Friday, February 26, 2010

RxRy - RxRy

(2010, Self Released)
RIYL = Nathan Fake, Pantha du Prince, Burial

I always feel like I’m somehow doing artists a disservice when I compare them to other artists. I don’t know why. Maybe because I think that they will disagree with the comparison or that the mention of some other similar artist will somehow diminish the originality the artists work. If so, it’s not intentional. Mostly it just feels like I can’t properly describe the music without a reference point. I think I've described this anxiety before. Regardless, I’m about to do some heavy weight this-sounds-kinda-like-but not-really sinning right now: So, while big name electronic artists like Four Tet and Pantha du Prince have both released absolutely amazing jams this year in the realms of minimalist, 4/4 electronic music, this kid comes from out of nowhere with this. On his/her/their self-titled debut, RxRy has created an album which sounds kind of like a mix between Talk Amongst The Trees and This Bliss (sorry, I’ve been mentioning both of these albums far too much lately). That may not be a perfect picture of RxRy’s sound, but at least it gets you half way there. Upping the ambient textures, RxRy is plowing into fields that everyone saw a glimpse of in From Here We Go Sublime (pun not intended). And, as you can see by the company I’m affording him/her/them, RxRy’s sound is really good. No, I mean really good. Yeah. That good. It is so funny that in a year where I’ve had such high expectations from forthcoming releases from so many blockbuster artists, that all these no namers have been killing it. Translation: RxRy’s album is better than Four Tet’s and Pantha du Prince’s. It’s been a position hard won too. I didn’t really give this album the time of day when I first got it, but eventually, after I had already moved on from Black Noise and There Is Love In You, I noticed that I couldn’t stop listening to RxRy. It's absolutely addicting. Not only that, but its listenability proves that RxRy has put some quality time into this thing. It stands the test of time. So, now you know who it sounds-kinda-like-but-not-really. How would I describe it on my own terms? I think the purple hues on the cover are a start. Think about a dark purple sky, a night setting, and a black metropolis molded by the lights hanging off the buildings. RxRy feels like the sound you hear when the street noise gets drowned out by the sheer audible beauty of your visual surroundings. I sinks its hooks in your pulse and then drives you through the fissured grains of beautiful darkness. Of nightness. This is one of those albums that works well at absurdly early morning hours, when sleep won’t come and you need to let yourself sink deep into an abstract consciousness. Great textures, great pacing, great melodic molasses moving ever so slowly throughout. Really highly recommended. Oh, and in the beautiful gift economy that is running rampant among so many talented up-and-comers, RxRy has given us the album for free. Now there is no excuse (see below).


Download RxRy via Mediafire

And hit up his/her/their myspace for plenty more downloadable releases.

Edvrd Rvrfy Guitr - RxRy - RxRy 2010 from Rx Ry on Vimeo.

Motion Turns It On - Kaleidoscopic Equinox

Motion Turns It On
Kaleidoscopic Equinox
(2010, Chocolate Lab)
RIYL = Zu, Shining, Battles

I’ve been listening to and enjoying Motion Turns It On’s most recent album, Kaleidoscopic Equinox, a whole lot for the past month or so. But, in the wake of Joanna Newsom’s 3LP juggernaut, Have One On Me, Kaleidoscopic Equinox has been particularly useful. Of course, I love Joanna Newsom's music, but that album is Slooooooow. So, in order to retain an active pulse and a healthy heart beat, I have been interspersing listening to that album with this latest album from Motion Turns It On. Why? Because Motion Turns It On is nuts ridiculous, that’s why. Kaleidoscopic Equinox is filled to the brim with mathy post-rock with sways of jazz and flecks of guttural punk rock fervor. It’s is quite a ride my friends, and “motion” is definitely a striking component. There is this terrific, almost funk informed groove that hits on “Lo Pido Con Piedad” that had me bobbing pretty furiously (and embarrassingly) when I first heard it. Other moments have had me in full on air guitar mode. There is some definite swagger brewing here. Kaleidoscopic Equinox (as the name implies) also has heavy doses of psychedelic and electronic pulses that run throughout, assisting in the constant evolution that takes place over the course of the record. I know I have tagged a lot of genres on them already, but all and all, Motion Turns It On is just pure rock goodness. The few places where vocals come in are simply swamped in the energy of the perpetual rock bliss that laces every track. And it’s perfect that way. This album isn’t about lyricism; it’s about the vibes of a total rock freak-out scattered and then blissfully reconstructed. Think of White Denim mixed with Comets On Fire. Nah, forget that. Get the album and it will erase those bands from your mind. The energy running through this thing just never quits. A sunny apocalypse of spilt circuits, charged and exploding. What does that mean? It means that Kaleidoscopic Equinox is freakin’ it.


