Friday, May 29, 2009

Silver Antlers - Black Blood of the Earth

Silver Antlers
Black Blood of the Earth
(2009, Magic Goat/American West Freedom Society)
RIYL = Stag Hare, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Animal Hospital, Mount Eerie by Microphones

Let me start off by saying that there are very few musicians who have established themselves with enough artistic credibility to merit the production of a release that consist of a single album length track. Some of the heavyweights who come to mind on this extremely short list are Keith Fullerton Whitman, Birchville Cat Motel and Gavin Bryars - not exactly beginners when it comes to music composition. There are at least a couple reasons why this is an arena only fit for a very limited few, the first being the value of time. Asking someone to endure an album length track in one sitting requires quite an investment from a listener. This is especially true in an era when most people don’t have forty-five minutes to an hour to give up in a regular work day. Then, when you do find someone with the time and interest to consume a single album length track in one sitting, it usually requires some type of prescription drug to keep them from aborting the task out of a lack of patience or a fill of anxiety. Secondly, who is to say that this forty-five minutes to an hour of music is going to be any good? Even amongst the recordings put to tape by those with a healthy back catalog of consistently great records, the album lengthed track can prove a stumbling block; an artsy, self-conscious striving that fails to maintain interest or intrigue and barely carries the weight of even a single listen. I was a little afriad of listening to this Silver Antlers debut because of these reasons and especially since the album takes a quite a bit of time to pick up and get going. However, I am glad that I did. Turns out Silver Antlers is a fairly adept musician and Black Blood of the Earth is a more-than-impressive debut worthy of many repeated listens. So, if my little preface didn’t clue you in you should understand that Black Blood of the Earth is a single fifty-two minute opus that, against all odds, is engaging and insanely good. Silver Antlers starts things off slowly with a repetitious vocal motif that reminded me a little bit of The Besnard Lakes mumbling over some standard guitar swirls. At about the seven minute mark this vocal arrangement has departed and is replaced some more prevalent guitar patterns and wordless, disembodied vocals. Pretty standard fare so far. It is at this transition that a bit of beauty seeps in to propel you forward. From here, Black Blood rises and swells majestically, harkening moves from the late great Godspeed You Black Emperor. Then things really start to pick up at about the twenty minute mark when some propulsive drumming is added to the mix and the flow turns from lovely river to blistering locomotive. Along with some additional vocal incantations, this drumming and the accompanying guitar seemed to have stolen the essence of Mount Eerie, my favourite album from The Microphones. This is a good thing. Silver Antlers doesn’t seem to be afraid of his influences which helps Black blood of the Earth use these reference points as building blocks for wholly new creation. The album seems to be constructed on a few different movements, each with their own compelling rhythm and instrumentation, each flowing into the next with added strength and beauty. The awesome part about Black Blood of the Earth is that it never stops surprising with continuously climactic moments that progressively one-up the previous high. In fact, the most impressive moments coalesce with a powerful push that begins about thirty-five minutes in and uses the remaining time to fully flesh out its tribal drumming, buzzing guitar attack and gorgeous violins before fizzling and fading away with the wind. Honestly, those final fifteen minutes are among the best musical moments I’ve heard all year. This is an album that is definitely worth the effort required. Still, there are certainly instances here which lend themselves to track separation. I can’t help but wonder what separating this piece into even just two or three tracks would do for Silver Antlers’ listenership, because as it stands, Black Blood of the Earth is one of the most memorable listening experiences I’ve had this year.

-Thistle

Silver Antlers

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Deerhunter - Rainwater Cassette Exchange

Deerhunter
Rainwater Cassette Exchange
(05.2009, Kranky)
RIYL = Microcastle/Weird Era Cont.

My first thought after listening to Deerhunter’s new EP sized outing, Rainwater Cassette Exchange, was more of the same. Then I listened to it again and realized that this ‘same’ that I was thinking of was also one of the best albums to come out last year. So with that, yes, more of the same – a veritable extension of the ridiculously wonderous Microcastle (which already had one extension in Weird Era Cont.) and, consequently, another batch of equally ridiculous bouts of syrupy goodness. These Deerhunter folk just can’t be stopped can they? With only five songs, Rainwater Cassette Exchange flies by in no-time flat, but that also means that I’ve had time to run through this thing a couple dozen times. The experience has taught me that what Deerhunter’s most recent output lacks in quantity it more than makes up for in quality. Each track here is perfectly constructed dream pop with nary a misplayed note. Methodical and addictive, Rainwater Cassette Exchange shows that not only do Deerhunter have plenty left future highlights to look forward to, but that it only takes five perfect songs to keep even their most reserved followers in tow.

