Monday, December 22, 2008
Acoustic over the top freak out rock from Sonic Youth icon.
99. Clockcleaner - Babylon Rules
Garage rock craziness and the best release on Load this year.
98. Religious Knives - Remains
Droning soundscapes from 2 Double Leopards and half of Mouthus.
97. Pig Destroyer - Phantom Limb
Thrash influenced fast grindcore, giving us one of their most dynamic releases.
96. Behemoth - The Apostasy
Experimental tones with unusual elements to their blackened death metal shit.
95. The Bark Haze - Total Joke Era
The Bark Haze
Free guitar improvs that defy expectations.
94. Eluvium - Copia
Ambient tones with just enough dramatic connotations.
93. Weedeater - Godluck And Goodspeed
Slow and filthy metal from these Eyehategod disciples.
92. Burning Star Core - Blood Lightning
Operator Dead...Post Abandoned
Total ambience from albums that experiment with mood and technology.
91. Destroyer Destroyer - Littered With Arrows
A hateful, fast moving and brutal promise.
90. Shellac - Excellent Italian Greyhound
Quieter and varied songs, some of which give more melody to their jerky angular guitar rock.
89. RTX - Western Xterminator
80's hair metal gets treatment from heroin noise heiress.
88. Job For A Cowboy - Genesis
Classic death metal yet with enough of their own take on the genre to make for a good album.
87. Carlos Giffoni - Arrogance
Overdriven synth tones for this reinvented noiser.
86. Orthodox - Gran Poder
Slow and brutally low ended, with unorganized drumming and flamenco-inspired vocals...i know it's 2006 but i had to include it.
85. Astral Social Club - Super Grease
Ambient, droning and electronic from one of the best in the Brit scene.
84. Zozobra - Harmonic Tremors
Ex-Cave In members bring a heavy, sludgy album.
83. The Fall - Reformation Post TLC
Mark E. Smith embraces krautrock more than usual, and entertains the shit out of us.
82. Gallhammer - Ill Innocense
Mixing the crusty overtones of Amebix with the ugly yet far reaching metallic stomp of Celtic Frost, these japanese ladies give us a very charismatic album.
81. Antigama - Resonance
Eastern bloc grincore that's fast and technical and a good example of one of the biggest scenes in the world.
80. Pre - Epic Fits
Spazztic and rocking, girl singer screeches along the band's tight yet chaotic songwriting.
79. Armenia + Cornucopia - Un Infierno Total
Two giants of latinamerican noise collaborate and speaker hell ensues.
78. Jessica Rylan - Interior Design
The Artist Known As Can't takes a stab at sound artistry and results in one of her best releases.
77. 108 - A New Beat From A Dead Heart
One of hardcore's harshest bands returns with an incredibly solid album.
76. BBBlood - Experiment 50
Britain noiser delivering one of his finer releases.
75. Xiu Xiu Larsen - ¿Spicchiology?
Second chapter between both band's collaborations, more soundscapy than before.
74. Meat Puppets - Rise To Your Knees
Country punk's finest return with a calm psychedelic affair with long and really well written songs.
73. Death Ambient - Drunken Forest
Fred Frith, Ikue Mori, et al, improvise a downward, dark but envolving storm of mood music.
72. Battles - Mirrored
Mathy supergroup discover the art of the song and fight with it until both are one.
71. Astro - Astral Orange Sunshine
Galax - Never Ending Space Trackin'
Hiroshi Hasegawa uses his synth to conjure spacey calmness of black holes of pure horrible sound.
70. Watain - Sworn To The Dark
Black metal that stomps with pronounciation on the metal and deliver an album of dark hymns.
69. Prurient - Adam Tied To Stone
Dom Fernow gives way to harsh and ugly noise.
68. Bloody Panda - Pheromone
Combing the snail stomp of Khanate with the drama and melancholy of My Dying Bride, the structures and vocals remain in a land of experimentation while the songs deal with despair.
67. Jimmy Eat World - Chase This Light
Returning to their power pop sound of early in this decade, the band deliver heartfelt songs like only they know.
66. Rubbish - Vexanation, The Great American Outhouse
Awful and punishing, harsh noise that's different yet unforgivable.
65. Mayhem - Ordo Ad Chao
Attila returns to the band and his experimental streak rubs off Hellhammer, Necrobutcher and company for their best post-Euronymous album.
64. Taint - Sex Sick
Real life depravity and extreme frequency manipulation from veteran U.S. P.E.-er Keith Brewer.
63. Circle - Panic
Sunburned Circle - The Blaze Game
Pharaoh Overlord - Live In Suomi Finland
Finland's rock alchemists and warriors, Panic gives way to synth explorations and heavy as shit rock, Katapult conjures up a mescaline-soaked Venom, while jamming with Sunburned Hand Of The Man makes them explore their mutual love for krautrock, giving more focus and magic to their improvisation; while side band P.O. starts a motorik rhythm and an hour later, they are destroying the p.a.
62. Boris With Michio Kurihara - Rainbow
The Tokyo Terrible Three roll back their sonic maelstrom, invite White Heaven/Cosmic Invention/Ghost guitar virtuoso of emotion and deliver one of their most daring releases.
61. Sigh - Hangman's Hymn
Thrash metal meets fast paced, pseudo-orchestral elements, reinventing themselves yet again.
60. Vibracathedral Orchestra - Wisdom Thunderbolt
Michael Flower and whoever else was around recorded yet again some of the most trascendental long notes of the year.
59. Silverchair - Young Modern
Van Dyke Parks returns to arrange the strings for Australia's underestimated pop-alchemists, this time extending his influences more to give Daniel Johns' songs a more whimsical feel, and it works.
58. Pan Sonic - Kathodivaihe
Still combining the early Industrial Records sensitivities in sound with IDM-approved beats, Kathodivaihe resonanted like few electronica albums.
