Friday, July 31, 2009

JOMF - Ballads of the Revolution

Jackie-O Samuel L. Jackson
Ballads of the Revolution
(2009, Fire Records)
RIYL = Gowns, Califone + Vibracathedral Orchestra, White Rainbow

In carrying on with my ridiculous aversion to typing out swears, I have altered yet another band name (remember Fun Buttons and Psychedelic Horses Hit?) that was already pretty awesome to begin with. However, I think I may have improved the band name this time around. I mean, Jackie-O Samuel L. Jackson? That is prettyBUG if you ask me (watching too much So You Think You Can Dance). But whether or not you prefer JOMF or JOSLJ, there is no denying that the music created by the glorious moniker is nothing short of brilliant. And on this most recent album it is nothing short of utter brilliance. JOSLJ has a pretty long track record filled with experimental explorations that travel all over the map, burrowing into each little niche and exploding it into something wholly unique and impressive. For some reason I haven’t been keeping up with the band since Flags of the Sacred Harp, but their newest, Ballads of the Revolution, doesn’t seem to have travelled all too far away from the experimental Americana that was featured there. This is a plus for me because I loved that album. Ballads of the Revolution inhabits a slack, hazy pocket of blissfully psychedelic tunes that certainly stands outside of the conventions of your standard folk/Americana, but is still probably one of the more structured releases within the Jackie-O catalog. Additionally, there is a lot of spacey and kind of rock oriented in places on Ballads of the Revolution. Some moments which definitely remind me of The Besnard Lakes or Black Mountain mixed with a woodsy tribal vibe that insists itself upon every track. So, built on six inscrutable tracks of weirdo JOMFness, Ballads of the Revolution is a perfect continuation to the band’s wonderful aesthetics and is probably one of the better points of entry for those new to the north western juggernauts. Ballads of the Revolution is an alternate universe filled with endless jams for the mind altered forester for which I invite you...?

-Thistle

Mouthus - Divisionals

Mouthus
Divisionals
(2009, Ecstatic Peace)
RIYL = Skaters, Religious Knives, Double Leopards

I don’t know if I could get through with a Mouthus review without writing the word ‘clatter.’ So there, I did it. Divisionals contains the signature industrial clatter that Mouthus has been honing in on for years now and it never gets old. A limited edition vinyl release on Thurston Moore’s scattered Ecstatic Peace imprint, Divisionals isn’t going to claim the spot of Mouthus’s most quintessential release (Saw A Halo was just too good), but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t totally worthwhile, gritty Mouthus working it out massively as always. With two tracks to a side, Mouthus boils through four long droney scraping epics that occasionally come off as more pleasant than excruciating, at least when gaged with their previous work. You know what, when I step back I regocnize that I really shouldn’t like this stuff whatsoever. There is not really any logic to enjoying such brittle, carnivorous noises, and yet I just devour it up. Why is that? I wanted to mention also that I was sitting with Sassigrass (my co-Forest Gospelateer/wife) and she was talking some mad trash on a few well known blogs about the kind of music they cover and so I asked her to explain what kind of music she thought Forest Gospel featured and she said that it was primarily super obscure and ultra boring music and that those designations weren’t mutually exclusive. Slam! Heh, well Mouthus probably fits that description for a lot of people, but I can’t help but really enjoy it. One man’s music is another man’s tools for tortured interrogation. It is funny to see that popping up in a lot of hater's descriptions of some of the noise popularized in the last couple of years. Well, I tell you what, if I was getting interrogated to Divisionals I wouldn’t give up an iota of information. This trash can cluster crunk of cracked percussion and grating electronics is just too too good. Naw, but grill me with some Lady Gaga in the background and I’m bound to spit up some info in 10 seconds flat.

-Thistle

Mouthus with my homeboy (and apparently theirs as well) Axolotl

Thursday, July 30, 2009

xbxrx - Un Usper

xbxrx
Un Usper
(2009, self released)
RIYL = HEALTH, Blood Brothers, Ultra Dolphins, Daughters

It is been awhile since I’ve listened to a good palette cleanser; an album which simply steps out from the rest of my lengthy queue of albums I need to be listening to and says ‘screw the rest of this crap, lets go get a chocolate milk shake.’ I probably could have made that read a lot cooler and tougher (heaven knows xbxrx demand both), but in all honesty, I’m just not that cool or tough. That is, I haven’t been, but since I’ve started listening to the latest self released, palette cleansing album from xbxrx, Un Usper, I’ve been thinking, ‘you know what, maybe I am cool and maybe I am tough.’ Un Usper just exudes a self-assured swagger and blissful violence that can make even a geek like me feel like a dangerous punk superhero. I’m not a xbxrx expert by any means, but Un Usper certainly takes some progressive steps in culling the noisy elements of Sounds and matching it with the standard fits of rugged punk that the band regularly produces. It’s perfect for someone like me who has been waiting patiently for some good hardcore noise punk to really grasp onto, and within that arena of sound xbxrx have surely hit the mark. There is plenty of skree filled noise jams fitted next to ambling drums and guitar feedback interludes that’s built up this dynamic structure that is Un Usper. In addition to the fact that xbxrx have put out a great record, the band is the latest in recent memory to try out the pay-or-“donate”-what-you-want payment method for their work. They have uploaded the album to Mediafire, Rapidshare and elsewhere for quick accessibility along with a morality testing PayPal donation button on their home page. It is still an interesting idea and the album is surely worth some of your hard earned (depending on your job) money as a salute to the xbxrx's ear bleeding hardcore chops. Check it out now from the link below.

