Monday, August 24, 2009

Caboladies - Crowded Out Memory

Crowded Out Memory
(2009, Gneiss Things)
RIYL = High Wolf, Axolotl, Sam Hamilton, Emeralds

To call Caboladies and the Caboladies related output in the last couple of years 'prolific' is kind of like calling Michael Jordan just an ok basketball player; it’s pretty much the understatement of the decade. The craziest part is that it seems like everything this Kentucky trio (now a duo?) touches turns gold and promptly (and rightfully) disappears amid the frenzied drone-heads lurking teh internets for any sign of an under-the-radar Caboladies release. Well, I lamented not being hip to the Caboladies’ Atomic Weekender LP on Digitalis, but I guess I can’t complain because Crowded Out Memory, the new cdr from Emeralds run label Gneiss Things, is pretty much the album lengthed Caboladies treasure that I have been yearning for all year. Like Axolotl’s Of Bonds in General, Crowded Out Memory just barely makes the thirty minute mark with three long form tracks. I bring up Of Bonds in General because despite the astral hyperboles that I heaped upon that record in my review of its unparalleled goodness, Crowded Out Memory is hitting that same level of noise-ambient bliss. While Caboladies do fit into a similar category as Axolotl, there are definitely distinct differences in their sound. What Caboladies have been pushing is a bit less abrasive and a bit more, um, spacey? Crowded Out Memory is flush with a polysynth barrage of digital rainfall, mechanized laser beams and glittering keyboard sizzles that all combine to create the most unlikely beauty. Crowded Out Memory is basically two relatively shorter tracks sandwiching an eighteen minute plus behemoth of wandering, molecular mischief that strives to rearrange the patterns of space. Caboladies do a pretty fair job too. I wouldn’t be surprised if based on the efforts of this album alone that scientists announce the addition, retraction and rearrangement of several planets in our solar system by early next year. Of course, by that time you can probably expect that the Caboladies will have released a dozen more, equally gorgeous tapes, cds and vinyl to put things back into their rightful place again. As far as I am concerned, Caboladies can pretty much do whatever they want. This album is simply nuts delicious, textured and pastoral, futuristic and timeless. I guess there is one less available spot in my top ten for 2009.


Caboladies on MySpace

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Yolks - S/T LP

The Yolks
The Yolks
(2009, Randy Records)
RIYL = The Fresh & Onlys, The Strokes, Nodzzz

Simplicity can be a risky business. On the one hand, the simplification of chords and instrumentation brought us much of the glorious pop music that started gaining momentum in the momentous sixties. The Zombies, The Who, The Velvet Underground (you know the list): They sifted gold through the most remedial means. On the other hand, the paring down of instrumental and compositional elements of a given band can also quickly reveal how truly uninspired they are when it comes to song writing. I have the feeling that with some of this recent noise pop, that the noise is a compensation for actual honest-to-goodness song writing. I think the line of thinking goes something like this: “Wow, that song is kind of sucky. Hey! What if we just turn everything up way loud and add a lot of feedback, then no one will know the difference.” Now, that doesn’t apply to everybody in that category, but you’ve got to imagine that some of these bands are running things this way. That’s were The Yolks come in. Forget about lo-fi noise pop, The Yolks are just straight bare bones retro pop and - yep, you guessed it – these three guys can actual write and play fantastically catchy, enduring songs. It’s a simple setup of guitar, bass and drums. The ground isn’t erupting over the instrumentation or the limited chords The Yolks are hashing through, but on their debut LP, the ground is erupting over the fact that they are actually pretty freakin’ great. And fun. Of course the band’s record label claims this as well, but its true, this music is full of soul, and energy and fun. This is the kind of music that forces me to open my sun roof and wish that I had some old sixties convertible to go get milk shakes in. Oh, and you’ve got to love that cover art. Solid.