57. Bongripper - Hippie Killer
Instrumental metal that's not pussy or a direct rip from Neurosis, not afraid to go to quiet, vulnerable places without sounding corny and playing slow, tuned down riffs like they mean business, noisy and fucked.
56. Darkthrone - F.O.A.D.
Ferniz and Nocturno put on their "Meat Is Murder"-scrawled leather jackets and deliver a love note from black metal to Discharge and the rest of the crust punk nation, with some of the bm's funniest songs, period.
55. Hentai Lacerator - Covered In Fun
40 songs in 14 minutes; fast, unrelentless and with full personality, more than grind, this is a nod to the Gerogerigegege from the gabber/breakcore/harsh noise heart.
54. Angels Of Light - We Are Him
Michael Gira brings his career full circle with these collection of mostly cyclical, repetitive songs, like the devastating dirges of early Swans going to heaven for salvation.
53. Heavy Winged - Feel Inside
A free jazz metal noise demolition course in three movements, few records were as crushing as this one.
52. Wold - Screeching Owl
Black metal without much use of quiet space, bringing guitar noise to a whole new level for these blastbeated nods to the dark.
51. James Blackshaw - The Cloud Of Knowing
American primitive guitar had no better exponent than Mr. Blackshaw, who strums and fingerpicks his 12-string guitar into worlds known and unknown.
50. Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso UFO - Crystal Pyramid Rainbow In The Sky
Nam Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo
Crystal Pyramid... brings the band closer to Gong/Mahavishnu/Bitches Brew with sax explosions of netherworld journeys, Nam Myo... proclaims a new order of monks who vocalize themselves into nirvana.
49. The Angelic Process - Weighting Souls In Sand
Equal parts beautiful and brutal, the duo manage to give us their definitive statement of polar opposites.
48. Om - Pilgrimage
Al and Chris, before breaking one of metal's best rhythm sections, combine equal amounts of the heavy parts of their Variations On A Theme album with the quiter parts of the Conference Of Birds to give us probably the quintessential Om album.
47. Yellow Swans - At All Ends
Gabe and Pete wave goodbye with a psychedelic, free forming mutant sound that goes to electronic to punishing, ending their career in style.
46. Mammal - Lonesome Drifter
One of U.S. noise's best artists, Mammal returns from the drum machine explorations to giving us a more experimental work that succeeds in it's sum.
45. Zoroaster - Dog Magic
Painfully heavy, slow as fuck and violent in it's delivery, the long songs compromising Dog Magic deliver on the promise the band had made.
44. Kenji Siratori - Survival Mind
Prolific? Yes. Spotty? No doubt. Dada/Sci-Fi writer Siratori nonetheless has the ability to really bring a unique perspective to harsh noise when he wants to.
43. Benighted - Icon
Death metal that dares go where it usually doesn't dare to go, following up an incredibly tight album with one even more innovative is no small feat.
42. Boredoms - Super Roots 9
Eye and Yoshimi celebrate Christmas by playing with a full blown professional choir, resulting in music that's 100% Bore.
41. Sir Richard Bishop - While My Guitar Violently Bleeds
Former Sun City Girl Bishop let's his inner Django Reinhardt loose, as seen filtered through the murky, quirky and often scary worldview of the Sir with the undeniable guitar skills and originality of few.
40. Hild Sofie Tafjord - Kama
The quieter half of Fe-Mail demonstrate that she's not so quiet after all, giving us one of the harshest and most inventive noise releases of the year, via electronics and french horn.
39. Stars Of The Lid - And Their Refinement Of The Decline
Droning for 2 and a half hours and 6 sides of vinyl or so, SOTL reminds us of the bliss and fragility of sound.
38. Original Silence - The First Original Silence
Thurston Moore, Paal Nilssen-Love, Mats Gustaffson and members of Zu, among others, bring the skronk punk to free jazz for a much needed electrification the likes of Last Exit once did, giving their own take on it.
37. PJ Harvey - White Chalk
Polly Jean abbandons her guitar and sits on the piano, leaving her blues succubus self for her more delicate side to shine on one of her best albums.
36. Unsane - Visqueen
Noise metal legends return with a bluesier edge to regain their merciless sound.
35. Suishou No Fune - The Light Of Dark Night
Live testament of the dark, melancholic psych duo from Japan, mesmerizing onstage in a slightly different way than they do on record.
34. Baroness - Red Album
Country rock metal meets prog rock tendencies and amazingly well written, epic songs. More than heirs of Mastodon and/or Eyehategod, a whole other way to play Southern heavy shit.
33. Pita - A Bas La Culture Marchande
Peter Rehberg leaves his drum machine home mostly, and decides to explore more sides to his highly experimental and uncontrollable style.
32. Polysics - Karate House
Probably their most varied effort, fractured rhythms, pitch-shifted synth pop singalongs and the expected quirkiness make for a strong effort that makes you go from dancing to jumping to slamming in the most fun you probably could get from an album.
31. LSD Pond - LSD Pond
Alasehir - Sharing The Sacred
Alasehir - The Stone Sentinels
Alumbrados - A Generation Of Vipers
Baikal - Baikal
Bardo Pond as such didn't release anything this year, but these prove how great they are; their collaboration with Tokyo's LSD March gives them a way to quiet improvisation, at moments becoming something otherworldly, the Alasehir trio bring guitar psychedelic while the same line up, as Alumbrados, strip the rock out of it for something more abstract. Finally, Bardo becomes Baikal when they go without Isobel's woman touch for a heavy and fucked jam.
30. Wooden Shjips - Wooden Shjips
Garagey yet psychedelic in song context.
29. Trap Them - Sleepwell Deconstructor
Destructive extreme metal-infused hardcore that one-ups Converge's own excesses with something that approaches death metal brutal riffing and black metal's ultra bleak atmosphere.
