Monthly Archives: August 2009
Blue Sky Black Death lays down infinitely cinematic left-field instrumental hiphop with their latest album, in the process stretching the very definition of the genre into something altogether more epic and expansive. This LP widens the scope and practically begs for a dystopian sci-fi film to accompany its stately but tweaked out majesty. The duo, comprised of Kingston and Young God, threw down this sonic gauntlet at the feet of every other production wizard and studio sculptor last year and have yet to see a contender pick it up.
Of course, using the term ‘cinematic’ for an album with the word practically in its title may seem lazy, until you’ve spun this at a proper volume. There is no descriptor more apt or quick to pop into mind when listening. This aspect is nothing new in itself; merely raised to an unheard level and played with finesse and a keen ear for detail that lets the music step forward from a long line of atmospheric beat conductors into it’s own wide screen realm.
To put it in relative (and entirely ignorable) terms, this feels as if Dr. Dre were abducted by extraterrestrials and dropped off in a state of the art London studio with no memory of his prior life, accompanied only by his prodigious skills behind the boards and cryptic instructions to make a masterpiece with the resources at hand. All apologies for the seemingly facetious metaphor but if you found yourself nodding at the notion, you’re probably already listening.
Late Night Cinema simply forces a smile at the sheer virtuosity and breadth of vision presented. No song ends the way it began, each track an internal journey presented with a bravado betraying the confidence these guys have in their ability to lay out a fully fleshed out song sans the crutch of vocals or obvious hooks. Utilizing everything from live instrumentation to indecipherable samples to what sounds like a full orchestra, they throw everything which works into the mix and leave no stone unturned in the search for a level of the stratosphere in which to comfortably glide. Plucked strings, fat horns, crunchy bass, snippets of dialogue, rapping, singing, and found sounds work their way into every crevice of the mix. The aural environment is packed to the gills and populated with stylistic genius. Though the nature is sprawling and the landscape expansive, there is simply no wasted space within this record. Every slavishly worked over millisecond of sound feels buffed to a sheen and ready for the close inspection of a jeweler’s eye. Honestly, I can’t recommend this enough.
Early Works is a collection of various mould-breaking recordings Steve Reich produced before truly igniting his star with the trademark instrumental minimalism he continues to perfect today. They are as essential to current minimalism as blues itself was to the invention of rock ‘n’ roll.
Groundbreaking in every sense of the word. Half of the record consists of musique concrete-style tape loop experiments: Come Out and It’s Gonna Rain – respectively based on vocal samples about police brutality and apocalyptic evangalicalism. On Come Out, words are presented at first unvarnished, sounding straight from a tape recorder. “I had to, like open the bruise up, and let some of the bruise blood come out to show them-” states a youthful voice, halting and immediate. A few repetitions in it begins to split, speeding up in one channel and slowing to an uneasy cadence in the other. Eventually the dissonance created between the two is combined into a single raucious, nearly beat-driven refrain of “come out / to show them” as two sides of an aural samurai sword swinging to obliterate the mind’s preconceptions of the human voice. Deconstructing so fully through looping, splicing, and speed, the listener forced to confront the individual phenotypes of speech itself, the malleable nature of words and voice. A backing beat appear to solidify, but it’s only a byproduct of this snippet of dialogue sifting its way toward a nearly sublime (though always unnerving) rhythm. The second, It’s Gonna Rain, starts off with prophetic booming preacher assertions, including the titular phrase, which devolves through the same techniques into a cacophany of beats and noise, before developing in the song’s second half into an absolute maelstrom of unrecognizable shouting in tongues. Except the tongue-speak is fed through a kaleidoscopic blender where only the faintest remnants of whole syllables are detectable. It’s a disorienting, slightly terrifying, ultimately satisfying journey into the unknown.
The other half of the record hews much closer to the later phase driven work Reich is most known for. Piano Phase, written just one year after the tape works, showed his genius for the sublime instrumental passages in full bloom and ready for the major leagues. It’s a piece still played by ensembles when performing selections from his vast body of work, and for good reason. The same ecstasy-wracked trance effects evident in this 20 minute blissout echo today throughout everything subsequently written by the man. Simply put, there would be no Music for 18 Musicians, Drumming, Octet, Different Trains/Electric Counterpoint or City Life without this definitive, seed planting piece. The juggernaut is followed by a short song aptly titled Clapping Music. If you’ve followed along at all by this point, what’s in store should be obvious. It’s fantastic.
