Wednesday, April 30, 2008

vacation: louisville

i'm going to louisville to visit one of my friends. the trip is kind of dedicated to her so i don't know if i'll have a lot of time to explore the scene that shaped some of my favorite records, but i'll try my best. while i am gone if anyone sees any post they need reuploaded just drop a comment and i'll do my best to take care of the requests when i get back.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Cursive - 'Domestica'

Cursive's 'Domestica'
A man and a woman embraced. A variety of scenes to the couple’s right. Two catalysts for one heart broken musician to use as his own representation of the despair he has found in relationships. “Domestica” is the essential break up album for me; a beautifully aggressive look at both the male and female pathos when it comes to the end of a relationship. It is a dark, seemingly depressing record that deals with the most embarrassing and painful parts of someone’s life and turns them into sort of jilted pop songs that seem almost dirty in their bareness. Maybe, it isn’t the most original sounding record or perhaps Kasher is being just a little desperate in his lyrics, but “Domestica” is clearly a unique experience and in my opinion one of the best when it comes to conceptual records.

Cursive circa 2000
Cursive formed in Omaha in 1995 releasing a variety of post-hardcore influenced material that was bottomed out by its incorporation of the intensely personal Saddle Creek sound. In 1998 Cursive lost a variety of members and as result declared the band over but only a year and half later they came back with a new guitarist and with what in my opinion is their best album, “Domestica". "Domestica's" overlying concept is the exploration of a couple’s relationship as it slowly dissolves. Perhaps what really strengthens the lyrical content is how Tim Kasher is perfectly able to represent his flaws and anger. The constant tussle between admittance and complete denial makes the record breathe real in its pure reflection of the dissolution of relationships. One could say this is because the story of "Domestica" carries an odd familiarity to the real life experiences of the lyricist. Whether Kasher is just a master of storytelling or baring his heart is regardless as he is convincing in his role of speaker for the two vicious characters he has created in "Domestica". Kasher can step into the shoes of a work drained passionless shell as he does on “The Martyr";

"He claims he's the victim
Strangled by the nine-to-five

And a pattern of stillness

That haunted this still life"

And then stream the same self lamenting into free conscious imagery that visually puts the listener into the variety of situations that are being presented in “Domestica”. '"There's still a hole where the phone was thrown" in "The Casualty" is a great image that Kasher half stutters his way through. "Shallow Means, Deep Ends" spits in metaphoric imagery with Kasher examining the impact of gossip on relationships while sounding is made more legitimate with the songs beautiful wording;

"But still I can hear those dirty birds chirp away
It's a song I know by heart
Sometimes I resent making friends and acquaintances

It's a thin veil between us"

'Domestica' musically is just as beautiful as it is lyrically. The rhythmic section has clearly taken a page from the book of Unwound and Fugazi creating a powerfully heavy bottom-end that allows Kasher and fellow guitarist Ted Stevens to craft beautifully atmospheric intertwining guitar lines that are far more beautiful than anything the band has done since. "The Lament of Pretty Baby" seems to be the climax of the guitars ability to perfectly fit together. The song is a dizzying combination of heavily palm muted sections with a variety of picked harmonics. The way Kasher and Stevens guitars tonally sound is fantastic and the way they both work off each other so simply yet so intelligently is extremely impressive. The most obvious strength on this record though is Kasher's vocals himself. His voice quivers and barrels into all out screams in a matter of moments but never does he lose the melody. Call it abrasive catchiness Kasher is clearly Cursive's secret component that lyrically and vocally takes the group a level above simply being another post-hardcore band.

"Dinner's getting cold
You haven't touched a thing

So what's it going to be?"

"The Radiator Hums" clearly hints that "Domestica" is moving into a different direction and the closure of the album is much less anthematic than the beginning and instead feels a little disillusioned. The sound is still heavy but instead of falling back on easily chantible choruses the three closing tracks of "Domestica" are very sullen and dynamic. It is a brilliant evolution from the more pop leaning introduction of the album. "The Radiator Hums" tosses its way between clean toned melodies and heavily distorted riffs with Kasher soulfully whispering in a way Greg Dulli only wishes he could. As some have suggested "Domestica" bares a clear relation to the Afghan Whigs' own self depreciating masterpiece "Gentlemen" but I've always heard ideas of that dealing more with Dulli's alcoholism than his actually lack of effectively communicating with the one he loves. Kasher while certainly well versed in his way with alcohol doesn't seem to travel down that road much on "Domestica". Here we find the songs focus solely on the action of the two lovers and their slow fall from grace.

tim kasher
Cursive released what will probably be their best album with "Domestica". Lyrically, musically, vocally, everything is on a point that hardly any post-hardcore band has ever reached. This is a masterpiece of a record and the praise written here is simply not even close to how much it deserves.