28. To Kill A Petty Bourgeoisie - The Patron
Quiet and melancholic, the songs on this lo-fi document are as pretty as music can get.
27. Múm - Go Go Smear The Poison Ivy
Their electro-soundscapes adorn songs that are well written and feel complete.
26. Hot Cross - Risk Survival
Screamo without the screaming, Hot Cross had a pedigree of screaming, mathy, Gravity Records-influenced hardcore; for their swan song, the band decides to stop screaming and use melody in unmelodic ways for a set of fulfilling experimental yet well rounded songs.
25. Smegma - 33 1/3
Veterans of noise and free rock or whatever, the band pays tribute to the vinyl album the way they know best, by playing their chaotic, quirky yet messy brand of sound with the occasional skewed garage rave up. Not a whole lot different from their old stuff, but in this case, it's a good thing.
24. Islaja - Ulual Yyy
Merja Kokkonen, a.k.a. Islaja, brings forth a delicate, folky and intimate collection of songs that, while not as out there as those by fellow countrymen Jan Anderzen or Keijo (after all, this is an album that ends in bird song), demonstrate that sentiment and delivery are still powerful tools.
23. Einstürzende Neubauten - Alles Wieder Offen
Almost thirty years after putting hammer to anvil and anguished screaming to jackhammer, the Collapsing New Buildings give way to a powerful yet quieter and well-composed sound, more satisfying than their last couple of long players and not as out there as their private releases, that completes their range of sounds and feels as well laboured as their power tools n' junk metal past.
22. Oxbow - The Narcotic Story
Apocalyptic cabaret rock, as exemplified by the Birthday Party and contemporaries The Jesus Lizard, comes full circle with Oxbow, whose use of decadent rhythms and dissonance comes forth to life via more acoustic instruments on their latest, demonstrating the power emanates from depravity, not distortion; and at the center of it all is Eugene Robinson, whose Bukowski in briefs lyrics and delivery stand second to few in this day and age, which is something much needed.
21. Bad Brains - Build A Nation
HR, Dr. Know, Daryl Jennifer and Earl Hudson reunite for a new album and did the impossible, they recorded a fast, heavy and incredibly inspired album that makes it the right sonic succesor to 1982's s/t a.k.a. as the ROIR Tape. After years and album after album of mediocre shit, the band returns to demonstrate they can still bring the kind of fast fucked up hardcore they originated. That this is their reunion album and first in 12 years, is an admirable feat.
20. Zelienople - His/Hers
Quiet, restrained, yet beautiful; words defy an album so complete.
19. Oren Ambarchi - In The Pendulum's Embrace
Between his formative years as a noise merchant from Australia, to his tenure as stalwart of the Touch label and, ultimately, to his adoption as drone metal's godfather with his darker and heavier releases, not to mention his association with Sunn O))) and Southern Lord, there's no telling what Oren Ambarchi might come up with after all. Pendulum embraces the wide eyed optimistic drones of his Touch releases like Grapes From The Estate but with a pronounced bottom that suggest darker things lurking beneath. Probably Oren's most definitive statement.
18. The Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
Funeral brought the attention to Win Butler and company, and the hype surrounding their debut might be hard to follow in these hipper-than-thou ages, but the band has delivered an album twice as ambitious and profound as their previous one, with songs that can be hushed while others are celebrations of life with better arrangements and more feeling. They'll probably be remembered better for Funeral, but Neon Bible is the better record.
17. Wolves In The Throne Room - Two Hunters
Coming from the Northwestern backwoods, these three metalheads have adopted the deep in the ancient woods atmospherics of Scandinavian black metal and injected not only with some well deserved barbaric lumberjack sensitivity but otherwise real sensitivity coming from swirling guitars that give more dimension and complicated emotions than pessimism and misery often associated with bm. At times somber, at times hopeful and never letting itself up for a second, the four extra long tracks on Two Hunters show not only considerable growth since their debut LP but also that bm can be trve even if it steps away from it's usual sounds.
16. Lasse Marhaug - The Great Silence
Member of Jaz(z)kam(m)er, Testicle Hazard, Origami Replika, et al. serial collaborator of the stars and all around noise badass, Lasse Marhaug celebrated a big year, coming off from 2006's enormous Metal Music Machine and starting his new label with a (highly recommended) box set of his solo work released on tape in the 90's. Impecable credentials aside, Lasse's business is noise and he delivers it like few, making destructing wave after wave of frequency abuse but never getting purity get in the way of variety of experimentation, The Great Silence is anything but silent, exploring much of the opposite in a great way.
15. Li Jianhong - San Sheng Shi
China might not be the hot bed for fuck-my-head-in guitarists like Japan is, but as this album is any indication of it, it's has nothing to do with nationality; Jianhong, member of the hard as fuck noise jazz group D!O!D!O!D!, presents here a guitar only concert that takes the listener from familiar sounds to punishing and destructive, having us questioning if a guitar can possibly make that much of a racket. While it does remind one of the work of Les Ralizes Denudes' Mizutani, Keiji Haino and Jutok Kaneko, among others, Mr. Jianhong projects enough personality making his six string explorations sound like coming from no one but himself.
14. Alcest - Souvenir D'un Autre Monde
Coming as a side project from France's black metal scene, Alcest's sound bears more similarities to My Bloody Valentine than Deathspell Omega; while "shoegazer metal" isn't something exactly new (it's actually the sound of '07 probably), Souvenir... stands head and shoulders above most soundalikes by delivering more emotion and well written songs than sonic excess and it works to their favor. Many avant-metallers might have used dream pop sounds, but few, like Alcest, dared to dream and expose those dreams on wax.
