Thursday, June 30, 2011

Doom Ribbons - The Violence (Open Letter, 2011)

To call this album "a work years in the making" might sound like a trite description to create some sort of grandeur but I assure you, its just plain true. After anticipating this release for three years, guitarist Shane Perlowin finally put it in my hands.

Perlowin and percussionist/samplist extraordinaire James Owen were patient in letting us in on their incredibly eclectic ideas. Having heard some of these compositions live and being impressed each time, I still wasn't prepared for the studio treatment of the material.

Both musicians have been staples on the Asheville, North Carolina music scene for over a decade. Always interesting and charismatic players, this duo has finally unveiled a magical recording that is as playful as it is cerebral.

"Food for the New State" begins with a pastiche of birds singing along with bursts of industrial noise. This softly builds into lovely classical-flavored acoustic guitar paired with ghostly echoing vocals creating a gorgeous though ominous soundscape that culminates in a loop of what sounds like a massive street riot. with "Prayer for Collapsing Economies" we're transported into more straight ahead terrain. A punchy and groovy drumkit rhythm meets African feeling guitar melodies in a somewhat familiar pop and rock structure.

"Big Other" is the beast on this record. Acoustic and electric guitars loop and loop again, together with soft and unassuming percussion, delicately plodding toward a yet unseen destination. Like one slow and long panning film take, we wait until about seven minutes in, the cacaphonous assembly is fiercely unleashed and just like that...its gone.

"Horvat Jerusalem" is a paricularly dark minor number that ventures into jazz territory with accordion and horns in a middle eastern vein. This is the most engaging track on the album, with brilliant and mature compositional skills and overtly political subject matter without having to verbalize as much. The piece has a Muslim Gauze-like militance that I find captivating. "Drmfdbk" is an unexpectedly vicious and noisy track that leads up to nasty skronking sax and bowed bass. The closer "Die alone" begins in an almost shoegaze approach with more of the haunting vocal sampling and mellow electric guitar. Eventually, an almost meditative chanting appears out of the ether, part ancient funeral march, part praise song.

This album is about to get a lot of press but it will not receive as much as it deserves. A must have. CD available now. Get It Here

Look for the vinyl soon.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Tall Dwarfs - 3 EPs (Flying Nun, 1994)

This goofball New Zealand duo, founded in 1981, is pretty ridiculous but equally talented and interesting. Chris Knox and Alex Bathgate made several records with guitar, organ, casiotone and hand percussion. They were DIY pioneers of the lo-fi aesthetic, using 4 track recordings buried in the lovely land of tape hiss.

3 EPs was a particularly interesting development for the band as they invited fans to record their own instrumentation and what not on cassette and submit them. The band used this material as fundamentals for many pieces.

A sloppy Spacemen 3 on acid instead of heroin, these guys also incorporate the stylings of Donovan, George Harrison and a bit of a Fugs motif.

Get It Here

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Caretaker - Persistent Repetition of Phrases (Install, 2008)

Remember the feeling you had when you were watching Stanley Kubrick's The Shining and Jack enters the Gold Room, the ballroom of the Overlook Hotel? There is a definitive emotion that occurs when the first notes of that 1920's jazz begins to play. Its ominous, creepy, spectral and unrelenting. That sequence in the bathroom with Delbert Grady, the previous caretaker, is quite possibly the most brilliantly frightening experience I had as a young person ingesting art of any kind.

Electronic musician James Kirby recreates these feelings with this project. Cutting and pasting jazz from the 1920's and 1930's, he reduces the tempo and adds effects, resulting in an alien transmission as beautiful as it is psychotic. These soundscapes are unmatched in their simplicity and elegance.

"No sir, YOU are the caretaker. You've always been the caretaker. I ought to know: I've always been here."

Get It Here

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Loss - Despond (Profound Lore, 2011)

Nashville doomsayers Loss have finally achieved a full-length album and the result is passionate, moving and simply stunning. For all you kids out there that think you listen to "Doom" this might be a wake up call and a redefinition. Doom is not smoking weed and chillaxin' with your bros. Doom is remorse, sorrow, regret and suicide and self-loathing. A soundtrack for when you're numb or too depressed to shed a tear.