-Thistle

Dowload Un Usper from xbxrx's homepage

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Candy Claws - In the Dream of the Sea Life

Candy Claws
In the Dream of the Sea Life
(2009, Act So Big Forest)
RIYL: Flaming Lips, Atlas Sound, Stars, Animal Collective

Hurry! Before it’s too late! I’m sorry! Hurry! Forgive me! I’m sorry! This was supposed to be IT! This is IT, it’s your perfect summer album, and it’s all my fault that it isn’t. I’ve been meaning to write this review since before the schools got out, since before the swimming pools and snowcone shacks opened their doors and peddled their respective forms of refreshment. Could it be, that this is the one that got away?
But no, I say. And this album, too—No! it says:

1. Depending on your situation (globally, educationally, economically, emotionally, etc., etc.), there is still give-or-take a month left of summer. Or should I say, almost ONE WHOLE THIRD of your summer left to enjoy! Swim! Drink iced tea, splash in a fire hydrants’ fountaining! Relax—just try it! Read! Work hard, play harder! Kick the can! Stay up late! And let this album be your soundtrack. It is just ideal. It has been, after all, created as a “companion album” to Rachel Carson’s The Sea Around Us; an album created with the ocean—all its light, its vibrancy; its activity, its cool; its immensity and wonder and playfulness—as the music’s dragoman, its inspiration and influence. And what is so, so much more important, Candy Claws manage to pull it off. This is an unbelievably ambitious record, and the fact that it doesn’t just crush under the pressure of its themes is incredible. (Serious: I can’t believe it’s coming from this “…who?” troupe, there’s so much aplomb and talent and objective-fulfilling. They sound like serious vets. I mean, to legitimately remind me of the Flaming Lips, without sounding like a rip-off or half-bake?) Truly, the weight of the ocean is bearing down on them, and from that crucible emerges a gem, an effortless, playful album that shows not a single sign of strain, anywhere. Which leads me to

2. (A rebuttal of my opening themes, kind of.) What is great about In the Dream of the Sea Life is that it is good enough to transcend being just another “watery” sounding or “beach” themed summertime album. All of the components of the music are proficiently, potently used, and the band sounds distinct in all the right ways. They really seem comfortable in their own skin, poised and coolheaded as artists, bursting with ideas and the enjoyment of hearing those ideas realized in such a way. Their album has been a completely wonderful surprise, and I can only apologize for keeping it to myself for so long.

[P.S. The hard facts, for those who want them: Candy Claws is a two-piece from Fort Collins, Colorado. Ryan Hover and Kay Bertholf are their names. This is their first LP, and was released by Act So Big Forest—a Fort Collins “collective” of which Hover and Bertholf are members. HOWEVER, they have just recently joined the Dublin, Ireland-based label-thing Indiecater Records. And In the Dream of the Sea Life will be released, “remastered” and with far, far less fantastic artwork than the original, by them on August 3rd. However, since the original sold out months ago, it’ll have to do. And do it will, I’m certain.]

— Braying Mantis

Candy Claws on MySpace

Candy Claws LIVE 5-22-09 from Candy Claws on Vimeo.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

White Denim - Fits

White Denim
Fits
(2009, Full Time Hobby)
RIYL = Tolchock Trio, Portugal. The Man, Tapes n’ Tapes

White Denim have made haste and quickly followed up their massively enjoyable debut with their sophmore effort, Fits. Not a whole heap has changed since last year, but that isn't a bad thing. On Fits what we have is another series of bombastic rock n’ roll gems that are as fun as they are energetic. I’m tempted to just cut it off right there. What else is there to know? I think White Denim suffers from some abnormally high levels of adoration in different pockets of the world wide web (I’m looking at you GvB) which has caused a bit of backlash from lotsa people who might really enjoy the bands frantic, glorious rock chops. But I suppose that is nothing terribly new. Seems like you can’t say a single nice word about a band without the hype police coming to town to rain on the parade (if a single nice word can be considered a parade). Oh well, it’s at the loss of those who love to hate, because I love White Denim and I don’t even live in Texas! And I don’t even particularly like Texas. As far as states go, Texas is pretty low on my list (this may have been influenced by a poor experience at Six Flags in Houston). But whatever side of Texas that inspires the raucous, retro-inspired-but-still-modern-feeling rock that is White Denim, I’m all for it. I may have mentioned this when I wrote up Workout Holiday, but I saw White Denim open for Tapes n' Tapes and it was one of the most fantastic rock sets I’ve ever witnessed. There was absolutely nothing I could do to keep myself from nodding my head ridiculously to their aural onslaught. It was embarrassing, but in the best way. Tapes n’ Tapes on the other hand…well, I better not get into that again. Fits took me a little longer to really grasp than Workout Holiday did. It definitely doesn’t have all of the powerful hooks that were on their debut, but that doesn’t make it any less muscular and resilient. It kind of feels the way At Mount Zoomer feels to Apologies to the Queen Mary, if you can follow that line of thinking. Both great, but a little bit different in terms of accessibility. Not too much, just a little. Well, I’ll stop belaboring this. I love these guys for what they add to indie rock. There isn’t very many bands of this caliber perusing this type of music and am grateful that I have Fits to fill the gap.