13. Ghost - In Stormy Nights
Masaki Batoh and company give us one of their most pastoral releases under the name of his psych collective; while most of the album is devoted to psychedelic and folky sounds with some overreaching sentiments, the song "Hemicyclic Anthelion" balances all by being half as long as the album, as well as being introspective and darker than the other half, evenning all for a very complete listening experience.
12. Los Llamarada - The Exploding Now!
Monterrey, former 90's fertile ground for commercial rock here in Mexico, now gives us a bastard child that attempts to break on through audio; armed with the very rudimentary of instruments and recording equipment, Los Llamarada channel krautrock via The Fall and trascendental enlightment via punk rock's fuck everything except what we're doing; sound and band becomes one and, on the riff cycles played by them, lurks something big, scary and essential.
11. Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam
For their latest act, the four acid-washed animals attempted to throw away their lenghty instrumental improvisations and folky singer-songwriter sensibilities, saving just enough writing skills and trippy instrumental experimentation to compose the best batch of pop songs they can, and come out of this act as a fresh, reinvented front without really changing. "For Reverend Green" celebrates something or another while "Fireworks" let's love rule; everywhere in between, the first true song oriented AnCo album presents us a party.
10. Municipal Waste - The Art Of Partying
Of course, if you aren't a fan of old Metallica, Exodus, Slayer, Anthrax, etc (not to mention D.R.I., Suicidal Tendencies and the like crossover bands), it's very probable that this album might not sound like top ten material; but for us who still headbang to the old riffs of thrash metal, Municipal Waste played our song; a brash, uncompromising heavy n' fast songfest of vaguely metaphorical references to partying, and a soundtrack (by the way of the "Municipal Waste is gonna fuck-you-up!!" chant) to bashing the hard and heavy way.
9. Descartes A Kant - Paper Dolls
Coming off as the bastard child of Mr Bungle and Deerhoof, Guadalajara's multi-costumed ones didn't succeeded by being original (which they aren't) or by proving they can play many musical styles on the same song (which they can but, then again, others have done it better); the reason Paper Dolls is such an irresistable album is because they prove they can write memorable songs in ever-shifting sounds and still feel like they do what they like, in the styles that they like. While their influences show, most of the songs here are so fun and hard (although the lyrical content might not be as euphoric), one can't deny their skills as songwriters or the energetic delivery they perform them with.
8. Kousokuya - Echoes From Deep Underground
Ray Night 2006.10.18
Jutok Kaneko's passing left a hole within japanese psych no one will fill; and, more than an epitaph, these two concerts showcase Jutok's mastery not only in his instrument, but also as a band leader, guiding his bandmates over free passages, melancholic sections, heavy breaks and music that overall doesn't feel improvised as much as transmitted from somewhere deep in the soul and unto our ears. A testament to a great.
7. Sutcliffe Jügend - This Is The Truth
Power electronics, extreme industrial and harsh noise in general are having some sort of big appreciation period at the moment, as artist old and new are active and fighting for their limited edition runs to sell out first; and while most P.E. performers worships at the altar of Come Org/Broken Flag/Tesco, few really go beyond that altar in their executions. So leave it to these true pioneers and experts in extremism, Kevin Tomkins and Paul Taylor, to re-draw the map and attempt something else to make p.e. more powerful, by giving silence and whispering as much space as screaming and blasting. This Is The Truth might not become a quintessential document of noise, but it surely will be one of the few to blame for shifting perspectives within it.
6. Melt-Banana - Bambi's Dilemma
Continuing with their more song-oriented material, Melt-Ba decide to use their hyper-fast attack only where it counts on the main songs of this album, resulting in some of their most memorable in their whole career, while still have the balls to give us a whole section of sub-minute songs AND two synth blasting space truckers. Yako, Agata and Rika don't really change approach but evolve into something, making Bambi's not only the great record it is, but an invitation to expect something else whenever these genius chipmunks decide to drop a follow up.
5. Nadja - Radiance Of Shadows
Leah Buckareff and Aidan Baker have made good if not great albums before this one, but Radiance Of Shadows delivers everything the duo has been making since Nadja was a pseudonym for Baker's solo explorations: deep bass rumbling underneat, samples and effects giving wave after wave of light and long pieces that surround the listener with something beautiful yet terrifying that's difficult to put into words. On Radiance..., they deliver all this into some of their best written and arranged pieces to bring us probably their definitive and more rounded album, one whose emotional context is so tidal, one wonders how the speakers don't break to let all those sounds loose in the room.
4. Kemialliset Ystävät - Untitled
Jan Anderzen and associates have many releases, not only as KY but also in many nicknames and configurations, many of those being some of Finland's best avant-whatever artists and groups; still, for this Untitled album, Anderzen and co-conspirators use everything they are known for: random sounds, electric instruments, homemade sound generators, well arranged songs and improvisation to build one of the best, most psychedelic albums ever. Where nothing is what it seems, it could only mean that it invites for multiple listens to be transported somewhere else.
3. Neurosis - Given To The Rising
After wandering out into somber and less metallic regions with their last two albums, the mighty Neurosis probably would be expected to deliver another introspective collection of songs; that they did, but they also returned to playing their brand of heavy, punishing music. That a band can successfully retake their old, signature sound and progress into another with the accumulation of experiments and the atmosphere of their recent albums is something that is not seen everyday, especially when said album is as solid as Through Silver In Blood or Enemy Of The Sun, more than ten years apart, is something only Neurosis could have done.
2. Jesu - Conqueror
Justin Broadrick doesn't have to prove anything to anyone, his latest vehicule Jesu has already demonstrated that it can conjure up sounds both destructive and contemplative, often at the same time; instead of doing just another album of swirling, doomy guitars and face being snobbed over Nadja, Alcest, The Angelic Process, etc. Justin decides to use his sonic powers to perfect his songwriting skills (as left by the last Godflesh album) and give out way for pure emotion to flow through it all. Contemplating life by it's sorrow and it's ecstasy, a song like stand out "Transfigure" explores feeling like crap in such a way that by the time the first verse is repeated, it's more of a celebration instead of a lament, finding hope in loss being a contradiction worthy of the sound within Conqueror.
