Sunday, October 30, 2005

This week I didn't really find anything new that totally grabbed me and changed my world - it was more of the same old, same old. I listened to a lot of hip-hop, and noise stuff - this week was very "beat-heavy", except for my brief introduction with the new SunnO))) album, and some Fennesz live bootlegs.

And now for my week in music...

Wolf Eyes' Dread is the most Burned Mind-ish of all the pre-Burned Mind albums. The title itself is pointing toward the dub influence in their work. This record is very heavy on the digital and analog delay, the screamed vocals, and the heavy, industrial, throbbing beats. While Burned Mind meets sort of halfway between this album and their very ethereal Slicer, Dread is almost even more straight-forward and song-y Wolf Eyes releases. Their second best album, and part of "The Big Five" Wolf Eyes releases, along with their self-titled debut, Slicer, Dead Hills, and Burned Mind. All these releases are amazing in their own right and different enough to have been released by completely different bands.

I have a very strong Wu-Tang Clan obsession. I think that 36 Chambers is the absolute pinnacle of hip-hop - dark, lyrical, evocative, passionate, angry, and paradoxical - how can an album be so ethereal while at the same time be so straightforwardly down to earth? The RZA's beats compliment the gritty, through-the-teeth rhyme style of the eight MCs, and the best post 36 Chambers solo albums are undoubtedly some of the best hip-hop albums of all time. The cream of the solo Wu-Tang crop is Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. It reigns supreme in all categories - it is artistically untouchable in the field of production, lyrics and rhyme delivery. Mad props.

This week's last pick was a tough choice, especially since I visit this album so often. This release remains one of my top albums of all time, and it seemed to offer the perfect soundtrack for some moments of my life in the past seven days. Isis's Oceanic is by far the most perfect metal album of all time. The music moves you in such an unprecedented way that I find anyone would be unable to feel the same. Its haunting, washing distorted guitars create such an atmospheric effect on the listener that I find myself incapable of shutting it off until completion - and when I do, I find that I have either committed some sort of great injustice to the world of music, or I feel rather incomplete, and have to return to the record at the exact spot I've left off and finish listening - it is a testament, a monolith, an epic feat of artistic achievement. I feel for this record unlike any other.

Next week in music...

Haven't really been keeping track of new releases lately, I've been trying to improve my back catalogue. I'm anxiously trying to track down a digital copy of Deceit by This Heat, but I doubt I'll have any luck. Check back next Sunday...

Sunday, October 23, 2005

This week, not so heavy on the metal. I did manage to tone it down a bit, although I have lost the shame in admitting that I enjoy banging my head. I'm actually pushing it on people now; it's as though I'm coming out of the metal closet. I listened to the new Early Man record today, and despite the fact that it's a bit too "hair metal"-ish for me, there were endearing qualities in that which I would have waved away mere weeks ago.

Didn't see any good bands this week, unfortunately. Saw Thumbsucker, that Mike Mills movie, which Elliot Smith did a vast amount of the music for and I thought it was a fantastic film. On the musical front...

The Foreign Exchange's Connected is a heartbreaking work of staggering genius. It explodes with a delicious introduction, laying down the most ethereal electronica-inspired beats I've heard in a very, very long time. It also mixes soul and hip hop effectively - the evidence of course being "Happiness", the twelfth track on this excellent album. That was definitely a standout track of last year, and I feel sorry to say that I missed the boat and only bought Connected now.

Matthew Dear blows my mind. Leave Luck to Heaven has some of the most intricately woven, delicately crafted dance beats I've heard since Aphex Twin's Windowlicker. Gettin' down has never felt this artsy-fartsy - "Is it from Manchester, circa 1991 or Berlin, circa 1974?" Perfect mix of rave culture and black turtlenecks. His other album, Backstroke, is elegant as well, although the enveloping, shadowy sense of darkness in this record is too appealing to avoid.

I have never owned an album as over the top as Frozen Corpse Stuffed With Dope by Agoraphobic Nosebleed. It is undeniably pummeling grindcore, with sadistically humurous lyrics, and a drum machine that allows the band to reach speeds exceeding 220 bpm. The distorted, grunted, horrowshow vocals are so unbelievably intense, and the songs are so short. This album is awesome. So is the title.

Next week in music...

Hopefully I'll see a decent concert or two. That's my only wish. This week seemed sort of music-less due to the lack of live music...see you next Sunday...

