Tuesday, April 22, 2008

You're no good to me dead...

Hello there,
First thing: Thanx for the support, the interaction and the feedback, I'm a newbie in the blogging era, so any advice is more than welcome.
Second thing: I really got tired of re-uploading all the links in this blog. They are constantly being deleted. So do you have any ideas of how should we keep it going? Some sort of a mailing list or something, I don't really know...
Please leave your thoughts & ideas, they could be more than useful for this blog to stay alive....


Death Of The Left Unfinished

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Lightning Bolt "Wonderful Rainbow" (Load Records, 2003)

Artist: Lightning Bolt
Album: "Wonderful Rainbow"
Release Date: 24 February 2003
Label: Load Records
Genre: Noise, Noise-Rock, Experimental-Rock
Mood: Uncompromising, Suffocating, Insular, Visceral
Reminds Of: Boredoms, Black Dice, Arab On Radar, Ruins
What People Think: AllMusicGuide, PitchforkMedia, SputnikMusic
Definitely Worth Buying: Amazon, CdUniverse

1. Hello Morning
2. Assassins
3. Dracula Mountain
4. 2 Towers
5. On Fire
6. Crown Of Storms
7. Longstockings
8. Wonderful Rainbow
9. 30000 Monkies
10. Duel In The Deep

“Oh shit.”

Inevitably, that’s what music is all about. Be it a crossfade, a sax bleat, guitar solo, or some wicked algorithmic programming, we listen to music to find those moments when you lose the right words and just lock in on the sound of something, the force of it. Not to reduce theoretical studies to a base oversimplification, but ultimately that’s what you look for – someone, some sound to make you look at the bottom of your drink and just say, “Oh shit.” Lightning Bolt’s music is entirely made up of these moments and sounds – riffs linked with breakdowns, disfigured vocals that resonate like mechanical laughter, splattering, tapped out basslines and breakneck drumming all adding up to one continuous moment, one single jaw-dropping experience.

“Oh shit.”

The genius part about Lightning Bolt, the part that takes them from being a great band to a flat-out amazing one is that they take those revelations from so many different places and twist them all together. 2001’s essential Ride the Skies sounded like a collision between Derek Bailey’s most non-idiomatic improvising and Eddie Van Halen’s pinpoint over-the-top fret board taps. At the same time, it was filtered through a cracked lens of hardcore and metal, lifting distorted bass sounds from Flipper, the teetering aggression of bands like Scratch Acid, and the flat out bombast of groups like Slayer. Adding more to the mix were the obvious influences from Japanoise bands like Ruins and Boredoms. The amazing part comes from taking all these sounds and turning it into something that doesn’t dwell on its references, but rather becomes its own entity – one with an intense mixture of fun and chaos.

Take “Assassins”, the second track from Wonderful Rainbow, for example: a quick screech, and then the sonic equivalent of getting smashed in the chest by a truck. Brian Gibson carves a monolithic bass riff out of his 3,800 watts and smacks it full on against Brian Chippendale’s drumming – a scattering, clattering mess of constant bass drum slams to build the tension, and then a release with enough manic fills for six other bands, all the while chattering through his distorted microphone (conveniently attached to his throat via a jaunty knit mask).

“Dracula Mountain” doesn’t let you collect yourself either, with galloping drums and a naïve sing-song melody that stops on a dime and lurches into a massive swath of off-time, bass drum heavy thumping and perfectly timed snare cracks and high note snatches. And of course, just when you get used to the sheer force of it all, that naïve melody comes back, bringing with it a serpentine little bass riff, some rhythmic tom work, and a plunge into what sounds like a Munsters theme song outtake.

“2 Towers” highlights manic improvisation before quickly developing a harder edge, with Gibson burrowing his riffs straight into your skull while Chippendale shifts the rhythm, alternating his fills with simple, pure heavy handed precision. And this is all while building it to a breakneck climax of insane bass work and hyperkinetic drumming. “On Fire” sounds like an alarm call with piercing bass lines that work their way to a low end throb while the drums pound away happily, showing that as hard as Chippendale plays, he matches it with a light handed precision, pausing only for a moment for Gibson to sound off, then launching back into the fray twice as hard.

Gibson starts tapping out the high notes of “Crown of Storms” only to quickly flip it back, contrasting a thumping low-end bass blast with Chippendale’s measured snare cracks. He works the tapping back in, letting the ascending melody rise as he tries to smack it back down. The pace quickens, the drums’ antics increase, until Gibson and Chippendale detonate everything – blast beats and squalling bass lines fighting for air in the relentless din. “Longstockings” almost sounds spare by comparison, with its simple, clean and melodic bass line and the straight-forward drumming and distorted vocals. It then falls, however, into one of the most intense and abstracts burst of noise on the record. “30,000 Monkeys” is Lightning Bolt firing on all cylinders – at times intricate and complex, and at other times hitting with the force of a jackhammer. “Duel in the Deep” finishes out the record on perhaps its most intense and noisy notes – equal parts aggressive and ominous warped shards of bass.

