James Murphy plays Tennis

Or ‘Daft Punk Are Playing Tennis at My House’? Either way, James Murphy has done it again. Not content with soundtracking the NY Subway system, he’s now building music from US Open tennis matches. All in all it’s simply a showcase (Read: advertisement) for US Open sponsors IBM, but in amongst it are some simplistic, yet interesting, ambient soundscapes. They tend towards the delicate, and are generally pretty sparse, but if you like the (digitally recreated) sound of fractured 60s synths then this might well be worth ten minutes of your time. Here’s Andy Murray’s first round match for a taster.

In time, Murphy will remix his favourite sounds into 14 tracks which the cynic’s in us are sure will be on release in time for Record Store Day next year. Find out more about that, here.


Dimensions

We love putting great music into amazing venues, and we’re not the only one’s. Over in Croatia, Boiler Room have teamed up with Dimensions Festival to stream performances by Darkside, Caribou, Nils Frahm, and Kwabs at the festival opening tonight. Those are some pretty good artists, but we’re particularly excited because it’s all in a 2000 year old Roman Amphitheater.

While we’re disappointed we won’t be able to check it out in person, the fact that it’s streaming from 6pm (GMT) means that we’re pretty excited about getting even a brief sniff of the atmosphere.


The risks of fame

Ah to be a Rock star; fame, glamour, money. Unless of course your name is Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots. After a lengthy career marked by band splits, failed reunions, drug use, and being sued by your former bandmates, it’s perhaps unsurprising to police when they arrest you for shoplifting and possession of crystal meth. A month later and you’re still in the slammer, unable to make $95,000 in bail.

What happens then, when you post a video online refuting the fact that you’re languishing in an LA jail cell?

 

The answer, it seems, is the Beverly Hills Police start a proper investigation into who it is still sitting in their jail…

On Saturday, July 26, 2014, at approximately 9:34 a.m., the Beverly Hills Police Department received a call of a shoplift that had just occurred at the Rite Aid in the 400 Block of N. Bedford Drive. Police units ultimately arrested a suspect for that crime. Upon arrest, the suspect identified himself as former Stone Temple Pilots band member Scott Weiland. The suspect was taken into custody for Burglary (459 P.C.) and Possession of a Controlled Substance (11377 H & S Code).

On Thursday, August 21, 2014, Beverly Hills Police discovered through an FBI Fingerprint Return that the subject arrested was not Scott Weiland. The fingerprint return positively identified the individual as Jason Michael Hurley (44 years of age). Beverly Hills Police will be requesting an additional criminal filing on Hurley for 148.9 (a) P.C. – Furnishing False Information to a Peace Officer. Records will be updated to properly reflect this information.

 

Not so long ago Weiland was upset about being replaced in Stone Temple Pilots by Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington. Does everybody secretly want to be Scott Weiland? Perhaps he should take it as an opportunity and start monetising the apparent desire to impersonate him with a series of ‘cut-out-and-keep’ masks.


Need a Power Up?

Congratulations! You’ve managed to get through Monday morning. Does it feel like it’s taken its toll already? Wish you could feel more powerful? Then listen to some heavy bass.

According to a study carried out at Northwestern University, bass heavy music will make you feel more powerful. The study was originally conceived after the researchers observed athletes listening to music before competing. Using samples of ‘powerful’ music they manipulated bass levels +/- 15dB, with respondents favouring the higher bass register, somewhat unsurprisingly.

‘Powerful’ Songs Used
We Will Rock You – Queen
Get Ready For This – 2Unlimited
In Da Club – 50 Cent

We’re left a little perplexed by the choice of songs the researchers sampled from, and by the research itself. Whilst they’ve clearly distinguished Bass as a recurrent factor across genre, we see no mention of Tempo, nor Dynamic range; both factors we’d like to see investigated. With that in mind, please consider this a call for any Psychologists, Musicologists or bored Creative Writing students to do some digging for us. We’d do it ourselves, but ‘foregone conclusion’ already exists in our vocabulary.

Here’s a seriously bass-heavy cover of Queen’s We Will Rock You by noise rock’s great Melt-Banana.


What does a music collection mean?

There’s a good chance you spotted this article over the last few days that tells the story of a Brazilian man named Zero Freitas who is amassing quite a significant record collection. His collection is so large that it contains collections that number in the millions, and once a heading suggesting he wanted to own all the vinyl in the world was tagged on by the New York Times, the social media explosion was all but guaranteed.

The thing is though, it got us considering the nature of collecting music. You see, every day at Open Ear Music we discover new music and we add the best we hear to our systems so it can be played via MusicManager in all our client’s venues. Which is to say that it’s hand crafted, curated, and considered. We don’t offer all the music in the world; we offer quality.

‘Mere quantity counts for little. Quality in the true sense is what counts, and quality and rarity are by no means synonymous’
Semeonoff’s ‘Record Collecting; a guide for beginners’ from 1949.

