Official music page and soapbox of Matt Snell

Monday 31 October 2011

Halloween Special: Name That Skull

What kind of skull is it?
I don't mean to seem morbid, but I uh, have this skull. It used to be joined at the neck to some kind of animal, but I don't know what kind. I figured, tonight being Halloween, now's the time to ask.

I found this skull when I went out to pick banjo in the ruins of an old cabin (really) and accidentally sat on it. It is a sturdy skull and didn't break, even though it was lying in the ground sideways, which is why it has that cool half-dirty, half-clean yin and yang thing. I put it in my pocket and took it home, but no one I've shown it to yet can tell me definitively what kind of skull it is.

That's what I'd like to know.
Hunters, veterinarians, cryptozoologists, can you tell? I tried to photograph it from several angles, but I have lots more photos I can send if you need. I'm sorry I couldn't find the jaw, but you can see that it used to have some fairly wicked teeth. I'm guessing maybe fisher or fox, but something tells me jackalope.  I thought maybe chupacabras (a little one) but they don't usually come this far north.

It's kind of creepy to have it on my desk not knowing what it is. Rebecca wants nothing to do with it, and I would like to resolve the issue as soon as possible. Any help you can provide in this matter is much appreciated.

Happy Halloween,


Tuesday 25 October 2011

Bang & Jangle Radio Hour, Season 2, Episode 5: The Old and the New

Last night I took a look at how old music influences the new. A pretty broad topic, but one that I'm particularly fascinated in as a fan of old-time music. It was less a playlist of complementary tunes than an opportunity to compare and contrast, and here are some striking samples of divergent evolution:

Martin Denny - Chinese Lullaby
Four Tet - And They All Look Broken Hearted
Hank Williams - Jambalaya
Hank Williams III - Gutter Stomp
Bill Monroe - I Live in the Past
Petunia - I Live in the Past
Hoyt Ming and his Pep Steppers - Indian War Whoop
Holy Modal Rounders - Indian War Whoop
Frank Fairfield - Cumberland Gap
Sheesham and Lotus - Givin' It Away
Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats - Rocket 88
Tom Waits - Get Lost
Dengue Fever - Tiger Phone Card

Listen to this episode:

Season 2, Episode 5

I also mentioned a Sheesham and Lotus concert at the Thomasburg Hall on October 28 (110 Clare Street, Thomasburg). Thomasburg is on Highway #37 in Central Ontario, about 27 kilometres north of Belleville. If you're coming  from Peterborough and would like tickets, contact me at If you are in the Thomasburg area or elsewhere, call 613-478-1019 or write to Tickets are $15 a pop. Do reserve your tickets if you're thinking of coming, since the last show at the hall, featuring Goto Izumi, sold out.

One more thing: the Sheesham and Lotus song I played last night came from this video. If you're sitting on the fence about whether or not to come to the show, this should be all the push you need:

Sheesham and Lotus Trio - ' Givin It Away ' - Live in an Orchard on Wolfe Island from Lenny Epstein on Vimeo.

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Bad as Me: Seventeen Albums and Still a Mad Genius

I listened to Tom Waits' new album Bas as Me last night, and now all I want to do is do it again. I mentioned here that it was coming a few weeks ago, and I'd been on tenterhooks since. Now I can relax and let it blow my mind over and over again.

It seems unfair to Waits to continually mention his age when he sounds fresher at sixty-one than most musicians in their twenties. However, when so many of his contemporaries have their best albums behind them, Tom Waits has become especially important to me for proving that artistic growth can continue indefinitely. In fact, on tracks like "Kiss Me," "Last Leaf," and "New Year's Eve," Waits' approach as an older man is what makes the album relevant alongside earlier ones. The lyric "Kiss me like a stranger once again" makes you wonder what his wife thinks when she hears it (although I'm sure she's fine with it, Kathleen Brennan has co-author credit), and revisits the jazzy material from the first part of his career, which I'm usually less partial to, from a new perspective. "Last Leaf" is a duet with Keith Richards that seems to speak directly about the same effect I'm talking about: “The autumn took the rest, but they won’t take me.”