Sea Song - Hailey's in Denton from Motion Turns It On on Vimeo.

Eluvium - Simile

(2010, Temporary Residence)
RIYL = Red House Painters, Stars of the Lid, Idaho

The work of Matthew Robert Cooper, AKA Eluvium, has always registered with me as some of the most accessible and in many instances the most successful in the world ambient drone. However, in the wake of Eluvium’s last full length, Copia, it was definitely time to inject something new into the formula. So, the addition of lyricism to Mr. Cooper sound was a welcome one. Something to bridge the gap even further between pop music and instrumental drones. And, thankfully, Cooper has managed the new transformation quite wonderfully. In fact, at the rate Simile has been growing on me, it may stand as the next best record to his masterpiece, Talk Amongst the Trees. Cooper even makes a nod to that album in the opening lines to his first song, using that album's title in his lyrics. That being said, lyrics aren’t really Cooper’s strong point. But that isn’t the point. Cooper’s vocals sit more as an additional instrument in these compositions, as an added human comfort. That is probably one of the best ways to describe this album provides: comfortable. And not in a bad way comfortable. Cooper obviously isn’t fully comfortable with his new format himself, but the inviting, marinating tone that he has created on Simile is the kind that you want to go to sleep with at night and to wake up with in the morning. It’s a tone that all his best musical moments are marked by and the addition of lyrics really sets it off to a new level. Interspersed with few small piano-laden interludes, Simile inhabits the dreamy area between abstract drone and 90's slow-core. Really, it's one of the best things I have listened to this year. It’s a grower for sure, and it's worth every spin.


An absolutely beautiful and fitting video:

Oh, and I couldn't resist this Four Tet remix:

Friday, February 19, 2010

The First Dog to Visit the Center of the Earth - Colossus Archosaur

The First Dog to Visit the Center of the Earth
Colossus Archosaur
(2010, self released?)
RIYL = Black Dice, Boards of Canada, Kemialliset Ystavat

Sorry for the lack of reviews lately. Well, not really. Sometimes I just get caught in musical decades that are not my own. I suppose I feel the impulse to apologize mostly because I am currently sitting on stacks of really amazing music that has been sent to me by some really hospitable and talented peoples and have yet to thank them publicly with a review. My first order of business: Colossus Archosaur. The First Dog to Visit the Center of the Earth (which I think you might agree is quite the moniker), sent me an email about his music way back in like May or June of 2009 and I only recently got around to listening to it, but when I did I was floored. I was all like, whoa, yeah, this stuff is exceptional. And weird. Which, of course, is part of why it is so exceptional. FDVCE seems to have been making musics for some time now, due to the back catalog of downloadable goods he has posted up on his MySpace page, and Colossus Archosaur feels the benefit of that experience. This is electronic music pitch shifted through a kaleidoscope. It’s really bizarre and alien feeling, but with an under current of earthly logic that allows it a lot more traction than your standard knob-twiddling bedroom experimentalism. As you may have noticed, I referenced Black Dice above as a like minded group, but just so we are clear, while they are closely related, FDVCE isn’t some Black Dice rip. Colossus Archosaur burrows into its own sense of oddness that is wonderful and self supporting. Besides, I like this a lot better than Black Dice’s Repo from last year (and you can see from my 2009 year end list that I really liked Repo, so…). Anyway, enough with the Black Diceness, this is a review of Colossus Archosaur. The thing that surprised me the most about this album is that, with a running time that makes the “colossus” tag feel like an understatement, FDVCE has created an record that is inventive, engaging and brilliant all the way through. Granted, you may have to take it in in two sittings (11 tracks, some refreshments, and then 11 more). And, the kicker, you can download it for free. So many generous peeps out there making such artistically gluttonous jams and then giving them away freely. Warms my heart. I just hope he can get some kick back sometime with a pressing of vinyl somewhere because this stuff is definately worthy of wax. I promise, this stuff is worth your time.


