Friday, April 30, 2010


Frankie Welfare Boy Age 5/Age of Octeen/Movie Music Vol. 1 & 2 Vinyl Reissues (Polyvinyl, 04.2010)

For: Capn' Jazz, Sky Corvair, Fugazi meets Mineral

Byline: Braid's first two seminal albums and killer singles/b-side collections get reissued and remastered from Polyvinyl.

In commemoration of the Polyvinyl reissue of Braid's earliest albums and singles/b-sides/rarities collections, as well as my subsequent interview with Braid frontman Bob Nanna for SLUG on tuesday, I am dedicating this round of FRIDAY NOSTALGIA!! (remember all caps, two exclamation marks) to my favorite high school band of all time. Picking up Braid's Movie Music Vol. One at Angelo's Records in Littleton was a pretty important experience in my teen years. After hearing the word Braid being thrown around the internet as a wildly influential emo band, I decided to go on a limb and pick up the first album of theirs I saw. I'm glad I did, Movie Music is a posthumous release of singles and b-sides documenting some of their earliest recorded material. Those early years were the best Braid years, freshmen at University of Illinois, Braid had more mathy time-signature change-ups, frentic yelps, shrieks, and "yeahs" via hype man Chris Broach, and straight killer melodies per song than most emo second-wavers had per album. Needless to say, Southwestern Denver record stores got a literal deluge of crappy pop-punk cds once I heard the opening track "Sounds Like Violence". Each song was a cauldron of sweaty exuberance and barely contained angst. Braid killed it back in the day, even if they were still feeling their way into new territory after playing in hardcore and punk bands. The prototypical melodic hardcore "Minuet" following slower tempoed "Capricorn" on Frankie Welfare Boy showcases a band working hard to figure out what they sound like, and after 26 songs, it is amazing to realize just how cohesive they actually sounded. Later as the time signatures became more conventional and Braid really began hitting their stride, they began penning anthems in the truest sense of the word. "Forever Got Shorter", "Hugs From Boys", "Lucky To Be Alive" still retain their sense of immediacy and throat-tightening urgency after almost 10 years. Talking to Bob Nanna, I got the sense that Braid knew what they wanted, and worked relentlessly to get it, the liner notes to Frankie Welfare Boy read, "we want to be on your comp!". Braid simply wanted their music heard. After almost 10 years together, playing 47 of 50 states (Alaska, W. Virginia, and N. Dakota have yet to be rocked), in addition to Japan and Europe, the elusive success that Braid sought after would come in the thousands of bands in their wake in which Braid is a communal touchstone of life-changing music. Kudos to Polyvinyl for making sure these great albums inspire more kids to throw out the tired verse-chorus song structure, experiment with crazy time changes and to play with the intensity of a post-adolescent 19 year old. My hats are off to you Braid, you will forever be my "favorite band ever".

Ryan H.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Boy Fruit

Froot Da Loop (Never Come Down, 04.2010)

For: Early-Animal Collective, Black Dice, Pumps! era Growing

Byline: Less beat-oriented release by the prolific Ohio-an and perennial Tome fav.

Welcome to the second installment of the Tome's coverage of the interstellar weirdness that is Boy Fruit. Boy Fruit's last release, or should I say last month's release (this dude is the Fassbinder of bedroom drone-pop), was rightfully praised up and down by Crawf (read here). It seemed Crawf couldn't get enough of Fruit's oozing, syrupy beats and pitch-shifted synth lines. With the release of Froot Da Loop, the stakes are raised, but not in the obvious direction. The beat-heavy Repulsive gives way to a more textured, murky swamp-scape of sample-based collages, pitch-shifted everything with ample volume swells that make for a much more cerebral headphone experience.

The album opener "Tribal Fruit Dance" had me bobbing my head for a good minute until I noticed something strange about the track. There is no percussion at all. None. The percussive nature of the track is dictated simply by Boy Fruit's deft knob-twirling fingers; loops ebb and flow, get louder and fade out, creating a tide-exchange rhythmic effect. A stunning introduction and a stage setting musical statement of what to expect on Froot Da Loop. Getting busy beneath the surface, Boy Fruit infuses Froot Da Loop with a legion of swirling voices, gloopy synth lines, distorted electric guitars, and New Orleans big brass and high school marching bands, achieving a communal order of strange sounds crawling over each other for attention. Keeping all of these characters from spinning out of control and hurting someone is Boy Fruit's keen sense of timing, that intangible sense of when to put a volume swell here, exactly where a horn sample would kill it, or where to put that reverb-ed out loop that goes "whoooaarrrmp!" on this track. You know, the things they don't teach you at school. Like Crawf said about Repulsive, everything is pitched dooowwwwn, giving the whole album a murky, underwater feel filtered through the muted abscess of a busted ear drum. Strong percussion still underpin several BF compositions including the excellent last two tracks of the album, "Vegan Idiots" and "Adios Amigos!". Given the near-absence of the beat heavy production of Repulsive, Boy Fruit offers an earthbound pastiche of terrestrial sounds and sample heavy drones that stretch Boy Fruit's astounding musicianship into areas that receive less immediate returns but factor way more into street cred and growth as a musician. I am sure someday (in the Blade Runner-esque future) "froot da loop" will be a phrase that works as an adjective meaning to squash the mid-range and bass to create an awesomely disorienting sound.

For example,

"hey cyberdude, I'm wondering what I should do with this part here."

"Just froot dat loop!"

*Jumping high-five*

Urban Dictionary here we come.

Ryan H.

