Friday, October 31, 2008

Dwayne Sodahberk - Fjärilsfalu

Dwayne Sodahberk
(06.2008, Kning Disc)
File Under = A lot of stuff

As the year begins to wind down with just a couple months till 2009 (!) I realized that I have subconsciously categorized the music I have listened into various groups based on similarities in mood and style. For the most part, I have been able to tidily categorize everything into neat little mental compartments for easy access. When I’m in the mood for some darkly introspective beauty, instantly The Fun Years, Scott Tuma and Machinefabriek are running through my headphones. Some easy going, atmospheric pop? A Faulty Chromosome, Deerhunter and Evangelicals to save the day. How about some brain melting, Agrocrag destruction? Enter Hospitals, MoHa! and Black Pus. I could go on and on. However, sometimes when I’m just too indecisive and shuffle is running out of magic, those little categories seem to implode and I just want to listen to everything and nothing all at once. The remedy has revealed itself as Dwayne Sodahberk’s Fjärilsfalu. In general terms, Sodahberk is one of the most criminally unsung heroes of organic electronica and crossover electronic indie pop, however, with Fjärilsfalu, Sodahberk has become one of the most criminally unsung musical geniuses of the year, regardless of genre. Shedding any dominating aesthetic, Sodahberk has evolved from his mostly electronic past into an artist that must simply be approached on his own creative merits. Spanning the gamut from guitar driven indie pop to guttural atonal feedback to hushed woodsy folk to solo acoustic guitar layered with field recordings to, well, just about anything else you can think of. on Fjärilsfalu, Sodahberk proves that these disparate parts can come together in creation of a powerfully cohesive whole. It’s magic really. Sodahberk is a voodoo artist. Even the closing track and album namesake, “Fjärilsfalu,” veers, ending the album with a glitchy, pitch-shifted soundscape that would fit perfectly on Fennesz’s Endless Summer. It is an experience all its own. Most people will probably sleep on this, but for those who don’t, Fjärilsfalu will prove itself as one of the most refreshing releases around.

-Mr. Thistle

Dwayne Sodahberk on MySpace

Monday, October 27, 2008

Hospital Ships - Oh, Ramona

Hospital Ships
Oh, Ramona
(10.2008, Graveface Records)
Verdict: Cute-tastic

Hospital Ships is the "solo" project of little Jordan Geiger. You know little Jordan, he is the lead singer and keyboardist for that band that was really mediocre and then got really way awesome and then got mediocre again, Minus Story. Oh ya, he also is the victorious trumpeteer for that one band that has always sucked, what's their name, Shearwater. Anyways, you've probably seen little Jordan before. He is the one that is, you know, pretty little. He looks like he is constantly on the verge of death, and he sounds like it too. I don't know what it is about dying things, but they are usually pretty endearing. Cute even. Yes, Jordan has that really cute death frailty working for him. On Oh, Ramona, even the songs sound pretty close to dissipation, with little triumphant moments of lingering vibrancy. Don't take this wrong, it works out fantastically on Oh, Ramona to make a very personal light pop album worth a thousand listens. The sequencing may be the biggest downfall, all though, even with differing sequencing the album may still feel a bit like a collection of singles rather than a complete holistic effort. But, then again, they are pretty great singles! So, feel free to skip and repeat tracks like crazy and soak in the layered simplistic cuteness in whatever order you wish!


Deerhunter - Microcastle

(10.2008, Kranky)
File Under = Instant classics

It seems that it is becoming increasingly uncertain whether a given band will be able to deliver a viable follow up to any breakthrough success. Deerhunter left us with promise after by following up Cryptograms with the Fluorescent Grey EP, but you never know, you know? Oh happy day! Deerhunter has done it with Microcastle. They have outgrown their awkward teenage stage and grown into their only slightly less awkward young adulthood. Fortunately, with Bradford Cox at the helm, it is the kind of endearing awkwardness that garners giddy fanaticism rather than uncomfortable silence. With this maturing growth has also come a more confidently stripped version of the goodness of Cryptograms, which for me sat squarely on the second half of that disc. Frequent FG readers know that I’m all for quality drone and textured soundscapes like the ones found on Cryptograms, but it was those anxious pop songs that really won me over when I first heard Deerhunter. With Microcastle, those most delicious and more widely regarded moments are on display throughout and carry an additional little umph in the songs structure department. I mean seriously, is there a much better musical moment than the climactic closing minute of “Microcastle”? The band has set a new standard for themselves here and if their current track record is any indication, things will only be getting better in the future. If that rings true, Deerhunter is bound for the same kind of indie stardom hawked by contemporary staples like The National or Arcade Fire. If that turns out to be the case, it will be attention well earned.