In the end, though, words fail me. I have such a hard time describing Lightning Bolt because it’s impossible to talk about their intensity, their talent, and the great music they create and do it all equal justice. If you want a truly accurate picture of Lightning Bolt, you just have to see them play. They destroy any notion of a fourth wall when they set up on the floor, feeding off the disheveled and energized masses as much as the crowd soaks up everything they have to offer. It’s truly an amazing thing. Wonderful Rainbow is a brilliant record and has upped the ante tremendously for Lightning Bolt. They managed to take every single aspect that made Ride the Skies such a great record and intensify it severely, all the while showcasing incredibly tight and complex musicianship – knowing when to hold in the reins and when to set them on fire. And yet it all seems so effortless. Every time I listen to them I feel like I just stumbled into the practice space of the greatest band in the world, only one that doesn’t know it or care. They just hammer away making music for the pure unadulterated fun of it, while all I can do is sit here and think, “Oh shit.”

(source: DustedMagazine)

“At its best, though, this album is like having a beautiful girl hit you repeatedly over the head with a baseball bat. Imagine all the best aspects of Fred Frith, Derek Bailey, the Ruins, Slayer, and Ornette Coleman all thrown into a blender together. Then imagine them on speed. This one's a keeper.”

Monday, April 14, 2008

Deerhoof "Milk Man" (Kill Rock Stars, 2004)

Artist: Deerhoof
Album: "Milk Man"
Release Date: 9 March 2004
Label: Kill Rock Stars
Genre: Indie-Rock, Noise-Pop, Experimental-Rock
Mood: Energetic, Irreverent, Naive, Innocent
Reminds Of: Erase Errata, The Microphones, The Breeders
What People Think: SplendindMagazine, DustedMagazine, PopMatters
Definitely Worth Buying: CdUniverse, Amazon

1. Milk Man
2. Giga Dance
3. Desaparecere
4. Rainbow Silhouette Of The Milky Rain
5. Dog On The Sidewalk
6. C
7. Milking
8. Dream Wanderer's Tune
9. Song Of Sorn
10. That Big Orange Sun Run Over Speed Light
11. New Sneakers

Deerhoof follows Apple O', an album that won the group ever-growing critical and popular acclaim, with Milk Man, an album even more conceptual and song-oriented than its predecessor. Inspired by the spooky yet adorable work of illustrator Ken Kagami -- whose art graces the album's cover and liner notes -- Milk Man tells the tale of a masked, pied piper-like being who lures children into his dreamland and then traps them there. The vision and the visuals surrounding the album are a perfect fit with Deerhoof's music, and, perhaps befitting Milk Man's status as a concept album, this time around the band incorporates more prog rock-like keyboards and other electronics into its sound. The pretty ballad "Dream Wanderer's Tune," with its lyrics about kings in castles in the sky and its playfully elaborate keyboards, exemplifies Deerhoof's move to more intricate, contemplative music. Since the album is relatively restrained, it's not quite as buoyant as Apple O' or Reveille, and it lacks a little bit of the delirious overload of Deerhoof's earliest work, but that doesn't mean that it's less distinctive. "Desapareceré" is one of Milk Man's best and most unique tracks, mixing clicking and shuffling electronic drums with sugary synths and Spanish lyrics into a very different take on electronic pop; "Dog on the Sidewalk" consists mostly of bubbling and fizzing electronics and Satomi Matsuzaki's deceptively simple vocals. Milk Man does have its fair share of noise, particularly on the instrumentals "Rainbow Silhouette of the Milky Rain" and "That Big Orange Sun Run Over Speed Light," as well as on "Song of Sorn," which starts out as a burst of noise and ends up oddly, but distinctly, poppy. This poppiness is responsible for many of Milk Man's best moments, including the sunny title track and "Milking" -- which are among the most straightforwardly melodic songs Deerhoof have ever written -- as well as the sweet final track, "New Sneakers," which does indeed capture the childlike glee of new shoes in lyrics like "Skipping all over with these shoes/Oh speed." Milk Man isn't all sweetness and light, though: Greg Saunier's lumbering drumming adds an extra edge to the monster party that is "Giga Dance"; "C"'s brittle vocal melody is mirrored by guitars that are pretty at first but then turn loud and thrashy. But even in its louder moments, Milk Man is a surprisingly subtle album, and one that takes Deerhoof's music in quietly exciting new directions.

