Saturday, August 27, 2011

Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs - "Garden"

really loving this one. Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs (TEED) is a sort of electronic danceable pop project by London, UK artist Orlando Higginbottom, though described by Orlando himself as "just dance music" with no genre associations (which as a sort of anti-genre person myself i can totally support). much of what i've heard online from his other EPs sounds more less like what you'll hear in "Garden", albeit a little weirder/less directly dancey and pop-oriented. "Garden" is really the standout track for me, and for many others as it's been generally received as such. it's that kind of track where you can just feel all the gears turning that an artist is trying to employ, the kind of track where it all just clicks. but really, i think what puts this track over the edge (compared to most of his other work) is the guest vocals by Luisa of Lulu and The Lampshades (a kind of funky-alt Micachu-esque indie-pop group). her voice is just beautiful. was really bummed when i realized she wasn't an actual member of TEED.

anyway, check it out. it's on Greco-Roman, a label i have yet to explore, but totally will after hearing this. oh and also, this and most of his other videos have great production values and a cool, vaguely avant-garde kind of style and feel to them. refreshing to see someone put some good work into music videos nowadays.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

lumerians - transmalinnia (2011)

Lumerians - Black Tusk by speedglueandmusic_aw
Lumerians - Hashshashin by speedglueandmusic_aw

Oakland, California, USA
Transmalinnia (Partisan, 2011)
RIYL: Can, Wooden Shjips, Dead Meadow

Despite this being easily one of my favorite albums this year, I never got an simple handle on how to describe their sound and I never got around to writing a proper review of this.  Lumerians' sound is usually referred to as "space rock" or "druid rock" in the reviews I've seen, and while neither of those terms are bad, I don't think that "space rock" really captures the groove and rhythm that Lumerians bring in their cosmic psychedelia.  Taking psychedelic rock as a template, most songs on Transmalinnia are built around looping and catchy bass melodies with hypnotic, krautrock-inspired drumming.  While your body is locked into the groove, the chiming guitars, squelchy keyboards, percussive flourishes and occasional dripping watery vocals hijack your brain and plot a course for alternate dimensions.  There's a certain amount of funk and catchiness that 70's psych and krautrock bands possessed from their rock n' roll roots that many modern psych bands lack, and I think Lumerians bring this back more successfully than any of their contemporaries.  It's the combination transporting your body and mind at the same time that makes Trasmalinnia such an exceptional record.  Lumerians' live show (which adds projected visuals and sometimes costumes) is just as remarkable and captivating; when I saw them play at aQuarius Record's anniversary show last year, I went in with no expectations and ended up feeling that Lumerians blew all the other bands off the stage (including Date Palms, who upstaged Godspeed! You Black Emperor at Great American Music Hall later last year).  While I think this album should certainly be a favorite of anyone who considers themselves a fan of psychedelic music, I also believe that this is rocking and catchy enough to appeal to even more mainstream music fans.  I can't say if this band is going to blow up, but I think they've definitely got a sound and a live show that ought to bring them wide success.  Definitely check out this record and see them live if you can.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

prurient - bermuda drain (2011)

PRURIENT - A Meal Can Be Made by Hydra Head Records
PRURIENT - Palm Tree Corpse by Hydra Head Records

New York City, New York, USA
Bermuda Drain (Hydra Head, 2011)
RIYL: Genghis Tron, Xinlisupreme, Xiu Xiu

Every Prurient release I'd heard prior to this album was harsh, aggressive, dissonant, deeply in the red noise.  Earlier this year I found out that the man behind Prurient, Dominic Fernow, had joined Cold Cave for their newest incarnation as boring synth goth rockers, and I was puzzled as to how someone known for such destructive noise could find a home in a very middle-of-the-road leather and sunglasses group.  Add those two facts together, and somehow this very bizarre and schizophrenic newest Prurient album makes sense.  Bermuda Drain sounds very much like the budget, equipment, and some of the melodicism of Cold Cave crossed with Prurient's deeply fucked up sonic assault.  The tracks here are split between Fernow narrating disturbing and sometimes grotesquely sexual images over unsettling keyboard washes (the lyrics make the name Prurient seem all the more fitting), and more upbeat and rocking tracks that could almost pass for The Faint if it weren't for Fernow screaming his guts out over them.  It sounds a lot like if Xiu Xiu were way more aggressive, and also obsessed with 80s synth horror soundtracks, or like if Genghis Tron were less metal but way more disturbing.  Personally, I have a pretty low threshold for ear bleeding experimental noise, so this direction is way more interesting and a step up in my opinion.  It is still a very bold and uneven album, and I wouldn't call it an unqualified success- but it is still one of the more interesting and original albums I've heard recently, and I'd say one of the better albums this year.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

RIP brain dead dave, owner of force of habit records

I woke up tonight trying to remember what 90's emo band we were talking about that time you came on my radio show, when we had been at the bar earlier and then on the radio you played a ("pre-nazi") Skrewdriver song and wouldn't stop cussing on air (I believe your parting words to the audience were something along the lines of "goodnight you motherfuckers!").  You were a funny guy, and one who cared deeply about music.


