Friday, December 10, 2010

Best Albums of 2010

40. Pigeons - Si Faustine
39. Ou Où - Baron Von Baron
38. Kemialliset Ystävät - Ullakkopalo
37. Forest Swords - Dagger Paths
36. Jefre Cantu-Ledesma - Love is a Stream
35. Avey Tare - Down There
34. Chris Schlarb - Psychic Temple
33. The Last Dog to Visit the Center of the Earth - Colossus Archosaur
32. Caballos y Entusiasmo - Hidropony
31. Sufjan Stevens - All Delighted People

30. TOMO - Butterfly Dream and Other Guitar Works

If you scroll down a bit, you'll see that I just recently reviewed this one. An absolutely gorgeous instrumental guitar/drone album with magical healing qualities for the body and soul.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sore Eros - Know Touching

Sore Eros
Know Touching
(2010, SHDWPLY records)
RIYL = The Skygreen Leopards, Kurt Weisman , Ariel Pink

You’re missing this right now. I mean, probably. It’s late in the year, your compiling your year-end list of favourite tunes. You already have a backlog of albums that you wanted to listen to this year that you realize you will never get around to. Discovering new music isn’t a part of the MO. And, even if you have heard of and legitimately heard Sore Eros’ latest, if you’re not listening to it right now, you’re missing out. Because this is meowing hot right now. The follow up to his terrific debut, Know Touching follows a similar path of lo-fi pop balladry that feels just that much better than everything else of its ilk. And who isn’t making lo-fi bedroom pop? The songs are pleasantly ghostly, soft edged and creeping with minorly swirling fuzz. Robinson’s meek vocals fit perfectly in the atmosphere of each song. Just a wonderfully loose, weird little album of outsider folk that focuses first on the strength of its songs and then on beauty of its ambiance. Backwoods magic here, through and through.


Monday, December 6, 2010

Jefre Cantu-Ledesma - Love Is A Stream

Jefre Cantu-Ledesma
Love Is A Stream
(2010, Type)
RIYL = Tim Hecker, Belong, Fennesz

It feels like some time since I’ve listened to shoegazer droning this syrupy delicious. Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, of Tanaterel, The Alps, and the Roots Strata label, is set to eclipse the work he contributed to his bands and label with this, his second solo album, Love Is A Stream. The album suffocates with pure, noisy beauty. Cantu-Ledesma has conjured a deep, layered, grinding sound that burrows into the subconscious and lays hard against the pleasure centers of the brain, turning bristly edged drones into magnanimous plates of earth-shifting beauty. And with noise like this, it’s all about the undercurrent. Ledesma (Is that ok? Can I lop off the Cantu for brevities sake?) obviously has an aim here and its written in the title: love. Love or beauty or gorgeousness or whatever, that’s what sleeping at the bottom of these streams, snoring melodiously up into the babbling ether, kissing your ears. Listening to Love Is A Stream on headphones feels like dropping a knife into a thick, steaming pie – it’s sugary tasty as all get out. If you liked October Language, if you liked Endless Summer, if you liked Harmony in Ultraviolet then you will like Love Is A Stream. It’s in that company.


Stream Love Is A Stream on Soundcloud

Where I End & You Begin by Jefre Cantu-Ledesma

Friday, December 3, 2010

Chris Schlarb - Psychic Temple

Chris Schlarb
Psychic Temple
(2010, Asthmatic Kitty)
RIYL = I Heart Lung, Mary Halvorson, Dirty Three

Composer/guitarist/collagist Chris Schlarb isn’t one to rush things. It has been a good three years since his gorgeous debut, Twilight & Ghost Stories (one of my favourite records of the past decade), blew my mind. What a gift that album was. The stretch has allowed me ample time to get completely psyched for his follow up, which has now finally been released, and I must say, is stunning. As an artist, I respect Schlarb greatly for his immense creativity and communal approach to making art. Similar to his debut, Psychic Temple is filled to the brim with contributors. Some notable members of this swelling 29 person crew includes the gorgeous vocal talent of Julianna Barwick, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter DM Stith and Weird Weeds percussionist Nick Hennies. Of course, amidst 29 talented musicians, the list could go on and on, but suffice it to say, Schlarb’s been working with the best of the best. And it shows. Psychic Temple is a statement of pure elation. And, under the patient, meticulous guidance of Schlarb, is a singular world where brassy horn conversations, ghostly vocal choirs, fluttering drums and Schlarb’s signature guitar work, all melt into one another in order to produce a body of sound that envelopes the listener. Similar to Twilight & Ghost Stories, Psychic Temple is a collage of sounds, however, this time around, everything seems to fit together much more smoothly, the coarse edges having been sanded away, setting loose a musical flow that enters the ear canals without resistance. The album is hypnotic. Meditative. It’s introspective, allowing, through the psychic gestures of the instruments, the resignation of the body and the heightened activity of the mind. The intent isn’t to lull one into slumber (though I can’t say it couldn’t achieve this with ease), but to provide a space for active reflection on the relevance and influence of beauty. In four fluid movements, Psychic Temple makes a lasting imprint with ease.


Chris Schlarb - "I Can Live Forever If I Slowly Die (excerpt)"

P to the S - due to some generous Kickstarter contributions, Psychic Temple will be pressed to wax as well. Huzzah!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

TOMO - Butterfly Dream and Other Guitar Works

Butterfly Dream and Other Guitar Works
(2010, Subvalent)
RIYL = James Blackshaw, Jack Rose, Loren Connors

TOMO, or Transcendental Organic Magical Objective, is the project/objective of a single Japanese sage who, through fingered dexterity, a sense of godly calm, and mystically impressive instrumental calisthenics has achieved his aim embedded in his name. As it is represented here, on Butterfly Dream and Other Guitar Works, TOMO has managed to flex his guitar (most usually of the 12 string variety, but also of through the use of 6 strings) most beautifully, unwearyingly, patiently and eternally, with what I imagine to be twelve fingered hands (though even these fingers, in their abundance, display patience, plucking and stretching the strings, each in their rightful turn), often atop the droning presence of TOMO’s hurdy gurdy, buzzing underneath, and then magically atop the perpetual performance. Organic? Yes. Transcendent? Yes. Magical? Absolutely. TOMO indeed. That TOMO lays out over an hour of genre melting, culture melting, stress melting tunes is simply a gift of unheralded proportions. TOMO’s work here is magic, pure and simple, extending far beyond the already impressive (understatement) grandeur of its 20+ minute title track, and off into the horizon. Don’t miss this album.


For a better review of this album and a music sample to boot, head over to my buddy at Anti-Gravity Bunny, here.

Minamo + Lawrence English - A Path Less Travelled

Minamo + Lawrence English
A Path Less Travelled
(2010, Room40)
RIYL = Chihei Hatakeyama, Sawako, Stars of the Lid

The album title for Minamo and Lawrence English’s collaborative effort, A Path Less Travelled, doesn’t seem wholly accurate. This path is well trodden. In fact, the music itself, a minimalist drone, actually mimics in a way a heavily worn path, a trail ground down into dust, nearly into disappearance. It’s something I’ve touched on before (something I feel I almost always think of when listening to a new drone album), but, as is always the case when I end up having the strength to post something about an album, A Path Less Travelled manages to be one of the exceptions. Minamo and Lawrence English manage, without straying from the well-worn course plotted out be their predecessors (which includes themselves), to sparkle. A Path Less Travelled though does hint at, in a narrative or visual sense, lonely road. A solitary space, slow, but none the less, a place of motion. The music is gentle and patient, submerging you bit by bit into its sense of warmth and cold, its tinkering tones and small majesty. It’s a beautiful journey, and for those who complete it, A Path Less Travelled manages to add something not easily described to the building blocks of a person. A simple little notch of honesty, beauty and character.