Sunday, October 16, 2005

I went to the Constantines show and it was undoubtedly one of the best shows ever. That band floors me every time; I am continually astounded and astonished by their sheer energy, vitality, and quality. Their songs are consistently fantastic and I sincerely feel that they improve with each album. I can't wait until 2006 or 2007 so that they can top my year end lists then.

This week I found myself getting into some bands and some styles that I didn't think I'd be normally pumped on - namely metal, grind, and other assorted genres. I found myself splurging on some releases by some bands that I never thought I'd find myself listening to.

Orchid's self titled release is a seriously aggressive collection of work. I fell asleep listening to it last night, and I strongly feel that in prepared me for today. I find that music this intense tends to share a lot of the effects of noise music a la Wolf Eyes - the intensity becomes so overpowering that it actually calms you down and relaxes you. Orchid's speed and energy becomes so consistently pummeling that it ends up sounding like a drone after ten or fifteen minutes, which, coincidently, is exactly how long this album seems to last. Some songs fail to to top thirty seconds of sheer grind/metal noise, which is awesome - when you're in the mood, which I totally seem to have been.

The fathers of metalcore, Rorschach, released Autopsy in 1995 to offer a complete discography of their recorded material. The sheer influence this band has had on the punk and hardcore underground is laughable - when listening to Autopsy sometimes you swear that you're hearing Converge. There is nothing subjective about this statement - compare Jane Doe with Remain Sedate. Autopsy's power floored me, however, and after the first couple listens I've decided that I might have heard one of the best compilation releases of all time. I think this Rorschach release rates as high as Minor Threat's Complete Discography for sheer scope and power. Simply unforgettable.

Despite the fact that seemed to be my week for metal, I couldn't help but be fully absorbed by The National. "Finally," I keep saying to myself, "a wimp-rock band that doesn't sound wimpy." The National are pop music at its greatest - the songs are so brilliantly constructed, the lyrics are heavenly, and this record has not left my CD player for four days. I think I listened to Alligator more this week than any other album. It is beyond enjoyable, completely perfect. Chris Martin from Coldplay could learn a thing or two.

Next week in music...

Next week I guess I'll see how far I dive into my current metal and grind fixations. I picked up an Agoraphobic Nosebleed record today - it's called Frozen Corpse Stuffed With Dope. What's happening to me, what's happening...

Sunday, October 09, 2005

This week was spent revisiting some old classics and identifying with some bands that I hadn't really connected with before. Constantines play live on Wednesday, but I still have to get tickets. In the past seven days, I've indulged in some Canadian indie pop, the most brilliant amalgamation of free jazz, grindcore and dub I've ever heard, and some German experimental laptop music from last year.

Broken Social Scene is going to top all the critics polls at the end of this year. The new self-titled release is going to send scenester kids into fits of spastic rage due to the sheer poppiness of it. Just when you thought the Arcade Fire's Funeral was becoming more and more of a guilty pleasure as the minutes ticked by, another fine Canadian pop band releases another fine pop record. There's nothing wrong with songs - for every Wolf Eyes record I own, there's an equally important and interesting Guided By Voices one.

My week in music:

As previously stated, this record will blow everyone away. Feel Good Lost drew comparisons to ambient electronica and sometimes bores me to death, You Forgot in People was pretty "rock-y" and frankly: formulaic, Bee Hives was interesting, but didn't quite cut my cake - but this Broken Social Scene album delivers. Its songs are excellent, the instrumentation actually makes sense this time; along with the ever-expanding-previously-deemed-unnecessarily-large roster of musicians. A humble, self-titled album, with brilliant artwork and brilliant songs. Very impressive, already being touted as album of the year by people who either haven't heard the new Constantines album or are too afraid to rock with their balls out. But still, the complaints are few and far between - Broken Social Scene are making it okay for me to like sugary coated pop songs again. And thank god.

When I started working in a record store, the complete studio works of Painkiller was the first thing I bought. John Zorn's landmark experimental noise project blended grindcore, free jazz, dub, and ambient music into one sadistic, violent and bloody mess. Players include Bill Laswell of Last Exit and Mick Harris of Napalm Death - Execution Ground is one of the finest bridge-building albums ever recorded, an epic feat of jazz improvisation, and one of the heaviest, most extreme jam sessions ever set to analog tape. It's more than ten years old, and when I play it for people, they still don't know what to do with themselves. People don't know what to make of it. I've listened to this record every single day this past week, and I discover new things every time. It simply drowns me in wonderment. I'm shocked out how effortlessly the three guys play off of eachother, and manage to construct these incredibly ethereal blends of free jazz, grindcore and dub. It floors me, and it's incredibly hard to find.

