Found in P-Tunes & Video, the super-fabo vid/CD store on Chrystie Street in Manhattan featured in this blog's header image.
Anti-star Crowd Lu has, ironically, risen to mainstream popularity in Taiwan at least in part due to his bowl haircut, nerd glasses, and general dorkiness. He also writes very smart, catchy pop music. It reminds me a bit of Jonathan Richman, Alex Chilton and, golly, any number of mainstream 60s AM radio artists I can't remember at the moment.
Dude! Dudette! Take a stab at the first song on the playlist and then "Boring," which I think is the third.
I love it! With lots of special super dork emu rainbow glitter hearts swirling around (the love).
Found in a suburb somewhere in Gunma Prefecture, Japan. This was in the Japanese equivalent of a Wal*Mart, in the 300-yen bin. (About three bucks.)
Founded in 1995, Snail Ramp is one of many Japanese ska bands. And when I say many, I mean many-many! There was actually a whole wall in Shibuya's Tower Records filled with nothing but Japanese ska that rivaled the rap/hip-hop section at the old Kim's Video on St. Mark's. No exaggeration. When the Japanese decide to cover a genre, they totally cover it.
And cover it well. This is a freaking great record, ersatz tho it may be. But, then, since when has authenticity or purity, especially in the realm of pop music, necessarily led to anything more than earnest forgettable crap?
Found in the "World Music" section at Tower Records in Shibuya, Tokyo. An import from Malaysia.
Actor, singer, comedian, songwriter, screenwriter and film director P. Ramlee died early, at the age of 44, but had by then written, sung and/or played on nearly 400 songs. I know almost next to nothing about him, other than he is considered one of the icons of Malaysian cinema. I also know that his music totally, totally rocks.
Dedicated to twist-lover Brandon Downing, who was just interviewed about his great new book, Lake Antiquity, at Bomb, and another flarf peop, Chris Funkhouser, who lived in Malaysia for--well, I'm not sure how long he lived there.
Download ten songs from the CD in a single zip file here.
Is that not one of the greatest CD covers of all time? I really don't know how to classify I Love You Boyz. Parody? Hip-hop? Canto pop? They're all of this and more. I superamount hearts with colorful glitter love them, though their CDs are wildly uneven. But some of this stuff sounds like nothing else, unless you listen to a lot of WFMU, maybe. But it's more awesomely, if not stridently, pop. Or, they need a word all their own: Pawp.
Found in Brooklyn's Chinatown at my favorite local CD/video store near the corner of 8th Ave and 53rd Street (which has now become more of a bookstore than a CD/video place, alas). Four bucks. Four bucks!
I remember the day I got this (and a number of other CDs), afterward going up 8th Ave a bit to a Szechuan restaurant, and getting into this whole, complicated discussion with the waitress, who turned out to be the owner/cook's wife. She saw the bag my CDs were in and wanted to see what I'd gotten. So I spilled them all out on the table, she saw this CD, and blurted out: "Oh! Where did you get this?"
"Just down the street. You know that video store at the corner of 53rd?"
"They have it already?"
This led into a whole discussion about Cantopop and Hong Kong and how much she missed being there. At which point she sort of bit her lower lip and explained that she and her husband were, yeah, not actually from Szechuan, but Hong Kong, and had moved to the states--how many years ago, did she say? It must have been a while, because the CD is from 2004. So, if she thought it was amazing that the store had this CD already in 2009--well, you get the picture.
As she talked, I thought about the Robert Sietsma rave review clipping in the window of the place (had he used the word "authentic," and had it been, like several times?), and made a "twist-mouth" face.
Did they have dan-dan noodles? I asked.
She looked at me sheepishly, shook her head and sort of half-shrugged. "We're from Hong Kong," she smiled.
Found this totally kick-ass rap/hip-hop CD at the mighty Rashid Music on Court Street in Brooklyn, what I believe is the only surviving Arabic music store in Brooklyn. (There used to be at least half a dozen in Bay Ridge and Carroll Gardens I used to frequent.)
According to this article, Rayess Bek was one of the first artists to rap in Arabic, ca. 1997. According to his Web site, he just completed a doctorate in France and is working through the U.N. on an anti-war campaign with Frank Fitzpatrick.
I don't take the current situation in Thailand lightly. I had long ago planned to upload this CD, which I found in the previously mentioned Thai store in Manhattan's Chinatown--on Mulberry? Elizabeth? Below Canal, at any rate.
