Archive for August, 2008
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.
Unsettled On An Old Sense Of Place is a release by Gustavo Aguilar, experimental percussionist. Throughout the CD, Aguilar pieces together different bits of avant-garde electronic, jazz, and percussion to create challenging tracks of various lengths. Although comprised of only 6 tracks, each track contains plenty of complex ideas made for the listener to digest. Aguilar employs the help of other very accomplished artists to help with vocals, strings, and a variety of other instruments to bring forth the essence of tonal balance through the scraping, the tapping, the plucking, of various materials. In track 2 “Contrafactum For Scelsi,” Aguilar puts his percussionist tendencies to use as he taps out a series of sounds from the different surfaces available on a guitar, going beyond what is normally thought of as playing (on the strings). He shows off his virtuosity in percussion by showing us syncopated, accented notes, building in intensity as he presents the whole range of energies present in such a performance. Track 6 “Wendell’s History” is a track featuring poet Wendell Berry’s work, crisp vocals layered over hypnotic, sparkling glockenspiel-playing. Quite possibly the most amazing track on the CD is track 4 “Dirac’s Theory,” (named after physicist Paul Dirac) a unique 3-minute long drum solo. Playing only a snare drum, Aguilar shows us once again not only his virtuosity on percussion, but also the possibility of sounds that exist (or can exist) within one single instrument. The tracks on this CD might be slightly abrasive at times, but they certainly yank the listener (and the musician) out of their comfort zones, showing them the possibility of sounds that are not popularly utilized.
KFJC will broadcast live from Earthdom in Shin-Ohkubo, Tokyo, Japan. The live broadcast will start at 2am PST(6pm Tokyo time) both days and will be rebroadcast starting at 6pm Pacific Time each day (Monday August 25th and Tuesday August 26th 2008).
KFJC is committed to bringing our listeners an unique experience in radio, netcast and video streaming. For many years the Japanese underground music scene has been active and innovative in creating compelling sounds. Unfortunately many of these music projects will rarely perform outside of Japan. KFJC is traveling to Japan to shed some light on a few of these more unknown projects, to provide an opportunity for them to share their creativity in a live setting with listeners all over the world
Band Line Up:
|Majutsu no Niwa
(members of Overhang Party)
|Kawaguchi Masami New Rock Syndicate
|Reiko A. + SACHIKO
|Keiichi Miyashita solo
Wildly schizophrenic, Venetian Snares latest offering Detrimentalist can best be described as auditory cocaine. Alone, all nine songs are 4-6 minute breakcore panic attacks, yet when listened to in order an uncanny cohesiveness emerges. As a genre breakcore has an incredibly liberal interpretation, but Detrimentalist may be one of its few quintessential examples. Uninhibited and wildly abstract, the album thrives in its own recklessness. It is laden with arcade style passages and will sound familiar to anyone who has played UGA’s video game Rez, in fact I’m damn surprised Venetian wasn’t on that soundtrack.
Any album with a song named “Poo Yourself Jason” must be approached with a degree of levity, but don’t be fooled into thinking that Venetian’s not going to deliver some epic cuts. Namely the culminating “Bebikukorica Nigiri,” which I’m certain would be the song playing if MegaMan and Link were ever fighting to the death on top of a New York highrise. “Nigiri” differs from other tracks because it has a motive which comes back more ornamented and inspired each time around. Yet, the contrapuntal textures Venetian massages into songs like “Sajtban” and “Circle Pit” demonstrate his versatility and are equally engaging.
Detrimentalist’s longest and most sporadic track is “Flashforward,” a 400 second tour de force reminiscent of the earlier, rawer Chemical Brothers. “Flashforward” is in effect a microcosm of the entire album; Atonality coaxed into confluence by an artist who is often eccentric, but never dull.
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!)
No Eyed Bird interviewed Sa DingDing on Saturday, July 19th when she played a short set at the Cow Palace in San Francisco.
The show in San Francisco was Sa DingDing’s first in the US.
The review of her album Alive is available here.
Here is a transcription of the interview: (More after the jump, audio clips included!)