-Mr. Thistle

Bird Names - Open Relationship

Bird Names
Open Relationship
(04.2008, Unsound Records)
Verdict = Ridiculously awesome

A band like Bird Names only shows up on the radar a couple times a year, if that, so it is important that I catch my breath and fan myself before I start so as not to get too wildly out of control. By checking the release date, you’ll notice that this album has avoided me for the better part of year. That is probably for the best because if I would have got this in April I may not have listened to much else throughout the year. Hailing from the musically affluent city of Chicago, it’s a wonder that more dust hasn’t been kicked up over Open Relationship. The album is a colorful blend of art-damaged folk pop that never loses its charm amidst its brash juvenility. It’s jagged and playful, inventive and hook-laden and overall happily odd. Open Relationship’s fifteen tracks are packaged like bite-sized candy bars and then deep fried just for fun; each is a super rich exciting blast of fricasseed creativity. The great part about Bird Names is that they aren't content to simply rehash the same song fifteen times. Though they rarely stray from the two to three minute time frame, the band still manages to wrangle in touchstones that read like noise pop pedigree chart. From Pumice to Ariel Pink to Times New Viking to Animal Collective, Bird Names encompasses the best of each and more, creating a one-stop shop for all things awesome. Open Relationship is the kind of introduction that will have you scrambling to snatch up the back-catalog; sooo grood.

-Mr. Thistle

Friday, October 24, 2008

Chartreuse - No More Paths To Sounder Sleep

No More Paths To Sounder Sleep
(10.2008, Thor's Rubber Hammer)
File Under = Moody drone/ambient

No More Paths To Sounder Sleep sounds like a murky machine whose components are created completely from clouds. Now that sounds nice, doesn’t it? Well, if you agree then you’re obviously thinking of the wrong kind of clouds. The clouds in Chartreuse’s machine are the dark, graying, polluted kind that are as dense and heavy as they are soft around the edges. There is a pervasive feeling of anxiousness, the kind you might feel navigating a decrepit industrial factory (again, if it were made of clouds). Yet, even while Chartreuse’s eerie machine pumps away rhythmically with clouded droning loops, there is an elusive sense of comfort in each piece, something familiar. In the press packet for No More Paths To Sounder Sleep, Eluvium, Nadja and Brian Eno are identified as similar artists and that’s a pretty spot on assessment. In fact, the Chartreuse sound is like an accumulation of endearing traits from the aforementioned artists. The arsenal includes an organ style drone that shifts slower than the tectonic plates, sparse occasional field recordings and an intermittently emerging guitar. Using these tools, Drew Smith, the man behind the cloud machine, creates dense textures that are drowsily layered and looped like a self propelled toy that has been wound and let loose to amble along aimlessly. There are no real climactic moments, just slow realizations and tiny epiphanies amidst the haze. No More Paths To Sound Sleep is a devastating trip that increases in beautiful with each step.

-Mr. Thistle

Chartreuse on Myspace

Blank Dogs - On Two Sides

Blank Dogs
On Two Sides
(2008, Troubleman Unlimited)
Verdict = Oh no! Run! It’s more lo-fi pop! J/k, pull up a seat and stay awhile.

