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'.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Oren Ambarchi - Grapes From The Estate

oren ambarchi's 'grapes from the estate'
I'm going to see Pavement tomorrow evening and Guided by Voices on Monday. Not sure how I feel about Pavement, but I'm very excited to see GBV. Great band and I imagine their live show is much better than their recorded material. Expect a blog post concerning those bands at some point. The title of this blog is a little misleading. The post will be focused around two records. Oren Ambarchi is an artist I saw opening for Boris w/ Michio Kurihara. He played a set that in my mind was much louder than any of the recorded material I've acquired of his. His recorded material tends to be very subdued and beautifully sparse. His live material has very ominous and from my knowledge (the concert was nearly three years ago) extremely cavernous and huge. His recorded stuff sounds so condensed that it was cool to hear him be very sprawling live. "Grapes From The Estate" is my favorite Oren record and every track is a highlight. The trouble with ambient music is making it simple enough to be subtle, but complex enough to remain interesting. The four pieces on "Grapes From The Estate" encompass that idea completely.
fennesz and ryuichi sakamoto's 'cendre'
Fennesz and Ryuichi Sakamoto are both ambient musicians. Their collaboration "Cendre" is very different from Fennesz's work. The familiar glitchy ambience and solemn soundscapes are there, but Sakamoto seems to make the work very dark. The subtle addition of live piano and field recordings really adds a level of texture to the album that makes it great. Both of these records are excellent companions especially in the early hours of the morning. I find myself slowly drifting off to both Fennesz and Oren constantly in a way that is almost hypnotic. They both know the perfect amount of repetition to instill in a song while still allowing it to be relevant. Fennesz' pieces here are much shorter and less developed than Oren's, but they bleed a atmosphere devoid of Oren's sound. Ripples of sound encapsulating emotion is the only way to describe both of these records.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Dabrye - One/Three

dabrye's 'one / three'
Michigan hip-hop production is the best. I'm not saying that other regional areas don't have their highlights. The south, east and west all maintain a level of consistency that allows for the yearly showcase of excellent beats. Detroit and on a large scale Michigan takes influences from all of those styles though. Rather than fall into a trap of defining itself regional, Detroit has managed to create a production style that dabbles in soul samples, hard hitting beats, and influences from the city's own techno scene. Dilla is the easy name, but when you begin examining Detroit and Michigan producers in general they tend to have a level of consistency not seen in other areas. Black Milk, Decompoze, Waajeed, Mr. Porter, etc. the state has a tendency for showing off beats in tracks.

Dabrye is sort of the more electronic version of the Michigan sound. Much like Flying Lotus or Daedalus in the LA area, Dabrye takes influence from the local hip-hop scene but his music can not necessarily be classified as hip-hop. He definitely creates hip-hop sounding beats and the follow up to 'One/Three' features numerous guest rap spots. This music is more akin to the Brainfeeder movement than the Detroit hip-hop sound. 'One/Three' sounds like a Warp Record version of one of Dilla's beat tapes. The album is very organic and passes you buy in a much shorter time than it actual plays for. If anyone has heard 'Vintage Vol.2' this album pretty much sounds like a more expanded, technical version of that idea. Simple beats with not so simple sounds.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bedhead - What Fun Life Was

bedhead's 'what fun life was'
Who knows why I haven't been inspired to post anything lately. My girlfriend moved away for a couple of months. She moved back a couple months ago. I've been taking the final classes for my degree and spending a summer relaxing with friends. I guess that is why blogs tend to die is because people find things they find more important.

Bedhead is a mid '90s alternative group (surprise!). Most people who like the genre of slowcore probably know them. It is autumn in Southern California and I've been looking for records that revolve around the colder weather. Mainly focusing on post-hardcore and ambient music. Bedhead has some kind of combination of both of those types of sound. They play pop music much like the Duster record I posted a few months back. It is extremely melodic and extremely easy to listen to, but it also has these weird dissonant moments along with the more traditional ones. The textural aspects of this record are ones that are very subtle, but at the same time what makes the entire record. Good for cold nights, which I imagine I'll be having a lot more lately. Hopefully I can keep up with the posts.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Ray Barretto - Acid

