Monday, June 28, 2010

Sic Alps - A Long Way Around To A Shortcut

Occasionally psychedelic and unabashedly noisy garage-rockers Sic Alps have grown a lot over just a smattering of singles (and one proper LP, 2006's Pleasures and Treasures), so the reverse-chronological order of this compilation puts their best foot forward. That said, it'll rob listeners of some insight into the band if they don't give the whole thing their attention instead of just jamming the "Back" button over and over after "Strawberry Guillotine" (though you could hardly be blamed). Like many of their peers, Sic Alps tend to press great material on vinyl and cassette singles in haltingly small runs, but thankfully, most of it is included here.

The band's most recent material is their best and strangest. "Description of the Harbor" comes from an extended 12" of the same name originally released last year, and it's a liberal seven-minute interpretation of a Strapping Fieldhands song that alternates between depth-charge distortion, atonal no-wave jamming, and plaintive piano-led vocals that could be coming from a basement church P.A. Yet the entire B-side of that single was filled with nothing but direct, concise, even innocent pop: "Love Is Strange" finds austerity in the hangover of "Description" via acoustic guitars and woodblocks, "A Story Over There", "The News Today", "Message From the Law", and "Hey! Sofia" are simply too immediate to be dismissed as Nuggets-minded retro retreads.

"Strawberry Guillotine", the title track of another single from last year, is a slow and hiss-soaked proto-metal strut that manages to be damnably infectious.. To further reinforce their unpredictability, "RATROQ" from the same release sounds like running the volume knob back and forth with woodwind accompaniment, while "The Drake" is another perfectly catchy, impossibly heavy ditty where the accidental harmonics make it sound like the notes are punching black holes out of the space around them.

The 2006 Teenage Alps cassette marked something new for the band-- still undoubtedly minimal and noisy, but inching towards being more melodic, or, alternatively, having more of a purpose when being decidedly un-melodic. "When You Tell It" is a perfect example, taking otherwise straightforward psychedelic pop and adding a head-swallowing feedback screech where a solo should go, while "Texas (Is the Right State)" puts the rubbery bass of vintage stoner-rock more firmly in their grasp. "C'mon Pup" meshes a perky, almost Disney-appropriate piano plink over indiscernible waves of distortion.

"Making Plans" from 2006 is more typical languid bottom-heavy riffery, though even on this early single, the casual approach to recording and the distant, disconnected way the drums were recorded put Sic Alps some distance from your average long-haired slow-headbang rock. They've tried many things over these releases, and they've always come out a little left of the mark in the best way, making for something distinctive. Long Way Around walks backwards through their firmly weird current aesthetic to the still-weird two-man psychedelic sludge-rock where they began. It's an indispensable collection for those without the time or cash to track down these out-of-print singles, and for now, the best starting point for the band. Jason Crock (Pitchfork) ~~~~~~

Sic Alps - Strawberry Guillotene/Everywhere, There

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Wire - Document And Eyewitness

We Meet Under Tables

Wire -- Midnight Bahnhof Cafe

The Best Of Eric Burdon And The Animals (1966 - 1968)

Don't Bring Me Down

80s Cheese At Its Finest !

The Damned - Damned Damned Damned (1977)

Stab Your Back

The Damned - Fan Club

Tarentel - We Move Through Weather (2004)

Highly Recommended! ~~~~~

Tarentel - Bump Past, Cut Up Through Windows

The Deviants - Ptooff! (1967)


The Deviants - I'm Coming Home

Tryptaphonic Mind Explosion - Sounds From The Psychedelic Underground (2002)

  1. Not Shiny / Robot vs. Rabbit
  2. #0215 / Mandog
  3. Rosewood Frog with Serbian Eye / Interferents
  4. Channel Security / Pine Tree State Mind Control
  5. It Get Banished Forever / Escapade
  6. Something's Happening / Paradise Camp 23
  7. Spaced Out / Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O.
  8. Un Tiermo Exsina Concinado Cahubo De Lo Panso Y Ronil Fermo Acarriones Nindio Lor Minecxio Alcalpulco Moros / Reynols
  9. Evestrum / Primordial Undermind
  10. Carnered / At The Eat
  11. Harmaat / Circle
  12. Building My Own Nova Dreamer / Delayed Sleep ~~~~~

MST3K- Best of The Final Sacrifice

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Ahkmed - Chicxulub (2007)

Ahkmed take a Kraut/Space-rock approach to the “post-metal” sound we all know and love with Chicxulub, a collection of EPs recorded in 2003 and 2005. Imagine Hawkwind, in their cosmic, amphetamine-driven prime, joining forces with Isis, and you have a nearly dead-on description of their sound.

The opening track “Kirrae,” wonderfully explores the dynamics of loud and soft that post-rock and its derivatives are known for. The track goes from clean guitar jamming that seems high in the sky, then kicks in the distortion. Ahkmed then go back to the softness, but when the amps are cranked again, they outdo themselves. The songs drifts off into spacey ambiance a pedal geek is sure to love. The band cuts some of the drone and ups the dexterity on the next track, “Ilanesia.” Though space-rock is mostly associated with bliss, it can convey fear as well. The muted wah in “T” creates an ominous claustrophobia. It’s also in this track where the vocals, a wispy drawl, are introduced. They are not in the forefront, like in Isis, and overall serve to add to the atmosphere of the album.

