Chris Watson's "Outside the Circle of Fire"

Posted by othiym23 Mon, 14 Jan 2008 03:50:00 GMT

Man, it’s awesome being able to listen to the sound of a hippo emerging from a river any time I want. Field recordings are great precisely because they don’t have any kind of premeditated structure or narrative, they just are, yet nature still coughs up all manner of beautiful and bizarre sounds.

Conservatory (San Sebastiano)

Posted by othiym23 Mon, 14 Jan 2008 01:54:00 GMT

I’m only hearing it for the first time, so I can’t really comment on the recording yet, but the notes and exhibition catalog for John Duncan’s soundscape for Paolo Parisi’s “Conservatory” installation is very pretty, and has the kind of measured curatorial insight that European art seems to attract by default and that are so very, very rare in the United States. I wish I could have visited the installation.

All Natural Lemon & Lime Flavors

Posted by othiym23 Mon, 14 Jan 2008 01:02:21 GMT

I made an offhanded comparison yesterday between A Sunny Day in Glasgow and All Natural Lemon & Lime Flavors, as if it were a ready point of reference that would have you, my reader, going, “Oh, of course! Them!”

I do this. I no longer feel comfortable making assumptions about what random people on the internet will or won’t know about the musicians I mention, offhandedly or otherwise. Sometimes this will lose people, but allmusic.com is only a click away, after all. Or the Google, which will send you to ANLLF’s Epitonic page, which is, in fact, how I originally discovered All Natural Lemon & Lime Flavors back around 2000.

But as a result of that mention, I had to ask myself if there was a basis to that comparison, or whether I was going on some tentative, decayed memories, so I tossed the three full-lengths released by All Natural Lemon & Lime Flavors (All Natural Lemon & Lime Flavors, Turning Into Small and Flat Blue Line) onto my iPod for review.

If anything, I’d forgotten how immediate they are. Or how much they do owe to 1993 (Stereolab, the Lilys, all the other bands that tried to sound like My Bloody Valentine but failed). Or just how precociously creative a record Turning Into Small is, and what a departure it is from their debut. Turning Into Small and about half of Straight Blue Line (which is a compilation of singles and compilation tracks) exhibit a prickly, restless intelligence that manifests itself in funny and surprising ways (G-funk synth lines! Dynamics that fake out the listener!), and was what I was thinking of when discussing A Sunny Day in Glasgow, who do the same thing more nimbly.

There’s also a density to the sound that prefigures ANLLF’s connection to heavy-as-frozen-tar hip-hop auteurs Dälek. Oktopus, Dälek’s beatmaker, composer and producer, was also the engineer for All Natural Lemon & Lime Flavor’s albums, and it’s clear that there’s a continuity of sound between both groups, which is interesting because superficially they sound nothing alike. It’s the density of sound and intelligent restlessness in both groups’ work that they share in common.

pouring the black slime from God's shattered eyesockets

Posted by othiym23 Sun, 13 Jan 2008 05:28:37 GMT

Black metal is a style that lends itself to easy mockery; as Cosmo argues, even in its supposedly hypermasculinist misanthropy, it has a curiously overwrought emotionalism that suggests traditional notions of feminine hysteria:

I would argue that black metal is metal’s feminine side…and that it was a subconscious response to the hypermasculinity of the previous dominant paradigm, death metal. The first time I heard black metal, I thought I was hearing witches. Perhaps there’s some gender play at work, too, what with all the makeup and anorexic physiques…

For a long time, it was this combination of epic, minor-key romanticism with overwrought, screeched vocals that kept black metal at the fringes of the metal scene. Even after being embraced by the metal mainstream, black metal (especially of the more witchy, Cradle of Filth or Emperor variety) is often the butt of jokes. (One of black metal’s saving graces is that it trades the stereotypical misogyny of heavy metal for a more totalized misanthropy – nobody will escape the blackened apocalypse. Pity about the rampant homophobia, though – which in the end just buttresses Cosmo’s point.)

On Defective Epitaph, Xasthur demand to be taken seriously. Malefic puts everything on the same level when he mixes, with so many layers of distortion and reverb and other sonic chowder juxtaposed that the result is smeared across the soundstage like a heavy, greasy paste. This obscures the complex composition style he favors, which trades the easy minor-key “evil” chord changes featured by most of the more epic black metal bands for something more atonal and nuanced – which the untuned guitars, muffled percussion, deliberately overdriven recording and lo-fi mixing neatly conceal. Xasthur have turned the stumbling, inadvertent incompetence of old black metal demos into a consciously developed aesthetic of considerable power.