Saturday, July 9, 2011

mysterious black metal: mamaleek - kurdaitcha (2010) & murmuüre - murmuüre (2010)

Black metal is a genre becoming more and more crowded everyday, making the effort to find acts doing something interesting and original with the sound that much harder. Recent trends like an overt shoegaze influence were astonishing when they arrived, and have now become commonplace and BORING. The problem of searching for new sounds is compounded by the fact that trying new things is always risky, and the bands out there making genuine efforts to push black metal forward don't always succeed in making something that's actually good.

Mamaleek - The Hypocrite & The Concubine by speedglueandmusic_aw
Mamaleek - My Body Rock Long Fever by speedglueandmusic_aw

Kurdaitcha is Mamaleek's third album, but it is my first encounter with them. I first heard this album a few months ago, and have been trying and failing to put into words what it sounds like ever since. They are a pair of brothers from San Francisco, but beyond that not much is known about them. It USED to be standard practice for black metal musicians to be "mysterious" and not very press-savvy, but in recent times certain black metallers have embraced press coverage with open arms (hello LITURGY), so it's actually pretty refreshing that I'm not staring at glossy photos of these dudes while writing this. It makes it a lot easier to focus on the music, which is good since this music is AWESOME. Mamaleek's approach to black metal reminds me a lot of Lifelover or Joyless, in that they incorporate many disparate and unusual styles into an overal black metal vibe. On top of the black-metal-appropriate buzzing guitars and pounding drum machine, Mamaleek incorporate sampled pan flutes, unnerving disembodied voices and other unexpected elements. These unusual ingredients are not just garnishes on top of meat-and-potatoes black metal however, as Mamaleek's music is as much industrial, noise and shoegaze as it is black metal. I know I mentioned earlier that I thought shoegaze and black metal was a played-out combination, but it's done here in a less clumsy and more original way, so I don't feel like I'm listening to some trend-hoppers. In fact, despite the reckless mish-mash of genres happening on Kurdaitcha, the album is incredibly listenable. While it might not be sufficiently grim for black metal purists, and too harsh for those not open to metal, I imagine that there is a pretty sizable group of people like me who have been starving for something new that is as WEIRD and RAD as this record is.

Murmuüre - Amethyst by speedglueandmusic_aw
Murmuüre - Disincarnate by speedglueandmusic_aw

While Kurdaitcha is an album I've been turning over for months, attempting to unlock its secrets and mysteries, Murmuüre's debut self-titled album from last year is one that I've only recently come across (despite hearing some very high praise from the always reliable aQuarius records last year). Hailing from France, Murmuüre's approach to black metal is as bizarre, adventurous and psychedelic as Mamaleek, but the end result is very different.  Murmuüre's music is more open-ended, mostly layers upon layers of thick and threatening atmosphere, only occasionally punctuated by a beat and a few howled vocals. Although not as immediately catchy as Mamaleek, Murmuüre have just as much happening on this album- it is a record both sonically busy yet also subdued.  I admit that I haven't listened to too many dark ambient records, but this is probably the most appealing approach to that idea that I've come across, and I suspect I'll be continuing to find interesting and new details the more I listen to this.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

2011 & 1/2

2011 is now more than half over, and summer's finally arrived (although if you are in San Francisco you wouldn't know it from the rain).  Any excuse to make a list of albums is a good excuse, but "2011 so far" is an extra good excuse.  Here's lists from me (aw), destroythescene and R.A.Williams; MRT will be posting his list tomorrow.

