Saturday, August 22, 2015


I'll be away for a while...

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

What's New?: 8.11.2015


La Luz — It's Alive (2013) YouTube Spotify

Surf pop sounds from Seattle.  Very B-52's.  Except with more harmonies.  Pretty good stuff, actually.  It's very easy to get distracted by the twangy reverb and surf organ sounds of the band, but those sounds wouldn't get very far without great song craft to back them up.  And it's there among the fantastic drumming and precise harmonies that you will find something worth going back to every single time.  The band's shtick never runs dry, and instead, these ladies seem to find genuine and unique inspiration in a style once deemed kitschy and throwaway.  Wonderful stuff.  And the new album is even better.  Key tracks: opener 'Sure as Spring' and the otherworldly 'Call Me in the Day', which bends and melds the surf sound into something modern and altogether new

Lilys — Selected (2000) YouTube Spotify

Shoegazey sounds from Washington DC.  If I've read a thing or two about these guys it's that they've changed sounds as often as they've changed band members — which is to say, very often.  This EP collects up some recordings of "old" songs from the band's past catalogue that never found their way onto any proper album.  It's decent.  Not sure if it's that great of a first impression, but it's not awful, that's for sure.  Key tracks: the twelve string lead on the opener 'The Any Several Sundays' and the seven minute epic 'Won't Make You (Sleepy)'

Cruel Summer — self-titled (2013) Spotify BandCamp

Kind of a jangly shoegaze sound from San Francisco.  Modern dream pop done right, basically.  All of the songs kind of fire on the same cylinder, so it may come off as a bit samey at first.  But, listen deeper and there's layers to these tunes which allow for something like the emotional centerpiece 'Venetian Blinds' to come to the forefront.  Really great stuff; wish they would release something new.  Key tracks: the wonderfully affecting 'Venetian Blinds' and the noisy 'Skinwalker'

Monster Treasure — self-titled (2014) Spotify BandCamp

Wouldn't this album have kicked major ass in 1994?  It's aloof, lowly mixed in vocals, recorded live sound and one size fits all guitar distortion would have been real crowd pleasers twenty years ago.  Now, it sounds like a deeply nostalgic trip back to a time when something could simultaneously be noisy as hell and melodically accessible without there being any problems with such a thing.  The rapid fire nature of the sequencing and similar production are kind of to its detriment, but it does make the really good songs stick out with relative ease.  Of course it doesn't hurt that the album's highlight is the melancholy 'Bill Evans', which name drops one of Bill's best ever tunes.  Good one, ladies (and fella) — certainly didn't see that coming.  Key tracks: 'Bill Evans' is really the one that sticks out

Lorelle Meets the Obsolete — Chambers (2014) Spotify BandCamp

Hailing from Guadalajara, Mexico, this is more on the noise rock end of the spectrum, but it's also got a definitely trippy shoegaze quality to it as well.  Songs, too!  Riffy songs for days.  It kind of has a fuzzy, 60's garage sound to it in spots that really ups the trippiness.  Vocals with lots of a echo and reverb on them and warmly distorted basslines are the order of the day here.  It is kind of one-dimensional, but that dimension is a rather intriguing place, so I can dig it.  Key tracks: the opening manifesto 'What's Holding You?' and the slow burning 'Grieving'

Ganglians — self-titled (2009) Spotify

Lo-fi pranksters from Sacramento.  Some of these guys went on to form Fine Steps, and then later Tiaras, so I thought I'd get a little history on where some of my favorite recent finds came from.  Some good songs, some free for all nonsense.  When something is this lo-fi, it becomes an issue of not actually being able to hear everything because there's so much distortion.  So, bummer.  But, the quieter moments offer some peculiar tunes.  Key tracks: 'Hair' and the most tuneful the album gets on the closer 'Stuck Under Town'


Thursday, August 6, 2015

What's New?: 8.6.2015 Part Two

Music to accompany your beard by.