Ahkmed’s songwriting is also more diverse than their classification would make them out to be. “Viceroy” sees the band successfully taking on a Fudge Tunnel-like tune, the most conventionally metal (though not by much) of the tracks. “Welcome Mat” finds them indulging in some Acid Mothers Temple spazz-outs. The fresh interpretation of a sound that some would already considered played-out makes Chicxulub worth it for any fan of heavy music. Andy O'Connor ( ~~~~~~

Ahkmed - T=0

The Olivia Tremor Control - Black Foliage (1998)

One reason record reviews exist is to help people make purchasing decisions. I tell you a new album is great, you buy it, you dig it, you say, "What should I buy next?" Well, buy Black Foliage next-- you'll love it. You'll get insanely catchy '60s- inspired pop music in addition to sound collages, field recordings, drony ambience, cathartic noise, and outlandish production that makes Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound" look like a cubicle divider. You'll get an exceedingly long album that's high on concept and low on tedium. You'll get a lot for your $15. So buy it, already! It really is a fine, fine piece of work-- better even than the band's strong debut, Dusk At Cubist Castle. Trust me.

So, now that you own Black Foliage, let's talk about what you can do to maximize your enjoyment of it. The first thing you'll need is a box of Q-tips. In order for your ears to have a chance at capturing the 32,486,978 distinct sounds that collectively make up Black Foliage, you'll want those canals to be whistle clean. The next question is: headphones or hi-fi? It should be noted that, at times, the sonic ambitions of the Olivia Tremor Control exceed the ability of their recording equipment to capture it. The end result of this is that parts of Black Foliage can sound just a bit muddy in your average listening environment, where microscopic sonic details can easily disappear into those ferns hanging in the corners. Headphones alleviate this problem and bring a mind- boggling amount of aural nuance to the fore, but they are far from ideal if the album is listened to in a social setting.

So, you're settled in and your ears are open, and now you want to know exactly what to listen for. It's not easy to say, as there will be as many approaches to this record as there are listeners. The band's real talent, like that of the late- '60s- era Beatles, is in combining accessible pop with more experimental elements and making them work together perfectly. Only the Flaming Lips are making comparable strides at bridging the "catchy vs. avant garde" gap within a single piece of work. While the Olivia Tremor Control is wildly successful in that respect on Black Foliage, it's possible that some will be turned off by either the syrupy- sweet melody of "Hideaway" or the quick- cutting tape collage of "The Boat Below It," depending on which end of this continuum you're coming from. The key factor in the synthesis is that the Olivia Tremor Control are head over heels in love with sound-- it shows in every saturated inch of their master tapes. And sound certainly takes precedence over lyrics, to the degree that you remember the melodies and textures much more than the words, which are really just one component of the whole.

In the case of Black Foliage, that whole is a complex, ear- pleasing conundrum, from the opening organ chords of "Opening" to the final chorus of "Hilltop Procession," whose fade- out makes you sad that the lengthy album is over. Part of the album's puzzle- like nature comes from the constant references to other songs-- both Olivia Tremor Control works and other band's songs. The album's theme, "Black Foliage," appears in four very different versions, one for each side of the double album, and is alluded to again in the sound collages. The song title "California Demise" comes from the band's rare 7" EP debut of the same name. References to Dusk At Cubist Castle are also made, hidden bits of one song are in another, and the occasional musical quote, such as the vocal break lifted from "God Only Knows" for "The Silvan Screen," all add to the fun.

The overall concept is also cryptic but worth trying to fathom. I've only listened to the album 15 or so times, not the 50 that Olivia Tremor Control co- frontman Bill Doss says is required to decipher it, so I can't help you there. If I had to guess, I'd say that the album is really about listening, really listening to what's going on around you and realizing that sounds are music and music are sounds. Or, to paraphrase John Cage's famous question, "Are sounds just sounds or are they the Olivia Tremor Control?" Mark Richard (Pitchfork)


The Olivia Tremor Control - I Have Been Floated

Furry Things - Moments Away (1998)

That Machine

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Black Dice - Broken Ear Record (2005)

This is music for hiking across an alkaloid wasteland, equipped with enough oxygen and dried food to last through several days trek through a nitrogen-saturated atmosphere. There is a metallic taste to the air, and the sun, even at high noon, obscured by layers of sooty gas and overstuffed rain clouds. Black Dice, even when trying to inject a little rhythmic propulsion into their mechanic-industrial commotion, come off brittle and oil-stained futuristic. To a degree, this is dirty music, though more in style than execution; competing pulses from synthesizers, drum machines and the odd, antiquated guitar (via loop or sample, of course) destroy what little firm ground on which there is to step, but the landscape described by the sound is sturdy, if in need of polish. In fact, it's hard to say whether or not the quasi-urbanized clang is actually futuristic, as when drums appear, they're decidedly "tribal". Nevertheless, it's an isolated wilderness put forth on Broken Ear Record: away from city noise, refinement and fellow travelers.

Brooklyn trio Black Dice are the most interesting "noise" band I know. Never content to inhabit one sonic guise for long, their track record for navigating unexplored areas of static, delay, distortion and bizarre, heavenly bits of electronic data is almost unparalleled among would-be contemporaries. They've landed on the spikiest stylistic beachheads in modernist rock, from splatter noise-core, electronic ambience, quasi-electro acoustic improv (EAI), death disco and now to what I would clumsily characterize as post-apocalyptic jungle-core-- and isn't that a mouthful? Consequently, as easy as it is to marvel at their ambition, it's sometimes tough to really settle into one of their records. There's always something a little uncomfortable about Black Dice-- but then they wouldn't be as interesting otherwise. Broken Ear Record, reportedly the result of the band needing more rhythmic material to play live, is no exception: It's flighty, frustrating, and at times a little frigid, but intelligent and never lacking in momentum.

