Thursday, December 28, 2006
The Hidden Cameras make flamboyant orchestral pop music, and their third studio album, “AWOO”, is their most extraordinary statement yet.
A loose collective occasionally comprised of about 13 members, Toronto’s Hidden cameras blend glistening Afropop guitar work with joyful, anthemic hymns. Lead singer, Joel Gibb’s lyrics explore gay love and sex with a rare fearless explicitness, as well as Jungian themes of the aenima, the waning moon and pagan magic.
Recorded at the Gas Station on Toronto Island, AWOO is produced by Gibb and recorded by Don Kerrr of Ron Sexsmith and Ohad Benchetrit of Do Make Say Think.
When four musical boys get together and three of them kick one out and then the three write a bunch of songs and some they think are really great but later they think they suck and they keep doing so over and over until they are left with a bunch that they absolutely love and a bunch that they don't play anymore and then they record them and play them for others and others like them and they change their name and they dream of the world liking their songs and maybe they will let other boys and girls play the songs with them and then they will all grow up and the three boys will become policemen or firemen or other men they feared becoming as boys because now they have to settle down with a little girl (or another boy as they might discover about themselves) and their dream will be over...
Born Ruffians aim to take the rough out of ruffians. Primarily because it wasnt there in the first place, but also because it just aint their style. Luke Lalonde, Steve Hamelin and Mitch DeRosier are Born Ruffians, but thankfully for their audience, are currently tame. With electric guitar, electric bass guitar, a set of drums and the occasional interjection from a trombone, keyboard, shlang dang or jazz flute, their music is tightly knit into a rock and roll top hat, from which they pull out a dancing, indie rabbit (def: indie rabbit: n. A small furry, long-eared animal with cred and an angular haircut and/or sweater vest).
Producing work that is epic in concept, sound, and artistic approach, Steve Moore and A.E. Paterra, the masterminds and multi-instrumentalists behind Zombi, have re-imagined the architecture of progressive rock and dynamic instrumentals—carving a niche in underground music distinctly their own.
The band’s signature sound, achieved using only electric bass, drums, and a collection of analog synthesizers, is deceptively lush considering its two man skeleton crew ensemble. Moore’s bass playing and meticulous synthesizer programming interacts seamlessly with Paterra’s controlled, precision drumming—as if each man is anticipating his counterpart’s next move. Punctuated by Moore and Paterra’s seasoned songwriting skills, each Zombi song—whether grand in design like “Night Rhythms” from the band’s forthcoming LP or powerful and driving like “Orion,” the opening track on Cosmosis entirely autonomous and true to the duo’s creative vision.
“I bring a lot of skeletal ideas to the table—basslines, sequences, and drum parts. Steve will then craft them into complete songs,” Paterra explains. “There is a musical trust that exists between us that allows for full exploration of all ideas. We are perfectionists, sometimes to a fault, but I think it is a quality that lends itself well to the music.”
In 2003 a girl from Sweden called Sarah went to a Spanish island to sit on the beach and muse about her life. She'd been making music as long as she could remember but nothing quite matched the melodies that lived in her dreams. This depressed her. In fact, she hadn't written anything for several years which left her feeling 'really odd, kind of empty'. Picture her, if you will, looking out to sea, to the coast of Africa. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a dog appears on the shore. 'Something about this moment just spoke to me', says Sarah. 'I kept seeing that dog all week. When I came home I felt better'. Her muse returned. Back home in Gothenburg, she was inspired to write a bunch of songs that harked back to the Brill Building era, the youthful emotions of Goffin and King, only filtered through gauze, through dreams, circular and comforting. Shockingly so. Under the name El Perro Del Mar (in tribute to the salty sea dog), Sarah's first EP came out in Sweden in March 2004. Lead off-track Candy and the heartbreaking Party pinned down the El Perro Del Mar sound: minimal sound, an acoustic wash, a boom of tympani, some rippling chimes. Kind of a lo-fi Phil Spector production. 'Come on over baby, there's a party going on,' a gentle desperation expressed in three or four lines. 'This is all I need to say' she shrugs. 'I just want to express a feeling in a very condensed way. Like the blues tradition, where you lament on something and repeat it until it goes away.'
The debut album from Swedish multi-instrumentalist Rickard Javerling, 'Two Times Five Lullaby' takes influence from his love of American folk music, Chicago post-rock, classic Swedish prog and the pastoral ambience of Eno and Budd. Whether moulding a classic hoedown (‘Three Sisters’), a softly spoken ballad (‘Two Times Five Lullaby’), slow burning prog (‘Track’) or a nostalgic waltz (‘Martina’s Waltz’) it is Jäverling’s honesty and pure uncynical talent that always shines through, and in this post millennial climate that is more than you could ever ask for.
Stromba is the work of producers James Dyer and Tom Tyler, along with regular contributor, bassist / guitarist James McKechan.
Dyer is the manager of London based label DC recordings (for whom Tyler also records), and Mckechan was previously a member of Fonn (Fat Cat).
Starting out in ’98 as a duo making sample-based tracks on an Akai S950 with a few overdubs, Stromba have since then expanded into a more collective based entity. Their first EP, ‘The Pinch’, was released on FatCat in ’99, and then things went a little quiet. In between sporadic writing and prolonged bouts of silence, James Dyer concentrated on managing DC Recordings, while Tom Tyler released several records on the same label. But slowly (very slowly), an expanded line-up was taking shape, exchanging and nurturing ideas, moving towards the contrasting yet cohesive integration of styles to be found on their debut LP. Still revolving around the axis of core producers James Dyer and Tom Tyler, ‘Tales From The Sitting Room’ also features regular collaborator James McKechan (bass / guitar), alongside contributions from Adrian ‘Terry’ Meehan (drums x%x% percussion), Duncan Mackay (trumpet, melodica x%x% hammond organ), Max Brennan (double bass, tablas, drums), Teowa Young (violin), James Nye (Saxophone), and Nichol Thompson (Trombone).
For the most part recorded in Tom Tyler’s sitting room (hence the title), it’s undeniably a more downtempo record than it’s predecessor, but no less vital. Tracks tend to evolve from a core sample, moving off in their own direction, avoiding obvious generic 4/4 cut and paste in favour of a more expansive, finely honed, organic feel. At times reminiscent of Bitches Brew era Miles Davis, haunted, Ethiopian jazz, authentic heavyweight Dub, or Lalo Schifrin-esque soundtracks, the fusion nevertheless somehow results in something overwhelmingly personal and unaffected. From the eastern smog of ‘Camel Spit’ to the echo laden ‘Septic Skank’, through to ‘Giddy Up’s afro-disco workout or ‘Swamp Donkey’s Gamelan dub, influences weave in and out, riding live drums and tight percussion, thunderous basslines snaking their way through. Overall, ‘Tales From The Sitting Room’ displays a keen sense of narrative, and a seamless blending of live musicianship and production technique.
the black angels are:
stephanie bailey - drums & percussion
christian bland - guitar
kyle hunt - keyboards, percussion, bass, guitar
alex maas - vocals
jennifer raines - the drone machine/organ
nate ryan - bass, guitar
Formed in May 2004 in Austin, TX, The Black Angels' psychedelically induced rock n' roll evokes the spirit of the 1960's while awakening the heavy droning rhythms inspired by The Velvet Underground. Picture a red moonlit night, deep in the heart of Texas, with the ghosts of Nico and Timothy Leary being called back from the dead to guide you on a journey through Heaven & Hell and back again.
The Black Angels are marching forward into battle for your souls.
turn on, tune in, drone out...
No boundaries, please. We live in an age of parallel listening. History is stored in soundfiles, the needle being their connecting factor as it jumps from groove to groove. Sound is information which will not be encumbered by time or space. Search engines like Google bear testimony to this. Robert Johnson, Albert Ayler, Ekkehard Ehlers - one click and you get thousands of hits. Because of Ehlers' ten-track-cd "Plays" (released in 2002 as staubgold 30) they sometimes overlap. With these tracks, he paid homage to the famous delta bluesman and New York's cosmic and universal saxophone player among others.
