WBEZ | underground http://www.wbez.org/tags/underground Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Songs We Love: Natural Information Society & Bitchin Bajas, 'Sign Spinners' http://www.wbez.org/news/songs-we-love-natural-information-society-bitchin-bajas-sign-spinners-113072 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/bajas1.jpg" alt="" /><p><div><div data-crop-type="" style="text-align: center;"><img alt="Bitchin Bajas (pictured) join Natural Information Society on Automaginary." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/09/24/bajas1_wide-4ac16221161d4fbdf72d61ff399140bf8f361050-s700-c85.jpg" style="height: 337px; width: 600px;" title="Bitchin Bajas, left, join Natural Information Society on Automaginary.(Jeremiah Chiu/Courtesy of the artist)" /></div></div><div><div><p>Over the past five years, the groups&nbsp;<a href="http://naturalinformationsociety.com/">Natural Information Society</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="http://bitchinbajas.tumblr.com/">Bitchin Bajas</a>&nbsp;have become staples of Chicago underground music, but from opposite ends. NIS leader Joshua Abrams has one foot in the city&#39;s improvisational jazz scene, a communal tradition that extends back 50 years to the heyday of the&nbsp;<a href="http://aacmchicago.org/">AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians)</a>. Cooper Crain of Bitchin Bajas moves in more avant-rock circles, primarily as guitarist for the psych-leaning quartet Cave.</p></div></div><p>But NIS and Bitchin Bajas have something else in common: they both make repetition-based, meditative music that can be therapeutic, calming the mind through the ears. NIS centers this effect via the instrument Abrams plays called the&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sintir">guembri</a>, a three-string Moroccan lute on which he plucks out patterns that his band-mates augment with drums, guitars, and the harmonium.</p><p><img alt="Natural Information Society &amp; Bitchin Bajas, Automaginary (Drag City)" src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/09/24/bitchinbajasnaturalinformationsociety_automaginary_mini_sq-e6818ff51b7fd248a628a9d0ed6231415cedfb20-s300-c85.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; float: right;" title="Natural Information Society &amp; Bitchin Bajas,Automaginary (Drag City)" /></p><p>Crain&#39;s trio creates their sonic oasis using synths, organs, and wind instruments, building beatific drifts out of rising tones. These tools turn out to be remarkably compatible on the groups&#39; first collaborative album <em>Autoimaginary</em>. The insistent, hypnotic pulses of NIS meld with Bitchin Bajas&#39; drone-tinted layers like gentle rain falling from dense clouds.</p><p>&quot;Sign Spinners&quot; hits the ground with Abrams&#39; running bass, then quickly ascends, as sparkly keyboard figures and shimmering guitar accents mirror each other. Things gradually intensify, cresting when a plaintive flute perches atop the bubbling mix. This airy, spacious music grows and grows without ever sounding cluttered. On the surface, &quot;Sign Spinners&quot; seems to barely move from where it began. Abrams&#39; loop churns along throughout, and no sudden left turns come up along the way. Yet by the time the song ends, you&#39;ll likely feel mentally transported &ndash; perhaps to the same blissful place where Natural Information Society &amp; Bitchin Bajas seem very happy to spend their time together.</p><p><em>Autoimaginary</em><em>&nbsp;</em>is out now on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.dragcity.com/">Drag City</a>.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/09/25/443202778/songs-we-love-natural-information-society-bitchin-bajas-sign-spinners?ft=nprml&amp;f=443202778"><em>via NPR&#39;s Songs We Love</em></a></p></p> Fri, 25 Sep 2015 16:27:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/songs-we-love-natural-information-society-bitchin-bajas-sign-spinners-113072 Despite the drought, California farms see record sales http://www.wbez.org/sections/water/despite-drought-california-farms-see-record-sales-112741 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/gettyimages-471006602-99705b6d250521f4014e8c84f29849326d342a59-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>While prolonged drought has put a strain on California agriculture, most of the state&#39;s farms, it seems, aren&#39;t just surviving it: They are prospering.</p><p>The environment, though, that&#39;s another story. We&#39;ll get to that.</p><p>But first, the prosperity. According to new&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/farm-income-and-wealth-statistics/annual-cash-receipts-by-commodity.aspx#P892cc423657a499584e30a89895d0f4d_2_16iT0R0x5">figures</a>&nbsp;from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 2014, the year the drought really hit, California&#39;s farmers sold $54 billion worth of crops like almonds or grapes, and animal products like milk.