These are the albums I've been digging the most so far this year- I took a few albums off the list at the last second (ducktails, tim cohen, a few others) because I wasn't sure if I liked them THAT much.  The ones I like best are in bold.

battles - gloss drop (warp)
black devil disco club - circus (lo)
burzum - fallen (back on black)
   Burzum - Jeg Faller (Fallen) by metalassault

clams casino - b-sides instrumental & remixes (self-released)

lumerians - transmalinnia (partisan)
   Atlanta Brook by Lumerians

moon duo - mazes (sacred bones)
peaking lights - 936 (not not fun)

vetiver - the errant charm (sub pop)
   Vetiver - Worse For Wear by wattesnl


These are in order from best to last

Psychedelic Horseshit - Laced (Fat Cat)
Psychedelic Horseshit - French Countryside by TheDiscoverialist

Ponytail - Do Whatever You Want All the Time (We Are Free)
Ponytail - Honey Touches by FBi Radio

Death Grips - Exmilitary (Self-released)
Death Grips - Exmilitary - 3 - Spread Eagle Cross the Block by deathgrips

Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues (Sub Pop)
Fleet Foxes - Montezuma by gypsysphere

Tuneyards - Whokill (4AD)
Tune-Yards - Bizness by snipelondon

Akron Family - S/T II The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT (Dead Oceans)
Akron Family - Silly Bears by Pretty Much Amazing

Panda Bear - Tomboy (Paw Tracks)
Panda Bear - Last Night At The Jetty by bigasslens

Rabbits - Lower Forms (Relapse)
Rabbits - A Tale Of Tales (Lower Forms) by metalassault

Liturgy - Aesthethica (Thrill Jockey)
Liturgy - High Gold by deadcomedian


tim hecker - ravedeath 1972 (kranky)

egyptrixx - bible eyes (night slugs)

clams casino - instrumental mixtape (self-released)

asc - stutter/leviathan 12" (exit records)

bok bok - southside ep (night slugs)

Monday, May 23, 2011

video: performances from "our band could be your life" tribute

Our Band Could Be Your Life tribute at Bowery Ballroom (Stereogum review)
Our Concert Could Be Your Life (streaming on NPR)

When this show was first announced, my reaction was pretty negative (I think my exact words were "fuck everything about this").  It seemed like a personal affront to me that the man who had written a book about some my favorite bands, and some of the most important bands of the 80's, was putting on a tribute show featuring performances by bands that sounded NOTHING like the groups they were covering.  How could it be showing respect to groups like Blag Flag, Big Black, Butthole Surfers and others by staging performances by bands that are not in any way connected to the sounds of those original bands?  I understood that The Dirty Projectors had released an album that was at least conceptually connected to Black Flag, even if sonically it had virtually nothing to do with them.  But the selection of St Vincent to cover Big Black I could not understand.   Oh lord how it made me mad- I had visions in my head of her taking the stage, whipping out a violin, and winking and laughing through a set of ironic Big Black covers.  In fact it was such an outrage to me that I tried my hardest to forget the whole thing was happening at all.  But yesterday the show did happen, and today my blood pressure spiked when I saw reviews of it popping up on music websites.  I almost decided to ignore the reviews for the sake of my happiness and mental health, not wanting to spend the rest of the day fuming about the desecration of music I hold dear.  But I took the plunge and watched a few videos, and to my immense relief my expectations were totally wrong about this show.  St Vincent's performance of Kerosene not cutesy or fake or ironic, its a performance that actually respects the original.  And it's a shock to see the Dirty Projectors playing Black Flag songs not as Dirty Projector songs, but instead more like they originally sounded, with a now long-haired Dave Longstreth forgoing his vocal acrobatics for guttural barking.  These were the two performances I was most personally interested in, so I can't really say if the rest of the show was as good as these two, but you can check out the whole concert streaming at NPR, or check out loopyvid's youtube channel for other performances from the show.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

LA weekly interviews Steve Albini about food

I love Steve Albini, I love food, and here he talks about cooking, as well as eating in LA. I don't really think anything more than that needs to be said really, other than that I'm kind of bummed he doesn't like Martha Stewart as much as I do.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

video: cold cave - villains of the moon

Some interesting facts about Cold Cave that you may not know (or maybe you do genius, jeez):
- Singer/songwriter Wesley Eisold was the vocalist for hardcore bands XO Skeletons and Some Girls (and on an unrelated but somewhat interesting sidenote, he has only one hand)
- The band used to feature Caralee McElroy of Xiu Xiu
- The band currently features Dominic Fernow of Prurient/Ash Pool and Jennifer Clavin of Mika Miko
- All of these facts should add up to an awesome band and yet somehow this, from their latest album, sucks really hard.

Their new album, "Cherish the Light Years", is full of songs with brainless hooks and high-school emotions like this one.  At best, this comes off as an insincere "sell-out" ploy; at worst, it just makes them seem like terrible songwriters (you are free to reverse the "best" and "worst" in this scenario, but I'd rather think they are trying to "make it" rather than to believe they are just this awful of a band).  I'll let this video review serve in lieu of an album review, because this is pretty representative of what the album is like and I don't have any interest in listening to it in its entirety again.  I'm hopeful that they take their sound in a different direction, because there's way too much talent in this band to make music this fake and simplistic.

