Sunday, March 28, 2010

AFX: Newly Released Analords (2010)

It's not entirely clear if these Analord tracks were recorded with the originals or more recently. Probably the former given the fact that they were part of a re-release of all the previous Analord EPs which happened last December, but still surprising given how much some of them stand out in comparison to some of those original tracks.

The Analord series, as far as I can tell, was a way for Aphex Twin to experiment with format. After DrukQs, he had made as intense and furious an electronic piece of work than anybody could make, so it makes sense that he would decide to simplify in a certain way.

As much as some of the Analord tracks seem like merely musical gestures as opposed to complete songs, the word simple or simplify doesn't really do them justice. Part of what makes Aphex Twin such an amazing artist is not just the basic composition of the music, but the texture and personality of the sounds he uses. As far back as anyone can trace his work, his songs have always had a very special emotive quality, and an incredible range within that as well. The Richard D. James album as an example is full of memorable moments. Moments that exude some pretty raw emotions for an electronic album: bliss, sadness, detachment, frenzy, and a hundred other unspeakable qualities. The stuff he creates is like a language unto itself, a form of musical expression that can't be described completely with words. And that is a quality I hold dear in the world of music. It's something that has stayed true throughout his career, including what he's done with the Analord series.

Obviously, not every song he creates is on that incredible level, but his overall body of work is worthy of that. He's broken barriers that allow you to judge his work in a context that you would not allow any other artist; he's truly set himself apart. And that makes it easier to appreciate the 'simpler' tracks as more than just a lazy experiment.

The tracks I chose as examples, these 'Chosen (by RAW 3) Lords' are actually the least simplistic of the bunch. They are the standouts with the most personality, the most highly developed. Anyway, here they are. Buy them here:

These are a really sweet addition to the whole series, they round it out very nicely and give it a little more depth of personality. Now, hopefully my daily prayers will be answered when he actually releases an Aphex Twin album on Warp this year. One can only dream...

AFX - Love 7 by elpretentio2

AFX - In The Maze Park by elpretentio2

AFX - 3 Notes Con by elpretentio2

AFX - Stabbij by elpretentio2

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

daughters - daughters (2010)

When I heard the first Daughters album, "Canada Songs", I was floored.  Released on Robotic Empire in 2003, at the height of popularity for grind and hardcore bands like The Locust and The Blood Brothers, Canada Songs was eleven minutes (!!!) of pure fury and funny song titles ("I Don't Give a Shit About Wood, I'm Not a Chemist").  And yet my shocked reaction to "Canada Songs" paled in comparison to how blown away I was by their 2006 follow up, "Hell Songs".  Over twice as long as "Canada Songs" (twenty-three minutes, this time!), "Hell Songs" featured longer song lengths, added instrumentation (members of progressive metal band Kayo Dot guested), and most notably, a new and demented singing style from Alexis Marshall; no longer screaming incomprehensibly, but rather drunkenly crooning, coming off like a satanic preacher (or "the sound of Elvis Presley being tortured", sez the Wikipedia page).  The woozy, off-balance vocals stumbled and ranted over the top of guitar squiggles and pounding drums, and the result was one of the most hateful and yet enjoyable albums I've ever heard.  A fitting movie (or comic book if yr a geek like me) comparison to "Hell Songs" might be the Joker: unhinged, violent and unpredictable, yet powerful and entirely in control at all times.  Suffice to say, I had high hopes for the new, self-titled Daughters album.  But when I put on "Daughters" for the first time, it became apparent that the stylistic leap that had occurred between "Canada Songs" and "Hell Songs" was not going to occur again.  Largely in the same vein as "Hell Songs", "Daughters" features slightly longer songs and more of the same crazed singing and technical guitar playing.  Yet somehow it wasn't the same as "Hell Songs" to me... it was lesser.  It took me awhile to fully grasp it, but the band significantly dialed back the intensity on "Daughters".  Rather than pummeling, full-throttle drums, the beats on most of the songs hit hard yet rarely let loose.  A thick synthesizer has been brought in, playing melodic lines alongside the guitar.  The songs are more hooky too, a little bit more accessible sounding.  If "Hell Songs" was Heath Leger's Joker, a violent psychopath, "Daughters" is a little bit more like Jack Nicholson's Joker.... similar, yet not nearly as threatening.  Kind of goofy, actually.  What happened?  Sometime between the time that this album was recorded last year, and its release this year, both guitarist Nicholas Sandler and bassist Samual Walker left the group, effectively breaking up Daughters and making this their final release.  This suggests that perhaps the band wasn't really working cohesively and toward a common purpose on this album, but then that's just speculation on my part.  Sandler joined New York super-postive indie-bullshit group Fang Island after leaving Daughters, so maybe he was just sick of being in a good band?  At any rate, while not terrible, this album doesn't succeed in the way that previous Daughters releases did, and marks the end of the band in a somewhat disappointing manner.  At least we'll always have "Hell Songs".

