Monday, October 25, 2010

Shed - Shedding The Past (2008)

Shed seems to be an artist that exists somewhere in the nether-realm between Berlin/minimal techno and London dub sensibilities. Whatever you want to call it (I personally have a strong distaste for labels because I think they sometimes oversimplify the music), it's extremely well delivered. Shed is one of very few artists that I would put near the same category as Richard D. James, and that's really saying a lot if you know how absurdly obsessed with him I've been over the years. The main criteria for that is just originality of sound and delivery mostly and he excels in both those categories. And for the record, I'm also taking into account his newer release, The Traveller, which I'll review in the near future.

The album, Shedding The Past, does to some extent seem to live up to it's name, but in a kind of an ironic way. It gets back to the basics of good minimal techno, with a surface-level inclination towards driving, repetitive beats. But I suppose is 'shedding the past' by reinventing them in a what ends up being a truly current, original way. Nothing too radical, just the obvious subtle difference that comes with perspective on past works, and more advanced production tools at one's disposal. With that seemingly simple format though, he is able to express a great deal within it. To the average listener, some tracks might seem overly repetitive or simplistic. But that's kind of the point of techno anyway: a slow, hypnotic build that draws you in over time.

Either way, Shed demonstrates the awareness of someone that really put serious thought and care into what they were producing, and you can sense it in the results. Much like Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works, the tracks just feel right. And beyond any description of the qualities of a particular album, that feeling towards it is really what distinguishes greatness from something relatively forgettable. This one definitely belongs to the former.

Shed - The Lower Upside Down by speedglueandmusic_raw3

Shed - IHTAW by speedglueandmusic_raw3

Thursday, October 21, 2010

sarcófago - rotting (1989)

RIYL: Obituary, Possessed, Bulldozer

Brazil's Sarcófago are best known for being Brazil's first great metal band, and are frequently given credit for being the originators of the modern style of corpse paint. Their first album, INRI, is a fantastic (if comparatively straight-forward) thrash album, but I prefer their second album, Rotting. On this album, Sarcófago stretch their sound out- remember when I was talking about Bulldozer and metal bands that exist in between thrash, death and black metal? This album is firmly in that camp. What makes this album stand out however is the attention to songwriting beyond just all-out thrashing; Metallica would be a could comparison if Metallica were 1,000 times more pissed off and evil. "Alcoholic Coma" starts off as a raging speed metal song, but halfway through it slows down to sinister death metal riffage, before picking up again. The longer song lengths reflect the fact that Sarcófago are attempting something more progressive than their earlier work, but they still fit in a shorter full-speed thrash track in the form of "Sex, Drinks and Metal", which brings some life to the tail end of the album after some longer cuts. The fact that the album is only six tracks (one of which is the intro) and barely over half an hour long makes this feel like a glorified EP, but the band definitely manage to create something unique on this album.

Friday, October 15, 2010

genghis tron - dead mountain mouth (2006)

RIYL: Drumcorps, Venetian Snares, Agoraphobic Nosebleed

Usually I like to review albums that I have only heard recently, so this album is kind of an exception to that rule.  Dead Mountain Mouth is, to me, a flawless record, and I had some compulsion to listen to it tonight so I figured I'd write something about it.  This is one of those records where I know every song inside and out, and take pleasure from anticipating every twist and turn it takes.  It frankly amazes me that Genghis Tron never got bigger than they did, especially after this record- whereas their first ep Cloak of Love felt fairly tongue-in-cheek and kept the electronic portions mostly separate from the metal parts, Dead Mountain Mouth blends programmed beats and melodic keyboards with raging guitars and grinding drums in a completely seamless and natural way.  The songwriting is without fault too- every song has a place and contributes to the overall shape of the record, and the album is strong from start to finish (although it runs barely over half an hour, so it doesn't even stick around long enough to wear out its welcome).  While the whole album is great, for me the highlight comes early in the form of the titular track.  "Dead Mountain Mouth" is a densely sculpted swarm of surging guitars and keyboards relentlessly charging towards the edge of a cliff, briefly floating mid-air and then horrifically crashing to the ground (the first time I saw them play, I asked the guitar player why they didn't play this song- he said it was "kind of a studio experiment" that they couldn't recreate in a live setting).  Board Up The House, the album that followed this one, failed to match the intensity and focus found here.  I'm still hoping that we are going to get more like this from Genghis Tron, and even if we don't, this stands as the most perfect amalgamation of heavy metal and electronic music created thus far.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

krzysztof penderecki - threnody to the victims of hiroshima (1960)

While Mr. Destroy The Scene came up with some pretty exceptional contenders for "most terrifying song ever" the other day, for my money nothing comes even close to this piece by Hungarian composer Krzysztof Penderecki.  The ungodly wailing and shrieking of strings, the quiet passages of plucked violins that hint at the horror slowly revealing itself.... to me, this is the aural equivalent of losing your mind to complete terror.  The first time I heard this song I thought I might actually have a panic attack.  If it sounds familiar at all to you, it may be because the score for The Shining uses quite a bit of this piece (and the film is undoubtedly better because of it).  If you can, try and listen to all ten minutes of this, and if you like this, many of Penderecki's other works are just as good.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Raime - Raime EP (2010)

ah yes, the spirit of hallow'a eve is upon us. and what better way to celebrate than through some dark, semi-ambient electronic music?

the Raime EP is the debut of a group that are pretty new to the scene, but it's already pretty clear where they stand musically. their compositions are generally pretty cavernous in terms of the musical space they provide: vocals appearing and disappearing in and out of the background, drums pattering away in the distance, little lightning strikes of bass, and a consistent sub frequency to add some weight to it throughout it all. 'this foundry' is a slow-burner of a track and definitely possesses the kind of hypnotic quality that comes with repetition and minimalist tendencies. it all comes through to a pretty remarkable effect. definitely one of the top releases of the year thus far.

on Blackest Ever Black.

Raime - This Foundry by speedglueandmusic_raw3

Thursday, October 7, 2010

bulldozer - the day of wrath (1985)

RIYL: Venom, Possessed
The Day Of Wrath by Italian band Bulldozer is an album between genres, created at a time when thrash bands were pushing the limits of evil and heaviness, and the genres of death and black metal were only beginning to take shape.  "Whiskey Time", from this album, is featured on Fenriz Presents... The Best of Old School Black Metal, so it's certainly fair game to call this proto-black metal a la Venom.  But that might not really give you an accurate idea of what it sounds like: dark and filthy thrash, with some NWOBHM elements.  What really stands out about this album is the strange guitar playing- although the songs are structured in a fairly conventional way, the guitar frequently sounds weird.  Not so strange that it is the focus of the music, but strange enough that you'll sometimes be struck by how, for example, it sounds like alarm klaxons going off at three minutes into "Welcome Death".  But apart from the sometimes odd guitar sound and the fact that (for 1985) this is a pretty evil sounding record, much of the music isn't very striking.  The album is back-loaded, hitting its stride mid-way through.  There are a few standouts on this album though ("Mad Man", "Whiskey Time" and "Welcome Death" are my favorites), and its peculiarities (not to mention that excellent cover art) are enough to make this of interest to anyone who likes metal from the era that gave birth to black metal.