Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Anduin + Jasper, TX


The Bending of Light (05.09, SMTG Limited)

Byline: Steamboat Springs, Light breaks over valley floor.

For: Aidan Baker, Wylde Wyzyrdz, The Fun Years

Most, if not all, music that I internalize is heavily tied to time and location. Most of them involve driving in a car in some desolate location, Sigur Ros: Wyoming. White Rainbow: Nevada. The Antlers: Central Washington. Andiun + Jasper TX: Eastern Colorado. Driving over Rabbit Ears pass in Colorado I really felt like I understood what this album was trying to communicate. For a little background, Jasper TX is my go-to for ambient drone comas that I love to fall into with the assistance of super-nice headphones. Jasper TX already has put out one of my favorite albums this year, Singing Stones, and this incredibly prolific Swede has just grabbed another spot. Along with VA luminary, Andiun, this tag-team floorcore duo create sonic noise palates that structure melodies out of barely controlled noise. The Bending of Light completely destroys the idea that musicians are controllers of sound, manipulating and sequencing tones in order to create something completely the authors' own. Andiun and Jasper TX's musical ideas and aspirations are buried underneath the sheer weight of noise, and this is completely ok. The Bending of Light minds the tentative grasp we hold on sound and both seem content to simply brighten the corners with subdued, worshipful commentary while the main corpus of unrestrained beauty runs full stop through the speakers. Listening to this album is a exercise in letting go to a selfish sense of melody and basic song structure and an experiment into plunging headfirst into a endless pool of sound. P.S this album is mastered by James Plotkin, the mastermind behind 2008's best metal album by the Pyramids. Highly recommended. 



Thursday, June 25, 2009

Vitamins


Calliope (2008, Self Released)

Byline: There Will Be Air-Drumming

For: Deerhoof, Enon, Curtains

Packing an album chalk-full of musical ideas is a double edged sword. On one hand having such a varied approach leads to generous genre-hopping cherry picking. On the other hand the kalideoscopic mash-up can be completely beguiling to a music reviewer trying to sum up a bands sound with as little effort as possible. Thanks Vitamins for making my job as unpaid-writing-as hobby blogger harder than it already is. Vitamins are a 4-piece out of Greeley (you've never been there) Colorado. Greeley is the agricultural cradle of Colorado, in other words slaughterhouses and cowboys, big trucks and crew cuts. So how does a sound like Vitamins fit in in a place like Greeley? Insert familiar euphemism of your choice here. When in their element Vitamins play straight ahead ahead rock and roll like Deerhoof is straight ahead rock and roll, meaning it is riddled with diversions and deviances which at at first blush sound familiar and on a closer inspection completely alien. The rhythm section, held down by Crawford Philleo, anchors the jazz-inspired starts, stops, time changes and chord progressions in a worldly glory. The guitar work range from the angular post-punk stylings of Wire post-math craziness of Enon or Deerhoof. Lizzy Allen's soft voice floats in and out of each song at times acting as the vehicle and at times another instrument. This is Vitamins at their most straight ahead. Littered along the album are a few country homages to their transplanted residence as well as a hip-hop interlude?? All of this is leads to an incredibly varied, exciting debut. Their new album is out now-ish and they will be making two stops in SLC, on July 6th at Burt's Tiki Lounge and 17th TBD. Let me know if you can procure a venue (a.k.a anywhere) for the 17th.  

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Brown Book


Thirty-Nothing (Self Released,  05.09)

Byline: All consuming Math-Rock that retains the theatrics of Metal.