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Plastikman - Consumed (1998)

Plastikman - 01 - Contain by elpretentio2

Deep, hypnotic rolling bass. Repetitive, but that's the point: to get lost in a zone of sorts. Definitely dark as a consequence of the low, heavy sound driving it while a sinister, slow build of a synth rides alongside. I'm not sure if it was intended as a concept album, but it certainly works as one. Each track is a relatively minor variation on what i just described.

Plastikman is otherwise known as Richie Hawtin, a minimal techno pioneer and a mainstay of the Detroit techno scene. Being only vaguely familiar with his other work, i can still say that this is one of his weirder, more conceptual projects. It does what most good albums should do: it takes you to a real and substantial place. This one just happens to be an abyss. File under: meditative, impending doom.

Plastikman will be at Coachella the Sunday of that weekend.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

burzum - belus (2010)

Let's just get the inconvenient fact that Varg Vikernes is not just a convicted murderer and arsonist, but perhaps as bad (or worse), an open and unrepentant racist, out of the way.  Yes these things are true, and yes if you need to like or agree with the musicians you listen to you may want to avoid this.  I've spent a lot of time trying to decide whether its "morally ok" to listen to this and other even more vehemently racist music without coming to a conclusion about how I feel about it.  But as fellow SP&M writer RAWIII remarked to me after I spent hours discussing the moral conflict of listening to NSBM on a car trip from LA to SF, "Eh.... I'm tired of talking about Nazis."  So ignoring all of the baggage that comes with this, how is the album?  Actually... it's way, way better than I was expecting it to be.  In fact it's easily one of the best black metal albums I've heard in awhile.  While it lacks the atmospheric and haunting keyboard melodies that made Burzum one of the all-time greats in the genre, the guitar work is incredible and aggressive and creates an entirely different vibe from older Burzum work- unlike the meandering dirges of Filosofem, the songs on Belus sound focused and driven.  It's still unmistakeably the product of the same artist, but going in a new direction.  I hadn't heard anything good about the work Varg had produced since going to jail, and since this is his first album in eleven years, I wasn't expecting much- my expectations were definitely exceeded and then some.

Friday, March 12, 2010

one year birthday

Our first review was written one year ago today!  Mind-boggling! A few site redesigns, two new writers (R. A. Williams and MRT!), and a moderately popular facebook page later, and we're still going as half-assedly as ever!  Thanks for reading, we're always working on making the site better, so stick around.  Maybe this year we'll even get a review from the mysterious third original site co-founder!  WHO KNOWS

Thursday, March 11, 2010

James Blake

02. James Blake - Sparing The Horse by elpretentio2
02 James Blake - Buzzard & Kestrel by elpretentio2

Once again, I basically don't know exactly what to call this. I'm just going to preface every post with that from now on. I just like to appreciate the "is"-ness of music rather than categorize it, for the most part. But somehow I still manage to contribute this blog of excellence.

