Sunday, November 27, 2005

I used some of my birthday money to get myself a new record, one that I most definitely had not heard and one that I was going to be totally gripped by for weeks to come. I think I found exactly what I was looking for.

I was in the mood for ambient on the most part in the past seven days, so I indulged in some Rune Grammofon stuff and Akira Rabelais.

This week in music...

spellewauerynsherde is one of the most haunting albums I've ever heard. Released in 2004 and under the noses of basically everybody I know, I am now understanding the error of my ways for not picking up on Akira Rabelais' wonderful record. Rabelais digs into his tape archives a la William Basinski and decides to digitise his old documents. What he finds is hours of Gregorian lament songs, and so he overlaps them, processes them with a laptop and forms these wonderful compositions, instilling in you only feelings of regret and loss. This album is not an upper, yet it is so sadly beautiful.

This week also got me into Luigi Archetti & Bo Wiget's Rune Grammofon recording, Low Tide Digitals. This record demonstrates Rune Grammofon's ability to release only the finest in free jazz/noise/ambient/experimental music, and this is absolutely no exception. With the quintessential Rune Grammofon addictive digipack packaging and the absurdly high quality production, I knew that as a Deathprod and Supersilent fanatic I was committing musical hubris by not picking this up.

Double Leopards produce some of the greatest drone/noise stuff around. With circuit benders, tone generators, guitars, and other assorted electronics, Double Leopards coax their instruments into delivering long, sprawling, orchestral drone compositions right to your headphones. Not as bassy as SunnO))) or as abrasive as Wolf Eyes, Double Leopards instead find a sort of shoegaze-influenced beauty in their ambience, a sound that Kevin Shields could identify with somewhat well. I like Halve Maen a lot, particularly "Hemisphere in Your Hair", a track clocking in at twenty minutes fifteen seconds.

Next week in music...

I'm hoping to pick up some Sunroof stuff, and possibly a killer Whitehouse album. I'm also really feeling Minamo, an ambient electronics duo from Japan. Sayonara...

Monday, November 21, 2005

I've been so busy this week. So busy, in fact, that I am yet again late with the update of this blog. So busy, that I did not even ponder which albums I listened to more than any others this week. I think I can pull it together now though...

Recording the music for a film makes you listen to certain albums by artists that the director wants to have influence your work. This week was pretty singer/songwriter-ish; and I hate most of that stuff, but when you're forced to listen to one particular genre, you pick the best of the best.

This week in music...

The director wants lots of Tom Waits I give him Tom Waits. Immersing yourself in Rain Dogs is never hard. People are constantly overlooking the greatness of this record. Taking you on a trip through acid-induced, Vaudevillean soul, to cryptic, percussive, dark stories of sadistic great uncles and slaughterhouses, this is basically as perfect as a folk record gets - mostly because it is so much more than that. Tom Waits is all attitude; even his love songs are snarly, gruff lyrical affairs that you can imagine have to be sung with and only with a leather jacket and a Philip Jackson.

One of the finest releases this year has undoubtedly been Arular, M.I.A.'s first proper studio album. Me, you, and everyone I know was probably floored by Piracy Funds Terrorism Vol. 1 last year, which left me in a funk driven, hip-hop based, experimental mess. That is a gripping album, and it left me literally salivating for the release of her debut. Lo and behold, Arular delivered, and it hasn't left my stereo much this last week. A fine record, possibly numero uno for 2005.

Lyle Lovett's Pontiac is a great album for one reason and one reason only: "If I Had A Boat". The rest of the album, while strong, is not even remotely close to touching this song for sheer quality. It sends chills down my spine every time I hear it, and its chord changes, its lyrical subject matter, and its delivery are so expertly crafted that you cannot deny that this is undoubtedly one of the finest songs ever written. Plus, the guy married Julia Roberts - he must be doing something right.

Next week in music...

Hopefully I'll get around to actually listening to some music...and hopefully I'll be on time with my next post.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Sorry about the tardiness of this post, Sunday was a busy day for me. Opted not to see the Dillinger Escape Plan last night due to my commitment to basketball. Don't much care for Hella and Between The Buried And Me anyway, so I figured it was slightly missable.

I do eventually want to see them though, considering that Miss Machine was a highlight of last week...though not listened to enough to score a place on my top three list.