After his preoccupation with Schönberg, John Cage, blissful techno and happy house, on "A Life Without Fear" Ehlers has been searching for a historic position. This serves as a reference which in turn encourages subjective formulations. In the blues, a world presumed lost or rather: the belief in a world presumed to be doomed manifests itself. Chernobyl, 9/11, New Orleans: Like Johnson, Eddie "Son" House or the other stray protagonists of the blues, Ehlers has no intention to be an accomplice of present circumstances, nor does he want to be their vicegerent. In Ehlers' music, it is rather a room for thought which is opened up by the sound of a guitar reverberating in an amplifier's speaker or the ascending overtone of a harmonica. It is about "a state of consciousness", as Greil Marcus put it in "Mystery Train" with regard to Robert Johnson, "a tension which arises when almost everything is tacitly implied, when the simplest words house the most evil secrets". The lyrics on "A Life Without Fear" operate in the same way, but more often than not their narrative is fragmentary: "Strange things are happenin'" – Charles Haffer jr.'s rendition of this sentence is not a bleary melancholic singsong but a study in alertness.
Plenty of bands talk about going their own sweet way, pleasing themselves and ploughing their own furrow, but it’s hard to think of any working band or artist who opens themselves up as resolutely as Belle And Sebastian. Never tied to any scene in the first place (and still further out on a limb ten years later), these Glaswegians seem to have developed as a band that can draw influence from just about anywhere. And when there are seven distinctly individual personalities feeding the creative fire within the results are multifarious and often surprising.
Pure pop, Sixties psyche, Seventies rock, West Coast harmonies, beat groups, folk balladering, punk, indie, girl groups and bossanova, are just a few of the slants to crop up without musical contradiction within the Belles own work. So it is perhaps less than surprising that their choices for Late Night Tales comprehensively cover the waterfront.
Just who chose what is never expressly made clear, but what is presented is a treasure trove of musical nuggets, some in the public domain, but often lovingly disinterred specially for the purpose… and certainly never put together quite like this. Ladies and Gentleman, we give you, Belle And Sebastian’s Late Night Tales.
- "Gratuitous Theft in the Rain" - Rehash
- "How Long Blues" - Jimmy and Mama Yancey
- "Here's What's Left" - RJD2
- "Questions" - Lootpack
- "O My Friends You've Been Untrue to Me" - Demis Roussos
- "French Disko" - Stereolab
- "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever" - The Peddlers
- "Cissy Strut" - Butch Cassidy Sound System
- "Ring of Fire" - Johnny Cash
- "Freeman" - The Ethiopians
- "Do You Really Want to Rescue Me" - Elsie Mae
- "It's an Uphill Climb to the Bottom" - Walter Jackson
- "I'm in Your Hands" - Mary Love
- "Coś Specjalnego" - Novi Singers
- "Lost in the Paradise" - Gal Costa
- "People Make the World Go Round" - Paperclip People
- "Uhuru" - Ramsey Lewis
- "Fly Like an Eagle" - Steve Miller Band
- "Get Thy Bearings" - Donovan
- "Green Grass of Tunnel" - Múm
- "Casaco Marron" - Belle & Sebastian
- "Taireva" - Eric And Mondrek Muchena
- "Let Your Conscience Be Your Guidance" - Space Jam
- "Watch the Sunrise" - Big Star
- "Bedinerie from Bach's Orchestral Suite No.2 in B Minor" - Boston Baroque
- "When I Was a Little Girl" - read by David Shrigley
Monday, December 18, 2006
Originally from Richmond, VA, and now based in Brooklyn, this band exhibits a talent and grace well beyond their years. After the release of two stellar EP's, Gregor Samsa delivered their much anticipated debut full length55:12, an eight song journey submerged in dreamy, multi-layered atmospherics. The band blurs the lines of ambient and indie, from heavy and dark one moment to hushed and serene the next, all while angelic guy/girl vocals drift overhead.
The album was tracked at the Recorditorium in Richmond , engineered by Jason Laferrera and produced by Gregor Samsa. The mix was done by Brian Paulson (Slint, Wilco, Beck).
As COCTEAU TWINS guitarist and producer, Robin Guthrie is the man responsible for creating that famous sound and opening the door for My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Ride, et al. Darla Records is very proud to offer Robin Guthrie�s second instrumental album Continental. Dare I say... Continental is Robin�s strongest all-instrumental bliss out, or make out, record since Cocteau Twins. Robin gives more heart and soul on Continental than on his previous instrumental release Imperial. Continental is more focused, stronger in feeling, and in composition. Of course all of Robin's signature elements are here: Shimmering guitars, ethereal moods as fluid and deep as any of Eno�s, and yes, he does at times thankfully bring the rock. The mood overall is classic Robin Guthrie. Fans of the Cocteau Twins and all they've spawned, please welcome back your daddy. This is the first of four new Robin Guthrie records for Darla. Robin�s music is a treasure.
Telepathe is a process-oriented band centered on Busy Gangnes & Melissa Livaudais. Over the last few years in NYC the band has seen a few different incarnations with Farewell Forest focusing on the band’s work last spring as a trio with Allie Alvarado which found them experimenting with chat-laden chaos-fueled-song writing structures. Recorded at their practice on 8 track by nyc-music-illuminati David Sparks and later mixed at Junkyard Audio Salvage this four track EP explores the trio’s dynamics and captures a band at the heights of invention.
It would be fair to describe Busy Gangnes as a percussionist, a songwriter, a composer and as a modern dancer. She has played music for years underground outfits Wikkid, Blood Lines & Greenstreets and as a modern dancer she has worked with Katie Eastburn with her work appearing on the Starter Set Dance DVD which was recently released by Kill Rock Stars. In between her artistic endeavors she instructs yoga specializing in the Atamanda Sequence. Melissa Livaudais is originally from New Orleans and was also in Wikkid. In Telepathe she functions is a guitarist/percussionist/composer/beat-maker. In addition to her work in Telepathe she plays in First Nation (aka Coronation),which will be releasing a 7” on Animal Collective’s Paw Tracks early next year.
Telepathe’s current incarnation finds Busy & Melissa joined by Lane Lacolla and Ryan Licero as they take the ensemble in an organic/electronic direction as they create music which is percussive, syncopated and unconventionally danceable.
In case you are not familiar with Six Organs of Admittance, it is the solo project of Ben Chasny (Actually, this was his first musical project, it's just that he's now in bands such as Current 93, Comets on Fire, and August Born). He's released his own material under the name Six Organs Of Admittance for 8 years now, and while very talented, he hasn't made a name for himself outside of the West Coast area. That is, until his album School of the Flower came out, Six Organs' most accesible album to date. Keeping the spirit of the last album alive, The Sun Awakens was recorded in a studio (unlike his earlier albums where he borrowed an 8-track recorder), and by doing so, has expanded his sound even further. This is where Ben Chasny absolutly shines, both musically and spiritually. This is music for the soul.
The first thing you'll notice is how clear the production is. Every instrument stands out, whether it's acoustic guitar, reverbed electric guitar, or persian ney. Chasny's vocals have also improved quite well, helping the songs' emotional peaks. Songs such as "Bless Your Blood" and "Black Wall" both have a psychadelic/Middle-Eastern tinge to them, both backed by incredible percussion by Noel Jon Harmonson. "The Desert Is A Circle" is a very relaxing number, showcasing' Ben's incredible overdubbing skills. "Attar" is another shining moment, sounding much like music for a dark ritual.
However, it is the 23-minute epic "River of Transfiguration" where Ben has truely allowed to spread his wings. Beginning with a 6 minute ambient drone full of persian ney, gongs, and tone generators, a snare drum breaks the spell, and thus the song begins. When it all kicks in, you get this feeling of being cleasned and washed away. Visions came to me when I heard this song, such as endless flowing water, sheets of flame, and snow-capped mountains. It truly is a visionary piece of work.