-Thistle

Monday, July 27, 2009

Smith Westerns - Smith Westerns

Smith Westerns
Smith Westerns
(2009, Hazoc Records)
RIYL = The Kinks, The Black Lips, The Strange Boys

So, um, I have been using Sassigrass’s headphones for awhile after I broke every pair that I had and now I’ve broken hers (sorry). And they were pretty nice ones too, albeit fairly old. Anyways, the left earphone isn’t transmitting tunes anymore and a one of the little plastic parts that holds the right earphone on snapped off a couple weeks ago (I don’t know when this happened, I just picked them up one day and the right earphone didn’t come with the rest of the headset). That being the case, my normal listening habits are slightly damaged right now, which is ok I suppose because I have been listening to lots of slightly damaged music as of late. the Smith Westerns being just one of them. The content here isn't particularly groundbreaking in terms of style, just a bunch of super sweet, fuzzed up garage pop. So, The Smith Westerns aren’t the most original trashed out garage rockers, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t one of the best. The band derives most of its luster from the sixties rather than the nineties and their all the better for it. I think the biggest difference in decade worship is in the hooks. The Smith Westerns have some truly soaring hooks in their self titled debut that promises to keep you coming back over and over again. Just listen to lead single "Be My Girl" and tell me you don't want to just replay the song over and over again. And then there is the fuzz. I have no problem with lo-fi music as this blog will attest, but that doesn’t mean that I like writing about it over and over again. How many different ways can I say that something is art damaged? Well, The Smith Westerns aren't really pushing hard on the whole noise thing. In fact, the fuzz they do pick up feels like it came directly from the era of their inspiration. This is just lovely batch of solid pop all the way through. Now, can someone tell me what other two images are mashed up with the Nevermind image on the cover?

-Thistle

First, I love Chic-A-Go-Go. Second, are they not totally (poorly) lip syncing this song? Makes me laugh. Third, where is the drummer? Do they not really have one?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Ras G - Brotha From Anotha Planet

Ras G
Brotha From Anotha Planet
(2009, Brainfeeder/Alpha Pup)
RIYL: J Dilla, Flying Lotus, Burial, Sun Ra

There’s a reason I haven’t written lately, and it’s almost 100% hip-hop’s fault. I’ve been in the throes of a serious affair with some of my favorite old records; sometimes I just can’t listen to anything but a handful of select albums, ones that capture some vibe strong within me at the time. And so this month has found me listening again and again and again and again to four or five sublime records—Madvillainy, Los Angeles, Black on Both Sides, the Beat Konducta series—and then…

I remembered this album. It came out a few months ago, but I won’t tell if you won’t. I wasn’t quite ready for it then. The timing, the vibrations, the stars weren’t aligned. And this album is nothing if not cosmically concerned. But now we’ve found ourselves in order—universally speaking—and I am ecstatic. While it seems most of the predominant sonic society is plunging itself into either submarine environments or onto the hot, grimy rawness of urban streets, Ras G launches us into outer space, creating a sprawling, dense, airy atmosphere where negative waves and layers of soft sound play as much a part in the music as the actual beat. He and Flying Lotus (my own-other-L.A.-fave) do have a lot in common, but Brotha From Anotha Planet develops an even more spacious (what else?), wandering sound, a music that is something like extraterrestrial ambient hip-hop. It is endlessly engaging, but relaxing, too. It has soundtracked rambunctious, windows-down drives as well as ruminations on the Moon Landing. It is fresh, thoughtful, enlightened, and created with unflinching confidence—the true root of the record’s success. Ras G set out to do something different, daring, and did not waiver an iota from his goal. So who is Ras G? Neil Armstrong? Buzz Aldrin? Sun Ra? Superman? Forgive the suggestions, but I like the crusader possibilities. Brotha from anotha planet indeed, and so much better for it.

