Monthly Archives: September 2011

I Found A Star On The Ground

So the Flaming Lips made a 6 hour song.

As a longtime fan I am horrified, annoyed, and yet..  far too curious not to listen.  I’m over halfway through the first hour and thinking this hasn’t been any more a waste of time than any other new music from a great band I could be hearing.  In other words, I’m glad I dove in.  In all likelihood you will be too.  It’s the only sort of trippy space adventure you’d expect to last so long.  Listen below.

The Flaming Lips – I Found A Star On The Ground

Part 1 / 3

Part 2 / 3

Part 3 / 3

The story goes that band leader Wayne Coyne was playing with some psychedelic toy and thought, if this one device can provide hours of entertainment, why can’t a song?  Hence the astounding, ridiculous length of this piece.  For the increasingly preposterous band – already known for their gummy skulls, fetuses, and assorted collaborative gimmicks this year – it’s not such a leap toward releasing a quarter-day song.  Let’s face it, if you’re already on their weird train, you’re psyched about this.

The USB stick containing the music is in there somewhere.

Having heard almost a third of this I can report that it’s basically a version of their Embryonic-era dirty ambient krautrock jams, stretching ever deeper into a black hole.  It stretches as it goes on and folds in a few new wrinkles along the way.  I won’t speculate as to where it goes in the next two segments but I can imagine if you enjoy the first 10 minutes, consider it a keeper.  Fucked up way to get our attention aside, this is actually fun.  Let me know if any of you have purchased the hallucinogen accessory kit pictured above.

Atlas Sound – “Quarantined”

I am waiting to be…  changed

Bradford Cox is one of the only musicians working today who I feel, despite fronting a popular band and receiving wide acclaim, is less than fully recognized for his true genius.  My snobbier friends write off Deerhunter as indie/pitchfork ‘core’ while casual fans aren’t often bothered to delve into his often exquisite solo work as Atlas Sound, both on record and (more importantly) in the cornucopia of material he’s released free of charge over the years.

Debut Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel, source of Quarantined.

My favorite pieces often combine a sharp nostalgic eye for the detail of pop songcraft with an otherworldly timbre.  On paper they’d make any head nod while in practice they alternately embrace and repel through a veiled fog.  Some display a truly off-kilter sense of place and time, pairing Phil Spector rhythms and shoegaze instrumentaion with lyrics about the inner terror of isolation and the damaged longing for freedom through metamorphosis.  For instance.

He’s covered Unchained Melody (seriously, listen) and recorded drone epics about tripping nuts all weekend with equal devotion and care.  Cox most recently dropped a three hour, four volume slab of unreleased treasure on fans just because.  Because he was neglecting his freebie-filled blog while touring and releasing multiple items with his main band?  We certainly weren’t owed more; he is simply that prodigious and generous an artist.

After the dreamy debut masterpiece Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel (from which Quarantined sprang) and slightly more straightforward follow up Logos, and a two year break, Atlas Sound is about to treat us all to another official LP of celestial pop on November 8 with Parallax.  Check the artwork below for a bit of weird fun and to listen to advance single Terra Incognita.  While you’re there, click on a window in the far right building to hear a bonus ditty I won’t spoil here.  You’ll know it when you find it.

Also, another special pre-release “leak” of which I’ve grown fond: Te Amo (right-click and ‘save as’ to keep the mp3).

[while you wait get the Let The Blind... 2LP at Insound, or Amazon - there's a full bonus EP of equally worthy music included and like other 4ad releases the packaging is gorgeous]

The Durutti Column – “Otis”

Another sleepless night for me…

My favorite guitarist of all time, Vini Reilly, was also a pioneer with regards to sampling in an ostensibly rock context.  His Factory label boss, mentor, and best friend Tony Wilson famously discouraged Vini’s use of vocals in Durutti Column recordings, feeling he was far better at literally every aspect of music creation than singing.  This obviously contributed to his daring and invigorating use of sampling (and later, frequent female guest vocalists), highlighted by this brilliant piece from the center of his eponymous Vini Reilly LP, released in 1989.  A rising arpeggio gives way to a typically gorgeous guitar ramble before the song slides into perfection with recontextualized phrases from Otis Redding‘s (also typically gorgeous) Pain In My Heart and Tracy Chapman‘s heartbreaking Behind The Wall (listen, seriousl) and cements its place in any hypothetical Top 10 Durutti Column countdown.

I must note that, indeed, a far more famous and recent use of a classic Redding sample exists, but Jay-Z and Kanye West‘s same-named Otis borrows far more liberally (and literally) from Try A Little Tenderness…  which I’ve always found quite affecting in a certain other context:

[you basically owe it to yourself and the perennially under-acknowledged Durutti Column to get the album at theDuruttiColumn.com.  Really, get any of his nearly 2 dozen albums.  Anywhere.]