It is, to me, one of the oddest CDs I've ever picked up. Half of the songs--every odd numbered song, beginning with #1--is a Bob Marley cover, but sung in Thai. Every other song--the even numbered songs--are what I believe are original songs, also in Thai.
Surprisingly--or perhaps not so surprisingly--it's actually exceptionally well done. Having spent my formative years in the 80s in San Francisco and Berkeley, I was pretty sure that I never, ever, ever, ever wanted to hear Bob Marley again. That was admittedly before I knew there was a band in Thailand covering his songs.
It would feel crassly hand-wringingly holier-than-thou to dedicate this upload to the Thai protesters, so I won't.
In September 2008, I went to Minneapolis to do a reading with a couple of others in the Flarflist Collective at the Walker. The day after the reading, we wound up on a street that housed nothing but Vietnamese restaurants and video/CD stores.
After a great lunch, I popped into the video place next to the restaurant and combed the stacks as quickly as I could, finding, among other things, this fabulous collection of songs Hoàng Oanh recorded from 1960-1975. Of the 20-30 Vietnamese CDs I have, this is one of my all-time favorites, largely owing to Hoàng Oanh's voice, which never fails to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. She's amazing. I think, although I'm not certain of this, that she's still alive and living in southern California.
When Linh Dinh stayed with me last year during a neo-benshi festival that Brandon Downing curated, I pulled out my stash of Vietnamese CDs, begging him to please please please contextualize some of it for me. Which, graciously, he did.
Apparently, Hoàng Oanh was extremely popular in Vietnam, but largely outside of Saigon, where she was considered a bit unsophisticated or "country." I was very surprised by this, but assume it's true and that sophistication, like humor, doesn't always travel well from culture to culture.
I found this compilation the last time Nada and I were in Chicago, in an Indian book/video/CD store on Devon Street.
Rahul Dev Burman, better known as RD Burman, was the son of the famous and successful Bollywood composer, SD Burman, and the husband of one of Bollywood's most famous singers, Asha Bhosle, who sang more than 800 of RD's songs. Considered the last great innovator of Bollywood music, Burman took inspiration from anywhere and everywhere, and often used unconventional instruments, such as the bottles you'll hear being blown into in "Mehbooba Mehbooba," or--in a song not included in Momentous--water, being gargled by Asha as she sang.
Formally trained in his childhood, RD's music was all over the map, ranging from Bollywoodized Indian classical to rock to disco to funk to jazz to Bengali song to--you name it. He plagiarized shamelessly, always making what he stole distinctly his own. See, for instance, this Web page, which offers numerous samples of RD's music along with what inspired it. (Listen, for instance to "Mehbooba Mehbooba" next to Demis Roussoss’s "Say You Love Me." A clear case of lifting, but there's no contest as to which is the stronger version.)
He died fairly young--at 44, in 1994--at a time when his career was on the outs. But, in the 15 years that have followed he's gone on to become the single most remixed Bollywood composer of all time. Even younger people who don't know they know his songs, know his songs--or at least re-versions of them.
Given the breadth of his work, this CD is hardly representative, but perhaps a nice entry. Note: You may have to scroll up on the playlist, which for some reason seems to want to start you out with the 8th track rather than the 1st.
Found in a Thai gift store in Manhattan's Chinatown a few months ago. I can't remember the exact coordinates of the store, but it's midway down the block from Canal Street on Elizabeth, Mulberry, Mott ... or something else in that area.
This is absolute must-download material for anyone obsessed with the Sublime Frequencies series.
Download the 4 songs on the playlist in one zip file here.
"In the beginning, it is always downy, chewy and dressed warmly."
These are the first (of admittedly few) English words in the booklet that came with this uneven, but fabulous-in-places CD that I picked up after work this evening at P Tune & Video Co on Chrystie Street.
I know as much, or less, than you about this band. I do know that the CD was released decades after The Runaways' "Cherry Bomb" and at least three years before The Runaways/Joan Jett movie.
But, what do you think? Is this Taiwanese all-girl rock band a conscious nod or knock-off ... or flukey kowinkidink?
All I know is that the first song, "Guai Guai," or "Goody Goody," is some of the most amazing power pop I've heard since, well, since power pop. According to this, "Goody Goody" is their second of two CDs. I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for their maiden launch.