Minamo + Lawrence English - The Path by ROOM40

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Avey Tare - Down There

Avey Tare
Down There
(2010, Paw Tracks)
RIYL = Animal Collective

It feels weird calling Avey Tare underrated, but I’ll still say it. I mean, when compared to Animal Collective bandmate Panda Bear and the golden halo that critics have crowned atop his head, Avey Tare might as well have been handed an empty KFC chicken bucket for a hat. Look what happened to Pullhair Rubeye (of which I will take every opportunity to champion in its original, reversed form – sooooo good). Down There isn’t getting hammered quite so bad as that album, but still, people seem a bit iffy about throwing weight towards it. For me, it’s not perfect, but still really great. Glum yet playful, muddy as all get out, and filled with all manner of lurking Down-There-ness. Avey really hit that swamp feeling perfectly because Down There feels like tromping mudded through a dark, sludgy stream, stringy slings of foliage milking the headspace above and yellow eyes peppering the darkness from left to right. I’ve heard people cherry picking the last couple songs as the only high points, but that feels like a rushed assessment. Sure they’re great, of course. But so is the mid section and beginning – simply needs a bit more time to creep in apparently (though, honestly, I found it immediately enchanting/haunting). I love Avey’s wiry vocals, the monstered effects he adds to them, and his general left field approach. As much as I love Panda Bear (and I do) Avey is what really sells me on Animal Collective (I suppose we shouldn’t forget Geologist and Deakin either). But Down There is a winner fer sure. Check it.


Dragging An Ox Through Water - They're Gonna Send Me To The Dead Mumford

Dragging An Ox Through Water
They’re Gonna Send Me To The Dead Mumford 7"
(2010, Stank House Records)
RIYL = Ghost To Falco, Alex Tedesco, Castanets

I’m so behind on reviews. I’ve missed a million of them. The fact that I almost forgot to post about this gem just goes to show how big of a slacker I am. And you should know that I rarely post on EPs or 7 inchers. But, of course, this isn’t just anyone here. This is Forest Gospel favourite, Dragging An Ox Through Water, AKA Brian Mumford. And what we have here, available digitally and, more suitably, on 7 inches of wax, is They're Gonna Send Me To The Dead Mumford Pencil Box Factory featuring DAOTW’s signature scatterbrained electronics bustling from end to end and a couple a folksy acoustic-based songs dropped down in the mist of it all. If you enjoyed Tropics of Phenomenon (AKA if you listened to it), then you will be very happy with this. And Mumford tells me there is more on the way. Oh joy!


They're Gonna Send Me To The Dead Mumford on Bandcamp

Monday, November 29, 2010

Grass Widow - Past Time

Grass Widow
Past Time
(2010, Kill Rock Stars)
RIYL = Sleater Kinney, Vivian Girls, meh

At first glance, Grass Widow looks like just another retro-pop girl group in the vein of Vivian Girls, Dum Dum Girls, etc. However, on tape, Grass Widow is a tangled, wiry mess of arty post-punk that melds all the cutesy bandwagon-hopping blah-ness of the afore mentioned bands with something much rougher. If you’re looking for reference points, Sleater Kinney is probably a bit more accurate, but not wholly. I don’t know – comparisons are lame anyway. Grass Widow are a harmonic, multi-voiced, un-harmonic throat gripper of a band. And a worthy one to be chiming out tunes in this landscape of quick fixes and indie one-hit-wonders. Past Time, similar to their debut, grows on you with repeated listens. Like weeds. It chokes you out of your meh-music daze with a taste of what real indie rock ought to be sounding like these days. Really an awesome indie-pop rock record.


Zach Hill - Face Tat

Zach Hill
Face Tat
(2010, Sargent House)
RIYL = Ponytail, Black Pus, Hella,

Zach Hill is undeniably one of the bestest, most high-profile drummers working in modern indie rock today – if not the best. I consider him a part of my indie rock drummer trinity, which includes in its ranks Greg Saunier (Deerhoof) and Brian Chippendale (Lightning Bolt, Black Pus, etc.). The day that someone organizes a fantasy indie rock band in the vein of fantasy football, Zach Hill would certainly have to be the most sought after in the drummer position. I’m still floored by the memory of Zach Hill drumming live for Marnie Stern and the realization, midway through the set, that the double bass pedal work that I was hearing was actually being thumped out by Hill using only one foot and one pedal. It’s been a lengthy legacy with Hill collaborating with just about everyone and their dog and Hill has picked up a lot of songwriting genius from the exposure. This ain’t just some drummer one-off. His second solo album (probably, I don't really check these things anymore), Face Tat maims with its spastic no-wave noise rock in thirteen punkish bursts, arms and sticks assumedly flailing and feet as well. (seriously, if I hadn’t seen him play live, I would’ve assumed he had an extra arm or two.) What else do you need to know? A seriously lovely bit of outsider noise pop, minus the pop.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Geoff Mullen - Bongo Closet

Geoff Mullen
Bongo Closet
(2010, Type)
RIYL = Keith Fullerton Whitman, Belong, Dolphins Into the Future

Just and FYI, bongo closets don't of a necessity contain bongos. At least that doesn't seem to be a requirement on Geoff Mullen's latest. Though, admittedly, some of the closets represented here do (contain recognizable bongos). Mostly though, Mullen's closet music is of the sonorous sort - that space low in the sea where everything echoes deep and movement is slow but powerful. You can't simply swim through this stuff. Also, this underwaterness is outerspaceness. Alien waters as it were. Instead of barking dolphins and bellowing whales, we get scissoring lasers, zonk-out, underwater transportation systems and other, I don't know, alien stuff. It feels like it's been an eternity since Mullen's last full length release and Bongo Closet is a perfectly terrific return. And this one is on vinyl too. Really good murky drone type stuff. A little queezy uncomfortable, but in a darkly satisfying way.


Listen to the full album here.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Slaves - Ocean On Ocean

Ocean On Ocean
(2010, Debacle Records)
RIYL = Goslings, Grouper, Beach House

When you place one ocean on top of another ocean (using a torrent of cranes and a large canvas tarp), you are bound to experience, in the aftermath, one of two possible outcomes. The first is that the topmost block of ocean will, once released from the tarp onto the bottommost block of ocean (an action accomplished by inserting a pocket knife into the middle of the weight-bearing tarp), sink uniformly in a slow, steady fashion, falling through inch by inch, allowing sufficient time for the coastal cities surrounding the ocean-on-ocean convergence to slowly deconstruct, move and reconstruct their businesses and homes at a further distance. All of this completed (ideally) during an orange-red sunset and the deafening rush of ocean-on-ocean chatter and assimilation. The second possibility is that, upon the release of the topmost ocean (by the knife-in-tarp method), time will screw up and process in a contorted state. The contortion is glitchy, but most often finds space in a slow-motion trap that brings beauty and perspective to what is, inevitably, a full sinking flood: the topmost ocean being rejected by the bottommost ocean and thereby crashing outward onto property previously described as “dry land” or “inhabitable.” The second possibility, in its twilight stages, offers a submerged purr in the ears and the view of thousands of objects, furniture, pets, vehicles, toys, human bodies, bobbing unmanageably amidst the salty waters as they stretch skyward. These variables are listed audibly by the Portland duo Slaves (Barbra Kinzle and Birch Cooper) on their debut album, Ocean On Ocean. Consider it a precursor.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Caballos Y Entusiasmo - Hidropony

Caballos y Entusiasmo
(2010, Self Released)
RIYL = Juana Molina, Kemialliset Ystavat, Devendra Banhart