I am sure this is available somewhere on the interwebs, I would suggest contacting BF yourself and ordering a copy. Music this cool should get rewarded with some cold hard cash.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Prespring (self-released, 2010)

For: Múm, Air, Sigur Rós

Byline: From Russia with love.... lots of love.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: timeliness. It really is an essential component to the blogosphere... one that I haven’t always been the best about, admittedly. But for the Russian outfit known as 2muchachos, it felt somehow more consequential to get this little gem into your hot little hands sooner rather than later—it’s not as much about staying on top of new music here as it is about pure seasonality and relevance as this debut EP couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. It’s appropriately called “Prespring,” and the short, four song collection is a soft, windy, drizzly affair, that is somehow also uplifting and warm. Think of it as a windbreaker album. 2muchacho’s light guitar work and mellow bedroom synths are best experienced outside as it almost feels like some of this was recorded there—a breeze blows by the microphone, or a babbling brooke bubbles by the duo sitting in the grass, perhaps, pawing casio keyboards and gently harping acoustic guitar strings. Though 2muchachos find a comfortable nook in methodic ambience, the ticking clock of time measures these compositions into structured forms, bringing the band’s sound closer to the realm of Icelandic slow core like Sigur Rós. Or, when factoring in the much more subdued, delicate touch the band employs and its mastery of pastoral bliss, more precisely still might be Múm. But the best part about Prespring is how little effort it takes to “get” the music. Everything is so simple and pure, and based on a solid foundation of gorgeous melodic motifs that almost feel personally channeled through your consciousness. This works in so many situations—throw it on the ol’ iPod, and enjoy at sunrise, on a spring bike ride, or beneath a starry night sky and feel your worries melt away. Clocking in at just under 20 minutes in length, coupled with the fact that it’s free, makes this (easily) the easiest listen of the year so far. Be on the lookout for a full-length from the band to be released on Parallax Sounds in the coming months.

—Craw’z 2/28/10

Free Download of Prespring

2muchachos Official MySpace

Parallax Sounds Official Website

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Tallest Man On Earth

The Wild Hunt (Dead Oceans, 04.2010)

For: errr, Bob Dylan, Phosphorescent, Bon Iver

Byline: Affectingly gorgeous Dylan-esque (shudder) folk from Sweden.

This is why it seems kind of pointless to compare someone to Bob Dylan in this day and age. Just about every country and generation has had their uber-talented, incredibly prolific phenom that gets the "next Dylan" tag slapped on them. Not that this would be the worst thing in the world. Dylan is easily the most beloved and influential American musician of the 20th century, but still comparing yet another folk singer to Dylan seems lazy. That is why I am (not) comparing Kristian Mattson's nasally croon or hyper-literate song writing to Bob Dylan's, uh, yeah, you get the point. But...ah, who am I kidding, the dude sounds like Dylan. Now that I have laid that to rest, I can move on. I just had to say it. But, whatever is apparent from the start is sure to be swept underneath Mattson's obviously huge talent (this guy is moving units and selling out shows like his name was Conan). His vocal delivery runs the gamut from fidgeting exuberance to exquisite melancholy on Wild Hunt's thoughtful track placement. Songs composed of nothing but guitar, voice, an occasional banjo and one "Forever Young" piano ballad either sweep in; barely held together by little more than a melody and Mattson's edge-of-his-toes exuberance or burn slowly, marinating in gorgeous sadness. Even on in his bleakest moments when Mattson sings his voice raw, veins straining against his long neck, his quiet compositions move from delicate fingerpicking to major chord ascendency and betray any sense of angst with a relentless tinge of hope brightening the corners.

Bob Dylan once called John Prine's songwriting "pure, Proust-ian Midwestern existentialism". The existential loneliness of America/Canada's midwest that inspired the turning inwards of Dylan, Prine Young, and Sparhawk is infused into Mattson's own vast expanse of Sweden's tundra. Or probably something like that, I don't know much about Sweden. But geography and nature is a reoccurring theme throughout Mattson's songwriting, giving his hopes, fears, and longing some physical space to roam and travel.

There has been a lot written about this album, average scores rank in the mid 80's-90's and so I can merely echo what has already been said, but more than anything this is an album you need to hear, to live with for awhile. Let it console you, make you laugh, make you sad, make you remember places you lived when you were a kid. I can think of only a few albums that have had the same emotional impact.

Ryan H.

Monday, April 26, 2010


Daughters (03.2010, Hydra Head)

For: The Locust, The Jesus Lizard, As The Sun Sets

Byline:On their last and ultimately greatest album, the legendary Providence, RI grindcore group takes tentative steps towards greater accessibility and produces a truly thrilling push-and-pull between frantic art-noise blasts and pop-metal sheen. Originally published on Used by Permission from inyourspeakers, LLC.

Please read full review here

...Daughters is universally described as the group’s most accessible album, and it is easy to see why. For all the lucid pop moments, however, Daughters takes these steps with great trepidation. Howling shout-along choruses are squelched by ferocious math freak-outs as quickly as they come up. Tight grooves that plod along effortlessly are torn apart by atonal blasts of noise and then recycled later in the song. This uncertainty is spelled out in Sadler’s guitar work, which grinds and grates with malevolent ferocity, but is often layered with the same kind of pop sheen that make bands like Dillinger Escape Plan and Torche relatively easy on the ears.

On tracks like “The Hit,” the terror-inducing squeals of dentist drill guitars are gone, replaced with melodic thrash-metal lines that arc above the frantic dissonance reproducing beneath the surface. Moves like this signify explorations into greater accessibility rather than a total surrendering of ideals. They are quickly and self-consciously muzzled the next second with pummeling blast beats and cheese grater guitar work. For a brief moment it works, even if under the scrutiny of the rest of the band

The push-pull tendencies between accessibility and a ne’er-do-well wall of noise render some of the album’s most thrilling moments. “The First Supper” turns big, dumb power chords into a squall of processed art-noise, like The Refused used to do during a song’s epic breakdown. “The Theatre Goer” comes about as close to a guitar solo as grindcore ever does—although the solo is essentially Sadler vs. the amplifier, accruing massive amounts of feedback while he quite literally strangles his guitar. Despite the grind-heavy intro, “Sweet Georgia Brown” is a trashy-bluesy strut that showcases Marshall’s rockabilly-swagger like James Chance on acid...

