Some of my best friends are Christians. Some of my best friends are also heathens and Satanists, so cocktail party conversation at my place can get pretty interesting. But to my Christian friends, I just want to say: When I proceed to make fun of the video I’m about to show you, I’m not making fun of all Christians. Just the ones with bad pitch and dorky breakdance moves.
This video is from a New Agey Christian ministry based in Ohio called The Way International. On YouTube, it’s marked copyright 2007, so I really hope it was actually made in 2007, because that would make it even more awesome. As it is, it seems like the kind of thing that was probably done in the early ’90s when white people from Ohio were just discovering synthesizers and breakdancing, but who knows? Maybe the folks at The Way International took a bit longer to catch on to such innovations.
Actually, you know what? I’m not even gonna make fun of this video. I’m just going to show it to you, because it’s the kind of thing that speaks for itself. And speaks for itself with a really dramatic echo effect.
Another Weird Band Poll is in the books here at Weird Band HQ, and the band poppin’ bottles this time is from right here in our hometown of Los Angeles. So give an imaginary high-five to L.A.Drones! I wasn’t shouting, by the way…their name has an exclamation point at the end. Just thought I’d clear that up.
L.A.Drones! (not shouting, I swear) are a synth duo who perform wearing black bandit masks because one version of their name, “ladrones,” means “thieves” in Spanish. And because, as they told us, “we steal samples from the music we like.” I thought that was pretty much every synth band these days, but maybe L.A.Drones! are more thievish than most.
In another version of their name, it means “Los Angeles drones,” which could be a reference to the droning sound of their music, or the fact that we Angelenos increasingly live in a police surveillance state. Seriously, the cops here have drones. Which are supposedly not in use at the moment, but if there’s one thing every halfway intelligent American just learned in the wake of all that shit that went down in Ferguson, it’s that we should not trust our local police forces with all their new high-tech gadgets. You may as well give a box of fireworks to a bunch of 10-year-old boys and say, “Now you be sure to find a grown-up and get permission before you light these.”
Anyway, where was I? Oh, right. L.A.Drones! So far, the duo of Vulcanito and Tormentas Gonzalez has only released one track, an ass-shaking little jam called “Horrible Dreams,” which you can watch in the performance clip below and also buy on Bandcamp for less than a cup of gas station coffee.
When we asked if they had any other songs, Vulcanito explained that L.A.Drones! really has to be experienced live. “Horrible Dreams” is just the first part of a 45-minute “capsule” of music called “The Dreamlike World of the Midnight Walker,” which they never perform the same way twice, and any versions of it they release online will just be recorded live in the studio. They’re working on other “capsules” of music, each of which will be played at a different BPM. “Midnight Walker” is at 127 BPM, apparently.
Here’s a live clip of the second part of “The Dreamlike World of the Midnight Walker,” which is called “Give Up.” Musically, they’re not the weirdest band we’ve ever featured, maybe. But I do dig that their music is kind of freeform and dancey at the same time, and the whole concept of an electronic act that never plays anything the same way twice. Some of the “live” dance music acts Andy’s dragged me to over the years should really take a page from that playbook.
So congrats again to L.A.Drones! for winning the poll. I believe that makes them the first L.A. band ever to win a Weird Band Poll. About damn time somebody represented!
Polish dance music is an endless fount of weirdness, at least to those of us who aren’t Polish. One of these days we’ll devote an entire post to the accordions-on-ecstasy subgenre called disco polo, but in the meantime, we’d like to share with you another Polish dance-pop artist called MC Diva. We discovered her via an online article called “Short Guide to Four Decades of Disco” (warning: it’s not actually that short) on the very cool website Culture.pl, a guide to all things artsy in Poland. (Shout-out to Kasia from Culture.pl, who wrote to us and shared the article.) That article describes MC Diva’s sound as “power dance”:
No one made [power dance] more popular than MC Diva (Krystyna Stolarska). Her music brought together European hi-nrg from the label ZYX Records and American dance hits. She was a Polish star but she also had followers in the U.S. She performed with DJ Bobo, Fun Factory and E-Rotic. The Polish element in “Dziewczyna z St. Pauli (Girl from St.Pauli)” is the subversive violin.
I don’t know if I’d call the violin on this track (played by Stolarska herself) “subversive,” but it sure is fun. And the video, in which the Diva dances around with buff shirtless dudes, looking like the Polish Sandra Bernhard, is even more fun. (The song and video, by the way, appear to be from around 1994 or ’95, although we couldn’t pin down the exact release date.)
