Monday, August 31, 2009

Throne of Bone

Merlin's Magick (self-released, 2009)

Byline: Alaskans kick ass. What, you got a problem with that?

For: Slayer, Harvey Milk, Torche

I wonder if it’s THAT obvious already from my posts, but I’ll cut the crap and just be honest... I’m no metal-head. In truth, I’m probably the last guy who should be reviewing this CD. But hell (pun intended), I came across this disc when I stayed at Throne of Bone singer Mike Freiburger’s home, the famous “Fir House” in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle while on tour with my own band, and a pleasant surprise is a pleasant surprise no matter which way you slice it. Throne of Bone is a band that is absolutely slaying it up in the Northwest, and dammit. Well. That deserves some words... and what better way for me to take a crack at it than here at Tome?

Merlin’s Magick, the band’s first collection of songs, comes in a radical DIY package folded around a disc and stamped shut with a wax bead (candle wax = metal... just taking notes here...). Musically, the record comes off as I think most metal albums should: loud, abrasive, technical, dark in tone/content complete with the deep, rumbling growl of vocals. Because of my sadly limited knowledge in the land of thrash/fantasy/HEAVY-metal, the only stylistic comparison I can faithfully draw upon is probably Slayer - you’ll hear a lot of fast guitar-playing, double-bass drum, unison ensemble accents amongst the band members, etc.

Throne of Bone shares another feature with the band, though, and that is musical discipline. “Minotaur” opens the album with a rolling bass line and quick hi-hat rhythm, as if the two are pulling back a slingshot of inertia before the guitar enters into the mix with a pile-driving, forceful riff. The song is a fitting first track, as each member is separately featured - from Freiburger’s grumbling roar (which admittedly, could use some umpf in the mix), to a wicked set of mini-drum solos that makes yours-truly (you guessed it... I’m a drummer) blush a little.

The remainder is sewn up extremely tight, but what’s satisfying here is that it’s also a sound that’s bursting at the seams, mostly with energy. And most of that energy comes from drummer Sean Donovan, who is sadly no longer with the band. The tones of the instruments are consistent throughout, though, and so at the modest length of 23 minutes, this is probably the album’s biggest strength. Spanning from faster, punk-style songs to 1/4 and 1/2-speed epic jams, the sheer pace of the song-arranging is key; it’s more than enough to keep listeners on edge and attentive.

In conclusion: it’s a sound. A sound I’m not very accustomed to, but a sound I happen to like. I’m not used to digging tunes to the title of “Cyclists in Satan’s Service,” but therein lies another plus: these guys have a great sense of humor. They’re aware of what they are doing and the stereotypes that surround their style, and they seem exploit them for no one but themselves. It’s refreshing to hear them buying this much into their own sound (there’s nothing worse than a band that doesn’t believe in what they’re doing), and the results tell the story. It gets the blood pumping, it really makes you want to see it live, and it’s basically a helluva a good listen. Get these guys into a studio and see what happens. I dare you.

--Craw(ntl) 8/31/2009

Throne of Bone Official MySpace

Download the Full Album! (limited-time offer!!!)

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Originally published on Used by permission from In Your Speakers Media LLC

BiRd-BrAiNs (06.09, Marriage)

Byline: A Ukulele. A Voice. Found Sounds. Cheap Recording Equipment. Free Software. A Masterpiece.

For: Our Brother the Native, Sister Suvi, Dirty Projectors

“Oulipo” is a term used to describe a collective of French authors, poets, artists, and mathematicians who use self-prescribed limitations to produce works of art within confining limitations. For example, authors will replace every noun in a piece with a noun seven entries later in a dictionary, or will write a story without using the letter E. These experiments in restriction allow the artists to seek new ways to express themselves without using familiar tropes or the limitless resources of words, phrases, and shapes.

