Posts from 2005

Aurgasm Interview: Imogen Heap

Wednesday, October 19th, 2005 by Paul Irish
Most know her as the steamy voice behind Frou Frou, whose single “Let Go” raced up the bestseller lists with the debut of 2004’s Garden State. But Imogen Heap is a solo artist twisting together strands of classical, pop and electronica into an accessible but beguiling sound. Her new CD, Speak For Yourself, matches lush natural instrumentation against electronic pop creativity – an impressive record from an Essex, England-born girl. I had a chance to ask Miss Heap about her music and future. The interview below is laced with mp3s for your multimedia enjoyment.

Frou Frou’s “Let Go” is one of the most striking pieces of music used for a movie trailer. Many, many people were first exposed to you through the movie Garden State. How was Zach Braff exposed to your music? Ever meet him?

Funny you should ask as i met him for the first time last night at a gig I did at the El Ray in LA along with all the other guys on the Hotel Cafe tour. Totally unexpectedly walked right into the dressing room with about 20 mates while i was doing my hair. I saw him walk through the door and ran up to him like an old friend and gave him a massive hug. It was only then i realized i’d never met the guy before and that maybe that was a bit weird but he was totally cool and we were both saying how much of a fan we both were of each others work. I played Let Go that night for him. Cary Brothers is a mate of his (he’s was on the tour with us) and was also on the Garden State soundtrack. He told me the story of how it was the last song they needed to tie up the film. There were days to go and still nothing was sitting right. Everyone was frantically trying to find that song and then it was Zach girlfriend who came up with the idea of Let Go for that final scene. BIG thankyou to her!

Was Frou Frou meant to be a part-time thing between your own solo albums? Can we expect more music to be released from you and Guy Sigsworth?

Guy and I had never spoken of a second album. I think it was understood that i feel more comfortable as being a solo artist though he knows i love working with him. We’ve worked together on albums since i was 17! He produced my debut album’s first single “getting scared”. I was a huge fan of his first band Acacia. Their album Cradle is still one of my all time favorites. I’m sure we’ll work together in the future as we’ve always done in the past. I feel kinda selfish being in a band with him too as he’s such an amazing producer he needs to spread and share the Sigsworth love!

You signed with Almo Sounds as a teenager? Your first album there, i Megaphone, was a really strong debut. Comparisons are often drawn to Alanis Morrisette, Tori Amos, and Liz Phair – how do you see your earlier music now in retrospect?
Imogen Heap – Come Here Boy from i Megaphone (1998)

I very rarely listen to i Megaphone but i love it when i do. It reminds me of me as a teenager. It’s just like looking at old photos except i’m not embarrassed of them. People change a lot between the ages of 17 and 27 and it’s no different with music. I’ve learned a ton in that time in working with all the different bands from Urban Species, to Jeff Beck, to Frou Frou. I think lyrically is where i see the biggest step up from my debut. I think the music of i Megaphone is still very fresh and exciting. I don’t feel like it dates. I hope that this new album will never sound dated either. Vocally i am much happier with the way i sing now. I feel it’s more honest. Sometimes i listen to i Meg and hear me put on these voices. A kind of cod-american accent. I don’t like it when i did that looking back but i didn’t hear it at the time.

The anthemic a capella single “Hide and Seek” features your versatile voice both natural and manipulated, creating a really unique sound. Walk me through how the track was created.
Imogen Heap – Hide And Seek from Speak For Yourself (2005)