James Elkington + Nathan Salsburg — Avos (2011) Spotify

The mighty Jim Elkington finally makes a triumphant return to RC!  This thing's miles away from the Zincs, however.  An acoustic guitar duets record, it's appearance on the fancy Tompkins Square label slipped me by four years ago, but that's rectified and all is now right in the universe.  The conversations that Elkington and Salsburg have are (perhaps surprisingly) direct.  Something like 'A Free Amft' is catchy as heck, while the two part 'The Blurring Cogs' splits its duties between technicality and beauty.  'Scarborough Fore and Aft' has an elegant chord change; the type of which makes sitting through the whole record worthwhile.  Darn good stuff, but that's kind of what we expect from Tompkins Square.  Key tracks: 'A Free Amft', 'Romany Belle' and 'Scarborough Fore and Aft'

Alexander Turnquist — Flying Fantasy (2014) YouTube Spotify

Reminding me of a more ethereal Leo Kottke on twelve string, Alexander Turnquist builds huge walls of pure sound using his guitar as the foundation upon which vibes, marimba, Hammond B3, French horn, cello, violin and even chanting vocals construct stark beauty.  There is a bit of a rainy day vibe to this album, but there's always a satisfying chord change beyond the current one.  Check out the deep, meditative title track for a big moment on the record.  Gorgeous, truly.  I'm in need of the rest of his catalogue.  Key tracks: 'House of Insomniacs' and the stunning title track

Glenn Jones — Barbecue Bob in Fishtown (2009) Spotify

Been kicking around since the late 80's and a band called Cul de Sac, Glenn Jones is a direct descendant of the John Fahey/Will Ackerman school of American Primitivism.  Only difference is that Glenn plays banjo every once in a while and, just as an opinion, I would say leads with his head more than his heart a good portion of the time (at least on this album, anyway).  Which is not to say that this music is too technical for its own good —the deep chords and redemptive changes of '1337 Shattuck Avenue, Apartment D' are immediately resonating, for instance— it just gets a little cerebral every so often.  He has many albums; this is his third proper solo.  I've got my work cut out for me.  Key tracks: '1337 Shattuck Avenue, Apartment D', the title track and the banjo track 'Keep it a Hundred Years'

Glenn Jones — My Garden State (2013) Spotify

Inspired by the New Jersey house he grew up in, this is far more heartfelt than Barbecue Bob.  Maybe because the subject matter was so much more closer to his heart is why this one resonates with me a little more.  Maybe the tunes are just a smidgen better.  Couple of duets (one with Laura Baird on banjo, one with Meg Baird on guitar), couple improvised tunes, lots of odd tunings (which are detailed in the liner notes) and it's another solid effort.  Key tracks: 'Like a Sick Eagle Looking at the Sky' and very Fahey-esque 'Bergen County Farewell'

Glenn Jones — The Wanting (2011) YouTube Spotify

Probably the overall prettiest of the Glenn Jones albums I've picked up recently, it's also probably the most melancholy.  The tunes just take these swooping, emotion-filled turns at every chord change.  The kind of which sound so right, you'd swear you've heard them before, but they're in such odd tunings and partially capo'd all over the place (yes, partial capoing is a thing, apparently), it's a long shot that you have.  On all of these albums, Glenn puts his personal contact information inside (physical address, phone number and email) and, on this album, even invites you to "get in touch."  Really seems like a cool guy.  Key tracks: the peaceful 'Of its Own Kind' and the epic seventeen minute closer 'The Orca Grande Cement Factory at Victorville', which is a duet with drummer Chris Corsano

Mark Fosson — The Lost Takoma Sessions (mid-1970's)

"Best demo tape I've heard since Kottke" wrote John Fahey on Mark Fosson's demo reel.  "Sign him quick," he adds, which is underlined.  And Mark is definitely in Kottke's sphere, as far as twelve string players go.  Just check out the quick muted harmonics on the opener 'Jubilaya' for a quick litmus test.  He plays themes, mostly, and doesn't stray too far away from them.  The centerpiece 'Gorilla Mountain' is the exception to that rule, as Mark plays in an odd strumming pattern that seems to be blossoming these impressionistic chords up like new growth in the spring.  Beautiful music.  Key tracks: 'Gorilla Mountain', 'Jubilaya' and surprisingly catchy 'Sky Piece'


What's New?: 8.6.2015

Another grab bag!

