Saturday, August 21, 2010

The TOME Has Moved!


Hi everyone - just a quick note to let you all know that Tome to the Weather Machine has moved! You can now find us at:


Please update your bookmarks accordingly, and holler at yr friends!

See you there!



Friday, August 20, 2010

Rickolus



Youngster (Circle into Square, 07.2010)

For: Paper Airplanes, Modest Mouse, Son, Ambulance

Byline: Jacksonville native, and frequent Ben Cooper collaborator, pens a touching and instrumentally grand ode to childhood.

Youngster, if you haven't already guessed is an album about childhood. Thematically, Youngster, doesn't tackle the topic of childhood as a tangible object per se, but childhood as a memory filtered through the perception of a young man awkwardly lurching into adulthood. I certainly can relate. Youngster succeeds is making Richard Colado's (aka Rickolus) personal recollections of specific childhood events universally applicable everykid activities. Rickolus does this by embedding simple, childlike melodies into the backbone his songs, relaying a sense of playfulness and innocence at the structural level. Lyrics tackle childhood (obviously), growing up, and nostalgic pangs for the freedom lost with early onset adult responsibilities. Ultimately, Youngster is about moving on.

It is easy to imagine someone like Colado putting out a record like this. The well-made video for "Photograph" depict Rickolus dancing like a kid two sizes too big for his body. His arms flail aimlessly without any relation to the rest of his body, his coordination just a little off of the syncopation of the music. And on one hand, this image of a kid trapped inside of an adult's body serves the album well. It helps us pass off songs like the pirate-lullaby "Grog" as a youthful indescretion. The pre-teen, lovelorn Colado on "The Story of Love" we can chalk up to the same. But time and time again Rickolus demonstrates an incredibly deep emotional awareness on songs like "Kid" and "Photograph" in which his sentiments are very much those of an emotionally attached adult. It should be stated here that Colado plays and performs every instrument on Youngster. That is saying quite a bit. Youngster's orchestral swells, intricate back-up singing, and all together fantastic production is very, very grown up. While the core of his songs, usually performed on an acoustic guitar or piano are deceptively simple, his instrumental flourishes are steeped in complex, layered, moves. In fact, many songs rival Paper Airplane's 2007 ode to childhood and Arcade Fire-esque ballads, Boyhood, for one of the most immediate, cathartic and nostalgia filled concept albums.

Leaving for work this morning I threw this on my i pod and got half-way down the block when I realized the irony of the situation, here I was trudging, joylessly to work while listening to an album extoling the virtue of exploring and taking risks that we all did without hesitation when children. Had I really turned into one of "those" adults? I turned around, grabbed my skateboard and skated to work like I was back in middle school. Well done, Ryan.


Ryan H.




Rickolus - Photographs from Circle Into Square on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Markus Mehr


Lava (06.2010, Hidden Shoal)

For: Fennesz, Tim Hecker, Kevin Greenspon

Byline: Blissed out tones and buzzing guitar drones define this album by German ambient-drone musician Markus Mehr.

The Pace is Glacial was both the title of Seam's 1998 album and an obvious in-joke describing nineties slowcore band's propensity for writing meandering, molasses paced songs. Markus Mehr's aptly titled Lava is cut from the same cloth, an apt title as well as a transparent jab at his wandering, ambient compositions. Mehr builds monoliths out of buzzing, oscillating swells of metered noise cutting deep crevices across the porous surface of cooling granite-slab of the mind. Yes, it is that kind of thing. Mehr's compositions are submerged beneath a tumultuous sea of swirling guitar tones that ride the biting edge of gorgeous and foreboding. The whole listening experience is spent in anticipation of the moment when that menacing snarl hijacks the pretty subtones, and reversed-jet engine propulsion and turns it back on itself creating head-exploding blast-beats and reverse time-lapsed nuclear explosions. None of that really happens though, Mehr keeps riding that knife edge deep-sea diving into yawning abysses of ghost-like skeletal guitar drones and no-input noise feeds. It would be easy to classify this solely as music for the mind, the incandescent sustained tones of "Hubble" and rhythmic pulse of droning static of "Costeau" certainly suggest this, but the most maligned track "Up Sturz" has the most tangible relation to the earthbound. "Up Sturz" tracks Mehr's homemade recording aesthetic closest to its source. Comprised of ear-splitting dial tones pitch-shifted to the brink of listenability, Mehr filters these harsh tones into a rhythmic ebb and flow of menacing, cracked industrial beats that reach a cacophonous climax that eventually wind itself down into a magma-like death crawl to the end of the track. As the album title predicts, Lava takes its time getting to places. The off-axis drift is felt more than a steadily canter towards some sort of definable goal. In this blissful wanderlust Mehr succeeds in spades creating a completely engrossing, engaging and all together reliable album full of the most powerful ambient-drone tracks this year.

Ryan H.

Markus Mehr and visual artist Stephanie Sext

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Koes Plus


Dheg Dheg Plas & Volume 2 (Sublime Frequencies, re. 2010)

For: The Beatles, Os Mutantes, The Kinks

Byline: The Brits invaded Indonesia, too. And holy wow, am I glad they did.


Koes Plus, Indonesia's most beloved pop music treasure, has an incredibly interesting history. Aside from the fact that this is a 70's Indonesian band unmistakably influenced by the British Invasion and that they were successful and popular enough to record over 40 albums during the 70s alone and spawn dozens of tribute bands over the years while remaining largely unknown throughout the rest of the world (peaked your interest yet?), the group's tale is somewhat legendary. Politics, rebellion, arrests, destroyed recordings, plane crashes… it's all very well documented in the liner notes to this smart package from Sublime Frequencies that collects the band's first two records (1969's Dheg Dheg Plas and 1970's Volume 2) following its reformation from the ashes of the all-brother Koes Bersaudara band. But as interesting as all that stuff is, it's really not the point of Koes Plus. The point is that this record is a damned good time.

The first half ("Dheg Dheg Plas") features a straight-ahead early Beatles approach. Songs like "Kelelewar" and "Awan Hitam" are stone-hits complete with snappy, highly danceable/sampleable backbeats and delicious four-part vocal harmonies. But even when the band is at its easiest to draw the Beatles comparison, the group adds its own little eccentricities… something just a little bit off, slightly obscured with the fusion of traditional Indonesian melodies and forms, not to mention the band's native language in the lyrics. In this way, the legacy of Koes Plus seems not unlike Caetano Veloso and the Tropicália movement during same time period in Brazil. Sometimes these eccentricities are just bizarre, like the completely random drum solo during the slow and sweet "Tiba Tiba Aku Menangis" (seriously, when's the last time you heard a drum solo during a ballad?). "Volume 2" showcases the Koes Plus as a different beast altogether, incorporating a multitude of different styles from ska rhythms to raucous punk and even a hint of Sabbath that comes as a hilarious and awesome surprise. The playful, Ray Davies-like nature of the songwriting makes this second half a little better, if also a lot weirder...

...This window into the wondrous world of Koes Plus shows the band was so much more than a mere carbon copy of Western influences, taking brave chances in experimenting with different styles and instruments within its geographical heritage to subsequently have a massive impact on what the indigenous music of Indonesia would become. They were also often just a brilliant band of completely talented musicians and gifted songwriters. The whole super-intriguing ethnomusicology thing is the icing on the cake.

Crawf

This review originally published at Foxy Digitalis. Used by permission from Digitalis Industries, Inc. Read the full review here.

Sublime Frequencies Website

Woah... these guys brought it live too. YEOWW!!!





Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Books


The Way Out (Temporary Residence, 07.2010)

For: Okapi, Dth, Sam Amidon

Byline: A steady return by the NYC collage duo. I promise the album is a lot more exciting than this byline.

