Blog Archives

Destroyer – The Laziest River

When I purchased the 2lp edition of Destroyer‘s 2011 pop masterpiece Kaputt, I had no idea that the bonus track promised on side C would slowly become the languid circulatory system of the entire album.  It swims in an embryonic well from which the other tracks drink, all held breath and deep plunge.  It’s patient and fragile, and just may comprise twenty of my favorite minutes.

If you have only heard the standard tracklisting, press play now.  It’s rare when something labelled “bonus” actually elevates the experience of listening to a great album.  The Laziest River feels absolutely essential at this point, and while I sympathize with the probable intention of encouraging vinyl purchases, it seems unfair to leave everyone else with an unfinished story.  So buy it if you can, but this song can be downloaded and amended to your playlist for a quick fix.

Best Songs of 2012, part 2: “N.E.W.”

This will loop indefinitely over the Elysian fields of an afterlife of my design.

Actress (aka Darren Cunningham) redefined ambient beauty with this piece, lighting the spiritual wires from the organ works of Camille Saint-Saëns through Brian Eno’s Discreet Music while sparking fresh air to flame.  Blooming the color of Arvo Pärt’s devotional tilt in an exploratory space odyssey from the dreams of Oneohtrix Point Never or Stanley Kubrick, N.E.W. is uplifting and warm, alien and awestruck.  We’re inside a nebulous pipe organ riding the cusp of a singularity, dancing on the membrane between ascension and obliteration.  Let it repeat.

I should mention the video:  I have no clue where the footage is from, but it strangely works.  This copy was chosen mainly, however, because it can be set to 720p, so the sound quality is superb.

Andy Stott – “Numb”

I can’t stop this ringing in my head.

With new album Luxury Problems, Andy Stott effectively rendered his pair of groundbreaking 2011 EPs irrelevant.  It takes all of ten seconds for this, the opening track, to signify a giant leap.  Siren vocal shards and clouds, singing-bowl ring and a Mariana trench of low-end crunch writhe like a  basket of snakes, twisting through every crack in every direction.

Hit play, make sure the quality is “HD” and turn this up louder than is normally comfortable.  With any luck, it’ll start snowing.

andystott

It’s strange to think of the handful of album covers in 2012 featuring high contrast b&w photography of women as all representing their respective sounds in spectacular fashion.  This one is my favorite.

Demdike Stare – Erosion of Mediocrity

This video.  This massive tune.

I don’t really have anything to say about this today.  Just…

Edit:  Ok, I will at least mention that this is one of my favorite moments from one of the best albums of 2012.  I will also note that this video is fucking brilliant.  You’re welcome.

Flying Lotus – Tiny Tortures (video featuring Elijah Woods)

This arrived today and it is beautiful.  Echoing Akira (and Tetsuo) and some of the brilliant, creepy videos from Aphex Twin, it’s a dark, cinematic corkscrew in psychedelic miniature.  There are few videos so evocative of their namesake, working as a perfect thematic foil to the song.  Now watch, as Elijah Wood has a fucked up night.

Despite the fact that I haven’t done a full “album post” about Flying Lotus‘ latest opus, Until The Quiet Comes is easily one of my biggest repeat listens of the year.  It’s the living, breathing incarnation of what I’d always kind of hoped his work was pointing towards.  Its growth from 2010′s Cosmogramma is more organic and inevitable than the sudden leap that album made from its predecessor, breathrough lp Los Angeles; naturally, it’s less surprising how radically good this is.  I feel like I took it for granted at first: “Of course this is good.  Well there it goes in my car to stay in rotation for weeks.”  Only a handful of albums have spent so much time as regular, near-daily listen this year, and if it weren’t for Kendrick Lamar’s new release, I could have, possibly, worn it out.

Thankfully this video came along today.  Not only my favorite track, Tiny Tortures was due for some recognition.  On an album crowded with standout moments between sublime guest vocals and dizzying synth work, its sparkling meditative cascade can be mistaken as a gentle interlude.  It’s more like a brief exposure of Quiet‘s spiritual heartbeat.  It reaches transcendence in the emotive dance of its guitar and bass (by second time MVP Thundercat) over a pulse hinting at great-aunt Alice Coltrane’s organ work on one of her masterpieces.  If you haven’t listened to the album yet, here’s your chance to embrace one of the warmest electronic albums in years, a possible masterpiece of jazz and electronic music.

Oneohtrix Point Never – Sand Partina [lost track 1]

In preparation for last week’s Flying Lotus show, a friend and I were having a youtube-off.  Exhausting the major albums and creeping toward the dusty corners of his recorded output, we were constantly surprised at b-sides, remixes and otherwise lost tracks which only one of us (a pair of somewhat huge fans) was aware of.  There’s a sublime comfort in peeling up the tiles of artists we know and love, only to find worthy treasure below.  I’m trying to replicate that experience with those who will be completely on the same page when I share a given artist.