The Yolks on MySpace

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Groupshow - the Martyrdom of Groupshow

The Martyrdom of Groupshow
(2009, Scape)
RIYL = Matmos, Eric Copeland, Black Dice

Groupshow is something of a German electronic super group boasting membership of Jan Jelinek, Hanno Leichtmann and Andrew Pekler. Pekler and Leichtmann actually worked as a backing band for Jelinek on tour which is, I’m assuming, how the trio formed under the single creative entity. If you are familiar with any of their work individually, you’re probably not going to be surprised by the fact that Groupshow’s electronics are weird, but weird in the best possible way. The trio’s improvisations turn into slightly off kilter pop tracks that usually revolve around the 3 minute mark, not too long or too brief to fully flesh out their alien skin. And if you were ever to imagine what pop music is to aliens, I imagine Groupshow is a pretty good possibility. The Martyrdom of Groupshow is filled with piles and piles of various odd synthesizer tones, blips, hums and beats, all scattered around and yet scattered into some type of symmetry that assures to never feel random. There is a cohesive thread here that pulls the oddity through for human consumption. I haven’t heard any of Leichtmann’s solo work, but in comparison to Pekler’s and Jelinek’s, The Martyrdom of Groupshow isn’t quite to standard, but as a testament to how high those standards are, Groupshow’s debut is definitely up there as far as my favourite electronic albums of the year and seems to be getting better and better the more I listen to it. Certainly it is a worthy stopgap between the time we wait for something new from each artist as an individual and, assuming they continue to record together, The Martyrdom of Groupshow is a stunning display of talent and potential.


Groupshow on MySpace

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Slumberwood - Yawling Night Songs

Yawling Night Songs
(2009, A Silent Place)
RIYL = Our Sleepless Forest, Letters Letters, Skallander

Slumberwood is an artistic collective from Italy that seems to dabble in just about every medium, including sound on this, their debut album. Yawling Night Songs is a dense collection of wild sounds that have been let loose to navigate a dense night jungle. The first and second tracks build seamlessly into an increasingly tense aural freakout with layers of noise being placed atop one another. Towards the end, female vocals are introduced, babbling incoherently. The experience is somewhat trying near the end, but just before the floor falls through, Slumberwood eases into a gorgeous acoustic guitar passage modified by little bits and pieces of hanging shrapnel that is kind of reminiscent of some of Scott Tuma’s work. Yawling Night Songs feels like an exercise in just these types of juxtapositions: the calm and beautiful posted up next to the manic and frightening. Slumberwood also seems keen on trying their hand at just about any musical genre that tickles their fancy, moving from drone, to noise to folk to blues/bluegrass to post rock. Everything is fair game. However, it is this openness to morphing that makes Yawling Night Songs sometimes feel more like a well compiled or interesting mixtape that the work of one band with a defined aesthetic. But, no matter how ambitious the band is when attacking each individual muse, they pull it off pitch perfectly. Each track feels well produced and filled with lush instrumentation and faded field samples in every nook and cranny. Yawling Night Songs attacks every version of night available under the black sky and is a beautiful debut record for a band experimenting to find out exactly what it would like to be. Slumberwood may not have their identity down pact yet, but their fragmented debut shows a lot more promise and has loads more bliss induced musical moments than most bands just getting their feet wet. Certainly a group to watch out for in the future.


Slumberwood on MySpace

Monday, August 10, 2009

High Wolf - S/T

High Wolf
High Wolf
(2009, Winged Sun Records)
RIYL = Caboladies, Stag Hare, Predator Vision

In the wake of two super-limited, super-terrific, already sold out tapes, High Wolf has released this self titled CDr which should hopefully stick around long enough for people who are reading this to snatch one before they too vanish into oblivion. Unfortunately, this seems to be the current trend in underground experimental noise and drone. Start a delicious new group and proceed to release awesome slabs of sound in the most limited quantities possible. I don’t get it. I don’t care if I have one copy of something that was limited to 100. I just want to hear the music. Why not make more copies? They’ll sell, right? I mean, take this most recent Caboladies LP: Atomic Weekender is the band's first release on wax and for some reason Digitalis sees fit to only produce 100 of them!? It’s baffling. Doesn’t it cost more per record when you produce smaller runs? Surely there is at least 3 or 400 more people who would have easily snatched those things up (me included). The same thing goes for the ridiculously expensive Animal Crack Box set from Animal Collective. Of course you’re going to start a feeding frenzy when you only press a 1000 copies of a new 3LP for a band who had just released the album of 2009 (For the record, Merriweather Post Pavillion, while amazing, is no longer my favourite of the year. Still good though.). Anyway, I’ll try to subdue my rant. You can just download the ripped copies online anyway, right? And if I’m going to be forced to steal a copy instead of pay for them because some hip, limited run release sold out, then I’m also not going to feel bad about it. What does any of this have to do with High Wolf’s selft titled CDr? Nothing really. You can still order this thing. Six full, lush tracks of bubbly, tropical and tribal drones that alternate between meandering meditations and percussive propulsions. These guys really are worthy of the amount of hype that is beginning to build for them. Who knows, they could turn out to be 2010’s Emeralds. So, as an apology for a review that really only used a sentence or two to describe any actual music, I suggest this: keep an eye out for future High Wolf releases, because they may not last long and considering their three for three track record so far (the Animal Totem cs is my favourite of the three), they’re not likely to disappoint. Beautiful dense drones for the drone inclined. Check it!


