New anthology of Michele Mercure's 80s synth music from the cassette underground

In the 1980s, Pennsylvania-based Michele Mercure was composing music for theater, film, and TV animation. After a trip to the Netherlands, she became inspired by the German kosmiche music scene of Kluster, Tangerine Dream, and the like. But Mercure cut her own path into experimental electronic music, weaving her synthetic, rhythmic soundscapes with strange samples and cut-up vocalizations, resulting in tracks that move between abstract and ambient dreamscapes and mechanized intensity. For decades, Mercure's self-released cassettes (under the name Michelle Musser) moved through underground trading circles but many of those recordings will now reach a wider group of heads. Beside Herself is a gorgeous 19-track Michele Mercure retrospective released today by the esteemed curators at RVNG Intl. and Freedom To Spend labels. To celebrate the release, Mercure and Mary Haverstick created the wonderful "Electronumentary" above. Below, one of the album tracks. From RVNG:

Mercure’s artistic path never ran through creative meccas New York, San Francisco or Los Angeles. Raised in Springfield, Massachusetts, and then moving to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in her twenties, Mercure was already an adept musician when she encountered a local and lively theater scene, and was asked to score an unorthodox performance of Waiting for Godot. The experience was pivotal in marrying music and image for Mercure, and so she began making music for film, television, dance, and theater. It wasn’t until a long sojourn in Eindhoven, however, that she became transfixed by electronic music (ala Conrad Schnitzler, whom she would correspond with for years) that would inform her music to come.

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Haruki Murakami donating his huge record collection to university

Author Haruki Murakami is donating a large collection of his personal materials -- original manuscripts, letters, foreign language editions of his books, and 10,000 vinyl records -- to his alma mater Waseda University. From the Japan Times:

The donation “is a very important thing for me, so I thought I should explain clearly” by holding a news conference, said Murakami, 69. “I don’t have any children, and it would cause trouble for me if those materials became scattered or lost..."

Using the donated materials, the university in Tokyo is considering setting up an international study center featuring the author’s works. It also plans to create a space that will resemble a study room with bookshelves and music records...

In the envisioned facility to house his documents, Murakami said if possible he wants to organize a concert using his collection of vinyl records, which total more than 10,000 copies.

Murakami, who opened a cafe for jazz enthusiasts in Tokyo while still a student at Waseda University, has said music is an essential component of his career in literature.

Previously: "A Murakami playlist" Read the rest

You can buy Sonic Youth's old music gear and records

Sonic Youth is selling a couple hundred pieces of music gear and a slew of rare vinyl records including test pressings of their own LPs and other fine platters. The Official Sonic Youth Reverb Shop opens for business today. From Reverb.com:

One of the guitars included in The Official Sonic Youth Reverb Shop is a '70s Fender Telecaster Deluxe used by Ranaldo, Jim O'Rourke, and Mark Ibold from 1987 to 2009, and Ranaldo's Travis Bean TB1000A Artist. The Travis Bean was stolen in 1999, but Ranaldo got it back in 2002 and continued to play it until 2011.

After that same theft, Kim Gordon used a replacement blue Fender Precision Bass until 2004. This P-Bass, as well as a copper sparkle Ibanez Talman, was used by Thurston Moore and Gordon from 1999 to 2010, throughout Gordon's solo SYR5 gigs.

Befitting a band that helped popularize offsets—a candy apple red Fender Jazzmaster used by Moore for more than a decade and a sunburst Jazzmaster used Ranaldo will also be available in Sonic Youth's Shop. In addition, there are more than 100 vintage and used effects pedals used by all members of the band, including Ranaldo's Klon Centaur Silver Overdrive.

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Listen to Vincent Price's delightful 1969 lecture on witchcraft, magick, and demonology

In 1969, Capitol Records released this incredible double LP set (and double 8-track tape) from Vincent Price titled "Witchcraft-Magic: An Adventure in Demonology." Hear the whole thing above. The nearly two hours of spoken word includes sections on the history and culture of "witchcraft" and helpful guides such as "How To Invoke Spirits, Demons, Unseen Forces" and "How To Make A Pact With The Devil." I certainly wouldn't vouch for the factual accuracy or research rigor of the material, but hearing horror icon Price's silky narration about such topics as necromancy and the "Witches Sabbat" is a joy.

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Fortnite team dominates squads with 61 elimination win

The new record for most eliminations in a single match by a squad is now 61. Watch Fortitude_Fqrbes, Nexjs, tactjc, and TTV NadeXC take down most of the lobby.

There is a lot of swearing, as there should be. Read the rest

Interviews with women in the vinyl record scene

Jenn D'Eugenio is a badass record collector, indie label maven, and vinyl industry veteran who now works at the esteemed Furnace Record Pressing company in Virginia. Recently, Jenn started interviewing her peers in the record scene "to empower and highlight the women that are working in the vinyl / music industry to create, preserve, improve and enhance the art of music on vinyl."

