• Evil Madness – Super Great Love 7.5

    25. Apr. 2011, 4:13

    Evil Madness is a super-group of Scandinavian bands you’ve never heard of: Stilluppsteypa, BJ Nilsen, and Johann Johannsson. Despite most of these performers’ positions in the extreme avant-garde (even by their own label’s standards, Emego, they are obscure) this is a fun record with a good sense of humor. Those familiar with the tongue-in-cheek irony of Trans Am will need that attitude to get through these songs.


    This music is extremely playful. Arpeggios are literally strewn all over the place. A more than passing resemblance to an updated Kraftwerk is unavoidable: Evil Madness holds an affinity for old equipment and certain skewed pop sensibilities.


    A surprisingly large of electronic genres gets close scrutiny. Trance is here in tracks like “Divine Sensual Love Fantasy” (yes, the song’s title is part of the joke). Some of the songs seem to share a lot in common with Soft Pink Truth’s approach to dance music, just enough kitschy humor to make it enjoyable.


    Other songs appear to draw strength from hyper-active pop music. “Café Eindhoven” would be the smash hit if Evil Madness was interested in hits, which it clearly isn’t. It stomps, raves up, and generally goes insane. But the longest song “Maxim’s Goldfinger” which includes distorted vocals is the most fun on here. Towards the end it completely gets cut up mere inches away from death.


    Basically, this is a group of normally experimental musicians having some fun within the confines of trashy pop techno. Due to their training and practice, it is a surprisingly enjoyable affair.

    Evil Madness
  • The High Llamas – Talahomi Way 7.2

    22. Apr. 2011, 4:22

    Sean O’Hagan’s project is one of those things I always enjoy. There are a number of reasons for this, the clean execution, mellow vibe, or the extreme Anglophile nature of the project itself. When I hear them, I think of what Brian Wilson might have written about had he been British.


    “Talahomi Way” continues with the more acoustic nature they’ve started since “Beet Maize & Corn” and followed through on “Can Cladders”. Basically, this is the logical progression of both of those two albums. Songs on here are memorable while providing enough space to focus on some of the gorgeous melodies Sean so effortlessly creates.


    What makes Talahomi Way so enjoyable is how easy it feels. Each one of these songs is carefully crafted, the horns put in the right moment. Had Stereolab decided to follow up on an acoustic version of their sound it would probably sound like this album.


    From the opener “Berry Adams” it gives off the right mood of lounge and dreaminess. The vocals are positively sweet and the bass surprisingly playful. “Talahomi Way” goes over their favorite subject of travel. Most of their songs focus on the idea of going or being elsewhere and this album is no exception.


    Plenty of bands change their direction countless times, constantly redefining their focus. The High Llamas are not one of those bands. Instead, they constantly focus on honing out a very specific niche of sound. And they continuously do it well, this just happens to be one of their better albums.

    The High Llamas
  • Bikeuala – Brand New Pants 8.0

    21. Apr. 2011, 4:17

    Bikeuala may be considered ‘pure sonic fun’. I can literally hear the fun they had recording this collection of 18 songs. Each one has its own personality. A few themes and sounds are present in most of the songs giving it a near-theme. But really, the best way of enjoying these 28 minutes of packed-tight fun is to lose your mind among the sounds.


    Whoever is on that drum does a fantastic job. On nearly every track, the drummer makes his presence felt on the dance track “Mis Lady DJ” or in a more frenzied way “Bugs”. At no point does the drummer appear to get much of a break on the album. Even at the quieter moments, there might be a gentle brushing, but he’s always there, waiting to explode into torrential downpour of rhythm and noise.


    A few times I’m reminded of “Home Movies” the show while I hear this album. Part of that reason might have to do with the pure joy contained, in fact overflowing from each track. The sheer amount of energy and sincerity, however silly, has a similar feel to that show. While it may appear on the surface to be a bunch of guys (Tom Filardo, Edward Chrichton, and Gregory Campanile, to be specific) goofing around, there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye.


    I find the positivity to be a very good thing. Experimentation can be a warm, emotional positive thing. Bikeuala proves this in spades. While they experiment with the idea of what a pop song is, they give off a vibe similar to Canada’s “The Unicorns” but with less singing. The few times you do hear singing is usually to emphasize the mood.