"One February night, we screamed our agonies
And I swear I tried to care

I tried, I tried"

Cursive - Domestica (2000)

on Cursive's latest tour they've been playing a variety of new songs. these new songs seem less complex in terms of amount of instruments in comparison to 'Happy Hollow' and 'The Ugly Organ' in other words.. it seems as if Cursive may be trying to make the successor to Domestica. here is a sample titled 'Race With'

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Asva - What You Don't Know is Frontier

for those who have not heard yet, Kayo Dot's latest record 'Blue Lambency Downward' has leaked and is also available streaming from Kayo Dot is probably my favorite band, if not them Off Minor and they really have progressed their sound into something familiar yet different with their new record. oddly enough the metal side of their sound has been stripped which may seem weird with their recent signing to Hydrahead Records. although there is a change Kayo Dot's new record is soon to be out and you can expect a more developed review from me on in the future.

kayo dot's 'blue lambency downward'
in keeping themes, the reason i was originally interested in the album i've uploaded is because of Kayo Dot's head Toby Driver's supposed vocal appearance. well, almost two years after its initial announcement it appears although Toby's contribution has been removed the group known as Asva has created a marvelously melancholic experience. drone and doom metal alumni are over this album with it featuring members of Burning Witch, Earth, Sunn 0))), as well as contributors who were involved with Mr. Bungle. but, i really can't talk about this album as well as lefthandpass's Stewart Voegtlin does.