1. Rhys Chatham - A Crimson Grail (For 400 Electric Guitars)
The composer delivers to Paris a concert like no other could have been done; multi-guitar compositions are nothing new and Glenn Branca can tell you they can be limiting, so when Rhys Chatham, master minimalist, wrote a piece for 400 six stringers, one could only imagining another Guitar Trio or an Ascension Part II even; but, in fact, the sound ended up being something different. While i can only imagine how amazing it would have been to witness the performance live, the recorded version is something that shines on it's own and proves the power of the piece easier; when played at a low volume, A Crimson Grail becomes a meditative ambient piece of sublime and delicate detail, but when the volume is cranked, the weight of so much would and steel wires comes over you and you are crushed by it's intensity; in other words, this work is as ethereal, envolving and profound as any of the very best drone, instrumental/post rock or ambient albums and as pulverizing, dark and challenging as any of the top avant-metal, noise or heavy psych records released this year. A true work of art.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
The discussion is always there, the words always repeated; music is way too available to everybody in this day and age on the internet; want an album by a polka band from Russia? Get on Soulseek and you'll find thousands to choose from, Want a promo version of Kreator's next album? Just google it the right way and you'll score, Feeling like listening to Throbbing Gristle's pummeling TG24+ box set, or better yet to the infamous 50 disc behemoth that is the Merzbox? There's probably a well-seeded torrent to download from.
Yet all the geezers and the snobs point out regularly that having so much music made available to the public is making them cherish it less than back in the good ol' days when AIDS didn't ruin unsafe sex and skyscrappers were made of chocolate; everything is so disposable now, how can you love it?
I'll give it my take on all this.
I think it's bollocks that, if something's (relatively) easily available, then it's worthless; i've found many of my very favorite bands and artists, old and new, by downloading albums by them; if it wasn't for the internet, i probably would have never even hear about Loop since most of their shit is out of print, just to give you an example.
Back in the day (yes, i'm saying it with a straight face and can't believe it), if i wanted to check out a band i didn't know that was not on the radio in any form i had two options: a) i'd gamble my way in and buy the album in a store for literally 4 times de normal price (i live in a country where most albums i like aren't domestic) or b) i'd buy a pirate cassette copy of an album. Even buying a bootleg tape was difficult, you couldn't just waltz into a street corner and ask for the new Pavement joint, let alone, say, a Teengenerate record and forget it if you wanted to give Captain Beefheart a listen, it just didn't exist; locating a good pirate tape booth was difficult but not impossible, and once there, you had to make do with what they had; i remember getting an Earache sampler because it had TWO Brutal Truth songs and i desperately wanted Brutal Truth material to listen to, sure the tape also featured Godflesh, Carcass, Bolt Thrower, Entombed and Cathedral, but i really didn't like any of them (except for Entombed), i was only interested in Brutal Truth and that's all i could get then (years after, i learned to appreciate and love the other 4 bands in the comp).
Another method was taping shit yourself; a friend had something that you absolutely wanted to hear for yourself, so you asked him/her to borrow the tape/cd and then you'd make your copy, or maybe he/she made the copy for you; i had to actually build a cable, literally build a cable (with help from my mom) to record from my Walkman to the house stereo because it wasn't a double deck thing, i also used to xerox the covers and then color them myself, no matter if it was actual photographs. The only Stone Temple Pilots album i own in my tape collections is a very cartoonesque colored copy of Purple, while my Danzig's 4 booklet has the side lid completely drawn by my unsteady, 13-year old hand and is so black, you can't make of any of the printed lyrics...none more black indeed.
So, you'd think downloading has solved any of our harebrained schemes to actually listen to music that probably might make us orgasm to sleep at night and fuel our dreams in pursuit of everything's that amazing in life for us...but it hasn't. For many many people, downloading an album can be as tricky as freestyle rapping in french with only a beginners lesson under your belt; it's fucking unbelievable but people CAN'T GOOGLE, either they can't type and haven't even looked at how they spell their beloved band's name or they get lazy when looking at 500+ results and the first page of results don't have any direct links (refining a search is an alien concept to these people, it seems). Worse of all, people think they are entitled to have the album they are looking for for free, getting hostile over people and calling them "dix" and "azzzholez" because they dare make their lazy, cheap ass selves look harder for the mp3s they can probably easily buy.
I download a lot, a whole fucking lot in fact, but that doesn't affect my listening experience or my excitement over music; in fact, in a lot of circumstances, i have to look hard and suffer for my downloading. I listen to a lot of noise, improv, drone and such, shit that is released in micro-editions by closet labels that go out of print in seconds; sometimes i look for a release for weeks, and once i find it, i sometimes have to wait forever for it to download completely, not to mention many of these releases are done on tape and vinyl, which makes it not more difficult but a lot more tiring for the kind person who rips the material and uploads for the people; a few months ago, i struggled to find a clip of about 3 minutes of Jason Zeh's music that hardly represents his work, but it had to do to show someone more or less what he did. Currently, it's probably going to take me months to download every disc of SPK's box Vinyl On Demand put out this year, but you bet it will be sweet to finally listen to it once everything's in my hard drive, just as it was sweet to listen to the 10-disc Improvised Music From Japan box i downloaded a few months back, and that didn't take much effort to download, relatively speaking.