Check out Women In Vinyl for interviews with the likes of Katy Clove of Merge Records, Italians Do It Better label president Megan Louise Doyle, audio archivist Amanda McCabe, and designer Kate Koeppel who makes fantastic products for vinyl collectors.

"Not enough of the female + vinyl focus is on the women behind the record stores, labels, manufacturers, vinyl accessories, etc. and I hope to change that with interviews and stories about these women," Jenn says.

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See (and hear) this fellow set a world record for the highest vocal note sung by a male

Wang Xiaolong has set the new Guinness World Record for the "highest vocal note by a male." His E in the eighth octave is a half step higher than Adam Lopez Costa's record set in 2008.

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Super Mario Bros speedrun record smashed

Kosmic is the first human to beat Super Mario Bros in 4 minutes and 55 seconds, a time so good it is less than a second slower than the best tool-assisted speedrun. Mashable:

When Kosmic says he's tied with the [tool-assisted] run at 4-1, that means his inputs are matched up exactly with the program's and he can't physically do any better.

From there, Kosmic continues to nail everything almost perfectly, slipping up so minorly that most viewers who aren't familiar with the nuances of Super Mario Bros. speedruns won't even recognize when it happens.

As YouTuber and speedrunning historian points out in his thorough analysis of Super Mario Bros. speedruns, speedrunners have been whittling down the world record for well over a decade. Top runners are at a point where they can only hope to improve their times by shaving off milliseconds.

Supreme pixel-precise coordination is not enough: you have to know all the game's technical extremities to get close. Here's an explainer video (featuring one of Kosmic's earlier record runs) describing all the bugs and tricks exploited along the way. Read the rest

Moby is selling his record collection to benefit an animal rights org

In April, Moby sold a slew of his vintage synthesizers to benefit the anti-animal testing organization Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Now he's parting with 1,000 of his vinyl records with the proceeds going to the same group. The collection ranges from test pressings of his own albums to post-punk classics to 12-inches that he spun during his rave and club DJ days in the early 1990s. The sale launches Thursday on Moby's Reverb LP Shop.

“These are all the records that I bought and loved and played and carried all around the world,” Moby says. “I would rather you have them than me, because if you have them, you’ll play them, you’ll love them, and the money will go to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. So everybody wins. Well, except me, because now I don’t have any records.”

(Reverb)

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The Simpsons overtakes Gunsmoke as America's longest-running scripted TV show

With episode 636 on Sunday, The Simpsons finally outran Gunsmoke as America's longest-running TV show, as counted by scripted episodes. It overtook it about a decade ago in terms of how many seasons it's been on TV. That said...

“Gunsmoke,” however, was an hourlong program for about half its run, while “The Simpsons” is half-hour, and so the former retains the record for most hours of television. As well, the Western series had begun on radio in 1952.

The closest other scripted prime-time series, the family drama “Lassie,” about an ingenious collie, ran on network and then in first-run syndication from 1954 to 1974, for 591 episodes.

In a welcome coda to the Apu imbroglio, Hank Azaria (who also voices other characters on the show) is planning to let a South Asian actor take over the role and help transition the character to a less stereotypical portrayal. Read the rest

Captain Kirk, Spock, and Uhura want you to stay off hard drugs

In 1973, the National Association Of Progressive Radio Announcers released "Get Off," a 1973 vinyl record featuring dozens of musicians delivering anti-hard drug warnings. Along with personal warnings from Grateful Dead, Alice Cooper, the Doobie Bros., BB King, Ravi Shankar, the Staple Singers, and Frank Zappa, the crew of the starship Enterprise visits a planet ravaged by hard drugs. Just say know.

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Ursula K. Le Guin on vinyl! "Music and Poetry of the Kesh"

Ursula K. Le Guin's "Always Coming Home" (1985) is a combination novel and anthropological study of the Kesh, a culture that "might be going to have lived a long, long time from now in Northern California." Early editions of the book included a cassette of faux "field recordings," indigenous songs, and other audio of the Kesh. Now, the good people at Freedom to Spend are bringing the Kesh experience to vinyl in a lovely limited edition that includes an LP containing the audio of the original cassette, "a deluxe spot printed jacket with illustrations from Always Coming Home, a facsimile of the original lyric sheet, liner notes by Moe Bowstern, multi-format digital download code and a limited edition bookmark letterpressed by Stumptown Printers in Portland, OR." From Freedom to Spend:

For Music and Poetry of the Kesh, the words and lyrics are attributed to Le Guin as composed by Barton, an Oregon-based musician, composer and Buchla synthesist (the two worked together previously on public radio projects). But the cassette notes credit the sounds and voices to the world of the Kesh, making origins ambiguous. For instance, “The River Song” description reads, “The prominent rhythm instrument is the doubure binga, a set of nine brass bowls struck with cloth-covered wooden mallets, here played by Ready...”

