Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spring-Self Titled (1971) / Second Hand-Death May Be Your Santa Claus (1971)

For these reviews i thought it would be fun to review them together, for a number of reasons. First, they were both released in 1971 in England when Progressive Rock was in absolute full swing. Second, both of these albums epitomize 2 polar opposite yet very common traits within Prog Rock; one is exceptionally well crafted and very mellow and controlled, the other is a zany wild ride through over indulgent musicianship and a very active imagination.

04 Shipwrecked Soldier by destroy the scene

First up we have Spring's Debut and only album from the 70s. It completely represents the lighter side of prog, where folk and the mellotron were pushed to the forefront. Oddly enough i have found this album easiest to describe by comparing it to other artists, though it in no way feels like a rip off and everything was originally written by the band and all the bands that they sound like were all happening around the same time, if not the exact same time. There are touches of Jethro Tull, Yes, Gentle Giant, Nilsson, and a lot of Moody Blues sound. Very chill yet never boring and the drumming on this album is some of the best recorded i have ever heard in prog, mostly for it's inventiveness lying next to it's restraint. This album in fact seems to be all about restraint with little adventurous flourishes but never overshadowing the melody. There isn't too much more to say about this album other than it is a fine example of super focused Progressive Rock and it is highly recommended, oh and the song(which is above) "Shipwrecked Soldier" sounds to me like it was highly influenced by Nilsson's "10 Little Indians" and sounds like Nilsson gone Prog.

02 Deatd May Be Your Santa Claus by destroy the scene

07 Sic Transit Gloria Mundi by destroy the scene

Next up it's Second Hand with their second album called "Death May Be Your Santa Claus". This thing is ridiculous. The musical stylings are all over the map. first it sounds like standard Canterbury Scene Prog with it's cheesy organ and flutes then it morphs into a really far out there experimental jam then back to almost proto punk style rhythms and back again. The whole time the madman of a singer is ranting about "hanging on eyelids" and death and stepping outside of oneself and all that shit, but rather than being an arty serious self reflection type thing it's more along the lines of Ween, so over the top it ends up being knowingly hilarious. In fact aside from The Mollusk this sounds like what Ween would have been in the early 70s prog scene. The above mostly describes the first half of the album, the latter half of the album is almost all dedicated to experimental soundscapes with found sounds and music concrete and just plain old noise and very trippy. This album was definately on the fringe of the prog scene at the time, though, it is exceptionally listenable and highly recommended. oh and if this album isnt in Mike Patton's collection i would be shocked, this sounds like the blueprint of Mr Bungle

Both of these albums are two of the best Prog Rock albums i have ever heard and sum up the whole movement when you really think about it.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Dem Hunger - Caveman Smack (2010)

Dem Hunger - Rainwater Tea - Caveman Smack by m.r.t
Dem Hunger - Fried Squid - Caveman Smack by m.r.t
Dem Hunger - Mosque Vibrations - Caveman Smack by m.r.t
Dem Hunger - Horse Stomach - Caveman Smack by m.r.t

Dem Hunger's Caveman Smack is an interesting, under the radar release primarily because the music is great, but also, I really am at a loss as to what to call this. Caveman Smack seems to eschew genre identification right from the start and thank god for that. Yeah it's electronic beat oriented music, but the cassette sounds like an amalgamation of wonky/dubstep/musique concrete/experimental noise/field recordings/minimal-dub techno/80's throwback chill wave/tropical cassette noise/8-bit beats. There is not much information on Dem Hunger either, his myspace implies that he is from London and Syria. Regardless, the music is an exciting listen because it breaks so many genre constraints while being evocative and continuous in its flow from start to finish. I am glad to hear more musicians experimenting with the wonky/instrumental hip-hop/dubstep pattern and not producing more shameless Flying Lotus and cliche dubstep knockoffs, which there seems to be hoards of every week in electronic stores' newly released 12" bins. These are tracks that need to be listened to from start to finish because so much is going on within each track that skimming over them just won't do justice to the music. Dem Hunger deserves your attention and unfortunately only a hundred of you can get this tape (limited to 100 on Leaving Records). I would expect to hear big things from this artist in the near future. Oh and I like Dem Hunger's explanation of the release, it fits the music well (I also like his fascination with Shelley Duvall):


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

Friday, March 26, 2010

Hans Edler-Elektron Kukeso (1971)

01 Jag söker efter kärlek by destroy the scene
07 Säg vad är det by destroy the scene
09 My Third Eye by destroy the scene
11 Miscalculation by destroy the scene

