March 31, 2005

Alec Empire– Squeeze the Trigger

It’s time, people. It’s time to rehabilitate Digital Hardcore. Let’s look at the facts: sonically exciting, innovative within their genre, created genres unto themselves, wildly varying releases (in quality, but more importantly in sound.) So what’s not to like? The politics, obviously. The endless sloganeering that descended into parody? Yeah. It’s all there. But it’s not all in this track. Most people forget about Alec Empire’s rather amazing instrumental work and instead focus on Atari Teenage Riot when talking about him. Listen to this for initial (or further) proof that he’s got something more up his sleeve.

[visit a website here, buy a disc here]

Patric Catani- Freedom Without Direction

Of course Empire is hardly the only guy to float in and out of bands on the label. Patric Catani seemed to have a hand in nearly everything that was done on the label outside of Atari for a few years. This is a good thing. Catani could be overbearinly repetitous at times, but what he was usually repeating was worth it. I look it, as I imagine he did, as any sort of dance music where you have to slightly ignore the repetition and begin to focus on the micro-changes much more for your aural fix.

[visit a website here, buy a disc here]

Hanin Elias- In Flames (Christoph de Babalon Mix)

Babalon was sort of the odd man out. Released, I think, just one solo album of note and then virtually disappeared from the scene. It’s a shame because that album stands as an amazing mission statement for the label with its breadth of sound and texture. This mix of Hanin Elias’ “In Flames” is something this side of extraordinary for stripping the song of a lot of its agression and infusing with a healthy dose of tension.

[visit a website here, buy a disc here]

Utopia Burns

Tomas Andersson- Happy Happy

Here’s what I wrote in the Rubber Room today:

A lot of people seem to love themselves some BPitch Control. I’m not exactly in that camp. I like them. But I find them to be way too inconsistent for me to ever get the hype. Of course every so often they just hit it so hard, it hurts. Festivities is one of those times: “Happy Happy” is wet-yr-pants God-like electo-house, “The Birthday Party” is its slightly lesser cousin, and “Congratulations” will rock dancefloors, no questions asked. Only complaint? Running times. The latter two are begging for extended mixes of their combined ten-minute running time. Cop this.

[visit a website here, buy it here]

Alex Smoke- What’s The Point?

The joint on his debut record, which veers between brilliance and half-finished sketches rather annoyingly throughout. Smoke’s main predilections are all on show here, though: minimal house beats, odd sounding melodic lead (here provided by a bulbous synth pattern), and a monotone vocal. It’s the finest moment on the disc because it’s where it all comes together finally.

[visit a website here, buy a disc here]

Heiko Voss- Call Me Now

What, you thought he left you after “I Think About You”? Nah, he’s just gotten more insistent. Go ahead. Call him.

[visit a website here, buy a disc here]

The styPod | 8:00 am | Comments (2)

March 29, 2005

Occasionally I become temporarily convinced that certain totally irrational things are true. This week, for example, I am sure that somewhere between six and seven minutes is the ideal song length, which the Perfect Song (a white whale if there ever was one) would have to be found within. I’m aware this is ridiculous, but my listening just happens to be throwing so many great songs that correspond with this that it’s a beguiling thought.

The Velvet Underground– Ocean (Live)

I understand that there are ten minute long live versions of “Ocean” out there, and I am currently in the process of searching them out. This version, which I can’t actually confidentially place with any particular live album, last just over six minutes, and already seems just about perfect. I’d imagine you could extend this circular jam outwards any number of minutes and it would still work, but in this version six minutes passes awfully quickly. Lou’s not really singing about anything, but John Cale (I think) is playing organ and although not a hint of skronk is raised, it’s still one of the Velvet Underground’s finest moments.

[visit a website here, buy a live disc here]

Sweet Billy Pilgrim– Stars Spill Out Of Cups

I’ve already mentioned this one in the Rubber Room, but even though I already loved it then it’s only grown in my estimation since. It’s six and a half minutes, or at least so I’m told, and there is at least one bit that I keep humming (the “it slips a little more each day” part), which is good enough to have me listening to this near-daily. But the real key is the bit starting at around 3:15, where the music shifts slightly and people begin singing from far off and time stops. It returns to the chorus afterwards, and I do love that chorus, but I’m still not fully convinced that years and years don’t lie within those six and a half minutes.

