Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Faulty Chromosome

Craving To Be Coddled So We Feel Fake-Safe... (Yelping Hill, 2010)

For: Dan Deacon, Fiery Furnaces, Grandaddy

Byline: Hate your job? A Faulty Chromosome hates your job too.

Here’s what I’d love to do: I’d love to just gush about A Faulty Chromosome’s brilliantly twisted pop songs. The ingenious production work that disguises the band’s music as lo-fi. I could talk all day about how the songs are just so smart. And how they are so much fun. How great it feels to hear a standard pop feel filtered through drunk goggles, like woozy doo-wop all high on ether. I love the glitchy beats, I love the tornadoes of noise that under-lace the entirety of the album, I love the samples, the quick-witted lyrics that bounce back and forth like ping pong balls... I’d love to let the whole blogospheric space-time continuum know about how I love just about everything on this record.

But I’d risk missing the point, and I’d risk not letting you fine folks know the real reason I think this record is worth checking out. It wouldn’t do the project justice. Here we go...

Craving to be Coddled So We Feel Fake-Safe comes with a comic book. You can download the entire record via the link below as well as the PDF version of the book you can print out or read on your screen. Don’t - I repeat - do NOT attempt to enjoy this album without downloading the PDF and reading it through. First of all, it’s full of awesome and weird drawings of grotesquely mutilated mutants and song lyrics. More important, however, is the personal essay to be found toward the end of the book. If you missed the concept of the album from just listening to it, this testimonial may shed some valuable light onto A Faulty Chromosome’s not-so-hidden agenda. Mastermind Eric Dalke is basically pouring his heart out in this record. He’s fed up with society, he’s fed up with the money system, and fed up with being constantly in debt. He’s fed up with capitalism, communism, socialism... politics in general and, oh yes, religion too. He’s tired of being lied to and he’s tired of hiding what he feels is the truth. The true truth. His idea is that you are fed up too, but you may have not realized it yet. If you hate your job, go in each and every day despite that inconvenient fact, and can’t really figure out why you’re doing it - what exactly you’re contributing to the “greater good,” and maybe can’t even seem to find a “greater good” anywhere around you at all, then Craving to be Coddled might just be your wake-up call. Ever feel helpless at work? Like your day job is slowly killing you, and there’s nothing you can really do about it? Ever feel bad for feeling like this? It’s tough out there, and it’s scary as hell. A Faulty Chromosome is hear to let you know: You’re not alone.

But probably the most surprising tactic used to convey this message is that the record is delivered through the eyes of an elementary school child. The album uses samples to define the perspective - a softball bat’s swinging, a sprinkler system’s sprinkling, patty-cake rhymes, vintage 50s-sitcom parent/child exchanges and even the sound of Mario flying from Super Mario 3. There’s no questioning that the entirety of the record puts the listener in that state of nostalgia for innocence. The question is, why? If such a thesis about our society is truly as important as Dalke says it is (over and over), why would he have a child deliver it? After all, kids say the darndest things, don’t they? Kids are this and nothing more: cute, silly, kinda dumb, innocent, don’t know any better, and generally harmless. *Ahem...

Mr. Dalke’s mission is to expose this perception as fallacy. When a child questions something, sees something is wrong and raises a flag, they aren’t asking the question simply because they don’t understand the way things really are. Dalke's point seems to be that a child’s concern is actually more valid than a grown-up’s (these folks are cleverly referred to as “groan-ups” throughout the album). Adults have been lied to their whole lives and are therefore conditioned to lies as being truth. For Dalke, the need for everyone to re-discover themselves back at an age of moral purity is an essential component to the wake-up call. People have gradually come to mistake legitimate fears for harmless self-inflicted worries, resulting only in a motivation to submit further to the system (Money troubles? Get another job) that is causing such a catastrophic downward spiral of humanity. The key to getting yourself out is to unlearn these supposed truths and start questioning what is commonly recognized as fundamental, normal human behavior again. It’s that foundational. It's that radical. Quite honestly, this is heavy stuff.

A Faulty Chromosome gives a powerfully artistic rendering to the woes of today’s current social state in a brutally honest, up-front, and open sort of way. Here's the good part: it’s not just angry, pissed off doom’n’gloom here - positivity simply radiates from these sun-streaked melodies and toe-tappin’ grooves in ways that are much more welcoming and uplifting than they are damning, dread-inducing or exclusive. A Faulty Chromosome’s not blaming us for living the way we do, for they live it too - the band’s had to fight an insanely steep uphill battle of debt just to get this very album released in physical format. A Faulty Chromosome relates to its listeners on a personal level, tapping into that inner-child in all of us who’s known things were bad all along, but has suppressed those notions with cliches like “It’ll get better - it always does.”

If the album has a flaw, it’s that it might be too good for its own good. That is, there just ain’t a dud on the whole darned thing - Craving to be Coddled is a tightly wound, focused, clear, and concise record that is sometimes beautiful, often brilliant, and is wildly challenging. It's also tons of fun and downright accessible. But I haven’t read a lot of reviews (if any) that have even touched on what the majority of my review has discussed here... so maybe their music is overshadowing the message? Whatever, A Faulty Chromosome. You don’t have to apologize for making great music. Just keep hammering away until the missive hits home. You’ve certainly got my attention.

--Craw'z 3/1/2010

Free Download of Craving to be Coddled So We Feel Fake-Safe...

Free Download of Comic Book / Liner-Notes to Craving to be Coddled

p.s. - Kudos to A Faulty Chromosome for their well-devised campaign to get this record out through their program, and even more kudos to the folks who made possible this record’s physical release by donating. The album’s been digitally available since October/November of last year, but we here at the TOME were just notified of its physical release a short while ago. Needless to say, I’m stoked as all get out to grab me a handfull o’ that vinyl lovin’ on this one, and also (maybe this goes without saying), just so we're clear, Craving to be Coddled is way in contention for my best of 2010 list.

Friday, February 26, 2010


Exquisite Corpse (11.09 Re-released 2010, Manimal Vinyl)

For: Slowdive, the xx, Seam

Byline: Warm, druggy, psychedelia poised to break in 2010. You've been warned.

