Tag Archives: pittsburgh

Of Soundtracks and Pittsburgh Musicians, and Pittsburgh Musicians and Soundtracks

As the overly-long title might suggest (if it weren’t so confusing), this post is really two things. Firstly, it functions as a minor plug for a minor film in which I played a minor role this past spring. Born of a challenge posed amongst filmmakers on Twitter to make a feature-length movie in just two weeks, Blanc de Blanc is Pittsburgh’s entry into #2wkfilm, churned out by my friend Lucas McNelly—whose previous film, Gravida, finished a narrow second (to a short starring The Office‘s Rainn Wilson) in the inaugural Now! Film Festival, presented by MySpace. It is also the thing that caused me—hurried as the shooting schedule was—to leave a visiting David Goldfarb alone in my apartment to fend (nap) for himself on a Saturday afternoon, after a hearty breakfast at the Obamas’ favorite Pittsburgh haunt, Pamela’s.

Anyway, the soundtrack to Blanc de Blanc was supplied by a guy named Jerome Wincek who, I’m told, lives way out in Oil City, PA (look it up) and crafts his songs around such things as the sounds of doors slamming and his young daughter banging on pots and pans. (After all, what else is there to inspire in Oil City?) The track I’ve posted here is, in my opinion, the standout within the context of film, but it also noticeably bucks the theme of primarily-instrumental electronic music built around loops of found and ambient sounds, of which the majority of the soundtrack is comprised. Where most of the music pulls a Mike Doughty1-sort of aesthetic (when there’s lyrics at all) into the worlds of glitch and video game music, this track features a distinct Jeff Magnum influence tugging right back.

Jerome Wincek & the Old Hats, “Awake with the Sun”

Secondly, this post is a bit of a prelude (a “teaser,” the kids now say) to the “Where You’re From” post I’ve been planning for some time that should also end up being Noise Narcs’ first exclusive: a leak of tracks from the upcoming album from my friends in Signal to the Ocean Estate. If you recall, Signal’s debut, Tunes for the Bird of Chittenden, was one of my top ten albums of 2009. When making that album, they secured, via a fingers-crossed email to David Lynch’s personal assistant, approval to include on it (royalty-free) this take on Lynch’s composition “In Heaven” from Eraserhead. (Also, this sort of extends the bizarre parallels between some of Chris’s posts and mine.)

Signal to the Ocean Estate, “In Heaven”

And just for fun, I also decided to share the following track (also from Signal’s debut), which—within the spectrum of political songs—fits nicely between “Back in the USSR” and “Fight for Your Right (To Party!).” Most of you will hate it, but I love it.

Signal to the Ocean Estate, “Tribute to the Capital” (sic?)

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1 The man behind Soul Coughing; not to be confused with “Surgical Mike” Dougherty, the man behind Dramatic Oil Company’s inoperable funkiness.

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Where I'm From (Pittsburgh version)

A quick look at Pittsburgh today would reveal nothing of tension.  That is, to all observant parties, its character is pretty well-defined.  To the inertial outsider, Pittsburgh stands as a classicist model of blue-collar efficiency, as reliable a vision as its fuel-driven benefactor evokes (until, of course, it isn’t).  To the entrenched insider, however, Pittsburgh is rapidly-evolving, prodded by the quick growth of technology sectors, evidenced by the expansion of both Google and robotics research, and modeled by its spry, distracted, and exuberant younger-class.  However, with such a distinct contrast, tension is inevitable.  This not only has created an underlying identity crisis, but has resulted in gentrification and complicated, though polite, generational dynamics. 

It is in this context that Good Night, States resides.  On their most recent EP (appropriately titled In the Impossible Tension), strain abounds.  Antiquainted organs clash with modern drum machines.  Dissonant vocals warn of happy times.  An opening guitar riff quickly attempts to rush ahead as its surrounding band tries mightily to hold it back. 

Thus, it is my contribution (for now) to the “Where You’re From” thread.  An outsider might view Pittsburgh through Donnie Iris’s “King Cool” glasses.  City-dwellers may relate through Wiz Khalifa or Girl Talk’s turntables.  However, in uncertain times, a band as prone to haunting melodies as it is to Wilco-inspired freakouts seems to best exemplify just what it is that Pittsburgh may, or may not, stand for.

Good Night States – River in the Dry (from “In the Impossible Tension”)
Good
Night States – The Family Dark (from “Short Films on Self
Control”)

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