This is... something-step. Definitely has some 'step' in it. Maybe... inverted-step? I dunno. Either way, it should be known that I think it's great. Next(Current now, digital age, sorry)-level greatness. Crazy good new style. This is basically what I live for in music.

James Blake is new to the scene. So far has released a few singles that can be found here:

news: metal bootleg vids from switzerland

My internet connection slowed to a painful crawl this week, and this website was the reason why.  Although the webmaster seemingly only posted for one month and then quit, all of the videos here are worth checking out.  Wanna see St. Vitus in '89?  Slayer in '88?  Live sets by Morbid Angel, Napalm Death, and Gore?  Yes of course you do.  So go download these now!!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

track review: neon indian - sleep paralysist

This new Neon Indian track was released today via "Green Label Sound", some kind Mountain Dew cross-marketing bullshit music label.  In addition to being released in conjunction with the marketing arm of a soft drink corporation, the song is conspicuously hi-fidelity.  One of the things that always struck me about the rush of music websites to christen the terms "glo-fi" or "chillwave" or what-have-you is that there was never anything (geography, touring, labels) that connected the various groups that got saddled with these labels; rather it was just an attempt to lump somewhat-similar-sounding yet otherwise unrelated acts together.  The problem I had with that is that there really wasn't any indication that the second albums from these bands would be in the same vein, making the creation of these new genre labels kind of premature.  And sure enough, why call this new Neon Indian track "glo-fi" when it actually has high production values?  Personally the lo-fi nature of Psychic Chasms played a large part in what I liked about it, but I came away from seeing Neon Indian at the Echoplex with the impression that they really were ambitious and interested in bigger and better things.  So, I'm not surprised that Sleep Paralysist is slick and soda-affiliated: its basically what I expected from this guy.  However, that doesn't mean that I'm not still kind of disappointed.  Apart from the Terry Riley-esque keyboard squiggles that open and close the song, there's nothing about this that is particularly interesting to me.  I think free of the haze and murk that the lo-fi production of Psychic Chasms provided, the heavy-synth pop sound is too garish and clubby.  It wouldn't matter that much if the song was good, but again there's not much memorable about it.  One of the guys from Grizzly Bear co-wrote this, but you'd never know just from listening.  It's not a terrible misstep by any sense, but it doesn't really raise my expections for Neon Indian's next album, either.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Preview: Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma

Just intercepted a few Cosmogramma promo tracks that have been floating around the internet (the Cosmogramma group on, specifically) for about a month now. And I gotta admit, they sound pretty promising. Album's due out on May 4th, but if you live in the bay area I highly recommend that you catch both Mr. Lotus and ultra-UK-electronic pioneer Kode9 at the Mezzanine on March 27th. I saw that same combo last year (along with The Bug) and it was mind-blowingly good. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

Le tracks:

Flying Lotus - Dance Of The Pseudo Nymph by elpretentio2

Flying Lotus - Satelllliiiiiteee by elpretentio2

Flying Lotus - Computer Face//Pure Being by elpretentio2

Autechre - Oversteps

Autechre - Oversteps 03 known(1) by elpretentio2

Autechre - Oversteps 06 see on see by elpretentio2

Autechre - Oversteps 09 O=0 by elpretentio2

Goddamn, what a difficult album to review. This a major departure for them. But then again, it's not.

The main reason that this is such a hard album to review is because with Autechre, basically nothing (or everything, depending on how you look at it) is a departure for them. They've been pushing the boundaries of their sound with basically every new release since the outset of their musical careers.

One common factor seems to be the punchy, jabby staccato rhythms. It almost seems like the songs are boxing with you in an odd abstract sense; the way they burst and buzz around your head alternately in engaging, lush melodies and random spurts of chaos that border on jazz for lack of a better word (or maybe something called post-IDM? I dunno). It's very instrumental. You won't find too much of the pounding, crunched up, claustrophobic beats you'd have found on Untilted or certain segments of Quaristice. But that's not to say that certain parts of Oversteps aren't challenging in a similar way. I'd say that overall it's divided half and half by tracks that can be followed easily and are immediately engaging, and tracks that have that traditional Autechre learning curve. The latter of course being equally as rewarding for those with the patience or inclination for such a sound.

