MusicBlox: Wintergatan

Homemade instruments like a custom musicbox and an analog keytar-ish thing join an unimaginable mixture of live acoustic and electronic instruments and samples in what is probably the most deliriously happy music I’ve listened to in a while without feeling like my brain is overdosing on cheese. OK, there’s some cheese, but it’s earnest cheese.


Wintergatan (Swedish for the Milky Way) is a unique band made up of multi-instrumentalists who, in many cases, play multiple instruments at once on stage. Their stage setup above is sadly misleading — they set up tables in the shape of their band’s name and cover them completely with something like a hundred different instruments, then proceed to not play the vast majority of them. I would be far more impressed if they actually circulated through this field of instruments, picked them up and played them periodically. But even if it’s just a prop, it drives home the possibility that they probably could play any of these instruments if they wanted to — their skill is equal to the task, even if their mic and power setup isn’t (see? no cables to all those keyboards).

One of the things I love about these folks is that process seems as important as product to them. This is borne out in their music videos, at least a couple of which are twice as long as the song itself because they show all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into creating the video, or in some cases the instruments themselves. I’m particularly enamored of the custom music box they’ve created that actually gets used in their live shows. In the background you can see that they’ve actually created a custom melody tape to feed through the mechanism. This means one of two things: either there is a computer program that creates music-box tape according to a melody you create, or they wrote a computer program simply for this purpose. Either is pretty awesome, really.

So enough talk. Go listen. This video is full of incredible things, including all the stuff I mentioned plus homemade Lego stop-motion animation and a rhythm track made from slide-projector noises. Make sure to watch all the way to the end if you want to know how they put it all together.

Needless to say, I would be among the first in line if Wintergatan ever tours in the US, but for now they’re confined to their own continent so I’ll just wait. In the meantime, you can get their CD or vinyl album from their store if you’re in Europe, or go for digital at Bandcamp.

MusicBlox: Govinda

If you’re like many people, you’re probably sick of hearing about dubstep. Perhaps you think it’s the auditory equivalent of nails on a chalkboard, or the anguished screaming of the souls of thousands of teenagers as they’re dragged into the pit by half-shaved hipster demons. Actually, that’s Merzbow you’re thinking of (so it could be worse). Perhaps you liked dubstep once upon a time when you heard Glitch Mob for the first time, but since then the genre has kind of gone in a direction you don’t like. Perhaps you actually remember dubstep before it got taken over by the current EDM crowd, and Hatcha and Plastician are still in occasional rotation on your playlist. Perhaps you like dubstep and you wish it didn’t have such a bad rap. Perhaps you have no idea what I’m talking about.

Regardless, I have one word for you: Govinda.

Govinda is the moniker of a solo artist named Shane Madden with quite a number of albums under his belt, who has recently been moving in a dubsteppy direction. There is some confusion since there are evidently two artists under the name Govinda, both working in electronic world fusion with Indian influences — but I think a line can be drawn around the Shane Madden Govinda project by isolating the albums that use live violin. This is how Madden has really made his mark as a performer: few electronic artists will whip out a “traditional” instrument and play it with virtuosity equal to their electronic wizardry. It’s always a delight when they do; for example. Squarepusher played bass guitar alongside his early performances, and Big Gigantic packs huge venues that dance for hours to what is essentially acid jazz.

Under normal circumstances I’d drop in a handy YouTube video here, but since the future of music on YouTube is in doubt right now, I’m going to link elsewhere until that whole mess settles out.

This is one of my favorite tracks from the most recent full album. Govinda has released some EPs as well, of both original content and remixes, and all strong music but I still feel Universal On Switch is the best full album. YMMV, so listen to them all!

MusicBlox: Red Red Groovy

redredsmallI was digging through my music directories, and stumbled across this album I had almost forgotten about. It took me way back to the days I spent as a highschooler digging through CD bargain bins, looking for … I don’t know, things I hadn’t heard of that looked interesting. I remember finding this album vividly. I was a student at St. Mark’s in Southborough for less than a year (long story), and one of the teachers had a kind of club that went in to Faneuil Hall for a fancy dinner and classical music with the BCO periodically. I joined out of a sense of adventure and an interest in not being cooped up in my dorm room with people I barely got along with. Prior to the dinner and music part of the evening, we had the run of the market and had much fun at stores which have long since been replaced with tedious facsimiles.

