Eleven Tigers – Clouds Are Mountains

Eleven Tigers just blew my fucking mind,” I thought.

And this is probably the tenth time I’ve listened to Clouds Are Mountains.

“Who is the third who walks always beside you?”

That number is now closer to fifteen.  Realizing that this relative unknown not only explodes genres on one of my favorite albums of the year but also quotes The Wasteland with panache and twists it into one of the more earworm friendly tracks on a densely stacked deck of indelible dream bangers is a priceless sensation.

Eleven Tigers is the artistic name of Lithuanian transplant Jokubas Dargis, who makes his debt to a certain dubstep legend more than apparent:  “Influenced by Burial, I went to explore the atmosphere and the ambiance of London metropolis – my current home. I study music technology and do all sorts of activities I never thought to embrace.”  Pairing that quote with a listen is the quickest way to realize that he’s driven more by the expansive nature of Burial‘s idealism than simply his style.  The first and most obvious difference is the expansive color palette deployed across all corners of this hourlong experience.  From taffy-stretched drone tunnels bridging propulsive house and dub techno beats to the clipped channels of unknown conversation forming a preamble to fractured fairy tale dreampop vocals, every lush moment drips with a heart of wanderlust and a propulsive kick in its step.

Breaking with nearly all tradition of its nominal peers, this album has a dramatic heft, an operatic rise and fall structure demanding front to back listening – with the surgical precision of some mythical perfect trance mix to keep everything on a consistently gasp inducing flow.  Every time an exquisite groove is discovered and locked into, a new element arises to subtly shift context until a sudden left turn imperceptibly shuffles the entire journey onto yet another new level.  The segues – whether in-track or between them – offer nearly as much straight-dope pleasure as the hard hitting segments riding out one of the narcotic beats into that blissful state of pure flowing sound.  Almost.  This man truly understands the hypothalamic connection to the sort of infectious repetition present in any truly ecstatic dance music.  The fact that he manages to fold that in with a nearly spiritual sense of dynamic balance is beyond belief.

But really, believe it; it’s true.  Hear the evidence yourself for free streaming right now in high quality and you’ll understand what drove me to immediately place an order on his bandcamp page.  It’s just that worth it.

[buy this at eleven tigers' bandcamp page or grab it at boomkat]

Brock Van Wey – White Clouds Drift On And On

Brock Van Wey took a headfirst leap off the end point of dub techno last year into the oceanic swells of ambient bliss on this first album under his given name.  Instead of crashing into the waves and sinking, the man usually known as Bvdub simply took flight and never looked down.  This is White Clouds Drift On And On.

Let’s start at the cover art; talk about evocative.  That image, combined with the none-too-subtle title, sufficiently hints at the feelings unleashed by this album.  Opening with a melodic beckon skyward, White Clouds eases the passage from the paces of reality into pure atmospheric headspace with it’s most concrete segment.  Once at cruising altitude, that cover art truly delivers on its promise.  Piano, synths, guitars and the hiss of soft spoken digital percussion are treated with gauzy abandon.  Everything expands in all directions at once, infiltrating and taking over all sense of place and time.  Vocals flit in and out of the mix and are seemingly heard before they appear, yet register only once they’ve gone.  More than a quarter of an hour can slip away in the blink of an eye, with only the fleeting silence between tracks reminding of the outside world.

Each of the six excursions come on like a nagging thought, stealing focus away from whatever is at hand.  Novel elements build upon the notion, expanding to fill the entire consciousness.  The immediate surroundings completely dissolve and an internal journey has begun.  Only the end of this album can now serve as the hand on my shoulder to shake me to attention.  You know how this ends, like a transportive dream after waking.  Something profound was felt, but the details are lost.  Thankfully this transcendent experience is a tangible thing, available for replay as soon as the listener is ready.

Covering a strange land where the nations of Basic Channel and Quantec overlap with Arvo Pärt and Terry Riley, Van Wey departs heavily – but not unexpectedly – from his solidly minimal, dub techno background.  Instead of moving laterally, he’s simply found a higher ground, and that deep foundation remains.  Thus, fans of anything from Fennesz and Tim HeckerStars of the Lid and Windy & Carl, to Gas, Loscil, and Deepchord Presents Echospace, to  The Caretaker, William Basinski, Black to Comm [see my take on Alphabet 1968] or even my recent favorites Oneohtrix Point Never [see my love here], need to pay special attention here.  I wouldn’t go on a name-checking spree if it weren’t necessary, so here’s the deal:  This album accentuates all that I love about these profoundly varying artists and their sounds, yet never succumbs to their respective gravities.  It weaves between, above and below, insular in its movemnt and pulsing with a life all its own.  I like the notion that when a dream is over, a whole world ends.  That’s how this album feels, every time.  I mean that in the best way possible.