[visit the website here, buy a disc here]

Slowdive– Blue Skied An’ Clear

The recent Catch The Breeze compilation, although slightly maddening in its track selection (no “She Calls”? Really?), at least makes this and much of Slowdive’s pristine Pygmalion LP available again after being out of print for around a decade. This is the absolute gem from that record, almost seven minutes of lying back in the sun and letting those tides of voice wash over you, a drum softly ticking in the background, the occasional gentle guitar rippling like a pool ten seconds after the stone hits. “You say la la love and it sounds so good / You say la la love and it sounds so sweet” is about as coherent as Neil Halsted gets, but amazingly the track perfectly recapitulates the amazed, slightly stoned wonder in his voice perfectly.

[visit the website here, buy Pygmalion here]

The styPod | 8:00 am | Comments (4)

March 28, 2005

Blue Ribbon– 2012205

It’s basically one long analog drone, with chord changes every once in a while. But because it’s a little bit over four minutes long, it’s eerily brilliant. The mind goes away from just the notes to the actual sound of the wavering note as it undulates slowly like some sort of aural Mobius strip. A lot of the songs on this record are rather pedestrian synth-pop, but these intermittent moments nearly recommend the record on their strength alone.

[visit the website here, buy it here]

Populous– Hip-Hop Cocotte

It’s interesting how Boards of Canada has become such a strong signifier for a certain type of music, even though so few actually imitate or even try to imitate it. But they’re a useful signifier because descriptions can move away from there elegantly to accurately describe the music in question. In Populous’ case, everything is a bit smoother and cleaner, with a nice bit of guitar thrown in for good measure. It’s all very pleasant overall on the upcoming record, but this one shines the brightest.

[visit the Morr Music website here, pre-order the album here]

Michael Hedges– Aerial Boundaries

I was turned on to this amazing track by none other than Velocirecords newest act, Sean Booth. His words: “He’s one of the best guitar players that has ever lived; unfortunately as well, he died just a few years ago in a mysterious car accident. He was the one who turned me onto drop tunings and approaching my instrument more creatively and intuitively. Any guitar player who hears his instrumental compositions will wholeheartedly agree he was and still is a master of the instrument. The song itself is all done with a “fret tapping” technique, as if he is playing a piano; there are no overdubs, but it sounds like there are at least three guitars playing independent parts at once; and it sounds like a bird’s eye view of the land below.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

[visit the website here, buy the album here]

Todd Burns | 8:00 am | Comments (1)

March 25, 2005

Crambe Repetita– Study 02

Another mini-mix for all the micro-house / micro-pop lovers out there. I am currently attempted to build this into something larger for a friend’s upcoming birthday party, but I’m fearful that I won’t get it done in time. Right now, this is what I’m working with, under the realization that there are a couple of mixes between songs that are suspect and that there are a couple of mixes that are some of my best yet. Tracks of note: Spirit Catcher’s “Street Hawk,” which is one of the better 12” to come out this year. Enjoy!

Meloboy – Hot Love (DJ Koze 12 Inch Mix)
Le Dust Sucker – Meanboy (Dominik Eulberg Mix)
Spirit Catcher – Street Hawk
Alex Smoke – Don’t See The Point
Heiko Voss – Call Me Now

Todd Burns | 8:00 am | Comments (2)

March 24, 2005

From a letter to Sally Williams, dated 1/17/58:

Let us toast to animal pleasures, to escapism, to rain on the roof and instant coffee, to unemployment insurance and library cards, to absinthe and good-hearted landlords, to music and warm bodies and contraceptives…and to the ‘good life,’ whatever it is and wherever it happens to be.
Hunter S. Thompson

Conspicuously absent from the absurd eulogies for Hunter S. Thompson was any mention of radical sociologist C. Wright Mills, a man whose work transparently inspired Thompson as well as democratic activists in the student left, some of whom conspired to draft The Port Huron Statement. While those selfsame obituaries committed an exceptionalist foul that somehow Thompson just wasn’t meant for these times, it overlooked the manner in which Thompson was part of the sociopolitical avant garde, in which progressive politics were expressed in all forms of cultural expression. Although documentaries like Festival Express expose the overt cynicism of acts like The Grateful Dead (a 15 dollar ticket in the early ‘70’s would cost 63 dollars today, and judging by the footage, our parents weren’t always the suckers they became: “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” my ass), the radical left wasn’t solely their province, at least no moreso than it was possessed by the streetfighters of Paris ’68: there was nevertheless a global movement afoot, something the world hadn’t seen in perhaps 120 years, a time when monarchies fell and empires staggered. These three songs exemplify the tradition of political folk music in global context.