(source: AllMusicGuide)

“A perfect album, except perfect is the wrong word for a band so dedicated to kitchen-sink oddness.” [SPIN, Mar 2004, p.96]

“So horribly untrendy it’s a new-black must-have, ‘Milk Man’ is the essential oddity of 2004, and a more-than-worthy successor to 2003’s magnificent ‘Apple O’’.” [LOGO]

“The album is most similar to Apple O', but while Apple O' seemed to have a somewhat lethargic quality, Milk Man sounds fresh and fully inviting. And it's a lot better.” [TINY MIX TAPES]

“Near-telepathic singularity of thought…”

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bat For Lashes "Fur And Gold" (Echo Records, 2006)

Artist: Bat For Lashes
Album: "Fur And Gold"
Release Date: 11 September 2006
Label: Echo Records
Genre: Indie-Electronic, Folktronica, Freak-Folk, Singer-Songwriter
Mood: Gloomy, Bittersweet, Austere, Intimate
Reminds Of: Cat Power, Bjork, Pj Harvey, Kate Bush
What People Think: FilterMagazine, LATimes, SlantMagazine
Definitely Worth Buying: Play, Amazon

1. Horse And I
2. Trophy
3. Tahiti
4. What's A Girl To Do
5. Sad Eyes
6. Wizard
7. Prescilla
8. Bat's Mouth
9. Seal Jubilee
10. Sarah
11. I Saw A Light

Bat For Lashes, the musical alter-ego of one Natasha Khan, has attracted much (inevitable) comparison to Björk and Kate Bush, and to some extent this holds water. There’s the same maverick female singer-songwriter thing going on, and Bat For Lashes has the same love of wrapping raw emotion in surprising sounds and arrangements so that the impact jumps out at you from several different angles at once. However, Fur and Gold is far from an influence-hugging act of mimicry: the sound couldn’t possibly be stolen goods when it’s so exactly sculpted to fit Khan’s voice. Her vocal, whether in soft/atmospheric or bold and striking mode, always fits perfectly into the fabric of the music, adding to and becoming part of the atmosphere rather than superimposing itself over it. Around and between the vocals, seemingly delicate instrumentation is woven together in such a way as to lend it a complex, layered strength. Fur and Gold doesn’t so much use hooks as suggest them: whispering hints of melody, shared out between the violin, harpsichord and oddly mechanical sounding handclaps, provide enough of a tune to let the song worm its way firmly into your mind without ever overwhelming the atmospheric complexity of the whole. And that coherent atmosphere is the root of Fur and Gold’s power. By welding the mysticism, dream imagery and fairytale* quality of the lyrical content to the ethereal yet powerful music, an emotional rawness is balanced by a sense of distance and mystery which persists through repeated listens without feeling tired or spent. Although occasional slips into a more conventional or less complex sound sometimes loosen the album’s grip on the listener, it’s never long before the spell re-establishes itself. An entrancing, wonderfully surprising record which manages to feel both refreshing new and strangely timeless.

(source: DrownedInSound)

“Fur and Gold announces Natasha Khan's Bat For Lashes as a talent impossible to ignore and beguiling to behold, an album that, time and again, plucks one away from the mundane and offers a bewitching alternative galaxy of delights.” [MUSICOHM.COM]

“Bat For Lashes' debut, Fur And Gold, is an album that delivers the listener from any form of humdrum existence into a deeper realm of dream and dementia.” [HOT PRESS]

“Fur and Gold is not the greatest album of the 2007, but it’s certainly the most breathtaking.” [POP MATTERS]

“But we do the dishes, we make the bread, we are powdered ashes in the light of the beauty…”

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Frog Eyes "The Golden River" (Animal World, 2003)

Artist: Frog Eyes
Album: "The Golden River"
Release Date: 1 July 2003
Label: Animal World
Genre: Indie-Rock, Experimental-Rock, New-Wave, Post-Punk
Mood: Nihilistic, Manic, Angst-Ridden, Theatrical
Reminds Of: Destroyer, Captain Beefheart, 16 Horsepower
What People Think: AllMusicGuide, DustedMagazine
Definitely Worth Buying: InSound, Amazon

1. One In Six Children Will Flee In Boats
2. Time Reveals Its Plan At Poisoned Falls
3. Masticated Outboard Motors
4. Miasma Gardens
5. A Latex Ice Age
6. Orbis Magnes
7. Time Destroys Its Plan At The Reactionary Table
8. Soldiers Crash Gathering In Sparrow Hills
9. World's Greatest Concertos
10. Picture Framing The Gigantic Men Who Fought On Steam Boats
11. The Secret Map Flees From Plurality