    Sometimes through the course of the album you get the feeling several bands are within this one bands. There’s the mellow indie band, there’s the frantic stomping goodness one, and there’s the ambient, reflective one. Considering they only have 28 minutes, that’s no mean feat. Best part of this album is it is all for free right here.

    Bikeuala
  • Zomes – Earth Grid 7.3

    19. Apr. 2011, 4:06

    Asa Osburne continues to carve out a niche for himself with Earth Grid. When I first heard this, I had a hard time thinking why exactly I liked it. Perhaps it had to do with the unabashedly lo-fi blunt style of the recording. Or could it be he takes an extremely slow, deliberate approach to his music. However you want to interpret this, it is a real grower.


    Using the most basic elements (drone, extremely dusty drum machine) he manages to create a warm, almost optimistic sound. Walking with this on, I felt the music began to make me feel better, it calmed me down. At no point does Zomes try to shock you with any loud sounds or a tempo which would indicate consciousness. Instead, he decides to let you focus on the drone melodies with extremely simple drum beats (in this recording they function more as a metronome than as a real beat per se).


    I enjoy how he uses extremely dated equipment for this album. He doesn’t feel the need to really expand the palette beyond the most basic of melody and progression. While this might annoy some listeners, it comes across as unusually soothing music. Pieces of rock, krautrock, and drone can be found within these 41 odd minutes.


    For me, the longer songs work better as they show off the fruits of this dedication. By far the best track on this short album is “Alec’s Anthem” where the long length reveals a real knack for writing slowly shifting songs. Generally speaking, the longer track lengths do a better job of exploring the many variations of a single loop.


    Consider this lo-fi meditative music. Zomes manages to make something apparently so simple into something with a great deal of heart and soul.

    Zomes
  • 2562 – Fever 8.7

    18. Apr. 2011, 4:01

    2562 set one limitation for this album: everything had to be sampled from disco albums. It is the best limitation he could have set. The entire album is so fantastic; I think I’ve finally been converted over to the church of dubstep.


    Previous efforts by Dave Husimans had been a bit less house-orientated. As a huge fan of house music, particularly well-done house, I think it is probably that element which won me over. While listening to this, I’m reminded this is only his third album. Those previous albums lacked a certain something; maybe they were a bit too sparse for me.


    “Winamp Melodrama” reminds me heavily of Oval gone dance. Yes, it is that good. Beats skip; melodies are lost in constant stutters and distortion. Glitch never sounded so good or purposeful. Other parts are reminiscent of late-period IDM such as “Juxtapose” which strongly suggests Jake Mandell’s work might have had an influence.


    Other songs show off certain spaciousness. “Intermission” with its heavy bass, ideal percussion and lush sound fills its 6 minutes with nothing but giant sounds. Faster songs exist on this album too, such as the hyper-kinetic “Brasil Deadwalker”. Countless allusions are made to the best of early 90s techno, whether it is the far off hits or stabs of melody.


    My personal favorite would have to be “Final Frenzy”. It has a great buildup in it. Perhaps if 2562 was interested in hits, this would be the radio single. I’m not sure; I’m pretty addicted to electronic music in general.


    “Fever” is a full album. There aren’t any duds. Albums like this confirm my faith in electronic music in general. Occasionally I veer away from the path of pure electronic. 2562 reminds me of my favorite albums I listened to growing up as a kid and I’m thankful to him.


    2562
  • Woebot – Chunks 8.2

    14. Apr. 2011, 4:09

    ‘Chunks’ feels apt for this release. While his previous release ‘Moanad’ felt a bit more scattered or fragmented, here he teases out grooves. The songs, though still packed to the brim with weird samples, feel better fleshed out. In case you were wondering, Matt Ingram has his off-sense of humor in full display on this album.


    Woebot doesn’t sample pointless soloing. Rather, weird pieces of sound are brought together. They come together to form something new. I know this is the point for a lot of sample-based music, but usually they don’t succeed on creating something new. He does.


    “Blues” for me at least, shows off the method used on most of the album. Though the arrangement is still quirky, it is greater than the sum of its parts. Previously his other material had shown off of his good taste than an ability to create an effective song. Here, the taste is still in view, but they are now full songs.


    Some of these songs are even relatively long. “Trans-Love Energies” manages to somehow take bits from elevator music and make it into something silly, funny even. Curd Duca comes to mind specifically. I don’t know how he quite pulls this off, but it probably one of the better tracks on here.