Ryan H.

Friday, April 23, 2010


Welcome once again to this week's edition of 'FRIDAY NOSTALGIA!!' I'm not exactly sure why that has to appear in all caps and with two exclamation points, but that's how Ryan started these things, and what with my obsessive-compulsive attitude towards blog-roll consistency, that's how she stays. So be it.

You may have heard the sad news that Keith Elam (aka Guru) succumbed to cancer this week—an illness he'd been battling for sometime now. Guru was a pioneer of hip hop on several fronts. His work with DJ Premier as Gang Starr is some of the finer hip hop to have been released in the 90s, and his contribution to the hybridization of jazz and hip hop in his famous Jazzmatazz series of albums literally saved the (what should have been obvious) idea that the two styles can coexist after Miles Davis' horrifyingly bad attempt on his final album, Doo Bop.

The cut below is my personal favorite Guru track. It takes me back to a time when I was a punk skater kid, watching 411 and Transworld videos. In fact, I was introduced to Gang Starr and Guru subsequently through hearing this song on Steve Olson's spot on Shorty's "Fulfill the Dream" video. I really miss those times... skateboarding was one of the first activities that gave me that wonderful false sense of rebellion: not wearing helmets, sneaking into R-rated movies, listening to music with explicit lyric tags on the fronts of the CDs... Hip hop (and discovering actual good hip hop especially, Wu Tang, Deltron, DJ Shadow...) was a huge part of that time in my life. Ahhh, Gang Starr... you once made me feel like a prince. Thanks for the great times, Guru—you shall not be forgotten. You truly are "Above the Clouds" now.

—Craw'z 4/23/2010

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Consulate General

Person Number (Circle Into Square, 2010)

For: The Notwist, Boy in Static, Magnetic Fields

Byline: Around the world, back in time, and straight into your subconscious—Consulate General’s melodies go just about everywhere.

It’s not likely you’ve heard the name “Consulate General” in your weekly indie-nerd sewing-circles. Yet. You may, however, recognize the name Alexander Chen, who is this relatively new project’s mastermind, also of a certain TOME fav known as Boy in Static, previously gushed upon (and rightfully so) by our wonderful command-itor-in-chief Ryan Hall sometime last year. This guy also has ties to the Anticon crew, made friends with pop-tronic gurus the Notwist, and boasts contributors like Montag and Slowdive on his record. It’s pretty much a bulletproof formula for success. And yes, it’s working—we couldn’t be more proud that he’s offered us this opportunity to share his music with you.

If I were to start describing this record’s ghostly undertones, electronically looped beats, nervous scritches and scratches, and fiddling string twangs, you may get the wrong idea. Yes, these elements all flood Person Number’s diverse patchwork of instruments, but they do so in a way that is light, melodious, and though often twinged with the bitter-sweet sting of melancholy, the Consulate General never treads far into the dark and mysterious. This is, at its core, a pop record top to bottom—uniquely composed, challenging, and thought provoking, sure, but endlessly relatable and accessible. Person Number deftly marries meticulous arrangements of everything from strings to playful keyboards (including glockenspiels, synths, electric and toy pianos) to wind instruments with an aching nostalgia for styles like doo-wop and (quite miraculously) even European classical forms. The cake’s icing is the voice: meek and modest, pitch-perfect, and sounds filtered through AM radio. One of the best musical elements—and this is subtle—is that everything is linearly constructed. Each instrument plays contrapuntally with the mix (even drums play a role in melodic development) as pieces and parts overlap, but with a sense of considerate economy, offering a sparse and varied texture throughout. The record morphs from instrumental tracks like "Liesa Lietzke" (which will undoubtedly have you mouthing the words “Duke of Earl” alongside) to the beautiful, soft balladry of “Have You Seen My Girl,”—a touching lament of a lost pup or a lost love (maybe both... I haven’t decided), to the ingenious tango-feel of “Sweet Solano.” Thankfully, there’s also juuuuust enough “indie pop” here to keep things relevant in 2010.

Admittedly, the first two tracks didn’t strike me as anything too special upon first listen. But as a casual spin slowly turned into a downright obsessive listening regimen, it’s become clear there’s not a single weak track to be found. One of the best s—... Alright, screw it. I’m gonna lay my cards down now: “Half-Day Honeymoon” is the reason God invented the repeat button. The song is composed around a pair of slinky plucked violin patterns that sound almost like a Japanese shamisen (likely because the melodies have an Asian undertone to them) and has a stately tempo that marches forth but steps ever so softly, so sweetly with its flutes and horns and vocal harmonies and well... in three words: So, so nice.

Overall, you’d be hard pressed to find a more unique album in the realm of “pop” this year. Come for the pop, stay for the laughs, the sobs, the sighs, and the endearing, earnest, and honest sentiments contained within. You can order this (and please do) from the Consulate General’s website linked below. There’s also an interactive toy on the site that makes me feel like a kitten with a ball of yarn. Just look at those strings vibrate! Woo!

—Craw’z 4/22/10

The Consulate General Official Website

The Consulate General Official MySpace

The Consulate General - YWCA Trixie from Alexander Chen on Vimeo.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

German Shepherd

203 (Sunrise Acoustics, 04.2010)

For: Brian Eno, Stars of the Lid, Boards of Canada

We haven't heard too much from German Shepherd this year. In fact, this is the first musical output by the prolific Wisconsin-ite in 2010. 2009 was dominated by German Shepherd's warped, basement guitar sounds. Starting with the 4-way split with Brian Grainger, MOTH, and Millipede, and culminating with the top-10 appearance making Alpine Melodies, German Shepherd's simple, honest drones were a staple in a year marked by relentlessly good music. German Shepherd's first foray into 2010 finds him back-pedaling a bit, not in terms of ridiculously high standards of ambient music, but in terms of the conceptual impetus. During the summer of 2008 German Shepherd found himself in a cast which severely impeded his ability to play the solo from "Freebird". This limitation led to an experiment of minimalist proportions... how can I play the guitar without really playing the guitar? He described it thusly,

"The one upside to having a bone in your wrist start dying is that when you barely play the guitar like a normal person anyway, what's the big deal? I got the idea to keep recording when I was watching a friend's apartment. He had a pedal steel that I started plucking on. The goal was to see what I could accomplish without my wrist."

