Tuesday, June 30, 2009
The 6ths are a side project of the Magnetic Fields' Stephin Merritt, who produced and wrote all of the material on 1995's Wasps' Nest, as well as playing much of the music. He only sang one of the tracks, however, giving all of the remaining lead vocal slots to alternative rock faves like Barbara Manning, Dean Wareham (Luna), Georgia Hubley (Yo La Tengo), Chris Knox, Lou Barlow, Robert Scott (the Bats), Chris Knox, and Mary Timony (Helium). Brighter and poppier than his contemporaneous efforts with Magnetic Fields, it demonstrated (intentionally or inadvertently) that his principal talents are as a producer and composer, rather than a performer.
Amazing new album of krautrock-inspired beauty!
Subway II, the debut album by Subway on Soul Jazz Records, is a startling cosmic marriage of influences – German electronic rock music from the 1970s (Cluster, Kraftwerk, Neu, Harmonia, Ash Ra Tempel), 80s Detroit science fiction techno (Carl Craig, Juan Atkins, Jeff Mills) and a hint of Italian and European disco (Danielle Baldelli meets Cerrone, Space, Moroder and Jean Michel Jarre).
Subway are Michael Kirkman and Alan James and have been releasing music since 2000. Subway II was recorded at home in East London using a plethora of analog equipment and techniques that enabled them to create sound reflecting cityscapes such as Berlin, Dussseldorf, Detroit and Paris whilst at the same time creating a contemporary musical commentary of London in 2009.
This album is a cosmic progression of post-dance music, focused more on meditative thought and space than one made for the dancefloor, yet still encompassing the rhythm and constant beat at the heart.
Their most recent appearance is on Soul Jazz Records Singles 2008-9 alongside Kode9, Digital Mystikz, Tetine, Secondo, Ramadanman and other forward thinking electronic pioneers.
With three previous sell-out singles on Soul Jazz Records (Simplex, Satellites and 4410), an album ‘Empty Head’ (released in 2005) as well as a string of one-off projects, the group are currently name-checked by everyone from Hot Chip to DFA, Prinz Thomas to Carl Craig, with good reason.
‘Subway II’ is a fitting conceptual statement of their current sound. Cosmic, post-dance, organic, meditative and hypnotic.
Monday, June 29, 2009
Gnaw present their debut album This Face, viciously assaulting listeners with their unique brew of ultra-depressive, scathing, slug-paced extreme metal.
Formed in 2006 by Alan Dubin (ex-Khanate, OLD) along with Jamie Sykes (ex-Burning Witch, Thorr's Hammer, Atavist), Carter Thornton (Enos Slaughter), Jun Mizumachi (ex-Ike Yard: 80's NYC industrial legends) and Brian Beatrice (Emmy Award winning sound design/mix wizard),
Gnaw's debut album This Face is the sonic culmination of over a year of sound experimentation. It's a genre-destroying journey that almost defies description. Sykes is a percussive madman blasting out anything from tribal beats to ultra slow tom killings. Mizumachi is a sound designer for film and television and is a master of electronics including synth, factory noise, metal bashing and other craziness. Beatrice is also a sound designer and mixer for film and television and was responsible for mixing This Face, as well as experimenting and adding additional sounds of torture. Thornton is a crafty musician who actually makes his own instruments, contributing guitar, bass, piano and some unnamed homemade "things" to the album. Dubin rounds out the group with his gut-wrenching vocals, noise and arrangements. Screaming, singing, whispers and chants can be heard throughout This Face. Dubin's lyrics will mentally rape you.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Here is a nice little Summer mix. Go to the beach or pool and listen to this.