The sounds used should seem familiar to fans of 2004's polarizing Creature Comforts, as many of its synth patches, guitar tones and delay effects are featured on Broken Ear Record. The muffled, horn-like call that opens "Snarly Yow" could easily have been found hidden inside one of Comforts' robotic tone poems, as could the scraped percussion or the bizarre vocal loop that adorns its outer edges. However, here, rather than revel in the chaos of a savage urban jungle, Black Dice quantize the beats and sprinkle kick drums strategically throughout the track. There are moments that pound, but most of the time, the piece is content to merely suggest pulse, using loops and even modest stretches with straightforward melody. Make no mistake, melody doesn't play quite the importance in this world it does even in, say, Boredoms/Vooredoms' music (BD's most obvious predecessors)-- but as with Broken Ear's efficient use of 4/4 drum stomp, a little goes a long way.

"Motorcycle" uses the elements of melody and industrial rhythm to best advantage, at times sounding like a clamorous update on the Indestructible Beat of Soweto. High pitched human barks bounce up from a chorus of thud-drums, and a buoyant guitar line I swear was lifted from Graceland carries the tune into regions previously too naked-faced "accessible" for Black Dice. Yes, there are machine gun hits at the end, and no, the relative upfrontness of the melodies never lulls me into thinking I'm listening to pop music, but I'm hooked nonetheless. Likewise, the single "Smiling Off" features vocal harmonies (!) and another thudding percussion cadence (more rollicking than primal this time), though withholding the payoff for several minutes while bass drone, static and an erratic siren battle for dominance, flailing blindly in a dark room. "Street Dude" allows this kind of battle to reign supreme, as stereophonic synth blare and a drowning chirp overwhelm the short-lived click-track beat.

There are no truly "calm" songs on Broken Ear Record, but there are occasions to catch your breath. "Heavy Manners" uses a looped, queasy guitar figure with muffled vocals similarly to Animal Collective in one of their acid-damaged moments. Even "ABA", at less than a minute, allows me to shake away the haze via anti-gravity synth dips and pops. Still, Black Dice have hardly compromised what sounds like a pure vision. Their insistence on change is the mark of a still vibrantly creative band, and while I could do with even more rhythmic focus, I can't argue their total dedication to Broken Ear's aesthetic. Jagged and ornery, but playful: this is music for treading dangerously. Dominique Leone (Pitchfork)


Black Dice - Smiling Off

The Mighty Groundhogs - Who Will Save The World? The Mighty Groundhogs! (1972)

This album is just awesome check er out ~~~~~

The Grey Maze - GROUNDHOGS

Tim Hecker - An Imaginary Country

The first thing that comes to mind when considering Tim Hecker's work is his sense of scale. The Montreal-based drone composer has, over the course of the decade, built oceans of ambient noise capable of submerging his listener. His last album, 2006's Harmony in Ultraviolet, took this large-canvas technique to its logical end, so for his latest project, Hecker focuses instead on shorter individual pieces-- albeit with the same deliberateness and meticulous detail we've come to expect from him.

An Imaginary Country is, as its title suggests, an otherworldly landscape. Serving as our tour guide, Hecker uses each track to dream up one of its distinct regions, necessitating his more tightly focused approach. Take this journey with Hecker and you'll be introduced to the coastal tide ebb and flow on "The Inner Shore", the track's synths inhaling and exhaling to mirror the current's natural rhythm. On "A Stop at the Chord Cascades", a wall of descending chimes recalls the titular waterfall. And while there isn't much human life on this predominantly instrumental voyage, "Utropics" brings you closest to Hecker's imagined natives: A choir of haunted voices far off in the distance. Hecker is able to achieve this transportive quality because he paints these portraits in painstaking three-dimensional detail; the music is strikingly colorful. That said, An Imaginary Country isn't purely concept-driven or a kind of ambient-techno pop-up book. Like all worthwhile atmospheric music, there's a sense of choose-your-own-adventure here that allows the listener to build his own interpretations.

Alongside his more vivid storytelling, Hecker also wisely brings a broadened emotional palette to the record. A primary criticism of his prior work was that, while gorgeous and immense, his compositions often came across as studied and technical to the point of feeling impersonal. (See Harmony in Ultraviolet's academic "Harmony in Blue" suite.) With An Imaginary Country, though, Hecker appears willing to address those concerns and more eager to convey drama. On "Paragon Point", he juxtaposes dissonant shoegaze chords with feathery choral synths to create a poignant, hopeful heartache. Like stepping into the sunlight after a long, depressive stretch indoors, the song expresses regret at time lost but also a sense of optimism for a new day.

Together with these displays of deeper sentiment, Hecker also showcases here a capacity for coaxing natural textures out of his electronic arrangements. Album centerpiece "Borderlands" demonstrates it best, where he establishes a plane of twinkling, piano-like synths and lets gentle gusts of organic noise drift above it. The digitally rendered effect feels remarkably untreated, somehow indistinguishable from the earthly gust of wind it mimics. This naturalism, combined with Hecker's sense of fantasy and mirage, is part of what makes the album such a satisfying listen. Most impressive, though, is that Hecker has built for us this make-believe area to inhabit, to explore with him. While there's a bit less room in this space than those he's constructed before, it's still very much an achievement, and one to be celebrated. Joe Colly (Pitchfork)


Tim Hecker - 100 Years Ago/Sea of Pulses/The Inner Shore

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

T.Rex - Electric Warrior (1970)

Cosmic Dancer

T.Rex - Life's a Gas



Suicide - Dream Baby Dream

King Khan & The Shrines - The Supreme Genuis Of King Khan & The Shrines

The fantastical tale of King "Bama Lama" Khan begins in 1995, when the Montreal-born son of immigrants from India (and self-professed grandson of the opium-addicted "Johnny Thunders of the sitar") left home to play bass for the Spaceshits, a Cramps-linked garage-rock group fronted by Mark Sultan, aka future King Khan partner BBQ Show. A few years later, while in Germany Khan formed "psychedelic soul big band" the Sensational Shrines. By 2004, King Khan and the Shrines had played shows across Europe, along the way releasing not just a handful of 7" and 10" records, but also two full-length albums: 2001's Three Hairs & You're Mine, which was produced by White Stripes engineer Liam Watson, and 2004's Mr. Supernatural.