It was a sweet how that song happened. I had had a really bad “day at the office” as my shiny new computer blew up on me. Real puff of smoke and sparks material. i was about to leave the studio defeated which is always a bad thing. Those days can spiral into weeks and it’s important to try to do at least one thing in a day you’re happy with. Out of the corner of my eye i spotted my harmonizer (a little box that you hook up to a keyboard via midi so you can play in the notes you want your voice to transpose to in real time). I hadn’t yet written anything with this piece of gear but had always wanted to do an a cappella on this album. I powered it up and connected my microphone into the box and recorded the output to my minidisk. The first thing i sung/played and four minutes later was and is the melody and harmony of the final version. Lyrically it wasn’t all there apart from “Where are we, what the hell is going on?” and some random lines but i had the idea of Hide and Seek a while beforehand. It was like magic. Just as i struck the last chord a train went by outside the window and you can hear this in the final version. There was something so special about this version i was gutted it had no lyrics really to speak of but every breath and chord of the demo i copied as best i could to get everything from that 2am moment onto the record. I love this song as it feels as if it’s not mine because it took so little time to finish as others take weeks, months! Feels like a gift.

It’s incredible to me that you have both a blog and a flickr account – I read you even found the photographer for your liner notes on flickr! How does the blog and such help you connect with fans?

i started up my blog originally for helping me get things done in the studio when making the album. Going at it alone meant there was nobody there keeping me in check. I would spend 2 weeks on something that was slowing me down when i should have left it and come back to the problem at a later date when i was clear headed. The blog was set up so as i could write my thoughts of the day at the studio and keep a track of myself. You can go by a day and not get anything done and not feel too bad about it but if you feel someone’s watching you somehow these things don’t happen so often. It really helped me to focus and i started to set myself goals for the next day. Seeing a problem written down definitely helps to open up the solution just by seeing it written down. It seems like less of a big deal. It was fun then when the guys on the board started to talk about what i was up to. I’d get all sorts in my email from thanks, to suggestions to encouragement. When i was really stuck with the lyrics to Daylight Robbery i took it to the babble board. Set up a poll and asked the guys to choose one of three lyrical directions. I gave them a few days and once through i wrote the song with that theme in mind. I finished the song in no time after that because it wasn’t just for me now I was doing it for all of them too. I’ve had so much fun on the road meeting a lot of the ibabblers. Putting faces to avatars and screen names. It really is a cool community on there and they’re a really creative bunch.

I like that you use your blog as a way to keep yourself on track rather than a way to procrastinate.
Are you going to be doing vocals on any upcoming projects?

I’ve been doing all sorts since the record. Vocals for a band called Blue October, Temposhark also a remix for them which will be out in January, J peter Schwalm, a song for the movie “Just like heaven”, “spooky”. I’ve also been dabbling in production and have got something REALLY exciting coming up in the next couple of weeks that i can’t talk about because you never know what may happen…but if all goes to plan it’s going to be HUGE!!!

I provide the readers of my site with great music they’ve probably not heard.. are there any tracks that you’ve been listening to recently that you’d recommend?

Avril’s new album (not the Lavigne variety) “Member’s only” is one of my faves right now. Also into this Danish rock/electronic band Carpark North “All things to all people”. I’ve just come off of a tour and there was a guy touring with us called Jim Bianco who I really liked too. His album out now is “Handsome Devil”.

Imogen’s Picks:
Avril – Urban Serenade from Member’s Only (2004)
Carpark North – Human from All Things to All People (2005)
Jim Bianco – Handsome Devil (Reprise) from Handsome Devil (2004)

Thank you kindly, Imogen. :)

My pleasure!! xxx

Tin Hat Trio

Thursday, October 13th, 2005 by Paul Irish

tango // eastern european folk // bluegrass

The group describes themselves aptly: “music for the shotgun wedding of Astor Piazzolla and Django Reinhardt with Charles Ives as the flower girl.” These three skilled musicians studied at schools including the Oberlin Conservatory, Peabody Conservatory, and the Hartt School of Music, and have worked with Phillip Glass, Bill Frisell, Tom Waits, even Mixmaster Mike and Tipsy! In essence, you’ve got learned musicians that create impressive music that’s technically meaty and simultaneously fun &#8211 mixing together elements of piano, violin, dobro, drum set, and tuba. They’ve released four discs now, my selections below are from their debut and 3rd, coming off the eclectic Ropeadope Records label.
An earthy concoction of outdoor music: tango, bluegrass, and chamber jazz.

