February 24, 2010

ግልጽ ያልሆነ ጉድጓድ: Yeshimebet Dubale


There is a cornucopia of great Ethiopian pop on YouTube, which I'll be posting more of in the future.  I stumbled across Yeshimebet Dubale a while back and have been in love ever since.  She has the most incredible voice.  These videos are, unfortunately, all of I've been able to track down of her music.  Anyone out there who knows where her stuff can be found, I'd greatly appreciate you breaking me off some information. 

February 19, 2010

World of Mirth

February 18, 2010

VA - House of Broken Hearts Pt. 1 and Pt. 2 (Mississippi Records Cassette Series)

House of Broken Hearts Pt. 1 and Pt. 2 are the first two cassettes released by Mississippi Records' ongoing and ever-engaging Cassette Series.  The label has been the source of a variety of old America, international, and punk music pressed cheaply on vinyl with album sleeves often printed on the back of leftover sleeves from other albums.  Critics of the label point to dubious licensing practices, but bootleg labels are nothing new.  Their motto is "Always - Love Over Gold" and there's no question that their meticulously culled compilations and hand-made cassettes have turned on a lot of folks to music they may not have sought out themselves.

House of Broken Hearts is a collection of "Early R&B, Doo Wop, Rockabilly & Instrumentals" which has a collectively strange and wonderful quality.  I've separated the tapes into individual tracks.  Be sure to read the liner notes from Pt. 2 to learn interesting tidbits like Charlie Feathers was an illiterate and Bo Diddley was top of his Black Studies college class.  

"Themes explored include-- The wind as a symbol of longing & loss, death, & moving on to a better day in the bye & bye."


(Check in the Comments Section for legibly printed tracklists)

February 5, 2010

Possible Worlds: The Codex Seraphinianus

The Codex Seraphinianus is kind of like a textbook for a universe parallel to our own. Luigi Serafini, an Italian designer and architect, finished writing and illustrating the book in 1978. Strange diagrams and pictures accompany florid and incomprehensible text, which defied linguists and cryptographers for decades.

The book's overall feel is like that of a child reading books intended for adults.  It seems clear that the pictures and words have a consistency in meaning, but what that meaning might be is still lost on the reader.  The book was extremely rare for some time, costing anywhere between $200 and $400.  Library copies were very often stolen.  In 2006, a relatively affordable copy was produced and the Codex Seraphinianus was widely examined for the first time.

What seems clear is that Serafini was deeply influenced by the Voynich Manuscript.  The Voynich Manuscript is believed to have been written some time in the 1400s or 1500s and it too was written in a mysterious language and accompanied by strange diagrams and pictures.  It too seems to be an encyclopedia for an unknown world.  The most skillful cryptographers and statistical analysts in the world--from mathematicians to the CIA codecrackers--have worked to determine the manuscript's cipher with no success.  The smooth ductus of the writer's pen and the indentation of letters suggest the writer knew what he was writing.  Closer analysis reveals patterns in the words like that of a natural language.  It is theorized that the great court mystic, Roger Bacon, is somehow behind the Voynich Manuscript.  Though we don't know if he was the actual writer, he almost certainly had the manuscript in his possession for much of his adult life. 

Serafini's language, on the other had, appears to share certain traits with automatic writing.  Though the system seems undoubtedly complex, its lack of a coherent cipher, in this case, suggests that the letters were chosen at random.  Divided into eleven chapters, the Codex Seraphinianus illuminates subjects ranging from the biology of wonderous creatures to bizarre social practices and complex machines used by a variety of different humanoid races.

Serafini never put a great deal of effort into hiding his authorship of the Codex Seraphinianus. The surreal and often humorous depictions of natural and social dynamics seem intended to poke fun at absurd aspects of human social convention. Its bizarre illustrations have such a strange resonance with our own world. It reminds me of what fellow Surrealist Luis Buñuel once said when asked why he chose to make films: "To show we do not live in the best of all possible worlds."

