Friday, August 22, 2008

Ryan Garbes - Freedom Now

Ryan Garbes
Freedom Now
(2008, Night People)
Verdict = Freak Jazz

Ryan Garbes is the drummer of seminal deranged psych-punkers, Raccoo-oo-oon. As such, he seems to be infected (along with his band mates) with some sort of fantastic disease that propels him to be constantly producing ridiculous amounts of DIY gold in the form of cassette tapes, zine style art books and now this here freely downloadable album titled Freedom Now. It is wondrous disease to be sure, marking Garbes as a preciously idealistic artist compulsively creating to his wits end. The ailment is probably pretty similar to zombification by my estimation so Garbes is probably decomposing as we speak, but if you’re one of the lucky ones to catch hold of the spoils prior to Garbes’ early demise it seems more than worth it (Um, you don’t really have a life threatening disease which simultaneously compels you to create records and results in the decomposition of your molecular structure, do you Mr. Garbes? Because, if you do, I am going to feel like a dick). Anyway, if you are familiar with Raccoo-oo-oon your entrance to Freedom Now will be a bit more familiar, however, Garbes still follows his own particular muse here. Freedom Now spans six tracks of propulsive, chaotic, animalistic “freak jazz.” Can I coin that as a term? Maybe I don’t want to, but either way Ryan Garbes embodies that. Combining a flurry of percussion and a din of guitar abuse swimming in healthy pool of tape rumble. Garbes exercises his demons here gloriously providing receptive light despite his potentially terminal, compulsive-art-producing-yet-decaying disease. Oh, and did I mention that this download is free (check link below)?

-Mr. Thistle

download Freedom Now from Night People now!


Celestial Clockwork
(05.2005, Raptivism)

Rediscovered Celestial Clockwork this week, if you haven’t discovered this yet here is my emphatic recommendation. The album represents Illogic at his lyrical best, which is synonymous with hip hop’s best. Literally, some of the smartest, most meticulous lyrics ever set to tape. Solid backpacker beats and well chosen movie samples are simply extras for Celestial Clockwork and without a single bad track, Illogic has left us a perfect slice of hip hop. Illogic on MySpace

Paper Airplanes
(04.2007, 54-40 Or Fight)

This album was actually first released in 2005 by Mayhap Records, but thankfully 54-40 took notice of this gem and re-released it. This is an album for everyone disaffected by indie rock; for all of the people still reveling in Funeral, Oh, Inverted World or even Keep It Like A Secret. Boyhood is in that good. In fact, album opener, “Fences,” is probably one of the best indie rock songs I have ever heard. So good, seriously, this is essential. Paper Airplanes on MySpace

Golden Ball
The Antique Barking Swirls of Dawn
(03.2007, Honeymoon Music)

Golden Ball isn’t an easy band to peg. They have plenty of awesome psych rock touchstones similar to, say Wooden Schjips or recent Comets On Fire, but there is definitely an odd outsider pop mystique that these Philly hippies add to the mix that just makes this release irresistible. Seriously, don’t resist this album. Golden Ball on MySpace

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Snacks - Natural Snacks

Natural Snacks
(2008, EHSE Records)
Verdict = A noisy concoction of electronics and vegetables, apparently

I have had a slight preoccupation with band names lately, most recently with Our Sleepless Forest and now with Snacks and their recent release, Natural Snacks. I love snacks myself. I think that that is a part of why snacks are snacks, because you are serendipitously addicted to them. In fact, I would personally categorize myself as a snack junky in some respects. I have an undeniable penchant for all variety of chips, various crackers and most cheeses and should probably join Triscuits anonymous with their recent batch of flavored crackers. The downfall of the snack is inherent in its definition as a food to be eaten in-between meals. It’s just no match for the main course. Snacks the band have changed that. Though everything about the band should be indicative of its name on this release, specifically the fact that this 10” picture disc is just under twenty minutes in length, Natural Snacks is a beautifully filling album bursting with tasty morsels of electronic squalor and sampled mischief. A record cut and pasted together and bursting with grizzled, vigorous noise, Snacks presents an improvisational type feel not dissimilar from WZT Hearts or even Aufgehoben (though not as massively destructive as Khora). The album is an almost perfect display of everything appealing about a more jazz influenced view of noise music and only slightly missteps with the almost unbearably obnoxious samples of snoring and beefy electronic flatulence that run through the last two songs. I don’t think the effect is lost on Snacks though; it's simply a grinning act of defiance to expectations. Another limited release from an underground bursting with must-be-heards. Don’t be left out.

