Up the Downstair

Being a weeklie podcaste from Madison, Wisconsin featuring several remarkable curiosities therein occurring being a compendium of live music from divers artistes

Hear What You’re Missing

March 12th, 2015

Last week Vox posted an interesting article called “Listen to what gets lost when an MP3 is made”. It features the work of a Ph.D. student named Ryan McGuire who is behind a project to let people hear the sounds that are discarded when a song is made into an MP3.

The MP3 format can reduce the file size of a song as much as 10-fold, but in the process something has to be filtered out. Which sounds get filtered out of a song to make the file smaller was determined in 1993 by a group of European sound engineers who using songs like Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car,” and Vega’s “Tom’s Diner.” In 1994, MP3s became a public format and, after the advent and widespread use of the internet, they are now the primary format that most people listen to music in.

But what happened to those filtered out sounds?

Ryan MaGuire, a a Ph.D. student in Composition and Computer Technologies at the University of Virginia Center for Computer Music, created a project called “moDernisT” to find out. McGuire’s project pulls out those missing sounds and lets them live on their own.

According to the article “Tom’s Diner” by Susanne Vega was the first song to become an MP3. And here are the leftovers from that song after having been compressed.

It’s quite a bit more than I thought it would be. I figured that stuff beyond a certain frequency would have been lopped off but it really sounds like the compression process takes out a bit of everything.

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck

March 12th, 2015

A new documentary about Nirvana’s frontman called Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck will premiere on HBO on 4 May. It is an authorized production with Courtney Love and Frances Bean Cobain as executive producers. This means that director Brett Morgen was given access to home movies, diaries, sketchbooks, photos, recordings, etc. that had never been made public before. In addition to the interspersing the above with the typical talking heads interviews and concert footage, the movie utilizes animated sequences.

From what I’ve read, Cobain’s suicide isn’t addressed nor is the tale of how Kathleen Hanna’s graffiti inspired the title for the band’s most well-known song, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. These omissions and the fact that there’s no commentary from Dave Grohl owing to deadlines means that this won’t be complete in one sense or another; but Montage of Heck sounds like it will be a novel entry in the canon of rock star bios.

Folks here in Madison will get a chance to see the movie next month on the big screen as it will be at this year’s Wisconsin Film Festival. It screens on Saturday, 11 April at 6:30PM.

Here’s the trailer:

New Steve Hackett Album – Wolflight

February 18th, 2015

Steve Hackett has a new album called Wolflight due this spring. It is set to drop on 7 April here in the States. In advance of the release he has posted a trailer for the album. There are no whole songs included but I like what I hear in the excerpts and was surprised to find banjo ringing from my speakers.

Rhiannon Giddens on Letterman

February 18th, 2015

Rhiannon Giddens was on Late Show with David Letterman last week where she performed “Waterboy” from her new album Tomorrow Is My Turn. She’ll be here in Madison on 27 April at the Capitol Theatre.

Show #271: She’s So Unusual – Cyndi Lauper

February 17th, 2015

Today we have my next show featuring music by an artist profiled in Gillian Gaar’s She’s a Rebel: The History of Women in Rock & Roll and that artist is Cyndi Lauper.

lauper84 Show #271: Shes So Unusual   Cyndi Lauper
(Photo found here.)

I recall very well the days when one couldn’t escape “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”. It was all over the radio and MTV. One thing I do not recall, however, is Lauper being lauded as a feminist icon or as a symbol of feminine strength. It seemed that Madonna received all of those accolades with her frank sexuality which she seemed to be completely in control of. Gaar, on the other hand, notes that Lauper was featured in the January 1985 “Women of the Year” issue of Ms. magazine. Plus I suppose that a song celebrating masturbation, “She-Bop”, was a bold move back in 1983. To top things, off, Gaar says Lauper was avowedly feminist referring to remarks made toRolling Stone:

It was all traditional: the church, the family, the government. And you know what I learned? Those are the three biggest oppressors of women that will ever come along.

Apparently my memory is either failing me here or I never really paid that much attention to her career. My guess is that it’s that latter because I was not a fan of Cyndi Lauper’s dance pop with its synth bass, anemic guitar, and dopey faux percussion sounds. Her synth-pop was all that was wrong with 80s music to my mind. Plus her persona was of a quirky girl next door who liked to go out and have fun and not of a woman telling listeners “Hear me roar!”

