Thursday, April 19, 2018

Listen Up: Charlotte Goes Experimental on 'Local Vibes'

Episode 39

Posted By on Thu, Apr 19, 2018 at 7:00 AM

For this special edition of Local Vibes, we're checking the pulse of Charlotte's more experimental, avant-garde and art-music leanings with a panel of adventurous local musicians who know how to tinker with different tones and musical ideas — electronic musician Angela Saylor (Minthill), experimental rock artists Lenny Muckle (Lofidels, Patois Counselors) and Bo White (Calabi Yau, Yardwork, Patois Counselors, others), and free-jazz saxophonist Brent Bagwell (Eastern Seaboard, Great Architect, Ghost Trees, others). All four create inventive music that helps keep the Charlotte music scene interesting.

They are by no means the only artists doing adventurous music in Charlotte, and below this story I've linked several works worth listening to by them and other local musicians, some of whom these artists have collaborated with at one time or another. I've also linked music by a few of the pioneering artists we name-check or allude to in this podcast, including Pauline Oliveros, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Ornette Coleman, the recently deceased Cecil Taylor, and Sonic Youth.

So open your ears and your minds to some different sounds from those we usually offer on Local Vibes.

And be sure to check out the Queen City Podcast Network, a new team we started up with four of the *other* best podcasts in Charlotte. Also, catch up with all our past episodes on iTunes or Stitcher, or just type "Local Vibes" into your Spotify search bar.


Patois Counselors (Bo White)

Lofidels (Lenny Muckle)

Minthill (Angela Saylor)

The Eastern Seaboard (Brent Bagwell)

Zodiac Lovers (Casey Malone)


El Malpais

Astrea Corp.

John Starosta

Craig Bove


Pauline Oliveros
Oliveros' musical philosophy focused on ideas like "sonic awareness" and "deep listening." Her early experiments with tape and electronics along with likeminded composers such as John Cage, Terry Riley and later the experimental rock band Sonic Youth, have had a long-lasting impact on music, notably musicians who work in ambient electronic music and electronic dance music.

Ornette Coleman
In the late 1950s saxophonist Coleman's quartet began making a kind of improvised free jazz that reflected the changing times — the chaos of the nuclear era — through sound. His self-described "harmolodics" sought to free music from its traditional tonal center, placing equal value on harmony, melody, speed, rhythm, time and phrasing. Some music traditionalists considered it noise; others took Coleman's ideas into other types of music, and Coleman became one of the most influential musicians of the modern era. This clip talks about the beginnings of Coleman's experimentation.

Cecil Taylor
Like Ornette Coleman, pianist Taylor, who died this month at 89, sought to free jazz and other kinds of music from traditional rules and structures. And like Coleman's music, Taylor's was criticized by traditionalists and hailed by artists seeking to explore different ways of making music.

Karlheinz Stockhausen
In the podcast, saxophonist Brent Bagwell makes a reference to Stockhausen's Helikopter-Streichquartet, which the avant-garde composer after he dreamed he was hovering over four helicopters, each carrying one member of a string quartet. The composer, known for his early experiments with electronic music, wrote, planned and executed the piece in the early '90s. This is a 2012 performance of the piece by the Elysian Quartet performing in Birmingham, England.

Sonic Youth
In the late 1980s, major record labels began signing some so-called "alternative rock" bands, one of which was the highly experimental Sonic Youth, which had been influenced by Stockhausen as well as other experimental composers such as Glenn Branca. When Sonic Youth's friends in Nirvana also signed to a major label and wound up recording a No. 1 album, Nevermind, in 1990, singer-guitarist Kurt Cobain began talking in the media about his more experimental influences. The result was that mainstream pop audiences were exposed to sounds they had not heard before. Watch Sonic Youth perform its "Bull in the Heather" on Late Night with David Letterman.

"Sonic Reducer"/"Golden Apples"
We began the podcast with Lenny Muckle's experimental mashup of the proto-punk classic "Sonic Reducer" and the Country Teasers' "Golden Apples." "Sonic Reducer" was first recorded by Rocket from the Tombs, which evolved into the experimental art-rock band Pere Ubu, and later recorded by early punk band Dead Boys. "Golden Apples" is on the Scottish indie art-punk band Country Teasers' 1999 album Destroy All Human Life. Below are both versions of "Sonic Reducer," followed by a live version of "Golden Apples" and finally the Lofidels mashup, "Aurum Reducer," for comparison.

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