Monthly Archives: October 2009
A perfect Halloween treat, Memory Tapes has dropped the excellent longform instrumental, Walk Me Home, for our holiday enjoyment.
[right click to save the mp3]
Thanks to ARAWA, this 17 minute slice of fried gold is absolutely FREE. Opening with eerie synth pulses and a latin-flavored rhythm section, the song shifts gears after 5 minutes into an ass-shaking robo-zombie groove momentarily until the halfway point. This is where the epic washes of balaeric keys chime in for a relaxing setup – after this point all hell breaks loose and Memory Tapes finally drops the hardcore stuff on us. Stuccato organ hammers and stiltwalking percussion swell and the song barrels toward its ending like a runaway freight train from Camp New Order, all quaking mass and blurred signposts until a quietly haunting outro reminds us of nighttime debaucheries and spooky old films.
Spin this monster before heading out tonight. You’ll be well fortified for whatever strange delights the twilight affords.
White Rainbow (née Adam Forkner) recently tore through the autumn skies to drop this bomb, blowing away expectations, surpassing anything I could have anticipated after the already-excellent 2007 LP Prism of Eternal Now. Expanding on the warm, nebulous nature of his live jam constructions, New Clouds is an impossibly appropriate title for one of this year’s best records.
Transcendent, overwhelming, hypnotic bliss. Building layer upon layer of drones, stretched and echoed vocals, muted tribal percussion, and gorgeous synth swells, each track is a towering confection allowed room to naturally develop and breathe. The four tracks comprise an hourlong running time, every moment feeling palpably open and inviting. This album inspires and propels further listening, rather than demanding it. Songs begin focused on a singular element, be it delayed acoustic guitar strums or rubbery hand drumming, and evolve with such grace and intuitive logic that final assembly is nearly imperceptible. This music simply happens, while the conscious mind is busy absorbing the amorphous beauty like a pillow swallowing a blissful dreamer. Informed by a wide range of greats, from Terry Riley to Can at their most euphoric, Forkner has finally broken through to a plane where his art exists on its own terms, immaterial of time or place. This album raises hypnagogic exploration to new heights.
“Do you know how to use this weapon?” – Nobody
Neil Young‘s score for the 1995 Jim Jarmusch film is hauntingly evocative, an improvised set made with electric and acoustic guitar, organ, and piano, recorded as Young watched rough cuts of the film over just three days.
Vibrant, endless, searching, guiding, and inspiring – Young’s guitar tones ripple through through the fields, cover the mountains, and scour the lakes with their pure holy roller tones – this music feels more like the declarations of some unspeaking presence, a force buried underground, echoing from caverns and crevices, rising up to paint the clouds on occasion, then dissipate over the coast into the roiling sea.
The only frame of reference for this album, aside the film itself, is perhaps the album Hex: Or Printing in the Infernal Method, by drone pioneers Earth. The title of that album, in fact, comes from a certain William Blake poem taken from the film and embedded in this album.
The ancient tradition that the world will be consumed in fire at the end of 6,000 years years is true, as I’ve heard in hell. The whole creation will be consumed, and appear infinite, and holy, where as it now appears finite and corrupt. This will come to pass by an improvement of sensual enjoyment. But the first notion that man has a body distinct from his soul is to be expunged; this I will do, by printing in the infernal method, by corrosives, which in hell are salutary and medicinal, melting apparent surfaces away and displaying the infinite which was hid. If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through narrow chinks in his cavern. – William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell
This is important to understanding the texture and aim of the music. Powerful roaring clean, piercing guitar tones, undercut with judicious feedback and a rumbling low end, are the broad strokes with which this canvas is painted. Warm tones and a nighttime-in-the-woods ceremonial ferver color in the edges. Funereal organ pulse and delicate piano stabs define the lines. The full work comes crashing together via the epic centerpiece Guitar Solo 5, a 15 minute exploration meant to drag the listener far above terra firma (and lash the film viewer’s senses to the screen) into the embryonic soup where stars are born and alchemy is real.
While experience with the film is helpful it’s in no way essential to enjoying this record. Simply hit play and let the wild horse run free. In time, you’ll be ready for your own journey.
[pick up the mindblowing film itself at amazon while you're at it]
23 Skidoo were born skirting the fringes of post punk, industrial, funk and dub, a nearly peerless realm infrequently visited by A Certain Ratio, Throbbing Gristle, and This Heat. Twisting these genre elements through a strangely appealing recombination act was just the beginning of what the band means; it’s a coldly academic observation neglecting the warmly aggressive, primal energy bursting through the sonic capillaries of every piece they wrought. Honestly, the only act I could consider a true musical neighbor are the willfully radical legends The Pop Group. This is a remarkably good thing.
First of all, Seven Songs is 8 tracks long. That’s the first clue about the contents of this enigmatic, quintessential release – like The Pop Group, their modus operandi was grounded in subverting expectations and twisting them into something altogether surprising, thrilling, and a little bit scary. The limitless ingenuity spread across these 32 minutes constantly pulls the rug out from under the listener, encouraging fleet feet and an open mind. Unexpectedness, in this case, means welcome change and otherworldly juxtapositions, with the comfort of a trail guide who – despite a melange of insanity – knows exactly where he’s taking us.
