Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Gang Starr - Daily Operation

gang starr's 'daily operation'
Holy shit, this is a great record. I don't really know how long I've had this record. I remember downloading bits of it back in 6th or 7th grade when I first got into A Tribe Called Quest. Just great beats and great lyrics. A lot of people dislike Guru since he has a monotone flow. I think it just increases the way he raps. Everything he says is said with such poise and relaxation that it makes the record truly introspective. Probably my personal highlight of early '90s New York hip-hop at least in terms of producer/rapper duos. 'Stay Tuned' is my favorite. Completely stoned and repetitive while easily being the catchiest cut on the record. Kind of like me with the hip-hop lately.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Tribe Called Quest - Beats, Rhymes, And Life

A Tribe Called Quest's 'Beats, Rhymes, And Life'
'The Low-End Theory' was really the first hip-hop record I ever got into. I'm sure that is the case with many white hip-hop fans as that album just kind of oozes of reserved yet intelligent lyrics and imaginative yet restrained beats. I think it is an easy candidate for hip-hop record of the '90s and in general can still inspire the same feelings that it did when I was younger these days. My exposure to 'Beats, Rhymes, And Life' came much later in my life. I'm glad for that. When I was getting into 'The Low-End Theory' I grabbed 'Midnight Marauders' and was often disappointed with the lack of continuity throughout that record. While I've certainly warmed up to 'Midnight Marauders' over the years it still strikes me as a somewhat half baked affair. A Tribe Called Quest was attempting to create more sophisticated beats on that record, but their lyrical style had not changed very much at that point. 'Beats, Rhymes, And Life' is in my eyes a far more successful record. The lyrics have grown darker and more diverse whether it be due to the climate of hip-hop in '96 or due to the personal rifts throughout the group. J Dilla makes one of his first appearances here in the form of the Ummah who provide all the beats throughout the record. Q-Tip's cousin Consequence is featured on numerous tracks and in general this totally revitalizes the Tribe sound without coming off cheap or forced. The beats are as cleaned as Pete Rock's and the undeniable x-factor throughout the record is Dilla's passionate affair with bass lines which he clearly began here. Truly a underrated classic amongst hip-hop fans.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Albert Ayler Trio - Spiritual Unity

Albert Ayler's Spiritual Unity

Albert Ayler's 'Spiritual Unity' is a landmark free jazz record. The lack of updates on here have been due as expected to the hustle of every day. When it comes to my own personal relaxation from that type of stress it is nice to just sit down and hear a record with this level of involvement. I think this album really embraces exploring the subtle nuances of improvisation. It explores a realm of free jazz while at the same time still appealing to those who may not be fully devoted to the genre and looking to attempt to dive in feet first should definitely give this a spin.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Have a Nice Life - Voids

Have a Nice Life's 'Voids'
As is the case with most recording sessions Have A Nice Life's 'Deathconsciousness' left a few b-sides that have been complied into this bootleg collection. Featuring an EP of 'Deathconsciousness' demos as well as an EP featuring tracks not included on 'Deathconsciousness' 'Voids' fills in the blanks as to where Have a Nice Life's sound came from. The songs here are more atmospheric, more indebted to post punk, and in general a little more easier to follow along. 'Sisyphus' is texturally the most impressive HANL song I've heard and 'Destinos' shows the bands knack for instrumental beauty. If you enjoyed their release last year I suggest giving this a look.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Oren Ambarchi - Suspension

oren ambarchi's 'suspension'
Oren Ambarchi is a Australian musician who creates minimalist/ambient music by way of solo guitar. I saw him open for Boris and his performance was much more aggressive then his recorded material is. 'Suspension' is a very quiet and soothing record. The sounds present here are almost meditative. Ambarchi has worked with musicians like SunnO))) and Christian Fennesz and his music shows influences from artists like those. This is a great record and also a little more varying then most minimalist work.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pissed Jeans - King of Jeans