Has it really been a year since the TOME got going? I would like to take a second to thank everyone for reading this and for Crawford and Erin contributing their wonderfully written articles. The TOME started as a purely personal music blog, a way to digest and engage the avalanching amount of music I have been consuming over the past years. The TOME continues in that function, but it is has branched out to include (2) more like-minded friends and the focus has hopefully shifted to exposure more than anything. So, as I procrastinate in getting to the really awesome EP by Warpaint, I just wanted to say thanks, to whoever is reading this out there and for the bands who have so graciously made everyday a great listening experience. I'll continue to squeeze out articles at work and before class if you keep churning out the hits. And with that, we dive like a periscope into the swirling, sexy beauty that is Warpaint.

Making their debut last year, Warpaint seems poised for a Apache like coup of 2010. Warpaint is a four-piece female possee that embody head-spinning psychedelic layered guitar lines and extensive vocal manipulation when they want rock and the downtempo sexiness of the xx meets the molten crawl of nineties slowcore for a majority of the album when they slow things down. Slowing things down, however, reveals new levels of tripped out and stripped down angular guitar work similar to Isaac Brock's early harmonic noodling. Warpaint can create lived-in soundscapes that become more and more familiar with each listen, creating something wholly comfortable and with reverby, down comforter warmth piled into the small unobserved corners. "Billie Holiday", a tongue-in-cheek ode to the famous crooner, morphs (almost unnoticed at first) into a heartfelt acoustic cover of the Mary Wells Motown hit "My Guy". When Warpaint want to totally rock it out, there is no grinding in the switching of gears. There is a lymphatic flow from subdued to ecstatic, piling on more distortion on the guitars, enveloping Emily Kokal's soft coo with a watery vocal distortion, and luring Stelly Mozgawa back from keeping time into propulsive breakdowns that spew triplet patterns like anti-aircraft missiles. Warpaint's mystique is wrapped in a druggy, droney, feminine magicthat grows on repeated spins.

I wouldn't call this nepotism, but Warpaint's driving bass lines and Emily Kokal's soothing voice sound recall fondly the dynamic and sound of TOME contributing member Crawford's band The Vitamins, I have written them up twice (before he was a member), but if you haven't you should check 'em out here.

Ryan H.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Gil Scott-Heron

I'm New Here (XL Records, 02.2010)

For: Isaac Hayes, Tom Waits, Tricky

Byline:The funky soul-brother returns after a 15-year hiatus, redirecting his trademark social and political commentary inwards, making for a self-critical, strikingly honest testimonial. Originally published on Used by permission by In Your Speakers, LLC.

Am I qualified to review a new Gil Scott-Heron record? Here’s what I know about Mr. Heron: “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” I know it’s a classic, but beyond that particular song, the man’s career - now entering its fifth decade - is largely unknown to me. Research tells me Heron has collaborated with some truly great artists, among them drummer Bernard Purdie, king of the shuffle groove, once John Coltrane bassist Ron Carter, and a large portion of his work contains a healthy collaboration with keyboardist Brian Jackson. So is that enough? What a track like “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” really tells us about Gil Scott-Heron is that, though his music was once rooted in funk, his strong-willed spoken word delivery coupled with his well-defined disdain for commercial culture cast the performing artist as a voice of political awareness and social revolution for a specific generation, a theme that would continue to bloom with hip hop’s subsequently prominent emergence within American youth culture during the 80s and 90s.

Luckily for me, I’m New Here doesn’t require a deep knowledge of the artist’s past to be thoroughly rewarding. The record’s title suggest such an abandonment of history. Scott-Heron’s latest is a return to the studio after well over a decade and as a matter of course, the temporal-musical landscape in which he finds himself is vastly a different place. Would observations of the external political issues of the 70s really accomplish much today? Obviously the answer is no, but instead of resurrecting that kind of antithetically critical narrative and reworking its messages for a modern audience, Heron turns his attention inward and focuses on finding something perhaps more important, and that is himself. The result is a remarkably honest confessional that manages to strike a chord outside itself and within the listener. Getting a glimpse inside the mind of a man “past his prime” is also a journey of self-discovery, introspection, and contemplation.

The full article can be found at:

Craw'z 02/25/2010

Best music video of 2010 thus far:

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Adelyn's Pick of the Month: Balmorhea

Constellations (Western Vinyl, 02.2010)

For: Rachel's, Chaz Prymek, Hauschka

Byline: Absolutely gorgeous post-rock/neo-classical that stands in line with some of the greats in the genre.

The banjo isn’t exactly the most comely of instruments, but under the hands of Balmorhea, that thing could be a viola for all I’m concerned. It’s guttural twang is counter pointed by a gorgeous upswell of strings or a mournful guitar line. The marriage of discreet folk with the aesthetic austerity of post-classical compositions isn’t anything new, especially as Western Vinyl keeps churning out hit after hit (Sleep Whale, Slow Six), but what Balmorhea nails is the execution. There are string sections so brilliantly placed, pauses so pronounced that I could live a lifetime or more inside any moment of this album. Balmorhea seems to be operating on a next level type of songwriting (like the Die Antwoord next level) that sets Constellations heads and shoulders above any other release in this genre this year and last. In fact this could be the best release in this vein since Rachel’s The Sea and the Bells. Not simply an expressionistic deconstruction coupled around a few known chords, Balmorhea’s classical roots underpin the entire album. Beneath the delicately picked banjoes, strummed acoustic guitars and sampled vocal choirs, Erik Satie’s minimalist chord bursts and Joseph Haydn’s stringed fugues hold commanding sway. Constellations could live entirely outside of its conventions and influences as a purely evocative album, perfect for contemplative things that contemplative people do. Like walking, or driving, or the concept of Autumn. But deep inside we see the broadest swatches of Thee Silver Mt. Zion (or whatever they are calling themselves these days) brooding post-rock meets classical music, Max Richter's perfect musicianship and a whole slew of dead classical composers I could mention. Plus, there is a full-throated church organ that absolutely destroys me every time on “On the Weight of the Night”. Constellation’s accessible melding of classical and contemporary musical ideas is absolutely essential 2010 listening. In fact, if the world ends in 2012 this may be the album I put on to watch it all burn down.

Ryan H.

