Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Standing in a Greyhound Bus station, wearing a Sylvester t-shirt and huge duct taped covered glasses, Dan Deacon doesn't invoke an image of a composer to the other bus riders. The two suitcases he loads under the bus, which accompany him from city to city, hold the sweat-and-grime-soaked electronics that he uses to craft his raging, maxed-out party music and light show. After 12 tours and 300+ shows in little over 2 years, the gear is beaten and battered, but the show and the energy it produces is anything but.
Dan Deacon has garnered a reputation in the underground as an intense performer and classic showman. The table top full of pedals, sine wave generator, vocoder and casio blasting through the PA, joined by a makeshift light board with various bulbs and green skull strobe light, make his all out dance-til-you-drop performance a complete experience. The shows he performs in his native Baltimore, namely those at Wham City, (the live-in artists collective and DIY venue/theater that he calls home), are especially notorious for its frenzied crowds.
But it isn't all fancy feet and bouncy beats. Deacon is a classically trained composer with a Masters degree in electro-acoustic composition. He has released 7 albums from 2003 to 2006, but those self-produced recordings do not contain the vocal based experimental pop that he has fine-tuned in live performance. His latest full length, 'Spiderman of the Rings' is the first album bridging the gap between party performer and genuine composer. A mixture of his live show dance anthems, intricate instrumentals and epic psychedelics, 'Spiderman of the Rings' establishes Dan Deacon as a new direction in the contemporary underground.
Recently, Deacon has been composing and performing works for various ensembles at notable museums and galleries including the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington DC, the Walters Museum of Art in Baltimore, Anthology Film Archives and White Box Gallery in New York.
The Paris Hilton Mujahideen
The newest recording from producer and artist Trevor Kampmann. Twelve minimal, loop-constructed songs about war, beauty, and 21st century America--Built with conventional, instruments manipulated to sound both organic and electronic. Possibly Kampmann's most sophisticated album to date, undoubtedly his most ambitious.
Monday, February 26, 2007
DANDI WIND is a duo; Dandi Wind (vocals/performance) and Szam Findlay (music). This is the debut CD EP (with a bonus video). Performance art industrial is tempered with humour and intelligence much like the classic days of Devo, Jello Biafra and others.
The wild live shows have set the buzz; #3 on the CITR chart; on-air interview with Nardwuar The Human Serviette; #104 on the Earshot National College chart; a Nov-Dec tour with Nanobot Auxiliary Ballet; Exclaim Dec/Jan 2005 issue write up; and more!
Szam Findlay's previous solo cd, Die Hautfabrik, was released by Resonant Recordings UK, who put out Acid Mother's Temple and Esmerine (godspeed you black emperor side project). The cd received favourable press from BBC, The Wire, Stylus. All Music Guide and Tigersushi.
On the Dandi Wind cd, the rhythms on "Umbilical Noose" and "Drawing Straws" were contributed by Planet Mu Records dance superstar Bit Meddler (of "shitmix 2000" infamy).
Full-length CD/DVD later this year; "Concrete Igloo".
THE FOLLOWING IS COMPLETELY TRUE:
We started the Dandi Wind project in late 2003 as a way to meld our love of theatre/performance with challenging but not inaccessible music. Our songs are about honest incidents that surround us. Since we live in the downtown eastside of Vancouver (the most depressed slum in Canada; the most junkies per capita in North America) our songs are sometimes grim... Currently I live next to the train tracks and the rendering plant where they turn dead pets into glue while pumping cancerous smoke and industrial noise into my mind all day.
I love to perform and make people FEEL something. If I can walk offstage unaided then I've not delivered a true Dandi Wind performance.
- Dandi Wind
Bait the Traps
'Funky Skunk' is an hour long hip-hop mix, showcasing the finest tracks from over the last few decades. The majority of the set focuses on the early stages of the genre, with Shadow selecting the best in 80's hip hop and early electro - where tracks were made the good old fashioned way; a tight loop of beats, sampled breaks, primitive scratching and an MC. A far away place from the overproduced and overpaid stars of of today's stale hip hop / R&B. There are also freakout pysch moments and absurd rapid breaks perfect for any budding samplers out there. Funky Skunk ranks highly as one of DJ Shadow's best mix albums, acting as a brilliant party album but also as an introduction to prehistoric hip hop.
Rio en Medio's debut album for Gnomonsong The Bride of Dynamite is an intricate collage of layered vocals, delicately plucked ukulele, ghostly samples and gritty, deconstructed electronics, all performed by Danielle Stech Homsy. Final production and remixing was done by Thom Monahan (of the Pernice Brothers) at his home studio in Los Angeles aided by Vetiver's Andy Cabic. Special touches were contributed to some tunes by Andy, Sierra Casady (CocoRosie), Tim Fite and David Coulter among others.