Lo-fi outsider pop is 2008 as far as I’m concerned. It’s a bell I’ve rang about a million times by now and it’s become a pretty lazy tagline. Blank Dogs, a one man bedroom project, is certainly Lo-fi pop and he’s most definitely an outsider, but not of the trendy 2008 kind. First off, while No Age, Time New Viking and the Siltbreeze roster mine punchy punk influences, Blank Dogs finds a little more by way of new wave and The Smiths. Secondly, while the aforementioned trendsetters (and seriously, despite how trendy they are, I still love ‘em to death) produce jagged bits of feed back and occasionally abrasive, scuzzed out soundscapes, On Two Sides turns inward, producing hazy, muted pop gold topped with vocals that seem to be wrapped extensively with audio gauze. I'm kind of painting the record into a corner here because while the majority of the record unfolds in this manner there are still blissed out punk anthems wrapped in barbwire interspersed, granted, the barbs are a little sparser. However, the differences are clear and Blank Dogs is a completely unique project, following no path but its own. On Two Sides is essentially a sugary pop record that has been set out in the sun for too long, warped and melted into a syrup mess that is even more delicious as a result. Troubleman Unlimited has produced a limited run of the album on vinyl and tape so scrape one up while you can, you won’t regret it.

-Mr. Thistle

Blank Dogs blog

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hauschka - Ferndorf

(10.2008, Fatcat)
File Under = Piano based neo-classical

Hauschka, now on his fourth full length release, has become quite the reliable outlet for beautifully inventive piano based neo-classical music. Ferndorf is simply another example of an incredible ear for melody and an adept arrangement skills. Hauschka’s steadily stunning output may not be as loudly proclaimed as similar artists like Rachel’s or Max Richter, but that certainly doesn’t mean that his music is any less amazing. In fact, quite to the contrary, if anything Hauschka is exceeding those afore mentioned indie-approved neo-classicalists by producing even more immediate, arresting and talented compositions. One of the keys here is Haischka’s ability on the piano. While the past decade has seen a waves of avant-garde and modern classical composers try their hand at solo piano, the majority have turned in overly simplistic attempts that have rarely risen above the status of nice background music. Hauschka, on the other hand, is a pianist who knows his instrument well, manipulating it nimbly with skillfully engaging melodies that belie any inherent simplicity and constantly demand your full attention. In addition, Ferndorf carries a subtle percussive undercurrent, equally engaging string sections and, occasionally, some well placed brass. Hauschka uses each instrument to add layers and layers of melody that somehow find a way to merge into a beautiful whole. It’s a full package of deftly executed chamber music that should be universally appealing to those who simply can’t deny great music, regardless of the genre. Quaint, powerful stuff.

-Mr. Thistle

Donovan Quinn & The 13th Month - S/T

Donovan Quinn & The 13th Month
(09.2008, Soft Abuse)
Verdict = An unassuming gem

Donovan Quinn, one half of The Skygreen Leopards, has spent a long time with bandmate Glenn Donaldson developing a sound that feels perfectly underdeveloped. So, it is no surprise that Quinn’s solo outing (with 'The 13th Month') finds him conjuring the same loose feel. Everything is headed by Mr. Quinn himself, but, as the title suggests, he’s got some friends in tow. Marketing material seemed fairly eager to announce contributing hands Karl Bauer (Axolotl *!*) and Jason Quever (Papercuts), however, all of the musical traits that make these two musicians unique are nowhere to be found on the record. This isn’t really a detractor, but I couldn’t help salivating at the idea of some Axolotl noise entering into the mix. In reality, Quinn’s backing band could be just about anyone with a general instrumental knowledge and slow reaction time to rhythm. Quinn’s Dylan-esque voice floats through the record in sepia tones amidst the shifty Americana tinged folk. If these descriptors tend to feel like they could just as easily describe The Skygreen Leopards, you’re not far off – Donovan Quinn & The 13th Month is pretty much a version of Disciples of California with a little bit more twang. As such, the album is a sure fire grower that burns like a late night fire, crackling a popping with a comforting, homey warmth. It’s a beautiful collection of bitter sweet songs and a surefire companion with which to brave anything.

