Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dth - I Hope I Can Feel Something Like That Someday

A few days ago, if you had asked me what New Orleans music sounded like I would have probably said that it is almost exclusively some sort of groove oriented jazz or soul perhaps. This belief was viciously knocked on its proverbial ass when I listened to Dth's I Hope I can Feel Something Like That Someday. The five song album, which is available as a free download, plays out like the Books' Lemon of Pink on crack. Dth creates collage music that goes beyond an odd piecemeal construction of an otherwise straightforward song and brings out some of the structural and juxtapositional potential in collage music.

Overall, this album is a short piece of brilliance that deserves some engaging listeners. There are also two well-constructed music videos for tracks on the album, which I will link below.


Album Download:

Music Videos:

Dth's Website:

Systems Officer - Underslept

Temporary Residence Limited has been aggressively expanding their sonic palette over the last few years and Systems Officer is no exception, sounding more like an inspired mix of Ben Folds and Weezer than another Rob Crow or Explosions in the Sky as one could have expected a few years back. Noting this mix of influences, the album plays out as one might imagine until the eighth track, Sand One, where a more raw style comes out that seems akin to recent Modest Mouse. This surprise adds some welcome depth to the album as a whole that could have just as easily ended the same way it started.

However, the album's biggest weakness is also in this surprise in that it sounds almost a bit too much like Modest Mouse and even shares similar imagery, most strikingly that of a sinking ship. Overall, though this album is a strong debut release for an artist that seems to show much promise for the future.


Alejandra O'Leary - Nothing Out Loud

Michigan singer-songwriter Alejandra O'Leary recently finished her debut album, Nothing Out Loud, a straightforward collection of songs that feels especially comfortable with the return of the warmth of spring. While nowadays I tend to listen to music with more of an experimental tinge, I would be lying if I said that this music did not remind me of much of the music I listened to when I was growing up. One of the strongest elements of this album, other than the compelling songwriting, is the pleasant density of the instrumentation throughout.

Overall this record seems to stand apart from other recent pop projects in that Alejandra writes in a way that is satisfyingly diverse both lyrically and musically. A comfortable listen from start to finish, Nothing out Loud could easily find its way into many days to come this season.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Dylan Ettinger - Cutters LP

It seems like I have been reviewing a lot of Dylan Ettinger in the last few months and it is to his credit that this has not pissed me off. He seems to be in the throes of one of those overly prolific phases that can make or break a musician. Cutters is Ettinger's first release on vinyl as well as his first album to aim directly at his current home of Bloomington, Indiana and its many two-wheeled inhabitants.

This album is carried along by pulsating synths and vocals that propel Ettinger into a realm reminiscent at times of early Kraftwerk, which works to paint a good portrait of bike riding here in Bloomington. As with a lot of Ettinger's work there is a sense of wonder that captures the freedom of a bicycle in a college town, especially of that first ride after a winter of walking everywhere. This is one of the more developed of Dylan's albums and is good addition to all things Ettinger. If you even vaguely like anything that he has ever done, it would be well worth your time to snag one of the precious few of these available.

The artwork comes from Ruralfaune's Bruno and is a split release between Ruralfaune and Digitalis with a limited run of 150. Dennis Quaid may be able to out ride a semi-truck but Ettinger seems to have won the race.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Dylan Ettinger - Super Ape, Communion

Today is the second day of the second month of the second decade of the second century I have seen in my life and I have just heard the second of Dylan Ettinger's two-tape set, Super Ape and Communion. This is just some stupid coincidence that I noticed, but Ettinger's new opus has made it feel much more symbolic. This pair of humble audio cassettes plays like a meticulous history of an imagination and its inhabitants rather than a mere collection of themed songs.

The first tape of the two, Super Ape, is centered around the legendary Bigfoot. Side A features a single track entitled "Bigfoot Rising", which seems to be the score to countless dark nights of childhood spent exploring the places in the imagination that were avoided as long as the lights stayed on. This piece is perhaps the most astounding example thus far of Ettinger's talent for delivering on a suggestive title while avoiding predictability. His portrait of the rising of the beast gives its existence more credence than any photographic evidence will probably ever do.