Balmorhea's incredible website

Friday, February 19, 2010

Laura Gibson & Ethan Rose

Bridge Carols (Holocene Records, 02.2010)

For: Lau Nau, Belong, Kria Brekkan

Byline: Gorgeous vocal improvisations and pastoral soundscapes that hit and then miss, and then hit again.

This is one of those projects that I really wanted to work. Being a long-standing fan of Laura Gibson (her 2009 release Beast of Seasons was covered on the TOME) and her love affair with SLC, and a newly won over fan of Ethan Rose (his contributions to Gus Van Sant's Paranoid Park are truly breath-taking), I was in full favor of this musical dream-team. The project's stated idea was to tackle musical terrain that was foreign to each artist. Ethan Rose's musical output thus far has been largely neo-classical pieces composed around sample-based loops of antique instruments and electronic soundscapes that have a random, almost aleatoric nature to them. Laura Gibson plays gentle acoustic songs with a gorgeous little voice in the vein of many of her Portland, Hush Records peers. Laura's vocal contributions to Bridge Carols are largely improvised or ruminations on forgotten phrases found in old notebooks, quaint phrases that until now never saw the light of day. Her vocal contributions were recorded everywhere from basements, to fields, to friend's houses and then handed over to Ethan Rose to put them in some sort of context.

Perhaps, it is Rose's career-long avoidance of wordless music that makes him treat Gibson's voice with such austerity. Ethan treats Laura's impressionistic meanderings and improvised wordless melodies either as the songs centrepiece or in the way he would any other instrument. Vocal coos come floating out of the ether, brightening the corners of a buzzing electronic soundscape, matching the ethereal plucked acoustic guitars and music-box like frailty of struck keys. This compositional framework works well for about 60% of the album, however, when Ethan puts the lyrical thrust of the album back in Laura's hands, the album begins to falter a little bit. This is not to say that Laura does not have an incredible voice or is a fantastic songwriter, when Laura has the show, however, we can see how limiting vocal improvisations can be even for the most skilled of vocalists. Thrust into the spotlight her voice sounds naked without the overlays of warm instrumentation piled on as fraternal equals; we can actually hear Laura's mind working, trying to find a fitting coda for "old waters have carried me here". This is experimentation in it's truest sense, two musicians from different backgrounds exploring sonic pallates, and as there is going to be some friction, some chafing of ideas. But, when these ideas work, and they often do, it is even more breathtaking.

Played as background music, this album is utterly sublime, closer listening reveal unintended beauties but also reveals the sometimes grating process of experimentation. Perhaps the "and" is a bit too strong for this collaboration and guided things a little bit too close to the script. If I could rename this it would be "Ethan Rose with Laura Gibson present Bridge Carols". There, that would a bit more workable.

Did I mention Peter Broderick shows up to play strings on a few songs? That guy is a gem.

Ryan H.

From Paranoid Park

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Chris Rehm

Salivary Stones (Self-released, 2010)

For: Belong, Tim Hecker, Microphones

Byline: Uhmm... cleverness escapes me right now. Look, just do yourself a favor, scroll to the bottom of this post, download this record and listen to it. Do it now. Please.

Timeliness. It’s an essential component to the music blogging world. Granted, many bloggers (myself included) are guilty of jumping on the bandwagon a little late. Chris Rehm’s new album arrived in our inbox just a short couple of week ago, and already Forest Gospel beat us to the punch on this one. But hey, Thistle’s got some ridiculous good taste (if you haven’t yet, please peruse his excellent top 100 list of the decade), and this certainly isn't a competition. We here at the Tome simply wish to emphasize and reiterate the importance of Mr. Rehm's work here in 2010, especially since the guy is doing everything completely on his own. Thistle wisely called Salivary Stones “The new white noise. The new experiment. The new texture. It is the new dirge and the new substance of clouds and the new manifestation of Ra.” Yeah, those are some strong words. That’s why he used them. Chris Rehm’s voice is indeed a strong one. Strong and mighty.

His music is constructed with broad and sweeping strokes of static and noise, blending flavors and colors together in a thick soup of tasty, piping hot harmonic porridge. Salivary Stones” enters with a shocking blast of noise. But it’s not just distortion - no. This is noise that is pregnant with meaning, conjuring up vidid imagery that comes off as psychedelic, yet grounded in something very real and tangible. “Salivary Stones” is a fitting title as the track is the sound of a dry, coarse gravel grinding against itself, dripping with an oozy perspiration of melodic harmony that pours out in waves of emotion. Perhaps the short record’s strongest moment comes next, with “Don’t Leave Me Blue.” The song builds from a hypnotic pulse that rolls along in a way not unlike Panda Bear’s “Comfy in Nautica,” Rehm deftly arranging melodic snippets that lay like sheets on top of one another. Sounds violently scrape against themselves as if Rehm is bowing electronic frequencies like stringed instruments to produce these glorious sounds. The whole thing culminates with an epic climax of a soaring, sharp and searing melody that’s guaranteed to raise goosebumps.

The record continues along at a consistently high level of beauty, scaling tall mountains and diving from high cliffs into peaceful waters of moody meditations that recall Kid A’s ambient moments like “Treefingers.” But the most surprising moment comes last with “Soggy,” a jarring (given what precedes) shift to a more grounded, acoustically based guitar song in the vein of Microphones’ Phil Elverum. Here Rehm is gentle, honest and touching, and unveils his beautiful, fragile voice.

There’s something exciting about this release to me, though, that is hard to pin down and describe. Most of it has to do with the fact that Rehm came to us out of nowhere. I’d never heard of the guy, or his previous incarnation as Aphrodisiac, so to have this seemingly random, unbelievably great album show up and immediately consume my life, instantly shoot to the tip of the top in terms of best releases of the year, is both astonishing and wonderful. But we, the bloggers, aren’t the ultimate trendsetters. We’re not some kind of prophet-troupe of writers out to spit the new doctrine. We just love great music. And it’d be a shame for us to sit idly by and watch a guy like Chris Rehm get lost in the folds. No, it’s merely our job to share this music, and our thoughts on it with you. The real speakers of the new gospel are those like Mr. Rehm. Listen to what he has to share with you. Listen and wonder about what the possibilities of doing it for yourself might be. Gather those thoughts, hit record on your tape deck or laptop, and chronicle your reactions to the world at large and to your peers around you. And please. Send us your tape when it’s done.