Before I make a final decent into being a nattering nabob of negativity, I have to say that reading about Lauper in Gaar’s book elevated my opinion of her. I had considered her to basically be an airhead pop songmistress but came to appreciate what she did. I still don’t like the music, but think more highly of her approach. Plus I have learned that she mentioned Planned Parenthood at her concert here in Madison back in the fall of 2013 and that PP had a stand in the lobby.

The show today is Lauper’s concert from 2 May 1984. It took place at The Metro in Boston, MA at the birthday party concert for a local radio station, WXKS. This performance was broadcast on the radio, not surprisingly.


When You Were Mine
I’ll Kiss You
All Through the Night
He’s So Unusual
Yeah Yeah
She Bop
Time After Time
Money Changes Everything
Girls Just Want to Have Fun

Download show

Cyndi Lauper

Here’s Lauper doing “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” live.

You Won’t Have to Hit the Road For These Shows

February 6th, 2015

alabamashakes 2015 You Wont Have to Hit the Road For These Shows
(Photo found at MTVHive.)

Alabama Shakes have booked their first Madison tour date ever. They will be at Overture Hall on 17 March. Tickets (at $39.50) went on sale today. Opening will be Nashville’s Promised Land Sound who apparently sound like country, rock’n'roll, and soul. I shall have to check out their new album which is due soon.

therev 2015 You Wont Have to Hit the Road For These Shows
(Photo found at KEXP.)

The Reverend Horton Heat are coming to the High Noon Saloon next month on the 6th. Tickets are $20.

You’ll Have to Hit the Road For These Shows

February 6th, 2015

While there are some good bands coming to Madison this spring and summer, there are other tours that will be avoiding Madison like the plague, unfortunately.

rush 2015 Youll Have to Hit the Road For These Shows
(Photo found here.)

Rush is embarking on their R40 tour to celebrate 40 years of something. The band started in the late 60s, Neil Peart joined in 1974, and so I’m not really sure what it’s the 40th anniversary of this year. Anyway, this is slated to be their final large-scale tour and the closest stop is at the United Center in Chicago on 12 June. Perhaps if they do only smaller tours in the future, they might actually return to Madison.

primus 2015 Youll Have to Hit the Road For These Shows
(Photo found here.)

The Primus and the Chocolate Factory tour contiues in 2015. Again, Chicago is the closest stop with the band playing at the Chicago Theatre on 10 April. Perhaps with The Fungi Orchestra onboard, an extra large venue was required.

farrar hunt 2015 Youll Have to Hit the Road For These Shows
(Photo found here.)

Lastly, Jay Farrar has hit the road as well and he’s bringing Gary Hunt with him. Surprise, surprise! The closest stop is yet again Chicago with a couple of dates at the Old Town School of Folk Music on 25-26 April.

Minstrel in the Gallery is the Next Tull Remix

February 4th, 2015

The Jethro Tull remixes just keep coming. Next up is Minstrel in the Gallery.

minstrel remix cover <i>Minstrel in the Gallery</i> is the Next Tull Remix

There will be a single CD version, vinyl, and a “La Grandé” edition which features 2 CDs and 2 DVDs. Here is the tracklisting:

01. Minstrel In The Gallery
02. Cold Wind To Valhalla
03. Black Satin Dancer
04. Requiem
05. One White Duck
06. Baker St. Muse
07. Grace
08. Summerday Sands
09. Requiem
10. One White Duck
11. Grace
12. Minstrel In The Gallery-BBC Version
13. Cold Wind To Valhalla-BBC Version
14. Aqualung

01. Introduction
02. Wind Up
03. Critique Oblique
04. Wond ring Aloud
05. My God
06. Cross-Eyed Mary
07. Minstrel In The Gallery
08. Skating Away On The Thin Ice Of The New Day
09. Bungle In The Jungle
10. Aqualung
11. Guitar Solo
12. Back-Door Angels
13. Locomotive Breath

Other highlights from this multi-disc set include the obvious adds:

– Original album and seven bonus tracks (six previously unreleased), two mixed to 5.1 surround, and all to stereo by Steven Wilson
– Flat transfers of the original LP mix at 96/24 (plus Summerday Sands )
– Flat transfer of the original quad mix of the LP (plus Summerday Sands )
– An eight-minute film of the band performing Minstrel In The Gallery in Paris from July 1975

In contrast to the band’s previous deluxe edition remix extravaganza’s, Minstrel contains precious few studio outtakes. It looks like we’re getting alternate takes of “Requiem”, “One White Duck”, and “Grace”. Apparently there were no unreleased tunes sitting in the vault. Tull performed a few songs live from Monte Carlo where they were recording the album for the BBC. Abbreviated versions of “Cold Wind to Valhalla” and the title track appeared on Tull’s 20th anniversary box set as well as the 2002 Minstrel remaster. Here we get full versions of those songs plus “Aqualung”. Oddly, “Requiem” from that performance is absent.