Look at the entire Codex Seraphinianus online here.

Or download the book in PDF format here.


Serafini wrote another book called the Pulcinellopedia Piccola in 1983. I have never successfully found a copy of this book, but from the pictures I've seen, it doesn't seem nearly as interesting as the Codex Seraphinianus. Kind of looks like a crudely drawn black & white Mardi Gras comic book.

• More information on the Voynich Manuscript here.

• Look at the entire Voynich Manuscript here.

VA - Eastern Standard Time (2009)

One of the guys from Notwist compiled this collection of 60s and 70s Eastern-styled instrumentals from the likes of Egypt, Pakistan, India, Turkey, Japan, and Lebanon.  Highlights include "Dance of the Rice-Tresher" and the surfy "Aa Jane Jaan."  The most recognizable name here would be Egypt's Omar Khorshid, who's Magic Guitar has already opened a lot of Western minds.  Like the Waking up Scheherazade compilation from a few years ago, these songs seem to have been made with Western ears in mind.  Most songs are in the novelty or exotica vein, but they're all deep cuts with a real psych vibe throughout.  As one would expect from the Notwist affiliation, this compilation has some pretty unbelievable breaks. And for anyone who's heard the Sound of Wonder! compilation of Pakistani "Lollywood" songs, you might notice Shabaz Qualander's "Fore Thoughts" has the same melody as the opening title track.  I've found similarly lifted melodies in a lot of Eastern music. Traditional melodies from the Middle East get swapped with Southeast Asian ones, and everyone steals Western pop hooks.  But the songs never sound the same, even when it's a cover.  Many times the melody gets warped at the service of the new song.  It can be a weird and jarring experience.  Like a dialogue between worlds.

A1 - Layale Bourg El Hamam - Azef El Leyl
A2 - Mohamed Abdel Wahab - Sahara City
A3 - Baligh Hamdy - Gada
A4 - The Sheiks Men - The Belly Dancer
A5 - The Leon-Symphoniette - Dance Of The Rice-Tresher
A6 - Fore Thoughts - Shabaz Qualander
A7 - Terauchi Takeshi + His Blue Jeans - Edo Komoriuta
A8 - Sohail Rana - Saat Maatray
B1 - Faiza Ahmed - Nootet Al Daaf
B2 - Baligh Hamdi - Raks El Asie
B3 - Omar Khorshid - Guitar El Chark
B4 - Little Egypt - Snake Charmer's Delight
B5 - Les Mogol - Madimak
B6 - Naushad - Dream Ride
B7 - S. Hazarasingh - Aa Jane Jaan
B8 - Charanjit Singh - Jaaneman Jaaneman

link removed by bequest

Solitairy Confinement

February 3, 2010

AS MERCENARIAS - Cade As Armas? + Demo (1986/1982)

As Mercenárias were an all-female post-punk band from São Paulo, Brazil.  In their first two years as a band, Sandra Coutinho (bass/ backing vocals), Rosália Munhoz (lead vocals), and Ana Machado (guitar/backing vocals) were backed by IRA!'s guitarist Edgard Scandurra on the drums (seen above).  They recorded their demo with him and you can see him playing in the first video below.  Lou, one of the band's greatest fans, eventually joined the group, her biggest asset being that she owned a drum kit.  From then on, As Mercenárias were an all-female group.  They recorded their debut, Cade As Armas?, in 1985.  Clocking in at under 20 minutes, Cade As Armas? is funky, aggressive, shouty, and completely infectious; and surprisingly sophisticated considering few of the songs last longer than a minute and half.  On Trashland (1988), As Mercenárias further explored their unique take on post-punk with more sonic ambition.  The songs are longer and more textured, but it's uneven compared to Cade As Armas?  If you like Gang of Four, The Slits, Liquid Liquid, or Essential Logic, you'll like this even more.  Highly recommended!

As Mercenárias