-Mr. Thistle

Donovan Quinn & The 13th Month - "Holy Agent"

Friday, October 17, 2008

Gang Gang Dance - Saint Dymphna

Gang Gang Dance
Saint Dymphna
(10.2008, The Social Registry)
Verdict = Gang Gang Dance finally take their rightful place

About this time of year my top ten list is starting to get pretty packed seeing as how the number of bands I have stated were top ten material are far more than ten. Well, even with that being the case I am more than comfortable pushing one more worthy artist out of a top slot to make room for Saint Dymphna. It is a requirement really. There are almost no other albums on the landscape of 2008 that can even marginally eff with what Gang Gang Dance has created here. This is good, because I was getting pretty worried there for a bit. Not that he would remember me, but the last time GGDD came rolling through Salt Lake I spoke with drummer Tim Dewitt and he seemed somewhat discouraged about the recording process. At the time, the band was planning on releasing the follow up to God’s Money in the fall of 2007. I waited, and after two fair EP length releases and no full length I began to get nervous. I thought, maybe it wasn’t possible to successfully follow up something as good as God’s Money. I was wrong. With Saint Dymphna, Gang Gang Dance has upped their game considerably. The band has finally solidified their place along side contemporary heavy weights like Animal Collective, Black Dice and Excepter as one of the foremost innovators in the art rock. That said, GGD has always been the most hip hop of these groups. Saint Dymphna reveals this in spades, filling every inch of the album with majestic, head-bobbing poly rhythms. The hip-hopness is most obvious on “Princes,” which employs the help of grime emcee, Tinchy Stryder. I have actually seen a couple reviews that have slammed this track and the other most notable single on the album, “House Jam.” Seems to me to be some type of ridiculous, “I-am-hipper-than-you-because-I-don’t-like-the-more-assecible-tracks” nonsense because GGD absolutely kill it on both tracks. Seriously, I have no idea how anyone could hate on those tracks, and no, they don’t feel out of place on the album. Anyway, absolutely sick album with dozens of memorable, melodic shifts within each and every track. It’s been worth the wait.

-Mr. Thistle

Gang Gang Dance on Myspace

Machinefabriek - Dauw

(07.2008, Dekoder)
File Under = Engrossing

With near (if it hasn’t already exceeded) 100 releases under his belt, Machinefabriek is a difficult artist to keep track of (I think he and Birchville Cat Motel are in completion to see who can reach the 100 releases benchmark first). This is especially true when most of his releases come in the form of a limited edition CDr. It’s probably impossible to lay ears on everything he has produced or to be able to filter those of his releases which you truly need from those which will simply end up ornamenting your Christmas tree. So, when this Dutch native decides that something is good enough to be released as a full length album on a legitimate record label, you should probably take notice. Dauw is undoubtedly in the ‘don’t-miss-this’ category. The album transcends typical standards of music, providing some of the most engrossing sounds I’ve ever heard through headphones. Machinefabriek has an undeniable work ethic that has made him the indisputable master of his craft and Dauw may just be his benchmark achievement. The album moves slowly like a massive stone colossus (think Shadow of The Colossus – perhaps the video game equivalent to this album actually), shaking the ground with it’s every move. Blending elements of musique concrete and manipulated recording buzz with quaint, beautiful instrumentation, Machinefabriek achieves much more than a passing ambience. Dauw is a record, that despite its patient pacing grabs your full unwavering attention. There is just something otherworldly about the weight of what Machinefabriek has created here – something divine. The albums five tracks culminate in the 25+ minute album closer, “Singel,” a gorgeous transportative piece anchored by an ominous low end hum that builds and builds until there is nothing more that could possibly be added that could improve upon what has transpired. It is really an experience all its own.

-Mr. Thistle

Machinefabriek - "Fonograaf"

MoHa! - One-Way Ticket to Candyland

One-Way Ticket To Candyland
(10.2008, Rune Grammofon)
Verdict = More Focused and More Potent

MoHa! are back with their third full length release in three years and despite adding another unsavory album cover to a year that has been filled with them, the release is more than a welcome addition to the band’s discography. It's really not too surprising that this Norwegian duo is able to release something substantial, new and inventive on a yearly basis; the vigorous pace of their grizzled onslaught almost requires it. It’s a self imposed world of evolve or die. On One-Way Ticket To Candyland MoHa! has evolved. While this release is still every bit as identifiable in terms free jazz noise rock, MoHa! has added an enhanced electronic edge to their standard guitar/drums ruckus. In addition to the electronics is a newfound sense of repetition and control, however fleeting the ideas might be. One-Way Ticket To Candyland is every bit as convulsive, adrenaline raddled and exciting as its predecessors, yet with a new penchant for intermittent rhythms and a bursting sense of structure, MoHa! have left something for us to grab hold of so as not to get lost amongst the clatter. The results steer the band’s violently spastic attack into Lightning Bolt territory, that is, if territory Lightning Bolt inhabited was under attack by waves of malfunctioning robot suicide bombers. Not a bad place to inhabit and, as the album title suggests, one filled with delicious moments throughout.