kandodo — k2o (2013) Spotify

kandodo is the one-man drone project of one Simon Price.  Though far more psychedelic and lo-fi than most drone outfits, Price's idea of drone seems a bit more theatrical than your standard fare and his subtitling of 'swim into the sun' "a film for the ear" makes total sense.  'kandy rock mountain' overcomes an unnecessary blaring intro to be the album's rightful centerpiece.  This vinyl pressing came with a limited run bonus 7" of two extra songs that only enhance the experience.  And I do mean, "experience" man.  Because, yeah, heady stuff.  Key tracks: 'kandy rock mountain' and 'grace and'

Jessamine — self-titled (1995) YouTube  Spotify

Hard to see in the above scan, but it's there.   Decidedly gnarly noise rock with softy guy/girl vocals.  It really goes for the pretty/noisy dynamic, but's way too lo-fi to be shoegazey.  You just know that the songs are going to explode into shambling distortion and feedback at some point.  Totally "90's bro" in that respect.  Also, a bit predictable (but haha at me, as the album's highlight is a nine minute near drone that eschews all that called 'One Trick Pony' — you got me, guys).  Fancy original clear vinyl pressing on the great kranky label, it unfortunately excludes some tracks that were on the CD due to length issues.  Key tracks: 'One Trick Pony' and the closer 'Lisboa' which sounds like a lo-fi Stereolab, if you can believe that.

Fontanelle — self-titled (2000) Spotify

Would you believe that some of the same noisenicks from Jessamine would go on to form the polished jazz fusion group Fontanelle?  Funky drumming and mostly keyboards riffing on themes.  All the tunes here —hell, all of Fontanelle's tunes not on Vitamin F— are basically vamps.  This one has guitars on it, too.  So, it sticks out a little because of that.  Otherwise, these early Fontanelle albums are basically interchangeable.  The liberal use of wah wah on the closer 'Counterweight' proves they were Miles disciples from the get go.  Key tracks: the funky funky 'Reflex vs. Parallax' and the floaty '29th and Going'

Fontanelle — Style Drift (2002) Spotify

Probably the band's most polished effort as the guitars are all gone and it's all keyboards and drums.  There's still a much looser feel to the band than where they would go in a decade's time.  And while the ten minute title track does it's darndest to be the album's big centerpiece, it's actually the shorter pieces like the eerie 'James Going' and 'Red Light, Green Light' that steal the show, just based on tunefulness.  Key tracks: 'Just Go Crazy', 'James Going' and 'Red Light, Green Light'

Fontanelle — F (2001)

Not to be confused with their later opus, Vitamin F (2012), this 2001 album again has no horns.  Lots of squelchy, bleepy, bloopy electronic keyboardy sounds though.  Still some guitars in the mix, as well, and getting kind mathy on 'Floor Tile.'  Opener 'Fulcrum' is a fun, multi-movement thingy, while 'Charm and Strange' ventures back into wah wah land.  Key tracks: 'Fulcrum' and the genuinely resonating 'Slow January'

Various artists — Hotflush Presents. . . Space and Time (mid-2000's) Spotify

Hotflush in the pre-Mount Kimbie days was as hot a dubstep label as they got in London.  WUBWUBWUBWUB and how do you do from Jazzsteppa, right off the bat?  Boxcutter's 'Philly' is more of a funky house take on the style and it totally owns.  I think I dig the more boundary pushing stuff like Scuba's totally 80's-sounding 'Inmost' and Boxcutter's reflective, Burial-ish 'Infraviolet' more than your average 'choon, but conventional stuff like Slaughter Mob's 'No Big Deal' still goes down just as smooth.  Love the introspective tone that about half of the tunes here take on.  Great stuff.  Key tracks: Vaccine's dreamy 'Wishful Thinking VIP', 'Inmost', 'Infraviolet' and 'Philly'

Pink Floyd — The Wall (1979) YouTube  Spotify

Blasphemer that I am, I can't give this one a fiver.  It's too up its own butt, but you knew that already.  As an autobiographic piece of work about Roger Waters' youth, it can be quite affecting.  Instead of going for sidelong epics the way they did the previous two albums, this album is a more song-oriented affair, but this becomes a problem on disc two, with too many forgettable tunes being placed behind the narrative.  It's only on familiar ground like the deep, spacey 'Comfortably Numb' that things get realigned and substance matches execution.  Is it good?  Yeah, but not without its obvious flaws.  Not sure what else to say about this that hasn't already been said.  David Gilmour's delayed out guitar is fun when he utilizes the effect, recalling John Martyn's spaced out explorations.  Key tracks: 'Another Brick in the Wall' trilogy, 'Comfortably Numb/The Show Must Go On' and 'Hey You'