Whilst we've been blighted by the likes of Russ Abbot's 'Atmosphere', Jasper Carrot's 'Funky Moped' and Benny Hill's 'Fastest Milkman In The West', Argentina have been blessed with an altogether better breed of comedian-turned recording artist; be upstanding please for Juana Molina. Putting aside our petty jealousy for 56 minutes, 'Son' represents the most complete outpouring from the quixotic Molina yet, bringing together a bubbling thrum of acoustic instrumentation, organic electronics, found-sound fragments and of course Molina's honey-glazed vocals. Opening through the gorgeous 'Rio Seco', Molina quickly asserts her formidable songwriting talent through the kind of pink-hued patter that could act as the missing link between the more emotional side of US indie and it's leftfield, continental cousins. Seemingly enthralled to the constant soundtrack provided by mother nature, Molina coats elements of the album in a sun-dappled veneer of bird-song; with the genuinely gorgeous 'La Verdad' one such example. Sharing name-checks with the likes of Nick Drake, Stereolab and Rosario Bléfari, 'La Verdid' is both achingly intimate and utterly cinematic - taking an acoustic core and slowly fermenting it through layers of warm emotion. Elsewhere, 'Elena' lands somewhere between the best of Hanne Hukkelberg and Barbara Morgenstern, 'Miceal' trades it's early fragility for some mealy rhythms, whilst 'No Seas Antipatica' introduces some choral harmonies that wouldn't look out of place on a Piana record. Son rise.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
From the outside, Dirk Dresselhaus’ apartment is much like any in the Prenzlauerberg district of Berlin, housed inside a hulking, grey, pockmarked exterior that towers five tall stories above the cobbled streets. It’s different inside, though. In the room he uses as a studio, but which also doubles as his living space, a drum kit has been erected, though it sometimes doubles as a keyboard stand. A huge desk is filled with electronic equipment and guitar pedals linked together, all threaded through an antique mixing desk. There are guitars lying on the floor and spread across chairs and sofas. On the floor are a variety of strange wooden objects, elaborate traditional instruments that resemble wild variations on a xylophone.
This is the room that, for two years, played womb to SKODA MLUVIT, a remarkable album that sees Dresselhaus – known to friends and fans alike as SCHNEIDER TM – continue his unusual journey through the netherworld of ‘indie’ and ‘electronic’ music. It’s a room that SCHNEIDER, on occasions, didn’t leave for days at a time, locking himself away whilst he tinkered with and poked at anything he could find that made a sound. He calls it Constructionsite Studios – not because it looks like it’s currently being renovated, which frankly it does, but because he is constantly surrounded by the sounds of construction as workmen continue the repairs to the delapidated buildings of the old East Berlin. You can hear the noise in the dying moments of SKODA MLUVIT, hidden away as a secret track.
SKODA MLUVIT is an album that encapsulates all the things that have led to SCHNEIDER TM being one of the most unusual but respected artists out there. He hovers between pop and avant-garde, as comfortable being compared to Matthew Herbert as to the Pet Shop Boys. Perhaps that’s why Zoomer, his last album, didn’t achieve quite the stratospheric commercial success that critics had earmarked for it: people simply didn’t know where to place it. SCHNEIDER, after all, is just as likely to discuss extreme noise bands from Japan as he is West Coast hip-hop.
This still shows on SKODA MLUVUT, but the times have caught up with him: electronic musicians are integrating acoustic instruments into their music with such fervour it’s become almost as much of a cliché as when indie rock bands added “a dance element” to their sound in the early ‘90s. But the thing here is: SCHNEIDER doesn’t actually know what he’s doing. He just can’t help himself. So the thoroughly uncontrived results include the lethargic acoustic funk of “Peanut”, the distorted noise of “S’Kcorratiug”, something that SCHNEIDER describes as Fela Kuti mixing Neil Young’s Greendale with the blues (“Vodou”), the twisted hip hop of “The Blacksmith”, the sweet soul melody of “Cataractact”, the whorl of sound around “The Slide” and the utterly undefinable “A Ride”.
On the album sleeve, SCHNEIDER lists every single thing that he used as source material for the sounds that make up his album. But this is misleading. You wouldn’t expect sailing trousers, a cigarette lighter, a pool table or paper to have played a part in this brilliantly playful, if elaborate, collection of warped but brilliant pop. But then again you wouldn’t expect Fela Kuti and Neu to collide with such grace, or Sun Ra and Teenage Fanclub to gel so elegantly. SCHNEIDER is a master of unusual concoctions – that is no doubt why he originally came to so many people’s attention when he and long time collaborator Kpt Michi.Gan. covered The Smiths’ “There’s A Light That Never Goes Out” to such devastating effect on their sublime electronic version, “The Light 3000”.
On SKODA MLUVIT he continues a journey he began with Moist in 1998, when he turned his back – initally temporarily – on his successful indie act, Locust Fudge, and a developing career as a VJ on German TV. Initially he indulged himself in the extremities of sound that electronica opened up to him, but slowly he began to integrate his indie roots into the songs, resulting in2002’s Zoomer, a masterpiece of what was dubbed “indietronica”, packed with off-kilter pop nous – “Frogtoise”, inspired by animal surgery experiments carried out in Dresselhaus’ dreams; “Reality Check”, a brilliantly subliminal protest song – and sonic exploration that he dubbed “chemical listening”.
SKODA MLUVIT sees him combine all the different elements of his musical interest to even greater effect. But it’s not just about how he recorded, or what he recorded with, so much as why he recorded, that lies at the heart of SKODA MLUVIT’s genius. Following the release of Zoomer, SCHNEIDER TM – accompanied by his trusty cohorts in the SCHNEIDER TM EXPERIENCE, KPT Michi.Gan and Mek O’Baam – made his way around the world. They criss-crossed across the whole of Europe, taking in unusual dates on a Goethe Institute sponsored tour through southern and eastern Europe; they traversed America, including a lengthy tour with The Faint and Les Savy Fav; they performed in Japan; they played in Brazil. They broke down at midday in non-air conditioned vans in the desert whilst tripping. They stayed up all night so as not to waste money on feculent hotel rooms. And they partied hard. This had its upside, like the night their van was broken into, something far more bearable under the soothing effects of ecstasy. But it had its downside. The downside was that it had to end. And when it did they were incapable of dealing with the sudden stillness. And that, says Dresselhaus, is when things started going wrong.
What happened is irrelevant. As SCHNEIDER’s Czech grandmother would say, “Skoda mluvit”, her way of dismissing a painful but tired subject. “It’s not worth mentioning”, it means, “move on.” The phrase became a motto as SCHNEIDER struggled to deal with the stuff that was going on in his life – standard post-tour tedium, relationship problems, a bad motorcycle accident - and he used the music as “a kind of voodoo”, he laughs. It clearly worked, given his good humour now the album is completed.
Life on the road had exposed to him to so many new things that he has no idea where SKODA MLUVIT came from, so if you ask him what his influences were he’ll shrug. He stated that Zoomer had been influenced by old soul records, especially Shuggie Otis’ Information Inspiration. SKODA MLUVIT, though, is the result of exploring even further the roots of music with which he had fallen in love. Especially evident is a love of dub and afrobeat, but as SCHNEIDER says, “I had no intentions – it just came from inside. But you never forget your roots. And,” he adds, “apart from Panasonic I don’t listen to electronic music at all.”
For the first time he wrote lyrics before he wrote music, articulating things that he had to get out his system. That might be hard to believe when you hear a song like “Caplets”, which riffs on the Instructions For Use from a packet of Aspirin, or the shroom-inspired madness of “Pac Man / Shopping Kart”, but there’s a magic to the lyrics, a logic in the nonsense. “To be honest,” SCHNEIDER explains, “their real meaning often lies between the lines.” He started to obsess over the sound of wood, purchasing, amongst other things, a Ghanian Bellafon, and then became increasingly fascinated by the noises he could make with the everyday objects that he found around him. Rather than sample and process them, however, he simply integrated these as he heard them, like trousers being rubbed to make the sound of a shaker. At other times he allowed unscheduled interruptions to remain part of the mix – the telephone ringing during “The Blacksmith”, for example, was completely unplanned.