Tin Hat Trio – Happy Hour
Tin Hat Trio – Fire Of Ada
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Reflex Reaction: Pre-release hip hop

Friday, October 7th, 2005 by Paul Irish
I want your reaction, here. Leave a comment and for any/all of the songs, write your reaction to the song – keep it brief! (5-15 words, extra points if you hit exactly 10) After a few days, I’m going to publish the most evocative/impressive/amusing comments here. Be sure to leave your name!

UPDATE! The best reactions follow:
Hi-Tek – How We Do It Ft. Snoop Dogg & Slim Thug

  • Snoop Dogg could not save that. Sounded generic – no groove ~anon
  • hi tek fell hard of after reflection eternal, nuff said ~anon
  • i find myself growing more bored with each second. ~anon
  • Busta Rhymes – Touch It

  • he didnt do his homework, lets hope he can make a better discovery next time. ~bob
  • busted rhymes but a dope cut to dance to ~mike
  • Just changing drum kit is not a viable compositional technique.~A
  • Rocky Marsiano – A Story To Be Told

  • finally, something i can jam to in this set. i dig.~anon
  • Smooth , Slick, Groovy. Will live on my playlist for a while.~Cliff
  • refreshing jazz sampling and no rapping, gets old quick ~MT
  • Arctic Monkeys

    Tuesday, October 4th, 2005 by Paul Irish

    british indie rock

    This Sheffield four-man rock group has a large devoted following in Britain and their sound is slowly encroaching on the American music elite. Nearly all the tastemakers in this Guardian piece and KCRW’s illuminatae Nic Harcourt are feeling their sound. The Arctic Monkey’s music is likened to the Libertines and The Jam, and the boys themselves enjoy Roots Manuva and Pharaoh Monch. But don’t be mistaken, their music is straight-up rock and many expect them to be the Next Big Thing. You decide.
    Shithot indie rock, witty lyrics and a dash of modesty.

    Arctic Monkeys – A Certain Romance
    Arctic Monkeys – Fake Tales Of San Francisco
    Arctic Monkeys – I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor (14mb video)
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    Sunday, October 2nd, 2005 by Paul Irish

    brazilian // baile funk // hip hop

    With a name that translates to “little boy”, you can expect to be surprised by this Brazilian’s music. Curumin will open a song with your traditional brazilian instrumentation – sprinkles of ganza, strums of the cavaquinho, and rubs of the cuíca – but he’ll then roll in his octave-dipping synth bass and his wide ass-shaking beats. He expertly brings together 1970s funk and the hash haze of São Paulo street music, all set to a modern, accessible beat. Curumin’s debut, Achados e Perdidos, was just released on Quannum, DJ Shadow’s side label that also houses Lyrics Born, Apsci, and Blackalicious. [via]
    Baile, bossa and a healthy dose of straight-up bounce.

    Curumin – Guerreiro
    Curumin – Tudo Bem Malandro
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    Weekly Reflex Reaction

    Thursday, September 29th, 2005 by Paul Irish
    As much as I enjoy writing my thoughts on music, I’d like to hear yours for a change. So somewhat regularly, I’m going to put up some music on here and I want your reaction. Leave a comment and for any/all of the songs, write your reaction to the song – keep it brief! (5-15 words, extra points if you hit exactly 10) After a few days, I’m going to publish the most evocative/impressive/amusing comments here. Be sure to leave your name!

