rather be a bandit than a lover…

I know it might sound like hyperbole, but I’d say at this very moment Sweden’s Little Dragon is one of the best bands on the planet.   While many claim an unclassifiable and unique sound, this band actually has one, and a good–really good–one at that.  Singer Yukimi Nagano’s melodies (beautifully haunting, soulful, and catchy all at once) immediately draw you in, but its the subtly sophisticated musical arrangements and great lyrics that keep the songs sounding fresh after repeated listening.  Above is a video created by Yukimi’s dad!

A bandmate of mine originally told me to peep these “cats from Sweden,” after my ear perked up during a DJ set while our band took break.  Since then I’ve been listing to their amazing debut album, and eagerly anticipating their latest album which dropped a few weeks ago and which I got in the mail last week.  I’d highly recommend both.

What excites me the most about this band is that they are badass musicians who use their musical chops for good and not evil.  In other words they use their skills to service the music, not self indulge (in a similar way that made the Beatles and Miles Davis so great).  Their songwriting and musical arrangements are filled with all these subtle bits of awesomeness, but it never takes away from the simple artistry of the song.  Nagano is such a captivating performer and Erik Bodin’s superb drumming hints that he’s been studying ?uestlove and Dilla.  You can really hear this in their live performances, and damn would I sure love to see these guys live.  Below are some great youtube moments.  Check out how they incorporate electronics into their live setup while staying a true “live” band, with rhythmic hits as nasty as the J.B.’s and breakdowns as organic as any classic jazz group.

Rather be a bandit than a lover / Rather be a man with the other / to run the mountain down run it down

Rather be a whisper in heaven / then a daughter locked in your prison / so run the mountain down run it down

Published in: on September 21, 2009 at 12:14 pm  Comments (2)  

Giant Bits

While checking out this new 8-bit Miles Davis tribute album, I discovered through the comments a link to a YMCK song which demonstrates that Chiptune music and Coltrane Changes go together quite well!

If your ear is unfamiliar with what Coltrane Changes sound like, this is a good frame of reference.

And as a side note, who was one of the first, to my knowledge, to include ‘Trane Changes in hip hop? Why, none other than Dilla, who, in Q-Tip’s Let’s Ride, masterfully chopped up jazz guitarist Joe Pass’ take on Giant Steps (thanks to Kevin Nottingham for info on the sample).

Published in: on August 19, 2009 at 11:10 am  Comments (1)  

mama say what?

This is a revalation for me.  The lyrics “mamase mamasa mamakoosa” have been a part of my vocabulary for as far back as I can remember (Thriller was one of the first albums I ever had as a kid), yet they are as mysterious as they are irresistible to sing along to.  The mystery is over now for me thanks to this article that was pointed out by my friend @ArjayV.  Read the article and then listen to the video below.  It’s the Manu Dibango song that is the subject of the article, and it’s absolutely incredible.  I really want to check out more of this cat’s music now.

Published in: on July 1, 2009 at 8:58 pm  Comments (1)  

photos from the road

van_NMAfter returning home from a 2-week grassroots tour of much of the Western Continental US with Mouse Kills Tiger and My Imaginary Friends, I expected some adjustment in getting back to the daily grind of things.  To my surprise and to the delight of the gods of irony, I realized that my life was actually more structured, and I got better sleep, while on tour than back at home.  But that’s only because lately my daily life is so utterly unstructured and my normal sleeping habits are so poor.  It takes a whole LOT of discipline to be a self-employed artist, so I am going to have to go back to writing a daily schedule, short & long term goals, and weekly review (which I never should have abandoned due to laziness in the first place).  Some of my friends may remember that several years ago I was an early champion of the Getting Things Done book and the “carrying around a stack of notecards” school.  What happened?

But back to the tour–it was definitley an amazing experience and well worth it.  Denver was an unexpected highlight for me, with great record-shopping, tasty food, and a really cool venue.  The Pacific Northwest was as lush and green as I had imagined it, and Seattle wins hands-down for the coolest looking and most vibrant city.  The most surreal scenery was probably the drive through the Utah salt flats accompanied by a thunderstorm.  Although I tweeted a handful of pictures, you’ll find a whole slideshow of photos taken on my trusty cell phone camera here.

Published in: on June 24, 2009 at 11:54 am  Leave a Comment  

on tour!

tourI never thought applause could be hostile.  Last night Mouse Kills Tiger played the El Cid in Silverlake.  It was the opening slot.  The El Cid, unlike a lot of venues, has an actual “real” stage.  Like, with hardwood floors, a raised stage, a red curtain, you know, the works.  We loaded in through the back and set up on stage behind the closed curtains, so the whole time we didn’t actually see the audience.  Just before we were to start, the promoter/manager turned to me and asked, “hey, are you like, a hard hitter?”  I shook my head, “no I’m not…”  “Because,” he explained, “people are still finishing up their dinners, so sometimes if the band is loud we wait to let the grandmas leave.”  Well, schedule didn’t permit us to wait.