asva's stuart dahlquist
"As luck would have it, I’ve never met Stuart Dahlquist. In late spring of 2005, I patched an awkward bit of writing together hailing the operatic prog of Asva’s Futurists Against the Ocean. I e-mailed him the review and from then on, Stuart and I corresponded willy-nilly, mostly about books, ideas, places; his words always alarmingly honest and innocently unaware. A month after my Futurists review ran, Stuart’s brother, Michael, was killed. I woke up one morning, had coffee and checked some websites. There on Stephen O’Malley’s Ideologic page was the news. The one year anniversary of Michael’s death came around and Stuart wrestled with how he was going to spend that time. He was living in Long Beach, getting along well enough and doing his best to keep the demons at bay. He told me he was going to stay at a mountain cabin and think about Michael. When he came back down that mountain, he said he’d gotten deep down into a bottle of Wild Turkey, listened a lot to Michael’s band, Silkworm, and bawled his eyes out. He told me he missed Michael. He still tells me that a lot. I don’t blame him. Sometime after that I got a package in the mail; it was the What You Don’t Know Is Frontier demo. I put the disc on immediately. Given what I knew, the music was almost unbearably forlorn, a frigid gust of life rumbling the shelves in my living room. Outside the sun was bearing down – the first flex of a muscular summer heat. I have never heard anything like WYDKIF. It reminds me of the first time I heard Mozart’s Requiem, or Gould’s Goldberg Variations. The music has a punishing sort of beauty, an inflicted aesthetics that hands the hearer no choice. I wanted to share it; I pitched articles to some big glossies and never heard back. Undeterred, I tried to cook up a summit without border constraints. No e-mail, no phones. Stuart and I talked about getting together for a big, drunken interview: whisky and words, wishes and wants. I proposed that we do it down South. And then he told me about the family ranch in Livingston, Montana. Well – me being a fly-fisherman – we had our interview location. He told me little to nothing about the ranch proper. He did say that his grandfather’s marker was up there, high in the mountains. He told me what the marker said: That one day we might ride together in a different place. His Sons and Grandsons. And he told me that Michael’s marker will one day rest there as well. The Greek playwright Aeschylus said that there’s no pain so great as the memory of joy in present grief. That quotation, at least for me, encapsulates WYDKIF. But I’m just a writer. I’m listening to the music and listening to what Stuart says about the music, and I’m trying to make a judgment. Sometimes, I can be right. Sometimes, I just cheat – and ask. “Everything I did [after Michael’s death] – and to a large extent still do – is directly affected by the sense of such an absolute loss,” Stuart wrote in an e-mail just before the New Year. “I wasn't sitting there writing music thinking of Michael, but his influence was inescapable.” The phrase, What You Don’t Know is Frontier, came from “Bring Me a Monkey,” a poem Michael wrote. The phrase reluctantly governs the music in the only way it can, acting simultaneously as some sort of wildly incongruous masthead and also as one’s only recourse against the unknown. Outside the slim boundaries of knowledge is – as always – the wilderness. Stuart confessed that the creative process wasn’t so much an emersion as it was avoidance; he poured as much of his emotion into that vessel as he could. One more stray drop would’ve split the hull. “The finished result was what I really wanted, needed actually, to hit an emotional chord,” he wrote. “WYDKIF – when taken as a whole – needed to have real impact to remind me: ‘this is where you were, Stuart, embrace it again.’ I think it succeeds in doing that.” It does. The music is a fabric, a structure that has always been here. Evocation is forever. Presence is tactile. Foundation rolls out to the horizon, what’s grown from its ground is as artificial as it is organic. Guitar and bass weep. Skins and brass are intermittent flares – hot crackling bursts of white and red in the midst of a bottomless black. Melodies ghost through ruin and the mind holds them fast and doesn’t let go. Analogues are plentiful. I thought of Grieg or Berlioz at their greatest bombast. I thought of peasant music; poor, tired and toothless folk gumming nursery rhymes. I thought of Morricone and Orff, Tampa Red, Charley Patton – even Wagner. As soon as I heard the final mix I e-mailed Stuart. “The feeling of vastness is unmatched,” I wrote. “Tons of imagery. It's hard to turn off the mind with these sounds. I just keep seeing the ocean. Lots of water. Lots of rock. Sky. Barren plains. Blood and filth and death. The melodies are touching; the bombast is cathartic. I'm happy as shit for you, bro. You've done it...” He really has. For three straight months, I listened to WYDKIF every day on the way to work. From the highway to the open fields and worn rural roads, my broken speakers rattled and vibrated, the bass thudded and hummed and roared through their scratched black grates. When the pipe organ comes in at the end, the rattling goes away. The organ has such presence, such heft, but it sounds like lightness, like the quality of having little to no physical weight. Stuart had originally performed the piece on a Hammond, but said the pipe organ was [Engineer] Randall [Dunn’s] suggestion; that he “wanted it to sound like air was moving, like the wind was coming back into your sails.” It does. It’s rejuvenating. It’s settling. It makes sense: “WYDKIF is about rebirth,” Stuart wrote, “about that light at the end of the tunnel. Amen.” It’s high past time for that interview, and I hear Livingston trout are just killing beadheads right about now."

asva's 'what you don't know is frontier'
you should all really purchase this album, i know i can't wait to get my copy. sadly, it is not actually out until june.

Kayo Dot - 'Blue Lambency Downward' (2008)

Asva - 'What You Don't Know is Frontier' (2008)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

singer - unhistories

Singer essentially acts as a meeting place for two fairly well respected math rock groups. Singer is composed of U.S. Maple members and one of 90 Day Men's vocalists Rob Lowe meaning there was obviously a base of excellence already in place before 'Unhistories' was even recorded. In terms of actual sound 'Unhistories' comes off as 90 Day Men's eclectic side with the pop sensibility literally gutted and replaced with a large emphasis on composition. 'Divining' is a dizzying piece that begins with some very beautiful multiple voice harmonizing with underlying keys that rhythmically evokes the strong basic rhythms of Battles. The first section dissolves and in its place is an acoustic conclusion that is at the same time completely unexpected while also being perfectly incorporated. 'Unhistories' in general really is a sound that is very different but also very logical. The supposed drum solo in 'Oh Dusty', the foray of kraut rock that extends it self through closer 'Mauvais Sang', all of these moments add up to make a truly unique experience which in some ways reflects the fluidness of Time of Orchids' 'Namesake Caution'. One of the key successes of the group is Rob Lowe's vocals which are really in a class of their own. I guess if we examine Chicago as a scene Singer is basically the older brother of a group like Owls. All of the same ingredients are included in these two groups but the maturity that Singer brings to the sound makes them far more successful. When songs like 'Please, Tell the Justices We're Fine' musically reach into realms that sound like mindless noise Lowe and his backing band are all able to vocally keep a control over the sound which in turn extremely helps support sudden changes like the guitar solo that appears out of nowhere about four minutes into the track. Simply put 'Unhistories' is proof that unorthodox methods of playing, singing and composing can still be used just as effectively as the orthodox methods.