New Gang Gang Dance material. It’s called Crystals, and it’s mighty promising. This is an epic on the scale of their earlier God’s Money centerpiece, Egowar. Which, as it happens, is my favorite track from these boundary destroying folks.
Yes, finalizing my last post reminded me of one of the best pre-release tracks I’ve heard in a long time. Yes, I’m speaking of their new live favorite. And yes, it’s beyond fucking incredible. Hit play, turn on the “HQ” version if possible (for the sound quality) and leave a comment about what you think. I have faith.
Gang Gang Dance released their self-titled (and initially vinyl-only) sophomore album in 2004 and quietly set alight their singular brand of cavernous, sample-fluent, tribal psychedelia with this tripped out onslaught of free form beat-laden soundscape exploration.
So, holy shit. I finally got around to listening to this album. An album I should have discovered years ago when I was knocked on my ass by God’s Money. Jesus. I was waiting until I found the real McCoy, and succeeded in my quest. I’m so thankful. This is better than it has any right or percentage of probability to be. Though leagues more free-form than God’s Money or Saint Dymphna, it’s got far more focus and drive than the murkey Revival of the Shittest. 2 tracks totalling 40 minutes wind through movement after movement like a song-based album broken apart and shuffled into a smooth blend by a mad scientist DJ’s hand, giving ample evidence that the masterly flow of the band’s later efforts didn’t materialize out of the wild blue ether.
So truly odd and uniquely rewarding, I’ll leave it up to the listener to understand my enthusiasm and infatuated prose. Just hit play and sit back, resist the urge to skip around on the slow-building opener and make sure to note the point, halfway through the second half, when you’ve completely lost track of time and place. Or don’t.
In memoriam of Charles Bukowski, I had a vodka drink and listened to scandalously good music tonight – then I wrote. This is the one thing item being shared, however. And I mean it. You may feel disoriented, lost, and slightly apprehensive. But in the end you’ll thank me for that final push, what made you take the plunge.
[the album is somewhat of a rarity but one can obtain it via amazon sellers]
Renowned son of Missoula, Montana, Eagle Scout and filmmaker David Lynch has a few words to say about the iPhone and its ilk.
Well spoken, Mr. Lynch.
David Lynch is a 100% certifiable mad genius. This is statement of fact, not opinion. From film to music to writing to, well, reporting the weather, he’s a transcendental force to be rockoned with. In addition to having impeccable visual sense, an ear for ethereal storytelling, and the golden touch of endearingly profound weirdness, the man has unfathomably great taste in music. To that end, he recruited David Jaurequi and several session players to record the music for his seminal Twin Peaks film, Fire Walk With Me. Under the name Fox Bat Strategy, they appeared in the Pink Room and Blue Frank scenes, and also recorded this set of tunes written by Lynch… and promptly disappeared for years.
Upon Jaurequi’s death in 2006, Lynch decided to summon this shelved collection of haunting pop apparitions toward the light of day. It took him three years, but thank god he did at all. These seven tunes are beyond cool – the perfect crystallization of the alluring idea of his film work translated into a darkly romantic album.
Fox Bat Strategy is pretty much what a David Lynch fan would expect based on experience with his unique oeuvre. Sweetly menacing, reverb-laden old school bluesy rock sounds with a hint of pitch-black midnight surf guitar. Lyrics written by the man himself straddle the line between Roy Orbison- or Ricky Nelson-style saccharine love ballads and the unnerving prose laid out in the dreamier sequences of Blue Velvet, Mulholland Dr. or Twin Peaks itself. It’s too bad this is the only release we’ll ever hear; we can take comfort in the fact that there are at least a solid 40 minutes of smokey majesty to savor, again and again.
Black Dice are one of the most interesting noise fetishists of this decade, crafting everything from burned out near-ambient soundscapes to rumbling sample-melting inverted party anthems – all with a jagged outré sensibility about how songs are crafted.
Imagine aliens descending on the earth eons after humans abandoned it. The cities are crumbled and in an attempt to understand us, they rebuild everything – not as originally intended, but the way they imagine it to be. The bits and pieces are placed together via extraterrestrial logic, ignorant of the traditions and established methodology of physical construction on this planet. The result is something utterly fascinating and strange, with underlying familiarity in its makeup but complete disregard for the way this long-gone race decided things should be.
Then imagine the aliens are the members of Black Dice, and the cities are a thousand shattered records lying on their studio floor.
