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Listed: Mark Mallman + The New Sound of Numbers

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Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists compiled by our favorite artists. This week: Mark Mallman and The New Sound of Numbers.

Listed: Mark Mallman + The New Sound of Numbers

Mark Mallman

Milwaukee’s Best never involved a piano before. But Mark Mallman is determined to redefine Midwest melodicism. After a decade of classical composers, Mallman met a local lowlife piano man, an encounter that changed his life forever, not to mention Elton John fans everywhere. At 17, Mallman started a punk/prog act called Uncle Smooth, and all of a sudden, he was opening for Green Day (nice job on the Skids’ cover, guys). As Mallman fell further and further into debauchery, he discovered Darby Crash, Ian Curtis and David Byrne, all of whom have played a part in Mallman’s metamorphosis into a classic rock conductor (the electrical kind, not the wand wavers). His new album, Between the Devil and Middle C, came out earlier this month on San Francisco’s Badman.

Mallman is on the road right now. Here’s what he’s up to over the next week.

9/29/06 – Eugene, OR @ Diablo's Downtown Lounge
9/30/06 – San Francisco, CA @ Annie's
10/3/06 – Los Angeles, CA @ Safari Sam's/Check Yo' Ponytail
10/4/06 – Los Angeles, CA @ Viper Room
10/5/06 – San Diego, CA @ Brick By Brick
10/6/06 – Las Vegas, NV @ The Cooler Lounge
10/7/06 – Tucson, AZ @ Club Congress

Mark’s Touring Top 10

1. The Autobiography of Aerosmith: Walk this Way
I bought this for 50 cents at a rummage sale only because it came pre-packaged in a Ziploc bag along side – believe it or not – a copy of Picture of Dorian Grey. The Aerosmith story is a double feature of Greek Tragedies, and makes Motley Crue’s The Dirt look like a 6th-grade summer vacation recap. I sped read it cover to cover, on a plane from Iceland to London. Bear in mind that Steven Tyler once passed out with a loaded shotgun in his hand while shooting target practice at 4 a.m.

2. The Presets
If Julian Hamilton and Kimberley Moyes weren’t as obsessed with hard-house heavy metal, they look like they’d be selling phone cards and lighters behind the counter of a Hyde Park convenience store. The best thing I saw at SXSW 2006. They blew what’s left of my mind opening for Wolfmother at Eternal club.

3. Union Jack’s, Portland Oregon
Portland strippers would make great rock critics. While Magic Gardens is famous among touring bands for its high brow jukebox - I once debated the merits of a certain Throwing Muses EP with a topless dancer there after being dropped off there by Peter Holmstrom – the first time I heard Minneapolis rap group Atmosphere outside of Minneapolis was at a fine establishment called Union Jack’s. It’s not uncommon to run into other bands, male and female, at this club. It’s not uncommon to blow 400 bucks in an hour and a half either. Oops.

4. Jandek on Corwood
This is about as close to an A&E biography of a serial killer as it is a rock-doc. Since it’s release in 2003, Jandek has been performing live, leaving his true enigma a bit wilted – Tony Clifton, if you are reading this, go out and buy Six on Six – I think it will really frighten you.

5. 10 Essential Tour Items:
- Muscle Shirts
- Petron
- Audio books (current fav: William Burroughs reading abridged four-hour version of JUNKY)
- “Super Orange” Emergen-C packets
- Bayer Children’s chewable Aspirin (cherry flavor)
- Fluoxitine
- Four “Dr. Fresh” brand travel tooth brushes
- Newport Lights
- A water-damaged Hustler magazine from 1987 as a last resort
- And a mini-bible for good measure.

This is possibly the most elegant synth/organ ever created. When I was 13 years old, in cousin Randy’s garage there sat a pristine white CDX under a black light, like something out of Clockwork Orange. I was offered this magnificent creation, and refuted. – one of my greatest regrets to this day. Ugggh, the madness of youth!