You know that old question: If you were stranded on a desert island what album would you bring? I have given this ridiculous question some thought as of late. By no small feat I chose The Books' 2003 release Lemon of the Pink. That album more than anything in their collection balances the buzzing hive of sampled and manipulated human voices that range from hilarious to heart-breaking in a single song when placed inside of, above and beneath an equally manipulated ace guitar/bass/cello/electronic work. I never feel lonely when I listen to that record, even though the vocal samples are ripped out of their context and placed at the mercy of two pranksters/deeply sentimental humanists. You would basically have the whole range of human interactions before you every time you put on your headphones. They would become friends by the time you are rescued or your batteries run out.

With that said The Books fourth full-length album and first on Temporary Residence (what strange bedfellows) follows in a similar trajectory as their equally experimental predecessors. Per capita The Way Out has much more song-songs than the cut-paste collage experiments of their past work. These songs showcase Nick Zammuto's relentlessly clever songwriting and newfound vocal confidence. His voice ranges from creaky frontporch folk on "Free Translator", to commanding band-leader indie swoon on "All You Need is a Wall". These two songs rank as career highs for the duo's musicianship with Zammuto taking the lead with clunky, percussive gutitar lines and Paul De Jong filling in the corners with pathos-filled bowed cello lines and electronic manipulation of recorded brass instruments and sound effects. These songs speak to their delicate interplay as musicians more than any of the electronically produced scattershot of disco/funk/house styles that support their collage tracks.

"A Beautiful World" is in a league all of its own. A hymn to an irregular number disguised as a proto-disco track but with huge, rafter shaking canto-like multi-tracked vocals that owe more to Gregorian chant than to the languid back beat and instrumental flourishes. Incredible in every aspect.

The collage work. Yes, the Books are "that" band. And for the most part these tracks are solid, funny, sad, etc...Everything you would expect from The Books. A majority of the album pulls its best belly-laughs and thoughtful ruminations from self-help hypnotists and new-age gurus. But, The Way Out hits its biggest returns when it pulls from sources that are uncomfortably close. It is easy to externalize the yogis, and self-help masters as members of a sub-culture beyond ourselves. But when we hear the pathetic, and all too recognizable, longing swelling up beneath the message left on "Thirty Incoming" we realize that could be any of us at our most needy, or most nostalgic. The sincerity is too personal to be mocked, we end up feeling the phantom pangs instead, wishing we could fill that own void in our own lives. "Cold, Freezin' Night" is a classic Books song that showcases their deft interplay between the duo's acoustic instrumentation and perfectly edited sound effects and electronic production. The violent revenge fantasies of the young boy and girl, probably recorded in a fit of silliness, defy the subject matter by sounding like innocent little solipsisms spurred on by the thrill that the object of their hate may find and hear it someday. They probably didn't count on a (modestly) huge audience listening in. You are so grounded.

But that is how it goes when you commit your thoughts to tape, paper, film, whatever. They are no longer your property. Your lack of physical prescence disallows any context outside of the one the listener decided to place it in. Since it is no longer yours it remains safely in the hands of the public (isn't that right Gertrude Stein) or as a wav form on The Books hardrive just waiting to be used for their fifth full length.

Ryan H.


Friday, August 13, 2010

*e*


You Are A Brilliant Flower That Ever Blooms (???, 2009)

For: Robin Walker, Grimes, Neutral Milk Hotel

Byline: Acoustic, bedroom lo-fi gold from an unknown talent... insight, plz?

I'm what you call a hoarder. I keep shit. All of it. I recently realized this (or, perhaps I just finally admitted it) during my last move, which took forever and caused me great pain and grief. I have so many old clothes (a shirt that says "I ♥ Tater Tots" is among the worst..), old essays and articles from school years ago, little trinkets picked up here and there, countless posters... oof, and for some reason I still have all of it. A lot of it I keep for sentimental reasons—items that were given to me by someone special or maybe marked a momentous occasion in my life. But some of this crap (well, not crap) is puzzling. Where did this little green glass ball I have on my dresser come from? What is this furry little seal figurine on my nightstand? There's a plastic elephant picture above my bedroom door... why?

Well, my iTunes library is no different. It is officially out of control. So much music, and most of it I have a pretty decent idea of where it came from. But if you're like me, surfing around, checking other blogs (see right for a neat and tidy list of the ones we at the TOME frequent), on Facebook a lot checking out what other folks are sharing... you just start clicking. Well, I finally got around to hitting play on this album by an artist simply known as *e*. I don't know where it came from, who gave it to me, why I thought it might be a good idea to download it, how it magically had the awesome artwork with it... WHO. Who, I ask, gave me this gorgeous nugget of acoustic, lo-fi gold? More importantly still: WHO. Just who, may I ask, are you, *e*?


I'm not sure I'll get an answer here—*e* is a name that is basically impossible to Google. A search for this album's title yielded one blog post that offers little in the way of information, other than the fact that *e*'s real name is likely *e*-lizabeth Hill. MySpace, Facebook, Bandcamp... nothin'. So if anyone out there has any ideas on this for me, I'm all ears. For now... a quick review:


*e*'s music is as mysterious as to the reasons I've stumbled across her path. Acoutic guitar-based folk songs that are sometimes stark, sometimes quite full—of noise, rumblings, drums, synths, bass, stray voices, flutes, clitter-clatter, mallet instruments... The effect is one of weirdness in your general freak-folk-weird sort of way. But *e* doesn't really push away the way others in the freak-folk arena have been known to. *e*'s songs often begin with beautiful chords and hummable Jeff Magnum-like tunes, and then let the creepies set in to eventually overcome them altogether. But mostly, *e* chooses to let these songs get overwhelmed with beauty rather than ugly, stacking oddities and outlying sounds and effects that find supple harmonies within themselves and resonate deep.


This album is quite clearly DIY—tape hiss, static, slightly skipping glitchy digital info, "testing"'s, etc. "Phantom O' The Opera" is a bit excruciating, though the organ is quite nice. Same goes for closer "pretty kitties .deux," which is a gorgeous song, rudely chopped in spinning static. There are probably a handful of actual copies in existence, and one of those was miraculously uploaded to the throughs of the worldwide web from a scratchy CD-R. But like most treasure, this can also be beautiful because of its blemishes. You Are A Brilliant Flower sounds old and weathered, though the metadata from the mp3 files reveals this came out only last year. Like an old photograph, its the image that's what is important: an imaginative voice and one of the more creative songsmiths I've heard in months (and I've heard a lot of good ones) that is unmistakeable, if a little fuzzy. I'm sad to say that I have no idea why I even have this wonderful album. But like most of the piles of old stuff I've been going through in the past week, I'll find a dusty trunk to wrap this up in a blanket and gently tuck away somewhere inside my brain, in some deep corner of my subconscious. It's already there, waiting for me to open it up and remember... that time I forgot. Thanks, *e*. Whoever you are.


Crawf


Download You Are A Brilliant Flower That Ever Blooms here.


Derek Rogers / Sparkling Wide Pressure


Minor Phase Patterns (Kimberly Dawn, 2010)

For: Evan Caminiti, Sean McCann, Pop-era Gas

Byline: A beautiful ambient painting on the canvas of a 3" CD-R. Don't have a CD spindle? Get one.

I feel a little guilty reviewing this, as the release from the 3" CD-r label Kimberly Dawn Recordings is (perhaps unsurprisingly and indeed unfortunately) already sold out of its limited run of 50 copies, and the only place I've been able to track down that has even but a five-minute excerpt from the piece is a YouTube video that's embedded into Kim Dawn's blog. So it's troubling to me that many who read this may never get the chance to hear this work in full, as Frank Baugh (aka Sparkling Wide Pressure) and Derek Rogers' ambient effort is quite the treasure. Minor Phase Patterns layers long, slender guitar and synth tones against one another, allowing individual voices to kind of massage themselves together. It creates a homogeneously smooth and creamy hum with flashes of fleeting melodies you almost create for yourself subconsciously. Beats and rhythmic devices are sacrificed in favor of very slowly developing chord progressions, tonally fluid and morphing with the waxing and waning of textures so soft and slight (much like the works of composers like Wolfgang Voigt or William Basinski), changes barely go noticed. The music does follow a trajectory, though, a remarkable feat for a sound that remains so consistently firm in volume and overall girth—it's never fat or lean, starving or engorged—simply full. Elements breathe for themselves and are independent, but they work in a delicate tandem to operate like an organism, all singularly participatory in contributing to a common, well-rounded and balanced whole...