Rova::Orkestrova's absolutely staggeringly interesting interpretation of John Coltrane's Ascension is breathtaking. Easily some of the most textural free jazz I have ever heard, offering up a slough of shrieking, cacophonic horns laced with the guitar noise of Nels Cline and the laptop manipulation of Ikue Mori. What a fantastic exploration into the field of sound, and such a brilliant delivery of the power of improvisation. The instrumentation is absolutely fascinating; modern digital experimental instruments are fused with a sonic virtuosity to a traditional approach to free jazz, creating an atmospheric, energetic and intense noise experience.

The Great Destroyer by Low is one of the most incredible records released this year. I once asked myself the question, "is it cooler when loud bands make quiet records, or when quiet bands make loud records?" before hearing the proof, in this document, that it was undoubtedly the former. Low, the definition of awesome wimp rock, bought a load of powerful Marshall Amps and electric guitars and used them. Their previous explorations into noise, like The Curtain Hits the Cast, are mere anecdotes to the loud, burgeoning riot they have going on here. Such an evolution is being show from these three Mormons from Salt Lake City - I basically can't wait till they release a split with Hair Police...That'll be the day.

The newest SunnO))) album, Black One, is one of the top releases this year. To those that have counted off this band as being merely Earth copyists, take note - Oren Ambarchi and John Wiese both make appearances on this record, offering one the conclusion that SunnO))) are total noise artists, furthering the violent experimentation of Merzbow's remixes on The Flight of the Behemoth, which were highly effective and climactic. Nothing beats going to sleep with SunnO))), especially the nightmares experienced when you're brave enough to follow through.

Next week in music...

I'm going to buy one more record with my birthday money. We're teetering closer to the edge of the year, meaning that everybody should have most of their best of lists completed by the end of November. I think I'm pretty sure what mine will look like; I doubt there's many surprises left in the last month of 2005. See you next week, on time this time...

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Still a certain stagnation of live music around these parts...aside from a punk show which was a definite pass and a couple of hardcore outings here and there, the lack of quality live music in this town is laughable.

I guess that forces you to find bands that really move you. This week saw me digging into some Montreal Krautrock influenced experimental punk, some Chicago blues-based noise, and some seriously progressive hip-hop.

Le Fly Pan Am are quite possibly the best Constellation band. I think that Godspeed You Black Emperor! obviously has their moments - they're one of the best Canadian bands of all time - but there are moments where they tend to lack Le Fly Pan Am' ne sais quois...punch. Le Fly Pan Am are a loud rock band who sit on chairs during live performances and crush their crowds with crunching, violent, Can-influenced noise rock. N'ecoutez Pas is their best, most expansive and enthralling work to date, incorporating Godspeed's tape manipulation and sonic experimentation. A great work, no doubt.

Talker by U.S. Maple shows that noise bands don't have to be loud and Hair Police-y. They don't necessarily have to improvise, they can write songs and compose, and this seems to demonstrate that U.S. Maple have their roots in the other side of African-American music - the blues. While Hair Police and Dead Machines build on the free-jazz work outs of Albert Ayler and Ornette Coleman, U.S. Maple are from Chicago - and so, they feel the pound of Howlin' Wolf and Robert Johnson. The result is a complex, dark love affair, with stories told by the lead singer's wheezy, lungless drawl.

Anti-Pop Consortium take hip-hop, remove the turntables and process it with a laptop. Anti-Pop's strange, digital beats show more of a reference to Aphex Twin than RZA, and the outcome is a refreshing blend of experimental electronica and rap. Arrythmia is the best example of this, its songs littered with beats made from bleeps and short, computerized pitches, elaborate stereo panning, and sampled ping-pong balls. Call it "free rap"; it's just experimental music. And it's rad.

Next week in music...

I've been a Krautrock-ish mood lately. Probably more Can, Neu! and maybe even Kraftwerk. I don't know. We'll see when we get there...

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Not a Sunday, but the day after Halloween, and what better way to celebrate the spooky season than to list off ten of the best Halloween albums ever - by Halloween albums, I am of course referring to theme of total darkness that engulfs the whole album.

