Honeymooners meet a Grateful Dead jam. “This is what a lot of us cats are wearing!”
“I thought people would be up in arms about pretending to be a black person,” Lurie said in a 2008 interview, “but people were more upset that I pretended to be an insane person.” –2013 John Lurie interview at eMusic
Something seemed fishy about the amazing 1998 The Legendary Marvin Pontiac – Greatest Hits release, on Strange & Beautiful Music. Who was this madman with the lyrical genius of Dylan meets Robyn Hitchcock meets crazy-guy-on-the-corner-by-the-bodega, and where did he come from? How did such an incredible record emerge whole cloth from an artist none of us had ever heard of? Then his biography turned up online, claiming that Pontiac had been:
The son of an African father from Mali and a white Jewish mother from New Rochelle, New York. The father’s original last name was Toure but he changed it to Pontiac when the family moved to Detroit, believing it to be a conventional American name … When his mother was institutionalized in 1936, the father returned and brought the young boy to Bamako, Mali where Marvin was raised until he was fifteen. The music that he heard there would influence him forever.
Plausible? Almost sorta kinda. But why did Pontiac’s voice sound like a more blues-drenched version of New York jazz musician/painter/actor John Lurie (Lounge Lizards)? Oh… because Pontiac was Lurie! Realizing that the whole Pontiac thing was a ruse didn’t diminish the magnetism of that record for me though – it amplified it if anything. Went looking for more, but that was it — just the one audio scrapbook.
Until now. Pontiac (who was supposed to have been killed by a bus in 1977!) just dropped a follow-up recording, The Asylum Tapes, allegedly recorded on a donated 4-track deck while he was confined in the Esmerelda State Mental Institution. This time it’s Lurie solo (the first collection was recorded with John Medeski, Billy Martin, G. Calvin Weston, Marc Ribot), but it’s raw, weird, soulful and full of demented wonder.
New Yorker: So what’s Lurie up to with this project? I suppose it’s no more mischievous, really, than an actor singing in character, and many of our most prized artworks goof around with form, testing the permeable membrane between fact and fiction, between art and something else. … Our hunger for the authentic or the unmediated has mostly begotten us a cavalcade of deeply unreliable things, such as Donald Trump, laminate flooring, fake-fake news, artisanal moonshine, and reality television.
Reportedly Marvin’s music was the only music that Jackson Pollack would ever listen to while he painted. This respect was not reciprocated.
Not sure The Asylum Tapes will get us any closer to answering hard questions about how Pontiac ended up in the bughouse, but it’s deep, beautiful, soulful, sort of funny, and totally worth your time. Available for streaming on iTunes, Spotify, etc.
Frustrated that your carefully crafted system of track ratings and Smart Playlists won’t sync to iCloud Music Library? I found a workaround and just posted on Medium: “Stars vs. Hearts in iCloud Music Library”
Apple Music + iCloud Music Library is a brilliant pairing, and finally lets us access our personal music collections from anywhere. But it’s not without its warts – duplicated tracks and bad/missing cover art has been a sore spot for iCloud Music Library users since the service launched. In my first piece for Medium.com, I walk readers through the reasons – and the fixes – for those two problems.
Hunter’s Trix is an incredible (and very large) collection of “matrix” recordings of some of the best Grateful Dead shows. The series is produced and mixed by Jubal Hunter Seamons and includes CD cover artwork for each volume/show.
A “matrix” involves taking a high-quality soundboard recording and merging (matrixing) it with one or more audience recordings (Auds) of the same show. The resulting matrix brings you the maximum fidelity of the soundboard source and the ambience/electricity of being in the audience at the same time.
There are more than 100 Hunter matrixes being traded as legal torrents on etree.org.
Unfortunately, there are two problems: 1) They’re all in FLAC format, instead of Apple Lossleess (ALAC). Since most people use iTunes, this means most people must go through a manual transcoding process; 2) The first 94 shows are missing embedded metadata and cover art (the cover art is beautiful). I’m obsessive about having perfect metadata and cover art in every single track in my collection, which meant manually copying and pasting metadata (including track and disc numbers, show dates and venues, track and album titles, etc.) from text files in the download directory into individual track files. It was taking 20+ minutes to process each album. So I decided to automate the process with this python script.
I had originally planned to share the completed ALAC versions of the collection back to the community, but Hunter talked me out of it. So I’m doing the next best thing here and sharing the conversion script. With everything installed and working, I was able to cut the processing time down from ~20 minutes per recording to 1 minute. The final results are added to your iTunes collection automagically.
Git it here: https://github.com/shacker/trix
I once spent several years digitizing my LP and CD collections, along with those of many friends. For every album for which cover art was not retrieved automatically by iTunes, or that couldn’t be found at a decent quality/resolution on Google Images, I photographed or scanned the covers myself.
Whether you’re talking about LPs or MP3s, people have really different ideas about what constitutes “the ultimate music collection.” For some, it means a process of endless refinement, boiling down a set of music to the purest essentials: All signal, no noise. For others, it’s an archival process (“Why have one Bix Biederbeck CD when you could have 23?”)
It’s possible to have the best of both worlds: Maintain a large collection so you have access to everything, but create a playback system so you only end up hearing what you truly love.
I’ve been an eMusic subscriber for nearly a decade. I’ve spent a good deal of my spare time over the past four years digitizing my entire record collection, followed by my entire CD collection, followed by the large CD collections of six record-collecting friends (one of which alone was basically the Musical Library of Alexandria). All told, I’ve managed to amass a collection of ~120,000 tracks spanning ~9,100 albums, mostly in lossless format, and all with high-quality album art.
The accreted set now weighs around 2.25 terabytes – large enough to have “special needs.” Over the past four years of building the collection, I’ve picked up a few tips. Thought I’d share some of the most useful bits here, in case anyone finds them helpful.
Love it or hate it, iTunes has enough traction to be considered the “default” music player for almost everyone, so I’m going on the assumption that it’s your player too. If you use something else, power to you! Everything below assumes you use iTunes 11 or 12.
This guide is split up into four major sections:
- Remote Control (Playback techniques)
- Miscellaneous iTunes Tips (Rare B-sides)
- Digitization Notes
- Building a Server
This version of tUnE-yArDs “Hatari” doesn’t get nearly enough love. Better than the version recorded on BiRd-BraInS, IMO. Just the right mix of low-tech avante and sophisticated. Merril Garbus, as always, a force of nature.
My son and I playing ping-pong against the woefully out-of-tune strings of my grandmother’s 1920s zither.
The record collector’s eternal dilemma: Is the goal of collecting to capture every memorable moment in music, to become a librarian of excellent sessions, to sweep through the entire span of recording history leaving nothing worthwhile behind, even if it means an immense collection one can never possibly hear, given the realities of allotted listening time?
Or is the goal to relentlessly cull and distill and hand-pick the very best of the best, so that the collection represents your absolute true favorites, with no fat, no waste, no extra trimmings. Just pure “I love this the most” music and nothing else? The result there is that you are forced to leave so much great much great music on the cutting room floor, but end up with a collection you can realistically wade through given a few hours of listening per day?
I have swung both ways on this one.