Peter Gabriel — So (1986) YouTube

'Sledgehammer'!  'In Your Eyes'!  'Big Time'!   Holy hell, this album is loaded with hits.  Big hits, at that.  It's got that nostalgic (for me) production value that I remember from my childhood radio listening: big, gated drums, layers of synth and gratuitous bass sounds — totally 80's, man.  And hey, lookah there, Kate's on it!  I love the melodrama, the cheesiness.  But, is it really cheesy?  I mean, it's dated, but there is a sense of Peter delivering most of it with a sly wink, as if he knows some of it is a bit over the top.  And side two of the album dives right back into the artsiness of Peter's earlier works, so he knew exactly what he was doing.  And when 'In Your Eyes' closes out the entire thing, it feels entirely sincere.  Probably my favorite Peter Gabriel album.  Key tracks: any of the singles


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

What's New?: 8.5.2015

Grab bag!

Will Ackerman — Sound of Wind Driven Rain (1998) YouTube Spotify

Will's almost done with Windham Hill at this point.  In a few year's time, he would go on to start his Lifescapes label.  Which is not to say there's a big change in his sound.  A few guests here and there and a couple vocal tracks, but this is straight ahead later Will Ackerman: kind of cheesy, but tuneful nonetheless.  As always, I prefer the solo Will pieces, but the bigger band (six pieces, including vocals!) on the revisit of 'Hawk Circle' is pretty effective.  Certainly not his best anything, but good if you already know you like it.  Key tracks: the solo pieces!

Arthur Russell — First Thought Best Thought (mid 1970's/early 1980's) Spotify

Mostly known for his disco productions, this two disc set of early Arthur Russell recordings has an ambiguously funky, genre-less feel to them.  This is my first anything by Arthur, so imagine my shock when I was greeted with this at the beginning of disc one.  Whoo doggie!  There's so much beauty in these recordings, from soulful incidental funk, to modern composition, there's a ton of stuff just in the "Instrumentals" section of disc one that had no business existing in 1975.  Disc one closes out with the sixteen minute piece for two fender rhodes (!!) 'Reach One.'  Absolutely gorgeous stuff.  Disc two is handed over for the majority to Arthur's rare 1983 album Tower of Meaning.  It's all strings and woodwinds, with a few bits of hand percussions and it's kind of a hard nut to crack.  Finally, you get the really trippy 'Sketch for the Face of Helen' to finish things off.  What a wonderful package of completely unpredictable music.  Key tracks: the "instrumentals"

The xx — self-titled (2009) YouTube Spotify

Where was I when this first came out?  Well, we're not always there when everything first hits.  This is strikingly tight music; a sort of jangle pop with hip hop beats instead of a live drummer.  It's a combo that shouldn't work, but does — exceedingly well.  The guitar tones are pure 80's jangle pop, so that's instant love from me.  Romy's voice reminds me of Sade's at certain points, so that's no bad thing either.  But there would be nothing if the songs weren't as catchy as they are.  There's an understanding of space at play here, as well, that forces the reverb on the guitar to fill things out and that's a lovely sound.  Formulaic, maybe, but if it's not broken, y'know.  Also, dance party.  Key tracks: 'Crystallized' and the super dreamy 'Infinity'

The xx — Coexist (2012) YouTube Spotify

The group's second album doesn't stray far from the foundation established on the first, but that doesn't really hurt them because everything remains as tightly played as ever.  If there's anything all that different about this album, it's a more delayed, lush guitar tone.  Can't be mad at that.  Key tracks: the building 'Reunion', yearning opener 'Angels' and the deep house groove on 'Swept Away' which picks things up on the otherwise glum second half of the album