...I have to admit, most of my music these days is either downloaded, loaded into my slot-fed laptop, or, you know, I'm always partial to vinyl. So it was a task for me to find a way to hear Minor Phase Patterns. But interestingly, I was also immediately drawn to this little gem. These 3" discs are hip artifacts—folkloric vessels in a way, transporting music to an emerging subculture through a stylized material format. They empower ritual in art, emphasizing specifically planned, exclusive sorts of listening practices, encouraging more interpersonal moments of sharing that the internet age might be guilty of destroying. These CDs can be a pain in the ass to enjoy for those of you with nary a tray nor spindle, but they're also a beautiful pain in the ass, completely worth the effort whatever you have to do to hear them.


Crawf


This review originally published at Foxy Digitalis. Used by permission from Digitalis Industries, Inc. Read the full review here.


Kimberly Dawn Blogspot (Lots of great stuff here - and these sell out quick. Get on it!)


An excerpt from Minor Phase Patterns for your listening enjoyment:


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Heinali and Matt Finney


Lemonade EP (Self-Released, 07.2010)

For: Jesu, Gary Soto, Charles Bukowski

Byline: A huge, but bleak, statement of addiction and loss from the southern spoken-word artist Matt Finney and Ukrainian musician Heinali.

Matt Finney, who made up one half of this years most startling discoveries Finneyerkes, is back with another bout of spoken word from the economically, spiritually and emotionally crushed everyman. This time, however, he is paired with Ukrainian musician/soundscapist Heinali. The dramatically heavier and ominous tones of Heinali's electronically manipulated industrial/post-rock replaces Randy Yerkes' skeletal passages and underscores the equally dramatic (but not so surprising) turn in Matt Finney's utterly bleak spoken word/poetry passages. This turn towards the ugly side of human nature isn't something that Finney shied away from on past releases. On the anachronously titled Lemonade, however, Finney narrates tales of addicts and drunks with violent pasts and even more violent dreams and fantasies. Men (and only men in this collection) who abuse themselves and the ones who depend on them through substance and emotional abuse aren't let off the hook here. There is little hope (narratively at least) and no redemption for these men and those who are caught in their downward spiral of self-hatred and self-destruction. The survivors turn to the same coping mechanisms to erase their memories and cover their own pain at realizing they have become the monsters they once hated. While Finney may at times lean heavily on tired references like "houses on fire", and "waking up with your own blood in the sink" he also delivers some lines that rank among his best.

This isn't a complaint. I work with homeless youth in Salt Lake City. The familiar tropes of a never ending spiral caused by an undeservedly shitty childhood are not lost on me. While I was more than fortunate in my upbringing I see the effects of drug use, neglect, and instability in those formative years manifest themselves in the risky (and sometimes outright irresponsible) choices of kids I work with every day. After an especially emotionally high strung day I listened to Lemonade on repeat. The emotional catharsis was immediate. Somewhere between Finney's honest portraits of a stagnant southern existence and the nihilism of his characters I began to see patterns forming between the behaviors of his characters and the all too real examples I had before me. Suddenly the cycle made sense. Sometimes there is no redemption. Thats just how it is. Kids O.D from a drug they have been using since 11. Nomadic adolescents running away from affluent but abusive families fall under the wheels of the freight train carrying them across the country to the freedom of a Northern California summer. Bad things happen to good people. Some get past it. Some don't.

I realize this review has been way too personal. Heinali's musical underpinning works for the most part. Heinali often comes as overbearing in his use of industrial beats and stultified chugging-guitar riffs that can't seem to move past post-rock 101. But, when he is on, and he is most of the time, he is really on. "Lemonade" begins with a glowing, shimmering swell of sustained guitar tones, a signal to a final crack of daylight through Finney's bleak prose, only to be shot down by another of Finney's deadpan recital of all things dreary. "After the flood comes .... drought." Damn ... Really thought we had something going there there.

On a more positive note, Finney's contributions seem a little better integrated than they did in the Finneyerkes project. Instead of coming in via a clicked on tape recorder, Finney's contributions are edited into the songs themselves. Slipped in unexpectedly, sometimes put through a filter or some sort of sound manipulation. The result is a more seamless contribution.

Lemonade isn't a suicide note. Not yet. While it may walk exclusively with its head down on the shady side of the street, at least it is going somewhere. Finney dwells on these negative emotions to take ownership of them, embody them for a time, and then moves past them, culminating in one of the more emotionally devastating, yet, cathartic statements of the year.

Ryan H.

Download/Buy Lemonade Here.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Patrick Porter


Bachelor Pad Blue; Bent Pants & Stray Cats (Unreleased, 2009/10)

For: Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Giant Sand, Little Fyodor

Byline: Greyday rejected this? ... wtf?

Patrick Porter is one of those rare artists. He's a brilliant poet, a published writer, accomplished painter (word is that the drummer from Slipknot bought a ton of his work... which makes little sense to me. Even more perplexing is Porter's claim that he threw bananas at the band during the transaction), and a great songwriter. He's also incredibly prolific at all of this while somehow being something of a vagrant. He tours on Greyhound buses, holes up in vans or tiny studios, and manages to always keep his wandering mind focused on recording his memories in one way or another. Sometimes those are beautiful memories, sometimes ugly, nightmarish even, hilarious or sometimes they're just plain weird. All in all, Porter tells the stories of himself, and if you can bet one thing when you get a Patrick Porter disc spinning in your CD player, it's that it will be something honest. Whatever happened to him, what he was going through, if he's angry or uncomfortable where he is, even if it's unreasonable, he'll let you know.

His last extended stint (during which time these tunes were laid to tape) brought him back to Colorado where he slept in the extra room of an old friend's apartment, frequently played gigs at places like Wax Trax Records and the Skylark Bar for meager audiences quietly admiring his commanding (if also modest) presence at relating the world as he sees it unfolding all around him. I knew Mr. Porter during this period, and I found him to be remarkably friendly, incredibly interesting, highly intelligent, very funny, but, indeed as this record indicates, there was something a little off about him, too. He would hang around Gabor's Bar a lot back then, his A Swan at Smiley's LP was in the jukebox there, and we had some great times over games of rummy and bouts of Miles Davis, but I never really saw the loneliness his record harps on... which is a little sad to think about now, actually. I wonder how well I really knew him. But then you hear this record, and it's a window into who Patrick Porter really was on a much more total level at this specific time in his life.

And the record doesn't sound all that sad all the time, either, so don't worry, I think Patrick's doing alright. Opener "Hello" tricks you into thinking Porter's shifted gears to some kind of folk-ambient sound before blasting into a ho-down of an introduction, screaming and yelping "HELLO!"s to anyone who'll hear his story. And with a following spoken-word welcome, explanation of the record, an extended dedication, and a tip of the hat to Denver, I think Porter right off the bat wants to make sure he tells folks that no matter what happened during this "very feverish time... a time of great strife and complexity" (as he says), he wasn't taking any of it too seriously.

Still, lines like "Make my next meal a loaded gun" are delivered cold enough to shake you to your core. There's plenty of sadness and a lot of frustration to be found in tunes like the toe-tappin' "Big Frowny Face," which is something of an assault on an ex-girlfriend. "Zero" and "No One's Ever Gonna Love Me" are pity parties that Porter's pitching to no one but himself through country balladry twinged with the sting of stark lonliness and ghostly backing vox. Sometimes doubled vocals are off-tune just enough to grate the nerves, which might mirror Porter's own internal, ugly demons. Another plus is that Porter's tales are well adaptable to a range of styles from prettier, hazy ballads to more uptempo banjo or guitar-based riffs. Then there's a healthy share of stone-gorgeous moments that make it all worth it. "Fogelburg" is a simply wonderful light-rock tune, and "Lizzy Turtle Laylo," aside from being about a turtle that actually lived in my apartment for a few months, might just be the purtiest piece of music I've heard all year.