</p><p>That&#39;s an all-time record, up 5 percent over the previous year, and an increase of 20 percent from 2012.</p><p>If you&#39;re surprised by this, you haven&#39;t been paying close attention, says&nbsp;<a href="http://are.ucdavis.edu/en/people/faculty/daniel-sumner/#pk_campaign=short-name-redirect&amp;pk_kwd=sumner">Daniel Sumner</a>, an agricultural economist at the University of California, Davis. It&#39;s been clear for some time, he says, that California&#39;s farmers did very well last year.</p><p>There are two keys to the record-breaking revenues. The first is prices. &quot;You have all-time high prices over the whole range of crops,&quot; says Richard Howitt, another economist at UC Davis.</p><p>Second, even though farmers didn&#39;t get their normal supply of water from rivers and reservoirs, they pumped it from underground aquifers instead. According to a&nbsp;<a href="https://watershed.ucdavis.edu/files/biblio/DroughtReport_23July2014_0.pdf">report</a>&nbsp;that Sumner and Howitt co-authored last year, farmers in 2014 replaced about 75 percent of their surface water deficit by draining their groundwater reserves.</p><p>James McFarlane, who grows almonds and citrus near Fresno, is one of those farmers. He says that drought has been &quot;beyond terrible&quot; for some farmers. But for him personally? &quot;It&#39;s been a good year. We&#39;ve been able to make some money, and you have to just count your blessings and call that a good year,&quot; he says.</p><p>McFarlane has received some irrigation water from Kings River, via the Fresno Irrigation District, but he is also pumping water from his wells. &quot;If it weren&#39;t for the wells, we couldn&#39;t have made it work,&quot; he says.</p><p>Howitt says that there are two contrasting realities in California agriculture these days. &quot;Some people just don&#39;t have the underground water. You meet these people and they really are in poor shape,&quot; he says. But where there is water, &quot;you have investors pouring money into planting these almond trees at a rate that they&#39;ve never seen before.&quot;</p><p>But this is also where the environmental damage comes in. Those underground reserves are getting depleted, wells are going dry, and in many locations, the land is sinking as water is drawn out. When this happens, it permanently reduces the soil&#39;s ability to absorb and store water in the future.</p><p>California has enacted new rules that eventually should stop farmers from pumping so much groundwater, but for now, it continues. This year, California&#39;s farmers are still pumping enough groundwater to replace about 70 percent of the shortfall in surface water, according to a new UC Davis&nbsp;<a href="https://watershed.ucdavis.edu/files/biblio/Final_Drought%20Report_08182015_Full_Report_WithAppendices.pdf">report</a>.</p><p>Such massive use of groundwater can&#39;t continue forever, and high commodity prices probably won&#39;t, either. Milk prices already have fallen, and if China stops buying so much of California&#39;s nut production, those prices may crash as well.</p><p>On the good side, though, maybe rain and snow will return, filling the reservoirs again.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/08/27/434649587/despite-the-drought-california-farms-see-record-sales?ft=nprml&amp;f=434649587" target="_blank"><em>NPR&#39;s The Salt</em></a></p></p> Thu, 27 Aug 2015 05:08:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/water/despite-drought-california-farms-see-record-sales-112741 Musician Chris Connelly relives the underground industrial rock of the 1980s http://www.wbez.org/blog/bez/2012-03-05/musician-chris-connelly-relives-underground-industrial-rock-1980s-96978 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//blog/photo/2012-March/2012-03-05/5271788472_00efe60c8f_z[1].jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-March/2012-03-05/ChrisConnelly.jpg" style="width: 280px; height: 406px; float: right; margin: 7px;" title="(WBEZ/Andrew Gill)">When Scotland-born musician <a href="http://chrisconnelly.com/" target="_blank">Chris Connelly</a> bumped into Chicago industrial music icon Al Jourgensen back in 1986, the connection was nearly instant. Jourgensen and members of the seminal industrial rock band, <a href="http://www.thirteenthplanet.com/ministry/" target="_blank">Ministry</a>, were in Connelly’s native Edinburgh at the time.</p><div class="inset"><div class="insetContent"><p><span style="font-size: 10px;">Listen to Steve Edwards interview Chris Connelly on <em>Afternoon Shift</em></span></p><p>&nbsp;</p><audio class="mejs mediaelement-formatter-identified-1332745966-1" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/sites/default/files/AfternoonShift_20120305_Connelly.mp3">&nbsp;</audio></div></div><p>Not long after this initial encounter, Jourgensen invited Connelly to come to Chicago to record with a newer venture, Revolting Cocks (aka, RevCo).