• A Year of Music

    23 Ene 2008, 23:20

    Since today is the first day proper of my new project, I thought I'd announce here that I have a new music blog. Its purpose is to help me document the process of listening to my entire music collection (over 75,000 tracks). There's already a fair amount to read there, so why not come over and check it out?
  • big and dirty

    16 Dic 2007, 10:12

    It's not that hard to figure out Every Time I Die's appeal: Keith Buckley is a clever smartass who has no compunction about shredding his vocal cords in the service of a cheap gag, and the rest of the band makes some mean-ass punk-rock-metal stuff. His hoarse but distinct yowls stand out in a crowded scene that's shifted its attention to moving units over refining the intimidating complexity and obdurate inaccessibility of older bands like The Dillinger Escape Plan (who might as well be a different band these days, for better or (mostly) worse) and Drowningman. What stands out about Every Time I Die is that they've managed to broaden their appeal without losing the fearlessness that made them interesting in the first place. Over the years and albums they've added more breakdowns, more riffs and a lot more cowbell, but between the fractured, agitated Southern metal riffs and the art-damaged, cynical, sublimely eccentric lyrics, you're never going to mistake this for Thrice or Avenged Sevenfold.

    Where Gutter Phenomenon was a departure for ETID, considerably reducing the complexity of the songwriting in the service of a Lynyrd Skynyrd-by-way-of-Eyehategod diseased party vibe, The Big Dirty takes half a step back towards Last Night in Town's heavy complexity. The cowbell's still there (although not quite as omnipresent), there's still some slower tempos, swaggering boogie rhythms and clean vocals, but in the service of the hairier parts, it raises the intensity rather than diminishing it (Last Night In Town's unrelieved heaviosity tends to be a little wearying unless I'm really in the mood for full-on aggression). This is what rock and roll has become, which is a surprising and heartening development, because for all the wisecracks and post-teen angst on display here, this is sharp, sophisticated music, and I have a feeling it's going to last. It beats the hell out of Coldplay.
  • pseudospace

    4 Dic 2007, 8:17

    Calabi-Yau spaces are important in string theory, where one model posits the geometry of the universe to consist of a ten-dimensional space of the form MxV, where M is a four dimensional manifold (space-time) and V is a six dimensional compact Calabi-Yau space. They are related to Kummer surfaces. Although the main application of Calabi-Yau spaces is in theoretical physics, they are also interesting from a purely mathematical standpoint. Consequently, they go by slightly different names, depending mostly on context, such as Calabi-Yau manifolds or Calabi-Yau varieties.

    Rowland, Todd. "Calabi-Yau Space." From MathWorld--A Wolfram Web Resource, created by Eric W. Weisstein.

    Just in case any of you have encountered Dopplereffekt's new album, Calabi Yau Space, and thought the album was given some made-up science fiction name, no, the name, like the album, sounds exotic precisely because of its concrete, esoteric reality.

    The album is a careful assemblage of refined electronic space music, spectral electro (with the same balance of rhythm to texture as there is vermouth to gin in a dry martini, which is to say the tracks here are nearly beatless), and a detached, clinical atmosphere that combines the accessibility of John Carpenter's soundtracks with the chilly remove of Klaus Schulze's early work. The album is so knowingly infused with the spirit of electronic music past that it exists somewhere between bricolage and pastiche, but unlike past Dopplereffekt records it never strays into outright parody, nor does it fall prey to Linear Accelerator's leaden impenetrability. It's a remarkable balancing act, and very obviously one that won't appeal to everyone. For people who are still interested in minimalism, emptiness and the possibilities inherent in pure analog synthesis, though, it's an accomplished and absorbing record.
  • I don't know how he does it

    8 Nov 2007, 8:33

    After nearly 30 years of cranking out art-damaged kitsch weirdness, Tom Ellard, the remaining Head in Severed Heads, keeps sneaking two or three spine-tingling moments into each new record. His particular mixture of dancefloor synthpop, damaged loop manipulation, and Residents-lite kitsch dementia has never quite worn out its welcome with me. Viva Heads! neatly balances accessibility with old-school industrial weirdness, and Under Gail Succubus reminds me of nothing so much as a semi-danceable, electronic version of Brian Eno's Another Green World (right down to the more or less nonsensical lyrics). If you thought he got too user-friendly in the 90s, you should give his new stuff a listen. Some of it sounds unfinished, but the good bits are emotive and absorbing.
  • thousand-yard stare

    6 Nov 2007, 23:54

    You know what I'm tired of? Shoegazer-infused techno. The new Ulrich Schnauss never caught on with me. My buddy mrkvm tells me The Field are great, but I can't find any enthusiasm to check out yet another lush, throbbing Kompakt release. Kompakt in general seems to have exhausted the sound that made me fall in love with them in the first place, or maybe they just found a profitable standard and are sticking with it relentlessly.

