A blog about Bloomsbury Academic's 33 1/3 series, our other books about music, and the world of sound in general.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The series in Spain

Keeping the international theme going for the week, great to see some positive coverage of the series on the excellent Hipersonica site.

Here's the article's closing paragraph below, and you can read the whole piece here.

En sí, la colección es una gozada para los que no se cansan de leer sobre música, aparte de escucharla. El único problema es que, de momento, nadie se ha animado a traducir ninguno de los libros, pero el esfuerzo de leer en inglés merece la pena por la fantástica recompensa de conocer más y mejor discos como Pet Sounds, Meat is Murder, If You´re Feeling Sinister, Led Zeppelin IV, Reign of Blood o Forever Changes. Muy recomendado.

And yes, we'd love to see the series translated into Spanish, too!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Pet Sounds in Japan

It's a real honour when one of the world's great writers translates one of our humble little books into his/her own language - so I'm thrilled to announce the Japanese publication of Jim Fusilli's book on Pet Sounds, translated by Haruki Murakami.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Mark yer calendars

D.X. Ferris (33 1/3 Slayer's Reign in Blood) will appear at the Mentor Borders Books & Music (17200 Royalton Rd, Route 82Strongsville, Ohio 44136, Ohio) this Saturday, September 27. Ferris will sign copies, answer questions, and give away free bonus material. The event is free, and runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Ferris is scheduled to appear at 2.

Roll Carnival also features authors Carlo Wolff (Cleveland Rock and Roll Memories), John Gorman (The Buzzard: Inside the Glory Days of WMMS and Cleveland Rock and Roll), Mike Olszewski (Radio Daze), Marc Lee Shannon (Any Ordinary Man) and Murray Saul (Get Downs Vol. 1). Also appearing will be artist David Helton and T-shirt entrepreneur Daffy Dan.


33 1/3 Guided by Voices' Bee Thousand author Marc Woodworth will be reading at the Paradise Lounge in Boston on Tuesday, September 30th at 6pm right before Robert Pollard's Boston Spaceships/ Big Dipper show (beginning at 7pm at the Paradise).

The event will incorporate randomly chosen interview cassette minute (usually at the expense of the author’s dignity), the collective making of a found poem from Bee Thousand lyric fragments using the Tzara Dada method of anti- lyric composition, the playing of a few Bee Thousand-era rarities, and a full-size anagram contest (prix d'honneur for the winner), sing-alongs, and giveaways of home-made, lovingly decorated, lo-fi indexes to those who buy the book or bring their tattered, smudged and dog-eared copies.

Monday, September 15, 2008

All Tomorrow's Parties live on WFMU

A couple of weeks ago we gave away 2 free tickets to All Tomorrow's Parties to a lucky reader. For those of you who can no longer physically withstand 3 consecutive days of music no matter how awesome it may be, have an aversion to standing on lines for hours at a time, have a hard time justifying $8 for watery domestic beer, or are just feeling bitter and angry because you didn't win the free tickets, we have a consolation prize for you...

WFMU will be broadcasting a very sizeable chunk of the goings-on over the airwaves and online, including Yo La Tengo, Polvo, Dinosaur Jr., Growing, Harmonia, Om, Mercury Rev, Lightning Bolt, Bob Mould, Low, Wooden Shjips, Silver Mt. Zion, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Spectrum, and more!

They haven't yet worked out an agreement with My Bloody Valentine, but you know how that goes.

UPDATED! Here's the broadcast schedule: http://blog.wfmu.org/freeform/2008/09/atp-sets-broadc.html

Friday, September 12, 2008

Last Minute Weekend Event

Tomorrow Slayer's Reign in Blood author D.X. Ferris will appear at the Akron/Fairlawn Borders Books & Music (3737 W. Market St., Fairlawn). Ferris will read from the book, sign copies, answer questions, and give away free bonus material. Ferris is scheduled to appear at 3.

The appearance is part of Borders’ Rock & Roll Carnival, which also features authors Carlo Wolff (“Cleveland Rock and Roll Memories”), John Gorman (“The Buzzard: Inside the Glory Days of WMMS and Cleveland Rock and Roll”), Mike Olszewski (“Radio Daze”), David Giffels (Are We Not Men? We Are DEVO! and All The Way Home: Raising a Family in a Falling-Down House), Jonah Koslen (“Telling on Myself and Jonah Koslen and Breathless 1978-1981,” former Michael Stanley bassist), Marc Lee Shannon (“Any Ordinary Man”) and Murray Saul (“Get Downs Vol. 1”). Also appearing will be artist David Helton and T-shirt entrepreneur Daffy Dan.

The event is free, and runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The times done changed...

There was a time when you could read an article in a magazine about Celine Dion without bumping into Roland Barthes...
Those days are behind us.