So, music is music, more people are listening to it and more people who are predisposed to not really care about it will not care about much, but they'll listen to it; for us who really live for this, things don't change, whether you're awaiting patiently for your mailorder or being queued to download all of Whitehouse's original Aktions, the moment those notes that really mean something to you will sound as sweet as they need to be, the morans and freeloaders be damned.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Gothic-y vocals and notes swarm around a cushony bed of electronics that are sorta dancy and fun; sounds like something that might not be that seemless, but it is, thanks to the overall rhythms that march on a deathrock roll. Very simplistic but it does the trick, like Crystal Castles wanting to play Christian Death’s Only Theater Of Pain and chuffing away all their filler material. A clear highlight is their appropiation of a Rolling Stones classic, converting it to “Jumping Jack Flash Drive”, dressed in bleeping synths and macabre vocal tones. The songs flow somwhere between goth rocking fare and more extended dancy, electronica numbers, mostly on the same songs, flowing in and out of each style, which is interesting and does for good grim dancefloor fodder; but it’s hardly super innovative shit. Tons of fun and danceable.
Dead Luke - Untitled.mp3
Monday, November 24, 2008
I encountered Jimmy Eat World in the late 90’s, while investigating on the sounds of the then-intriguing tag of “emo” that no one liked and is way more hated today; still, i didn’t listen to Jimmy until the early ‘00s when i downloaded two songs, “Opener” and the demo of “If You Don’t, Don’t” from the then forthcoming Bleed American album. I related to both songs and liked them.
Clarity, i found later on, while investigating further into the band’s career; funny enough, i don’t remember the first time i listened to it, i remember not thinking or feeling anything afterwards, which is odd. Now, it figures as one of my favorite albums ever, not because it’s groundbreaking musically (which isn’t, really) or lyrically, but it’s a collection of songs that are so well arranged, sequenced and played that, most importantly in my book, i can relate and makes me feel something (which is something that happens with most of my favorite albums, no matter if it’s Bardo Pond’s Lapsed, Boredoms’ Super AE, Wigrid’s Die Asche Eines Lebens or Merzbow’s Venereology).
The songs are all delivered with such sincerity without too much vagueness or too much specification, the music and imagery is balanced in such a way that they evoke something personal to you, while making you sing along to their songs; it’s a great album to wallow in your own misery or to scream along in excitement.
One of my favorite parts of the album is the continuity throughout, especially during the first part; “Believe In What You Want” could be a new section for “Your New Aesthetic” while “Crush”’s verse vocal melody is not that different from some found on the previous song, “A Sunday”, to the point where “Crush” seems like a more aggressive coda to the other song. Another thing that strikes me about this album is the use of strings that is so common to disposable pop these days, but it doesn’t sound cheap or corny, sounds like something that fills the sound, gives it something extra it might lack.
The rocking parts are passionate and loud, the quiet parts are melancholic and earnest, but nothing is what it seems; the aforementioned “Crush” might sound violent (by their standards) but it’s actually an euphoric number about feeling good and happy, while the sadder “A Sunday” talks about losing someone over bad decisions and drugs. Of course, the choruses of “Like a breath” and “As the haze clears from your eyes, on a sunday” might have a different interpretation for every listener, and that’s part of this album’s greatness, in a big way.
Undeniably, there’s a centerpiece in this album in the form of “Just Watch The Fireworks”, a song that begins fairly straight, both lyrically and musically, with arpeggios adorning the verses, a simple drum beat propelling the song and the lyrics all describing...well...watching fireworks, a promise of seeing them again with “you”; strings enter the picture but they are fairly unintrusive, as they have been on the album so far; the real meat of the song, comes on the bridge when Jim Adkins “said said said out loud over and over”, while the strings add to the song without making it a dumb power ballad moment, just giving the music enough strenght without relying on distortion to give it a more noble feeling, one which is reflected on the part where Jim sings after the aforementioned “loud over and over” part that he’ll “stop now, just enough so i can hear you; i’ll stay up as long as it takes” It turns the lyrics from a lonely person’s lament on missing an actual human into someone that might not be with us anymore, it comes from something completely specific (wishing a certain someone was watching the fireworks with you) to something more ambiguous, stopping now to hear a person there or someone in your memory? The way the rest of the song unfolds, it becomes both an emotional confession and a chant of celebration, “as long as it takes” is both a lament of sorrow to hold onto someone and a shout out of happiness to, somehow untangibly, be with that person and share the moment the fireworks go off. It’s not bittersweet, it’s bitter (or more like sad) and sweet.
My favorite line in the whole album is “The first star i see, may not be, a star”, a song that probably means the most to me now right now, “For Me This Is Heaven” contains some of the band’s most ambitious music compressed into a palatable song format, while it asks big questions for small people, it talks about the end of the time we have now, about how if he doesn’t let himself be happy, then when? And about still feeling the butterflies AND the last goodbye. Is this really heaven? Is it “the comfort of being sad” or is it about still feeling a sublime way about times gone and cherishing them, since we don’t know when our time will end? While i ask myself these questions (after all, i don’t care if it’s about something specific to Jim or anybody in the band; the song is about stuff i relate, that’s why they are important to me), i can’t stop feeling like there’s no need to answer these questions because i already feel what it is about. Whenever i listen to this song, i feel like it’s not only something i know and understand, but something about me.
I love all the songs in this album, but “Goodbye Sky Harbour” has a special place for me, because it proves how great artists Jimmy Eat World are; lyrically, it’s the shortest song on the album but musically, it’s the longest; the lyrics are far from under-realized, they are in fact, as good and expressive as the rest of the album, relying in simplier images and more ambiguity. The music continues with the rockier, Dischord-like angularity the mightier side of Clarity possess, but soon leaves it away for an odd timed, layered and repetitive instrumental, recalling a bit of Slint, Tortoise, Tristeza and early Mogwai, after which Jim adds layer after layer of non-wordly vocals, accumulating a big mass of them, with the band leaving and an IDM piece takes over, a track of dancey yet challenging electronica noodling that reminds of Autechre and the gentler side of Aphex Twin. An epic finish for an epic album.