— Braying Mantis

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sparks & Spools - Visions -- Magic -- Trees

Sparks & Spools
Visions – Magic -- Trees
(2009, Mooondial Tapes)
RIYL = Scott Tuma, The Books, Aaron Martin

Local experimental folkscape troubadour Sparks & Spools has just released a follow up to his debut, Three Cups of Sea Water, as the first release on the newly formed Moondial Tapes label and it’s a beauty! I was a fan of his debut and the digital release he put out on Magic Goat, but this brings everything to a new level. The method remains the same. The man behind the fireworks and thread winders, Taylor Christensen, blends his blessed acoustic guitar and various string accompaniments with samples and occasional vocals to gorgeous ends. In addition to his tape collage formula, Christensen has added some electronic elements here and there to keep your heart beating. There is a indefinable warmth to Sparks & Spools that seems magnified on Visions – Magic – Trees. Baked in nostalgia and left to cool in the sun, everything about what Christensen has produced feels like it was made in some rickety, backwoods tree fort. I keep wanting to create some type of genre label for what Sparks & Spools is for some reason and I think the best I’ve come up with is lemonade nostalgia folk. However, there are failings in this. Lemonade might be a little too carefree. There is a slight edge flowing under Visions – Magic – Trees with the thematically bizarre religious samples. Sparks & Spools feels a little too relaxed to be making any heavy handed statements, but not too ambivalent to realize cracks in the wood or the loose thread in his spools. There is a marked beauty in these minor key moments and Visions – Magic – Trees, for all its sepia toned joy, is not oblivious to those tiny minor moments. So now let’s get to the logistics. While Visions – Magic – Trees is certainly worthy of a wider release, there are only 50 tapes that have been made. However, in the typically generous fashion of Mr. Christensen, the whole album is downloadable for free! So you have no excuses. Give it a listen, fall in love, and then get a cassette tape of your very own. Good Stuff.

-Thistle

Download Visions -- Magic -- Trees from Moondial Tapes!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Andrew Douglas Rothbard - Exodusarabesque

Andrew Douglas Rothbard
Exodusarabesque
(2009, Peaking Mandala)
RIYL = Kemialliset Ystavat, Kurt Weisman, The Kallikak Family, Prefuse 73

Exodusarabesque is an exercise in bewilderment. Much like the album’s title, the music Andrew Douglas Rothbard creates is the result of a surgery of different parts. And, similar to attempts at pronouncing Exodusarabesque, describing this music is an exercise in futility. Believe me, this being my 7th attempt at tossing words at the album, I am well aware of the failings of English (at least my grasp of it) in properly describing this mythical beast that Rothbard has created. However, don’t let my discouragement in trying to write about Exodusarabesque translate to discouragement in listening to it because what Rothbard has created here may reveal itself as the very best this year has to offer. Why else would I try over and over again to convey its strengths? I ‘m not going to make any overly specific claims here, but there is absolutely no doubt that I’ll be revisiting this album on Forest Gospel come December. That should be enough right? Leave you with an enigmatic claim without any semblance of an explanation about what you’re getting into. If it isn’t, don’t blame me for the description that follows…Exodusarabesque isn’t kind to those who try to describe it. But, here goes nothing: Exodusarabesque is a supernatural concoction of chaos gone right. In the simplest and most boring of terms, Exodusarabesque is an electronic freak folk collage. The closest relative to the sound Rothbard has created that I can think of is what Kemialliset Ystavat. But where Kemialliset often wanders off aimlessly, leaving listeners stranded in the middle of the woods, Rothbard maintains just enough structure to string you along. And don’t get me wrong, it’s great to get lost in the woods every once in awhile, but at the same time, it is infinitely better to have guide. There is no arguing with the fact that Andrew Douglas Rothbard work is experimental, but as with the very best of experimental music, Rothbard has just enough of a pop presence to make Exodusarabesque supremely palatable. What else? Oh yeah, the electronics. So, in addition to this incredible forest of organic textures, Rothbard has added an electronic edge that I have never heard coupled with free/freak folk. Exodusarabesque adds a glitch/hip hop element to these recordings that sounds like Prefuse 73 remixing Campfire Songs with Here Comes The Indian. You know what? Forget freak folk. Welcome freak electronica. I’m going to go ahead and quit right here. There is probably about a million other off kilter comparisons and descriptions I could throw at Exodusarabesque, but eventually this true chameleon of a record shakes them all off and stands alone, grazing on it all but somehow not becoming what it eats. As one last effort to convey my impressions of this album I will just say this. Recently, I have been compiling and organizing an obligatory end of decade list. While doing so I was surprised to find that I didn’t feel very comfortable putting anything on that list that I had listened to so far in 2009. It isn’t that I didn’t want to; it’s just that nothing stood out as strongly as records from the past nine years had. After listening to Exodusarabesque, Andrew Douglas Rothbard’s musical behemoth, that has now changed.

-Thistle

Andrew Douglas Rothbard on MySpace

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Strange Boys, Hanne Hukkelberg and Ganglians

Reviews I've been meaning to get to for a while now...

The Strange Boys
and Girls Club
(03.2009, In The Red Records)
RIYL: Summer, All the lo-fi buzz, simple pop drumming, throwbacks

The Strange Boys are twin Texans plus two playing ultra catchy fuzzed out psychedelic rock pop. This quad will get a tune stuck in your head as quick as any teen oriented radio station after one listen. Guitar that is somehow blues and surf at the same time flush out the melody as the sometimes Dylan inspired vocals are more or less shouted over the top. I wouldn't call it beautiful or charming, but I would call it fun for the whole family. You can get some serious dance parties on to this album, or get your lazy chill on, or employ it to accompany you around the house as you do chores, as it is very versatile and good for a variety of uses. Overall it is a enjoyable album. Nothing to pee your pants over, but definitely a good summer jammer.