The effect of this on careful listeners is immediate and powerful; Defective Epitaph evokes a hypertrophically dismal landscape that is cartoonish in its twisted bleakness but exceeds caricature. The sound is relentlessly, tangibly industrial, a forced march through a broken-down old nightmare factory, and in context the harsh grating of the distorted vocals is completely dehumanizing. Some metal aspires to be pagan, or Teutonic, or outright Satanic. Defective Epitaph is beyond that; it evokes the complete negation of life itself. It turns hundreds of years of musical development against itself, and in its dissonance produces a work that is powerfully evocative despite its monumental ugliness.

simple pleasures

Posted by othiym23 Sat, 12 Jan 2008 23:25:21 GMT

Choosing to end his Raag Manifestos with a simple old hymn (“Blessed Be the Name of the Lord”) was a good move for Jack Rose. He can produce a storm of sound with two hands and a steel-string guitar, but the uncomplicated rhythms and old-time, major-key vibe of “Blessed Be” sends a sometimes chaotic album out on a sunlit high note. One reason among many why Jack Rose is my favorite of the Fahey-esque folk guitar wizards rambling the backwoods byways of today’s America.

live from the echo factory

Posted by othiym23 Sat, 12 Jan 2008 21:37:44 GMT

Not too many people seem to know about A Sunny Day in Glasgow (who have an extremely whimsical attitude towards naming – they’re not from Scotland, where it is often the furthest thing from sunny, and keep an eye out for their bizarre song titles), and that’s too bad. They have a blown-out, echo-drenched sound that combines the the clattering percussion and up-front mixing of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound with the electronic sparkliness of the Magnetic Fields (really early Magnetic Fields, back when Stephin Merritt had the knife-making Arizona woman with the pretty voice singing for him). There’s some of the experimentation of early His Name Is Alive in evidence, too, but HNIA were never quite so resolutely poppy, nor as clearly indebted to Phil Spector’s phalanx of 60s girl groups. On “A Mundane Phonecall to Jack Parsons” and “One Change Into Rain is No Change at All (Talkin’ ‘Bout Us)”, in particular, all the pieces snap into focus, and the results are lethally catchy experimental pop.

On the first few listens, they might seem like some kind of nu-shoegazer unit, but really they’re not. If they’re like any other band, it’s long-gone and lamented weirdoes All Natural Lemon & Lime Flavors, who had a similar no-holds-barred approach to making noisy post-everything music.

The Telefones, "Bowling"

Posted by othiym23 Sat, 12 Jan 2008 11:12:17 GMT

Ladies and gentlemen, The Telefones (from Hyped 2 Death #3):

Don’t come around knocking at my door,
I don’t love you any more,
you won’t go bowling!

And don’t you call me on the telephone,
you know I won’t be home,
I probably will be bowling.

bowling, I like bowling (4x)

You ain’t nothing but an alley cat,
and worse than that:
you won’t go bowling!

You ain’t nothing but a gutter ball,
I think that says it all,
why won’t you go bowling?

bowling, I like bowling (4x)

(guitar solo)

YES!

(saxophone solo)

You ain’t nothing but an alley cat,
and worse than that:
you won’t go bowling!

You ain’t nothing but a gutter ball,
I think that says it all,
why won’t you go bowling?

bowling, I like bowling (4x)

YES!

(guitar solo)
(dual saxophone solo)

Read & Burn 03

Posted by othiym23 Sat, 12 Jan 2008 07:00:24 GMT

A couple months or so, British post punk old-timers Wire put out Read & Burn 03 on Pink Flag, their own label. Since the last Read & Burn came out a few years ago, it’s sort of strange that they’d continue the old series. It’s especially weird as the record sounds less like the material on those EPs and the album (Send) that drew from them, and more like their late-80s material. I think their 80s output is a brilliant fusion of Dadaistic wordplay with strangely conventional, polished art rock, but a lot of people hated it. Since this carries over the tightness of their new material, it might be appealing to people who thought A Bell is a Cup Until It is Struck and the other albums of that period were a little too slick and diffuse.

there she goes now 1

Posted by othiym23 Sat, 12 Jan 2008 01:03:25 GMT

If you’re a fan of Joy Division or Devo or ever liked a song by ABC or Human League, you really ought to read Simon Reynolds’ Rip It Up and Start Again. As this blog pretty well reflects, I am a die-hard music snob who’s devoted the majority of his life to stashing useless bits of music trivia into every semi-empty corner of my brain, and I still found it useful as a way of (re-)framing a lot of the music I love. Reading it has considerably enriched my music collection, even if my bank account has shrunk correspondingly.

One of the ways I found it most valuable was the way that it inclusively pulled a lot of my favorite old industrial[1] groups into the context of British post punk. I’ve always liked Cabaret Voltaire, but once Reynolds pointed out that they essentially started as a garage band with some weird electronics (which they are: they cover the Velvet Underground and “Theme from Shaft”), it put them in a whole new, more interesting light. Instead of focusing on their aggression and coldness, now I listen for the weird skeletal rock, funk and dub / reggae that informs a lot of their early material, and that brings out the fact that, at root, they’re as much like early Bauhaus (“Silent Command” almost is a Bauhaus song) or Television as they are like Throbbing Gristle. It adds a whole new dimension to their music. Thanks, Simon.

1: One of these days I will probably be unable to resist blathering on endlessly about the many, many ways in which this term has been abused, but today is not that day.

sweet old Uncle Mike 2

Posted by othiym23 Sat, 12 Jan 2008 00:43:30 GMT

There is something ineffably sweet about Michael Gira (the most important of the Swans) writing goofball songs for the children of his friends. He used to live in probably the deepest, blackest hole in music, and now he singing about doing the monster dance and making silly rhymes about little girls keeping their rooms clean. I will yield to noöne when it comes to love for the Swans, but I like the new Michael better.