Colossus Archosaur on Mediafire
For more audio goodness hit up his Myspace here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pantha du Prince - Black Noise

Pantha du Prince
Black Noise
(2010, Rough Trade)
RIYL = The Field, Pole, Burial

I’ve been excited for this one for a little while, but have delayed writing about it because I realized that I don’t have a whole lot to say. Black Noise, Pantha du Prince’s full length follow up to his best-of-the-decade This Bliss, is…incredible. I mean, it is certainly a worthy follow up to This Bliss. Even so, not a whole lot has changed. The album is easily identifiable as a Pantha du Prince album with its water droplet metronome-percussion, the crystal chiming clatter and his patent ear for infusing melody that seeps slowly from the minimalist electronics that Pantha pushes. But that doesn’t make it irrelevant or less of an album. Far from it. Black Noise is pitch perfect and, I think that I dare say, the best album I’ve heard so far this year (though Salivary Stones is really incredible as well (and we're only in February)). Pantha du Prince simply has the touch. I think the easiest thing to compare it to is Boards of Canada when they followed up Music Has The Right To Children with Geogaddi or when Stars of the Lid followed up The Tired Sounds… with And Their Refinement of the Decline. In both situations there was a complaint that the latter sounded much like the former, but in the end no one was really displeased. The one bright spot of a clearly recognizable shift is on “Stick to My Side,” where Panda Bear guests with some wonderful Person Pitch-esque vocals that really work great on top of Pantha du Prince’s production (and excite me about the forth coming album from Mr. Bear). I do find it slightly humorous that Panda Bear keeps repeating the lyrics, “Why stick to the things that I’ve already tried.” While the repeated lyrics may be a standard that Panda Bear himself has embraced in his solo work and work with Animal Collective, the same doesn’t quite ring true with Pantha du Prince. Regardless, the album is immaculate. Absolutely wondrous really. I am actually surprised that it hasn’t seen more reviews so far (I’ve only noticed one, though I’m sure there are more). I mean it was just officially released yesterday so I’m sure they are coming. I will just leave it to the rest of the collective web of musical criticism to praise the album for me. Just wait, I promise, Black Noise is going to be a hit.


This actually comes as a remix b-side for Animal Collective's "Peacebone" single, but it is a worthy precursor to Panda's appearance on Black Noise:

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Oddsac at Sundance Film Festival

Danny Perez & Animal Collective
Sundance Film Festival 2010
Spoiler alert, I guess- can you spoil something with no plot?

Two weekends ago we had the opportunity to view what director Danny Perez and Animal Collective have dubbed their "visual album," Oddsac. Early information about the film noted that the film was said to be all based on a singular image the band had thought up- a sad Dracula on a boat. That is all I knew about the film prior to viewing. I expected it to be an art film, which it was. I was an art major in college and have had my fill of art films. I really enjoy the genre when done well, but it is more often then not done horribly and results in boredom and weirdness, in a bad way.
Oddsac opened up incredibly promisingly. With alternating imagery of a masked figure at night in a field with flames being thrown about in a circle around him, and a girl in a old rickety wallpapered room. The walls started bleeding tar, blueberry pie filling or something to that extent while the girl frantically tried to plug the wall or push the liquid back to where it came from. This imagery was accompanied by a very slow building pop song, reminiscent of MPP. I was enthralled. My eyes were glued and unblinking. The song faded into a more abstract soundscape as the imagery dissolved into a wash of electric garble. This went on for some time before the next "song" feeling song came as well as the next "image" feeling image. And thus was the story of Oddsac. It continued alternating between incredibly beautiful and creative scenes with recognizable figures paired with songs made up of clear lyrics and melodies then to abstract sounds paired with abstract imagery. I feel like I have seen that type of abstract imagery a million times in artfilms. It felt predictable and like a cushion, like filler in between ideas. Maybe they had a few great songs and image ideas and had to make something in between to paste them all together and make them cohesive somehow. At least, that's what it felt like, which was disappointing. Animal Collective can write incredible drone based noise tracks, but I didn't feel that the "filler" sounds on Oddsac lived up to previous far experimental work of the band. I also think that the opening track was the strongest, which isn't the smarted thing to do in a an art film.
The theater was completely full with every hardcore AC fan in Salt Lake City in attendance. It was, for the most part, silent. I personally felt that Oddsac had moments of genius hilarity, but felt a little awkward laughing amidst worshipful patrons of the band. One fellow viewer slightly giggled at a scene where a family roasting marshmallows started being attacked/choking/burning from their gooey mallows. A few others let out a chuckle and a nervous tension in the crowd exited. Afterwards when Danny, Geologist and Deacon were doing the Q&A, things lightened up and Danny said something to the effect of- I feel that I have shared more emotions with you in the last hour than most films ever do. (That's not a direct quote, that's my two week old memory) I would agree. Art films, if you let them, have a way of taking hold of your soul and yanking it every which way. They are to be interpreted individually. I interpreted it as funny, hypnotic, at times energetic, at times, lulling. The music was a completely new evolution from previous work, as all Animal Collective tracks are. And even though those moments that I dub as "filler" in the movie lost me and left me a bit bored and wanting, the imaginative scenes made up for them and I left the theater happy and inspired.