SCHNEIDER tried to maintain a sense of childish innocence throughout the recording, and much of the album is made up of first takes. “I tried to keep it minimal,” he explains, “ to find the essence of the music, and to find a balance in the chaos.” But whilst the music emerged from a bleak time in his life, that post-Zoomer comedown, he didn’t want it to sound morose. Like the album’s artwork, a simple beauty emerges from a sombre background. “It’s dark,” he believes, “but it’s delivered in a light hearted fashion. It’s not intellectual. But it is spiritual.”
A number of guests grace the album: Edith Kuss, the grandmother who inspired the album’s title, is charmingly integrated into the title track; Max Turner, the Berlin based poet and rapper joins her on the title track and also steps up on “The Blacksmith”, whilst cellist Hildur Gudnadottir (who has previously collaborated with Icelandic act Mum and Panasonic’s Ilpo Vaisanen) plays a valuable role on a number of tracks. Plus, of course, regular collaborator Kpt. Michi.Gan plays a vital part on tunes like the hypnotic opener “More Time”, which employs mathematical tricks in much the same way as My Bloody Valentine’s “Feed Me With Your Kiss” as it rushes to its final, inevitable conclusion.
“It’s indie rock ragga,” SCHNEIDER jokes of the finished album. Like everything on SKODA MLUVIT, that concept is much easier to embrace than you might think.
Today, there is no shortage of serious young men in groups, sketching out how they imagine the extremes and depths of emotion might be. Time was, though, that only those who had earned the right to sing of love, loss and striving would share such confidences - real singers, of the calibre of Scott Walker, Roy Orbison, or even Nancy's old dad, The Chairman himself.
Richard Hawley understands this. The man who could well be Britain's finest songwriter insists his mind is full only with "confused thoughts and Guinness". But when he sings, he does so in a voice that's deep and low, and does not lie. His merciful, wise songs tell of the heart's truths as seen in the dark, revealed by moonlight. Remember, this is the hopeless romantic who, on returning home from a lengthy tour of America was reduced to tears by the sight of a bottle of sauce - Sheffield delicacy Henderson's Relish - on his kitchen table.
Coles Corner, Richard's first album for Mute, was released on 5th September 2005. While his previous long-players, Late Night Final (2001) and Lowedges (2003), scaled remarkable heights of elegance and emotional candour, this collection is surely his best to date. Within, orchestral splendour sits alongside earthy rock and roll in songs that are by turns intimate and soaring.
So go with him as he leads you down to the ocean, or reveals the secret interior of a hotel room, or shows you the seductive open road. Take the string-led, alone-in-a-crowd title track, where Hawley's narrator walks the city at night and hopes that "Maybe there's someone waiting for me/ With a smile and a flower in her hair." A smouldering take on the same ambivalence that drives Petula Clark's Downtown, it's a telling foretaste of what else is coming down the wires. Born Under A Bad Sign, by contrast, is a drifting, country confessional for glockenspiel and guitar, which slow dances around autobiography and universal experience: "What are you like?/ You've had a right life/ Taken a long ride/ But oh, at what cost?"
"Every time I felt myself pushing it orchestrally, I thought of the Sun studio, one-mic, one guitar thing," explains Hawley of this juxtaposition of town and country. "It's all roots music to me, even with a string section, and I wanted to prove that side by side, both work. I think there's a flow to the record - I'm expressing how I feel, truthfully. And when people tell the truth, no matter how ugly it is, it can't help but be a beautiful thing."
Recording took place at Sheffield's Yellowarch Studio, with Hawley and Colin Elliott at the producers' desk.
Remarkably, several songs on the album came to Hawley fully formed and were nailed in just one take. "Last Orders was written in a cab on the way to the studio," he confirms, still slightly disbelieving. "I had a minging hangover, but I had this melody in my head, so I walked in and said 'Mic the piano up and tap me on the shoulder when it's time to record'. We got it in one take. With Wading Through The Water, we were all wearing overalls 'cos we were plastering the studio walls. All I did to change was to wash the plaster dust off my hands... we did that in one take too, and then went downstairs again to get back to work."
In a career that began playing r 'n' b in German beer halls in 1981, Hawley has never been a stranger to toil. His early musical life involved playing guitar for lost indie heroes Treebound Story. He commenced his solo career with a self-titled mini-album in 2001. Recent activities have included producing songs for Nancy Sinatra, who invited him on her UK and European tour in 2005, gigging with his rockabilly band The Feral Cats, and getting over a vicious attack of pleurisy.
In between came the realisation that the music he had always loved - whether Fats Domino, Bo Diddley, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Little Walter, or any number of past giants - would be his salvation. "I've been around but I'm not jaded," he says. "I've been through what I've been through, and I've come out of it, quite alright, you know. I don't remember the hang over, I just remember the party. 'Cos there's hope in a beautiful record. Just recently I've come out of the other side of a couple of years of complete shit. People very near me, several of them, got sick. It seemed like every time the phone went someone else had cancer. But when I started recording this record, gradually, one by one, I started getting phone calls saying they were all right. Now I feel quite optimistic, that I can almost believe that I might actually sell some records, and my oddball music might be heard."
As is often the case, blame the parents for just how oddball he is. The son of a Gene Vincent-obsessed Sheffield steel worker, Hawley grew up close to rock and roll - his mum once sang with the Everley Brothers on the back steps of Sheffield City hall, and he later learned guitar via his father. Indeed, his dad Dave once played with Eddie Cochran, and recounts a tale of the doomed rocker standing in a shower at 3am holding an umbrella, "so water wouldn't go in his whiskey". Perhaps this upbringing is why it's so hard to find a comparative voice in the here and now. "There's a lot of factors involved in music today that aren't music," he muses. "But once all the crap is gone, the good stuff's still there. If the core of what you're about is tangible and worth it, and it goes down to your fucking boots, you've got to stick with it because it will stick with you. If the world was just like a fucking Coca Cola advert all the time, all the individual expressions would be denied. So it's good I'm in the position I'm in now. 'Cos I'm not going to be denied anymore."
Now we leave him to play a series of high-profile shows with R.E.M., and to spend his rare free hours searching eBay for the few Santo and Johnny albums he has yet to track down. There's just one last thing to clear up: What is Cole's Corner?" It's where Cole Brothers, an old department store in Sheffield, used to stand," says Hawley. "There's a blue plaque there now. It was a convenient place near a lot of tram and bus stops, and for well over 100 years Sheffield's couples, lovers, friends, mums and dads or whatever, would meet. I've always found it quite a romantic notion - how many kids in Sheffield are knocking about as a result of a meeting at Cole's Corner?' 'I'll meet you at Cole's Corner...' People still say it, even though it hasn't existed for years. It only exists, really, in the ether." Cole's Corner was demolished in 1969. In Richard Hawley's dreams it's still there. You can visit, if you want. Just close your eyes, and listen.
The Essex Green is a band based in Brooklyn NY. For their new album, Cannibal Sea, the band’s three principal songwriters - Chris Ziter, Sasha Bell and Jeff Baron - have assembled a collection of songs that speak to themes of travel, exploration, wanderlust and the desire for quiet niches amid the pressures of big city living. Like the protagonists in the opening lines of Don’t Know Why (You Stay) - “Stepping along the hum of the sidewalk / A marionette, a slave / Your legs are wood and tied to the city / Who has final say?” - the characters from the songs on Cannibal Sea display a yearning to break free of the boundaries and constrictions of city life. To escape the darkness and fatigue, to move on to more lighthearted settings surrounded by water, replete with the spray of the sea, the gentle lift and sway of a boat on the waves.
Cannibal Sea is the third full-length release from The Essex Green, who, though based in Brooklyn, have roots in more pastoral climes such as Vermont and Ohio. Ziter, Bell and Baron share vocal duties across the album and, with the help of some exceptionally talented friends and collaborators, unfurl a diverse range of styles and influences.
