*This is also posted on Crasstalk, a collective blog I’m a part of.*

I listen to music constantly, and I’m constantly acquiring new things. So much, in fact, that serious evaluation on an album-by-album basis is impossible. To ensure my musical hoarding doesn’t amount to too much waste, I’ve elected to begin picking out choice tracks from my catch and reviewing them, here. I’m hoping to make this a weekly thing, every Saturday night, mods willin’.

*** I had to take a week off for school stuff (which is also the culprit behind the dearth of proper album reviews around here for the last month or so) but I’m back. This week, acid technopop from EOD, a Daedelus remix from UK House guy Floating Points, and acoustic folk from RM Hubbert. ***


EOD – questionmark 2 (from Questionmarks, self-released via Bandcamp)

Perhaps due to his high profile in the 90’s, or the vacuum left by his long, languid release schedule, a lot of people have taken cracks at cribbing the Aphex Twin’s myriad styles. Most of these artists tend to go straight for an AFX-style hard acid sound centered almost entirely around Roland TB-303 arpeggios, and while that’s all well and good, oftentimes the music feels more like faithful genre exercise than anything else. I would be a lot less enthused with Rephlex-style IDM were it not for EOD, a Norwegian producer who captures the uniquely skewed electropop sensibility that Richard D. James brought to IDM as very few do. Following the pretty amazing Ultrecht EP for the acid-centric 03030 imprint, he has released a new EP on short notice to raise funds to  repair his Roland TR-909 drum machine, which suffered damage from a power surge.

Ultrecht was pretty evenly divided between airier Selected Ambient Works Vol. I compositions and analog acid techno, but Questionmarks is pretty much entirely in the latter mode, sounding throughout like a two or three Analord singles that were never released. “questionmark 2” is akin to some of the outliers in that massive 42-track series, a rushing 4/4 acid-electro instrumental that never really flags in pace. The multiple synth melodies, which by this point are a sort of EOD signature as much as an IDM touchstone, surge and twist in emotive and spectacular ways, and the rubbery 303 bass arpeggios, which admittedly aren’t as acrobatic as they are in some of EOD’s other efforts, provide a more dynamic rhythmic underpinning to the track than the fairly standard 4/4 drum pattern (which still pulls off a satisfying break every once in awhile, and manages to get more interesting towards the end of the track). The only real downside is that it ends out of nowhere, but in a song with this sort of momentum, satisfactory stopping points are hard to come by.

Stream “questionmark 2” on Soundcloud.

(“Questionmarks” is a digital only album sold through EOD’s Bandcamp page.)

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Daedelus – Tailor-Made [Floating Points Remix] (from Tailor-Made Remixes on Ninja Tune)

Daedelus has been credited with sowing the seeds of the current Low End Theory-centric “Beat” scene in Los Angeles (notable home to Flying Lotus, among many many others), releasing music since 2001 and cultivating an air of eccentricity in concert (mainly due to his Victorian gentleman dress and fairly spectacular use of a Monome) that hasn’t always paid off on his recordings, primarily due to the fact that he’s so prolific, and thus often inconsistent. Thankfully, the first single off of his new album for Ninja Tune is one of his best in awhile, staking out territory between Bonobo and Joy Orbison with a sultry female vocal (courtesy of Milosh) over a track that quietly builds forwards and up before ratcheting back down again.

For the prospective single / remix EP, Daedelus (Ninja Tune?) picked out a pretty strong pair of artists to retool the track, but the strongest of the two (to my mind at least) is Floating Points, who’s quietly built up a reputation in certain circles over the last few years as a UK House wunderkind. More recently he’s been exploring more jazz-influenced sounds (primarily though his live ensemble, also on Ninja Tune) and his edit for Daedelus follows in this vein. Floating Points takes a bit of a risk in essentially removing the track’s forward momentum, but he compensates by leaning a lot harder on Milosh’s vocal and teasing out its latent lounge potential through tasteful use of a Rhodes (always a good choice) before inserting softly squeezed organ synths and a shuffling rhythm that I would call “dubstep” if the term wasn’t so meaningless these days. Overall, FP pretty much steals the song from Daedelus (it’s more of a deconstruction than a remix) but in so doing he makes a better case for himself as a certain sort of jazz composer than he did with his ensemble group. It’s sort of a shame that Daedelus is probably best known at this point for being Flylo’s LA-based mentor and Floating Points is now known as the guy who talked over the radio debut of the recent Four Tet / Burial / Thom Yorke collab, but if this song (and its remix) are any indication, they certainly have the chops to gain greater recognition for their own work.

(You can purchase the digital version of the “Tailor-Made” Remix EP, also including a Tokimonsta remix, over at Bleep)

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RM Hubbert – Hey There Mr. Bone (from First & Last on Chemikal Underground Records)

There was a time, not too long ago, when I considered myself an electronica partisan. Tired of the skepticism of people I knew over electronic music in general, I started to articulate a distinctly anti-rockist stance, arguing against the musical primacy of the album format and, more importantly, the emotional primacy of the guitar as a musical instrument. Mostly, this was in reaction to the continued vexation of Radiohead fans who felt as though everything the band made post-OK Computer was “not real music”, and the rise of Chillwave and Witch Hosue, which I considered (and still consider) to be illegitimate, historically ignorant sham genres (I was great fun in conversation, as you can probably imagine).