Today’s weirdness was passed along to us by reader Mateusz. Merci, Mateusz! Robotnicka are (or were—it’s not clear whether they’re still together) a French synth-punk quartet active in late ’90s and early ’00s, fronted by a bundle of spazzy energy in a cow hood named Zeseal Goubet. Not much information about them is available online, except for an official bio that’s fun to read (“the singalong dancetrack to the fall of corporate empires and fascist governments”) but short on actual biographical details. They seem to have released one album in 2004 called Spectre en Vue, which includes this delightful little lo-fi dance jam, “Discowgirlz.” The video features trash monsters, so if you’re afraid of cardboard, you may want to avert your eyes.
As obscure as it is, you can actually buy Spectre en Vue in CD form from Amazon.
Good news for Primus fans who like reading and stuff: Tomorrow marks the arrival of the awkwardly titled but sure to be awesome Primus: Over the Electric Grapevine: Insight Into Primus and the World of Les Claypool, the first oral history of the influential, bass-slappin’, beaver-ticklin’ alt-rock legends. We’re supposedly getting our mitts on a review copy soon, so we’ll provide more details then. All we can tell you right now is that it was compiled by journalist Greg Prato and features interviews with all the major players in Primus—Les Claypool, Larry LaLonde, Tim “Herb” Alexander, Jay Lane, Bryan Mantia and Todd Huth—as well as friends, fans and occasional collaborators like Trey Anastasio, Stewart Copeland, Tom Morello, Geddy Lee, Kirk Hammett, Tom Waits, Chuck D and Hank3. You can pre-order a hardcover or Kindle version here.
In other Primus news: On Friday, they released another track from their forthcoming Primus & the Chocolate Factory, their tribute to the music of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, due out Oct. 21st on ATO Records. “Golden Ticket” turns the light-hearted original into a primal space-blues stomp—but in a light-hearted way. Les even whistles at one point. Yep, even by Primus standards, this one’s clearly gonna get pretty weird.
Reader Eddie sent us a link to this video by an all-female ’80s group from New York called Pulsallama, a short-lived art-punk ensemble made up almost entirely of percussionists, plus some bass guitar and the occasional horn line (because this was the ’80s, after all). According to their Facebook page, their sound was sometimes described, pretty accurately, as “13 girls fighting over a cowbell” (though they eventually slimmed down to a svelte seven-piece). After opening for The Clash and releasing a couple of singles, they disbanded in 1982.
This song, “The Devil Lives in My Husband’s Body,” was a minor college radio hit, which is just further proof of something we’ve been saying for years: The ’80s were an awesome time for weird music.
If you want to learn more about Pulsallama, fringe culture experts Dangerous Minds (who else?) have a great summary of the band’s brief career.
Bay Area noise-rockers Deerhoof were in a pretty festive mood on their last album, 2012’s Breakup Song, and it sounds like they’re going to keep the party raging on their next LP. Due out Nov. 4th on Polyvinyl, it’s got the Madonna-evoking title La Isla Bonita—and while neither track released from it so far could be mistaken for Madge’s 1987 foray into Latin pop, they’re both downright pop-tastic by Deerhoof standards. In fact, we love ‘em so much we’ll include them both in this post, before we tell you about the ‘Hoof’s fall tour dates.
First up: “Exit Only,” a stomping, punk-rock rave-up:
Next, “Paradise Girls,” which I guess you could describe as Deerhoof’s version of a feminist empowerment anthem. Girls who are smart and/or play the bass do indeed rule. Satomi Matsuzaki oughta know, ’cause she’s both.
La Isla Bonita is available for pre-order now from the Polyvinyl website. Now here are those tour dates we promised you. See you at the Troubadour!
