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.]

The Necks – Sex

Long ago I was shown The Necks.  The internet was not such a hospitable place and my search for an album to sample was fruitless.  Alas, after the buzz wore off they were forgotten.  Now, thanks to a helpful soul on a forum, I was reintroduced to what is quickly becoming a new addiction.  Here is their first album in its entirety.

The band, comprised of Chris Abrahams on piano, Lloyd Swanton on bass and Tony Buck on drums, unspools boundless jam fireworks outside of any specific genre or time.  There’s the interplay of jazz, an often motorik pulse of krautrock, and space based atmospherics of kosmiche all woven together in a pristine spartan construction.  They make an hour disappear without breaking a sweat.

I don’t like doing research simply for the sake of posting on here so I must return at a later date when I’m fully immersed in The Necks.  For now, enjoy the debut and seek out more if this is your kind of thing.  And please, buy their music if you enjoy it.  Everything they’ve released is available on their site:

thenecks.com

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.

The Psychic Paramount – II

So I know I’ve been sluggish this year with Optimistic Underground.  I relish being able to share the music enriching my life with you.  I hope to rectify this laziness starting now, with The Psychic Paramount and their (hopeful) breakthrough album II.

I had this whole through-line about jet engines and surgical instruments and LSD and This Heat and Les Rallizes Dénudés and Miles Davis and cathartic volume levels…  but I got caught up, slack-jawed and blasting this album again.  It’s almost like a psychedelic brillo pad, carving clear my thought channels and surrendering my body to oblivion.  A therapeutic breakdown of cogent narrative, this thing blasts away the outside world and disconnects me, sets me free in a way only the most blissed out Lovesliescrushing or hard droning Boris album can.  It strikes an unknown sweet spot, defying gravity while splaying my brain with crushing heft.  Crucial to this power is the flawless production, zooming in on every microscopic detail yet capturing the panoramic magnitude these songs inhabit.  A dizzying high wire act of wide-eyed clarity, this album satisfied me in places only a fellow Swans or John Coltrane or Fennesz fan would recognize.

Second track DDB, opening with one of the more gentle passages on II, grows like marshmallows in the microwave, devouring 9 minutes in a wild-fire.

While I’m dropping names, I should mention that if you like Boredoms, Eternal Tapestry, Lightning Bolt, Fushitsusha, or anything within orbit of those bands, you will find yourself punch drunk and melting to this album.

[Released by No Quarter, the album is available at the label's page for only $11 on cd or vinyl.  So get it there.  Listen to the free stream while you wait.]

Best of the Rest of 2010

My Best of 2010 was basically an attempt to carve my musical experience of the past year down to its most essential, most ingrained elements.  An attempt to sum up the music I feel had the largest impact on my listening, on my life.

I left out a lot of great albums.  Thankfully, they were drawn from a text file kept on my desktop throughout the year, chronicling each album I decide, at a given moment, is awesome.  Yes, it’s that simple.  As time passes I remove the fleeting infatuations, anything not holding up.  So I’m left with a solid list I can refer to in search of everything I really, truly enjoyed this year.  This is it, in order I heard them.

  • Bullion – Say Goodbye To What EP

  • Four Tet – There Is Love In You

  • Arrington De Dionyso – Malaikat Dan Singa

  • Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra – Kollaps Tradixionales

  • Autechre – Oversteps

  • Gorillaz – Plastic Beach

  • Erykah Badu – New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh

  • Ikonika – Contact Want Love Have

  • Take – Only Mountain

  • LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening

  • Boris – Heavy Rock Hits Vol. 3

  • Connect_icut – Fourier’s Algorithm

  • Janelle Monae – The ArchAndroid

  • Rollo – 3

  • Yellow Swans – Going Places

  • Sightings – City of Straw

  • Guido – Anidea

  • Lorn – Nothing Else

  • Teebs & Jackhigh – Tropics EP

  • Infinite Body – Carve Out The Face Of My God

  • The-Dream – Love King

  • The Sight Below – It All Falls Apart

  • Deepchord Presents Echospace – Liumin

  • TOKiMONSTA – Midnight Menu

  • Oneohtrix Point Never – Returnal 7″

  • Scuba – Triangulation

  • Sepalcure – Love Pressure EP

  • Imbogodom – The Metallic Year

  • Singing Statues – Outtakes EP

  • Flying Lotus – Patter + Grid World EP

  • Seefeel – Faults EP

  • Mark McGuire – Living With Yourself

  • Efdemin – Chicago

  • T++ – Wireless

  • Gold Panda – Lucky Shiner

  • Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest

  • Balam Acab – See Birds EP

  • Gonjasufi – The Caliph’s Tea Party

  • VHS Head – Trademark Ribbons of Gold

  • Marcus Fjellström – Schattenspieler

  • Zach Hill – Face Tat

  • Games – That We Can Play

  • Zs – New Slaves

  • Fenn O’Berg – In Stereo

  • Richard Skelton – Landings

  • James Blake – Klavierwerke EP

  • Fursaxa – Mycorrhizae Realm

  • Dimlite – My Human Wears Acedia Shreds EP

  • Kurt Weisman – Orange

  • Clubroot – II MMX

So there it is.  Something to remember is that any one of these albums may end up defining the year as much as the ‘true’ list – and that something I haven’t even heard yet may best them all.  It’s happened before.  This is why Optimistic Underground will soon post its first Music From Before 2010 But Discovered This Year list.  This will cover the much wider range of music I was into this year, since there is already much more music out there than is being released at any given time.

[This post is subject to change.  Like I'll probably add one or two more by January.]