While not exactly trying out to be on team Oulipo, an introduction to tUnE-yArDs latest offering “BiRd-BrAiNs” can’t be mentioned without bringing up her rather unique way of recording. “BiRd-BrAiNs” was Recorded exclusively on a Sony digital voice recorder and then mixed using the free shareware Audacity. tUnE-yArDs’ self-imposed D.I.Y poverty wraps each song in a sort of aural lucidity that is lacking from even the most reverb drenched Lo-Fi experimentalists. While these limitations in recording fidelity have unintended side-effects such as auditory clipping of vocal tracks and a tin-like sounding percussion, however, what the listener hears is Merrils true merits rising through the din devoid of any studio trickery.

While all retaining the same approach, tUnE-yArDs compositions vary greatly from track to track. Most songs are composed around a ukulele, a handful of cheap percussion, vocal loops, rummage sale selection of found sounds, and most importantly that voice. That voice. One minute she is cooing like Joni Mitchell and the next she is roaring like Kim Gordan. Garbus’s husky croon bounces from the70’s singer-songwriter chantreuse crooning of “Sunlight”, to the reggae influenced scatting on “Jamaica”, to straight up hip hop in “Jumping Jack”.

While the album itself is incredibly solid, there are really two un-missable tracks. The first proper song “Sunlight” is a show-stopper. Starting with possibly the most straight forward vocal track on the album, she plods through some heavy percussion and a wicked bass line while crooning “I could be the sunlight in your eyes, couldn’t I?”. By two minutes a ukulele and some clamoring guitars have joined the mix and a sampled vocal loop enters the fray. By 2:30 her voice has gone from Joan Baez to a mix between Riot-Grrrl era Sleater-Kinney meets Menomena’s Brent Knopfs baritone howl. “Hatari” is the obvious go-to in order to showcase Garbus’s range, starting off with a Juana Molina like vocal loop sampling, the tracks switches its tempo and vocal juxtaposition as jagged Ukulele riffs bob and weave through Our Brother the Native meets Pharoe Sanders like call and response shouting/babbling. The noise is overwhelming until she just kills it with her unaccompanied baritone howls “Oh will you hear the sound/10,000 voices lost and found”.

As it stands Tune Yards finds her home comfortably with outsider pop phenomenons Kurt Weisman, Bird Names, and Sister Suvi (which she is 1/3 of), as well as found sound collage artists the Books. Much like the French “Oulipo” collective who practice constrained writing and self imposed limitations, Tune Yards uses her chosen lo-fi approach to force her big ideas to the surface instead of swimming in a never ending sea of loose ends and possibilities. The self prescribed limitations give context to moments of unspeakable beauty, such as in “Hatari”, when all percussion and vocal loops stop cold in their tracks and Garbus’s un-accompanied voice in her half-warble/half-war cry forces out the lines, “there is a natural sound that wild things make when they’re bound”. It is only with these limitations that the wild thing in Garbus can be unleashed, face paint, feathers and all.

Ryan H.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ramona Falls

Intuit (08.09, Barsuk)

Byline: A lop-sided solo effort by Menomena's Brent Knopf.