For: Grails, Don Caballero, Breadwinner

Yes. This is brutally heavy and technically amazing. But the kids want to dance these days. Every sub-genre has it's own dance. Heavy Metal has head banging, Hardcore should really be labeled as a sport, like mixed-martial arts, and indie rock has it's own brand of self-aware posturing. But really how do you bro down to math rock? Faking a seizure would be a start, I guess. The Brown Book avoids the Math-Rock tags of being overly ponderous and un-listenable by throwing post-rock sensibilities, Sabbath riffs, and Math time signatures into a blender and playing as fast as they can what comes out the other side. Hailing from outside of Boston Thirty-Nothing was recorded by Keith Souza who manned the helm for Battles and Lightning Bolt. The Brown Book really should be uttered in the same breath as these prog and noise stalwarts. Thirty-Nothing retains the heaviness of pioneering bands like Botch and Hella while minding the listenability and disregard for pretension of the big, cheesy riffs of Black Sabbath or Iron Maiden. So often we listen to music for the expected pay off; the crescendo of post rock, the breakdown in heavy metal and hardcore, every song seems to be building to some point in which the listener feels validated. The Brown Book transcends these cliches by keeping you pinned to the stereo while each time signature, skull crushing riff, and sheer aural heaviness pummel you for 26 minutes. 



Monday, June 22, 2009

Grizzly Bear


Veckatamist (05.09, Warp)

Byline: Already a forgone conclusion. Flawless.

For: Final Fantasy, DM Stith, Animal Collective

Every time I hear the opening piano lines of "Two Weeks" I have an unrealistic hope that I will suddenly  hear Jay-Z's angelic voice come over the speakers and say something like, "Uh, turn the bass line up" or "Alright, Grizzly Bear, Jigga, Remix". My hopes are in vain until some real collaboration happens, seriously, the "Two Weeks" remix could be the best thing to happen to 2009. Barring the non-existant remix, Veckatamist is pretty much perfect. Following up the equally amazing Yellow House, Veckatamist is an album for the people. The ridiculously complex vocal and acoustic-electonic instrumental layering are still very much the base of the compositions, but Grizzly Bear is in metamorphosis or is the culmination of a transition to a more pop based aesthetic. Aside from the musical shift it is the little flourishes, the seemingly easy victory laps that Grizzly Bear pull on this album that make it all the more compelling, the Nico Muhly collaborated tracks stand out as the most intricite and beautiful, there is a full choir and symphony on "I live with you" and "Cheerleader". The way that Daniel Rossen broods over his vowels in the line "We are all faltering/how can I help with that?" along with the saxophone in "I live with you" are some of the most thrilling moments on the album. And lest we forget the money maker, "Two Weeks", which is a viable contender with David Byrne + Dirty Projectors' "Knotty Pine" for single of the year. Veckatamist is like a zeppelin of of musical aspirations and huge 21 st century ideas. Do yourself a favor and listen to this album on repeat.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Navigator


Bad Children (05.09, Magic Goat)

For: Bird Names, Times New Viking, Weird America + New Weird America

Byline: New Weird Utah. 06/19/09. Copyrighted. I got dibs on it.


In 1952 little known music archivist, record collector, filmmaker, mystic and all around bad ass Harry Smith put out an anthology called the Anthology of American Folk Music. This anthology was a three disc-80+ song collection of folk songs recorded from 1927 to 1932 collected from rotting crates full of old 78's, thrift store dumpsters, and deceased relatives attics. The collection revealed a weird underbelly of American folk music that had never before been catalogued, blind blues players, white jazz bands, gutbucket groups from the hills of Appalachia; songs about death, betrayal, outlaws and bandits. This compilation showed just how weird America was if you strayed from the brand new inter-states. Far from being a piece of ephemeral from America's amnesiac memory, Harry Smith took these works to be important compositions worth archiving. Fortunately, so did a lot of early bohemians living in New York at the time, and thus the New York folk scene was born. I am not sure if it was that easy but the sentiment is cool, old folk songs from the most marginalized and economically depressed regions of America directly influencing some of the most influential and radical protest-folk singers, it exists as a nice thought. Fast forward to the New weird America where musicians such as Devendra Banhart, Animal Collective, Josephine Foster, 1,000 years of Dust, and countless others are borrowing he dusty old aesthetic of the outsider/troubadour and incorporating the lump sum of decades worth of influences ranging from psychedelia to punk to create something weird and beautiful. The epicenter is once again NYC, but not to be overlooked, Utah is entering this new era with their birthright assured as a depository of centuries of weird musical and societal influences that are inciting a rebirth and a movement I am un-creatively calling "New Weird Utah". Bam. Patent. 
REVIEW STARTS HERE:
This is where Navigator comes in. Braden McKenna is one of the many bearded mystics at the forefront of this movement and with Bad Children he puts his stamp on what is already turning into an amazing year for Utah music. Bad Children, as is noted in Forest Gospel, spans the divide from his freak-folk, spiritual Throwing Tongues to the lo-fi, rocking concept album Songs for Mei and Satsuki. Borrowing from both, Bad Children retains a sense of four-on-the-floor, pop songs underneath a sonic wall of noise of lo-fi bands like Times New Viking and Psychadelic Horses*** to the upbeat, spirituals of Bird Names or songs from Throwing Tongues.  A sense of childlike energy flow through each song of love and faith with Braden's lovable warble underneath it all. Braden truly goes all the way in both directions, on one part this is really a lo-fi ripper and on the other this really is a straight up folk album inspired from the dusty corners of the Old Weird America. A very real sense of earnestness and optimisim holds these ramshackle tunes together and make it an incredibly infectious and touching statement of life in the great Salt Lake. Fortunately, Magic Goat is releasing this album free digitally before it's physical release date. 

