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 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 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.

Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Whereas India became a post-racial fondue, two island groups between the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal existed in relative isolation.

Jarawa lounging

The Great Andamanese, Jarawa, Jangil, Onge, and Sentinelese probably represent the purest example of Africa's original pioneers in Asia.

Traditionally, the music of these islands was vocal, sung either in chorus or solo. The lyrics of their songs, whether about dugong-spearing, bow-making or pig-hunting, could generally be considered work songs.

Malay Peninsula
In southeast Asia, the Mani are a remnant population of the original pioneers that live in modern day Thailand. In Malaysia, the Semang are referred to as one of the nation's groups of orang asli, or "original people." The earliest recorded mention of the Semang in the Malay Peninsula is circa 200 BCE, although their presence obviously stretches much further back.


Mani girls

One of their interesting instruments includes the nose flute. It's pretty much impossible to find any clips though... dang!

Human remains in Papua have been dated to around 50,000 years ago. After India, Papua may've been another major setting point for humans leaving Africa. It was from there that people branched out into Maritime Southeast Asia.

Pro-Independence Papuans observing the Biak Massacre

Study of Papuan music has been discouraged by the Indonesian occupation, which seeks to prevent the promotion of Papuan culture.
In Taiwan, Austronesians were long thought to be the island's aborigines. Nowadays, it's known that there were inhabitants much earlier, the most famous being the so-called (and now vanished or absorbed) Changping Culture.


The Changping culture's best-known site is 八仙洞 (Baxiandong) in Taitung County. In 2009, a team from Academia Sinica discovered and confirmed the age of Taiwan's oldest artifacts inside the cave.
The indigenous peoples of Australia include the Alyawarre, Anmatjera, Arrente, Cammeraygal, Dieri, Eora, Gunai, Gunivugi, Gurindji, Guugu Yimithir, Jarrakan, Kalkadoon, Kamilaroi, Kaurna, Koori Kulin, Lurtija, Maralinga Tjarutja, Murrinh-Patha, Narungga, Ngarrindjeri, Ngunnawal, Noongar, Pitjantjatjara, Spinigex, Tharawal, Tiwi, Warlpiri, Wiradjuri, Wonnarua, Wapa, Yolngu, Yorta Yorta and many others.

Arrarnta boys from Ntaria

They are thought by most to have arrived in Australia between 40,000 and 50,000 years ago. It is believed that first human migration to Australia was achieved when this landmass formed part of the Sahul continent, connected to Papua by a land bridge. Others may've crossed the Timor Sea.

Many forms of traditional music formed across the vast continent. Bunggul developed around the Mann River and is known for its usually epic storytelling. In most cultures there are also clan songs and death wails. The best known symbol of indigenous Australian music is the didgeridoo, one of the oldest known instruments. Traditionally it was played only by men on an aerophone made from eucalyptus with a beeswax mouthpiece. Nowadays they can be made from materials like PVC and are often played by white people with dreadlocks.

The Melanesian subregion of Oceania, (from Greek: μέλας "black" and νῆσος, "islands") includes Amplett Islands, Bismarck Archipelago, d'Entrecasteaux Islands, Fiji, Louisiade Archipelago, Maluku Islands, New Caledonia, Papua, Norfolk Island, Raja Ampat Islands, Rotuma, Schouten Islands, Santa Cruz Islands, Solomon Islands, Torres Strait Islands, Trobriand Islands, Vanuatu and Woodlark Island.

Solomon Islander Children

Some of the islands were settled around 33,000 years ago via boats, and in some cases, land bridges. For tens of thousands of years, they were the only game in town, until, around 4,000 years ago, the Austronesians arrived, resulting in a long period of interaction that resulted in many complex changes in genetics, languages, and culture. In the case of remote Fiji, it appears that the Melanesians actually arrived after their neighbors, the Austronesians, around 2,500 years ago.

Vocal music is very common across Melanesia. Folk instruments included many kinds of drums, flutes, pipes and slit-log gongs.