Pissed Jeans established themselves as a great throwback to the late '80s and early '90s with their two previous releases. 'King of Jeans' continues this same trend while at the same time expanding the palette of a band clearly indebted to others. Part of this comes from the continual progression of guitarist Bradley Fry. The sound of Pissed Jeans is anchored by a very lively rhythm section and vocalist Matt Korvette's performance. Fry on the other hand seems to prefer to embellish the group's sound rather than drive it which really has come to fruition on 'King of Jeans'. Guitar solos echoing No Trend, the building of distortion throughout 'Spent' Pissed Jeans have seemingly embraced the aspects of traditional rock and roll into their immensely untraditional sound.
Pissed Jeans' 'King of Jeans'

'Hope For Men' was a very lyrical album for how volatile the sound was. 'King of Jeans' is still just as lyrical, but gone are songs concerning issues as mundane as ice cream and Whole Foods. The topics have dissolved into even starker reflections of everyday life. 'Dream Smotherer' concerns the lack of sleep of its narrator, 'Spent' a seemingly typical day in Korvette's life. The presence of vocals has also reached its pinnacle with a more diverse take. Korvette has imbued his yells with a somewhat more melodic tone as is evident throughout the record especially 'Goodbye (Hair)'. More over bassist Randy Huth and drummer Sean McGuinness have propelled Pissed Jeans' previously sprawling sound into a more apt attack. Few tracks on the album dip over the 3-minute mark and tracks like 'She is Science Fiction' and 'Half Idiot' are a flurry of drums aided by slow droning bass lines. Pissed Jeans have polished up their sound as much as is seemingly possible and because of that they've crafted their finest record yet.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Lowercase - Kill the Lights

lowercase's kill the lights
I don't know much about Lowercase's history. This is noisy post-hardcore from the late '90s blending early Swans with the sounds Shellac or Unwound were playing with. Fantastic stuff. Vocals are really alt. rock inspired and the album definitely has a great sense of dynamics.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

J Dilla - Jay Stay Paid

To a casual fan of hip-hop the name J-Dilla may not mean a lot. If you’re more interested in Anticon or Wu-Tang than the genre as a whole 'Jay Stay Paid' may not be a big deal. Change that. Like every genre hip-hop's gems are found underneath the rough and Dilla’s work puts him in the position of being the most influential and progressive producer in the last twenty years. His story is just as long and detailed as his career but to address that is a discredit to what 'Jay Stay Paid' represents. Jay Dee may be gone but his music continues to impress and expand itself to new audiences. Most of the tracks on this record are seemingly works in progress. The guest list fits perfectly with artists like DOOM, Havoc (Mobb Depp), and Black Thought all stepping into help create a darker and more diverse record.
Jay Dee’s strength has always been his ability to create musically complex beats that work on both a basic and layered level. For example electronic artists like Flying Lotus continually sing the praises of Dilla for his constant attention to detail and musicality. His work with fellow Detroit group Frank-N-Dank saw him exploring usage of minimal effects and layers to create more to the point material. Dilla pretty much finessed this sound with 'Donuts'. 'Jay Stay Paid' attempts to explore that evolution though it is posthumous material. 'King', 'Mythsysizer', and 'In The Night/While You Slept (I Crept)' all focus on creating lush soundscapes in a hip-hop setting. ‘9th Caller’ mixes vintage guitar strokes over a pulsing beat. Dilla’s penchant for self styled strip club jams comes out in ‘CaDILLAc. ‘Spacecowboy vs. Bobble Head’ transitions itself through various sounds and finally closes out with a soulful finale. Jay Dee adapts equal parts of the Wu-Tang and New York sound into the more bass heavy Detroit style on ‘24K Rap’. Raekwon and Havoc both also appear on '24K Rap' which even adds to the strength of it. Other key vocal additions on the record are Blu on 'Smoke' and Black Thought on 'Reality TV'. While the majority of ‘Jay Stay Paid’ is instrumental this is clearly a hip-hop record and the addition of such high quality lyricists is welcomed. Mixing everything from Asian sounding melodies with soundclips of waves 'Coming Back' acts as a true definition of why Dilla will always remain the greatest of all time.

