The Monday Meme: Poor Billy

music-police

Source – Mr. B Natural via MST3K

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Concert Review – Kraftwerk (2015)

I know some folks see hundreds of concerts before they even graduate high school, but that was never really a part of my life growing up. At one point, I was even more into music than anything else (more than anime, sci-fi, or wrestling GASP! ) but I went through a few phases of changing musical tastes, and grew up poor, so my exposure to new bands and concerts was at the mercy of MTV and VH1. It’s only been in the past few years that I’ve had both the disposable income and friends that enjoy live music that I have been attending more concerts than I ever have in my life. I’m one of those guys that usually won’t go to the theater or see live entertainment by myself because, to me, that’s super lame.

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One thing I’ve especially been trying to do is see shows from bands on my “musical bucket list”, especially ones where band members are getting old, and it might be close to time for them to be retiring….or worse. I still feel sad that I never got to see David Bowie in concert, that is assuming I would ever have had the cash sitting around to do that when he was touring on a consistent basis, but the thought is still there that I missed out.

That’s why I jumped at the chance to see the legendary German electronic quartet, Kraftwerk, when they went out on a North American tour about a year and a half ago. Apparently, they had not been to Kansas City since the mid seventies, with that sort of frequency, this was basically a once in a lifetime show! Why didn’t I post about this then? Well, this blog wasn’t as open to this sort of topic then, and I wasn’t posting as much due to personal stuff going on. Now that Arcadia Pod is open to whatever I want to write about, I plan to review some concerts I attended recently as well.

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We knew we were in for a treat when we were handed 3D glasses. What IS a 3D concert anyway? we were about to find out!

 

 

When we were seated, a guy that I will characterize as an aging yuppie (as well as a gaggle of the drunkest and most-drugged out fiends he could find) looked back at my wife and I, both in our early 30’s (I’d assume they were 50-ish), and remarked at how confused he was to see folks our age at a Kraftwerk show. Indeed, Kraftwerk is ostensibly a band of the 1970’s and 1980’s, but they have been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember. Anyone that is a fan of electronic music, new wave music, or even hip hop music should know about Kraftwerk and their contributions as they were decades ahead of their time.

I recall many days in rural Kansas where I would watch educational TV on PBS; these were the days before I had cable, as satellite was the only real way to get anything other than local channels out into my neck of the woods. I watched PBS more than anything else, and I honestly credit that with the fact that I was slightly accelerated in a few topics in elementary school. A few of my favorites were an old show called 3-2-1 Contact, and another called Newton’s Apple, the latter having an amazing theme song that I loved.

I would later find out that this theme song was in fact, a song called Ruckzuck by a band called Kraftwerk that my mom had a few records by – most notably 1974’s Autobahn. I won’t pretend that I was enamored by the full length LP of Autobahn at that age, because it was far too complex and long for me (22 minutes for the title song alone!) but the band’s name stuck with me. It wasn’t until we moved to Kansas City, and got cable, that I would sometimes see Kraftwerk Videos on Vh1. I immediately fell in love with their sound. So yes, annoying drunk guy at concert – I do know who Kraftwerk is, turn around and let me enjoy the show!

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The biggest thing that caught my eye going into this concert was the promoter tagline and marketing listing this as “a 3-D concert”. “What does that even mean?” I said to myself, was this just a bit of marketing goofiness or was there really going to be a 3-D element to the show? Fast forward to us standing in line, and being handed small red envelopes with 3-D glasses in them (seen above). I knew that Kraftwerk usually employed giant media screens as a way to make concerts more exciting, as four guys standing at keyboards can be sort of boring, what I didn’t know was how much this 3-D was going to change the concert game for me.

Considering Kraftwerk also actively pretend to be robots on stage, a lot of stage charisma is sort of out of the question, they need gimmicks like this to enhance the music. Upon the opening few seconds of the song “Numbers” the awesomeness of this 3-D was made clear as the theater was filled with huge lime-green numbers floating in the air and loud cheers from everyone in attendance.

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This picture really doesn’t do it justice, I’d love for a home video release with glasses.

 

All of the songs (over two hours worth without an opener) were arranged in album suites with some featuring full-length cuts of longer songs such as Autoban and Tour de France. They opened with five tracks from 1981’s Computer World, starting with Numbers as mentioned above. this was followed by songs from Radio-Activity, Trans-Europe Express and more. Almost all of their major albums had some sort of representation here, minus the first two albums that were more “stoner rock” than the electronic sound they eventually settled on.