Hanne Huckleberg
Blood From A Stone
(05.2009, Nettwerk)
Verdict: Regina Spektor from Norway backed by a drunken Radiohead cover band playing on Mars

Weirdo Hanne Hukkelberg got a whole lot less weird this year with her release of Blood From A Stone. All the quirky noisemakers have been more or less boiled out from production leaving behind rather enjoyable but straightforward pop songs. I was disappointed on first listen, but have since gained more appreciation for what this album offers, which is reserved and playful melodies orchestrated beautifully over which Hanne's delightful voice shines brighter than ever before. Slight hints of electronica are still present as is the wintry cold seriousness. Hanne kisses everything with a hint of her Scandanavianess and leaves everything pristine organic and sweetly arranged. Blood from a Stone is less dynamic than the earlier Hanne that I once fell in love with and it slightly broke my heart, but we're still seeing each other.



Ganglians
Monster Head Room
(2009, Woodsist/Revolver)
RIYL: Sunshine

Saving the best for last in true socialite style, current super under the radar but busting out with a vengeance Indie scene heartthrobs Ganglians are currently rocking my world. These little crooners know how to chamber pop the summer sun into oblivion. Harmonies galore and sun worshipping scorchers are nonstop on this album. Every song is irresistibly foot tappingly good. It's laid back simple acid surf at it's absolute finest. I can't get enough of the Ganglians. I totally have a crush on Monster Head Room and you should too!



-Sassigrass

Clark - Totems Flare

Clark
Totems Flare
(07.2009, Warp)
RIYL = Autechre, Nathan Fake, Squarepusher

Clark is the kind of electronic artist that makes you feel like a complete idiot. But, regardless of how humiliated you feel after listening to Clark’s electronic digs, the head bobbing moments far outweighs the moments of shifty eyed nervousness. The problem is Clark repackages everything that is laughable about electronic music and then somehow makes you like it. The rigidly dry techno/house beats, the cringe worthy vocal samples, the mental image of glow sticks and distressed, baggy black denim pants (no?) – Clark’s latest inhabits all of these with such unashamed force and meticulous construction that submission is inevitable. Totems Flare is simply amazing. Like, Amaaaaaaaazing! I guess it is this unwavering stubbornness to resurrect electronic music so that it is cool again that makes Totems Flare that much more impressive. Clark’s bold faced electronica blatantly reveals the whole IDM scene as the weak kneed indie marketing strategy that it was/is. This isn’t soft serve electronic music. There are no “organic” samples, no break beats that can be remixed into indie rap songs or multilayered polyrhythmic jazz percussion. Totems Flare contains music meant to pummel you. And pummel it does. I can’t think of a album with a more massive bass sound than this album contains. Surely there is something out there comparable to this, but for the time being Clark has totally bulldozed any memory of an album that hits harder than this. In addition, Clark (the pre-eminent electronic professional) never falls into the trap of stagnation on Totems Flare. Everything is always shifting and moving in a way that, despite the potentially mind numbing beats, things are always exhilarating. I really loved Turning Dragons, Clark’s last full length, but I must admit that Totems Flare is every bit as good as that record and, with repeated listens, possibly better. This album is not to be missed.

-Thistle

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Sore Eros, Sharon Van Etten and Wet Hair

Sore Eros
Second Chants
(2009, ShdwPly Records)
RIYL = Benoit Pioulard, The Microphones, Sparklehorse

Second Chants by Sore Eros is bedroom folk/pop at its best. Slightly muted and filled with layers of instrumentation and lo-fi studio trickery (the same kind that made The Microphones so essential), Second Chants is swirling with dusty strumming, plodding percussion and millions of spider webbed nooks and crannies within each enchanting track. Sore Eros has created something really great here. I initially wanted to write a full review of this album, but found myself too entranced when it was on to formulate any type of critical thought. Simply put, Second Chants is a super solid album of blissfully imaginative folk pop that deserves much more attention than it is presently receiving.




Sharon Van Etten
Because I Was In Love
(2009, Language of Stone)
RIYL = Marissa Nadler, Hem, Woelv

From the first note of Sharon Van Etten’s Because I Was In Love, Van Etten’s voice hits you like a cold mountain stream. Her pristine, angelic, somber vocals are absolutely gorgeous and totally refreshing. And that is pretty much the draw here. The majority of the album is propped up only by Van Etten’s perfect voice and her laconic guitar strums. Because I Was In Love is filled with beautiful, drowsy folk to cleanse your palette and transport you into the reflective solitude that surely inspired these gorgeous tracks.




Wet Hair
Dream
(2009, Not Not Fun)
RIYL = Raccoo-oo-oon, Teeth Mountain, Excepter

Thank goodness Shawn Reed and Ryan Garbes are still killin’ it. After the bloated but still pretty freakin’ awesome swan song that was Raccoo-oo-oon’s final album last year, I figured that it was the end of a golden era. In a sense, that still holds true, Wet Hair is not Raccoo-oo-oon. However, Wet Hair does carry a good chunk of the Raccoo-oo-oon formula (this goes hand in hand with having former members of the band) along with a few additional twists, all of which equates to some fine tuned, space punk spelunking. Dream is the duo’s best release to date.



