Archive for the 'Rock' Category
When any band says that their new release will be released on 10” vinyl, you get the sense that its not developed enough to be on a full sized 12” or that its going to be weird. Radiohead’s 2011 nearly EP length album ‘The King of Limbs’ is a little of both. Awkward sound clashes open your ears in the opening track “Bloom” are meant to be off-putting with several time signatures going at once, furthering the notion that all 10” records are experimental to say the least.
As for the sound of the album, its rhythmically driven with the bass and percussion taking on some of the largest rolls every for a Radiohead album. The guitar stays in line with the rhythm section, which is powered by loops and sample sounding bits.
The most familiar sounding track by far is “Little By Little” which brings back some memorably warm guitar tones. Thom is such a tease with his melody leading the song anywhere he chooses for it to go. The guitars follow and the head nodding backing beat sounds like a lo-fi recording of a crack pot inventors’ mechanical toy of the day.
I won’t say this is a dance album, but I did almost feel like I could dance to a couple tracks, which is something I’ve never felt while listening to any Radiohead track before. The beats could even be mistaken for a drum line drum-off. “Feral” highlights the beat driven work with minimalist keyboard bass and blip/glitch laid over it.
I don’t know how many Radiohead songs have hand claps, but “Lotus Flower” is the first track I’ve ever heard actual hand claps on. They sit panned left in your headset, but aren’t very produced. At times sound if they were recorded in a hotel room with unexpected echo and thrown in the mix to keep the weird 10” inch vibe going as the tracks become more like recognizable. The odd off-beat hand claps stand as a firm negation of Radiohead being even remotely near mainstream dance music.
No ballads on this album. However, the beat does slow, the slowest track being “Codex” is highlighted with Thom’s vocals and a familiar piano accompaniment. The simple track quickly fades into sounds of insects and nature that beckon the intro of an acoustic guitar for track 7 “Give Up the Ghost”. Vocal parts are split into 3 with a repeated chorus in the left speaker, and a fuzzed out version of the lead in the right with the main voice sitting in the center channel. The most layered track vocally, Give up the Ghost was one of the most emotional cuts painting for me a picture of springtime, surrounded by tall swaying fields.
On the first listen through, “Separator” was instinctively the most memorable. I wasn’t sure if it was because the middle of the album was nearly seamless, or that the experimental form from the beginning had not had time to be soaked up. I really get into the track about halfway through when the dry guitar enters with its loopy section that is much more reminiscent of a math rock band lick that something from former near rock guitar gods once proclaiming that you won’t be a nothing anymore if you just play guitar. A good ending to a good album. I really feel sad as it ends. It is too short my mind tells me. I feel like its really starting to take off and go somewhere, and then its just over. Oh well. Music can’t really transport me out of a cubicle anyways. So if OK Computer was the eye awakening the world needed, then The King of Limbs is escape that we all attempt to make, but can never successfully manage.
If you’re poor, stream it below:
9 of 12 tracks remixed from the group’s 1996 Songs of Love and Hate album. This vinyl is a 2008 re-release/ re-master of the 1997 Earache Records original album. Inspired by the UK band Killing Joke, England’s Godflesh began in 1988 as a duo with guitarist/ singer/ electronic programmer Justin Broadrick (currently in Jesu) and bassist Ben Green. Later they added live drums with member Ted Parsons (Swans, Prong, Jesu). Drummer Bryan Mantia (Primus, El Stew, G’n’R, Buckethead) is the credited drummer for this album only, and first studio drummer on a Godflesh release. Robotically precise industrial drumming style, barkingly livid vocals, trance like looped bass lines, lo-fi at times recording, & infinite dub layers shredded through keyboards and your choice of favorite mid-90’s pedal effects. Exploding bass drum heads and bang on a can cymbals live drumming from Bryan Mantia rescue the album.
Oakland DJ & Producer AmpLive (of Zion-I) illegally sampled and remixed Radiohead’s In Rainbows album, but managed to get it released as a free download after a tangle with Warner/Chappell. This bootleg features lyrical persuasions by rappers Del the Funky Homosapien, MC Zumbi, (Zion-I) Chali2na, (Jurassic 5) Too $hort, and Codany Holiday (SF R&B/rapper). Obscure and underground, but not deep enough to swim in, AmpLive’s mashup provides puddles of old school bay area hip-hip stars to jump in. Song #5 All I Need is the most innovative interpretation to the original song; a dub-remix with live horns and a solid reggae beat. Track #3 Nudez (would be more appropriately named as the chorus: Don’t Lose Your Head) is Too $hort & MC Zumbi together, featuring a beat like 2Pac’s Keep Your Head Up, Too $horts standard vocabulary (freaks, hustle, & lil’ homie), and lyrics giving a good introspective into Oakland’s street mentality full of hustlers & hoes, flashy rims & gang warfare. The album is endorsed by Radiohead and you can leagally download all the tracks and the album artwork for free on the 1776 Label website.