I bought this on a whim at amoeba because i was in the prog section and i saw this cd with elaborate packaging and an obi(little strip mostly used in japan to describe an album or put critical recommendations on) with Thurston Moore talking about how crazy and original the album was. it was expensive but it looked like some sort of lost holy grail of music. a hidden gem if you will.
what it turned out to be was a slightly poppy, completely electronic and fairly amateurish album. it was all sung in Swedish and all the electronics were all made out of little bleeps and bloops, a long way from any kind of modern sounding electronic music, it was more in the vein of music concrete and a lot like Subotnick but with a hybrid of Scott Walker and Brian Eno on the mic.
this is a truly cool little album, it sounds like the guy almost doesnt know what he is doing but sometimes it feels like he is a master at this giant computer system he is playing. melodies float in and out through the space and tones match and then mismatch with the vocal melodies, giving the whole thing a feeling of outsider music
a little background on the guy; he apparently was a great producer or engineer in 60s Sweden along with being in two of their first ever rock bands one called Mike Doughan and the Ghostriders and the other being the We 4.He also was a teen idol during this period who loved to fuck with the popular media by declaring that people need to start paying attention to music more as a serious artform and wearing eye patches for photo this time he had access to and was a big part of the EMS studios in Sweden, which was considered the most state of the art electronic based recording studio in the world at the time. he started his own label to distribute prog, rock, religious and children's music. In 1971 he made this album by just spending the ample hours provided to him by EMS studios to create this art piece. He apparently pressed something like 500 copies by himself for his own label and then nothing happened, no one cared, it sold its 500, he didnt make anymore and time went on and he continued to produce bands and release others work. apparently currently he doesnt do too much these days.

you can definately hear traces of every kind of electronic music being made today in some of these recordings. i have no doubt in my mind that this is an essential piece of electronic and music history in general and should be focused upon by explorers of the evolution of electronic composition. this is not an entirely pleasant listen but an essential one nonetheless.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Gal Costa-Gal(1969)

02 Tuareg  by  destroy the scene
08 Objeto Sim, Objeto Não  by  destroy the scene

So recently I have gotten deep into the Tropicalia movement that came out of Brazil in the mid 60s to the early 70s. in this short period of time a lot of art was happening in Brazil due to the political climate being very unstable, i dont know too much about the political history of the country at this point but i do know that art became increasingly more avant garde and aggressive towards the oppressive government at the time. Out of this came a number of musicians, mostly centered around Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil(both of which would be exiled to London by the Brazilian government due to anti establishment and political rantings). some of these artists stayed behind because they were less involved in the political side of things, among these artists were Os Mutantes, Tom Ze, Jorge Ben and best of all Gal Costa.

Gal Costa was well trained singer with a wild voice filled with much control. she is able to sound gentle and ferocious at the same time, weird and accessible, she is a great example of contradictions. Currently she is regarded as the greatest female singer in Brazil's history. Back in the 60s and early 70s she was known for exploring crazy amounts of musical ground and this culminated in what could arguably be called the weirdest Tropicalia album of all time.

The forward thinking use of the effects pedals at the time is mindblowing in just how far out they went with it, also sincethey didnt have access to all the stuff europe and america
The album is both beautiful and frightening, experimentation clashes with traditional South American rhythms, odd instruments are thrown around with wreckless abandon. some songs are definately psych rock influenced, some folk, some cheesy samba, some 60s style pop all of it whipped up together to form one of the greatest albums of all time.

so i am gonna throw some songs up there and ill let you be the judge

you may not be able to understand a word but you will shit your pants(unless you are fluent in spanish)

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".

Sunday, March 21, 2010

GAS - Discography (1995-2000)

GAS-Zwei (B Side)-Oktember E.P. by m.r.t

Anyone who talks to me about 90's electronic/dance music knows that mentioning Wolfgang Voigt's GAS project is unavoidable, as is talking about him in general with regards to minimal/dub techno. For me, nothing in the 90's sounded and still sounds like this body of work that saw its first release on Voigt's own Profan label--one of the best labels ever--in 1995 with the Modern E.P., and then four album length CDs and one more E.P. followed on Mille Plateaux, one of the few labels that Voigt has released music on that is not his own label. Upon first listen, these works come off as ambient techno, which it is, but the music is much more than that conceptually and musically. If you care at all about the conceptual aspects of music, then the GAS project is full of them. Also, the artwork for Zauberberg, and every release after, is some of the most conceptually fitting album artwork around.