In August of 2008, I took a week off work for what I had hoped to be an uneventful "staycation." Unfortunately, I found myself, the Friday night prior to my week off, digging around in Chowhound. Nothing wrong with that. Except that this time I happened to stumble onto someone's Google map of every taco, quesadilla, tamale, burrito, and fresh juice truck parked in East Jackson Heights, Queens.
To the extent that my plans for the week involved nothing more or less than throwing my ass onto the couch and watching as many Hong Kong movies as I could cram into 168 hours, I was, to put it baldly, fucked.
And, though I managed to remain indoors glued to the TV Saturday and Sunday, sure enough, on Monday morning at 8:30 a.m. I found myself wide awake, making a transfer from the G train to the 7. By 9:00 a.m. I was in East Jackson Heights, or "EJH," sucking down the most glorious chorizo sopes I have ever managed to squeeze between my lips. Forgive me if I do not recount my tamale and quesadilla experiences that same day; this is a PG-13 rated blog, and I plan to keep it that way.
While wandering around EJH, I took a series of photos, eventually finding myself in a bit of hot water after I took a quick snap of a funky bookstore in a sort of Jackson Heights-y "mall" type situation.
"I know the LAW!" the bookstore owner bleated into my ear as he grabbed my arm forcibly, trying to wrest my camera away. Had I had my wits about me, I'd have explained that I, too, know the law, and that--whether or not my taking a photo of his bookstore was legal--his grabbing my arm like that was, technically speaking, assault.
But, no; I was groggy from all of the cornmeal, cheese, chorizo, and beans. I deleted the photo of his bookstore as he watched, and moved on.
Perhaps it was for the best. In my haste to put distance between myself and this rather unpleasant experience, I stumbled upon an Ecuadorian bodega that seemed to stretch all the way back to Ecuador itself. One entire wall seemed to house nothing but CDs, glistening hauntingly, wantonly beneath their shrinkwrap. Rubbing my reddened arm, I slipped in.
I knew, and still know, next to nothing about Julio Jaramillo. Googling him this morning, I see that he was one of Ecuador's most popular singers, comparable to our own Frank Sinatra. He died young (aged 42) in 1978, but by then had recorded more than 4,000 songs.
I have no idea what happened to the bodega where I found this CD. I've been back to EJH many times, but have not been able to locate it again. I can, however, if you are nice to me, tell you where to get the best chorizo sope you can expect to find in the 718 area.
Download CD here. (The first song starts out a bit muddy but clears up by the first 30 seconds or so.)
A summer or two ago, Nada and I flew out to Portland, Oregon, to visit family and friends in Oregon and California.
While staying with our friends Rodney Koeneke, Leslie Poirier and their son, Auden, I did a bit of Googling around to find a few comic book shops. I'd heard that Portland was something of a Mecca for indy and self-published things and, sure enough, stumbled upon Guapo Comics & Coffee (6350 SE Foster Road). Being a cafe, in addition to a comic book store, they were open bright and early (it was barely 9:00 a.m.). I mapped out my trip and was soon on a bus rumbling down Foster.
As we began to roll through a series of strip clubs and other seedy offerings, I spotted a rather large store with a sign reading THAI CAM VIDEO.
I pulled the "Please God Stop The Bus" cord and slipped out at the next stop, smiling at a young woman making her way into the strip club where, presumably, she worked.
When I entered the store, the (presumable) owner of Thai Cam Video (5230 SE Foster Road, 503-788-0967) greeted me and watched as I made my way over to the wall of CDs. "You like Cambodian music?" she asked. Here we go again, I thought. "Do you speak Cambodian?"
I gave my standard spiel about how "I am the kind of dork who goes waaay out of his way whenever possible to find 'obscure' little markets just like yours selling delights from around the world of a musical nature."
"Have you been to Cambodia?" she asked. It seemed she really wanted some other explanation.
"No," I said, "but I am going soon," I lied. (I'm going to Japan.)
After picking up a number of items, mostly things recorded on the Thailand-Cambodia border, I asked the shop keep if she had anything older, "say, from the 60s or 70s?"
She nodded and went to the CD wall, pulling down three things.
When I got back to Rodney, Leslie and Auden's place, Rodney and I popped one of the CDs into their ghetto blaster. It didn't work. (We later discovered it was a DVD or VCD.) The second CD did work and we walked out to sit on the porch as the amazing Cambodian music you'll hear on that playlist above filled the crisp late spring Portland air.
