Tuesday, May 26, 2009

There Goes the Neighborhood

Local band Circa Vitae were kind enough to give me their self-titled EP and asked for a review. Much love and respect 541!

The EP is full with electronic interludes like “Do Gees See Gods” and “Trace Mammoth (Holy Pachyderm),” while holding form on tracks “Stranger” and “Infinity is 8 on it’s Side.” “Smile” recalls some Rooney/northern-Cali sentiments, but most of the EP sounds more like the Flaming Lips.

The term “Indie Rock” has lost it’s footing in an ever growing pool. The Cira Vitea EP is one of the best things going on in Eugene and part of the watershed. This is for fans of The Evangelicals, Super Furry Animals, and Boards of Canada.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Elephant Band 2.

I have long held that in the end, Mastodon is Brann Dailor’s band. He is the original reason that I started listening to these dudes from Atlanta, and while he has toned down his role more than ever, this time it’s his songwriting that stands out. Like Mountain before, thematic inspiration is coming from the band, instead of playing the middle man like they did on Leviathan (Moby Dick). The drama of Brent getting in a fight/coma, an intensified touring schedule and media attention, and hometown lives left behind; provide the lyrics on Skye with a sense of corrosive tension and loss.

For the first time Mastodon was damaged, so a catharsis is understandable. There was even some conversation about the death of Brann’s sister? Skye, being an influence for the album, but I can’t really speak on that. One thing I did notice, that no one seems to be talking about, are the parallels between the albums story line and the one obvious missing element. Looking at their catalogue I think to myself; Remission “Elephant Man,” Leviathan “Joseph Merrick,” Blood Mountain "Pendoulous Skin"; all instrumental songs dedicated to the historical figure. When I first saw the track listing I was surprised to find the familiar piece missing and heard that it would be about Rasputin. The Russian mystic turned out to be a peripheral influence, while astral travel as liberation from physical confinement (pause) is the over-arching message...any connection to Merrick, who knows?

I would have liked a little more kick, or even switching "Quintessence" with "Ghost of Karelia" in terms of album placement, but I hope further listening will prove me wrong. I did catch them on Dave Letterman show, one honest strike against the performance quality due to staging compromises, but the off-key vocals are another big strike. While touring Troy will have to get more comfortable live if he wants to due the album justice, and the same goes for Brent. I will have see Mastodon live and let them prove me wrong. I’m loyal like that.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Elephant Band 1.

I have been waiting on Crack the Skye for about a year. What I mean by that is that I have been on a non-stop rescue effort to see why Mastodon “new album buzz” seemed overdue by the end of 07’. Out of respect, and what little journalistic integrity I might have, I need to say and have been a devout follower of these guys since 04’.

Out of all their influences Skye reminds me a lot of Neurosis. While this album sounds nothing like Through Silver in Blood or Times of Grace, they are all seamless in execution. In other words it's not made out of singles, a fear that I held firmly with the addition of new producer Brenden O’Brien. Thankfully, Mastodon and the new hot-shot producer hone their conceptual texture (wind/ethereal) with great diligence. The band had the fortunate chance to record the whole album, and then smooth out the details during the Mayhem summer tour. I have to admit that the production move from Matt Bayles to O’Brien was a positive one in the end. While the album does sound more compressed than previous works it fits like a glove. This album slowly churns and crafts its weight, which explains the Neurosis comparison, while keeping all the hallmark tones and superlatives that Mastodon has garnered over the years. The band also intends to play Skye in its entirety live, which adds to my out of many one assertion.

The biggest individual improvements are Bill/Brent's dueling guitar work, and Troy’s sung vocals. The two axemen have always been part techni-color(Bill) and part southern-southern(Brent), both perfectly showcased on "Divinations." Songs like “Oblivion” and “The Czar” provide Brent with more then enough space to solo and he doesn’t miss the opportunity to tear it up. The lead guitarist was also was the first member take a swing a sung vocals on Leviathan, a risk that paid huge dividends. Since then, Brann has been used sparingly while Troy started singing full time. This album would have been a huge mistake if Troy didn't improve his vocal skills, luckily it ended up being the single greatest improvement.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Don’t Play the Joker

The new MF Doom, now just DOOM, Born like this is a verbal tongue-lashing bent on squashing limp MC’s. While J Dilla and Jake One highlight production on the album, it can easily be said this is an emcee’s album.

Anyone who has come across a MF/DOOM album is familiar with the lengthy sample interludes, celebrity guests like Danger Mouse and Wu-Tang members, but recognize his work has always about the pen. 2Pac is a perfect example of an emcee who never really had transcendent production values on his albums, but will always be remembered for his lyrics, like them or not. As a lyricist, DOOM is coming from a totally different voice and perspective but both respect the discipline at the same level.

The tragedy is that in 2009 DOOM doesn’t have the same context as the 2Pac/golden era of hip-hop. His audience escapes to the basement while too many up and comers flock to the attic shelf for radio play and a quick dollar. On tracks like “Ballskin” and “Batty boyz” he shaves all sheep naked, and parodies the auto-tune scene on “Supervillian.” The album ends with “Bumpy message” summing it all up.

As much as I love J Dilla, see“Lightworks,” and Jake One; they aren’t Born like this. That slap across your face...is a man called DOOM. Check this out.