Tuesday, November 23, 2010

new compilation and other christmas gifts

Pancake Productions and the Bert Dax Calvalcade of Stars have collaborated to release a new edition of a local compilation, "A Very Bert Dax Christmas, Volume 8".
The Union Electric chose to cover a song by the Dutch punk band The Ex, one of my favorite bands. Read more about them here www.theex.nl ---
The song deals with nuclear winter a little more than it does the Christmas holiday, but our guitar player Glenn Burleigh got the riff down and brought out a guitar pedal that had been sitting around a while unused. We think it was a good and worthwhile recording.

Speaking of Christmas and gift-giving...
Physical copies of many records are available by mail. Just inquire by a charming old-fashioned letter or at the e-mail address below.

Tim Rakel
PO Box 63098
Saint Louis 63163

You may send a check or well-concealed cash to the PO Box above. You may also send your virtual funds by PayPal to mystery@kdhx.org or by Amazon payments to graveyardshift@kdhx.org - All prices include shipping, just let me know what you're ordering.

Bad Folk "Propaganda" 7" (2007)
(three songs with a cover drawn by Dana Smith and printed by Firecracker Press) $7

The May Day Orchestra "May Day, or Songs For Lucy Parsons" 12" LP (2009)
(8 songs written and performed by members of Bad Folk, The Rats & People and Theodore) $13

The Union Electric 7" (2009)
(Three songs, "Sentence", "You Have Been Served" and "Ship Out Of Luck", cover painted by Dana Smith) $7

The Union Electric 7" (2010)
(Two song 45, "Thylacine" and "Bugs", cover designed by Sleepy Kitty) $7

The May Day Orchestra "Ota Benga" CD/2xLP (2010)
(Ten songs featuring members of the original May Day Orchestra as well as members of Tenement Ruth) $12 per CD / $20 per double LP (both include shipping)

"A Very Bert Dax Christmas, Volume 8" CD (2010)
(featuring tracks by Beth Bombara, Cassie Morgan, Glass Teeth, and a cover of "Jack Frost Is Innocent" written by The Ex and performed by The Union Electric) $7 while supplies last

Asbestos Sister

Dana Richard Smith, whose blog you can connect to over there to the right...,
has created record covers for my bands a few times now.
The May Day Orchestra has just released an LP and CD sporting a recent painting of his on the front. My old band, Bad Folk, released a 7" record with a series of Dana's historical character drawings in 2007. He even painted a cover for the 2008 full-length by Bad Folk which was never released. Still, a nice painting.
Dana Smith has also done cover art for bands such as The Dirty 30s and Bunnygrunt.
Perhaps my favorite work of his was painted for the first 7" record by The Union Electric, released last December. This painting hangs in Dana's hallway last I was there and his young son Louis was intrigued by the small replicas of the picture I had brought along to give to his dad.
Paintings and Records, that's what I wanted to tell you about.

Art Show / Rock Show
Friday, December 10 - 7PM sharp - Vintage Vinyl - University City, MO
Dana Smith, The Union Electric and Bunnygrunt

Music sets by two rock bands, music-related paintings displayed and up for sale.
CDs and records corresponding to the paintings will also be available since the show's at a record store.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thanks from the May Day Orchestra

The May Day Orchestra hosted a CD and LP release at the Sheldon this past week and we were impressed by the number of people that showed up to see us along with eight guest musicians and two other bands. Thanks to all who came to listen. Thanks to Theodore and The Rats and People Motion Picture Orchestra for their opening sets and for playing along with us. Thanks to Chad, Kevin and Dominique who also joined our ensemble for the evening. Thanks to my family members who worked the door and friends who tried to sell the new records and CDs.

It was certainly a special night for local music in Saint Louis.

We still have copies for sale in many places. The CD will be released nationally on Tuesday, November 16 - ask for it in your favorite record store. They are also available for order through CD Baby.
The vinyl album is available in four independent record stores in Saint Louis. Outside our hometown, this limited pressing of the double 45rpm 12" has to be ordered directly from us. Feel free to contact me at mystery@kdhx.org to have one sent to you. $20, includes shipping.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

May Day Orchestra at the Sheldon - Wednesday night only!

The May Day Orchestra's official LP and CD release show happens tomorrow, Wednesday, November 10 at the Sheldon Ballroom.

The May Day Orchestra headlines the show, along with the full "Ota Benga Family Band", a 13-piece ensemble to be witnessed for one night only.

Members of Tenement Ruth, The Union Electric, Grace Basement, Rusty Nail, The Skekses, Theodore and The Rats & People will all join in to perform songs from the new record "Ota Benga".

Doors open at 7PM, cost is $12 cash.
The Rats and People Motion Picture Orchestra begins the evening at 8PM with an excerpt from their film score to "Haxan", a surreal Swedish film from the 1920s. The full score will debut with next Friday at the International Film Festival - come get a preview.
Theodore follows with their multiple instruments and great songs - they have dozens to choose from and whichever they play will be good listening.