Hidropony is charm, pure and simple. Argentinean charm at that (which, apparently, is a much purer form of charm than I am used to). It’s the work of bedroom songwriter, Salvador Cresta, and his girlfriend Pupa - who are, together, Caballos y Entusiasmo (Horses and Enthusiasm for those who are not up on their Spanish). The album arrived to me by mail in a wonderfully world-worn package dressed in a myriad of stamps and still fresh with the sweet scent of Argentina. The disc itself came housed in a clear plastic slip, backed with some torn cardboard and fronted with a collaged Caballos y Entusiasmo postcard. This along with a ragtag collection of various other goodies (including Cresta’s 2009 solo album, Membrana de Tortuga Gitana, two DVD’s wonderfully collaging Cresta’s home videos, and a gorgeously illustrated, handwritten letter along with other odds and ends). And all of it maintaining a gloriously decorated DIY aesthetic. Cresta certainly has put time into the artifact of his work. What’s perhaps more wonderful is that this meticulous, inspiring, infinite-seeming creativity exuded in Cresta’s detail-heavy visual aesthetic carries over seamlessly into the music on Hidropony. Caballos y Entusiasmo music is that of love. And when I say love, I don’t want to limit it to romantic sentiment. Hidropony is love in creativity, it’s a love of life in all its tiny corners, its laughable moments, its different weathers; Hidropony radiates a sense of love that reassures us of the evasive purpose of the human condition; Hidropony is hope. So what exactly does hope sound like? Pretty lo-fi I guess. Ragged, bluesy acoustic guitars, chirps, bells, Casiotones, toys, “dog barks” and Cresta and Pupa on vocals both, often multi-tracked. It sounds as if Juana Molina and The Skygreen Leopards got together to create an outsider folk version of Bee Thousand. If that can be imagined. In the end, it’s a spirited bit of wonderful is all; a quaint slice of happiness. This is the real thing – you can’t fake something as brilliant as this.


Mr. Cresta, understandably, is a bit wary of the lifeless practice of sharing music through the internet. He prefers, as do I, work that bares the touch of human hands. This being the case, your opportunity to have your own personal copy of Hidropony can be accomplished via email request here (in a pay what you want model which includes, but is not limited to currency in the form of tea, music, drawings, ect.): Fortunately, he hasn't left us without something to sample. Below you will find an exclusive downloadable package with some songs and pictures from Hidropony. Enjoy!

Caballos & Entusiasmo Lttle Virtual Package

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Fun Years - God Was Like, No

The Fun Years
God Was Like, No
(2010, Barge)
RIYL = Gas, Fennesz, Tim Hecker

Anymore it seems there are fewer and fewer people who can deliver on promises of ambient music that settles in at the level of the soul. Kids are flipping textures and turning loops, but really it seems, even among the heavy weights, that the field’s of ambience are proving less and less workable. The newer breed of ambience feels like its disappearing right while you listen to it, causing you not only to forget the music but to forget other tidbits lodged in your memory. It's dangerous. Fortunately we have The Fun Years: the last, greatest stallion of ambience, collage, drone and Beauty with a capital B. What can I say about The Fun Years that I haven’t already said? Not a whole lot because, honestly, the groups evolving through stages of molasses. They may have eight tracks this time around with some shorter song lengths, but they’re still teeth deep in pools of low-level static, candied loops, meandering melodies and scoops of nostalgia. And The Fun Years are still the best at what they do. One beautiful new aspect of God Was Like, No is the opportunity to buy the album on vinyl, a first for The Fun Years (and a must for anyone). I suppose there is one thing that I would like to speak to, though I doubt I’ll flesh it out fully. It’s that The Fun Years, amidst all the gorged gorgeousness present in their tracks, levels out a wave of distemperate oddness that softly colours their work, lifting it off center, deleveling it, positioning everything perfectly awkwardly, just just enough, enough to keep you connected, unforgetting, remembering, synced and engaged. It simply sets hooks in your brain. It's simply one of the best of the year – no question.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sufjan Stevens Concert Review

Sufjan Stevens at Kingsbury Hall, November 1st, 2010

Confession: I have not attended a live show in over a year. This due in part to my disillusionment with live shows after attending hundreds over the past few years and due partly to my now 1.5 year old son. It also doesn’t help that one of the primary venues in Salt Lake City for Forest-Gospel-friendly shows, doesn’t get things rolling until well after 10PM. What can I say? I’m getting older. And I’ve pretty much seen most everyone I’ve wanted to live anyway. (At least that's what I tell myself.)

(My old bones seem to have hindered my blogging lately as well. Over two weeks without a new post?!?)

The Age of Adz has changed all of that. First off, the record is insane - in the best way possible, of course. But yeah, insanity reigneth on The Age of Adz. Simply game-changing. I even wrote a lengthy rant-heavy, apologist review for Sufjan and the album (which, wisely, I restrained myself from posting). So, when I heard Sufjan was touring, I scheduled my parents on baby-sitting duty and snatched up some tickets for me and Sassigrass.

One of the appealing aspects of Sufjan’s current tour is the venues he reportedly hand-selected. Kingsbury Hall is an aged, established auditorium on the campus of the University of Utah, more commonly used for dance and plays, and boasting plush seating with a full balcony. Not your standard indie-rock venue and certainly a factor in my attendance.

Sitting down with Sassigrass, we observed as swaths of excited, mostly college-aged kids franticly socialized in the aisles. It was quite a spectacle for those of us sitting patiently, comfortably – like a social feeding pool. There was a sheer, black screen between the crowd and the stage, the silhouette of cymbals and mic stands visible through the barrier. And then, promptly at eight o’clock, out in front of the screen, walks an indistinctive fellow with an acoustic guitar. Sassigrass and I had no idea that there was going to be an opener, but couldn't keep from bursting out in excitement when the performer announced himself as DM Stith. (Anyone following Forest Gospel this past year will be familiar with our love of Heavy Ghosts, Stith’s debut from 2009.)

Stith played a brief, skeletal, four song set – three from Heavy Ghosts and one new one (new to me, at least). The spectral beauty developed wonderfully with Stith, illuminated by a dull square of golden light, managing his way through the songs with his acoustic guitar, pastoral voice and a looping pedal. Though, “Thanksgiving Moon” had some additional support from the brass section of Sufjan’s band, glowing through the sheer-black backdrop to complete Stith’s measured, minimalist composition. Quite a wonderful treat.

And then, after a bit more time (for the socialites) – Sufjan.

The band took the stage in near complete darkness as spritely projections floated on the foreground. Expectedly, the crowd erupted. The opener: “Seven Swans.” Sufjan, banjo in hand, plucking and crooning amidst the tension of his ten-piece band until, about halfway through, the full force of group let loose in piercing explosion. A glorious hint at things to come. The song continued to contort variously until, with its completion, the screen in the foreground ascended, and the band stood, diversely costumed in all their post-Halloween grandeur.

With a small bit of banter, Sufjan and the band leveraged their numbers to reproduce the searing maximalism of The Age of Adz in renditions of “Too Much” and the post-apocalyptic balladry of “Age of Adz.” The bass rumbled through the seats with the force of an atom bomb, the electronics squabbled about ridiculously in the open air above the audience, the back-up singers performed their pre-planned dance moves (severely, hilariously out-of-sync), the dual drumming careened about wildly, bizarre illustrations and lighting geometries washed over the white backdrop, and Sufjan front and center with angel wings strapped to his back (of course) – it was an enormous spectacle and thrilling capture of the infinity feel permeating The Age of Adz.