    Other songs show off origins from heavy rock (like “Rusticle”) or random bits (like “Sludgie”). You need to have a sense of humor to really enjoy this album. Also, being a total music snob helps as well, as there is a certain joy in picking out where these snippets might have originated.These songs might require a few listens as they definitely grow on you.

    Woebot
  • Airliner – None LP 7.8

    13. Apr. 2011, 4:18

    Airliner is described as “Slow Motion Funk”. Think of Boards of Canada and imagine if they decided to dabble in funk. Yes, it is that good. While Seth Haley (better known as Com Truise) has been working with these kinds of sounds for a while, this may be the best stuff I’ve heard from him yet.


    The melodies get struck in your head. Each song sounds pristine, crystal clear. Bass-wise, it is a real treat, as he focuses mostly on the deeper sounds. So when you listen, the beats hit hard. If you have headphones, I’d strongly recommend them for this album which breezes by in its 30 minutes.


    “Everyday” sounds fantastic and is probably one of my favorites. As I listen to it, I’m kind of amazed at how perfect the sounds are. It makes me wish for more a clear blue sky to look up at as it plays. This is clearly meant for warm weather and the song positively radiates warmth. My other favorite would be the longest track on here “Illuminism”. Actually, when I hear this, I’m a bit surprised at how few electronic artists are able to capture funk properly. Usually I hear something a bit overdrawn like Dam-Funk’s work.


    Where Airliner succeeds is with the execution and editing of these songs. Melodies are memorable, the beats are great, everything’s clear, and the bass is smooth. This may be the best thing I’ve heard from Seth Haley yet, which is saying something considering all the good work he’s done. Please give this a listen on his bandcamp.

    Airliner
  • Maria Minerva – Tallinn at Dawn 8.4

    12. Apr. 2011, 4:01

    Maria Minerva’s sonic universe is a hard thing to describe. I might say she’s a more lo-fi Estonian version of Nite Jewel to give you some idea. That definition is somewhat limiting, as Maria has moved to London. Perhaps her work will herald in a re-evaluation of 80s/early 90s electronic music and its lovable cheesiness.


    “Tallinn at Dawn” is a short and enjoyable album. Each song has its own personality while contributing to the general atmosphere of the album. A haze is spread thick over the tunes, as if the sound is coming from far away. Her voice has a sweet fragility which sounds sincere and half asleep. Even the melodies get confused.


    None of the songs outstay their welcome. Loops are distorted, lose their way, and don’t bother coming back. Sometimes the sounds flirt with the idea of stopping completely as it descends into audio muck. “10 Little Rock Chix Listening to Neu!” starts up and nearly loses its energy. Actually, this makes the song more enjoyable, as the unpredictability and general disarray of the song brings her close to hypnagogic pop’s ideal.


    Songs become felt both on a hummable, traditional pop sense and a dreamier, more emotional sense. They differ from the rather straightforward “Hop Hop Gone in Spring” to the sample-laden “Sad Serenade (Bedroom Rock N’ Roll)”. On the latter track, there’s a noticeable 90s influence two-thirds of the way into the song. It is a nice flair to an already solid enough song.


    A blurring comes along in the other songs where it references multiple sounds at once. “Unchain my Heart” is probably the best example of this approach. Other songs constantly bleed in and out of the mix, like she recorded multiple songs onto the same tape. Then she proceeds to sing along with the other song as it shifts back to the original song.


    Not Not Fun did a great job putting out this cassette. Give this album a few listens as its many charms require a few listens. It is well-done sonic oddity. She’s collaborating with another favorite of mine (LA Vampires) so thankfully we’ll have more by her this year.

    Maria Minerva
  • Henryspenncer – To the Timeless Valley 7.6

    11. Apr. 2011, 4:08

    “Bookmaker records” is a brand new label offering up French psychedelica. Lately France has been getting some pretty excellent bands emerging, seemingly out of nowhere, with these takes on expansive music. Henryspenncer continues in that proud tradition.


    Valentin Feron’s music is massive. In his own words, he states that it is influenced by Northern Scotland. As someone who has wandered around those parts, I’d say there’s a certain truth to it. The sounds are somewhat inviting despite the sometimes ominous nature. Perhaps that’s due to all the instruments he incorporates, or the slow movement of the pieces themselves.


    There aren’t any loud surprises. Pacing-wise, it has a certain post-rock build. When the loudness or a crescendo does happen, it feels deserved. “An Elevator to Nowhere, with a Pyramid” has a far-off sound. Even as it gets more percussion, it reminds more of a threat than an outright onslaught.