This, by the way, is what they sounded like on their last album, which to me sounds perfectly mainstream without sounding completely dumbed down:

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

video: liturgy - returner

Liturgy are one of those bands that make it almost impossible to listen to the music without wondering what it all "means": in this case, the "meaning" at hand being the appropriation of outsider music (black metal) by clean-cut pretty boys in v-necks.  However, questions about intentions, appropriateness and the legitimacy of the people behind the music should always come second to the music itself.  Trying to put my reaction to concepts about black metal and indie "identities" is pretty difficult to do in this case, but I think Liturgy are doing something legitimately unique and sincere.  It may come from a sincerely stupid philosophy, but again I feel like its an important personal challenge to reconcile good or interesting music made by people I find obnoxious or repulsive.  If I can honestly appreciate Burzum without buying into his white supremacist ideology, I can certainly enjoy black metal made by poser douchebags right?  And then, there's an undeniable humor to see black metallers reacting to these guys with the same self-righteous horror with which the cultural mainstream reacts to black metal.  In the end, it wouldn't matter at all if the music wasn't any good, and here I think it is.  I have yet to hear the new Liturgy album in its entirety, and what snippets I've heard I don't feel are as good as their previous work, but I'm hoping to go in to it with an open mind at the very least.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

video: reality 86'd (Black Flag's last tour)

Click here to go watch the movie

Filmmaker David Markey is so cool that he released his documentary about Black Flag's last tour for free for all to watch on Vimeo, yet strangely he is not cool enough to let me embed it here. Oh well, can't win them all I guess. I've gotta go eat crazy-ass Chinese food with my lil' bro so I don't have time to watch this right now, but maybe I'll add my thoughts tomorrow. Or maybe you should add yours in the comment section.

In the meantime, here's a Black Flag video that will actual embed!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

phil manley - life coach (2011)

01 FT2 Theme by philmanleylifecoach
04 Forest Opening Theme by philmanleylifecoach

Phil Manley
San Francisco, California, USA
Life Coach (Thrill Jockey, 2011)
RIYL: Edgar Froese, Arp

Given today's news about Phil Manley engineering the new album from SF krautsters Wooden Shjips, and the fact that I'm gonna be seeing Phil Manley play live tomorrow with Santa Cruz's best psychedelic detonators Mammatus, I thought I'd take a moment to consider the debut solo album from this noted local guitarist and producer.  Manley's longest running music project is Trans Am (he's also been a member of Oneida, The Fucking Champs, and most recently, Jonas Reinhardt), but in my opinion his work as an engineer tops his work as a musician- Alps, Arp, Mi Ami, Moon Duo and Wooden Shjips rank among my all-time favorite bands, and Manley has manned (heyyyyyy) the boards for all of them.  Now frankly I don't really know enough about the production side of music to be able to tell you exactly what it is that Manley brings to the albums that he produces, but the fact that he is involved in so many amazing recordings makes me think that he must be doing something special.  This is his first record under his own name, although I've seen this project referred to as "Phil Manley's Life Coach" or "Life Coach", rather than being an album titled "Life Coach" by Phil Manley.  Confusing, but at any rate, it is Manley's first solo affair, and it definitely follows the path that his both his production work and previous musical output have set.  Life Coach is a collection of propulsive kosmische stompers, patiently finger-picked guitar pieces, and humming drones.  While none of the tracks on here are standouts in their respective genres, they are all very competent and enjoyable and showcase Manley's adeptedness at a multitude of styles.  However, this impulse to work in a variety of genres is definitely this album's biggest weakness, because although individually each track here is worthwhile, the end result is a very scattered and unengaging album.  I suspect that these songs were not written specifically for this album, and I don't think the tracks are sequenced here in a way that works very well.  Because Phil Manley played the very first KUSF-in-Exile co-present a few months ago, and because his upcoming show with Mammatus is also a KUSF-in-Exile benefit, it made me think about what a perfect record this would have been for radio.  The choice of tracks in different styles, Manley's history in the local music scene, and the individual strength of each track would have doubtlessly made this a very successful album on the KUSF airwaves.  Had I first approached it from that angle- of playing a single track from it here and there- I might have had a much higher opinion of this album.  But taken as a whole, the quality of the individual songs is obscured by the unfocused presentation on the album, and the end result is an album that is promising and yet disappointing at the same time.  I'm looking forward to seeing how these songs play out in a live environment (and therefore hopefully in a different sequence), and hoping that any future full-length albums will be more cohesive. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

DJ H▼∆D (+ bonus performance art from aids-3d)

Through random internet searching of something somewhat unrelated, I stumbled on an artist by the name of DJ HVAD. or as he spells it: DJ H▼∆D, on his myspace.