Following that go-for-broke exhibition, Sufjan brought things down with an acoustic serving from the All Delighted People “EP.” “Heirloom” felt like a reminder to the portion of the audience not acclimated to the mind-scorching powers of The Age of Adz that, yes, this is the same Sufjan Stevens they adored. This was also a blue print of the remainder of the concert: soaring, transcendent selections from The Age of Adz followed by stripped, beautiful songs from All Delighted People. The meat of the concert was culled almost solely from Sufjan’s two most recent records.

The show wasn’t without its hiccups though. A couple lyrical slips, some questionable transitions (at least in my opinion, I was hoping for lengthier stretchs from Adz), Sufjan’s self-conscious, between song anecdotes. But the hiccups were a part of the beauty of it. Even in the midst of its full-force astral robotics, The Age of Adz and Sufjan’s live set are ultimately humanizing in their effect, bringing us closer to the artist who previously felt too highly deified. And Kingsbury Hall played an interesting part in the contradictions that are present in The Age of Adz. As much as I loved sitting back and comfortably watching the set, there was an intangible tension growing from the moment that the band took the stage and, in the middle of Sufjan’s five-part, twenty-five minute epic, “Impossible Soul,” that tension burst when, finally – finally – the crowd broke out of its auditorium-daze and rose to join Sufjan in dance as he flamboyantly and awkwardly grooved with his bandmates on stage. It was a beautiful, necessary moment and revelator that despite the queer, avant-garde elements that factor into the arithmetic Adz, the music is ultimately a physical, interactive experience – and a populous one – even in the midst of its isolating madness. It is, perhaps more so than anything else Sufjan has created, a communal record.

Additional highlights included a lengthy dissertation by Sufjan on the biography of Royal Robertson before playing “Get Real Get Right,” the flaming multimedia effects in combination with a towering "Vesuvius," the blissfully altered (in its finale) rendition of “I walked” and the soul destroying take on “The Owl and the Tanager” (a reminder that Sufjan isWstill capable of devastating songs at the level of “Casimir Pulaski Day” or “The Mistress Witch from McClure (or The Mind That Knows Itself)”).

Oh, and, for those who are interested, no, he’s not above crowd-pleasing. In what almost felt like an appeal to the crowd to love him despite a full set of completely new songs, the band closed with a muscular version of “Chicago” before a three-song encore sourced entirely by the state of Illinois.


Set List:
Seven Swans
Too Much
Age of Adz
I Walked
Enchanting Ghost
The Owl and the Tanager
(Biography of Royal Robertson)
Get Real Get Right
Futile Devices
Impossible Soul

Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, IL
John Wayne Gacy, Jr.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Altar Eagle - Mechanical Gardens

Altar Eagle
Mechanical Gardens
(2010, Type)
RIYL = Broadcast, Peaking Lights, A Place To Bury Strangers

It’s amazing, sometimes, to see the breadth of influence a single band can have on everything that follows in its wake. My Bloody Valentine is undoubtedly among the most ubiquitous when it comes to their musical influence. It seems that any record with hazy, distorted, ethereal guitar noises demands an MBV name check, like the band is collecting royalties from its offspring. Still, others probably account for the perpetual MBV referencing as point of critical laziness. Whatever it may be, the band’s influence looms heavy and, as you’ve already guessed I’m sure, Altar Eagle’s Mechanical Gardens has no way of escaping this point of comparison. Fortunately, among the stale imitators, those who choose to wear the MBV tag like a dead carcass, as a marketing bullet point, there are those who use My Bloody Valentine as a jumping-off point, who manage, despite their nearly identical allegiance in terms of aesthetic values, to create a worthwhile space for themselves in a post-MBV world. As it turns out, when it is done correctly, the music My Bloody Valentine pioneered over twenty years ago is still as wonderfully vibrant and blissfully addictive as it’s ever been. On Mechanical Gardens, married duo Brad Rose (of The North Sea) & Eden Hemming-Rose have created an absorbing pool of noise-speckled pop built on drum machines, squabbling electronics and Kevin-Shield-esque guitar worship. Add to that the dreamy vocals of Eden (not to mention those contributed by Brad) and you have the complete package. It may not be the most original music to grace my ears this year, but that doesn’t mean it’s not one of the most enjoyable. A seriously top-notch album.


White Denim - Last Day of Summer

White Denim
Last Day of Summer
(2010, self released)
RIYL = Local Natives, Blitzen Trapper, Dungen

Summer really kind of snuck out the back door this year. All of the sudden it’s frisky cold around here, perfect sweater weather. I don’t even remember the last “official” day of summer. Fortunately, White Denim do remember. Though, this album, Last Day of Summer, which the band upped as a free download on their website, seems to have almost slipped out the back door with the summer season it so wonderfully represents. White Denim have always had a way of slapping a smile across my face, but never have I been so conscious of it as I am on Last Day of Summer. The album represents the band in a much more relaxed, controlled state. The angular rock has been sanded down a bit and injected with a full helping of nostalgia. There is just a classic feel going on here that I can’t shake. Still, as classic and nostalgic a sound as White Denim have pulled off here, it is still patently White Denim: truckloads of energy propelled by seamless melodies and a robust rhythm section. Last Day of Summer is one of those albums that you can play anywhere at any time and be fully satisfied. The album is generous both in its availability and its hooks – it’s a win-win!


Download Last Day of Summer here
Oldie-but-goodie here:

White Denim - "I Start To Run" from Downtown Music on Vimeo.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Stian Westerhus - Pitch Black Star Spangled

Stian Westerhus
Pitch Black Star Spangled
(2010, Rune Grammofon)
RIYL = Peter Kolovos, Derek Bailey, Bill Orcutt

The album title, the cover art, these should be warning signs that this is not going to be your standard solo guitar outing. Don’t look for any John Fahey references here. In fact, forget expectations for anything acoustic all together. The axe-work Westerhus is interested in has little to do with melody, standard guitar tuning or traditional ideas concerning beauty in music. To concede that this is a dark affair is simple enough, but also a bit misleading. Westerhus is, with certainty, sludging waste-high through thick troughs of blackness, yet to pigeonhole Pitch Black Star Spangled, or limit it, as a doom-based work is to miss the deep crevices, tangled caverns and shafts of soul that, contorted as they may be, color Westerhus’ work in a much broader range of hues than is available on the black end of a simple grey scale. Earlier this year, my eyes were opened by the absolutely astonishing solo guitar release, New Bodies, by Peter Kolovos. His album, released late in 2009, was a revelation to me in terms of what can be exercised from six metal strings and an amp. In that same spirit of instrument torture and wide-eyed experimentation, a spirit rooted in Derek Bailey’s groundbreaking guitar work, Stian Westerhus has pushed the boundaries of my imagination further than I expected possible when it comes to the guitar. What makes Pitch Black Star Spangled so amazing (and worthy of its amazing title), even in the wake of such ominous, imaginative guitarists like Bailey and Kolovos, is how versatile he is on this album. The way Westerhus pans from a minimalist, glinting grit to a form of maximalist, free-noise abandon is marvelous. And never tiring. Well, for those accustom to adventurous sounds, that is. I imagine that, in the mind of the general public, Westerhus’ guitar work could be used as form of questionably humane torture for interrogating terrorists. And I also imagine that, among the readership of this blog, that description right there is enough to sell this album. You won’t be disappointed.