Side B also features a single track, The Majesty of Sasquatch, which inverts the terrified wonderment of the first side into a state of reverent awe. The eerie voices of the previous side are transformed into anxious murmurs of flickering shadows awaiting their king at the side of a fire-lit forest clearing. The royal entrance is heralded by ritualistically patient percussion by Clarke Joyner that builds continually without overpowering the song. The organ work on this piece blends tribal sounding riffs with chant-like melodic motifs whose combination allows the melody to bring depth into the experience of the music and its subject with a wise use of familiar musical ideas.

The second tape of the set, Communion, is just as impressive in its vibrant imagery as the first but here Ettinger lifts his eyes to the heavens and their inhabitants. This tape seems to be equally divided between two perspectives, that of humanity and that of the aliens. Side A features two tracks, Abduction and Cosmos, which work together to flesh out a portrait of the terror and wonder that each surface in turn when we think of the arrival of visitors from beyond our humble rock. Musically, Ettinger effectively makes use of familiar synthesizer textures without erring on the side of cheese. Side B seems to follow an alien vessel on its return voyage to the mothership, and conjures images of the freedom of open space giving way to the awe one might feel when reaching the hub of your civilization. After a long journey, you forget how impressive your own species can be.

Overall, this is the strongest work Ettinger has released to date, it is sure to be a significant stepping stone to even more ambitious and enchanting musical ventures.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Cresting - An E.P.

Cresting's latest offering, simply titled An E.P., is a brief foray into a world of synthesized simplicity. With pulsating melodies and rhythms, warm textures, and an aversion to unnecessary complexity, the album breathes deeply and relaxedly. The seven songs wrap around the listener like a musical bear-hug from a loved one upon reunion. Saying much more about this album will only take away from its direct musical language.


Dirty Beaches - The Horror LP

Listening to The Horror LP from Fixture Records' Dirty Beaches is feels like thumbing through a musical sketchbook of sorts. The fourteen pieces give deep impressions of a somberly beautiful world from various angles and perspectives. While maintaining a consistent sonic aura, The Horror LP, contains a variety of colors and textures that gives the album its depth and drive. Played mostly on guitar, this album is a great suite of pensive static-washed pieces that might light the imagination or lull one into deep sleep.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Brave Radar - A Building

A feel-good collection of lo-fi pop songs, A Building is, at the very least, an enjoyable listen for a warm afternoon. At times throughout the album the music does seem to fall a bit flat if you really dig into listening, but for the most part Brave Radar glides above the typical pitfalls of similar aesthetics. As the album goes on, the songs get stronger with my personal favorite on the album being the beautiful Line Storm. Overall, a strong album for fans of earnest songwriting, and an admirable addition to Fixture Records' growing catalog.


Omon Ra - Monolith 1

Judging by the name, one might expect Omon Ra's Monolith 1 to be some sort of conceptually lofty free jazz manifesto, but, as wisdom would advise, it's not a good idea to judge a band by its name. The actual content of Monolith 1 is a pleasant collection of tunes touching many areas of folk, pop, and even a bit of doo-wop, though sans outright dooing and wapping. Most of this album breathes with the ambiance of a bedroom rather than the sterility of a studio, which brings an air of intimacy to the album that can be very different to convey. Omon Ra has something in their songwriting that brings out a uniqueness that allows them to simply write songs without worrying about standing out via some overt display of incongruity within their genre.


BBBlood - Alien Nosejob

London's BBBlood is to tranquility as a blender is to your left hand and Alien Nosejob is no exception. Digitally mangled sounds blend with sine wave harmonies and hauntingly ethereal textures to create a work that is destructively jagged and yet somehow imbued with an idiosyncratic mystique. This album has some real depth beneath the squealing surface that is beautiful in its own right. Definitely a worthwhile album for those who want to hear what its like to get possessed by a robot demon, which is pretty damn awesome if you're up for the trial.