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The famous song Radio-Activity, got a new line added about Fukushima

This was the full set-list, honestly do yourself a favor and see this show if it continues past this leg.

Numbers; Computer World; It’s More Fun to Compute; Computer Love; Pocket Calculator; Metropolis; The Man-Machine; Spacelab; The Model; Neon Lights; Autobahn; Airwaves; Intermission/News; Geiger Counter; Radioactivity; Electric Cafe; Tour de France: 1983, 2003 (Etape 1), 2003 (Etape 2); Trans Europa Express/Metal on Metal/Abzug. Encore: The Robots; Aero Dynamik; Planet of Visions; Boing Boom Tschak; Techno Pop; Musique Non Stop.

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Perhaps my favorite Kraftwerk concert thing is where they take a break and are replaced by actual robots for one song.

One of the cooler parts of the concert, for me, were those small hints of improvisation that were sprinkled in from here or there. I know some folks try to bad-mouth acts like Kraftwerk and Daft Punk as being guys that press play on stage, but that isn’t how this works at all. you could tell that the guys were up on stage actually mixing samples and re-arranging things as they went. while it might have been tightly controlled German engineered chaos, it was still cool to hear.

The highlight of the night was probably Tour De France, there was just something about the mix of video and songs that I wasn’t really expecting. My favorite Kraftwerk album has always been Trans-Europe Express, and perhaps I have ignored Tour De France, but it really caught me off guard in a good way. Since this show, I have listened to it more because of the concert. Honestly the whole concert stood out as awesome, with no real dud anywhere in the set. The only let-down was when the lights came back on.

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Metropolis had the best video presentation

I will chalk this up as, perhaps, my favorite concert that I’ve ever been to. The attention to making this an “event” that you can only experience live was exhilarating, and I wish more bands would do stuff like this. this was a great show that is suitable for all ages, as there really isn’t any vulgarity or sexual content anywhere in their repertoire. That’s not a big thing for me, as I see stuff that’s definitely not for kiddos all the time, but it’s good to know that it’s out there without it actually being “for kids”.

Glancing at Kraftwerk’s website, it looks like they are currently in the middle of a long European tour – so if I have any UK based readers that have yet to see this show, I’d recommend seeing if it’s coming to your town in May. As for US readers, fingers crossed that it isn’t another 40 years before the robots come back to town. In the meantime, check some videos out on Youtube, that’s almost as good.


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Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground (2003)

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Soon to have a major motion picture coming out, figured I ought to read it!

I’ve been a fan of the largely underground strain of heavy metal known as “black metal” for around 17 years or so, but I fell in love with it for how it sounded rather than how it was created. In the late 90’s / early 2000’s black metal had, well there’s no better term, “sold out” and started to become mainstream, so it was largely distanced from the events that happened nearly a decade previous. The wall of sound, misanthropic minimalist themes, and the theatricality were all awesome to me, so I decided to do some research on some of the original black metal bands – whoops. The sort of music I enjoyed turned out to be comprised largely of extreme right-wing murderers and arsonists that had basically formed a nihilist cult and ran around committing crimes in a naïve quest to end Norwegian Christianity.

This book focuses on the culture surrounding the black metal scene in Norway between 1990 and 1993. This is a cautionary tale on how a group of impressionable kids fell into, what can only be described as, a cult and nearly brought Norway to its knees. The first few chapters give an outline of the progression of heavy metal from bands such as Black Sabbath, Coven and Black Widow to proto-black metal bands such as Bathory, Mercyful Fate and Venom, and finally to the early Norwegian black metal band Mayhem. Then about half of the book follows the exploits of Black Metal’s most famous record label Deathlike Silence Records, and the events leading up to the death of its owner, Øystein Aarseth, and the imprisonment of his murderer Varg Vikernes. Finally, the book chronicles the aftermath of the murders and church burnings and the media circus that ensued.

I have known about this book, Lords of Chaos, for years now, but have not read it until now. Luckily (for the most part) the book has been out long enough that a second edition was put together a number of years ago to delve into some newer information about its “protagonists” like Vikernes. Unfortunately, this allows the book to go in weird directions such as Vikernes’s descent into conspiracy theory, as he discusses, at length, about UFOs and how they influenced heathen religion. Some additions are great, but others like Varg’s tales of Atlantean Wars break the flow of the chapters up a bit too much and make me feel as if I’ve accidentally started reading a Zecharia Sitchin book. The authors try to stand back and let the subjects say whatever they please, they do make an effort to not let this book be a soap box for their political belief and are not scared to step in and contradict any falsehoods that may have been spoken in the interview process.