Friday, October 1, 2010

Joseph McNulty - Trail Running

Joseph McNulty
Trail Running
(2010, Roll Over Rover)
RIYL = Sean McCann, Johann Johannsson, Aaron Martin

There is a pretty common misconception out there, I think, that ambient or drone-based music operates best in the background, or worse, is meant for the background. Nothing could be further from the truth. It may be counterintuitive, but it remains true that slow-moving, repetitive, often meditative tones require much closer attention from a listener than does pop music, rock n’ roll, hip-hop – just about any other genre. I think that the misunderstanding comes, perhaps – at least partially – from the presence of ambient music found, often quite successfully, in film as a literal background to the visual images taking place on the screen. However, while a film score may be technically understood as something taking place in the background, secondary to the visual stimulus, it actually constitutes a heightened state of listening, one guided meticulously by the images, and whether it is recognized consciously or not, the moment constitutes an acute mental attention to and connection with the music. The opposite is true if one plays music, literally, as a backdrop to another activity. In this space, ambient or drone-based music falls completely flat and can be more irritating than anything else. In fact, the only “activity” that I can think of that would be ideal for drone based music, is the act of going to sleep. Which brings me to Joseph McNulty’s Trail Running cassette, released on Sean McCann’s illustrious Roll Over Rover label. It took me some time to really sink into this release, a cerebral experience, that only really became poignant once I took the time to listen to it on its own terms – without distractions. McNulty’s compositions here are milky-gorgeous, cinematic, glowing and somewhat sleepy. On top of all the elegance, a mixture of electronic and classical tones with little bits of guitar here and there, Trail Running contains small snippets of recordings culled from various sources, most notably a variety of amateur high school sports reporting, but also cuts from famous speeches and other places, each offering a surreal juxtaposition to the serene flow enchanting the air below it. It’s quite a wonderful release, and limited too. Only 100 copies. So head over to Roll Over Rover records and snag one because these tapes never last long. A wonderful wonderful Tape.


Trail Running at Roll Over Rover

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Weird Weeds - Help Me Name Melody

The Weird Weeds
Help Me Name Melody
(2010, Autobus Records)
RIYL = Deerhoof, Blonde Redhead

What can I say about The Weird Weeds? That they’re perennially underrated? Sure, but I don’t think that The Weird Weeds are much worried about popularity contests or receiving their rightful due. What I can say is this: among their tight, airy, outsider indie-pop discography, Help Me Name Melody is their best. It’s a towering, intelligent achievement that spotlights all of the subtleties of what makes The Weird Weeds so great. And that’s just it - the subtleties. The Weird Weeds have a way of twisting the standard indie-rock set into something just short of an indian burn - slightly bitter, but with repeated listens something addictively palatable and mind expanding (is that really what an indian burn is like?). Help Me Name Melody, offers additional evidence of the band’s amazing musicianship as well, serving up amongst their pop offerings a happy helping of instrumental workouts that bow and coil, flip, burn and relax. It really fleshes out the album into something unique and refreshing. Honestly, I don’t know if it is the band name or what, but I can’t help but relate the music, mentally, to a tasty array of fresh, local vegetables. Listening to Help Me Name Melody tastes delicious and feels rejuvenating, like you are doing something good for your body; for your ears. As much as indie rock stardom may be an afterthought for The Weird Weeds (as it always should be), there is a part of me that really hopes Help Me Name Melody expands The Weird Weeds’ listenership, because an album this wonderful could do a lot of good in the world. Simply Excellent.


Note: having one of the more explicit album covers of the year, Help Me Name Melody immediately qualified for the Forest Gospel cover redesign prize, and won! Congratulations! Hope you like the new version!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Swans - My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky

My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky
(2010, Young God)
RIYL = Angels of Light, Evangelista

Oh Michael Gira, you dog! Resurrecting Swans, dehydrated, out of the apocalyptic dust. Can we not sit up straight and stare wet-eyed into the oncoming train lights, like a freshly noosed victim slung swinging in front of the tunnel entrance, dangling just feet above the tracks, choking and that blaring horn, that incessant chugga chugga, the rhythmic pulse growing louder, spelling out our ultimate end, as if the rope wasn’t tight enough around our necks? It spells a beautiful collision, for sure. And, as far as resurrected bands go (if Mr. Gira will allow me to describe Swans as such), this one’s a growling mess of doom and destruction – the way it should be. I’ve been a bit more of an Angels of Light fan myself, having mostly missed the heyday of Swans (unless we can rightfully describe today as that heyday, which is certainly arguable with My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky) but this here record is perhaps the album which tips the scales in the other direction with all the mussy tangles of Gira injected with an added umph of looming destruction (added, of course, to the already present destructive tendencies that Mr. Gira always maintains). What more can be said? This is dust-ridden doom-slop-country at its finest and most frighteningly angelic (albeit the angel of death). What a corrupted ride! What a fantastic execution! What a beautiful, soaring wall of grit and sand and wind and ghosts! Oh Michael Gira, you dog - one of the very best of the new decade!


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Autolux - Transit Transit

Transit Transit
(08.2010, TBD Records)
RIYL: being let down gently

I waited so long for this. So Long. For This. For this? I wanted you to return triumphantly with vengeance in your wings and you just sort of showed up, not really soaking from the rain, not with a haircut. It was sort of just like, "oh hey, Autolux has a new album finally, oh, cool," instead of, "Autolux blew my brains out again! Welcome back the man (men/woman), the myth, the legend!" I mean, Transit Transit is nice, but I didn't like Future Perfect for being nice. I liked it for it's quality of angst that punched you in the face then drove you home, apologized and tucked you in bed with a peck on the forehead all in one chord. Well that, and the drumming. Anyways, thanks for returning guys, but why are you singing so sweetly?


PaperNoise volume 3 - Call For Submissions

Have I mentioned this on Forest Gospel yet? I don't think that I have. I've assembled a new mix of music for my PaperNoise zine project. So, go ahead and download it here. Also, if you're so inclined, turn in a submission for the zine. The instructions are all available through the link. Peace.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mammal Airlines - Life of Mammals / Two Songs Too Much

Mammal Airlines
Life of Mammals/Two Songs Too Much
(2010, Papaiti Records)
RIYL = Pumice, Guided By Voices, Hanoi Janes

You know how sometimes in films or home videos or whatever, when the camera hits the sun just right and the film explodes with a brief, dazzling kaleidoscope of pure light? Just that amazing flash of sun and glass colliding? Well, if there was technology to record that instance of visual brilliance and translate it into sound, what you would get is a song from Mammal Airlines. The New Zealand troupe comes on like a flashmob burst of spiraling pop energy, glinted with ragged sunrays that you can only find shining south of the equator. Each song is a blissful thing that, despite its brevity (the two EPs, Life of Mammals and Two Songs Too Much - totaling 8 songs together - hardly constitute half of half of an album), never fails to invigorate me to the core. I cannot stop repeating these songs, over and over and over and over. They’re eternally brilliant. Mammal Airlines has cut into that pop-genius life force that spit out forever classics like Bee Thousand and Slanted and Enchanted. I kid not folks. It has me thinking, if these guys were to put out a full length album this gritty and shiny and gorgeous and rockin’, wouldn’t I be morally obligated to listen to nothing else for the rest of the year? I’m not sure, I haven’t read my Forest Gospel contract in awhile. But regardless of how hyper ecstatic I am about Mammal Airlines, Papaiti Records has made sampling the band easy by providing both EPs free for download on their site (there are plenty of other freely downloadable goodies there too, so take a gander). So smitten.


Mammal Airlines' Papaiti Records page
Mammal Airlines on MySpace
Mammal Airlines on Facebook

Mammal Airlines - Spagetta from eep! on Vimeo.