Funky first series of instrumental beats by newly signed artist James Pants. This set follows the success of his single Ka$H, which came out in Aug. ’07. In a style similar to Madlib, or Peanut Butter Wolf this Spokane, WA artist hits on everything from electro to soul. Many lo-fi moments with lonely hand claps, finger snaps, early hip hop sampling & retro keyboards from the very start of the album. Dreamscape sounds as Pants mans the drums, & keys. Most of the album programmed on the JP-8000 (crudely drawn on the cover of the album along with fake sticker marks and pressed record stains on the back of the jacket) with mixing and scratching layered in by James as well. Some jams are like slowed down B Boy music with ancient sounding vocals “yeah” and “come on”. At the end of side one, there’s even a tribal beat track with sleigh bells and some oscillated vox.
Bi-coastal artists collaborative percussive clash creating the lesser known, yet longer lasting experimental stepchild of Drumline. Unlike that shitty movie, these guys use more sounds, play improvisational self composed pieces, and ahem; a glockenspiel. Mike Pride of New York City, has studied under the likes of Amir Ziv, and more recently, his mentor Milford Graves. He adds sinister vocals at points as well as electronic freakouts, but offers no words. Pride runs the studio FUNHOLE where this album was produced live! Japanese born Marcos Fernandes recently played the KFJC pit (04-2007) and is an active live performer in the San Diego scene. This particular release came from Fernandes and Pride meeting in Japan while both on tour in 2005. They later decided to take a day out of their lives to record this tasteful piece of percussion art fusion. A Mountain is a Mammal starts out with acid jazz fluxations, enters into a 27-minute piece with surprising sounds of bells, and ends with evil earth imploding electronic experimentalism.
Drum Machine Mayhem meets electric avant virtuoso guitar. Solo release by NYC’s Mick Barr of Orthrelm, The Flying Luttenbachers (formerly) & Crom-tech (duo with Hella drummer Zach Hill). takes the butt-rock out of metal guitar and births instrumental madness. I challenge any listener to discern time signature in any track. Nine songs (3,4,5,8,9,10,15) are purely guitar as this Fullforce Composer Series release by TZADIK seeks Guitar Hero status among hipsters and D&D fans alike. Produced by John Zorn, expect to be thoroughly impressed and confounded by the speed and compositional creativity evoked through the hands of a reincarnated Chopin or Beethoven.
Two (female) artistically intoxicated folk heroes out of Santa Cruz, CA forcibly mate piano/organ tones with a battered accordion and to produce a tone-deaf clarinet baby. Coulda been the American soundtrack to Amelie. Mismatched lyrics that don’t make sense, are spoken over each other and sung by both Silvie Margot Deutsch (piano) and Zoe Ruth Cusmus Latta (accordion). Songs are sweet and sincere, as erratic as an unrehearsed kids choir with track #2 Little being the ultimate display of their witty sound. I hate to say the term cutsie, but sometimes in many tracks, that’s the only way to describe Belly Boat’s take on Raccoons, love and Agnus Dei.
Teenage brothers Jordan and Jamie make up this alt-rock duo, Future Future from New Jersey. This EP release by the same name combines Jordan’s vocals and production with Jamie’s drumming, and it embodies the attention to the noisy melodic elements and embracing of electronics that characterize 2000s alternative rock. Somehow, this stuff reminds me of Muse (if the band decided to go with a noisier, faster sound). Track 1 “Television Glow” is characterized by danceable drumbeats and Jordan’s powerful vocals. Another notable track “My Machine” with a more electro take on alt rock. In all, the EP feels pretty short, but it’s just about the right length for these high energy rock songs. Future Future is out May 8, 2009, and is available on the duo’s MySpace.
Drums. Percussion. Rhythm. These make up the base of the organization of sounds known as music. When I was in high school band, there was something special about being a part of drum corps. When we played parades, the rest of the band would shut the hell up every couple of pieces, and let us percussionists show off the precision of rhythm. On Ensemble delivers that mysterious, hypnotic attraction to beats with the release Ume In The Middle. Melding together traditional Japanese Taiko music with modern electro and jazz, the CD delivers delectable beats and blips with a dash of drone.
The album opens up with the first two tracks “Yamasong” and “Hisashi,” keeping it nice and slow with droney chants and traditional-sounding flute. I was fooled into thinking that the rest of the CD would be the same, but I was treated to breakbeat paired with chopped-up samples in track 4 “Hiroya vs. Miniboss,” electro blips and beeps in track 7 “Silverback,” and downtempo instrumental goodness in track 9 “Yamasong (Remix).”