With 203, German Shepherd returns to the idea of creativity coming out of limitations, but this time the limitations are self-imposed. 203 was recorded using only his left hand. I can barely scrawl out my name with my left hand... I couldn't begin to imagine recording an entire album with that dangling claw. The resulting album is a gentle, contemplative, synth-based blanket of warm tones and 5-note piano lines. Divided into three sections, the 16-minute "A" track features simple ascending/descending melodious piano-note clusters that weave in and out of sustained synth tones, wading deep into Music For Airports and Avec Laudenum territory with occasional flashes of Vangelis. "B" and "C", while much shorter, tackle darker tones, showcasing some of the haunted, underwater keyboard lines that make Boards of Canada so compelling. If this is your first introduction to German Shepherd, I highly suggest you hop over to Sunrise Acoustics and download this as well as his back catalogue. While relying heavily on glacially-paced synth lines as opposed to his characteristic cracked guitar sounds, 203 is a highly regarded foray into warmer tones set at the mercy of self-prescribed limitations. The result is another gem in the roster of you-must-hear-now German Shepherd records.

Ryan H.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tjutjuna / Fissure Mystic

Collider / Monochrome 7” Split (Fire Talk / Din Records)

For: Acid Mothers Temple, Sonic Youth, Comets on Fire

Byline: Denver serves up a platter of psychedelic rock at its finest. This year’s worst trip is also its best.

Wow, sorry about the lack of posts lately. It’s a good thing Ryan is so on top of stuff... but seriously, look at this first page. I’m squeezing this in just before my last one fell off the roll. Yikes. Rest assured, I’ve been sitting on a mountain of stuff that should get—NAY—needs to be posted, all of it well worth your time, so I’ll start chipping slowly away. I swear you’ll be hearing from me more often in the future. I promised Ryan Consulate General would come first... but this particular post is loooong overdue, and it’s just too good to pass up.

Ahoy - Denver, Colorado! Best known in recent years for producing... the Fray... this town is actually a pretty hip place to catch some progressive live music. Being in the center of the country has its disadvantages, for sure (Lord... the ocean, how I miss thee), but one cool thing is that a “scene” here doesn’t revolve around a single venue or a single style of music as it does with many other cities around our fair motherland. People come in from coast to coast to share their music with us, and this fact coupled with the undying diversity harbored by the amazing interwebs has allowed for a truly multi-faceted, colorful spectrum of music to emerge from the Mile High city. We’ve got our share of glo-fi here, we’ve got our share of new wave, we’ve got our share of experimental, we’ve got our share of hip hop, we’ve got our share of indie, we've got our share of folk, and we’ve got our share of psychedelic... and boy, do we ever have our share of psychedelic rock bands. Chief among the best of them are represented here on this wonderful 7” disc released this past February. Fissure Mystic wrote in their blog that each copy comes complete with its own hit of LSD. Even if they’re joking... uhmm... actually, they might not be joking. Order one for yourself and see. For $5, it’s worth checking.

“Collider” fills the Tjutjuna side of the disc, and is a Fire Talk release. Haven’t heard of Fire Talk, eh? You have now, and rest assured you’ll be hearing more from them. It’s a tape-only (well, and apparently 7”s are OK) label started by another Denver band, Woodsman, who just released an excellent full-length album on Mexican Summer. “Collider” isn’t so much a song as it is an interstellar journey at light speed with an untraceable warp signature. It's got an internal clock of its own that ticks unrelentingly forward towards an infinite apocalypse without blinking. The bass and drums hold this cyclone of sound down as long as possible before the entire mix is swept up in a maelstrom of breathtaking noise and chaos, only to lock back in moments later without so much as skipping a beat or looking back on the destruction caused in its wake. Lucky for us, they do this, like, three times, and each is successively orgiastic. Instruments are squeezed and shrieked beyond belief, breathing a living force into guitars that are haunted and tortured, and like being that way.

“Monochrome” is the Fissure Mystic side, and it’s a whale of a song. Transitioning nicely from the whirlwind Tjutjuna side, the track starts with a gnarly guitar lick matched note for note by pummeling snares and toms before leading into a magnificent sigh of a release—a throbbing half-time jam. Here the Fissures display the sweet side of psychedelia with a beautiful vocal melody rife with melancholia. The best music should be able to take you from majestic highs to devastating lows within minutes, and Fissure Mystic manages to do this several times over in a single track. Heavy syncopation propels the chorus, lifting the song into unforeseen heights before plummeting again into its coasting refrain with a giant splash. Everything’s given plenty of gestation time before the nightmarish opening riff returns for a final blast into oblivion.

And that, my friends, is how they do it in Denver. But you don’t have to take my word for it, head over to your local Fire Talk website and grab yourself a copy. You can hear these tunes on the bands’ respective MySpace pages, but this one is absolutely best when taken as the big ol’ pill o’ wax it was meant for. Swallow this one whole and fly high. You won’t regret it. (Da-dun DUN! ♪)

--Craw’z 4/18/2010

Tjutjuna Official MySpace Page

Fissure Mystic Official MySpace Page

Fire Talk Official Website

Friday, April 16, 2010


Pumps! (Vice, 04.2010)

For: Gang Gang Dance, Pictureplane, Lucky Dragons

Byline: Chaos Reigns! Beat heavy production almost sinks the goodship Growing.

