Friday, July 30, 2010

Coma Cinema

Stoned Alone (Self-Released, 2010)

For: early Destroyer, Elliott Smith, Belle & Sebastian

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

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

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

—Crawf 7/30/2010

Coma Cinema Official MySpace

Coma Cinema Official Website (free download here)

Coma Cinema - Only from Tyler T Williams on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Lotte Kestner

China Mountain (Silber, 07.2010)

For: Edith Frost, Tiny Vipers, Laura Gibson

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

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

Ryan H.

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

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sun Kil Moon

Admiral Fell Promises (Caldo Verde, 07.2010)

For: John Fahey, Nick Drake, Samamidon

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

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

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

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

Ryan H.

Friday, July 23, 2010


Disco 2 (Lovepump United, 06.2010)

For: See Below

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

Please Read Full Review Here.

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

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

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

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

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

Ryan H.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Summer Vacation EP (Self-Released, 2010)

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

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

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

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

—Craw'z 7/21/2010

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Ecailles de Lune (Prophecy, 2010)

For: Jesu, Wolves in the Throne Room, Pyramids

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

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

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

Ryan H.

Monday, July 19, 2010


The Green (Hidden Shoal, 2010)

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

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

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

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

—Craw'z 7/20/2010

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

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Max Richter

Infra (Fat Cat, 07.2010)

For: Johann Johannsson, Machinefabriek, Henryk Gorecki

Byline: Infra-rad

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

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

Ryan H.

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

Thursday, July 15, 2010


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

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

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

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

Ryan H.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Green Gerry

Odd Tymes (self-released, 2010)

For: Castanets, Mt. Eerie, Atlas Sound

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

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

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

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

—Craw'z 7/14/2010

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

sleep my baby sleep

sleep my babe don't peek

tonight the air is cold

don't fear what is unknown

there's demons in the trees

they reach to grab at thee

who lays silently asleep

in the grass deep in a dream

stay safe wandering about

keep safe traveling down south

the scared might speak real loud

just place your hand upon your mouth

fall into the lost dark sea

let the salt cure all your worries

let the waves cover your body

its depth is never ending

giants they set fire to the fields

do not take cover upon the hills

though their howls may sound wretchedly ill

the flames you see are not real

to stay I cannot see

my thoughts they get real lonely

if more could I just be?

if less would they not haunt me?

awake my love awake

the tyrants they have all gone away

today the sun invited them not to stay

the light forced them to fade

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

Green Gerry Official MySpace

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Douglas Firs

Haunting Through (Self-Released, 07.2010)

For: Julian Lynch, DM Stith, Neil Finn

Byline: Haunt Me, Do it Again Haunt Me.

Haunting Through, it certainly does. The Douglas Firs, the singular musical vision of Aberdeen Scotland's Neil Inish, is a fully engrossing, totally possessing 20 minutes full of auditory tricks, floorboard creaks, and a legion of musical voices whose locations are impossible to pin down. Finding an entrance point into Inish's dense compositions is a tough task; tracks flow from traditional folk songs bursting with accordions, gang vocal sing-alongs, barroom piano, and a general townhall tavern looseness on "The Quickening". To the electronic tinged, saxophone inflected, "Grow Old and Go Home", to the ambient "Future State". Inish underpins "Soporific" with a humming drone and a host of acoustic and electronic instrumentation. Haunting Through is not a record of some ego-maniacal genre-hopping showoff. Inish's compositions, even when moving through the most dispirate of genres, are held together by a sense of spatial awayness. Haunting Through is an album mostly made up of sounds that range from organic field recordings to crowded barrooms, to bedroom drone and tape experiments. It is easy to imagine Inish standing outside of these moments, either being puzzled by a sense of false-camaraderie or totally entranced by nature. Either way Inish stands beside the listener, gazing in at his own piece trying to infer meaning. When Inish takes control of his songs he uses his commanding (and often multi-tracked) voice, which often floats in and out of the compositions like a ghost, like a lynchpin to tie everything together. These feel like undeserved moments of beauty, even if Inish remained aloof from his tracks, Haunting Through would largely glide by on its own merits. When Inish steps in, however, he proves to be a commanding band leader, even if the only musicians in his employ are himself and his huge ideas.