Ray Barretto's 'Acid'
Almost could be described as salsa jazz. Definitive Latin influence on the music, but not in the usual way that you find with jazz records. Relation could be to groups like Sly Stone and Cymande who combine soul with jazz in a really nonchalant way. Great record, should be the source of numerous beats.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Idaho - Levitate

idaho's 'levitate'
Idaho is a slowcore group from Los Angeles. In reality the group acts a vessel for Jeff Martin's compositions. Idaho originally started off in the early '90s mimicking groups like American Music Club and Red House Painters. Their earlier records are pretty good attempts at slowcore, but they seem to want to break into rock and roll moments far too much. As Idaho progressed they become noticeably more reserved. 'Levitate' is extremely distant from Idaho's early work and in general is a pretty overwrought record. My best friend moved 9 hours away and I'm not doing anything about it. Maybe that is why this one is particularly touching right now. Jeff Martin certainly has a swagger about him that all the great artists in this style of music carry and perhaps that is why I love most of this guys work. 'I wish you'd go away / I've gotta grow up someday'

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

3 - Dark Days Coming

3's ' Dark Days Coming'
3's sound in retrospect comes off as a early example of the impact of 'revolution summer' in DC. The music here while similar to the previous Dischord "sound" is also drenched in acoustic guitars, more varied tempos, and singing rather than yelps. 3 features members from Minor Threat and Gray Matter. In general it seems like the band was very influenced by the song 'Salad Days', but that might just be the sound of the actual production of the record which has that really pristine and sharp tone. The group sounds pretty similar to Gray Matter which makes sense with two of their members (Geoff Turner the vocalist and Mark Haggerty the guitarist) making up the four piece. A lot of the songs here are really whimsical and impassioned and the timing of the record makes it come off almost as a period piece. The record rules in short.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Karate - Cancel / Sing

karate's 'cancel / sing'
Maybe self indulgent, but everything comes together throughout this record. One of Karate's finer moments.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Nat Baldwin - Most Valuable Player

nat baldwin's 'most valuable player'
nat baldwin has some loose connection to The Dirty Projectors, i believe he was the bassist at some point. this record is pretty interesting somewhat evoking Grizzly Bear with just a stand-up bass. definitely poppy, but very beautiful and technical in the same glance. sort of missed when it came out as well.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Masta Ace - Disposable Arts

masta ace's 'disposable arts'
Marley Marl's group or collective The Juice Crew was responsible for the emergence of numerous high profile rappers in the mid to late '80s. Perhaps most rememberable is the track 'The Symphony' a posse-cut featuring the likes of Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, Craig G and Masta Ace. Masta Ace after that release continued to evolve into one of those most technically skilled rappers of all time. Throughout his career Masta Ace's own solo material has focused around concepts. 'A Long Hot Summer' revolved around a rapper and his trials through going on tour and dealing with his manager. 'Disposable Arts' revolves around Masta Ace going to a fictional hip-hop university to escape his former life. While the concept definitely helps propel the album it really doesn't effect the material of the tracks which deal with a variety of topics. Every track is nearly a highlight and the only thing I can see turning some people off is the abundance of skits. Luckily Ace has done a well enough job implementing the actual songs within the skits so the album has a very linear nature. The most interesting part of this record is that Ace is still as good as he was in the '90s and at the same time he has updated his songs and beats in a way that this album makes perfect sense alongside other '01 releases like 'The Blueprint' and 'Stillmatic'. More great New York hip-hop that has certainly gone unnoticed by many.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Prince Lasha & Sonny Simmons

Prince Lasha's and Sonny Simmons' 'The Cry!'
Prince Lasha and Sonny Simmons first came to my attention because of Eric Dolphy's 'Iron Man'. Perpetuating the sound of Eric Dolphy and Andrew Hill, Simmons and Lasha certainly play avant-garde jazz. 'The Cry!' their first effort together follows a more linear path than 'Firebirds', but they both take great strides in terms of expanding the sounds they were working with on 'Iron Man'. The great part about these records are that they remain free while still retaining a bop backing. Much like Andrew Hill's work throughout the '60s there is an inherent groove throughout the music no matter how static or dissonant it may get. Anyone with any interest in jazz should check these two records out as they are insanely overlooked and truly special.