Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Not Letting Go

NO. I will not fall prey to best-of-year-list grovelling. You know, the kind of self serving dribble that, in a musical context, articulates nothing about the importance and patience for dialectic conversation, and has everything to do with bragging about how deft everyone else is to your sense of authority. INSTEAD. Owen Pallet. Heartland.

Since it's release in January, few albums come off as dead-on-target. It was conceived as a concept album, following the life of a fictional character named Lewis, which is cool and all that, but I find this precursor a bit misleading. What I mean by this is that great concept albums do not require a consummate back-story. Even if you never read the liner-notes, you could still understand where Heartland is coming from, because you soon realize it's welling over with vision and intention.

The arrangements here are absolutely stunning. Pallet is a classically trained musician and composer so it's not surprising to find his work constructed with this kind of authority and grace. It also can't hurt to have the full fledged power of The Czech Symphony Strings and The St. Kitts' Winds at his disposal. Songs like "The Great Elsewhere" awaken with murmuring keys and synths, then takes flight half way through with soaring drums and strings. He follows after it with the sly ballad, "Oh Heartland, Up Yours!," an example of how he's mastered the kind of push and pull that keeps songs from becoming benign duplicates. The horns and hook on single "Lewis Takes His Shirt Off" is perhaps the albums most immediate moment, while the closer "What Will Happen Next?" features a wounded piano dancing under Pallet's layered vocals, and keeps the drama breathing until the last second.

While there has been plenty of great music this year, Heartland is one of the few complete masterpieces. It has held true all year long, and I find myself anticipating every turn and leap with nothing less than wonder. Last year I didn't make a best of 09', and I'm brewing as to whether I should make one this year, or perhaps a track listing instead? Be sure either way to see Owen Pallet's name among them.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Death By Wrench

For the past couple of days I have been listening to Murder Construct. They have been labeled as a kind of grind/death super group, in the same way that last year Shrinebuilder was for doom metal. I think these collaboration have no pretensions of being touted as "super groups," but are really just a group of like minded friends who love playing spine-break music with just enough time on their hands.

Construct's line-up contain members of Exhumed, Cattle Decapitation, and Bad Acid Trip for anyone needing some meaty proof to warrant the hype. Their self titled EP is everything one would expect, extreme metal that makes your bone marrow quiver and all that good stuff. My favorite track is "End of an Error" where drummer Danny Walker builds up a stormy bridge on the toms before they all come together again to finish the kill.

But these extremes rarely surprise anyone who is familiar with the genre. Bands like Inhume and Last Days of Humanity have pushed all the qualifiers such uncompromising ends that their relevance is purely THAT, being the nastiest in a nasty neighborhood. While these extremes represent the edge of the spectrum, they are predictable and quickly assimilated.

And then there is a band like Flourishing. Yes, they also play death/grind, but it's the a less obvious approach that makes A Momentary Sense of the Immediate World one of the more intriguing metal listens this year. The crew is from New York, which explains their style of "later-years-death-metal riffs", but they are also willing to take some needling chances. Gorguts and Cynic did this maybe more than any other bands from a previous generation, and Flourishing guitarist Garett Bussanick (Wetnurse) seemed to have been taking notes. On "Fixture" all the chaos vaporizes in an instant and Bussanick slithers around in the free space in a way that recalls early Dillinger Escape Plan and Discordance Axis circa 2002. With all this said, this band comes off relavent in their own age.

This trio has a sound that's all their own, so don't get it twisted. Most of their EP is unquestionably extreme metal, with old-school production, and throws down plenty of musical chops. A Momentary Sense is a mutation with wire brush limbs. Check it out.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

No More All That

The Chicago Underground Duo is trapped in time. Most would agree that somewhere in the eighties, jazz, one of America’s greatest art forms, started to fade into the background. Culturally today there is a lot of indirect exposure, since the creative energy that used to go into the genre is still alive, but is just spilling into different directions. But the disconnect between Art Blakey and Pete Rock to broader audiences is a tragedy, and makes me wonder why there aren't more artists uncovering this space and musical text?

