Monday, August 16, 2010

Future Recordings

Coming soon. [The] Slowest Runner [In All The World] will be first. That's the one with the giraffe. Stay tuned.

Crypt Kiddie - Intimacy With Strangers


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Organical - We've Lost Contact with Monster Island

Organical is another band that I found about from a member of Darren Wilson, one of the band's guitarists, made a post saying that they uploaded some new songs. I hadn't checked out the band before, so I went onto his website and checked out some of the songs. I really liked them, so once the store section of the site was up and running, I went ahead and placed an order for their new album, We've Lost Contact with Monster Island. Me being the type to prefer physical copies, I ordered the cd rather than just the iTunes download. Unfortunately, the band is from Canada, so this meant a waiting for about a week and a half or so. It was well worth the wait though. The shipping price to the US wasn't bad either ($3). Also worth noting is that Darren told me I was the first person to place an order on their new online store. Pretty cool lol, and I ended up getting a free button pin and bumper sticker. Unfortunately, the sticker was bent up a little and had a corner torn. It was a really clean tear though and looked fine when I applied it to my amp cabinet. I digress though, thanks for the freebies guys! (and thanks to the Canadian/US postal services for bending up my sticker. You jerks.)

I only ended up listening to the songs on the band's website before ordering the cd arrived, though you can stream the entire album on the band's Facebook page. I guess I just wanted some of the songs to be a surprise. :)

Enough of the boring crap, onto the music. Listening through it, I can say it's truly a masterpiece. It's not really that heavy, but I would still consider it metal. It's also got some elements of electronica in there as well, along with various hints at other genres from time to time. Now when I say that, probably the first thing that comes to mind for a lot of people is band's like The Devil Wears Prada, Attack Attack!, Asking Alexandria, etc. Believe me, this band is NOTHING like that. This has much more of an experimental edge to it. Organical isn't really a band where you can say "they sort of sound like [band x]." Heck, they're not even really a band where you can say "they sound kind of like [band x] mixed with [band y] with a little hint of [band z]." They've captured they're own unique sound, and I love it.

In addition to the excellent songwriting, the quality of the recording and production is absolutely top notch. It's very full and dynamic. This is definitely an album that you'll want a good system to listen to it on.

The artwork is of the packaging is great too and really fits the mood of the music. The back of the case for example has the tracklist separated, with the earlier tracks at the bottom and the later tracks at the top, with links to the bands website, twitter, facebook, and myspace between the separated segments. And yes, that's a QR code there in the middle (though I don't know what it links too since I don't have any means of decoding it). There's no booklet included. Rather, all the song lyrics/credits/everything else you would normally find in a booklet are all printed on the inside of the packaging.

tl;dr Listen to them and buy the album. You won't be disappointed.

Oh, and also, ib4 "lol I can see you and your crappy phone in the cd's reflection".

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Fuck, I'm A Ghost - Fuck, I'm A Ghost

This is a very, very cool release from the similarly very, very cool record label Futurerecordings, who release albums by various bands usually making post rock music, or some variation of the sort. This band however makes math-rock-type music that reminds me a bit of Menomena, a bit of Slint, and even a bit of Modest Mouse. A bit of A Silver Mt. Zion in the vocals as well. Catchy stuff here, folks.

You can download/stream the whole album for free from the label's site below, and buy the album on limited vinyl as well. Definitely one of the best new acts of 2010, in my opinion.

(p.s. i'm planning on buying a number of things from futurerecordings in a few days, so those'll be coming up soon. i might be able to convince Noctus to post about a band from this label that he really digs too. plus a theme month to coincide with the album im most looking forward to this year)

The Echelon Effect - Mosaic

I first heard of The Echelon Effect when I listened to their remix of the God Is An Astronaut song "Post Mortem" which was a really pleasant remix. What we have here is more of the same. Dreamy, ambient post-rock with some really soothing melodies.

What's really cool about this is that he has an album art for each individual song that is embedded in the files (that are free to download at Bandcamp, though you're welcome to donate to him, and I really hope you do!), and the pictures are surprisingly really good and reflect the songs very well!

