Monthly Archives: July 2009

Boris – Rainbow

Boris with Michio Kurihara, a celestially inspired combination.  The greatest modern heavy rock band hosting a mind-meld with the transcendent axe man of the greatest psych group in Japan.  The results speak for themselves.

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Reverberations heard within God’s eardrum.  This is power and beauty expressed on a singular razor’s edge  of subtly aggressive rock.  The nine tracks contained within are the epiphany which subconscious hopes and dreams strive toward.  More gorgeous than usual Boris recordings, harder and sharper than Ghost‘s output, it’s a transformative moment for all parties involved – not least of which the listener himself.  Bathe in these stratospheric waters.  Embrace the tidal winds.  Ride the Rainbow.

At this moment I’m sort of at a loss for words.  Just listen if you’re not familiar.  If you are, fire it up and stare at that wonderfully appropriate artwork.

[obtain this wonderful slice of sound at amazon or cd universe]

Gang Gang Dance – Retina Riddim

Gang Gang Dance dropped this slice of fried (and twisted) gold less than a year before their breakthrough masterpiece Saint Dymphna arrived to warp the innocent minds of our youth.  (A video project released as a combination dvd/cd, this is the audio portion.  You’ll have to buy that dvd yourself to see the insanity.)

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In a way, Retina Riddim is even more mindbending – packing in every conceivable rhythmic shift and unexpected sample, every wild percussion tone and dub variation – it’s like a wild roller coaster ride through the band’s collective labyrinthine nightmare, the moment before they awoke and created Saint Dymphna.  Stuffed to the gills with middle eastern string sounds, heavy bass thumps, bent and skewed organ swells, and an overwhelming exotic feel, the uninitiated may be forgiven for assuming it’s like any other release from these esoteric primal psych spelunkers.  It’s not.

If you haven’t heard Saint Dymphna, do so now in preparation for this disorienting onslaught of blissful oddity.

A single uninterrupted 24 minute track, Retina Riddim nearly feels like the band dropped their other albums into a blender and simply poured the resulting fluid into the grooves of an LP as it spun at top volume.  Fortunately, repeated listens reveal an intricate structure and flow, a steady build through varying tempos and structures both dizzying and purposeful.  Fans of Dymphna in particular will notice several sampledelic building blocks for that masterpiece album embedded throughout this wild ride;  some in untreated form, some ready for the spotlight, and some which require a bit of teasing out to reveal their source (or more likely, destination).  When the whole package wraps up with an undeniably transcendent part of the later LP (recognizable in the track Vaccuum) confusion is an understandable first thought.  Second thought usually goes something like:  “I want to hear that again.  Now.”

[the best part of this is that the sound is only half the show - pick up the dvd combo at boomkat or amazon for a totally reasonable price]

ROVO – Pyramid

ROVO.  Readers of my previous post about this galaxy-shattering band, the gravitationally powerful Mon, know that I’m beyond crazy for them.  It’s more of a physical and spiritual impulse at this point.

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The “man-drive trance” outfit has evolved from what was (mistakenly) believed to be a side project for Boredoms guitarist Seiichi Yamamoto into a pre-eminent percussive juggernaut with a genre all its own and a die hard fan base ever eager for further permutations of their uniquely pulsing energy signature.

Pyramid, released in 2000, is a single 43 minute track situated neatly between the more obviously electronically enhanced early sound and the more sophisticated, minimal, and directly hands-on appoach ROVO has flowered into.  As expected, the incandescent electric violin of Yuji Katsui rides the tidal groove with astonishingly fluid precision while Yamamoto’s six string mastery prods and propels his bandmates while providing crucial textural detail.  It’s uniquely jovial in a gentle free-jazz manner for a good portion of its running time, with meandering horns and  keys dancing unfettered until the rhythmic force pulls every building block inevitably toward a torrential avalanche of tribal motorik ecstasy.  The arc may be predictable, though never any less than thrilling when the band hits their warp drive lock-groove stride and rides the ensuing momentum into a rapturous eargasm.  It’s a space ship jumping to light speed, the stars stretching forward eternally, minute after blissful minute.

Surrender  full attention and be rewarded accordingly.  And then some.  And thank them personally while you’re at it.