-Thistle

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Bad Hangin' Out - S/T

Bad Hangin’ Out
Bad Hangin’ Out
(2009, Calypso Hum)
RIYL = Black Dice, Tim Hecker, Hew Mun, Tonstartssbandht

We review a lot of weird stuff here on Forest Gospel, so it takes something extra special/demented to catch us off guard and make us stumble over ourselves trying to figure out just what to make of a particular album. Bad Hangin’ Out has made one of those albums. On my first listen to the Bad Hangin' Out I was positively thrown off balance. I just kept thinking, “What is this? Where is this going?” Subsequent listens did nothing to restore that balance, but did much in revealing the sick/lovely thread of brilliance that holds Bad Hangin’ Out together as a wondrously peculiar gem. As you may have noticed by the bizarre lineup I conjured in the RIYL section, there is a lot going on here that's hard to pin down to one source. That being said, the album isn’t patchy at all. There is definitely a unifying momentum to each track whether it is lurking in the moody, intermittent drones, surfacing in the mud drenched field samples or raining down on the consistently muddled vocals. In fact, Bad Hangin’ Out debut is best digested as a complete document. The album’s 16 tracks morph and flow into one another, often shifting into a new pitch or vocal melody just as your beginning to grasp the previous one. You won’t want to hold out any expectations for easily digestible pop songs to emerge from the swamp muck either. While Bad Hangin’ Out certainly takes a stab at pop nuggets here and there, they’re always buried in a river of distortion which is part of why this is so terrific. One thing Bad Hangin’ Out isn’t is a member of the current strain of lo-fi pop/punk. These songs take on a much lazier, meandering feel that is equal parts sticky and slippery. I know, I know, a lot of what I am describing doesn’t really make proper sense. Well, that’s probably because Bad Hangin’ Out doesn’t really make proper sense. But within that nonsense context, this album is surprisingly awesome and refreshingly unique. Amongst the electronic din, probably the only instrument that I feel qualified to identify is the occasional guitar. Bad Hangin’ Out has moments of electric blues and acoustic finger plucking, but always in the guise of the Bad Hangin’ Out sound. Man, there is just so much here! Bad Hangin’ Out demands repeat listens and rewards plentifully with layers and layers of delightful goodness. It’s a deep well worth the drop all the way to the bottom. I think that there is a good chance I’ll be reminding you of this album come December.

-Thistle

Bad Hangin' Out on MySpace

Braden J. McKenna - Gigantic Monster Cave

Braden J McKenna
Gigantic Monster Cave
(2009, Magic Goat Music)
RIYL = Navigator, Microphones, Sung Tongs

Gigantic Monster Cave is the album I’ve been pining for from Braden J. McKenna for some time now. Many Forest Gospel readers are probably familiar with our admiration of Mr. McKenna’s other musical projects, Navigator and WYLD WYZRDZ, but before he stepped into these musical costumes he recorded some of his most endearing and amazing material under his on given name. Gigantic Monster Cave is a return to the ideals that made those early albums so essential. Gone is the self conscious lo-fi grit, the band aesthetic, and the Americana tinge of Navigator along with the ambient washes and repetitive loops of WYLD WYZRDZ. Back are the whimsical, wide-eyed, child like lyrics of - you guessed it - monsters. Back is the loner vibe of a frail, frog voiced boy alone in his room with an acoustic guitar. Back are the multi-tracked vocals, the pitch shifted monster voices, the mini-songs and, to a larger degree, the magic. I’m don’t know if McKenna would agree that this is his most engaging material seeing as how his work as Navigator has certainly been his focus and the diamond of many a strugglingly obscure blogger’s eyes. However, for me, this is where it is at. This is Braden J. McKenna (obv). This is the kind of magic that I remember feeling the first time I listened to Sung Tongs or the first time I listened to The Glow, Pt. 2. Those are hefty albums for comparison – two of my all time favourites – but I believe that Gigantic Monster Cave is filled with at least a similar type of wonder that those albums hold. It is certainly influenced by them to some degree. What makes McKenna’s work so golden is his na├»ve sense that he can create amazing songs with minimal skill. It’s obvious that there isn’t any virtuosity going on within these tracks, but any true appreciator of music will realize that skill is not what is necessary when creating good music. What's required is creativity and an indefinable talent for the genuine. If you’ve been tracking McKenna you’ll know that he’s got this in spades. Gigantic Monster Cave is one of four albums that he has already released this year (including the new Mario Kart album, but I'm sure we’ll get to that soon enough). I think I have travelled these tangents before. McKenna’s work is inspiring. Gigantic Monster Cave holds within its tiny frame some of the most whimsically affecting lyrics and humbly blissful acoustic guitar that I’ve heard all year. It is perfect for just about any setting: A drive through a forest, a late night with headphones, a pleasant afternoon conversation with friends, traversing through a labyrinth…you know, everything. And, in familiar form for the incredibly humble and generous Magic Goat Music label run by McKenna, Gigantic Monster Cave is free. Absolutely positively glorious.