Listening to Growing is like making a movie, way more fun to talk about than actually do. I take that back, earlier Growing albums were engrossing , drowning headphones in spectacular chopped up rhythmic non-rhythms of heavily manipulated volume swells, screwed guitar lines, and oscillating electronic wizardry. But with Growing's latest album and first for Vice, the Olympian (now New Yorkers) duo (now trio) take on what is obviously their most beat oriented album. Propelling rhythmic underwater guitar drones with scattershot electronic manipulation and cut up vocal contributions from Sadie Laska. The addition of a steely-eyed focus on creating solid, dancehall beats manifest themselves in hiccuping electronics and hacked up club beats that never really move in any sort of linear direction. They sound cool, oddball vocal samples, geographically displaced guitar lines, cavort in a general chaos that prevents any of the tracks from gaining traction the way their minimalist drones would on build on their Lateral EP. Pumps!, at times is a bit overwhelming, with sounds flying at you from behind, between, and underneath, the skittering consumer electronic beats, downright seizure inducing. Growing uses a whole bevy of non-traditional electronic devices to produce an alien sound that sounds millions of miles away from what a guitar should sound like. Stompboxes, touch pads, and drum machines, filter their sustained, repeated guitar lines ad nauseam under the careful manipulation of some of the most accomplished knob-twirlers in music. Pumps! however, lets pre-programmed beats have their way with some of the more subtle elements of Growing's production, creating towering sound collages threatening to blow apart with all the destructive tendencies of a hurricane. Pretty astounding. Pretty overwhelming. Kinda underwhelming. It will be interesting to see where Growing go with this new structure, with their kind of proficiency they will have this new structure down pat in like 3 months.

Ryan H.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Oversteps (Warp, 02.2010)

For: Aphex Twin, Kid 606, Coil

Byline: After more than two decades Rob Brown and Sean Booth are still tinkering with the concept of being “electronic artists”. Their 10th album finds them leaning towards warmer, more human tones with mostly thrilling results. Originally published on Published with permission by inyourspeakers, LLC.

Read full review at

...Beats on Oversteps have their place in recognizable musical patterns before they are dissected, put through a washing machine of delays and tempo changes, and spit out the other side. Rhythms range from the tight-fisted two-step of the album opener to oriental gamelan clank-and-clatter of “known-1,” to ambient beatless synth-scapes on “see on see.” The beats do, however, do follow some prescribed musical expectations. The rearview-mirror-shaking bass devastates the lowest frequencies with fuzz on the cracked, hip-hop inspired “Treale.” One of their more inviting numbers “d-sho qub” replaces heavy synth washes with sampled vocal loops over an 8-bit melodic line in the almost tropical sounding dub.

There are moments when Oversteps actually sounds like a battleground where human musical statements are stymied by a sense of non-linear editing. Synth- lines are cut short before they reach their climax on “r ess,” the melody on “known-1” is punched full of holes, siphoned through a tiny sieve, picked apart, displaced and then resurrected as a Frankenstein’s Monster of barely recognizable snippets and discarded odds-and-ends. With moves this meticulous, it is difficult to imagine computers possessing this level of aesthetic awareness or the obvious joy of discovery that Brown and Booth geek out over.

Oversteps, for all of its seemingly aleatory elements, is still very much programmed, directed, even played by two human beings. Who knows when Autechre is going to run their course, but after another two decades of making music we may be able to look back to Oversteps as a cumulative statement in which the term “electronic artist” actually made sense.

Ryan H.

Actually, skip my review, just watch this dude.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Letterbox Project

Memory Static (Self-Released, 2010)

For: Toro y Moi, Big Spider's Back, Memory Tapes

Byline: Blissed out Chillwave from the deep south.

I know all of us are kind of waiting to see where this glo-fi/chillwave thing is going to go. Watching something gestate, exit the birth canal, and take its first baby steps on wobbly legs within a few years is exciting, also kind of scary. It would be easy to pass this whole thing off as another in the seemingly endless waves that wash up the collected bones of sunken sub-genres every couple of years, that is if chillwave wasn't the child of the lifestyles of most of us city-dwelling 20-somethings. Chillwave is tied to a sense of regionalism that I thought extinct in the playing-field leveling internet. Chillwave largely exists out of not being able to: 1) afford fancy recording equipment (in theory) to modulate the output above the washed out panning of underwater drum beats and sunbleached synth lines. 2) play loud enough to play without getting the upstairs neighbors calling the cops, or, getting grounded by your parents. Chillwave was made by headphones, for headphones. All this coupled with a love of being totally blissed out on acid and you've got yourself the next big thing in music.

Enter The Letterbox Project, coming out of the same fertile southern states that birthed Toro y Moi and Washed Out, LP's Tyler Bates explores similar sonic terrain. Sounding like they are coming from a house party next door, LP's beats pop like distant fireworks, muted but resilient, as if reverberating through concrete. Endlessly looped, Bate's vinyl warped percussion creates enough space to fill the corners with aria-like synth washes and meandering guitar lines. The Letterbox Project, through the ample use of pan and delay, crate a fully three-dimensional soundscape. Sounds audibly drop underwater, reappear, drown each other out, and resurface. Listening to this outside with nice headphones inspire all sorts of auditory hallucinations. At one point I had to take off my headphones because I thought that the car at the stop light in front of my bus stop was blaring his music really loud. Turns out it was a 2-step beat with the bass turned all the way up nestled deep in my right headphone. Delayed vocal loops trace infinity patterns between the right-left channels on the album's gorgeously affecting first suite. While it may be impossible to seperate this early attempt from the sub-genre that inspired Memory Static, Tyler Bates manages to merge wistful, hazy drones with after-hour club beats. While easy to fault for sticking close to his idols, Memory Static is simply way too interesting to simply write off. Plus, Bate's reach extends beyond his Chillwave contemporaries by pulling in flashes of Eno and the chopped up melodies of Growing. Don't expect not to be moved by this.

