quilt–a psychedelic folk-rock patchwork minus the cliche

her mom likes brightly colored flowers, so thi...

her mom likes brightly colored flowers, so this was a natural (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Psychedelic rock has been very influential in my musical tastes.  The genre reached a peak the year I was born, so I didn’t hear very much of it at the time, but as I grew older, the exposure I had to it left me wanting more. For me, it started with The Doors, but as I explored the sound more, I uncovered other groups such as the folk-influenced Byrds and Donovan, The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper album, and–two of my favorites from the era–Jefferson Airplane and Love. (It was probably ironic that, growing up, I’d heard of Jefferson Starship before their predecessor Jefferson Airplane).

While not a lot of people realize it, 80’s music had heavy influences in psychedelia.  The Bangles were quite open about their efforts to re-invoke the psychedelic era. The Bangles came out of a music scene in Los Angeles known as the Paisley Underground, which included retro-psychedelic bands such as Rain Parade, The Three O’Clock, and Dream Syndicate, and a number of other alternative-rock bands from the 80’s incorporated the style. Prince, with contributions from his backup band The Revolution, incorporated a lot of psychedelia as well.  The word “psychedelic” began to be invoked in other music scenes as well, such as Acid House, but these brought about the “psychedelic” feeling in a way almost completely different from psychedelic rock movement.

The problem with a genre such as psychedelic rock is that it lends itself to cheap imitations quite easily.  Kandy-kolored kaleidoscopes eventually become kliche. If you’ve heard one American try to play or imitate a sitar, you’ve heard them all. As such, few neo-psychedelic efforts have interested me since the 80’s.

I stumbled upon Quilt on while following the Mexican Summer YouTube channel. I like a lot of music that has been released through the Mexican Summer label.  Quilt’s sounds tends to involve more acoustic guitar picking than a lot of other psychedelic groups–not unlike Love’s greatest album Forever Changes. But what I found refreshing about Quilt is that they are willing to take the old genre in some new directions, and they manage to keep themselves sounding original rather than retro.

The band formed in the latter part of the last decade while students at the School of the Museum of Fine Art in Boston.  They released their self-titled debut album in 2011.  According to their page on the Mexican Summer website, all of their songs were a product of relentless jamming, but rather than hook an entire song on a few riffs, they were willing to take songs in different directions.  Also characteristic of their music is vocal harmonies among several members, particulalry group founders Shane Butler and Anna Fox Rochinski. Below are two tracks from that first album.


They released their second album Held In Splendor at the end of January 2014. The video for the album’s first track, “Arctic Shark” caught my attention when released late last fall (and was actually the first song by the band that I’d heard).

Now that I’ve listened to the entire album, I consider it to be remarkably strong for a sophomore effort. They are more willing depart from traditional song structures from this album, but not so much so that the whole effort sounds like a mess. They aren’t afraid of making abrupt changes in the middle of the song if that’s where they feel the song is going. They also incorporate a wider array of influences in their music, making the album sound very diverse. On the Mexican Summer website, Butler had this to say: “We’re really attracted to records where each song has its own voice. We wanted to focus on what each song had to say.” Such variety is one of the qualities that made Sgt Pepper such a great album, and while Quilt’s second effort is not epic and groundbreaking in the same way, I look forward to hearing more from this group in the future. Meanwhile, below are two tracks from Held In Splendor.

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the internet: a subsidiary of verizon?

Verizon Wireless "Rule the Air" Ad C...

Verizon Wireless “Rule the Air” Ad Campaign (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On 14 January 2014, a federal court ruling paved the way for internet service providers such as Verizon, Comcast, AT&T, and others to decide which websites you can and can’t access and which apps you can and can’t use.

This was in response to a legal challenge filed by Verizon last fall in which it claimed the right to “editorial discretion” over content travelling on its network.  The company spoke in court about its desire to charge more for some Web content and apps, threatening to slow down or even block sites and software makers that can’t or won’t pay extra to reach Internet users.