GAS-Eins-Pop by m.r.t
GAS-Funf-Pop by m.r.t

To give some background context as to what Voigt was aiming to achieve involves his attempt to embody the surreal and epic scope of the German Forest. This was not so much a stab at nationalistic pride, but rather in Voigt's own words, "I only tried to make a propostion of how to express German culture in a correct and acceptable way in an international framework" (Mono.Kulture #08). Voigt further explains that, "I had an image in my mind of a gaseous and nebulous sound, of an exhilarating streaming music which literally flows over, which has no beginning or end, no hard edges, only softness. My association was this music drifting through the coppice of a misty wood in vast sound spheres, a very elegiac sound repeated over and over in the far distance, held together by an invisible bass drum that comes marching by somewhere hidden in the woods, coming closer and fading away again. It was an acid experience, basically. It's drug music" (Mono.Kulture #08). Also, many point out the overtly German sound sources that have been woven into and are apart of the music including, but not limited to Wagner, Berg, and Webern samples, although I have no idea what the samples are, to me they are completely removed from their original context and identification, and Voigt elaborates on the usage of these German music samples by saying that, "Gas is not about Wagner, Gas was about Gas. It never is about the source, it is about me. It doesn't matter where a sample comes from, the question is, what is the result? I grew up with nature. Ever since I was a child I have had a weakness for the classic cliche of the German forest, I was blown away by Hansel and Gretel" (Mono.Kulture #08).

GAS-Heller-Modern E.P. by m.r.t
GAS-Zwei-GAS S/T by m.r.t

Well, okay cool, but what does it sound like? The German forest analogy seems to definitely be present in the two albums Zauberberg and Königsforst as well as the E.P. Oktember, but I will touch on those last because they are my favorite releases of the project. The first two GAS releases don't seem to embody his intended point as much, but are still rewarding listens. The Modern E.P. (1995) on Profan feels like a shimmering drug induced dream steeped in minimal techno that Voigt was already known for with aliases such as Mike Ink and M:I:5. The first album on Mille Plateaux, S/T (1996), is the most resembling of dub techno and Basic Channel mainly due to its heavy, wet rhythm and blissful ambience while also using many of the same beats that Voigt used on his M:I:5 project albeit with different edits; basically it set the bar for what was to come. The last album, Pop (2000), is the hardest for me to describe. All the lucid dream associations are present, especially with the drifting ambient tracks, but rather than the overwhelmingly tense sensations heard on Zauberberg, Pop deals with the idea of a claustrophobic forest that emits an enclosed feeling with great subtlety. Pop feels more like a romp through a forest in the morning rather than the dusk imagery evoked through Zauberberg and Königsforst, and also missing, for the most part, is the four-on-the-floor kick drum pulse that had characterized the majority of the past GAS releases. Pop is still eerie, but more dislocated and melancholic than the epic strokes of the previous two albums. Also, Pop probably makes the best argument for what was to become the Kompakt Pop ambient series. A Series on Kompakt (Voigt's label) that collects like-minded musicians who share Voigt's attention to detail, ambience, and abstraction.

GAS-Eins-Zauberberg by m.r.t
GAS-Vier-Zauberberg by m.r.t
GAS-Sechs-Zauberberg by m.r.t

Zauberberg (1997) and Königsforst (1998), as well as the Oktember E.P. (1999), are among some of the greatest statements to ever grace ambient techno/dub techno territory, and in my opinion, are up there with, and rival, the best techno of the 1990s, if not of all time. Zauberberg is simply haunting, and although book-ended by two gorgeously delicate ambient pieces, the tracks within the center of the album are pretty, but ultimately tense and epic (in the large forest sense), while feeling simultaneously claustrophobic. This does not mean that they are not rewarding listens in the least bit. These elements not only characterize the music, but also offer immense emotional depth because the tension and spaciousness are points to draw you in rather than to push you away; they create unique atmosphere. Zauberberg feels like the dark passageways of all the light-less forests in Tolkien's books (yeah sorry for the Lord of the Rings reference, that's as far as that one goes though). Königsforst and its associated follow up E.P. Oktember are much more uplifting, removing much of the fear and darkness of Zauberberg and replacing it with a summer/autumnal glow seen only at dusk when the sun is setting behind trees. Also, all three of these releases seem to utilize the characteristically GAS element the most; the pulsing, varied four-on-the-floor kick drum (with other subtle, backing rhythmic elements too) that sounds like it is coming from a party three doors down, drifting in and out, not always upfront, but definitely there. Some might think this is cheesy, but if you listen to these tracks from start to finish, that beat becomes a pulse; something akin to the imagined heartbeat of a forest teeming with life. I guess the reason why these simple drum beats are so effective is not only because of the music going on in the tracks, but also, they serve as a gesture implying that simplicity can be a means in itself. That, one need not make interesting music based on the notion of complexity alone, and that music can be complex with the simplest means possible. A notion that I see all too often with IDM in regards to making things more complex for the sake of complexity, which can be great and sometimes the point, but can also be trite and banal, which the same goes for a lot of minimal too, although in the opposite extreme. Basically, these records are the equivalent to dropping acid and running through a forest at dusk with only occasional sunlight shining through the mass of leaves.