Most people didn't hear about King Khan and the Shrines until last year, when What Is?!, their most recent LP for German label Hazelwood, seared the band's combustible combo-- Stax plus Nuggets plus hiss-covered indie-rock screwiness-- onto listeners' collective noggins. It was as if they were the Dirtbombs on simultaneous James Brown and Sun Ra kicks, or Black Lips with less of the Vice-ready comedy and more underlying pathos. Now signed to Vice, King Khan and the Shrines present a few of the best tracks from What Is?!, along with some of their earlier cuts, on label debut The Supreme Genius of King Khan and the Shrines. Despite the appropriately over-the-top title, it's not so much a Greatest Hits-- What Is?! has slightly better songs overall-- as a chronicle of how Khan became King.

The strongest tracks, where the band's unhinged nostalgia meets not only squealing discord but also Khan's stupefying jester/soul-man antics, appeared previously on What Is?!. Take nourishment from the Hammond-drenched soul food-stamps of "Welfare Bread". Hear Khan go howling mad and a step past girl-crazy amid the sitar-like guitar and wah-wah pedals of "I Wanna Be a Girl". The string-tying absurdity of "69 Faces of Love", or the prickly dick jokes and "Venus in Furs" string drone of "The Ballad of Lady Godiva" are sadly absent, but the deafness-repping James Brown of "Land of the Freak", the Stooge-ian assault of "No Regrets", and the relatively sane red-line retro of "Outta Harm's Way" are all present and accounted for, as they should be.

The seeds for that sound were sown long ago, as the older tracks on The Supreme Genius of show. The record opens where it oughta-- at a record store-- with the masochistic "Torture", originally from a 2000 7". The "she's fat, she's ugly" chorus of 2001 10" cut "Took My Lady to Dinner" loses its novelty sooner than some of the band's later ideas, and yet every time Khan sings about bringing home the bacon (or his special lady's Empire State-sized ass), well I just break down and laugh; queasy ballad "Fool Like Me", from the 2001 debut LP, finds similar redemption. "Sweet Tooth", off a 2004 split LP with the Dirtbombs, has the party ambiance of What's Going On, but it, like a few of the tracks on the second half of the album, shows a group not quite fully formed, lacking the self-awareness and depth of their best work. "My heart is broke and I feel alone," Khan intones on 2003's "Que Lindo Sueno". Even at their worst, they're merely retro.

It probably bodes well for King Khan and the Shrines that their best days aren't already, uh, years behind them. If you're a newcomer to their cracked vintage universe, The Supreme Genius of should be an excellent introduction, the band as they currently want the world to see them. If you arrived with What Is?!, this one might not get as many spins, but it'll still provide important context and a couple of tracks you probably hadn't heard. And if you've been listening to these guys since the Spaceshits...why the hell didn't you tell anyone?! Mark Hogan (Pitchfork)


King Khan & The Shrines - Land of the Freak

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Wire - 154 (1979)

40 versions

Wire The 15th

Swell Maps - A Trip To Marineville (1979)

When you're 13 years old living in Solihull, England, is there anything better to do than form a band? Never mind your musical acumen-- what else would you do? This is how Swell Maps formed in 1972: six kids in their early teens calling themselves Sacred Mushroom and fancying themselves a band-- in spite of the fact that they never gigged or recorded until 1977, after punk broke and they realized they could get studio time. Even then, Swell Maps were anything but a conventional band. They were officially a sextet but they recorded with whomever happened to be in the studio at the moment. Jowe Head is out to the sandwich shop? Well, he'll hear it when he gets back. If he returns and discovers that a bassline already exists for "Midget Submarine", he can merely pick up a vacuum cleaner and play that instead.

Of course, we're also talking about a band that didn't bother rehearsing, began writing their own songs because they couldn't play anyone else's, thought prog and punk were equally great in 1978, and cited Gerry Anderson's television puppet shows "Thunderbirds" and "Stingray" as equal influences to Can and T. Rex. They recorded a huge amount of material between 1977 and 1980, but only released two proper albums and a handful of maxi singles in their time together-- out of a sense of obligation, they actually finished recording their second LP after they had broken up.

Considering their strange story, it's hardly a wonder that the two albums Swell Maps cut are as weird and wonderful as they are. The two records-- 1979's A Trip to Marineville (the title was taken from an episode of "Stingray") and 1980's Jane From Occupied Europe-- are nothing if not consistent. In the case of Swell Maps, that means consistently manic, unfocused, chaotic, uniquely unprofessional, and quite charming. There aren't any other records from the post-punk era that sound quite like these-- Television Personalities' And Don't the Kids Just Love it comes close for cheekiness, but doesn't match them sonically-- and the reckless abandon and spontaneity of the band and producer John Rivers shines brightly and brilliantly on these remasters. Not that hi-fi sound was ever central to the Swell Maps experience, but it certainly doesn't hurt.