-Thistle

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest

Grizzly Bear
Veckatimest
(05.2009, Warp Records)
Verdict: Lives up to the hype. Don't be a hater.

After touring with Radiohead, Grizzly Bear's popularity is in tip-top shape, making Veckatimest clearly one of the most anticipated albums of 2009. When I first started hearing all the hype I was a little confused, since I thought Yellow House was a little on the dull side of things. However, I did like Department of Eagles quite a bit and was definitely interested in what this crew had up their sleeves. At first, the catchy as can be "Two Weeks" grabbed me in a strangle hold, and then as I was lying there in surrender, the rest of the album, every single gorgeous track, repeatedly attacked me until I was in complete submission. Now, "Two Weeks" is one of my least favorite tracks (not that I don't still love it) and the other tracks have proven their worth through wonderful diversity of mood and a swelling and pulsing sound washing over you in waves of luscious melody. I love it. Don't be fooled by any backlash to the hype, cause that's all it is, backlash to hype, not a backlash to the actual album. This album lives up to it's potential in every way. Veckatimest's sweet chamber pop is subtle enough to keep you listening over and over, but not so subtle that it's impossible to enter. It's immediately enjoyable, and repetitively more enjoyable. Gorgeous!

-lil' Sass

Click here to watch the GB get their weird on in the music video for "Two Weeks"

Friday, May 22, 2009

James Blackshaw - The Glass Bead Game

James Blackshaw
The Glass Bead Game
(05.2009, Young God)
RIYL = Jack Rose, Steve Reich, Glenn Jones

Last year James Blackshaw released Litany of Echoes, an album which saw the UK’s premier guitar genius moving away from the John Fahey comparisons and towards a more minimalist, compositional arena that harkened Steve Reich and Philip Glass. The progression was a dynamic one to say the least, but certainly just a stepping stone to bigger and better things. Prior to this most recent album which I'm reviewing, The Cloud of Unknowing was far and away my favourite album. Just preceeding Litany of Echoes, The Cloud of Unknowing was certainly Blackshaw’s most focused and beautiful album, displaying what I thought then was the pinnacle instrumental guitar. Well, it only fits that Blackshaw be the one to prove me wrong. Somehow (surely by tapping into the long history of the UK’s ties to magic) Mr. Blackshaw has combined his newfound compositional fortitude as developed with Litany of Echoes and infused it with the placid beauty he had been developing for years in The Cloud of Unknowning. The result is by and large Blackshaw’s most incredible album to date; a pristine mark not only in the realm of contemporary instrumental guitar, but in the field of music as whole, regardless of generation or genre. I’ve been browsing through the list of albums that I’ve listened to this year and last year and I can’t find anything that comes close to the sweeping beauty of The Glass Bead Game. It’s that good. Blackshaw’s guitar work has never felt stronger or more assured than on this release. His flurry of guitar plucking simply melds together like some granular drone that pulses melodically with every subtle shift in key. Previous Blackshaw albums have held one or two gems amongst their tracklisting or, if they only held longer compositions, one or two moments that jumped out and really knocked your socks off. On The Glass Bead Game, every track is as beautiful and breath taking as the last. Blackshaw’s measured use of accompanying strings and piano instrumentation are placed perfectly and serve only to improve Blackshaw’s momentum. In fact, Blackshaw's piano work has become the focus of two of the five tracks on The Glass Bead Game and succeed in a way I would have never expected. The album is just pitch perfect. There isn’t a missed note amongst the literal thousands of notes that fill the album. From what I understand, The Glass Bead Game even brought Young God label creator and leader Angels of Light, Michael Gira to tears. Considering his musical background, that probably isn’t something that happens everyday. The Glass Bead Game is a career definer. When you apply that statement to James Blackshaw, someone who has already quite a few marvelous albums under his belt, the sentiment is even more resonant. Unmissable.