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One of my favorite parts of this book is a series of interviews that try to culturally place “satanism” into Norwegian society, and a conclusion seems to come up that paints this Norwegian strain of anti-Christianity as some kind of naive copy of the fictitious Satanic underground that was the boogeyman of America during its “Satanic Panic” of the 1980’s and 90’s. For those unaware, America and parts of Europe, were made into constant media zoos when people started coming out of the woodwork describing things like grave desecration, satanic ritual abuse, and ritualized murder by hooded members of a worldwide cult. This hysteria has been totally debunked at this point, and zero cases of any of this have every turned out to be true, but if you watched TV or read papers during that time – our world was a battlezone between Jesus and Satan 24/7. These kids, wanting to be Anti-Christian, may have taken this cartoonish “religion” and given it life.

I had read a few reviews of this book (on Amazon) prior to purchase and was worried because the general tone of the reviews was that this was some sort of Neo-Nazi book and that the author was somehow promoting the stuff said within. On the contrary, Moynihan’s neutrality towards the ideologies portrayed in the book means that they are not censored, but they are often directly criticized or it is often implied that they have the ideology of angsty children in editorial sections. In fact, this is written a lot like a newspaper article, most comments are left to stand on their own, and the author jumps in to tie everything together. I wonder of these reviewers have largely not read the book to be honest.

As a true crime book, I will admit that this book is not perfect. It meanders a bit, means little to those that are not in some way “into” metal music, and is written in a manner that is by no means top journalism. What this book does have is a treasure-trove of information, newspaper clippings, media reports, and images from a ten year period that has been infamous for many metal fans, and until a better book comes along this is the definitive history of this genre of music and all the baggage that comes with it. This is with Varg’s UFO tales and all.


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Update Your iPods! Check Out These Awesome Anime-inspired tracks from Peter Zimmerman

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One thing that often confuses folks about my musical tastes, is that I am huge into both metal music and 80’s New Wave music. I might wear metal shirts and a patch vest to concerts, but I almost entirely listen to Sirius XM 1st Wave in the car commuting to work. These are two genres that seem to clash a lot, but I can always make it work in my head, and that’s all that matters. In the past few years, I have been blown away by a “new genre” that goes by many names – some call it Outrun, Others Retrowave, or even Synth-wave. I would consider Retrowave (my preferred term) to be the logical conclusion of 80’s synth music if acoustic guitars and grunge rock hadn’t nearly sent the electronic synthesizer to music heaven alongside the harpsichord and lute. This isn’t merely a nostalgia kick like some regressive genres can be, yeah it’s there but a lot of this never really sounded the same way in the 80’s, and thankfully that’s not what it’s going for.

I plan to cover more Retrowave stuff in the future, so if you like this keep your eyes peeled!

So, the topic at hand is one artist I have particularly fallen in love with – a German musician named Peter Zimmerman. In particular, I absolutely love his re-toolings of anime themes, some that have been so drastically altered to be entirely different songs than before, and usually it’s for the better somehow. One of my absolute favorites (which I will drop the video below) is a remix of one of the songs from Akira (Kaneda’s theme) turned into an Italo Disco song. Akira has an amazing soundtrack on it’s own, performed by a huge musical collective called Geinoh Yamashirogumi. Utilizing percussion instruments like marimbas and xylophones, there really isn’t anything else out there like it unless you get some actually tribal music of some sort. Zimmerman has taken this track and altered it ever so much into one of the best things I’ve heard all year!

Another favorite of mine is this gem, a remake of the opening them for an old school anime called City Hunter. dubbed Mikkori Chan, this new version is very energetic.

Next up is a track using a song made up of a few different samples, but I believe the majority of it is also from City Hunter Despite the Bubblegum Crisis video here.

And I could keep posting these, but I’ll do just one more. This track is comprised of one of the themes for Megazone 23 merged with another from Venus Wars.

 

If you want more, check out the following links:

Peter Zimmerman on Sound Cloud

Peter Zimmerman on Bandcamp


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Doctor Who Dubstep Remix

You know, I actually don’t like most dubstep music, but this is pretty cool:

 

 

that and the video is funny!