Over the past year, however, as my music-buying habit has expanded and I noticed that I’m not as drawn to UK Bass music as I used to be, I’ve begun to revisit guitar music. I still find myself largely bored by most permutations of rock and blues (exceptions being shoegaze and certain types of metal) but through my recent induction to the Swans fan cult I’ve delved into the Young God Records back catalog and discovered that I have a greater affinity for folk music (the darker and drone-ier the better) than I thought I did. This impulse took me from Gary Higgins to Angels of Light to James Blackshaw to Mountains and finally to the wider world of fringe folk, at least, that which I can find through Boomkat (always the closest resource at hand for a musically cloistered soul such as myself). A few weeks ago I was sifting through their new releases and came upon a Scottish guitarist named RM Hubbert and his First & Last album, which I had never heard of, but when I played the sound clips I knew I had to have.

Hubbert’s music plays sort of like a less studio-bound James Blackshaw, which is to say this is unaccompanied acoustic virtuosity par excellence. This particular track (the first on the album, dedicated to Hubbert’s dog) is marked by its distinctive use of on-instrument percussion, which meshes seamlessly with Hubbert’s flamenco-indebted playing, which slides and flares with natural finesse. On record I figured must have been multitracked or performed by someone else, but live footage seems to indicate this is all Hubbert, which is certainly impressive. My vocabulary for this sort of music is lacking (well, more lacking than usual) so as with any music I’m naturally intoxicated by, I can only really speak of the feelings it elicits. I could probably break out any number of hoary scenarios such music would be perfect for (bike ride through an orchard with your sweetheart in the Summer, I’d say) but suffice to say this is the sort of music that a particularly lucky person might walk in on at a cafe somewhere – unpretentious, supremely competent, and personal.

(Not the studio version, obviously, but it’s just as well. The actual song starts up around 1:05)

(Boomkat has “First & Last” region-locked outside of the US [props to Rob for the assist there] but it looks like the digital version, as well as other formats, may be available direct from the label)

*This is also posted on Crasstalk, a collective blog I’m a part of.*

I listen to music constantly, and I’m constantly acquiring new things. So much, in fact, that serious evaluation on an album-by-album basis is impossible. To ensure my musical hoarding doesn’t amount to too much waste, I’ve elected to begin picking out choice tracks from my catch and reviewing them, here. I’m hoping to make this a weekly thing, every Thursday or Friday Saturday night, mods willin’.

*** This week is all-digital. We’ve got a track from Wagon Christ (aka Luke Vibert), Angel Eyes, and Baths.***


Wagon Christ – Mr. Mukatsuku (from Toomorrow on Ninja Tune)

It was sort of a shame that attention towards the 90’s IDM boom so often focused on Warp’s Big Three – Autechre, Aphex Twin, and Squarepusher – resulted in a lot of other, equally interesting producers (Jega, u-Ziq) falling by the wayside. In terms of recognition, Luke Vibert probably falls in that second category, but it hasn’t really stopped him from continuing music well into the present. Vibert is so ultra-prolific that he adopted numerous aliases that were all about as productive as your average mono-moniker’d producer, and each one filled a different stylistic niche. Harder junglist impulses were sated via the Plug alias, acid house / techno tracks went to a whole host of aliases including Ace of Clubs, disco went to Kerrier District, and drum and bass went to Wagon Christ. In all cases, Vibert’s signature silliness and love of old funk drum break samples remained constant.

But somewhere around the middle of the 00’s it seemed like Vibert had tired of all his pseudonyms. The last seven years or so have seen Vibert releasing music almost exclusively under his own name, all displaying a greater focus on the acid house influences that act as a sort of great unifier for all first-wave IDM artists. So it’s sort of odd that he’s decided to dust off the Wagon Christ moniker after 7 years of dormancy.

While much of the Toomorrow album is hard to distinguish from more recent music released under the Vibert name, “Mr. Mukatsuku” manages to recapture the weirdly melancholy feel much of Wagon Christ’s earlier music had (which often contrasted nicely with the Looney Toons-indebted madcap goofiness of the persona), most of which is attributable to the iconic sound of the Rhodes electric piano, used to great effect here, and the swooning brass samples applied in all the right places. The languid pace of the drum machine boom-bap (with just a bit of swing, for a jazz feel) gives the proceedings a sort of “lounge music for robots” feel, which is entirely appropriate, and the quivering acid synthline leaves no real doubt as to the song’s author. It could have seamlessly fit into Musipal, which is about as high of praise as you can give a Wagon Christ album. If only the rest of Toomorrow was as focused as this.

(The physical versions of “Toomorrow” are due next week, but you can acquire the digital version presently over at Bleep.)

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Angel Eyes – Dire Dish (from Dire Dish on Not Not Fun)

Gotta feel for Andrew Cowie – the Australian lo-fi recording artist who releases music as Angel Eyes and who, if he had come around just a year earlier, would have been enjoying all the critical acclaim that Forest Swords is at the moment. At first listen, the two sound extremely similar, but patient listeners will find ways to distinguish the two in ways that serve Angel Eyes.

The production is what will fool you – both artists use a lot of reverb and lo-fi recording techniques, giving the sound a hollow, dubby feel. But the actual style of the music itself is different enough – the guitar work of FS and Cowie are both clearly indebted to Ennio Morricone, but Cowie often goes for expansive, ambient-ish meditation where FS aims for a curious sort of muddy bombast. Ultimately it’s the instrumentation that really does it – The pounding drums of Dagger Paths is entirely absent on Dire Dish, while Cowie utilizes synthesizers in an intriguing way that’s absent in his contemporary’s work – the low fidelity recording takes the keening tone of the synth and strips it of a few layers, resulting in a harsher, but also warmer, sound that gives “Dire Dish” much of its character. Now, if Angel Eyes ends up covering an Aaliyah song, at that point we’ll start having a real problem.