Ryan H.

Friday, July 9, 2010


Cryonics (Level Plane, 2003)

For: Light the Fuse and Run!, Tubers, The Refused

Byline: Wildly Inventive hardcore discovered during a formative four month span.

I realize that most of my contributions to the TOME have been little more than subjective gushings about music that I love. While I try to keep a sense of journalistic objectivity for integrity sake, sometimes I can't separate the context in which I hear a record and the music itself. That's why these Friday Nostalgia reviews are so much fun to write, I get to dig into a time when a record meant something to me for a specific reason. All of us have those. It's why we love music. It's we create or secretly yearn to create music. To repackage those emotions into something original and personal. There isn't much of a difference between a musician and a rock critic, when we heard a song that left an indelible impression on us, some of us picked up a guitar, others a pen. Will Sheff said something like that.

I take this lengthy introduction as a roundabout way to say, I'm gonna get real wit'chu for a sec. I realize that for most of us the first year of college is a time of unbridled hedonism. Finally cut free from living at home it is a place to experiment from all manners of illicit substances. I, however, spent my first semester of college at an extremely conservative, highly religious university in Southeastern Idaho. I am not saying it was a bad experience, or that I didn't make incredible friends, but for the most part I bristled against the conformist power structure of student-run honor code committees, a huge streak of naivety among the student body. Obnoxious outward displays of nonconformity or rebellion have never really been my bag, so while some of my newfound College friends were trying to "fight the system" I mostly burrowed into myself and discovered a new kind of rebellion. Noise music. Largely thanks to Amanda Romans, who I want to reconnect with (if you are reading this somewhere, lets chat!), 2003 was the year I discovered legendary grindcore bands like Daughters and Pig Destroyer, extremely influential screamo acts like Pg. 99 and Orchid, and listened to some of the most brutally misanthropic hardcore that had no place in Southeastern Idaho. The chaotic, nihilistic, time signatures and emotional content defied the orderly and strange Twin Peaks happiness of that school. It helped me find a comfortable middle by spending each day straddled between two camps. I left after a semester, but still retain pleasant memories of that place.

Hot Cross was one of those groups and their album Cryonics as well as their EP A New Set of Lungs seem to crystalize that time for me. The late-great Hot Cross out of Philadelphia were a band poised with that indefinable mix of agression, accessibility, and experimentation with both the form and texture of hardcore to become a veritable crossover success. This never quite panned out in their almost nine years of on-again-off-again existence. But what we have in Cryonics is a unique vision of what could have been. Hot Cross utilizes the dueling screaming/singing vocals of Billy Werner and Matt Smith. While most of the arrangements stick close to the verse-chorus/brutally heavy breakdown of hardcore, songs like "A Tale for the Ages" find Hot Cross experimenting with slower, more sprawling, song structures replete with a swirling pastiche of effects driven guitar work, recalling another genre-bending Philly hardcore/post-metal band Rosetta. "A Tale for the Ages", while removing much of Greg Drudy's start-stop, math-influenced time signatures, isolates Werner's gravelly scream allowing him to carry the weight of the song. Cryonics was probably intended for, but not really meant to be consumed en masse by the public. Cryonics is literally bursting with too many big ideas musically for it to be totally embraced as a quintessential hardcore record, yet way too hardcore to heralded as a perfect crossover success. But for those kids like me, who were already torn between two camps, Cryonics was a rallying cry, an anthem that it was ok to share ideals from a variety of sources. An allegiance to one didn't necessarily mean an abandonment of the other. Thanks Hot Cross.

Ryan H.

P.S Hot Cross trivia time. Did you know that Greg Drudy was Interpol's original drummer and started Level Plane Records?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Kevin Greenspon

Bracing (Obeast Tapes/Family Time Recordings, 2009)

For: Jasper, TX, Flying Saucer Attack, The Fun Years

Byline: One of most unabashedly gushed about records of (last) year. Full of warm and inviting guitar tones with a dangerous streak of harsh noise running beneath

Bracing, as the title indicates, is an album fraught with anticipations and expectations that are either fully delivered or assiduously withheld from the listener. For example, the opening track "Softened" opens with a swell of harsh noise, the sound of a brittle chasm opening wide, gaping wounds in the earth. But, as delicious as this would be, it is only a warning shot just to see if you are paying attention, letting you know that Greenspon could, if he wanted, turn his shimmering, sunbathed guitar into a Norse-God hammer or Merzbow's laptop. With the Sword of Damocles dangling just above, or surging just below the surface, Greenspon is delivers on his most faithful of promises, 9 songs of gorgeous, hazy guitar drones that have nary an equal.