-Thistle

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Magik Markers - Balf Quarry

Magik Markers
Balf Quarry
(05.2009, Drag City)
RIYL = Sonic Youth, Thee Oh Sees, PJ Harvey…kinda

Elisa Ambrogio and Pete Nolan follow up Boss with this? [Nodding] Alright! It is pretty clear that Boss was Magik Markers first real stab more straightforward song structure and less noise (marginally). I for one was pretty excited about the evolution, which isn’t to say that I disliked Magik Markers more abstract, noisy past. No, no, I loved that stuff, but evolution is always important and Boss stirred up some genuine excitement in me about the potential avenues of these here Markers. However, Boss was just the groundwork, not the definitive statement. Just the declaration of intent – the preliminary dip. I liked it quite a bit, but I would have liked to like it a whole lot more. That is where Balf Quarry comes in as the transition from pretty good album to really good album. Maybe the Markers just need a little space from Thurston Moore and Ecstatic Peace in order to more properly rip off Sonic Youth. And I don’t say rip off in a demeaning way. The Balf Quarry version of Magik Markers is obviously a descendent of Sonic Youth and their not shy of that fact. For my taste Balf Quarry is as good as or better than anything it’s aping. Ambrogio’s demented vocal delivery is probably the deciding factor in that conclusion. I can’t think of a better front woman in all of rock. Ambrogio is simply all that. But you can't leave out Pete Nolan’s ramshackle drumming. Nolan’s loose, blistered drumming is simply irreplaceable. I don’t know of many other drummers who can derive that much character out of a drumset. The bottom line is that Balf Quarry is real rock n’ roll. Balf Quarry is as punk as it comes and the first three tracks are probably my favourite songs Magik Markers have ever done, shifting from laconic and syrupy to drug induced and feverish. It’s just so dirty; you can practically see the moldy water pipes and stripped brick walls that this stuff should be played in. Sassigrass would do well to realize Balf Quarry as the real sleaze rock.

-Thistle

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Cymbals Eat Guitars - Why There Are Mountains

Cymbals Eat Guitars
Why There Are Mountains
(2009, Self-Released)
RIYL = Paper Airplanes, Evangelicals, Pavement

Based on the band name and album cover alone, I was expecting something totally different from Why There Are Mountains. Something more austere. Something, you know, with more riding cymbals and less guitars. I mean look at that cover: where is the bleak grays and blacks and the brooding reds in this music? Regardless of my impressions prior to listening to Why There Are Mountains, my impression afterwards was, “whoa, that was pretty great.” Subsequent listens had me repeating my own words minus the “pretty” qualifier. That’s right, Cymbals Eat Guitars are just straight up great and, surprisingly, Cymbals Eat Guitars are just straight up indie rock. Yep, the name and album cover don’t quite translate, but really that’s neither here nor there when an album is able to pull off what Why There Are Mountains does. With their debut album (I think), Cymbals Eat Guitars has created the only kind of indie rock that can really sustain itself, the kind centered on pure authenticity. Authenticity is a hard quality to identify and quantify, but suffice it to say that it is that it factor that first helped the world fall in love with indie stalwarts like Pavement, Dinosaur Jr. and Built To Spill. Cymbals Eat Guitars can stand side by side (or at least somewhere in the same room at a hoity toity indie rock party) with these bands because it’s not just how the songs are written on Why There Are Mountains, but how they're played. There is an urgency, an immediacy here that even brings to mind early records from At The Drive-In and The Get Up Kids (remember them?), though not quite as cool as the former and not quite as geeky as the latter. Either way, Cymbals Eat Guitars succeeds because of the genuine spirit with which they attack their bristly rock songs and turn them into soaring anthems based solely on the excitement with which they are played. Why There Are Mountains is one of those albums that you simply can’t hate. And if you do? Well, I think this album is the perfect measure of whether or not you are heartless hipster snob (test it out on your friends!). I kid. But seriously, what a delicious debut – bravo.

-Thistle

Cymbals Eat Guitars on Myspace
I don't know why I like this video

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Animal Hospital - Good or Plenty, Streets + Avenues

Animal Hospital
Good or Plenty, Streets + Avenues
(02.2009, Mutable Sound)
RIYL = Dosh, Tortoise, Some Beasts