Rhythm transcends stylistic differences and is present in almost all forms of music; therefore, it’s nice to see On Ensemble proving this point with the ability to skip through different types of genres (and varying complexity in the rhythms). For example, track 7 “Silverback” sounds like material by WARP’s Plaid (if they had access to some really cool drums, of course) with the ensemble’s appreciation for IDM, and track 3 “Waiting” included plenty of sunny vocals and bright chords. Track 8 “Bounce Back” is something for drum corps members to appreciate. Combined with a splash of flute, the percussion shows off how On Ensemble plays as one with the precision that all percussionists strive for.
Ume In The Middle is slated to be release May 5, 2009, so keep your eyes open!
Forget what you think you know about electronic music and enjoy something different and refreshing yet freakishly familiar. The Dino Soars offers laid back hip hop beats alongside some sugary dance tracks inspired by the hot days of disco where music wasn’t held back by genres or being typecast as ‘electronic’ ‘indie’ and therefore limited to a esoteric musical audience. For Stegosaurus Rex, every listener is equal and he offers audible appetizers in this, his first of many albums to come. Instead of releasing 4 individual EP albums, this mega CD compiles and mixes them all into something almost random at times, with wild mood swings and gentle downtime.
Listen closely to his single on the album, track #13 “Nowhere To Run” and you may notice similarities to Ladytron’s “Seventeen”, but scarier still is its connection to Crystal Castles and their track “Crimewave“. While the self-titled Crystal Castles album was released one month earlier than The Dino Soars, the single “Nowhere to Run” had been out 2 years earlier as a single. Whether or not they took any influence from the track is inconsequential in the end because the two bands are obviously contemporaries with roots following back to Ladytron, Miss Kitten, and likely Kraftwerk. When asked of the similarities between the tracks however, Steg Rex comments, “I didn’t know who Crystal Castles was 2 years ago when they friended me on Myspace, after I had released the Nowhere To Run Single.” So it is possible that Stegosaurus Rex inspires bands like Crystal Castles. Either way, each band shoots off into different directions as Rex moves into the French inspired disco house realm with amazing cuts like “Fleeting Disco Do” and “Polar”. One of my personal favorites is “Mike Myers”, inspired by Michael Myers Halloween series, its IDM leanings have me respecting Steg Rex’s wide array of musical taste. Check out the video for Nowhere to Run on Youtube.
Re-release of the 1983 cassette comp under Iham Products and FOPI. The album features shorts clips, most under a minute with clips like a 39 second Frank Zappa interview to to a piece by Charles Manson called Charlie and his MAM. Compiled by David Tibet (of Current 93), many are looped, foreign language and mostly of Throbbing Gristle material. This stands as the missing piece of the jigsaw between Coum Transmissions, Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV including rehearsals, radio bytes, phone calls, unreleased demos, interviews and ultra nonsense. The original release was issued in February 1983 as the fourth, and final issue of the Nanavesh magazine (The tape was the issue and didn’t include a written publication with it). The magazine concentrated initially on Throbbing Gristle and with its demise it moved onto Psychic TV. 23 Drifts To Guestling is a retrospective tape of Throbbing Gristle & basically a magazine on tape. It contains an interesting insight into TG with messages from their ansaphone, some material, an interview with Genesis following the ‘Prostitution’ exhibition at the ICA, an interview with American spree killer Gary Gilmore, a chat between Genesis and Monte Cazazza, bits and pieces of songs and a few death threats over the phone. It makes compulsive listening because it’s so strangely put together and it’s a good insight into the character of Mr P-Orridge.
Sorry, there is no sax as the cover art alludes, but plenty o’ speedy tempo, guitar sliding NO WAVE action by this Vancouver BC trio. A-tonally amped, shouting, gorilla style drum spasmatics. The vocals are rhythmically in tune with the drums and other parts of the song rather than offering and steady melody. Check out the included liner notes for you fill typewriter typo lyrics about guns, knives and snakes on one side, and a barrage of band live show posters on the other. During the last few years Shearing Pinx have shared the stage with Gay Beast, Animal, Twin, Lightning Bolt, Health, and Leviathans to name a few. They have an upcoming tour in April of 2008 with headliners AIDS Wolf. Overall, the Pinx sound is anti dance pop music for people who still wanna dance. Powerful screams quickly become trippy instrumentals as side A ends, with side B picking off right in the middle where they leave off. Some howling guitars, play tone plucking, silly slides sonically sweet stuff from Erin Ward (guitar), Jeremy Van Wyck (drums), Nic Hughes (vox/guitar), and Nic’s own label, Isolated Now Waves.