Broken Ear Record starts off with a deep brass thump, nearly the last recognizable instrument, and proceeds along through a wiggly, pulsating river; occasionally jarring, the overall effect is trance-inducing. Smiling Off continues this with a more rhythmic pounding and crescendoing structure thoughout its 9 minutes. The rest of the album springs from the opening duo’s template, adding percussion, subtracting the drift, and working itself into an occasional frenzied burst of cathartic melody. Oh, and it’s dancey too, in a sorta flailing-seizure-in-a-metal-body-cast way. There is something truly hypnotizing about this particular beast; it’s like a full giant computer full of instruments rolling downhill until all the crunching and bending and chaotic crashing coalesces into a consistent beat that becomes a straightforwardly pleasant listen. One only has to surrender to its will and give it some time. By the end of the second track, its claws will dig in. By the end of the finale, Motorcycle, they’ll be down to the bone. Understanding and bewilderment attained in the same wild instant.
Believe me, I was a doubter at first. Now I can’t stop the momentum.
Noonday Underground is the sun drenched soulful electronic project from Simon Dine (formerly of Adventures in Stereo) which flies across the radar first appearing as a retro throwback, slowly revealing its entirely inventive and modern structure and intricate production detailing. Submerged in everything 60’s-cool, from exotica to California pop and Motown swagger, Dine weaves evocative time-travel textures shot through by every technique at his disposal in a modern studio. It’s a deliciously supple blend which has gone virtually unnoticed far too long.
Stretching out on the wider canvas of this second LP, the album opens with orchestral pomp straight out of a climactic film score, doubling over into a breakbeat laden lounge simmer before sliding directly into first single Boy Like A Timebomb. Slow-burn vocals by Daisey Martey (of Morcheeba) manage to steal the spotlight from the deep groove brass section and massive drum fills, evoking the passionate gravity of classic soul sirens and sultry Bristol trip hop birds alike. While ostensibly Dine’s partner in crime throughout the band’s early career, she is joined by a menagerie of crooners on this outing; most notable is early supporter and famously soul-infatuated former front man of The Jam and The Style Council, the preeminent Paul Weller. His turn on the emphatic I’ll Walk Right On is one of the unquestionable highlights on this platter, already stuffed to the gills with one gem after another. While the smokey atmosphere, dubby bass and loose percussive nature begs comparisons to modern acts like DJ Shadow or Portishead, the surface feel itself is indebted to the exotic sheen of composer John Barry and his quintessentially cool film scores. Every listen to this album transports me to a space where I’m suiting up in a peaked-lapel tuxedo and ordering a gin-vodka martini, shaken and served in a deep goblet with a thin slice of lemon peel, all the while zipping over the clouds in a chrome-accented private jet on the way to some hidden volcanic island. Yes, it’s that evocative. Turn it on, turn it up, and get to the runway – there’s plenty of room on this trip.
[the Japanese release (with 2 bonus cuts) can be found at amazon for a better price than used original copies, while norman records supposedly has a standard priced copy in stock, and eil will let you request the next available unit. yeah, it's a bit hard to track down]
A.R. Rahman is, simply put, one of the most thrillingly inventive, widely adored, and extremely prolific composers of this generation. His fortuitous partnering with director Mani Ratnam birthed numerous undeniably addicting musical gems, my favorite of which is shared here: the throbbing, kinetic masterpiece Dil Se.
Bursting out the gates with the indomitable pounding of Chaiyya Chaiyya, we’re barreling through a jungle of sweltering beats and woozy strings on an unstoppable freight train of rhythm. Angelic vocals swoop through the mix on every track, a skyward rush of male and female dancing in perfect interplay – so evocative that even without knowing the lyrics, the feeling is transmitted directly to the pleasure centers of the mind and heart alike. Every one of these six pieces is a celebration unto itself, a massively choreographed and exotically passionate extravaganza. When this record crests its apex with the near-title track Dil Se Re, prepare for liftoff and hang on. From the first massively echoed drum stab through the final climax of gravitational percussion, soaring vocals, Michael Jackson-esque handclaps and herky-jerky basslines, cloudbursting keys and swooning string section – honestly, excitement is a pale imitation of the words needed to conjure the overwhelming feel. Bouncing from one peak to the next, the album relentlessly works to please, and succeeds on all fronts. It simply must be heard. And that’s why we’re here.
Clocking in under 40 minutes, Dil Se is a rush of emotion and movement, passion and power. When the final notes of Satrangi Re fade out we’re left breathless and dazed, and ready to start the journey anew. Join the fun. Get on the train.
[grab this sweet glass of paradise and drink it in at amazon]