Is 'Jay Stay Paid' the most alarmingly original record of 2009? No, this is a collection of recycled material and sounds as such. Though subtle factors like J Dilla’s hero Pete Rock cutting the album and Illa J's appearance help it retain the artist’s respect. Similar to UGK's '4 Life' earlier this year Dilla's friends, family, and admirers have created a(nother) great tribute to one of hip-hop's great.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Brainworms - Brainworms II: Swear to Me

The sound that Virginia's Brainworms have become notorious for is definitely different. Early material was notable for short, explosive post-hardcore tracks that were marked by their extremely melodic guitars. 'Swear To Me' marks a distinct change for the band though, as the material here seems to be diving into much more eclectic territories. Brainworms have always embraced the style of hardcore that was made popular by groups like Split Lip and Grade. All of the group's discography bleeds of a melodic hardcore influence, but the fact is they hardly ever sound that clean or restrained. Whether it is punk, hardcore, or even indie rock, Brainworms are able to spew a dissonant yet catchy mix of numerous genres.

Brainworms' Brainworms II: Swear to Me
'Swear To Me' improves on Brainworms' former material by taking a more progressive approach. Blues style solos, group vocals, and various studio techniques are taken to make the sound more layered and diverse. For reference, think Bear vs. Shark's evolution from debut to sophomore release. The guitar attack of the group has been stepped up a notch and the addition of Josh Small layers the sound nicely. The odd fit in Brainworms has always been lead vocalist Greg Butler who physically resembles Tim Harrington of Les Savy Fav fame. Butler's voice has a distinct distorted sound to it whether it is synthetic or natural. This really helps his voice contrast with very high frequency guitar and bass parts that the group likes to employ. Butler's lyrics also show themselves to be just as sophisticated as the song structures. His penchant for illustrating hardcore concepts in a personal way echoes other Virginia groups like Haram or Malady. His lyrics on 'Swear To Me' seem to be focusing on the various realities that accompany the term home, whether it is a person or place. Butler seems to be aching to find and define his own "home" and these thoughts seem to be a basis in the lyrical side of 'Swear To Me'. Of course the material strays into other realms whether it be the political 'Whatever, That's How You Get Famous' or the two instrumental tracks 'Vulgar Display of Flowers' and 'The Pinnacle of Story Telling.'

'Swear To Me' is a great record both because it is extremely enjoyable to listen to, while at the same time it helps carve out its own niche in post-hardcore. Fans of Bear vs. Shark, Hot Water Music, or a Dischord association would be wise to check out 'Swear To Me' - it really is a great and new sounding example of that sound.

Brainworms - Brainworms II: Swear to Me (2009)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ron Carter - Empire Jazz

Ron Carter's 'Empire Jazz'
here is a gem. Ron Carter and Billy Cobham arranging jazz music from Empire Strikes Back. what the fuck? i don't really know how this even came to exist but the staff on the record is great. flute solos are excellent. the dense guitars on 'The Imperial March' melody are amazing and all around if you grew up with Star Wars and dig jazz there is no way you can't dig this. plus awesomest cover of all time.

Ron Carter - Empire Jazz (1980)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Wipers - Youth of America

100th post. Wipers' 'Youth of America'. Punk post '77 has involved numerous attempts to bridge the sound of punk with other genres. In 1980 many bands were beginning to experiment with techniques found in reggae and psychedelic rock musics. Pere Ubu, Gang of Four, most of these groups had a very sterile yet funky feel to them. Wipers I guess could be included with these bands, but the difference with them was they presented such a desolated sound that it wouldn't be until Husker Du released 'Zen Arcade' in 1984.

