In 1952, anthropologist/ethnomusicologist/filmmaker/collector of curiosities/polymath Harry Smith released his Anthology of American Folk Music on Folkways. The brilliance of the six LP collection of pre-WWII music was in Harry Smith's ability to see connections between dark ballads, rollicking social music, and geographically disparate songs. His collection defined the music in the context of American culture and created a dramatically novel worldview.
Scottish-born eccentric Nick Currie, aka Momus, is a Harry Smith for the age of information. Not only does he continue to put out wonderfully odd albums, but he has a newspaper column of cultural criticism, is a rabid Japanophile and pop culture addict, a magazine junkie, uses his website to address whatever touches his fancy, and comments on everything from art to history to literature to philosophy to mass media. Momus always attaches a character or concept to his albums, and Folktronic is his anthology of fake folk. It takes a warped mind to connect mountain music and electronica, but this is just the kind of thing that has gained Momus his cult following. All the humor, jesting, parody, and sexual cruelty that we've come to love him for are here. Songs like "Finnegan the Folk Hero" pop and bleep as digital technology meets tomorrow's shanties. "Little Apples" is about science, Momus' G4 computer, and his digital camera. "The Penis Song" is a brave new ballad that tells the hapless tale of the hero's meeting with rock groupie turned artist, Cynthia Plaster Caster. You must hear it to believe it. Though The Little Red Songbook and Stars Forever would be better introductions to the wonderful world of baroque pop, Folktronic is a must-have for Momus fanatics. The artist formerly known as Maoist Intellectual, Futuristic Vaudevillian, and Audio Portraitist always seems to do something new and unexpected, and this time the space-age folkie molds traditional ballads and Appalachian ditties out of plastic and silicon. - Charles Spano, All Music Guide
Original album description:
What if computers finally began getting more Africa in them? What if folk artists started emerging who sounded more postmodern than Cornelius or Pole? What would Click Folk or Glitch Folk sound like? What would Alan Lomax have said if, in 1965, the Newport Folk Festival had been invaded by boffins and geeks playing modular Moogs?What if you could hear, today, the Country Music of the year 2049? What about the Japanese country music of 2049? What would that sound like? What if electronics had appeared in 18th Century Scotland just at the moment of the Highland Clearances? How many mountains can you fit on a Minidisc?
These are the sort of questions rattling around in the head -- and essays -- of Momus. Momus is Nick Currie, a New York-based Scot who wears an eyepatch, possibly to cover up a permanent wink. Over the past 15 years this self-styled 'minor god of mockery' has become something of a major cult, recording witty and inventive songs for a variety of indie-fetish labels like el, Creation, Bungalow and Le Grand Magistery. In the year 2000 he moved from London to New York, held a one-man show in a Chelsea art gallery, lectured, sang and danced around the world, wrote a whole bunch of essays on his website and cut an album of 'plastic folk'.
Momus records tell somewhat warped, morally provocative stories even as they snap together and crack apart, Lego-like, a big pile of multi-coloured musical styles. He's been influenced by -- and influenced in turn -- the Japanese pop of Cornelius and Kahimi Karie. On 'Folktronic', with typical pleasure in perverse juxtaposition, he's decided to combine analog electronicswith folk songs. Here you'll witness the hideously pompous baroque keyboard licks of 80s synthpop climbing into bed with with fakely traditional ballads, jigs and sea shanties. Here too mock prog epics full of tempo and key changes collide with neo-vaudeville numbers on the subject of the penis, and eulogies to decadent Roman emperors rub shoulders with passages of Bach played by cartoon fiddle yokels through massive ring modulation.
t's what Raymond Scott, Bruce Haack or Gary Numan might have sounded like if they'd jammed their way through the back catalogue of Steeleye Span. It's Shakespeare rendered in Flash 5 by a superlucid hyperactive Japanese geek. It's those prolific medieval songwriters Trad. and Anon. finding the missing link between unicorns and Unix. It's preposterous, provocative and prescient. It's another Momus album.
2. Smooth Folk Singer
3. Mountain Music
4. Simple Men
5. Finnegan The Folk Hero
6. Protestant Art
7. U.S. Knitting
8. Jarre In Hicksville
9. Tape Recorder Man
10. Little Apples
12. Psychopathia Sexualis
13. Folk Me Amadeus
15. The Penis Song
17. Going For A Walk With A Line
18. The Lady Of Shalott
19. Mistaken Memories Of Medieval Manhattan
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