From this week's TimeOut NY preview of Celine's concerts in the NYC area:
"When Dion covers James Brown, she does it with a straight face, which just adds insult to insult for those who think a square, white Canadian chick has no business messing with the Godfather. In the mid-70s, Roland Barthes said that the real taboo isn't sexuality anymore, but sentimentality. Dion's unabashed embrace of the latter is what makes her so compelling as a performer: She has no inner filter and is genuinely moved by emotions, no matter where they come from, no matter how embarrassing they may make her look."

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Release parties for Afghan Whigs' Gentlemen and Pogues' Rum, Sodomy and the Lash in Chicago and Cincinnati

You have two, I repeat two, chances to hang out and party with the authors of the latest 2 tomes in the 33 1/3 series next week.

Next Tuesday, September 16th from 6-8:30 there will be a release party for the newest 33 1/3s at The Hideout in Chicago. Authors Bob Gendron and Jeffrey Roesgen (of Afghan Whigs' Gentlemen and the Pogues' Rum, Sodomy, & the Lash respectively) will celebrate the release of their books with music, pizza, and lots of beverages. Books will also be available for sale and signing.

The party then moves to Cincinnati on September 20th where the two will make an in-store appearance for a reading at Shake-It Records.

Monday, September 08, 2008

New Book: I Shot a Man in Reno

I'm pleased to announce that Graeme Thomson's wonderful book looking at how pop music has treated the subject of death, over the decades, is now on sale in North America, and will be available in the UK and Europe in October.

It's called I Shot a Man in Reno: A History of Death by Murder, Suicide, Fire, Flood, Drugs, Disease, and General Misadventure, As Related in Popular Song, and you can buy it here from Amazon.

The book has already been very nicely reviewed in Signal to Noise, from which:

"Over the course of this thoughtful essay, Thomson... is a surefooted guide through the musical graveyard. His writing is never dry or academic, but he smartly puts each song into its sociological and psychological context. It's fascinating to see how concepts of death changed over the decades, as Thomson points out trends such as the explosion of death songs during the psychedelic era.... He makes excellent use of quotes from some A-list songwriters; he interviewed Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Will Oldham and Nick Cave, and he draws on other sources for remarks from other musicians..... At first, it may seem puzzling that songs on this grim topic have become hits and even popular standards, but Thomson persuasively shows that death very much belongs in pop music."

And there was also a fine review in Booklist:

"The long subtitle is a tad inaccurate. This isn’t a history; it’s a commentary. Damned good one, too, by a journalist who knows his stuff and struts it by spanning recorded death ditties from the English folk song “John Barleycorn,” which covers its morbidity by “really” being about growing and preparing the ingredients of beer, to gangsta rap. Refreshingly, he refrains from rock-critic snideness in chapters focused on the teen death songs of the 1950s and 1960s, murder ballads, metaphysical trips to the other side from the high ’60s, suicide songs, afterlife musings, gangsta’s urban reclamation of the murder song, and mourning songs. He wisely sticks to the genuinely demotic song tradition, ignoring the so-called classic popular songs of Tin Pan Alley and the musical theater (the work of schooled composers), and primarily to the products of that tradition’s commercial devolution since the rise of sound recording. Enthralling from the first page, he guarantees rereaders with a penultimate chapter on Europe’s top 10 funeral songs and an appendix of his own, an annotated top 40 of death."

I really hope you enjoy the book!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Abba, Swedish Death Metal, and Sabbath

This Sunday 33 1/3 Abba's Abba Gold author Elisabeth Vincentelli will kick off the new 33 1/3 Multimedia Reading Series. The series will take place the first Sunday of every month at 7pm at Barbes in Park Slope. Here's a link to the Time Out NY listing with all the details.

And while we're on the topic of Time Out NY and Elisabeth Vincentelli, in the latest issue of Time Out there's this story by Elisabeth about Brooklyn writer Ian Christe who has started his own publishing company called Bazillion Points devoted to covering everything metal. The company's first book is called Swedish Death Metal, by Daniel Ekeroth and it looks amazing.

And, speaking of metal, this awesome review of 33 1/3 Black Sabbath's Master of Reality by John Darnielle is going to be this Sunday's LA Times!

Ed Park writes, "John Darnielle is the single constant behind the group the Mountain Goats and arguably the most rewarding lyricist working today. Taking into account his prolific wordsmithery ("Laugh lines on our faces / scale maps of the ocean floor") and affinity for horror both cinematic and literary ("Heretic Pride," the most recent Mountain Goats album, has song titles naming Fu Manchu creator Sax Rohmer and H.P. Lovecraft), it shouldn't come as a surprise that he'd contribute to Continuum's "33 1/3" series of short books pegged to iconic albums. But "Master of Reality" departs brilliantly from the typical "33 1/3" format, not just by choosing fiction over criticism or recording history, but in its structural gambits and unwavering sense of purpose."