When mentioning 'Youth of America' the first thing that comes to mind is Greg Sage's guitar playing. In thinking about Sage's style it is kind of like an extension of the guitar playing on 'Marquee Moon'. Sage is far from a bad guitarist, but his technicality comes from simplistic choices and also how he textures many of these songs with distorted and overdubbed guitars. Sage also must be credited for his DIY approach before anyone was even conceptualizing industries in that light.

Wipers' 'Youth of America'
'When It's Over' features some great keyboard work and the tracks in general all have a pretty layered feel. The Wipers are still living in a '77 hangover, but a lot of the stuff they do on this record is pretty impressive considering it was released in only 1980. This is really one of the punk albums that helped carve out how dynamic the genre can be.

The order of the version of 'Youth of America' I uploaded is the one I've always known. Apparently the three disc set of Wipers' three earliest albums rearranges the original tracklisting to how it was suppose to be. However they are ordered the six tracks of 'Youth of America' fully predate the extreme pessimism that would overtake the genre in the Reagan years. 'No Fair' is the hit off of this one, it just perfectly captures the feel of everything they are trying to accomplish. Dark, pissed and great.

Wipers - Youth of America (1980)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Y Pants - Y Pants

y pants' self-titled 7"

Y Pants is a all girl post-punk band that makes music from toy instruments. I don't really know what else there is to say about them.

Y-Pants - Y-Pants (1980)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Flying Lotus - July Heat

flying lotus' 'july heat'

i don't really know where this record comes from. i'm assuming it is flying lotus' pre-'1983' work but that could be totally off. i'm posting this between odd work schedules, numerous birthdays, and spousal arguments. that is my lame sentence of this review. anyways, if you're into any of flylo's stuff this a must and if you want something really laidback and hip-hop inspired also give it a spin. 'Cry For Help' is the real hit here. expect something on post-punk being posted in the next week or so. Wipers, Y Pants, Young Marble Giants all kinds of shit.

Flying Lotus - July Heat (2005)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Gray Matter - Take it Back

holy fuck, here is an old record. i remember blasting this when i got my first car some kinda subaru sedan from the early '90s. i guess the record was older than the car. anyways, this is one of the best examples of that Rites of Spring sound coming out of DC in the mid to late '80s. Gray Matter had a vocalist who could scream but still be melodic. Perhaps, think that Moss Icon record two posts down? The guitars are extremely schizo shuffling through a variety of chords in seconds and the rhythm section mirrors that of Rites of Spring or Fugazi during this time just subtly filling everything excellently. Gray Matter is a one of the legends of DC hardcore and 'Take it Back' is a fucking classic, like seriously one of the best Dischord releases ever.

gray matter's 'take it back'

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Cursive - Mama, I'm Swollen

cursive's 'mama, i'm swollen'
'Mama, I'm Swollen' is an anomaly, presenting Cursive simultaneously succeeding at their new sound while falling into pitfalls of being redundant. Most of the criticism is easily lodged at lyricist Tim Kasher. The head lyricist attempts for grandiose themes to go along with the grandiose instrumentals of 'Mama, I'm Swollen'. The problem with this approach is as witty and sarcastic as Kasher attempts to make himself his true attraction lyrically has always been his bare honesty. Oddly 'Mama's' strongest tracks in lyrical terms are ones that regurgitate the romantic narcissism that made the group rivals to their Saddle Creek peers. 'What Have I Done?' and 'I Couldn't Love You' are lyrical concepts that have been present throughout both Cursive and The Good Life's discographies. The truth is somewhere along the line Cursive musically matured and that maturity is what remains attractive about this record.

Praising Cursive for their innovation on this record is definitely easy. The mix of Cursive's post-hardcore heritage and influences from new wave groups like The Cure makes many of the tracks here succeed. 'Donkeys' is as ominous as it is catchy. The aforementioned 'I Couldn't Love You' seems like an easy follow up for 'From The Hips' for the group's next single. On that note the more accessible tracks on this album may spurn curiosity of Cursive's bid for mainstream attention. Not to say it is intentional at all, throughout the record Kasher remains even darker and unforgiving than fellow label mate Conor Oberst. Though through the new set of industry rules that groups like The Shins and even Bright Eyes have achieved for indie groups one wonders when Cursive will wedge itself in the public conscious. Perhaps the arrangements on this record are to out there for the average indie rock fan and the attention towards being orchestrated while accessible is what truly makes tracks like 'Mama, I'm Satan' and 'We're Going To Hell' succeed.