Most of the material that comprises The Bride of Dynamite was recorded by Danielle on her own with no intention of releasing it; those songs have been remixed or a few strategic flourishes added - a couple songs were entirely re-recorded. The Bride of Dynamite features texts lifted from sources as disparate as William Blake, Paul Eluard, John Ashbery and a 1920's Baghdad travelogue. Danielle's own songwriting is rarely autobiographical, yet it maintains a personal tone, making the strange intimate, and invoking the voices of familiar ghosts, from disco doppelgangers to pre-adolescent sovereignty.
In her music Danielle has opted for the open field. Born on a cold January morning in the high desert, she inherited two blessings: a reverence for unearthly beauty and a tactile responsiveness to the world. Her music is evidence of both. At its best, the gentle, the fearful, the sorrowful, the formidable, the entranced and the rambunctious collide to create a sound that is as responsive as it is moving. In her own words, it is "music that wants to listen as much as be heard."
Danielle was born in New Mexico and raised in California, then Arizona. She studied creative writing at Bard College, and moved to New York City where she currently resides. Most of her inspiration comes from stints of singing with a number of choirs rather than formal musical training. Danielle started playing the baritone ukulele and writing songs immediately after returning from a trip to Russia, where she had been translating poetry. The songs poured out of her and she began to record them in secret, only sharing them with her friend Sierra who had promised never to play them for anyone else. As fate would have it, Devendra Banhart barged into Casady's apartment one day while she was playing Danielle's music and he fell in love with it, eventually prevailing on her to release them through Gnomonsong. Soon after, en Medio began to play live regularly in New York, working with Justin Riddle and Christian Lee as accompanists and employing an ever growing array of instrumental flavors: samplers, keyboards, Indian Banjo, harmonium, drums, and more. In just the passed year, Danielle has performed or collaborated with a wide variety of outstanding artists, including Devendra, Vetiver, CocoRosie, Tarantula A.D., Tim Fite and Larry Yes, among others. In addition, she recently appeared at England's All Tomorrows' Parties Festival. Now, with the album release imminent, Danielle is already getting busy on her next projects. There are whispers of a collection of dance tracks in the works. She has alluded to a collaborative album with Tim Fite. As she gains momentum, Danielle is sure to surprise both herself and her audience, inspiring renewed faith in the power of a song to transform the reality of its listener.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
From the opening ghost town scene to the deserted station Sir Richard Bishop ’s train heads out of at the end of Fingering the Devil, his ability to evoke stories where there aren’t words proves he is alone in doing just that. On the liner notes, Bishop recounts the tale of a near impossible session with Harvey Birrell - the curating engineer for the series. Bonkered train schedules, rain drenching his guitar case, (which suffered a broken handle along the way) and closed tube stations barely let Bishop arrive at Birrell’s doorstep to a warm cup of coffee.
His fingers can be heard drying out as they tap dance erratic fills up and down the frets and land, out of breath, on sadder minor notes. He leads us through sad lullabies to Anglo Saxon seeming battle hymns on "Dream of the Lotus Eaters". I can pick up the same medieval curiosity that fascinated groups like Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull .
There is an air of discovery and forlorn emotion as every nuance and finger slide can be heard by the squeaks of his strings. The imagery moves into an enchanted forest where listeners are spun around and lost in the EP’s title track. Then in "Spanish Bastard", two brute forces can be heard scuffling and kicking up dirt on the hollow wood guitar as Bishop plays to one’s demise.
Image of the Fingering the Devil CoverThe ornate packaging on this release is, by itself, a treasure. As I stare at the cover of the cardboard folding case with a white ink border, the center puzzles me. It is an image of a hand making a peace sign or bunny ears. What looks so iconic about it is the silver pressed foil into the cardboard — the silver part being the shadow of the hand gesture. After a few minutes… a lot of them, I notice the animal the shadow is formed as. It looks like an evil lamb with extra long horns or a devil. I feel like there is supposed to be something symbolic about it beyond what I see…could it be that the hand in question is from a robed figure…possibly Jesus? Could it just be a smart move on the part of Bishop to leave us filling in all the blanks...
Casiotone's third album finds the promise of Owen Ashworth's earlier work paying off ever more in spades. Despite a higher profile and a series of concert tours, he's not changing around the basic approach yet -- it's him, his trusty keyboards and machine beats, a guest appearance or two, and his own gift for sweet, murky, and involving songs. His gift for personal details -- an X marked on one's hand for a show, 'driving all night for no reason. . .until the tape's done' -- gets further reflection in many of the song titles, usually referencing some name in particular. "Toby, Take A Bow" is one of his best, portraying 'the greatest Smiths fan' ever with a series of sly references to song titles by said band that actually create a portrait instead of simply being a joke. Musically, meanwhile, Ashworth keeps on keeping on, wistful and warm synth lines mixed up with hollow clatters, and an overlay of enveloping murk that never drowns the songs entirely. It's a fine balance of the merry and the melancholic, as the clipped beats and low drones of "It Wasn't the Same Somehow" and the melancholia turned into an anthem approach of "Hey Eleanor" and "Blue Corolla" show. If one can argue that the Magnetic Fields already covered this ground to a large extent, then the counterargument is that Ashworth has just as distinct a voice -- lyrical and singing -- as Stephin Merritt (as it stands, Ashworth's a clearer and lighter singer in the first place). The most self-referential moment? "Casiotone for the Painfully Alone in a Yellow T-Shirt," a noticeably more clattering rhythm underpinning a calmly sung story -- backed beautifully by a guest turn on contrabass -- about using a summer night to the best one can, even if it's just nothing but 'riding all night under the street lights.