I guess 2009 is officially Animal Hospital’s coming out party. I first became smitten (and rightly so) by the release of Memory on the illustrious Barge imprint and apparently this little puppy preceded Memory by a month, so it looks like I am taking in the releases in reverse order. Of course, this matters not at all. A cursory listen to either album would quickly lead a listener to the other release on the basis of sheer goodness. Oh Animal Hospital, will you never stop healing our poor pets and wild Earthly co-inhabitants? Hopefully not. Good or Plenty, Streets + Avenues is a wonderful addition to the Animal Hospital repertoire that was presented on Memory. The album avoids the lengthy, dramatic surgeries displayed on that release and instead focuses on the standard day to day operations of animal hospitalateering: daily check-ups, medicine prescriptions, happy customers. GorP,S+A is a light hearted dip into the joys of healing animals via layers and layers of homespun loops. As a refresher for those who were unable to wade through my lengthy review of Memory (or simply missed it altogether), Animal Hospital is not “Animal Hospitals.” It is a single edifice and as such is the pseudonym designated for a single musician from Boston named Kevin Micka. Micka’s work here is built around his slowly evolving and elaborate looping of guitars, percussion and electronics. Unlike Memory, GorP,S+A steers clear of weighty crescendos and instead offers beautifully intricate character sketches with each track. In a way, this kind of meandering structure is harder to pull off, but Micka proves ownership of a keen ear and adept musicianship by executing each track with the utmost precision and always keeping things interesting. Good or Plenty, Streets + Avenues is one of those rare albums I’ve found that I can always listen to even when nothing else will do. Really solid work.

-Thistle

Animal Hospital - "March and June"

Dear Salt Lake City residents: Animal Hospital is currently on tour with electronic musician Lineland and desire to play a show for us lucky folk on June 8th. Unfortunately most venues are booked that night. Anyone with information on a good location to setup this show, please contact us at forestgospel@hotmail.com.

Mark Templeton - Inland

Mark Templeton
Inland
(05.2009, Anticipate)
RIYL = Geoff Mullen, Fennesz, Pandatone

It was only two years ago when Mark Templeton dropped the flagship release for Ezekiel Honig’s Anticipate label and, despite the insanely high grade of releases that have been released on Anticipate since, that release – Standing On A Hummingbird – has remained, for me, the very best. That is until now. Sometimes I wish I could just explode nonsense onto Forest Gospel for miles on end just to display the uselessness of conveying praise and adoration for a specific album with words. Trying to type out my excitement just becomes nonsense anyways. Run on sentences, fragments, spelling and grammar errors, repetitive, seemingly hyperbolic claims – it just feels flat in place of the music. And it is, but oh well. Here is to nonsense: Inland is a radiculously mesmerizing experience of intertwining guitar strings, violin patches and heaps of butchered, glitchy electronics. Templeton has upped his game considerably and Inland marks his second incredible release this year (the first being his gorgeous collaboration with Aaron Munson on Acre Loss). One of the major differences between Inland and Standing On A Hummingbird is Inland’s density. For some reason, things just feel thicker, like Templeton has added more to the mix. Also, (and I’ll have to go back to verify this) on Inland, Templeton has added some nonverbal vocals to the audio threading. So, in the end, what we have here is distinctly Templeton, just much more focused, more layered and simply heavier in its construct. Heavier might come off as the wrong word. We aren’t dealing with any doom metal riffs here. Its just the feathery tones that persist in this release have been tied to some stones. Regardless of its weight, Templeton, as can be seen in all of his work, is the master creating a beautifully cohesive mess. For those who have been waiting for this release as long as I have, Templeton does not disappoint. Essential listening for 2009.

-Thistle

Stream of Inland

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Micachu & The Shapes - Jewellery

Micachu & The Shapes
Jewellery
(04.2009, Rough Trade Us)
Verdict: This...album...is....AWESOME!!!

Mica Levi is the genius also known as Micachu. After listening to Mica's scratchy voice and watching the video for "Lips" (posted below) Thistle and I were certain Mica was a little Euro-trash boy, possibly in high school still. Neither of us knew anything other than the fact the we were totally lovin' Jewellery. One time while we were giving it a listen in the car I said "this singer could be a girl." Thistle agreed, but we both placed our bets on young boy. I was just doing a little research in preparation for writing this review and I just discovered that the androgynous voice and hair actually belong to a 21 year old female. Thistle, we were wrong. Well, girl or boy, Mica knows how to rock the house down and has killer vocal delivery. The music is punk infused experimental pop and speaks deeply to my inner teenager. Some of the songs make you want to smash things, and all of them will induce dancing and/or air drumming. Jewellery is one of the most refreshing and instantly catchy albums I have ever heard, and a wonderful soundtrack to sunshine. Everyone should be blasting Micachu and the Shapes this summer, cause it's summer jammin'!

-lil' sass

Bill Callahan - Sometimes I Wish I Were An Eagle

Bill Callahan
Sometimes I Wish I Were An Eagle
(04.2009, Drag City)
Verdict: You would never imagine how addictive it can be.