[difficult to track down due to its original rarity and out-of-print status, i've found this album at jpophelp, or used copies at amazon (for an exhorbitant minimal price of $61) and amazon.jp (for ¥3,730 - under $40)]

Yo La Tengo – Sounds of the Sounds of Science

Yo La Tengo are one of the most consistently brilliant and longest-running bands in existence today, rivaled only perhaps by Sonic Youth in the longevity-with-strong-artistic-integrity department.  Beginning as nerdy New Jersey kids spinning out thrashy Velvet Underground-inspired post punk, they’re now elder statesmen with more genre permutations under their collective belt than most entire labels could hope for, much less a single band.  This release in particular showcases their penchant for out-there experimentation and a playful sense of the beautifully absurd.

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The Sounds of the Sounds of Science features 78 minutes of instrumental music – an entire score written and performed by the band to accompany eight legendary but rarely-seen undersea documentary shorts by influential French avant-garde filmmaker Jean Painlevé.

Originally debuted on stage at the San Francisco Film Festival in April 2001 with the band providing live accompaniment to the films, these pieces echoe the films’ haunting surrealist imagery, yet the music is equally evocative on its own, from the dreamy soundscapes of Sea Urchins and How Some Jellyfish Are Born to the harsher, more dissonant moods of Liquid Crystals and The Love Life of The Octopus.  The final track, The Sea Horse, is a sparkling highlight: inspired minimalist structure the likes of which Terry Riley or Steve Reich may blush at, with buzzy farfisa tones John Cale would jealously covet; a soaring and wistful gust of wind melody flitting above the structure; and all manner of distorted and submerged effects populating the depths.  It’s the sort of piece which handily sets me off to sleep on low volume, or makes my heart swell out of my chest when it’s turned up to proper levels, enough to convey the powerful undercurrent of longing and mystery locked deep within.

In September 2001, the group headed into the studio to lay down the complete score with longtime producer Roger Moutenot.  The resulting album also features exquisite cover photos from the films, along with eerie-yet-comforting illustrations by Jim Woodring and Jad Fair.

[this entrancing rarity is out of stock at boomkat, amazon simply doesn't carry it, YLT's own website store is down for maintenence..  BUT I have found a rare copy at discogs marketplace..  want to know how rare this album is?  It's NOT even on ebay!]

Ghost – Hypnotic Underworld

Ghost are the premier Japanese psych-folk-prog rock group, led by singer Masaki Batoh and brought to ecstatic, piercing life with guitarist Michio Kurihara’s electric wizardry.  In 2004 they reached a career apex with the release of Hypnotic Underworld to near-universal acclaim.

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Starting with the four part title suite, the album kicks off in true old school progressive style.  Building through a darkly ambient jazzy labrynth before upping the ante in part two with flitting woodwinds and jangling percussion, the track explodes with buzzing, agressive guitar work and pounding rhythm until – just when it seems to be running out of steam – Ghost hit the afterburners and take off with the appropriately titled, 22 second, coda: Leave the World! Regrouping with the hypnotically beautiful Hazy Paradise, the album shifts into a more standard structure with tracks exemplefying their uniquely accessible blend of psychedelic otherworldliness.  Ganagmanag, an exotically percussive jam at the album’s center is a clear peak after the opening behemoth; expansive and inviting, it’s the sort of song which, when the excitement and focus ramps up well over halfway through, it’s surprising to realize almost 10 minutes have passed – and disappointing that there aren’t 10 more.  Ending with an unrecognizable cover of Syd Barrett‘s Dominoes, the band drifts out on a quintessentially classic psychedelic note.

[grab this album at the fantastic boomkat store, on cduniverse or find a copy via amazon]

Adventure Time – Dreams of Water Themes

Dreams of Water Themes is the stupendous result of a collaboration between Daedelus and Frosty, who christened themselves Adventure Time and cooked up a nautical stew of jazzy undercurrents, waves of turntablism sampledelia swells and clipped vocal crests, cut through with a crackling, frothy breeze.