Engineers are a group who ardently believe in the restless, symphonic power of music. They’re driven by the same impulse that compelled Dennis Wilson to write ‘Pacific Ocean Blue’ or Talk Talk to forge ‘Spirit of Eden’. When so much around them is prosaic and mundane, the Engineers want to create music of immense depth and scope that combines the experimental with the emotional. Or, as their guitarist and keyboard player Dan McBean rather more succinctly puts it: “We want to turn the lights down, get stoned and then blow our heads off.”
Engineers are a band of substance over style. A London-based four piece (Dan is joined by Simon Phipps – vocal/guitars, Mark Peters – bass and Sweeney on drums) who’ve been together since March 2003, they’re inspired by everything from Brian Eno and The Cocteau Twins through to Todd Rundgren and Spiritualised. They’re interested in the music they make and little else.
The last 12 months have seen them working with feverish intensity, spreading the word via high profile supports with the likes of The Music, The High Llamas, and The Hope of The States, as well as a series of critically-acclaimed records (when their mini-album ‘Folly’ was released in September 2004 NME hailed it as “a work of unrelenting beauty”’ giving it 9 out of 10 in the process).
Alongside this, the band have also been painstakingly working on their sensational debut album proper. Pieced together over the course of the last 12 months (although the very first guitar sound you hear on it was recorded in Wigan 5 years ago), the self-titled masterpiece has seen them collaborate with Death in Vegas’ Tim Holmes (he worked on the album’s second track ‘Wave On’), as well as producers Jonathan Quarmby and Kevin Bacon (‘Forgiveness’ and ‘Home’) and, more unusually, Chris Billington and Phil Rutter – aka the Highbrass Jazz Orchestra.
“We got them in because we were aiming for the sound that Dennis Wilson had on a track like ‘Morning Christmas’ ((i) from his great ‘lost’ album ‘Bamboo’ “explains Mark, “and I think they really helped us get close.”
The result of all these different people and places (the album was recorded in three different studios, The Depot, RAK and Death In Vegas’ Contino Rooms) is a record of astonishing melody and resonance, a multi-layered and beautiful successor to the likes of My Bloody Valentine’s ‘Loveless’ and ‘Spiritualized’s ‘Ladies And Gentlemen’ We Are Floating In Space’.
“It’s weird that people say that,” laughs Mark, “because although I like those bands I don’t think our album is anything like that. There are so many influences on it that don’t have anything to do with that music. “What we’re doing is different. We’re not influenced by what’s current. We’re just digging for great records. That album by John Phillips ‘The Wolf King Of LA’ is a favourite at the moment, but we’ve also been really getting into a lot of Greenwich Village stuff like Tim Hardin and Fred Neil.”
How would the band describe what they’re doing then? “I really don’t know”, smiles Mark. “A friend of mine was talking about another band recently and was saying how they captured the feel of a rainy day in the north. And I guess that’s what we’re about – that sense of melancholy.”
With Boces, Mercury Rev took everything that made Yerself Is Steam such an impressive debut and made their second album even more so. Over the course of ten minutes, opening epic "Meth of a Rockette's Kick" moves from dreamy musing to guitar-fueled crests -- and throws in flutes, harps, a brass section, and a choir for good measure -- announcing that the group is at the height of its powers. Thrashy freakouts like "Trickle Down" sound even more explosive and stand in sharper contrast to the Technicolor pop of "Something for Joey" and "Hi Speed Boats," while the sweetly lovelorn "Bronx Cheer" and "Downs Are Feminine Balloons" (key lyric: "If there's one thing I can't stand, it's up") reveal the vulnerability beneath the group's jet-powered guitars. But Boces doesn't just perfect the sound Mercury Rev pioneered on Yerself Is Steam, it expands it in predictably unpredictable ways. The Cheshire cat jazz-pop of "Boys Peel Out," the sleepwalking speed metal of "Snorry Mouth," and the spooky, smoky finale "Girlfren," though very different from each other, are equally captivating examples of the band's witty, innovative modus operandi. Mercury Rev never released another album as joyfully, unselfconsciously creative as Boces; after chief weirdo David Baker departed, the band pursued other fascinating directions, but this album remains one of the highest points of its career.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
The Dream House is the first album of new material from Windy & Carl in five years. �Recorded at their home studio in Dearborn, MI it consists of two tracks. �The Dream House is in many ways the duo's simplest and most straight-forward release, concentrated as it is on two evolving pieces. �It is also Windy & Carl's most ambitious recording, with the duo deliberating on longer forms. �Windy & Carl are capable of sustaining melodic ideas and patiently apply attention to singular musical gestures. �Windy Weber describes the album as being about �"death and dreams and beliefs and leaving and moving on." ���The second disc, Dedications to Flea, are gentle tributes to a departed canine friend.