It's unfortunate that imagination is so frequently seen as antithetical to sincerity. We expect personal truths and broad revelations from musicians, but we often expect these insights should be delivered through a mundane, relatable form of honesty. Sure, singers often borrow words, ideas and emotions from the experiences of others, ranging from friends and family to long-dead or non-existent cultural and historical figures. But these identities are almost always kept somehow separate from that of the singer, who in turn manipulates these secondary personas into acceptable personal statements and observations. Though Carey Mercer's voice is heard throughout The Golden River, the identity of the album's narrator always seems to be shifting and slipping. The album is less a work of cognizant storytelling than a fever dream. Personal and cultural memory bleed together, as Mercer spins fractured images lifted straight from the pages of Grimm Brothers fairy tales and Homeric Epics. And yet, nothing about The Golden River seems contrived or gratuitously literary: its otherworldly sonic and lyric richness is matched at every turn by the striking immediacy of Mercer's wide-eyed delivery. The result is a record every bit as stunning and imaginative as it is memorable and affecting, and one of the most unique and interesting I've heard in ages. "One in Six Children Will Flee in Boats" opens the album with a flimsy, strummed guitar figure that's immediately, strikingly overshadowed by Mercer's breathy gasp. Suddenly, a rich swell of guitar, drums, and keyboards evokes a grandiosity bringing to mind glam-era Bowie; Mercer captures the Thin White Duke's anthemic and melodic delivery, but couples it with a frenzied, grizzled intensity and the gruff, world-weary sensibility of Tom Waits. Mercer matches this intensity lyrically, singing "Over that ridge, a hunter lives/ Stake him out with broken gifts/ By the light, by the merry men/ Who gave his lives when he gave knives to children/ Raise him up, stake him up/ Grab the sun and drink his blood in cups!" Out of context, it may seem nonsensical, but the conviction with which Mercer sings renders it an unnervingly powerful image. After an ethereal instrumental break, "Time Reveals Its Plan at Poisoned Falls" plays up the operatic nature of Mercer's voice, as he rattles off funhouse mirror images of a royal court and hissed accusations of jealousy. Rather than simply sounding crazy, he conveys the doomed frenzy of a prophet. About halfway through the song, he sings as if possessed by the spirit of the monarch whose death he has forseen: "I'm the head of the queen/ I float around the night unseen/ And I know when to scream 'oh baby wake up!'" At a mere 1:29, "Time Reveals Its Plan at Poisoned Falls" is both a vivid fantasy and a desperate plea to return to consciousness and reality, a potent juxtaposition that Mercer hints at throughout the record. A procession of similarly strong songs follows, each one sonically rich and brimming with melody and imagination. Only "Orbis Magnus" temporarily shifts the tone of the record to one of unadulterated, introspective sadness. In a subdued mumble, Mercer intones: "You can have boyfriends, but not men/ You want your words to be penned/ There's women on the barge, on the waters that bend." Here, Mercer seems to embody the timeless trope of the lonely monster, his previous outbursts reduced to a barely-contained air of self-loathing. The Golden River closes with two of its strongest tracks. "World's Greatest Concertos" is a fit of gleeful self-destruction, as if Mercer has finally been driven mad by the images he has seen, shouting "Encapsulate the body and emasculate the body/ And hold the burning waters, the tubs of burning waters/ Holiday!/ The trees are bones and dipped in wazing burning cones and call a celebration/ The master's burnt in his burning station." Mercer's shrieking falsetto it segues into the sublime "Picture Framing the Gigantic Men Who Fought on Steam Boats", the most beautiful song on The Golden River and also quite possibly the most unsettling. The vocals are slightly more subdued here, cushioned by breathy backup singing provided by Carolyn Mark. Right before it ends, "Picture Framing" takes on a somber and ominous tone, as Mercer repeats, "I'll keep on sailing on/ Until the rosy-pink dawn," cleverly citing a Homeric epithet to suggest that his voyage will, in fact, never really end. It's a stunning moment of resignation, as the narrator accepts his place in this terrifyingly vivid fantasy world. This album seems to exist in a world apart from our own. From Melanie Campbell's insistent, simple, and often strangely cartoonish drumming to Carey Mercer's fantastical lyrics and overwrought delivery, The Golden River taps directly into your imagination, short-circuiting any traditional notions of what should constitute "sincere" and "emotional" music. These songs are the lost soundtracks to those frantic, epic dreams that you can never remember in their entirety, but stay with you for the rest of your life.

(source: PitchforkMedia)

“It is all about a world that is both idiosyncratically imagined and unsettlingly relevant...”