Here's some examples of some of the images. Head on over to The Echelon Effect's bandcamp to listen to the album and download it if you dig it!


Monday, August 9, 2010

John Knox Sex Club - Blud Rins Cauld/Posirawkmademenego

John Knox Sex Club is a Scottish band who makes really good music. It's like Frightened Rabbit mixed with post-rock. It's really good. The main album, Blud Rins Cauld, is a somber yet lovely 40 minutes full of weeping violins, beeping horns, crashing drums, thrashing guitars, running Williams, ditches, cities, dogs and rubble.

It's really good.

It comes in this cool cardboard handmade box with various goodies including a live EP, showing a more electric side of the band, featuring an alternate version of the song Leaving You.

Did I mention this whole thing is really good?

This is for fans of Frightened Rabbit, and good music in general.

Fiel a la Vega - Equilibrio

I like latin rock a lot. Wait, no, let me rephrase that: I absolutely love latin rock. From Santana to Mana, I think it's one of those genres that will always be close to my heart due to my latin american roots. Having grown up in Puerto Rico, I was always an avid listener of the small time bands stationed there. Most of them were rip-offs of better and bigger american bands, but of course I did not know this at the time, so I absolutely loved them all. As time went on, my music tastes expanded and I started seeing that most of those small bands, well, most of them were just trash. The only really good one around was none other than Fiel a la Vega. They were original, and their lyrics were all about revolution and independence for the island of Puerto Rico. Being the rebel that I am, I absolutely love them. Imagine my excitement when I found out that they were releasing a new album, one with a more rock oriented sound, but lyrics in the same vein as their previous ones.

The album is named after one of the singles off it, Equilibrio. Sadly to say, this and 3 other tracks are the only really good tracks in the album. The bands shift to a more rock oriented sound wasn't a good shift, it was one that I will label as "meh". Most of the album is in the valley of mediocrity, with a good percentage of the songs sounding very similar in riffs and chord progressions. No longer is the spanish guitar present for some nice little finger picking. No longer are the bongo drums, or conga drums for that matter around. The signature Fiel a la Vega sound is almost non-existent in this album, and it really is quite sad.

This is not to say that the album is completely terrible, it's just different, and for those people who have grown to appreciate the bands previous sound, like me, the shift will be something that will be too different for us to enjoy. One thing off the album that we will be able to enjoy are the forever present lyrics about the Puerto Rican people's struggle against big brother aka United States of America. Rebellion and revolution themes are scattered all throughout the album, and it really is it's saving grace. The sound might be different, but the lyrics are still there, which gives us hope that the next album will see a shift back to the old sound, but with the lyrics us Fiel a la Vega fans have grown to love.

If you are new to this band, I would not suggest you start off with this record. Listen to them in the consecutive order that they were released, so you can appreciate this band a lot more.

Fiel a la Vega - Equilibrio gets a 6/10

Altar of Plagues - Tides

Tides is the new EP by the Irish experimental black metallers, Altar of Plagues. It was released a few months ago and I've recently been absolutely obsessed with it. It has a wonderfully gritty sound and a beautifully intricate set of dissonant melodies, all of which flow beautifully. Obviously to reflect the name of the EP!

I wrote a review for this release and it can be read here.

It's also worth mentioning that this release is available as a digipack that comes with a t-shirt and a black vinyl. Also, a limited edition gold vinyl that comes with an artbook! I plan to get me the gold vinyl as soon as I can, I'll post pictures when I get them. This might not be your thing, but it's really worth hearing anyway. Give it time to sink in, it took me a lot of listens for it to finally click with me.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Boris - Flood (a second opinion)