</p><p>According to Connelly, a six-month stint of traveling back and forth from Edinburgh and Chicago to record with Revco finally got to him – in a good way.&nbsp; He’d grown quite fond of the city.&nbsp; Then, when Jourgensen invited him back to Chicago to play some shows with RevCo, Connelly decided to make his stay here permanent.</p><p>Since these early days when the genre of industrial was still coming of age, Chris Connelly has continued to innovate and break new ground. His bands include the aforementioned RevCo and Ministry, and scores of others including Pigface, Murder, Inc. and Damage Manual, as well as solo releases.&nbsp; And, more than twenty-five years later, Connelly is still belting out his vocals with a hint of a Scottish accent.</p><p>His most recent solo release is <em>Artificial Madness</em> (Relapse Records, 2011).</p><p>Chris Connelly will join <a href="http://www.soundopinions.org/" target="_blank"><em>Sound Opinions</em></a> hosts Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot for a WBEZ Off-Air presentation, <a href="https://secure2.convio.net/wbez/site/Ecommerce/1197885908?VIEW_PRODUCT=true&amp;product_id=13884&amp;store_id=8621" target="_blank">Chicago Sounds in the 80s: Underground Incubator</a>. They’ll be joined from greats from two of Chicago’s other big underground scenes of the '80s:&nbsp; Legendary house music DJ <a href="http://www.myspace.com/fkalways" target="_blank">Frankie Knuckles</a>, and punk rock innovator Santiago Durango (<a href="http://www.tgrec.com/bands/band.php?id=34" target="_blank">Big Black</a>, <a href="http://www.nakedraygun.org/" target="_blank">Naked Raygun</a>).</p></p> Mon, 05 Mar 2012 18:28:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/bez/2012-03-05/musician-chris-connelly-relives-underground-industrial-rock-1980s-96978 Video: Cartoonist Anders Nilsen talks 'Big Questions' http://www.wbez.org/blog/mark-bazer/2011-10-05/video-cartoonist-anders-nilsen-talks-big-questions-92841 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//blog/photo/2011-October/2011-10-05/big questions_flickr_austin kleon.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Cartoonist Anders Nilsen showed up at The Hideout 30 minutes before <em>The Interview Show</em> began, sat by himself and immediately began drawing. That continued during the show, when, while waiting to be interviewed, he sketched a fellow guest — comedian Cameron Esposito. Anders writes in his <a href="http://themonologuist.blogspot.com/2011/09/sketchbooks.html">blog</a>:</p><p>"I was drawing the person sitting in the audience in front of me at Mark Bazer's <em>Interview Show</em> the other night, and then she turned out to be another guest on the show. Her name is&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/mark-bazer/2011-09-20/video-stand-comedy-cameron-esposito-92202">Cameron Esposito</a>. She's a comedienne. She was completely hilarious. This is her ear.” (See his sketch <a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-0cPp5tsMgiw/TmUaXu5tCRI/AAAAAAAACYY/XWNMwXrqhsM/s1600/RBxi23%2528CameronEsposito%2529.jpg">here</a>).&nbsp;</p><p>I love that.</p><p>Anders was on to talk about <em>Big Questions</em>, which collects over a decade of smaller installments of his epic tale of, in his words, "a bunch of birds in the middle of nowhere who find an unexploded bomb and think it's an egg and then a plane crashes and they think it's a giant bird and then they spend about 600 pages trying to figure out what's going on."</p><p>The book, published by <a href="http://www.drawnandquarterly.com/">Drawn and Quarterly</a>, is beautiful and captivating. Anders talks about it, his career and his life below.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/dPTMvvCVxZ8" width="560" frameborder="0" height="315"></iframe></p></p> Wed, 05 Oct 2011 14:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/mark-bazer/2011-10-05/video-cartoonist-anders-nilsen-talks-big-questions-92841 Will you pray for us? http://www.wbez.org/gscott/2008/07/will-you-pray-for-us/354 <p>It's a simple question. Unless you're a journalist, a documentary maker, a man who doesn't believe in God. But it's the only thing Bill asked me to do. Bill and his wife Linda constitute the hub, the nucleus, of a group of homeless and precariously housed people who live, loiter, drink, smoke, laugh, cry, argue, love, and sometimes die at a bustling intersection underneath Interstate 55 on the South Side of Chicago. My wife Erin and I entered their world recently. We drove by their encampment and noticed them interacting with the police who had "rolled up" on them. Bill's $38,250 in outstanding, unpaid tickets (for loitering, drinking in public, obstructing traffic, etc.) testify to their conspicuousness, their tenacity. Because of my commitment to serving the homeless, the indigent, the marginalized, and doing so ON THEIR TERMS, my wife and I went back to visit them. We wanted to get to know these folks and to help them in any way we could. And, to be honest, I was entertaining notions of possibly telling their story on radio and/or film. My motivations for visiting them were therefore a blend of good will and self-interest. That's how it always works, in my opinion. We journalists and researchers often act from a blended place--our intentions may be good, even noble. But we also want to advance our careers. That's why a group like this one represents many things-one of which is self-promotion. In the best case, impure altruism outweighs the self-advancement in the calculus of motive. <!--break--> "The Underpass" reminds me a lot of <a onclick="urchinTracker('/outgoing/www.chicagopublicradio.org/Program_848_Segment.aspx?segmentID=26715&amp;referer=');urchinTracker('/outgoing/www.chicagopublicradio.org/Program_848_Segment.aspx?segmentID=26715&amp;referer=http://blogs.vocalo.org/wp-admin/post.php?action=edit&amp;post=354&amp;message=1&amp;_wp_original_http_referer=http%3A%2F%2Fapps.wbez.org%2Fblog%2Fwp-admin%2Fedit.php%3Fpost_status%3Dpending');urchinTracker('/outgoing/www.chicagopublicradio.org/Program_848_Segment.aspx?segmentID=26715&amp;referer=http://blogs.vocalo.org/wp-admin/post.php?action=edit&amp;post=354&amp;message=1&amp;_wp_original_http_referer=http%3A%2F%2Fapps.wbez.org%2Fblog%2Fwp-admin%2Fedit.php%3Fpost_status%3Dpending');urchinTracker('/outgoing/www.chicagopublicradio.org/Program_848_Segment.aspx?segmentID=26715&amp;referer=http://blogs.vocalo.org/wp-admin/post.php?action=edit&amp;post=354&amp;message=1&amp;_wp_original_http_referer=http%3A%2F%2Fapps.wbez.org%2Fblog%2Fwp-admin%2Fedit.php%3Fpost_status%3Dpending');urchinTracker('/outgoing/www.chicagopublicradio.org/Program_848_Segment.aspx?segmentID=26715&amp;referer=http://blogs.vocalo.org/wp-admin/post.php?action=edit&amp;post=354&amp;message=1&amp;_wp_original_http_referer=http%3A%2F%2Fapps.wbez.org%2Fblog%2Fwp-admin%2Fedit.php%3Fpost_status%3Dpending');urchinTracker('/outgoing/www.chicagopublicradio.org/Program_848_Segment.aspx?segmentID=26715&amp;referer=http://blogs.vocalo.org/wp-admin/post.php?action=edit&amp;post=354');" href="http://www.chicagopublicradio.org/Program_848_Segment.aspx?segmentID=26715">The Brickyard, which I am reporting on for <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em></a>. I write this because my first encounter with The Underpass folks differs from my first encounter with The Brickyard. However, nearly every one of my initial sojourns into a so-called "underground" group is marked by good will, self-interest, sincerity, and artifice. So I wasn't at The Brickyard, but I approaching The Underpass speaks to how one goes about entering an "outlaw group," a subculture. So we charged headlong into their lives, hoping to do some good, and maybe develop a comparative analysis of The Brickyard and other places where people engineer their own off-the-books solutions to the failure of the American Dream. After brief introductions I opened my "trick bag." The bag's contents? Bottles of drinking water. Clean, sterile needles. Kits for safer crack smoking. Condoms. Antibacterial liniment for cuts and scrapes. The people there were agog at the presents coming out of my bag. They marveled and wondered aloud how this could be legal. We gave them identification cards authorizing their legal possession of the crack kits and syringes (although only one person there took the needles, and only a few took the crack kits, and even fewer had any use for drinking water, but several took condoms, if only for "a friend"). "We're all pretty much just drunks here," Bill reported kindly, his clear blue eyes radiating out from a weather-worn face. We yukked it up for two hours. Great conversation. They shared parts of their life stories. And we shared ours, when asked, but mostly we just listened, assuming a seated position on the ground, in the figure of student. Jason incurred a massive brain injury one year ago in an automobile accident that killed his best friend. He's now illiterate, trying to raise a daughter single-handedly. "My uncle's a drunk, he hangs out here, and he loves these people. They're all good people. So I come down here to check on him just about every other day." Dan's a heroin addict. He's been shooting dope for more than 20 years. He hates being addicted, and he hopes to kick it one day soon. "But it's hard, man, I can't stand the withdrawal. Some people can do it, they can go cold turkey. Not me. I need help. So does my old lady. I can't stop, or