--Craw’z 2/17/2010

Chris Rehm Official MySpace

Free Download of Salivary Stones

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra

Kollaps Tradixionales (Constellations, 02.2010)

For: Godspeed!, Led Zepelin, Evangelista

Byline: Seven tracks of blues-inspired balladry that range in tone from terrifying to triumphant. Efrim Menuck and Co.’s sixth album finds a workable mixture of the older neo-classical post-rock and recent classic rock leanings. Originally published on Used by permission from In Your Speakers, LLC.

After close to ten years as the de facto frontman of arguably one of the best rock and roll bands ever, followed by another decade as the reluctant frontman for Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra*, Efrim Menuck’s devastatingly wide-eyed observations of society from its periphery have cut an indelible impression into the indie rock landscape. On his latest offering Menuck and Co. continue their evolution from neo-classical, traditional Jewish folk-inspired compositions to the vocal-centric blues and classic rock marriage of their earlier art-folk leanings with powerful wall-of-noise anthems. Kollaps Tradixionales is Silver Mt. Zion’s sixth album and is their strongest since 2001’s Born Into Trouble As Sparks Fly Upward. The new decade finds the newly reformatted quintet at their most visceral, their most paranoid, and ultimately their most hopeful.

Silver Mt. Zion has the uncanny ability to wrap dreadful foreboding with a sense of hope, found in concepts of communalism and humanity. Menuck balances these contrasting ideas of dread and hope by drawing on his own sense of spiritual communion with a close-knit Jewish community and the perennial pessimism of the life of an outsider in contemporary Kanadian culture. Kollaps Tradioxionales’ emotional impact, while hardly the manufactured catharsis of post-rock, is nuanced to say the least, making me rethink my claim that this is Silver Mt. Zion at their most hopeful. The album is structured with two lengthy tracks bookending two loud rock songs and a loosely-held-together suite.

Tradioxionales starts with what is arguably one Mt. Zion’s most anthemic and triumphant songs to date. Clocking in at a little over fifteen minutes, “There is a Light” is remarkably live sounding. The sound of an electric guitar being plugged into an amp starts the song before a mournful single guitar pierces the wall of static while a refugee church organ shudders to life in the background. Menuck’s haggard, frazzled voice follows his guitar’s inflection like a shuffling funeral procession. The track peaks with huge, swelling crescendos and bottoms out in dirge-like, post-classical breakdowns of horns, saxophones, and strings, only to climb again in unhinged climaxes. Menuck counterpoints the triumphant middle-point of the song by delivering one of his most overwhelming lines yet, “There ain’t no truth/but the no truth, but the not truth/ yeah!/ There ain’t no thing/but the nothing, but the nothing/ yeah!” Being recorded live, Efrim’s vocal chords begin to wear out after his twelve plus minutes of screaming at the top of his lungs in an evangelistic revelry. By end of the track they sound haggard and grating, the heavy breathing of a televangelist.

Following “There is a Light,” the beguilingly titled “I Built Myself a Metal Bird” and by “I Fed My Metal Bird the Wings of Other Metal Birds” come charging out of the gates with disorienting 7/4 time signatures and downright punk swagger. Silver Mt. Zion has always claimed that bands like Black Flag and Minutemen helped define their sonic palate, and with the release of this longtime crowd favorite they finally wear their influences on their sleeve.

Thee Silver Mt. Zion is a difficult band to love, the stylistic whiplash between Zepelin guitar excesses, traditional Eastern European folk music, and neo-classical segues of atonal guitar and cello is often overwhelming. Ultimately though, Silver Mt. Zion produces beautiful music. It is the type of beauty that can encompass the most glorious anthems set to lilting violins and thunderous drums. Bleak tales of lost hope and the abandoned vestiges of society. Kollaps Tradixionales is a diasporic outgrowth of love and terror, of fear and rebirth.

*Also known as: A Silver Mt. Zion, The Silver Mt. Zion Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band, Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra and Tra-La-La Band with Choir, and Thee Silver Mountain Reveries.

Ryan H.

See full review at:

Not exactly an official music video but someone orchestrated scenes from Antonioni's film Zabriskie Point to "I Built Myself A Metal Bird". Pretty rad.

Monday, February 15, 2010


AFCGT (Sub-Pop, 02.2010)

For: Lightning Bolt, Dead C, Big Black

Byline: A snarling, claustrophobic dream-team collaboration between noise legends The A-Frames and Climax Golden Twins. Originally published on Used by permission from In Your Speakers, LLC.

AFCGT is the reason internet acronym expletives were invented. The first few seconds of AFCGT’s self-titled album swoop in mid-death metal breakdown with a three-guitar-assault of palm-muted power chords, pounded out in an unholy trinity of compressed noise. Pretty much mind-blowing if you are into that kind of thing. Noticing the lack of color in my face and my jaw opened slack, my wife asked, “What are you listening to?” All I could force out was “O-M-G”. Putting on the headphones, she immediately recoiled with our favorite household internet meme, “W-T-F!” Visceral music begets visceral responses reduced to three letter semi-blasphemous epithets. Standing alone, noise rock can be instantly polarizing, but there is something about AFCGT’s swirling drone-soundscapes-meet-angular-noise-rock that is down right assaulting, claustrophobic, and one of the best headphone listening experiences of the year.

If the name AFCGT is confusing (I keep mixing up the G-C), but there is a simple rule to remember. AFCGT is comprised of members of Seattle noise rock group The A-Frames (The AF) and fellow northwestern semi-legendary (Animal Collective name checked them as influences during their question and answer period following Oddsac at Sundance) drone/soundscape artists Climax Golden Twins (The CGT). Get it? AFCGT. The whole of this sorta-legendary dream-team is ultimately more than the sum of its parts. Given the places that each group inhabits on the opposite ends of the noise spectrum, AFCGT would sound formulaic, Climax Golden Twins providing swirling drones that underpin the A-Frames angular blues-inspired-guitar-freakouts. The result, however, is more of an experiment in a collaborative mind-meld between six musicians. If the songs sound a little too jammy, it is because AFCGT use the artifact of recording to feel each other out, to push, pull, and prod into each other’s sonic territory.