GAS-Drei-Königsforst by m.r.t
GAS-Funf-Königsforst by m.r.t
GAS-Sechs-Königsforst by m.r.t

Highest recommendation possible. This music has not only touched me, but I hope it will go on to influence others interested in the possibilities of ambient/dub techno/electronica as it has influenced and impacted my own life. Oh yeah, another interesting point is that, in regards to following music trends of the 2000s decade, after these works premiered, although Pop was from 2000, these releases all foreshadow the Kompakt label's ambient releases (specifically the Pop Ambient series), Markus Guentner's work, Yagya, The Field, William Basinski, Ulf Lohmann, Kaito, Klimek, Deepchord/Echospace, Tim Hecker, and too many others to list. Also, you can purchase the reissued 4-disc box set, Nah und Fern, on Kompakt that features the four albums only, no E.P.s nor the alternate mix/extra tracks of the Königsforst vinyl release on Mille Plateaux from 1998. Also, many of the remixes and extra GAS tracks spread about on Kompakt releases are not present either. Try downloading the Königsforst vinyl and the E.P.s because they are very out-of-print/expensive/hard to find.

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.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Liars - Sisterworld (2010)

1-05 Scarecrows On A Killer Slant by destroy the scene

i have to say i was incredibly dissapointed with the last self titled Liars album. i thought it lacked focus, had a few good tracks(3) and just bored me to tears. it really wasnt a leap anywhere, it didnt go forward and it didnt go back it just kind of did nothing.

This new album is much better. though it doesnt come with the same excitement that "They were wrong" and "Drum's not dead" came with, this album is just a better album and a slight return to form. no new ground is really being broken but for some reason the song writing just comes off as much stronger this time around. there are genuine thrilling moments (like when the hard stuff kicks in on "scissor") and genuine well thought out moments of reflection.

unfortunatly it just seems that Liars have lost a good amount of their experimentation within their sound, one used to be able to count on them to blow minds instead they are just making new music out of the materials they used to blow minds back in the day. no suprises and better songwriting make for an ok album with some real highlights.

this is not essential listening but fans of Liars should pick it up, it will not go down as anything important, it's legacy is just gonna be another weird rock album released in the 00s

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

These New Puritans-Hidden (2010)

01 Time Xone by destroy the scene
02 We Want War by destroy the scene
06 Fire-Power by destroy the scene

So I have to be honest, I completly slept on these guys when they first came out, they had an album last year that I ignored because it just seemed to be another one of those dancy indie rock know, dime a dozen these days. So about a week ago i started seeing reviews for their new album and people kept mentioning how their first album wasn't an indie dance rock album but instead more like a Wire album mixed with The Fall. So i quickly became interested. I became even more interested when i started hearing that their new album was a complete 180. I read rumblings of 20th century modern composer influence, world music influence, ties to the dubstep scene in London, and just a complete reinvention and great leap forward in sound.

so i picked it up.

I havent heard their first album but my god this thing is crazy. it's all over the place but is all tied together. there are definate classical influences, definate post punk influences, some dancehall, a lot of worldy percussion, some club banger influence and the singing is all done in a thick British accent but it veers from chanting to singing to semi rapping(more like talk singing).

The album begins with a 2 minute classical instrumental

then fucking explodes with this groovy menacing electronic influenced monster of a song called "We Want War"
now in the press these guys state how musicians who arent trying are garbage and that art is meant to entice and not entertain, hence the difference between art and entertainment. i have to disagree with their stance a bit because i feel art and entertainment can go hand in hand and this is damn entertaining art i am listening to, but i do kind of get where they are coming from. i admire the ambition and i think more bands should have ambition and i absolutely love when bands defy all expectations with their releases. some examples would be "blueberry boat" by the fiery furnaces and the early liars output, stuff like that that makes you go "what the hell?"

the rest of the album does an amazing job of blending all sorts of easily recognizable styles into something of a new and unique sound.

other highlights of the album are definately "attack music" which samples knives being sharpened and does actually sound like an aural attack, also fire-power is the best male british version of M.I.A. i think there will ever be. throughout the album are awesome little classical interludes that harken back to the first track and motifs repeat all through the album, it feels like a concept album where the concept lies completely with the music and not at all with meaning or lyrics.

these kids hunkered down and made something fresh, new and exciting in 2010 and that my friends is really hard to do and for that i commend them.