The Duo, now as formed, by cornetist/trumpeter Rob Mazurek and drummer/percussionist Chad Taylor, have an improvisational tradition with multiple and/or previous band members since the“Chicago Underground” name has traversed a quartet and an orchestra over the years. Boca Negra finds the two instrumentalists transitioning between their dizzying talents, inspired by greats of the seventies, and incorporating their own brand electronic influences.

The frenetic moments are highlighted on the opener “Green Ants,”and there is no denying the musical talent on display. They are full of soul and devotion, which should resonate with anyone who has an appreciation for acid/avant-garde era. Where they make contributions to a modern identity is on the tracks that come after. Tracks like like “Left Hand of Darkness” and “Quantum Eye” slow things down and graft synthetic bridges into the same environment.

During the course of the album things begin to smooth out over these divisions. The dizzying energy finds solid ground to glide across on “Confliction” and “Spy on the Floor,” by adding lucid bass lines and sprite piano and xylophone percussion. By consequence, the almost interlude moments harbor themselves within the same wave, and quietly glow on “Hermeto” and “Vergence.”

The most difficult role in defining the triumph of Boca Negra is the lack peers for comparison. In an era when jazz is too often trying to appeal into shallow perceptions of the past, the Chicago Underground Duo has the confidence to say, while challenging the moment has its risks, it's worth the sound of history to come.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Pixilation Wave Train

So I came across something not too hot, or too stale, when I found Fudge Fingas. The man goes by the name Gavin Sutherland, is from Scotland, and bumps some awesome electronica. The catalogue of his music is dispersed amongst a handful of mixes and compilation albums, but it’s his most recent EP that I'm here to give some love to.

About Time
is only three tracks long but brings plenty of energy and weight without being overbearing. It is closer to techno or house than it is minimalism, so it's sure to get your blood flowing. The arrangements are full of deep synth harmonies, slick percussion, funky guitars, and hypnotic vocals that keep a diverse groove in motion. The single off the album, "It's About Time" slowly builds throughout and sets the stage for the other two songs, "Me & u," and "MmmHmm."

The terrain of the techno/house/electro culture is based in the spontaneous nature of the club world. DJ’s are constantly taking apart old songs and previous re-mixes to apply their own appeal and insight. It's all about going to hear someone spin that evening, and creating in the moment something that you may never hear again. That being said, I have to give About Time much respect, even if I can throw it on from the comfort of my apartment. Fingas comes with straight class, and anyone who is a fan of electronica should dig this, no matter where you are coming from.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Righteous Man

Country music is America’s royal-blooded black sheep. Names like Cash, the Louvin Brothers, Hank, George, and Loretta just to name a few, and are a line-up of controversy unquestioned, but also devastating revelation.

When the commercial force of music mutated during the seventies and eighties, country music had to move along with it. The kind of “roots” identity that had been highlighted in previous decades began to draw from rock and pop music. Kitty Wells gave way to Olivia Newton-John, CMT appeared on the national scene, and all your rowdy friends came over to watch football. They were changing with the times, and still are legitimate, if not popular names in country music today, that represent a large percentage of consumption and common perception.

This gave birth to aggressive and darker sub-genres, and old-school purists looking for banners to unite under. Hellbilly was influenced by punk and metal, not only as a driving instrumental force, but also in imagery and lyrical themes. Hank III, grandson of Williams Sr., is the most recognized figure in the scene for obvious reasons, but he does not standalone. It’s a movement that has been going on for over a decade with artists like David Allan Coe, Wayne Hancock, and Those Poor Bastards surviving through a loyal underground following.

Jayke Orvis, the founding member of the blue-grass gunslingers the .357 string band, on his album is called Its All Been Said, moves away from his overdrive plucking, and breaks his heart all through the night. He describes an individuals attempt to escape from the paranoid and self-destructive power of falling, “I guess I love you/ I love you more than I could ever really love myself / Cus' when things go wrong / I just stare too long at empty bottles on a broken shelf.” “Dreadful Sinner” sings the refrain “Mercy wrap your arms around me / Jesus why did you not buy me? / What does it take to become a righteous man? /…. Wickedness is painless / But its blaze is strong and true.” The mood of the It's All is uncompromisingly dark, but it’s also a living, breathing, human descent.