-Thistle

Download Gigantic Monster Cave for free!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Black Pus - 0: Ultimate Beat Off

Black Pus
0: Ultimate Beat Off
(2009, Diareaharama)
RIYL = Mindflayer, Lightning Bolt, Octis

Last year, Brian Chippendale, drummer extraordinaire(!), released his fourth solo album as the disgustingly monikered Black Pus (for the record, Sassigrass won’t listen to Black Pus because the name grosses her out – which is wonderful). In line with his previous releases, the title of the album was prefaced with a 4. 4: All Aboard the Magic Pus. The album was as chaotic and noise barbed as anything Chippendale has done as Black Pus or with his other bands, Lightning Bolt and Mindflayer (are there others?). At the same time, with his fourth record he brought the charm with several whimsically destructive takes on pop glee, albeit pop wired with some of the more violently propulsive noise flourishes your likely to hear. I loved it and love that album even more today. That brings us to this new monstrous beast. I noted the numerical indications of Chippendale’s previous releases as Black Pus because the new album literally starts us off at ground zero. I don’t know if this indicates material that predates the rest of his catalog or simply a post-preemptive strike, but for whatever reason the latest Black Pus is titled 0: Ultimate Beat Off. I remember reading about this album two or three years ago – at least the Ultimate Beat Off portion – so perhaps the date at which this was first started is of import in the zero, but additionally important is the idea of the record. Apparently "Ultimate Beat Off" is Brian Chippendale versus Brian Chippendale. On 0: Ultimate Beat Off it is very apparent. Straying to the other end of the noise rock spectrum, on this album Black Pus loses the wimpy charm and any traces of pop in favor of three long tracks of layers and layers and layers of Brian Chippendale’s pummel-you-in-the-skull drumming along with heavy doses industrial electronic noise too insure the maximum in gratuitous dissonant gluttony. Really, it doesn’t get much uglier than this as Chippendale has attested to himself. This is his “ugliest cd yet.” 0: Ultimate Beat Off is an endurance test; a test warm hearted, ear bleeding, lo-fi drum fanaticism. It’s Chippendale exorcizing every demon in his body out of his drum kit. I recently saw part of a really cool documentary on PBS about music and one of the people featured on it was this guy with Tourette syndrome. The guy played the drums as the only means to control his crippling tics. I think Brian Chippendale is the exact opposite. On camera he seems like a fairly nice, kinda geeky guy like on the Lightning Bolt documentary, The Power of Salad, but once he hits the drums he sets loose on a schizophrenic journey of Tourette syndrome through percussion. It’s really pretty amazing, and while I probably won’t be able to digest 0: Ultimate Beat Down as often as 4: All Aboard The Magic Pus, I am definitely glad that Chippendale has created it for those days when you just need to obliterate every available sense.

-Thistle

Friday, July 3, 2009

Tonstartssbandht - An When

Tonstartssbandht
An When
(2009, Does Are)
RIYL = Psychedelic Horses Hit, Blank Dogs, Wavves

They opening track to the debut album from Tonstartssbandht is a self conscious recognition of the ridiculous unpronounceability of the band name. For just over a minute there is a question and answer session between a guy and a girl in which the band name is repeated 18 times. It’s somewhat silly but necessary seeing as how after listening to An When you are going to be repeating these guys’s name a lot…because it’s really good. I think the most wonderful thing I’ve noticed about the band is that while I should be able to pin down some good comparisons of Tonstartssbandht’s sound to other similar bands on the market right now, Tonstartssbandht defies easy associations. There is definitely elements of lo fidelity infused in the songs on An When, but I’m very hesitant to define the group by this aspect of their sound. The lo fidelity here is used as a tool rather than applied as an adornment leaving the songs with a wonderful waterlogged haze rather than an ear puncturing skree. Most simply put, Tonstartssbandht are a pop band, albeit a pop band from way out of left field. The songs are just way catchy, great harmonies, super delicious weird sounds and analog blisters rising all over the place. I don’t know how to categorize them really. The RIYLs up top are pretty misleading I think because Tonstartssbandht straddles the arena of hipster lo-fi with a heavy dose of neo tropical underwater new wave resurrection (wait, is that the same thing?). Right, that makes about as much sense as the band’s name. I can see that I am getting nowhere fast with this attempt at a critique. Regardless, An When is filled with murkily enjoyable pop that simply pleases to no foreseeable end. This is the type of music that will stick with you for a long time, demanding you to shut off other music in order to get a quick Tonstartssbandht fix. An When contains several of my favourite tracks I’ve heard this year and is sure to be a staple of my future mixtapes to friends. Lovely stuff that I think I like a lot more than I’m willing to exasperate about now. I don’t know why I haven’t seen this posted all over the blogosphere because this stuff is easy to gush about. Check it hard.

-Thistle

three videos - why not?




