Tuesday, September 28, 2010

LA vampires & zola jesus - self-titled (2010)

This brief, one-off album pairing LA Vampires and Zola Jesus is maybe, probably my favorite album of the year thus far (or at least, its the album that's gotten the most repeated listens in the last few months).  LA Vampires is the new solo project of the ex-singer of the unfortunately broken-up group Pocahaunted, Zola Jesus is a rising gothy songstress- and together, their individuals strengths complement each other to amazing effect.  Zola Jesus's dark and sparse style sounds great matched with the lo-fi dubbiness of LA Vampires, and the result is a cavernous, mesmerizing sound.  Although I am a fan of her solo work, I feel like sometimes Zola Jesus borders on being too outright poppy for my tastes- but here, the more sprawling nature of these songs allow her voice to be more of an accompaniment than the focus, more textural than being the central hook.  These songs are not particularly structured or driven, instead allowing plenty of space for the echoing basslines and melodic vocals to stretch, repeat, and slowly morph into different shapes.  It's not a very engaging album, but that's one of its strongest qualities- it has such a great atmosphere and vibe to it, it easily bears repeated listens without getting tiring.  LA Vampires & Zola Jesus is a great post-Pocahaunted debut for LA Vampires, and the best so far of Zola Jesus's many pairings.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

sex church - 6 songs by sex church (2010)

RIYL: Blank Dogs, Vivian Girls, Crocodiles

Want more reverb-soaked dark garage rock in your life?  Of course you do!  With that in mind, consider checking out 6 Songs By Sex Church, by Vancouver band Sex Church (durrrrr).   Half anhedonistic plodders, half cynically upbeat rockers, these 6 songs (durrrrrrrr) mine much of the same turf as other like-minded groups like Blank Dogs and Crocodiles, but without sounding like faceless imitators.  In addition to the expected Joy Division and Jesus and Mary Chain influence, "The Floor" sounds like The Velvet Underground, at least until the song builds into a surging crescendo.  "Not Anymore" sounds partially like evil surf rock and a little like dark shoegaze a la A Place To Bury Strangers.  Another highlight, "Ghost", reminds me of the pop-fury of Jay Reatard, while the brief and shiny guitar coda sounds like Red Rhodes psychedelic slide guitar work or Abe Vigoda's tropical punk.  I love bands that combine catchiness with seething anger, and Sex Church are another great band in that vein.  Short, miserable and to the point.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

various artists - 3 years ahead: the cloud rap tape (2010)

(download the mixtape here)
This free mixtape, produced by the rap blog Space Age Hustle, gathers together what they see as a common trend in recent hip-hop: "not the newest sub-sub-sub-genre of rap music we’re tying to forcefully bring to life" but rather "a lot of new artists singularly focused on stepping outside of rap’s comfort zone and doing what they want with beats and lyrics".  What links these tracks together seems primarily to be beats that largely disregard rhythm in favor of ambiance and melody, and which are frequently based around whispy female vocal samples.  The term "cloud rap" fits well; these songs feel ungrounded, floating free of a low end and without drums or actual beats to anchor them down.  The breathy vocal samples remind me of 90's trance and trip-hop, and the overall vibe seems very similar to those genres- drugged out and spacey, very mellow and directionless.  For the most part, I think this works fantastically.  Lil B is head and shoulders above the rest of the pack (that's a pun you see because he is a member of hyphy rap group The Pack).  His unconventional style of rapping is perfectly suited to this: not only are the beats unconventional, but Lil B has a tendency to defy expectations by NOT rhyming half of his verses.  The end result is a complete sense of unpredictability, and his two tracks that lead off the mixtape are best examples of the potential of the "cloud rap" sensibility, not to mention the best tracks in the mix.  While none of the other tracks succeed in the same way as Lil B does, there are still a few standouts: "Southern Funk" by Inkrowd is lush, and being closer to conventional rap, is catchier than a lot of the songs; the super chilled out "Flinstones" by Lowe & Clova sounds so high it barely manages to maintain consciousness; G-Sides' "Impossible" floats by on a haunting vocal sample.  Unfortunately, the rest of the mixtape doesn't hold up quite as well.  I didn't really care for Main Attrakionz, who sound as bored by their rapping as I am, and they represent 7 of the 15 tracks on the mixtape.  Still, compilations are generally hit-or-miss by nature, and you can't really complain about a free mixtape put together by fans.  Despite some shortcomings, this mix has some truly amazing songs that show that rap is still evolving and exploring new territory.