Orvis isn't afraid to reach for even greater depths in a music scene that will never make it onto broad radio circulation. “Gone Forever More” is confession of murderer who is driven to suicide in order to find peace after taking the life of his loved one. The chorus backing vocals on “Streets,” are so sweet that you forget he’s singing about the desire to disappear from a tortured life. Those who followed his previous band and were anticipating some lightning mandolin work, will be mildly disappointed. There are moments on the instrumental “Yankee Taste” and a great ode to the legendary Doc Watson on “Shady Grove/Gypsy Moon,” when he comes roaring down the highway at you.

This album is tough, but comfortably worn in, and by redefining the appreciation for those forgotten legends, it shows how their work is both timeless and essential. Jayke Orvis walks a long and lonely road on Its All Been Said, and spits in the face of those who want to sing about salvation.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Writing On The Wall

I have to say this. JIM was a great album, no questions asked. But the newest offering Compass, is at least as good. The words I’m fighting off are “progressive,” or “transitioning,” or “maturing,” because I'm not going to play that game.

What makes Jamie Lidell’s newest album stand alone with confidence is its ability to blur all the lines previously highlighted. The diversity of JIM and Multiply shined bright, both of them creative, but also articulate and honest. He was framing previous decades of influences in all the right places, and the music community started to pay attention the new guy in the neighborhood. Compass lets us know, finally and unashamedly, this is where he belongs.

There are flashpoints that occur during a career where artistic labels become easily accessible. The branding that goes along with presenting ones work to the public, is at the same time, both superficial and necessary. It can be really exciting when “the new thing” arrives, but it’s the same force that declares a need for “a revival” of greatness gone by. The megaphone name-calling does matter, but limited titles in the end are just words, and don’t serve any artist with inspiration. The most successful ones are able to find an identity that they believe in concretely, and brilliantly illuminate the contradictions embedded from the very beginning.

Prince is a real target for comparison, and he comes closest to this on Compass, but he also glances with Eddie Kendricks, Bill Withers, and The Jackson 5. Lidell is just as much himself as he has ever been, and understands that being capable of much more, won’t change what’s already his.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Rebel In Prayer

I should have written something about 108. I blame it on Defiance, OH. I initially thought about writing an entry for both, because both 18.61 and Midwestern Minutes are great albums, but decided that the former was tugging on my curiosity.

In a genre of music that often has defined itself through secular philosophies, I found this punk crew provocative because of their devotion to a Hindu idol. 108 are named after the number of sacred Hindu and Buddhist prayer beads and hold claim to a hardcore sub-genre known as Krishna-core. This would seem in complete contradiction with the previous ideologies in punk, which often are associated with Marx or Nietzsche as influences. In this context, I think most punk artists and others with similar politics, choose figures from the European Enlightenment instead of religion in order to oppose over a millennia of Christianity’s solidarity with the state and its justification for imperialism and exploitation.

Contemporary presentations of counter-culture have roots in the social upheaval of the sixties and seventies. While many take this as common knowledge, I only bring it up because the same political implications coincided with a religious curiosity, reaching outside of the Judeo-Christian history of thought. Hindu belief and influence extends much deeper into history than the middle of twentieth century, but its reverence towards the cow plays towards punk’s intersectional relationship of anti-capitalism and a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle. All these forces are at work and explain how a band like 108 would gravitate towards a religion for artistic inspiration.

The album title comes from a chapter and verse in the Bhagavad Gita which reads, "The controller of all lies at the heart of the machine, and connects its wires to the living being who is under its spell." It's the kind of quote to straight-edge bands love to scream for, but too many of them take a self-righteous stance that believes what they're doing is "something true." 108 has broken-up recently due to religious differences, but it should be stated that they aren't reaching into hallow rhetoric. It's about the music, which is why they are still touring and in the end, 18.61 is great hardcore. It’s full of powerful vocals, solid drumming, and easily my once of my favorite punk albums this year.

And I love Midwestern Minutes too. Now it's even.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Take Your Seats

Good morning class. We have reached the midway point of the school year. Today I wanted to go over some of our work with a short review. Stand when I call your name.

The Roots remain stylistically and culturally relevant on their newest release How I Got Over. A really awkward, or maybe perfect example here is the Johanna Newsom sample/hook on “Right On.”

Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek are talented as individuals, but when their talents unite they become something quintessential. Call them what you want...textbook, undeniable, classic, all of them were earned over the years of great work.

Planet Asia has been disappointing as of late. He is great on the battlefield, but it’s a one-dimensional approach that tires quickly. A little change of scenery would make a big difference and solidify him as a more complete emcee.

Madlib is the hardest workingman in hip-hop. Check that.
Madlib is the hardest workingman in showbiz. Period.

Jay Electronica has made a reputation of his own and has defined it through unconventional means. With names like Nas, Talib, Mos, and Just Blaze as comrades in arms, it would seem that he would have an established career to warrant that kind of blue-chip love, and there is a small back story concerning a woman known as Eryka Badu. Most of his career has been made off of online mix-tapes or collaborations, and has yet to release a LP, so there is plenty of confusion and conversation about why such a promising new voice hasn’t rushed open that door ten-toes strong.

With the internet climate providing a state of insatiability, releasing individual songs or streaming them is a good way to keep people hungry and at the same time giving them something to talk about. Homemade distribution for decades has been the grassroots voice of hip-hop and I think this plays a role in Jay Electronica’s intrigue.

Record deals have historically put more power in the hands of the labels than the artists. Hip-hop is the example of how a genre can be totally dismissed by the record industry for years, only to be strong-armed later when the possibility of large profit enters the window. De La Soul, please stand up. While downloading has taken a large chunk of income away from the industry as a whole, it also has driven artists to search for alternate means of profitable recognition.

There won't be a massive transition overnight but I believe that more artists, both old and new, will start to wean themselves towards more progressive ideas when it comes to reaching out for public awareness consumption in the coming years. Immortal Technique, please stand up. According to online sources, Jay Electronica has a LP dropping sometime this year entitled Abracadabra: Let There Be Light. Don’t believe the hype. Dr. Dre, please stand up.

The year is not over. Black Milk, you could be emerging as a new leader and claim the best producer/emcee title-belt that another Detroit native used to own. Study hard.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Earth Tracing the Sun

The horizon never sleeps. No one knows where it ends or where it begins , but we are all cast under it’s spell. At night the day takes a brief and quiet exit while the sky graces a familiar and long journey. If you are interested Jacob Newman has the whole thing on record.

Reflections and Diffusions
is so vast and daunting that taking on all seventy-one minutes is a challenge. Part of the experience is meditating on the tense contradictions in dynamics that justify the title "ambient" or “experimental.” After the first track there is an impulse for drama or some breaking points that would provide a familiar kind of emotional release. This initial reaction drives home the purpose of artists who delve into creating works like this; they confront the assumptions and normative standards that were never called into question. The whole purpose is to take convenient terms like “subtle” and “overwhelming” and turn them into something indivisible but perfectly understood.

By no means is the album disturbing, it is more likely to induce indifference than fear. Dismissing Reflections all together would be a mistake because this album is rich with superlatives. It is however a complicated place to linger, and an isolating musical experience. I can’t think of an artist in recent years that channeled this the kind of energy or intense environment. Jacob Newman has taken on a massive effort in order to craft this world and I thank him for his passion and ambitions.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Remember Your Friends

I don’t know how long it will take, but somewhere down the road there will be a writer who chooses to undertake all that gave birth to the music climate as we understand it in 2010. Who interrogates the terminology of competing segregation and understands why they have always existed. Who can concisely define all of this on both a micro and macro scale, and then goes on to provocatively narrate why we care so much in the first place.

I bring this point up because the Mynabirds have got me thinking about the importance of nostalgia. Bands like Yo La Tengo and My Bloody Valentine just to name a few, were part of a culture that opened the floodgates on a story that still presides with us today. I have a growing hope that instead of namedropping bands, critics years down the line will look at the labels who believed in them.

Saddle Creek is one of the labels that will have to be mentioned. A part of the watershed to be sure, but love it or hate it they served as a gatekeeper to many, and anyone who denies it has got some skeletons to deal with. Why is this relevant you ask? The most obvious reason is this entry is about the Mynabirds, who are signed to Saddle Creek. The better point is that when I listen to What We Lose In the Fire We Gain In the Flood I feel transported to when there was a whole lot of people who were hearing Rough Trade and Sub Pop for the first time and growing into something new. Another young generation, with revolutionary access, as naive as they were passionate and looking to play a part, looking for acceptance.