    UPDATE! The best reactions follow:
    androgynous folk cabaret
    Antony and the Johnsons – Hope There’s Someone

  • Aaron Neville and Joanna Newsom birthed one child named Antony. ~Aarika
  • Corine Tucker of Sleater-Kinney recast as a 400lb. troubadour.~E
  • nina simone reincarnate. troubled souls can produce beauty. somehow.~Anon.
  • roots reggae ballad
    Ken Boothe – Everything I Own

  • David Gray’s wannabe brother meets a red stripe fanboi – no thx.~cJw
  • Ken’s longing vocal somewhat negated by dispassionate and bouncy instrumentation.~tom
  • Insipid in its theft of alien verse for vanilla purposes~mylime
  • 1950’s game show theme
    Norman Paris – I’ve Got A Secret (Plink Plank Plunk)

  • Cartoon characters chasing each other through the house on tip-toe.~L.N. Hammer
  • Kittens in pajamas tidying up the house~Justin
  • an energetic lullaby for the impressionable young Alex Trebek, perhaps?~Anne
  • Arvo Pärt

    Monday, September 26th, 2005 by Paul Irish

    contemporary classical // tintinnabuli

    Now this is a twisted analogy, but if you can imagine Rachmaninoff as producer for Kanye West’s hit singles, then the brains behind the minimal “Wait Wait (The Whisper Song)” would be Arvo Pärt. You see, back in 1972, the Estonian composer completed his seventh well-received musical work, but felt it didn’t speak his true voice so he entered into a four-year period of silence and reclusion. During that time he studied plainsong, Gregorian chant, and Renaissance polyphony. When he emerged, he termed the radically different style of his music as tintinnabuli – characterized by simple harmonies and single tonal triad. Many draw similarities to minimalistic composer Phillip Glass, but Pärt’s approach relies less on repetition; rather, it builds from the most primitive musical elements – the triad and one specific tonality.
    Classical compositions braving their beautiful, gentle simplicity.

    Arvo Pärt’s “Gloria” from Missa Syllabica
    Arvo Pärt’s “Spiegel Im Spiegel” from Fratres
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    Radio Citizen

    Thursday, September 22nd, 2005 by Paul Irish

    vocal breaks // oily soul // slack dub

    If reknowned jazzbreaksdancegroove über-DJ Quantic hands you a CD-R and tells you, “Have a listen, you might like this,” you’d be wise to heed his request. Luckily A&R at Ubiquity did, and now we have this fire track “The Hop” steaming off of the label’s newest compilation. Radio City is 27 year-old German Niko Schabel, a talented instrumentalist and music scholar. In “The Hop” he proves his ear’s precision– stirring the aural pot with musty vinyl samples, a laid back break, and a magical touch for pacing. Smokey vocalist Bajka (from jazz-house outfit Beanfield) adds some lyrical funk into the mix.
    A bold but chill taste of tomorrow’s yesterday’s groove.

    Radio City feat. Bajka – The Hop

    Update (2007.01.03): Radio City has been renamed to Radio Citizen
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    The Music of New Orleans

    Monday, September 19th, 2005 by Paul Irish
    Many have been afraid that the culture and music of New Orleans being lost, but of all localized music sub-cultures, I’d consider The Big Easy’s as one of the most resilient. As the city’s instrumentalists were moving out of the city, their priority was locating their musician brethren. For now, the website of the popular N.O. venue Tipitina‘s serves as information portal on accounted and missing artists, donors providing housing and instruments, and upcoming gigs.

    Well, come on everybody take a trip with me… way down the Mississippi, down in New Orleans!

    Sidney Bechet – Summertime
    The classic Gershwin tune. Bichet beat Louis Armstong to be the first important jazz soloist recorded, and also remains one of the finest jazz clarinetists of all time. His wide vibrato was trademark, along with forceful delivery, and well conceived improvisational ideas. He makes the clarinet soprano saxophone reed growl on this somber rendition of ‘Summertime’.

    Kid Ory – Tiger Rag
    This’ll probably remind you of the comprehensive Ken Burns Jazz Special. Kid Ory was a pioneer of New Orleans music, leading a band in 1911 as a trombonist. He collorated with Sidney Bechet (the two fought often for lead), Jelly Roll Morton, and a young Louis Armstrong. He retired from music to run a chicken farm, but returned by request of Orson Wells to record this scorching ‘Tiger Rag’.