1. Milky Globe/Sorcerer - Soft Sea
2. Cluster- Stenthin
3. Desire- Dans Mes Reves
4. Royksopp- Silver Cruiser
5. Lee Fields & The Expressions- Do you Love Me(Like You Say You Do)
6. Odawas- Harmless Lover's Discourse
7. Crocodiles- Summer of Hate
8. Now - Last
9. The Halo Benders - Turn It My Way
10. Jubilee Singers- Gonna Like It
11. Dino Felipe - Stuck On You
12. Girls - God Damned
13. White Denim - Regina Holding Hands
14. Jane - Way To Paradise
15. Le Corbeau - Hibou
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Ambitious, epic and grand in scale, In The Country´s third album ”Whiteout” qualifies to be called their magnum opus. Most of the music was performed and written as a thank you, as is the tradition, after leader Morten Qvenild was awarded Kongsberg Jazzfestival´s prestigious Musician Award. Other receivers have included notables such as Nils Petter Molvær, Bugge Wesseltoft and Sidsel Endresen. Qvenild is already established as a writer with a strong signature, original and melodic with elements from many genres of music. His playing is rich in detail and dynamics but never dominant, and together with bassist Roger Arntzen and drummer Pål Hausken´s sensitive and inventive contributions we are in for a treat when it comes to trio interplay. These eight compositions are all between seven and twelve minutes and are given time to develop, much like the best exploratory jazz and progressive rock music. Another triumph from the band whose previous effort was dubbed ”one of the finest and most arresting albums to come out of Europe this year” by Downbeat.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Don't Tell Me Now sees Calvin Johnson's baritone and Doug Martsch's high-pitched whine working with and against each other to catchy effect. Lyrically obtuse, with subject matter praising draft dodgers as heroes and a supremely catchy theme song about themselves, the Halo Benders create a guitar-heavy indie poptopia throughout the album. Martsch might not attack his guitar in as epic a fashion as he does with Built to Spill, but his trademark sound is on display throughout. Built to Spill fans might consider this a Built to Spill album as recorded by Martsch at a circus. If that metaphor holds up, Johnson becomes the ringleader, singing about all sorts of mundane things and randomly spouting clichés. Martsch in turn becomes the more serious guitar god and a more realistic conscience. The album might seem scatterbrained, but the mix of vocal styles makes for charming harmonies amid mostly enjoyable hooks. God Don't Make No Junk might be a little more charming and The Rebel's Not In might be better produced and more melodic, but Don't Tell Me Now has more than a few diamonds in its rough. It might be smart to note that each album contains a contraction in its title, as the fractured nature of the music suggests a similar fusing of two styles: Johnson's arch wit with Martsch's brave sonic force and heartfelt emotion. Don't Tell Me Now isn't a great rock & roll album, but it's as fun to listen to as it must have been to record.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
New limited edition solo album from Steve Hauschildt, dedicated to the Isley Brothers (?!)Critique of the Beautiful.. This is one of Steve’s most straightforwardly beautiful keyboard sets, with the kind of haunting, melancholy melodies of early Asmus Tietchens given treatments of rolling fuzz and choirs of heavenly synth. Somewhere between the devotional electronics of early Kraut thinkers like Harmonia, Cluster and Klaus Schulze and the technicolour drone work of UK outfits like Sunroof and Ashtray Navigations, this is a stunning set and comes with full-colour sleeve art by Steve.
Although this eponymous album may be the debut from occasional New Yorker Fred Thomas, he's far from a newcomer to the scene. Rather he has spent most of his life in search of the perfect pop music, first as the frontman/mastermind of Saturday Looks Good To Me and now under his oddly monikered solo project. Apparently the name comes from European tours where the sign 'City Center' was such a regular (and reliable) sight, but gives few clues to the unknown pleasures held within Fred's music.
Taking cues from the skewed pop music of Arthur Russell on one side and Brian Wilson by way of Panda Bear on the other, Fred has channelled an outsider pop masterwork. Thick waves of decomposing electronics and processed instruments (is it gamelan? Is it something else altogether?) crash and fizz beneath Fred's singular chanting vocals. There's a sense that someone, somewhere might be singing along to these songs, but hearing them on mainstream radio might be pushing it a little too far. Sandwiched in-between three-minute pop marvels such as opener 'Killer Whale' and the stand-out 'Summer School' are extended ambient experimentations, but unlike the occasionally academic workouts you might expect from Type these feel organic and distinctly home-brewed.
There is something magical about Fred Thomas's distinct and original musical creations, something that grabs you and won't let go. We're not entirely certain what that is but we're sure if you give City Center a try you'll feel exactly the same as we do. Pop music has rarely sounded so warm or quite so open hearted...
Even though Waylon Jennings virtually disowned this album as a hoodwink job by RCA brass and some of these tracks were unfinished and others mere demos, Ladies Love Outlaws nonetheless has some very fine moments, including Jennings' version of "Delta Dawn," a fine emotionally wrought read of Hoyt Axton's "Never Been to Spain" (which Jennings claimed was never intended for release), and Mickey Newbury's "Frisco Depot" (one of the few tracks the singer considered complete). In addition, there's Ralph Mooney's (who plays pedal steel in this band) classic honky tonk anthem "Crazy Arms" and one of the reclusive Lee Clayton's best songs in the title track. Listeners also get a solid, moving duet version of "Under Your Spell Again," with Jessi Colter. These performances offer Jennings in deeply expressive terrain as a vocalist. He wrings emotion from songs rather than merely projecting them into a microphone, and his band, which includes bassist Norbert Putnam and drummer Kenny Butrey as well as guitarist Dave Kirby and pianist Hargus Robbins, turns the volume up a point or two and lends a slippery greasy hand to the entire proceeding. Ladies Love Outlaws is not a perfect Waylon album, but it's worth owning for the fact that while Jennings may have disliked the finished result, he proves to be no judge of his own work. In essence, this is the outlaw primer, and the beginning of the opening of the field.