-Mr. Thistle

Snacks - "Cabbage Disaster"

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Instruments - Dark Smaland

The Instruments
Dark Smaland
(05.2008, Orange Twin)
Verdict = Gilded, sorrowful chamber pop

On Orange Twin and amongst several players from various bands of the Elephant 6 Collective, The Instruments doesn’t quite follow the same psych pop eccentricities that you might expect of its players. In fact, Dark Smaland is seductively dark and lusciously arranged, veering heavily toward chamber orchestrations rather than sixties rock. Lead by Heather McIntosh and her delicate vocals, The Instruments drift through repetitious incantations and melancholy instrumentation to great success. The intimacy here sinks surprisingly deep in the amiable warmth of Dark Smaland despite it’s under riding depressive nature. The tracks vary between McIntosh’s repetitious lyrics and purely instrumental offerings fluidly passing from one to the next in a most dignified manner. Dark Smaland moves fairly slowly even though track lengths generally find themselves in the three to four minute range. This is a testament to each tracks ability to suck you in and not let go. I was recently talking with Sassigrass in a constantly reoccurring conversation about how I can’t help but design a movie scene with which to apply the music that I am listening to (I have always wanted to soundtrack a movie). Dark Smaland would fit perfectly in a transitional, dialogue-less scene viewing characters alone in the warmth of their respective living rooms during an afternoon rainstorm. I don’t quite know what that scene illustrates of me, but for The Instruments it means downhearted familiarity and longing beauty that is vibrantly addictive.

-Mr. Thistle

The Instruments - "Ode to the Sea"

Lawrence English - Kiri No Oto

Lawrence English
Kiri No Oto
(07.2008, Touch)
Verdict = Quite literally an auditory fog

Lawrence English, label head of Australia’s Room 40 imprint, has let his most recent solo album loose on the equally superb Touch label. Perhaps it is just a means of rest to go through Touch or perhaps a general nod to the label’s similar knack for progressive sound artists, either way Kiri No Oto adds an incredible cog to the Touch catalog and is deserving of a well won vacation because English is at the top of his game here. Listening to Kiri No Oto is as brooding, hazy and indistinct as walking through an endless mist of varying shades of grey. English must have been well aware of this when naming the album seeing as how its Japanese translation is something like ‘sound of fog.’ You’ll just have to listen to discover how incredibly apt that title is. English works with a veritable wall of sound that is simply awash with brick after brick of slowly oscillating white noise. Extremely layered and smartly composed, tracks like “White Spray” and “Allay” break through the standard muted drones with surges of industrial squalor. The basis of the sounds manipulated here is a whole 'nother story as well with the building blocks of Kiri No Oto coming from both found sounds and instruments of far reaching locals from Japan to Poland that English harvested through his own travels. English may not have the same name recognition as contemporaries like Tim Hecker and Fennesz, but Kiri No Oto is definitely a statement that stands with the likes of Harmony in Ultraviolet and Endless Summer. Just check the album cover, it sounds like that.

-Mr. Thistle

Lawrence English - "Organs at Sea"

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Nico Muhly - Mothertongue

Nico Muhly
(05.2008, Brassland Records)
Verdict = Avant Garde composition that hits, wavers and then hits again