Venice by Fennesz is giving me one big week-long chill. It is the most atmospheric, textural and comforting music I've ever heard. This, upon consideration, should have topped my lists for last year, but I just never got around to listening to the damn thing all the way through. One year later, here I am; enthralled by its magnificence and constantly searching for the new adjectives to describe the effect that it has on me. David Sylvian's guest appearance on "Transit" is exceptional - his smooth, soft voice seems to be the perfect mate for the harsh, yet beautiful noise sounds coming from Fennesz's processed guitar.

Next week in music:

Hopefully I find a way into the Constantines show so I can see them live again. The best band in the world right now, hands down. These five Canadian gentlemen are the most incredible sight to behold. So amazing, you'll go into cardiac arrest, I guarantee it.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Saw Black Dice at Victory Lounge on Friday. We played with them, and that's the only way I would have seen them, since I'm under eighteen. I don't really know what to think of our set, but life's all about the next gig, right?

Black Dice is crazy. Not in the conventional sort of sense; they don't freak out, and jump around like most other crazy noise bands. Instead, all the energy stems from the fact that they are the equivalent to a large jet taking off, and are easily mistaken as such at times. The loudest live band ever, no jokes - and the sheer intensity of the volume equals sheer intensity of a live set. That is the only band I've ever seen that has literally rendered my earplugs useless. I think that I permanently damaged my hearing that night; the Victory Lounge is such a small venue, too, and seeing a band like that in a venue like that is simply skull crushing.

My week in music:

New Constantines album released on Three Gut - apparently the last release from the label that brought you Oneida, Jim Guthrie, and the first two Constantines albums. I think that Tournament of Hearts is the album of the year. Hands down. It's going to come down to Constantly Terrified by Hair Police, Broken Ear Record by Black Dice, Arular by MIA, that Xiu Xiu/Larsen collaboration, and this new Constantines record. It slays. It sounds like Fugazi playing Motown - or Mission of Burma playing Otis Redding - or something along the lines of some dirty punk rock band doing the craziest, oldest, deepest American rock'n'soul covers. You have to own this - own this or pose. Check out their webpage here. It's going to be tough deciding which album of theirs comes out on top. They are all absolutely wonderful records.

Matthew Herbert's Plat du Jour is ridiculous. Dance forged from the field recordings of chickens, bottled water, coca cola, pigs, cows, other slaughtered farm animals - is this electronica? Is this experimental? Is this political? It's a combination of everything; the beats are ambient enough to relax to, and the samples are recognizable enough for you to understand their political intention. This guy is taking a shot at the big food industry, and it's the thinking man's Super Size Me. I think I'm going to be listening to this for quite some time now. I tracked down some images of the guy, and the most interesting I thought was a picture of him squatting next to a baby chicken, sampling some squawking with a three thousand dollar Seinheiser microphone. Awesome.

I've also recently checked out The Hospitals, the album is I've Visited the Island of Jocks and Jazz. They're a really good San Francisco noise band. Awesome stuff on Load, home of Lightning Bolt, Sightings, White Mice, and anything else that's worthwhile and interesting in the musical world right now...except for maybe Neon Hunk. Good, original stuff doesn't come along all that often, and the lo-fi/no-fi ethic taken in the production of the Hospitals' music is almost just as endearing as that of Ariel Pink. I swear to god, this Hospitals stuff was recorded in a closet in a basement. It sounds that distant, that muddy, that noisy. Tape hiss is like an instrument on this record, and it adds to the haunting, pummeling effect of the sheer noise. Hanson totally missed the boat on this one dude, the Hospitals are totally a Hanson band. "They sound sort of like Scissor Girls," says a friend of mine. Decide for yourself.

Next week in music:

In the world of hip-hop, new Ghostface Killah, Atmosphere, Alchemist and Twista out next week. I've also got good feelings about the new Broken Social Scene album, there's some Captain Beefheart interview archives being released, and the Why? album is going to be good too. Good things happening in music right now, keep your ears glued to your headphones and your headphones glued to the ground...