High Wolf on MySpace

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra, Blues Control and Ruby Ruby Ruby

Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra
Take Off!
(2009, Alien Transistor)
RIYL = Leonard Bernstein, Lawrence Welk, Steve Reich

Composed by Berlin compositionalist Daniel Glatzel for a 20 piece orchestra, Take Off! is a melting pot of retro styles that have been chopped up, reassembled and invigorated with a hyperactive youthfulness that has taken a lot of music listeners by storm. This isn’t really the music you’d expect to be blasting through your average college aged hipster’s headphones as they’re bobbing down 3rd South in SLC, but after indulging myself, I can’t really think of anything better. It's simply cool stuff. The part that kills me is that Glatzel is 25 years old (my age!) and he has pulled off one of the most adventurous orchestral compositions of this decade. Combining orchestral jazz, film, classical and, well, lots of other stuff, the Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra touches just about everything on this astounding debut. I’m not going to be surprised to see this on plenty of year end lists this year (I’ve already noted it on a lot of pre-emptive ones), it is just too refreshing, too exciting, too smile-inducing and too much fun.

Blues Control
Local Flavor
(2009, Siltbreeze)
RIYL = Peaking Lights, Wet Hair, Oneohtrix Point Never

I’m having difficulty comparing and describing Blues Control’s music at the moment. I have been listening to Local Flavor for a couple weeks and can’t seem to pin any descriptors or RIYLs to it that feel right. And I'm pretty sure this has always been the case ever since they debuted with Puff. Of course that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to make an unwieldy stab at it for this blurb. Combining guitar, piano/keys and a variety of processing methods, Local Flavor finds Blues Control at their milkiest, murkiest, weirdest and, as a whole, their best (I just love that first track off of their self titled album on Holy Mountain). This is really delicious stuff. Not quite noise, not quite not noise; just some beautifully bizarre psych “blues” and loopy swamp drone that is sure to leave you waterlogged and floating dead down the Amazon. And who wouldn’t subscribe to that?! I wish I could present something more cohesive because I’m liking Local Flavor enough to think its deserving of it, but alas, my words fail and all I can leave you with is a healthy, fragmentated description/recommendation: good mucky forward pedaling crocodile rock to die to(?).

Ruby Ruby Ruby
The Shadow of Your Smile
(2009, Zarek)
RIYL = Billie Holiday, The Magic I.D.

Ruby Ruby Ruby is the result of an offhand suggestion that was unexpectedly taken in to consideration and then blissfully realized. Margareth Kammerer of The Magic I.D., along with a troupe of class gentlemen (when you listen to the album you’ll realize that they could only be classy), rework ten gorgeous jazz standards in a classic smoky way that makes everything turn to black and white when it’s playing. There is nothing groundbreaking here, but Kammerer’s voice is just so pleasing and her guitar along with the rest of the instrumentation (bass, drums, sax, organ) just oozes a simplistic majesty that is far too fleeting in music being released in this era of electronic polishes and auto-tune (I hear you Jay-Z). For youngsters like myself who haven’t been fully immersed in these type of tunes, The Shadow of Your Smile is a gateway drug. Looks like I am going to be doing some heavy digging for more of this ancient bluesy, swingin’ jazz in this vein. Loverly.

Ruby Ruby Ruby on MySpace

-Mister Thistle