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Listed: Menomena + Tarentel

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Dusted Features

Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists compiled by our favorite artists. This week: Menomena and Tarentel.



Listed: Menomena + Tarentel


Menomena

If there's one thing to be said for Menomena, it's that their website (www.menomena.com) is one of the odder places to be found on the Modern Internet. If there's another (and certainly, there are a least a few), it's that their debut, I Am The Fun Blame Monster (FILMGuerrero) is one of the more endearingly odd records to come out this year. From their seizure-inducing bio/1-sheet (available at their website) to their skittishly soothing songs, this trio's music would not be out of place with much of this quarter's various Canadian future stars. However, a unique fidelity and calming sense of melody and, well, general off-beatness helps to set this Portland trio apart from their fellow 8.5 and ups. Drummer Danny Seim participated (quite loosely) in this week's Listed.

(in no particular order of importance):
1. Talking Heads - "Once in a Lifetime"
There aren't many things that I can listen to over and over without eventually feeling bored and/or annoyed. Even "Sports" by Huey Lewis and the News gets a bit predictable by the fiftieth or sixtieth consecutive listen. However, track #4 on Remain in Light has a way of making time stand still every single time I hear it... Even when it plays on the Muzak system at Payless Shoes (this has actually happened). And I don't care if it's the "hit single" on the album, dammit!

2. Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth - "They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)"
This song was released at a critical time in my life where I was moving away from liking rap music specifically because of the genre's unprecedented ability to collect the most "Parental Advisory - Explicit Lyrics" stickers on its releases. After being literally moved to tears by the lyrical depth and personal subject matter of "T.R.O.Y.", I went back and actually listened to words OTHER than "fuck", "bitch" and "pollywanacraka" on the other rap albums I owned. This lead me to permanently cherish Fear of a Black Planet and eventually sell Bag it and Bone it.

3. UHF
My favorite movies up until August 12, 1992 were Back to the Future, Wayne's World and Herbie Goes Bananas.
During the summer that Nirvana was altering the course of music forever, I was exclusively listening to DC Talk ("DC" stands for "Decent Christian", and the group's best song features this chorus sung in perfect, non-ironicharmony, "We're just two honks and a negro serving the Lord!") and UB40. My big sister was home for a college break. I always loved to go to the theater with her because she occasionally took me to movies that were rated PG-13 (I was almost 16 at the time) such as Captain Ron. We never told our parents. On this particular visit, she rented a movie that she said I HAD to see. The movie was UHF, and it altered the course of my life forever. Among other things, it was the first movie that made me wet my pants from laughing. There have been other embarrassing moments involving humorous movies and my weak bladder since then, but UHF holds the distinct title of The Only Movie to Make Danny Pee His Pants on MORE THAN ONE OCCASION. UHF was also my first Ebay purchase, when I forked over almost $60 for the tattered, worn VHS cassette after an hour of frenzied bidding. A few weeks later I bought the DVD brand new for $6.99 in the clearance bin at Target. Watching it now gives me the slightly depressing feeling that I'm chuckling more at the nostalgic value than the actual quality of humor. However, I can still genuinely laugh at the "Raul's Wild Kingdom" scene. Oh, and I finally purchased Nevermind in 2001. It sounds like a complete Bush rip-off.

4. Portland Cable Access
In the early 1990s, there was no better way to spend the wee hours of a Saturday morning than glued to a TV with the screen flickering the low-budget sepia tones of PCA, or Portland Cable Access. Channels 11 & 21-24 were responsible for countless hours of entertainment for my friends and I (ok, so my friends usually weren't involved). My... er, "our" favorite show by a long shot was the Jim Spagg show. Mr Spagg (who bore an uncanny resemblance to Danny DeVito) was a self-proclaimed "performance artist" that evidentially derived great satisfaction from showing off his round, hairy, naked body at every given opportunity. There were other "artists" that also indulged in this nudist self-expression on the show, but Spagg was always at the forefront, dancing and shouting little made-up expressions like "Happy Doodles!", "Yowza Bowza Wowza!" and "Jumpin Gee Horsey Farts!" while inexplicably strumming a cardboard cutout guitar. I'll give you a minute to solidify that mental image. And no, the corrugated Stratocaster didn't always obscure his wildly flopping genitalia.

