Kate Izquierdo

Soft machines

With amplified thumb piano and pots and pans in hand, Konono No. 1 prove that good things can happen in Kinshasa
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Electrifying a thumb piano sounds about as unlikely as, say, strapping a jet engine onto a surfboard. That very action, however, explains the central mystery behind Congo's Konono No. 1. But don't expect an esoteric creation myth from founder and likembe virtuoso Mawangu Mingiedi, who explains that his feedback-rich music exists simply "because it's a very soft-sounding instrument and Kinshasa is a very noisy town."

The likembe has a gentle, waterlogged twang, like a mouth harp encased in Jell-O. Read more »

Failure, so thrive

Black metal, free jazz, and improv skronk — these are the things Ettrick are made of
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"Ever heard of Wisconsin Death Trip?" Jacob Heule asks. Ettrick's alto sax–playing half and I are in my living room discussing the rigors of life in the Midwest as they pertain to the metal-listening youth of today. Heule, a Wisconsin native, has jokingly — or maybe not so jokingly — cited Michael Lesy's book about the disintegration of the 19th-century town Black River Falls as we make loose connections between freezing cold weather, insanity, and locales that death metal and its fans call home. Read more »

In bed with the Long Winters

Masterfully eloquent longing -- of the drunken rapist kind.
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It's become popular to characterize the Long Winters' John Roderick as an intellectual ronin of sorts: a librarian without master who travels the countryside lending his songs and wisdom to brainy 826 benefits. Read more »

Smile when you say "mockney"

UK ska-pop princess Lily Allen rules the Euro-singles school
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For those of you living in a cool-free cave out by the FM tower, Lily Allen is hot property. Read more »

Writing wrongs

Billy Bragg keeps the progressive home fires burning and cynicism at bay.
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If there's one person you would expect to condemn the present state of America's political affairs, it would be Billy Bragg, right? Surely Britain's punk poet laureate should be grabbing every microphone within reaching distance to decry the evils of our current administration. But surprisingly, his reaction is quite the opposite. Read more »

This tune's for you

Catching up with What Made Milwaukee Famous
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We've all been there. You're entranced by some wonderful song that you can't live without, only to buy the album, hunker down to listen, and find it full of duds. Your purchase ... sucks. Read more »