For: Menomena, Hospital Ship, Frightened Rabbit

I have no qualms about putting Menomena's I am the Fun Blame Monster on my list for best records to come out in the 21st century. The contrast between experimentalism, tunesmanship, fun and moments of true emotional frailty and beauty are high marks that every young indie band should strive for. It was Brent Knopfs yearning, emotionally wrought falsetto that breathed some of the most threatening and emotionally raw lines in "Monkey's Back" and "Strongest Man in he World" that made IAMTFBM go from a really great album to absolutely essential. Now, Brent Knopf is back from his world wide escapades and has assembled some of the most fantastic musicians in and around Portland including and not limited to: 31 Knots, Sleater-Kinney, Mirah, Loch Lemond, Helio Sequence, Dat'r, Talkdemonic. It has been several listens and to tell you the truth the verdict is still out. Ramona Falls isn't as depressing as Lackthereof, Danny Seims side project, but it isn't aiming far outside the melancholy-experimental-folk-pop bin. Brent Knopf's voice and self deprecating song writing which sparsely populates Menomena takes front stage here, with the weight of his sincerity and the quivering vibrato of his voice being laid bare. The entire thing strikes me as sadly average, and this hurts me to say. There are your self-reflective quiet songs, a couple of mid tempo orchestrated songs, and one or two messy fast songs. Now, this is not to say that there aren't moments of sheer brilliance and beauty. For example the way that "Melectric" starts with a gorgeous piano line while Knopf's voice lilts into the falsetto at the end of every line like when he laments, "before I can find a pen/it is gone in the wind/broken string runaway kite." The way he almost sighs "Please don't give me false hope/you're free to go" grabs me like Conor Obersts voice did when I was 16. Moments of beauty abound on this album, rearing their head in the indie rock heal-the-world-chorus on "Bellyfulla" and the driving-yet-depressing in the vein of Frightened Rabbit "Going Once, Going Twice". You can tell that Brent Knopf is serious when he means what he says, but when his sense of appropriate Menomena goofiness is featured it destroys tracks. "Russia" and "Always Right" show that Billy Bragg he is not. Aside from some of the tracks that I have a hard time getting through, at the end of the day Ramona Falls is a rewarding experience in that it simply shows how much collective brilliance goes into Menomena. We should count ourselves lucky that the universe brought those 3 guys together.

Ryan H.

He Makes it look so easy.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Jonsi & Alex

Riceboy Sleeps (07.09, Parlophone/EMI)

Byline: Transportive ethereal drones from the lead singer of Sigur Ros and his better half.

For: Jasper TX, Stars of the Lid, Hammock

Fantastic musical ventures have formed out of two people in love. We have: John Lennon & Yoko Ono, Yo La Tengo, Sonic Youth, Bjork & Matthew Barney, Handsome Furs, Mates of State, etc... All of these aforementioned artists tend to be on the loud, messy side. Each collaboration being marked with the same roller coaster of emotions that come with relationships coupled with the push and pull of the collaborative effort. With Riceboy Sleeps, however, Jon Por Birgisson, lead singer and guitarist of Sigur Ros, along with his partner, musician/visual artist, Alex Somers, create a project that reminds us of how blissful love can be. They do this, however, without all of the cheesiness of that last part of that sentence.

Sometimes I don't give Sigur Ros enough credit. That is saying a lot because I give them A LOT of credit. When I first heard that Jon Por Birgisson was making an ambient record, I thought, "well, that makes sense". The first half of almost every Sigur Ros song before 2006 starts off as a quasi ambient track as guitars are bowed gracefully and Birgisson's voice coos sweetly. So, this felt like a natural extension from what they were already good at. But I was blown away at how Jonsi & Alex really know what they are doing. I would consider myself a pretty huge fan of most things that fall in the ambient/drone category. So, I can usually tell when someone is faking it, or is using "ambience" as a cover for musical deficiency. But seriously, Riceboy Sleeps has it firing on all cylinders. From the organic sounding electronic manipulation and earthen sampling a la Jasper, TX, to the layers of beautiful synths by the way of Stars of the Lid. The gorgeous strings, courtesy of fellow Icelanders Amiina, give the a lot of warmth. The highlight track by far is "Boy 1904" with it's stirring Chorus sung by an all boy choir. Beautiful. But probably what makes this (long) album so compelling is the overwhelming feeling of nostalgia and easy grace that permeates the entire record. This is another one of those albums where if you aren't paying attention you miss it. It is a little strange that such an obscure genre would be visited by artists from such great heights. But sometimes it takes a boss to show us how it's all done right.

Ryan H.

Jónsi & Alex - Daníell in the sea from Jónsi & Alex on Vimeo.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Grizzly Prospector

Old Mountain Radio (2009, Magic Goat Music)

Byline: Fragile Folk songs from a bygone era.

