Friday, July 30, 2010
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.
Coma Cinema Official MySpace
Coma Cinema Official Website (free download here)
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
China Mountain (Silber, 07.2010)
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Friday, July 23, 2010
Disco 2 (Lovepump United, 06.2010)
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.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Summer Vacation EP (Self-Released, 2010)
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Ecailles de Lune (Prophecy, 2010)
Monday, July 19, 2010
The Green (Hidden Shoal, 2010)
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Infra (Fat Cat, 07.2010)
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Songs to Sleep Next To (Self-Released, 06.2010)
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
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.”
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
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Haunting Through (Self-Released, 07.2010)
Friday, July 9, 2010
Cryonics (Level Plane, 2003)
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Bracing (Obeast Tapes/Family Time Recordings, 2009)
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
The Line b/w Precious Necklace (Be Good to Me)
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
The Lights Go Out (Sonic Reverie, 06.10)
Monday, July 5, 2010
Cerulean (07.10, anticon)
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)