At the same time we’re updating playlists, deciding tracks have had their exposure time, and now it’s the chance of someone fresh and exciting to take the space. We’re also considering the venues where this music is played, the people who eat, drink, relax, work, and shop there, as well as the artists and labels whose music it is. In this way, our collection is less for us and more for that moment a song is heard. Our collection may be catalogued, but perhaps it’s too fluid to be a true collection? That’s not even to mention the fact that it’s digitised. Maybe we should consider it an accumulation of time, care, passion, and purpose. It seems a truer sense of what it is we do.

Zero Freitas, on the other hand, can perhaps better be described as a hoarder. While it is clear that some of what he owns is of huge emotional and sentimental value to him, a great deal of it must go unheard, unseen, and ultimately forgotten. How else can a single person own ten copies of one album? Many independent retailers would kill for stock levels like that. At the same time, however, his hoard grows and grows, slowly being catalogued so that one day it can be shared with the public as a gigantic music library. Whether this will happen or whether it’s simply a way for an aging hoarder to justify his obsession and provide his collection with a purpose is hard to say. For Zero to have lived in the shadows for so long, and for the big unveil to have come now when collecting records has, to a certain market, become something rarefied is not much of a surprise. Collecting in this sense is as much for the purpose of showing the collectors ability to distinguish quality as it is for anything else. Yet, the fact he did stay quiet for so long is also telling. Now his story is out, the demand to share his collection will grow.

Let’s return for a moment to the thought that our collection, here at Open Ear, is an accumulation of time, care, passion, and purpose. It’s that purpose that is most important to us. It drives us to improve our collection, to never allow it to go stale, to improve its cataloguing, and the ways that we share it. Its purpose is to be heard. We’d like to hope that now Zero has developed a purpose for his collection, it too can stand for the time, care and passion he has put into accumulating it.


Top 5 Summer Tunes

 

 

 

We’re half way through the summer now, so here are our Top 5 tunes to celebrate when the sun is out and to pick us up when the rain starts…

 

Sergio Mendes – Mas Que Nada (Feat. Black Eyed Peas)

Belle & Sebastian – I’m a Cuckoo (Avalanches Remix)

Ulrich Schnauss & Mark Peters – Slow Southern Skies

Jenny Lewis – Aloha & The Three Johns

The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Crosstown Traffic


New Music August

 

Various Artists – The Beck Song Reader (Capitol)
This collection of 20 songs, all written by Beck, was originally released as a book of sheet music, allowing anyone to play the songs in a manner they chose. A lovely idea, except for those of us whose musical ability is somehow smaller than our complete inability to read sheet music in the first place. Step in a group of notable luminaries of popular music to provide their own interpretations of the Beck scores. The result is a disparate collection where Jack White sounds like Jack White, Jarvis Cocker sounds like Jarvis Cocker, and Sparks sound actually quite like Beck, but also just like Sparks. Check out Beck’s contribution here.

Richard Thompson – Acoustic Classics (Beeswing Records)
A summary of a career rather than a Greatest Hits per se, this collection takes tracks from the 40 year career of the venerable star and gives them a new, acoustic, life. Created due to a lack of adequate recordings of his growing habit for playing acoustic shows, these are newly recorded works that showcase Thompson’s fantastic skills with a guitar as well as his songwriting prowess. Taking in Americana, hints of Country and Jazz, as well as Blues Rock, and Folk if you haven’t heard Richard Thompson before, there are worse places to start. Check out the classic ‘1952 Vincent Black Lightening’ here. 

Jenny Lewis – The Voyager (Warner Bros.)
Having started out as one half of Rilo Kiley, and subsequently released albums under her own name and with collaborators, Jenny Lewis has become a master at crafting Indie Pop with a distinct sense of fun. Her latest, mainly acoustic, album is filled with harmonised vocals and lyrical themes featuring a  tongue firmly in cheek. Of particular note is the charm of Lewis’ sing-along choruses, the likes of which many other Indie acts seem to have given up on in recent times. Check out the video for ‘Just One of the Guys’ to see what we mean.

BANKS – Goddess (Good Years)
The long awaited debut from the much hyped BANKS, who came 3rd in the BBCs ‘Sound Of 2014’ list, is now with us. Squeezing into a singular gap between Indie Pop, R&B, and creeping Downtempo bass beats, Goddess is as good a Pop album as any to kick start the second half of the year. While BANKS’ vocals, and heartfelt personal lyrics, push that modern R&B sound, Lil Silva’s production keeps the mood deep and slow, but rarely heavy. While BANKS may be a rising star, it’s those beats that’ll ensure she burns bright for a good while yet. Check out ‘Begging for Thread’ here.

James Yorkston – The Cellardyke Recording And Wassailing Society (Domino)
The long established man from the East Neuk of Fife Folk scene has teamed up with some of his closest local companions (The Pictish Trail, KT Tunstall) to record an album reflecting on life so far and those closest to home. Relying heavily on acoustic guitar and the harmonised vocals of Yorkston and his friends, these are simple and straight up Folk tunes that showcase emotion at every turn. ‘Broken Wave (A Blues for Doogie) shows this wonderfully as simple fingerpicked arpeggios turn into a delicate fiddle break. The sublime production, by Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor, is intimate enough to hear the squeak of fingers on strings – you can almost smell the logs burning in the grate. Check out ‘Fellow Man’ here.

