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!
A reader from Russia named Lianna sent us this amazing animated video for a song called “Das Produkt” by the Russian Goth/industrial band Teatr Yada, whose name translates to ‘Theater of Poison.” We couldn’t find much information about them, but apparently their lead singer Yan Nikitin died of a drug overdose a couple of years ago. Which is too bad, because based on “Das Produkt” and a few live clips floating around YouTube, he was a talented singer and his band had an arrestingly creepy sound.
Besides the music, the other star of “Das Produkt,” obviously, is the animation, which is the work of a very talented Russian artist/filmmaker called Kol-Belov. If you have an hour to kill, we highly recommend deep-diving into his website.
We first learned about the pioneering synthesizer work of Doris Norton when we did a post last month about the Italian esoteric prog-rock band Jacula, for whom she played keyboards in the early ’70s. Turns out she went on to create even weirder and more cutting-edge music as a solo artist, always testing the limits of the available technology to create never-before-heard sounds. She even got sponsored by Apple in the early ’80s to create some of the first music produced using personal computers.
Over the course of the ’80s, her music evolved into what we recognize today as synth-pop and early techno. But her first three solo albums, Underground (1980), Parapsycho (1981) and Raptus (1981), featured some of the craziest synth experiments of her time (or any time, for that matter). Among other things, she tinkered with translating biorhythms, brainwaves and “psychic energy” into synthesizer music—hence the title of the track below, “Psychic Research,” from Parapsycho. (It’s not the full track, but since Parapsycho was reissued last year, all unauthorized tracks from that album seem to have been pulled from YouTube.)
Wayne Coyne, all is forgiven. We forgive you for dickishly slagging your recently fired drummer in a lengthy Rolling Stone interview. We forgive you for hanging out with Miley Cyrus. We even forgive you for At War With the Mystics. Because though we had our doubts (boy, did we ever have our doubts) about this Sgt. Pepper tribute album you and the Flaming Lips have been teasing all year, when the full list of collaborators was revealed yesterday, it was guaranteed to raise a smile. Brian Chippendale’s electro-noise project Black Pus on “With a Little Help From My Friends”? Maynard James Keenan and Puscifer on “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!”? Julianna Barwick and Phantogram on “She’s Leaving Home”? Count us in!
Even the non-weird collaborators listed on With a Little Help From My Fwends (as they’re calling the whole shebang) are, for the most part, pretty solid. My Morning Jacket and Dinosaur, Jr. main man J. Mascis should give “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” a welcome heavy-psych kick in the pants. The combination of retro-rockers Dr. Dog, rapper Chuck Inglish and lo-fi psych-rocker Morgan Delt on “Getting Better” is intriguing, to say the least. Tegan and Sara are a bit shrill for my taste, but presumably they’ll turn “Lovely Rita” into a lesbian folk-pop ditty, so that’s cool. I’m even prepared to hear Moby and Miley Cyrus’s work on “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” with an open mind, so long as Miley doesn’t get too carried away with any melismatic bullshit and Moby doesn’t transpose the whole thing into a major key and try to make it sound like a sunrise yoga class at Burning Man.
The whole thing is due out Oct. 28th and will benefit the Bella Foundation, which helps struggling pet owners pay their vet bills.
The complete list of tracks and collaborators are below, right after this version of “Fixing a Hole” by Lips side projects Electric Würms. Sounds like that hole still needs some work, guys!
The Flaming Lips 2014: With a Little Help From My Fwends tracklist:
01 My Morning Jacket, J. Mascis, Fever the Ghost: “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”
02 The Flaming Lips, Black Pus, the Autumn Defense : “With a Little Help From My Friends”
03 The Flaming Lips, Miley Cyrus, Moby: “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds”
04 Dr. Dog, Chuck Inglish, Morgan Delt: “Getting Better”
05 Electric Würms: “Fixing A Hole”
06 Phantogram, Julianna Barwick, Spaceface: “She’s Leaving Home”
07 The Flaming Lips, Maynard James Keenan, Puscifer, Sunbears!: “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!”
08 The Flaming Lips, Birdflower, Morgan Delt: “Within You Without You”
09 The Flaming Lips, Def Rain, Pitchwafuzz: “When I’m Sixty-Four”
10 Tegan and Sara and Stardeath & White Dwarfs: “Lovely Rita”
11 Zorch, Grace Potter, Treasure Mammal: “Good Morning Good Morning”
12 Foxygen and MGMT’s Ben Goldwasser: “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)”
13 The Flaming Lips, Miley Cyrus, New Fumes: “A Day In The Life”