Nico Muhly’s follow up to his stunning solo debut Speaks Volumes, which came out last year, is simultaneously incredible and bewildering. To be honest, it took me a good long time to digest and weed through this record. Unlike Speaks Volumes’ individually composed tracks, Mothertongue is made up of three separate suites constituted by ten tracks and is intensely conceptual. Throughout the first suite of music a chorus of vocals is manipulated and fluttered about like a swarm of electronic hummingbirds. While the initial affect is jarring, repeated listens reveals this suite (of which the album is named) to be the most vibrantly successful of the three in the midst of its harrowing vocal experiments. The following movement entitled “Wonders” doesn’t fare so well in the face of repeated listens (though there are definitely portions worth repeating). This is perhaps more a reaction to the medieval style crooning than to the composition itself, but it is enough to dampen the piece as a whole. Fortunately, the final portion of the album (“The Only Tune”) gathers its vocal inflections from the distinctive folk rumblings of Bedroom Community labelmate, Samamidon, who along with Muhly, lets the album down gently, assisting in disentangling any muscular knots created in the Mothertongue’s first two parts. While overall the album is positive and Muhly is to be commended for his focused efforts on incorporating vocals more fluidly into his compositions, Mothertongue finds its place more as an artistic stepping stone than a revelatory destination. Fortunately for us a stepping stones for Muhly is a lifetime album for most. I’ll probably regret even that resolution because as I listen to it again and again those minor frailties seem to be continually fading; its certainly worth a few listens at the very least.

-Mr. Thistle

Nico Muhly on MySpace

Friday, August 15, 2008

Thank You - Terrible Two

Thank You
Terrible Two
(04.2008, Thrill Jockey)
Verdict = Hyperactive instrumental blitz

Do you ever feel like your energy has been literally sucked out of you by some invisible force? Suddenly just out of energyand hittin' the hay at hours that defy your youthful age? Well, if so, I may have discovered culprit. Baltimore’s Thank You may very well be the energy thieves that have so subtly extracted our energies in order to use them for the creation of their debut album, Terrible Two. Why am I making such a baseless allegation? Oh, it is only baseless to those of you who haven’t heard this record because I tell you what, the three band members credited with creating this frantically energetic monstrosity could not have done so on their own. So, obviously, the only logical conclusion is that the band has created some machine that slowly steals the energies of the entire human race in order to hone said ‘energy’ into a berserk concoction of their personal fancy. See, that is why the band is named “Thank You,” it is a joke on its own listeners whose lives they have partially stolen. Either that or these guys are just simply bananas in terms of musicianship and creativity. Terrible Two contains generally identifiable parts (guitars, drums, bells, synths, eceteras) that have been twisted, contorted and hyper extended into mathy, chaotic, post-rock-esque jams that sound like they are causing their players to form massive blisters. It’s pretty exciting stuff to say the least. You could probably make fair comparisons to Battles, Animal Collective, WZT Hearts or By The End of Tonight, but Terrible Twos definitely stands on its own. A wild chaotic utterly enjoyable ride. Delicious.

-Mr. Thistle

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Madvillain - Madvillainy 2

Madvillainy 2: The Madlib Remix
(2008, Stones Throw Records)
Verdict: Basically a new album

Take a couple of breaths and get ready for another round of Hip-Hopʼs best MC. A few days ago I got my hands on the latest from Madlib. As you may already know, Madlib has recently released Madvillainy 2: The Madlib Remix using the vocals of MF DOOM from Madvillainy and a few unreleased recordings. The realization might put a damper on some of your high hopes. Itʼs true that you will recognize most of MF DOOMʼs lyrics. However, itʼs like having chocolate Lucky Charms. No, it would be like mixing a Lucky Charm with a number of other equally good cereals for a great cereal cocktail. It is pretty obvious that Madlib wants us to remember that this is a new album. He even goes as far to rename the songs. The mix uses a lot more audio samples this round and Madlib jumps a lot with his cuts, so that it is anything but repetitive. Because of this, the album is more fleshed out on the Madlib side. The style of mixing reminds me more of the Beat Konducta Vol. 3-4 than Madvillainy, showing progression. He is coming out with some great sounds. Plus, there are some hilarious audio samples that sound like early George Carlin, but itʼs probably a more obscure comedian. Madlib is consistently keeping his pet projects his most fun and most interesting. Donʼt miss this album.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Hospitals - Hairdryer Peace

The Hospitals
Hairdryer Peace
(04.2008, Self Released)
Verdict = Psychedelic pop with lots and lots of noise