Date Palms — The Dusted Sessions (2013) Spotify

I guess the kids call this sort of thing "drone" music.  Not sure what separates it from straight up ambient music, but I be darned if it ain't just as wonderful.  It's definitely got structure, with long, circular melodies, so there's no room here for improvisation, as much as the instrumentation seems to propose it.  The combination of heavily delayed electric guitar, pedal steel and tanpura (don't worry, I didn't know what it was without looking it up, either) give the music a very airy feel and I have to say that the cover art fits perfectly.  This music definitely recalls hot, dusty, lonesome highways and a fuzzy brightness that simply exists, even when you close your eyes.  Headphones highly recommended.  Key tracks: the eleven minute opener 'Yuba Source Part One' is the perfect manifesto for what the group does

Paul Gonsalves — Ellingtonia Moods and Blues (1960) Spotify

Paul Gonsalves has long been one of my favorite tenor players.  This album features Paul leading a smaller group alongside fellow Ellington band mate Johnny Hodges on alto.  Nothing all that great occurs, but everybody's clearly having fun.  Key tracks: 'The Lineup' and the lone ballad 'Daydreams' which finds Paul slipping in some surprisingly dissonant lines

Juana Molina — Tres Cosas (2002) YouTube Spotify

Rescued from a library rummage sale, this well-used copy of the album cost me all of two bits.  It's mostly a calm and acoustic, strummy affair with one arguable hit in the form of the exquisite 'Sálvese Quien Pueda.'  Juana is one of the modern masters of the loop station, so she builds these layers of harmonic beauty before your very ears.  It's a trick that never gets old.  Especially when things are as pretty as they are here.  Key tracks: 'Sálvese Quien Pueda'  —for extra credit, check the Four Tet remixes ("ugly" and "pretty") and "Juana's Epic Re-version" (which is arguably better than the proper album version)— the harp feature on 'Curame' and the closing piano ballad (sung in French) 'Insensible'


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

What's New?: 8.4.2015

Calming sounds.

Labradford — Fixed :: Context (2000) Spotify

Modern ambient sounds from Virginia, this is actually the group's final album (well, so far, anyway).  It's very quiet music that builds, but never really releases its tension.  Just have a listen to the eighteen minute sidelong opener to get an idea of what I'm talking about.  It's mostly guitars making the sounds, with a smattering of low key electronics and keyboards (dig that fender rhodes there, fellas).  It does feel kind of samey after a while, like maybe the songs are just one long intro.  But hey, when something's as lovely as 'Up to Pizmo' you won't find me complaining.  Kind of like a sparser Sigur Rós, without vocals.  I can dig it, especially at three AM.  Key tracks: the gorgeous 'Up to Pizmo' and the melancholy closer 'Wien'

Pan American — 360 Business / 360 Bypass (1999) YouTube Spotify

Mark Nelson's concurrently running project to Labradford can be a bit more song-oriented at times, or sometimes just as ambient.  Also, he sings.  The opener is a ten minute ambient techno workout, which melds into the dreamy sound collage turned proper song 'Code.'  Deep, ambient house grooves pop up later on and there's not much more to say other than that this is mood music.  Key tracks: 'K. Luminate' and the dubby jazz on the twelve minute closer 'Both Ends Fixed'

Pan American — Quiet City (2004) YouTube Spotify

This one starts off with unmistakably Labradford-esque guitar arpeggios on 'Before', but don't think Mark is rehashing his old band's ideas because the very next track is the ambient dub trip 'Wing.'  Song lengths are overall shorter this time out, with only two of the album's eight tracks venturing off into 8+ minute territory.  It's less beat-focused than 360 Business / 360 Bypass and Mark takes a few more vocals than before (mostly just whispering), making this is an even calmer affair.  Key tracks: the gorgeous centerpiece 'Skylight' and the redemptive closer 'Lights of Little Towns'

Pan American — Cloud Room, Glass Room (2013) YouTube Spotify

If you hadn't guessed by now, all these PanAm albums are really similar-sounding and are a definite acquired taste, but if you like that sound, you'll like 'em all if you like one.  The sound of this album is a bit more poppy, but the average song length is about six minutes, so Mark did away with any chances at accessibility.  'Relays' has a really nice little ambient house bass groove to it.  Key tracks: 'Relays' and the noisy closer 'Virginia Waveform'