I'm not talking about the Cramps or Ramones doing novelty Halloween hits here. I'm talking about chilling melodies, chanted voices, pounding, throbbing industrial drumbeats - I'm talking about dark, dark music. Throbbing Gristle. Bauhaus. Eyehategod. Anything on Southern Lord. Very dark music. Music that makes you feel alienated and alone, and plunges your soul into a pit of total blackness. This is the music that makes me chew my nails down to the bone. In no order, of course.

This Heat's 1981 masterpiece Deceit is a contender for perhaps the darkest album ever. I have been listening to this record daily since last Sunday, and it is so gripping, so chilling, and so awe-inspiring that it truly makes your skin crawl on October 31st. Listen to "Cenotaph" while walking alone on a street at midnight on Halloween like I did last night, and feel the goosebumps grow to the size of I did last night.

Godspeed You Black Emperor!'s F#A#oo is yet another masterpiece in the field of black. Songs evoking the end of the world, man's tragic downfall, a sky of fire, apocalypse...the end is near my friends, and embrace it. Listen to the soft spoken voice at the beginning of "The Dead Flag Blues"...those words are cold, dude. Very cold. On vinyl, this album is even more as amidst vinyl crackles and pops, the record simply bleeds on forever into infinity.

To be truly dark on Halloween, you cannot do without the Satanic black metal. And what other Satanic black metal record is more Halloween appropriate than Darkthrone's A Blaze in the Northern Sky? Grab your corpse paint, don satanus, and embark on a journey to the inner circle of hell, filling your soul with evil.

Some of the darkest music ever recorded is some seriously old blues. Dock Boggs and his banjo crafted some of the blackest, most disturbing music ever. You can hear the years of whiskey induced sufferin' in his voice, and the dirty secrets that must lay in the memories of a Southern white man in the early twentieth century. Tales of murder, of drinkin', and of woe are all embedded in his most definitive collection.

Dark does not even begin to describe Burned Mind by Wolf Eyes. This record is a sonic, wintry wasteland, full of anger, regret, despair, and alienation. The manical, homicidal nature of Wolf Eyes is also some of the most comforting music available - "Wolf Eyes", says a friend of mine "is someone hitting you with a sledgehammer." Nothing speaks darkness like Wolf Eyes. Blast this from your car stereo and go trick or treat - even the ghouls will run like hell.

Norwegian tape manipulator Helge Sten releases some of the most haunting music ever under the name Deathprod. Morals and Dogma, his masterpiece, forces you back into the saddest, scariest moments of your life and says "deal with it." His dark, flowing soundscapes become crushingly heavy with repeated listens - all eleven minutes of "Dead People's Things" is not unlike being crushed by thirty thousand tons of ice.

Khanate freaks the hell out of me, especially this self-titled album. They have a song called "Skin Coat", for Christ's sake. They play so...god...damn...slow. They look like metal incarnate. Their music is so dark you have to listen with a flashlight, and that barely does the trick. Like crawling through a forest full of snapping twigs in the middle of nowhere at three in the morning and then plummeting down a cliff to your death. The music is called doom metal for a reason. This is it.

Feel like some much-needed alienation and misery? How about some murder and death? Alright then. Throw on some Hair Police, particularly Obedience Cuts. Sure, Constantly Terrified is scary as hell too...but how many noise records accurately sample the unnerving sound of a man drowning in a bathtub? None - except this one. This is basically as dark as it gets.

With a name like The Grimmrobe Demos, how can you be unsure about SunnO)))? With a name apparently alluding to a total eclipse of the sun, therefore spraying complete and utter darkness on the mortals of Earth, you are positive that this album will evoke spindly trees at the cusp of winter, grasping for a gnatch of water before the snow falls and they face their long dehydration. This music is made for tundras, for barren, deserted wastelands where you are left with your hope and your guilt.

Finally, the quintessential album of death, despair and uncertainty. Without a doubt, Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska. With tales of serial killers and armageddon, these are truly the words of a man teetering over the edge of the abyss. Not in the sense of Iggy Pop and having fun with it, this is disturbing. This album disturbs me. It makes me uncomfortable, it makes me emotional, and it makes me passionate. This is music I put on when I feel unloved, because I know that the artist feels my pain. Look at the lonely cover, man. This is seriously gloomy stuff. Totally nightmarish.

Anyway, that's my guidebook to dark tunes. Don't listen to these albums with a loaded gun by your side. Like I said, dark, dark stuff. Happy Halloween!