Monday, June 15, 2009

Fanfarlo


Reservoir (02.09, Self Released)

Byline: Funeral-esque Baroque pop on the cheap. Thanks to Sigur Ros.

For: Arcade Fire, The National, Other bands like this

Sometimes it pays to be on a bands e mail list. Sigur Ros has never once let me down. Last week I received an e mail from Sigur Ros themselves! announcing that Fanfarlo is offering their album for a free download until it's physical release date in the states on July 4th. Turns out that the cousin of Jon Por Birgisson graces the cover of Reservoir, thus explaining the connection between the two. You owe yourself to download this album. Fanfarlo is the Swedish, by way of London, pen pal of the Arcade Fire. While nothing will replace the chills that I got listening to "Neighborhood 1- Tunnels", Farnfarlo pretty much nails the lush baroque-pop thing with the galloping, processional percussion, rich instrumentation of a well-endowed horn section, and the male-female, Winn-Regina point-counter-point dual vocals. There are some pretty spectacular moments that would be worth the price of admission if this album were full priced, their melodies twist and turn, singer Simon Balthazar croons and elongates his vowels while the martial percussion keeps time and occasionally breaks into a dizzying crescendo when all the players reach a height of ramshackle-anthemic chaos that a lot of self-aware bands these days strive for (I'm thinking the Annuals. ugh). Acoustic guitars play side by side with trumpets, recorders, accordians, etc... Fans of Sigur Ros, Sufjan Stevens, Andrew Bird, Beirut and other such artists that break from the standard guitar, bass, drums formula and deliver something truly exciting and worth listening to will be all over this.  You have no excuse not to check it out. Highly recommended.


Friday, June 12, 2009

Lotus Plaza


The Floodlight Collective (03.09, Kranky)

Byline: Lush drone-pop from Deerhunter's sonic architect. I'll give you a hint, it's not Bradford Cox.

For: Deerhunter, Loscil, Stars of the Lid

Man, this is pretty. Like the photograph on top of the blog pretty. Like driving through the salt flats in the early morning pretty. Like birds flying off a telephone wire underneath a cloudy sky pretty. Like Deerhunter at their most fluid and ambient pretty. Lotus Plaza is the solo project of Deerhunter guitarist Lockett Pundt. While not exactly being Weird Era cont. cont.  The Floodlight Collective enjoys a beauty all it's own. Lotus Plaza succeeds in blending the dream-pop from it's fraternal twin Deerhunter with throbbing vocal and instrumental drones of William Basinksi or Julianna Barwick buried deep in the mix. Imagine if the ambient instrumental parts of Cryptograms were more listenable and were propped up by equal parts pop aesthetic and sonic texture. Repeated listening brings unexpected surprises, like the steel guitar on "Quicksand" or the chopping block bass line of "Different Mirrors" to the sparse Kompakt style electronics of the title track.  The overdubbed, hypnotic effect of reverb heavy guitar and looped vocal patterns mesh into a halluciongenic collage.Lotus Plaza earns a certain timeless quality that is situated somewhere between a nameless sense of nostalgia and a "Kill Yr. Idols"  approach to a future musical aesthetic where the drums, bass, guitar standards are used to completely cancel each other out creating a sound that is at once familiar and become an a whiteout of noise. Deerhunter, in my opinion, is one of the better bands of the 21st century, and this is a worthy companion to anything on both of their break out albums. If you are ever in a mood, like I have been in for the past week, where you keep Microcastle on repeat for hours, make sure you follow up with The Floodlight Collective as a chaser. There are moments of unrestrained beauty on this album that make me shudder. If Deerhunter doesn't grace us with a full length this year this is a more than sufficient surrogate. My hat is off mr. Lockhart Pundt.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Wolves in the Throne Room