Ryan H.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

FRIDAY NOSTALGIA!! Christie Front Drive/Boy's Life

Christie Front Drive/Boy's Life split 10" (Crank!, 1995)

Christie Front Drive (Early-Get Up Kids, Mineral, Billy Music)

Boy's Life (Drive Like Jehu, Texas is the Reason, Kerosene 454)

You will find a lot of mid-20 somethings like me who are still ardent apologists for "emo" music as we understand it. Emo, before its appropriation and bastardization into emotionally manipulative song structures and histrionics (bands like Story of the Year have way more in common with U2 than with the bands listed above), meant something wholly different. Songs, freshly broken free of the restraints of hardcore (another misunderstood term), still retained the grating edge, gruff dissonance, and direct heart-to-throat vocal expressionism. After rolling over the vast corn fields of the midwest, emo settled and came to its own. It mellowed, became more intricate (softer), with intertwined dual guitar melodies twisting over the melancholy of sensitive, poetry reading kids who idolized Morrissey but recently quit their straight-edge grindcore band. Things got sad, they also got fierce.

Pardon the half-history lesson/half-apologetics, but to preface reviewing an emo record without writing it off as teenage nostalgia requires some exposition. Standing by itself this split 10" is a perfect representation of mid-western emo circa 1995 and exemplary of the incredible output of Omaha's Crank! Records. In many ways, this album is firmly rooted in my own nostalgia of my teenage moodiness. I bought this record in 2002 (I wasn't this hip when I was 10) during my junior year of high school from Twist and Shout Records in Denver (represent!!). Reading about Christie Front Drive in many a zine I would pick up in my pilgrimages downtown and early internet chat rooms, I got the sense that these guys were some sort of untouchable demi-gods of the midwestern emo scene and touchstones in Denver's early indie-rock underground. While they had been long broken up before I got see them live, their influence was felt far and wide both in Denver (Acrobat Down and Planes Mistaken For Stars (more on them later)) to up and coming national acts like Jimmy Eat World out of Arizona (with whom they did a split very early on) and The Get Up Kids and The Appleseed Cast out of Lawrence, KS. "Valentine" whose sole lyrics are "It's in my soul/it's in my heart" made it into just about every mixtape I ever made for a girl. Don't look at me like I'm a creep, those lyrics were (and still are) and poignant and succinct statement about how I feel about some of my most closely held beliefs. Wow. Was that "emo" or what? The bands' "Stereo" is alright, as is Eric Richter's electro/shoegaze project Antartica but these three songs encapsulated everything I loved about the genre, the delicate guitar work, slooow breakdowns with driving bass lines, and Richter's impassioned vocals kept low in the mix.

Kansas City's Boy's Life are a different side of the same coin. Taking their cues from some of the more abrasive movements in the genre, Boy's Life married the complex math time signatures and start-stop-audiblydropout-scream! song structure of Drive Like Jehu with the inherent melodicism of Texas is the Reason. Significantly more aggressive than Christie Front Drive, Boy's Life is best taken short gasps, these three songs rank as some of their best of their career ("Sight Unseen" is truly amazing) and showcase their penchant for composing complex arrangements and discordant dive-bombs into frentic, feedback-drenched-freakouts that deny any of the pop song structures associated with the latest wave of asymmetrical hair-cutted emo-bros. So good. Their debut full length also released in 1995, is a bit hard to swallow in one sitting, but when viewed in retrospect is downright heroic and has moments of unrestrained brilliance.

So, there you have it. The first but definitely not the last of influential emo albums I will cover on future FRIDAY NOSTALGIA posts.

Ryan H.

Christie Front Drive from their 2007 reunion show

a(lpha) b(eta) c(igarette) c(orporation)

3 Steps to Quitting: The Voyage to Nowhere (Killer Buds, 2010)

For: A shoetring-budget version of The Knife's Tomorrow In a Year minus opera, MZ Mona Mars, First Dog To Visit The Center of The Earth

Byline: Sequel to "Lost in Hyphy-Space". Totally deranged/awesome bedroom pop-space odyssey.

I guess there was a time when the term "garage rock" was tied to actual bands playing in garages because they were too poor to afford practice space. Perhaps your band still practices in a garage but we can agree that the term has packed up and parceled out to guys with bad (expensive) haircuts paying producers to sound raw (expensive/bad). Following in it's wake with the reduction in price of recording equipment and software we have a tidal wave of the avante-bedroom-pop-electronic-synth thing, that fills up the inbox of small blogs like this one. This may fall into that category, but the ironic thing here is, I actually sought this out. After being duly impressed by the Killer Buds 2009 release MZ Mona Mars, and the broad range of the weirdo bands that sail under the Killer Buds collective flag, I gobbled up the cryptic titled ABCC without hesitation. This is my journal of where we went and what we saw together. From what I could discern 3 Steps to Quitting is a loosely held together concept album of sorts. Something like the field notes of an extraterrestrial scientist trying his hand at universe forming. The lyrical fluctuations are observations of star-formations and blackhole birthquakes. Cousins to the objective stance The Knife took on this years Tomorrow In A Year as they tracked the evolution of mankind from single-celled organisms to bustling, fallangeed creatures. The synth washes (a big plus on last years MZ project) are pared down a little bit, but the beats still sound like mutated outputs from consumer-grade drum machines and programmed keyboard beats. Vocals are pitch-shifted down or run through a million whirligigs of computer gadgetry. Songs like "step 2: almost there" feature snippets of organic acoustic guitar strumming and relatively clean melodic singing. Rhythm-heavy rock instrumentation take form in angular guitar lines and catatonic bass lines on "black holes - the beginning of space. Fans of TOME favs First Dog To Visit The Center Of The Earth and Boyfruit should take note. Plus, the killing buds are giving all this away for freeez on their website!