Three guitars. Did I mention there were three guitars? You can do a lot with three axe-men, but Instead of laying on thick amounts of machismo driven, schlocky theatrics, AFCGT use them as exploratory devices, bashing into each other, wrapping around one another, creating oscillating drones while huge blues riffs pound over top of them. As I stated earlier, the album opener “Black Mark” starts mid-stride among some most brutal and painfully distorted riffs that recall Lightning Bolt and the Dead C at their most cacophonous. All of this buzzing and pounding stops dead in its tracks for the first of the album’s many guitar solos. Now, this isn’t the Eddie Van Halen display of technical virtuosity you are accustomed to in guitar solos, this is a gut-wrenching, expressionistic, buried-under-layers-of-reverb, attack on the senses – a tonal freak out that leaves an indelible smile on my face every time I hear it.

This old-school noise rock vibe (think Sun City Girls, The Scientists) bleeds over into the album’s magnum-opus. “Two Legged Dog” is a wandering, ten-minute track with a serious blues stomp atop layers of washed out guitar drones and a propulsive rhythm section that keeps the track as grounded as a track of this length can be. “Nacht,” while ignoring the pitch-shifted (scary!) German vocals, has a tight groove running throughout the whole thing. The last three minutes justify skipping over the first half of the song. “New Punk” and “New Punk 27” are by far the most snarling and mercenary. AFCGT take the John Wiese approach of completely deconstructing punk rock down to the brass tacks of audio distortion and rebuilding them into a fractured, fragmented beast of musical movement.

Every once in a while Sub-Pop will throw a curveball our way. This is one of those glorious instances where the label known for being the zeitgeist of slightly left-of-mainstream acts will actually oblige and put out something that is challenging, non-conformist, and will definitely not be used to sell anything.

Ryan H.

Friday, February 12, 2010


Odd Blood (Secretly Canadian, 02.2010)

For: Prince, MGMT, MPP-Animal Collective

Byline: Hey! Pitchshifting! Now we can sound like the Knife! Heirs to the world music throne of Toto or just obsessed with neat sounds?

I’m not going to lie 2010 has gotten off to a great start, even better than 2009 (gasp), that’s why the sting of disappointment hurt even worse upon the first listen to Odd Blood, Yeasayer’s follow up to their critically acclaimed 2007 All Hour Cymbals. It isn’t very hard to point out what I don’t like about this album; its forced experimentation over formulaic indie rock songs, its overly produced (does that mean anything anymore?) pop sheen, that ubiquitous poly-rythmic, tribal beat thing everybody is aping from Animal Collective. This trans-continental stylistic sampling is treading some ground I swore I thought would never be re-hashed. World music. I mean, is Yeasayer going to be the next Toto? Time will tell. It would seem that Odd Blood is relatively easy to write this off, but still, there are a few things that Yeasayer do very right that demand further listening with an itchy trigger finger on the skip button. See: “Rome”, “Strange Reunions”, “Love Me Girl”, “Mondegreen”. First, and probably the most obvious, is the album’s gate-crashing single and hands-down strongest song, “Ambling Alp”. Starting with a percussion-scape straight out of MPP and a sludgy, syrupy synth line ranks among the few on the album that isn’t a Duran-Duran B-side rip off. “Ambling Alp” is a great song, in company with a couple other great songs on the impressive first four songs on the album. I really can’t get past that incredible “In The Air Tonight” drum break-down on “Madder Red”, the intensity of the percussion is matched by Chris Keating’s (love it or hate it, that dude has a voice) powerful vocals. We don’t get ballads like “I Remember” anymore, a lot of critics say this sounds a lot like Tears For Fears, I say so what, Tears For Fears is awesome. The entire 80’s vibe of this album is a polarizing point, but looking past this obvious throwback is even more troubling. Prince. Chris Keating has his impersonation nailed, even down to his whiny falsetto and wild vocal gesticulations. The driving, funky beat on some of the more brash songs are straight out of Dirty Minds playbook. So, for better or worse Yeasayer is back a little bit more poppy, a little bit tighter, a little bit more 80’s nostalgic, a lot more cocky, and a little bit underwhelming.

Ryan H.

I can say they have a pretty awesome live show and crazy awesome music videos (note: moms, teens, this is the clean version)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pantha Du Prince

Black Noise (Rough Trade, 02.2010)

For: Boards of Canada, CFCF, Matthew Dear

Byline: The follow-up to his classic This Bliss, Hendrick Weber’s latest album is an absolute masterwork of the microhouse, minimal techno genre; a hypnotic journey into gorgeous soundscapes and a bottomless sea of instrumentation. Originally published on Used by permission from In Your Speakers, LLC.

One thing that is remarkable about watching a Fellini film is his use of color frequency in black and white. In his films black wasn’t simply the absense of color, it took on a deep hue of its own. It stood in sharp contrast to the equally stark, brilliant whites. His films weren’t simply a variation of grey, the two-tones lived in separate but equal spaces of their own. Comparing this to the era of blu-ray players we are seeing the same thing happening with the RGB color spectrum. We aren’t getting derivative variations on colors, instead we are treated to something approaching life itself. With these two poles gradually coming around to meet each other in the middle there is something to be said about the grainy vhs copies of recorded television shows we grew up watching. There is something wholly nostalgic about outdated technology, the colors seem to feel a certain way, wrapping the image in a staticy, visual warmness. This is mainly due to the fact that we never saw true black. The black that we saw contained so much “noise” (little white spots, non-uniformity of color) that all the colors were compressed with to a limited spectrum that look very little like what we see today. Try looking for this on your taped Roseanne re-runs (it’s ok, we all had a crush on Becky).

Pantha du Prince has dedicated his album, by name at the least, to the randomness and ambiguity in those images that lend so much nostalgia to that bygone technology. Black Noise takes on a limited tonal range, nothing fluctuating too much beyond the muted tones of microhouse’s 4-4 beat palate and a minimalist affinity for found/oddball percussion. But what Pantha du Prince does with this compressed accessibility to sound is truly remarkable. Hendrick Weber doesn’t paint in the absolutist hues of black and white, more, he allows synth lines, organic percussion, oddball samples, and monolithic beats to crossover into each others auditory space, creating a blurred line between elements that make up an electronic composition. The result is 11 hypnotic tracks, each one a little masterpiece in its own right, that blend together to equal the inherent, random beauty of television static.