Julian Lynch – Terra

First off, watch the video.  Starting off innocuously and travelling through the same dreamy territory as the song itself, it’s a perfect realization of Lynch’s fractured hazy diamond of a single.  It should also induce an urge to go bicycling, now.

But read on first, and grab his latest album, Terra, for the perfect accompaniment to a peaceful day in the sun, stars, riding or otherwise.

I should admit I’m an avid cyclist and thus was duly struck when the above video found its way to my laptop:  not only did the music and motion capture the ineffable beauty of riding, the tune itself wormed its way into my skull and nagged at my soul until I went and grabbed the full album.  Being the first track and first single, it’s a fitting introduction to a man who apparently (and regrettably) flew under my radar for the past few years.

I’m smitten.  Cradled somewhere deep between Syd Barrett and Arthur Russell, Julian Lynch scratches at a particular itch I’m often unaware of suffering; relief is no less sweet for the surprise.  He relaxes with gentle acoustic guitar rhythms and a deft touch on percussion.  He raises neck hairs with spare and incisive saxophone melodies, indulging just enough to leave me craving.  Then the artful synth work sprouts and takes root, carrying these solar powered hymns aloft.  The entire album bursts with the furtive sense of discovery and openness set forth by its opener, flaring into comforting and unexpected delights with equal joy.

[try the whole album on soundcloud and purchase the LP from label Underwater Peoples or Boomkat]

Flying Saucer Attack – Further

Because this needed to be discussed.

I purchased this from the used bin at the record shop last month, and the clerk told me it’d been something like a decade since he’d sold a Flying Saucer Attack album.  My first thought:  people are terrible.  My second thought:  I’m going to try rectifying this.  So here goes.

I got into this band years ago while neck deep in a shoegaze journey, after exhausting the usual suspects.  I’d devoured Slowdive, Swervedriver, Ride, Jesus and Mary Chain, and of course My Bloody Valentine‘s era-defining Loveless.  I scoured the feedback plains in search of the next step.  I needed something more.  Something deeper, further out there.  I wanted to experience my mind turning to vapor, soaring out the atmosphere, leaving my corporeal form.  I wanted music to take me where others used drugs or religion to go.  Naturally, I stepped through the looking glass of the Spacemen 3 universe, never to return.

What makes shoegaze so attractive in the first place is the gauzy womb-like comfort of being enveloped in unending guitar tones, washed over and blasted away by tidal waves of feedback.  Abrasive or smooth, it becomes a brain massage at proper volume level.  It’s an instant journey outside the body, a steamroller for uneasy thoughts, a gateway to that liberating nothingness sought in meditation.  When an artist truly nails it, nothing is more transcendent.  When you’ve lived inside this sound long enough, it takes a new approach to reach the same heights.

Enter Flying Saucer Attack’s “rural psychedelia” and behold.  Created by then-couple David Pearce and Rachel Brook, the expansive nature of this recording belies its bedroom equipment genesis, long before the laptop era.  Fahey-like acoustic guitar and hushed blurry vocals ride inside an at-times deafening column of feedback.  There’s a tactile beauty in these delicate textures, a sense that the low-slung noise is brushing your cheek.  Hot lips caress, whispering the songs deep into your ears.  A lot of shoegaze barrels at you, filling the room and crushing your chest.  This is more like the sky being colored in, drawing tighter, embracing warm and soft, and lifting you up.

Here’s a first dose, a perfect entry point.

Here’s a real trip.  Hold on through the journey.

Well, after that not much can be said.  I hope those of you open and eager for this experience have found it.

[easily purchased from label Drag City itself, and thankfully Amazon has a few copies as well.  If you enjoyed those songs at all, I can't imagine a surer bet.]

Seriously

I haven’t posted on here in ages and I feel terrible about this.

I’ve been busy, sure, but that’s no excuse; there is always something going on and I’ve made time in the past.  I woke up today with the resolve to change this.  I woke up with the notion of not only resuming writing about albums I want to share with the world, but changing the way I share on here.

So you’ll be seeing a few new things in the upcoming days and weeks.  You’ll be seeing a barrage of some of my favorite music discoveries this year along with new avenues of expressing myself and casting a light on worthy topics.

You’ll also see some HARD CORE NUDITY.

Okay, probably not.  Optimistic Underground has always been SFW and I imagine it should stay that way.  So, if you’re still here:  thank you for reading, thank you for your patience, and thank you in advance for coming back soon.

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