One of the stores I made a point to hit was Sam Goody, a music chain in the vein of Strawberries or Coconuts (what did music have to do with fruit in the 90s, anyway?). I’d leaf through their bargain bin, then go through their electronic section. At this point in my life I had already solidly connected with the rave scene, and even if I was unable to go to parties frequently I was voraciously devouring as much of the music as I could get my hands on. Eon, Plastikman and the Speed Limit series were on frequent rotation in my dorm room, to the consternation of the dorm parents.

The time in question, I had struck out in the bargain bin but stumbled across an intriguing cover in the electronic section. Sometimes, when I found little else, I’d take a gamble on something by the cover alone. This time, when I got a listen to the CD, it wasn’t at all what I expected — but not wholly disappointing, either.

Red Red Groovy was a band on a short-lived spinoff of the MCA record label called Continuum Records. The label folded in the mid-90s, which left them without a platform on which to release their music. There’s also a rumor that they were embroiled in a legal battle with the similarly-named but unrelated industrial act Red Red Groove, which kept them from pursuing new representation under a new label. Rather than renaming and pressing on, they disbanded and went their separate ways.

The album they left behind remains, in my opinion, one of the most unique and overlooked electro-pop albums of the early 90s. While some will note the similarity to pop-psychedelic groups like the B-52s and Deee-Lite, the fact is that their placement in the electronic section of Sam Goody was not accidental. The album has a strong dance groove, aside from the unmissable 60s-style Hammond-organ grooviness that invites comparisons to Madchester bands or Saint Etienne. However influenced they may have been by some of the UK music scene around the same time, Red Red Groovy was from Minneapolis and also influenced by the burgeoning US rave scene that was their more direct experience.

Despite the fact that the band’s website is long gone, their album “25” is still available from time to time on Amazon. Or of course, you could just stream the whole thing on Youtube.

MusicBlox: Elephant Revival

Over a decade ago while living in Maine, I attended an outdoor fiddle festival and happened upon the amazing music of The Mammals (“Hi, we’re The Mammals, and so are you”). Now sadly defunct, their musicians have gone their separate ways. I keep tabs on one of the resulting projects — the duo of the original two members playing together now as a husband-and-wife combo simply called “Mike & Ruthy“. I heard they were coming to Boston to play at the Brighton Music Hall, opening for a band I was unfamiliar with. But the endorsement of former members of The Mammals is good enough for me, so I got my tickets to go see Elephant Revival.

I was blown away.

They’re young, attractive, and blisteringly talented. They could be considered bluegrass, or even “newgrass” but, like The Mammals, that doesn’t really completely encompass their sound. Sure, there’s the usual complement of guitar, banjo, upright bass, fiddle and washboard — but what they build out of it is so much more.

Back before I left my own singing voice behind, I dreamt of one day being part of a group like this, even for a little while, a night or two a week, casually. Being the offspring of two incredibly musically talented people, I couldn’t help but try. I don’t know, but I feel like Elephant Revival probably met like that, jamming around the living room and eventually playing out. I don’t reach for that dream anymore but sometimes, listening to this music, I feel like it’s not totally out of reach. But there’s only so much time in a life, and I prefer to place beauty in the world in different ways. I’ll leave this kind of beauty up to those who chose it and do it well.

Buy Elephant Revival’s CDs on Amazon or CD Baby

MusicBlox: Khepri

Occasionally I’ll trip over something unique in my erratic stumbling around the web. Tonight, I found myself listening to some sound samples of a band I hadn’t, for some reason, come across before.

There is a genre called “Oriental Metal” — I prefer to think of it as a subgenre of Folk Metal — which uses eastern and middle-eastern influences alongside distorted western guitars. The trouble I have with this, as with much modern metal, is that even if the 30 seconds of preview is excellent, there’s a decent chance that somewhere a little further on there’ll be a lead vocalist screaming/growling/coughing up a lung. This, frankly, ruins it for me most of the time. But not this time.

Featured Artist: Khepri


This time, I checked YouTube to hear a whole track. Lo and behold, there are no vocals! This is a blessing — vocalists in metal are risky. A rare few have real talent and musical ability; the others, I find, detract from the music I’d rather be listening to. So when an artist or band, through choice or simply lack of a better option, chooses to put out an instrumental metal album, I’m usually glad to snap it up. These albums put their instrumentation front and center, and more often than not when a band is willing to do this, it means that they feel their music is strong enough to stand up without vocals.