Person Pitch is the third solo album released by Animal Collective member Panda Bear (aka Noah Lennox), set to be released on March 20, 2007. It was leaked onto the internet in late January 2007.
Five of the seven tracks on the album have been released prior to the album in full or a shortened form. "I'm Not" and "Comfy in Nautica" released as a 7", I'm Not/Comfy in Nautica, via UUAR. "Bro's" was released as 12", Bro's, featuring a "Bro's" remix by Terrestrial Tones (featuring fellow Collective member Avey Tare) via Fat Cat Records. "Carrots" was also released as a 12" split with the band Excepter via Animal Collective's own label Paw Tracks. "Search For Delicious" was featured on a compilation (Vol. 14) from the music magazine Comes With A Smile. The album will be released as a whole on CD format only, allowing listeners to only hear the three previously released singles on vinyl.
The album was recorded by Noah Lennox alone and was mixed by Rusty Santos. Being recorded using mostly samplers, the album is a large step from Panda Bear's last album, Young Prayer, which was written and recorded after Lennox's father's death. However, Person Pitch has a much brighter sound due to its influences of Lennox's move to Portugal, marriage, and first born child.
Trojan‘s 40th Anniversary in 2007 will see figures from the world of rock, dance and hip-hop take the wheel in the journey through reggae history. Jonny Greenwood, one of the few non-reggae artists to take up the challenge, describes it as ’an honour‘ to put together a Trojan compilation. It’s a task that excites and inspires many and, in this case, one that allows us to venture into the musical mind of one of the World‘s finest contemporary musicians. Despite the Trojan catalogue covering essentially a single genre born of one small island, from over a relatively short space of time, each artist’s take on this vast wealth of reggae music is noticeably different, in pace, mood and style.
Greenwood‘s selection manages to sound classic and warm, yet simultaneously modern and atmospheric. From the gentle flow of Derek Harriot’s ‘Let Me Down Easy’ and the well-known skank of ‘I’m Still In Love‘ (familiar to many as the basis for Donna & Althea’s 80‘s smash, ’Uptown Top Ranking‘), to the more experimental dub sounds from Lee ’Scratch‘ Perry, this collection of records really captures the many faces of Trojan over the last 40 years, as well as capturing the mood of Greenwood himself. The influence of reggae – and especially dub – reverberates through contemporary music like a Black Ark echo chamber.
And this resonance is reflected back in Greenwood’s own reggae selection, which is exceptionally musical, deep, often experimental, but never over-indulgent or impenetrable. In his sleeve notes Greenwood, known for his own talents as a multi-instrumentalist, observes the breadth and depth of this genre saying; “Jamaican reggae is the style of music I always reach for when ranting to friends about there being so many great recordings in the world, and how you could listen to one style of music exclusively for the rest of your life, and it all be great, and varied, and worth hearing”. Expressing how varied and complex a genre it is, he goes on to say: “Really, all musical life is here”.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Soft Circle consists of one member, Hisham Akira Bharoocha. Bharoocha is a former member of Black Dice (on all earlier releases up till 'Creature Comforts') as well as being in an early incarnation of Lightning Bolt. Soft Circle is his current solo music project. Soft Circle's goal is to create pure sonic vibrations that come from within. His first album 'Full Bloom' was released in February 6th 2007 on Eastern Developments.
It’s the sound, not the song. At least in the beginning. Bernd Jestram and Ronald Lippok sit in their recording studio located in the heart of their city and turn the knobs, press the buttons, shift the regulators. Until they find a sound, until a sound finds its way to them. A rhythm, a melody, a noise. “Then, we slowly write the song backwards.”
For “Spider Smile” Tarwater have found astonishing decided pop songs – as indicated already by their debut on Morr “The Needle Is Travelling”, released in 2005. They, the electro duo, each of them with his roots in East-Berlin’s sub culture and avant-garde. Their songs being full of allusions and references shall encourage the listener to link his/her own stories with the ones by Tarwater. For instance, the sun that rises and sets again and again in “arkestra” shines for everyone at another place. The song “arkestra”, by the way, originates from a joint bus trip with members of “Sun Ra Arkestra” through the hilly landscape of Scotland. Another one of these stories that one doesn’t have to know. But that still reveals much of the record telling a lot of places and spaces. America – or rather a lot of different ideas of what America is like – is its essential motif. It is the song “shirley temple” that marks the beginning, a clouded electro-overture.