More than anyone I can think of, this whole blog has been inspired by, and is hereby dedicated to, the Koeneke-Poirier family.
Listen the mix above. Download the whole shebang here.
Every now and then, after months of trawling the same dozen or so bodegas and ethnic video/CD stores, a simple wrong turn down an unfamiliar street or alleyway can lead to discoveries of a musical nature never before imagined.
Such a misstep two or three weeks ago resulted in my stumbling onto the Mother of all Motherlodes of indy Hong Kong hip-hop and rock the city of New York has yet yielded. Yes ... I remember it as if it was just yesterday [wave-y "flashback" screen] ...
It was Friday, 6:15 p.m. I had had a horrific week at work and was both famished, not having had a proper breakfast or lunch, and exhausted. After hopping the 7 train from Grand Central over to Bryant Park, I leaped onto the first thing that came: a D train. Why? My train is the F. I had planned, in fact, to take the F not home but to the last stop in Manhattan, East Broadway, where I was going to march several doors down to Lan Zhou Noodles: I had planned to inhale a bowl of Pork Chop Noodles ($4.50) and a Coke ($1.00). But when the D train pulled up and the doors opened with a rusty smudge, I nudged my way in, pulled by an invisible force ...
My addled thinking was this: D stops at Grand Street. Striking distance to Lan Zhou. When I exited the train at Grand, I hurried down Chrystie, the sound of the dough being WHACKED hard against the marble table by the guy "hand pulling" them at Lan Zhou in my head. I could smell the thick broth of the soup.
Normally, had I been less famished, I'd have sauntered one block over to Bowery to hit my favorite two Hong Kong Video/DVD places, then turn left on Canal, where I'd pop briefly into the Vietnamese sandwich place to see what treasures lay in their dusty CD bins. But not this evening. I was ravenous. I was being "hand-pulled" to Lan Zhou.
But, wait--what was this? P Tune & Video Co the sign outside the Video/CD store at 75 Chrystie Street read. (See photo above.) I bit my lower lip. I ignored the growling of my stomach. I popped in.
Two and a half hours later I emerged from the store, an ungodly number of CDs now filling my backpack. I was dizzy to the point of hallucinating with hunger and hunched over under the weight of the CDs, inching along to Lan Zhou as though I had just come down from Everest.
I don't even remember eating the noodles. I'm sure they were great--they always are. I do remember suddenly realizing, once I was on the F train headed home that the sheer number of CDs was not something I necessarily wanted my wife to see. I had never been entirely clear on just how many CDs purchased in one outing would technically be "grounds for divorce," but I was clear that I wasn't interested in finding out. Using my apartment key, I began to peel the wrapping off a full 2/3rds of my purchases.
My plan was simple: Once home, I would "stealth" the unwrapped CDs into the growing pile on the floor near the CD case. My wife would see them, but not actually recognize they were new. Then, acting "normal," I would sit on the couch and unwrap the remaining third of the CDs as though that was all I had bought as Nada and I shared details of our workday and laughed or fumed about all of the various bullshit that had gone on in the poetry world that week.
In the months and weeks to come, I'll be featuring a number of the artists included in the playlist above--all of whom I found at P Tune--in individual posts. Until then, here's a smattering of context for what's there:
* The first song is actually the only thing included NOT by a Hong Kong artist. It's Taiwanese rapper MC Hotdog, who in this tune makes great use of what sounds like James Brown's "Good Foot" and a keyboard lick from Stevie Wonder
* Next up, the unfortunately named Ketchup (I say that because they're next to impossible to find via Google, for obvious reasons), covering an old Rebecca Pan song, Solid Gold Rickshaw
* I have no idea who the next act is, but I do know the producer's name: Gaybird. Fabulously breathy vocals, whoever it is
* Next we have the popular hip-hop duo Fama, from their CD "Money U Spend I Collect"
* Neo-rockabilly band Chicken Rice from their CD "Lucky 7"
* The Pancakes, "Abenteuer," from their (well, actually "her") first CD, "Les Bonbons Sont Bons"
* "Crazy Children" by LMF, or Lazy Mutha Fucka, Hong Kong's most notorious, and in many ways most thrilling, hip-hop band of all time
* A electric but still folk-indy sounding song from the most recent CD, "Poetics," by My Little Airport
* My absolute favorite song of the bunch, a cover of Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" by Hong Kong cinema superstar Anthony Wong
* "照做," from a recent CD by hip-hop band 24 Herbs.