Ryan H.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Black Sands (Ninja Tune, 03.2010)

For: Massive Attack, Pantha Du Prince, Amon Tobin

Byline:Simon Green’s fourth studio release finds him helming a bonafide band with an incredible mix of live instrumentation and understated downtempo grooves. Originally published on Used by permission by In Your Speakers, LLC.

(Read Full Review Here on In Your Speakers)

...Black Sands expands and contracts with hyper-textual declarations of percussion, allowing programmed beats and live drumming to cavort freely with each other, creating a brilliantly lush sound palate with snare hits filling for trip-hop beats and vice-versa. Bonobo cuts broad swaths of musical cloth to weave trip-hop, dubstep, jazz, and balearic, into something wholly understated, contemplative, and downright sexy.

After a warm up of gorgeous ascending strings and a descending piano line, “Kiara” starts mid rave-up. A glitched-out beat gallops into the mix riding a cut-up vocal sample, before the repeated violin sample introduced in the intro sweeps back into the track with dynastic glory. While the violin is an oft and easily sampled standard, Bonobo waits for “Kong” to showcase what he can do with a live band at his disposal. A slinking bass-line and steady drumming step out from behind their timekeeping roles and become the true vehicles of the track, propelling Green’s orchestral compositions on one hand and his Massive Attack throw-back programming and live turntable scratches on the other....

...For as undeniably solid as Black Sands is, the last two tracks “Animals” and “Black Sands” are more than worth the price of admission. Both sound the most “live” on the album, with Green settling comfortably into the role of band leader more than a producer. The jazzy swing, “Animals” showcases the proggy leanings of late seventies jazz-fusion while “Black Sands” pulls off an elegiac, traditional folk waltz composed of acoustic guitars and alto-saxophones and trumpets to reach a thrilling climax. This is Green in top form.

With every listen and in writing this review, I think the only major genre that I haven’t mentioned is heavy metal. If at any time in the reading of this review you’ve gotten the impression that Bonobo is some hyper-kinetic ADHD blender of disparate genres, I have failed as a writer. Black Sands is incredibly cohesive and Green’s moves are so deftly subtle that it takes several dedicated listens to get a grasp on just how breathtaking this album is. Bonobo, you’re doing it right.

Ryan H.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Adelyn's Pick of the Month: Eluvium

Similes (Temporary Residence, 02.2010)

For: Aarktica, Red House Painters, Yume Bitsu

Byline: Honest, sad music by one of the driving forces in the ambient music. This time with 100 % more vocals.

Matthew Cooper has largely mastered wordless music. After releasing what is considered one of the most influential ambient-drone albums of all time, 2005's Talk Amongst The Trees, which is ranked up there with Basinski's Disintegration Loops and Eno's Music For Airports, 2010's Similes strikes off in a bold new direction with the inclusion of not only vocals, but lyrics, real song lyrics. Cooper walks a tightrope between two musical chasms that seem irrevocably divided. Come on too strong with pop-sensibilities, verse-chorus arrangements, etc... and you are in danger of alienating the crowd that show up for swirling drones of otherworldly guitar-delay effects and ethereal, oscillating sound-clouds. Tip the scales closer to the ambience and the inclusion of Cooper's voice and lyrics have a merely ephemeral effect, simply becoming another instrument in a sea of effects. This is the part of the review where I say, Cooper somehow transcends both genres and creates something wholly new...Am I getting too obvious? Well, in your face! That's totally not what I was about to say. Out of the eight tracks, six have vocals. What do these tracks sound like? Well, imagine the pastoral warmness of Talk Amongst the Trees with Cooper's low, timbre heavy voice, which sounds like Xiu Xiu's Jamie Stewart's at his most non-threatening, bending the gorgeous synth washes and underwater guitar drones to match his vocal melodies. Gorgeous stuff. Not rewriting the rules, but providing an even-handed overture to both camps. A bridge between two disparate genres.

After 2006's overreaching piano driven Copia, Similes is a welcome return to form. delayed guitar drones create a percussion-like effect in their repetition. Something akin to the more serene, gurgling compositions of Ducktales or Ruby Suns. Guitars swan dive and swoon on the album closer "Cease to Know". Quite simply, even with the inclusion of lyrics, this is Cooper at his top form musically. Some of the most gorgeous moments, however, come come from Cooper's lyrics. Eluvium writes cryptic odes to the wavering line between conscious act of creation and subconscious, dreamlike imagery. If I could nail down a conceptual or thematic thrust of the album, I would point to the act of creation, both conscious and unconscious. This wandering theme leads to some gorgeous lines. Peep below.

Staring at the sky while you are blurring out the lights/if the colors and the shapes were clearly more defined/thinking of a concept seems like getting off the course/writing to myself and later questioning the source.

I was talking to a friend recently about this album. He wondered if kids would think this album is cool, it isn't chillwave, it isn't any "wave" for that matter. If anything it heavily reminiscent of the 90's slow/sadcore movement, which is pretty much anathema in todays musical landscape. Everyone is afraid of writing sad songs these days, resulting from the inevitable back-lash of an adolescent migration away from the dreaded "emo" tag of the early 00's. But I hope that this honest melancholy makes a resurgence, because I will not sit through another 10 years of this pseudo-mystical, positivism being peddled to us.

Ryan H.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Woo-Man and the Banana

Peel (Self Released, 03.2010)

For: The Stooges, Death, Destroy All Monsters

Byline: blistering garage rock from a guy in a pink wig and dress and another dude in a banana suit, what else is there to explain?

Editors Note: As no artwork is available for Peel, Crawford has created this adorable baby-monkey suit with a banana on its head. Uh, yeah.