Women - Public Strains

Public Strain
(2010, Jagjaguwar)
RIYL = The Velvet Underground, Crystal Stilts, The Soft Boys

Understanding this: Women are complicated. Aren’t they? I mean one minute you think everything is great, some steady, rhythmic conversation, it’s a nice day, there’s a breeze, then, like a rogue wave, your muted, suddenly underwater, scraping away at some unnatural din rubbing against the silence. And afterwards there’s no explanation, just an awkward tilt, and eventually a bass line. But what can you do but love ‘em. Women, I mean. Don’t the complications – the weird fractures, the blessedly beautiful moments, their hair, pale skin, pale guitars – constitute the crush? And that first date, wasn’t that a whirl. It can be hard dating a manic-depressive, but when she’s so beautiful, and with so much charm. Who knew it could turn into a relationship. The ups and downs, those slow times, everything is becoming a bit more familiar, the back of her neck, the neck of her guitar – low and pulsing – it’s not much that you even want to leave that white-walled house of hers anymore – old and bare, on the west side – it’s enough to just sit on the couch, to watch old movies in the middle of the afternoon, those short, cold kisses lingering on. It’s a steady beat, beautifully wrought, a situation that makes you say something about perfection as you drown in the light sifting through the blinds, thin strips of sun across your face. It’s lonely a bit, beautiful, subtly brilliant. Lets never break up.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sufjan Stevens - All Delighted People EP

Sufjan Stevens
All Delighted People EP
(2010, Asthmatic Kitty)
RIYL = Sufjan Stevens, or even if you don’t

Plenty of internet space has been and will be devoted Sufjan Stevens and this EP, not to mention his forthcoming full length and upcoming cross country tour, and I don’t seem to generally comment on high profile releases that get this type/amount of attention. What is the point, right? (Though, for the record, it should be made known that I have heavily enjoyed the following acclaimed albums released this year: Cosmogramma, This Is Happening, Suburbs, Teen Dream, Plastic Beach, Sisterworld, Swim, to name just a few.) Regardless, I have been listening to All Delighted People (which, honestly, is more of an LP than a lot of albums that claim such) more than anything else lately. And, I thought it significant that yesterday while driving to work at 5 in the morning – and it should be known that I’d listened to the album several times through at this point – for reasons I don’t fully understand and can’t really explain, I started to really tear up while listening to “Arnika”. The whole EP is really wonderful I think.


Stream All Delighted People EP

Candy Claws - Hidden Lands

Candy Claws
Hidden Lands
(2010, twosyllable records)
RIYL = The Flaming Lips, Flotation Toy Warning, Toro Y Moi

The float of Hidden Lands is quite substantial. The Candy Claws boys and girls are sending off their notes all strung up with balloons. I think they’ve got a few hummingbirds up there as well, tied at the ankles and fluttering hard and slow towards the sun. Sunny, bleary music, indeed. Blue skies and heat waves, large marshmallow clouds. It’s a doubly-thick, super-layered affair on all sides, with large slices of reverb-laden electronics and guitars spinning and floating all about. Each song is a bubbly airship peppering the sky, puttering lazily from one end of the horizon to the other. It’s colorful dream-pop, mega sugary, unpretentious, wide-eyed and kind, childlike, guzzling sodas and raspberry lemonades and whatnot. It’s a Saturday. A Sunday even. A member of the Forest Gospel troupe review a Candy Claws album last year, but, regrettably, I never got around to hearing it. I don’t know how this compares, but I do know that all on its own, Hidden Lands is an uber-pleasant soft-psych trip that reminds me of the golden age of bizarre pop from the likes of The Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev. Candy Claws have certainly done a wonderful thing here in releasing this. It’s been growing on me with every listen. Successively becoming clearer and crystalline in the glint of the sun.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Pumice 10"

Pumice 10”
(2010, Doubtful Sounds)
RIYL = Black Pus, The Hospitals, The Goslings

How can I do proper justice to the man, Stefan Neville, and his exceptionally illustrious back catalog under the Pumice guise? It’s been a pretty pitch-perfect ride thus far, I must admit (though, often the pitch has been bent, mangled, twisted, screwed, chopped, tossed and burnt to a fine crisp in the process). Under the Pumice moniker, I would go so far as to say that the Neville is the gold standard for lo-fi music – no one does it better. So, it is both a glorious and a bit depressing that on this most recent Pumice 10” are the last recordings Mr. Neville recorded on his kingly 8-track. That being said, this release puts the classic genius of Pumice on glorious display. Side one offers us on “Fool fool fool moon,” ten minutes of grueling, shloptastic, punk-drone muck at a disjointed, grin-inducingly-lethargic pace, Neville’s kiwi-mumble permeating ceiling of the cut. It's prime evidence of Neville’s ability stretch out and pepper a track like no one’s business. Side two opens with a pillow of deep, bellowing bass heaviness, distorted guitar theatrics and echoing vocals that seem to be seeping in from an adjoining apartment. A concise pop-lengthed slab of lo-fi noise grumble in advance of the “pretty love song;” the strummy, jangle petter; the high-aspring closer; “The Screaming Heap.” I have no doubts about Pumice continuing to produce blitzed out masterpieces in the future – it seems that’s all Neville is able to conjure – but still, as a swan song to Pumice’s 8-track, the device that has brought as so much wonder and grit these past few years, this Doubtful Sounds 10” is simply immaculate.


Pumice on MySpace
on Doubtful Sounds

Monday, August 30, 2010

Kemialliset Ystävät - Ullakkopalo

Kemialliset Ystävät
(2010, Fonal)
RIYL = Paavoharju, Black Dice, Prefuse 73

What can I say; listening to Kemialliset Ystävät makes no logical sense. Ullakkopalo is the latest in a long history of deranged freak-psych adventures from the band and it delivers with similarly delighted, confusing, and totally bizarre results. Based on my recent streak of surreal (anti)reviews, you might’ve thought Kemialliset Ystävät would be the perfect band to send me off into some ridiculous, fabulist mind-trip. Yet, somehow Ullakkopalo has cancelled out any type of coherent imagining in me. The record works to disassemble thought, to confound, to set low one’s sense of cognitive stability. It’s madness, it’s noise, but a pleasant (if ultimately disturbed) madness, and noise music for lovers. Though I’m not sure what that all really means. I guess all I’m saying is that you can listen to the noise-madness on Ullakkopalo and still have a chance at getting away with your soul (though the gypsy maids may have scrubbed it weird in the process). Ullakkopalo, in comparison to their recent tour-only Harmaa Laguuni and last "official" full length in 2007 (their self-titled masterpiece), feels a bit more free-wheeling, a bit more collision-heavy (and what is Kemialliset Ystävät’s music but a series of collisions?), which may make it slightly more difficult, but honestly, who can tell what any one person will take from listening to these Scandinavian weirdoes? It’s anyone’s guess whether or not you’ll still be using ears for hearing, eyes for seeing or feet for walking after the experience. Once Ullakkopalo is through with you, you’ll be lucky if you don’t have an extra set of arms (unless, of course, you’re into that kinda thing). Happy listening.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ou Où - Baron Von Baron

Ou Où
Baron Von Baron
(2010, self released)
RIYL = Our Sleepless Forest, White Rainbow, The Fun Years