I have never really listened to Smog, even though friends had highly recommended it. The most I had ever previously listened to Bill Callahan was his meager guest spot on Joanna Newsom's Ys. Then Sometimes I Wish I Were An Eagle came out with wonderful reviews and I decided to give it a try. On first listen it was pleasant- minimal instrumentation, including french horn, piano and swelling violins underneath calm guitar melodies and steady drum beats. I liked it. That was about it though, like, but something kept bringing me back to it. It just seemed to always fit the mood I was in, so I'd put it on in the background only to catch little glimpses of genius, a wonderful lyric or a sweet little melody would make me think, "hm, I want to listen to that again." So I would. Then I would catch something else that would make me think "hm, I want to listen to that again." And so on and so forth. I have since listened to Sometimes I Wish I Were An Eagle steadily on repeat since that first listen. It is a definite staple of 2009. Callahan's unique and mellow lyrics and delivery make for a relaxing (but not sleep inducing, unless you are two months old) album full of little quirks and gorgeous songwriting.

-lil sass

Bill Callahan on Myspace

Caboladies - Constellation Deformity

Caboladies
Constellation Deformity
(2009, Smooth Tapes)
RIYL = Oneohtrix Point Never, Axolotl, Vibracathedral Orchestra

Oh Caboladies, why have I not heard of you before now? Perhaps it’s your extremely limited runs that seem to only be available on CDRs and cassettes that has kept you from my ears. I’ve somehow known about you though. It seems that in these last couple of years in which you’ve been developing - sprouting effervescent leaves of alien beauty - I’ve had this gut feeling that something of your ilk was blooming and maturing somewhere out there; like this missing link in the world of underground ambience that just had to be. Someone had to be making this music and I knew that if I kept my ear to the ground long enough, eventually you’d stroll by and like those clich├ęd moments of love at first sight, we’d lock eyes, coyly look away and then in a more intense manner, reassert our gaze towards one another, confirming our wordless attraction for one another. The greeting would be awkward, sure. You are simply awkward in nature, and, well, so am I. But we’d stumble through those moments with the driving force of sheer excitement and unbridled enthusiasm for what was always mean to be: a wide-eyed boy and thick layer of Caboladies knifed onto two sides of a cassette. At least that is how I wrote it in my journal. “What is Caboladies?” you (the reader) might ask. Well, I really have no idea. As far as words go, Caboladies is simply nonexistent (right Dictionary.com?), but in the context of this band, Caboladies is a group concerned with creating layers of chirping, chiming, bubbling tones that are overwhelmingly powerful, overwhelmingly odd and overwhelmingly beautiful all at the same time. On this specific cassette, the title says it all. Constellation Deformity is certainly what this is. It is astral projections deformed into an internal catharsis and then regurgitated into a spacious blend of melodic weirdness that should probably be weirder than it is, but turns out being gorgeous and enlightening. I try not to do this so much, and especially after so clearly hyping that Burial + Four Tet 12”, but Caboladies are likewise in the running for album of the year. If Caboladies have one thing on the formerly mentioned all-star 12”, it’s a fresh face and a fresh sound. I am digging this in a HUGE way. A+++++++++++.

-Thistle

Caboladies on MySpace

Brian Granger / German Shepherd / Millipede / MOTH - Traveling

Brian Granger / German Shepherd / Millipede / MOTH
Traveling
(2009, Sunrise Acousitcs/Imperfect Music)
RIYL = Any of the listed above, avant-noise, experimental