Sorry for the lengthy post here, we usually try to keep them below 500 words.. I don't owe Porter anything, and he doesn't owe me nothin' neither, so maybe it's a little odd that I had this much to say. I guess this record just resonates a little more deeply on a personal level. And the best part is I have a feeling it will do the same for a lot more pairs of ears if they're willing to put up with the guy... many have tried and failed (even his own record label, Greyday—they rejected this album). I don't think Patrick wants any of us to feel sorry for him. But it's a pretty interesting thing to hear him being sorry for himself for some reason. Plus, it's usually positively beautiful, even when he's at his weirdest.

Crawf

Patrick Porter Official Bandcamp (stream/buy this here)

p.s. Dear Patrick, plz come back to Denver.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Julian Lynch


Mare (Olde English Spelling Bee, 06.2010)

For: Real Estate, Ducktails, Green Gerry, Sufjan Stevens

Byline: An unexpected mini-miracle album full of hazy drones, horns, and delicate compositional flourishes from the second best musician from New Jersey. Queen Latifah being the first, duh.

Mare, although we are a month late on it, feels like a mid-summer nights birthday party; a celebration, a gift, an often overlooked cultural event. The native New Jersy-ian (and bffs with Real Estate, Ducktails, etc..) and current ethnomusicology grad student at the University of Wisconson-Madison has created an astute bedroom-pop album fixated on ambience and texture but with its feet planted firmly on steady ground of airtight song structure. Mare is a glorious pastiche of pop hooks underneath a chemical bath of lo-fi haziness and restrained washes of omnipresent guitar drone. Lynch is at his peak of perfection when he extends his laid back breeziness into his meandering bass lines, buried percussion, and left-field spontaneous instrumentation. While Lynch sinks his voice beneath the fidelity level of most of the instruments on this album it is still pretty easy to call this a pop record. But where most drone-pop luminaries choose to let their fragile compositions falter beneath the pall of guitar fuzz, Lynch's delicate instrumentation is clear, discernible and remarkably deep.

Take title-track "Mare" for example, the drumming in that track, while not too far removed from a quasi-ethnic raga, thud and pop like distant fireworks. Exploding behind, underneath, and over the top of all the hazy drones encircling the track providing a unique three-dimensional listening experience. The saxophone, trumpet and a bevy of woodwind instruments, especially on tracks like "A Day at the Racetack" and "Ruth, My Sister" have the tendency to steal the show. The non traditional instrumentation doesn't call attention to itself like a reflexive-song-and-dance-in-the-middle-of-a-heady-drama type thing (like 10 word hyphenated beast in the middle of a sentence does), but punctuates, garnishes, and deepens the already bottomless track. Oh, and the guitar solo on "Ears". Totally kills it dead.

With Lynch's degree in ethnomusicology it comes as no surprise to hear some less than obvious influences crop up on just about every track. "Interlude", for example, starts out with a vaguely raggae/soul-sounding dub template before some slack guitars and a grooving bassline tie the whole thing back to a mid-seventies Bronx jumble of intertwining tropical and American influences. Equal parts "The Harder They Come" era Jimmy Cliff and David Gates

Above everything, Mare is polite. An unobtrusive, dreamy little mid-summer gem of a record. Something that has been a companion through countless, stupid SEO articles and provided more goosebump raising, smile inducing, deep listening moments per capita than perhaps any other record this year. Totally worth your time and attention. Did I mention the guitar solo on "Ears" slays it? Phew.

Ryan H.


JULIAN LYNCH "IN NEW JERSEY" from OLDE ENGLISH SPELLING BEE on Vimeo.

Stream/Buy Mare Here

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Menomena


Mines (Barsuk, 07.2010)

Byline: Menomena's most mature post-DEELER album.

For: The National, The Walkmen, The Shins

Menomena make music for diminished men. If I Am The Fun Blame Monster was about being scared as hell about embracing adulthood with any sort of openness that didn't bifurcate experience into the two camps of lovely or terrifying, Mines feels like a resignation letter to the better competitors in life and a manifesto of being content with just existing. Sorry ladies, this a mans record. Not that you wouldn't like it. In fact you should listen to it. But there is something about being an object rather than the subject in your own story that men need to hear. Lyrical allusions to being "not the most cocksure guy" and being scared to death of a female counterpart who doesn't weigh more than 100 lbs, to wanting nothing more than "to go home" when we are expected to be brave, witty, and strong, speak to a deep masculine insecurity that Menomena explore brilliantly throughout the bulk of this album.

With that said, Mines is by far Menomena's lushest, grandest, and most mature album to date. No qualifiers on that, this isn't lush, grand, or mature in the way Friend and Foe was in Menomena's own weird way. This is straight up High Violet pretty. In fact, forget you ever heard The National. This is your new NPR, hip-thirty year old, critically lauded album. This makes sense in a way. Pre-Mines side projects of Brent Knopf's Ramona Falls and Danny Seim's Lackthereof, hinted towards an individual sense of compositional maturity at the expense of actual exciting music (barring of course Seim's incredible cover of "Fake Empire". Listen to that now.) Collectively Mines doesn't have that problem. Songs like "Tithe", "Dirty Cartoons", and "Sleeping Beauty", while restrained, are audibly some of the most interesting things Menomena have ever produced. Gone are the aleatoric moments of the DEELER software days, or the goofy/terrifying emotional transperancy of I am the Fun Blame Monster. Mines embraces the pop song structure without sacrificing the experimental give-and-take of Knopf's gorgeous ascending piano lines, swapping instrumentation, electronic blips-and-bloops, group melodies, and the signature saxophone on almost every track. If High Violet took 6 months to track, I can't even guess how long this took. This onion has layers. Just when you think you have got to the bottom of a track you find more vocal harmonies, oddball percussion, and strangely tuned guitars.

Mines disappoints when it comes to the burners. "TAOS" and "BOTE" swap the barely contained rage-cum-fragility of IATFBM with typical muscular rock-band drumming (which is remarkably punchy and huge) and classic rock influenced guitar licks. The most brilliant moment on an album full of downright jaw dropping moments is the album opener "Queen Black Acid". There is so much ground you can cover without a single power chord. Plus, Knopf's near Graceland white-guy vocal scatting fits in a weird way between the distant firework thud of Seim's drumwork and into the open space of the cavernous production.

With as much growing up as Menomena has done in the three years since their last album, they haven't sacrificed their fierce exploration of how much sound they can cram into a single song or between three friends. Mines puts Menomena back on the map of being one of the most innovative and talented bands in the indie-rock landscape.

Ryan H.

Free Download of "Five Little Rooms" (Courtesy of Barsuk Records)

An Announcement...


Good day, lovely TOME readers!

First, another thanks is due for continuing to read our blog here. Our stat counter thingie is currently broken (lord... we hope), but we're quite certain you're all out there looking at these funny little characters we type about the wonderfully wild and weird world of music.

We love doing this so much that we've decided to up our game. With the help of our beautiful friends Kinsey Hamilton and Eric Peterson, the TOME you've grown to know and love is about to undergo a major makeover. We have a brand new site layout and design, as well as our very own fancy-schmancy tometotheweathermachine.com URL, and we can't wait to show it all to you on August 22nd. So mark your calendars! To celebrate, Tome to the Weather Machine is throwing a site re-launch party in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Denver at Crawf's favorite watering hole Gabor's. The fateful date will also mark the release of a new set of mix CD-r's we will have prepared and lovingly placed in the bar's famous juke box, complete with nerdy notes about why we chose which tracks. I also plan to burn several copies of the last mix Crawf had in there for folks to take home as a parting gift. Drink specials, friends, and fun. Your three favorite things, remember?

So stay tuned, big changes are a-comin', and we hope to see you at Gabor's bar on August 22nd.

Thanks,

—Crawf and Ryan H.