For: Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Sam Amidon, Woody Guthrie

On a cold night circa 2007 I wandered into a coffee shop and encountered a young man in a confrontation with his guitar and his gentle, fragile voice. After cutting the show short and mumbling a heartfelt apology to the 10-15 of us there I walked back out into the biting cold and the name "Grizzly Prospector" was filed somewhere in my subconscious. Fast forward to 2009 and "Grizzly Prospector" is back in the forefront of my mind. I don't know much about Parker Yates, the man behind the grizz, but I do know there is something about his short, simple songs that grab me with a fragile, tangible grasp for the few minutes they are on. Recorded with a decided lo-fi approach, Grizzly Prospector wraps his short, sweet tunes, and his fragile yet assuringly confident voice in a thin sheen of tape hiss that sounds like an old 45 you saved from your Grandmothers estate sale. I suppose this is the aesthetic he is going for on Old Mountain Radio, tiny depression-era folk songs about love, mountain men, grizzly bears, and a kindly old narrator who introduces the album with an inexplicable cajun accent. Bookmarking each end of the album is a spoken word piece titled "Bare Hands/Bear Hands" that seems to begin and end the journey of loss, love, and discovery on this little disc that clocks in at just under 24 minutes. Stand out tracks include "Medley" and "True Love will Find You in the End" which include some of the best strummed guitars + voice I have heard all year. These two tracks are sandwiched between a handful of pretty instrumentals, short song cycles and good starts. What must have been a frustrating night two years ago has turned into a small victory for both Grizzly Prospector and Magic Goat Music who is hosting this album for free! You can't miss this opportunity to grab yourself some pure mix-tape-to-the-one-you-love gold.

Ryan H.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Gold Panda

Back Home EP/Make Mine 7"

Byline: Essential electronica for 2009.

For: The Books + Flying Lotus + Autechre

I shy away from the equation like this: x + x + x = band. But really I shy away from any math equation. Not my thing. I tend to view the for section or most RIYL not as signifiers of an obvious sound that is easily reduced to two or three artists in a similar vein but more of a reference point or road sign. But I have to say, when I compiled the for section in my head the commas seemed too restricting. Gold Panda is much more the sum of its parts, but it is interesting to view these 6 songs as an act of bleeding together three very distinct realms of electronic music. Gold Panda hails from Essex, England and combines the beat heavy instrumental hip - hop with the mid nineties cut and paste style of IDM. This combined sonic pallate is laced with some wicked sampled instrumentation a la The Books. When I first heard the chopped up acoustic guitars, sitar scales, and cd-skipping Indian vocals on "Quitters Raga" I was totally beside myself with awe. I have had this song on repeat for the entire week and I get totally into it, head banging, feet tapping... and then it stops. Why this song is only two minutes of the best electronic music I have heard all year is beyond me. Luckily the rest of the songs prop up the entire EP/7". There isn't a wasted moment on here. Gold Panda keeps the relentless bass pumping like this is Ibiza and this is 1998. "Police" is the most obvious throw back while songs like "Back Home" and "Long Vacation" have a lot of breathing room, I love the buried vocal samples and the seemingly lost violin and guitar tracks that meander in and out of breaks. Even without "Quitters Raga" both Back Home and Make Mine would be super solid releases in 2009, but with the inclusion of that barn burner Gold Panda is essential listening.

Ryan H

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Sunset Rubdown

Dragonslayer (06.09, Jagjaguwar)

Byline: Krug & CO. slay it again.

For: Spencer Krug

What if we lived in a culture devoid of referentiality. What would our music sound like? What would we talk about? How could music critics survive? I did an interesting thing on my 1,000,000th listen of Dragonslayer, I made a quick and dirty list of musical touchstones and direct influences I could find in Mr. Krug's newest output. This is what I got: Bryan Ferry, King Crimson, Jamie Stewart (Xiu Xiu), and Carey Mercer (band mate of Krug's in Frog Eyes), The Fall, Terry Riley. That's about it. It is pretty safe to say that the voluminous output of Spencer Krug, split between Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown, Frog Eyes, and Swan Lake, exists on its own squarely within the 21st century. This is a pretty startling fact especially in the day of just about every young band ripping off the Kinks and burying everything in under an avalanche of static and tape hiss. This isn't to say that Sunset Rubdown exists in a vacuum, in context Sunset Rubdown sounds similar to the output of every other band coming out of Montreal in the middle part of this century. But wait, wasn't Spencer Krug in at least half of those bands? Good point Ryan. But isn't the 21st century all about recycling old ideas into a new context. Uh, yeah, well, moving on...