This album is a very personal thing for me, i can't think about objectively much, but i guess it could be that way for everyone who likes it, by design. There's something oddly melancholic and warm about their songs, especially here, that makes it feel like something to play on a gloomy day during your teenage years, or whenever you think about someone you're not with, for a reason or another; perhaps if you turn the volume down for a bit, perhaps you'll hear her/him with you, perhaps all it takes to hear her/him is listening to these songs.
Jimmy Eat World - Lucky Denver Mint.mp3
Jimmy Eat World - Crush.mp3
Jimmy Eat World - For Me This Is Heaven (live at La Scala, London 2002).mp3
Jimmy Eat World - Goodbye Sky Harbour (live al La Scala, London 2002).mp3
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Windsor For The Derby
How We Lost
Shoegazer indie pop has been all the rage for the past couple of years on semi-underground circles, but what about indie pop with tendencies towards atmospheric instrumental music? Sure, there’s tons of Mogwai lites everywhere, but they are hardly the stuff to sing along, is it? While Windsor For Derby’s music is obviously ambicious instrumentally, it’s not mathy enough to gain comparisons to Unwound and their ilk, and not minimalistic enough to gather some pompous name or place in the “heady, easily liked hipster headphone buzzer” category. Windsor remind me at their most profound of bands like Tortoise, Seefeel and the Kranky roster yet they are not afraid to have melodic vocals that make you sing along but are restrained enough to be cool about it, which isn’t that surprising considering they have released albums on both Trance Syndicate and Young God. The band also has the bravery to include a bunch of simplier, catchier and rockier songs to make you want to dance or jump or something in between; how to balance such desperate camps of direct reaction songwriting with the more cerebral stuff? Take a page from Stereolab’s approach, of course, making it fun and using a few tricks learned from Neu! albums; and, while the stuff is hardly as awesome as the ‘lab’s own material, and you can hear a sort of schism going around between the two camps of songs, write songs well enough not to give them such a hard time about it. More than anything, a fun, harmless listen.
Windsor For The Derby - Maladies.mp3
Windsor For The Derby - Good Things.mp3
I think it looks promising, especially since i thought 300 looked like crap and it's the same director and all, still this one looks like it could be a great movie, aside from some details. I'm also not sure if, since i know and love the story already, there's some sort of bias of my part towards this trailer; anyway, i do think it's good.
I read the graphic novel a few months ago and instantly turned me into a comic book fan, it's completely mindblowing; the story is amazing and merciless.
In fact, i was going to be Rorschach for Halloween, but didn't pan out.
Monday, November 17, 2008
It must be scary for the Grimmrobed ones to dare give a master to a pressing plant, or so is the way they are acting; after the almost unanimous acclaim they received for 2005´s (yes, three years ago, kids) Black One, attempting a new album that’s not twice as mindblowing would be considered shit in the eyes of the all knowing, all seeing dronefanhood, so they keep releasing stop gap records while they can. While last year’s Oracle was patchy at best, this year’s Dømkirke is a bit more flourished and developed, continuing to experiment with the drone metal formula borrowed from Earth but adding and substracting many elements, their m.o. for most of their career; opening with a grand organ dirge accompanied by Mayhem’s Attila Csihar’s pseudo-gregorian vocalizations, the band (playing here inside a massive Norwegian cathedral) goes to familiar, if quieter ground on the second side of the offering, with a trombone adding colour to the sustained guitar chords (yep, they have been listening to Robe.) while Attila and the organ re-enter the picture around halfway through. Side three, meanwhile continues with a little calmness over more sustained notes and feedback tones (and some sound processing thanks to noise wizard Lasse Marhaug) to scale into a murkier patch of sound that continues to the next side, letting go only to find Attila calming everything with his humming voice accompanied just by the organ to lull the visitors into it’s drone. With a journey that ebbs and flows like this, i’m not sure if it’s good or bad that Sunn O))) keep pushing expectations for their next studio album, considering the high quality of material like this
Sunn O))) - Cannon.mp3
I can't remember but perhaps there was a time when including a word on the dictionary was something relevant and even exciting to some; on the pre-internet ages, language, no matter what language, was something completely serious and erudite even, learning the correct uses and spellings of words was a matter that separated the boys from the men, the men from the animals and so on; it was something very strict and even pompous to many. Now, and this has to do with my first reaction to this "news" item, nobody gives a crap about language, as long as a word is accepted massively, it's not only well viewed but also accepted. This is the case with "meh".
I'm not here to preach about the days of old (the ones i wasn't yet born to have witnessed) or to say how shitty people speak and write today, but rather about how easy it is for words to become not only part of our daily lives but also part of our sciences and practices. Like i said, i can't remember when and if it was actual news that a word got included in the dictionary, but it seems now that if a TV character or an internet fad (that may be taken by a TV character later on) gives us a misspelled, misappropiated or plainly a brand new vocalization of a sense or emotion into a word, then a year or two later it's in the dictionary. Why? Is this really progress? Is it the way to go?
On the one hand, words are nothing other than things that allow us to communicate with one another in the easiest way possible, if by using a word we explain ourselves better, be it gramatically correct or not or existant even, then it's probably a good thing; and if many people use the word (with, exponentially, more people receiving and using said word) and you can universally express something with less effort, then that's the use of language in itself, right there.
On the other hand, this reeks of catering to the masses, having a dictionary being sold with words the common man can digest and understand, that he/she can relate because he uses them on a regular basis. "New Improve DICTIONARY!!! Now, with 'Meh' and many other of your favorite words!!! Only $19.99". I'm not saying this is something of grave offense or anything, but not because something is popular means it's something good.