I'm not sure if there's a particular genre associated with this type of rap and beat-making, but it's very homegrown sounding beats, often with sped up vocals and a bunch of random samples and edits. I'd say that it's vaguely related to the chopped and screwed music side of hip-hop, but y'know, on the opposite end of the spectrum.

Either way, I considered it to be a pretty sweet find, a gem that has virtually no exposure in the US.. the biggest evidence of which is that it is hardly google-able. The hooks in the raps and the beats are surprisingly catchy and well constructed. The most information I could get out of his myspace was that he is on a label (equally as mysterious) called Bornwrong Records, and that he's from Denmark. and also that he likes to ordain his page his weird photos of black people, for whatever reason.

So on a whim, i sent him a message to ask him where I could buy his music, and to my amazement he responded by initially saying that I could send him some money through paypal for the tracks. I asked him how much and for which tracks and he replied by apologizing for trying to charge me, and told me that since I was from LA and he liked that town, he would send me the tracks for free. He also recommended a night in LA called GROWN at M Bar on temple st. which i am going to most certainly check out the next time i'm out there.

still waiting on the tracks (keepin' my fingers crossed), but in the meantime he provided me with his youtube and soundcloud accounts, which I am now providing for your enjoyment. so indeed, enjoy.

his youtube channel, interestingly enough is called 'listen to mogwai' and his soundcloud is under his other alias dj yungbukkake / WhyBe.

for a quick listen, here's a rip of one of his myspace tracks:

all in all, a pretty fascinating character. if i ever get those tracks they will most certainly be a SPEED GLUE AND MUSIC EXCLUSIVE.

oh and btw, I found this guy by coming across an event for (i'm assuming) Denmark arthouse aids-3D.

who also led me to this performance art piece by them called Network of Love:

i think it's pretty interesting, but i must warn you, it's probably very NSFW starting at 8 or 9 minute mark. but then again, why are you watching videos at work? GET BACK TO WORK

why am i not at work you ask? well maybe because this is my job!.. i'm a professional blogger, OBVIOUSLY

alright, i'm done. will return w/ updates, new fun things

Friday, March 18, 2011

tracks: lil b - various tracks

via space age hustle

Lil B has been blowing up lately, but honestly it's a strange sort of success he's enjoying.  I've been a fan of Lil B since his days in The Pack, and a few of his latest tracks (especially the ones on this mix) I think are some of the best rap tracks being produced today.  Despite that, the fact remains that by almost any criteria you might want to use, Lil B is a terrible, terrible rapper.  In fact, one of the first things that made me a fan of Lil B is that he is so bad at rapping.  It's a debatable point I suppose, but if you look for cleverness, complexity, and actually rhyming in rap, Lil B is definitely awful.  So what's with all of the hype then?  Lil B's inability to construct actual raps are part of his larger persona, which is that of unpredictable weirdness.  Its impossible to guess what Lil B will do or say next, much less guess if he's going to bother to construct a rhyme at the end of a verse, and that is what critics and fans love about him.  That definitely makes it seem like the majority of the attention he is getting is from non-rap fans ironically enjoying a rapper for being strange, rather than for his music.  Of course, the nature of hip-hop is such that persona is always at the forefront, so it's hard to be too disappointed in people focusing on the rapper and not on the rap, but I can't help but imagine this probably grates fans of actual rap music the wrong way.  Personally I tend to focus more on production in rap than on actual mic skills, so it doesn't bother me much.  And Lil B's persona is really entertaining, especially his goofy motivational self-help positivity side .  But what I like best about Lil B is that he chooses to rap over unusual beats that you might not hear more conventional rappers utilize.  The "Illusions of Grandeur (Remix)" at the top of this post is a great example of this; Lil B says virtually nothing of interest on the track but its got such a huge vibe that it succeeds in spite of his shortcomings as an MC.

Lil B-Base For Your Face (Ft. Jean Grae & Phonte) by EverythingSwagBased

This Lil B track on the other hand, produced by 9th Wonder and featuring talented word twisters Jean Grae and Phonte, takes the wrong tact.  That's not to say it's a bad song, but there's pretty much no reason that Lil B should be on this track.  It's a bad fit, and makes it seem as if the established rap world hasn't really figured out how to approach Lil B yet.  Personally, I'm hoping that Lil B sticks with the more far-out style of beats.... and that some label or producer manages to step in and do some quality control so that we can get one really good Lil B album rather than dozens of mediocre ones.