Drone is an interesting genre. If a person wants to, as they say, get into drone, they have to meet it's demands. Drone demands attention. Drone demands patience. Drone demands an open mind. It demands that you listen to albums in one sitting on speakers as loud as they'll go, and even louder than that. It makes you sit down, and pay attention to each and every little note and nuance it throws at you. And if you meet it's demands, drone music will reward you with an incredible listening experience. Arguably one of the most famous drone bands out there is Sunn O))), who honestly I'm not much of a fan of (aside from their most recent album - I'll have to get to that eventually). One drone album by a band not necessarily known for drone music is this one: Flood, by Boris.
Now I must admit, this album is more post-rock than it is drone. Still, all those demands I rambled off up there can describe post rock music as well. This particular album is one that certainly wants your patience. The album, which is actually one 70 minute song split into four long tracks, starts off with 30 seconds of silence. After this little period of calm, a simple guitar riff comes in. Nothing else, just a short riff played over and over and over. Still, it's somehow hypnotizing in it's repetitive nature, which will prove to be one of the albums' strong points. After a while you notice that the riff seems to echo itself. As time goes on this echo grows farther apart until the riff seems to be playing in double time. Then the drums come in. A single hit every now and again grows into rapid, echo-ey thrashes. These drums soon take over the guitar until there's nothing but rumbling. And then Flood II comes in.
Simplistic cymbals and snares come in, sounding like they just came out of a record from the '70s. Single chords play every now and again. An E-Bow hypnotizes you yet again with it's sustained notes. This is probably the most straight-forward piece of the album - downright beautiful guitars laden with reverb surround you in a hazy, wonderful world. All this while still maintaining the impossibly slow yet incredibly enticing nature of the whole album. Around 7 minutes in, the E-Bow disappears and a guitar solo blooms. Yes, it does take time for it to change up. But that's one of the things this music demands. However, it truly rewards you with incredible beauty. A second, more emotional solo comes in around 10 minutes. Have you ever listened to Maggot Brain, by Funkadellic? It's like that, only by a Japanese chick. A single screeching note brings Flood II to a close, and brings Flood III into life
The guitar riff is still present in Flood III, though the drums have gone away. More E-Bow sounds rise like bubbles every now and again. Then the first (and only) vocals of this album appear. As I mentioned before, these guys are Japanese, so they're gonna sing in Japanese. Even if you could speak Japanese, it's hard to make out exactly what he's singing. I suppose that's because this album doesn't use vocals as something to sing along to. The vocals here are simply another instrument, adding to the ambiance of the track. Sort-of like chanting, I guess. Around 5 minutes, the guitars start to become laden with feedback. It quickly snaps you out of the slow, soft beauty of the clean, reverbed guitar into thrashing drums and roaring guitars. The song is angry now, and it's taking it's anger out on you. There's still a hint of serenity in the noise though, a glimpse of what just was but is no longer. The vocals break through the noise around 8 minutes in, shining a light of the beauty in the past to balance with the horror that has been brought with these sounds. Eventually the horror overpowers the vocals, and brings along a new, epic guitar solo to scare you even more. This song turns you into a masochist. The pain, the horror, the torment brought by these thrashing instruments becomes a sick, twisted kind of beauty thats impossible to ignore. Around 14 minutes into this insanity, the drums die down, and only the guitar is left to trudge along with it's static growls. This is the point where the album has built as tall as it can stand. After nearly 50 minutes of build up, the wandering guitar pulls the brick from the bottom and watches in pain as the whole piece slowly comes crumbling down.
Flood IV begins with the dust and debris starting to bury the angry guitar from III in a muted cloud. Clean notes ring from a new guitar, rising with the hum of the ruins. This is when the album finally comes to a slow, slow close. The muted guitar riff continues to play, slower and more disjointed as time goes on, as the volume lowers ever so slightly, until it's barely audible.
This album is not something you'd listen to in the background. It's not music that would make much sense if it were played out of order. It lives. It goes from birth, through growth, to crippling old age, and slow yet peaceful death. It's certainly not immediately accessible. But then again, it doesn't try to be. It realizes what it is, and expects you to realize the same thing. It wants you to sit along for the ride, and see what it's trying to show you. And if you're patient, and listen with open ears, you will be rewarded with one incredible masterpiece.