Forengingen til livets beskyttelse– Betjent Larson

This is how residents of Christania, a longstanding artist community within Copenhagen said “Fuck the Police”—they did it personally, recognizing the policeman’s humanity, but nevertheless understanding his role as a functionary of the State, and thus by opposing the State, they must necessarily oppose the police as defenders of an order they couldn’t morally support. Many Americans believed Scandinavia to be an idyllic world of social democracy, but all the while films like I Am Curious Yellow & Blue exposed to those who saw it the nationalistic, racialized tensions and the relative social conservatism of those States.

A Cid Symphony– Burning Bush 3

Their only release—a triple album in 1967—demonstrates the variety of the Berkeley student body—these merry pranksters embodied in some manners the most marginal aspects of the student left, but for all the vilifying remarks made in ensuing years to purposefully eradicate the humanistic aims of American youth politics, Ernie Fischbach and Charles Ewing’s artistic statement expresses elsewhere on the album a poetic plea for birth control at the student-funded health clinic, as well as principled Beefheartian stand against the militaristic paranoia that persists in American political culture. “Burning Bush 3” offers an escapist Utopia, which permitted the conceptual freedoms that couldn’t be realized in civic life, the fingerpicked strings creating a babbling brook where the fire hydrant water runs into the gutter.

[visit a website here, buy it here]

William Onyeabor– Better Change Your Mind

Found on Luaka Bop’s new compilation of West African psychedelia Love’s a Real Thing, “Better Change Your Mind” meditates optimistically on the social potency of Africans to exert their political will on a world that for 400 years has seen fit to kidnap, torture and enslave their people, literally and figuratively from the earliest days of the slave trade through the political Ponzi schemes that destabilize democratic regimes and embolden terroristic dictators. The upbeat funk defiantly addresses global superpowers and declares their Eurocentric Realpolitik morally bankrupt, as if to say what things fell apart might someday be rebuilt.

[visit the website here, buy it here]

The styPod | 8:00 am | Comments (0)

March 23, 2005

Pelican– Angel Tears (JK Broadrick Remix)

Your music is weak. Like clock radio speakers. Unfortunately, most metal sounds like it was recorded with clock radio speakers. Pelican’s new EP is no exception, although in their case it was more of a conscious choice than in the past, when metal almost prided itself on a DIY approach that included, very prominently, crap production techniques. Surprising, when so many of the group’s prided virtuosity over all. Don’t you want people to hear how good you are, guys? Jesu’s JK Broadrick has no such hang-ups. And, in this remix, makes the fuzzy production work for him, sounding more like a amped-up MBV more than anything else. If this is the direction that drone metal is going in, you won’t see me complaining much.

[visit the website here, buy the EP here]

Cephalic Carnage– Dying Will Be The Death of Me

Perhaps the closest Cephalic will ever get to mall-punk, this song is surprisingly accessible for the group. First, you can actually make out the vocals pretty well. Second, there’s an actual chorus. Third, the structure is pretty easy to discern otherwise. I’m still not sure exactly what to make of the whole thing, though, and I imagine the jury is still out for most fans of the band. It’s nice to hear the group going towards more pop structures in a way, but at the same time, I would have thought that they could do it a bit better than this. Call it a test-run for their next release which I’m sure will be sold in Hot Topics across the nation.

[visit the website here, buy Anomalies here]

Gorgoroth– Proclaiming Mercy

Reason #56 this song is awesome:

Taking the stand in her son’s defense, Gaahl’s mother testified that she found the accusation of blood drinking particularly hard to believe.

“My son is a vegetarian and very fussy about food. He eats absolutely no innards. That is why I do not believe this at all,” Gaahl’s mother told the court.

The court believed the victim’s claim that Gaahl threatened to drink his blood but didn’t believe Gaahl actually meant to do it.

[visit the website here, buy Twilight of the Idols here]

The styPod | 8:00 am | Comments (0)

March 22, 2005

Khia feat. Xtaci - My Pussy

One can imagine the conversation between T.I. and his newly formed girl group, Xtaci. “Okay, girls, I thought of a great name for your group: …XTC! Like ‘ecstasy,’ get it?” Then imagine the shock on my favourite rapper of the moment’s face when he gets his lawyers (or, possibly, to check the name out and finds it was taken by some English weirdoes who were afraid of playing live. “Fuck it, we’ll spell it ‘Xtaci’ then.” Did this happen? Possibly. What really matters is the song: it’s out of control! This is some tear da club up shit, but if a club isn’t available, consider shaking your laptop violently. Yeah!