With all the noisy sound experimentalists out there churning up bliss amidst feedback, sometimes it is hard to know who to follow and what to listen to. That is why I was super happy to get this collective work of four likeminded artists who each contributed 15 minutes of their individual clatter to disc, all following the theme of the album's namesake, Traveling. And just as a precursor to its success, I definitely think that more groups, experimental or not, should be doing stuff like this. It develops an instant community and provides listeners with several avenues for further investigation and enjoyment. Whelp, moving on, we might as well take this thing on artist by artist. Traveling gets kicked off with two stellar tracks by one Brian Granger. Granger is no newcomer to the independent experimental scene with his back catalog of previous material and two labels. The tracks he contributes are a testament to his experience. Granger's work here reminds me a lot of Stars of the Lid if they allowed themselves to be more heavily processed and decided worked with decrepit, disintegrating equipment. As a result Granger’s tracks are grimier and much more interesting than SotL, while retaining that ambient beauty. Both songs hover around the 7 minute mark and have just enough time to contort and shift around before reaching a pleasant resting place. Of the three new-to-me artists on Traveling, Brian Granger is definitely my favourite. Really top notch stuff here. Next up is German Shepherd. There is this omnipresent fuzz in German Shepherd’s tracks that, if I’m being honest with myself, sound a little amateurish. I don’t know why this little bit of background fuzz in an album of artists that continually bounce ideas off of the static feedback of their recording equipment is a nuisance at all, but in this instance it kind of is. I guess one of the major reasons is that the three tracks that German Shepherd lends to Traveling are really great in every other way. Following the thematic and artistic similarities present to one degree or another with each of the artists, German Shepherd blesses his tracks with gorgeous guitar moments that meander and overlap into well conceived and executed pieces. It’s just that omnipresent fuzz! It dents up his contributions a little bit, unfortunately. German Shepherd’s tracks are followed by FG favourite, Millipede. As always, Millipede brings the heat with 4 concise bursts of doomy guitar grinding that seem to be examples of a perfect contradiction. In one sense they seem to spiral heavenward and in another they definitely dig deep into a more hellish territory. However, it is this joint clause of intent, this beautifully-ugly mess that sets Millipede apart as a master of his analog craft. I’m probably beginning to sound like a broken record on this front, but keep an eye on the happenings emanating from the Millipede camp - he’s presented nothing but consistently delicious slabs of noisy goodness since his very first release (this is the third group of recordings we’ve reviewed of his in 2009 alone!). Concluding our little foursome is another artist with whom I am glad to be introduced. MOTH puts his entire 15 minutes into one track and throws an early curveball by presenting the first vocals to the instrumental guitar domination of the first three artists. The opening strumming and vocals, in comparison, is downright pop accessible, but things quickly evolve into solo acoustic guitar with sample conversations and then into a more lo-fi territory with a throbbing bass and drum loop topped with the prickly strum of what sounds like a metal-stringed toy guitar. After a few minutes this portion quickly cuts out and is replaced by a twangy song with some effects laden vocals that reminds me of Pumice and Blank Dogs in a weird way. It is definitely the highlight of the 14+ minute track. Traveling is pretty awesome as a whole and is definitely worth picking up, especially for those of us that have a hard time making up our mind choosing an album from a single artist.

-Thistle

Brian Granger on MySpace via Milieu
German Sheperd on MySpace
Millipede on MySpace
MOTH on MySpace

Monday, May 11, 2009

Scott Tuma & Mike Weis - Taradiddle

Scott Tuma & Mike Weis
Taradiddle
(05.2009, Digitalis)
RIYL = Zelionople, Niagara Falls, Grails

Under the name of Scott Tuma, I have not found one unworthy release. After the demise of Souled American, Mr. Tuma’s solo work has been impeccable. While I’ve watched as a steady stream of average to incredible instrumental guitar players have jumped on the John Fahey train, Tuma has carved out a little niche of instrumental guitarisms that are all his own. And those guitarisms, those bits of laconic acoustic strumming and plucking, haphazardly layered on the backs of each other like war corpses just ooze a certain hollow beauty and cultivate a miniature hope that is as resonant as the Tuma’s wavery-stringed guitar. I can’t harbor anything but pure love for the guy for such a purity of sound imagination that seems solely his. So what could his coupling with Zelienople’s Mike Weis add to the mix that wasn’t already there? Apparently a whole lot. In fact, I’m fairly convinced that the success of Taradiddle weighs more heavily on Mr’ Weis’ shoulders than Tuma’s. Sure, my previous adulation holds true for Tuma. He still provides that mystically friendly, abstract guitar to the table with nary a miscued note, but it is Weis’s unconventional patter, his cymbal scrapings and clinking bells that swirl up a back drop that of commotion that fits Tuma’s playing so perfectly that it makes a Tuma admirer, such as myself, rethink the possibilities within his guitar. Taradiddle is every bit as breezy and drone-esque as Tuma’s previous work, but with an added umph that really anchors things. Weis provides a hefty dissonance that, coupled with Tuma’s fingers, has birthed this new pastoral doom that is as bright as the summer sun and as dark as a coffin buried six feet under. Really wondrous stuff.

