Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Gareth Dickson, Loma Prieta and Themselves

Gareth Dickson
Collected Recordings
(2009, Drifting Fall Recordings)
RIYL = Nick Drake, David Thomas Broughton, Scott Tuma

The title to Gareth Dickson’s most recent album, Collected Recordings, sounds as if the songs were gathered together from old scraps or off of out of print titles. Unfortunately, I don’t really know much about Mr. Dickson's prior releases, so whether or not this stuff is completely new is unknown by me. However, what I do know is that Dickson has the ability to heal souls with his soothing brand of acoustic guitar work and vocal work. When you first hear his voice, it is impossible not to think of Nick Drake, yet his slow, atmospheric guitar work is more reminiscent of modern folk soundscapist, Scott Tuma. The combination of the two titanic musical figures in Dickson’s work is awe inspiring. Eleven lengthy tracks sliced straight from heaven. Plus, isn’t any album really just a bunch of collected recordings?

Loma Prieta
Dark Mountain 12”
(2009, self released?)
RIYL = American Football, Converge, Pg. 99

Following up their debut from last year, Dark Mountain maintains the exact same aesthetic Last City, which isn’t a bad thing, especially since Last City and Dark Mountain make up about half a album each. Filled with short melodic bursts of post hardcore madness, Loma Prieta are attempting to fill the giant gap in my life where post hardcore, hardcore and punk music should be. Maybe I’m blind, or perhaps not a good enough student of the scene, but Loma Prieta is pretty much the only band in the vein of ‘heavy’ that I have really enjoyed recently. Solid solid stuff from the San Francisco bludgeoners.

(2009, Anticon)

Adam Drucker, AKA Doseone and ½ of Themselves, is a vocal magician of around a million vocal personas, and on CrownsDown he seems bent on using everyone. Whether it be his gritty battle rap mode or his more song oriented, multi-layered pop vocals, or everything inbetween - he even uses autotune! In addition vocal styles, Doseone is probably the fastest rapper out there when he wants to be. some of the lightning speed verbosity on CrownsDown is absolutely insane. You have to give Jel credit for keeping up with Dose on every syllable. Together the duo seems bent on making as straightforward a hip hop album the two are capable of. Fortunately for us, Themselves aren’t very good at making straightforward hip hop. In fact, the best moments on the album are when the two veer into experimental pop territory. Take “Daxstrong” for example, the track is probably my very favourite track of 2009 with its down tempo drum beat and vocals that eventually transform into a kind of Tv on the Radio croon. CrownsDown is a fresh change of pace for Doseone and Jel, regardless of whether you like them more in Subtle. Sorry for the sloppy review. I promised myself I'd post regardless of the writing quality.

-Thistle (who else?)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Grooms - Rejoicer

(2009, Death By Audio)
RIYL = Pavement, Sonic Youth, Blood On the Wall

With list making season right around the corner for both the year and the decade (for those with the patience to actually wait until the decade ends), Rejoicer is the catalyst for displacement. To say that with this, the Grooms debut, that I’ve saved the best for last would be understatement. But wait, is this a debut? For the ‘Grooms’ moniker, yes; however, with a different drummer the band was formerly called the Muggabears. The decision to change the name was an obvious one. In fact, it is kind of unfortunate that it didn’t happen earlier because now I am going to have to backtrack in order to listen to the three albums that proceeded Rejoicer, but that is neither here nor there. No, what we are here to discuss is Rejoicer and Rejoicer, my friends, is set to unhinge jaws and leave them hanging like some many clouds. The album is simple. Seriously, how many bands could I review with stylistic comparisons to Pavement or Sonic Youth? A million. The beauty of the comparison in this particular situation is that Rejoicer not only contains the straight forward, albeit roughly hued indie rock touchstones of the godfathers of the genre, but also maintains the quality of the same. This is no lie. We all love Slanted and Enchanted and Daydream Nation, right? Well, if you love those albums then you’ll also love Rejoicer. It’s that simple. Ten songs, melodically skiwampus, with both gorgeous and corrosive qualities, that drive chords of joy and fervor straight into your heart. What we have here with the Grooms’ "debut" is an earnest mess of perfectly imperfect guitar tones that often dive off the map, excellent drumming that is focused on rhythmic utility rather than flashy fills, emotive bass undercurrents and everyman vocals that veer and cut endearingly. Rejoicer is it folks, that’s all.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Marina Rosenfeld - Plastic Materials