The truth is, I am an unabashed admirer of Spencer Krug in every form, right now he can do no wrong. Dragonslayer is Sunset Rubdown's, which initially started out as one of the many side projects stemming from Wolf Parade, most immediately accessible and easily listenable albums he put out. Shut up I am Dreaming and Random Spirit Lover are massive, behamoths of musical ideas and aspirations. I can only take each in moderation however, by the end of each listen my head hurts and my ears have lost years in their practical use to me. Dragonslayer isn't Sunset Rubdown light, per say, it is as if the SD collective have taken the insane amount of musical ideas and themes that inhabit each song and liberally spread it over a whole albums worth. There are moments that grab you by the throat and never let you go, from the palm muted riffing in "Idiot Heart" to the drum 'n bass intro to "Nightingale/December Song" (which attributes its original idea to post-minimalist Terry Riley). My favorite track is of course "Paper Lace", easily the most arresting song on February's Swan Lake's Enemy Mine. It is a curious idea to cover your own song on an album of only 8 songs, but the alternate arrangement is an almost Caribbean by the way of Paul Simon jam, I'm so glad he didn't choose an acoustic version. It wouldn't be a SD album without self-referentiality and reoccurring themes from past albums and projects. For example "You Go On" is almost the coda to Random Spirit Lovers "Trumpet! Trumpet! Toot! Toot!", and Idiot Heart contains the lines "if If I was the horse/I would throw off the reins". I'm not sure if any of this makes sense if you aren't a rabid Spencer Krug fan like me. But if you are you will understand while I am calling this one of the best releases this year.

Ryan H.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Here We Go Magic

Here We Go Magic (2009, Western Vinyl)

Byline: Ambient vs. Pop: Fiiiite!

For: Women, Gang Gang Dance, Deerhunter

One of my favorite and most-listened to albums of the year so far is also the hardest to pin down and describe. I’m not sure if this is due more to the fact that Here We Go Magic’s self-titled debut is all over the place stylistically, or if I’m just not as clever as I originally thought. Regardless... at the round length of nine-tracks, this record is easily divisible into thirds: three are completely ambient, three fall into more of a “song”-song category, and the remaining third finds a sort of middle-ground between the two extremes. This isn’t to say that “ambience” and “pop” are mutually exclusive animals. Indeed, Here We Go Magic make a convincing case that these approaches ultimately need each other, especially by today’s progressive-music standards - and it’s these ambient-pop combos that really give the group’s debut outing an edge. One standout is “I Just Want to See You Underwater,” which emerges quietly and gracefully from a murky depth with soft, pulsating drums and a vamped two-chord progression that swells and swirls around a pair of haunting, submerged vocals. At his best, Here We Go Magic mastermind Luke Temple really understands the importance of creating a musical mood and place, and thus transports the listener there - trapping them within his soft and colorful landscapes.

But the album’s widely diverse sound (being firstly, the record’s initial pull and strength) is also the one and only source of frustration. These 9 tracks are aching to fit together more cohesively. There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on in the ambient noise songs, like with “Ghost List,” which folds static, fuzz, and feedback into warm blankets of sound you can really wrap yourself into. They’re never long enough to really get boring, so it’s tough to complain. Still, their placement within the context of the record as a whole feels odd. It’s like a puzzle where the nooks and crannies are chiseled and well defined, but don’t quite slide in just the way they should.

Whatever pitfalls this will cause with listeners, however, are sure to be reconciled by the outstanding nature of the album’s individual works. “Fangela” is a wonderfully bouncy track that feels like a sort of inter-stellar cowboy tune. It’s also creepy and inviting: who, or what, is Fangela? My guess is a seductive vampiress, which really jives with the enticing pull of the the song’s infectious melody and chord progression. Meanwhile, the closer “Everything’s Big,” which at first feels wildly out of place with it’s waltzy feel and Schmilsson-style vocals, reveals itself over time as the album’s biggest grower, and ultimately most rewarding song. As a whole, the album definitely stands as one of the year’s most exciting debuts and reveals a band that I really hope doesn’t get lost in the folds. But given their recent busy tour schedule, which included loads of dates with the likes of Grizzly Bear and Walkmen, it’s not clear that’s a very real threat, at least any time soon.