Dungen "Ta Det Lugnt" (Subliminal Sounds, 2004)

Artist: Dungen
Album: "Ta Det Lugnt"
Release Date: July 21, 2004
Label: Subliminal Sounds
Genre: Indie-Rock, Neo-Psychedelia, Psych-Folk
Mood: Dreamy, Dramatic, Spacey, Exuberant
Reminds Of: Animal Collective, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Apples In Stereo
What People Think: AllMusicGuide, StylusMagazine, TinyMixTapes
Definitely Worth Buying: Insound, Amazon

1. Panda
2. Gjort Bort Sig
3. Festival
Du E For Fin For Mig
5. Ta Det Lugnt
6. Det Du Tanker Idag Ar Du I Morgon
7. Lejonet & Kulan
8. Bortglomd
9. Glomd Konst Kommer Stundom Anyo Till Heders
10. Lipsill
11. On Du Vore En Hackthund
12. Tack Ska Ni Ha
13. Sluta Folja Efter

Despite the constant influx of catchphrase-coordinated marketing campaigns that would lead you to believe that life-affirming records are released daily, it's forever rare to stumble upon one as consistently mind-blowing and aesthetically far-reaching as Dungen's Ta Det Lugnt. Because of this scarcity, when such an unexpected (and immediate) discovery does take place, it's like being struck by indescribable melodic lightning: Unlike discs that warrant facile disses or mediocre passing grades, the countless reasons for its boundless successes remain ineffable and shadowy despite repeat late-night close-listening sessions. Simply put, Dungen exhibit all the signs of legitimate, hard-won staying power. Ta Det Lugnt is an exceedingly triumphant psych-pop oddity that evokes Keith Moon's drum fills on The Who Sell Out, the wraiths of unsung bedroom psyche celebrants, and the acoustic sustain and harmonizing of The Byrds' Younger Than Yesterday, Ta Det Lugnt feels less like a new release than some ancient tome, a fully formed masterpiece dropped unexpectedly on corduroy laps from some blue-brown sky. It's so aesthetically tight, jangly verdant, and musty that even carbon dating insists that it could not be post-millennial.To be sure, there's a major difference between retro and somehow embodying your parents' vintage zeitgeist: It's damn-near impossible to believe that the humming tubes, crackling drums, smoky backdrop, and complexly interwoven melodies on Ta Det Lugnt were birthed in a quick-fix iPod age. But perhaps even more impressive is that, despite the music's headiness and intricacy, its anachronistic results feel unusually effortless, earnest, and unpretentious: Dungen seem driven to this sound not for bloodless cred points, but out of a very sincere devotion to the music from a bygone era. Accomplished beyond his years, 24-year-old Swedish multi-instrumentalist Gustav Ejstes is the pin-up mastermind behind Dungen's vibrant polish. For the full duration of his third album's 13 bracing tracks, he perfectly inhabits-- and then expands upon-- his homeland's late-60s/early-70s acid-rock scene. Ta Det Lugnt particularly taps into the expansiveness of his Swedish psych predecessors, Parson Sound, while maintaining a murky rocker edge: Imagine that band colliding with The Kinks, or Amon Duul II with Olivia Tremor Control, or Comets on Fire with The Zombies on their way to Terrastock.Interested in pushing pop glitter to its limits, Ejstes doesn't go as far afield into psych-pop cliches like chirping birds and hippie atmospherics as his elder brethren, but his equally vintage garage sound allows a definite space for ethereality in the form of funereal dew-drop strings, free jazz breakdowns, brief whiffs of AM radio tuning, flute minuets, lushly cascading pianos, prog time changes, florid medieval chimes, sky-melting freakouts, church organs, fuzz-guitar jousts, doubled mountain-top whistles, roaring six-string solos, and autumnal instrumental interludes. It's obvious his songs are painstakingly arranged with a sense of depth, gradations, and tonal three-dimensionality redolent of something as off the charts as Pet Sounds. Continually, there's a perfect push-and-pull between catchy melodies, roaring solos, and spaced-out dramaturgy-- the band's output is consistently upbeat even when heartbreakingly tranquil and melancholy. "Gjort Bort Sig" flutters and drifts, reaching for the outer realms, before catching a subtle hurricane of quicksand spirals behind doubled astronaut vocals. The sweet arboreal folk of "Festival" appears straightforward until it unleashes an echo-chamber bridge that absolutely shimmers. And the title track feels like chamber-pop expanded to include a psych history lesson. Because I took Latin and not Swedish in high school, I have no idea what Ejstes is singing about, but I like the verbal opacity-- the way syllables meld to the Hammond, flute, violin, bass, drums, guitars, and the way it masks any potentially subpar lyric that might detract from such brilliant arrangements. Indeed, as the summer finally turns to dying leaves, Dungen's lush palette of mystical earth tones and trade winds seems the ideal soundscape. This has been one hell of a year for psych, folk, et. al., but even with such fine releases as Animal Collective's Sung Tongs and Comets on Fire's Blue Cathedral, I doubt 2004 will birth a more blissful sonic encounter than Ta Det Lugnt.

(source: PitchforkMedia)

“A richly rewarding passage through the last five decades of American music history.” [SPIN, Aug 2005, p.99]

“With the sonic reach of Pink Floyd and convincing, explosive pop in the vein of Rogue Wave and the Apples in Stereo, "Ta Det Lugnt" is thick with variety.” [BILLBOARD]

“A classic of modern psychedelia.” [UNCUT, Jun 2005, p.113]

“The aural face of this album is frighteningly flawless: a technical perfection that only lends to the mythic proportions of the songs, behemoths so pregnant with ideas and so rich in sound that they seem to stretch for miles.” [TINYMIXTAPES]

"A titanic, bleeding plodder whose languid melodrama looms a hundred feet over your cowering, unworthy soul."