    If this has any similar bands, I’d probably say latter-day Earth. A western twang is noticeable on most of the pieces, particularly the shorter sketches “Roma” and “Hibernation”. On the closer “The Timeless Valley” Henryspenncer even employs an acoustic guitar and organ.


    Henryspenncer creates a likable album. It exists between drone and outright psychedelic. By incorporating so many different ideas and using a certain degree of discipline, he creates an album that feels well-worked over. Each piece sounds thought through and there are no needless displays of solos. It is just giant sound.


    Henryspenncer
  • Explosions in the Sky at Radio City Music Hall

    7. Apr. 2011, 5:26

    Wed 6 Apr – Explosions in the Sky, Low, Eluvium

    I’ve gone to concerts at Radio City Music Hall before. Usually they feel a bit stuffy due to me sitting down and politely casting judgment from the nosebleed seats. Tonight that didn’t happen. Instead, I found myself enjoying some of the benefits of having a giant room and seats.

    Eluvium came up first. He introduced himself with a brief “Good Evening” and proceeded to play for a short period of time. While I’d like to comment more on his performance, I happened to constantly hear the crackling of plastic candy around me which distracted me. So from what I could focus on he appeared to be a more indie version of George Winston. The playing was moody which fit the rather awful weather had tonight.

    Low came up next. They were sweeter than I expected them to be. When I hear their music, I think of the best kind of loving-making music. Keep in mind as I say this I’m a giant music nerd. Some of my friends have informed me this distinction is held by Belle & Sebastian. I’d like to change that to these wonderful people from Duluth, Minnesota who virtually embodies Minnesota nice.

    For this concert they had a quartet. All the songs were from their new album “C’mon”. In a live setting, I felt the album really does show a mixture between their “Things We Lost in the Fire” and “I could live in Hope” periods. Most of the songs were extremely quiet and slow. I’m not sure how many in the audience were as excited as I was for them, but I did hear a few ‘I love these guys’ so I’m glad I wasn’t alone.

    Actually, Low being there was the reason I decided to go in the first place. I’d never seen them before. Getting tickets to a concert just to see one of the opening acts probably cements my reputation as a Hipster, in case seeing Animal Collective twice didn’t already do that for me. But Low deserve it. They continually put out a good product.

    “Try to Sleep” started things up, followed by my personal favorite “You See Everything”, then “Nightingale” a few others, finishing off with a loud “Nothing But Heart”. If I had a problem with their set, it was probably a slight displeasure with the bassist. Occasionally I felt the bassist was on a different page than the rest of the band. Usually this wouldn’t be noticeable, but in a band as quiet and dependent on the low end as Low, it irked me ever so slightly. When they ended people clapped but I wished they clapped harder. Low does something so unusual in the music world by following their own muse rather than making naked grabs at the latest trends. Few bands have the guts to do that, so I respect them for the decision.

    Explosions in the Sky are a band I enjoy quite a band. When Post-Rock sort of fell by the wayside, these guys were just starting out. I felt bad for them as they were fairly excellent. They were resigning themselves to a genre with diminishing returns. Bands that get into these fading away genres can get ignored despite their obvious quality.

    Since they were the headlining act, they avoided such a fate. Before they began, they started out with heartfelt thanks towards the preceding two acts, particularly Low. As Explosions in the Sky excels at some of the quieter, more tender aspects of its sound, it didn’t shock me they considered Low a class act. I’m glad they brought Low in for the ride.

    What made them so interesting is their penchant for avoiding some of the Post-Rock template. Build-ups were there for sure, but they also randomly explode. This isn’t so much intellectual music as it is emotional. I didn’t realize a few people could make so much or so little sound. A few moments they literally stopped on a dime. Or the opposite would happen as their guitars propelled us to the sky.

    Perhaps their name is apt. They do well both in an almost shoegaze setting, with mellow guitar interplay. Sometimes they explode into glorious color, all the while never missing sight of the other players. Everyone on stage worked together to make the songs work; there weren’t any solos, a real rarity for a genre that embraces them.

    I hope someday soon when the 90s begin getting mined for material Post-Rock becomes one of those old genres newly embraced. As new bands discover the joy of Post-Rock, they’ll notice Explosions in the Sky kept the seat warm for them.