Fast forward to about two years ago. My wife (catch that? That's W-I-F-E. She's a FEMALE. As in NO PERMANENT REACTION TO ENDLESSLY WATCHING ALL THAT FLOPPING MANHOOD, NIGHT AFTER NIGHT, WEEK AFTER WEEK, YEAR AFTER YEAR... Uhh... Quick, where was I?) and I decided to fork over the incredible amount of money needed to activate a cable TV account. I had all but forgotten my former love affair with PCA. Fortunately, the channel(s) were forgiving. Best of all, there was Mr Jim Spagg again, in all his artistic glory, dropping his pants, hovering over the TOILET, ZOOMING IN WITH THE CAMERA, AND AGGHHHHAAH! Cut away, Cut AWAY!! But of course, the camera never did. I'd be more detailed with the horror of what my WIFE (I SWEAR I wasn't alone) and I continued to watch for the next 30 minutes, but words fail me. I suppose fine art has a way of leaving one speechless.

In closing, I should mention that all of the shows on PCA aren't quite as, hmm... "breathtaking" as the Jim Spagg show. In fact, Mr Spagg passed away earlier this year, and I have strong doubts that his show will ever reach a Seinfeld level of syndication (this world is an unjust place). Thankfully, there are newer PCA shows that are just as entertaining, some of which you can feel moderately comfortable watching with your Christian friends and/or parents. Spagg will never be replaced, but Sista Social (www.geocities.com/sistasocial) and Alexandra Paris (galacticgroove.cjb.net) still make me happier than anything on the Sundance channel.

5. Da Ali G Show
Although this show is only about a week away from hitting a Jackass-esque level of public exposure, and consequently a level of uncoolness with the "I saw it first" hipster crowd, this hipster still cannot get enough of Borat, Bruno, and Ali G himself. I bought the DVD the day it was released (so THERE!) and have watched it more times than I've seen the movie UHF. Which is quite a feat for anyone under the age of 75. That actually didn't make any sense, but I'm sticking with it. Booyakesha!

6. The art of Craig Thompson
I got the chance to meet Craig for the first time about a month ago, and I was more nervous shaking his hand than I was when I met Bob Dole in 1986, even though I ignorantly and habitually extended my right hand to the senator (my parents were humiliated). Craig's enchantingly wonderful graphic novel, Blankets, has become a prized possession to my wife and I. Both of us have digested each of the 592 (!) pages repeatedly, and each time through brings with it a whole new interpretation. Portland has a lot of talented residents be proud of these days, and Craig is at the top of that list, in this humble non-journalist's opinion.

7. Michael Moore
Now I'm sure the majority of you reading this are thinking one of two things:

A) "Goodness, if he's going to name drop a modern progressive thinker, couldn't he have at least mentioned someone a little less polarizing- perhaps Noam Chomsky?"
or
B) "Shucks, if this feller is gonna be praisin' a fat left-wing liberal like olí "Moore-LIES", I'd better log off this electric typin' machine and get back to my plowin'!"

But warts (or calories) and all, Michael Moore has been significantly instrumental in my transition from CONSTANTLY thinking about baseball cards and RARELY thinking about politics to OCCASIONALLY thinking about politics and RARELY thinking about baseball cards. Fahrenheit 9/11 may not have been the most credible documentary ever, but it sure got a lot of people such as myself interested in something that wasn't a reality show (wait, WAS it a reality show?).