    You know what I'm not tired of? Shoegazer-infused metal. Jesu has sort of fallen off over the last couple records, but Nadja has put out a thousand and one records this year, and most of them have their moments of fluttering womblike doom (the best place to start is the reissued / remastered Touched on Alien8). Same goes for the purposefully overbearing death-drone of The Angelic Process (who, like Nadja / Aidan Baker, need to work on their tendency to privilege quantity over quality).

    Right now, my fave along those lines is actually a record that superficially shares nothing in common with the shoegazer sound: The Austerity Program's Black Madonna. Released on hydrahead, The Label That Only Occasionally Can Do Wrong, this album gleefully and obviously loots the Touch & Go catalog, yanking out lovely handsful of Big Black, Flour and Arsenal from the label's guts: chromatic, trebly guitars, distorted bass and utterly square programmed beats.

    What this stuff shares in common with the shoegazer scene is the hard, bright sheen that comes from pushing everything into the red. Noise and pop were equally important to My Bloody Valentine, and when you listen to songs like their cover of Wire's "Map Ref 41n 93w", you can hear that same urge to push everything as far as it will go (not coincidentally, that's my all-time favorite MBV song). It also helps that The Austerity Program are mostly instrumental artists, because the vocals are pure Steve Albini urgent stridency in the two or three places where they do appear, and that's not very shoegazey.

    Man. I'm tired of that word. It would help if it wasn't the first word so many of my friends (and critics) reached for when they were listening to anything swoony and loud. I need a break from the self-consciously dreamy and ethereal.
  • Whatever happened to Leon Mar?

    6 Nov 2007, 22:02

    Burial's Untrue is kicking loose a flood of memories, and one of the many things it's yanked out of deep storage is happy memories of Arcon 2, Reinforced's darkest and weirdest drum'n'bass auteur. Both twist R&B, dark atmosphere and bass into unfamiliar shapes, and both break through into a curiously soothing and emotive moonlit majesty. Arcon 2 was Leon Mar, who put out a few other house and drum'n'bass singles as Torus and oil after he stopped making Arcon 2 tracks, and then fell off the face of the earth a few years ago. It's too bad, because he would have been a natural at and .

    While I'm muttering about lost treasures and shuffled house, when is somebody going to bring out a Ghost / El-B compilation? Dubstep latecomers like me would snap that shit up in a picosecond.
  • Feargal Sharkey has a very expensive haircut

    6 Nov 2007, 8:02

    Also, he's looking pretty old. Especially given his most enduring claim to fame. That said, at least somebody in the British government has enough of a(n acid-tongued, sarcastic) background as a musician to actually represent a real artist's point of view.

    ...I didn't know until just now that the rest of The Undertones turned into That Petrol Emotion. Damn. I haven't listened to That Petrol Emotion in nearly 20 years, and I used to love them.
  • so untrue

    6 Nov 2007, 0:01

    So the new Burial is out. Untrue is more overtly pretty than Burial, and less obviously a record, but no less beautiful. This time I really don't care how he made the beats: they're shivery and fidgety and make it hard for me to sit still. On first listen, the most striking aspect is the way vocals are used: chopped and sliced and layered and muffled and twisted around into a sweet slurry of soul & R&B fragments. There's even a little of the tough attitude Burial put on display in "Versus" (from last year's great summary of the UK bass scene, Mary Anne Hobbs Presents The Warrior Dubz on Planet Mu) in "Raver", but for the most part it's very lush and orchestral and ghostly all at once.

    I bought my copy on FLAC from Boomkat, how about you?
  • RSN > NEU > WNG

    3 Nov 2007, 8:54

    Maybe I've just been listening to too much old music, but it seems to me that there's a very clear and clean through line from The Rolling Stones through Neu!'s After Eight to Avengers' White Nigger. How much can you dilute Keith Richards before he disappears?
  • Kala

    3 Nov 2007, 7:01

    On the fence when it comes to M.I.A.'s most recent album, Kala? Read this smart essay by the always-readable Jeff Chang, who puts it in context in his usual incisive fashion. Kala is miles beyond Arular, but it's a much more personal record, which makes it more resistant to interpretation. The most Eastern thing about it is its clear-eyed syncretism (which is different from postmodern pastiche, in (lack of) intent if nothing else), but that's also its defining aspect as the product of a rootless, restless mind caught between Sri Lanka and the council estates. This record moves me in a way that Arular never did, despite the coruscating brilliance of Arular's singles. In fact, parts of it make me want to cry, which is a bit unsettling in an album of supposed dance music.

    via Joel