The recording studio still is Bernd Jestram’s and Ronald Lippok’s favourite instrument. Nonetheless, for “Spider Smile” a number of analogue instruments landed up in front of the microphones. A harmonica, for example. And with it the blues. It changes in Tarwater’s “witchpark” into a dark dub-landscape. Marchy woods, alligators. Guitars send several songs on their way – like the all pushing “world of things to touch”. Violines are plucked distinctly in other songs and moods, an oboe spreads melancholy patina (“roderick usher”). Later, there is the playing with repetition and modification, song- and soundwriting from the spirit of modulation – a central motif within the music of Tarwater (“when love was the law in los angeles”). Or, the album’s only cover version: “sweethome under white clouds” of Virgin Prunes” that took its way through an echo-chamber. “Home is where the heart is”, a line like an incantation. At the same time this resume sums up the entire album very well.
Although Lee Hazlewood had recorded as a solo performer prior to his brief stint with MGM, his first two MGM albums present his best '60s recordings as a solo vocalist. Issued in 1966, The Very Special World of Lee Hazlewood is the first of these. Hazlewood's limitations as a singer kept him, and this album, from being marketable as anything approaching a commercial proposition at the time (unless he was dueting with Nancy Sinatra). Yet with the passage of several decades, this one-of-a-kind blend of country, pop, lounge, nonchalant sub-Johnny Cash vocals, and off-kilter lyrics was recognized as worthy on its own terms and appreciated by a sizable cult audience. And as this album demonstrates, he really wasn't without his more conventionally pleasing pop attributes either, even if it would take other artists to put them onto the hit parade. It does include his own versions of songs far more famous as the versions he produced for Nancy Sinatra: "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" (done here in a far less effective, self-mocking satirical fashion), "Summer Wine" (done as a duet with Suzi Jane Hokum, though it's his slightly later subsequent duet of the song with Sinatra that's remembered), and "So Long Babe." There's also a bossa nova treatment of the hit he wrote and produced for Dino, Desi & Billy, "Not the Lovin' Kind." But there are a couple of delectable sad pop ballads with gorgeous strings and weepy backup choral vocals ("Your Sweet Love" and "For One Moment"); one of his greatest dark meditations, "My Autumn's Done Come"; and zippier, frivolous fun pop tunes ("I Move Around" and "When a Fool Loves a Fool"). Not everything here's on this level; there are occasional songs that verge on slipping from the humorous to dumb novelties. But it's a worthwhile record, and not solely on kitsch terms. The music's also now much easier to find than it used to be, all of the tracks having been included on the 2002 Big Beat CD reissue These Boots Are Made for Walkin': The Complete MGM Recordings.
A bold statement for one whose first album shot him to the top of the electronic pops, but tell us more, young Snaith (he's still only 24). 'There's all this lazy, complacent shitty electronic music where everyone uses the same keyboard sounds and shit drum sounds. Fuck that! Electronic music can sound like anything you want it to so why does it all sound the same? People aren't very ambitious. Why be an imitation? Why not try be on some next level shit ? some Brian Wilson / Timbaland type shit?'
Consider these thoughts for a moment as Snaith's incredibly self-confident second album Up In Flames comes a-shimmering out of your stereo. Isn't it... an electronic music album? Very perceptive. In fact, it was made with exactly the same dinky computer equipment as the last album, except he now plays glockenspiel as well as guitar and keyboards.
But wait! It sounds completely, utterly unlike the first one, doesn't it? It sounds like a magnificent kaleidoscopic rough'n'tumble of starlight melodies, irresistibly catchy fatbeats and all manner of uplifting tooting, parping, plinking, riffing, tinkling, soaring and harping, the joyous mass gliding happily together within Snaith's masterful sense of space. Plus... handclaps, alarm clocks, crickets chirping and dogs barking. There's a lot in there, but it's never cluttered, it's deft and wise and funny and gobsmackingly brilliant all at once.
The other point is that Dan writes actual songs, not just a bunch of sounds strung together in ProTools. In Dan's words, he wanted to make an album of 'wicked pop songs with textures, layers and weird instruments. I make music totally by ear, just by fucking around and experimenting. It couldn't be less systematic and organised. When it's sloppy and messy, that's how I like it.' Well, that will happen if you spend enough time soaking in albums by My Bloody Valentine, Spaceman 3, Mercury Rev, The Beach Boys, Neutral Milk Hotel and psychedelic rockers like The Byrds and The End.
That's also Dan singing on Up In Flames, though don't be thinking he's gone all singer/songwriter. 'It's more about the textures, adding something different. And more melodies.' Yep, you can never have enough melodies. He's also managed to coax his mysterious homey Koushik out of hiding to contribute lead vocals on a couple of tracks. (Not even major labels who've been calling constantly since he put out a limited edition 7" on Kieran Hebden's Text label in 2001 have been able to track him down, although further 7"s for several labels are rumoured.) 'I literally think Ko is a genius,' Dan says, point blank. 'I know that if Ko does something, I'll like it. I totally trust him, he knows everything about music.'