As half of Sweden's foremost Balearic revivalists Studio, Dan Lissvik's already well known for poolside dance music that's more horizontally than vertically designed. But where Yearbook 1 and this year's remix collection Yearbook 2 found shape around the duo's bouncy, dub-infected rhythms, Lissvik's debut solo album 7 Trx + Intermission is, fittingly, more a one-man quest: a work intent on musically recreating a sense of beatific solitude.
Without vocals and with track numbers over titles, Lissvik foregoes Studio's emphasis on trance-clatter and repetition. In their place are rippling Factory Records guitars, the barest rhythms and a decidedly Eastern-influenced spiritualism, making for an album that nurtures the spare and serene. He draws shapes and symbols in the sand out of lean, serpentine guitars, each open to the listener's angle of sight. Without partner Rasmus Hägg's synth shading, Lissvik's imagery is fit more for the desert than the beach, designed around great clean spaces without people or moving things to distract, just sound and silence in an odd tandem.
Despite the emphasis on his ruminative side though, Lissvik hasn't completely neglected his band's taste for big-eyed joy. The album's longest excursion, "A3," shifts from boat holiday guitars into a breezy freeway spin atop hand drums and brawny bass, while "A4" makes easy Saturday night disco out of electronic piano and jaunty wood-cowbell rhythms, a kind of polyester anthem as cheap and delightfully fruitful as its opening chords suggest. "B2" best resembles Studio's knack for the hypnotic strut though; Lissvik filters quiet Eastern tones into a wanderer's dance jam, alternating the dim and contemplative with a more open-collared bass heavy approach.
But it's clear that Lissvik's relying on open-vista psychedelia to carry the mood for most of 7 Trx + Intermission. "A1" turns a Spanish guitar intro into a curtain parting for a Sergio Leone film—one of the tense train depot scenes before all hell breaks loose—while "A2" is dressed in enough vague mysticism and candle-lit ambience for an early Doors track. "B1" makes for a kind of mystical Bazaar interlude, swapping out Villalobos' ethnic playgrounding for more solitary spoils. Blending tropical bird noises and what sound like sampled hand-drum patterns into a calm morning alarm that might gently coax you from your sleep, it's "B3" that generates quite a spell for such short length.
For a member of a band that's always relied so heavily on the intoxication of repetition, this assured short-form design sometimes feels like a welcome new direction. After all: Yearbook 3 is probably still at least a year away. While we wait, Lissvik's solo debut marks not so much a holding pattern as a distraction well worth our winter attention on its own.
Monday, June 08, 2009
Biography by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Although they weren't as boldly innovative as the Beatles or as popular as the Rolling Stones or the Who, the Kinks were one of the most influential bands of the British Invasion. Like most bands of their era, the Kinks began as an R&B/blues outfit. Within four years, the band had become the most staunchly English of all their contemporaries, drawing heavily from British music hall and traditional pop, as well as incorporating elements of country, folk, and blues.
Throughout their long, varied career, the core of the Kinks remained Ray (born June 21, 1944) and Dave Davies (born February 3, 1947), who were born and raised in Muswell Hill, London. In their teens, the brothers began playing skiffle and rock & roll. Soon, the brothers recruited a schoolmate of Ray's, Peter Quaife, to play with them; like the Davies brothers, Quaife played guitar, but he switched to bass. By the summer of 1963, the group had decided to call itself the Ravens and had recruited a new drummer, Mickey Willet. Eventually, their demo tape reached Shel Talmy, an American record producer who was under contract to Pye Records. Talmy helped the band land a contract with Pye in 1964. Before signing to the label, the Ravens replaced drummer Willet with Mick Avory.