Stereolab — Instant 0 in the Universe (2003) YouTube Spotify

This is basically the single for '...Sudden Stars.'  It's definitely of a piece with Margerine Eclipse, but maybe a bit more bouncy in overall mood.  Is it just me or does the clavinet on the middle portion of 'Mass Riff' sound vaguely like 'Superstition'?  Helluva tune, in any case.  Short and sweet, like all of the Groop's EPs.  Key tracks: the bookends '...Sudden Stars' and 'Mass Riff'

Steve Tibbetts — Natural Causes (2010) YouTube

This guitarist has been kicking around the ECM roster since the early 80's.  And like a lot of folks on the label, what he plays can't rightly be called jazz, nor classical, nor new age, but it has shades of all three.  Have a listen to the multi-movement 'Padre-Yaga' to get an idea of what he's up to.  Marc Anderson accompanies on hand percussions of all sorts throughout.  It kind of has that Michael Hedges quality to it where it might appear to be simple background music, but is actually quite challenging when you focus your listening.  Not quite in the Fahey-esque school of acoustic picking, either, as it's a bit too ethereal for that.  Whatever, some really gorgeous playing, melancholy as it may be.  Very soundtracky, as well.  Key tracks: the steel drum-enhanced 'Lakshmivana' and the appropriately titled closing tracks 'Lament' and 'Threnody'

Abdullah Ibrahim — Cape Town Revisited (1997) YouTube Spotify

The great pianist Abdullah Ibrahim in a live trio setting and from the opening notes, I've rarely heard him sound happier — and that's saying something for this guy.  The three part suite 'Cape Town to Congo Square' is the centerpiece here: part one (the funky as all get out 'African Street Parade'), part two and the redemptive third part.  There's a reason I buy up everything I see when it comes to this guy.  He's one of the most unique voices to ever play his instrument.  Just purely happy music, guaranteed to put you in a good mood.  Key tracks: the 'Cape Town to Congo Square' trilogy, 'Water from an Ancient Well' and a funky version of 'Soweto'

The Lilac Time — Paradise Circus (1989) Spotify

It's been too long running that the only Lilac Time album I've had was the first one.  Where that first album had a bit of a folk rocky slant to it, this second album is a much more produced jangle pop affair.  The pedal steel and pizzicato layers on 'If the Stars Shine Tonight' is a good indicator of what's going on here.  Elsewhere, lots of accordion and banjo.  The big, emotional centerpiece 'Father Mother Wife and Child' is worthy of a listen.  Overall, nothing all that amazing happens, but the tunes are all solid (maybe a tad overproduced, but it was 1989, after all).  Key tracks: 'Father Mother Wife and Child' and the opener 'American Eyes'


Monday, August 3, 2015

What's New?: 8.3.2015

Dubstep and prog, what a glorious combo!

Various artists — Steppas' Delight (mid-2000's)

Soul Jazz doing its damnest to legitimize the UK dubstep scene with these two volumes, both two discs a piece.  The big tune here is Martyn's 'Broken' which is more two-step than dubstep proper, but you don't see me complaining.  The wide array of styles cross-sectioned here is impressive, if not a little overwhelming initially.  From more traditionally dancehall-sounding tunes like Uncle Sam's 'Round the World Girls (Tes la Rok Remix)' or (Con)Quest's 'Hard Food', through moody Burial-inspired soundscapes on TRG's 'Broken Heart' and Kode9's '9 Samurai', past more house-oriented grooves on the Silkie's 'Dam 4' and Seventeen Evergreen's 'Ensonique (Bi Polar Man Mix)' and all the way to the wubwubwub that dubstep is known for on Benga's 'Evolution' (amongst others).  I just can't see this stuff as anything but fascinating these days.  Key tracks: Martyn's 'Broken', Peverelist's 'Roll With the Punches' and TRG's 'Broken Heart.'