Markus Schmickler's Cologne based Pluramon project returns with a fourth album, and it's without doubt Pluramon’s most accessible work to date, complete with fine additional contributions from such names as Kevin Drumm, Felix Kubin and Keith Rowe. Featuring the voice of Julee Cruise of "Twin Peaks" fame, the songs on "Dreams Top Rock" revel in a powerful, almost melodramatic wall of sound: touching not only on the current wave of interest in classic shoegazing material, yet advancing the brief still further, with Ms Cruise's intense involvement with the songs. "004" opens-up with a simultaneous blend of melodic, breathy charming vocal and guitar abrasion; but its a charming assault, restorative not corrosive. "Noise academy" and "PS" both introduce a delirious chording, the effect is of loud improv, but with strong guiding principles, guitars and vocal to the fore. "Flagolea" introduces stand up bass and Kevin Drumm's inspirational guitar, for a bluesy, after hours, slow motion number, "Difference Machine" capitalises on this elegant disparity, between the spoken words of Julee and Drumm's impassioned slide, while "Log" ends proceedings on a suitably giant guitar wave. After their highly acclaimed last album "Bit Sand Riders" on Mille Plateaux that featured remixes from Mogwai, Atom Heart, Lee Ronaldo, High Llamas, snd and Matmos amongst others, Marcus Schmickler, is well known in many contexts: electronic music, techno, improv or even classical, and needs no further introduction, his presence is felt almost everywhere on this broad and accomplished set. The surprising thing about this record is how it grows from an initial impression of a straight guitar record, to something altogether more ambitious indeed, and for this reason alone it comes highly recommended.
Monday, February 12, 2007
Papercuts is Jason Quever's cathedral of sound, a place for the desperate worship of all things analog and devotion to the musicianship of the old world. His new album for Gnomonsong, Can't Go Back, is a marriage of timeless songs, richly textured studio sounds, classic rock/pop hookery, and focused narratives -- all delivered with Quever's warm voice and wonderfully layered melodies.
The first formal Papercuts release, Mockingbird (2004), received a warm critical reception, earning four stars in Great Britain's Uncut. The song "Pan American Blues" was a top-five download of the week on insound.com and the album rode the CMJ Top 200 for months.
Before this, life was different. Raised in a commune in Humbolt County, Quever drifted up and down the West coast, eventually making a home for himself in San Francisco.
The seeds of Papercuts were sown in 2002 when he broke into a vacationing friend's apartment, eight-track in tow, to record piano tracks for Cass Mccombs' Not The Way. Ever since, Quever has kept busy, playing with and recording other friends' bands. He's collaborated with Casiotone For The Painfully Alone, The Skygreen Leopards, as well as Vetiver, and considers working intimately with such contemporary songwriters to be a significant influence.
t’s ironic that Bibio (aka Stephen Wilkinson) first came to the attention of the Mush label via the recommendation of Boards of Canada’s Marcus Eoin, his wonderful 2004 debut ‘Fi’ and this excellent new album manage to work in all the places BOC’s recent ‘Campfire Headphase’ album failed. Taking much the same formula that characterised his debut, Bibio’s music places its focus on those de-tuned interludes and aged educational television soundtracks that have peppered all 3 Boards albums – turning transition pieces and oddities into the focal point of the record. There is a beautifully timeless charm to the dusty guitar lullabies that make up the majority of ‘Hand Cranked’, at times displaced and augmented by found sounds, old cassette recordings, quiet dictaphone loops and even the odd vocal interjection from Wilkinson himself, never failing to evoke a hazy spool of half-formed memories and misplaced nostalgia that were the trademark of those first tantalising moments from Bibio’s artistic Patrons up in Edinburgh. It might be difficult for Wilkinson to stick to this formula for any follow-up material without starting to lose the attention of his audience, though for now ‘Hand Cranked’ serves its purpose wonderfully as an evocative, lilting collection of subliminally life-affirming music for lost souls and emotional vagabonds searching for the haziest musical recollections of childhood.
Hush Arbors' entry in Three Lobed Recordings' Modern Containment series of CDs does have an arresting cover at the least, with an axe-wielding maniac preparing to thwack a winsome folksinger over the head -- a sentiment that is probably more common than anyone realizes, though hopefully not carried out fully, if only for the sake of keeping the coroners from working too hard. Murder and mayhem aside, Landscape of Bone lives up to its title in that all five songs on the disc have the word "bone" somewhere in the title, making this a bit of a party for the Grim Reaper as interpreted through Hush Arbors' mainman Keith Wood's work. Fading in slowly on a loping, gentle jam, keening vocals to the fore as spindly guitar feedback and percussion rumbles fill out the mix, "Bones of a Thousand Suns" starts Landscape on a pleasantly mysterious note, and from there Wood and company create a series of gently bewitching numbers that are all quite lovely, making this as good an introduction to the band as any. "Broken Bones" is somewhere between the Rolling Stones as a country act and Spiritualized as the same without specifically sounding like either, Wood's voice high, lonesome, and wounded, while "Oar of Bone" has a simple but stunning arrangement of vocals with acoustic and electric guitar that's absolutely captivating from the get-go, perhaps the best of its kind since the heyday of Flying Saucer Attack. In comparison to the previous three songs, "Bones by the Sea" is more pleasant than strikingly notable, but it's not bad. Still, it would have been a poor note to end the disc on, so the ten-minute "Nine Bones" steps to the fore, with guests like James Toth (aka Wooden Wand) joining in on another great jam to bookend the disc, including a massive, heavy, and slow feedback break and rampaging full-band conclusion that would make Ash Ra Tempel proud.