It’s a thing, really, to be eaten alive. Particularly, I think, when you welcome it. Welcoming it is difficult; I’ll be the first to admit. It’s a tedious decision for a tedious event. I prefer to be consumed by those without teeth or by those who’ve been de-toothed. It turns the event into a series of constrictions and I’m comfortable with that. A tight wetness around my feet and then ankles, a contraction that then slackens lightly before advancing. And, to the extent that one can prepare for and complete the process of being consciously consumed, there are six stages of mental clarity that the practice provides. 1 – “Iedna” – this first mental station applies in all instances of being eaten alive, but is particularly vibrant in the event that you are devoured by a large water-dwelling snake, and is characterized by an immediate deterioration of the senses followed by their slow reintroduction, starting with sound and ending with taste. 2 – “Fernlinden” – most common when being removed from outside a body and into its internal casing by packs, but faintly resonant in all live consumption cases, this second mental condition is popularly described as a clumsy, tone-heavy moment that breeds silliness into an otherwise foggy vision and translates sound into touch (that rhythmic advance, jaw over knee). 3 – “Bellerive” – a common “regrets” period, this mental state stifles onset feelings of anxiety by employing mental glitching for purposes of mindnumbing (also, at this point one will also begin to communicate with the one who devours them subconsciously). 4 – “Silverwood” – this is when things get real; why would you welcome being eaten alive? Fear, confusion and violence ensue pleasantly (and with particularly interesting results if you have chosen an elk as your devourer). 5 – “Cascade” – as the longest period in the process of being consumed, station five focuses on Godliness and the likelihood that one is going to be provided “grace”. A serene but searching period. 6 – “Ferlinden Version” – commonly referred to as “the float” or “the wave” for its twinkling atmospherics and deluded sense of happiness. The six stage process has been recorded by the St. Louis duo, Ou Où, and released in the buffalo format. Adventurous drone for the healthy hearted experimenter. I know this because I type to you from inside a buffalo. Its name is Baron Von Baron. Allow her to consume you.


Ou Où on Bandcamp

Monday, August 23, 2010

Male - German For Shark

German For Shark
(2010, Other Electricites)
RIYL = Supersilent, Zs, Splint!

The situation for Male is that they need to scrape clean an abandoned warehouse and all they’ve been provided with as far as tools go is instrument scraps. Some drum sticks to shudder the dirt from the walls, to scour the metal piping and its stains. A trombone to catch leaks and distribute cleaning sounds into the corner pockets (gets rid of those vermin). A guitar for sweeping or to be used as a hammer. This dilapidated piano – one with wheels on the bottom – to roll out all the scraps. These in addition to a muffled cornet, some crack-keyed vibraphone, a wobbly sax, and a bit of processing equipment, or something. I guess the janitor had been a jazz man. The band, Male, found that it was important to make the sound of cleaning exotic. In this way they were able to corrode the mess twice as fast based on the mentality of that mess being corroded understanding its process, ear-wise, in a much more adventurous manner (ya dig?). Of course, when in the process of a clean scrape, it can be difficult not to get sidetracked with your instrument at hand. To allow the guitar strings to pulse; to lay down some strict percussion; to hollow out the room with some mad-hot drone. And the tapes were running. Why not pass them off to some historied friends for remixing? German For Shark is a split of tension building free jazz and waterfront drone that cuddles perfectly into every corner and crack of a place, cleaning it out audibly. And you know what they say about cleanliness…


Male on MySpace

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Greg Haines - Until the Point of Hushed Support

Greg Haines
Until the Point of Hushed Support
(2010, Sonic Pieces)
RIYL = Arvo Part, Peter Broderick, Nico Muhly

It’s been a bit since Mr. Haines’ debut album, Slumber Tides. He was young then, right? We were all like, “OMG, he’s only eighteen?!” I was all like that at least. Now the boy’s back with what I am accepting as his proper follow up four years later and still, how can you not be baffled by neo-classical orchestration of this caliber coming from a twenty-two year old? Goodness gracious me. Just give me a second to try and clear out all my ageist apprehensions. There. So, in spite of everything I’ve just written – and I would mention this regardless – Until the Point of Hushed Support is marvelously mature in stature. A cordial being on the surface – tall, mannered, perhaps with a long coat over his suit – the album operates slowly, coldly and in an unexpected twist, murderously. At least it’s murdered me. Amidst its slender, ringing tones I conceive slender fish-cold hands reaching out from the tall man in order to extract my insides; to hollow me. It's hollowing music. Until the Point of Hushed Support is a back alley endeavor, though not the grimy sort. This is high-class crime, bred of meticulousness and artistry. That which takes place behind the opera house. Even as a victim, the cold, fingered extraction of the soul is of the most beautiful theater. Blood is black is minimal is frozen now. The tall man takes special efforts to comfort you as you drift away. Before suitcasing your life. And the drift, that final ascending lift, resonantes more gorgeously than life ever seemed to. It’s a minimalist affair, but for those patient few who find their way through the expanses of Until the Point of Hushed Support, allowing their movements, their consciousness and all, to be strung for puppeting, the results are breathtakingly beautiful.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Aaron Martin - Night Erased Them All

Aaron Martin
Night Erased Them All
(2010, Sonic Meditations)
RIYL = Johann Johansson, Greg Haines, Sean McCann

Instructions for Aaron Martin’s latest album, Night Erased Them All, are these: listen alone while driving at night. Inasmuch as Night Erased Them All is a gorgeously muscular escape into altered consciousnesses (which it very much is), this may not be the safest idea. I imagine while listening (home safely, headphones snug) some poor soul venturing out into black summer air in his '93 Saab, in her 2002 Accord, turning through the local neighborhoods, becoming intoxicated on the beautiful orchestral movements, the brooding strings and thick almost dooming bass, the contortions, and sinking into the earth, the hood of their car skimming just above the gravel plane of the pavement as their vehicle dips lower and lower into the top soil underneath – missing stop signs, undaunted by stop lights – before descending too low, missing a turn and driving straight into the basement of some unsuspecting, some slumbering home. That’s how I figure it. And though it would be an amazing way to go out, I don’t think I’m ready to be bloodied in some foreign basement, primal vocal harmonies cooing through my speaker system. However, if you happened to be resiliently awake and pining for the night air, I won’t stop you. One thing concerning Mr. Martin’s instructions are important however: that you be alone with Night Erased Them All. This is isolationist music. Headphones, as I mentioned earlier, are important. And, in addition, this is night music. Brilliant and seductive, beautiful and engrossing, and black black black. The album consists of two 15 minute tracks with a magnificent flow through neo-classical tributaries to droning Niles. Aaron Martin’s second success this year, and perhaps his crowning achievement. There is something different to take from every release Martin sets free, but Night Erased Them All just seems all that much more provocative. A must.


Aaron Martin on MySpace

Friday, August 13, 2010

Graham Lambkin - Softly Softly Copy Copy

Graham Lambkin
Softly Softly Copy Copy
(2009, Kye)
RIYL = musique concrète

Because it needs to be said: Softly Softly Copy Copy is perfect. Absolutely. Composed of two pieces of music/sound of exactly the same length, 20 minutes and 40 seconds, Lambkin offers two versions of out composition that simply drive a texture obsessive like myself into dizzying fits of excitement and joy. Despite my excitement, the album provides a fairly placid experience. With a mix of found sounds, electronics, violin and other…things…Softly Softly Copy Copy is perhaps the most pure and cleansingly assembled experimental collage piece since The Kallikak Family’s May 23rd 2007 (my favourite album of this past decade). Lambkins methods and tones remind me of a much more languorous version of John Wiese, maintaining Wiese’s ear for interesting texture and collage but removing it from a harsh noise context. There is just so much to sink into here, to swim in. I’m obsessed, but I won’t go much further. Just know that this bristling, ghosting, spacious, watershed of an album exists and it is that good.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

PaperNoise Mix V2

New reviews are on the horizon, but in the meantime I thought I'd send you over to PaperNoise, my zine-based side project. I've upped a new noisy, summery mix to corrispond with the printing of our second volume. Check it here:


Friday, August 6, 2010

Tim Cohen - Laugh Tracks

Tim Cohen
Laugh Tracks
(2010, Captured Tracks)
RIYL = Fresh & Onlys, French Quarter, singing with an acoustic guitar

Cohen, of the fancypants garage rock band The Fresh & Onlys, has now blinked onto us this, his second solo album. And while his debut was pleasant, Laugh Tracks is much better. Everything is still shoe string (as I imagine it will always be with Cohen), but on Laugh Tracks the hooks are there, the songs are ripe, and everything sticks. There is a slack feeling of Cohen enjoying himself on the album, self-assured and beaming with quality and consistency. La la la, what else is there to say? Great grand goodness with an acoustic guitar and all that pithy blah-talk. That’s it, I’ve nothing more. Listen and learn yourself.