Extra: A ridiculous and hilarious track-by-track review of the 676(!!!!!!) tracks Lil B has released over dozens of myspace pages.... it's EPIC.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

video: geneva jacuzzi - clothes on the bed

Geneva Jacuzzi hails from the same lo-fi glamorous weirdness scene that birthed Ariel Pink and Nite Jewel, and she falls approximately square in between those artists: the bedroom disco chanteuse styling of Nite Jewel crossed with the rinky-dink keyboards and bizarro persona of Ariel Pink is a pretty close description of Geneva Jacuzzi's sound.  Given Ariel Pink's skyrocketing popularity over the last year (and the tendency of sites like Pitchfork to find ways to unnecessarily drop his name at every opportunity... their recent description of Gary Wilson as a "proto-Ariel Pink" is just one of many examples), I'm pretty wary of any new artist that is seemingly hitching their cart to his success.  Geneva Jacuzzi has been cranking out her lo-fi jams for years however, and her recent full-length "Lamaze" on Vinyl International collects songs from 2004-2009, well before popular acclaim caught up to the music Ariel Pink was inspiring.  So despite the fact that this sounds a lot like Ariel Pink, and he mastered and guests on the album, at least she started doing this before it was cool to do so.  Another point in her favor is that, despite the fashion and self-indulgence (which honestly I take as a given for any artist coming out of LA), Geneva Jacuzzi seems like a huge dork.  The appeal of the lo-fi pop sound to me is that it seems more sincere and honest, due to its indifference (or perhaps inability) to replicate the gloss and sheen of the fake, vapid music it emulates.  With the numerable glamor shots, costumes, and multiple videos, Geneva Jacuzzi seems like she is attempting to position herself as a diva, but the oddness of the music and overall low-budget aesthetic points to a more legitimate artistic statement than a simple attempt at pop success.  Check out some of her other videos:

Bad Moods (Rough Edit) featuring Ariel Pink

Love Caboose

Monday, March 14, 2011

video: grouper on the experimental 1/2 hour show

I'm working on a round-up of various tracks and videos that have hit the net over the last few days, but here's one that's so substantial that I think it needs its own post.  The Experimental 1/2 Hour is a Portland community access program that proves that community access television can be more than just City Hall meetings and drug casualty weirdos.  This 30 minute set from Grouper closely approximates what it's like to see her in a live setting, but here she is unaccompanied by the nature footage that was projected behind her last time she performed here as part of the On Land Festival.  She's not really the most dynamic stage performer, so without the film there's not much going here visually.  Fortunately for those curious about her non-musical work, Grouper has released "Divide", a new book/DVD combo on Roots Strata (the book portion of it is really really awesome, but I've yet to watch the DVD).  And then there's more music (two albums!) coming from Grouper in April, too: Dream Loss and Alien Observer.  While I'm hoping her new records will be a little more engaging than this, this performance is nevertheless a patient and beautiful (and kinda terrifying at the end) ambient piece, and I'm pretty jealous that Portland gets such great community access TV.... who wants to try and get something like this going in SF?

PS - for extra experimental weirdness, check out this performance that launched the Experimental 1/2 Hour show (and was my introduction to the program)

the austerity program - backsliders and apostates will burn (2010)

The Austerity Program - Song 25 by speedglueandmusic_aw
THE AUSTERITY PROGRAM // Song 27 by ourbandcanbeyourlife-77

The Austerity Program
New York City, New York, USA
Backsliders and Apostates Will Burn (Hydra Head, 2010)
RIYL: Big Black