Listening to Cannibal Sea is like leafing through a songbook of classic pop. These 12 songs blend the old with the new, incorporating the country rock mood of The Byrds, the Greenwich Village balladry of Fred Neil and the acoustic pop harmonizing of the Mamas and The Papas. Add a little of the pure pop perfection of The Monkees to traces of contemporary artists such as The Shins, The Hidden Cameras and Jens Lekman and you have The Essex Green’s recipe for timeless pop that is classic without being retro. Recorded over the course of a year in several locations in Brooklyn and Ohio, and points in between, Cannibal Sea is The Essex Green’s most cohesive and accomplished album to date.
the whitest boy alive started as an electronic dance music project in 2003. It has slowly developed into a band without any programmed elements. They made a record called' Dreams'.
* erlend øye – guitar and vocals
* marcin oz – bass
* sebastian maschat – drums
* daniel nentwig – rhodes and crumar
To Find Me Gone’ is the second album by Andy Cabic’s ever-evolving band, Vetiver. Released two years after the eponymous debut release, which stood out as one of 2004’s finest releases, it cements Andy’s growing reputation as one of the finest songwriters of his generation.
Since that last album, Andy has found himself touring the world usually as a member of Devendra Banhart's band, and sometimes even with Vetiver. In those two years, Vetiver has expanded into a full on singer-songwriter project, aided and abetted by some of the finest players (and usually his best friends) in the extended family Andy finds himself a member of.
Nearly four years in the making, Vetiver’s self-titled debut (released on SF label Dicristina Stairbuilders) was an incredibly beautiful and diverse record released amongst a slew of other singer-songwriter / ‘out folk’ releases in late 2004, and rapidly became one of the most consistently played records in the Fatcat office. With songs diverse in range, gorgeously arranged and lingering long in the memory, it stood out to us as one of 2004’s finest releases, and additional players on the album included Andy’s friends Joanna Newsom (harp), Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval (vocals), and My Bloody Valentine's Colm O'Ciosoig (drums).
Since that opening album, Andy has spent long stints on the road, touring occasionally with Vetiver, and regularly as a member of Devendra’s band, in which he has become a fixture. Written and recorded in free time during that period of intense touring, and released in June 2006, the follow-up album, ‘To Find Me Gone’ is a freer and more mature effort, markedly shifting Vetiver’s sound into a different direction. Lyrically, it’s very much a "road" record, about travel and distances, comings and goings, people falling in and out of lives and wondering where the time goes. Moving away from folk references and the simpler minimalism of the first album, there is more of a West Cost ‘70s feel evident on the new record. With a focused depth and controlled studio-led expansiveness, the arrangements are significantly different, utilising greater instrumentation and a broader range, including screaming electric guitar solos, pedal steel, layered strings, and electronic flourishes, alongside songs that wouldn't sound amiss on the first album. Alongside Cabic, the players on this album included mainstays Devendra, Alissa Anderson, Otto Hauser (drums), and Kevin Barker (guitar).
Based around lush, acoustic textures; simple yet charming, effective arrangements; and a core of really strong writing, Vetiver's sound takes influence from a deep well of influences - late-'60s pastoral folk, tropicalia, '70s west coast rock, and much more beyond. Andy has stated a love of Brazilian music, the Carter Family, Brightblack, Randy Newman, and Kelley Stoltz, Fleetwood Mac, Bobby Charles, Jerry Jeff Walker, the Velvet Underground, Neil Young, Nilsson, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. But as Andy will tell you himself, these are simply loose reference points. Vetiver's is an inventive yet well-anchored presence - fragile sounding but strong, warm and beautifully layered, and these two albums confirm him as one of his generations’ most talented songwriters.
Cabic explains “this album sure has a lot of folks playing on it, same as on a Bobby Charles or Jerry Jeff Walker record – all good folks and friends”. Once again skillfully crafted, produced and mixed with Thom Monahan (as on the debut), ‘To Find Me Gone’ is a much different , freer and more mature effort, reflective of Cabic’s growth as a songwriter over the last two crazy, wonderful years. According to Andy, "I've felt the new album embodies the swirling duality of these last two years, the duality of presence and absence, both in how protracted it's birth has been, and in it's lyrical themes. There are scenes in the songs where figures come back from far away, to changes and time itself rolling by in their absence. ‘To Find Me Gone’ has songs of remembrance and recollection, all made in order to conquer absence. It’s a different kind of album… the kind of album you can get serious about and carry with you for a long time. In the end it’s all about the songs, how they all run into one another, and ran over all of us, as we churned up this album."
Musically, there's a dreamy Topanga Canyon vibe (famed LA neighbourhood residence for the likes of Woodie Guthrie, Neil Young, Canned Heat, Joni Mitchell, Steven Stills, Jim Morrison, Little Feat, Taj Mahal, Spirit, etc.) on select songs - maybe that's the pedal steel calling on ‘No One Word’; and there's also plenty for those who have appreciated Andy's recent nods towards 70's Fleetwood Mac (check out ‘Red Lantern Girls’ screaming guitar outro) . Yet everything is simply, amazingly Vetiver, irreducible to influences or current peers. ‘To Find Me Gone’ is Andy Cabic‘s own, original statement, an album that we are sure many will consider as one of the finest of 2006.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
A change in the physical and emotional landscape can have a powerful effect on creative minds. For LIARS, the experience has proved extremely fruitful, expanding their audio-visual ambitions enormously on their magnificent third album.
DRUM'S NOT DEAD was partly inspired by the band's relocation from New York to Berlin. It finds Angus Andrew, Aaron Hemphill and Julian Gross taking another seismic step forward, switching continents and seizing new musical territory. It's also their finest and fullest album to date, shredding all past reference points. The Atlantic Ocean certainly puts clear blue water between Liars and previous NYC scene labels.
Berlin's bohemian ambience, low-rent living and vibrant music scene proved both inspirational and liberating for the trio, especially after the costly constrictions of New York. Germany's troubled history and several eye-opening tours of Eastern Europe also became thematic reference points for the album. "It's the idea of dealing with loss or change," says Angus, "how do you recover from that, and what that recovery can lead you to."
The album's title and several track names refer to two fictional characters: Drum and Mount Heart Attack. For the band they are like Yin and Yang, each a state of being. Drum is assertive and productive, the spirit of creative confidence. With two drum kits integral to many of these percussive, propulsive, highly rhythmic convulsions, Drum came to be acknowledged as a fourth member of the band. Conversely, Mount Heart Attack is the reaction to Drum's action, the embodiment of stress and self-doubt. Both became key elements in the creative process.
"Drum means immediate reaction - bang!" Angus explains. "That immediacy is what we thrive on, so the drum in that sense is really positive. The other side is Mount Heart Attack, which is the idea of being unsure of yourself and not having the confidence to act assertively. Really what it comes down to is the way Aaron and I work together. It's not like one of us is Drum and one of us is Mount Heart Attack, it's more like we're both visited by these elements."
DRUM'S NOT DEAD opens in a fog of clanging guitars and martial beats, topped off by the high dreamy harmonies of "Be Quiet Mt. Heart Attack!" Rightly celebrated for their punishing sonic attack, Liars come out with all guns blazing on the dense drones and pulverising rhythms of "Hold You, Drum". Fans of the trio's noisy beast within will not be disappointed.
But Liars also give freer rein than before to their tender, textured, reflective nature on tracks like "Drum Gets A Glimpse", a self-questioning dialogue reverberating around a creaky galleon of ghostly sounds. Equally cinematic is "The Wrong Coat For You Mt. Heart Attack", with its gently off-kilter guitar lines and soothing samples of waves lapping on the river Elbe. After years pushing the envelope of dissonance and distortion, this sudden flowering of supple softness feels almost revolutionary.
"Most of the time these things come to me as a drum beat or maybe a guitar line, and then I'll figure it our from there," Angus explains "This time, on a few of these songs I started thinking: Am I really calling myself a musician when I can't even sit around a campfire and sing a song on a guitar? I really wanted to start tying to do that. A very stripped-down, traditional approach."