Stream “Dire Dish” on Soundcloud.

(You can get “Dire Dish” digitally via Boomkat.)

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Baths – Nightly, Daily (from The Nothing / Nightly, Daily on Anticon)

Whither Anticon? The venerable Californian “backpack” (read: white) rap label seems to have largely lost interest in the sorts of music that it helped to pioneer, ostensibly at least. In part this might be due to some latent desire to “transcend” hip hop, and while a lot of their artists definitely fit the bill as rappers, some of their more famous acts display a (foolish?) musical ambition that seems to belie a dissatisfaction with the genre. Just read any interview with Adam “Doseone” Drucker and in his own colorful way he’ll outline for you what is either disappointment or resentment or a good old-fashioned chip on his shoulder with regard to rap music.

It’s been happening for a few years now. It started out with WHY?, who started off as a hip hop band and turned into a sort of indie sing-spoken poetry thing (they put on a truly abysmal live show in my town and since then I haven’t given them the time of day), and continued with the patronage of perpetually stoned electro-bro Tobacco, who’s taken to collaborating with a tired-sounding Beck lately. The latest acquisition for Anticon’s diversified portfolio is Will Wiesenfeld aka Baths, a young guy with muttonchops from Chatsworth, California who’s operated under a few different names, notably Post-Foetus (unfortunately it does not sound anything like Foetus).

Baths’ music is markedly different from the aggressively weird acts that make up the rest of Anticon’s new school – a lot of critics have lumped him in with LA’s Low End Theory scene, America’s pre-eminent electronic music movement at the moment, but Baths (usually) dispenses with thudding bass in favor of more delicate pop harmonies. “Nightly, Daily” furthers the trend, with a lovely indie-folk sensibility that meshes impressively with the usual scraping, hissing drum programming. It reminds me a lot of the sorts of little dalliances that Hrvatski would venture on 6 or 7 years ago, but this is really the core of Baths’ aesthetic – sunny, sweet music for gentler people than you’ll find out in the clubs on any given night. It’s pleasant and a little bit light in comparison to some of his album cuts, but that might be why it’s on this short EP. Given another album or two of music this consistent, Baths could end up as the best thing on Anticon’s roster.

(You can acquire “The Nothing / Nightly, Daily” in lots of different places. I got mine from Bleep.)

*This is also posted on Crasstalk, a collective blog I’m a part of.*

I listen to music constantly, and I’m constantly acquiring new things. So much, in fact, that serious evaluation on an album-by-album basis is impossible. To ensure my musical hoarding doesn’t amount to too much waste, I’ve elected to begin picking out choice tracks from my catch and reviewing them, here. I’m hoping to make this a weekly thing, every Thursday or Friday Saturday night, mods willin’.

*** This week saw the arrival of a few packages from Mimaroglu and Boomkat that I’d been expecting for some time, as well as the usual bumper crop of digital music. I’ve got an old track from 13 & God, new stuff from NWG (aka Niggas With Guitars), and a new compilation entry from Subeena.***

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13 & God – Von Gradleute (Hrvatski Remix) (from Men of Station / Soft Atlas on Anticon)

While researching a Keith Fullerton Whitman / Hrvatski split casette I invested in a few weeks ago, I came upon a happy discovery – a set of remixes that Whitman’s “breakcore” guise Hrvatski had created for the great Anticon supergroup 13 & God (a collaboration between “art rappers” Themselves and German art pop group The Notwist) – and I just had to have it. 13 & God was centrally important to my entry into indie music 6 or 7 years ago, when a friend of mine included their perfect pop song “Men Of Station” on a mixtape he sent me, and I fell in love. The prospect of Whitman (my favorite experimental composer) having his way with that song and others was too much to resist.

As a general rule, remixes (and album-length compendiums of them in particular) are a grab bag, as you’ll usually have so many different artists pulling the music in so many idiosyncratic directions that at best you’ll get a few remarkable edits among a number of inessential curiosities. The single format that the Men of Station / Soft Atlas release takes is a lot easier to handle, and it helps that it’s backloaded with the two Hrvatski remixes, one for each song. “Men of Station” was my favorite 13 & God effort, and much to my relief Whitman’s edit does not disappoint. The song’s central melodic motifs are wisely kept intact, and even augmented by swirling harp samples, as well as reverb and delay that are sorely lacking in the original, and Whitman’s frenetic jungle drum programming fits in better than it has any right to. I’m sort of perplexed it took me this long to figure out that this remix was out there – I can only imagine how ecstatic I would have been hearing this when I was first listening to 13 & God and Hrvatski.

Stream “Von Gradleute” on Soundcloud.

(I acquired “Men Of Station / Soft Atlas” on vinyl because I’m dumb like that, and if you’re dumb too KFW probably has a few more copies over at Mimaroglu, but normal people can find it on iTunes, along with the 13 & God full length. Their follow-up LP is due in the next few months, so that’s exciting.)

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Niggas With Guitars – Milky White (from Ethnic Frenzy on Digitalis Vinyl)

This was the other half of my 13 & God Mimaroglu shipment, one that I picked up on a whim based on chatter that I had heard from associate tape collectors I respected. I have no idea who these people are or why they felt like “Niggas With Guitars” would be a good name for their outfit, but their music is definitely interesting. The vinyl was so new when I got it that there was no indication of which side was which, so my naming convention might be way off.