This years best SXSW find (uncovered by Crawf on his week long pilgrimage) wasn't found in an AT&T sponsored pavilion, or hot after party in the sweltering heat of the years biggest capitalist/new-media orgy. They were discovered outside a car wash in a pink wig and dress/bananna suit playing blistering garage rock to whoever would stop and listen. Totally Punk rock. Crawford wanted to write this up, but I stole the review in a brilliant coup d'etat. Also, punk rock (or cut-throat capitalism?). After several weeks of laborious electronic albums (the new Autechre later this week) Woo-Man and the Bannana's scuzzed-out, sweat-stained, blues-drenched garage rock sounds like it is being pounded out from a nicotine-yellowed next-door living room. A much welcome reprieve. If you have already scrolled down to the bottom of this review you have already uncovered the obvious. The band is comprised of a dude wearing a pink wig and a dress on guitar and another guy in a banana suit playing drums. Pretty straight forward right? Or horribly convoluted Freudian subtext? For whatever psycho-sexual hang-ups may be present in their appearance, the musical output of this duo is nothing to mess with. Taking cues from fellow midwesterners The Deja-Vu era White Stripes, WMTB strip rock and roll down to the brass tacks. Woo-Man tackles the muscular, chopped-up blues lines and rhythm leads while The Banana's rolling bass-drums often resemble Scott Asheton's gunpowder filled bass hits. While decidedly lo-fi, the duo's recording sounds lo-fi as an economic necessity rather than an aesthetic choice. The barb-wire layers of harsh analog noise that buried the output of many worthy pop bands over the last couple years are totally absent allowing The Banana's drums to have a three-dimensional quality, instead of sounding like the pap-pap-pap, cardboard box sound ubiquitous to most lo-fi outfits. Woo-Man's voice is often found in the upper-register (duh) while The Banana's almost comically deep voice makes an appearance on "Duck Down". Woo-Man's guitar work takes kamikaze dive bombs in the EP closer "What Goes On" an explode into a sea of reverby greatness. For what it is, Woo-Man and the Banana play totally palate cleansing garage-rock that wash away any memory of pretense. And Crawford didn't think I could write a rock and roll review. Pshh. Just wait until I cover the new Daughters album.

Ryan H.

Friday, April 2, 2010


What is FRIDAY NOSTALGIA!! Well, it is just that. Every friday on the TOME we are going to afford an exclusive view into our collective musical pasts. A little glimpse into important musical moments in our childhood/adolescence/2008 that shaped our musical tastes and interests. I thought I would kick off the inagural friday with something truly special. View.

While not the most prolific Ex-Fugee, Pras did have a moment of brilliance with this collaboration with now the posthumous Ol' Dirty Bastard and (major middle school crush) Mya. Do You remember CD singles? No? Well, I bought this (along with the B-Side "Blue Angels" which actually showed up on the album Ghetto Superstar) for 4 $ at Sam Goody in the mall while probably wearing yellow tinted sunglasses and cargo pants. I was going through a weird stage. 13 was not by best year. I later bought the full length Ghetto Superstar, which for my undevloped critical tastes, I could identify as being wholly underwhelming. Most of collaborations were phoned in voicemail messages by artists who never appear on the album. Oh well, at least Mya went on to do this.

Well, I don't really know how to follow this up. Crawford has some pretty big shoes to fill for next friday's nostalgia.

Ryan H.

Lali Puna

Our Inventions (Morr, 04.2010)

For: DNTEL, The Notwist, Ms. John Soda

Byline: Techno Viking? IDM haterz? Read full review here. Originally published on Published by Permission by In Your Speakers, LLC.

...Lali Puna have never lacked strong melodies or killer hooks with Valerie Trebeljhar’s breathy voice playing the Shirley to Markus Archer’s muscular electronic and live programming Laverne. This delicately crafted electronic-pop was occasionally interrupted, for better or worse, by moments of overbearing rock and roll, the kind with menacing vocal posturing and dissonant guitar licks. I was not the biggest fan of these moments in Lali Puna’s oeuvre, and fortunately for me, Our Inventions features 100% less of them, sticking closely to the glitch-heavy pop songs that the group pulls off effortlessly.

“Remember?” is an easy choice for their first single, featuring a spot-on chopped up vocal sample that found its way into tons of IDM (remember, we aren’t using that term anymore) tracks back in the nineties, with a flurry of microhouse high-hats and a steady undercurrent of near-wobbly low tones. Lali Puna have always chosen great company to remix their material and aren’t afraid to let their songs be improved upon. It is hard to imagine how Boom Bip, Alias, or even To Rococo Rot (stand out remixes on I Thought I Was Over That) could chop up beats finer than what is already displayed here.

Following on the heels of “Remember?” is the like-minded “Everything is Always,” which marquees Trebelijhar’s voice as the expository vehicle. Her wistful nostalgia never betrays her strong hold on the melody-driven chorus, as Archer’s beats arrange themselves from hiccupping segues to climactic revelries of blissed-out synth delays.

Things move smoothly until the album’s only interruption “Move On.” With an album so monolithically subdued, it is a welcome reprieve. “Move On” begins with a reverb-drenched minor beat before a hip-hop synth line rips a jagged hole through the relative peace of the album. But even Trebelijhar’s intense speak-sing cadence gives way to a gorgeous chorus and Archer’s instrumentation diminishes into a chiming outro full of warm, buzzing synths and a metronome beat.

Our Inventions largely abandons the occasional foray into the heavier moments of Faking The Books and emerges with something that nears pop perfection. Not one of the tracks ever overstays its welcome or overstates its case. Our Inventions feels warm, lived in, and as inviting as anything the group has ever done. Staring down close to a decade of music making, and never straying from what brought them international attention in the first place, Lali Puna have released an album that seems completely unfazed. Our Inventions is a record that has its nose close to the grindstone, carving deeper niches into the electronic-acoustic arrangements whose experimental nature never outweighs their inherent tendencies toward pop.

Ryan H.

Download Remember Here