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It’s a unique project in the canon of modern beats, with the title and artwork indicating the type of hefty thematic glue unifying this far-flung enterprise – in other words, it’s one of the more cohesive electronic/hiphop releases floating around.  Fans of Daedelus’ opus Denies the Day’s Demise are in for a real treat; this LP hews closer to that record’s heights than any project he’s been involved in before or since.  Loosely roiling keys, dizzy horns, vaguely mideastern strings and incisive, impeccably placed spoken samples drive the narrative thrust, while the constantly evolving yet self-referencing palate keeps two feet planted firmly on the deck through the half-hour-plus of churning beat seas.  There’s a certain whiff of Since I Left You rising off the whole affair, though it’s more respectful nod than straight homage or borrowed nostalgia; the pair acknowledge their forebears in the turntables-set-sail department without constantly reminding us of that towering landmark.  Adventure Time created an ambitious – but consciously playful – musical journey which begs to take listeners out on a freewheeling voyage through the high seas of rhythm exploration.

[sample the whole thing at the last.fm album page, snag a digital copy at 7digital or get the cd at amazon with its attendant cool packaging]

JJ N° 2

JJ have dropped the newest dose of ecstatic balearic pop bliss from Sweden’s very own Sincerely Yours.  This one’s a keeper, and the perfect balm to tide over fans of On Trade Winds and No Way Down until the next seismic event from that beguiling corner of the world.

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Fans of Air France, Studio, and (to an extent) The Tough Alliance are well-prepared for this gorgeous dream experience.  Everyone else:  look at that cover, realize it’s not a hiphop album, and jump right in.  Equatorial synth tones, reverbed percussion, hushed acoustics, tropicalia vibes, gently pulsing dub bass, and narcotic siren’s-call vocals all conspire in tugging unresisting listeners into a sweet dream of intimacy and comfort, warmth on the beach with a new lover.  This is insanely easy to fall for.

[rush over to klicktrack and pick this up for the stupendous price of $8 - straight from sincerely yours!]

Z-Rock Hawaii

Holy Shit.

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Mindflaying collaboration between Ween and Boredoms.  If you’re even passingly familiar with either band, you’ve probably jumped out of your seat already.  It’s no gargantuan achievement; just an exciting smash up of the two groups’ extreme sensibilities, satisfying anyone remotely interested in such a project.  Scatalogical, free-associative lyricism pollinates a gritty crushing tribal punk garden, runaway train hyperactivity collides with relaxed stoner funk, and bone crunching guitar and drums fight it out under warped extraterrestrial sunny skies.

Picture a Venn diagram with Dean and Gene Ween in one circle, and Yamantaka Eye and company in the other.  The overlap, and then some, is what this album sounds like.  Turn this up loud and pay no heed to your exploding brain.

[get your paws on this via amazon or search in vain for a copy at your local record store!]

Nancy and Lee Again

Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood comprised one of the most inimitable duos in pop music history.  Nancy’s wise-beyond-her-years little girl voice serves as a perfect foil to Lee’s grizzled-but-tender cowboy delivery in a perfectly balanced duet of sweetness and spice.  Hazlewood’s still-relevatory electro-tweaked countrified pop constructions take the entire production to the next level in this slice of coed harmonic bliss, hot and fresh after four decades.

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Their second release, Nancy & Lee Again, may not contain the iconic Some Velvet Morning (expertly covered by Slowdive) or their superb take on The Righteous BrothersYou’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling, but it’s the superior record to this writer’s ears.

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The near epic Arkansas Coal (Suite) kicks off the set in dusky mysterious tones and quickly builds through an emotionally swerving narrative toward an anthemic horn blasted finale.  Then it’s on to the second track.  Mid album highlight Down From Dover (prominently sampled recently by The Go! Team) is possibly the best showcase for Sinatra’s voice, a raggedly heartfelt turn which may surprise those who know her as a too-cool chanteuse from These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ or Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down).  Capped off by the deliciously playful conversation of Got It Together Again, we’re privy to these final words:

Nancy: “I wish everybody would be quiet, and nice.”

Lee:  “Yeah, and don’t throw rocks.”

“Yeah.”

“And don’t shoot guns.”

“Right.”

“And come home safe.”

“Right”

“Because we miss ya.”

This intimate exchange gives me a chill right down my spine.  It’s exemplary of the whole album, an experience not unlike listening in on two sweetly adoring old friends as they sing like they’re the only ones who can hear, only for each other.  We’re just lucky it was caught on tape.

[pick this right up on original vinyl at amazon (!!! yes!!!) or get it digitally via 7digital, as it's not issued on CD.  or you can get the excellent Fairy Tales & Fantasies collection, compiling almost every good track they recorded]

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