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.