Thursday, November 11, 2010

Swell Maps - ...In "Jane From Occupied Europe"

Post-punk as a genre has generated so many great bands. I could easily name dozens of groups that managed to make masterpieces in the years between 1977 and 1981. Swell Maps were an extreme outlier when it came to post-punk. They were more calculated than Wire and lacked the emotion of groups like Joy Division. Swell Maps musically almost sound mechanical. As their music progressed it got distinctly stranger and on their second record, '…In "Jane From Occupied Europe"' they full embrace their more untraditional influences. The clear cut example is on the middle portion of the record which centers on punk driven krautrock jams. Drummer Epic Soundtracks is really the foundation for this sound and I remember reading an interview with Nikki Sudden that supported the fact that the group was listening to groups like Can and trying to recreate some of those sounds. Its kind of shocking to me to look back and see that punk rock hasn't necessarily ever not been this experimental. The genre simply has always had groups like Swell Maps on the fringe creating refreshingly timeless music. The fact that this record was released in 1980 is incredible, but I guess it sits easily next to some of the other records released that year. Young Marble Giants' 'Colossal Youth, The Sound's 'Jeopardy', and Killing Joke's 'Killing Joke' are just a few other examples of the sound that was being perpetuated in 1980.

swell maps' "jane from occupied europe"

'…In "Jane From Occupied Europe"' is the perfect example of blue collar music. The band builds the tracks off of minimalist explosions of noise coupled with very subtle changes. They still are playing punk rock songs, but the distinct rhythmic nature of the music is constantly present. As said before the middle section of the record may drag for some as it is very repetitive, but I for one have always enjoyed it. The record to me seemed like one big epic noise track book-ended with two fantastic punk tracks. These types of post-punk records that so clearly borrow from other bands have always really interested me. It seems like the very first time people could record music easily by themselves they started expressing themselves as mixtures of their favorite artists. I guess that makes sense complete sense as most people do that, but it has left numerous records like Swell Maps' sophomore effort that are truly one of a kind. Certainly a record worth dog-earring when it comes to post- punk. Epic Soundtracks has a couple of excellent solo records that are completely different from the sound here. If you are a Swell Maps fan you should definitely check those out also.

Swell Maps - ...In "Jane From Occupied Europe" (1980)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Zelienople - Sleeper Coach

Slowcore has become an obsession of mine over the past couple of years. My interest in groups like Codeine and Low has become immense. I've collected all I can from many of the "popular" slowcore candidates and I'm still not satisfied. I've found a few great records, but I feel like there has to be variations out there I'm not noticing. Whenever I come upon a record like Duster's 'Stratosphere' this feeling is intensified. Zelienople don't strictly meet the requirements in my head that define the genre of slowcore, but it is obvious they've taken some of that genres tendencies. The backdrop of folk that resides in their music is the clearest example I can find to satisfy that theory. Much like Codeine they rely on slowly building their songs through texture and the subtle blend of guitar interplay. Codeine preferred to go loud and distorted, Zelienople is much more laid back and quiet. They have a distinct jammy quality that anchors their music into the realms of noise and post-rock. They are a very tough band to classify as they can be very quiet and completely aggressive at the same time. When I say aggressive I don't really mean heavy though. They achieve loudness in a unique way that sees them almost going completely out of sync. Their songs seem to float through these hazes of textural noises. I guess their tendencies in terms of dynamics is what wants me to label them as slowcore.

zelienople's 'sleeper coach'

'Sleeper Coach' embodies their earlier work. More song based and much more ethereal. Their music over time has gotten much more complex than the simple spaced out songs we find here. This doesn't prevent the record from succeeding or in any way effect it at all. The cool thing is to see the band progress and 'Sleeper Coach' is the perfect place to start. Not as out there as their later work, helps you get used to their work. Much like 'Spirit of Eden' allows the further understand of 'Laughing Stock'. Neither record is better than the other they just represent different moments and ideas of the band. Highly suggest this record and in general the band's music. They are truly a different type of group that exists in their own realm.

Zelienople - Sleeper Coach (2004)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Archers of Loaf - Icky Mettle

Is there anything much better than a good alternative rock song from the '90s? In my opinion, not really. Archers of Loaf play some bastardized version of Pavement and Leatherface. They wear their heart on their sleeve, but why is never really addressed. The lyrics on this record are nonsensical and in general lack substance. The guitar playing on this album is amazing and some of the best '90s indie rock songs are found on 'Icky Mettle'.
archers of loaf's 'icky mettle'
Archers of Loaf had a weird career. Their first couple albums seemed very punk based and extremely one track. As they grew older their music morphed into very polished, but still very different alternative rock. 'White Class Heroes' saw the band experimenting with almost Brian Enoesque synths. Their first two records really sound the best for me, but their entire discography is very underrated. Very few indie rock bands grasp the idea that while music can be hook oriented it should also retain a certain amount of "rock". Archers of Loaf's first two records seem to be released in the heyday of '90s indie rock and easily two of the best from that period as well. Grungey, but poppy the group made sonic experiments with clear cut anthems. Its rare you get an indie rock band that possesses the ability to capture both perfectly. Usually a band is either very tame or very aggressive, the key to creating memorable pop music is messing with dynamics. Many groups in the '90s as experimental as they got always retained the poppy hooks and general structure of pop tunes. This is why in my mind the music of this period is the best in terms of 'indie rock'.