The songs of Kesh are joyful, soothing and meditative, while the instrumental works drift far past the imaginary lands. “Heron Dance” is an uplifting first track, featuring a Wéosai Medoud Teyahi (made from a deer or lamb thigh bone with a cattail reed) and the great Houmbúta (used for theatre and ceremony).

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Watch this Beatles-themed vinyl jukebox get designed and built

Vinyl jukeboxes are making a comeback, and Sound Leisure built this incredible Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band vinyl jukebox to celebrate the album's 50th anniversary. Read the rest

Video game legend thrown out the record books after times found to be impossible

Game over: Todd Rogers, longtime holder of countless videogame speed-run records, is being removed from the record tables after "the body of evidence" weighed strongly against the credibility of his claimed times.

Player Todd Rogers has been stripped of his world record for finishing the simple Atari 2600 racing game Dragster, after months of debate over his completion time. ...Yet Rogers never provided recorded or other proof of his 5.51 time in Dragster, a sticking point in the years that followed. His personal website offered a simple explanation of how he achieved his unbeatable time, while maintaining that Activision’s certification of his time — highlighted in one of the company’s newsletters — was enough to cement his place on the gaming leaderboards.

Yet when Twin Galaxies introduced a new process for disputing scores in July 2017, Rogers’ time in Dragster was one of the first to be challenged. In August 2017, several community members submitted Rogers’ 5.51-second Dragster finish for review. A thread on the Twin Galaxies’ forum about how Rodgers’ Dragster time was technically impossible ran for nearly 300 pages and included almost 3,000 posts

The Dragster record imbroglio not only puts all of Rogers' times out of play, but implied that folks at Activision and Twin Galaxies responsible for verifying times were negligent or complicit. Rogers was also banned from the Twin Galaxies site.

Previously: Video game record-setter accused of cheating Read the rest

Adam Savage learns how records are made with Jack White

Our pal Adam Savage visited Jack White's Third Man Records vinyl pressing plant in Detroit and records his Brain Candy song! Then Jack and Adam talk about cutting records and the creative process. (Tested)

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The best Snooker break of all time was even faster than its official time

The greatest break in snooker history is Ronnie O'Sullivan's legendary 147 at the 1997 World Championship. He not only sank every ball with unmatched grace and force, but did so in a record-breaking 5:20s, some two minutes faster than the previous record. But Deadspin's Ben Tippett proves it was executed even faster than the books show.

The famous 147 break had everything: The white ball obeyed O’Sullivan’s every command, every shot looked easy because he made it so through his honeyed cueing and Juno-level precision positional play, the break was fast—the fastest maximum break ever, by a long way—and yet he looked like he had oodles of time. O’Sullivan said at the time that he knew a maximum was on after the second red, and the result never looked in doubt. O’Sullivan moved around the table with grace and ridiculous ease, like a concert pianist preparing breakfast in his kitchen.

The 5:20 time was human error, based on the BBC's primitive chess-clock technology from the time. The Guinness Book of Records' bizarre retcon to make it work -- the next player's break starts when the previous player's white ball last touches a cushion -- is so weak it requires an event that doesn't even happen on many shots.

So Tippett offers two options as to when a player's shot (and therefore any resulting break) starts, yielding two possible times of O'Sullivan's still-unbeaten break:

1. 5m 06s : When the player takes his shot. 2. 5m 15s : When the previous player's shot comes to rest. Read the rest

The Sounds of the Junk Yard, a 1964 vinyl record

Last week, I posted about The Sounds of the Office, a 1964 vinyl record released by Folkways Records of field recordings by Michael Siegel. This week, it's The Sounds of the Junk Yard, another 1964 Folkways collection of Siegel's field recordings, ranging from an Acetylene Torch to Alligator Shears to a Paper Baler.

Moses Asch founded the incredibly influential Folkways Records label in 1948 to record and share music and sounds from around the world. Along with bringing the music of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Lead Belly, and Elizabeth Cotten to wider audiences, Folkways, acquired in 1987 by Smithsonian, also issued incredible sound recordings from the Ituri rainforest, Navajo Nation, Peru, and many other locations and indigenous peoples across the globe. (In fact, the label provided several tracks for the Voyager Golden Record, now 12+ billion miles from Earth! Researching that project with my partner Tim Daly, a DIY musicologist himself, I've become absolutely enchanted by Folkways. If any of you dear readers have Folkways LPs collecting dust, I'd give them a wonderful home.)

Along with music, Folkways released LPs with poetry, language instruction, nature sounds (frogs! insects), and other field recordings. The Sounds of the Junk Yard reminds me of an Einstürzende Neubauten album but was issued a decade before the birth of "Industrial Music" was born.

"Some junk yard equipment is common to all of them, some is more specialized," wrote Siegel in the album liner notes. "All these sounds were recorded in yards in Warren, Pennsylvania."

Hear more samples at the Smithsonian Folkways page here. Read the rest

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