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

Label: Stunned Records

cover to Tricorn & Queue - Ashes Wander
I thought I would highlight a really cool tape/cd-r label that has piqued my interest as of late. Stunned Records from Long Beach/now Portland is run by Philip and Myste French and have been releasing music since 2008. Stunned have released over 70 releases and produce a run of about half a dozen or so cassettes and CD-Rs every once in a while, and in, unfortunately, limited quantities (usually a run of a 100 or less and they sell out very fast). Yet, the music is of an exceptional note in a myriad sea of lo-fi cassette and CD-R labels. Stunned seems to specialize in the blissful, yet heavily murky, psyched out side of lo-fi noise bringing to mind some of the Jewelled Antler bands from the first half of the decade and some of the weird Finnish freak folk/electronic music of the past couple years. Some highlights are: Super Minerals-Clusters (cassette-yes this one made it on tinymixtapes 2009 year end list), Rambutan-Broken Infinity(CD-R), Tricorn & Queue-Ashes Wander (cassette), Pimmon-Steered In Smash Ascent (cassette), Sean McCANN-Open Resolve (cassette), Enfer Boreal-The Birth of Venus (CD-R), Sparkling Wide Pressure-Seven Inside And Out(cassette), Sudden Oak-Banquet Years(cassette), Excavations-Excavations(cassette), Analog Concept-Impressions(CD-R), Antique Brothers & The Family Band-Digger Gold(cassette), The Magnetic North Duo-Midnight Safari Blues(CD-R), Granitkorridor-III(cassette). Your best bet for finding any of these releases are: stunned records' blogspot-where you can find new releases, discogs, thor's hammer, discriminate records, tomentosa records, ebay, or if they're completely gone, download them. Oh yeah, the artwork the label uses is some of the best I have ever seen for a cassette/CD-R label, nice packaging and, usually, variations on the same type of graphics style is used on all the releases. The graphic style has evolved over time since the label began, and, from what I have seen so far, the artwork of a particular stylistic theme is used on a handful of releases before changing into a new graphic style for the next set of releases.
Enfer Boréal - Venus 1 - The Birth Of Venus by m.r.t
Rambutan - Cloudy Vision - Broken Infinity by m.r.t
Tricorn & Queue - A3 - Ashes Wonder by m.r.t

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.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

NEWS: New Harvey Milk Album!

this comes via

Long-running doom metal concern Harvey Milk hit a career high with 2008's Life...the Best Game In Town, and have been riding the resurgence of interest ever since. January saw the CD release of their very earliest sessions with Bob Weston on Hydra Head and now news has emerged about an upcoming studio full length. Titled A Small Turn of Human Kindness, each track title (apart from "*," the inexplicably titled lead track) begins with "I" and reflects the band's trademark self-deprecating sense of humor mixed with a cynical sensibility. Examples include "I Know This Is All My Fault" and "I Just Want To Go Home." The band will support the release with a handful of live dates alongside like-minded outfits like Converge and Coalesce. Those dates below:

3.5 Pittsburgh, PA : Rex Theatre w/ Coalesce, Atlas Moth
3.6 Philadelphia, PA : Kung Fu Necktie w/ Coalesce, Atlas Moth
3.7 Baltimore, MD : Otto Bar w/ Coalesce, Atlas Moth
3.8 New York, NY : Le Poisson Rouge w/ Coalesce, Atlas Moth
3.9 Boston, MA : Middle East Downstairs w/ Coalesce, Atlas Moth
3.10 Montreal, QC : Il Motore w/ Coalesce, Atlas Moth
3.11 Toronto, ON : Wreck Room w/ Coalesce, Atlas Moth
3.12 Hamtramck, MI : Small's w/ Coalesce, Atlas Moth
3.13 Chicago, IL : Subterranean w/ Coalesce, Atlas Moth
5.27 Nashville, TN : Rockettown w/ Converge, Lewd Acts, Black Breath
5.28 Atlanta, GA : The Masqurade w/ Converge, Lewd Acts, Black Breath

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.