8. Fairly Honest Bill's secondhand store, Portland, Oregon
I realize that this list is rapidly becoming a huge lusty love letter to the city of Portland, but what I can I say? This is the best city ever. And Chuck Palahniuk fans, forgive me for treading familiar ground. There are many little quirky retail establishments here that beg to be mentioned, but Fairly Honest Bill's is head and shoulders above the rest for two main reasons:

1. The owner and operator legally changed his name to "Fairly Honest Bill" several years ago.
and
2. Everyone I know thinks he's a complete asshole.

I guess I can sort of see the side of the "Fairly Honest Bill's an asshole!" crowd. The interior and exterior of the man's store is covered with little signs that read, "If you don't like the prices, shop somewhere else!", "No haggling!", and "If this sign be out we be open!". Normally I can't tolerate this sort of over-the-top confrontation, and Mr F.H. Bill is one of the most confrontational people I've ever met. However, you talk to the man for two minutes, you realize he knows everything about the used items he sells. Every piece of beautiful vintage furniture I've bought from him has come with an interesting story that makes me feel like I'm buying a small piece of someone else's existence from another time and place (which is indeed vastly interesting, but also slightly creepy). Plus, Fairly Honest Bill runs the only secondhand store I know of that offers instant delivery, courtesy of the man affectionately known as "Mr Bob" with his beat up old Chevy.

9. The Arabian Prince - Brother Arab - The lyrics on this album are mostly awful. Not just for the usual Tipper Gore reasons, either. For example, "Now fellas take your ladies / grab them by the butt / ladies, do the same / Yeah, you know what's up!" (at least that's how I remember the verse going). I should also mention that the song I just quoted is entitled, "It's Time to Bone". However, I had a friend in seventh grade who had a Bose subwoofer system in his family room. Brother Arab was the only album either of us owned that could actually RIP NOTEBOOK PAPER, when held up to the front of the speaker. Awesome!

I can't find this album anywhere anymore, and illegal file sharers evidentially don't care about it either. Please send me a copy if you find it. And don't even tell me to try Ebay.

10. My Pug, Geddy Lee

As soon as I began to enter the name of my dog into this list, I realized that I haven't even dedicated a spot on this self-indulgent top ten to my wife. Eek! Well, I'm hoping that she realizes that my love for her transcends the love I have for the items on this list WITHOUT me having to rank her alongside a now deceased, hairy naked cable access man OR a song by a rapper named "The Arabian Prince". In fact, I hope she takes that as a compliment.

With that disclaimer in mind, I'll get back to my love for Geddy Lee.

Geddy Lee is the craziest mammal I have ever seen, not to mention owned. She turns two this month, and she still hasn't completely mastered the art of eliminating waste outdoors. She understands the commands "look!" (which means either my wife - whom I love love LOVE - or myself is pointing at another dog on the TV screen... Geddy Lee freaks out at this), "up!" (which means one of us is sitting on something high that we want to see her try to jump up on), and "corn on the cob!" (which means she's about to get scratched directly above her curly little tail, which in turn inexplicably makes her nibble furiously at anything placed before her tiny front teeth). She also has a nack for licking the inside of strangers' nostrils, but we haven't thought of a clever command for that trick yet. Geddy Lee is similar to Fairly Honest Bill. I have a nagging suspicion that all my friends think she's an asshole, but this only makes me love her more.


Tarentel

Bay Area instrumental ensemble Tarentel released their debut EP (as a quintet) in 1998. Since then their steady productivity has resulted in an impressive number of recordings from Tarentel proper as well as a number of related side projects. Among these Lazarus, Howard Hello, Rumah Sakit, Sonna, and many others. Their most recent album, We Move Through Weather (Temporary Residence) finds Tarentel pared down to a trio (Sonna's Jim Redd completes the line-up on drums), and closer to their live sound than ever before on record.

Jefre Cantu-Ledesma: Laptop, Guitar, Organ, etc.

1. Faust - The Faust Tapes
Cut and paste psychedelia from German free rockers. Sound jams and catchy pop songs are happy neighbors with field recordings and scary ass vocal mumblings. No songs titles on this one, and apparently no overdubs or post-production. Only 2 tracks, both of which rule.