“Milky White” (if that is indeed the name of the song) is either the second or fifth track on the 6-track album, and like all of NWG’s music that I’ve heard, it is quite disarming. It could, one imagines, fit nicely into some odder corner of the “chillwave” scene, steeped as it is in a certain sort of nostalgia – the lilting, gentle synth melodies and horn-like drones call to mind old nature film soundtracks or meditation music ripped from casette (fittingly, NWG kicked around the fringe music casette scene before landing this endorsement from the sterling Digitalis label). But more than anything else, it’s strongly reminiscent of the interlude music that Boards of Canada would insert between its more propulsive songs on their old albums. Lovely, if slight, music. Now if they could just do something about that name…

Listen to “Milky White” on Soundcloud.

(I purchased “Ethnic Frenzy” as soon as it hit Mimaroglu, and your best bet might be finding it there [it’s up there at the top] – if Discogs is to be believed, there are only 200 copies for the world, with the first run of 75 sold out at source. Better hurry!)

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Subeena – Miscalculate (from Super Volume 1 on Super Recordings)

I’ve waited for Italian producer Subeena to go “next level” popularity-wise for awhile now and it hasn’t happened, much to my chagrin. Of all the dubstep(ish) techno-leaning freshman producers to come out of the UK in the last few years, Subeena was by far my favorite, as her love of early Warp records sounds was something that I shared, and she spent some time in the Planet Mu roster, which I’ve always looked to for more forward-thinking trends in electronic music. Popularity’s kind of a relative thing in electronic circles but I’ve always felt like she didn’t get the sort of recognition her talent called for.

“Miscalculate”, which just popped up on her friend Raffertie’s Super Recordings compilation, doesn’t sound like it’s going to break that trend. Overall it takes after some of the more recent work she’s done for her own Opit label, which finds Subeena contributing vocals, and bringing a more rave-ish sensibility to the music. But I feel like this track in particular is a little too reminiscent of “Spectrum”, the b-side from her “Picture” single. Perhaps it’s just the fact that the track feels in general a little too much like a b-side (not that anyone should expect A-material to show up on label compilations, necessarily). The track is still fun enough, but in comparison to Subeena’s best work it doesn’t quite measure.

Listen to “Miscalculate” on Soundcloud.

(“Miscalculate” is featured on the “Super Volume 1” compilation, which you can purchase for download over at Boomkat. A little uneven overall, but strong for a compilation.)

*(This was published on Been Looking for the Magic. All credit goes to those folks and the inimitable Thor Harris, who can really fucking wail on a cymbal and / or an oboe. Don’t let the swearing fool you – he’s a really sweet and gracious man)*

Dude is so much cooler than you

How to Tour in a Band or Whatever
by Thor Harris

1-Don’t Complain. Bitching, moaning, whining is tour cancer. If something is wrong fix it or shut the fuck up you fucking dick. goddamn.

2-If you fart, claim it.

3-Don’t Lose shit. Everybody loses shit. Don’t fucking do it. Asshole.

4-Don’t fuck anyone in the band. There are tons of people to fuck who are not in this band. Dumbass.

5-If you feel like shit all the time, drink less beer at the gig. You will play better & feel better. What are you… a child? Some have the endurance for self abuse. Most don’t.

6-Remember the soundman’s name. He will do a better job.

7- Eat oranges. Cures constipation & prevents colds.

8-Masturbate. Duh… Where & when? Be creative. You’re an artist right?

9-If YOU can’t carry your suitcase 3 blocks, it’s too goddamn big.

10-Respect public space in the van. Don’t clutter, you Fuck.

11-If you borrow something, return it. Not Fucked Up.

12-Do not let the promoter dick you or talk you out of the guarantee. If there were not enuf people there, it’s their fault.

13- Driver picks the music.

14-One navigator only (usually sitting shotgun). Everyone else shut the fuck up.

15-Soundcheck is for checking sounds. Shut the fuck up while everyone else is checking.

16-Don’t wander off. Let someone know where you are.

17-Clean up after yourself. What are you… a goddamn toddler?

18-Touring makes everyone bi-polar. Ride the waves as best you can and remember, moods pass. So don’t make any snap decisions or declarations when you are drunk or insane.

19-Fast food is Poison.

20-The guestlist is for friends, family & people you might want to fuck. Everyone else can pay. They have day jobs.

21- Don’t evaluate your whole life while you’re sitting in a janitor closet waiting to go on. You think you’re above having shitty days at work? Shut up & do your goddamn job.

This list was written under the influence of lots of esspresso & anti-depressants while on tour w/ such greats as Shearwater, Swans, Smog, Lisa Germano, Angels of Light, Bill Callahan & many more. I hope this list will help you get along w/ your co-workers whatever your job is. Contributions to the list by Jordan Geiger, Kimberly Burke, Brian Orloff, Brian Phillips Celebrity Gang Bang, Kevin Schneider, Jonathan Meiburg, Michael Gira and some other folks.

Thanks for not being an asshole, Thor Harris

*This post is also posted on Crasstalk, a collective blog I’m a part of.*

I listen to music constantly, and I’m constantly acquiring new things. So much, in fact, that serious evaluation on an album-by-album basis is impossible. To ensure my musical hoarding doesn’t amount to too much waste, I’ve elected to begin picking out choice tracks from my catch and reviewing them, here. I’m hoping to make this a weekly thing, every Thursday or Friday night, mods willin’.

