Posts Tagged: Difficult Listening Hour

The Awesome Treasures of Anthony Braxton's Music Club

A series on the stuff that delighted us on the Internet this year.

There was something atypical and fun in Monday's New York Times: a review of a concert that happened over the weekend in… Washington, D.C. Staff critic Acela-hopping to the latest jam at the Kennedy Center is not common, as Times critics have all they can cover here in town, usually.

But the reason for last weekend's exception was plenty good, as recent MacArthur Award winning pianist Jason Moran had invited the great (and also MacArthur-winning) avant-music legend Anthony Braxton to present a band that included Braxton’s former student, the guitarist (and Awl favorite) Mary [...]


Go Hear Some Music

Fans of composer/guitarist Larry Polansky, the subject of this installment of Difficult Listening Hour, take note: He's part of the lineup in what sounds like a pretty amazing collection of experimental performances happening here in town over the next two weeks.


Things to See and Do: Mary Halvorson Plays Christian Marclay at the Whitney

Grossly talented indie-rock shredder Marnie Stern has a song on her forthcoming record called "Female Guitar Players Are the New Black." This title has the double-edged benefit of being true as well as wry-since it preempts (one hopes) a lot of lazy "think pieces" on the subject.

Still, even for underground kids who grew up swooning over the plodding-on-purpose instrumental technique of mid-90's Kill Rock Stars bands, there is now an undeniable pleasure in seeing women give off true, hot-shit guitar grind. (For more of this, watch Marissa Paternoster of the Screaming Females rip through "Bell" here.) So while people are keeping score on this level, we [...]


Difficult Listening Hour: Johnny Rotten, György Ligeti And a New Timothy Andres Track

"If you spit at me one more time, I will macerate your fucking face," John Lydon said, glaring at the front row of audience members at Public Image Limited's packed Music Hall of Williamsburg show on Wednesday night. (Exact quote via the better-at-note-taking-than-me Steve Smith.) It was a moment worthy of a complicated, half-page sentence in a Henry James novel-containing as it did both an articulation of a point as well as its ironic subversion.


The Dirty Three In A Hotel Room, With Nick Cave On Keys

Instrumental rock is a tough sell. It's hard to sing along with, for starters. (What I am supposed to do with this hairbrush, brush my hair?) And it's often boring, a film score without the film. But Australia's Dirty Three do it right. Really right. Violinist Warren Ellis is like Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson without the flute and the ren-fair tunics (and, of course, the singing)-all shambling madman with crazy eyes and messed-up hair and guitar-hero chops and poses. Drummer Jim White and guitarist Mick Turner provide him with elegant, restrained romance for backdrop. By all means, see them live if you get the chance. Here, in this Pitchfork video [...]


Difficult Listening Hour, with Seth Colter Walls: The Pleasure Principle

So what purposefully counter-intuitive music article raised a lot of question marks for you yesterday?


Philip Glass Live, Steve Lehman Covers Coltrane, 'Black Radio,' And New Music from Anna Clyne

Philip Glass “may well be the Rossini of his century,” the critic, composer and scholar Kyle Gann wrote—back in a previous century. That analogy, he went on, was a useful way of thinking about the prolific minimalist, who “had an electric impact on the masses but only a portion of whose music seemed worthy of study by intellectuals.” This was the case, Gann added, despite the fact that “much of Glass’s best music has been underrated by disappointed former fans who have ceased to listen closely.”

Intellectuals that can’t bother to listen closely: so problematic! If any among their number wandered into the Park Avenue Armory last Saturday to [...]


Just Ten Bucks! We Want To See You Tonight at Carnegie Hall

American culture is rotten to its core. Not only is Natalie Portman pregnant-while-not-married, but there is such a thing as "public television" and also a thing called the National Endowment for the Arts. If only we could convince the last remaining holdouts that mass culture is the only proper artistic reflection of a democracy, they could all join in on making endless japery from the outputs of a serial woman-abuser who is equally popular on both network television and Twitter! Then it might be, if not quite morning in America, something other than twelve strokes to the dead of midnight.

Yet that is where currently find ourselves. [...]


Difficult Listening Hour: An Introduction to Laurie Anderson

About this time last year, an editor of this site and I were emailing back and forth about fun things to maybe write. (The formula was basically: negligible numbers of comments + high degree of personal satisfaction = let's rock.) Along those lines, he proposed a column: "Also do you want to write about weird music in general??? Stuff that editors are like 'Ha um NO THANKS.' Difficult Listening Hour with SCW. Heh." This was the first time anyone had proposed, to me, a recurring feature based on a piece from smack dab in the middle of Laurie Anderson's 7-hour performance work "United States I-IV". (The clip of "Difficult Listening [...]


Difficult Listening Hour: 'Die Gezeichneten,' Amoeba, 'Samstag aus Licht,' Broken Bells and 'De Staat'

Mid-last week I found myself in the St. Vincent's ER. After fighting and losing a series of digestive battles with an insistent bug that most of all wanted to keep me away from even drinking water for the better part of 24 hours, I'd stumbled in on the very night the institution's imminent closing had been announced. Though I had not been an especially avid consumer of local news that day, I was soon made aware of the valedictory circumstances when a nurse hooked me up to some IV fluid and advised me to follow up later at another, less-doomed joint. A doctor asked me if there was "any [...]