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Pan American "Quiet City" (Kranky, 2004)

Artist: Pan American
Album: "Quiet City"
Release Date: 21 June 2004
Label: Kranky
Genre: Electro-Acoustic, Post-Rock, Minimal-Ambient
Mood: Eerie, Nocturnal, Sparse, Soothing
Reminds Of: Pole, Loscil, Flying Saucer Attack
What People Think: AllMusicGuide, Brainwashed
Definitely Worth Buying: CdUniverse, Amazon

1. Before
2. Smallholding
3. Wing
4. Inside Elevation
5. Hall And Skylight
6. Lights On Water
7. Retouch
8. Christo En Pilsen

It's been more than three years since the last Labradford album with no word of a new release. No worries, though. I imagine this fanbase is a patient lot. To enjoy Labradford you have to be willing to sit still, listen deeply, enjoy the moment, and wait for subtle changes that wind up being quite meaningful when stacked one atop the other.Labradford's Mark Nelson, who records as Pan American, has kept busy with music since 2001's excellent fixed:content. His third solo album, The River Made No Sound, was released in 2002, and he now returns with a record whose title merits a nomination in the 2004 Truth in Advertising award: Quiet City. While the first three records moved progressively toward beats, loops, and laptop-forged glitches, Quiet City sounds very much like where we last left Labradford. Gone are the dub processes and dabbles in microscopic dance music. There is hardly a loop on the record, there's all sort of guitar, and Nelson has recruited players to assist on upright bass (Charles Kim), drums (Steven Hess) and horns (David Max Crawford). Where The River Made No Sound was often cold and brittle, Quiet City is like a warm breeze crawling in through an open window.An overall shift in sound toward more trad-instrument territory is evident, but a select few tracks on Quiet City are reminiscent of Pan American of old. The nine-minute "Wing" is a heavily electronic drone piece, with an unsteady wavering tone surrounded by glitches and static and the occasional presence of noisily recorded conga drums. "Shining Book" adds unintelligible whispers by Nelson to the moody ambient electronic stew. These less specific drift pieces blend easily with the more fleshed-out and layered tracks, but the most intense moments of Quiet City are direct in the manner of great film music. "Het Volk", for example, is like a prime cut from John Barry's Body Heat score, as a tense repeating keyboard pattern combines with Crawford's flugelhorn to suggest sweat, darkness, contemplation, and a hint of danger. "Inside Elevation", with its acoustic guitar and melodica floating above a buried rumble of bass drone, captures the veiled desert drama of Paris, Texas.The economical guitar work throughout the record is excellent, and ultimately is at the core of what makes Quiet City such an evocative record. Both "Skylight" and "Lights on the Water" are built around the kind of gorgeously reverberating guitar that Nelson long ago mastered, with the guitar/amp interface tweaked to noir perfection. "Lights of Little Towns" closes the album on an up note, with simple plucked acoustic guitar dueling with a processed electric and a bowed cymbal to produce a mood of muted optimism laced with dignity, something like a more orderly and precise dirge by the Tren Brothers. Thus ends a deceptively powerful album that sounds so good in the background that it's easy to overlook how well it's executed. With any luck, Labradford will return to the studio soon, but in the interim Quiet City is plenty to hold us over.

(source: Pitchforkmedia)

“A sonic inquiry that goes nowhere and everywhere at once…”

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Manitoba "Up In Flames" (Domino, 2003)

Artist: Manitoba
Album: "Up In Flames"
Release Date: 3 April, 2003
Label: Domino
Genre: Indie-Electronic, Noise-Pop, Dream-Pop, Folktronica, Shoegaze
Mood: Detached, Hypnotic, Trippy, Ethereal
Reminds Of: Four Tet, Mercury Rev, Stereolab, My Bloody Valentine
What People Think: PitchforkMedia, AllMusicMedia, ShakingThrough
Definitely Worth Buying: Amazon, BoomKat

1. I've Lived On A Dirt Road All My Life
2. Skunks
3. Hendrix With KO
4. Jacknuggeted
5. Why The Long Face
6. Bijoux
7. Twins
8. Kid You'll Move Mountains
9. Crayon
10. Everytime She Turns Round It's Her Birthday