Where does 'Mama, I'm Swollen' not succeed? First off, the identity crisis that Cursive seems to be going through makes it seem like The Good Life should have no reason to exist. While 'The Ugly Organ' was bombastic to the point of annoyance Cursive's new record stutters due to its inability to settle on any likeness at all. 'Let Me Up' and 'Caveman' may not be bad tracks, but their quirkiness and stoic arrangements make them feel like complete mistakes in terms of the track listing. When Cursive first revealed many of these tracks signs pointed toward the group moving back into a more stripped down electric group. What has resulted is something much different instead 'Mama, I'm Swollen' seems to be Cursive's most studio produced record yet. Sadly, that isn't a positive as Cursive's main strength has always been the power behind Kasher's voice and this record seems to be doing everything it can to not rely on that.

'What Have I Done?' is different. 'What Have I Done?' gives Cursive fans what they want when they hear Cursive. Not to say that artists must satisfy their fans, but if Kasher wanted to fully make up for those that hated 'Happy Hollow' one would think 'What Have I Done?' would be the answer. Breaking the track down it simply relies on the overused soft to loud dynamic that Cursive has been implementing since their beginning. Kasher mumbles a tale of futile realization over the track and when the guitars finally crash at the end you feel like for once on this record you can fully relate to its composer. He's much older than he was on the embarrassingly public 'Domestica' and much more concise than on the sprawling 'Ugly Organ', but as he is attempting to say throughout 'Mama, I'm Swollen' he is still the same. Kasher still embraces his flaws and while that may not work to the record's advantage when it does Cursive hits hard as ever.

Cursive - 'Mama, I'm Swollen' (2009)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Moss Icon - Hate in Me

moss icon's self titled 7"

you were visiting a house that's been sealed for a 1000 years.
little crayon scribbles, a white truck on a string.
you were standing there with your plaid and your favorite things.
but now your sleeping or fucking or something.
- moss icon - 'i'm back sleeping, or fucking, or something'

Oddly enough I wrote this first paragraph after the rest. Lyrically I just don't think I can think of a more appropriate example of the topics of early emo records then 'I'm Back Sleeping, or Fucking or Something' because in reality every person has been kept awake thinking about what happened to those that were lost due to whatever situations may arise throughout life. The romantic undertones that are embodied in the song title deal with the futility of things and the fact that the two things he mentions are sleeping and fucking have to resonate in everyone. I guess what I'm saying here is that Moss Icon lyrically have to be the most superior of those early emo bands because they are so easily relateable, but at the same time extremely deep. Perhaps this is just an attempt for me to relate to someone else who is constantly thinking about those people that have passed me by and what they are doing at the moment. Sleeping, or fucking or something .

Moss Icon is almost always associated with emo usually getting placed somewhere between Rites of Spring and The Hated. 'Hate in Me' as a 7" is a perfect slab of late '80s hardcore where you can feel the move of progressive mixed with a attachment to a long stagnant scene. Moss Icon certainly wasn't reaching the more lengthy heights that their later records would embrace on 'Hate in Me' and that more appropriately helps describe how this 7" really gives off that early DC hardcore sound. Oddly enough according to (great piece of this 7" here) the members of Moss Icon said that those bands (Embrace, Rites of Spring) had little impact on their sound. Further goes to show you that this sound was clearly the next progression of hardcore music and that it was popping up everywhere in the late '80s. Musically this record is mostly enjoyable because of the extremely melodic guitar and the vocalists great performance. Unlike The Hated or Rites of Spring John Vance wouldn't come off like he was wailing until his group's later records, here he sounds like the perfect vocalist for this music. His scream isn't restrained, but his knack for filling these otherwise simple tracks with impassioned lyrics that perfectly fit the feel of these tracks is one of a kind. 'I'm Back Sleeping, or Fucking, or Something' remains as one of my favorite songs of this genre and this record in general is probably the best example of the early Moss Icon and emo sound.

