Samantha Culp

Rockers & Romancers

Just a little sonic something for Valentine’s Day: “Rockers & Romancers,” a mix of luscious, vintage Jamaican rocksteady and soul. Lovingly collected by L.A. musician Spencer Dunham (of The Allah-lahs, another great recent discovery) when he was working the discount reggae bins at Amoeba Records, these tracks are a subdued tropical caress to a fevered or broken heart. Extra reverb makes them extra dreamy. Preview Tony Gregory’s stunning “Human” here – which at first sounds like it could be a rework of “Moon River” or “Sleepwalk” but then turns into something beautiful and new:

Human – Tony Gregory

Download the compilation here: Rockers & Romancers

Two bonus tidbits:

“The Bus Driver’s Face” – a short, mysterious Valentine’s Day story in translation from Jing Xianghai (鯨向海), Taiwanese poet, essayist and psychiatrist (via Asymptote Journal)

– A campy cover of The Cure’s classic “Lovesong,” as performed in a Bangkok bathtub by the effortlessly-fabulous Gene Kasidit (formerly of Bangkok’s defunct electro sensation Futon)

Electro-classical Fantasy Concerts by Hyejung Bae

A lovely series of posters by designer Hyejung Bae (Korean-born, Los Angeles-based) – they advertise imaginary concerts of electronic musicians playing classical composers, such as Kraftwerk/Mozart, YMO/Beethoven, and Pet Shop Boys/Haydn.

“hyejungbae says:

the concert is my imagination,
not happened

thank you”

See her more of her work here (via Dangerous Minds)

Yo Yo Ma is Cool

From the annals of unexpected graffiti, this gem. (via Eyeteeth)

Apidistrafly – New Music Video From Singapore Dronesters

Though the band Apidistrafly hails from Singapore, there’s no clue of their tropical island homeland in their latest music video, “Landscape with a Fairy.” Instead, the track off their upcoming release seems deeply influenced by their time spent in Japan – evoking the type of melancholy afternoon best spent in a Shimokitazawa cafe on the last day of autumn. For the new album, April Lee and Ricks Ang (the principals of Apidistrafly and also founders of the Kitchen Label) continue their longstanding collaboration with Japanese musicians/sound artists, in this instance featuring guests like Kyo Ichinose, Seigen Tokuzawa, haruka nakamura, and others, to create their trademark sound: a “flickeringly filmic mixture of ambient folk with gossamer-like vocal harmonies, guitar-based drone and environmental recordings wrapped in a delicate lo-fi haziness.”

The record/art-book looks like a beautiful object, featuring photographs and collages that explore imaginary landscapes such as “a secluded hilltop cottage, a forest hued in the splendor of autumn and distant, rocky shores.” I think we’ll see more Asia-based musicians creating unique physical manifestations of their albums, to supplement the disposability of download culture, and hopefully better sustain their creators. Some drones are too delicate for mere download.

Purchase/read more about the album here

Vacant World, Jacks (1968)

A track for the impending autumn, from influential yet short-lived Japanese band Jacks. More on their history here.

“からっぽの世界”, ジャックス, 1968
(“Vacant World,” Jacks, 1968)

03 からっぽの世界

Iranian Funk


Currently up at NPR is a great mini-set of 70s Iranian funk, collected by Egon of Stones Throw Records. It’s part of their ongoing Funk Archaeology series, and features tracks by some folks I’ve never heard (like the sitar-and-Afrobeat-infused Mehr Pooya and beach-psych-y Kourosh Yagmhei) as well as my old favorite, Googoosh (or Googoush, or گوگوش, all of which apparently mean “Swanhawk,” which is extra cool).


Back to Bass-ics


Street Legal

Yesterday up at Gulou, I finally got around to buying the new albums by Hedgehog (just released) and Ourself Beside Me (came out in January)… Only to discover a few hours later via the salivating tweets of more media-savvy Beijingren that Google China had just launched its free mp3 service, which, of course, happens to feature both albums.

Oh well – still nice to support an actual music shop, and made an additional purchase of some Cui Zi’en (崔子恩) DVDs I haven’t seen around before. A few years ago at HKIFF, Thai director Pen-ek Ratanaruang described to me his first exposure to Cui’s films as something like this: “I put on the tape, and was watching it until I felt I had to turn it off, but then I couldn’t turn it off… it’s so bad that it’s fascinating, and then it becomes interesting.” Intense paraphrasing going on there, but it sticks in my mind as fairly apt. The weird, self-conscious crappiness in the aesthetic and tone of “Withered in the Blooming Season” is kind of amazing.

The Hedgehog and Ourself Beside Me albums are available for streaming and download below. (Legally! Though the concept of something that is both “digital” and “legal” in China is still confusing to me.) I’m still making my way through them…


Ourself Beside Me “Ourself Beside Me”
(Loving the Rundgren/Barrett-by-way-of-Lisa-Frank cover art; also I’m amazed that they actually did use ‘Ourself Beside Me’ as the official name on it – they had barely decided it while my THEME article on them was going to press)

Hedgehog “Blue Day Dreaming”
(I wish time machines existed just so that Hedgehog could travel back to 1993 to appear on 120 Minutes, and we could now watch it on grainy Youtube VHS capture…)

From Vientiane to Beijing in Theme Magazine

As my last spurt of journalistic productivity before going on my present “sabbatical,” I have two pieces in the current issue of Theme Magazine (NYC). One is on Beijing band “Ourself Beside Me” (also known as “Ourselves Beside Me”; there is no definitive right spelling and I suspect the girls prefer it that way); the other on Thai television show “Dreamchaser.”

Profile: Ourself Beside Me, Theme Magazine, Issue 17, Nov/Dec/Jan 2008/2009 Eureka!

Theme: Dreamchaser, Theme Magazine, Issue 17, Nov/Dec/Jan 2008/2009 Eureka!