I think that 2008 has officially become the year that lo-fi garage punk and noise pop broke loose into the indie mainstream. No Age is on Sub Pop, Times New Viking is on Matador and Siltbreeze Records (the genre’s fountainhead) are continually gaining momentum with recent releases by the likes of Eat Skulls and Sic Alps. Add to that Pumice’s Quo, to a lesser extent Women’s self titled debut and even local favourite Navigator’s Songs For Mei and Satsuki and you’ve got a pretty packed year for solid, fuzzed out amp destruction. To be frank, I think it is wonderful. I have always had a soft spot for the artful use/abuse of dodgy recording methods. Just adds that certain je-ne-sais-quoi, you know? Well, you can now add to that ever extending list The Hospitals' Hairdryer Peace, and not only should they be added, but they should probably be sitting atop the whole list. With bands like this, discographies can be a little shady so I am just going to mark Hairdryer Peace as their third full length album and boy-oh-boy is it terrific! The band has maintained its signature hyper lo-fidelity, but removed a lot of the screamy vocals on past records. Instead song structure and vocal performances have taken on a very pleasing Lou Reed-esque-ness. It is a wonderful development indeed for a band that already boasts a long list of awesome attributes. I guess the most wonderful thing about The Hospitals pop is their full willingness to completely destroy it. It almost sounds like a lost record from The Velvet Underground re-contextualized by John Wiese. I mean, could I provide a more compelling description than that? It’s just a glorious, dangerous, grin-inducing mess which is a blessing. What is not a blessing is the fact that Hairdryer Peace was self released to extremely limited quantities and now requires quite a search to find. However, if you do manage to locate it, rest assured, it is worth whatever price it’s going for.

-Mr. Thistle

Monday, August 11, 2008


I decided to start an intermittent list (we’ll see how long it lasts) of records that I’ve recently come into contact with or have reunited with or whatever, that aren’t from 2008, but are still managing to take up a good portion of my listening time. Let me know about the past gems you have been digging lately in the comments section.

(09.2006, Thrill Jockey)

I don’t know why it has taken me so long to get mitts on Taiga from Boredoms-offshoot-band, OOIOO. The delay is even more baffling since after Gold & Green I officially owned up to liking Yoshimi’s (yes, that Yoshimi) all girl psych punk onslaught even better then their almighty forbearers. Well, late or not, it was only a matter of time before I caught hold of OOIOO’s opus. Along with Shugo Tokumaru, this may very well be the best thing Japan has ever exported. Streaming on Thrill Jockey

Stefan Neville
Do Not Destroy…
(05.2006, Last Visible Dog)

To say that I have “reunited” with this album is a little miss-leading since it has been pretty re-emerging pretty consistently since the day I got it. Stefan Neville is the mastermind behind Pumice and this is his only (as far as I know) record under his own name. Equally lo-fi and somehow more of a noisy ramshackled mess than his Pumice work, Do Not Destroy… is an utter essential. Samples on Amazon

Tiger Bear Wolf
(05.2005, Hello Sir)

Tiger Bear Wolf is a frantic mix of post punk and blues rock that falls somewhere in-between Domestica-era Cursive, At the Drive-In, Fugazi and Black Mountain. Filled with searing guitar energy and scorching lo-fi hooks that will have you doing air guitar freak-outs alone in your room before bed. So so good. Tiger Bear Wolf - "Something Worth Saving"

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Janek Schaefer - Extended Play (triptych for the child survivors of war and conflict)

Janek Schaefer
Extended Play (triptych for the child survivors of war and conflict)
(06.2008, LINE)
Verdict = The kind of musical endeavors makes life worth living

The music from experimental musician/turntablist Janek Schaefer’s Etended Play, is actually derived from an extraordinarily conceived art instillation. As a pretty ginormous fan of contemporary art and instillation art in particular, Schaefer’s triptych installed as an interactive art piece is something I desperately wish I could’ve experienced in person. Unfortunately, I didn’t live in the UK last year when the piece was on display (actually, sadly, I’ve never even been across the Atlantic). You know what? Follow this link to a short video explanation of the piece from Schaefer himself:

"Extended Play" short film

“Cooooool,” right? There are obviously some fundamental differences between the music as it was embodied in the installation space the music as received in this new recorded medium and though I can go on and on about how I wished I could’ve experienced the piece in person, Extended Play is still as engaging and powerful a document of music as any I’ve heard this year. On par with (and in many ways similar to) last year’s amazing rendition of Gavin Bryars’ The Sinking of the Titanic (which featured fellow experimental turntablist and former Schaefer collaborator, Phillip Jeck), Schaefer’s Extended Play upholds an amazing sense of dignity and an uplifting air that is simply magnificent to hear. Schaefer breaks down the installation into parts on the album. The first three tracks consist of the individual parts of the triptych: Cello, Piano and Violin. Each is played for approximately ten minutes with all the variable playing habits and vinyl clicks left intact. The fourth track is a 24 minute recording of the three separate pieces combined in similar fashion and the fifth is a four minute recording of the original 1940’s folk song that was something of an inspiration for the whole endeavor. The album is simply captivating and one of the few recordings (The Sinking of the Titanic included) which can be rightly and positively described as “glacial” in its movements. Absolutely incredible.

-Mr. Thistle

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

PAS/CAL - I Was Raised on Matthew, Mark, Luke and Laura

I Was Raised on Matthew, Mark, Luke and Laura
(07.2008, Le Grand Magistry)
Verdict = Glorious mutant kitten pop...

I don’t even know where to start with this thing. Let’s start this way: PAS/CAL are the most polite, tactful pop music anarchists that I have ever had the pleasure of listening to; and it is a pleasure indeed. After a lengthy string of singles that, to be honest, I never noticed, PAS/CAL have (for some people who have been following along longer than I) finally released their debut and by golly is it a glorious mess! Actually, it isn’t a mess at all (pretty tight to be truthful), but on the first listen you may walk away a little confused. Personally, I found my initial spin quite bewildering and more than a little overwhelming. I think the reason for this reaction is because of PAS/CAL’s ability to integrate classical, sugary pop tropes into song structures that have more in common with inventive prog rock songs than two minute radio jams. PAS/CAL literally pack more successful, skewed ideas into one of their three minute songs than our modern day Weezer can fit into an entire album. And I’m not even trying to pick on Weezer here because that comparison would apply to the majority of indie rock/pop being released today. So, obviously, it can be a bit suffocating on first listen, but bear with it, I Was Raised on Matthew, Mark, Luke and Laura is worth it. The thing with PAS/CAL’s version of mutant pop is that it doesn’t feel so hyperactive and twee as, say, Architecture in Helsinki’s. The band carries a certain, for lack of a better word, maturity that seems to belie such extreme experimental tendencies. Somehow it just gels though and after you begin to break in the PAS/CAL leather couch the band has a way of enveloping into its sunny, dancy, auper catchy smarty-pants pop. To resurrect an old Sassigrass term, PAS/CAL make “dad-rock” (…er, pop) injected with hyperactive sense of youthful experimentalism. In truth, I am not sure if this stuff will register well with all ears, but for these ears PAS/CAL’s brand of ‘glorious mutant kitten pop’ is a welcome revelation and certain contender in 2008 for pop album of the year.

-Mr. Thistle

PAS/CAL - "You Were Too Old For Me"

Our Sleepless Forest - S/T

Our Sleepless Forest
(02.2008, Resonant Records)
Verdict = Definitely sounds like a sleepless forest