 The thing that makes Tom Waits albums so exciting is that they are all sonically and thematically well-differentiated from each other - you won't mistake Rain Dogs for Frank's Wild Years or Alice for Real Gone. Bad as Me continues the tradition, with the most striking new element of this new album being a more personal feel. Although I don't know the man, several tracks seem more directly informed by personal experiences and feelings. I don't insist on confessional material - I'd much rather hear a piece of well-tuned theatre than a sloppy diary reading - but several of the new tunes do cut to the quick and show that Waits is still pushing his songwriting.

Musically speaking, Tom Waits albums are the gold standard for production values as far as I'm concerned. They sound to me like a bricolage of grungy low-fi sounds used for texture, alongside meticulously recorded rich sounds to round out the space. The rhythms are repetitive and insistent, but skewed in such a way to create unusual juxtapositions. Brokedown performances seem brilliantly conceived and intentional, as if the players are telepathically linked. The style is highly evolved but doesn't seem like an exercise in technique. The song "Get Lost" impressed me by suggesting fifties rock while sounding more primitive, raw, and weird than any such music that ever actually existed. The most potent new sounds are on the track "Hell Broke Luce," imbued as they are with intense rage. It's the only Waits song I can name that uses profanity, which may seem minor except that it breaks a certain genre standard set in so many other songs and impresses the listener with its immediacy. The song also contains gritty, realistic references to meth, and forgoes stylized criminal names like Dudlow Joe in favour of simple ones like Jeff for the same effect. It's scary, you'll be impressed.

The album is officially released on October 25, but you can preview it on until Friday. By all means drop what you're doing and preview it, but if just can't find the time, schedule it in next week. If you need more Waits, check out this interview with Jian Ghomeshi on Q, posted below. I've already revealed too much, so I'm going to quit and go hear Bad as Me again...

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Bang & Jangle Radio Hour, Season 2, Episode 4: Masters of their Instrument

Wu Man with pipa
Like I said on the show, some musicians stand out for their genre-defining playing or their godlike mastery of multiple styles. Last night we took a look at virtuosos across more than a dozen instruments:

Clara Rockmore (theremin) - Summertime
Augustus Pablo (melodica) - East of the River Nile
Dick Dale and his Del-Tones (surf guitar) - Hava Nagila
Bill Monroe and Doc Watson (mandolin, flatpicking guitar) - Watson's Blues
Del Wood (ragtime piano) - Down Yonder
Kronos Quartet and Wu Man (pipa) - Royal Wedding
The Chieftains (bodhrán) - The Morning Dew
Yma Sumac (voice) - Tumpa (Earthquake)
Kodo (taiko) - Lion
Evelyn Glennie (percussion) - Clog Dance
Thelonious Monk (jazz piano) - Epistrophy
Kongar ol-Ondar and Paul Pena (throat singing) - Eki A'ttar (Good Horses)
Les Claypool (bass) - Cosmic Highway

Last night was a chance to play more classical, world, and jazz material than we've had yet on the Bang & Jangle Radio Hour. Kodo was so intense I literally started sweating (look at the picture below and you'll see why). I'm also going to be listening down deep into Evelyn Glennie's back catalog soon. Just as soon as I finish with the new Tom Waits record, that is. So much to listen to...

The Bang & Jangle Radio Hour airs Mondays 9:00-10:00 p.m. on Trent Radio, 92.7 in Peterborough, or online at

Listen to this episode:

Season 2, Episode 4

Kodo in action

Monday 17 October 2011

Teaser: Belinda Bedekovic, Keytar Wizard

Tonight on the Bang & Jangle Radio Hour, I'll be looking at Masters of their Instrument. Since no one needs to hear twenty guitar virtuosos in a row, I dug a little deeper and found this gem by Zagreb's Belinda Bedekovic. Believe me, I'm not exaggerating when I use the word wizard. Although it is a little strange that she has mounted her keytar on a stand, essentially making it a synthesizer on an angle, Belinda's mastery of her instrument is undeniable. I enjoyed reading her biography so much, I thought I'd share an excerpt:

Belinda Bedekovic, from Zagreb in Croatia, began to take up music at the age of three and a half years after her mother Ivkica purchased first keyboard, red ''Bambi'' on which Belinda played her first note ''e''. And so Belinda, under pedagogical leadership of her father Teodor, professional musician, started to overcome note by note with a good grace, curiosity and child's interest, taking her keyboard as a new amazing and brilliant toy. That's how it started. First appearance on TV Belinda had at the age of 5. Her performance was accompanied by admiration of music experts because five years old child with impeccable musical ear professionally done recording session at first attempt. Stunned cameramen and director asserted: ''Even a famous and trained musicians can’t make it at first attempt!''.

The biography chronicles Belinda's growth from childhood to the present (you can read the full thing here). Recently, "she has been working on her project 'TORNADO ON THE REMOTE KEYBOARD'," and boasts that "performances are regularly accompanied by enthusiastic applause, sometimes even leading to euphoria."

Later on it mentions a collaboration with Sacha Baron Cohen during his Borat phase, which begs the question how self-aware Belinda's act is. But as often as the keytar is the butt of cheap jokes, Belinda's performance wins the day with impressive chops and Croatian flavour:


Tuesday 11 October 2011

Bang & Jangle Radio Hour, Season 2, Episode 3: Autumn Songs

This week on the Bang & Jangle Radio Hour I played a melancholy mixture of songs about autumn, in honour of Thanksgiving. It went something like this:

Dock Boggs - Turkey in the Straw
A Hawk and a Hacksaw - A Hack and a Handsaw
Tom Waits - November
Leon Redbone - Shine on Harvest Moon
The Scarring Party - Everything I Touched Caught Fire
George Winston - Autumn (Sea)
Luke Doucet - New Orleans
Hawksley Workman - Stop Joking Around
The Pogues - Haunting
Timber Timbre - Lay Down in the Tall Grass
Louis Armstrong - Autumn Leaves
Willie Nelson - September Song
Django Reinhardt - September Song
Chet Baker and Bill Evans - September Song

That's three versions of Kurt Weill's September Song, if you're counting. It seems like themes are just falling into my lap this month - I've already started working on an ultra-spooky extra special Halloween edition of the Bang & Jangle Radio Hour...

The Bang & Jangle Radio Hour airs Mondays 9:00-10:00 p.m. on Trent Radio, 92.7 in Peterborough, or online at

Listen to this episode:

Season 2, Episode 3

Tuesday 4 October 2011

Bang & Jangle Radio Hour, Season 2, Episode 2: What's in a Name?

What's in a name? Funky funky music, it turns out. Last night on the Bang & Jangle Radio Hour, I choose tunes on the basis of their intriguing titles. In order of appearance:

Bessie Smith - Gimme a Pigfoot and a Bottle of Beer
Hoosier Hot Shots - I Like Bananas Because They Have No Bones
Nugrape Twins - I Got Your Ice Cold Nugrape
Raymond Scott - Yesterday's Ice Cubes
Larry "Wild Man" Fischer - Monkeys vs. Donkeys
Roky Erickson & the Aliens - It's a Cold Night for Alligators
Ween - Hey There Fancypants
Joe Meek - Love Dance of the Saroos
Kaada - Broken Horse Restaurant
Tin Hat Trio - Same Shirt, Different Day
Frank Pahl & Klimperei - Cat's Tongues with Cream
The Books - An Owl with Knees

Honorable mention goes to When Fishsticks Turn to Mermaids, My Pink Half of the Drainpipe, God's Away on Business, What Did the Buzzard Say to the Crow, and I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive. Maybe next time...

The Bang & Jangle Radio Hour airs Mondays 9:00-10:00 p.m. on Trent Radio, 92.7 in Peterborough, or online at

Listen to this episode:

Season 2, Episode 2