Psychedelic Horses Hit - Acid Tape

Psychedelic Horses Hit
Acid Tape
(2010, Fan Death Records)
RIYL = Times New Viking, Guided By Voices, The Hospitals

While it’s true, I am slowly overcoming my apprehension towards swearing (though, only in terms of absolute necessity when writing fiction); still, old habits die hard. And I still love calling these guys Psychedelic Horses Hit (almost, but not quite as much as Jackie-O Samuel L. Jackson). Why the hell (see!) am I even reviewing this tape? It’s totally sold out now, as far as I can tell. I‘ve had it for awhile and I only started listening to it after the hype had been confirmed and the tape disappeared. So, this review could really only be for two purposes. 1. To rub it in your face that Acid Tape is the grimiest, best lo-fi noise pop album of the year and you’ll never even have the opportunity to buy it. And 2. To make a case for it being reissued…on vinyl! Please please please. Actually, on any format would be great because, honestly, Acid Tape is everything it purports to be. And, on top of it containing absolutely delicious portions of pop genius, scratchy ear candy scratchiness, and rock n’ roll abandon – the band has created noise pop dub! Really, “Hard As It Gets (Chill Sax Mix)” is sooooooo awesome (and so chill). I imagine that Blues Control would have loved to have set that tune to tape. Too bad, Psychedelic Horses Hit beat you fools to it. Really honestly though, Acid Tape is one of the best albums of the year. You’ve been hearing that a lot from me probably, because it’s been a great year really really. But I’m talking best-of-the-best here. I know I haven’t heard the new No Age album yet, but there is only a 1% chance they could get within a 100 yards of the genius on Acid Tape. That good.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Chris Abrahams - Play Scar

Chris Abrahams
Play Scar
(2010, Room40)
RIYL = Lawrence English, Keith Fullerton Whitman, The Necks

In addition to aural maturity, there is a rich religiosity brewing throughout Play Scar. Not, though, that new wave religiousness so often caught up in these new experimentations (the immature ones), but a thick, meaningful presences, almost Christian – not to categorize Abrahams – in the way it sets itself pleasantly in the pews, reassuring you while enabling the wholesale destruction of everything outside your periphery. I, personally, subscribe to a form of Christianity myself, perhaps an odd one; one that has been mythologized (quite wonderfully) by the penchant its members have for growing horns. Still, I’m not oblivious to the institutional nature of things, how the history of faith organizations have systematically collapsed millions; billions even. It’s a conflict between the deep rooted essence of the faith’s most principled tenants and the cloistered, maniacal fingertips of its so easily manipulated body - like a costume awaiting a bolt of blood and flesh. The complications here are part of the beauty of it, almost. Where am I, what am I talking about? Music? Abrahams work on Play Scar perhaps doesn’t fit wholeheartedly into my religious deviations, but it does, in its own way, assert itself as principally astute and pure, while still managing a gloriously secular, pulsing aesthetic. Abrahams’ master here. A sound engineer of incredible depth and intelligence. A teacher of what is possible, of skill, restraint, texture and volume. So, kiddies, with your laptops and pedals, look up – this is how it’s done, and these are the ways to do it. In this category, Abrahams aligns himself with the likes of Fennesz and Keith Fullerton Whitman, though neither of the two have managed something at the level of Play Scar in recent years. Thankfully Abrahams came to bat. Play Scar, in addition to being smart, tinny and confident, is wildly diverse without feeling like patchy or thrown together. Really, in the simplest terms, it’s an epic, in that spiritually grandiose way. Like art. That white-pure art. What more could you ask for? (A competent review.)


Play Scar stream on Boomkat

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Waggers Over The Station - Upekkha

Waggers Over The Station
(2010, self released)
RIYL = The Microphones’ Mt. Eerie, Paavoharju, Chris Rehm, Green Gerry

The factual soundness concerning information about Waggers Over The Station being indeed the sole individual, Casey Shew (that impervious wreck), is an illusion. Many invisibles contributed here, and that Mr. Shew would even consider shutting out their mouths and fingers from the paint-black thread lining every crease in this album is, in and of itself, a travesty. Credit to hooded malefactors brimming with alcohol, tied to the tracks and humming their death hum; credit to light fissures that bursted maniacal into the seams of Shew’s pockets and socks; credit to the wind (what Casey, do you own the wind?!); credit wooden cogs pumping water, sloshing and creaking properly under balloons of liquid weight; credit to the heartless metal gods tricked into patient vibration – and that’s just for opening track. Truth be truth, Upekkha carries forward, barreling, like a catatonic train – its metallic chugga chugga as it trollies down the track –shifting and contorting, dog-faced ambivalent, a tigerbelly carriage roaring all the way until the slowed point of the next stop; stops that flutter, and fritz gorgeously, bursting out in equal parts Isaac Brock and Phil Elverum (at least on “I Stand on the Hilltop. Light Falling on the Grass”). Upekkha devours all, carnivorously chompcrunching the bones of its forbearers (Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Animal Collective, Natural Snow Buildings, etc.) and bleeding the remains out into this wholly new construction, fully organic, completely mechanized, rooted and branched, the whole atmosphere, deep deep deep, thick, immersive and soul-sucking. The whole of the world will crumble around you in imaginative verve, soil and leaf, sunk to the pit. And you, Mr. Shew, seek to take the recognition, to aggrandize yourself as thee wagger, to loom heavy over the station all by your lonesome. Your ribs can’t shadow it. Your thin fingers couldn’t grip it if they tried. Upekkha is bigger than you…bigger than all of us. But not so big, perhaps, even as it disassembles matter around us, that the songs seeping through won't tug righteous at the tiniest heart strings left wafting. (Thanks Casey.)


PS - album of the year contender

Place. The Light Falling on the Cabin by Waggers
I Stand on the Hilltop. The Light Falling on the Grass by Waggers

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mark Templeton - Ballads EP

Mark Templeton
(2010, self released)
RIYL = Tim Hecker, The Field, Belong

I’m not much for EPs. Maybe you’ve noticed, all one bajillion of you who have sent me your debut EPs without a response. Forgive me, really. I don’t know what stops me from being able to commit myself to downloading and listening to something of that length. It should be easier right? (Don’t give up, send me your full lengths.) Yet, I do take exception for some. Enter Mark Templeton’s Ballads. While I genuinely loved his collaboration with aA. Munson on Acre Loss, I think I forced myself to enjoy his sophomore album, Inland. It wasn’t bad by any means, but not near as good as Standing On A Hummingbird either. It almost kept me from immersing myself in his latest EP. However, Ballads marks a return to his previously achieved, outstanding form. The concept for Ballads is a brief, but rich suite of tracks derived from the one-and-only Lionel Richie. The opening track, “February 23rd,” is quick to find the Richie’s single, “Hello,” bleeding through the guitars and static. It’s a plunderphonic dream that you never knew you had and now, in its earshot, can’t help but slip away into again and again. The closer, "Drowning in Memories," thickens things up a bit and provides ample evidence of the man's expertise in sound collage. Looks like Mr. Templeton is back on top and Ballads definitely has me interested in what’s coming next from the textured Canadian soundsmith.


Mark Templeton - "Fabruary 23rd"
Mark Templeton's website