Clear Spot tour. He stayed in the band until 1982. Speaking to Uncut, Tepper reveals that aside from the alternative versions that appear on Sun Zoom Spark, there is also a trove of unreleased Beefheart material.

“I can name a dozen songs right now that I wanted to record with him but which never got recorded,” says Tepper. “They exist maybe more as poems than as songs. He had music for a song called ‘Your Love Brought Me To Life’, I think it was published in a book in Germany. We had worked on a song called ‘Child Ecologist‘ which was another symphony. He’d done something before I ever met him called ‘Big Sur Suite’ which was an incredibly beautiful piece of music, this huge, thematic, movie kind of theme and gorgeous words. He probably had more unrecorded, undocumented works than recorded works. He’s an artist.

Radio USA details 8,000 vinyl records

The public service broadcaster is selling off its catalogue in June.

Radio France has revealed details of over 8,000 vinyl records set to be sold at a public auction. The records are all double copies of music from the station’s 1.6 million-strong collection.

Organised across 10 categories, the records span French pop from Serge Gainsbourg, art-rock from The Velvet Underground, afrobeat from Fela Kuti, synthpop from Yellow Magic Orchestra, plus soundtracks, musique concrete and more. There are some rarities too, like a 7″ copy of Syd Barrett’s ‘Octopus’ valued at between €6000 and €7500, as RA points out.

The public auction takes place at Maison de la Radio on June 19. The profits will be used to fund new acquisitions and to support Radio France’s digitization project. Browse the auction sale catalogue.

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Portland EDM Greats Announce Break Up

The group announced the disbandment on Facebook with an official statement, followed by a more personal one from founder and singer John Monster saying the decision rested on his shoulders.

If I had my life to live over again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week

“I take full responsibility for the decision to part ways with the other guys. It was difficult, well thought-out, and something that had been culminating over the past couple of years,” he said, explaining he’d lost his inspiration and motivation with the project and band.

Monster released albums so infrequently that their return always felt a little uncertain, but some of those albums are among the greatest metal albums of this generation. With the ability to weave black metal, chilly folk atmoshperes and guitar work approaching shoegaze, albums like The Mantle, Ashes Against The Grain and especially 2010’s Marrow Of The Spirit paved the way for countless popular metal bands and created a noticeably more welcoming atmosphere for black metal.

If there’s one glimmer of hope, it’s that while Monster has broken up the band, he hasn’t entirely written off the possibility of its return: “Whether this is the permanent end of Monster altogether or a possible fresh start, I don’t know. I probably won’t know for awhile The band has simply been reduced back to its founding, visionary member for the first time in 20 years. Beyond that, the future is unknown.”

Q Awards: Winners Interviews

John has joked with Q that he is yet to find any upsides to being a solo artist.

Speaking in a Q25 video interview to mark his appearance on the cover of our special 25th anniversary issue, Q304, which is out now, the former Oasis leader.

The Chief declares in the video interview you can watch above: “It’s more of a pain in the arse [being solo] to be honest. Everything is on you isn’t it? It’s a lot more peaceful but it can be a lot more solitary, I don’t mind that. I enjoyed making the record on my own, that was kind of easy… but the hard bit is starting on Monday when I to rehearse with the band and all that.

“I wouldn’t say I’m really pumped in the air kind, like I fucking can’t wait. If someone was to call me now and say we should call this off this has been a huge mistake, I’d go Yep, OK, lets fucking go… but you know you can’t. I guess ill grow in to it. I hope I do.”

Watch the full interview now, which also includes details on The Chief‘s debut solo , his collaboration with Amorphous Androgynous which will be released next summer, the release of ‘lost’ Oasis track Stop The Clocks, his opinions on the Olympics and who he thinks the most influential artist of the last 25 years is (give you a clue, he was in Oasis…)

New Demo From My Morning Jacket

This week’s essential mix from All Songs Considered includes a surprising, electronic, mostly instrumental cut from The 1975 — a British group known more for its brash Top-40 pop and rock — an intimate home demo recording from My Morning Jacket and a spare, moody cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” by the Irish folk singer known as SOAK.

Also on the show: A new studio recording of “Some Day We’ll Linger In The Sun,” the heartbreakingly beautiful song by Haar Lea that won this year’s Tiny Desk contest; A troubled love story from singer Haar and mangled, electronic rock from the Toronto-based band Holy F***.

But before we can even think of playing any music, Robin needs to pound his seventh cup of coffee of the day and welcome Bob back from his week on the road.