Even the title of Black Moth Super Rainbow’s album is coated with positivity and enthusiasm. The song titles further confirm this, and indeed so does the spirit of the music.
There are definitely leanings towards Boards of Canada and Authechre, but Black Moth Super Rainbow create a far more unique, fun and playful sound with a far brighter tone. They’re not afraid to mix modern day electronica and some funky melodies with old-skool hip-hop beats á la opening track Raspberry Dawn or I Am the Alphabet. Start a People is infused with a kind of homemade charm. Indeed on tracks like Seeeds you sense there is a deliberate attempt, fuelled by a thirst for creating a musical paradigm outside the box, to avoid making anything that sounds too polished, or straight down the line.
Start a People is like a whole collage of different pictures, different sounds, bits and pieces of melodies, all underpinned by immense warmth and lovingly glued together by the Black Moths. Count Backwards to Black sounds a little like DJ Shadow taking on the theme tune from a sci-fi TV show, while the beautifully delicate 1 2 3 of Me evokes moments from Air’s Moon Safari. Black Moth Super Rainbow have notched up quite an achievement in making an electronica record that even people who don’t do electronics will love.
The Shop Assistants represented all that was right and good with Scottish rock during the mid-1980s; their music brilliantly fused the gap between the three-chord noise of the Jesus & Mary Chain and the shambling naivetÃ© of bands like the Pastels, generating infectious, sweet-and-sour pop completely lacking in pretense and polish. Will Anything Happen is a superb retrospective combining the group's self-titled 1986 debut LP with tracks from their earlier EPs, and although a little of the Shop Assistants' primitive charms can go a long way, the spirit and sheer exuberence of their music is never less than infectious -- an essential artifact of its times.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
THE NATIONAL LIGHTS is the primary songwriting project of Jacob Thomas Berns. Assisted by the arrangements of Ernest Christian Kiehne Jr. (The Bland Allisons, Sonya Cotton and the Kids of Survival), Jacob Thomas sets out on his full-length debut, The Dead Will Walk, Dear, to forgive the past while compounding its wrongs. Stirred by the fiction of the American Gothic and the questionable sexual morality of the 1980's slasher film, The Dead Will Walk, Dear seeks solace where it is least deserved.
"A Whisper in the Noise is the project of composer West Thordson, incorporating strings, piano, lush-toned electronics, and atmospheric singing. By turns pretty, melancholic, sad and charming, A Whisper in the Noise evokes a lullaby only half remembered, and the half remembered suggests a companion melody that (though unheard) is somehow unspeakably sad." -- written by Steve Albini
As The Bluebird Sings
The Ideal Free Distribution began in 1997 when Eric Griffy, Tony Miller, and Craig Morris decided to commit to 4-track tape some of the primitive ramblings trapped in their heads. With a common love of 60's pop and early psychedelia, these early songs, though often crude and amateurish, had a unique sound and vision that encouraged the three to persevere.
In a few months, the songs became respectable enough to play for others, and good enough to keep the group recording more material. As their maturity as songwriters grew, some of these new songs (about 50/50) were absolutely wonderful. However, since these new recordings were made in the boys' tiny hometown of Benton, Kentucky, they would never see any release beyond that of compilation cassettes passed around to friends and family.
The advantage of this obscurity was that the band was able to learn to cull their weaker songs and focus their efforts on tunes that were worthwhile. The culmination of time and developing skill began to appear around the new millennium. By this time, their songwriting and melodies had become full and mature and, coupled with better recording equipment and know-how, beautiful sounds became commonplace.
Though all three were prolific songwriters at this time, Craig unleashed an incredible barrage of exciting new material in early 2003 that prompted the recording of the most current work. This was the most elaborate production that the three had ever attempted with some songs having 30-40 tracks. Out of shear coincidence, this is about the time that the IFD started to get heard. Robert Schneider of The Apples in Stereo happened upon the IFD and fell in love with the demos. With his help and enthusiasm the sound of the IFD began to spread throughout the psychedelic underground and led to their ultimate signing to Athens, GA's Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records. In order to properly recreate their songs in a live setting the three enlisted friends and loved ones to join in on the music-making. It is truly a family affair.
The album is full of impossibly catchy melodies, bathed in lush beds of guitars, strings, pounding drums, and assertive bass work all coupled with thoughtful and creative production. The self-titled debut will be released January 30th, 2007 on Happy Happy Birthday to Me Records; it was mixed by Robert Schneider of The Apples in Stereo and mastered by Jason Nesmith of Casper and the Cookies.
