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New Smashing Pumpkins Album ‘Oceania’ Up for Preorder at Amoeba

Posted by Billy Gil, May 29, 2012 05:36pm | Post a Comment
Smashing Pumpkins OceaniaOceania, the upcoming “album within an album” from The Smashing Pumpkins, is now up for preorder on Amoeba.com. The album is part of Billy Corgan’s ongoing Teargarden by Kaleidyscope project, which has included two physical releases thus far, Vol. 1 and 2.
 
It’s been a tricky thing to navigate Billy Corgan’s post-breakup of the original Smashing Pumpkins career. For every good to terrific release — from the unfairly maligned, Cocteau Twins-esque Machina and especially Machina II, to the too-short-lived Zwan and its sole release, Mary Star of the Sea, to his promising Depeche Mode as shoegaze solo debut, TheFutureEmbrace — there’ve been missteps — the largely underwhelming Zeitgeist (save a few choice crazy guitar tracks), the pretty bad American Gothic EP, tossed off digital singles. Of the newer songs, released after the departure of longtime drummer and sole other original Pumpkin Jimmy Chamberlain, I’ve only really liked a few. The psych-ballad “A Stitch in Time” knocks me on my ass when I hear it and leaves me hoping Corgan will continue pursuing more experimental territory, like he did to such success (at least in my mind, and that of a devoted cult) on Adore.
 
From what I’ve heard of Oceania so far, I’m cautiously optimistic. Though Pumpkins songs never sound the same on record as they do live, recent Pumpkins recordings have sounded increasingly stripped-down, which isn’t a problem, as long as the songs are strong. So just going by songs, then, the live tracks I’ve heard on YouTube from Oceania, as they’ve yet to release an official single from it, rock pretty hard, and do, as Corgan has alluded, sound like Siamese Dream, Gish and, actually, especially, Pisces Iscariot, their B-side album from the early era that’s at least as good as Gish. So far, opener “Quasar” reminds me a lot of “Geek USA,” one of my favorite songs from Siamese Dream —and ever, really — with its stop-start heavy riffage. The recording of “Panopticon” I heard has the kind of harmonic guitar playing that gives me goosebumps, kind of like Zeitgeist standouts “7 Shades of Black” and “Starz,” but with a better melody, like “Rocket.” “Pinwheels” aims for the heartstrings with its plinking keyboards and classic harmonic riff, sort of like a mellower “Today” or “Glynis,” one of my favorite Pumpkins B-sides.
 
So, we’ll see, fellow Pumpkins-heads. The album could end up being really awesome. Like most people for whom the Pumpkins are their all-time favorite band, or top 5 at least, I’ll definitely be getting it and there will be at least a few songs that renew my love for the band. But from what I’ve heard so far, this could be the return to form we’ve been hoping for.

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Out of Africa - Austro-Melanesian History, Culture and Music

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 1, 2010 12:00pm | Post a Comment
Once upon a time, one or two hundred thousand years ago or so, anatomically human beings appeared on the scene in Africa. About 60,000 years ago, there may have been as many as 5,000 people living on the planet. A number, possibly around 150, decided to cross the Red Sea... following the lead of their cousins, Homo erectus, who'd decided to look for new real estate some 2 million years earlier.

Homo Erectus
Homo Erectus couple
 

The humans traveled along the Arabian coast and, once arriving in South Asia, decided to settle down for a while. Over thousands of years, physical differences would develop in humans that spread from this population; lighter skin allowed for the absorption of Vitamin D3 as people moved into less sunny climes. Nowadays we usually call these descendants Asians and white people. But the people that moved on through Southeast Asia to Australia don't have a name nearly as recognized. To my ears, Australoid sounds so clunky... does the "oid" suffix ever sound good? Some of the more widely used terms in their respective cultures include the vague "black," "negrito" and "aborigine." I'm going to stick with Austro-Melanesian (or Australo-Melanesian) for now... If that catches on, maybe future generations will shorten it to AMs, Ausmels or something catchier. But for now, I'd merely like to focus on both the diversity and solidarity of these various peoples.

Austronesia - Don't Tease Ya

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 28, 2010 11:25pm | Post a Comment
Austronesia

Until recently, Austronesian wasn't a self-designation. The name comes from Latin auster (south wind) plus Greek nêsos (island). Of course, historically, Inuits and Aztecs never referred to themselves, in collective solidarity, as "Indians" or "Native Americans," but that doesn't mean we can't see similarities now. Having just  just returned from Taiwan, I've observed a growing pride by some Taiwanese Austronesians in their culture. In June, the International Austronesian Conference was held in Taiwan.

It's probably happening amongst other Austronesians, too, and if anyone wants to buy me a plane ticket to see first hand, I will be there as soon as possible.

Outrigger canoe

Covering a vast area of the Earth, the Austronesians never established a large, centralized authority. Unlike the Mongols, Turks, English or Russians, the Austronesians didn't conquer and assert their sovereignty. Rather, they explored and spread, intermingling when they encountered natives, trading with neighbors and populating previously uninhabited islands. What they left is a vast cultural and linguistic umbrella, on par with the Bantu, Indo-Europeans, Afroasiatics and Uralics.

Andry Rajoelina
Madagascar's Austronesian President Andry Rajoelina