Oddsac website

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Chris Rehm - Salivary Stones

Chris Rehm
Salivary Stones
(2010, Chinquapin)
RIYL = Sam Hamilton, Jasper Tx, Fun Buttons

Hello Chris Rehm. Where did you come from? Since when did you have the absolute best sound coming out of my headphones? Here I am, just minding my own business, checking my inbox, and you have the audacity to send me this? This bliss? It’s like, forget-Pantha-du-Prince-this-bliss too. Well, not quite. Nothing says I can’t love two records at the same time. Maybe just not if they're being played at the same time. Though, to be honest, I can’t imagine this bliss would do anything but enhance This Bliss. Still, this is off topic and out of genre and slightly confusing. Mr. Rehm, do you know what you’ve done? How your little tape here has captured my mind, removed it; that sensory feelings, those not related to the act of listening to Salivary Stones, have gone mute? It’s all for you sir and your little cassette. All my attention. You commented about enjoying that Sean McCann was on this blog. Well, I am happy, nay, elated that your cassette is on here as well. And now this is beginning to feel a bit cheap. Reverse. Reader (read: not Chris Rehm), let me introduce you to this fellow who just sent me the music from his tape, Salivary Stones. Have you heard of it? No? Well, I can’t blame you because neither had I. But seriously, this tape is utterly fantastic. It is the new sound. The new white noise. The new experiment. The new texture. It is the new dirge and the new substance of clouds and the new manifestation of Ra. Sure, there are elements of the old Ra, the old “drone.” But that is always the case, right? My dear reader. Chris Rehm is the name you’ll want to know (along with Sean McCann of course). We aren’t talking about fame here, about respect. You will want to know his name because he will open you up. He has something of absolute glory to pour inside you and, sir/miss, it is of worth. Is it ever of worth. This is the new mech. The next, the it, the growl. And, if I can repeat myself, the texture - oh the texture. And then that last track, “soggy.” The turn to song. It’s gorgeous really. Sleep on this at your own risk. What’s the risk? That it is better than everything else you are listening to right now.


Oh, and of course he had to make it available for free (with the opportunity for donations on the Bandcamp site):
Salivary Stones via Bandcamp
Salivary Stones via Mediafire

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Beach House concert review

Beach House at the Star Bar, January 24th, 2010

I’ve pondered this review for about a week. All that pondering muddled my memory of the concert. I know I liked the show. I blissfully, eyes-closed enjoyed it. But I haven’t been able to figure out how to discuss concerts without puling about the people who go to concerts. I promise this won’t be a predictable rehash of a diatribe against hipsters and their silly haircuts. I’m going to talk about the music. But as we all know, a concert is only as good as the sum of its many parts.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say concertgoers consider the audience to be the least enjoyable part about concerts. Most conversations about shows entail an approving or disgruntled description of the crowd, as well as a comment about the music. In this case I’m torn. I’ve had a very passionate obsession with Beach House ever since I saw them at Kilby Court two years ago. I want to share this love with others. And as I mixed and mingled with the crowd at the Star Bar I came to realize that everybody I talked to were about to be struck by Cupid’s arrow. Almost all the members of the audience had only very recently heard of Beach House.

All those virgin ears should have been pleasantly thrilled. The giant wall of sonic delight that burrowed into the crowd must have been the perfect first time encounter with the band. Beach House was Alex Scally on guitar and vocals, Victoria Legrand on keys and gorgeous vocals, and either Daniel J Franz or Graham Hill on percussion (according to their MySpace there are two percussionists but only one played drums on stage). Three people filled that little venue to the brim with sweet, sweet noise.

The band played almost exclusively from their recently released third album Teen Dream. The delicate tintinnabulation of the guitars and the first plaintive moans of “Zebra” immediately hushed the crowd. As the chorus opened up we understood just how loud the band can, and would, get. The new album does not accentuate the band’s sonic muscle nearly enough. But Beach House were also tender lovers during numbers like “Better Times” and the closer “Take Care.” Every song, though, swallowed the crowd up, smothered it in a way Teen Dream somehow fails to.