Tome to the Weather Machine Re-Launch Party - Facebook Event Page

p.s. Endless thank yous to the lovely Danni Chandler for helping us organize this momentous occasion! She's also in a rad band we plan to post on in the coming days: The Manxx. Meeeeeoww!

.

Dead Drums


Carousin' USA Single (Self-released, 2010)

For: Neon Indian, Talk Talk, Zola Jesus

Byline: Last "summer jam." Triple-promise.


Here's a quickie but a goodie. Baltimore's Dead Drums and its new single "Carousin' USA" sounds like what our generation's front porch rocking chair music will be when we're all old and fat and lazy (can't wait). Slow, easy-going, delicate, and beautiful. It's damn-near the simplest song I've heard all year—two bass notes, mild-pop groove between a bass and snare samples, and gently wafting strums of a tremolo-drenched guitar. The voice comes from behind you, almost massaging your shoulders as you lounge the evening hours away in a coma-inducing swelter. "Perfect" is a word I hate using. I'm using it now: this is so perfect.

You can download this hot little number via the link below at Dead Drums' Bandcamp page. It also comes with an amazing remix of a track called "Edna" that makes use of some really unique rhythmic ethno-hop beats a-la Tortoise' John Herndon.

Dead Drums Official Bandcamp Site (download here)

p.s. I downloaded Dead Drums' Fashion Defense EP from last year, and it's also quite good, however much different - lots of weirdly dark ambient sounds. Dead Drums could really take their sound with either this, or the "Carousin' USA" route and I'd be happy. Also, Dead Drums mastermind Caleb Moore has another similar project called Lands & Peoples that is definitely worth a listen.

—Crawf 8/4/2010

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Letterbox Project


And Everything Feels so Sublime (Self Released, 07.2010)

For: Washed Out, ARP, Holy Ghost!

Byline: A huuuugee step forward by a talented, young electronic artist.

I honestly did not see this coming. Tyler Bate's last album, Memory Static, while endlessly listenable, was easily tied to the burgeoning chillwave genre of 2009-2010. Almost too easily. And Everything Feels so Sublime, approaches the genre with a similar toolset: submerged, chopped percussion, keyed-up vocal samples, perennial focus on nostalgia, childhood, and summer, and a relaxed grip on composition that allow his tracks to meander into a sun-streaked beach photo. While the first half of the album lives up to most of the characteristics mentioned above, there are some moments of pure brilliance on this record where Bate's strikes out on his own, expanding, stretching, and generally improving every aspect of his chillwave repertoire. Sublime samples freely from a broad range of sub-genres of dance music incorporating Balearic and downtempo grooves into his underwater soundscape.. Bate's palette sounds infinitely deeper, with much more attention paid to glorious vocal melodies and hidden sub-grooves hidden beneath the de-throned percussion-as-king of Memory Static. Even on tracks like "Sunday Dreamer", whose soulful hook and postivist-lyrics are tied closely to a number of artists trying to recreate Person Pitch, sound remarkably deep with a number of ridiculously well placed vocal samples running deep beneath the track's tranquil surface.

The last half of the album is what kills me. Endlessly blissed out, Bate's mostly wordless compositions warp his sun-drenched synths and percussion samples through the fractured scanning lines of the VHS jilting, distorting, and occasionally submerging the California sunset in closing titles of a taped California Dreams rerun. The image retains some of the same pastoral scenery but is put through a heavy filter of time-defining modifiers. Seriously, the marching-band drums slowly fading into the heralding synth lines on "Learning Curve"....I could live in that moment forever. This is a remarkable leap forward for a young TOME favorite.

Ryan H.

Stream And Everything Feels So Sublime Here


Sunday, August 1, 2010

M. Ostermeier


Chance Reconstruction (Tench Records, 08.2010)

Byline: A microcosm of ambient-classical prettiness .

For: Labradford, LaMonte Young, Kyle Bobby Dunn

Punk, inherent in its form, is manifesto driven. With every molecule of available sound-space taken up it leaves no room for dialogue. A closed form. Aggressively ideologically driven, wielding a treatise like a meat cleaver. This sort of monolithic propulsion of sound, however, has no place in M. Ostermeier's exploratory ambient-classical compositions. Ostermeier weights and counterweights his ideas with a copious amount of silence allowing the listener to fill in spaces with whatever he/she brings to the table. For me, it was a prevailing sense of nostalgia, and not really the warm, 3rd grade photo kind. I filled Ostermeier's open-ended arrangements with a strange sort of nameless and untraceable lament for missed opportunities with loved ones. That sort of general sadness that people have to die. I can't even describe where it came from. But, compared to the heavy-hitters in the for section (whom he ranks up there with), Ostermeier's compositions carry the most emotional weight out of all them as he explores ambient fields full of glitching, sputtering beats, low-end destroying rumble-drones, and skeletal piano and guitar lines that ostensibly create the backbone of each track. But like any good writer, Ostermeier's gets by with saying more by saying less. In fact, there is little, except for what is piling up well below the surface, to tie the listener to each relatively short (in drone-time length) track. This is why, at only 35 minutes, Chance Reconstruction feels three times as long. This isn't meant as a slight in any way, it is so easy to fall into the lapping, building drones beneath the readily-audible piano/guitar lines, that extracting yourself from them is a difficult task.

By the way, this the debut album for Tench Records (TCH01!!!!). And Tench Records, thank you immensely for the gorgeous packaging on the M. Ostermeier, as I am consuming more and more media digitally (the name of the game in music blogging sadly) it is so nice to get something as aesthetically beautiful and mood setting as Chance Reconstruction. Photo credits to James Luckett Tench and M. Ostermeier, you're doing it right.

Ryan H.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Coma Cinema


Stoned Alone (Self-Released, 2010)

For: early Destroyer, Elliott Smith, Belle & Sebastian

Byline: Heart wrenching lyricism and a hyper-direct approach to songwriting flood Coma Cinema's debut cassette. Sadness is contagious. And addicting. Oof, it's a flat-out painfully good record.


I haven't met Mat Cothran personally, but listening to his band Coma Cinema's latest release (via cassette) makes me feel as though we'd known each other our whole lives. Like we're... soul mates. Yeah, that all sounds a little homo-erotic and emo and everything, but damnit, Stoned Alone feels like our breakup record. Mat, are we breaking up? Already? Maybe it's because I'm going through some pretty heavy changes in my own life right now, or maybe it's because Mr. Cothran is going through something (actually, it definitely sounds like he is), but either way, for the past two weeks Cothran's lyrics have slowly seeped their way into my melancholic head as if they were written in a secret diary I found but shouldn't have. A man comparing being high with suicide and finding a comfortable spot there. He's lonely, but is loneliness just his place? Cothran's work is personal to the degree that it's not inviting listeners in, rather offering up something of a self-portrait meant to be looked at, almost pushing away sympathetic ears. Instead, Stoned Alone is empathy in sound. It's gorgeous enough to draw a tear, and no matter how hard he pushes, you'll still want to be closer to Coma Cinema.

The first thing I noticed about Stoned Alone is how direct it is. The album's tracks rarely offer listeners an intro or reference point; they simply start with the band and Cothran's meek and charmingly off-tune vocals, which remain largely at the front of the mix, emphasizing the beautiful poetry to be found within. The band is only modestly good here, as well. But take that statement for what it is (read: not a diss). The drums sort of stumble into rhythmic stasis through some off-kilter fills, and light arrangements of horns creep into the production in a way that sounds definitely self-taught, performed, and recorded. But a sparkling kind of sound would not suit Coma Cinema's aesthetic, which is grounded in things like honesty, modesty, and shyness. As such, the parts here add up to a refreshing whole that is neighborly, bedroomy, young, and impressionable. The songs themselves are often genius, especially "Come on Apathy!" with its revolving-door flow of verses. In all honesty, this was one of the hardest records in recent memory to come up with a set of "RIYL" artists to compare to, and though the ones I chose sort of work, there's really not a lot out there that sounds quite like Coma Cinema, even though the music is so consistently approachable and familiar (the closest is probably City of Daughters-era Destroyer). With some truly beautiful ballads, light indie-pop, and a refreshingly honest approach, this introduction to Coma Cinema is just about perfect, and it's because of its imperfections, not in spite of them. A gem you can loosely file in "indie" without necessarily pigeonholing the band unfairly... not so common these days.