Separating the albums contextually, one could say that Marineville is more song-oriented and Jane is more jam-centered. That's correct, to a point. The fact is that both albums veer erratically from bursts of eccentric punk and (probably inebriated) harmony vocals into nightmarish noise concoctions, offering catchy psych-punk nuggets almost as an excuse for the improvised scrapings that surround them. Principle vocalist Nikki Sudden sounds like he thinks the band could have a hit on the relatively accessible and melodic "Another Song" and "Spitfire Parade", but the band also veer far into leftfield on squalls of loosely sculptured sound such as "Adventuring into Basketry" and "Big Maz in the Desert".

Really, it's a lot to take in-- the band don't even seem to realize the havoc that their meandering Can/surf/industrial/found object instrumentals and jarring sequencing can visit upon the listener, so it's best to just sit back and take it all in stride. What sounds like a mess when you think too much about it reveals its own internal logic when you let the charm of Epic Soundtracks' wild drum fills and the band's drinking-song harmonies work their magic. There are also surprising moments of beauty, like the strangely poignant piano piece "Don't Throw Ashtrays at Me!", which features the recorded mutterings of band members, or the haunting "Trans-Europe Express" synth line that rises out of nowhere in the droning punk song "Cake Shop Girl".

But by all means, if you have any interest in the original post-punk era, do take it all in, because Swell Maps were one of the most unique pieces of Britain's great late-70s musical puzzle. These albums have never been particularly easy to procure stateside, so it's nice to finally have them in wide circulation, even if Secretly Canadian wound up including fewer bonus tracks than most of the overseas reissues (they've sort of made up for this by including newly conceived Quicktime videos for "Midget Submarine" and non-LP track "Let's Build a Car"). It's a shame the band stopped when they did, but what little they left behind is one hell of an enjoyable legacy. Joe Tangari (Pitchfork)


Swell Maps - Midget Submarines

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Undertones - Re-Mastered With Bonus Tracks

Wrong Way

Undertones - Teenage Kick 1978

The Clientele - Strange Geometry (2005)

When I was in high school a friend drove a 1970 Impala that his gearhead dad had kept garaged for years. The radio was AM-only, and as luck would have it, reception was poor and the only station it could pull was Lansing, Mich.'s version of the "Golden Oldies" format. Oldies, yes, these were the songs to hear in this car. Tooling through the streets while listening to pop singles from the late 1950s and early '60s through that factory-original system, the production of the era made perfect sense. Songs like the Flamingos' "I Only Have Eyes for You" or the Association's "The Time it Is Today", with all their lush reverb, opened up the single in-dash speaker and kept us in the middle of the music as if it was Dolby 5.1. Those producers knew exactly what they were doing.

Reverb gives the illusion of immersion, and immersion is what the Clientele is all about. Singer and guitarist Alasdair Maclean writes songs that work like songs are supposed to, but I've no desire to hear them covered by another artist. Clientele songs are bound tightly to the performance and production; to separate them would destroy the effect. Still, the band's signature sonic trick-- laying a thick coating of reverb Maclean's voice in tribute to the AM radio production of the '60s-- has in a sense been isolating; such a relentless stylization is bound to turn away some people.

There's a subtle shift in that regard here on Strange Geometry, the Clientele's second full-length. The reverb is toned down considerably, strings have been added (courtesy of Louis Philippe), and the album as a whole is more direct and focused. This clarity foregrounds Maclean's songwriting talent, a poetic ear tuned into a more surreal world, with darker images bumping against the bucolic scenes of records past. The music retains its easy tunefulness, but inside many of the songs lurks a desperation that seems new to the Clientele world. "Crowds pulled you away, through the ribbons and the rain, and the ivy coiled around my hands" in "(I Can't Seem To) Make You Mine". And then on the catchy mid-tempo "E.M.P.T.Y.", Maclean sings, "Driving west, now half past five/ My skin is cut, my hands are knives."

On previous Clientele records loneliness and romantic longing led to a hyper-aware state of quiet contemplation; here there's a vague suggestion of underlying violence. "The crowd" is mentioned throughout Strange Geometry but the narrator never seems part of it. Instead he wanders the streets seeing things--lifeless bodies in doorways, his own face inside trees-- that may or may not be there. Passages of blissed-out musical haiku like Suburban Light's "6 am Morningside" or The Violet Hour's "Haunted Melody" are nowhere to be found.

It's not right to play up the differences too much, though; this is in most respects a classically "Clientele" record. The primary differences can be found by comparing the version of "Impossible" from last year's Ariadne EP with the one released here. On the former, Maclean's voice sounds like it's been bounced off the ionosphere an ocean away, and the band's instruments sound pinched and aged. The Strange Geometry version begins with a stately string arrangement as a lead-in to a much meatier sound, while sticking with the same basic arrangement. The slight nods to accessibility and the decreased stylization might disappoint some of the faithful at first, but Strange Geometry grows more appealing with repeated listening. On the whole, Strange Geometry does a better job than The Violet Hour translating the Clientele's aesthetic, which lends itself easily to the single or EP, to the demands of a full-length record. One of today's most consistently wonderful bands has kept up its long winning streak. Mark Richardson (Pitchfork)


The Clientele - "Since K Got Over Me" (Live at Maxwell's, February 21, 2...