Kevin Greenspon's guitar tones inhabit that between-world of nyquil induced sleep-comas where every sound seems far away, without form or location. Songs like "Petty Dream" and "Sundowner Lane" hold onto remnants of that place, coming through in shimmering guitar lines and delicately structured drones that stream in with the rays of dislocated beauty from another world on their wings. Vocals, when present, swim somewhere deep below the sub-basement fidelity finding companion with the warm vinyl cracks and tape hiss. They sing with the guitar melodies instead of competing against the warmer tones.

In terms of delivering and witholding, much of Bracing gets off on withholding. Allowing harsher, darker tones to seep through for a few seconds, only to be ushered back into the shadows by a legion of warm/washed out beach-bummer guitar tones. All listening enjoyment is filtered through a dangerous promise that this could be smashed up by moments of harsh noise. Greenspon delivers halfway through the title-track "Bracing" when those harsh tones come out from beneath the surface and make their roaring (second) debut. The first time is unexpected, all subsequent times you brace impact.

Released in 2009, I heard a rumor (somewhere?) that this is going to get a 2010 re-release. If it does, this is a strong contender for album of the year. In fact, this is the best exploratory guitar/drone album since The Fun Years dropped Baby It's Cold Inside, or Chris Rehm's ridiculously strong Salivary Stones. And while the TOME wasn't around then to be on the receiving end for that masterpiece of warm/sullen guitarwork, it is safe to say that I have the same enthusiasm and all out gushing for this 2009 release by Kevin Greenspon. So here it is. You need this album. In fact, you (along with me) need to check out Greenspon's extensive back-catalogue, we (I am talking to you the reader) should get together and have listening parties. It has been too long. I can bring the sour-cream green onion dip, if you get some fruit/cheese platter around. Great, glad we could do this.

Bracing is limited to 100 copies so get on this!

Ryan H.

So much good stuff here. Kevin Greenspon's website, where this and other releases can be obtained. Also Family Time Records is putting this baby out on CD.

Here is a charming mixtape that Kevin Greenspon currated. It can be downloaded on his site.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Cherry Chapstick

The Line b/w Precious Necklace (Be Good to Me)

For: Toro y Moi, Javelin / Daft Punk, Alan Braxe

Byline: Love the high you get from chillwave, but hate the depressing comedown? This smart single package has the best of both worlds and manages to leave you up. Way up.

There's something depressing about the whole chillwave aesthetic in general. I mean, the beats themselves are actually depressed. There's been a trend in the past year or so of artists (see Toro y Moi, or even Bibio to an extent) providing grooves that are sunken in on themselves. Beats like these a have real, massive sort of gravity that pulls the listener/dancer deep into its trap: a trampoline on quicksand. Montreal's Cherry Chapstick have absolutely mastered this style, taken the best pieces from the world's top players, and wrapped them up into a neat little package of a song they call "The Line." And the reason stuff like this works so well is that these beats that swirl in on themselves with pulsing, throbbing volume shifts in the bass, jive perfectly with the effectual melancholic backdrop of music. Cherry Chapstick themselves called it a "night-drive jam." Alone, driving at night - yes. That's where this song happens. A lone voice lamenting a recent break up. Time to think. But there's something there to pick you up just as your face is about to scrape the floor: a tambourine. It's there—silvery, glittering, unwavering: so there. Hope. God, I love that tambourine.

The second track is a remix of the band's "Precious Necklass" as refigured by Silly Kissers. If you needed a bit more of a pick-me-up after your little night-drive sesh, a beat the lifts up instead of sagging down, well here's your perfect cure. An punchy, poppy track with the fanfare synths of Alan Braxe and the syncopated, bouncy bass lines of Discovery-era Daft Punk. In fact, this one gives a track like "Aerodynamic" a run for its money.