Beautiful Baltimore instrumental duo of Nathan Bell of Lungfish and Arbouretum’s David Heumann. Drifts out and outer into subconscious subspace, 10 strokes above par. Recorded in Kentucky, these men of rock envision a dustbowl full of baritone and orbital spirit guitars, the bowed banjo, and amplified kalimba. If that’s not enough for your tripp into oblivion then your momma taught you wrong, and listen for the sexy trumpet smattered all over the B-side cut Ephaphatha. Themes of flooded spaces with secret hide outs and endless network of sprawling wires like rays of the sun, Human Bell takes elements of Godspeed You Black Emperor and strips them down to the soul. Much like them, it may be difficult to remember much of the melody after even multiple spins, however like their theme, they aim isn’t set to stun. Moody and morose, most build-ups perish as they build, quite opposite of powerfully moving music. Could very well be a good theme to a slow escape, or a lukewarm flood lifting you out of your seat and into the ocean ever so gently, and then leaving you there to float away. Like the best moments in life, enjoyable during the ride, but lost forever after the moment is gone.
Limited press drone dream split between A side Cloudland Canyon of Germany and Midwesterners Mythical Beast. Instrumental track for the kraut droners on the front, while the flip features seductively sad vocals by Mythical Beast’s female lead singer Corinne Sweeney. Haunting and minimal with no drums, she is backed by guitarist Jeremiah Cowlin, and bassist Aaron Hawn. Very serious and depressed sounds without the look at me emo attitude of the mainstream. Slow and steady vintage sounds fill every crack with Sweeney’s low slumbering notes. Mythical Beast will be performing in the Not Not Fun SXSW showcase along with Pocahaunted & Robedoor March 20th 2009. Cloudland Canyon is an analog duo of early-era drone, mixing tribal beats with simple repetitive but building nowave vocal drones over 70’s kraut guitar much like psychsters Ash Ra Temple and Embryo. The only sad part is that they only contributed one track to this split, and it’s also at 45 RPM. Ignoring the lo-fi elements of the recording, their classic sound is massive and methodical, like a trance dance into sacrificial volcano. Faust and German Oak fans will like their work, which has also been released on the Holy Mountain and Kranky labels.
Lovely low deep male vocals (provided by Alexander Hacke of Einstürzende Neubauten) float in ambience, minimally droning with surprise beats. Recorded in Berlin, this German foursome is made of 2 percussionists, Tony Buck & Steve Heather, along with guitarist Martin Siewert, and zietblom on bass. Trippy drugged out feel to much of the album with fuzzed out one note surf style guitar delayed fuzz solos leading the way like a super stoned version of Green Milk from the Planet Orange. Mathematical plays with timing and meter on the lap steel guitar along with a percussive eastern vibe make heaven a much easier place to reach. Relaxing vibes are at a peak with the two guest vocal cuts Scarlet Woman and Prince Priest. But beware; sweet heaven is full of demons just like anywhere as luscious vocals turn into nightmarish Golem growls. Side B opens up nearly 4 decades ago into an age where 6-minute intros in rock music was the norm. Keyboards and industrial cymbal hits join the infinite fretless foundation of sadness envisioned by the band. With their musical canvas they paint landscapes with more freedom and even less optimism than Philip Glass’s audial work in the 1982 film Koyaanisqatsi.
From the word “pomegranate” came the word “grenade” for the explosive weapon, because the pockets of shrapnel reminded soldiers of the seeds on the fruit, that would one day be plucked away from the core (or be expelled by the weapon). Pomegranates lives up to its namesake to bring together both sweet and explosive music in their CD Everything Is Alive, incorporating elements of rock music that have made its influences great. Poppy and catchy, the melodies from this indie rock release will stick inside your head. Retro sounding guitars, classic drumming, and powerful vocal performances make up the release.
Some standouts include track 4 “Late Night Television” which rivals songs by The Ramones in power and melodic content. Track 6 “Appreciations” includes a vocal presentation that reminds me of Mick Jagger (although with a much better touch of dynamics). The next track “Desert Hymn” slows the release down for a bit of introspective musing on Jesus. Track 10 “Honey Moon Pie” cleverly marries together power-pop with disco, bringing the music close to the realm of avant-pop. Last but not least, track 2 “In The Kitchen” is an exposition of charming lyrics and beautiful rock arrangements.
This release is for fans of The Owls, Silversun Pickups, Call And Response, as well as Ghostly International. Just like a grenade, such a small package brings so much power.
The Scarecrow Frequency is the project of Seattle musicians John Argetsinger and Erica Sherman, combining placid melodies and vocal media appropriated from various classic sources. Claiming to be shoegaze, the music takes austerely powerful, yet mellow soundscapes and combines them with beautiful pop elements, in a way quite similar to Jesu or Eluvium (but bridging the gap between the heaviness and softness, respectively). The opening track Transponder Parallels gives a small taste of the CD with a sample of a Richard Nixon Vietnam War speech. Interspersed throughout the release are various quotes about America, with a bittersweet and nervous look backwards. The tone of the music fits in with this theme of nostalgic remorse, wrapped up in commentary about the nation. And yet through some of the brighter melodies, a sense of determination may be felt.