The new CD will be for sale for a low price of $10 and the double vinyl album for $15. All other related releases from The Union Electric and Tenement Ruth will also be available as well.
Support local music.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Chinese Tunnels

The lyrics to the newest song by The Union Electric were inspired by a chapter in William Vollmann's 1300-page book "Imperial" which was published last year. The thing that first struck me was a passage about masses of people coming up from the ground when there was a widespread fire. "Like ants" one observer said. Worker ants. The song has yet to make it into our live set but it's coming soon. It's about Mexican immigration issues even if the characters are Chinese people from a hundred years ago. This is how I often work, take something a century old, hold up a mirror, and you don't even have to change the names. I have to believe Tijuana and Nogales have similar tunnel worlds going right now.

The 45 single will be available in Spring 2011 from Rankoutsider Records.


In the shadow of the mountain of gold,
there are stories of tunnels of which no one speaks
In the days of the great fires raging,
when people came up, up from the ground

Under the street, like some late-night dream,
there's a tunnel under the Hotel Imperial
Building a railroad, a gold rush underground
Inventors of paper, inventors of gun powder

They came for work but they were not wanted,
condemned with the rats and the trash
They were not wanted here, so they go somewhere else
and now there are tunnels from here to there

Believe in something that you've never seen,
believe because it has to be there
That secret dragon haunts that desert,
in the heat with the whirlwinds and the quicksand

The ghost of that dragon haunts the desert
in the secret world along the borderlands
The hopeful and the hopeless all run together
and all night the people sing, please, send money home

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Thylacine (on 45 and digital)

The Union Electric's new 45 features a "scored poem" called "Thylacine".
The lyrics are taken from Stefene Russell's poem of the same name from her collection "The Extinction of the Species".

The track is available now through iTunes and Amazon's digital music sites.
If you are more interested in the physical artifact, it's a nice one. The records are pressed on randomly-mixed colored vinyl and feature a custom-designed cover by Sleepy Kitty Graphic Arts.

The Union Electric plays an official release show with film accompaniment by VJ Evil Che at Mangia Italiano in Saint Louis on August 14. Opening sets by Beth Bombara and Cassie Morgan.

--- This new record and all my others are available by check or through PayPal - mystery@kdhx.org - payment may be sent to this address as well as e-mail orders.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


The May Day Orchestra has signed to Rankoutsider Records, an independent label based in Los Angeles. We will be releasing the "Ota Benga" folk opera later in 2010. If all goes well, this will be available on CD and vinyl record, as well as digitally.
Pat Todd, founder of the band The Lazy Cowgirls, has invited us to join his label which also includes Stace England & The Salt Kings among many other notable bands.



Wednesday, February 10, 2010

May Day Orchestra - Live and Digital

The May Day Orchestra's first recording "May Day, or Songs For Lucy Parsons" is still available in 12" vinyl format in Saint Louis from A-Pop Records, Euclid Records, and Vintage Vinyl. They are available in Chicago as well, at Permanent Records and Reckless Records.

The tracks are now available as digital downloads through PM Press of Oakland, CA. Just search for The May Day Orchestra in your favorite on-line music store and it should come up with "May Day or Songs For Lucy Parsons".

The May Day Orchestra, aka The Ota Benga Family Band, next performs its newest folk opera on Friday, June 18, at the Schlafly Tap Room. The Tap Room is at 21st and Locust in downtown Saint Louis.
Tim Rakel, Mary Williams, Melissa Anderson, Dave Anderson and Josh Weinstein will present the "Folk Opera Concerning the Congo Situation and the Life of Ota Benga" at 9PM.

Two of our recent shows have been with our Rankoutsider Records label-mates Stace England and The Salt Kings. Check out their newest CD "The Amazing Oscar Micheaux", as well as two previous albums of like-minded historically conscious-musical works. www.rankoutisderrecords.com - - -
updated/reposted, May 10, 2010

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Circular Anabasis, or Svejk at the Public Library

"The major-general on the train says soliders aren't supposed to think..."

I've started, again, reading "The Good Soldier Svejk and His Adventures In the First World War". This book is the only thing keeping me sane... and it's hilarious.
Thanks Jaroslav Hasek.

More on this next time.

Monday, January 4, 2010

On A Monday ...

Some friends of mine sent out a survey of ten questions about 2009 on New Year's Eve and KDHX asked me to name my favorite ten records of 2009. All this quantifying of activity during a seemingly arbitrary period of time...

One of the survey questions asked about a favorite book I read during the year and I replied with the following list, explaining that I work in a library. Mostly, it's that I like many different things for different reasons and I'd rather spend time listening to more records and reading more books than trying to figure out which is better by my own imagined standards. But this is by no means a list of the current best-sellers, I think the newest book I read this past year is ten years old.

some fiction:
Nick Cave "And The Ass Saw The Angel" - A book I bought several years back and never got around to... I don't know why, perhaps because a few early passages are dense and initially vague but this is one of the best-written books and creepiest narrative voices I've encountered. I've always liked his songwriting but I dare say this is even better work, as well as a logical mid-point between The Birthday Party and The Bad Seeds. It is perhaps more accessible than the Birthday Party but even more disturbing. It also has that deranged folk-influence that would develop more into work like the record "Murder Ballads".