Looking for lounge and dancefloor music? “BatBox” is surely the album you’re looking for. Released in early February 2008 by Miss Kitten, also known as Caroline Hervé, a French electronica singer-songwriter and DJ, the songs are sung nearly entirely in English, reveals a blatant influence from goth culture and mixes diverse electroclash melodies with pop and ska vocals. The cover art is designed by Rob Reger, creator of the character “Emily the Strange.”
The opening track “Batbox” emits a feeling of mod culture with its new wave elements, and simple yet attractive spacey music. But wait, this is just the opening track! “Kitten is High” opens with a fast beat introduction, with vocals similar to Katy Rose’s “Watching the Rain.” Her singing style is reminiscent of a poetic feel. Enhanced with melodies and beats of party dance techno, it gives you a feel of the nonconformist individual at the party scene who dances to her own beat. The lyrics are simple, short, and succinct, a repeating style Miss Kitten uses as she tells of a fun goth epic.
In the third track “Solidasarockstar,” using synthesizers, drums, and industrial music produced by whirring electric sounds, it seems to tell of a story of identifying and abusing a rockstar. Combined with the industrial melodies, it gives you an image of Edward Scissorhands turned into a rockstar. The next track “Grace” opens with drums and cymbals, followed by clapping that signals the next overlaying instrumental–a low bass. With the reoccurring snippets of a grinding steel background, an organ, and a rumbling low bass, this haunting echo of a three-layered melody is reminiscent of Run Lola Run. “Grace” tells of meeting grace by losing herself in bass.
The fifth track “Barefoot Tonight” opens with grinding bass met with a mix of clapping, ethereal male and female vocals. She sings of her interest in guitars and lyrics, and her rise as a kick-ass barefoot vocalist. Towards the end she brings in the clapping once more, while shouting “Shout!” This gives me an image of Nana meets Wir Sind Helden. The style reminds me of “Guten Tag” by Wir Sind Helden. This song interweaves goth, metal, and pop.
The next track “Wash ‘n’ Dry” opens with slow ethereal vocals and just as haunting echoing beat met with repetitive industrial interludes. In this song, Miss Kitten’s vocals emulates the style of ska, especially Gwen Stefani in No Doubt. She brings in synthesizers, an electric keyboard, and slows the music down a notch. The bridge is reminiscent of her favorite use of bass produced with low, gutteral sounds. Overall this song is spacey with organ elements in the background, especially near the end. This depressing song juxtaposed with “Pollution of the Mind,” the seventh track, has resounding differences. In “Pollution of the Mind,” it opens with a fast beat and vocals similar to “Kitten is High.” Met with a lower fast drum tempo and a third layer with an organ, the organ is let go when the chorus is sung full out. Keeping the first two melodies the vocals begin again, bringing cymbals, and organs whilst singing of motivation “You, lost in sadness and pain/ Sun can shine again…” As the end approaches, she loses each melody layer by layer until only the first beat is left.
“Machine Joy” opens with record scratching and blatant hip hop influence with a bass of extremely low beatbox. Singing about DJ-ing, and introducing drums, this song is similar to the 80’s hip hop, particularly Michael Jackson. The melodies only contribute to the picture and feeling of the resounding chorus “Joy is in the rhythm of the machine.” She ends the song with a fast sixteen-beat drum and beatbox.
“Metalhead” opens with three melodies, two drum beats and an overlaying short spurts of an organ. The beats are yet again reminiscent of hip hop dance music. The bridge introduces metal industrial music, and surprises you giving an eerie feeling as she whispers, “Let’s take a record play it loud and fool around.” The finale ends with metal industrial melodies turned techno. This song is a great juxtaposition of metal and techno.
The eleventh track “Sunset Strip” opens with drums and rap. Met by a techno interlude, the low drum bass is mixed while the chorus is sung ethereally. Again, this is another fine example of the juggling and brewing talents of Miss Kitten with opposing styles of techno and pop.
The last track “Playmate of the Century” opens with a fast 16 beat and sings about the truth of the music industry. Mixing a drum producing similar music as a bongo drum, and an organ, the song ends with much energy and the style is reminiscent of 80’s music met with spacey undertones.
Overall, Miss Kitten’s “Bat Box” screams “diversity!” She mixes electroclash and New Wave (mainly ska) very well, and brings some pop and definite goth culture influence. However predictable the melodies are, they are fun to listen to, with surprising tones of industrial and metal 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.