Marina Rosenfeld
Plastic Materials
(2009, Room 40)
RIYL = Kallikak Family, Alan Licht & Aki Onda, Mark Templeton

I received Marina Rosenfeld’s Plastic Materials without any real knowledge about Rosenfeld’s four previous albums and at least ten years experience as a musician/composer. The truth is, even now I still don’t have much of an clue about her previous work, except I know that it exists. After listening to Plastic Materials I am wondering how this is possible. Rosenfeld’s work is mind bogglingly good. Like, really really great and good and incredibly really super and awesome. The kind of stuff that sends you into fits of gibberish praise just like when you received that new blue bike for Christmas when you were ten. However, other than some of the metallic and ‘plastic materials’ (couldn’t resist), comparing the two is kind of a stretch. Rosenfeld’s work on Plastic Materials is pretty insular and will be undoubtedly alienating for more than a few listeners unaccustomed to experimental works. But for those with an ear for adventure, Plastic Materials is like new snow for making tracks. It's pretty easy praising Rosenfeld’s work, describing it though is another matter. In my imagination, Plastic Materials sounds like an strange autopsy where the deceased is part robot, part creature from another planet and each progressive incision opens new caverns of spiraling innards that are both structurally amazing and kind of freaky. There is even an ever present sterility of steel tables and clean instruments to the whole thing. The album is bizarre in the most fascinating way. Rosenfeld’s doesn’t actually use any knifes in the creation of her work, but still manages her fair share of cutting by the heavy use of turntables and sampled voices (both talking and singing out of tune) cut up with medical precision. In addition to the re-emerging vocals, Rosenfeld has crafted a moody sub-noise aesthetic that incorporates turntable tics and spasms along with other electronic mumbling which flow in and out of piano tinkering and other unidentifiable transmissions. It’s a mystical little album, this Plastic Materials; something inhabiting beauty and austerity in equal measure and definitely a must have for experimental listeners.


Prefuse 73 - Meditation Upon Meditations

Prefuse 73
Meditation Upon Meditations (The Japanese Diaries)
(2009, Beat Records)
RIYL = Bibio, Flying Lotus, Ras G

Guillermo Scott Herren, the mastermind behind Prefuse 73 (among others), has already dropped two albums under the pseudonym this year; the sprawling hyperactive Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian and the mini LP addendum, The Forest Of Oversensitivity. So, I think it is fair to say that Meditation Upon Meditations is an unexpected release. Even more unexpected is its current distribution in Japan only. Now, some might see this information and discard the album as an insignificant dumping of accumulated b-sides; you know, one of those non-essential releases that only completist Prefuse-heads need worry about. Those who make that assumption would be wrong. In fact, it appears that Mr. Herren’s love for Japan exceeds that of the States because Meditation Upon Meditations is the best Prefuse 73 release since One Word Extinguisher. No joke. For this release, Herren avoids the quick snippet, mixtape form of Ampexian in favor of fuller compositions ranging from the three to four minute range and that additional time is Herren’s best weapon. Crouching down in the uber-crowded assemblages, something that has become synonymous with Prefuse 73, Herren's work comes off more complete and the beats and plundered electronics become more grounded. Herren has a way of multilayering beats to oblivion, but still making it sound coherent, and this is explicitly apparent on Mediation Upon Meditations. In the past, Herren used the relief of an occasional MC spot to allow for some breathing room amongst the rubbery bombast, and that is my only wish here. However, even without any guest MCs, Herren performs blissfully, compiling a minced vocal pie amidst the bouncy ball blips and beats. If you have ever had a leaning towards Prefuse 73’s work, it will behoove you to search this album out. I promise you won’t be disappointed.