7. The Mad Planet, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
My hometown was recently listed as the “Drunkest City in America.” The Mad Planet there sometimes names a drink after the headlining act – the “Mallman Punch” was blue and sour…I was told, I stuck with bottles of Bud and shots of top shelf whatever that particular night. In 1989, Dan Geller (I am the World Trade Center) and I used to come here and dance to NIN’s Pretty Hate Machine!

8. Songwriters on Songwriting
There is no ONE specific approach to songwriting. Whereas Studs Terkel’s magnificent book of interviews, Working, leads us to believe that all professions end up being basically the same thing. SOS adds up to this conclusion – nobody knows why or where the hell good songs come from, the most important thing is that they do, and the rest of the confusion is left to our audiences to sort through.

All other keyboard stands, called “X” stands, refuse to hold the weight of a human being, much less any keyboard over 90 pounds. Shockingly, Qwik-Lok discontinued this fine product a year ago - it’s a travesty. My friends, it is imperative that we keyboard players unite against the stereotype set against us by THE MAN – and stop using the “X” stand. It makes us all look like babies.

10. John Cale - Music for a New Society (Rhino)
Cale’s darkest moment plays like musical Sartre – the lilting time signatures and overdriven vocals give me nausea, every time, never fails. Any songwriter who can pull off a song about chewing the back of their dead lover’s head deserves a Pulitzer Prize…or at least a Barnes and Nobel gift card.

The New Sound of Numbers

The Elephant 6 collective made a shitload of good music. Neutral Milk Hotel and the Olivia Tremor Control garnered tons of fans, and rightly so, but neither band was built for the long haul. OTC’s Will Hart and NMH’s Jeff Mangum loved skirting the spotlight and made some of their best music as the Athens, Ga. outfit Circulatory System. The band’s percussionist Hannah Jones learned a thing or two from these indie rock reverends and eventually rearranged the System into her own band, The New Sound of Numbers. Same members for the most part, including Hart, but Jones wrote, recorded and arranged all of the songs. The New Sound’s debut album comes out on Cloud Recordings on Oct. 10. Jones took part in this week’s listed.

1. Nina Simone - “Revolution”
This is one of the most motivating songs I have ever heard. To my mind it is the most rock-inspired song she ever did. I don't think it’s very well known - I think that most people would associate her with her moodier bluesy and jazzy tunes. I like a lot of those as well, but this one song invokes a true feeling of hope and change. Check it out!

2. Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings - Dap Dippin’ (Daptone)
Through researching a lot of old soul, funk, and rhythm ‘n’ blues bands, I ran across Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. I bought the album Dap Dippin’ after listening to and loving some of the song samples online. I originally thought that the music must be from the ’70s (there was no recording date listed anywhere), but eventually found out that the album surprisingly is from 2002. I would compare the sound to several songs on Jean Knight's 1971 Mr. Big Stuff album. But then there is the song "Got a Thing on My Mind" whose intro rhythms sound like they could be a Can song. And there are lots of beautiful horn arrangements. So there are many surprises and interesting facts involved here.

3. Sly and the Family Stone
Regardless of the direction his life eventually took, Sylvester Stewart's early positive efforts have to be commended. Sly and the Family Stone is amazing feel-good dance music that has an agenda of harmonizing all aspects of society. Not that the music is without feelings of pain, but it confronts heavy issues with great optimism. I was completely struck by footage I saw of the band on the Dick Cavett show. I was impressed both by the performances and by Sylvester Stewart's personality. The interview segment of the show revealed a warm and genuine character who strived to avoid conflict while not ignoring that there were issues to be addressed (political, racial, etc.). Observation of the band's configuration, appearance and lyrics reveals a group of people who become representatives of unity and strength. The band is composed of both female and male, black and white, and I sense that this fact is no accident. It is a potent symbol of the harmony they are trying to achieve. Sylvester Stewart in one of the segments is wearing a six-sided star (Star of David) which, when leaving behind its religious meanings, is a symbol of balance and unity. And there are of course the lyrics, which had a dynamic effect when there are both "blacks" and "whites" singing. And Cynthia Robinson really rocks the trumpet. Definitely one of my favorite bands.