The indigenous Aetas live primarily in The Philippines' northern Luzon Island. Their Austronesian neighbors, the Ilocano, called them pugut, meaning a sort of forest spirit. They probably arrived to the Philippines some 30,000 years ago via land bridge.

Aeta Men

The Aeta have a musical heritage consisting of various types of agung ensembles. Agung are gongs which provide drone without any accompanying melodic instrument.
The Micronesian subregion of Oceania includes Kiribati, the Marianas, the Marshall Islands, the Caroline Islands, Nauru and Wake Island. The islands were settled by successive waves from Melanesia and Austronesia between 3000 BCE and 1300 CE.

Dancers from Kiribati

Their primarily vocal folk music is based around mythology and rituals and covers a range of styles believed to have been introduced in dreams and trances, rather than composed by people. 

Austronesia - Don't Tease Ya

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

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.

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.

Madagascar's Austronesian President Andry Rajoelina

I first learned of Austronesians when I was channel surfing and randomly came upon an unknown TV program. I watched in fascination as I tried to figure out where the documentary was taking place. It turned out to be Madagascar, the large island originally settled sometime around 300BC - 500AD by Austronesian pioneers. I'm sure we didn't talk about Asians being indigenous to part of Africa in school, and my interest was piqued.

Taiwanese Aborigines

The ancestors of the Austronesians came from southern China and settled the Penghu Islands and Taiwan between 10000 and 6000 BCE. New evidence suggests they weren't the first on the scene. At the time, Taiwan was still home to the Australo-Melanesians who may've been descended from the first migration out of Africa and may've arrived arrived some 23,000 years earlier.

Between 5000 and 2500 BCE, population growth fueled the great Austronesian expansion. The early settlers landed in Luzon to the south where they again encountered and intermingled with the Australo-Melanesian natives, the Negritos.

Mentawai Islanders

From there they migrated to the rest of the Philppines, and then the islands of the Celebes Sea, including Borneo, Maluku, Sulawesi and Sumatra (now part of Indonesia and Malaysia). Around 1200 BCE, Austronesians settled in Fiji, Papua, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and the rest of Melanesia and then, to Micronesia, including Guam, Kiritbati, Nauru, Palau and Yap.

Rapa Nui

From there, in around 1000 BCE, they moved on to the previously uninhabited islands of Polynesia and the rest of the Pacific. Between 0 and 500 CE, a western group of Austronesians discovered and settled the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar. By 300, the Austronesians discovered Rapa Nui. From there they may've traveled to Chile, and made contact with the Mapuche. By 400, they discovered Hawaii. Around 800, they discovered Aotearoa (New Zealand).

Ruins of the Champa Kingdom

From their Oceanic bases, some Austronesians returned to the Asian mainland. In the first millennium CE, they traded with China and India and established the kingdoms of Majapahit, Melayu and Srivijaya. Around 900, the Austronesian Kingdom of Champa thrived from its base in Vietnam. Today, Austronesian groups still live in parts of Burma, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Not surprisingly, all the Austronesian cultures viewed the sea as the most important part of their existence. Their skill with watercraft allowed them to move far beyond the territory of their Australo-Melanesian neighbors to far flung, uninhabited corners of the world. Most Austronesians believed in an omnipotent being and also practiced animism, shamanism and ancestor worship. Body art was also important to most Austronesians. In fact, the word "tattoo" is Polynesian.

Today there are around 380 million people of Austronesian ethnicity. In Taiwan, there's something of an Austronesian reawakening taking place, especially in the south. In Taitung, the Tiehua Village regularly features indigenous performers and I caught a performance by Puyuma/Ami singer Panai. Traditionally, the voice is the most important instrument in Austronesian music. There are also various metal percussion instruments like the gangsa and kulintangs of the Philippines and the gamelan of Indonesia. Other percussion uses the performer's body, with clapping, knee slapping and stomping.

Thanks to Lai Xiao Mei for being my guide at Taiwan's National Museum of Prehistory, LanYang Museum and for being a helpful and informative hostess.