B-Sides: Music & Other Ephemera

Noble indeed

Sep 9, 2009 at 5:00 am

My thoughts are with Jason Noble as he embarks on a long road to recovery from major surgery Sept. 4, following a horrifying cancer diagnosis.

Aside from leaving an indelible mark on Louisville culture through his work in film (“Matchbook of a Heart”), theater (“The Tempest”) and music (Shipping News, Rachel’s, Rodan, soundman for countless ear X-tacy in-stores), Jason is an angel in the flesh, a constant source of encouragement and inspiration for artists everywhere, not to mention funny as shit.

Get well soon, amigo.

‘Noise’ maker

On the shelves next week is “Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records, the Indie Label That Got Big and Stayed Small” (Sept. 15, Algonquin). Written by Merge founders Mac McCaughan and Laura Balance in conjunction with former Chicago Tribune reporter John Cook, the book follows the transformation of Merge from bedroom hobby to worldwide tastemaker, home to acts such as Neutral Milk Hotel, Arcade Fire and Superchunk. Mainly firsthand accounts from Mac and Laura, friends, musicians and the like, “Our Noise” is as feel-good as it gets.

By phone, Cook, whose favorite Superchunk song is “The Majestic,” said he met McCaughan after reviewing Portastatic’s 2003 Merge release Summer of the Shark. McCaughan liked how Cook called Shark the inverse of Bruce Springsteen’s post-9/11 torchbearer The Rising, and asked him to write the press bio for the next Portastastic album. When the idea for a book on Merge, which celebrates 20 years of operation this year, was first proposed, mutual friend and literary agent David McHune suggested Cook.

“The initial idea was gonna be a ‘by Mac and Laura with John Cook’ kind of thing, interview them and draw out their thoughts,” Cook said. “But it very quickly became clear that that couldn’t work, because they were two different people and had two different voices.”

At its core, “Our Noise” is classic DIY. “Their impulse was to do whatever it took. They never really had a lot of money to spend, but it was desire on their part to put resources and find things in order to get them out there, and they always reined that in with rationality,” Cook said. “To this day, they don’t really think about the record they’re working on in terms of money.”

Music Cast

John Ritz with the University of Louisville School of Music joins us Thursday to discuss some of the school’s upcoming events. Among them is the Sept. 11 concert by Homay & the Mastan Ensemble from Northern Iran, at Margaret Comstock Concert Hall on the Belknap Campus. The group has been banned from performing in its home country since early this year. Listen online at Bluegrass Catastrophe, bluecat.leoweekly.com.