4. David Byrne - Ile Aiye (The House of Life) (Plexifilm)
This is a DVD released in 2004 but filmed, I think, in 1987. It is a documentary "portrait" of the Candomble who live in Brazil, and whose lives are infused with music, dance and ritual. Music, to me, is at its best when it inspires transformation – whether that means changing a person's mood or state of mind, or connecting her or him to what they feel is a "higher power." The Candomble use music to connect with their deities and try to allow the music to completely take over their bodies. We, in our society, may do the same while observing live music performance, when we allow ourselves to absorb the sounds that are moving around and through us. We may not display it as physically as the Candomble, but still we are affected by it. Even people who are completely scientific and objective about life cannot deny that sound vibrates the cells of our bodies. Some may view the Candomble and similar peoples as "the other," but really they are not that far removed from us. They just choose to celebrate life more through symbols and rituals.

5. Janis Joplin - “Summertime”
One of my favorite songs of all time. It gives me chills every time I hear it. Nina Simone's version of the song is great as well, but it doesn't completely stop me in my tracks the way Joplin's does. I've heard people say that Janis Joplin is not a good singer, and I think that is a crazy statement. I think she has an enormous amount of soul.

6. Sun Ra Arkestra
Sun Ra is obviously a complete anomaly in history. And I guess that makes sense since he claims to be from Saturn. His persona seems as though it should have existed either in the ancient past or the far future. He was/is a very surreal musician, exploring a higher reality rather than an unreal reality. Psychedelic without drugs. I got to see the Sun Ra Arkestra under the direction of Marshall Allen fairly recently at a Central Park Summerstage concert. I thought their energy was great. Even if people can't take the other-world space lyrics seriously, they can still appreciate the great skill involved – and the costumes. I personally enjoy the far-out lyrics and especially enjoy hearing June Tyson's voice.

7. The Raincoats and the Slits
I hesitate listing both these bands in one breath, but I will anyway. My favorite Raincoats albums are the first self-titled album and the second album called Odyshape. The self-titled is more upbeat and driving, while Odyshape is more eclectic. This change I am assuming is due to the loss of energetic drummer Palmolive – the result not being a loss of quality, but the introduction of a different style – inventive percussion techniques are employed. Palmolive had previously left the Slits to join the Raincoats. My favorite Slits album is Cut, and my favorite song on that album is "FM." I'm really excited that the Slits are currently touring. Also, Ana da Silva's most recent record To the Lighthouse is really good.

8. Crass - “Walls”
Another favorite song of all time. In the beginning of the song, radio voices are run through tremolo and surrounded with some bass and rhythmic guitar, and anchored by a steady kick drum. Then the song comes in fully with Eve Libertine's vocals in the forefront. This song inspires a sense of strength and a sense of things changing, with Libertine's vocals repeating the mantra "Without your walls, I am alive."

9. Delia Derbyshire
This pioneer of electronic music, recorded Great Zoos of the World, which is "TV title music using only animal sounds." I have never heard this because it is on Radiophonic Workshop 21, a compilation that does not seem to be available. Of all her work, this is the piece I would like to find and hear most.

10. Harry Partch
I am always intrigued and fascinated with homemade instruments. To me they have a magical quality similar to made-up animals. I guess that sense of magic is created by the fact that you are interacting with something you haven't seen or experienced quite the same way before. Partch’s Enclosure 1 is a great documentary from 1958 in which he explains and demonstrates his hand-made instruments. He makes sure to say that he considers himself a composer rather than an instrument builder, but also explains his preference for creating a complete experience. His instruments really are beautiful to look at as well as functional.

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