DRUM'S NOT DEAD marks a major shift for Liars to rank alongside Brian Wilson's wilder sonic journeys, or Radiohead's embrace of experimental abstraction. Tracks like "Drum And The Uncomfortable Can" build to a symphonic crescendo of brooding, brutal intensity. And yet the album ends with "The Other Side of Mt. Heart Attack", the most perversely conventional and unashamedly beautiful Liars track ever written. The calm after the storm, quietly moving and totally unexpected.
"People know we like to change and what's important for us is the challenge," says Angus. "This time around, the challenge was to really try and simplify and be a bit more traditional, which is something a lot of people wouldn't expect. But for me it's more difficult to make a song than it is to make noise."
DRUM'S NOT DEAD comes loaded with its own cinematic sister project: 36 short films, three for each track, all included on the standard album CD. Angus, Julian and award-winning filmmaker Markus Wambsganss directed 12 each. From backstage travelogues to surreal animation and mini sci-fi epics, Liars document the process of recording, touring, then visually reinventing each track. It's an ambitious and groundbreaking expansion of the CD format, throwing down the gauntlet for other creatively ambitious bands to follow suit.
"It was actually a visual project before it became a musical one," says Angus, who originally founded Liars as a multimedia vehicle at art school in Los Angeles. "We felt strongly about this for a long time. We were always interested in trying to combine music and film."
DRUM'S NOT DEAD began as a response to new surroundings. It ended up as the most diverse, expansive and emotionally naked Liars album so far. This is ultimately a journey that ends well, emphatic proof that sometimes arriving is better than travelling hopefully.
"I moved to Berlin at first on my own," says Angus. "I was literally on my own for a very long time. I think that's what brought me back to this traditional side, and this idea of a movement through periods. I see the end result as being positive. It maps the processes we go through to recover. It's important to get sad and have something bad happen, because it's always going to put you somewhere else."
DRUM'S NOT DEAD is one epic musical voyage from cacophony to catharsis, rich in mirth and menace, the sound of a band redrawing their own creative horizons.
One album, 12 tracks, 36 films. Every one a winner. And that's no lie.
With White Hats Niobe has recorded her most accessible album since "Tse Tse" and Voodooluba". White Hats projects memories from a vacation of skiing in the Swiss Alps sometime in the 50ies, it bears the easiness, the miracles and mysteries of the nature in the mountains and carries as much romanticism as todays modern world can allow.
Having released her debut "Radioersatz" on Tomlab in 2001 it became time for a longterm breed - a "commissioned" song album with the vision to keep the integrity and the origin of her beautiful melodies without deconstructing or dissimulating them. Niobe has carefully considered all the different aspects of this proposal from Tomlab and has deliberatly composed White Hats together with some long time companions and musical partners, arriving at a prominent position on the terrace at the peak of the mountain with a panorama view.
Niobe has shaped White Hats with a great variety of sound colorings and associations that illustrate her amazing ease of travelling through the last 8 decades of songwriting and chanson highlights. Niobe's songs are starting to breathe through the uniqueness of her voice that transmits all her emotional variety we already had discovered by surprise in her early cut-up work (even through the thickest walls of sound).
The title track White Hats, an alpine sort of Country-Lullaby where Niobe sings from the loneliness in a foggy valley where you can see the white snow on the mountain tops, just before total darkness is covering it all, corresponds perfectly to her real Soul Hit "Give All To Love" and might be the perfect companion for her first single release.
Nobody would have suggested at the beginning of her work as a sound artist that Niobe is going to write songs such as "Cool Alpine", a song that most certainly would transport Phil Spector back into the mood of the Disco-Funk era. Niobe is managing this challenge with ease but she doesn't actually want to flirt with the disco ball and leaves the song after 2 minutes of pure pop-bliss. Instead she is focusing on the big Pop-panorama on White Hats: Ambient-Bossa-Nova ("Surround the Hover") and Hip Hop with a Gospel touch ("Up Hill And Down Dale") are sitting together in the mountain sun on top of the White Hats (which can be seen on the cover artwork)
On White Hats Niobes passionate voice is wandering between many worlds, marching through pittoresque landscapes, and releasing its amazing powers over cristalline guitars. She uses the feelings from the sight of the red and blue skies of a day in the mountains as determinating colors in her music. There is a red disturbing side and a blue soothing side of Niobe's voice and both intertwined they can guide the lost folks out of the sudden darkness in the mountains into the secure refuge. Very different to her previous albums, the new songs are always very optimistic. The experience she gained from the vocal contributions to the house tracks for Mouse on Mars last record "Radical Connector" can be clearly discerned on this record.
Like no one else, Brazilian born Cibelle makes use of a variety of elements to create unique, imaginative and enchanting peices of music. Her second album (the follow-up to 2003's inspired eponymous debut) is a genuine masterpiece. Moving into even more adventurous sonic terrain than its predecesor, the "Shine Of Dried Electric Leaves" combines rootsy acoustic instrumentation, electronic processing, noise guitars & children's toys, captivating textural soundscapes & pure melodies all anchored by Cibelle's unmistakable, moving voice. Cibelle produced this album over a period of 18 months, taking some of the tracks with her from London (where she now resides) to Sao Paulo (her home town) and back, gathering along the way contributions from various co-producers and performers, including Mike Lindsay (from UK Folktronica act Tunng);Apollo Nove (the innovative producer/artist from Sao Paulo, who produced most of her debut album); Parisian mixer, Yann Arnaud (Air, ! Sebastien Schuller), and guests such as Seu Jorge (of "City of God" and "The Life Aquatic' fame), freak folk pioneer, Devendra Banhart, and CocoRosie collaborator Spleen. While some of the album's ten original compositions and three covers are simple, limpid crytalline gems (her renditions of Tom Waits' "Green Grass" and of Jobim's "Por Toda Minha Vida" to name but a few).
Holy Fuck are creating a legacy based on near stupidity. It’s a simple concept, to mimic modern electronic music without using modern fail-safes like laptops and programmed backing tracks… and of course to make people freak out and smash stuff. So for last year’s NXNE festival they armed themselves with a drum set, a bass guitar, a myriad of toy keyboards, guitar peddles, mixers, and even a 35 mm film synchronizer and hit the stage, without even rehearsing. Luckily they remembered to bring extra batteries.
Now just over a year later they have played super-festivals like Coachella, CMJ, SXSW, POP Montreal, Montreal Jazz, All Tomorrow’s Parties, and Vegoose. They have hooked up and collaborated frequently with Anti Pop Consortium MC, Beans. They still do it with the same duct taped keyboards, film editing gear, still without rehearsing. The line up continues to mutate but maintains its core: Brian Borcherdt, Graham Walsh, Kevin Lynn, and alternating drummers Glenn Milchem and Loel Campbell.
Keith Kenniff mustn’t sleep at all, after releasing the incredible Goldmund album ‘Corduroy Road’ for Type early in 2005 he was already busy at work crafting his second record as Helios; all this while finishing a degree at the acclaimed Berklee College of Music in Boston! ‘Eingya’ is very different from his work as Goldmund, as it incorporates not only his piano playing, but his delicate touch on guitar, drums and his masterful electronic production. It is an album of wordless songs, eleven carefully measured movements, each holding inside it an entire movie’s worth of emotion. Beginning the album on a high with the pastural beauty of ‘Bless This Morning Year’ we witness a showcase already of what Kenniff does best; hearbreaking guitar and piano melodies punctuated by crumbling beats and backed by the most atmospheric synthesizer sounds this side of Eno’s ‘Apollo’. Moving on we are treated to the appetising ‘Halving the Compass’ which blends subtle field recording with the kind of piano melodies so beautiful they could be compared to Virginia Astley or Harold Budd. This is followed by the album’s clear highlight – ‘Dragonfly Across an Ancient Land’; an unsurpassable folk guitar piece with a decomposing percussive background and the sort of melodies that would turn evil tyrants into weeping babies. An album which could as easily appeal to fans of Nick Drake as fans of Boards of Canada or even early Air; this truly has something for everyone. To put it simply – it’s gorgeous.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Brooklyn's dark indie folk trio White Magic features singer/guitarist/pianist Mira Billotte, drummer/bassist Miggy Littleton, and guitarist/drummer Andy Macleod. Billotte played in Quix*o*tic with her sister Charlotte (also of Slant 6); Littleton played in Ida with his brother Dan; and McLeod also played in California Speedway. The band played in New York for a couple of years and appeared on the United Bamboo collection before Drag City signed them in 2003. That spring, White Magic played the All Tomorrow's Parties festival and issued their debut EP, Through the Sun Door. In 2005, Billotte played a few shows as White Magic, accompanied only by guitaristSleepy Doug Shaw; the group also appeared on a CD sampler sponsored by Tylenol that year. The duo began recording White Magic's debut album in 2005 as well, collaborating with Gang Gang Dance's Tim DeWitt — who played with the band occasionally in its earliest days — as well as other musicians for a more eclectic, layered sound than before. The results, Dat Rosa Mel Apibus, arrived in fall 2006.