Sarah's Carity - Logic of Collapse

Logic of Collapse, the latest album by Danish artist Sarah's Charity, is an impressive collection of spatial soundscapes that summon a mood of pensive reflection. Warm swells of white noise laden harmonies create a bed of musical warmth that feels almost cozy at times. The image that comes to mind when listening to this album is a sunset offset by storm clouds in the distance. At a half-hour long, Logic of Collapse is timed perfectly and seems to grow in depth with each listen.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sparkling Wide Pressure - Meaning Plane

Sparkling Wide Pressure's Meaning Plane might as well be a self-titled album, conceptually at least. The essence of the music is in the name, bringing an expansive spectrum of noisy textures that might feel familiar to some, but thankfully authentic to most, if not all. Through the five pieces on the album, SWP creates a series of sonic sculptures that manage to incorporate many sounds without feeling bogged down or diluted by sheer variety. The album is satisfyingly colorful and well focused.


Defibrillators - Live at Colour Ride Club 16/10/08

I recently became aware of the Colour Ride label when Edward, the man behind the mayhem, contacted me about doing a set of reviews. This first one comes from the Defibrillators, a London-based band that seems to thrive on chaotic musical creation. This live album consists of one twenty-four minute monster that paints a portrait of improvisatory freedom at its best. This group wears "free" music on its sleeve but seems to have an element of subtle cohesion that belies a highly developed language of interplay between these musicians. They seem to have a handle on improvisation as their medium of choice rather than just an excuse not to sit down and write music the long way.

Throughout the disc, most of the melodic and harmonic chaos is nestled atop a steady rhythmic foundation that gives the listener a point of reference amidst the constant musical metamorphosis. There are elements of a plethora of musical influences throughout this set, from droning textures to harsh walls of noise as well as everything in between the two. In the transitions of the music, this group excels, seeming to wordlessly decide each change before the listener has a chance to guess their next move. For fans of unabashedly improvised music done well.


Dante Augustus Scarlatti - Demises of the Dynamic Microophone (In Monodelity)

One man's fervent (or stoned) reflections on existence come to life over seven compositions that make use of a plethora of sounds sources and methods of manipulation. Like a carpenter meticulously crafting an altar, DAS carves a somber piece of beauty relying primarily on minimalistic guitar and various raw sound recordings. This is perfect accompaniment to a thunderstorm, in fact, if you listen to this music on a nice day it becomes gradually harder to believe the sun would have the gall to shine while it is being played. Scarlatti doesn't have the blues, he can't even see color. He paints worlds of grey, with thousands of tiny shades covering the spectrum from white to black. Think Ansel Adams in sonic form; looking toward the most gripping images nature has to offer and stripping it of any color. Simply breathtaking at times. This album comes packaged in "sacrificed" reel to reel cases with beautiful inserts and a complimentary patch.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Hail Architeuthis! - s/t EP

Architeuthis is the biological genus of the giant squid, a fact which I learned a few days before seeing this band play their first live show ever some months ago. That show will be burned in my memory for a very long while as the first, so far only, but hopefully not last, time I witnessed a band live up to a name that unabashedly conjures images of the epic and chaotic. This ship-sinking mayhem I witnessed at that first show and the ones that followed, however, is merely the face of the beast above the surface of the sea. Below, the creature fluidly roams the depths, silently vigilant of the surface for any ships unfortunate enough to cross into his waters.

This latter image is the subject of this debut EP, which serves as a sacred prelude to the ascent of their sacred beast. Twenty minutes of hallowed drones and aqueous soundscapes lead to a brief glimpse of chaos toward the close. This first release from HA! is damn near perfect in terms of the composition and execution of the music in relation to the image under which it was released. Beautifully haunting, this EP should be much more widely known, if only to let everyone in on how high the bar was set for a debut while they weren't paying attention.