This week was actually pretty light, with a lot of my listening time devoted to older Swans records and newer Angels of Light recordings, which I have dug up in light of an incredible show put on by the former that I attended in Denver this past week. These are musical supplements I’ve been taking. I put in entirely too much work last week resizing Youtube (and apparently it slows WordPress down) so I’m just linking to songs this time.

Antena – Camino del Sol (from Camino Del Sol on Le Disques du Crepsecule / Numero)

This is actually an old song, from a band I wasn’t even aware of until Numero re-released their 1982 Camino Del Sol compilation / mini-album on vinyl not too long ago. Antena was a French band originally signed to Le Disques du Crepsecule, a small Belgian indie that became notable for its close relationship with the Benelux subsidiary of Factory Records, who in large part birthed the “Madchester” scene from which Joy Division / New Order and many other notable post-punk bands emerged. Unfortunately for Antena, Manchester’s heat didn’t rub off on them (though Factory Benelux artists, such as A Certain Ratio, did meet with some success) and they and they became the sort of act that obscurity collectors raved about but few really remembered.

It’s somewhat sad to contemplate, given a track like “Camino Del Sol”. This is certainly a sort of pop music, albeit the sort of pop that goes ignored all too often. Antena’s stock-in-trade is tropicalia (or as Neil Tennant called it, “electro-samba”), which, as you might expect, translates into typically sunny moods, but Antena’s song (and most of the album from which it is culled) contains a remarkable melancholy largely attributable to Isabelle Powaga’s whisper-sung vocals and the (synth harpsichord?) chords that make up the melody, giving it an extra depth. In terms of production, it near-perfect, so good as to feel contemporary, with the electronic elements blending seamlessly in with the percussion and the vox. It feels like a lost classic, perfect for a warm Summer, or a Roger Moore Bond film. One wonders what more Antena would have produced had they received the attention they deserved.

“Camino Del Sol” on Youtube.

(Camino Del Sol is currently being sold in vinyl format on Boomkat, but if digital music is your thing I’ve only been able to find it on iTunes, which is weird!)

Hype Williams – Business Line (from One Nation, forthcoming on Hippos In Tanks)

I admit that I reacted poorly when “Witch House” became a thing. Beyond being unimpressed with Salem‘s inexplicably acclaimed minstrel act and wary of blog-defined microgenres (as opposed to, say, regionally defined ones), beyond the universally irritating use of wingdings in band names and cheaply acquired occult signifiers, as an industrial music fan I had a chip on my shoulder over Witch House’s debt to that venerable scene. Every booster of Witch House (some bloggers briefly tried to rebrand it as “Drag Music” when it was clear the “House” designation was an albatross) seemed to go on about how a given act (usually Salem) was creating totally unprecedented music – dark electronic music with a debt to hip hop. I felt this was clearly bullshit, and I was ready to write the whole thing off.

But as the bloom came off Witch House in the mainline indie press and the paremeters of the sound, which were always nebulous, started to expand beyond acts that had hit my shitlist almost immediately (Salem, Tri Angle records, and Creep, who will always and forever be that band who called their music “rapegaze”), it started to sound better. All it really needed was a de-emphasis of the Screw Music influences and the tacky triangles-and-hoods bullshit. Hype Williams was more than willing to offer those things. It’s not entirely clear what their story is – it’s possible that they’re an anonymous collective, but the public face of the group, such as it is, is a duo, Inga Copeland and Dean Blunt, hailing from Russia and London respectively. Perhaps their distance from the States (and the general lack of hype from the usual blogroll suspects) made them better candidates to push Witch House forward, but whatever the case, their sound palette has proved quite diverse in the project’s short history.

“Businessline” is from their forthcoming LP debut on Hippos In Tanks, and what’s striking about it is how out-of-time it seems – It could certainly have come from the same 80’s VHS haze as “chillwave” did, but the winding synthline brings it forward to the 90’s as well, when Richard D. James was intermittently putting out demo-quality tracks that  brought a certain rough-hewn pop sensibility to IDM. It’s a short track, but its unmannered lightness stands in sharp contrast to the sort of contrived gloom that defined Witch House when it was born. If I had to wager I’d put money on Hype Williams being one of the few bands that survives and moves on when that house of cards collapses, assuming they’re anywhere near the premises when it happens.

“Businessline” on Youtube

(“One Nation” will be available from various retailers in just about a week’s time. In the meantime, you can download “Businessline” from XLR8R, for free.)

Solar Bears – Cub (Keep Shelly in Athens Remix) (Unreleased)

Solar Bears’ She Was Coloured In was one of my favorite LPs from last year (I think it ended up on #2 or #3 on my list) but “Cub” was probably the weakest track on the album. At first listen it sort of fits into the Geogaddi-era Boards of Canada sound that Solar Bears appeared to be tapping into when their music first hit the blogs. But on She Was Coloured In they showed a range of influences and capabilities beyond mere imitation of BoC (and there are far worse acts to hound). As it stood, “Cub” was an anemic sketch, really little more than a tasteful hippy guitar jam that goes nowhere over 2 minutes and 45 seconds. Worse than pastiche, it was bad pastiche.