Monday, September 13, 2010

C V L T S - L V S T (2010)

(Entire album is available to download here)
RIYL: Zomes, Ducktails

This excellent debut EP from Lawrence, Kansas group C V L T S showcases a collection of low-key, lo-fi instrumental psychedelic tunes.  Opening track "Laminated Glass" sets the tone: what sounds like processed thumb piano (but is probably keyboard?) rises and falls, multiplying and looping and convalescing into a downpour of fuzzy tones.  The rest of the EP continues to be captivating while still demonstrating restraint; there is an appealing simplicity in the sparseness of these songs.  The New-Age-y "Radd Pitt" (oof) shimmers and drifts like bubbles underwater; closing track "Luck Surf", the longest on the EP, end things on a very melancholic & melodic note, slowly building and surging but never fully boiling over.  L V S T demonstrates that C V L T S have a talent for constructing simple yet moving and engaging songs.

Friday, September 10, 2010

wild nothing - gemini/cloudbusting (2010)

Wild Nothing are a shoegazy dream pop band from Virginia, and the amount of mileage you get from their debut album Gemini will probably depend on your appetite for this sort of music.  The band first came to my attention because I stumbled across their Cloudbusting single- and since I really love that particular Kate Bush song, I figured Wild Nothing's version was at least worth a listen.  It's a pretty good cover- slight and ethereal, pretty, and the singer of Wild Nothing doesn't make the mistake of trying to stretch his voice to match Kate Bush's.  It's a pleasant take on the song, and while it doesn't reach the heights of the original, the emotional pull still reaches through the delicate facade of Wild Nothing's version.  Gemini, Wild Nothing's debut full-length, inspired much of the same reaction in me.  If you really love this kind of soft, shimmery pop, with politely distorted guitars that ring like bells and hushed vocals that seem afraid of accidentally grabbing your attention, then you will probably enjoy this quite a bit.  It's an exceedingly nice album.  Personally I do like this kind of music, and it reminds me of Slowdive's Space Station Souvlaki (one of my all-time favorite records), so listening to this album was a pleasant experience.  And perhaps, with a few more listens through, more of the songs will start to stick to me and take shape.  But I have to say that so far Wild Nothing aren't really doing anything that hasn't been done before, and if you don't have a craving for this genre of music, you might not find this all that appealing.  That being said, if you want some new swirly dream pop, Wild Nothing do it well, and Gemini might be what you are looking for.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

cruiser - sunshine woman tape (2009)

RIYL: Hella, early Deerhoof
It took a long time for me to come to terms with the fact that the Hella I loved (of Hold Your Horse Is, Total Bugs Bunny on Wild Bass, and Bitches Ain't Shit But Good People) ceased to exist years ago, replaced by a festering undead version of Hella whose corpse grows more bloated and unsettling with each subsequent album.  Imagine then the ecstatic sense of relief I felt when I heard this, a two-piece from Portland whose mathy, frenetic and propulsive rock fills the niche that Hella used to inhabit!  And then consider the crushing disappointment when I learned that Cruiser only released a tape and a CD-R, both long out of print, and called it a day.  Sunshine Woman Tape is exhilarating and FUN, unceasingly moving forward in dizzying zig-zags, stopping and starting, throwing everything AND the kitchen sink in, and it's a shame that we'll never get anything more from them.  Although definitely derivative of early Hella (and sure, I guess, other like-minded math rock duos), Cruiser pull it off incredibly well and this will please anyone left high and dry by Hella's recent output.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

hayaino daisuki - invincible gate mind of the infernal fire hell, or, did you mean hawaii daisuki? (2010)

As evidenced by the title of this EP, Hayaino Daisuki have a pretty light-hearted approach to their music.  They celebrate the energy, fun, and above all SPEED of heavy metal.  They are not, as their name might reasonably lead you to conclude, Japanese.  Nor are they (as you might believe after seeing their press photos) a group of tattooed female rockers.  They are, in reality, four dudes from New Jersey, one of whom is the former vocalist for revered grindcore band Discordance Axis.  Although this has the speed and intensity of grindcore, it lacks the aggression and hostility of the genre, instead indulging in melodic and heart-pounding guitar leads.   Every one of the four songs on this EP is a testament to the maximum limits of intensity: the fastest speed, the loudest volume, the hue and saturation turned all the way up.  Every moment is the most epic moment of all time, until the next the next moment, of course.  It's almost too much to take, with no chance to stop or catch your breath- but then that's why Hayaino Daisuki only put out EPs.  A full length album of this would probably give you a heart attack, but this EP is as short as it is explosive.  In my view it's been a fairly disappointing year for heavy metal, but this gets my fists pumping every time I put it on.