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Sounds of the Week #4

July 4, 2013

Welcome to the fourth installment of Sounds of the Week, the weekly musical musings of members of the Justseeds cooperative. This week: Jon Mueller and Orchestre Poly Rythmo de Cotonou.


Sound notes from Kevin:
Orchestre Poly Rythmo de Cotonou
I have been grateful to Roger Peet ever since we traveled from PDX to San francisco, for the Book Fair, a couple years back for putting the Orchestre Poly Rythmo de Cotonou album on my ipod. They are a West African ensemble from Benin and their music is suitable for any situation. I play it during open hours at Interference Archive listen to it while making art, on road trips, during Justseeds installs, and while tabling the Book Fairs. The recordings are really unique, as I presume they were made with limited equipment, and this adds to the beauty of the harmonies, instrumentation and orchestration. I find it to be a crowd-pleaser no matter the circumstance.

Sound notes from Pete:
Jon Mueller /Death Blues
I moved back to Milwaukee a little over a year ago. I have always found this city incredibly prolific when it comes to art and music, especially the DIY music scene. Milwaukee has had, and continues to have an amazing underground music community which puts on incredible shows in basements, storefronts and small bars. Upon my arrival here I have tried to explore the current world of music here and once again am astounded by some of the sounds coming out of this underdog city. Jon Mueller is one of those sounds, his music lives on the edges of noise/ drone/ experimental/ ambient/ folk/ and performance art. A true innovator Mueller is primarily a percussionist but also performs in a myriad of forms. I initially met him in 95 when he was the singer of a long lost noise rock band called Sissy, I think he prefers this remain forgotten as he doesn’t list this on his past projects. While Sissy was a bit too Jesus Lizard for their own good Jon’s haunting vocals always blew me away in person. The first time I saw him play drums I was in awe that a person could actually do what he was doing, he used every part of his lanky frame to create a cacophony of rhythms which doubled up on itself fell apart and somehow came back to the origin of the beat. His bands Telecognac, Pele, and Collection of Colonies of Bees are a testament to his compositional vision and artistic insight, but his newest project Death Blues I think blows all of these out of the water. His drumming has become much more stripped down, leaving only the essential elements for monumental impact. Death Blues is like a more conceptual and artsy version of the sonic realms the Swans are attempting to traverse with a bit of Shellac thrown in. The epic masterpiece that Death Blues is on vinyl is much more powerful in person, and was conceived as a multi-sensory performance piece staged in December of 2012 at Alverno College for two shows only. It gets pretty epic about 9 minutes into this youtube clip:

Death Blues has been performed in various formations since the initial showing. I saw a Death Blues performance in Milwaukee at the Cactus Club. The line up for this show was Mueller on drums and 2 guitarists playing with their guitars resting on table tops, beating them with hammer dulcimer mallets. The set was intensely repetitive, starting with Mueller speaking into the mic in an indecipherable language which then proceeded to loop over and over upon itself, slowly bringing in the pulsating drum beat, with the hammers guitars coming in building to a crescendo…something like this:

This is music that requires patience as it reveals itself. Patience is a virtue. Listen to my favorite song off Death Blues here:

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