—Crawf 7/30/2010

Coma Cinema Official MySpace

Coma Cinema Official Website (free download here)

Coma Cinema - Only from Tyler T Williams on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Lotte Kestner


China Mountain (Silber, 07.2010)

For: Edith Frost, Tiny Vipers, Laura Gibson

Byline: An arresting collection of portable pacific northwest melancholy kept simple and beautiful on an acoustic guitar and looped vocal accompaniment.

China Mountain can be found on a map. Right...There. Lotte Kestner's musical influences are traceable as well. On China Mountain we hear echoes of early nineties slowcore bands like Idaho and Hayden, we get the sense of the strong female singer-songwriter signed to Sub-Pop, K, and Kill Rockstars record labels, as well as flashes of the faraway hazinesss of Laura Gibson's latest ambient/improvised project with Ethan Rose. China Mountain, like its musical influences are rooted in the northwest. China Mountain is a floating island in the sky, untracable, unlocatable, umapped. Felt more than seen. Recorded on an 8-track in the middle of Marfa, Texas, Kestner takes her quaint, closed, influences and rolls them across the expanses of Texas-plain nothingness. Her minimal compositions sound vast, big enough to get lost in, but quiet enough to sound like someone singing in the motel room next to you. Singing close to the microphone, Kestner's voice seems to overwhelm on the first listen but tapers back on subsequent spins allowing a more three dimensional soundscape to emerge. Were those trumpets on "Compasses"? Sleigh bells on "Leif Erickson"? I am not going to ruin the suprise. Kestner's voice, while often adorned with only skeletal guitar lines and occasional looped vocal arrangements, swirl and form into a cloudy Wang Hui painting, all mist shrouded and depth-perception challenged. It is hard to imagine Kestner's voice accompanying the mundane, repeated acts of domesticity. Frequent nature allegories tie this record to the expanses of a dusk-fading field or a choked forest full of man-sized ferns and moss-covered trunks. Take this album for a spin. A hike. A walkabout. A pilgrimage. A hadj. You will be in good company.

Ryan H.

P.S "Leif Erickson" is an Interpol cover.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sun Kil Moon


Admiral Fell Promises (Caldo Verde, 07.2010)

For: John Fahey, Nick Drake, Samamidon

Byline: A subdued masterpiece of nostalgia and virtuoso guitar work. Finally, a proper solo Mark Kozelek album.

There is something approaching perfection in Mark Kozelek's voice. Cutting through the obvious effects (reverb, multi-tracking) there is something like crystalized sadness at the core of it. Kozelek transcends the hubris of the over-indulgent schlockiness of the perennial sad-sack singer-songwriter in a couple of important ways on his latest Sun Kil Moon vehicle Admiral Fell Promises. First, in all of his Red House Painters stuff and continuing onto the sophomore album of his new band (let's face it, it is all Kozelek) he fills his somber meditations with names, places, and proper nouns by pinpointing his sadness to certain places, people, and events in reality and history. Red House Painters painted a picture of Kozelek as the lonely Kerouac-ian poet wasting away in new coffee shops that used to be needle galleries, playing strung out to yuppies in a gentrified nineties San Francisco. Ghosts of the Great Highway returned to his home state, drawing references from childhood and analogies from historical boxers who bloodied the mat for fame, but now only exist in obscure song titles. All of this brings us to 2010's curiously titled Admiral Fell Promises. Like the RHP and SKM albums (as well a couple of self-titled cover LP's and EP's) before it, Admiral Fell Promises roots itself in places Kozelek has visited or resided. His aperture is at full-wide here, illuminating details both mundane and expansive. On "Third and Seneca" he utters "ferries in the puget sound" with "scenesters with beards and tennis shoes" in the same breath, somehow beautifully capturing Seattle in a single sentence. Song titles range from places like "Alesund" (Norway), "Half Moon Bay" (CA), and "Third and Seneca".

The second aspect that lets Kozelek gets away with being pervasively depressing, but haphazardly beautiful, is his virtuoso guitarwork. This has been a divisive feature on Admiral. Opinions on the delicate-picked, nylon-stringed, post-Fahey noodling and flamenco flourishes range from tacked on, perfunctory guitar exercises to undeserved moments of real beauty by a musician not afraid of totally owning his instrument, and letting us know it. These little flashes of brilliance show up on every song in more or less obvious ways. They may feel clunky when Kozelek ramps them up for display purposes only, the intro to "Alesund" and the coda to "Bay of Skulls" critics point to as the worst offenders. I, however, can't stop listening to them. They feel like undeserved treats that live and breathe, and flash luminescent and crazy-eyed under double full moon reflections. Kozelek succeds most admirably when he embeds these virtuoso flashes full-scale in the DNA of his songs. The gorgeous James Blackshaw-like drones on the title track "Admiral Fell Promises" don't get any more gorgeous.

With an album that feels as sparse as an Australian winter, Kozelek doesn't leave us without a few escapist moments of hope in just about every song. Without the full-band and full on jam-tendencies on Ghosts, we are forced to hang on any glimmer of salvation, these range from his vowel-heavy inflection of the name"Leeeee-oooona" on "You are my Sun" and the upbeat guitar picking on "Admiral Fell Promises". For most of the album we swim alone, totally drowned by melancholy. Sometimes thats ok.

Ryan H.

Friday, July 23, 2010

HEALTH


Disco 2 (Lovepump United, 06.2010)

For: See Below

Byline: The LA noise rocker's second album, Get Color gets the remix treatment on this monolithic, occasionally brilliant, collection of contributions from some of the innovative artists working in electronic music. Originally published on www.inyourspeakers.com. Used by permission from inyourspeakers, LLC.

Please Read Full Review Here.

At its best HEALTH’s second remix album is a peek into the compositional soundness of one of 2009’s best albums, Get Color. That album, with its sheen of post-industrial guitars and atonal blasts of noise punctuating, rather than designing, the group’s songs, gestured towards a greater level of accessibility, and hinted at a band that really wanted to make dance music. DISCO 2 is an exercise in further turning down the caustic dread and repackaging seven out of Get Color’s nine songs (Death+ and We Are Water are curiously left out) into compositions that range from Miami Vice synth-scapes via Javelin to chopped and screwed nü-goth a la Salem.

At its worst DISCO 2 is the aural equivalent of everyone showing up to the office Halloween party all dressed up as the same thing. Eleven contributors, who instead of embracing HEALTH’s noise-barbed explosions, tend to ignore them as tantrums from an ill-tempered child and zero in on the band’s pummeling, frequently insane, percussion. Instead of extrapolating the tonal-rich interplay between the shrieking electronics and pulsar wave guitars, most of the contributors (many of which were part of the Chillwave explosion of 2009), tend to focus on the percussion-heavy elements of Get Color to the exclusion of much else....

....Heavy hitters Tobacco, Pictureplane, and Gold Panda put their own personal stamp on Get Color’s biggest “hit,” “Die Slow”. Tobacco filters “Die Slow’s” industrial luster through his characteristic manic-motorway synth lines that rip ragged holes through the entire composition. He does right by isolating and accentuating the breathy Cocteau Twins-like vocals and trading the songs primitive two-beat thud for more layered, heavily textured percussion. Where Tobacco highlighted “Die Slow’s” vocals, Pictureplane, the Denver purveyor of swampy chillwave, glitches the vocals up, chopping them into indecipherable chunks of Burroughs-esque word-virus and layers them over vaguely tropical beat with a heavy low-end. The albums most anticipated track, Gold Panda’s remix of “Die Slow” is also the most glitched-out, but in a manner more informed by 20th century electronic music. Gold Panda turns HEALTH’s characteristic polyrhythmic drumming on “Before Tigers” into an endlessly sampleable palette of breaks, and then a clinking, clattering percussion line reminiscent of electronic artists on the Kompakt label or Pantha Du Prince’s microhouse groove....