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Rock and Roll Cage Match!

The estimable Sean Manning writes to tell me of a brand new book he's edited - Rock and Roll Cage Match: Music's Greatest Rivalries, Decided.

The book features contributions from a host of top music writers, including past, present and future 33 1/3 legends such as Dan Kois, Dan LeRoy, Michaelangelo Matos, and Daphne Carr, who just keeps cropping up on here these days...

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Another Green World

A few of you have been waiting for Geeta Dayal's book on Brian Eno for quite some time...and you'll have to wait just a little bit longer, as will I. But you should be pleased to know that we're getting very close now to having a finished manuscript, and here's a draft of the Introduction, to tide you over.



When I initially set out to write a book on Brian Eno, I didn't realize what a massive endeavor it would turn out to be. This short book has taken several years to write. I wrote, rewrote, threw out entire chapters, and started over more than once. Every idea fanned out into ten other intriguing ideas, and eventually I found myself enmeshed in a dense network of thought. Finally, I realized that I had to pick a direction and run with it, or risk never being finished.

Sometimes a good way to begin a drawing is to first carve out all of the negative space. So I will start out by telling you what this book isn't. This is not a rock biography that meticulously documents the making of Another Green World. Nor is it a book that dwells very much on Eno's personal life. It certainly touches on both of these things, to the extent that they are useful in creating a larger picture. This is a book about process. How did these songs grow from kernels of ideas into fully-formed pieces? How were these kernels of thought formed in the first place? I attempt to examine the confluence of ideas at a certain time in a certain place in the 1970s, and how these notions helped to shape the form of three records, all released in 1975: Another Green World, Discreet Music, and Evening Star.

My own background is in the sciences, and I approached this book as a sort of scientific experiment. I came up with hypotheses and tested them by doing research. Sometimes these hypotheses were wrong, so I went back to the drawing board. I did a lot of interviews, read a lot of books, and spent a lot of time thinking and listening. I spoke with dozens of people; one of the great gifts of writing a book on Eno is getting to interview some of the very interesting collaborators that he has worked with over the past thirty-odd years. I wasn't just interested in speaking with those who worked on Another Green World; I wanted to learn more, in a general sense, about how Eno worked with other people.

I read dozens of books on a number of different subjects -- from visual art to cybernetics to architecture to evolutionary biology to cooking to tape loops -- for inspiration. Of course, I read books about Eno as well. But many of the most helpful books for understanding Eno's methods are not explicitly about Eno at all. They are books like Christopher Alexander's A Pattern Language, Stafford Beer's The Brain of the Firm, and Michael Nyman's Experimental Music. What these books have in common -- besides being books that Eno rates highly -- are that they unite a variety of seemingly disparate things, and lay out general principles for thinking about these things. In this book, I look at how Eno devised his own sets of tools for thinking, such the "Oblique Strategies" cards he created with Peter Schmidt. (I used a deck of these cards myself while writing this book, whenever I reached an impasse).

Of course, there is the music. In the chapters that follow, I dig into some of the many unique sounds on these records. This is not any kind of formal musicological analysis. What it is, instead, is an exploration of the sonics--the timbres and layers of shifting textures. I spend more time on sonics than I do on the words. Eno has stated many times that lyrics, especially at this time period in his life, did not interest him very much. But that does not mean that words did not serve an important function. Using some ideas from cognitive science, I probe two different phenomena at play in Another Green World. The first, as Eno himself has pointed out, is that only five out of the 14 tracks on Another Green World have words, but that listeners tend to perceive the album as a "song record," not an ambient record. Each song with lyrics "bleeds" into the surrounding ambient tracks. How does this effect work in our heads? The second phenomenon has to do with another type of sleight of hand -- how chains of words, even nonsense words that do not make any sense in sequence, can nonetheless generate distinct, powerful images.

One of the most instructive things I did was to listen to Another Green World at a number of different speeds and volume levels, most selected arbitrarily. Each time I heard something new that I had not heard before -- a new sound that was buried in the mix, for example, or an effect, a heavily layered backing vocal, an abstruse lyric. Speeding up and slowing down Discreet Music taught me a lot, too; the first track of Discreet Music, or "Side A" if you happen to own the vinyl copy, is recorded at half-speed. So I listened to it at double-speed, to gain some insight into what the original material might have sounded like before Eno slowed it down. I also listened to it at quarter-speed, which I liked even more than Eno's half-speed version.

I still have not tired of these albums, though it is in fact very possible that I have listened to Another Green World more times than Eno has. I become more drawn to these albums the more I listen. The longevity of Another Green World is, in a large part, due to the album's innate ambiguity; the more you listen, the more beguiling and open-ended it becomes. In contrast to many other albums released in the mid-1970s, Another Green World does not sound dated. It isn't stuck in the past or fixated on the future; it continues its life in the fabric of the present.