Although I'd been planning to sit down and write this review for a few weeks now, THIS bumped writing this review up to the top of my list.  If you didn't click that link, it's a news bit about how there is going to be a live tribute to the book "This Band Could Be Your Life", featuring the music of the classic bands from that book as performed by some of the fucking LAMEST modern indie bands who have NOTHING to do with the bands they are covering.  In particular, I'm pissed that some jackass (seemingly Michael Azerrad, the author of "This Band..."???) thought it would be "cute" or "funny" or "ironic" if St Vincent covered Big Black.  Ha ha, isn't that funny?  Aren't you laughing?  Its like, St Vincent is this twee folk indie chick, and like, Big Black are that seminal pissed-off noise rock group that basically personified seething hate and loathing?  GET IT? THIS BAND COULD BE A JOKE HA HA HA OMG LIKE THAT'S SO FUNNY.  Anyway, this is a review of an album, not just my raving about some boneheaded indie rock travesty.  And the reason that said travesty prompted this review is because The Austerity Program are pretty much the closest modern equivalent to Big Black around.  The relentless drum machine, the heavy bass driving the show, the snarky attitude, the intense energy of Big Black are nicely kept alive by The Austerity Program.  On previous releases, Terra Nova and Black Madonna, The Austerity Program didn't quite manage to rise above the rank of "pretty good Big Black rip-offs".  On last year's Backsliders and Apostates Will Burn EP, however, The Austerity Program have refined and focused their sound, becoming "pretty excellent Big Black rip-offs".  While it's impossible for any Big Black fan to listen to this without hearing that band's influence, there are a few differences between them and The Austerity Program.  While The Austerity Program's guitarist/vocalist Justin Foley often recites his lyrics in the same deadpan spoken style that Steve Albini used, Foley also stretches his vocal chords out further, reaching for melody far more than Albini ever did.  This is one of the band's most notable qualities, because Foley is not a very good singer.  However, I think that fact works to the band's advantage: Foley's caterwauling lends a sense of sincerity that makes his darkly humorous lyrics more interesting.  And in terms of subject matter, although Foley visits the same kind of bleak subject matter that Albini covered, Foley seems more desperate and out-of-control than Albini did.  While my repeated references to Big Black might seem dismissive of The Austerity Program, I think that there's more going on here than simply paying tribute to an older band.  And even if they were, seeing as Big Black are better than 99% of any other band (then or now), being a Big Black clone still puts you ahead of the rest.  Just don't ask me what I think of bands that "ironically pay tribute" to them...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

horseback - the invisible mountain (2010)

Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
The Invisible Mountain (Relapse, 2010)
RIYL: Grails, Om

Originally released in a limited run in 2009 on Utech, Horseback's four-song mini-album The Invisible Mountain was re-released in 2010 to wider audiences on Relapse, one of the biggest metal records in the US. You might expect that would mean that this is a metal album, and I guess if the presence of (rather subdued) scruffy black metal vocals is all it takes to make something metal, then this is. I was certainly expecting this to be metal, since I first heard about this album on Haunting the Chapel's best of 2010 list, where it broke the top 10 (besting Burzum even)! But apart from the raspy vox, this is pretty much a straight-forward neo-americana/post-rock album in the vein of Om, (modern era) Earth, Barn Owl, the soundtrack for Jonah Hex that Mastodon made, and most of all, Grails. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing- do you like those bands (and that OST)? There is a good chance that Horseback's trance-inducing basslines, mournful steel guitar, and patiently unfolding darkly Western soundscapes will appeal to you. One noteworthy aspect of this album is how natural the blend of traditional American instrumentation, post-rock structures and black metal tinges is. Horseback's sound, while not terribly groundbreaking, is definitely fully formed- when Horseback hit their stride, especially on "Tyrant Symmetry" and "The Invisible Mountain", the result is an compellingly heavy groove. And the album's final song (the vividly named "Hatecloud Dissolving into Nothing") stretches out over 16 minutes, abandoning the rhythm section in favor of slowly twisting and mutating shimmery guitars and strings, resulting in a very sorrowful and moving epic. That being said, although The Invisible Mountain is well crafted and enjoyable, Horseback have yet to really bring anything new to the post-metal table. I found the mileage I got out of this album to be inconsistent; sometimes I put it on and found myself engaged and taken by the grandiose songs, whereas other times I found myself wishing that there was something more original here. Perhaps most of all I think that this is a very promising start for Horseback, and I'm looking forward to see if they can solidify their place among the already established bands in this genre. However, if you consider yourself an post-metal-stoner-Americana enthusiast, this is definitely an album to check out.

Monday, February 14, 2011

aesahaettr - aesahaettr (2010)

Aesahaettr - The Sundering Blade of Bolvangar by speedglueandmusic_aw
Aesahaettr - The Fury of the Panserbjorn by speedglueandmusic_aw