The Mynabirds do Nebraska right. They play a little slide guitar twang on songs like “Good Heart,” and kill you with a smile on “Give It Time” and “LA Rain.” On “Let the Record Go” and the title track they flirt with southern rock and drive home a heavy handed piano. Laura Burhenn is front and center in this band and delivers a dramatic and soulful presence. She takes the time to look you in the eye, boldly speak her heart, and isn't afraid to make a stand. What We Lose In The Fire has got a will of it's own and thanks you kindly for tagging along.

If there is something that The Mynabirds got me to do, it was dust off the shelves and make room for a whole lot more. I don’t know if a critic should ever accept the idea that they have transcended naiveté. Insight often requires alienation and I believe the most personal, challenging, and important memories have this at its heart.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Swarm and Multiply

Fear the robot revolution. It will come overnight while we sleep. Crawling from the skyscrapers and streetlights electric lines will strangle and envelope the world, rendering mankind to witness the evils of its own destructive desire for power.

Sci-fi seems to often generate images of the dateless teenager or socially immobile, and it’s a tragedy because it becomes more relevant with every passing second. Models and standards of technology become obsolete before the collective culture is aware, or much less understands the nature of its relevancy. To an even greater extent, the division of understanding between older and younger generations definition of this revelancy is a conversation left unresolved and spiraling into a nameless distance.

Death metal is inherently dystopian, but Laethora has a style that understands what that looks in real time. While playing extreme metal and being from Sweden is a misnomer, The Light In Which We All Burn deserves some recognition. I loved their release March Of The Parasite and was hoping that a sophomore effort would cement the band as something to watch and praise in the metal scene in years to come. Their angle mixes with old-school doom riffs, but what sets them apart are the the lead melodies. It doesn't take on blistering speed, or wretched distortion, but calculated sterility. There is something cold, or detached, or ominous that's scary and interesting when this colossus throws down.

Laethora is that band, but The Light isn’t the album I was looking for after hearing Parasite. If you listen to the intro on "The Scum of Us All" from their first release, there's a use of industrial vocals that I wanted to make a more defining role this time around. It fits perfectly into their modern apocalyptic themes going on here and would have really carved them with greater distinction. At points on songs like “A.S.K.E,” “Saevio,” and “Cast to Ruin” the band goes pretty much silent and misses the opportunity to capitalize on throwing in some Godflesh or NIN.

I am still not going to say that disappoint should be the tag here. I waited on this album for a long time and have been listening to it consistently since its release and I will be just a excited for their next release. Laethora is one of the most visionary death metal acts around right now and anyone who is slightly interested should check out The Light to find out why.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Invisible Amendment

I have always been suspicious of critics who view hip-hop through the lens of “positive” vs. “negative.” My problem with this is the standard is too often based on personal politics than an actual understanding of aesthetic. This applies to not just music but all artistic expression of any era, form, and genre. Since hip-hop plays such a pervasive role not just in the US but across the entire globe, there is an incessant need to talk about the abuses of pathology or how it reproduces itself through the culture. This is to a large degree a misunderstanding and serves a media culture quick to form conclusions instead of provocative questions, but at a deeper level it's an attempt for an individual perspective to define the role of art society.

I am confidant in saying that criticism from respected hip-hop artists has been on record since somewhere in the mid-nineties. What makes these contributions different is that their understanding is connected to something objective, beyond the conventional narrative of why most hate on hip-hop. Where criticism isn’t constantly defined by violence, misogyny, the "n-word," and economic control of distribution. These are the over-arching themes brought up from opposition without really any discussion in an American context, about police brutality, euro-centrism, the prison-industrial complex, the white normative gaze, the domestic terrorism of J. Edger Hoover, the republican/conservative southern strategy and its connection to slave diaspora and the labor movement, the democratic/progressive complicity in a system that accepts racism, patriarchy, and homophobia as valid political positions, and the list goes on and on. When America gets rid of so-called “Black History Month,” and sings the praises of David Walker, Harriet Tubman, Marcus Garvey, Ella Baker, Malcolm X, Angela Davis, and all those freedom-fighters forgotten or left nameless in history every minute of every day of every year, I will start to listen to former complaints.