Luckily for us, Keep Shelly In Athens (who I had never heard of before this) took to remixing duties on “Cub” and pushed the BoC era a bit forward, to The Campfire Headphase day, doubling the song’s length and adding all the dramatic bombast and sonic texture that the original lacked. I’d be remiss to say there wasn’t something a little bit off about the track – probably the fact that all the song’s emotion is front and center, on its sleeve, so to speak, and the meticulous production is sort of wasted on that bluntness. But it’s still head and shoulders above the original in terms of efficacy and quality.

“Cub (Keep Shelly In Athens Remix)” on Youtube.

(This remix isn’t on any official releases. XLR8R has it for free download, however, along with a surprising number of other Solar Bears tracks.)

I hadn't realized there was some sort of cat (?) on the cover until I found a thumbnail.

Norway’s Deaf Center dropped their last proper LP in 2005, and in the meantime its two members have become pretty big wheels in the modern classical / ambient world – Erik Skodvin has released boatloads of work under his own name and the drone alias Svarte Greiner (the header to this blog is from Greiner’s Penpals Forever (And Ever), the vinyl cover of which hangs on a wall in my den), and Otto Totland has been less prolific but just as relevant with his collaborative Nest project (which released my #1 album of 2010, Retold) alongside Huw Roberts. Having become fans of their solo guises without ever actually encountering Deaf Center (somehow, even with the internet at my disposal), I was surprised and a little perturbed by the idea of a Skodvin / Totland collaboration. It was not immediately apparent to me how Totland’s majestic, cinematic orchestration and Skodvin’s blackened, dissonant abstractions could possibly fit together in a way that made sense.

Even to one not accustomed to their partnership, the synthesis of Skodvin and Totland’s disparate sensibilities is surprisingly successful. “Divided” begins the LP with sighing, slightly dissonant strings that at this point are a sort of Skodvin signature, but the piece builds over time in a straightforward, linear way that I don’t readily associate with the music I’ve heard from him. I wouldn’t deign to attribute the progression to Totland alone, but it seems like Skodvin’s sensibilities run towards the subtle more often than not.

To some extent, especially upon first listen, Owl Splinters can seem a bit heterogeneous, as Totland and Skodvin’s styles are so distinctive that it certainly sounds as though many of the songs are solo ventures, with Totland’s piano (“Time Spent”, “Fiction Dawn”) and Skodvin’s strings (“Animal Sacrifice”) dividing the album neatly. But the most effective pieces are the ones where a synthesis occurs. “Hunted Twice” finds the two composers alternating in their command of the song, first with Totland’s piano garnishing Skodvin’s hive of angry strings, then with Totland in the lead and the strings emanating from somewhere around the margins. “New Beginning (Tidal Darkness)” is a subtler track that finds Totland exploring atmospheres of dread and disquiet he doesn’t often venture to, with the help of Skodvin’s nicely understated strings.

The centerpiece of the album, one that I’ve already covered in Stray Tracks from last week, is “The Day I Would Never Have”, a towering composition in three distinctive parts – the track is bookended by Totland’s piano, with a slowly rising symphony of strings taking up the core of the piece. In terms of evocation it succeeds spectacularly – of particular note is the transition from the second act to the third, which is, well, indescribably. Just a collossal song.

It would be fairly easy to take sides with this record – As Matthe Horne’s rather blunt review of Owl Splinters from Tiny Mix Tapes indicates, those more attuned to Skodvin’s more modern brand of drone composition might take offense to Totland’s prominence on the record. It’s hard to deny that stylistically, it all tends more towards the sound of Nest than Svarte Greiner. But speaking as someone who loves both composers but tends to skew towards Totland’s composition in his casual listening habits, I can’t honestly say that there’s dead weight here, or at least I can’t suggest any areas of the album that I think could be improved upon by reducing either Totland or Skodvin’s role.

You can buy “Owl Splinters” at numerous retailers. As a general rule I use Boomkat, since they’re pretty good with curating their inventory. They’re out of the limited vinyl edition of the album, which includes an extended 45-minute Svarte Greiner piec, but they are selling the digital version and the regular CD version.

Like it says on the tin, this is a little feature I’ll be posting whenever I get something special in the mail. This week, a cassette release from the inimitable Keith Fullerton Whitman!

I had to get this thing – as soon as word reached me that Massachusetts-based avant garde synth composer and all-around badass Keith Fullerton Whitman was breaking out his Hrvatski alias for a tape split with himself, there was no debating it.

If you don’t know, Hrvatski was Whitman’s “breakcore” outlet in the early-to-mid aughts, releasing work on a number of different imprints but gaining notoriety primarily for his work on the esteemed leftfield electronica label Planet Mu. Pitchfork was big into him back in the day. To call it breakcore feels a bit weird, as although Whitman displayed many touchstones of the style (the greatest of which was the meticulous manipulation of jungle drum breaks into surging, twisting, even melodic passages) it was clear that his interest was transitory (as was his residence on Planet Mu, though Mike Paradinas had the foresight to sign Venetian Snares, another artist who would eventually outgrow breakcore’s strictures). By the time he was gone, it was evident that the sound was stagnant.

Whitman hung up the Hrvatski name in 2005 (as the p4k interview indicates, he felt like breakcore was a young man’s game), and with it went his apparent interest in junglism, and pop-leaning electronica in general. He began operating solely under his own name and focusing on abstract sound, via modular synthesis in particular but also acoustic drone composition, and his output since then has been marvelous in its own way (Pitchfork certainly didn’t lose their passion for him). Still, I missed the art-pop that Whitman would allow to poke through the static and buzz of his Hrvatski tracks.