-Thistle

"Dropsy" from Taradidle

Burial + Four Tet - Moth / Wolf Cub 12"

Burial + Four Tet
Moth/Wolf Cub 12”
(05.2009, Text Records)
RIYL = Burial and Four Tet, Pantha du Prince

Wow. I don’t know how this was organized, but it is quite obvious already that the teaming of Burial and Four Tet was the dream split that every fan of electronic music subconsciously felt would be awarded them after being successfully admitted through the pearly gates of heaven. In terms of electronic music it doesn’t get much better than either Four Tet or Burial and in terms of 2009 it isn’t going to get much better than this split 12”. And I make that statement fully aware of the Pantha du Prince 12” and full length from The Field that is looming on the horizon. I’ve listened to them all and this, this record I am gushing over recklessly is the emergent winner of the trio (The Field and Pantha du Prince are still swell). The LP is just two tracks, “Moth” and “Wolf Cub,” and the glorious mystery behind this wax is that no one knows who contributed what track or if both are the result of a collaboration or what. Initially, I totally thought that “Moth” was Burial’s (with its submerged vocals and muted rhythms) and “Wolf Cub” was Four Tet’s (with it’s watery electronic trickle-loop and its layer percussion), but the more I listen the more I am lost as to who has done what where. As far as I am concerned, the “+” in the artist signification means that each of these tracks were molded with both minds and that the 12” is the work of the two as a single entity. Hopefully, this is just the appetizer, because I cannot get enough of this stuff. The real beauty of it is the simplicity. The effortlessness in which two perfect slabs of micro electronics were crafted as if they were the blue print for everything that proceeded them and just needed time to be thawed out. Intensely perfect and a top contender for the year. I’m not some electro-head, but there is no doubt that if this were expanded into a full length that it would be the strongest contender thus for album of the year in 2009.

- Thistle

Burial on MySpace
Four Tet on MySpace

Friday, May 8, 2009

Intelligence - Crepuscule With Pacman

Intelligence
Crepuscule With Pacman
(2009, Born Bad Records)
RIYL = Liars, The Hospitals, the A Frames

I tell you what, I am beginning to get a little wearied by this whole lo-fi thing. It’s not that I am falling out of love with crunchy recording methods and feedback, it’s just that it feels like there is a new wave of bands that are recording terribly just to try and pass off their boring songs as part of some new art punk aesthetic or something. And, truth be told, lots of times it just comes off as flat and gimmicky. Fortunately, the Intelligence have returned to their lo-fi roots after their more polished (but still blissful) production on 2007’s Deuteronomy, just in time to show all these bandwagon riding upstarts how to really make some trashy pop songs. I for one am glad they did because I was beginning to develop a knee jerk reaction to all this misguided squalor. The beauty of the Intelligence is the discernable personality within the recordings. Headed by Lars Finberg (formerly of the A Frames), the Intelligence travel all over the pop map with a laconic swagger and a creative sweet tooth that seems sorely missing from the majority of noise-riddled pop acts. Like, I can actually distinguish one song from the next! And the Intelligence use different melodies on different songs! Novel idea huh? Seriously though, doesn’t it feel like some of these bands out there are just pressing the same effects pedal on every song before strumming the same 3 chords? Not the Intelligence. On Crepuscule With Pacman we’re treated twelve off kilter tracks that coalesce beautifully as an album, but can also can each stand on their own two legs as a testament to the Intelligence's grittily intelligent (ha!) and wonderfully varied popcraft. Oh, and did I mention that Crepuscule is just the appetizer? That’s right. The Intelligence have an additional full length (which is just as awesome if not more so) coming out later this month on In The Red. Oh, Intelligence – you shouldn’t have. I guess it’s a good time to count our many lo-fi blessings.

- Lil' Thistle

not off of Crepuscule, but still...

Japandroids - Post-Nothing

Japandroids
Post-Nothing
(2009, Unfamiliar)
RIYL = rock n’ roll summer jams

Mighty capes and stars, these dudes are rockin’! Seriously. And just in time for summer too. Sheesh. Yesterday I dropped off my last final up at the U (holla!) and I was making my way back through the sunny streets of Salt Lake City with Sass and our new babe and I just couldn’t help but grin, roll down the windows and blast Post-Nothing (well, ‘blast’ may be the wrong word – the kids only 2 months old after all - don't want to ruin his ears just yet). It just took over – all the sudden I couldn’t help but frantically air drum to the perpetual fills like I was having some type of heightened epileptic seizure. And, of course, Sassigrass scolded me for being a horrible driver, but it couldn’t be helped. Post-Nothing is the kind of album that gets your blood flowing. As far as the band goes, I’m pretty sure that Japandroids consists of two Japanese manufactured robots bent on hook-laden summer jams. They must have embedded some type of eternal energy packs in these suckers too because the energy never dims. It’s just track after track of soaring, manic rock. This is the kind of stuff that brings the sun out. Just this morning as I started listening to album opener, “The Boys Are Leaving Town,” and the sun emerged like it was waiting for someone to play that track so that it could start the day. Also, Post-Nothing demands to be “turned to 11.” (Except when the baby is in the car.) I think it is part of some subliminal guitar riffage embedded in Post-Nothing, but listening to the album at anything lower than eleven is like buying a bunch of ice cream and then throwing it in the garbage… Heh, you have got to give me some kind of break after just finishing finals. Obviously it is going to take a bit before the writing picks up again (assuming that it ever had been at a higher level). So yeah, there is a lot of repeated lyrics and endless guitar hooks, but somehow, instead of dipping into monotony, the Japandroids simply keep rising into some heavenly rock ether. You simply are not experiencing summer in 2009 if you aren’t listening to Post-Nothing.