Difficult Listening Hour: Beck's Harry Partch Tribute

Of course NME and Pitchfork are trying to make it all about a beef with Radiohead (who, by the by, do tend to get overpraised even though, no, they don't blow) but the point is: Beck has a new song up for streaming on his website. Be patient if it takes some time to load (as it did for me). The new track isn't actually "10 and a half minutes of insanity," though "Harry Partch" is indeed a very engaging and lovely tribute to the American oddball composer of the same name.


Difficult Listening Hour with Seth Colter Walls: Come Ye Despondent Cable News Watchers, And Restore Your Faith In Things

So have you ever started writing your annoyingly irregular music column for some website, and been sorta bummed about the long delay between your last post and the one you're about to work on, but still remain enthusiastic because you've lined up some sexily exclusive audio you're pretty sure people will be interested in… only to discover the same night you were gonna send everything over to Choire that the label in question released the mp3 for free on the internets in an uncoordinated panic over an illegal leak of the entire, soon-to-be-released album?

Oh, wait. Maybe not enough people can IDENTIFY with this opening. Well, don't worry, I found [...]


100 Great (Not Best!) Songs of 2011

This is not a “best of 2011” music list. I didn’t hear or read or see all the music this year. Did you? Perhaps after consulting with a suitably large staff, a publication could reasonably claim to draw a box around, say, the best music of the year. I tend to count myself rarely satisfied with these attempts, though, even if I'm consulted. How about you?

No, don’t even start, as I’ve seen every single one of you beefing on Twitter about a subjective list. You weren’t wrong to do so! Lists are always wrong. It’s a part of their power, this axiomatic guarantee of failure. A list might “start [...]


Larry Polansky Is Making Hardcore Beats

Last week, while on a walk to visit some Seattle fishmongers, I spent a few minutes watching an elderly Indian man playing sitar at the corner of an intersection. Any pair of lay ears could perceive the old musician was talented, and so he had an appreciative crowd, despite this being a fairly cold sort of January morning. I remarked to a friend that no one was likely confused or intimidated by the genre definition of the music he was playing. Even though it was happening on the street, it was clearly a formal music: not meant for dancing or soundtracking a TV show or casually accompanying any other [...]


Difficult Listening Hour: William Brittelle's "Sheena Easton" Is Alt-Classical That Really Works

Crossover is a hard row to hoe sometimes-so hard, in fact, you wonder why people even try. The ground that's tilled rarely, if ever, gives up a good crop in return. So if soprano Renee Fleming wants to drop her voice a couple octaves and cover Arcade Fire, Band of Horses-and, naturally, "Hallelujah"-no one can stop her, but it's not like folks on either side of the indie-classical chasm are gonna hold their hyper-critical, specialist fire. (I'd say Fleming's take on "Intervention" is strong. Ditto the Band of Horses number. The rest: stay away.) And, as the Times has noted, there's not much combining of disciplines on [...]


Difficult Listening Hour: William Kentridge To Direct Shostakovich, Redeem Winter in NYC

Sweet fuck, am I ever tired of this wind and snow and cold and sniffling. I've been eating over half my meals at the diner that's 20 steps away from my front door, because walking anywhere-save for the subway line that takes me to work-has become untenable. The gym? The one that's two blocks away? Haven't seen it since January. And yet, this week, I plan to leave my apartment, post-sundown, for a non-work related engagement. It better be worth it. My whole reason for persisting through that entire awful month of February is riding on it. I suspect we're talking about the kind of awesome that makes a [...]


Difficult Listening Hour, with Seth Colter Walls: I Let You Touch Me Every Now And Then: Last Chance for Isabelle Huppert in 'Quartett' at BAM; First Chance for Annie's 'My Love is Better'

Coming up as a cinema snob in adolescence, your average hetero boy's sexual desire-the hyper-wattage of which tends to outstrip FCC broadcast regulations, thereby causing a lot of, um, fritz on the signal-is thankfully managed by a chronological succession of fantastic Parisian lips. Anna Karina (in early Godard), Deneuve (in everything), and then: bam. The modern era. It belongs to Isabelle Huppert. Forget Courtney Cox's insulting Cougartown weaksauce. It's enough to make you believe in a God, the way Huppert gets more dangerous-and more unbearably desirable-with every passing year. You thought she was peaking as a labial cutter in Michel Haneke's film adaptation of Jelenik's The Piano Teacher back in [...]


Difficult Listening Hour: The BBC at the Stone, Newspeak, and Things To Hear This Weekend–Plus Bonus MIA Cover

By avant-music metrics, last night was pretty star-studded over at The Stone on Avenue C. Someone said Mike Watt of Minutemen and fIREHOSE fame was all up in the joint. And I spied Ches Smith from Xiu Xiu, in addition to club doyen John Zorn. Jenny Scheinman, a talent in way too many musical genres, was on the guest list. There were about a hundred or so other lesser-known folks crowding the tiny venue-which employs only a single, stationary electric fan for AC purposes. That fan at The Stone, it's almost like a really genius art installation that calls into question and then subverts the very construct of cooling [...]