New York Dolls (1972)

Gotta love the dolls! ~~~~~

New York Dolls - Looking for a kiss

The Cakekitchen - Stomping Thru The Boneyard (1995)

Hole In My Shoe

cakekitchen - tell me why you lie

Tambersauro - Theories Of Delusional Origin

I got to see these guys about a year ago and it was really good they kindof have a 90s math rock sound with some drone elements check them out if your into bands like june of 44 or bands like slint or rodan. ~~~~~

Tambersauro - Live at OZ Cafe - 8/13/09

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Faust - Faust / So Far

First two albums ~~~~~

Faust - It's a Rainy Day in Manchester

Jana Hunter - Blank Unstaring Heirs Of Doom (2005)

It's difficult to talk about Blank Unstaring Heirs of Doom, the first full-length CD by Texan singer/songwriter Jana Hunter, without making at least passing mention to Devendra Banhart, that legendarily whiskered manchild guru of "freak folk" whose extracurricular activities since his 2004 breakthrough have suggested a Prince-styled love for musical mentorship. In fact, Banhart's stamp is all over Hunter's solo career: not only is Hands of Doom the first record to be released on Banhart's label, Gnomonsong, but recent years have also seen Jana Hunter tracks appearing on the Devendra-curated Golden Apples of the Sun compilation and on a self-titled split LP with the impish one himself. Combine this shared history with a similarly bizarre voice - not just androgynous, but downright alien - and it should come as no surprise that Jana Hunter sounds more than a little like her oddball patron saint; the resemblance is so striking, in fact, that on first listen I half suspected Devendra of pulling a Camille on us and recording a solo album as an imaginary feminine alter ego.

But Jana Hunter isn't Banhart's heretofore undiscovered drag act, nor is she entirely the Morris Day to his lo-fi Paisley Park. She's actually a veteran of the Elephant 6-related Houston quartet Matty & Mossy, who plays live shows with the Castanets and, despite first impressions, possesses a musical vision and sensibility that is all her own. She is, in other words, a flesh-and-blood human being, and Blank Unstaring Heirs of Doom is a flesh-and-blood album: some ten years' worth of mesmerizing home recordings under one idiosyncratic roof, with all the occasional foibles suggested by that description and all the joy of new discovery as well.

By Zach Hoskins (Cd Reviews) ~~~~~

Jana Hunter live @ the Granada Theater in Dallas Tx

Friday, June 18, 2010

Green Milk From The Planet Orange - City Calls Revolution (2005)

City Calls Revolution is better recorded and the performances far more energetic and memorable than those on last year's He's Crying 'Look', though the band is still mining the same post-progressive rock territory, all breathless guitar dynamics, virtuosic drumming and histrionic, shrieking vocals. Opening track "Concrete City Breakdown" unashamedly begins with a sprinkling of spacey Korg synths and T's heavily phased Fender Jazz bass, before opening out into a Hawkwind-meets-Zappa thing, which continues for perhaps longer than it ought to, but is never boring. dead k's broken English squawking is grating until he really starts bellowing and screaming, and then it's a perfect match for the group's tireless stop-start, adrenaline-pumped metal meanderings. Luckily, GMFTPO isn't the sort of progressive band that pauses for five-minute solos on bass or drums, so things keep moving at a breakneck clip, which is good. "OMGS" and "Demagog" [sic] are two shorter tracks sandwiched between the album's behemoth sidelong tracks, and serve as excellent showcases for the group's concise, efficient songwriting efforts, which I actually quite prefer to their more long-winded tracks. The trio effortlessly changes key and tempo, barreling through endless corridors of seething rock dynamism, T and A's interplay on "Demagog" at times resembling the stunning opening sequence of Yes' "Heart of the Sunrise." (I admit it, I'm a huge fan of Yes. So sue me.) Ending things off on a post-Floydian note of building, churning splendor is the 38 minutes of "A Day in the Planet Orange," which creates a cyclical architecture of blistering guitar soloing, intense drumming and complex bass acrobatics. My patience did wear a bit thin by the time the group geared up for their final ascent into the stratosphere, but if I had been on just a little bit of kind bud, I'm sure it would all have seemed a lot more exciting. Not that you need drugs for GMFTPO's hairy psych-prog showstoppers to make an impression, but it doesn't hurt. It doesn't hurt at all. By Jonathan Dean (Brainwashed) ~~~~~~

Green Milk From the Planet Orange- Concrete City Part 1

Mammatus (2006)

The Righteous Path Through The Forest Of Old

Mammatus with Higashi Hiroshi of Acid Mothers Temple

Fifty Foot Hose - Cauldron (1967)

Picture Dr. Who jamming with a more proficient Great Society featuring an adenoidal Grace Slick on vocals, and you have at least a scant aural reference for this rare proto-synthesizer-in-an-acid-garage-band junction. It was recorded in late 1967 on Mercury’s subsidiary Limelight label, so it comes to no surprise that they were unceremoniously dumped after it failed to become the label’s answer to “Surrealistic Pillow.” They broke up mid-1968, which quickly resigned “Cauldron” to the ever-growing scrap heap of one-off Bay Area bands signed in the wake of the ‘Summer of Love’ that were forgotten long before autumn’s end. This is a pity, as Fifty Foot Hose’s “Cauldron” is a small but terrifying monster of homegrown psychedelia. Only the unmistakably West Coast guitar jamming spree in their epic cut and paste “Fantasy” is there audio evidence as to the space (San Francisco) and time (1967) they occupied, but the uniqueness of the album is in the efforts of Corky Marcheschi and his bulky, homemade electronic instrument, a nameless behemoth consisting of audio generators plugged through echo and fuzz boxes, a huge cardboard tubes, a plastic outdoor speaker and other homemade devices. It was jerry-rigged, unglamourous...and highly effective. It’s presence runs throughout the whole jazz, folk, R&B potpourri and turns it into a proto-electronic stew with practically every other track solo audio generator experimentations, some 2 minutes and some so brief they act more like codas to the song they trail. “The Things That Consern You” is an acidhead reassuring his old lady that “The things that I do now/ they don’t consern you now/ I’m just trying to feed my head.” But with all the beeping, flashing and fucked up crude electronics, they seem to be not only feeding his head but also setting it alight like a flickering neon sign. A tremendous rock out and the high point of the record is “Red The Sign Post.” Here lead vocalist Nancy Blossom gives it some strident Slick vocalising as husband David Blossom goes for it on customised Gretsch with fuzztone built directly into his axe. It’s a blistering surge out, recalling “Bombay Calling” by It’s A Beautiful Day. Not that it sounds the least bit like it, mind you. But just as “Bombay Calling” provided Deep Purple with the inspiration for “Child In Time,” “Red The Sign Post” (deep breath) is the undeniable source where Ritchie Blackmore based a note for note guitar blueprint for The Purps very own “Space Truckin’.” Aaarrghughhh!