Since a young age, 20-year old Michigan resident Thomas Meluch has been fascinated with the sounds of nature and tape decay—through almost a decade of recordings, he has fostered an infatuation with a sort of sonic density that combines remnants of pop song structures with the lushness and unpredictability of field recordings. A veteran drummer of a half dozen bands, Meluch chose guitar and voice as the primary instruments for his work as Benoit Pioulard.
Tim Hecker is a Canadian-based musician and sound artist, born in Vancouver. Since 1996, he has produced a range of audio works for Mille Plateaux, Kranky, Alien8, Force Inc, Staalplaat, and Fat Cat. His works have been described as “structured ambient”, “tectonic color plates” and “cathedral electronic music”. More to the point, he has focused on exploring the intersection of noise, dissonance and melody, fostering an approach to songcraft which is both physical and emotive. The New York Times has described his work as “foreboding, abstract pieces in which static and sub-bass rumbles open up around slow moving notes and chords, like fissures in the earth waiting to swallow them whole”. His Radio Amor was recognized as a key recording of 2003 by Wire magazine. His work has also included commissions for contemporary dance, sound-art installations, and various writings. Harmony in Ultraviolet is his latest album.
Born in the dense heat of New Orleans, Louisiana, Belong is a collaborative effort between Turk Dietrich and Michael Jones, whose debut album, October Language, goes beyond traditional song structure to a place where melodic figures blur, and textures are gorgeously sculpted into an ocean of sound. Belong began on the WestBank of New Orleans in 2002, but it was not until 2004 that October Language was made. The album was assembled, composed, and produced in Dietrich's bedroom studio; however, the inspiration for the songs goes well beyond the walls. The album encapsulates their hometown of New Orleans, at once bathed in sunlight and colors, yet dripping in decay and a rich sadness. It is a record that attempts to display the beauty in things that are worn, decayed or destroyed.
Following in the tradition of bands like My Bloody Valentine and Gas, guitars, synths and other musical sources are wrenched from their typical tones, revealing themselves in bright shards of distortion. Melodies are similarly enveloped in a sort of aural atrophy, forever repeating their blurring calls. At the end, all that remains is a noise so potent it leaves the sonic equivalent of the sun's imprint on a retina.
You have never heard anything like Citay. Not that it is so weird or crazy or out there -- in fact it is quite familiar -- but you just haven't ever heard anything quite like it before. Imagine the acoustic guitars, mandolins, and cathedral organs of Led Zeppelin joining forces with huge Thin Lizzy dual leads. Imagine the baroque intros to early Metallica songs (before the metal takes over) giving way to the massed vocals and blissed-out harmonies of The Byrds and The Beach Boys. Acoustic influences of John Fahey and Roy Harper, the 60s psychedelia of The Pretty Things and, more recently, the Japanese band Ghost can be heard as well. This is a new sound, unique in its blend, and unnamable in genre. Call it chamber metal. Or post-psych-pop. Or whatever you like. Citay is elegiac, bombastic, powerful, and, most of all, original.
Citay is a project out of San Francisco. It is a collaboration between Ezra Feinberg (formerly of London Space-rockers Piano Magic) and Tim Green (The Fucking Champs, Nation of Ulysses). Surrounded in his apartment by 6- and 12-string acoustic guitars, a couple of casios, a Gibson SG electric, and a play-pen's worth of percussion toys and noisemakers, and a mandolin, Ezra worked out the songs using a simple multi-track program on his laptop. When the skeletons of the songs were worked out Ezra took his instruments down a very steep San Francisco hill to Tim Green's Louder Studios. There Tim infused everything with his own melodic and textural genius, and he and Ezra recorded all the songs from scratch on to analog tape. Tim has produced records at Louder for luminaries such as The Melvins, Sleater-Kinney, Comets On Fire, and Trans Am.
Monday, December 11, 2006
A holy grail among contemporary music collectors, this release on Brian Eno's Obscure label, which went out of print almost immediately, features two of the finest compositions of the late 20th century, both by Gavin Bryars. The title track had since been recorded again on two occasions, arguably to better effect on Les Disques du Crepuscule in 1990 and once, more pallidly, on Point in 1994, but this initial production was an extremely special event. Bryars' idea was to construct an aural picture of the disaster, complete with songs and hymns supposedly played by the ship's orchestra even as she was sinking. He combined this with the acoustical phenomenon of the enhanced ability of sounds to travel great lengths underwater and produced an eerie and romantic sub-aqueous soundscape of remarkable subtlety and beauty. Using minimalist techniques, the repetition and overlapping of hymns like "Autumn" assume a surreal aspect, at once sad and peaceful. His score was designed to incorporate new discoveries about the shipwreck (or to dispense with elements that proved false) over time; this performance includes taped reminiscences of one survivor and the tinklings of a music box salvaged by another. This is one gorgeous, haunting piece of music. As though one masterpiece wasn't enough, the second composition on the album might be even greater. Surely one of the most beautiful "concept" works ever created, "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet" begins with the faint, faded-in voice of a London tramp singing the old hymn plaintively but without pathos and more or less in tune. Bryars looped this tape so that it resolved in non-jarring fashion, then introduced -- ever so softly and gradually with each iteration of the verse -- instrumental accompaniment: first strings, then guitar and bass, and eventually the entire chamber orchestra. The lush, sensuous music, entirely sympathetic to the song, gives it increased strength and humanity as it swells to near-majestic proportions and then, just as gradually, subsides. The emotional impact of this 25-minute piece, in its honest and charitable stance toward the singer, cannot be understated. With this simple idea, limned with precision and beauty, Bryars was graciously content to achieve a lofty goal one time, to let it stand by itself and move on. A version recorded for Point in 1995, which included the gratuitous addition of Tom Waits accompanying the tape, pales in comparison to the original. Long a collector's item on vinyl, a CD issue was released in England on Virgin U.K. in 1998 but it, too, quickly went out of print.
Index are one of the major legends of the private press collector scene, known already in the early 1980s when Greg Shaw reissued it in "Paisley Underground" type re-packaging and kept it in print for many years. The lo-fi sound, amateur vocals and smoke-thick atmosphere have an instantaneous jaw-dropping effect, and it's a good one to play for "square" friends. Incredible primitive surf-garage-psych with off-key teenage vocals and an unreal soundscape; imagine Dick Dale jamming with 1966 Velvet Underground in an airplane hangar after a night of booze & quaaludes. Great band originals share the stage with unparalleled Byrds deconstructions, while some of the feedback and drone passages are bordering on avant noise. A true missing link item bridging the early and late 60s sounds. Beware of the "Index Anthology vol 1" CD as it omits most of the best tracks (the covers) from this. The band formed at the University of Detroit and recorded in Grosse Point, Michigan.