One of the most unique aspects of this release is the presence of a second disc featuring a full album deconstruction by producer Intrusion (dub techno wizard  Stephen Hitchell), mirroring the dream like a bent parallel universe.  Keeping true to the ethos and atmosphere, the percussive dub feel is heightened to an almost head-nodding level while the billowing atmosphere is drenched in cavernous echo.  Built on a descending order of the original six songs, this set brings us full circle by the end.  It is truly a reflection, a perfect accomplice, urging the body to follow the mind.

Despite having since moved back to making records under his former moniker, his music shows no signs of reversing course.  Bvdub‘s new album The Art Of Dying Alone, out on perfectly complimentary label Glacial Movements, is the obvious next step beyond White Clouds.  In other words, keep up with the man.  He’s conjuring something special.

[unfortunately out of stock at most vendors, forced exposure and soundfix seem able and willing to spread the love.  buy this if you can.  by all means.]

Music For Our Future

So apparently to help promote the prequel series to Battlestar Galactica, Syfy channel has worked with Pitchfork and XLR8R to curate a far-better-than-it-has-any-right-to-be compilation “inspired” by the new show, Caprica.  Rather than toss together a random selection of indie pop hits aimed at moving units, those responsible have created an ostensibly futuristic sounding mixture of left-field beat excursions, austere psychedelia, and blissed out ambience – and released Music For Our Future completely FREE of charge.

That’s right, this sublime collection is just a click away.  The best part is that the selection is of such uniformly high quality, containing several tracks unavailable elsewhere, that it would easily warrant a purchase price if they so chose.  Thankfully, their commercial impetus for appearing generous is a freewheeling invitation for those of us more into music than television to indulge in something we don’t get every day: an official mixtape that’s not only surprisingly eclectic and deep, but coherent and fluid unlike all but the best of film soundtracks.

Basically comprised of several key satellites orbiting the modern avant electronic landscape with a foot or two firmly in more well known indie territory, this playlist promises to release listeners from the shackles of gravity and set them adrift somewhere outside the oort cloud without a tether in sight.  Sliding through warm drones, cold glitch, crushing dub, rapid space grooves and minimal-everything, we’re right on the cusp of anything conceivably fitting for this particular title.

The tracklisting:

1. Lusine – Gravity

2. Atlas Sound – Walkabout

3. Hudson Mohawke – FUSE

4. White Rainbow – Raw Shanks a Million

5. King Midas Sound – Outta Space (Slow Version)

6. Low Limit – Turf Day

7. Willits and Sakamoto – Toward Water

8. The Field – I Have the Moon, You Have the Internet (Gold Panda Remix)

9. Tyondai Braxton – Uffe’s Woodshop

10. Untold – Luna

11. Nice Nice – See Waves

12. Richard Devine – Matvec Interior (feat. Otto Von Schirach)

13. Peter Kirn – Anaxagoras

[once again, this is completely FREE.  so grab it and enjoy]

Shackleton – Three EPs

Yeah.  Adventurer Shackleton

Shackleton first came to my attention late in 2008 via the sublime mix album Uproot (which I posted here in April), produced by one of my absolute favorite beatmakers, DJ /rupture.  Almost exactly one year later, this collection – entitled Three EPs – drops the definitive word thus far on his (already stellar) burgeoning career.

Earthquake-level bass lines slither beneath evasive percussion maneuvers throughout every moment of this disc, providing a cavernous bottom end to support the origami skyscrapers of of sampledelic dexterity, all wrapped in loops of pulsing synth candy.  The palpably soupy atmosphere creaks and groans like an old ghost ship refusing to sink, far removed from the climate of foggy London alleys of dubstep to altogether more obscured and claustrophobic (not to mention exotic) environs.  Sitar drones ride lines of tablas and salt shaker cymbals, disembodied vocals drift through the mix spectre-like, and a time machine’s load of futuristic effects beam us from deep underwater through the Oort cloud and back.  More than anything else, this is music to disappear into, be swallowed up for an hour and dropped out with faint knowledge of where, exactly, the journey took us.

With a darkly romantic night drift more akin to Burial‘s pitch black monster Untrue than anything strictly dubstep and a calculated iciness echoing nothing less than Muslimgauze himself, Shackleton stands neatly alone in his world.  This melange, spiced with minimal techno, middle eastern percussion tapestries and a truckload of straight dub effects, is truly a unique proposition – something felt more than heard, a necessary experience for anyone still reading.  Don’t be left out.  And, if you’re still unconvinced, merely try out There’s A Slow Train Coming, directly below.

Exactly.  Right?

 

OK, here he is for real, artist Shackleton.

 

[get familiar with this incredible set at boomkat or norman records on vinyl, or at amazon on cd (boomkat also carries the cd edition)]

23 Skidoo – Seven Songs

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.

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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.

[pick this up at boomkat or amazon - the 2008 reissue sweetens the deal with bonus tracks and a welcome remaster ]

Bows – Cassidy

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.

Bows_oH5Su307aXMx_full

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.

[get ahold of Cassidy at norman records, lala, or reliably, amazon]

Blue Sky Black Death – Late Night Cinema

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.

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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.

[pick this up via undergroundhiphop or cduniverse, or the always dependable amazon, you won't regret it]