This is certainly true of Khepri. Okay, the production value may not be as high as some of the major bands out there, but it’s clear the artist knows what he’s doing when it comes to the guitar — not to mention the doumbek. I can’t find any info on who exactly is playing, so I assume this is a one-man-band type of project.

I have a fair number of friends/acquaintances who bellydance either professionally or recreationally. Here’s hoping one of them latches on to this artist and blows some minds at the next party. It’s certainly going to be different from the usual Beats Antique or Azam Ali accompaniments, and while I love both of those, I definitely feel some shaking up is in order.

Check out Khepri’s website for more info

Buy digital versions of Khepri’s albums on Amazon MP3 (but be careful, the search algorithm has dropped some red herrings in the playlist) or Emusic.

Buy Khepri’s CDs on CD Baby


MusicBlox: Boxcar

Featured artist: Boxcar (not Boxcar Willie or Boxcar Racers, just Boxcar)

IMG_0283Sometime in the early 90s, I was visiting my grandparents’ summer house in the mountains of New Hampshire, and we had gone down the hill to town for some provisions. In the grocery store, there was a kind of bargain bin of cassette tapes. I think they may have been $1.00 each. I dug through the bin — I have had great luck finding gold nuggets in other people’s cast-off music — and came up with two tapes which ended up being favorites of mine for many years to come. I chose them because the covers looked interesting, and for $1.00 that’s a gamble I was willing to take. The first was “Blind” by the Icicle Works; I picked it because the cover featured a guy with fish for eyes. I figured such surreal cover art couldn’t steer me too far wrong and I was not disappointed.

But the album that made me really sit up and take notice — and has been on my regular rotation ever since, repurchased several times over in CD, vinyl and finally, when the band re-emerged from limbo onto the internet, in bulk with several other hard-to-find bits in MP3 format — is “Vertigo” by Boxcar.

For years I searched for more Boxcar, but as they were an Australian group that never really gained any footing in the US, most of their work was only sparsely available on these shores. I asked friends and family who went to Australia later in life to keep an eye out for Boxcar, but by then even the land down under was short on this amazing stuff.

I had Depeche Mode and New Order and early Nine Inch Nails in my rotation as well, and I felt that Boxcar fit snugly into all of that. They felt like Australia’s answer to New Order, but far less prolific. And their producer was behind some of my favorite stuff from Severed Heads, and, as it turned out, in some way connected to Single Gun Theory as well (another amazing Australian act I was, eventually, lucky enough to see live on their first and only US tour).

Boxcar is, happily, still somewhat active if not really creating much new music. You can find them on their website as well as on Soundcloud. Digital versions of pretty much everything are available direct through them and that’s always the best way to support an artist you love.

MusicBlox: Garmarna

Welcome to the first post of the Fallingblog’s new section for offbeat and esoteric musical recommendations. If you listen to mainstream radio and yearn for more flavor in your auditory environment, let me help. I’ve been off the Top40 teat for so long that I can’t even tell you who’s playing what on the radio unless there’s been some kind of scandal. The musical world I live in just doesn’t have a word for the likes of Miley and Britney. Or, if it does, it can’t be mentioned on a family-friendly blog. Which isn’t to say that the music I listen to isn’t accessible — just less frequently accessed. I’d like to change that, and I hope you’ll enjoy at least some of what I post here.

Oh, and if you want a different experience, just use that little floating menu thing to the right and click on “All Knitting Posts” or another option.

Featured Artist: Garmarna

I can’t remember exactly when I got into these Swedes. I do know that the first song I connected with was “Gamen” but on researching more of their work, I found they had done an absolutely fantastic series of tracks based on Hildegard von Bingen hymns, including the iconic “O Euchari In Leta Via” which I had discovered via Richard Souther some time previous.

They haven’t released anything in over a decade and their website and blog seem to be almost as dated — but I’m sure if you buy their music, they’re still getting a cut and I’d like to see them experience a surge in popularity.

Find out more about Garmarna on Wikipedia

Buy Garmarna albums and MP3s through their Amazon page

Buy Garmarna MP3s through their Google Play store

MusicBlox caveat: I don’t use iTunes because I don’t want to be roped into a specific method of music management. I manage my music collection my own way and iTunes doesn’t jive with it. There’s very little available in iTunes that I can’t find elsewhere. But if iTunes is your bag, you can feel free to search there too.