Deerhoof National Tour Dates:
11/4: Brooklyn, NY @ Baby’s All Right (w/ Tim Barnes, Xenia Rubinos)
11/5: Brooklyn, NY @ Baby’s All Right (w/ Assembly, Zannie Owens w/ Mount Yucca)
11/6: Brooklyn, NY @ Baby’s All Right (w/ White Reaper, Trans Am)
11/7: Falls Church, VA @ State Theatre (w/ White Reaper, Xenia Rubinos)
11/8: Charlottesville, VA @ The Southern (w/ White Reaper, Xenia Rubinos)
11/9: Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer (w/ White Reaper, Cibo Matto)
11/11: Chicago, IL @ Bottom Lounge (w/ White Reaper, Priests)
11/12: Kalamazoo, MI @ Louie’s Back Room (w/ White Reaper, Priests)
11/13: Toronto, ON @ Lee’s Palace (w/ White Reaper, Priests)
11/14: Montreal, QC @ Cabaret Piccolo Rialto (w/ White Reaper, Priests)
11/15: Pawtucket, RI @ The Met (w/ Priests, Lightning Bolt)
11/17: Los Angeles, CA @ The Troubadour (w/ Go Dark, Crystal Skulls)
11/18: San Francisco, CA @ Great American Music Hall (w/ Go Dark, Crystal Skulls)
11/20: Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge (w/ Go Dark, Busdriver)
11/21: Seattle, WA @ Neumo’s (w/ Go Dark, Busdriver)
11/22: Vancouver, BC @ Fortune (w/ Go Dark, Busdriver)
I’m sure every reader of this blog is quite familiar with Iceland’s most famous musical export, the elfin creature with the powerhouse voice called Björk. In fact, I think a substantial percentage of you folks out there in Readerland have decried our failure to include Ms. Guðmundsdóttir on the Weird List. To which we say: Don’t worry, she’ll wind up on there eventually. We work in mysterious ways.
In the meantime: Since we live in busy times, we thought it was worth posting this video for “Mutual Core,” a song off her most recent album, 2011’s Biophilia, in case some of you missed it the first time around. Directed by an extremely talented young filmmaker named Andrew Thomas Huang, who has a genius for transforming the human body into inorganic materials and vice versa (his short film “Solipsist” is maybe even more amazing in this regard than “Mutual Core”), his visuals and Björk’s lyrics and dubstep-tinged music transform the geologic forces of plate tectonics into some kind of freaky-deaky mating ritual of the earth gods. Not even Neil deGrasse Tyson could make science this sexy.
You all know where to find more Björk on the Internets, I’m sure. But if you want to see more of Huang’s work (including videos for Sigur Ros and Thom York’s Atoms for Peace, as well as a cool “making of” video for “Mutual Core”), here’s his website.
We’re cheating a bit with this week’s “band,” which is really more of a multimedia art project. But music is an integral part of the Japanese “art unit” Maywa Denki, so we’re giving them a pass.
Maywa Denki specializes in creating what co-founder Novumichi Tosa calls “nonsense machines”: mechanical objects that may or may not serve some useful purpose, but achieve that purpose in absurd or impractical ways. Their most famous creation, which Novumichi is brandishing in the above photo, is a note-shaped musical instrument called an otamatone, a made-up Japanese word that sounds (intentionally, we presume) quite a bit like “automaton.” You play the otamatone by sliding one finger up and down the instrument’s neck to hit specific notes, while squeezing the instrument’s “mouth” to control volume, tone and pitch. They come in various sizes and, in the right hands, can be made to produce all sorts of different (but always vaguely silly) sounds:
Maywa Denki has mass-produced some smaller versions of the otamatone, which has helped spread its popularity and led to some pretty great YouTube videos by other musicians. But the otamatone is just the tip of the nonsense machine iceberg. Maywa Denki has an entire product line called Tsukuba dedicated to ridiculously elaborate (but, usually, easy to play) musical instruments, like a set of six guitars played via a pedal organ and a “rhythm-making machine” that’s basically just a series of on/off switches attached to a turntable, all of which can be worn like a keytar.
Most of Maywa Denki’s larger instruments haven’t been mass produced, for obvious reasons, but Novumichi and his brother, Masamichi, occasionally take their nonsense machines out for concerts—or, as they like to call them, “product demonstrations.” Dressed in DEVO-like matching blue jumpsuits, the Tosa brothers and their assistants put a dizzying array of different machines through their paces in the service of creating music that is, surprisingly, pretty catchy and accessible. Videos don’t quite do the whole spectacle justice, but this Slovenian clip is one of the better ones we could find:
More recently, Maywa Denki have launched their own fashion line, Meewee Dinkee. Naturally, they produced an indecipherably bizarre video to promote it:
Sadly, most of the coolest pieces in the fashion line are already sold out. But we have no doubt the brothers Tosa are already hard at work on their next art “products.”
Our thanks to reader Frederick for posting the Meewee Dinkee video on our Submit a Band page and sending us plunging down the Maywa Denki rabbit hole. We’d like to dedicate this otamatone video to you, sir!