Articulated noise pulls straight into a gutteral dub beat and tribal percussion stabs while the band cuts in and out with all manner of wordless vocal bursts and sheets of guitar noise on first cut Kundalini, laying the foundation for a record every bit as catchy as it is obtuse. Next off we’re treated to a skittering drum kit and funkadelic guitar, touchstones of Sly & Robbie infused dub, and one of the most ‘conventional’ moments of the album before dropping through the trumpet accented drone abyss of Mary’s Operation, leading directly into the asterix of a track 4, Lock Groove, which is aptly titled as anything here. This is also the reason the album is appropriately named – 30 seconds of oscillations do not make a song, thus “7” is indeed correct. But I digress.
Picking up the scattered shards and welding them into a lumbering prehistorical Transformer, New Testament proceeds to stride right into the path of album highlight IY. Kicking off with energetic, get-up-and-dance (or kick ass) percussion and a swaggering muted horn, it’s equally ready-made for epileptic dance fits and barnstorming runs over decaying industrial districts. Building through a propulsive rhythm motorcade to a fevered crescendo, the track sweats out all the clap-happy energy – leaving the album in a whirlpool of dread and ennui. Amping up the atmosphere beyond smoke-machine-and-lights-out darkness, Porno Base nearly defines the word cavernous and sets the stage for quirky closer Quiet Pillage. All cricket-squeak guiro and steel drum swarm, the track gradually shifts toward a subdued ambient pulse and wood flute accents before dissipating entirely, like waking from a disturbing, curiously addictive dream.
Like I said, this exists on its own terms, and anyone half interested should get to know them.
Bows were born after the demise of brilliant post-rock pioneers Long Fin Killie, by lead guitarist and singer Luke Sutherland. A more atmosphere- and beat-driven, nominally trip-hop associated group than its predecessor, Bows bloomed into something equally adventurous and fulfilling as the acclaimed first band. On this album, they flew even higher.
With a foundation in the bleeding edge of UK PostRock, Sutherland and company’s oceanic swells bleed into entirely new territories, amplifying the latent dub tendencies of the former scene while skipping right over the forefront of then-popular Bristol trip-hop sounds into a starbursting heaven of cascading orchestral waterfalls and breathy dreampop vocals courtesy of chanteuse Signe Hoirup Wille-Jorgensen and Sutherland himself. The enigmatic low end throb provides a bedrock for the torrent of acid-bent melodic workouts embedded with a stream of sub-consciousness lyrics and oracular percussion.
Imagine your favorite deep 90’s Bristol album draped in the gauzy atmosphere of A.R. Kane or Cocteau Twins and shot through with terrifying elation and existential anomie. This is light years beyond that image. Leaning away from the club floor and into the fevered minds of blissed out dreamers, it’s the pinnacle of its kind. Perhaps the only one.
Yoko Ono. Divisive to many, divine to few. And a patron saint of confident weirdness to certain odd souls, myself included.
Somewhere between the end of The Beatles and the death of John Lennon, Ms. Ono transcended her famous personal life with a now-signature form of artistic expression which has burrowed its way into the collective psyche of the art world at large through the past four decades. Spinning off from the demented twin Plastic Ono Band albums her and John made in 1970, Ono’s velocity tore through krautrock, noise, and primal scream histrionics on the towering double album Fly, cementing her royal status among experimental music circles. Since that landmark she’s made everything from underground club hits to sappy world peace ballads, outsider art projects and off-Broadway musicals, and on to 2007’s collaborative disc Yes, I’m A Witch, in which her work was reinterpeted by a menagerie of modern artists including The Flaming Lips, DJ Spooky, and Porcupine Tree.
As it turns out, her infectious single Walking On Thin Ice, an amazing slice of disco-motorik swagger from 1981, and the monstrous, willfully difficult (though highly rewarding) Fly are the greatest touchstones for this new album. Reclaiming the Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band moniker for the first time since John was around, and enlisting not only the help of their son Sean but also Japanese electronic chameleon Cornelius and Yuka Honda (formerly of Cibo Matto along with Sean), Yoko Ono has unleashed her best work in decades, if not ever. And I’m beginning to lean towards “ever.”
Combining the skittering, nervous percussion and extended minimalist stomp of propulsive freakouts like Mind Train with a concise ear for pacing and texture, these tracks tickle pleasure centers in opposite parts of the brain simultaneously: the vigorous thrill of flying off the rails with a mad scientist of noisy pop and the soothing coo of a mother’s lullaby approaching some previously unknown singularity. Equally esoteric and life-affirmingly prosaic, she spreads vibes of goodwill and peace as effortlessly as a storm dropping rain. At 76 years old I believe the grand matron of avant garde pop has earned the right to express elegantly simple platitudes about life in whichever manner she sees fit.
Apparently what she sees is a rollercoaster journey from tribal percussion through minimal dance grooves toward parting clouds and the sunshine of a resigned, reserved, and sighing happy heaven where she views her lifelong love awaiting. John (insert your own idea of love, bliss, etc) is out there, she seems to be happy to share, and letting go is a step toward attaining true peace and becoming one with this idea. But as asserted in the final 20 seconds of the album, I’m Alive! – she’s not finished with her time here. The fact that a satisfying end is within reach, and death is no longer a fear, doesn’t change her defiant nature. Standing up to legions of naysayers for decades has certainly not dulled her edge, and this declaration following the string- and piano-laden final stretch of the album serves as a jolting reminder. There are few artists in the world so polarizing, but for those on the right side of the fence, there are few so rewarding to both the head and the heart. And the sky.