--Craw(NTL) 8/12/09

Here We Go Magic Official Website

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cabinet of Natural Curosities

Searchlight Needles (06.09, For Arbors/For Satellites)

Byline: New Weird America Experimental folk from the heart of Old Weird America

For: Songs:Ohia, Tiny Vipers, Early Cat Power

"It was very still. The tree was tall and straggling. It had thrown its briers over the Hawthorne-bush, and its long streamers trailed thick, right down to the grass, splashing the darkness everywhere with great split stars, pure white...The dusk came like smoke around, and still did not put out the roses." D.H Lawrence, Sons and Lovers.

I know you are probably sick of reading what else I was doing when I hear an album for the first time. But it was eerily uncanny how fitting this passage by D. H Lawrence was when I sat down for my first listen of Searchlight Needles. Searchlight Needles by Brooklynite by the way of Missoula, MT chanteuse Jasmine Dreame Wagner a.k.a Cabinet of Natural Curiosities. Searchlight Needles is a quietly epic ode to the great expanse of nature. It says a lot about an album that can physically move you to another location, with CONC, such auditory hallucinations take me to the woods, the ferns, and a windswept hillside in the middle of the night. This seems like an apt follow up to Sunn0))) right? There is more in common than you think. Rather than being a straight up love poem to Mother Nature, Searchlight Needles strays away from its idyllic home in the woods and gets lost like a stray lamb in the unforgiving hills, a lost little lamb amidst the frightening expanse of the unprotected world. Jasmine Dreame Wagner wraps her little voice, which at times recalls Julie Doiron and others Liz Phair's, and her delicately plucked guitar melodies in an aural sheen of found noises, children's voices, and organic sounding electronic arrangements that brood just beneath the surface threatening to overtake the track like a circling wolf. Eventually, around the middle of the disc, we are overtaken, the experimental tendencies beneath surface take center stage with circuit bending electronic experimentation, meandering riffs and sparse drumming and spoken word poetry. Wagner's voice is spot on for experimental folk albums like these, at times hypnotizingly rich while gently riding the swells of each plucked chord and out there electronic palate, and other times confidently fully revealed and stark. So, if your fans of any of the musicians I have mentioned in this review or anyone somewhat associated with New Weird America or any of the artists in or associated with Phil Elvrum, I would confidently recommend this album. Plus, this comes out of Missoula, MT (by the way of Brooklyn)! A place that has a special place in my heart. And, Wagner is an accomplished poet, along with the press release and cd, For Arbors/For Satellites sent me a copy of her published poetry. Kudos to both!

Ryan H.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Monoliths & Dimensions (05.09, Southern Lord)

Byline: All Encompassing Drone Metal, what else would you expect?