Red Snapper – Hyena (Lo Recordings)
After completing the soundtrack to the re-release of the cult ‘70s Senagalese film ‘Touki Bouki’, the folks from this long running Acid Jazz group realised there was more to be done with the Afro Funk inspired sounds they had created. Now being released as their 8th standalone album, Hyena is a sparser affair than previous records. However, their well known organic and instrumental approach that relies on groove and rhythm has not been dispensed with, with horns, double bass and looping drums still very much the focus. To be able to sound like themselves yet to be exploring new sounds is a credit to the musicianship on show. Check out the Auntie Flo remix of ‘Village Tap’ here.

Wildest Dreams – Wildest Dreams (Smalltown Supersound)
Squalling psychedelic guitar, hints at Soul and classic R&B, pounding drums all hi-hat and snares, and spat out chunks of Hammond organ; this is Garage Rock from a man who knows how to string together a groove. That man is more commonly known as DJ Harvey, more familiar from his work remixing House and Disco but who started out as a drummer in Punk bands, and whose deft touch with texture and melodic interplay underpins this album. And what an album it is. Coming in somewhere between the 13th Floor Elevators and Steppenwolf, it’s potentially Rock album of the year. Check out ‘Last Ride’ here.

Very Tall Stories – Open Eyes (BBE)
First released last year, and now re-released with added Instrumental cuts, Open Eyes is a relaxed and downtempo album of Soul-based grooves. Tom Everett’s vocals are laid back yet bristle with purpose, giving a sense of strength for the open percussion to play off. Influences of Jazz and Hip Hop skip throughout this record, while ‘Push Me Pull You’ takes on Dub, complete with staccato stabs. Elsewhere, ‘Dig It’ has Balearic vibes, descending into a loungey nonchalance, that will make it perfect listening for the last of the warm evenings of the year. Check out the video for ‘Thinking of You’ here.


The Streisand Effect in action

Once we’ve posted an article we tend to leave it behind. When we saw that Chubby Checker had made an out of court settlement with Hewlitt-Packard over his claims for $500 million in damages, allegedly caused by an App sold through the HP App Store, we had to revive our original article on it.

Anyone familiar with the Streisand-Effect will know that for some people in the public eye, it’s often better to keep quiet rather than kick up a fuss. Unfortunately for Checker, he publicly objected to the App that used his name to guesstimate penis size and our childish sense of humour rejoiced.

The size of the settlement hasn’t been announced, but we’re sure there’ll be an App out in no time to take a guess at it. You can read our original article below.

It would seem the originator of ‘The Twist’, Chubby Checker has taken exception to an app marketed towards women who just can’t wait to find out the size of a new partner’s appendage.The ‘Chubby Checker’ app transforms Hewlett-Packard’s Palm OS devices into a guestimator of endowment based on shoe size alone. 

The original Checker is not happy to see his good name twisted in this way and is suing HP and Palm OS for a stiff $500m. Some estimates suggest the $0.99 app was downloaded just 84 times! 

It would seem someone is either on ‘The Twist’ or is over compensating for something.


The cure for Tinnitus?

Every one at Open Ear is acutely aware of the importance of protecting our hearing, because of the work we do but also because we love to play, perform, and go to clubs and gigs. Music is our passion, and our ears are always open. Thankfully none of us has suffered more than minor hearing loss so far, but let’s be honest; like everyone else who loves music, the fear is there.

For those people where it’s unfortunately too late there is a minefield of pain, irritation, stilted conversations, and frustration. Hearing damage often shows itself through Tinnitus, which affects up to 10% of the world’s population. Up until now that’s been treated with hearing aids, some of which play alternate tones to mask the dreaded ringing so many of us have experienced for brief spells.

On trial now, however, is a new product developed in Texas called the Serenity System which aims to train the neurons in the brain to ignore or even forget that ringing noise. By attaching a transmitter to the Vagus nerve in the neck and listening to tones that trigger the tinnitus through headphones, the system stimulates the release of chemicals in the brain resulting in a rewiring around the sounds that encourage tinnitus. Whether that’s closer to magic than medicine we don’t know, but we can say that the latest round of tests showed around 50% of participants benefitted from it. Since it’s an invasive surgery we’d assume those people were particularly bad sufferers, but at least it offers some hope for those most in need. Equally, if all goes well it shows that looking at the way our brain processes sound signals may as important as understanding physical ear damage when it comes to planning ways to help hearing damage.


J. Dilla at the Smithsonian

You might remember we looked at Afrika Bambaataa’s awesome record collection being transferred to Cornell University in the past, and we really wished we could have popped over the Atlantic to check it out. Now the Smithsonian Museum are building a collection of cool Hip Hop ephemera to rival that at Cornell with a chunk of gear owned by J. Dilla. Donated by Dilla’s mother, the kit will be going into the National Museum of African American History and Culture when it opens in 2016. Other gear by greats such as Ella Fitzgerald, George Clinton and Chuck D will also be on show, but it’s Dilla’s Minimoog and MIDI kit that revolutionised Hip Hop beats that we’re interested in. Check out the video to find out more.

Is two years notice too much to be able to get cheap flights?