The Ravens recorded their debut single, a cover of Little Richard's "Long Tall Sally," in January 1964. Before the single was released, the group changed their name to the Kinks. "Long Tall Sally" was released in February of 1964 and it failed to chart, as did their second single, "You Still Want Me." The band's third single, "You Really Got Me," was much noisier and dynamic, featuring a savage, fuzz-toned two-chord riff and a frenzied solo from Dave Davies. Not only was the final version the blueprint for the Kinks' early sound, but scores of groups used the heavy, power chords as a foundation. "You Really Got Me" reached number one within a month of its release; released on Reprise in the U.S., the single climbed into the Top Ten. "All Day and All of the Night," the group's fourth single, was released late in 1964 and it rose all the way to number two; in America, it hit number seven. During this time, the band also produced two full-length albums and several EPs.
Not only was the group recording at a breakneck pace, they were touring relentlessly, as well, which caused much tension within the band. At the conclusion of their summer 1965 American tour, the Kinks were banned from re-entering the United States by the American government for unspecified reasons. For four years, the Kinks were prohibited from returning to the U.S., which not only meant that the group was deprived of the world's largest music market, but that they were effectively cut off from the musical and social upheavals of the late '60s. Consequently, Ray Davies' songwriting grew more introspective and nostalgic, relying more on overtly English musical influences such as music hall, country, and English folk, than the rest of his British contemporaries. The Kinks' next album, The Kinks Kontroversy, demonstrated the progression in Davies' songwriting. "Sunny Afternoon" was one of Davies' wry social satires and the song was the biggest hit of the summer of 1966 in the U.K., reaching number one. "Sunny Afternoon" was a teaser for the band's great leap forward, Face to Face, a record that featured a vast array of musical styles. In May of 1967, they returned with "Waterloo Sunset," a ballad that reached number two in the U.K. in the spring of 1967. Released in the fall of 1967, Something Else continued the progressions of Face to Face. Despite the Kinks' musical growth, their chart performance was beginning to stagnate. Following the lackluster performance of Something Else, the Kinks rushed out a new single, "Autumn Almanac," which became another big U.K. hit for the band. Released in the spring of 1968, the Kinks' "Wonderboy" was the band's first single not to crack the Top Ten since "You Really Got Me." They recovered somewhat with "Days," but the band's commercial decline was evident by the lack of success of The Village Green Preservation Society.
Released in the fall of 1968, Village Green Preservation Society was the culmination of Ray Davies' increasingly nostalgic tendencies. While the album was unsuccessful, it was well received by critics, particularly in the U.S.
Peter Quaife soon grew tired of the band's lack of success, and he left the band by the end of the year, being replaced by John Dalton. In early 1969, the American ban upon the Kinks was lifted, leaving the band free to tour the U.S. for the first time in four years. Before they began the tour, the Kinks released Arthur (or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire). Like its two predecessors, Arthur contained distinctly British lyrical and musical themes, but it was a modest success. As they were recording the follow-up to Arthur, the Kinks expanded their lineup to include keyboardist John Gosling. The first appearance of Gosling on a Kinks record was "Lola." Featuring a harder rock foundation than their last few singles, "Lola" was a Top Ten hit in both the U.K. and the U.S. Released in the fall of 1970, Lola Versus Powerman and the Money-Go-Round, Part One was their most successful record since the mid-'60s in both the U.S. and U.K., helping the band become concert favorites in the U.S.
The band's contract with Pye/Reprise expired in early 1971, leaving the Kinks free to pursue a new record contract. By the end of 1971, the Kinks had secured a five-album deal with RCA Records, which brought them a million dollar advance. Released in late 1971, Muswell Hillbillies, the group's first album for RCA, marked a return to the nostalgia of the Kinks' late-'60s albums, only with more pronounced country and music hall influences. The album failed to be the commercial blockbuster RCA had hoped for. A few months after the release of Muswell Hillbillies, Reprise released a double-album compilation called The Kink Kronikles, which outsold their RCA debut. Everybody's in Showbiz (1973), a double-record set consisting of one album of studio tracks and another of live material, was a disappointment in the U.K., although the album was more successful in the U.S.
In 1973, Ray Davies composed a full-blown rock opera called Preservation. When the first installment of the opera finally appeared in late 1973, it was harshly criticized and given a cold reception from the public. Act 2 appeared in the summer of 1974; the sequel received worse treatment than its predecessor. Davies began another musical, Starmaker, for the BBC; the project eventually metamorphosed into Soap Opera, which was released in the spring of 1975. Despite poor reviews, Soap Opera was a more commercially successful record than its predecessor. In 1976, the Kinks recorded Davies' third straight rock opera, Schoolboys in Disgrace, which rocked harder than any album they released on RCA.