Black Noise, being the follow up to 2007’s universally lauded This Bliss, has some major expectations to live up to. In many ways it is a spiritual successor to everything that This Bliss so incredible. The focus being on the thrilling headphone moments that make a walk home more than a walk home, those moments when the plodding beat and skittering percussion of all sorts of chimes, tubular bells, triangles, change dropping on the ground, samples of monster truck derbies, circle around your ears and wrap you in a state of untouchable solitude. You better believe Black Noise has these in spades. The album opener “Lay in a Shimmer” is quite perfectly a perfect album opener of all time. The track builds on itself, building layer upon layer until floating ambience of near Talk Amongst the Trees pastoral beauty becomes an intensely focused microhouse dance track.

I can’t believe I have gone this far without mentioning the high selling points, the collabos. Noah Lennox (of this band you might of heard of called Animal Collective) donates vocals to “Stick To My Side”. The immediately recognizable voice is an eerie mix between the quasi-mystical warmness of Panda Bear’s octave dropping sincerity and the chilly rigidity of Weber’s carefully constructed arrangement. Did I mention there are real DJ vinyl scratches!? Awesome! The second mouth-watering collaboration features Tyler Pope (Outhud, LCD Soundsystem, !!!) guest stars on guitar on “The Splendour”, if you have studied Pope’s driving, rhythmic guitar work on those previous work you know what potential lies behind the mind-meld of these two incredible musicians. The result is an atmospheric, chunky pieces of processed guitars that take on both an floating, ethereal quality and clanking, gamelan sounding weirdness that at times sounds like a cross between a slot machine and a pinball game. Something not to be missed.

The end of the album contains a three song stretch that beats out anything else on the album. “Welt and Draht”, “Im Bann”, and “Es Schneit” are beautifully paced, spectral wonders of warm synths and uptempo beats. A characteristic that these three tracks have that are different than any other (that can be said about every track on the album) is the inclusion of wordless, vocal cooing that float in and out of the background like a ghost. Acoustic guitar drones and decayed, delayed vocals enter and exit like a cut from Basinski’s “Disintegration Loops” on "Im Bann" and "Welt and Draht". This is an unexpected turn, but works with the internal logic of the dance track.

Black Noise is Pantha du Prince’s first release on Rough Trade and could be one of those albums that has enough crossover potential with choice guest spots, broad distribution, and major critical fawning, that could spark new life into the microhouse, minimal techno genre and see the ushering in of a widely dispersed music trend within the mainstream. Let’s hope, there have been many before Pantha that have not gotten their due, sometimes it only takes an album this amazing to open the door and let everyone in.

Ryan H.

See full review at:

Download "The Splendour" (word up to Stereogum for hosting this)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Blackjazz (The End, 02.2010)

For: Orthrelm, Slayer, Ornette Coleman

Byline: The Jazz-Metal pioneers return with a record that’s much more metal than jazz. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Originally published on Used by permission from In Your Speakers, LLC.

Blackjazz. A fitting, if not obvious title for Shining’s latest release, as nearly all critical and analytical thought concerning the band has focused on the group’s unique fusion of jazz and black metal. Their first record for the Rune Grammafon label, In the Kingdom of Kitsch You Will Be Monster, might be their magnum opus. Epically massive, technically bewildering and precise, the album is also introspective at times, dotted with surprisingly delicate balladry and post-bop leanings. If the jazz-association came from anywhere, it was tracks like “Romani” or “Aleister Explains Everything,” sporting pained, improvised saxophone wails recalling Ornette Coleman circa The Shape of Jazz to Come, and angular, syncopated drumming amidst a maelstrom of largely guitar and bass-dominated music. Musically composed by former Jaga Jazzist saxophonist Jørgen Munkeby, the band found a way to harness the wildly fast and melodic meanderings of Jaga’s eloquent guitars and synths, pump them full of that green stuff from “Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze,” and unleash a hideously powerful beast of buzz-saw textures, hurricane riffs, and pile-driving drum beats onto the world.

“Blackjazz Deathtrance” is perhaps the album’s most daunting listen. The track opens with a repeated, math-prog pattern that’s accented and developed immediately by pummeling drums, and follows quickly into an extended, stuttering synth line that is out of control, dancing and prancing like a schizophrenic dinosaur doing ballet in a straight jacket. The track’s complete with nervously unsettling trills that sound like swarms of locusts in the vein of Orthrelm. What’s most impressive is that each note sounds planned, performed - quite perfectly - in concert with the drums’ timed accents. Successive listens will draw you in ever more as it becomes increasingly easy to latch onto these crazy patterns like they’re real hooks. Lunacy aside, the frenetic patterns become gradually recognizable and invite the listener to study them, memorize them, and wonder how in the world they’re even possible. The song also summons a storm of static-laced noise that comes off hilariously like a stadium’s roar of fans. It’s funny to imagine an arena full of people going wild given that said people - if brave enough to witness such a spectacle - would likely have their nervous systems reduced to liquid.

Fortunately, the band hasn’t forgotten about its early leanings altogether. There are, of course, elements of improvisation to be found, and the band seems unafraid to repeat itself making use of the classic jazz technique that is the quote. “HEALTER SKELTER” is pulled straight off a Kingdom of Kitsch standout track, “REDRUM,” for example, re-imagining the song in a more live-sounding and, you guessed it, aggressive fashion than before. And if one is to call a prog-oriented approach of any sort inherently “jazzy” then a compelling argument could be made here. Blackjazz finds the band combining its love of syncopation with a more standardized, squared base on songs like “Exit Sun,” which rounds itself out with monolithic half-time grooves amid the complexly constructed riffs.