2. Albert Ayler - Lorrach, Paris 1966
A no holds bard sonic avalanche brought to you by gentlemen kind enough to wear suits and ties while melting your brain. Ayler's sax playing is incendiary, burning up with a religious convection. The addition of Michel Samson on violin (?!?!) is completely bizarre, giving the whole concert an otherworldly feel. Saxophone, trumpet and strings practically soar around the room. fascinating stuff.

3. Nuno Canavarro - Plux Quba
God bless Jim O'Rourke for reissuing this CD. An almost lost gem of early electronic pop music composed with no computers by this mystery man from Portugal. Originally released in 1988, one has to wonder what the heck this guy was thinking. Or taking for that matter. Implying the later discoveries of sound hackers such as Oval, Mouse on Mars, and O'Rourke himself (not to mention leagues of 'bedroom electronica' albums). Plux Quba is a rare and beautiful work. A combination of wispy vocals, percussion and playful synthesizer melodies, its a record I hear something new in every time I listen.

Danny Grody: Guitar, Organ, etc.

4. Fela Kuti
Said to be the godfather of 'afro-beat' music, Fela emerged from of an extremely politically oppressed Nigeria. He wore gaudy fur coats (think Miles Davis electric period - who he took some musical cues from), surrounded himself in bedazzled women, had a self-governed Katakuta Republic, and tore it up with some of the most ferociously groove-heavy 'James Brown' expansive trance inducing music to date. And if that's not enough, he made 356 court appearances, was imprisoned 3 times, and had 77 releases under his belt! Check out his Army Arrangement record - hott!

5. Morton Feldman
Studied under John Cage and was particularly interested in western classical instruments - piano, violin, clarinet, vibes, etc.... The closest way to describe his work is like a painting - he seemed really focused on texture and colorations between instruments, adding fragments of melodic clusters - none of which ever seemed to repeat exactly the same way. He was also really into indeterminate structures and stretching an idea out as long as possible. You can really hear this kind of suspension in his later work, which became increasingly longer in duration. I recommend his Rothko Chapel - super romantic and Baroque in feel.

6. Necks
On a more current tip, I've really been enjoying this Australian group. I'm partial to their earlier more acoustic work as a trio, comprised of double-bass, drums, and piano with the occasional organ - here is where they really shine. The recordings are arranged in long transformative sections that usually clock in around an hour, with a strong emphasis in augmenting rhythms and tasteful melodic themes that never overwhelm. Look for their Sex record. I also heard they recently did a soundtrack that's had some praise.

Jim Redd: Drums, etc.

To be listened to loudly:
7. Le Fly Pan Am - N'Ecoutez Pas
Miles above their other records, its pop music garbled up and spit out. Percussive nonsensical vocals, along with the occasional wail and backing ews & ahs, combine with non-stop bass & drums, ratty organs, contact mics, a laptop, and a punk aesthetic to great effect. As energetic as their live show, catchy as hell, and nice & dirty. The 1st, 3rd, and 9th tracks are top notch.

8. 7 Seconds - The Crew
My 1st LP. I had shared a collection of KISS and AC/DC cassettes with my older brother for a couple of years, but this was the first record I purchased, and the first music I discovered on my own.

9. John Coltrane - Meditations
1st track, 1st listen: Are you kidding me? What the fuck is happening? Two horns, two drummers (one in each channel), piano, and standup bass. Quintessential ensemble-style improv. No parts -- just a fog of gorgeous, relentless rhythms and melodies. At times, recapturing the mood of A Love Supreme, but infused with the freedom of the expanded sextet.

One we can all agree on.

10. This Heat - Made Available: John Peel Sessions
Kindred spirits from before I was born, they're a mathematical-punk-rock-improv conundrum. More ratty organs, phenomenal trio playing/listening, controlled chaos, tons of energy, and some gorgeous ambient stuff. The 1st, 4th, and 6th tracks are band favorites.

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