-Mr. Thistle

MoHa! on Myspace

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Juana Molina - Un Dia

Juana Molina
Un Dia
(10.2008, Domino)
Verdict = Looping pedals are fun! (AKA - I don't know what to write)

On first listen, Un Dia has a deceptively light, airy feel that can give the impression of music that’s meant to be leisurely, however, a closer listen will reveal a depth that is near unrivalled in both its composition and strength. Molina has long been developing a sound that is all her own and with Un Dia she pushes it into even further. Continuing to rely more and more heavily on loop pedals, on Un Dia Molina has crafted a hypnotic barrage of overlapping vocal chants, field recordings, acoustic guitars and electronics. The slow building repetition combined with Molina’s effortless touch is undoubtedly entrancing, but larger rewards are lurking in the details with subtle melodic shifts and brief instrumental appearances emerging under the flow of the loops. With only eight tracks this time around, Molina has dropped standard song structure in favor of a more organic, meandering feel on the album. Lyrically, everything is still undecipherable to me. Despite the fact that I am in my third semester of Spanish at the University of Utah, the only apparent meaning in Molina’s songs are achieved in terms of vocal melodies. Though I have my inadequacies in translation, I get the impression that most of the lyrics would probably be difficult to decipher even in Molina’s native Argentina. She definitely relies on her layered vocals as an integral instrument in her compositions so there is no loss for those who ‘no habla espanol’. Un Dia is pretty seamless throughout, containing consistently enchanting moments that beg for repeat listens. Don’t be surprised when you see this album popping up again at the year’s end.

-Mr. Thistle

Juana Molina - "UnDia"

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Marnie Stern - This Is It...

Marnie Stern
This Is It and I Am It and You Are It and So Is That and He Is It and She Is It and It Is It and That Is That
(10.2008 Kill Rock Stars)
Verdict: I want to get in a fight with the album title.

My girlfriend dumped me recently. My first thought was to curl up in a ball and listen to an entire Elliott Smith album for the first time since high school. Luckily I decided against such self indulgence, imported the new Marnie Stern onto my IPod and air guitared away my troubles in the park. While Marnie Stern was not able to act as some miracle drug that wiped away all my cares, it did provide a surprising level of relief. I guess when you are listening to ear melting rock n' roll full blast as you flail around a swing set its hard to think of anything really. The good news is not much has changed since In Advance of the Broken Arm. Marnie can still shred with the best of them, if not better. Zach Hill is still a God among men when it comes to blasting beats. The songs are still pretty catchy despite being slightly ear grating, and will most likely be a key proponent into me acquiring hearing aids before I reach middle age. All in all this release is just as strong as her debut (maybe better) and has found a special place in my rock n' roll heart. Plus, she's one of the few artists that can overuse finger tapping without me wanting to punch them in the face. Screw Van Halen.