Our Sleepless Forest is probably one of the more accurately self-descriptive band names I have heard in awhile (though Birchville Cat Motel is certainly a close second…right?). Listening to the band’s self-titled debut almost makes Our Sleepless Forest sound like a mission statement. Blistering with field recordings, primal yelps and a dense background of glittery chirps and buzzing drones, I probably would have described the sound of this album as a ‘sleepless forest’ if the band hadn’t already beat me to the punch (and perhaps that was the whole point). Not only that, but Our Sleepless Forest seems to be excited about the prospect of recreating all types of sleepless forests in the space of the album's eight tracks. For example, the album opener, “Nomads” starts things off with your standard, overgrown Amazon jungle with its tribal backbeat pressing things forward as primates yelp and insects buzz and multiply. “Doors In Limbo” is your sacred/magical oasis deep inside the heart of the forest where the trees open up to soft grass, exotic flowers and a crystal clear pond sparked and illuminated by the reflection of the moon. “Aircastles” drifts into a more moody, black-as-tar area of the forest deep within the undergrowth when you’ve definitely wandered into no man’s land and your chances of being devoured alive by human sized bugs are pretty much inevitable. All and all, it is eight tracks of thick, penetrating soundscapes that are layered incredibly and move (as you may have guessed) very organically. The music is simply amazing, with the ability to burrow deep under your skin, penetrating to the pit of your heart. It is an experience to say the least. Another reviewer has compared the bands sound to that of Animal Collective and Stars of the Lid among others, however, those two seem a particularly apt combination when looking for reference points for describing Our Sleepless Forest. They certainly carry touchstones from some of the very best bands making music today, but have managed to seek out a spot that is distinctly their own. Really wonderful stuff and highly recommended.

-Mr. Thistle

Our Sleepless Forest - "Nomads"

Monday, August 4, 2008

Broken Social Scene presents Brendan Canning - Something For All of Us

Broken Social Scene Presents Brendan Canning
Something for All of Us…
Arts & Crafts.
Verdict: Pretty, but not endearing

Don’t get me wrong, I like the record... I just don’t love it. I suppose I may just be a little tired of the dried up Broken Social Scene sound. Or perhaps I am just living in the past and expecting too much out of a BSS co-founder and songwriter. This record is the second in the Broken Social Scene Presents series (the first being the solo album of the other BSS front-man: Kevin Drew). It is decidedly darker than most BSS material and hardly lacks in reverb guitars. Through the shoegaze fuzz Brendan Canning’s voice weakly strains and creates a nice ambiance. There is a psych-folk song in there somewhere and "Chameleon" has some really pretty string selections. The single that was released a while ago is called “Hit The Wall” and it’s ok. But what I want to hear disappears in the thick undergrowth of production. As you sip your ice-water you might me thinking “how can you say ‘what I want to hear’ about a record?” Well, I suppose if you bill yourself as 'Broken Social Scene Presents,' then you are setting yourself up for expectations. So enjoy it for what it is and join me in the I’ll-get-it-if-they-make-it club.

-King Cotton

Friday, August 1, 2008

Jasper Tx - Black Sleep

Jasper Tx
Black Sleep
(07.2008, Miasmah)
Verdict = Brooding headphone candy of the highest quality

I think this is pretty much true of all the releases we discuss here on FG (AKA music in general), but for Jasper Tx’s Black Sleep let me recommend the use of headphones. I’m not talking about your stock iPod earbuds either; it is important that you have a good pair of heavy duty headphones that fit like enormous earmuffs or aviation tower communication equipment when listen to the latest from Mr. Dag Rosenqvist (the Swedish mastermind that is Jasper Tx). Black Sleep inhabits an aural arena characterized by its overwhelmingly transportative tones, multilayered textures and expansive, lulling structures. Jasper Tx has already proven himself the master of this arena, but Black Sleep is, simply put, Rosenqvist’s masterpiece. There is often a overly weighted divide among Jasper Tx contemporaries which finds artists either straying too far into droning experimentation or relying too heavily post rock instrumentals. On Black Sleep, Rosenqvist has achieved a perfect balance between the two by incorporating and overlapping both gorgeous instrumental melodics and hauntingly evasive atmospherics. The fact that Black Sleep’s six tracks are identified in parts rather than by various names is indicative of the cohesive nature of the album as a whole. Rosenqvist balances moods of brooding ambience with the entrance of quaintly uplifting or sorrowful guitars and shifting audio deterioration. Throughout the record, this combination of musical modes builds into a series of glorious peaks and treacherous valleys. The entrance and departure of various instruments and melodic patterns play out like engaging characters in Black Sleep’s narrative. It's simply one of those albums that demands your complete attention from start to finish and rewards you with an experience rarely accomplished by contemporary music; so grab some headphones, a copy of Black Sleep and find yourself a good, comfortable, secluded area and let Jasper Tx lull you into a deep, black slumber.

-Mr. Thistle

Jasper Tx on Myspace