[visit the website here, buy a mixtape with this track on it here]

My Mine – Hypnotic Tango

The other two mp3s today are, frankly, really, really gay. This is Pet Shop Boys-level homosexuality we’re talking here. And that’s nineties Pet Shop Boys I’m talking about, when they stopped even pretending they were straight. Anyways, the first Gay Banger (no homo) is My Mine’s “Hypnotic Tango.” To be honest, I don’t know a damn thing about this group, but based on this song I’m going to theorize that they were German, gay and that this is the only song they ever did. That’s cool, because this song is perfect. It’s so romantic you’ll be imagining yourself on some sort of mythical NYC early-eighties Christopher St. dance floor in no time. Uhh, no homo.

[check for more releases here]

Felix Da Housecat– Ready 2 Wear

Continuing with the “damn, that’s gay” theme, we have a more recent effort. I first discovered this jam on a mix by Low “The other guy in Hollertronix” Budget, but I should’ve discovered it on Felix Da Housecat’s 2004 non-success Devin Dazzle & the Neon Fever. This track is a perfect, contemporary companion piece to the My Mine track: a hopelessly, almost comically romantic track that only works because the non-lyrical elements are all so good. All the best synth-pop combines the coldness and alienness of electronic music with the warmth and schmaltz of pure pop, and “Ready 2 Wear” is a worthy addition to that tradition. So, in summary: a song about eating pussy and two gay-club synth-pop epics. I’m a real toughie.

[visit the website here, buy it here]

The styPod | 8:00 am | Comments (3)

March 21, 2005

Muhammad Ali

And then there’s Ali and His Gang vs. Mr. Tooth Decay. Featuring guest stars Lily Tomlin, Howard Cosell, Frank Sinatra, Richie Havens and a gang of children, Muhammad Ali spends forty minutes talking about tooth decay. I think this one speaks for itself.

[buy it here]

Todd Burns | 8:00 am | Comments (3)

March 18, 2005

The Beach Boys– Busy Doin’ Nothin’

Brian Wilson has said that Pet Sounds is the best Beach Boys album but that Friends is his favorite, the one he reaches for most. I do, too: its breeziness makes it a perfect Saturday morning record, especially on a verandah somewhere in northern California when it’s clear and sunny and in the mid-sixties. “Busy Doin’ Nothin,’” a soft bossanova with a lilting clarinet line not unlike some of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s arrangements of this era, most literalizes this mood by being about, well, a lazy day in the life of Brian Wilson. He fills the verses with small talk about the weather, but the choruses take these banalities even further. In the first Wilson gives the listener detailed directions to his house, while in the second he takes us through the sudden crisis of not being able to remember a friend’s phone number. As with “Caroline, No,” it’s a rare solo vocal performance, but whereas that song sacrificed the band’s trademark harmonies to give Wilson space to mourn, there is little overt emotionalism here. The inevitable sense of loneliness only occurs later, as you imagine the by now ill and drug-addled Wilson puttering around his place, just trying to stay calm and focused on something. And yet there’s a beauty in this nothingness, too: a pop song for a kind of pleasant everyday boredom.

[visit the Brian Wilson website here]

Green– Radio Caroline

The power-pop band Green arose from the same late 1980s Chicago rock scene that birthed Material Issue and Eleventh Dream Day and at one point seemed poised for similar, if not greater, success. Even after opening for up-and-comers Smashing Pumpkins in 1991, however, the group failed to take off commercially in the U.S., although strangely they did well in Belgium. (Full disclosure: I would not likely have heard of them myself if I hadn’t met singer Jeff Lescher four years ago, which led to a very brief stint playing keyboard with the current version of the band.) Musically, Lescher cites the off-kilter melodicism of the Kinks as a major influence, although Green’s best asset has always been its versatility, careening from country-saloon jangle to huge glammy riffs, and vocally from guttural yelps to naďve falsettos. It’s all played with a certain ragged devotion, including “Radio Caroline,” a spiky bit of bubblegum named after the British pirate radio station that helped usher in the rock era.

[buy it here]

The Books– Smells Like Content

For me, the first two Books albums (2002’s Thought for Food and 2003’s The Lemon of Pink) were mostly notable for the way they rejuvenated the concept of using bizarre, often non-musical samples. Within alt-culture, the trend was perhaps most prominent in the mid-1990s, with popular records by Beck, Cibo Matto, and Soul Coughing featuring clips of creaking doors and grunting pigs juxtaposed with 1940s girl groups and distant opera arias. But whereas those bands dropped their samples into a bubbling cauldron of watered-down funk or hip-hop, with results that could be exploited in a documentary about the “new global eclecticism,” the Books slipped birdcalls and field recordings into a more contemplative ambient-folk style, mixed judiciously with trance-like acoustic guitars. On the new Lost and Safe, Nick Zammuto and Paul de Jong haven’t entirely abandoned this technique, but there are tracks on which Zammuto’s voice for the first time takes precedence over the found sound. If “Smells Like Content” is still identifiable as the Books, it’s partly because the lyrics themselves feel discovered, a series of existential propositions with language so dense it practically spills when sung. The academic tone recalls David Grubbs’s solo work but less arch; amidst the simple, warm guitar and the gentle, cycling clatter, there is an unmistakable sense of generosity.