Best of all, you can download this one for free. So do that, take it with you to the club, and whether or not your girlfriend just dumped you, pick your poison. Either way you'll be dancing.

—Craw'z 7/7/2010

Listen to "The Line":

p.s. The name of the guy who sent this single to us is Julian. I have no idea why I love that so much, but I do. It's just... perfect.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Invisible Elephant

The Lights Go Out (Sonic Reverie, 06.10)

For: Windsor for the Derby, Warpaint, Jesu, Mogwai

Byline: Incredibly dreamy, atmospheric post-rock from Blackpool, UK with dark suggestions of noise-influenced undertones. Name possibly taken from an X-Files episode. What is there not to love?

Invisible Elephant are at their best when their elegiac, free-floating post-rock, replete with swirling guitar tones, reverbed-out everything, and heavy, druggy guitar drones, are in the jaws of a malevolent undertone of unrestrained noise brooding just below the surface. It is not that those gorgeous ambient passages would float by unnoticed without the threat of being engulfed by a tidal wave of squalor; reeling feedback, and no-input tonal freak outs, but the fear that they could totally collapse suture those your eardrums, wringing out every last moment of beauty. Fortunately Invisible Elephant only dangles that sword over its lovely post-rock/shoegaze tracks with no intention of letting it drop. When Invisible Elephant get noisy, and they do, it comes in measured waves of unadulterated awesomeness. Opener "Communication (part II)" contains an arching, feedback-drenched, guitar line that is all glistening teeth, flashes of muscle and steel under the moonlight, that only hints at the tensile power that could of been released if you, lonely traveler, hadn't brought a gun loaded with silver bullets.

The slow jams, there are plenty of them as well, run the gamut from ethereal, early Galaxie 500 long-players, an oddly placed tribal drumming, chanting, dubstep-incidental percussion laced segue, and an auto-tuned acoustic track. For the most part these are totally unexpected and beautiful departures. The aforementioned auto-tuned "Lost in the Woods" is full of shimmering, cascading James Blackshaw-like atonal strumming and auto-tuned vocals that showcase the beating human heart in the cold, processed machine of robotic vocal work. The last heavy track of the album, starting with a wash of processed guitar noise gives way to the hushed vocals before an aching, feedback impregnated guitar line punches a hole wide open in the composition. A sound and a move clearly directed by the heavy hand of bands like Ride and Swervedriver who inform the aural textures and tones of Invisible Elephant. A highly recommended, extremely rewarding listen.

Ryan H.

Invisible Elephant bandcamp page. Download or buy here.

I have seen every episode of the X-Files. All nine seasons. I am not particularly proud of this, nor am I totally stoked that I know this trivia. But the band name Invisible Elephant seems to make reference to an X-Files episode in Season 2 where animals are turned invisible as part of some alien abduction plot that is never really explicitly stated. The teaser to the episode begins with an invisible elephant smashing through an electrical worker's truck. Am I right to assume this? Insight please.

Monday, July 5, 2010


Cerulean (07.10, anticon)

For: Gold Panda, Passion Pit, Daedelus

Byline: On his auspicious debut for Anticon, 21-year-old Will Wiesenfeld makes all the right moves by marrying chopped acoustic instrumentation with massive hip-hop beats and showcasing his impossibly high falsetto. Originally published on Used by permission from inyourspeakers media, LLC.

....Baths, like his real world namesake, is easy to slip into, but ridiculously hard to get out of. I have overplayed this record, overplayed it to death, but I still don’t want to give it up. I have been trying to figure why this is. Personally, Baths simultaneously hits all of my auditory pleasure spots: chopped up electro-acoustic arrangements, massive beats, left-field vocal samples, and an impossibly high falsetto voice. It is as if Gold Panda, Passion Pit, and Daedelus are all performing in some sort of single-monikered supergroup. I can understand if this doesn’t generate the same level of unabashed gushing, but there is something undefined about Cerulean that erases any sort of subjectivity on the part of the listener. The unrestrained joy, intricately crafted hooks, and playful experimentation assure similar returns across the board. Listen to this record, you will feel happy, wistful, nostalgic, confident. Your head will bob. You really won’t have a choice in the matter.