The most notable aspect though might be just how much this sounds like a complete work, a complete album. Call me old school, but I still firmly believe in the importance of the album as an art form. And this completely succeeds on that level. It's cohesive and varied to just the right degree. The pieces fit. And that might be what truly puts this over the edge.

Depending on where you stand in your previous opinion of this wicked alien group, this is will either be a near-masterpiece or at the very least, a solid piece of work with some really outstanding tracks. It feels complete.

Bonus! (Click Me)

Autechre's marathon 12-hour set for your listening pleasure. A fucking genius mix of old-school hip-hop, techno, and other randomness. starts getting pretty fucking epic at around 12:30. first couple hours are incredible for those (everyone obviously, including me) not willing to listen to the whole thing right away.

oh and uh, here's this:

Monday, March 8, 2010

ancient chinese secret - caveat empire

This 1999 album is the only release by Ancient Chinese Secret, a group featuring Chris Dodge and his wife Lydia.  I guess Chris Dodge is the dude from a band called Spazz, a powerviolence band from Menlo Park...?  I admit that I know nothing about powerviolence, basically.  If you are in the same boat, perhaps you would like to read this here little definition:
"Powerviolence (sometimes written as power violence), is a raw, dissonant subgenre of hardcore punk. The style is closely related to thrashcore and grindcore. Musically, powerviolence bands focus on speed, brevity, bizarre timing breakdowns, and constant tempo changes. Powerviolence songs are often very short; it is not uncommon for some to last less than 30 seconds. Some groups, particularly Man Is the Bastard, took influence from sludge metal and noise music. Lyrically and conceptually, powerviolence groups were very raw and underproduced, both sonically and in their packaging. Some groups (Man Is the Bastard and Dropdead) took influence from anarcho-punk and crust punk, emphasizing animal rights and anti-militarism. Groups such as Spazz or Charles Bronson, on the other hand, wrote lyrics mocking points of interest for hardcore and metal fans, or even used inside jokes for lyrics, referencing specific people many of their listeners would not know." -
Got that?  So basically it's like hardcore punk mixed with math rock and noise.  I usually call this "noise rock" but hey why not go with "powerviolence"?  Anyway I'm pretty sure the name is applied more to a particular scene and time period, rather than a broad genre of music.  I'm getting sidetracked.  The point of all of this is, after Chris Dodge was in a very important and influential powerviolence band (or so I'm told), he recorded this album with his wife.  Although the stripped down bass-and-drum sound and pounding style of drumming live up to Dodge's musical roots, the songs on this album are longer and more "melodic" than you might expect.  I say "melodic" because the melodic element is Lydia Dodge's mostly atonal talk-singing, but the slight nod to melody is still significant.  Rounding out the group's sound are some occasional electronic additions, used sparingly but effectively.  While I think "Caveat Empire" could benefit from a stronger vocal performance, its pretty good noise rock and fans of the genre should dig it.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

documentary: synth britannia

via boing boing

As I mentioned in my last post about Giorgio Moroder, boing boing has been featuring a lot of good music related posts lately. Here's a synth-pop documentary they wrote about a few weeks ago that I just now got around to watching. Pretty interesting stuff.

watch the rest

NOTE: The 9th part of the documentary was removed on some bullshit copyright claim, so here's the end (featuring spanish subtitles!). Start the next video at 2:50 to sync up to where the last one left off.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Giorgio Moroder in the studio

via boing boing

Excellent footage of Moroder in the studio- boing boing has been featuring a lot of interesting music-related clips lately, in addition to their usual art/technology/weirdness coverage.