Another thing to listen for on this album is it's concept. Like the music itself, the concept is slow moving, simple, and beautiful. There is a reason this album is called Flood.

Imagine you're standing in an enormous area. Nothing but concrete underneath you and grey skies up above

Flood I is when the rain starts. The looping guitars show the rain picking up speed and density. The crashing drums are thunder and lighting: scarce, at first, but soon overwhelming. As the drums get harsher, the water begins to accumulate.

Flood II is when the water has gotten so high that you're floating a few inches off the ground. The relaxation and near nirvana you experience in this world of water is beautiful.

Flood III is when you've been floating for days. Hunger begins to strike. Your body is weak. You start to sink. Though you're able to stay somewhat afloat, the water soon overpowers you and you're struggling for air.

Flood IV is when you realize you're time to die has come. Your body grows lifeless as water is sucked into your lungs. It stings, but after some time you go numb. You're completely underwater, and sinking slowly. You'd hoped that your life would flash before your eyes, but you're so cold and numb that you can't think of anything. However, you are at peace. You watch as the sun begins to shine in the world above the water, and you feel secure as it slowly fades to nothing. Your eyes close, and you slip into eternal darkness - safe, and calm.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Lots of little reviews.

So yeah, in the last few weeks I've been travelling a bit, and I downloaded plenty of music for the long plane flights and car rides. The results are in. Here they are:

The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots

This is basically a standard pop album, but instead of adding perhaps rough guitars or exotic instrumentation to give the music a hip, experimental "edge," layers of extraterrestrial synths are added, softening the sound (surprisingly) and making it weird yet pleasantly accessible. The album itself is the saga of the titular Yoshimi, and seems to be almost a satire of conventional concept albums. There's plenty of instrumentals, which might be considered filler by some, but really just define the album's sound even more. Overall, a fantastic listen. Also, the songs are really catchy.

Yo La Tengo - Popular Songs

It's probably bad that this is my first YLT album rather than one of their earlier, more acclaimed works. But I'm not complaining. The first nine songs here are all simple indie pop, not covering vast expanses of musical ground for anyone really, but it's also plain to see that YLT is out not to surpass the farthest reaches of musical exploration. They're out to write good tunes. These nine good tunes make up the more persistent half of the album. It's also the half most worth returning to. "Periodically Double Or Triple" sounds a lot like "Taxman," for example, and since "Taxman" is a good song and "Periodically" has its own kicks, it's a good song. The same goes for most of the pieces of this nine-song suite. The last three songs, however, run about the same length as the rest of the album, opening the doors wider for a bit more experimentation. "More Stars Than There Are In Heaven" is beautiful, if a bit too repetitive. "The Fireside" is closer to post-rock than the style Yo La Tengo is known for. "And The Glitter Is Gone" is really just a messy, 16-minute jam that makes an underwhelming closer to a very good album.

Menomena - Mines

Menomena's latest opens with "Queen Black Acid," a fantastic work of indie rock and possible Who homage. It's as strong as anything on I Am The Fun Blame Monster but, sadly, it's a false promise of brilliance throughout the rest of the album. This isn't to say the album is bad. The songs here are legitimately good, and their production remains spiked with quite a few shots of Portland swagger, but around "Lunchmeat," the songs begin to blend together and it becomes difficult to discern one song from the next. No big leaps are made. There are no strange interludes designed to keep the taste when you've been mindlessly chewing for a while. The hip-tronica influences start to sound immature, the saxophone bits messy. The songs on their own are all good, but the album as a whole lacks the coherence and ambition that has made Menomena's earlier work so great. That said, you should still download "Dirty Cartoons" and "Killemall."

Boris - Flood

This is one of those albums only divided into tracks to piss off people with iPod Shuffles. The first part is basically just a riff repeated on a delay pedal, which is by no means impressive. However, with the second part, the album jumps into a post-rock epic, ending with a blast of drone metal. The third part incorporates vocals, but they really don't contribute much to the sound of the music. Also, half of the third part is more drone. The fourth and final part is the prettiest of the parts (all of which are 13-22 minutes long), but is still rather boring. The volume changes, when unexpected, are quite irritating rather than moving. The metal passages are loud but boring. Everything else is pretty alright, other than the neverending first part. The album as a whole isn't really anything worth listening to.