Compilations like this are hard to come by, discs that genuinely have a reason for existing rather than being a lazy collection of music celebrating one thing or another (The Totally Very Absolute Best of xxx Vol.450); it just doesn’t happen often. And that’s exactly why International Sad Hits Vol.1 stands out so much – rather than sloppily throw together a bunch of world music, the album’s curators Damon & Naomi (Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang) have selected a host of tracks that genuinely hold meaning for them. Almost twenty years of touring (with Galaxie 500 and as a duo) has left Damon and Naomi with more than a sizable collection of musical oddities – the pair are hugely interested in sad songs, no matter the origin, and here they present sixteen tracks by four different artists which take sadness to dizzy new heights. The artists included are Fikret Kizilok from Turkey, Kim Doo Soo of Korea and Tomokawa Kazui and Mikami Kan both of Japan, who are all linked by the Altaic linguistic group. So it’s world music right? You already think you know what it’s going to sound like? Think again – this isn’t the quirky world-pop of the Sublime Frequencies series, or the obscurist Middle Eastern psychedelia which we happily lap up from the Finders Keepers label – rather what we have here are Asia’s most melancholic singer-songwriters in the tradition of Nick Drake. So melancholic in fact, that Kim Doo Soo’s ‘Bohemian’ has been linked to two suicides in Korea – so you know where we’re coming from. These are singer-songwriters unafraid to bear their souls to us, and although most of us won’t know what the hell they’re talking about, the emotion is dripping from each note and each syllable. The compilation opens with Fikret Kizilok’s ‘Just as Long’ which over three and a half minutes sums up exactly the sentiment which is to carry the rest of the record. A delicate blend of Eastern traditional music and Western singer-songwriter traditions, the song is carried by harrowing strings and distinctively plucked guitar, but it is Kizilok’s voice which sticks so firmly in the mind. I don’t understand a word of Turkish but that’s beside the point, his voice is soft, emotive and honest, a far cry from today’s supposed pop emotion. Elsewhere Mikami Kan gives Leonard Cohen a run for his money in the melancholy stakes with the earth-moving ‘Never Before’ and Tomoko Kazuki shows us just how much drama his voice can hold with ‘Kasai Zento’, but really to enjoy this compilation it must be listened to from beginning to end. A hugely enjoyable historical document, this disc shows us an area of music most of us will know only little about and stands up as one of the finest collections we’ve heard in a long while. Grab yourself a box of Kleenex, turn the lights down low and listen to your heart’s discontent – just remember to stay well away from the Jack Daniels. One of the most unique and inspired releases of the year - a massive recommendation.
Rarely does a self-released demo CD garner the attention and praise that Lavender Diamond’s The Cavalry of Light has this year. Based in Los Angeles, Lavender Diamond is a meeting of disparate yet surprising cohesive creative forces: front women Becky Stark, guitarist Jeff Rosenberg (of Tarentel and Young People fame), keyboardist Steve Gregoropolous and percussionist/established visual artist Ron Rege Jr. In contrast to Rosenberg's prior noise-filled endeavors, and even to Stark’s sparse and spooky solo work, Lavender Diamond make lush, straightforward chamber/folk-pop that manages to stay just this side of saccharine, basking in confidence and sunny melodies. The four-track, 16-minute The Cavalry... has catapulted Lavender Diamond to the forefront of LA's folk scene, earning them a spot at ArthurFest, and opening slots for everyone from Scout Niblett to Deerhoof.
Opener and standout track “You Broke My Heart” showcases Stark’s voice above a staccato piano line, mild acoustic guitar, and pounding drums. As Stark’s register goes higher and higher, the music remains understated in the background, content to let Stark carry the song. The fleshed out arrangements, which often include a four-piece string band, suit Stark’s voice to a tee, bringing out a vaudeville quality that might not exist in separate circumstances.
Lavender Diamond could easily draw comparisons to a number of AM-radio mainstays: Shirley Collins, the Carpenters, Joni Mitchell. “Please” in particular sounds out of time; its waltzing piano and warm strings sound nostalgic without sounding retro, a feat accomplished in large part by Ms. Stark’s delivery, which could stand up to any of her aforementioned predecessors. A large claim, to be sure, but that is just the sort thing The Cavalry of Light hints at.
“In Heaven There is No Heat” is the closest thing on The Cavalry... to Stark’s solo work, and the only vaguely psychedelic moment on the record. Where alone Stark would be content to repeat the song’s title ad infinitum in verse, here the song moves into the biggest and catchiest chorus on the record. While lyrics like “Dream the kind of life you will find, the kind of love that lasts forever” sound cliché on paper, the earnestness of Stark’s vocals and the no-frills accompaniment of her band are truly engaging, if not a little refreshing.
The pastoral “Rise in the Springtime” brings the disc to a close with a British-folk flavored mini-epic, ending with a buildup of marching drums and swirling strings. As Stark repeats “We rise... We rise,” one can’t help but think it might just be prophetic. Lavender Diamond has the potential to woo the world.
By Jon Pitt
Burial explores a tangential, parallel dimension of the growing sound of dubstep. Burial’s parallel dimension sounds set in a near future South London underwater. You can never tell if the crackle is the burning static off pirate radio transmissions, or the tropical downpour of the submerged city outside the window. In their sometimes suffocating melancholy, most of these tracks seem to yearn for drowned lovers. The smouldering desire of ‘Distant Lights’ is cooled only by the percussive ice sharp slicing of blades and jets of hot air blowing from the bass. Listen also for a fleeting appearance from Hyperdub’s resident vocalist, the Spaceape unravelling his crypto-biography. In its loud quietness, Burial takes his kitchen crackle aesthetic neither from the digital glitch nor merely a nostalgia for vinyl’s materiality. Instead, as ‘Pirates’ suggests, Burial crackle mutates the tactile surplus value of pirate radio transmissions. Burial’s mix is haunted. Echoed voices breeze in and out, on road to another time. Pirate signal from other frequencies steams in. A tidal wave of noise submerging all but the crispest syncopations. The noise is not violent, but caressing, tickling, exciting the ends of your nerves. Seducing you in.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
I saw these guy play the other night and i was blown away by their intensity!
The dodo's sound is shaped by the marriage of two periods in songwriter Meric Long's musical history: playing in rock/metal bands growing up in the suburbs, and playing and listening to old delta blues records in his post adolescent years. In the fall of 2002, Meric opened up for country blues guitarist Paul Curreri, who turned him on to the country blues style of finger-picking guitar, via Mississippi John Hurt, Leadbelly, and later John Fahey. Meric adopted this style of guitar into his repertoire, meshing it with noise, electronic sounds, and loops that he had developed in his earlier days. In order to add syncopated percussion to accent the rhythmic patterns in his finger picking, Meric began playing with Logan Kroeber in the fall of 2005, whose background in Santa Cruz heavy metal band Entragian made for a perfect fit.
Beware of The Maniacs
Thursday, December 07, 2006
The Hollows are a band from Dublin, Ireland. They are 2 guys and their songs are slow and low. It was on Fire When I Lay Down on It, is the title of their new record. The Music is so quiet and not-quite there that it's almost opaque, a combination of tenderly plucked guitars, organ, piano and drums, which blend perfectly alongside gentle electronica. All the while, the vocals are either crooned or whispered, creating a whole that's warmer than a lazy summer sunday, fuzzier than the effects of a bottle and a half of red wine and as welcome as a bucket of ice cold water on a sultry New York afternoon.
Last night I had the pleasure of seeing The New Young Pony Club play their first show in LA. I have to say that they are by far the best band playing the now sound of dance punk funk whatever... Tahita ,the lead singer ,was only giving 120% and I wonder what would have happened if she could have given more? I don't care much for rock bands going disco but NYPC are the exception to the rule. The bass lines were text book,the drums were 4/4 ,guitar was all angular,but for some reason it didn't sound tired or played out like a lot of other bands from a year or 2 ago. Tahita has a certain charisma that gets your attention and keeps it. Their hit single Ice Cream has been getting buzz and they are on Modular records so that is good thing. If you have the chance check out this band. They are sure to be the sound of 2000's era.