[visit the website here]

Utopia Burns

Natalie Imbruglia– Starting Today

The new Natalie Imbruglia is crap. Which won’t surprise 99.9% of you that are reading this, but considering the brilliance of her second album (not the one with “Torn,” kids), it’s a rather annoying let-down. There was hope for a reviving of her career. Edward Oculicz and I have had some hushed conversations in the Stylus Pop Conference Room and we’re come to the decision that this, the single “Shiver,” and “Satisfied” might just be all that you need. It doesn’t feel good to have one of my great pop hope’s turn in this unsatisfying bore of an album, but we’ll still have Bodies Without Organs so you won’t hear me complaining too loudly.

[visit the website here, buy White Lillies Island here]

Behemoth– The Reign ov Shemsu - Hor

New-ish Stylus writer Michael Bennett turned me onto this Eastern European death metal band, which I had never really heard much about previously. Much like Botch’s “We Are The Romans,” this album closer moves slowly and atmospherically until it explodes in a fury of catonia-inducing shredding and incredibly fast drumming. It’s nice to have some more metal reviewers on staff lately, pointing me towards things that I would have missed otherwise.

[visit a website here, buy Demigod here]

Meloboy– Hot Love (DJ Koze Single Edit)

Michael F. Gill turned me onto this single version of Meloboy’s “Hot Love” and its attendant mixes by DJ Koze and Wassermann. While the single is the most overrated moment in the entire Kompakt catalogue, Koze remakes it here into his own nervous “I’ve-been-a-house-producer-for-ten-minutes” gem. The lengthier version is over ten minutes long, in which Koze barely does anything aside from letting the greatness wash over you.

[visit the website here, buy Hot Love here

The styPod | 8:00 am | Comments (2)

March 16, 2005

Everyone has their musical mentors, but I think it’s less often that you find your musical partner. Gavin Mueller, erstwhile Stylus writer probably deserves that designation for me. I regard him as the go-to guy for uncovering and highlighting new genres that I’d never find out about otherwise and for listening to the genres that I should be paying attention to and keeping me updated. Quite simply, we’re both a second pair of ears for the other one, keeping each other informed of the big new thing.

Unfortunately, Gavin’s in a different city now. But that hasn’t stopped him from graciously sending me CD-Rs of his radio show on WHPK in Chicago. Here are three tracks that I might never have heard if not for those CDs.

DJ Hell– Listen to the Hiss

Despite what Hell asks you, this one is all about that mournful bass. A four-note figure, it gives the whole song an even weirder vibe than the ultra-creepy Alan Vega vocals. There’s a hint of sadness, that the fight that Vega talks about might never be won. But the beat makes us soldier on. Or something like that. From the two remixes that I’ve heard, both Tiefschwarz and Villalobos kind of miss the point of the whole thing—Tiefschwarz making it a bit too bouncy, rather than the rolling inevitability of Hell’s version and Villalobos making it too abstract for any possible enjoyment to be wrung out of it. Crank this one loud.

[visit the website here, buy NY Muscle here]

Kelis– Caught Out There (Screwed)

I’m not one to post the same track more than once, but I feel like this one deserves it because the screwed version of Kelis’ “Caught Out There” legitimately makes it a new track, one sung by a man replete with the saddest video game music ever. The most exciting thing about the prominence that screwed and chopped movement for me has always been when a track is completely and utterly transformed from its original. This is why Kelis is an obvious trick, having an already deeper voice than many female artists and the Neptunes at her back. Of course I’d apologize for the quality of the mp3. But you’re getting it for free.

[visit the website here, buy Tasty here]

Unknown Artist– Unknown Title

Trainspotters, please…

This one, I think, benefits from the lack of context that I got from Gavin who prefers no tracklistings or info when handing stuff of to me. That’s what I prefer, making the initial listen that much more exciting. In any case, it’s a drum ‘n’ bass/hip-hop that usually pushes the former out to the margins during the verses, only to highlight during and after choruses. While it’s probably just some IDM classic that I just haven’t heard yet, it’s new and exciting to me right now and that’s the whole point of these here blogs, innit?

Todd Burns | 8:00 am | Comments (2)

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