Raheem DeVaughn would fall into the “positive” category for those critics who would seek to pacify the explicit or controversial elements of the hip-hop. Raheem isn’t an MC, but fits into a part of the culture in the same way that R.Kelly and Angie Stone fit. What he misses is that for all the politically correct checkpoints he crosses off, Love and War Masterpeace doesn’t deliver consistenly enough to be comapred with the likes of Curtis Mayfield and N.W.A., whom are deeply political artists, possessing both style and substance. There are moments when Raheem turns it out on songs like “Revelations 2010 Ft. Damian Marley” and the hit single “Bulletproof Ft. Ludacris,” which he should be given credit for. These songs do the album title the most justice, and it doesn’t hurt to sample Mayfields “The Other Side of Town” for the later and have professor/activist Dr. Cornel West preaching as master of interlude.

Where Raheem goes wrong is when he tries to blend this identity with sensual intimacy. I can bite my tongue on songs like “I Don’t Care,” “Black and Blue,” or “My Wife.” These songs have good intentions but don’t stand out as knock out punches on the album. Where it really falls apart is on the - my sex is better than your vibrator - anthem “B.O.B.” Can anyone imagine Marvin Gaye comparing his sexuality on the same terms?

Love and War Masterpeace has its heart in the right place, but doesn’t have the soul to keep you playing it for months after.
I would recommend Sharon Jones or the upcoming Jamie Lidell instead of this album.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

In Water Colors

Right now in Korea it’s officially Cherry Blossom season. I don’t know if you are aware of what that means, but it’s a wonderland around here. A world full of unnatural color and calm that turns the sidewalks into an adventure whispered in silk.

Donawhale is the first Korean band that I have fallen for. Their most recent release Dive to Blue would be on any major “Indie” best in 2009, if anyone in the west had got a hold of it. Their sound is a mix of tween-pop and shoegaze to my ears. This observation deserves major interrogation since I have a narrow grasp of Korean culture. This of course is even a broader statement about my understanding about culture and social norms in general. What I do know about this band in a musical context, is that they are undeniably good.

Dive to Blue one of those albums that you just become calmly wrapped into. The last time I felt this way "2 a.m." by Kaki King. Donawhale is something special and I will be damned if I don’t get a chance to see them live while I am in Korea. I doubt that they will ever make it to the states, and trust me when I say that our hearts are lesser for it.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Fork Tongues Lie

Matt: We have got to make this one heavy, like nothing we’ve done before.
Des: What the hell have we been doing all these years?
Jeff: I got a few ideas.

It’s just another day at Heinold's First and Last Chance Saloon when High on Fire get together.

Jeff: So when do you want to meet and work all these riffs out?
Matt: When do we get off tour?
Des: On Communion I got the chance to throw down some thrash. Can we keep that alive?
Matt: I want this album to rip. Hold nothing back.
Des: Like on Blessed Black Wings?
Anonymous drunk: Hey aren’t you that Pike guy?
Matt: Um, yeah my name is…
Anonymous drunk: Dude, you sound just like Lemmy!
Matt: Thanks. Motorhead rules.

Des: I have got tons of great fills, kinda like Slayer’s "Necrophobic."
Jeff: And I really want to get into some creepy bass work.
Des: Aren’t we working with that big name producer on our new album?
Jeff: You mean Greg Fidelman?
Des: Yeah, that dude.
Matt: I got a feeling we are gonna clash.
Anonymous drunk: Man, you sound just like Lemmy and Black Sabbath! Your band is amazing and sh*t!
Matt: Umm. Thanks. Later bro.

Des: Didn’t he produce the last Slayer record, World Painted Blood?
Jeff: Ya, and played a role in the last Metallica record.
Des: Seems like a bad idea.
Jeff: Metallica did put out their best album about two decades.
Des: Is that really saying much?
Jeff: How many times did you listen to Master?
Des: Reality or Puppets?
Matt: What are you trying to be, Cliff Burton or something?
Jeff: No, I just want to toy around with the kind of tones that they were able to rock on songs like “The Thing That Should Not Be.”
Matt: Between the two of us I think we can work something out.
Des: Slow it down a little?
Matt: Keep it heavy.
Anonymous drunk: Hey Pike guy! Be like Venom!