A formidable release of American shoegaze/avant-pop, this CD will feel at home with fans of shoegaze in general.
The Scarecrow Frequency - Ivory Skeletons Of Dark Horses
Lucrecia released the digital EP Like Being Home in summer of 2007 from the Colombian label Series Media. Charming lyrics coupled with muted electronic-acoustic sounds define the 5 tracks. Hailing from Pereira, Colombia, Lucrecia Perez puts together simple melodies that could embed itself into the being of any warm-blooded human. As a guitarist-vocalist-producer, Lucrecia is able to put together all the disparate elements of acoustic pop into a finely polished product, complete with her her own pretty voice topping the compositions.
Track 1 “Let’s Pretend” opens with claves and guitar, with percussion and other sounds slowly layering over, working up to a simple love song. Track 2 “Like Being Home” has slightly more in terms of Lucrecia’s electronic music background, with some synths layered in. Track 3 “Counting Backwards” is arguably the best track on the release, quietly driving forward with its beautiful, subtle piano and drum combo, with Lucrecia’s sweet vocals repeating the catchy little chorus. Track 4 “Changing The Weather” changes the direction of the release, toning down the energy with intricate, mellow drums playing triplets. Finally, track 5 “Millones” is a quiet, slow lullaby that closes out the EP with memory of the aural sugar of the last 20 minutes.
While Like Being Home is quite short, it is quite possibly one of the best electronic-acoustic pop releases from Colombia (it will definitely be hard to top by anyone), and is definitely worth a listen. The fact that it is a free download from Series Media means that there will be no excuses for missing this one.
Lucrecia - Counting Backwards
1990’s Psych-rock-garage group from Harrisburg Virginia made up of members Sexua on vocals, Lmil on drums, Kshake on guitar and Ame Dread on bass. Part gimmick band, the groups thing was to dress up in different costumes for each show, as they did a puppet show one time and wore only vines another. Featured on this album is a cover song of the 70’s psych group Ultimate Spinach cut Hip Death Goddess (Ballad of the). The recording is by Warton Tiers who also did many of the early Sonic Youth albums. Its god a bit of the Sonic Youth and Fall vibe to it but without the seriousness to continue doing the act for more that the few years they were together as a college band at James Madison University. Think of a milkshake gone bad, left out on its own in college, getting drunk and figuring out how to make a lasting impression upon the world, and the audio slop will begin to make sense. The packaging for the original vinyl release which I unfortunately did not get, included a 3-D poster of the group, gorilla 3-D glasses (w/ scratch and sniff banana), chopsticks, a 12-page booklet full of art, a mermaid drinking glass companion, a hot dog bag, a 2nd poster/insert, and a nudie Teen Beat matchbook with the wise words “Relax Brother Relax” scrawled upon it. Most tracks on the album are short demo sounding chucklets and included as a bonus track is the last track, a live recording called Cave Bacon, Volume 3 which includes captured sound of about 4 minutes of vinyl crackling and the end of a vinyl.
Bienvenidos a Miami as Will Smith would say, yet somehow this trio didn’t hear him and dumped a blown out garage band in your lap full of cute art J. K. Rowling-esk lightning bolts, robots assembled out of the remnants of The Brave Little Toaster and as promised, bunnies. Drumstick hits tap out the start of this recently made OOP 7” delivers the robotic electric side of the bunnies. Loopy varying speed vinyl sounds with vocoder vocals and rock loops like Trans Am if someone made them record on a 4-track. The 2nd track features a short punk track with snotty Vandals style lyrics about how its “not about my sweater, not about my shoes…. I’m wearing beautiful pants”. Glad to know life is so simple over in Florida. Flip this over to find subtle psych behind bass driven lo-fi garage like slower instrumental Clash meets a druggier instrumental version of The Cure. Fun times ten as the album ends with some planned or unplanned cell phone to speaker interference. With all the choices of sound directions to go in, the Bunnies leave you wondering if in the future they’d rather open up for Abe Vigoda, Moldy Peaches, or Justice.
Blame Xiu Xiu for being so good that that they will have follower groups for the next 20 years. Eyes is one of those bands, but thankfully they don’t even try to polish themselves and come off sounding much more like I.B.O.P.A. the earlier project of Xiu Xiu frontman Jamie Stewart. The group is a duo plus many, made up of Nail In The Coffin label head Jorge Tapia and William Harris. From their Midwest headquarters in East Molina Illinois, Eyes aren’t your average corn herders, with their heads stuck in cassette tape culture a indicated by the infinite amount of OOP releases and lathe cuts on their discography, not to mention an upcoming comp alongside artists Zombi. They’ll have upcoming shows with the Chinese Stars and are inspired by Sun Ra as you can hear from the acid jazz breakdown of track 5. Soular Lust. Much of the other sounds on this album tributes 80’s electronic and New Wave with hyper Halloween tremolo vocals and over-amplified everything (piano, guitars, drum machines). Expect the tremolos to keep coming with each track in the album as if an old sweaty pair of yellow and black adidas sweatpants anthropomorphized into a rainbow garden of gay core fannypack dance team hand slapping professional B-boy image assistants, who’s primary duties include making sure everything you drink is fluorescent and no actual beads of sweat form on foreheads across the nation.