The curtain opened, and instead of a standing-room-only dance floor, we looked out at a bunch of folks sitting at dinner tables, staring at us.  After our second song, which climaxed in a thunderous-hells-yeah roar of guitar noise, overdriven electric piano, and smashed cymbals, we started playing our quiet, atmospheric song.  And a bunch of people at one table started clapping ridiculously loud, in time, but not in time with us–like some sort of effed up collegiate home cheer.  It was pretty bizarre.  After the gig was over Patrick, our bassist, commented on the strange episode–he thought it was on some sort of heckling tip.  I just thought they were celebrating and didn’t give a fuck, but who knows.  At any event, after we finished playing the dining crowd cleared and the place became the kind of boisterous rock club you’d expect.  Y’know, Flight of the Conchords don’t make this shit up, it really happens.

Regardless, it was a fun night.  We played well, including the brand-new tune we tried out.  And My Imaginary Friends, who played after us, tore shit up with their catchy-yet-epic folksy songs and excellent singing.  Oh, and did I mention, this was the first night of our West Coast TOUR?

Yes, we’re going on TOUR.  Mouse Kills Tiger and My Imaginary Friends are embarking on a tour up and down the western region of our nation.  We are leaving for San Francisco on Tuesday morning and from then on it’s Bay Area to Oregon to Washington to Utah to Colorado to New Mexico and then finally to Vegas.  I probably won’t be blogging (what else is new) but I’ll try to keep constant updates of our shennanigans via tweets, hopefully with pictures.  I may have to upgrade my bare-bones cell phone plan for this but it could be worth it.  I’ll make it worth it.

I’ve listed all the dates on my website, so if you know any folks in those cities please help spread the word!

Published in: on June 1, 2009 at 2:52 am  Comments (4)  

this sunday!

neofunk_3-15-09The funk/soul band is back, and this time we’re kicking off what will be a weekly thing: Sundays at Neomeze in Old Town Pasadena.  The live sounds of late 60s / early 70s funk and soul-jazz, with a touch of boogaloo and a dash of Dap-Kings flavor.  We’re taking this music seriously–this isn’t just a bunch of cats jamming over a funk beat, we’re going for the authentic, classic feel and sound.  Expect some early Kool & the Gang, James Brown, Lou Donaldson, and more… lots of rare funk breaks.  Same amazing band, featuring 3 members of Breakestra.

Neomeze is a really nice joint, with an outdoor patio, beautiful full bar, great food, and an excellent selection of beer on tap.  Plus NO COVER!  Oh, and they arbitrarily started advertising us as “The NeoFunk All-Stars,” so I guess that’s are new name, for now at least.

Sunday, March 15, 5-8pm
The NeoFunk All-Stars – Jazz/Funk/Soul Sunday Afternoon Party!
@ NEOMEZE Bar & Lounge
20 E. Colorado Blvd. Ste. 102, Pasadena, CA 91105

FEATURING:
Chris Bautista (of Breakestra), trumpet; David Moyer (of Breakestra), tenor/baritone sax & flute; Christian Wunderlich, guitar; Patrick Bailey (of Breakestra), guitar; JP Maramba (of Van Hunt), bass; Miles Senzaki, drums
NO COVER!

Published in: on March 13, 2009 at 11:28 am  Comments (1)  

atomic show

nancyMy dear friend, amazing singer, and forever cool kid “Atomic” Nancy has a DJ set she did last month at Dublab up on their archives.  As usual, she spun all 45s, many that were originally in the Atomic Cafe jukebox.  Here’s a little background on why this is so awesome:

The Atomic Cafe opened in 1946 in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles by Minoru and Ito Matoba. During the late 70′s to mid 80′s their daughter, Nancy, quickly transformed the quiet neighborhood bar/ cafe in to one of L.A.’s most popular hang outs for the local punk rock scene, politicians, and the Japanese mafia. On any given night you could see the likes of Blondie, The Go-Go’s, Devo, X, Warhol, David Byrne, Bowie sitting down having a bowl of noodles in the company of old Japanese men with full body tattoos. The legendary jukebox played everything from The Germs to Mori Shinichi until 4 in the morning as crazy waitresses would be jumping on top of tables trying to serve food. The Atomic Cafe closed its doors on November 23, 1989.

Nancy was not only the boss “crazy waitress” and default bouncer (apparently there were always fights to break up) but also music supervisor–she was in charge of the jukebox, and she befriended all the local (and some soon to be famous) bands who brought in their 45s and covered the walls and ceilings with flyers.  So yeah, she knows her shit.  I had a lot of fun listening to her DJ set–lots of seminal punk and new wave, with a touch of film score kitch and rockabilly.  And it’s nice to hear the warm crackle of an old 45 spinning around!

Download here.  Playlist and more info here.