Moss Icon - Hate in Me (1988)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Jackie McLean - One Step Beyond

Jackie McLean's 'One Step Beyond'
To parlay into my personal life I work in a restaurant. In my restaurant as any I have a steady group of customers I consider my regulars. One of these individuals happens to be Paul Carmen who played on a few Zappa records and is a pretty accomplished saxophonist. Anyways, tonight while we were talking at the bar we began to discuss some records by musicians such as Freddie Hubbard and Andrew Hill. After coming home and reflecting on the experience I thought of Jackie McLean's One Step Beyond which sort of hints at an avant garde sound while at the same time remaining a bop record. The two highlights in the group here are Grachan Moncur III and Bobby Hutcherson. Hutcherson on vibes and Moncur on trombone really help flavor the rest of the group as McLean isn't the most involved player. Tony Williams really fills this record out on the drums in a subtle yet intelligent way. Truly a lost jazz classic.

Jackie McLean - One Step Beyond (1963)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Hisato Higuchi - Dialogue

hisato higuchi's dialogue
people that are somewhat familiar with this blog may remember a post a year or two ago on the album 'Holy Letters' by L. L got me first interested in Japanese music and Hisato Higuchi's 'Dialogue' was one of the first records after 'Holy Letters' that I found myself really attracted to. unlike L's meandering improvisation on 'Holy Letters' Hisato crafts a contained album with 'Dialogue'. songs exist basically of seemingly random chord patterns with soft singing accompanying. this is definitely the type of album reserved for when you wake up or are about to fall asleep, the minimalism is entrancing. yet another great release from the musical giant that is Japan.

Hisato Higuchi - 'Dialogue' (2006)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Faithealer - Bound and Chained

Faithealer's Bound and Chained

in fitting in with themes, here's another great aggressive vocal performance from a girl. Faithealer come from Texas featuring a variety of members from groups such as Hatred Surge and Mammoth Grinder. their sound mixes a variety of influences to make a truly unique metalcore based sound. i guess if you wanted to you could maybe label this under that movement "deathcore", but i hate that term and the influence of death metal is extremely slight in this band, only translating itself in the form of the vocals which reach guttural levels at some points. the strength for this group though is obviously in their melodic portions which relieve the aggressive portions with an almost sludgy feel. all shitty genre puns aside, this is a record that definitely emblessishes on what hardcore in general can instrumentally procede. definitely indebted to '90s groups like Unruh and their release 'Setting Fire to Sinking Ships' which kinda mixed the aggressiveness of groups like Biohazard with the atmosphere of One Eyed God Prophecy. anyways, cop this from inkblot. it is going to be a classic someday.

Faithealer - Bound and Chained (2008)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Punch - Eyeless EP


i had heard about punch through a variety of facets. seeing Loma Prieta lots of the merch was present, Ghostlimb gave them a few shout outs when i saw them in Seattle, and when i went to see Portraits of Pasts in late December the group also got some mention. after hearing about them from so many great bands i figured that there must've been something legitimate about the group. after hearing this 7" i realized what a mistake it was to not check out the group earlier. a combination of thrash, '90s hardcore, and grind-like rhythms Punch is definitely one of the more aggressive and interesting throwback groups currently playing. of course, the main draw point for many is the female vocalist Meghan (what's up with Meghan's in hardcore?) who is certainly a great front(wo)man and brings the perfect compliment to the already fericous enough music. lyrics center around the dislike of California society or rather society in general, but the success with Punch mainly comes from their ability to as i constantly say about bands to draw on new and old trends in music. if you have interest in hardcore, this is definitely a recommendation.

Punch - Eyeless EP