Alex's Hand — Alex's Hand Presents: The Roaches
((Not on label) no#, 2014, DL)
by Jon Davis, Published 2014-04-17
You read a lot these days about the rise of American "foodie culture" — Americans are getting much more diverse in their eating habits, and restaurants all over the place are finding customers willing to eat tripe, marrow, fruits and vegetables that were unheard of a decade ago, and any number of seasonings that don't have a history in European cuisine. Similarly, the rise of microbreweries and craft distilleries has corresponded with the willingness to drink things that would have just seemed bizarre not so long ago: wasabi vodka, pine liqueur, yuzu beer, and so on. Some attribute these changes to the rise of media outlets like the Food Network. Maybe so, but there has not been any similar change in public music taste. Most people remain stuck in age-old perceptions about what constitutes acceptable music, and this is generally true even among self-professed music nerds who flock to the latest indie darlings anointed by Pitchfork (or whoever's cool at the moment). This situation can be frustrating to musicians whose inclinations lead them outside the norms of three-to-five-minute length, hummable melodies, steady 4/4 beat, common chord progressions, lyrics on the level of junior high poetry, and so on. Alex's Hand is a band that has never fit into that box, and years of frustration trying to get noticed by Seattle media and clubs have led to this: a concept album about how hard it is to go against the musical grain. They tell the story of a fictional band called The Roaches, whose situation closely parallels that of the Hand itself. The names have been changed to protect the guilty, and there's a lot of guilt to go around, from hipster DJs drunk on their power to dictate who joins the "cool band" club, to local writers who know nothing about music but what their friends tell them. Musically, they walk their talk, with six tracks in the nine to 18 minute range scattered among numerous short sketches of dialog, sound effects, and miscellaneous strangeness. The style jumps around wildly, maybe something like Mr Bungle doing a Zappa homage. And while this studio recording may have any amount of splicing and dicing, anyone who's seen them live knows they can play this stuff — not that they would, exactly, since every show is different. In the end, The Roaches, just like Alex's Hand, decide to pack up and get out of town, seeking their musical destiny outside the US. Music this creative deserves an audience, and the minds that conceived it deserve to be encouraged. Now if they could just afford to eat...
Moonjune to Distribute Tony Levin's Back Catalog – It has been announced that Moonjune will now handle distribution for Tony Levin's catalog of releases. These great albums will now be a bit easier to get hold of, so check out the site and see what you're missing. The veteran of King Crimson and Stick Men worked with a host of great players on these albums, and we've reviewed most of them over the course of the years. » Read more
Bandcamp Shines Light on Niches We Like – Bandcamp has developed into one of the best places to discover new music, and even a lot of old music is showing up there. In addition, their staff has been producing periodic articles spotlighting some interesting stylistic areas. On 20 September, they published one called "The New Face of Prog Rock" which bears checking out. » Read more
Holger Czukay RIP – Holger Czukay, a musical experimentalist without boundaries who has been involved with expanding the sound palette of rock music since the late 60s, has died at the age of 79. After studying with Karlheinz Stockhausen in the early 60s, he became fascinated with the possibilities of rock music, and was a co-founder of the pioneering group Can. He leaves behind an impressive body of work both as musician and producer. » Read more
John Abercrombie RIP – Another of the greats of jazz guitar has left us. John Abercrombie plied his way through a beautiful series of albums on the ECM label as well as bringing his talent to bear on albums by many of jazz's greatest artists. From his early work in the group Dreams to Gateway and outstanding work with Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette, Kenny Wheeler, and many more to his own trios and quartets, he brought a unique instrumental voice to the world. » Read more