So I freaked out a bit when I learned that 5 years later, Whitman had brought back the alias for this split, though it wasn’t newly recorded material. As with a lot of Whitman’s more recent releases, the music is mostly archival – the names of the Hrvatski tracks seem to indicate the time of recording (“Quickie.2005.3.24.16.59.55”, for example) which place them around the time of the alias’ demise. The music is indicative of this as well – While earlier Hrvatski tracks often didn’t suffer for cacaphony, their rhythms were recognizable as being grounded in conventional breaks and patterns. The two split tracks recorded in 2006, by contrast, feature manic, Zach Hill-esque improvisational drum freakouts accompanied by squalling, bleeping synths (like a foley artist giving life to a mad computer). It’s essentially the sound of the Hrvatski guise disintegrating, the collapse of the star before its death. The track from 2005 is an exception – an unaccompanied minute and 43 seconds of sampled free jazz drums. It’s charming, but slight.

The B-side is a 30-minute extended piece from Whitman’s christian name, and it’s as abstract as most everything released as such – a slowly building wall of jittery modular synths, like digital gale-force winds whipping around tree branches. It’s totally alien where Hrvatski was connected to familiar sounds, even if  those connections were often tenuous.

*edit – Look like I was wrong in a few of my presumptions about this work, but right in a few ways. This is how Keith himself introduced the music:

the two sets of pieces here harken back to the tail-end of hrvatski’s time-on-earth …the first side offers a suite involving pages of html codetext(in this case hrvatski’s myspace page)converted into control-information “driving’ an automated max-msp patch that generates “automatic” “splatter” “core” music (thanks to steim for the hookup wrt a cleanclear space, both headactual, in which to devise said) … the second features a complete hrvatski concert(to date the lastfinal) recorded at allston’s legendary basement venue the butcher shoppe,remixed by myself by running the volume curves through a roland space echo & a moog low-pass filter

(Did I mention that this man is a mad fucking genius? Dude is a mad fucking genius)

The cassette is from a limited edition of 100, and comes without a case, which is kind of irritating, in a plastic envelope that also contains a pretty neat poster, with a depiction on one side of what I think is Whitman playing a keyboard in a tribal headdress of some kind, and the reverse is a sort of optical illusion / stained glass window artwork with the release information at the bottom. The Hrvatski Headdress image is now placed above the turntable in my living room – hopefully someone asks about it someday so I’ll have an opportunity to regale them with all this stuff I’m unloading on you right now. The cassette itself is embossed with a reflective sticker, which my camera flash naturally did not like.

Totally worth it. And looking it up on Mimaroglu Music (the tape-and-vinyl-centric record store that Whitman runs with his friend Geoff Mullen [a great experimentalist in his own right], which anyone with an interest in out-there music should really get to know intimately) I see that Hrvatski has done remix work for 13 & God, which, well, is not good for my wallet. Oh well!

You can find the “Quickies b/w Butcher Shoppe” split at Mimaroglu Music. You should get one before they’re all gone forever.

Hrvatski Headdress

The backside of the poster. Weird and compelling stuff!

The Other Side

Displays all the info about the release, concert poster-style.

The Tape

The shiny sticker masks the barely contained madness inside.

*This post is also posted on Crasstalk, a collective blog I’m a part of. Lord willing, there will be more like it in the future.

I listen to music constantly, and I’m constantly acquiring new things. So much, in fact, that serious evaluation on an album-by-album basis is impossible. To ensure my musical hoarding doesn’t amount to too much waste, I’ve elected to begin picking out choice tracks from my catch and reviewing them, here. I’m hoping to make this a weekly thing, every Thursday or Friday night, mods willin’.

This week yielded a bumper crop of drone-folk and neoclassical records that I’m falling in love with, along with my usual assortment of House and club music oddities. We start out with Portland, the whitest town on Earth, and its lovely indie-folk.

Laura Gibson & Ethan Rose – Younger (from Bridge Carols on Holocene Music)

Hate to say it, but there’s only one thing remotely problematic with Laura Gibson & Ethan Rose’s Bridge Carols music, and that’s Gibson’s vocal similarity to a great many other indie darling folksters, particularly Joanna Newsom or Regina Spektor (it’s the heaviness of the “ah” and “aw” sounds, I think). It’s not a terrible detriment by any means – indeed, while it wears a bit thin over the entire album, it’s quite effective on a song-to-song basis, particularly in the LP’s first three tracks, the last of which is “Younger”. Ethan Rose’s bed of warm, swooning woodwinds, electro-acoustic trickery (chiming guitar and a bit of… jangling keys, sounds like) and sparingly applied brass evoke the dream-like feel of some of Grouper‘s more romantic tracks, but it only lasts for about half the song – the final 3 minutes are bog-standard, if pleasant, acoustic folk.

Gibson’s lyrics are nonsensical, all stars and fighting and dark places, but it’s fairly difficult to focus on them – the purpose of the song is the mood it creates, and every element of the song sheds definition in service to it. Not the strongest track on the album, but a beautiful and relaxing one all the same.

(“Bridge Carols” looks to be unavailable for purchase in the US on Boomkat, but it’s apparently available via 7digital.)