Canadian laptop whiz Dan Snaith is tired of "all this lazy, complacent, shitty electronic music" that has surfaced in recent years. This, coming from a guy who specializes in the cut-and-paste musical form otherwise known as IDM, or laptop, usually one of the coldest, soulless musical genres out there. Laptop artists like The Notwist and Four Tet's Kieran Hebden, though, excel at creating off-kilter, oddly beautiful sonic collages, but the genre really hasn't had the big breakthrough it needs, an album that would explode out of the artificial confines if its narrow pigeonhole and transcend all labels entirely. Well, that masterpiece is here, and it took a 24-year-old, London-based, Canadian math student from Dundas, Ontario to do it. Electronic music has had its share of great moments recently, but very few artists have managed to combine the precision and energy of the music with pure pop songwriting skill. Snaith, operating under the moniker Manitoba, abandons the conventions of laptop music on his new album Up in Flames, and plunges blindly with wide-eyed abandon in territory heretofore unexplored by his peers. He beats his buddy Hebden at his own game; with this stunning CD, he makes Radiohead look like a bunch of tuneless novices, he shows The Flaming Lips just how to combine electronic music with blissed-out pop in a way that would make Wayne Coyne envious, and above all else, he creates some of the most euphoric, mind-blowingly beautiful music we have heard in years. Remarkably, this album, which is so rich in texture and depth, was created on the same minimal computer set-up as his debut album, 2001's Start Breaking My Heart, with only the slightest additions of guitar, saxophone, glockenspiel, and keyboards. Despite being a largely electronic album, Up in Flames bears a remarkable similarity to My Bloody Valentine's 1991 classic Loveless; Snaith, along with his collaborator Koushik Ghosh (another budding producer from Dundas . . . what are they feeding their kids over there?), provide vocals on several tracks, but like Loveless, what exactly they're singing isn't nearly as important as the extra layer of melody the vocals provide. And like that record, Up in Flames offers up a revelatory experience every time you put it on; you always wind up hearing something new. "I've Lived on a Dirt Road All My Life" starts off furtively, with effects-laden, Stone Roses-style vocals by Snaith (any hint of this being an obsessively-crafted opus is shattered a minute in, when you hear Snaith cough in your right speaker), as the song explodes with layers of breakbeats as the vocal harmonies swirl around your head. There's a naïve, childlike innocence that runs through songs like "Skunks", whose happy, Byrds-style guitar melody is offset by a free jazz sax solo, and "Bijoux", a song that sounds like a joyous combination of The Beach Boys' Smiley Smile and The Flaming Lips' The Soft Bulletin. The single "Jacknuggeted" sounds like a mystical collaboration between Nick Drake and Syd Barrett, a blend of gentle folk music and acid-laced psychedelia. "Twins" comes off as a mix of The Byrds' "Eight Miles High" and Fatboy Slim, with its simple Rickenbacker guitar riff and thunderous beats. The last 15 minutes of the album serves up a spectacular climax. "Kid You'll Move Mountains" is as uplifting as the title indicates, another trippy Stone Roses homage a la "Don't Stop", while "Crayon" has Snaith playing the happiest glockenspiel melody you can imagine as Koushik sings a dead-perfect Yo La Tengo impersonation. It's "Every Time She Turns Round It's Her Birthday", though, that steals the show. A nearly eight minute minute electronic epic that the Chemical Brothers could never match with all their gadgets, it combines every one of the album's myriad influences in one song, with a few more Beatles and Mercury Rev sounds thrown in as well, adding up to one mesmerizing piece of work. The song is an unabashed explosion of joy, the most uplifting music we've been privy to since Moby's Everything Is Wrong album in 1995. Allen Ginsberg once wrote a line in a poem that plainly said, haiku-like, "Heaven balanced on a grassblade." I can find no more perfect way to describe this music. It's so sublime, so organic, so achingly beautiful. For such a lush album, it's surprisingly economical, with a running time of only 39 minutes, but since the album is so intoxicating, you wind up hitting the repeat button and listening to it a few more times, and before you know it, two hours have passed. Never has a laptop album sounded so gloriously human; Snaith fumbles along at times, trying any new thing that comes to mind, having fun with his music, but it's that positive energy that greatly supersedes any technical flaws there might be. Up in Flames is easily one of the best albums of 2003 so far, an unequivocal treasure.

(source: PopMatters.com)

“Up In Flames is a record in love with music made by a music lover, futurepsychenoisebeatpop that reaffirms how much fun music can and ought to be.” [STYLUS MAGAZINE]

“There hasn't been a song-oriented psychedelic album that's had this sort of life-affirming, full-bodied roar since Mercury Rev's 1993 classic, Boces.” [ALTERNATIVE PRESS, June 2003, p.110]

“Approaches the psychedelic grandeur of Spiritualized or Mercury Rev at their finest while still offering a wealth of carefully placed sonic detail.” [THE WIRE, #229, p.71]

“Both adventurous and accessible, a record in love with the obliterating power of sound.” [UNCUT, Apr 2003, p.120]

“All of a sudden a cloud personified as a person personified as God personified as a giant pink bunny throws Easter eggs at our balloons and pops them one by one…”