Decade long droners stoners Japan’s own space super fab five take psychedelic turns at speeding you through long drip out trips in long movements around 8 minutes a piece and as long as 22 minutes! You may notice this release includes vox/drummer Pikachu who sings beginning of end of movement 2 with her Native American chantingin the right channel while singing on the left. Also the prog, one cannot forget the progtastic way in which the band behind her keeps the livid rainbow forms floating in your cornea. Don’t miss out on the ultracheese classic Casio keyboard sounds in movement one. And while over 3/5ths of the bands members are bearded, do not underestimate the potential hidden beard factor which Pikachu, a current member of the band Afrirampo, may have. For those who just want a small scoop, skip to the shortest movement #4, at 4 minutes including amazing Glockenspiel performance you’re psych-tooth will fall out before you even leave the meth lab. Are these crazy band members just another innocent surf band or are they lifted spacemen drifting into the depths of darkened obscurity? Either way enjoy on your upper/downer of choice and be prepared to have your mind reprogrammed by hyperactive braintrolls with severe ADD.
FYI: Acid Mothers Temple & the Cosmic Inferno differs from the Melting Paraiso U.F.O. not only in line-up but also in style of music. The Cosmic Inferno generally plays much heavier, hard-rock inspired psychedelia, and experiments more with effects pedals. (wikipedia)
IVG is the third release by French label Poutre Apparente featuring more than a baker’s dozen of tracks split between various artists. This CD version put out by Born Bad Records (tracks are in a different order) is for those who prefer listening digitally to their experimental music. The themes and sounds of the CD are certainly disparate, spread across the release in haphazard fashion. Blending together tracks from some of the most experimental of the avant-garde artists of the time, IVG shows us the temporal uncertainty of an almost undefinable genre, being created in a time that was post-industrial, post-modern, and certainly post-punk. Instead of being melded together as a cohesive movement, the electronic, poppy, and punky tracks on the CD are like islands reaching towards each other through the receding waterline, almost-but-not-quite joined. In this same way, we see all the different types of influences to New Wave/No Wave on the release. A few different tracks stand out for different reasons. For example, track 4 “Indicateur Ou Drageur” by Nini Raviolette references French mod pop and 1960s rock ‘n’ roll with its fuzzboxes and heavy reverb. Track 11 “La Roue De Bicyclette” by D.D.A.A. is a droney, minimalistic presentation of hypnotic repetition. Finally track 12 “Le Manoir Du Chat Noir” by Atom Cristal is quite synth-heavy, exploring the on-the-verge world of synthpop atmospherics and analog drum machines. IVG is by no means an easy listen, and even at its roughly 40 minutes might seem lengthy. However, with each new listen, one can find beauty and musical order in the apparent abrasiveness of the tracks, and come to understand a whole era of music a bit better.
Bitcrush is a solo project of Mike Cadoo, focusing upon rock-based musical elements. Shimmer And Fade is a remastered reissue of the 2005 digital release of the same name (this time out on CD, limited to 1000 copies) and it includes 4 bonus tracks. The art references the original, but it is slightly different, being a bit cleaner.
Moving on to the music, the CD begins with dissonant, droney guitars layered over each other, signaling the album’s mood, austere and introspective, and set over sludgy, spacey rhythms. Distant and melodic, Cadoo’s music slowly explores harmonies and textures without making the music too experimental and unforgiving. Reminiscent of rock/metal-based shoegaze projects such as Jesu, Cadoo favors instrumentals over vocals, and makes sure that guitars don’t overpower the sound, using them only as a way to layer smooth, complex polyphonies over each other. The tracks also incorporate Cadoo’s previously honed skills and know-how of breakbeat rhythms and glitchy production. While most of the tracks are Warp-worthy, the real gems are (surprisingly) the tracks that sound a lot more rock than electronic. Warm and optimistic, they are listenable and easy to follow. For example, track 3 “No Bridge No Water” is a five-minute exposition of brightly melodic synths and strong alternative rock guitar riffs. More pop-structured than the other tracks, the song unabashedly skirts the line between accessibility and sophistication. Track 10 “When Swallowing Becomes Difficult” sounds like something off Ghostly International, being cute yet introspective, with a touch of bittersweet euphoria. These two tracks stand out from the others and bring to the album a bit of avant-pop energy from within a much more downtempo sound.