stay stopped, when she's still using. I'm too weak." He asked my opinion, so I replied, "Well, I wouldn't say you're weak. It's just that everybody experiences the drug, and the addiction, their own way... different from everybody else. Just because one person kicked cold turkey doesn't mean that everyone else can." Dan considered this, "Hmm, yeah, I guess you're right. I need help. That's not a bad thing, I guess." Stella is a proud mother of six children. And she happens to smoke crack. She and her boyfriend have a camp under the expressway above us. "We've got a nice set-up. We even got us a table for sitting." She spends 15 minutes braiding my wife's hair while we chat it up. Linda (Bill's wife) used to sell lighting to commercial enterprises. She's been institutionalized, voluntarily and against her will, on several occasions. She's very religious, and she tithes and offers every month because "my pastor told me that if I keep giving, even when I've got nothing to give, then when I start slipping back, God will keep the devil off my back." Bill loves Linda. "She's beautiful," he says matter-of-factly, as though he's telling me that we're now standing on a concrete sidewalk.‚  But she never ever shuts up," he says with a laugh, "except when she's drinking." We've handed out the goods. The group seems fairly well convinced that I'm not out there to hassle them. I'm not there to get them to stop doing what they do. Now I ask, "Anything you need us to do here?" "Yeah," Bill says, "will you pray for us?" Silence. An icy vice grips my intestines. I'm shocked...and scared. He can't be serious. In all my years of doing street-level outreach, research, journalism, and documentary work, no one has ever asked me to pray for them. And I haven't even prayed since I was 8-years-old. In fact, I pride myself in part on being profane, on embodying profanity. I try to laugh it off, nervously. But no one else is laughing. So I stop the feigned chuckle and ask, "You really want me to pray for you?" Bill's earnest eyes stir something inside of me, an emotion that makes me want to cry. Everyone starts shuffling toward a huddle formation. "Yes, I do. Please," Bill says softly. "Okay." And here I go. I can't believe I'm doing this. I don't know what to say. Everyone's now moving in swiftly, concertedly, pushing their hands toward the middle. I've coached little league baseball for many years, and it occurs to me that I'm just leading a cheer, really. Guys who were lingering on the margins of the group have now moved, nearly a dozen people have crowded around. Bill looks up at me, supplication is the word that comes to mind. Drawing on some long-since padlocked reserve of divine worship, I begin speaking. I realize that I'm not praying to God for these folks. I'm praying to humanity, to a sort of American collective conscience, and maybe God is listening. I feel enveloped by a secular moralism that, to me, feels holy. "Heavenly father, we pray in your name, gathered here today, we ask for your divine mercy, we ask for your mercy and forgiveness, and we ask that you bless each step we take, the ground we walk upon, the souls that now live inside our bodies. We ask that you grant us the power of forgiveness...so that we may forgive ourselves and those who lack mercy and compassion. Please be with us, always and forever, dear God. In the name of your son, Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen." And so it went. Bill looked up at me and said, "That was the best prayer anyone's ever said for me. It's the best I've heard. It's the only prayer that's moved me in my heart." I don't know if Bill was putting me on. And I don't know why he asked me to pray for them. Was he testing me? Did he figure that I was just another "religion and rice" street corner preacher promising food in exchange for the acceptance of Jesus Christ (and an offering) and that I therefore would be most comfortable leading a prayer? Bill doesn't even believe in God. But it's clear that he believes in something. Later, while looking into an abandoned but highly trafficked building near Douglas Park, Erin and I talked at length about whether or not I should have agreed to lead the prayer. There's no clear answer. Not in my mind anyway. I ask you: should I have declined (politely) to pray for them? After all, I don't believe in God. And I am not a spiritual leader. I was there doing outreach and perhaps some journalism. Is it a breach of ethics to occupy, under "false pretenses," a position of spiritual leadership, if only for 90 seconds? I'm pretty sure I know why I agreed to pray, and I could give you a well-reasoned argument justifying it. But what would you have done? Would you have led the prayer?</p> Wed, 23 Jul 2008 16:57:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/gscott/2008/07/will-you-pray-for-us/354