Black Cascade (04.09, Southern Lord)

Byline: Strictly Analog. The My Bloody Valentine of Post-Black Metal

For: Pyramids, Isis, Scandinavian Black Metal, um, Aldo Leopold

My knowledge and tolerance for anything labeled "Metal" is pretty limited and hard won. So most everything that I seek out in the realm of metal is either highly praised or carries some sort of qualifier like "post" or some other catch all phrase. What I like, however, I latch onto and bask in every future hearing impairment chord and blast beat until my ears ache and I realize I have the TV way too loud and the neighbors are probably pissed. Black Cascade is an album that I has not left my ears for a solid week now. I'm not sure what it is I love about it. There is a certain mystique surrounding Wolves in the Throne Room's personna. Journalists love to speculate about their embodiment of neo-pagan earth-first consciousness that promotes rumors of living in huts in the rural Northwest and things like that. There is a certain straight forward purity when WITR are in their top form, playing blistering straight forward metal that leaves you awash in a pure sea of noise that I experience listening to My Bloody Valentine. WITR leaves your standard blast beats in place while experimenting with the tremolo picking of post-rock bands such as Explosions in the Sky and Mono to the downtuned heaviness of drone-metal pioneers Earth and Sun0))). When WITR hit their stride and then stop everything to play a restrained break down with acoustic guitars and floating wordless vocals with the buzz of a downtuned guitar floating, wrapping everything in it's shimmering beauty, only to be launched into another aural onslaught...ah, these are moments I want to live in. Forever. Even the coldest Scandanavian winters can't hide from the warmth of analog recording.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I'm Small But I'm Strong

This is the last of the videos I made for Chaz Prymek's upcoming E.P video

Monday, June 8, 2009

Isis


Wavering Radiant (05.09, Ipecac)

For: Battle of Mice, Pelican, Mono

Byline: Heavy Ghost

Isis really should have stole DM Stith's debut album's title "Heavy Ghost". Nothing would have fit Isis's new offering than Mr Stith's ambiguous title. Isis is heavy, about as heavy as anything I listen to, my ears take a pummeling after listening. While Isis embodies the roots of heavy metal Isis also exhibit an incoporeal epherial spectrum that floats freely between metal and post-rock. In fact I would say ghostly is a perfect adjective to describe their music, while it heavy enough to send anyone unfamilar with the genre fumbling for the volume, a phantasmic glimmering shine overlays every power chord and blast beat and hovers above every beautiful break down and shimmering soundscape. Isis broke new ground in 2002 with their genre defying opus "Oceanic", Isis repackaged, renewed, and recontextualized metal for a whole new generation of fans. They incorporated heavy break downs with Mogwai-ish guitar epic soundscapes, while they were not the first to slow metal down to the brass tacks they certainly were the first to gain cross-over success for doing it. "Wavering Radiant" doesn't break any new ground for the group per say, it is a further step in the right direction of metal aesthetic with post-rock's penchant for evoking a sense of longing and dread in every chord.  Aaron Turner's vocals range from the death metal growl to Maynard-esqe emoting  on a dime. A welcome addition to the repetoire-de-Isis is the re-emphasis away from the tribal drumming on "In the Absense of Truth" to the electronics and keyboard heavy palate of "Oceanic". Instead of relying on a shimmering bus of electronics, a real hammond organ is present throughout, making it's debut early in the colossol opener "Hail of the Dead", and an upright piano finds it's way into the mix in the blistering closer "Threshold of Transformation".  Everything about this album is huge, towering, and ear-shatteringly AMAZING. Required headphone listening.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Max Richter