Marvin Ayres is a British composer of ambient soundscapes, mixing together minimalistic, yet dynamic melodies that swirl around different genres. A master of polyphony, Ayres draws from the harmonic traditions of Medieval plainchant, to the glory of Renaissance vocal works, to the ultra-experimental pieces of the musical genius Gyorgy Ligeti. By combining the breathtaking beauty of repetitive melodic themes with the movement of sound flowing in and out of dramatic tension, Ayres creates music that resides between glorious and muted, pious and indifferent, beautiful and worn. The CD opens with “Androgynous Weave,” an almost perverse reversal of the sacred minimalism of Arvo Part. Repetitive and hypnotic, it certainly leaves a mark on the mind, but with a decidedly barren tone. Track 8 “Do You Hear Me Now?” sounds like Medieval plainchant, but with a beautiful mix of polyphony, building up to an almost sacrosanct wall of piety, but pulling us out of our dreams of the old by layering a thick barrier of reverberation and clean-cut audio. Most of the CD brings a sense of barrenness and austerity to the listener, with a slight touch of pessimism. However, by listening close, one can find the shimmering light of emotional apex at the beginning of track 2 “Soured Alchemy,” bringing to the audience a sense of finality and peace, executed beyond the bounds of temporality.
Yet another offering of electro from the French label Kitsune Music, German duo Jens Moelle and Ismail Tuefekci (Digitalism) adds a bit of power-pop flavor to the wider genre of electro-house with the CD album release Idealism. With Daft Punk’s experimentation of using less sample-based production in favor of more synths, Digitalism carries the ball further, using synths to replace the traditional role of guitars without being as abrasive as their predecessors. For example, track 3 “I Want, I Want” is a jangly post-punk little number, complete with that classic drumset groove, divorcing the sound from the hold of drum machines that dominates the whole electro-house genre. Track 7 “Pogo” on the other hand, sounds like a poppier Joy Division song, reminding one of The Killers with its power-pop straight rock drive, and 1/8 note basslines. The duo even manages to touch upon the sounds of 80s New Romantic with track 12 “Apollo-Gize.” However, even apart from the virtuosity of extracting the essential nostalgia of the 80s, Moelle and Tuefekci really bring that magical groove that is so necessary to disco-variations. Track 5 “Digitalism In Cairo” shows off the duo’s skills in chopping up samples, and track 14 “Jupiter Room” just lays down a humongous house groove epitomizing the electro-house style. In all, Digitalism’s release Idealism is a danceable, yet melodic piece of work.
Two experimentalist groups from New Jersey collaborate in “Hear Less/ No Good Trying:” Dälek, an alternative hip hop duo comprised of MC Dälek as vocals and Oktopus in production, and Ifwhen, ex-All Natural Lemon & Lime Flavors with Merc (guitar, production, vocals), Kentaro (bass), Mary MacDowell (keyboards, viola), and Yuko Sueto (optical controller).
“Hear Less (Seymour)” opens with a twang of a guitar, grinding bass, a jarring organ, and drumbeats, set in minor key. This track exudes a dark atmosphere, reminding you of original hip hop meets Phantom of the Opera. Both groups are influenced by shoegazer band My Blood Valentine and it shows in this opening track with the distortion and droning riffs during the bridge, emulating The Beatle’s psychedelic rock song “Revolution 9.” In the end, the jarring organ and bass are emphasized in a repetitive, dissonant melody that eventually dissolves with the guitar ‘twang’ heard in the beginning.
The second track “No Good Trying” opens with a heavy bass like the first track, a drum machine and acoustic guitar which emphasizes the percussionist techniques, similar to Kaki King’s “Ritual Dance” as heard in August Rush. The melting styles of Dälek and Ifwhen produce yet another song that brings about a feeling of inertia or reverse momentum. When they introduce an electric organ, it gives the song a Celtic feel. The bridge shifts from a slower tempo hip hop to a faster vibrating organ blending with keyboard and guitar, bringing in a jazzy ambience seemingly set in 3/4 time. Beginning with guitar riffs and ending with cymbals, this is another experimental track fusing sampling and shoegazing.
The third track is a Deadverse Remix of “No Good Trying.” Opening with celestial keyboard, drums and intensifying echoing vocals, the song eventually distorts the vocals to the point of incomprehensible language and dissolves completely. In the last track, the Deadverse Remix of “Hear Less” opens with lyrics sung in echoing acapella. The drums enter, as the song alternates snippets of an electric organ and a pan flute set in different beats, creating yet another psychedelic ambience.
Overall, the collaboration of these amazing experimentalist and alternative hip hop groups produce unique industrial hip-hop, effectively using their sampling and shoegazing to exude a dark atmosphere of dissonant and amorphous sounds. Yet, it only makes you want more of this fusion of alternative hip-hop and psychedelic rock.