As far as the band’s earlier output, the virgin Beach Housers didn’t get enough. “Master of None” was the lone representative from the self-titled album and for the life of me I can only remember them playing “Gila” from Devotion. I can’t remember which, but I’m positive they played another from Devotion. These songs were perfect. They were just as bittersweet as the rest of the set. But I wanted all the newcomers to understand why I’ve been in love with this band for so long. I absolutely cannot complain about the set list because I loved every song and every minute, but I wanted more.

I was happy to find that the band I love didn’t attempt to recreate the magic of Devotion or their self-titled on their new album Teen Dream. I guess I’m lamenting the fact that my love at first sight experience could never be duplicated. But I felt as though my long time love had decided to gloss over the first time we met. Beach House absolutely did not disappoint and I really shouldn’t complain about the truly solid set list. The concert dazzled me. But the cynical side of me did resent those in the crowd that made me feel as though I was only there to participate in a hip scene. A lot of those people left the Star Bar in love, but a lot of them didn’t give Beach House the tenderness and attention they deserve. I see big things for Beach House, but I hope they keep a handle on the past and I hope the newcomers don’t overlook the band’s past albums.

— Egan

Bird Names - Sings The Browns

Bird Names
Sings The Browns
(2009, Upset The Rhythm)
RIYL = Ariel Pink, Pumice, Smith Westerns

Bird Names are incredibly weird fellows which is part of the reason why they are incredibly awesome. Seriously, they’re out there. The second component to their incredible awesomeness is that they mix that weirdness with an unhealthy hankering for pop music. Sings The Browns, the follow up to the equally bizarre and equally enjoyable Open Relationship, is a continuation on the path to an aural pollution of the squawking, clunking, spitting and chirping variety. The variety of pop that collapses your ear drums with a rush of spittle wetted sugary pop goodness; something that these ears can’t quite get enough of. Listening to this album earlier could have easily landed it onto my 2009 year end list, but times are rough nowadays and my attentive gears have been slowing considerably to the multitudes of audio gold that is out in the world. Missing Sings The Browns is really the prime example of that. The garbage pale glory of their broomstick orchestra is just about a 300 million crayons high. What? That doesn’t make sense? Listen to Sings The Browns and it will. I mean it is hard to really go on about the band. Their nonchalant inventiveness and off-the-cuff hooks tend to short circuit any comprehensible discourse about the band. It’s their magic weapon and, possibly, their Achilles heel, because how am I supposed to sell you on this album when every time I try to talk about it marbles spill out of my mouth? But then again, who wouldn’t pay attention to someone spontaneously spewing marbles about in their excitement over an album. It’s like an oxymoron. Which, in a way, is what Bird Names is: an oxymoron. Their sound reeks of disinterestedness and childishness, a wacky disregard, but their end product, their songs, are filled with complex textures and a carousel of ideas that are incredibly smart and catchy. So there you go, possibly one sentence of actual critique. Sings The Browns is simply that good. (Watch out for Sings The Browns on vinyl, coming soon).


German Shepherd - Alpine Melodies

German Shepherd
Alpine Melodies
(2009, Sunrise Acoustics)
RIYL = Eluvium, Keith Fullerton Whitman, Belong

I first encountered the music of German Shepherd through a four way split that he appeared on with Forest Gospel favourites Millipede and, after listening to that album, Brian Grainger. I felt bad at the time because among the four participants, German Shepherd was the only one with whom I had issued some criticism. It was a sincere response, and was in no way meant to diss German Shepherd’s otherwise beautiful experimental guitar work for that album, but I just couldn’t get past this minute buzz in his recordings. Well, apparently German Shepherd (the musician), read what I said because when he sent me Alpine Melodies there was a little note in the package addressed to me wherein he told me that he realized that he’d mixed up the input/output connections or something and that it was the source of the minute buzzing that somehow rubbed my ears the wrong way. The gesture of this hand written explanation is at the heart of something that feels overwhelming on Alpine Melodies: sincerity. It’s something that is often missing from a lot of the music or art that is floating around these days. Something that's especially true of the genre of drone that German Shepherd is a member of. And along with that sincerity is, surprisingly enough, an incredibly well thought out, carefully performed and recorded album that absolutely blows his previous efforts out of the water. I honestly don’t know why I have delayed listening to this album and reviewing it, but be aware, Alpine Melodies is absolutely gorgeous. The five floating passages on the album drift by in an understated way that is reminiscent of Keith Fullerton Whitman’s Playthroughs. And, like that monumental album, when you give Alpine Melodies your full attention as a listener, what once seemed like nothing suddenly turns out to be everything. Enchanting to say the least, Alpine Melodies a small piece of paradise that you will most certainly want to own (only 100 copies made!).


German Shepherd on MySpace