Cerulean is one of those records that makes you feel like you have wasted your life when you find out that Wiesenfeld is only 21. The record, while representing a legion of different voices, is a solid and mature vision sutured by a few elements that Wiesenfeld has mastered. First and foremost, Baths is a beat maker. He reigns in the propensity to let auxiliary instrumentation and formless segues wreak havoc on his airtight beats by never straying too far out of a lock-step, definable beat pattern as a sturdy backbone. Baths’ use of sampled acoustic guitars, organic, household sounds, and piano lines often fall a half-step behind the propulsive beat, deepening the texture, but they always support and lend to the musical superstructure.

Coming in half-way through the album, “Hall” starts out as a delightfully twisted, lo-fi freak-folk strummer before being edited percussively into the rhythm and time signature of the beat. If we can compare Baths to recent Chillwave artists such as Toro y Moi and Washed Out we can do so favorably in terms of Wiesenfeld’s use of non-percussive rhythmic elements to augment his beats with which he creates a disorienting underwater headphone trip. Pretty amazing stuff.

The surprisingly stronger second half of the album utilizes Wiesenfeld’s multi-tracked falsetto in the fantastic pop songs “Plea” and “You’re My Excuse to Travel” while brooding over the somber, hiccupping “Rain Smell”. The human voice is never absent, either as another instrument or the songs main vehicle. Wiesenfeld’s’ voice packs an emotional weight, whether pushed to the brink of human hearing with an inhuman falsetto, mumbled into a microphone much too close to his mouth, or buried under a landslide of filters and tracked infinitely, it never goes unnoticed...

Friday, July 2, 2010


Einsjager & Siebenjager (Kosmiche, 1974)

For: Dungen, Niagara Falls, Journey (on a dangerous level of codeine), Stag Hare

Byline: If only...

This friday nostalgia tag is a little misleading. I did not grow up listening to krautrock , nor am I any sort of expert on the most dubious of hooks used by lazy music journalists to attach to a vaguely rhythmic minimal approach to making music when they don't feel like extrapolating it further. Hey, I'm guilty too, I used the misplaced "K" word when describing the new Aloha album. Aloha?...I guess The title of krautrock expert goes to TOME main-man Crawford P. Direct all your questions to him. I very recently stumbled upon Popol Vuh and their world-hopping exploits through this album Einsjager & Siebenjager which works as a kind of bridge between their early ambient experimentation and their later ethnic excursions into full-blown New Age Book Store quasi-mysticism. Einsjager & Siebenjar which makes obvious tips of the hat to both camps, finds a comfortable convergence in the kind of mid-seventies long-playing instrumental rock that is on all of our parents shelves, but we never heard them play. Early cuts from Journey, or more closely Traffic come to mind as the boilerplate for instrumental rock influenced by classical music or jazz. That is all well and good, and tracks range from the four-minute formulaic album opener "King Minos" that comes in mid-piano major chord riffing, to the awesome, rubbernecking dual guitar-monies on "Wurelspiel", to the drone-raga, epic 15 minute long-player "Einsjager und Siebenjager" that the rest of the album is a footnote to. Vocals, appearing only in the afore mentioned track, are low in the mix, a female voice cooing almost unintelligible vowel sounds.

I always get the impression that krautrock was a sort of Urban Music for Germans before Urban Music existed. An orderly, monolithic, and computerized futurist-urban Utopia ran by machines, full of computerized cars cruising the autobahn at night. Popol Vuh's compositions defy any sort of Germanic-futurism, are far from motorick and do just about everything but drive. They meander, they saunter, they mince, they plod, they drag, but there is never much of a destination in mind that would require the use of an automobile. If Einsjager & Siebenjager yearns for any type of utopia, it would the life of of a far-flung Greek outpost during the height of the Roman Empire. The immensely open and pastoral orchestral elements (this was fortunately before the pan flute, but not before the ubiquitous seventies rock-flute) embody sun-bathed coastlines, endless vineyards, and the casual hedonism of greek life. Einsjager & Siebenjager, all things considered is still kraut, and it is one of the most engaging records I have heard in a long time. If only I discovered this 10 years ago.

Ryan H.