This is an older piece from a split tape with Caboladies, one which I’d heard years ago when first discovering Oneohtrix Point Never yet never fully appreciated until this autumn.  The gelid synth oscillations build toward  softly hissing dunes; the song itself imagines low level flight over this alien landscape.  It’s a dream of a half remembered childhood science fiction story.  Although that description could be shoehorned onto nearly anything OPN has created, it’s especially pointed in this case.  I could drift off with this on repeat for hours.

Bee Mask – Vaporware/Scanops

If there’s one piece of advice I can offer those on the perpetual quest to peel back the edges of their musical horizons, it is to subscibe to the mailing lists of shops and labels you trust.  I can’t finish a list of the albums and artists I’ve grown to love because someone at aQuarius, Other Music, Forced Exposure, Vertigo or Amoeba simply loved a new or obscure piece and carved out a space for enthusiasm in the weekly newsletter.  It’s why I share what I do on this blog.  Last week, my email from Boomkat announced what has quickly become my favorite surprise in months:  a new 12″ from Bee Mask (Chris Madak), a half hour of bliss spread over two songs titled Vaporware and Scanops.

The simplest of repeating glitch synth motifs tumbles into a spiritual rollercoaster with the crisp lines of Steve Reich’s Music For 18 Musicians and the spacey wash of Klaus Schulze, yet it’s the beating heart of Terry Riley sinking in when thoughts of influence sprout during another listen.  There’s something bright and pure and novel about his approach here:  by stripping his sound to a base element, Madak opens the door to something more pure and evocative than he’s shown before.  This is not just a case of his forebears shining through; it is thoughtful composition approaching the level of the aforementioned masters themselves.

I started this post one night while playing this on repeat and simply reached a point where words failed to capture my mouth agape, my lost thoughts, my tingling sense of elevation when either of these pieces hit that moment where time stands still and all earthly concerns lift.  I don’t mean to imply that this is more transcendent than anything; most of my favorite music is.  There are artists whom I can reliably go to for that spiritual high, that metaphysical flight, and I believe Bee Mask has just been added to the list.

Here’s a sample but nothing short of the entire piece will suffice.

[buy it at Boomkat, and soon, because it's limited.]

Philip Glass + Sesame Street

This is a collaboration between legendary minimalist composer Philip Glass and rainy day childhood staple Sesame Street.  It is called Geometry of Circles.  Somehow, I never shared this before.  I am so sorry.

Years ago, a friend linked this video and I nearly wept with the recognition of something I knew so clearly from childhood and never since.  This is perfect.  Literally.  I can’t imagine a more direct pairing of music and visuals; form and content reflect and amplify into the essence of an idea.

Behold the hypnotic logic.

Kenji Kawai – Ghost In The Shell

I was aimlessly browsing and came upon the Ghost In The Shell original score on cd.  Loving the film, though having not seen it in years, I knew it would at least conjure some nostalgia for a time long gone.  Nostalgia is achieved within 5 seconds of the opening track.  Beyond that, it gets very interesting.

About that opener:  anyone who’s seen the film will be instantly transported to the iconic fembot creation opening credits sequence.  To a young teenage boy in 1996 this was both erotic and confusing, setting up my expectations for something which never appears.  Instead what unfolds is an enigmatic film sprouting questions about consciousness, mortality, empathy, identity and where we’re headed as a culture.  The film’s outlook is as dystopian as its ending is optimistic.  The cinematography and art direction sit at the zenith of hand drawn animation (and yes I know primitive CGI was employed as well).  The music sits at a crossroads between traditional Japanese, Hollywood classical, and minimalist synth pads echoing classics like Blade Runner and anything Tangerine Dream in the 80′s.

With my tastes light years removed from whatever I was into at age 14 (remember, this was before the internet made jaded cynics out of preteens bored with Boris and Nico) I find myself slipping into boldly embracing waters with the score by Kenji Kawai (川井憲次).  I love the abstract synth sculptures of Oneohtrix Point Never, the warm tones of Brian Eno, the quickening thunder of Taiko and choral flights into pure ambient bliss.  I love when an epic orchestral swell dissolves into liquid neon pools, spiking the hair on my neck.  I love when an alien sound cloud whisks my conscious mind away, toward nothingness and enlightenment, and peace.

This is one of my favorite scenes of the film.  There is no dialogue.  Almost nothing happens, but it’s the moment when the initial rush of plot subsides and the viewer truly slips beneath the surface.  It is pure hypnosis.

[You can attempt buying this at amazon for an exorbitant price.  Or find it on the internet.]

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