CD 2 contains what I presume to be most of the band’s concert at the Palais des Sportes in Paris from 5 July 1975. “Critique Oblique” appeared on Tull’s 25th anniversary box set. The show was also filmed with a snippet of “Minstrel in the Gallery” being featured on the box set’s accompanying video release. Here we get the song in full on one of the DVDs. I don’t know what the setlist that night was and it could have been abbreviated for filming but the CD here is missing a few songs that were standard parts of the set. A lengthy excerpt from “Thick as a Brick” is in absentia as is “Ladies”, “SeaLion”, “WarChild Suite”, an instrumental version of “Reasons for Waiting”, plus soloing by Barriemore Barlow and Martin Barre. It’s early days and there’s no word as to why the entire concert video was not included.

I need to get a 5.1 surround system because I think that “Minstrel in the Gallery” and “Baker St. Muse” would sound fantastic.

Does anyone know how many other remixes are planned even if not done by Steve Wilson? “Velvet Green” would be amazing in 5.1.

Rhiannon Giddens to Release First Solo Effort

February 4th, 2015

giddens timyt cover Rhiannon Giddens to Release First Solo Effort

Carolina Chocolate Drops frontwoman, Rhiannon Giddens will release her first solo album, Tomorrow Is My Turn, next week on the 10th.

When the CCD were here last year Giddens mentioned a forthcoming solo album and the band played “Shake Sugaree” by Elizabeth Cotten which appears on Tomorrow Is My Turn. She related that much of the impetus for doing a solo project came from T Bone Burnett who heard her performance at the Another Day, Another Time concert in New York. He was quite impressed with Giddens’ voice and also with the audience’s reaction and so suggested she do an album to showcase her singing. Giddens agreed and Burnett produced.

You can listen to Tomorrow Is My Turn in its entirety at NPR Music.

While I hope that Giddens doesn’t leave the Chocolate Drops, she deserves whatever solo success comes her way. I would also opine that, should she depart, the remaining members should fill the vacancy and continue. CCD has reached the point of being less about who is in the band and more about exploring American musical traditions through an African-American set of lenses.

UPDATE: a tour stop here in Madison has been announced: 27 April at the Capitol Theatre. Tickets go on sale 13 February.

Madison. Cannot. Wait.

February 4th, 2015

swlive2013 Madison. Cannot. Wait.
(Photo by Amused to Life.)

This I did not expect. Steve Wilson will bypass Milwaukee on his American tour in support of his latest album Hand. Cannot. Erase. and instead play here in Madison at the Barrymore Theatre on 6 June. Tickets are $38 plus a $4 convenience fee. It is a general admission show. King Crimson did the same thing last year but I assume that was because Biff Blumfumgagnge needed a mid-tour conjugal break. Wilson is doing two shows in Chicago this time around so perhaps he didn’t want to do another only about 80 miles away. Still, you’d think he’d do the Chicago gigs and head out west to bigger venues. Well, whatever the case, I shan’t complain.

Hand. Cannot. Erase. comes out on 3 March here in the States. Here’s the title track:

And here is “Perfect Life”:

Wilson tends not to tackle pleasant, happy themes and Hand. Cannot. Erase. is no exception. He explained the concept behind the album thus:

“The basic story, or concept of the record – it’s about a woman growing up, who goes to live in the city, very isolated, and she disappears one day and no one notices,” he kicked off, noting that such a description is the briefest one possible and that “there’s more to it than that.”

Focusing on what inspired him to take such a road, Wilson noted that it all began after “seeing a film about this woman who died in London – it’s a documentary called “Dreams of a Life” about a woman called Joyce Vincent, who was found dead in her London apartment, and she’d been there for three years.

“Now, what’s really interesting about this story is that your initial reaction when you hear a story like that is, ‘Ah, little old bag lady that no one notices, no one cares about.’ [Vincent] wasn’t [like that]. She was young, she was popular, she was attractive, she had many friends, she had family, but for whatever reason, nobody missed her for three years.

Uff da! I like the two songs that have escaped via YouTube. They’ve got a sound that’s different from the jazzy/70s Crimson feel of Wilson’s previous album.

I hope to see you Madisonians at the Barrymore in June.

hce cover Madison. Cannot. Wait.

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