-Lil' Thistle

Akron/Family - Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free

Akron/Family
Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free
(05.2009, Dead Oceans)
Verdict: It's realllllly grood.

The Akron trio's influences run deep. I have read reviews citing Akron/Family's influences as Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young, and The Grateful Dead. Those three don't really seem to mix to me. I guess I can see where those comparisons might be made, but overall Akron/Family is it's own beast, and always has been. What's great is that every album they produce is also it's own beast, bridging new sounds and vast experimentation on their sounds while still holding onto a distinct Akron/Fam feel. Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free has new play with looping, especially on the track "Creatures," which is possibly my least favorite track. The Family is much better at yelling and causing a ruckus than crooning and I have a major beef with "Creatures" harmonic last half because it sounds exactly like the Avett Brothers harmonies, and I HATE the Avett Brothers. My favorite tracks are the more wild ones such as opener "Everyone is Guilty," but the slower moments hold the album together into a seamless cohesive album that is full of diversity and very pleasurable to the ears. Other than the brief Avett moment, this album is killer. There are a lot of haters floating around, but I say don't listen, they just don't like artist evolution. Set 'Em Wild comes highly recommended by yours truly.

-Sass

Here's a really stupid music video for title track "Set 'Em Free"

Pink Mountaintops - Outside Love

Pink Mountaintops
Outside Love
(05.2009, Jagjaguwar)
RIFL: Black Mountain, hippie country folk jams, beards

How many great stoner jams can a man create? Ask Stephen McBean. Seems like he'll never stop making wonderful albums in the vein of stone. For those unfamiliar, McBean is also the front man of the more jamming Black Mountain. Pink Mountaintops is his more laid back, folk-stoner-country outfit producing slow paced hippie jams that are half relaxing, half rocking your brains out, somehow swirled together into a wonderful hypnotic trippy masterpiece. Pink Mountaintops Outside Love is all about just that, love. When I purchased the vinyl it had a sticker on the front that read "Stephen McBean from Black Mountain returns with his third Pink Mountaintops album - ten songs of love and hate that read like a Danielle Steele romance novel." Outside Love is definitely sleazy, but I'm not sure if I would consider it Danielle Steele sleazy. The album cover is actually a pretty good indicator of the amount of sleaze in Outside Love, which is quite a bit, and it's a great thing. We all need a little 70's inspired freewheeling love in our rock n' roll once in a while. I have a soft spot in my heart for this genre of music and am happy that McBean is watching out for both my softer and harder sleaze rock sides. Thanks Stephen.

-Sassigrass

Watch a video for "While We Were Dreaming" on Pink Mountaintops website

Bat For Lashes - Two Suns

Bat For Lashes
Two Suns
(04.2009, Astralwerks)
RIFL: mystical magic, goji berries, spiritual crystals, or mythical beasts

Two Suns came out last month and I wasn't sure if I liked it. I have since given it many listens over and I have been won over, but not completely. I fell head over heals for Fur and Gold when it was first released, but then became slightly disenchanted after some time passed. It's just so theatrical that it's hard to repetitively digest. Well, Two Suns is even more theatrical, since Natasha Khan took inspiration from Beyonce and given herself an alter-ego named Pearl, supposedly a blonde hedonist - opposite from Khan's black haired "desert-born spiritual self." Pearl and Natasha battle it out schizophrenically on Two Suns trying to find some "Peace Of Mind." Khan enlists the help of Scott Walker and Yeasayer in this ethereal magic rock battle. The music remains moody, slightly tense and brooding, as does Khan's voice. I am at the point where I like Two Suns more with every listen, but I wonder how long it can last. All this ultra serious somberness can really get to a girl, ya know?

-Sassigrass