Various artists — Steppas' Delight 2 (mid-2000's)

More Soul Jazz goodness.  A lot of the same names pop up as from volume one, but there's still that sense of plenty of variety; even moreso here, making it the more listenable of the two volumes.  Martyn comes up a winner again here with his remix of Shed's 'Another Wedged Chicken.'  Elsewhere, Dusk's 1984-sampling 'Focus' is a nice groover, while the spaced out reggae vibe continues on Sully Shanks' 'Give Me Up (LD Remix)' and Kutz' 'Hard Body.'  You also get James Blake's stunning first single, funky house bits from Brackles and Darkstar, otherworldly greatness from Pangaea and Cluekid and a genuinely successful (and accessible) attempt at melding dubstep and r+b.  Key tracks: any of the above mentioned — I know that's a lot, but this thing is very high on quality

Genesis — The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1974) YouTube

Peter Gabriel's last work with the band.  And what a labyrinthine, crazy, art pop mess it is.  Most of the actual tracks are relatively short, all things considered for Genesis, but they're all hard-mixed together, making each side of the two record set seem like one long song, with various movements: typical Genesis fare.  'In the Cage' feels like one of their best tunes, in this vein.  The ballads are all winners: 'Hairless Heart', 'The Chamber of 32 Doors', 'The Lamia' and 'In the Rapids.'  Overall, it's a gargantuan 90+ minute set to tackle in one session, but the songs don't really make sense outside of their context, so you're forced to sit through it.  Some of it does become a bit samey, but it's easy to see why Peter Gabriel would leave the group after such a work.  I'm a self-proclaimed fan of "mess" albums, so maybe I just need a little more time with this one.  Key tracks: 'In the Cage', 'The Chamber of 32 Doors', closer 'It' and the multi-movement 'The Colony of Slippermen'

Genesis — A Trick of the Tail (1976) YouTube Spotify

And Phil takes the driver's seat. Some of the band's prettiest material ever is found here, and that's saying something for these guys. Just check out 'Entangled' for some twelve string loveliness.  There's also the showy time signature mazes and doodly mellotron-laced technicality.  But there's tunes here, and it only meanders just up to the point of not losing the listener's attention.  The title track is easily the poppiest thing that the band had done until that point, but a darn good tune all the same.  A right fine album and one of the best of late 70's prog.  Key tracks: the title track and the ballads, 'Entangled' and 'Ripples'

Genesis — Wind and Wuthering (1976) YouTube Spotify

Super nice 2007 vinyl reissue of this one.  Striking again quickly in the same calendar year, it's a bit more focused on keyboards overall.  The ballads are the winners again here.  Check out 'One for the Vine.'  Just lovely, really.  Besides a few noodlers, it's quite possibly the band's calmest overall record and it's definitely their last hurrah of the 70's and for prog rock in general.  Key tracks: 'One for the Vine', 'Blood on the Rooftops' and 'Afterglow'


Sunday, August 2, 2015

What's New?: 8.2.2015

Noisy and a little bit of pretty, please.

Mall Walk — Criminal Code/Container (2015)

Hands down, my favorite new band right now.  Hailing from Oakland, these guys just write some damn songs, buddy.  The a-side is a layered and catchy tune that manages to straddle noisy and jangly and simultaneously make such a thing appear effortless.  The flip is quite possibly the noisiest thing they've yet done.  I hope this is a table setter for a full length.  Here's the band playing 'Criminal Code' live.  Key tracks: 'Criminal Code', of course

Mall Walk — s/t (2014)

Cassettes! They're back! RUN.  A cheap and easy way for bands to get their music "out there" in a physical sense, I can't be that mad when they include a download code (as this does).  Plus, this is really good.  Just have a listen to the opener and marvel at how well-constructed it is, just as a song.  The bar is set right then and there and it's adhered to very strictly through all of the the EP's five songs.  The noise-encrusted middle section on 'Teen Missing' shows obvious debts to Sonic Youth, but elsewhere, it's hard to pin down just what these guys are doing that makes them so special.  The mastery of songcraft, perhaps?  I can't call it, but I damn sure love it.  This one should've appeared on my favorites of 2014 list, but we can't all be there right when it happens, y'know.  Check them out on Bandcamp or their website.  Key tracks: 'Unsold' and 'Treadmill'

Ty Segall — Singles 2007-2010 (2011)

All sorts of noisy modern punk sounds from the prolific Ty Segall.  A majority of the songs clock in at 120 seconds or less and there's lots o'distortion and killer riffs, duder.  Some of it sounds like T.Rex with no budget.  Other parts of it seemingly have no business being so tuneful.  But mostly, it's snotty vocals and sludgy melodies.  Good music for riding the bus to, 'cause it makes you feel a little badass.  Spotify.  Key tracks: 'Caesar', 'Lovely One', '...and then Judy walked in' or 'So Alone'