I think words, mostly, are irrelevant to communication; as long as the message is clear, words, grammar and all that can take a back seat. But ignorance is bad and can be very dangerous, and giving license to be ignorant to people is just not right. As i said, communication should be clear.
I use 'meh' a lot, but i think the power of the word (a very strong power, might i add) has been losing itself; i'm not sure if it's good or bad, that remains to be seen (although, if less people have the power of using words, then it's possible that the few who still know the art and use of it might use them to their own advantages and get better results). All i know is that the addition of words to the dictionary is nothing to get excited about anymore; or, simply put, M-E-H.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
The Yardbirds, or so do the almighty critics tell us, was the band that gave us the talent of some of the first guitar “virtuosos” in rock music, spawning no less than Eric Clapton (he of Cream, Derek and The Dominos and solo fame), Jeff Beck (he of...uh, the Jeff Beck Group fame and the main inspiration for Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel) and Jimmy Page (he of Led Zeppelin fame). Yet they are wrong if they think that’s all the Yardbirds were about.
Just listening to their music you get a feeling of exhilaration that few bands from that era gave, they possessed a sense of desperation and energy that made you smash your head to the wall or dance like a lunatic; sure, they had a very refined perfection to their playing but that counts for squat if it wasn’t for the way they played, like they meant it and with everything they had. No wonder most garage took upon their sound and it wasn’t until the slash-and-burn excesses of Blue Cheer, the Stooges and the MC5 that those levels of energy were exceded.
Not only were the guitar players excellent in this band, they were all a classic case of the “sum is better than the individual parts” that most great bands have; one of their greatest achievements was the so called rave up part of their songs, a section where they would concentrate into playing harder and more intense until the sound exploded just to go back to where they left off and finish the song (almost 30 years before Daydream Nation), Keith Relf sang with such bravado and intensity but hardly ever letting his voice get out of control, he was not just making the blues standards they used to cover jump, he made them scream! I call bollocks on the reason why Clapton left the Yardbirds, he wasn’t offended by them abandoning their purist roots since they would inject those pure blues numbers with so much adrenaline that they turned them into something else, something that was almost beyond rock back then, something original and all their fucking own.
But yes, the Yardbirds sold out.
Clapton, then nicknamed “Slow Hand” and a little later being the subject of many a “Eric Clapton Is God” graffittis, quit the band as they hit the charts with “For Your Love”. The reason i think Clapton quit is because of this song, namely a) the song’s lead instrument is not the guitar and b) it was a smash hit, unlike all the blues songs Clapton favored; but “For Your Love” is anything but a poppy bland attempt at mass comercial success; in fact, it’s one of the best damn songs to ever be recorded in this Earth; seriously, from the first chords of the harpsichord to the backing vocals to Relf’s delivery to the impossibly heavy breakdown in the middle to the grand last chorus, it retained the rave up quality of their blues adaptations but did it in a picture perfect song format.
Replacing Clapton wasn’t hard, since he recommended a friend of his, Jimmy Page who was then, a studio session player who enjoyed his job and had good pay so he preferred not to join them, instead telling them about his friend Jeff Beck, who had played in minor garage bands in which he experimented with feedback, noise and distortion, something that expanded the band’s sonic palette tenfold coupled with their new found song oriented material, gave the world such blazing recordings such as “Shape Of Things”, “You’re a Better Man Than I” and “Heart Full Of Soul” (the later’s riff originally intended to be played by a sitar), as well as more blues versions like the absolute expressway to their skulls climax of “I’m A Man” that always gives me the chills.
Bassist Paul Samwell-Smith left the band some time after, giving them an opportunity to invite Page again to the band, with the extremely underrated talents of Chris Dreja leaving the rhythm guitar for the four string to have room for Jeff and Jimmy to really let loose. Problem was, there was almost no time since Beck fell sick and was soon after being falsely diagnosed, he was fired while on the road, ending a truly magical era of music when rumours would fly about him slashing his speakers or loosening the tubes in his amp to get his distortion and when bands, sometimes spearheaded by the very own Yardbirds, would experiment with raga forms or gregorian chants.
The band went on to have minor hits with Page but they mostly exploited their experimental side, extending their songs and obliterating them to noise onstage, using the studio as an instrument and not caring about the results or having fear; Jimmy introduced the band to his freak folkish song “White Summer” and the prog noise metal of “Dazed & Confused”, developed by Relf and the rest of the band, although they wouldn’t last very long after.
Today i listen to this band with immortal melodies, daring ideas and incredibly exciting executions and i wonder about what would it have been to be around when they were around and perhaps watching them live with anyone of their brilliant lineups. Often, people look at me funny when i talk about Clapton and Beck and Page and assure them i positively despise Cream, don’t feel like listening to Led Zeppelin most of the time or that i’m not terribly excited to look into the instrumental work of Beck, rather i refer to their early to mid-60’s selves, as much as Bob Dylan felt old newspapers were more relevant in the sixties than the rags of the day; those were the days when a simple blues standard could make you want to slamdance before you could even think about stuff like that, it was music that makes you feel alive over under sideways down, i’m not sure if then but i’m completely positive that they do now, to me at the very least, with a sip of muddy waters, a fuzzed out sitar line and a heartful of soul to make me feel alive.
The Yardbirds - Too Much Monkey Business (Five Live Yardbirds).mp3
The Yardbirds - For Your Love.mp3
The Yardbirds - Heart Full Of Soul.mp3
The Yardbirds - The Train Kept A-Rollin'.mp3
The Yardbirds - I'm A Man (live 1968-Mar-30 Anderson Theater, NYC).mp3
The Yardbirds - Jeff's Boogie.mp3
The Yardbirds - Over Under Sideways Down (live 1968-Mar-30 Anderson Theater, NYC).mp3
The Yardbirds - Happening Ten Years Time Ago.mp3