Last Chance has a lone patron sitting at the other end of the bar. Dressed in a Hellhammer jacket and crusty jeans, he finishes his dry whiskey and exists the Saloon. Driving away in his pickup he blares Celtic Frost's “Circle of Tyrants."

Des: Can we rock some Judas Priest, maybe like “Sinner?”
Jeff: I was thinking “Beyond the Realms of Death.”
Matt: As long as we keep it late classic late 70’s Priest, I'm cool.
Des: Matt, you said you wanted to write something about Samurai's?
Matt: Ya, I think it would fit with the tribal warfare theme we got going.

Anonymous drunk: Please, man, I am stupid drunk, but please don’t sell out like Metallica!
Bartender: Have you ever listened to No Life 'til Leather?
Anonymous drunk: No. Why does that matter? I just wanna say…I think...I'm gonna be sick.

Matt: Ok, so I want to make this one heavy.
Des: I’m ready to rip it up.
Jeff: Sounds good. Anybody got an album title?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Photos From Last Night

Blues Control released an E.P. this last year entitled Local Flavor, and overall, it didn’t knock me off of my feet. I had never heard of the band before, so I can’t say it was a major disappointment since I really didn’t have any expectations, it's just that most of the songs I thought tied into a larger narrative about what is hot now…with one exception.

It’s a rainy day in 1972. Little Richard walks into a dark New Orleans dive with a red sequence suite and a green valour bow tie. He grazes a bouncer who measures time in neon lighting, takes a deep breathe, and glances across the room only to see Frank Zappa drop a nickle and throw on The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” A worn and lonely bartender understands just why, and calmly watches Zappa squat over at a nearby booth laced with cigarette ash, oak, and pearl leather. The bartender thinks about the time in 69', when he wandered onto the Brooklyn Bridge at 4:15 in the morning with Lou Reed and screamed at the top of their lungs, "You Gotta, You Gotta, Gotta, Try A Little Tenderness!"

Blues Control captured all of this on "Good Morning" and have created one of my favorite songs of the last year. The E.P. is only four songs long, but if you know anything about the good times, you know they go by fast.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Buried Sounds

I remember sometimes waking up in Portland (OR) after a night out, sweating out the events of last night, breathing in the hints of smoke left on my jeans and skin. It wasn’t the best feeling in the world I have to admit, but I can’t help thinking of those mornings when listening to this album. Everything started out sour, but after I got some grub in me and an afternoon shower, I couldn’t have felt better.

Zola Jesus pushed me more than any other artists this year, and I have to admit that I had a really hard time trying to figure out why. The Spoils had similar qualities that made My Bloody Valentine or the Microphones intriguing, but what I have really fallen for is how the keys ride waves of distortion, without being buried underneath them. I keep returning to “Smirenye,” “Soeur Sewer,” and “The Way” like silver antiques hidden under the floorboards in a dusty wooden box with iron trimming, or maybe one buried in your grandmothers garden, made of dented and rusting tin.

This album has been a labor of love for me, and while at moments I lose my train of though, I always come back to a simply melody in the mess. I really dig this album. Check this out if it shines in your direction.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Chapters In Good

I am listening to the new Mountain Goats album for the millionth time and wanting to say a few words about the claims surrounding its inspiration. Each song is onThe Life of the World to Come inspired by, though not directly connected, to a particular Bible verse. Mr. Darnielle (songwriter) has spoken publicly describing his own personal faith and how each song relates in various media outlets. What bothers me is that this is a narrative long established that doesn’t need titles from the good book to see where he’s coming from. This is not to condemn the Bible, John, the Goats new album, or even the critics formerly mentioned. I have been stirring over this for a while now and I have come to the conclusion that my argument is over an interpretation and abstraction of religion, not music.