The album calms down (somewhat) with the Owsley-dosed coffeehousing of Billy Holliday’s “God Bless The Child.” Acoustic guitar and hissing jazz hi-hat and traps are surrounded by incongruous space whooshes and bleeps in a proto-synth, fifties sci-fi movie manner. It all ends on with the hellish title track, “Cauldron” with the echoed clang of struck bells and an aggrieved woman’s wailing as Nancy Blossom’s chiding tones are slowed and sped up at will over a backward-masked rhythm section. The vocals get more and more filtered and unreal, at first intoning only words that start with an ‘s’, and becoming the demented little sister of the second side of Brainticket’s “Cottonwood Hill” -- another femme vox-scalded, hellbound psycho-out.

After only one album, this proto-cyber psych outfit passed as quickly as they came. Their only mention would be a name-check in Ralph J. Gleason’s 1969 book, “The Jefferson Airplane And The San Francisco Sound” published over a year after their demise. But recent interest caused by both US and UK re-issues of “Cauldron” led to a reformation and a small string of gigs in San Francisco in 1997, a full thirty years on. ~~~~~~

Fifty Foot Hose-If Not This Time

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Harumi (1967)

Produced by Tom Wilson (The Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan...), this lengthy set of Japanese acid pop and folk makes its long-awaited CD debut. Largely recorded in New York in July of 1967 and originally released in 1968, its contents range from Eastern-tinged pop to introverted epics, all featuring a range of Japanese instruments. A goldmine for sample hunters, it's a cult classic that's sure to delight all fans of mystic psychedelia. Highly Recommended ~~~~~

The Story of Ricky trailer

Jane - Berserker

United by both an affinity for dance music and mutual employment courtesy of New York City record shop Other Music, Jane is Scott Mou and Noah Lennox (a.k.a. Panda Bear). Based solely on the latter half of their membership, it would be tempting to view Berserker, their first full-length (which brings together some previously released, limited edition material) through the filter of the Animal Collective. But relegating the duo and their fine debut as a mere footnote in the ever-expanding world of the Collective is rather unfair. What Mou and Lennox cook up over the four songs and nearly sixty minutes sidles up equally to dance and pop, to ambient longing and melodic familiarity, existing in its own right, outside of that group's lengthy shadow.

Berserker is a tough record to peg. Adorned with cover drawings that feature a ghastly shadow bludgeoning a hapless soul and a few drawings that take obvious inspiration from the Grateful Dead, aesthetics alone indicate something rather nebulous and esoteric. By and large, the sounds contained herein live up to that expectation - were it not for the picture of the duo and the accompanying credits, I'd be more than inclined to credit this to one individual, so singular is its voice.

The album opens with the glorious hum of the title track, and for all of the drug-addledness and/or malevolence hinted at by the artwork, its spends its six minutes exploring a glorious din of hazy electronics, wordless vocals, and near melodicism that offers more in its hints than some artists manage to conjure with overloaded tracks. "AGG Report" ushers in a woozy, low-key beat that droops along with keyboard drones that pull a nifty suspended-time trick - these 12 minutes cascade by in a blink. "Slipping Away" starts out seasick, with queasy, crackling vinyl loops spinning away until the spare beat pulses by, all the while leaving Lennox to murmur off in the distance. The closing "Swan" is more psychedelic than anything, spending the balance of the album exploring a sea of shifting drones and radar blips of undetermined origin.

Ultimately, the proceedings here can wear somewhat thin over the course of an hour, evidencing a duo that is still working out the kinks in their sound and mapping the territory they've only begun to explore. Nevertheless, Berserker remains a pretty rewarding listen, a nice little nod that works as a surprisingly great soundtrack for those late hours of the early morning. Although the two profess that their immediate inspiration comes from dance music, one might be a little hard pressed to imagine this stuff getting spun on the 4/4 floor.

While bits and pieces here and there could easily come from the same pool as the likes of, say, Birchville Cat Motel or the Keith Fullerton Whitman/Greg Davis axis, there's more of a rhythmic purpose, explicitly stated or not. The most immediate comparison I can think of is the more ambient work of Arthur Russell. The duo haven't quite figured out how to scale the intense emotional depths that makes Russell's work such a breathtaking listen, but they have gone a ways towards exploring where the inspiration of dance music can take you once the beat has faded into the night.

Michael Crumsho(Dusted Reviews) ~~~~~~

Jane - Panda Bear (Animal Collective) & Scott Mou

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Black Mountain - Druganaut (2004)

Music you might expect to be addressed in this review that won't be: David Bowie, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin. Predictable band that can't reasonably be elided: The Velvet Underground. Remember when everyone was talking about how much the Strokes sounded like the Velvet Underground, and you just couldn't hear it? Couldn't reconcile (maybe barring Julian Casablancas's dopesick drawl) the Strokes's concise packets with VU's sprawling quagmires? Chalk it up to a sort of parallax, VU appearing differently depending on where you stand: Casablancas was listening to "White Light White Heat"; you were listening to "Sister Ray".