For: Teeth of the Lion Rule the Divine, Earth, John Zorn

This summer has been watershed year for cross-over metal acts putting out super solid albums, June saw Wolves in the Throne Room, Isis, and Human Quenna Orchestra laying down some thick slabs of pure heavy-ness winning over tons of new fans in the process. While I have been eager to jump on those releases, SunnO))) has always given me pause. Not because I don't think they are amazing low-end bass rumbling pioneers but because I never feel like I can do their music justice. I mean how do you describe two robed guitar slayers playing chest rumbling downtuned guitar riffs incredibly loud and extremely slow. Black Sabbath on a dangerous level of Morphine? Anyway, a SunnO))) album is to be taken in, very loudly, preferably with some high level speakers poised all around you. In fact you may want to listen to this album the way SunnO))) preform, in a dimly lit room surrounded by burning wax candles and amps from here to the ceiling. One way for any band to seem like a gimmick after slavishly perfecting your craft out of the critical limelight is to put out album after album of variations on a single theme. With Monoliths and Dimensions, the robed ones mind this fact and expand their musical direction into a place that seems only natural. The world of classical music. The album features contributions from composer Eyvind Kang, noted trombonists Julian Priester and Stuart Dempster, and fellow drone guitar slayer Dylan Carlson of the pioneering Drone Metal band Earth. Attilla Csihar's Death-Metal Growl meets Buddhist monk chant are present throughout the entire album. The super slow, downtuned guitar and bass riffs are still present sounding as ominous and death-rattlingly amazing as ever, however, I will use the track "Alice" as a template to describe their virtuosity. The track opens like any other SunnO))) track, with some rumbling bass feedback punctuated with an occasional clean guitar strum. Then out of nowhere comes blast of trambones come riding in like they have been hidden in the track the whole time, at this point Stephen O'Malley's guitar riffs become much more deeper and ominous while a simple slap of Greg Anderson's bass guitar leave a bone crushing rumbling that has probably woken up my neighbors. Then as you are getting used the Philip Glass like punctuation of horns, high pitched strings come creeping up behind the brass section. We are about 10 minutes into it and the strings are pulsing and the brass section is rivaling the low-end bass frequency for being the songs driving agent. French Horns and Harps are added into the mix and the song seems lightyears from where it started. The guitars gently fade out and we are left with an incredible little piece of classical music complete with string swells, french horn counterpoits and a buzzing oscillator underneath the entire soundscape. Well, folks it is FINALLY the 21st century.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

German Shepherd

Beehive: Symbol of Cooperation and Industry (Fall.07)

Byline: Symbol of Cooperation and Industry. Isn't Life just a crazy, crazy dream?

For: Jasper TX, The Fun Years, Belong

The symbol of the beehive has a special meaning that is largely forgotten in Salt Lake City. Once a symbol used by the settlers of this great valley to remind them of the necessity of cooperation, communal empathy, and fortiteous industry to survive in this far flung desert, the power of the beehive's influence in the political, communal, and personal thinking of the day has largely been lost in Utah. I'm not sure when this idea of communal living was usurped by slit-throat capitalism, or when Utah became a bastian for third-world wage slavery, but needless to say our state symbol is a piece of woven cloth ephemera waving above our state capitol. If you are interested check out this site for a bold look forward in incorporating Utah's long lost ideals. I know I have alienated about 90% of the people reading, but seriously, look it up, the Beehive is a powerful symbol. Victor Erice even made a movie about it. The music of Beehive is just as warped as our state symbol, but in a much, much better way.

German Shepherd, the musician who burst into my psyche on the 4 way Traveling split, is a musician from Great State of Wisconsin playing warped basement guitar drones that sound at once intimate and distant, as if gurgling up through some creaky midwestern wooden floorboards into straight into your subconscious. My mom, in her infinite kindness, gave me one of the best birthday presents a few years ago, a pair of super nice headphones. The kind with noise cancellation, a feature that makes up for the fidelity lost in processing mp3's. It has made my listening much more gratifying auditory experience. With German Shepherd, however, I leave all supplemental hearing contraptions off, and listen to it the way I think he meant it. Looping guitar tracks and droning synths buried underneath the surface of iced over lake of lo-fi analog recording noise. This recording technique has been applied by Grouper, Belong, and Inca Ore with the same effect. Beehive is an album to get lost in, to completely sink beneath the waves of cracked guitar sounds, cheap amps, and droning effect pedals. Virtuoso guitar playing is not a pre-requisite to being a floor-core guitar strangler, but on "Crane Spreads it's Wings" one gets the sense that German Shepherd has a classical sense of how the guitar works, before he goes about dismantling it. I am in love with the twinkling guitar line at the end of the song that is somehow eerily reminiscent of "Today" by the Smashing Pumpkins. One thing I really appreciate about German Shepherd is that each song sound like proper songs. Not one sounds alike, which is a Million Dollar Man type feat in the world of basement ambient drone types. Mr. Summers sent me a generous portion of his back catalog, I am looking forward to having similar experiences with each.