Blog Archives

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.

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.]

Gang Gang Dance – 4ad Session

This video is old and I haven’t written a post about Gang Gang Dance in a while, but neither fact matters.  This is a freewheeling ode to getting high on your music.

I really can’t say more.  Watch the video.




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:

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.]

Boredoms – Voaltz/Relerer

Boredoms are one of the greatest living bands on the planet.  Here is an obscure, tangential testament to that unavoidable fact.

This highly evolved tribal psychedelic rock juggernaut exists on their own terms, in their own world, above and beyond the perceptions and ambitions of mere mortals.  Frontman Yamantaka eYe is reported to be at least 200 years old and fueled entirely by advanced nuclear photosynthesis – not to mention a mould-shattering, epoch-defining musical genius.  Birthed in the chaos-as-art nebula of 1980’s Osaka, Japan, Boredoms grew from noise-assault pranksters with more than a hint of potential to the Weird Kings of the original Lollapalooza with a little help from American fans Nirvana and Sonic Youth in merely half a decade.  Eternally restless, they next entered the experimental cocoon of Super Roots, emerging at the tail end of the 1990’s as a sun-worshipping tribal-drone-trance monolith, devouring lesser bands and bridging the gap between primal violence and avant garde jazz like an acid-frenzied Colossus of Rhodes.  Throughout the current decade, the band has danced extensively with electronic manipulation and outright reconstruction through eYe’s increasing flirtation with DJ culture, and Voaltz/Relerer is one of the many joyous, dance-floor ready permutations they’ve birthed lately.  Consisting of percussion-centered tranced out remixes of two tracks included with the Live At Sunflancisco DVD, this 12″ rarity is essential listening for anyone with even a passing interest in the band; or anyone still reading for that matter.  Give it a spin (via the album artwork above) and try resisting the sorta exorbitantly priced copies available below.

(Special thanks to Ackibear for bringing this to my ears!)


[highly sought after and extremely rare, this 12" can be procured on the discogs marketplace and few other sources]

Between My Head and the Sky

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.

[pick this up at insound, amazon, or the Lennon-Ono family run chimera music store, on CD or vinyl]


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