....Blindoldfreak, Salem, and Crystal Castles represent a trifecta of bands who take HEALTH’s din and dread seriously, producing three of the best tracks on the album. Blindoldfreak, guitarist for former HEALTH tour mates, Nine Inch Nails, produces the album’s most minimalist track, full of escalating, pitch-shifted tones and naked, isolated vocals, resulting in one of the most oddly triumphant tracks on the album. Crystal Castles, who are no strangers to HEALTH remixes nor to dance-heavy noise, stick relatively close to the script by layering on tempo-shifted, absolutely bonkers drumming, calming vocals, and a bevy of household/medical found sound. Salem’s remix of “In Violet”, Get Color’s least abrasive track, takes advantage of the song’s surging rhythm, turning it into something dark and sinister, not unlike the repackaging of industrial music that HEALTH succeeded in conquering on Get Color.

HEALTH’s own contribution, the most electronic sounding song of their career, “U.S.A Girls,” is more than worth the price of admission and often, when played in the context of the album, overshadows the rest of the contributions.

Ryan H.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

2muchachos


Summer Vacation EP (Self-Released, 2010)

For: Múm, Yo La Tengo, a vox-less Spacemen 3

Byline: 2muchachos make a quick return for a July album perhaps better suited to a summer in Russia than a summer in Denver...? But I don't know, really... any ideas on what the weather is like in Russia right now?

In my own personal summer-state experience even as we speak, it has thankfully cooled down for the last couple of days here in Colorado. We had a solid two-week stretch of scorching weather, and I was stuck in the house (don't ask) over a long weekend when 2muchachos sent me the follow up to April's positively lovely Prespring EP. But it just wasn't the right time yet. When Prespring hit my headphones initially, I just had to get it out as my environment (and thus, your environment, I felt) demanded its immediate attention. But now that the rain has slowly creeped its way back into regular rotation around Denver, everything feels so much more comfortable. Even though the overall temperature is still relatively high, the coolness of the moisture on the pavement is enough to satiate my skin's thirst. Now is the time. So again, make haste and download this while the air is just the right temperature. It's much too cool of an EP to attempt to enjoy in a sweltering delirium. The term "chill" comes to mind. Chill with it.

If Prespring was all budding flowers, Summer Vacation is the band in full bloom, widening out their palate of sounds with warm bass tones beneath its starry, glittery synth patterns, expanding into subtly delicate moments of sampling and centering in on a more prominent rhythmic core. Summer Vacation is the soundtrack to their own summer, and you can almost make out each part of a July's day for the group track-by-track. From waking up with "Follow the Sunbeams" and it's auspicious glow of layered synths that gleam in gentle streaks, to spending the day traveling about with friends in "Fruity Journey," a track that makes use of a bass drum's perpetual motion and light brushes on the snare to signify a day-time drive (maybe to a neighboring town's fruit stand(?)). The is rest full of carefree what-have-yous: swimming, basketball, or finally just lounging on the couch to re-run television shows into ungodly late hours, quietly drifting off into tomorrow's busy day of doing nothing. Remember, there's no school tomorrow, so don't sweat this one. Just let it simmer.

—Craw'z 7/21/2010




Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Alcest


Ecailles de Lune (Prophecy, 2010)

For: Jesu, Wolves in the Throne Room, Pyramids

Byline: Gorgeous, sprawling tracks that move from shoegaze to black metal and then back again. Highly recommended.

Ecailles de Lune, by the french shoegaze/black metal duo Alcest, works so well because it offers so many points of access. Alcest pen huge, sprawling tracks that move from multi-layered, major chord nu-shoegaze of A Place to Bury Strangers and Jesu, to post-rock influenced hardcore breakdowns a la Envy and Rosetta, to the soul-cleansing blast-beats and tremelo picked heaviness reminiscent of Wolves in the Throne Room. The above name-dropping shows just how easy it is to plug your personal favorite bands/subgenres (I just thought of three more writing this sentence. Hmm..I Haven't used Cave-In as a reference for awhile) that dominate the growing trend working to bring metal into a broader musical lexicon by pairing it with more accessible and, quite frankly, more interesting sonic elements. Alcest succeed on this level by using moments of classic black metal dynamics to bring their long-playing tracks to an ultimate cathartic conclusion. Alcest go from Slowdive to Darkthrone in a matter of seconds.

While only comprised of two members with single-word monikers, Neige and Winterhalter, Alcest possess an unbelievably encompassing sound that never really moves away from saccharine sweet layers of processed guitar work through all its disparate moves. This gorgeous, layered guitar work accompanies Neige all the way from his gentelest croon to his cracken-unleashed banshee screech necessitated by black metal. This beautiful-ghastly dichotomy works wonders on "Percees de Lumiere", which relies heavily on mid-tempo (for a metal song) drum part and repeating guitar lines over Neige's most tortured vocal delivery. A gorgeous study in contrast. For most of the album, Neige's voice takes on an ethereal coo that floats in and out of center stage, leading tracks like "Sur l'ocean Couleur de Fer" and floating underneath the weight of songs like "Ecailled de Lune - Part 1". Ecailles de Lune is an album whose beauty and power come out of nowhere, I wish I could say, however, that the sheer "whoa" factor didn't wear off after the 5th listen. While enjoyable to pick apart and savor, nothing comes close to that rush that comes with the first few seconds blast-beat craziness. Music as heroin, we will always be chasing that dragon.

Ryan H.




Monday, July 19, 2010

Boxharp


The Green (Hidden Shoal, 2010)

For: His Name is Alive, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Brian Eno

Byline: Spacey atmospherics, booming bass, and gorgeous melodicism. Could you ask for more?

Boxharp is the band of one Scott Solter, a man who's tagged himself producer of such artists as John Vanderslice, Superchunk and the Mountain Goats. But Boxharp, his project with singer Wendy Allen, sounds nothing like any of these. In fact, it's difficult to put any one finger on the prismatic set of influences that add up to the band's expansive yet direct aesthetic. It's "expansive" in that each song starts with a fuzzy blanket of warm, Eno-like ambience that eventually swallows melodies whole. It's "direct" in that those melodies are still very much there, rising from the mist with delicate immediacy, slipping their way gently into the folds with gorgeous harmonies and ghostly effects. Boxharp also highlights an intriguing divide somewhere between the celestial and worldly. The Green jumps from songs that employ West-African rhythmic devices (with drums so wide and cavernous they might have come from the bottom of a dried-up well), haunted ship sea-shanties, twinges of celtic folk song, and pop tunes, too. But each of these styles reaches out beyond the stratosphere; even when the groove is locked in deep, Boxharp still hovers.

Aside from the andante swagger of "Kannarock, VA," paces are kept lullingly slow throughout The Green, something that works for the band's sound but ends up holding the record back at the same time. Probably the closest thing I've heard to Boxharp is His Name is Alive (lord, it feels amazing to type that band name in a blog post), but even those guys knew how to ramp up the tempo and drive one home with some energy. Regardless, The Green comes out as a focused set of lullabies, and really, it's been maybe since Marissa Nadler's Songs III: Bird on the Water that it feels right that way. The Green is late nights, fireplaces, ghost stories and legends, all rolled up into a NyQuil capsule of a record. Your dreams have never sounded so good.

—Craw'z 7/20/2010



Free MP3 of "Leatherwing Bat" *note: this track is supremely beautiful.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Max Richter


Infra (Fat Cat, 07.2010)

For: Johann Johannsson, Machinefabriek, Henryk Gorecki

Byline: Infra-rad

I am sure it was a pleasant surprise for all of us hearing post-classical statesman Max Richter's "On the Nature of Daylight" played during Martin Scorcese's latest film Shutter Island. The same goes for his haunting and elegiac contributions to the dream-like 2009 Israeli film Waltz With Bashir. Max Richter possesses a certain timbre, a certain approach to melody and repetition that is at once recognizable and accessible enough to lend itself easily to any sort of visual accompaniment. I don't know what it is about them. His compositions evoke a difficult to describe emotion, somewhere between the poles of hopeful and soul-crushingly nostalgic. Like photos of ghosts. It is this chameleon-like cloaking device that lends itself so well to context. I am not saying that this a prerequisite to listening to Richter's new album Infra or any of his magnificent body of work, but when trying to put the pieces of Richter's enigmatic emotionalism together, it is a place to start.