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Sonora Pine "The Sonora Pine" (Quarterstick Records, 1996)

Artist: The Sonora Pine
Album: "The Sonora Pine"
Release Date: 26 March, 1996
Label: Quarterstick Records
Genre: Post-Rock, Indie-Rock, Experimental-Rock, Math-Rock
Mood: Autumnal, Literate, Brooding, Suffocating
Reminds Of: Culs De Sac, Gastr Del Sol, Jim O' Rourke
What People Think: RYM
Definitely Worth Buying: NormanRecords, CdUniverse

1. Owl's Nest
2. Compass Lure
3. The Gin Mills
4. Hoya Carnosa
5. Goldmund
6. Ooltenah
7. The Hook
8. Rungs
9. A Couple Of Ones
10. One Ring Machine

Following the late-1994 dissolution of Louisville math rockers Rodan, bassist Tara Jane O'Neil moved to New York City and founded two separate bands: the rootsy indie pop duo Retsin (with Cynthia Nelson of Ruby Falls) and the more experimental Sonora Pine. O'Neil's chief collaborator in the Sonora Pine was guitarist Sean Meadows, a former member of Lungfish who'd also joined ex-Rodan guitarist Jeff Mueller's new band, June of 44. O'Neil and Meadows soon added improvisational violinist Samara Lubelski, and played a series of shows around New York. After a break to work on their other projects, the Sonora Pine reconvened in Louisville, this time with Rodan drummer Kevin Coultas in tow, and recorded a self-titled debut album that appeared on Quarterstick in 1996. Although the off-kilter sensibility of Rodan was present, the album had a much gentler chamber ambience and folk-pop influence; it also featured guest piano from Rachel Grimes of Rachel's, the post-rock chamber ensemble found by yet another ex-Rodanite, Jason Noble. Indeed, most critics placed the Sonora Pine's music in between the orchestrated sensibility of Rachel's and the angular math rock of Rodan and June of 44.

A great deal of guitar angularity is to be expected from any project involving former members of Rodan, but the Sonora Pine shoots straight past this -- the angularity is certainly delivered upon, but the band's connections to Rachel’s show themselves as well, in the form of lighter, string-augmented, and more orchestrated segments that offset the band's rock side perfectly. The Sonora Pine alternates between these two sides on a track-by-track basis, and the results are occasionally close to exquisite.

(source: AllMusicGuide)

“You might get an infection of depression (these hooks are hard to get rid of…)"

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Keith Jarrett "Death And The Flower" (Impulse!, 1975)

Artist: Keith Jarrett
Album: "Death And The Flower"
Release Date: May 1975
Label: Impulse
Genre: Contemporary-Jazz, Avant-Garde, Post-Bop
Mood: Mannered, Sophisticated, Reflective, Literate
Reminds Of: Herbie Hancock, Chic Corea, Lennie Tristano
What People Think: AllMusicGuide
Definitely Worth Buying: ArtistDirect, Amazon

1. Death And The Flower
2. Prayer
3. Great Bird

In the early 70s, Keith Jarrett formed two groups. One recorded for the German label, ECM, the other (as on this LP) for the traditional American Jazz label, Impulse. The Impulse team consisted of Paul Motian on drums, Dewey Redman on reeds, Charlie Haden on bass, Guilherme Franco on percussion and Jarrett on the grand piano. In both bands, Jarrett never touched an electric keyboard. Everybody was into some kind of spiritual calling at that time; Jarrett is no exception as the album title and his "poem" on the cover show. Death And The Flower is an example of how Keith Jarrett helped shape the way Jazz was to sound in the future. A new "World Music" feel and the chamber music like intimacy make this an innovative LP. The music still sounds fresh and relevant. The first side of this album, recorded in ´74, is filled with the title track. It spends the first minutes to create an African atmosphere with percussion and flute. Then the double bass contributes a riff and eventually, the piano starts and after a searching phase, the beat carries the song to harmonic sequence of minor chords. As the song flows, each musician takes a chance to show his skills. Then, the song slows down just to pick up a new speed, and Keith provides an irresistible riff on the piano moving the band to a dense groove. Prayer is a slow and quiet meditation showing how subtly this group plays. It´s amazing to hear how well each musician listens to what is going on. Jarrett´s improvisation demonstrates a strong influence of the classical tradition, notably Debussy, and at one point, he creates a minimalist pattern á la "Steve Reich". The last song, Great Bird, recalls the Coltrane sound of his last years. Based on the theme (a falling sequence), there´s free collective improvisation.
The band corresponds in dreamlike confidence. I think I prefer this group to the ECM band. Death And The Flower, in a word, is recommendable, not just to Jarrett fans.

(source: rateyourmusic.com, user: yofriend)

"I would say the difference is the same as that between a photograph of a flowing stream and the actual stream flowing…"