Julie Fowlis is a Gaelic singer from the island of North Uist, in Scotland. In Scottish Gaelic tradition, individuals compose little songs to reflect the events and mundane business of daily life. Fowlis in this album Cuilidh puts together a collection of 12 songs taken from the compositions of others on the island. Slightly rustic, and intensely personal, the album is a deep dive into the oral story-telling tradition of the culture. The melodies are moving and the characters memorable, and weave together a small microcosm of the people on the edge of the world. All the songs are sung in Gaelic to preserve the original forms, but the booklet luckily provides English translations for everything, allowing the general audience to peer into a language that is now spoken by about only 60,000 people in the world. Deeply touching, the songs touch upon lost love, hard lives of patriotic war vets, long journeys at sea… Track 2 “Mo Ghruagach Dhonn” for example is a love song lamenting a man’s lover going abroad to Australia. A beautiful ballad, the song reminds me of the medieval troubador music of Bernart de Ventadorn and his song “La Douza Votz” with their similar themes of lost love and acceptance. Track 9 “Oran Nan Raiders” is a song about a group of men who were promised land if they fight in the war (WWI). However, they are betrayed by the government and they decide to take matters into their own hands by attempting to seize the land themselves. Track 6 “Set Of Jigs” sounds like something straight from a medieval village, drawing from traditional European dance music structures. A big chunk of 6/8 time music, joyful tracks like these offset the more bittersweet and more tragic songs on the CD. Traditional and personal, the album is immediately accessible to the general listener with its focus on how folk music can fit into modern pop acoustic. (Believe me, medieval ballad/troubador music influenced a LOT of modern music!)
Death in June is Douglas Pearce, and Douglas Pearce’s new album is another offering of brooding neo-folk entitled The Rule of Thirds. Against a backdrop of only a strumming guitar and an array of subtle, but ominous sound effects Pearce croons through thirteen haunting tracks. The hollowness of Pearce’s voice is similar to that of Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis, though he does not possess the late singers prowess for songwriting. For an album with such scant instrumentation to be compelling it must contain lyrics that are nothing short of poetic (i.e. Leonard Cohen, early Dylan), and while there are breaths of thoughtful prose on Rule, it is clear that Pearce is no James Joyce. The lyrics on songs like “Good Mourning Sun”; And on this Winter’s Day/I can’t drink it away/I feel it’s here to stay/The rains they seem to pour and pour/And, what is more I’ll always settle to score, and “Idolatry”;You come and go/You’re the Emptiness/That was meant to be/The missing piece/Of the Puzzle of Me left me wanting and a little disappointed that the 52 year old Pearce could not contrive some more introspective verse. That being said, there are a couple creditable tracks on the album, namely “My Rhine Atrocity”; which sees Pearce’s minimalist style adding hues to his sobering words, and the angst-ridden “Takeyya,” which pits a catchy chord progression against Pearce’s biting British accent. The most resonant cut is the finale “Let Go,” a song that flourishes in its languorousness, and finally accomplishes what I imagine was Pearce’s intent for the album as a whole. The Rule of Thirds would be ideal to put in your player on a sunny Sunday hangover afternoon, as you sentimentally muse bad decisions and analyze the state of your failing life, but if you’d prefer not to enter this dark realm, I’d just suggest a cup of coffee.
Ebb and flow. Dissonance and Consonance. The Denouement’s full length debut Low Tide is an exercise in dualism. The Denouement is an indie rock band currently based out of Azusa, CA. While they claim to sound like Felix the Cat or King Kong, (the cartoon and movie, respectively) a more apt comparison might be a combination of the free earnestness of The Arcade Fire with the exploration of dissonance and loud/soft dynamic present on Cursive’s The Ugly Organ, and classic rock textures comparable to The Wall-era Pink Floyd. In reality, though, these comparisons simply fall short of describing the band’s sound, as they present a voice that is truly only their own.The album opens with “Addition,” a track that alternates between the calm before the storm and alarming urgency. While this kind of comparison is rarely side by side in the same song after this point, the rest of the album fulfills the varying promises made by this track and more.Every track here is a carefully woven tapestry of sound, but of course there are standouts. “Saddest Joke” drops a perfect dose of pop exactly when it is needed after slow-burner “Sleepwalking,” with singer Malachi Ward proudly proclaiming that: “my life, it doesn’t fit into a straight line.” Instrumental “12 Minutes” presents a richly textured sonic thesis. “Shake Off” mutates from ominous dirge to Cursive-inspired dance-off. Closer “Keep Hunting” bids the listener farewell from what feels like a journey along hidden path of the soul. And it truly is a path that will occupy the soul- Low Tide rides the big questions of existence, asking questions of meaning that all have pondered, but never offering the easy answers that ruin so many works of art that could be described as “issues music.” A friend described this album as “agnostic rock.” Maybe, but where The Denouement are concerned, I consider myself a believer.