Pullman — Turnstiles + Junkpiles (1998)

An all acoustic affair from post-rock icons Chris Brokaw (Codeine), Bundy K. Brown (Gastr del Sol, Tortoise), Curtis Harvey (Rex) and Doug McCombs (Tortoise).  It's on the prettier, decidedly Windham Hill-ish end of the acoustic spectrum, going for pure mood and melody over technicality.  Not to slight it, because the melodies are ace all the way through, and far from simple.  It's wonderful Sunday morning music and a great little detour in the respective catalogues of all involved.  Spotify.  Key tracks: 'Gravenhurst' and the emotional centerpiece 'Deer Hill'

Destruction Unit — Live in San Francisco (2014)

And then, things got wildly psychedelic.  Mountainous portions of delay and distortion on top of already fuzzed out guitars make for something that's like shoegaze, but altogether darker.  It's got a rumbling melodic bass low end to the whole stew of sounds that keeps it anchored, otherwise this would sound like an all out noise free for all.  Must've been pretty punishing —or alternately, mind-clearing— to be there in person.  YouTube.  Key tracks: the sidelong rendition of 'Night Loner' seems like a pretty useful statement of purpose

Destruction Unit — Deep Trip (2013)

In the studio, the band dials it back, ever so slightly. Just to give you an idea of what's going on here, the LP comes packaged with a sheet of 900 fake tabs of acid. So, yeah. No pretenses here about what they're going for.  Still, there's a wonderment in this music, as harsh as it can be at times.  You gotta figure, for as astral-sounding as it is, there's some real thought behind it.  And when taken to its logical extreme, it can get a little discordant and ugly, but it always retains that sense of travel, of exploration.  Great music for hot days.  YouTube.  Spotify.  Key tracks: 'Bumpy Road' and the most focused the band gets on 'Night Loner'

Dorthy Ashby — Dorothy's Harp (1969)

In further "woe is me" tales, I once had all of Dorothy's Cadet albums, except this one (which has been ever elusive, until this Japanese CD reissue), but I traded them all in for probably stupid reasons.  So, here I go, venturing into the world of Dorothy Ashby for a second time.  And this time, I'm starting off right, as I can cross another one off my want list of sampled tracks: 'Cause I Need It' (a wonderful original tune, among an album of mostly covers) is such a majestic and gorgeous little ditty.  I can listen to it on repeat, fergoodnessakes!  The rest of the album is definitely in the mode of the more commercial ventures going on at Cadet around the time, as Dorothy mainly plays themes and variations thereof, with very little actual soloing going on.  It's tastefully arranged by the great Richard Evans, so this doesn't detract from the album's quality.  Wonderful music.  YouTube.  Key tracks: 'Cause I Need It' and the lush (even for this album) 'Reza'

Stereolab — Peng! (1992)

The Groop's first proper album is so fully formed, it only makes sense that they only got more polished as time went on.  The opener is surprisingly calm.  Then, blam, here's the warm, distortiony Groop you know and love.  It's all good fun throughout until the last track layers its way through your headphones for one of the prettiest 'Lab tunes and possibly their best closer ever.  Surprising how easily this stuff goes down.  YouTube.  Spotify. Key tracks: 'Surrealchemist', the super dreamy 'Enivrez-Vous' and 'Super Falling Star'

Stereolab — Margerine Eclipse (2004)

And here, on the band's eighth proper full length and first after Mary Hansen's untimely death, the Groop is in full on space bachelor pad mode. It's a very calm affair — perhaps unexpectedly so, considering the circumstances.  Lush, succulent and sumptuous are words that come to mind to describe the goings on here.  'Margerine Rock' is about as lively as things get.  As it stands, kind of a lower tier work in their later catalogue, but still up to their very highest of standards.  Worthwhile, if you're a fan.  YouTube.  Spotify.  Key tracks: 'Vonal Declosion', '...Sudden Stars' and 'Dear Marge', which ends in an honest to goodness dance party, if you can believe it