Madvillain - Madvillainy

I've never reviewed a hip hop album before so hear me out. This is in no way a conventional hip hop album. It uses sampling like DJ Shadow and rapping like Del Tha Funkee Homosapien and song structures that really are closer to the Minutemen than any other hip hop artist. The influences range all over, and there's fantastic lyricism here. However, it lacks the accessibility for a newbie rap-listener such as myself to give it a humongous score. I dig "Accordion," "Meat Grinder," and "Figaro" the most.

Built To Spill - Perfect From Now On

So once again, maybe I should have introduced myself to Built To Spill via an album more conventional. One without the long-form songs that treat themselves like they're short. One without the tempo changes, the songs that seem to be located inside other songs, etc. But I didn't. This is one of those albums that reveals its true genius on subsequent listens (which I haven't quite gotten around to yet) if there's any true genius. There seems to be a bit to go around here, but it's also the type of album that speaks to every person differently. For some, it might be a messy ball of distortion and Corganesque vocals; for others, a subliminal masterpiece of indie rock. I myself am looking forward to returning this and perhaps giving it a higher score then. For now, it's the third best thing to come out of Idaho, next to them delicious potatoes and Napoleon Dynamite.

Beach House - Teen Dream

In dreams, nothing is certain. You're never sure how you got to where you are, who that man is, or whether you're dreaming at all. Why Beach House is therefore labeled by some as "dream pop" is fairly certain: if in the right mind set, they can send you into a world of uncertain bliss. The soft vocals and guitars are keyboards to one's ears. The rolling, keyboard-induced textures are blankets. The music as a whole is simply a bed comfortable not because of where it is and who put it there, but of what its essence is: a place to dream. The music borrows heavily from both Ride and Cocteau Twins, but lacks the impeccable production and actual song quality mastered on Nowhere. That said, it's a great listen not only for bedtime, but for long car rides, candlelit dinners, and other activities often seen on dating websites.

Suicide - Suicide

Sometimes genres are combined perfectly, other times it comes across as a mess. Suicide's first album would be considered the former by most critics, but the latter by me. Present are both the dirty, snarling vocals and tempos that defined such contemporaries of Suicide as the Sex Pistols and The Clash, and the synthesizers substituting for almost every instrument with artists like Kraftwerk and Devo. The result was No Wave, and it wasn't pretty. It's groundbreaking in a way, but the ground it breaks is dry, fruitless dirt, as the very underground Suicide is still probably the most well-known No Wave band, besides early Sonic Youth (who, by the way, embraced noise and took advantage of it much better than the obnoxious synths here). The attempts at being closer to early-60s pop like "Cheree" and "Johnny" are the album's best shots, but they're still nothing compared to anything from Psychocandy. "Frankie Teardrop" is simply depressing, and not the epic it claims to be. A grossly overrated album.

Mogwai - Young Team

Mogwai's debut is different from most post-rock albums. Most post-rock albums send their music through sonic landscapes, paying little attention to their cultural roots. Mogwai steps in these directions, but they do so while still keeping in mind their predecessors in the field of post-rock, like Slint or Talk Talk. They let their music owe more to alternative rock than perhaps any other post-rock band here, while still utilizing crescendo and timbre in a way that is distinctly out of the realms of rock and roll. "R U Still In 2 It" is openly vocal, for example. However, as opposed to each individual song, the album as a whole seems to build and build. Any song, in use as a building block, may therefore seem obsolete on its own (with the exceptions of the fantastic "Tracy" and "Katrien"). That is, until the album climaxes on the sprawling closer, "Mogwai Fear Satan." This is not the most cohesive album ever, nor does it have the best post-rock songs you've ever heard. It is, however, a fantastic listen and a good introduction to post-rock.