Well I know karate, and voodoo too!

Everyone knows Tom Waits is one of those ‘totally essential’ artists.  You know, the ones your older brother or your first serious boyfriend/girlfriend constantly sung the praises of, reminding you that you *have to* listen.  Often these artists slip by without due attention in a mixture of defiance and incredulity – how could anything be truly ‘essential’?  This is a case of those people being right.  And only those who have delved into his somewhat vast discography know why.  Here’s exhibit A in the argument as to what the big deal is..

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This album has been oft-described as sounding as if it were recorded in a cave –  a distinct feeling evoked by the creaking, shambling, darker-than-ink atmosphere of which both the primal songwriting and spare production share credit.  That statement may give the impression of some Albini-tinged grindingly rough sound, which couldn’t be further from the truth.  Despite it’s medieval surgical title and tough-as-nails demeanor, Bone Machine has a tender, wounded heart at it’s center.  The defiant, rabble-rousing spirit which marshals this ramshackle train of songs may be the only true constant, but what a binding glue it is:  no matter the dour subject matter (environmental destruction, murder, etc) this measure of well-earned cocksure aggression ensures a fun, heady time.

If you’ve ever been put off by Wait’s vaudeville tendencies in the past, simply do your best at an attempt to keep those prejudices at bay and allow yourself to take in this dirty, clanging masterpiece of a primal rock juggernaut.  This woozy, dark-humored beast will jab your soul through the ribs.  You won’t be able to shake it after a full listen.  So please, just take a taste of that feel.

[purchase this exquisite album at Amazon or CD Universe]

Dimlite – This Is Embracing

So I’ve been on somewhat of an instrumental hiphop kick this year, and Dimlite has been one of the unequivocal gems I’ve discovered.  He is Swiss producer extraordinaire, Dimitri Grimm.  And here’s a little blurb I found on the label website: “During the week that he was allowed to toy around with this first piece of real gear, he filled a whole tape with all kinds of circling noises and atmospheres with the purpose to make «music to smoke to».” I Like how they put it.

This Is Embracing is one of those albums which may seem cold and distant at first blush, but, as always with these things, is anything but.  It is a dubbed- and psyched-out jazz-inflected hiphop diamond awaiting discovery.

Although placed in the running with current heavyweights like Flying Lotus, Hudson Mohawke, or Samiyam, this album (in my opinion) aspires more to the smoky intellectual, jazzy majesty of a DJ Spooky LP like Optometry or Songs of a Dead Dreamer.

And to be perfectly (and possibly sacreligously) honest, although I wouldn’t place it on the same level, this LP reminds me of a certain DJ Shadow masterpiece.  That’s right, Endtroducing… It’s not that I’m comparing the two, but as a reference point, this fits the bill.  If you’re into the sound of that now-classic masterpiece of sampling savvy and instrumental finesse, you’re almost certain to enjoy Dimlite‘s creation.

There really isn’t much more I could say at this moment.  Sure, I could go on and detail every track but this is one of those albums made for listening all the way through.  A track-by-track breakdown is beside the point with music like this.  Get brave.  Dive in.  Now Walk.

[purchase this at Sonar Kollektiv (label) or Amazon]

My Desert Island

Since this is the first post on my blog, I feel the need to share one of the truly essential albums in my life.  Since I Left You, by The Avalanches.

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When I think of a desert island record – that eternal question of ‘what single album would you choose to listen to for possibly the rest of your life, alone on a desert island?’ – the thing that strikes me most is the ‘alone’ part.  More important than being lost and without civilized convenience, would be the brutal reality of abject loneliness.  Thus, the key to understanding why Since I Left You is my choice..

This album is a maelstrom of sampling never before or since rivaled in scope and vision.  Many artists since The Beastie Boys’ seminal Paul’s Boutique have aimed for sampledelic tapestries but few had the freedom afforded to the Beasties since copyright policy would never be the same after their breakthrough album.  Most music lovers probably assumed nothing so audacious would ever be released, especially as the recording industry went on the defensive about infringement and piracy (again).  But The Avalanches, after beginning as a more strictly hiphop-oriented unit and evolving through a series of singles, eps and live shows, threw caution to the wind – and seemingly, their entire vast record collections into the studio – when they dropped Since I Left You on an unsuspecting world in 2001.

The true reason this is my personal choice as the perfect antidote to loneliness has much to do with the fact that there are so many samples – so many varying voices, instruments, artists, themes, genres, connections, eras, just.. people – that every listen ends up filling me with the sensation of attending a dreamlike party.  It’s one full of old friends, new aquaintences, family, strangers flitting in and out of earshot, and ghosts of those who came before yet linger still.  It’s a swirling, multi-layered, densely populated, sweet cacophony of sounds which requires many repeated listens to get a handle on.  Deeply buried samples will pierce the memory and evoke childhood, a favorite film, summertime.  This is a warm, welcoming, positive, relevatory experience, and feels like everyone’s invited, even on headphones.  Especially on headphones.

Despite the sampling nature, the band crafts a distinctly narrative sound journey, in more than just a metaphorical sense:  it’s truly a story about travel, and the restorative powers it can bring.  As you may have guessed by the title, it is (in a way) a breakup album.  Or to be more precise:  a starting-over album.  This is the sound of resolve, those first pounding footsteps on the way to a better place, a better life.  It’s the sound of healing, growing.. going somewhere.  Not to get too sentimental, but it’s inspirational in the way the best dreams can be:  not entirely clear or instructive, but nonetheless monumentally felt and reassuringly bright.

Aside from all my flowery praise, this is truly a classic party album, full of hip-shaking beats and a constantly shifting palate, acting as a single disc DJ to keep things interesting over it’s hour running time.  Of course, everything The Avalanches have made is a prefab soiree, but that’s not the raison d’etre of this posting.  I have many reasons for loving this album;  I just feel that most important would be the notions of solace and company it conveys to the solo listener.  So go on..   Take a little journey.

[Be like me: own it – Since I Left You on Amazon.com you’ll thank me.]

[ps the LP is gorgeous and perfect, get that if you have the turntable]