-Wooly Mammal

Elephant9 - Dodvoodoo

(06.2008, Rune Grammofon)
Verdict = Bombastic, invigorating, rockin' jazz

Improvisational music has always been a super compelling, but slightly difficult listen for me and Jazz, with all its history and various sub genres, has been a particularly daunting area of music for me to penetrate. However, while I have yet to delve into very much beyond Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue in terms of historical essentials, I have become enraptured with various forms of avant-garde jazz that seems to be one of the staples of modern Scandinavian music. The Norwegian label Rune Grammofon is evidence enough of this theory. It only takes a quick glance at their artist roster to realize the label has released the who’s who of exiting new hybrid jazz. Elephant9, the most recent new band to be let loose from the Rune Grammofon stables, is quintessential of everything that is good about the label's output and more. Like many of the bands on RG, Elephant9 shares its members with other notables. Tortstein Lofthus (Shining) and Nikolai Haengsle (The National Bank) run the rhythm section on drums and bass while Stale Storlokken (Supersilent, Humcrush) manages the keyboard. Lofthus’s inhumanly technical marathon drumming and Haengsle’s thickly delicious bass lines provide a perpetually energetic rock infused backdrop for Storlokken on keys. Storlokken’s insistence on using gritty 70’s style keyboard effects adds a beautifully nostalgic touch to the entire album making Dodovoodoo feel all the more dynamic delving in prog rock, nu jazz, psychedelic and free form sounds. The difference between Elephant9’s debut and a lot of RG releases is its relentless consistency. There isn’t a single flat or dull moment on the whole record which seems to be a difficult thing to avoid when you are flying by the seat of your pants. When Sassigrass first heard the album she said it sounded like “a funkified baseball game.” I’m not quite sure where she gets the baseball reference, but I’d definitely subscribe to anything as funkified as this is.

-Mr. Thistle

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The New Year - Self Titled

The New Year
The New Year
(09.2008, Touch & Go)
Verdict = Subtly above “above average”

Do you remember the time when the independent music scene was filled with solid music from all over the map that wasn’t worried about inventing the next hybrid genre? A time when instruments were employed skillfully to flesh out great songwriting? Maybe that era never really existed, but there was a time when I first started listening to “indie music” that I felt like that was all that was out there. The New Year not only remembers this period in indie rock (the band was started in ’99), but has beautifully retained its aesthetics. On their self-titled third album, The New Year has humbly churned out another batch of solid, slightly lonely indie rock tracks. Alternating between guitar and piano based songs. The New Year isn’t breaking down any musical barriers. References to some of the band member’s former projects like Bedhead and Codiene or to note one of my personal favorites of this era of generic descriptors, Idaho, are certainly expected. One can see by the cover of The New Year’s latest that they aren’t out to turn any heads. However, for those who invest their time in the band’s latest, the rewards are boundless. The New Year’s new self-titled album is the definition of a grower. The understated vocals, affecting lyrics, subtle melodic interplay and elusively technical percussion all interlock to create a near perfect album that will never lose its sheen. It may take a few listens, but once The New Year has you in their grips they’re discreet genius will appear limitless.

-Mr. Thistle

Listen to the album Here

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Deerhoof - Offend Maggie

Offend Maggie
(10.2008, Kill Rock Stars)
Verdict: In love as always

If you were to ask me what my favorite band in the whole entire universe is/was/were I would say: DEEEEERHOOOOF!!! I therefore am incredibly biased and perfectly unqualified to write a proper critique and evaluation of their latest creation Offend Maggie, so instead, I may as well show my true feeling and address Deerhoof as the love of my life that they are:

Dear Deerhoof;

I have found myself the bearer of a bounteous fortune bestowed on myself from thee; another album released so quickly after the last shower of affection was felt. Last years' Friend Opportunity, unsurprisingly left me with an insatiable craving for more, and you have satisfied my every sense in the lusciousness that we now title "Offend Maggie." Your flirtation in sheet music only left me in the destructive burden of lustation at it's highest. I stayed awake countless nights wondering how you would return to me, and here you are in funky fresh deliciousness with a new friend Ed. Ed, I love you too, your electric touch has grooved my to tears. But Greg, Greg, now there is a man made of pure musical talent and lanky features. Deerhoof, your members form a completeness that warms my dreariest days. How long has it been that I have loved your dissonance? How long after your live show do I dream about your flawless performance? How long have I desired a track of yours to be on Guitar Hero? Deerhoof, you are my one true love, and with every move I have more faith that you will never fail me. Offend Maggie reassures and adds even more depth to or love language.

Sincerely, yours truly, forever

P.S. One question my dear: What's with your album covers?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Castanets - City of Refuge

City of Refuge
(10.2008, Asthmatic Kitty)
Verdict: So, I've pretty much really liked all the Castanets albums, although I do find First Light's Freeze to have a few minor flaws, but ya I really enjoy this new album.