Last time we weighed in with Mr. Richter was the release of his 2009 soundtrack to a film that no one saw. It appears that the only evidence that Henry May Long actually exists is a scarcely viewed IMDB entry. Infra, however, moves from the world of the screen and into the realm of ballet. Scored for The Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House in London (London, England, mind you), Infra's pieces move between eight "Infras" and five "Journeys" that are interspersed throughout the album. It would be easy to classify the "Journey" set pieces as having one distinct quality from its "Infra" counterparts, but Richter doesn't make it that easy. Infra is split between short-wave radio interference, squabbling minimal electronic drones, and soaring, heaven-bowed pieces written for strings and piano. There is little distinction between the two sets of tracks. Richter lets his penchant for electronic clatter take control of a track for awhile before piercing the vale with a soaring, bowed cello or violin line that, while we have heard them on every album, is nonetheless as emotionally devastating as the first time we heard it. Richter's classic repeated melodies (I have a hard time calling this minimalism) are on full display on "Infra 5", the album's most celebrated track. Contrasting violin and cello lines are incrementally layered as the track progresses, each one upping push-pull tension between elegiac and triumphant. A frantically bowed violin towards the three minute mark and the characteristic radio static full of un-locatable voices push the track to an inhuman climax full of pathos and regret without a relapse in dynamic tension. Is something this good humanly possible? Yes. 1,000 times, yes!

Ryan H.

Why leave the comfort of your home to go to the ballet. Thanks youtube!




Thursday, July 15, 2010

DTH


Songs to Sleep Next To (Self-Released, 06.2010)

For: Early-Animal Collective, Brian Eno, Wolfgang Voigt

Byline: How exactly do you approach an album tagged "haiku-ambient" or "collage-ambient"?

One thing I have learned about Dth, the New Orleans native most noted for his Books-like collage recordings, is that he is all about the exposition. Dth's albums thus far have been been packed to the gills with other, non-musical, considerations in order to make the album a listening experience, rather than a disposable piece of musical ephemera. For example, with every digital file comes a one-sheet with a haiku written for each track, as well as some crude pen-drawings designed as a kind of guide through the album. But when taken on terms of pure musicality Dth succeeds magnificently here even more so than on I Hope I Can Feel Something Like That reviewed here at the TOME only a few short months ago. Although in close proximity to IHICFSLT, Songs to Sleep Next To is miles away musically and thematically. Dth carved a nice niche for himself in musicality, garnering overwhelmingly positive reviews for his remixological audio collages, as well as suturing this nicely to a tangible theme of memory and loss. Songs to Sleep Next To tackles trickier terrain. Songs, if I am interpreting the title right and the lucid, ambient tracks correctly, is about dreams, or dreaming, or that wonderful place when you are between them. Or at least the music lends itself to that interpretation. Shying away from putting his pre-recorded audio samples in the forefront, Songs starts with "Pruny Hands Felt Health" and "You Are in the Grass" which features the atonal strumming and airy, pitch-shifted vocals that made Sung Tongs such a delightful record. This sets the stage for the rest of the album, tones fluctuate from keyed-up weirdness to an amazingly deep low end. "Honesty is God" is a collaboration with another TOME fav. Chris Rehm whose album Salivary Stones was rightfully touted as a game changing 2010 album. Things don't really get better than this. Rehm's washes of white noise are filtered through Dth's percussive editing sensibility and chopped into a percussive instrument while Dth fills in the gaps with a variety of strange electronic bat-swoops and dives. When Dth uses the recorded voice, he slips them into his compositions without location. Voices swirl in and out of a dreamscape laced with subconscious memories and overheard conversations. This is a step back from IHICFSLTS, but a huge leap forward in letting his compositions speak for themselves. The album closer "Staring Games" is unbelievably good, falling somewhere between an understated Peter Broderick sort of strummer and a shuffling, muttering sort of Phil Elvrum. While probably wary of hearing his own voice so naked and stark on tape, the track is nonetheless a career high point for Dth, a true act of honesty and fearlessness. Fortunately, it completely hits its mark.

Ryan H.



Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Green Gerry


Odd Tymes (self-released, 2010)


For: Castanets, Mt. Eerie, Atlas Sound


Byline: A bedroom album of gothic-folk, haunting found-sounds, sudden shifts in mood and color, and startling beauty.


The lessons of my mother are finally coming to fruition: dying is a part of living. There’s an anecdote on Green Gerry’s MySpace page that relates the etymology of the word “lunatic,” referencing the cycles of the moon and their relationship to madness. To listen to Odd Tymes is to be buried in sand. It’s sense-tickling, heart-racing, arresting, but ultimately cool, comfortable and somehow extremely safe. In that order, over and over again. A gentle set of feminine fingers strokes your hair as your air-supply slowly vanishes, reviving your spirit in an endless float. It appears in a dizziness; a hazy, vaseline-smeared lens of an audible field, all gauzy and vibrant and terrifying. Sometimes it’s key to let the frightening bring you to the brink and then let go, hover into the next dimension where the storms are tamed, just beautiful rainbows on the other side.


Athens/L.A.-based songwriter Green Gerry captures all of these emotions with a laptop and an internal mic on his debut effort, gently cranking a tumbler with your guts locked inside. You’ll die and be reborn several times over as Odd Tymes gracefully shape-shifts between moments of calm, guitar or ukelele-based folk tunes, haunting reverb-drenched spiritual-like choral arrangements, and distorted crashes of drums and amps that absolutely terrorize. And sometimes, these shifts take place within the span of a single song. No matter how high you’ll climb, never fear—you’ll always land soft.


Overall, Green Gerry succeeds in crafting a record that’s as diverse and multi-faceted as it is singular. There’s swaying indie-twinged tracks like “Cozy Space Mugz” or “Linked Sausage is Delicious” to satisfy the Bradford Cox lover in all of us, and the harangue and excitement of thunder and lightening reminiscent of Mt. Eerie without ever being overpowering or redundant. Finally, despite the sense of community crowding the arrangements—the amount of instruments and voices etc. to be heard throughout the record—Odd Tymes manages to be immensely personal and even a little lonely. Green Gerry stresses the use of headphones for maximum listening enjoyment, and I think this has less to do with production value (it’s pretty lo-fi, and creative use of stereo space doesn’t seem to be of as much concern as sheer tunefulness and lyrics—oh yeah, the lyrics... see below), and more to do with enjoying this album for and by yourself. Let the reverb echo into your subconscious, let the songs surround you, lift you up, give you a shake, and bring you back down softly. Call this gothic folk, call it lo-fi, gospel, indie, art, call it what you will... file this one under “yours.”


—Craw'z 7/14/2010


I’d like to share some of my favorite lyrics from the album — taken from “Song Fur Thunderstorms”


sleep my baby sleep

sleep my babe don't peek

tonight the air is cold

don't fear what is unknown


there's demons in the trees

they reach to grab at thee

who lays silently asleep

in the grass deep in a dream


stay safe wandering about

keep safe traveling down south

the scared might speak real loud

just place your hand upon your mouth


fall into the lost dark sea

let the salt cure all your worries

let the waves cover your body

its depth is never ending


giants they set fire to the fields

do not take cover upon the hills

though their howls may sound wretchedly ill

the flames you see are not real


to stay I cannot see

my thoughts they get real lonely

if more could I just be?

if less would they not haunt me?


awake my love awake

the tyrants they have all gone away

today the sun invited them not to stay

the light forced them to fade


Pay-What-You-Want Download of Odd Tymes via Bandcamp


Green Gerry Official MySpace