Given what’s already come from the band in this new jazz-metal format (2007’s Grindstone, being a very similar, if perhaps more polished affair to its predecessor, Kingdom of Kitsch), Shining’s latest step is a decided shift away from the inherently jazzy qualities that first gave the band its edge and intrigue. Perhaps the most telling (and equally interesting) clue comes last on the record - a cover of King Crimson’s classic “21st Century Schizoid Man,” led triumphantly by Munkeby’s soaring lead saxophone melody. Being the technically precise titans that make up Shining’s core (adding Enslaved singer Gurtle Kjellson’s horrifying vocals on this particular cut for good measure), the cover is predictably spot-on: engaging, progressive, and immensely powerful. But it’s King Crimson, man - It’s rock music for crying out loud! Shining may have sacrificed some of its mysterious draw, but it’s been replaced with an entirely confident, headstrong, unapologetic temper. And hell, with this kind of orgiastic excess in raw power, it’s tough to be critical of such a move. Being absolutely plowed never felt so right.

Full review can be found on:

Craw'z 02/09/2010

Shining Myspace

Monday, February 8, 2010

OLD THUND'ROUS MIXTAPE - VOL. 1 - By Thee Silver Mt. Zion Orchestra

As the world waits for A Silver Mt. Zion (or whatever they are calling themselves these days) to release their 6th full-length album, Kollaps Tradixionales, next month; Efrim Menuck has graciously offered a lovingly titled mixtape from his varied musical background. We've got everything from Nina Simone to British Anarcho-punk band Crass, William Bell to Swan Arcade. It is certainly old and thund'rous. Enjoy!

Follow here to the link. (The firewall at the school prevented me from opening the site it is hosted on, just scroll down a few posts and you will see it. I will change this by tonight.)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Pierced Arrows

Descending Shadows (Vice Records, 01.10)

For: Neil Young, Husker Du, The Melvins

Byline: Forty-five years in the making, Fred Cole produces a record worthy of being called timeless. Originally published on Used by permission from In Your Speakers, LLC.

Last week I thought I made a huge tiny mistake. When the Pierced Arrow’s album showed up in the InYourSpeakers album pool I mistook them for an amazing post-punk group called Bows + Arrows I had seen while living in Seattle. When I checked out Pierced Arrow’s I realized my blunder; long hair, leather, and bolo ties on a threesome older than my parents. Why was I being directed to a Black Sabbath cover band? Is 2010 really such a weak year that I am being forced to cover bar-rock bands? Little did I know what was about to hit me as I clicked the link to preview their first single, or the vast musical heritage that came embedded in that song’s first fuzzed out power chord. I would say that Descending Shadows is one of this still-young year's most important and powerful musical statements.

A few things tipped me off that Pierced Arrows are more than your run-of-the-mill, dive bar denizens. First, they were recently signed to Vice Records, home of Black Lips, Growing, Chromeo, etc, etc, etc. Second, they were on tour with Lullabye Arkestra. And third, and this will be the crux of my review, they kill it. Majorly. Pierced Arrows are the singular music vision of legendary musician Fred Cole, whose musical output (he put out his first single in 1965 folks) has run the gamut from blue eyed soul, 60’s psychedelic bubblegum pop, country, punk, to his longest running outlet Dead Moon which combined all of the above in some form. Arising out of the ashes of Dead Moon, Fred and his wife Troody teamed up with Portland punk drummer Kelly Haliburton to form something akin to, but totally different from, their previous band.

The first couple notes of the album opener “This is the Day” hit me with such force that that I had to put aside my ageist preconceptions and sit with my ears glued to my speakers. “This is the Day” announces itself with an absolutely massive major chord riff played by all members in unison, a throwback to seventies metal groups like Iron Butterfly and Black Sabbath whose show-stopping power chord breakdowns could unconsciously slacken the jaw muscles of anyone with proximity to a good set of speakers. The sound, recorded in with decidedly lo-fi approach, sounds a bit like the Melvins, whose down-tuned everything give the bass an extra punch and give the entire recording a sludgy distorted quality. After the announcement that something awesome is about to happen, Cole’s world-weary croak, which after an extensive mental triangulation I have narrowed down to a cross between Ian Mackaye, Neil Young, and Ozzy Osbourne, lets loose a lament over a subdued, country-tinged guitar riff. The fist-pumping, shout-along punk chorus sounds like a direct response to being blown away by the Ramones in the seventies and then opening for them in the eighties.

After everything is said and done, what truly sets this record apart from anything that I have heard this year is the very thing that made me recoil from the band in the first place. Their age. The Coles have been around the block more than a few times, have seen friends abandon them, die tragically, and have taken the stage during personal heartbreak to bury themselves behind waves of static and stage personas. On the closing track the Coles sing, “you don’t how it feels/you don’t know how it feels/coming down to earth”. You don’t. You probably will someday, but you really don’t. Let’s see a twenty year old write something like that.

Ryan H.

Full review available at

Thursday, February 4, 2010


13 Stories (A Prelude) (01.2010, Oooh! That's Heavy)

For: production work by: Blockhead, Madlib, El-P

Byline: 2010's first great hip-hop album. Welcome back to my life.

Sadly, hip-hop in 2009 was pretty much neglected on the TOME, in 2010 I have resolved not to let it slip through the tracks. I don't have any real excuse, some great albums came out in '09 DOOM, the "Blueprint 3 "(I liked it, ok), Raekwon "Only Built For Cuban Links II". Kicking the year off right is 13 Stories by Canadian producer Factor. The Canadian producer responsible for work behind artists as varied as Aesop Rock and Xzibit (remember him!!), gives a pretty coherent thesis of 13 stories by 13 MCs. Like most concept albums with various contributers some stay close to the script, others apparently didn't read the e-mail header. Regardless of the vocal contributions, Factor's production work takes a scattershot concept and shuffles through genres enough to give it some breathing room. The album hits early with the always incredible Anticon founder Sole giving one of his most memorable lines of his career with "Elliott Smith put a knife through his heart/now, that's gangster/ask Michael Jackson/there ain't no such thing as painkillers" on "Don't Jock the Dead". If the lyrical allusions haven't tipped you off, this is Factor treading some pretty deep and murky water, his understated beat, bowed strings, and tortured blues sample keep the track plodding forward with its head down. It speaks to a great producer that this contemplative posit on mortality can be bookended by two old-school hip-hop rave ups. This is par for the course for the entire album, "Black Fantasia" with Living Legends' Sunspot Jonz, has a positively addictive hook (the reappropriated theme to Miami Vice, Glenn Frey's "You Belong to the City") while Jonz counters this with a depressing tale of loss and vice. In terms of production work, Factor never does anything to draw attention away from the collaborative nature of this album, allowing the MC to hold court over his classical samples, vocals rooted firmly in the blues and soul, and gritty, lo-fi atmospherics. The fact that his production never imposes itself lends creedence that 13 Stories is in fact a concept album proper, and not a producers vapid excuse to get some lime light by producing the album under his own moniker. Regardless of the range of talent flown in, 13 Stories is still very much the unique vision of Factor, and his name deserves top billing.