singer's 'unhistories'
If I were to guess I'd imagine 'Unhistories' will be a one off project but it is clearly much more than a release from a "super group" of sorts. Singer in the vein of 90 Day Men's 'Panda Park' has crafted a memorable experience due to its complete uniqueness. 'Unhistories' is a great release and is certainly something any fan of the avant garde should take a look at.

Singer - 'Unhistories' (2008)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Ocrilim - Annwn

Ocrilim is Mick Barr’s solo moniker which has released two cds. What makes these two records different from Barr’s other recordings is how regimentally the composition on it seems to have been arranged. While Barr has always experimented within his own personal realm of minimalist shred ‘Annwn’ represents him at his most bare as well as his most successful. Where ‘OV’ was highly successful in its steady progressive shredding, ‘Annwn’ is simply Barr playing about seven guitars and two basses in a style that can only be described as orchestral. In a sense this record is very easily enjoyed once one gets past how unpleasant the tone is. Barr’s trebly guitar interspersed with some just a tiny bit less trebly bass evokes an 8-bit symphony. His tonal choices though are not that simple with a range of melodies being played from gloriously major to harrowingly minor. Although this record is extremely experimental and may sound very off putting I find that the actual melodic content is very easily accessible and in a sense provides the vast amount of odd choices with a little balance. Barr has really never exposed himself in this style of highly infectious yet still technical pieces and the results are excellent.

Ocrilim's 'Annwn'

Complaints can be directed towards the almost hour and a half play time of the record which while it isn’t a major issue will certainly effect the replay value of ‘Annwn’. Also, perhaps in future Ocrilim recordings maybe the featuring of other pronounced instruments would improve the sound since the arrangements here are so amazing yet are held back by the alienating guitar tones. Still, very few issues can be taken up with Mick Barr’s latest record and that is a pretty impressive feat for someone that is dredging through the same techniques as failed soloists Steve Vai and etc. Barr should be applauded for his nature of being more interested in the composition’s needs rather than his own when it comes to showing off and because of that ‘Annwn’ is clearly a success.

Ocrilim - Annwn (2008)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

six organs of admittance - compathia

i'm sure every person has artists that they adore but sometimes slightly ignore when talking about their tastes. i'm certainly guilty of that in regards to today's post, an artist who i think at one time i perceived as the best guitarist in current music. with his last two records under the Six Organs of Admittance guise that opinion has fallen out of place but with his excellent back catalogue and his work with Badgerlore and Comets on Fire, listening to Ben Chasny is always provoking and interesting. 'Compathia' in my mind is the best album put out under the Six Organs of Admittance name. while some may argue that 'Dark Noontide' is his most concise work, or that 'School of the Flower' represents his most eclectic voice i can not help but love the half stoned guitar exercises that make up most of 'Compathia' and Chasny's early Six Organs work.

six organs of admittance's 'comapthia'
where does the intelligence in this music really come from? in my mind, it is the brilliant way Chasny combines the aspects of an acoustic guitar and drones together to create something that is both unique and extremely attractive. 'Somewhere Between' is a great example of this with how sparse its middle is compared to the vocal parts of the song. 'Compathia' though is kind of a diversion from that process, the last remnants of his avant garde sounds being expunged before he turned into the Drag City indie icon he has sort of become. where his early records seemed to evoke some kind of unstructured noise 'Compathia' has a distinct structure to it, many of the songs feature vocals and choruses. even though Chasny seems to be moving in a more acceptable direction, there are certainly a few anomalies on this album. 'Only The Sun Knows' the closer is a sonic experiment featuring Ethan Miller of Comets on Fire and excellent track and one of Six Organs best. experimental folk balanced with a good backing of actual songs. think John Fahey meets Gary Higgins.

Six Organs of Admittance - Compathia (2003)