Henry May Long (04.09, Mute Song International)

Byline: Exit Music For a Film (Never Seen)

For: Hauschka, Peter Broderick, Johann Johannsen

To use the adjective "beautiful" in a review of an album of classical music isn't even trying, worse it can turn into a pejorative phrase if over used. So, I am going to assume that you, the reader, know that most classical music is pretty. And if you are familiar with the three neo-classical contemporaries of Mr. Richter in the For section you are somewhat aware of the game plan. Melodies built around simple musical phrases on piano or cello that prop up the rest of the album proper as a sort of minimalist spring board, that the melodies return to before ascending higher. Max Richter is simply one of the best, leading the vanguard of talented neo-classical muscians who take quiet and complex music seriously. Henry May Long is a soundtrack for a movie that is ridiculously hard to find, I mean if you can't find it on netflix it doesn't exist right? What I have read about it is that it is a "proper" English parlor drama about an ailing young man and a friend who takes advantage of him. Why do the basest of human emotions inspire some of the most beautiful music? "The Reader", God help us, inspired some of Nico Muhly's most beautiful passages. Henry May Long consists of several short pieces built around and upon the central fugue of the opening track "Ocean House Mirror". A delicate and intricate piano ballad of repeating movements that mark a large majority of the album. Most are snippets that accompany scenes from the film, small snapshots into what I can imagine is a fully fleshed out extension of the lush music. It is nice to see Max Richter return to form after a delightful experiment of 24 Postcards in Full Colour it is nice to see that his classical sensibilities never left. Another proving point that classical music isn't for NPR or dead white men.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Weinland


Breaks in the Sun (04.09, Badman)

Byline: Fragile Americana via Portland.

For: Norfolk & Western's "Unsung Colony", Neil Young, The Devil Whale

When people ask me who my favorite artist/musician is I unequivocally say Neil Young. The reason being is that I have had more goosebumps per song ratio then any other artist. His song "War of Man" scared the hell out of me as a kid, I would listen to it over and over, reading the  lyrics; my chubby little legs crossed in Indian style in front of the speaker. Neil Young lays his emotional life bare in almost every song, he doesn't care if he sounds cheesy, overly romantic, or if he can't find the perfect word to complete the couplet or make a striking metaphor. Neil Young says what is in his heart, the content matters more than the delivery. I am sure you are waiting for an analogy...and here it is. Weinland's principal songwriter and singer, Adam Shearer, puts his fragile little heart out there in his delicate little songs. His delivery is a mix between Neil Young's reedy whine and Sam Beam's hushed whisper, with his lyrical content ripped straight from his most personal journals. Shearer's delivery is more compelling than say, his content, which deals primarily with melancholy subjects as distance, love spurned, and a sense of self deprication that makes every sad song sound like you are intruding on something very private. Weinland's unoffical member and resident Portland multi-instrumentalist, Adam Seltzer has his mitts all over this, helping to craft lilting songs that keep all the players perfectly in their place. It isn't suprising at all to find violins, singing saw, as well laptop steel hidden in every nook and cranny of each unassuming song. Unlike Neil Young however, these guys rocking out is pretty polite, more distortion on the guitars than the pretty folk songs. Unfortunately, there is no Wield, or "Cinnamon Girl" here. I've seen Weinland play twice, once opening for Norfolk and Western, the other at a charming free show at Slowtrain.   For a city known for it's subdued take on American folk music it is hard to say how Weinland stands apart. I guess it is the intangibles, the feeling that each song is familiar and reassuring, like the way people from Eastern Europe say "my friend" after giving you directions at the gas station. A perfect companion piece for moods that make living in Portland sound appealing, like rainy days and tree lined coasts.