Prefuse 73 on MySpace

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

OOIOO - Armonico Hewa

Armonico Hewa
(2009, Thrill Jockey)
RIYL = Gang Gang Dance, Boredoms, Ponytail

I understand that the Boredoms are pretty much experimental psych rock deity, but I have to admit that I have always preferred OOIOO (the band which Boredoms drummer, Yoshimi P-We (yes, that Yoshimi), created after the Boredoms kind of evaporated). And OOIOO absolutely, positively kill it on Armonico Hewa. It appears that as we sneak closer to the year’s end things are only picking up speed. The last couple of months have just been stellar. And now we have Armonico Hewa, the pinnacle achievement in a long line of increasingly awesome albums from OOIOO. For those who are unfamiliar with the band, here are some instructions when listening to Armonico Hewa: (1) Blast this thing loudly! The record is the spiritual successor to Gang Gang Dance’s inscrutable Saint Dyphmna and as such benefits from block party volumes. (2) Make sure you do some face exercises because there is a good chance that you will be smiling all the way through this manic, Japanese glee/funk/psych/rock/+ anything-and-everything-else fest. OOIOO’s musical constructions feel borderline Frankensteinian as lumbering monstrosities ever falling into electrified chaos. Proper descriptions are going to fail me here because OOIOO’s polyrhythmic kaleidoscope is too all encompassing. However, some semi-constants amongst the bliss-inducing rock chaos are beautifully wiry guitars that flex your bones, hollow/hallowed krauty pummeling and thick muscle-upon-muscle bass grooves. Oh, and we can’t leave out the vocals (these too being used solely for instrumental effect). I mean, the vocals! They sound like the opposite of a group exorcism, their vowel heavy chanting made for the purpose of opening up bodies for claiming by ghosts (though, only freakin’ sweet ghosts need apply, like Slimer or something). I’m listening to “Konjo” as I write this and the chirps in the background it sounds as if the band is startling puppies by stepping on their unsuspecting tails. It’s absolute confetti hilarity of Katamari proportions on Armonico Hewa. You can see that the album affects me in a somewhat nonsensical way, so it is probably most appropriate to just leave you with a hearty recommendation, as if you didn’t know.


Brilliant Colors - Introducing

Brilliant Colors
(11.2009 Slumberland)
RIYL: The Flatmates, The Shop Assistants, jumping on your bed in your room alone.

If Brilliant Colors aren’t immediately hailed as the undisputed champs of girl fronted indie pop I’m going to roll over and die this very second. Sure, Vivian Girls are good, but Brilliant Colors are giving 1986-1993 a run for its money. This is pure unadulterated straight out of the UK (California) twee as can be rock n’ roll. While most twee stars are getting their hearts broken, Colors front woman Jess Scott is out there smashing em. She’s got enough sass to put her in the ranks of Alex Taylor and Debbie Haynes. Seriously, this record is flawless; it’s like a greatest hits collection. Admittedly some earlier versions of a few songs appeared on 7 inches, but when music is this good who cares. If the Pains of Being Pure at Heart didn’t come out earlier this year, this would be the best indie pop record of the year. That said, head over to Slumberland asap and order the vinyl. Its only 8 bucks.

-Big Wooly

Monday, November 2, 2009

Evangelista - Prince of Truth

Prince of Truth
(2009, Constellation)
RIYL = Gowns, Castanets, Valet

I never figured I would find another album this year to contend with Ben Frost’s By The Throat in terms of apocalyptic tension and aural austerity, but Prince of Truth definitely makes a run for it. Album opener, “The Slayer”, embodies just what its title implies, a gnarled, jarringly gritty opus that cuts like a dull axe. Carla Bozulich, the searingly brutal songstress of Evangelista, takes no prisoners again on Prince of Truth (her first no-prisoners conquest taking form in last year’s Hello, Voyager) with her vocal crow. However, Bozulich’s vocals, which waver from brutality to empathy and back again, are matched note for not by the (anti)musicality of the Evangelista band. Of course, this is because Bozulich knows that if your are paving the way for the apocalypse, its best to have the folks at Constellation trumpeting you along. The beautifully instrumental berserker delves in and out of bluesy jazz-inflected bass lines, think chamber strings, acoustic Americana and blistering rock and roll, all rolled variously in tar, nails and feathers. The most beautiful thing about Evangelista as a band is their ability to burn small villages with tracks like “The Slayer” and “You Are A Jaguar” and then turn right around and make you believe they are genuinely sorry on ballads like “Tremble Dragonfly”. Evangelista have not only joined the likes of Jackie-O Samuel L. Jackson, Gowns and Valet in creating a barbed hybrids of Americana, noise and rock, Bozulich and the crew are now the royal family with which all their predecessors should look to for inspiration. I am having a hard time reasoning out why Prince of Truth shouldn’t be my favourite album of the year. And beyond that, why it shouldn’t outrank half of my list for best of the decade, this “wicked flying thing.”


Evangelista - "The Slayer"