Monday, October 29, 2007

Lucky Pierre

Arab Strap followers anxious to listen in on more of Aidan Moffat's tales of infidelity, drunkenness, and other various forms of sloppy debauchery will hear nothing of the sort in Hypnogogia, his solo album credited to Lucky Pierre. Throughout, Moffat utilizes the style of leisurely paced, bass-heavy hip-hop beats heard in many an Arab Strap song and casts a somewhat limited range of moods -- sadness to eeriness to outright terror -- with the use of sighing cellos, twinkling melodies, and plaintive pianos. It's not all thumping rhythms, however; "Ghost One" and "Ghost Two," two of the album's most pensive and exceptional moments, are beatless, with echoed piano and unsettling drones wafting throughout. "Nurse Flamingo" sticks out like a sore thumb, but somehow manages to fit the flow of the album, swiping its chiming melody and tropical nuances from easy listening albums. Despite the album's consistency, nothing tops the opening "Angels on Your Body," a dramatic track with spectacular use of machine claps and an elegy of strings so alluringly mournful you'll want to swim in it. Despite the absence of Moffat's mate, Malcolm Middleton (the man usually credited in the duo's liner notes as "most things musical"), and despite the absence of Moffat's slurred miserablisms, Hypnogogia could've been released as a proper Arab Strap album without blemishing the reputation the name carries. More importantly, Hypnogogia shows that Moffat is adept at conveying his feelings without the use of words.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Mary Onettes

Review by Margaret Reges, All Music Guide
Swedish indie acts are notorious imitators, and The Mary Onettes are no exception. Their eponymous debut sounds eerily familiar -- there's the synthiness and jumpy new wave basslines of Echo & the Bunnymen ("Void" is a good example) and just a touch of jangly R.E.M. guitar work ("Pleasure Songs"). In this respect, the Mary Onettes could be lumped in with other Scandinavian shoegaze worshippers, and those familiar with Swedish indie pop will no doubt reach for comparisons to bands like Lane and Celestial. All of this sounds great on paper, and to be honest the album itself sounds pretty darn good at first. "Pleasure Songs" does a great job of blending their jangly alt-rockiness with their shoegaziness, and for all its familiarity it sounds quite fresh. Sadly, the remainder of the album relies on nondescript, by-the-book synth-pop fare, and the album suffers as a result. The Mary Onettes are literally consumed by their influences, and there's little to distinguish them from the Bunnymen. Now, relying on an array of tried-and-true shoegaze clichés does not a bad record make, and the Mary Onettes manage to do justice to their synthy trappings. This album is more than merely listenable; to be perfectly honest, it's essentially a technically flawless debut. The songs are catchy, the atmosphere is pleasantly foggy, and Philip Ekström is a subtle and versatile vocalist to boot. But the band leans too heavily on its influences, and when it comes right down to it there's very little difference between the Mary Onettes and Echo & the Bunnymen. So why not just cut out the middleman and listen to the real thing? The Mary Onettes, barricaded as they are in their influences, offer little reason not to. Not on this release, at any rate.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Mountain of One

A Mountain of One's Collected Works is like a drugged out fleetwood mac, pink floyd's meddle, the full blown 70's santana, arthur russell, laurel canyon, air's moon safari, jj cale, talk talk, madchester, the 1st beta band ep, the verve's northern soul. that's the only way of describing the step up that amo1 have taken with this set. a true magical spell, and one that is going to soundtrack many memories for a long, long time.thanks Rough Trade!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Wooden Shjips

Wooden Shjips, a quartet from San Francisco heavily influenced by the experimentalism of psychedelia, classical minimalism, and garage rock excess, started as an experiment in rhythmic primitivism and group improvisation. The current roster brings a more structured rock approach to its performances, utilizing a traditional lineup of drums (Omar Ahsanuddin), bass (Dusty Jermier), organ (Nash Whalen), guitar (Erik "Ripley" Johnson), and vocals.

The Cave Singers

Here is the mystery of Seattle’s Cave Singers: They never listened to much folk music, they never intended to play folk music, and more importantly, their guitarist never picked up the instrument until recently. Yet, this strange trio is writing and performing some of the most hypnotizing folk music we have today.

One listen to Invitation Songs, however, and you’re ready to call bullshit on them. It sounds like an updated version of the Anthology of American Folk Music. Not the graduate-student, learned interpretations of folk music circa 1962, but folk music approached by way of punk rock. It's sparse, melodic, creepy, and alluring, like the widow mourning graveside in Johnny Cash’s “Long Black Veil”. Guitarist Derek Fudesco's bottom-end acoustic work sounds like Mississippi John Hurt's soft, rolling finger plucks. Singer Pete Quirk's appealingly nasal voice simultaneously echoes Arlo Guthrie and a mosquito's buzz. And drummer Marty Lund plays like he's slapping a newspaper on a kitchen table.

Though Quirk spent time in Seattle post-punk group Hint Hint, Lund in Cobra High, and Fudesco as bassist for Pretty Girls Make Graves and the legendary Murder City Devils, maybe they’ve been folk artists all along and we just haven’t been open to the idea.

The band maintains that they never made a conscious effort to play a certain 'style' of music, and that, besides the odd Dylan record, their favorite bands are still the Replacements, the Pixies, Fleetwood Mac. With that in mind, I do believe it was Big Bill Broonzy who quipped: “All music is folk music.”

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


Their debut rides off the release of the single, "2080/Sunrise" that garnered stacks of nice press quotes. The album is a mesmerizing journey, and quite overwhelming for a premiere release. Live, this group brings out the boogie, radiating heat waves and rhythms. Songs once laid to tape are constantly restructured and reworked, show to show, for a new experience.

White Rainbow

After years of outer space exploration in Yume Bitsu and Surface of Eceyon, as well as stints as a hired gun for a multitude of artists including Dirty Projectors, Jackie-O Motherfucker and Devendra Banhart, Adam Forkner decided to turn his focus inward and began to record solo material. And focus he did, working at a dizzying pace that culminated in the production of the 5CD/1DVD White Rainbow Box (2006 Marriage Records). The remarkable thing about that album was not that it was 4.5 hours long, but that the overwhelming majority of it was of extraordinary quality and not mere filler.

With the release of ...Eternal Now, White Rainbow has surpassed typical solo project territory and is now a virtual elemental force. At a somewhat brief 71 minutes, his kranky debut pulses and flows with mantric chants, clattering percussions, sighing sustains and guitar leads unashamed of their scorching transcendence. He breathes new life into archaic sub-genres such as progrock, new age, and hippie folk incantations, while never stooping to the negative aspects of any of them, and at the same time remaining a step ahead of the technologically crippled and virtuosuo-less looper pedal scene. Prism of Eternal Now leaves behind the bounds of gravity for a free floating meditational headtrip of inner space exploration.