Chances are good that Stephen McBean has also spent the bulk of his VU time trolling the murky 17-minute depths of "Sister Ray", if we can take his songwriting choices on this Black Mountain EP at face value. The rating's a tad lower than you might expect because this already slim four-song EP only contains one unreleased track, an acoustic version of Black Mountain's "No Satisfaction". We also get an extended version of "Druganaut" from the same album; "Buffalo Swan", the B-side of the Druganaut single; and "Bicycle Man", from a split seven-inch with Destroyer. Paucity of new material aside, the rock, as anyone familiar with Black Mountain's consistently winning LP might predict, is top-slot, unreconstructed vintage scuzz.

Black Mountain is a good reminder that people were playing stoner rock long before the modern coinage debuted: Like VU, they play rock music suited to more dangerous, debilitating drugs than a Queens of the Stone Age fan's mid-grade hydro. Nowhere is Black Mountain's affinity for opiated murk more apparent than on this extended version of "Druganaut". Like drugs, rock music is a shortcut to a desired physical derangement, so the comparison isn't poetic license, and if a lot of modern rock focuses on the clench-jawed climax, "Druganaut" is the sloe-eyed, languorous comedown. Packed with terse repetition and understatedly virtuosic flourishes, this version gives you more time to sink beneath the dark surface of the song, a surface comprised of a handful of plodding chords, cavernous vocals, some buzzing synths and a few attention-getting peaks. But it's more about waves, ambiguously lapping, than concrete forms; a downer-fed bliss-out.

"Buffalo Swan" is a similarly poky long-haul. Call it Black Palace: It sounds remarkably like Will Oldham's take on psych-rock might, especially the gloomy vocal, with a mid-section so squiggly and spaced out it might disintegrate without the mesmerizing rhythm track to keep it together. But by the end, the guitar finally wanders over to the bassline to cross the finish line in tandem. "Bicycle Man" implies that McBean's spent some time with the poppier side of VU as well, as he trades wails with Amber Webber over a peppy vamp, and "No Satisfaction (Campfire Version)" rollicks and rattles along like the Rolling St-- damn. I broke my promise.

Brian Howe(Pitchfork) ~~~~~~

Black Mountain - "Druganaut" Jagjaguwar Records

Scientist Encounters Pac-Man (1981)

The Dark Secret Of The Box


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Sic Alps - U.S. EZ

The recent media emphasis on “lo-fi” as a re-emerging genre feels more than forced these days. After all, low-fidelity recordings have existed as long as musicians have deigned to make a few bucks off their craft. What differentiated 1980s and ’90s practitioners from any number of skuzzy Nuggets clones or DIY progenitors from decades past was a base ironic detachment that rested on a willful subversion of the expected norms of music production. To claim any sort of rebirth here is to deny the fact that crappy microphones and cheap methods for recording music continue to propagate each and every day.

In a way, though, this renewed focus on an aesthetic like lo-fi was almost an inevitability, a response to be expected from musicians and listeners less and less interested in indie rock’s increasing approach of traditional major label values and marketing strategies coupled with desperate grabs for ever-shrinking pieces of market share pie. Even still, while lo-fi’s break represents somewhat of an alternative from the way things currently are, it still brings with it another set of troubling orthodoxies: ridiculously small pressings of records, a seller’s market on eBay, bands who use cardboard boxes for drums, and a resigned expectation of terrible live sets.

California duo Sic Alps have been lumped pretty haphazardly in with this new class, thanks in part to the tinny quality of some of their recordings and a few overt moves to dialogue with their forbearers (going so far as to cover kindred spirits like the Strapping Fieldhands). In addition, the fact that they’ve had a few vinyl-only releases disappear in a matter of weeks hasn’t done much to sever that association. And though it might have made sense on recordings past, with U.S. EZ, Mike Donovan and Matthew Hartman’s first full-length for the Siltbreeze label, Sic Alps lay bare the fact that their primary interest isn’t in dissociating methods or recorder grot, but rather in pure and simple songs.

More so than any other of their supposed contemporaries, Sic Alp’s tunes place the personalities and the methods a distant second to Donovan and Hartman’s simple guitar and drum patterns, building blocks for songs that call to mind a distinctly multi-generation approach that has as much to do with garage pop and vintage psych as it does modern wave weirdo punk. “Bathman” starts out with a forlorn acoustic strum, for example, but quickly segues into a cascade of rolling drums and a thundering riff. Later on, “Mater” comes on like a punched-up version of the Clean, albeit one cut with stronger percussion and a better sense of vocal harmony. Best of all here, though, is “Gelly Roll Gum Drop,” an ascending vocal paired with insistent drums and honky-tonk moves that manage to take the music of Sic Alps into a wholly new realm.

Now, this group exists in some perfect middle ground, one in which great songs can be had without all the muss and fuss that strips them of their personality. Building on the strength of the still fresh singles collection, U.S. EZ is another great record by a pair of folks who seem to crank them out at ever increasing speeds with an alarming efficiency. You can call this stuff “lo-fi” as much as you’d like, but more than anything else, when the record stops or the show ends, you’ll remember the songs you heard first and foremost and not be left, weeks later, with the nagging feeling that you’ve had the wool pulled over your eyes by some burnout.

By Michael Crumsho(Dusted Reviews) ~~~~~