P.S Why is this called the prelude? Because Factor is dropping pt. 2 in March. Stay tuned!

Ryan H.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Introducing... Erin Chapman! + Owen Pallett

Introducing... Erin Chapman! Joining Team Tome, Erin comes to us straight outta Seattle, WA (although she will always think of herself as displaced Texan), Erin adds a feminine mystique, theater background, and some pretty cool projects in her wake. If you think this review is dope (we do), check out and greater than or equal to blog. Welcome Erin!

Heartland (01.2010, Domino Records)

For: Andrew Bird, Xiu Xiu, Boy In Static

Byline: By dropping the Final Fantasy moniker Mr. Pallett produces his most accomplished and stirring album to date.

Simply put: Owen Pallett’s newest installment, “Heartland,” enraptured my soul and my imagination. Sounds cheesy and too good to be true, right? But seriously, throw on some headphones and listen to this album with your eyes closed, and before you know it, you will be creating a love-torn opera, with the all the smoke and lights to go with it.

This may have been a result from being on a kick of watching too many musicals as of late, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that Pallett’s training in classical music and music theory are abundantly apparent. Every instrument, note, verse seem to serve a particular purpose in telling a story.

With two operas under his belt, it comes as no surprise that there seems to be an underlying storyline both lyrically and musically to “Heartland,” with each song leading directly into the next. The listener is immediately gripped to the intoxicating build of excitement of instruments in “Midnight Directives.” I am sucker for songs that provide a slow build of momentum, so it is no surprise that a favorite of mine is “Red Sun No. 5.” Not mention, I love the faintly heard flute on the track. If you are to press pause for an “intermission,” it would be after “The Great Elsewhere.” A beautifully composed track, where Pallett’s string arrangement causes a momentous build to the song, which after it climaxes he brings the song to a close, and in my imagination I can see lights slowly dimming on the stage.

The curtain arises again, with slowly creeping, but welcoming “Oh Heartland, Up Yours!” The climax being “Flare Gun,” with what seems to be a battle cry, allows the rest of the album to resolve itself. It begins to slow down and taper off, ending with “What Do You Think Will Happen Now?” Pallett’s voice sounds nothing short of a trained musical artist, soothing the dizziness caused by the looped and cryptic piano. The piano causes your heart to match the speed of the beat, which can feel the urgency of the song, but ends with resoluteness and all is resolved.

With meticulous attention to detail, Pallett produced an album that will tickle not only the ears but the imagination. He awakes the listener at times with awkward mixtures of strings and percussion, such as in “Tryst With Mephistopheles.” At times it seems as though the two parts are playing different songs, but Pallett provides a solid, strong ending to his album, and leaves the listener contemplative and yearning to listen to the entire album again and again.

Erin Leigh Chapman

Monday, February 1, 2010

And So I Watch You From Afar

Letters (02.2010, Smalltown America)

For: Don Caballero, Polvo, Explosions in the Sky

Byline: blistering math-tinged, metal-inspired post-rock that is as cathartic as it is beguiling. Originally published on Used by permission from In Your Speakers, LLC.

Back in 1975 Cat Stevens penned a practically nonsensical “Pythagorean Theory Tale,” which told the tale of a fictional planet called Polygor and its inhabitants the “Polygons” (you can see where this is going). I couldn’t tell you what this story is about aside from its characters having geometry-related names that related to some aspect of truth. What I do know is that it inspired some of the worst/best song-titles ever created: “Majik of Majiks,” “Banapple Gas,” “Land of Freelove & Goodbye.” Stevens called this fiasco, Numbers.

Apparently not heeding the cautionary tale in naming your album after a loaded singular noun, Ireland’s And So I Watch You From Afar unleash “Letters.” They do so, apparently, without some Kabala-esque journey into symbolism-loaded numerology. S, D, B, K…It isn’t an anagram. It isn’t the first or last letters of each band member’s name. Perhaps it stands for Satan’s Dead Boys Klub?

As we banish all thoughts of a sci-fi epic based on the Pythagorean Theorem, we can embrace an absolutely beautiful sixteen minutes of some of the most brutal riffs and epic breakdowns in recent memory. “S Is for Salamander” offers some serious Bay Area-inspired riffage over hyper-kinetic time changes and moments of Marnie Stern-like (never Van Halen) finger-tapping guitar solos and precision-timed hand-claps. Taking cues from bands ranging from Mastodon and Explosions in the Sky, to math-rock legends Polvo, ASIWYFA create a sound that skirts the periphery of so many sub-genres it is difficult to classify what exactly it is they are playing. But it works.

“D Is For Django (the Bastard)” is the most obviously post-rock-leaning track on the album. It’s swinging jazz-based time signature is taken straight out of an early Do Make Say Think handbook. Moments like these make “Letters” even harder to classify. While never exactly brooding or subdued, “Letters” seems to have more in common with their heavier post-rock brothers in arms than metal bands of this ilk. I write this as another massive metal riff rips through my speakers on the messy, “B Is for B-Side.” The cognitive dissonance that results from trying to categorize ASIWYFA is impressive, but nothing compares to the beating my frontal lobe is experiencing from attempting to incorporate such a massive amount of sound.

The final track, “K Is For Killing Spree (An Ode To)” is the only song that even stretches over the four minute mark. The breakdown on this track is absolutely bottomless, stretching bass and guitar distortion into the only gasp of air this album takes before launching back into another assault on the senses. With all of this stand out heaviness, melody never gets away from ASIWYFA. While only four songs long, “Letters” is 100 % listenable, a testament to a marriage between brutality and accessibility.

And So I Watch You From Afar keep nothing close to their chest or up their sleeve, everything that could be poured out is poured out in a tirade of post-rock, post-metal annihilation in an unbelievably brief sixteen minutes. No self-serving prophecies or numerology on this album. Sigh.

Ryan H.