The following could happen as a result. This blog could be blocked for criticizing an ISP for its practices. Verizon can charge content providers for the right to have their content travel through its networks.  AT&T could block Netflix and force users to subscribe to another service instead. ISPs could kill Internet innovation by picking and choosing which Internet startups succeed and which don’t, or create an environment in which new online startups are marginialized due to being saddled with expenses that Amazon, Facebook, Google, and other startups didn’t have to deal with. ISPs could also monitor all of your Internet activity and sell that information to the highest bidder.

Lest you think that an ISP wouldn’t dare interfere with the Internet out of fear that it may lose business to a competitor, note that the vast majority of household have only one choice of an Internet service provider in their market.

The FCC, however, can reassert its authority in a rather simple way.  How? By reclassifying broadband providers as providers of a “telecommunications service” rather than an “information service.”  During the Bush Administration, the FCC classified broadband services as an “information service,” and the federal court ruled that FCC can only regulate “telecommunications services” (i.e. your voice telephone).  Given that the Internet is a significant means of communication for most people, this would appear to be a no-brainer. But the decision to classify broadband as an “information service” was arguably a politically motivated decision–the chairman of the FCC at the time that decision was made is now a chief lobbyist for the cable industry.

You can click here to put pressure on the FCC to reclassify broadband as an “information service.”  Please do so–while you still can.

 

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pete seeger–a class act and a reason not to paddle faster when hearing banjos

Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger (Photo credit: DoKwan)

Come gather ’round, club kids and pay attention. There’s someone you should know about. A piece of history died earlier this week. Someone as controversial as any rapper or rock star, yet someone with immense influence on musicians even today.

He was a political activist from an early age and sang union songs, and even songs supporting the Spanish Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. He performed with folk legend Woody Guthrie as a member of the Almanac Singers, but after a few years the group was blacklisted for their activism. In 1950 former members of the group reformed as The Weavers, and despite more conservative attire and more indirect social commentary, the group was blacklisted, and Seeger was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee. He refused to plead the Fifth Amendment and refused to name personal or political associations on the grounds that this was in violation of the First Amendment. He was convicted of contempt of Congress in 1961, and sentenced to ten one-year terms in jail (to be served simultaneously) but his conviction was overturned in 1962.

 

In any case, he continued to write songs. “Where Have All The Flowers Gone” was picked up by a new generation of folk artists, including the Kingston Trio and Peter Paul, and Mary. The latter version is one of the first songs I ever remember hearing as a child. Of course, I did not know the name or meaning of the song or who Peter, Paul and Mary were, but nevertheless, I clearly remember listening to it as a toddler while transfixed by my parents’ reel-to-reel tape recorder.

 

His song “Turn, Turn, Turn (To Everything There Is A Season” was taken almost verbatim from the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible and set to music, with a few extra lyrics added. It was picked up by the folk-rock group The Byrds, and reached #1 on the pop charts in 1965. (Some have argued that this song is the oldest #1 charting song in the world–if King Solomon wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes, then the lyrics technically would date back to the 11th century BC).

 

In the video below, Seeger appeared a cameo role in Arlo Guthrie‘s movie Alice’s Restaurant. In this scene, Arlo is visiting his father Woody Guthrie (played by an actor) while Seeger is playing music for him. Seeger and Arlo Guthrie end up playing together in a jam session. Seeger and the younger Guthrie performed together a number of times throughout the decades.

 

Despite writing songs about the Spanish Civil War and performing with Woody Guthrie, Seeger managed to stay topical in 2010 when he co-wrote a song about the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

 

I first learned of Pete’s passing from a post on Facebook from an East Coast friend of mine. Some of her friends had actually had the occasion to meet him, including one woman who at 17 had gotten lost on a hiking trail in upstate New York and ended up in Seeger’s living room. She described poetry being nailed to the trees on the property.

He died at the age of 94, but according to one grandson, had been active as ever ten days prior, chopping wood on his property.

 

 

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