Black metal comes in a lot of different flavors.  There's the raw, evil sound of early black metallers, all harshness and aggression.  Or the slower, more melancholy style pioneered by Burzum, furthered by Weakling, and propagated by about a million modern black metal bands.  There's industrial black metal, false & hard-rocking black metal, lo-fi & experimental black metal, shoegaze black metal ("depressive rock"), 8-bit black metal, wooden black metal, epic war black metal, folk black metal, noise black metal, orchestral black metal, etc etc etc ad infintum.  It can get overwhelming, and so its something of a relief that Aesahaettr, a new one man black metal project from Montreal, doesn't add anything new to this pantheon of black metal offshoots- in fact, this is almost exactly what I would call the textbook definition of modern black metal.  This is not a bad thing, because Aesahaettr do by-the-book black metal right.  Side A of this, Aesahaettr's self-titled demo cassette, features black metal in the driving, upbeat, riffing style, all fast picking and programmed drums.  I like the sound of drum machines and I like drum machines in black metal, so that was one thing that appealed off the bat.  But what I am truly a sucker for (and what I think is the primary thing that sets Aesahaettr apart from other like-minded bands) is hooky, empowering riffs, and Aesahaettr brings some real fist-pumping-head-banging moments on Side A.  I have to admit that I do feel somewhat conflicted about this, as black metal is meant to be dissonant, misanthropic, isolating, and basically the opposite of "catchy".  But I guess that's why I'll never have trve grim kvlt black metal cred, and instead will spend my time listening to music that claims to be evil, yet sounds like the sort of speed metal used to soundtrack a Mega Man game. Side B of this tape fulfills Aesahaettr's obligation to the other main style of modern black metal, the Wolves in the Throne Room back-to-nature epic that takes at least 15 minutes and requires strings and live recordings of the outdoors- and Aesahaettr succeed in pulling this off.  Basically, if you crave something new and different from contemporary black metal, look elsewhere.  But while this may be more of the same, its more of the same done really well and should appeal to fans of meat-and-potatoes black metal.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

video: C V L T S - "angel chromosome" (from C V L T S/Umberto Split 7" (2011))

L V S T, the self-released debut of Kansas' C V L T S, was an excellent assortment of simple yet engaging synthscapes.  I'd been looking forward to new music from these guys, and "Angel Chromosome" from their upcoming split with Umberto (who uh I know nothing about) makes for an excellent (though unfortunately brief) reminder of why this group stands out in an increasingly crowded field of bedroom keyboard kids.  Sounding retro without sounding stale, sounding epic without being overstuffed or pompous.... C V L T S definitely have a take on synthy drone that appeals to me.  Much more than, say, Night Satan.

Bonus: C V L T S Mixtape: featuring your favorite experimental electronic weirdos The Skaters, Mark McGuire, Stellar OM Source, Matrix Metals, etc... plus Jan Hammer, and Peter Gabriel(!).

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

track review: moon duo - "mazes" (from mazes (2011))

Moon Duo - Mazes by souterraintransmissions
One of my favorite San Francisco groups, Moon Duo, announced their newest release (and full-length debut) Mazes today.  Like the bizarrely warm weather we've been experiencing here, this news makes me excited for the end of winter and the beginning of long months of sun- Moon Duo's previous EP releases of mellow-yet-propulsive hazy psych were the perfect jamming soundtrack for last summer (Mazes comes out just before the sunny season, on April 18th).  The title track, released today as part of the announcement, promises that Mazes will mostly be the same Moon Duo we know and love.  It features the same motorik beat, the sustained keyboards, the rising and falling outer-space guitar that carries the music through the cosmos.... but in a more energized form than Moon Duo's previous releases.  The chords are a little brighter, a little more upbeat; the vocals are more clear, less hidden by reverb, than older Moon Duo tracks.  However, these slight differences do not fundamentally change the overall vibe- I think this bodes well for their debut.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

burzum - fallen (2011)

Burzum - Enhver Til Sitt by speedglueandmusic_aw
Burzum - Til Hel Og Tilbake Igjen by speedglueandmusic_aw

Proving that the Norwegian prison system works, Burzum has now released his second post-prison album, and has not yet been caught committing any hate crimes.  His first post-prison work, Belus, surprised me with its focus and intensity, and exceeded my low expectations by far (and ended up at the #1 spot on my best of 2010 metal albums list).  I had no idea he'd follow Belus up so quickly, but nevertheless I tentatively hoped Fallen would match the quality of it's predecessor.  It definitely succeeds in doing so- if you liked Belus then you will likely be happy with this.  It mostly follows the template set forth on Belus, but this time Varg spends a little more time crooning than before, and several of the songs feature a martial, mid-tempo near-motorik beat (as on "Enhver Til Sitt") that brings a hypnotic groove the record.  While most of the album follows a particular formula, "Til Hel Og Tilbake Igjen" ends the album on an odd and spacey note- definitely weird in a good way, but hopefully not an indication that Varg is itching to get relive his ambient days.  The biggest fault this album has is the thin production; I thought that Belus sounded thin but figured it might just be low-quality mp3s.  Fallen also has a pretty wispy sound, but I found that turning the bass up on my sound system and listening to this at a higher volume improved the experience.  Varg definitely seems to found a new sound that suits him well- if he keeps putting out albums of this quality, this period of his career may be regarded as highly as the Filosofem era.