Caught in the net: Storyteller bares his soul

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The Independent Culture

The novelist Jonathan Lethem once remarked: "Who was it that said, 'All art aspires to the condition of music'? It's like the pure art. I just try to make the prose as musical as I can."

Apparently, it was Walter Pater (cheers, Google). As Lethem suggested, music plays a major role in his novels. From the hipster band in 'You Don't Love Me Yet', to the whole ambiance of his epic 'The Fortress of Solitude', which is suffused with early hip-hop, new wave, soul, funk, Motown and much else in between. Now Lethem has started a band, I'm Not Jim, though he doesn't sing or play an instrument. Chiefly, Lethem writes lyrics with co-founder Walter Salas-Humara (from the Silos). Last year, they wrote 11 songs together with the latter recording demos. They then passed the efforts on to the production duo Elegant Too, who souped them up into an album, 'You Are All My People'. One track, "Stalking Horse", can be heard on Lethem's website, jonathanlethem. com/imnotjim.html, with several more streaming on myspace.com/im notjimswebsite, while the LP can be purchased at silos.portmerch.com.



Keys to success

I was originally sceptical of blues-rock revivalists the Black Keys, and their hip-hop side project, Blakroc, but on the basis of their first song, "Ain't Nothing Like You (Hoochie Coo)", the signs are good, tinyurl.com/l8vn84. Perhaps it's not surprising that stomping blues and rap should fit so well together. Mos Def and Jim Jones provide guest vocals, and they are among a host of hip-hop talent appearing on the album, also called 'Blakroc'. The whole project was overseen by Damon Dash, and RZA, Raekwon, Q-Tip and Ludacris also perform on the record, which is released next month. On their site blakroc.com are three preview videos for the album.

New style of hip hop

To these ears, the last two Flaming Lips albums were a let-down, but 1999's 'The Soft Bulletin' is a favourite. Twelve albums in however, it remains interesting to hear what the band (right) does next. Their new album, 'Embryonic', has guest appearances from MGMT and Karen O. The latter is heard yelping on "I Can Be a Frog" – a video, minus either the band or Karen O can be seen at tinyurl.com/y9esvq3. The LP is out on Monday but streams now on NPR at tinyurl.com/9gju24.

Artist makes the right connection

If you wanted a toy for your iPhone that incorporates the strangely joyous music and surreal paintings of the revered "outsider artist" Daniel Johnston into a small-scale video game, there's an app for that. Who knew we needed it, but now music and tech geeks rejoice as an iPhone App game, celebrating Johnston's work and made with his co-operation, has arrived. It's called 'Hi, How Are You?' and there are more details at hihowareyougame.com.

Bit of a Brum deal

Birmingham electronic band Broadcast have a new collaborative mini-album out on Warp. It's called 'Broadcast & The Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age' and is available now digitally through iTunes and Bleep.com. It will come out on CD on 26 October. The album precedes a full length record due from Broadcast next year. There are some preview videos from the EP at tinyurl.com/mymk7n. The record was made with the Focus Group, who specialise in "library music, English folklore and the eerie feel of vintage programmes for schools". Put together, they've created an EP that sounds like a dash of today mixed with a the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and some psychedelic experiments from the late Sixties.

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