During 1976, the Kinks left RCA and signed with Arista Records. On Arista, the band refashioned themselves as a hard rock band. Bassist John Dalton left the group near the completion of their debut Arista album; he was replaced by Andy Pyle. Sleepwalker, the Kinks' first album for Arista, became a major hit in the U.S. As the band was completing the follow-up to Sleepwalker, Pyle left the group and was replaced by the returning Dalton. Misfits, the band's second Arista album, was also a U.S. success. After a British tour, Dalton left the band again, along with keyboardist John Gosling; bassist Jim Rodford and keyboardist Gordon Edwards filled the vacancies. Soon, the band was playing arenas in the United States. Even though punk rockers like the Jam and the Pretenders were covering Kinks songs in the late '70s, the group was becoming more blatantly commercial with each release, culminating in the heavy rock of Low Budget (1979), which became the group's biggest American success, peaking at number 11. The Kinks' next album, Give the People What They Want, appeared in late 1981; the record peaked at number 15 and went gold. For most of 1982, the band was on tour. In spring of 1983, "Come Dancing" became the group's biggest American hit since "Tired of Waiting for You," thanks to the video's repeated exposure on MTV; in the U.S., the song peaked at number six, in the U.K. it climbed to number 12. State of Confusion followed the release of "Come Dancing," and it was another success, peaking at number 12 in the U.S. For the remainder of 1983, Ray Davies worked on a film project, Return to Waterloo, which caused considerable tension between himself and his brother. Instead of breaking up, the Kinks merely reshuffled their lineup, but there was a major casualty: Mick Avory, the band's drummer for 20 years, was fired and replaced by Bob Henrit. As Ray finished post-production duties on Return to Waterloo, he wrote the next Kinks album, Word of Mouth. Released in late 1984, the album was similar in tone to the last few Kinks records, but it was a commercial disappointment and began a period of decline for the band; they never released another record that cracked the Top 40.
Word of Mouth was the last album they would record for Arista Records. In early 1986, the band signed with MCA Records in the U.S., London in the U.K. Think Visual, their first album for their new label, was released in late 1986. It was a mild success but there were no hit singles from the record. The following year, the Kinks released another live album, appropriately titled The Road, which spent a brief time on the charts. Two years later, the Kinks released their last studio record for MCA, UK Jive. During 1989, keyboardist Ian Gibbons left the band. The Kinks were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, but the induction did not help revive their career. In 1991, a compilation of their MCA records, Lost & Found (1986-1989), appeared, signalling that their contract with the label had expired. Later in the year, the band signed with Columbia Records and released an EP called Did Ya, which didn't chart. The Kinks' first album for Columbia, Phobia, arrived in 1993 to fair reviews but poor sales. By this time, only Ray and Dave Davies remained from the original lineup. In 1994, the band was dropped from Columbia Records, leaving the group to release the live To the Bone on an independent label in the U.K.; the band was left without a record label in the U.S.
Despite a lack of commercial success, the band's public profile began to rise in 1995, as the group was hailed as an influence on several of the most popular British bands of the decade, including Blur and Oasis. Ray Davies was soon on popular television shows again, acting as these band's godfather and promoting his autobiography, X-Ray, which was published in early 1995 in the U.K. Dave Davies' autobiography, Kink, was published in the spring of 1996.
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
Deniece Williams spent the first half of the '70s establishing herself as a background vocalist for an impressive line of artists, including Stevie Wonder, Minnie Riperton, Roberta Flack, and Esther Phillips. Though she'd continue to do session work throughout her career, she also became accomplished as a solo artist. Unfortunately, a lot of people think she came out of nowhere for 1984's "Let's Hear It for the Boy," a number one pop hit, but she was making excellent albums as early as 1976. The songs that would eventually make up her debut, This Is Niecy, were sent to Earth, Wind & Fire. Williams didn't intend to make her own album and thought these songs would be a good fit for Philip Bailey. Instead, she got to record them with most of EW&F, including Maurice White and Charles Stepney as producers, Verdine White on bass, Freddie White on drums, those glorious horns, and several other associates of the group. Three of the album's seven songs were released as singles, and they're all stunners, each with its own mood and style (fittingly, one peaked on the disco chart, one hit the Top 30 of the pop chart, and one scraped the black singles chart). The best of the lot is "Free," a subtle but powerful sparkler that expressed Williams' desire to break from the more traditional lifestyle that had been mapped out for her. Out of everything she recorded, this low-key song demonstrates most how her time with Riperton and Syreeta rubbed off on her, showing how a bedroom whisper can be just as affecting as an in-the-red wail. Also containing strong album cuts, This Is Niecy is a great complement to Earth, Wind & Fire's Spirit, released the same year -- not only for its overlapping personnel, but also for its greatness.