My adoration for last year's In the Vines is pretty darn high, so high in fact that it solidified Raymond Bryon as one of my fave song writers of the day. So to get a new album from him so soon is pretty great. Now, due to the quickness of this follow up I honestly wasn't expecting a whole lot, but City of Refuge packs quite the punch and is a welcome addition to the Castanets near flawless back catalogue. This album is the result of three weeks of isolation in a small town Nevada hotel room. Given the locale, the instrumentation is far sparser than previous efforts; we don't even hear a single percussive instrument the entire album. What we do get is a variety of minimal keyboard experiments, guitar instrumentals, and Raymond still writing songs that carry his patented air of sorrow and heartbreak. To soften the blow of some of the darker tracks, Raymond includes a cover of the traditional gospel tune, "I'll fly away" and a song his Father penned about the fall of Adam and Eve. While not as ambitious as In the Vines, City of Refuge is every bit as genuine and emotional, and I'd dare say a bit more intimate. Another great Castanets release and a must listen for anyone who has a pension for reverbed-out folk and americana.

-Wooly Mammal

Capsule - Blue

(02.2008, Robotic Empire)
File Under = Progressive Hardcore

We don’t get around to hardcore music very much around here, but that isn’t due to a lack of affection for it. At the very least, Sassigrass and I have both had pretty strong ties to the genre and regard it with some sentimentality. However, as times progress, angst subsides and genres dissipate. At least that is the way it seems. I am so far out of touch that I really have no idea what is coming out of the hardcore scenes nowadays. That is probably one of the reasons that this little gem took such a long time finding my ears. Regardless of how long it took to find, Capsule’s Blue is an absolutely magnificent moment, not only for hardcore (or metalcore or whatever) but in terms of music as a whole for 2008. From the first burst of ravishing energy on “True Blue,” the palette cleansing introductory track, through to the album’s end, Blue is perpetually visceral. The album is the debut from Capsule, who apparently have been around for awhile. The time the band has spent together isn’t lost on Blue. The album reeks of a seasoned group of very skilled musicians bent on harboring in the apocalypse. I think one of the things that I am most happy about here is the production. Everything feels fairly gritty and jagged which is probably one of the reasons that it's on Robotic Empire. The vocals are buried deep underneath the guttural guitars and propelled by a grainy rhythm section. It feels kind of like Botch via City of Caterpillar. Capsule takes notes from both with mind melting blasts of super technical metal influenced hardcore as well as expansive drifting moments floating amidst the chaos. Using the best aspects of their forbearers along with their own batch of nuances, Capsule has revived my adoration of an entire genre by producing one of the most dynamic records that has been produced in it for some time.

-Mr. Thistle

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Matthew Robert Cooper - Miniatures

Matthew Robert Cooper
(08.2008, Gaarden Records)
Verdict = Eluvium-lite

I am a sucker for vinyl. Well, not a total sucker, but I definitely can't help but salivate at a nice 12" slab of wax. It's because of this that I am pretty elated about Matthew Robert Cooper, AKA-the man behind Eluvium, releasing this limited edition LP in advance of a 7 LP box that will contain all of his releases as Eluvium from Temporary Residence later this year It's all been pretty exciting news really. Besides, I am always pumped to hear anything new from Cooper and with this, his first album released under his given name, there are definitely high expectations. Cooper starts things off putting his best foot forward with "Miniature 1," a 5+ minute knockout revisiting the ethereal guitar tones of masterpiece, Talk Amongst the Trees. From there Cooper spends most of the remaining eight Miniatures with sparse piano tracks, ala An Accidental Memory in the Case of Death interspersed with various other, more atmospheric tracks that reflect more of a Copia aesthetic. The closing track in particular," Miniature 9," seems to absorb the synthy drones of Copia most adeptly, bookending the album with the second best track. Overall Miniatures feels like a kind of stylistic overview of Cooper's most recent output which isn't a bad thing for Eluvium fans. However, given the nature of the release and the choice of using a given name it is a bit underwhelming, but pleasant enough. Fortunately that box set is on the horizon to reassure us that Mr. Cooper isn't simply an above average atmospheric conjurer.

-Mr. Thistle

Matthew Robert Cooper aka Eluvium on Myspace