Monday, February 05, 2007
This is Skateb�rd's (aka Baard L�demel; in English, it's "Skateboard") first full length, released on his own, freshly-launched imprint, Digitalo Enterprises -- with marketing and distribution support from his friends at Kompakt. Skateb�rd is another fascinating member of the remarkable Bergen, Norwegian music scene: the same magical home of Sondre Lerche, Kings Of Convenience, R�yksopp and Annie. This offbeat lad began his adventure in music upon the release of his 2002 debut Skateboarding Was A Crime (in 1989) on the Tellektro imprint. Conjuring a blend of retro-electro, techno, and even instrumental hip-hop, Skateb�rd made a massive mark on the dance community, and also as a member of the Norwegian hip-hop act Side Brok. He has gone on to release a steady string of treasured releases on Keys Of Life/S�hk� and the cult label Sex Tags Mania. On Midnight Magic, Skateb�rd lifts his middle finger to the standard dance music formula and creates one of this year's most engaging and utterly satisfying full lengths. Midnight Magic indiscriminately moves genre to genre from each song in the most comforting of ways. Craftily-created haunting synths and ethereal melodies harken to the romance of '80s pop, however Skateb�rd conjures a musical matrimony of the last 30 years of electronic music history and makes songs that are shaped for our time -- right NOW.
When Shoulder Voices was released in 1993, many people were interested in hearing Rollerskate Skinny's music, because band member Jimi Shields is the brother of My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields. Others were drawn to the vocals of Ken Griffin, whose voice sounds more than a bit like Echo & the Bunnymen's Ian McCulloch. What nobody probably predicted is the ragged, pop glories of Shoulder Voices, which sees Rollerskate Skinny penning and producing some of the most original music of the early '90s. While the band's sophomore release Horsedrawn Wishes and Ken Griffin's album as Kid Silver, Dead City Sunbeams, would better focus the sound first heard on Shoulder Voices, it's an amazing debut album. What might pass as another band's best-of collection is simply Rollerskate Skinny making its genius start. "Violence to Violence" is a melodic, hook-heavy song that sounds like Killing Joke doing an Echo & the Bunnymen cover; brutal guitars and dark lyrics seem radically out of tune with the sweet pop elements of the song. It's a contrast that the band turns to frequently. "Lunasa" sounds like Heaven Up Here-era Echo & the Bunnymen as performed at a carnival sideshow. "Bring on Stigmata" is joyous ride, where pop vocals float effortlessly over all sorts of pace changes, chanting, and stunning harmonies. Shoulder Voices is undoubtedly a lost classic from the 1990s, to be filed to the left of one's My Bloody Valentine and Killing Joke albums or maybe just lost somewhere amid one's Echo & the Bunnymen collection. No matter where it's filed, it's a rewarding, challenging listen.
Sunday, February 04, 2007
Through a particularly masterful slight of hand, the beloved rabble-rousers in Xiu Xiu have somehow convinced most of the world that theirs is a vision chiefly of bombast--of over-driven drum patches, caterwaul, and open-wristed scare tactics. The truth of the matter, of course, is that the bombast is really only half of the story. And what makes Xiu Xiu so special isn't Jamie Stewart's sonic sadism so much as his subtlety--an obsessive attention to every detail buried in his band's overwhelming squall.
The fifth artist commissioned in States Rights Records and Slender Means Society's Pregnancy Series, Stewart enlisted masterful manipulators of ethereal noise Grouper (Portland's Liz Harris) in a collaboration exploring both artists' subtle sides. The resulting EP is Creepshow--an ambient exploration into the power of silence and restraint. Sharing a childhood trauma at the hands of a certain popular horror film from the 1970s, Xiu vs. Gru took this as a mutual launchpad to delve into the darker corners of quiet. The results are breathtaking.
Saturday, February 03, 2007
Songwriter Matthew Thomas Dillon AKA Windmill, has been teasing us lately with video teasers for his debut album Pudding City Racing Lights.
The album was recorded during 2006 with a number of musicians that includes members of The Earlies' live band and Ian Smith formerly of Alfie, as well as co-producer Tom Knott. Of the twelve tracks featured, Tokyo Moon previously surfaced as a limited 7" last year on the Static Caravan label.
Speaking about his music, Windmill says: "I used to make demos in my bedroom, my bed covered in keyboards. I would imagine what kind of record I would be able to make with an acoustic piano, real strings, real drums and a studio...and earlier this year I got to do it."
Drawing comparisons to numerous US acts like Built To Spill, Guided By Voices and Mercury Rev, Windmill will release Puddle City Racing Lights on March 12th via Melodic.
01. Tokyo Moon
02. Boarding Lounges
03. Flourescent Lights
05. Plastic Pre-Flight Seats
06. The Planning Stopped
08. Fashion House
09. Plasticine Plugs
10. Tilting Trains
12. Replace Me