Published in: on March 13, 2009 at 1:16 am  Comments (20)  

we laughed, we cried…

2-wall…we played in a cavernous jazz auditorium, we played in a tightly packed bookstore; we performed while clad in classy suits, we flailed wildly on stage in muppet costumes; we banged away as a famous smooth-jazz drummer walked out of the audience in disgust, we played an outdoor art festival whilst in front of the stage a homeless woman revealed her breasts and danced; we impressed Echo Park hipsters and we made teenage metalheads throw up the evil hand; we had shows in wealthy institutional museums, we had gigs in transvestite dive bars; we did what we came to do, and now we’re done.  Well, sort of.

In these harsh economic times, one must do what one must do to survive.  And Sean Leviathan has found opportunity across the continent in a land we call the East Village.  And thus, the Leviathan Brothers have announced their premature retirement.  Or rather, “indefinite hiatus.”  As Sean so eloquently put it:

It was a year ago this week that Brett Favre announced his first retirement before going off to sling the pigskin for New Jersey several months later.  In his honor we have created one last jam using some LB samples with a little assistance from Mr. Favre’s retirement speech.  So consider this our first retirement and not necessarily last.

And so we present to you “What That Would Be Like”–conceived, recorded, mixed, and mastered at Grandma’s Dojo in one afternoon:

http://soundcloud.com/milessenzaki/what-that-would-be-like-leviathan-brothers/download

(right click here to download for free)

And you can always keep track of Sean’s adventures on his Leviathan Brothers blog (in case you weren’t aware he moonlights as a professional music journalist–check out his writings!).  Our CDs are still for sale too.  The last juicy bit of gossip is that we may play one final show sometime in April, so stay tuned.

Published in: on March 4, 2009 at 2:15 am  Comments (2)  

[atari] punked?

littlesynthOver a year ago I bought this little monophonic synthesizer about the size of a guitar effects pedal, based on a rave review in the gear section of Tape Op magazine.  The review said it was this really unique little box that generated rich, unexpected tones as you twiddled the two knobs (that’s all it has) .  I’m always looking for new and weird sounds, especially cool looking and lo-fi little boxes.  When I received the box, I discovered that they were right–it did generate some really interesting sounds and I ended up using it on at least one of the songs on Boundary Waters.

Then this morning, while reading the GetLoFi circuit bending blog, I came across this thing called the Atari Punk Console.  It’s a “simple DIY noisemaker circuit” that is based on a schematic that was originally published in a Radio Shack booklet back in 1980.  It has two knobs which interact with each other to produce varying square wave tones.  Hmmm sounds familiar.  So I clicked on a sound sample that demonstrated it in action.  And by golly, if it didn’t sound exactly like my little box.  For which I paid about $100.  GetLoFi sells a kit for about twenty bucks.

But you know, I don’t feel too bad that I put down a Benjamin for a box I thought was a uniquely designed boutique synthesizer but may in fact be a cheap DIY circuit that has been in a Radio Shack booklet for about 30 years.  Because I paid for the handcrafting of a quality metal case, silk screened lettering, and cool vintage knobs.  And plus, I have better things to do with my time than learn how to solder electronics for DIY noise-making circuits. Like, writing stupid blog posts about them.

Published in: on March 2, 2009 at 2:49 pm  Comments (1)  

introducing… The Reflexologists

UPDATE: we just added David Moyer, who plays baritone sax/tenor sax/flute for Breakestra, so this group is gonna be ridiculous!
UPDATE AGAIN!: we just added David Bautista, trumpet player for Breakestra. We have a horn section now!!!
reflexologyWhat do get when you put together the bass player from rising soul singer Van Hunt‘s band, with the guitarist, the trumpet player, and the tenor sax/baritone sax/flute player from Breakestra?  And then add myself, plus another really talented jazz guitarist?  Hopefully, an amazingly funky and soulful band.  Come see for yourself this Wednesday Feb 25th at a bar & lounge called NEOMEZE, in the heart of Old Town Pasadena.  It’s a really relaxing, swanky joint with great food and a nice selection of beer on draft.  And NO COVER!

Wednesday, February 25
The Reflexologists funk/soul collaboration
@ NEOMEZE Bar & Lounge
20 E. Colorado Blvd. Ste. 102, Pasadena, CA 91105
this is my new project, featuring bassist JP Maramba (Van Hunt, L’Esprit d’Afrique), guitarist Patrick Bailey (Breakestra), saxophonist/flautist David Moyer (Breakestra), trumpeter David Bautista (Breakestra), guitarist Christian Wunderlich, and yours truly on drums
relax at a classy lounge and dance to some funky music!
9pm-12midnight • NO COVER!

With influences ranging from James Brown, the Meters, Fela Kuti, Lee Morgan, and the Dap-Kings, we are gonna get your toes tapping for sure.  Hope you can make it!  Please, tell friends about this because if we get a good turnout we might become a resident band here.

Published in: on February 23, 2009 at 5:50 pm  Comments (2)