Tayeb Salih "A Season Of Migration To The North" - A book I saw on the shelf of my May Day-bandmate Brien Seyle, by a Sudanese author not very well known outside the Arabic literary world. Salih died in early 2009 and this novel was reprinted by New York Review Books. As a one-time student of African Studies and English literature, somehow I missed this one until now. Two narrators, one within the first narrator's story, with an interesting take on a common theme of African novels, that of the modern collision between the traditional life of Africa and that of the Europeans.

Aleksandar Hemon "The Question Of Bruno" - A book of short stories by a Bosnian living in Chicago. I started reading this at the Public Library in downtown Alton, Illinois one day. I liked the stories because they stood up by themselves but also crossed over with each other, a few stray characters entering other worlds. Hemon has been compared to Nabokov on the premise of a his being a European who learned English as a second language and then used it more beautifully than its native speakers. He's also rather funny. Left Bank Books hosted Hemon ealier this past year as well for a reading from his newest collection.

some non-fiction:
Phillips Verner Bradford "Ota: The Pygmy In The Zoo" - A book which I've had for a while but finally read in its entirety this past year as I worked with the story of Ota Benga for a project of my own writing. Bradford is the grandson of Philips Verner, the man who brought Ota Benga to the United States and kept him at the World's Fair. The fair was demeaning enough but Ota Benga's life before and after that are revelatory tragedies of their own. From the loss of his family during the Belgian King Leopold's horrific colonial enterprise, Ota Benga took up with the strange white man as a door number two to avoid slavery. After the 1904 Fair in Saint Louis, he lived in the Bronx Zoo and later shot himself.

Ryszard Kapuscinski "The Emperor" and "Another Day Of Life" - Two of many books by the Polish journalist who died in 2008. "The Emperor" is made up of interviews with people in Ethiopia and documents the fall of Haile Selassie. Why people worship at the altar of that fallen leader will always escape me. "Another Day Of Life" is about the Angolan civil war of 1975. Kapuscinski went there as the state was crumbling, after Portugal's own king had fallen and its colonies were abandoned. As in his other books, the author makes himself out to be a bad-ass without ever trying, just simply describing the situatuions he's gotten himself into while keeping a keen eye on the politics of it all.

and some poetical non-fiction:
Vachel Lindsay "A Handy Guide For Beggars, Especially Those of the Poetic Fraternity" - I read some of this with an afternoon beer-buzz in a state park in Wisconsin under shelter from the rain, hoping the Springfield poet would appreciate it. This is one of Lindsay's collections of travel writing, interspersed with poems. Not exactly a memoir or a short story collection, but it works between those genres. Published originally in 1916, it makes a good case for going back to simpler things. The author made rules for himself about what time of day to beg a meal and avoided big towns and railroads, god forbid he had a cell phone out in those woods.

Speaking of technology, here is my list of CDs and records that I turned in to KDHX as my favorites of the past year.
Tinariwen "Imidiwan: Companions" - Nomad rock. Hypnotic and catchy music from a group of Mali's Tuareg people. Thanks to the French record producers that have helped the rest of the world get to hear them.
Sonic Youth "The Eternal" - It was so cool to see them play this summer on a stage in front of the Mississippi river as the sun set. The songs are consistently good on this one.
Tom Russell "Blood and Candle Smoke" - Another great live show I saw this past year, backed up by a good record. Calexico, one of my favorite bands, supports Russell's great stories with some of their trademark instrumentation.
Grace Basement "Gunmetal Gray" - My friend Kevin Buckley has been working on this one for a while. I think everyone that has heard this record has been impressed by it. Now if only more people got to hear it...
Mos Def "The Ecstatic" - I like rap when it's this intelligent. Just like with rock bands, it's so easy to sell out and make meaningless music, so it stands out when popular artists don't do that.
Scott Pinkmountain and The Golden Bolts Of Tone "The Full Sun" - Gino Robair, the drummer on this record, sent copies after his visit to Saint Louis. I think every musician in the San Francisco bay area may have had a hand in making this one.
Neko Case "Middle Cyclone" and Andrew Bird "Noble Beast" - They don't need my help with promotion but these two still make good records.
Stace England and The Salt Kings "The Amazing Oscar Micheaux" - A concept record of sorts from a history-minded rock band from southern Illinois.
Amadou and Mariam "Welcome To Mali" - More music from Mali, whose government at one point asked each of the country's seven regions to pick a band to represent their area. The results were national orchestras and some state-funded art.
There were plenty of other good records that didn't fit into my arbitrary list of ten. Maybe I'll elaborate next week.