FaltyDL – Hip Love (from the Hip Love single on Ramp Recordings)

FaltyDL (ne Andrew Lustman) is one of the more prolific producers operating at the moment, releasing some new remix every few weeks and dropping an album or a clutch of EPs (or both) on a yearly basis, and perhaps as a result of that his sound hasn’t really grown in some time. Sure, he’s changed things up a time or two, but ever since he dropped the weirder, more melodic elements of his full-length debut Love is a Liability in favor of straightforward NY Garage revivalism, all his tracks have been either somewhat samey (most every single he’s released in the last year, plus thePhreqaflex EP) or nondescript (Endeavour, a slo-House experiment that should have been much more effective than it ended up being). One gets a sense there’s a definite “quantity over quality” problem occurring here.

While “Hip Love” has all the same elements that make up Lustman’s lackluster tracks (the shuffle in the rhythm and his signature snare / hi-hat sound)  it’s apparent that something is just a bit different this time around, and it doesn’t fully register until about the 1:45 mark, when he launches into a  jazzy drum machine solo that belies Lustman’s hidden love for jungle. It perfectly fits in with the smoky NYC soul aesthetic articulated through the chanteuse vox and horn brass samples that pepper the track. It’s easily the best thing Lustman’s done since All in the Place dropped almost a year ago.

(You can grab the “Hip Love” single, featuring a remix from Jamie xx of The xx fame, for download over at Boomkat)

Mountains – Map Table (from Choral on Thrill Jockey)

I like drone music of all kinds. Most people, I think, get apprehensive when they hear the term “drone” being thrown around, and not without good reason – the sort of dense, academic tone-music that someone like, say, Keith Fullerton Whitman routinely creates will only appeal to certain people. But there are many disparate and distinct schools of drone music, and perhaps the most accessible of these is folk-drone. Where synth-based drone is often alienating and esoteric, folk-drone tends towards the sort of uplift and sustained bliss that’s commonly associated with its stylistic cousins in post-rock and ambient music. The focus on acoustic instrumentation is a big part of it – there’s a certain vital element introduced in folk-drone that is often missing in more experimental variants of the form.

Mountains’ Choral is a good example. Many otherwise drone-averse listeners will be immediately struck by the sustained, undulating organ (is there a more beautiful sound?) upon which the title track slowly build into a vibrant wall of sound. An entire album of this sort of composition would end up rich but ultimately a little daunting, and Mountains subvert expectations to some extent with the launch of their next song, “Map Table”, which is built almost entirely around an evocatively played acoustic guitar. Comparisons to neo-folk artists like James Blackshaw are probably inevitable, but ultimately the track avoids the sort of showboating that virtuosos like Blackshaw sometimes fall prey to. A little after the 3 minute mark the melody is dropped and the guitar becomes a percussive instrument, creating a sound like bicycle spokes clicking erratically as lulling, murky piano comes to usher the song towards its end. The attention paid to the acoustic guitar is sustained over the next few tracks, holding the otherwise effervescent album together. A little bit of variety goes a long way.

(“Choral” is available digitally from the Fina store. I would strongly advise tracking down a vinyl copy, as it includes two excellent extra tracks)

Deaf Center – The Day I Never Would Have (from Owl Splinters on Type)

I have to credit Svarte Greiner (ne Erik K. Skodvin) and Otto Totland for, in large part, introducing me to “modern classical” fandom.  Greiner’s “doom folk” (his album covers are art in themselves) and Totland’s cinematic piano pieces (check out his Nest project’s Retold, you won’t regret it – my favorite record of 2010) helped me develop the patience that’s often required to digest the more deliberate compositions that I seek out in the present day. Their second collaborative LP as Deaf Center, Owl Splinters, is one I plan on reviewing in full at some point in the near future, but I thought I’d take a moment to focus on the album’s centerpiece, the grand epic “The Day I Would Never Have”.

At 11 minutes it seems daunting, but from the moment Totland’s grand piano first makes its appearance the song begins to slowly gain an undeniable momentum. Skodvin’s elegaic, quietly wailing strings surface and they build and build up in intensity, endlessly, upward until the song becomes a seething mass. Then it drops, like a continental shelf, leaving Totland to reintroduce his flitting, graceful piano in an open expanse. It’s a breathtaking piece, almost too effective for the album as a whole to hold, and it delivers fully on the promise of Skodvin and Totland’s collaboration.

(You can buy “Owl Splinters” at Boomkat)

Whew! That took longer than I expected. I might have to stick to 3 or so songs a week or at least work on my brevity problem. Hope you liked some of this stuff! I’ll be back next week, barring excessive school obligations, with more. And, unless I turn out to be a total ass, I may just bust out some real-ass reviews.

New to a Few

02/15/2011

Most, even. My name is John, I ran a music review blog on Blogspot for awhile from 2009-2010. Essentially, it was mostly illegitimate and over time the cumulative effect of that on my conscience was too much, and I shut it down. I had planned on going straight with a community site that a few of my friends were working on, but it never materialized, and I took to collecting vinyl instead of writing. It’s been good for my musical horizons, but I’ve missed writing. So I’m coming back to it. That is the purpose of this blog.

Slated for the near future I’ve got some new Kyle Bobby Dunn that I plan on letting simmer for another month or so, something new and unusual from the Serein label (that is, jazz) in April, and in the more imminent future, a review of Deaf Center’s new LP Owl Splinters (made in part by a guy who runs Serein, Otto Totland). I was originally going to kick this off with the Deaf Center review, but a full LP review is pretty hefty and my reviewing muscles are, uh, somewhat atrophied. So we’re going to start with some singles / EPs that I’ll choose in the coming days.

Hope you enjoy it! And by the way, if there’s anything unappealing or dumb about the site, do tell.