His lyrics have always been, to me at least, stories of redemption spoken through sinful hands. Though not exclusively, this is in many ways a Christian concept that finds reconciliation by allowing suffering to speak. His newest album speaks directly to this, but like I said before, one can look at his older work and see the same themes at play. Sometimes he is bluntly using the Bible on songs like “Love, Love, Love,” when he writes “King Sol fell on his sword / when it all when wrong / and Joseph’s brother / sold him down a river / for a Psalm;” or “Against Pollution,” “This morning / I went to the Catholic Church / because something just came over me. / Forty-five minutes in the pious / praying the rosary.” I want to raise the notion that John has always been able to articulate the same concepts, album after album, without explicitly mentioning religion, but with an understanding of the everyday and mundane.

He finishes the same verse on “Love, Love…” with “And Sonny Liston rubbed some Tiger Balm into his gloves. / Some things you do for money / and some you do for love;” and juxtaposes the “Against” verse with “Decorative grating on my window/ gets a little rustier ever year / I don’t know how the metal gets rusty / when it never rains here.”

The message is that revelations occur, in spite of our moral crisis or lack of understanding. A new way is made, we count our losses, and survive in one way or another. This has been the story, for me at least, while listening to the Mountain Goats and The Life Of The World To Come.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Moment Like This

I have been waiting on a full length from Regurgitate to my dissatisfaction for more than a couple years now. No other grind band has mastered the art of how to get so much out of so little as these guys. They have a new split out with Dead Infection and three more killer songs to add to their catalogue.

Their side of the split is titled Yyyaaaaaah, which might make you think, “It seems like a lazy effort, why should I even care?” It might make you think, “How could these Swedish giants be thirsty for blood with a title like that?” It might make you think, “Could this be the same band that gave us Carnivorous Erections?” To this I respond…

1) You should care.
2) This is gore by the gallons.
3) Regurgitate Ain't Nuthing ta F*ck Wit!

It’s gore-grinds audience that limits releases, not talent. This is why you get so many bands creating splits or E.P’s, instead of creating larger, longer bodies of work. That doesn’t change the genius of this band for a second though. In a genre where songs don’t break the two-minute mark, most bands understandably run out of room, but not this Swedish crew. They continually come up with slick and groovy riffs amidst all of the blasting, perfectly balanced out with great vocal arrangements. Rikard Jansson ties pitch shifting with screams like tar on cement, and brings a natural coherence between verse and chorus dynamics. The mere fact that Regurgitate is able to distinguish the two with such ease is cause for thousands grind fans to mosh til their eyes bleed, or maybe just shotgun a few brews on a weekday afternoon.

I am still waiting another Sickening Bliss to be released, but whatever this band pukes out, I will be there to document every second of it, no matter how brief the glory is.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Everything Is Everything

I remember hearing Sa-Ra’s The Hollywood Recordings back in 2007 and feeling a bit caught off guard. It wasn’t the best thing ever or make my end of year list, instead what made Sa-Ra special was all of the genres that they were able to navigate. Arriving after the neo-soul party had winded down some years ago the album had that kind of feel, and at the same time sounding nothing like the artists of that era. There were more electro flavors, even landing in some minimalist Dub ground at times. If they had shown up circa 2001, when everyone was in the groove, it might have been either too early to appreciate or too crowded get noticed.

Even now I don’t think they are really getting noticed. I would claim that the reason for that is not only the eclectic nature of their sound, which can be distracting, but also how the albums linger on a bit too much. I can understand a group with this much musical talent not wanting to leave any muscle un-flexed but it begins loose direction after a while. That said, I won't stand around while critics damn a lack of creativity in Hip-Hop without talking about Nuclear Evolution: The Age of Love. Their sound has expended even more while at the same time coming into greater form. “My Star” is a radio ready R&B track with seductive guest vocals by Erica Rose. My favorite track on the album has to be “Death of a Star (Supernova).” It’s full of disco energy that begs for a dance floor. It all comes to an end with the free-flowing jazz of “Cosmic Ball.”

These guys might never make a Top-Ten list but they should care less since artists shouldn't pay much mind to conventional criticism. However, more critics should be laboring for hours in midnight lit rooms, filled with smoke, heat on full blast, and numb fingers that grow weary with definition. Sa-Ra is that real.