    Clarence “Frogman” Henry – Ain’t Got No Home
    Very early one summer morning, Clarence Henry was performing on the bandstand and improvised his way into the basic riff behind “Ain’t Got No Home”. The crowd responded favorably, so he developed it further. Soon, Chess Records A&R was hustling Henry into Cosimo Matassa’s studio in September of 1956 to record. Local DJ Poppa Stoppa laid the “Frogman” handle on the youngster when he spun the catchy 45 and it stuck.

    Snooks Eaglin – When They Ring Them Golden Bells
    Although New Orleans is generally thought of as more of a jazz and R&B town, the streets of the Crescent City also gave birth to a quite different strain of the music. The Acoustic New Orleans Blues style embraces everything from itinerant street singers and guitarists to rag-tag “spasm” bands. The blind Snooks Eaglin was known as a human jukebox inside the town, being able to pull hundreds of songs out from his eclectic repetoire, often confusing his own band.

    Dixie Cups – Iko Iko
    Although they’re best known for “Chapel of Love”, the Dixie Cups wrote ‘Iko Iko’ quite accidentally. After the musicians had gone home from a recording session, the women were doing some overdubbing and started singing “Iko Iko” among themselves, using only a chair, drumstick, Coke bottle, ashtray, and drums as accompaniment. And although its roots are identified with New Orleans celebratory rituals, the song emerged as a quirky pop hit.

    Lee Dorsey – Who’s Gonna Help Brother Get Further?
    Lee Dorsey epitomized the loose, easygoing charm of New Orleans R&B perhaps more than any other artist of the ’60s. Working with legendary Crescent City producer Allen Toussaint, Dorsey typically made good-time party tunes with a playful sense of humor and a funky, gunnagetcha backbeat. The bassline here is infectiously evil.

    Louisiana Gator Boys & The Blues Brothers – New Orleans
    More of a tribute song than an authetic NOLA piece. From The Blues Brothers 2000, this track was the finale for the musical journey. It features a modest lineup: B.B. King, Junior Wells, Steve Lawrence, Taj Mahal, Lonnie Brooks, Eric Clapton, Nia Peeples, Darrell Hammond, Steve Winwood, Eddie Floyd, Paul Shaffer, Billy Preston, Koko Taylor, Bo Diddley, Isaac Hayes, Joshua Redman, Lou Rawls, Travis Tritt, Jimmie Vaughan, and Dr. John.

    New Orleans music from the Aurgasm archives (mp3’s back up!):
    Professor Longhair 1970’s new orleans funk // piano rhumba
    The Meters 1970’s new orleans r&b // funk // soul
    Rebirth Brass Band 1990’s new orleans brass band

    Blues musician Vasti Jackson's studio was destroyed by this tree

    Other blogs covering the NOLA music scene:
    Home of the Groove always showcased The Big Easy’s musical output
    Jazz And Conversation offers up a mix of the spirit of New Orleans
    The Entroporium has a number of choice Nola tracks
    Soul-Sides rep’s some Allen Toussaint and The Meters
    IckMusic has some essential Dirty Dozen Brass Band
    Cocaine Blunts threw together the best of New Orleans Bounce

    Full broadcast of Higher Ground, a show for Hurricane Relief live at the Lincoln Center.

    Rebirth Brass Band

    Friday, September 2nd, 2005 by Paul Irish

    big band // new orleans brass band

    Every song starts with a tuba. Not just your standard oom-pah oom-pah ploppy tuba, no sir – this comes at you ferocious. Following after the famed Dirty Dozen Brass Band, the ReBirth crew throws together a vivid concoction of loud, bright brass slamming you from all angles. You can immediately hear how much they love the music they’re making – the invigorating energy just streams right out of their horns. They don’t stress about slipping a clam, they just let it all hang out.
    Listen in on the New Orleans brass band jam session.

    Rebirth Brass Band – You Move Ya Lose
    Rebirth Brass Band – Chameleon
    buy this cd