Sip, Don’t Gulp

9 02 2014

God bless Dust-to-Digital. Eight Grammy nominations in the past 10 years. One win, for 2008’s Art of Field Recording, Vol. 1. This year’s they-should-have-won-but-didn’t nomination was for Best Historical Album, Pictures of Sound: One Thousand Years of Educed Audio. pic_sound

It was bested by a 1965 live recording of the Rolling Stones in Ireland. As good as the Stones are, it was produced by ABKCO and it’s doubtful a nearly 50-year-old recording trumps 1,0000 years of sound. Come on, Grammy deciders.

The Stones shared the Grammy with Bill Withers’ Complete Sussex and Columbia Albums. High cotton.

dtd-28-600There’s always next year, Dust-to-Digital. No doubt the label’s 2015 offering will be Longing for the Past, a box set that’s a piece of art unto itself, a 4-disc collection of 78s recorded around the turn of the 20th century until the ’60s, with a beautifully illustrated and researched book that explains the odd tunings and instrumentations that amble dizzyingly across the years. There’s Homage to a Royal Eminence, performed by Ma Thin, born in Burma with a blues singer’s name. Recorded in 1921, a staggering upright piano provides the head-tilting melodic backdrop. Everything is drastically out of kilter with any notion of Western tuning. The notes say a “piano company from Madras set up shop in Rangoon catering to British and rich Burmese patrons. Because so many of these uprights were left untuned, unvoiced for so long, the hammer felts saturated by tropical moisture, their sound became typical sandaya (piano) sound for Burmese audiences of the time.”

Great context. An entire generation’s musical taste and education was formed because a piano was left untended in the tropic heat and rain.Unknown

Burma’s Pyi Hla Hpe, who sings Ba Ba Win (Glorious Beloved), grew from entertainer to national hero. He started as an actor, became a movie studio music director. For some silent films, he “would stand behind the screen and sing live while the audience watched the film. At Burmese Independence, in 1948, Pyi Hla Hpe left behind recording, singing, and the state to enter the new army of independent Burma.”

This box set is hours of compelling, alluring and mysterious music that may well have not been heard had Dust-to-Digital not taken the time and effort to exhume, breathe new life into, and send forth into the world so beautifully packaged.

There were some quality wins at this year’s Grammys, most notable being:

Unknown-1— Daft Punk’s Get Lucky. They should win an award just for their name. This French duo continues to unleash memorable rhythm and melody that’s never too far from where the dance floor and the funny bone knit.

— Lorde’s Royals. Peggy Lee woulda loved it.

— Wayne Shorter’s Orbits. All praises to the long-living innovative saxophonist. The world is fortunate to have him, Ron Carter, Ahmad Jamal, and Sonny Rollins continue making vital jazz.

— Stephen Colbert’s America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t. Will Rogers seems more quaint every year.

Nick Cave has the touch. He’s re-inventing an old sound, gospel, and turning it into something even more secular and hypnotic than it probably should be. Still, it’s hard not to feel the spirit when he’s living completely inside performances like this one. He’s a guy who knows how to use backing singers well. Really well. Pop this one out full screen and turn the volume up.

Nick Cave escaped the drug addiction that Philip Seymour Hoffman could not. “We’ll have to abide without him.”daily-cartoon-140204fb

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