Thursday, July 2, 2009

Hexlove, Dolphins Into the Future and Lotus Plaza

Hexlove
Pija Z Bogiem
(2009, Dreamsheep)
RIYL = Kemialliset Ystavat, Akron/Family, Excepter

I’ve been meaning to get around to a Hexlove release for some time now. Hexlove is the artistic guise of Mr. Zac Nelson and after listening to his work as the drummer of Who’s Your Favorite Son God, I was sure that anything else this guy put to tape, whatever it was, would be a awesome. My introduction through Pija Z Bogiem proved my assumptions to be true – pure awesomeness. Pure madness. Purely ridiculous madness and awesomeness to the fifth dimension. Impure mad prog-awesome radiculousness to the fifth, sixth and seventh dimensions. I should have known by the fact that this was a double discer that Pija Z Bogiem (what?) would be more than overflowing with ideas. Nelson is simply bursting at the seams here with the bizarro creativity of a mad genius from some alternate reality of proggy freak folk wonderment. Where to even begin? Maybe no where at all. It’s just goodness – lengthy tribal jam sessions that twist and expand, expatriate pop songs sunk into a blender and reconfigured with Scotch tape, swine flu hallucinations (trust me on this one) – too much to distill into a single idea. Love.



Dolphins Into the Future
…On Sea-Faring Isolation
(2009, Not Not Fun)
RIYL = Ducktails, Peaking Lights, Oneohtrix Point Never

I’m pathetic. I’ve been scanning through the reviews that I’ve posted recently and near everyone claims to be one of the very favourite records of the year and while I’ve enjoyed everyone of them, they can’t all be my favourite, right? Well, while …On Sea-Faring Isolation isn’t my favourite record of the year, but I do enjoy it quite a bit and on a more trivial note, Dolphins Into the Future is definitely my new favourite band name. I used to favor Birchville Cat Motel in this category, but since Campbell Kneale decided to retire that pseudonym Dolphins Into the Future has stolen the spotlight. I’m glad they did to, because that is pretty much the only reason I started listening to this LP. Jump aboard ‘cuz these spacey, slippery ,droney dolphin tunes that are just perfect for relaxing on a beach chair with a tropical drink of your choice. Delish.



Lotus Plaza
The Floodlight Collective
(2009, Kranky)
RIYL = Deerhunter, Atlas Sound

You should already know about this album by now. Lotus Plaza is Lockett Pundt, who is apparently alternate creative strain of Deerhunter to Mr. Bradford Cox. The Floodlight Collective is shimmery, hazy pop of the finest quality. Think Deerhunter if everything were smeared and blissed out just a little bit more. Really, just a lovely pop record with heavy ambient strings ala My Bloody Valentine with a little bit more sun. Again, you should already know about Lotus Plaza and The Floodlight Collective by now and love it profusely.

"Whiteout" from The Floodlight Collective

-Thistle

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

John Wiese - Circle Snare

John Wiese
Circle Snare
(2009, No Fun Productions)
RIYL = Wolf Eyes, Daniel Menche, Kevin Drumm

I think that the dust needs to settle in my mind for a moment because I just had a fairly explosive thought. Just a couple more moments. Yeah, there is no arguing it really – when it comes to harsh electronic noise, John Wiese does it better than anyone else. My predisposition when it comes to noise based music is for those artists who employ an sub-basement melodies or elements of free jazz. Wiese doesn’t really fit into these categories so there is really no reason why I should latch onto his brand of noise the way that I do, but the guy somehow manages this astronomical gravitational pull in his compositions that just sucks me in. It is really pretty self destructive stuff but I can’t help but love it. Ever since his insane, schizophrenic masterwork, Soft Punk, I’ve been hooked. There is something about everything he does that simultaneously reeks of astute, meticulous intelligence while managing to sound like a ten tons of grit-laden punk rock exploding within a new dimension. Everything is built on the immediacy of an improvised live set and perfection of a patiently layered studio piece. I have by no means tracked down all of Wiese’s recordings - I don’t think that such a feat is possible with his output - but I think Circle Snare may just be the successor to Soft Punk for me in terms of noisy Wiesian perfection. Where Soft Punk turned noise into punk sized groupings and pummeled incessantly, Circle Snare is spread out over four tracks with moments of actual breathing room and plenty of space for building the most corrosive audio destruction that could even be considered enjoyable. And that is just it, this is pretty much the only extreme noise that I find repeatedly palatable. Wiese has created another one of a kind record, or perhaps I should say that Wiese has created an artistic guise that is one of a kind; a pummeling persona that is equal parts pleasurable and deplorable. Circle Snare marks a consistency level of magnificent proportions. For how much I love Axolotl in his given sphere, I similarly love John Wiese in his. This is my Noise music with a capital N. This is what warrants and similarly obliterates the meaning of a genre titled ‘noise’. I mean, where does he get those sounds? And how does he know exactly where to place them? Every time! Such amazing, amazing stuff. Top ten material for sure. I have been listening to a lot of really great stuff lately and this is amongst the pinnacle of what I have been hearing lately. Wiese’s laptop snarl is simply an essential component of what music is for me in 2009. Forget the Swine Flu - catch this.

-Thistle