Loss has mastered these emotions. A sprawling, barren and pitiful landscape devoid of anything positive is delicately presented to us on Despond. When listening, its almost as if this music is a loving arm placed on your shoulder in an attempt to comfort but not knowing what to say.

While depressing in subject matter, this remains epic and beautiful music. Fans of Asunder and Katatonia will welcome this as a masterpiece almost six years in the making. This is funeral doom. This is one of the best albums of 2011. Enjoy.

Get It Here

Friday, June 17, 2011

Akron / Family - Akron / Family (Young God, 2005)

You may know Akron/Family as a bullshit jam band because that's what they are these days. Well, before the bullshit they put out one of my favorite folk pop albums of all time. This sweet little record is genuinely honest freak folk that is sure to win you over. All you have to do is try to forget who you're listening to. I promise you its good.

Get It Here

Thursday, June 16, 2011

R.I.P Seth Putnam (May 15, 1968 – June 11, 2011)

The Anal Cunt himself has passed away of a heart attack. He was 43. Thank you for the grindcore, the most offensive song titles in history and most importantly, thank you for "311 Sucks".

311 Sucks

Can't Touch This

Tearist (Cdr, 2009)

Imagine one oddly attractive female writhing around singing as if in mid-sex and simultaneous epileptic fit occasionally messing with a pile of vocal effects pedals at her feet. Imagine awkward new wave looking male looking gothically disinterested in front of a synth rack. Put these two in a claustrophobic feeling room and voila, you have Tearist.

This is 24 minutes of avant-garde post-punk dance and witch house. A demon-ridden Diamanda Galas and a nymphomaniacal Siousxie haunted by the ghost of the original 4AD ladies dancing like Ian Curtis and recorded all lo-fi by Salem and Zola Jesus while on speed.

Shocking, confusing and brilliant. Dance alone in front of your mirror, bitches.

Get It Here

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Comets on Fire - Blue Cathedral (Sub Pop, 2004)

I remember my original face. It was ok but I was never really fond of it. So, luckily, I wasn't too distraught when in 2004, I picked up this album and that face was melted. Of course, I should have had a better plastic surgeon, alas, so it goes.

What we have here are the finest aspects of The Stooges and MC5 launched into a funnel cloud with the best elements of Blue Oyster Cult and early Pink Floyd. Oh, and toss in an overused Echoplex. One of the coolest and most acid-drenched burning rock n' roll records I've ever heard. And lest I forget, Ben Chasny (Six Organs...) is in the band. Thirsty yet?

Take amphetamines.
Take some LSD.
Listen to Comets On Fire.
Just sayin'.

Get It Here

Or: Blue Cathedral - Comets On Fire

Monday, June 13, 2011

Clams Casino - Instrumental (Mixtape, 2011)

So its official, a Hip Hop producer has jumped on the Shoegaze bandwagon. That's right, the man who has been bringing beats for Lil B, Main Attrakionz and even Souljah Boy is all up in your cerebrum with some dreamy, blissed out tracks that are sure to leave you feeling euphoric.

This is a summer jam for sure.

Get It Here

Leviathan - A Silhouette in Splinters (2005, Profound Lore)

Through me you pass into the city of woe:
Through me you pass into eternal pain:
Through me among the people lost for aye.

Justice the founder of my fabric mov'd:
To rear me was the task of power divine,
Supremest wisdom, and primeval love.

Before me things create were none, save things
Eternal, and eternal I endure.
All hope abandon ye who enter here.

Such characters in colour dim I mark'd
Over a portal's lofty arch inscrib'd:
Whereat I thus: Master, these words import.

--Dante Alighieri "Divine Comedy, 1321

Wrest is one of the most complex and fascinating characters in Black Metal today. Barring all the controversy about his personal life, he remains a prolific and competent artist in multiple realms. He is the force behind not only Leviathan but Lurker of Chalice (my favorite album of 2006) and a contributor to Twilight, Nachtmystium and Sunn O))).

I can't praise this album enough. Whereas Leviathan is typically a project that emulates classic washed out and lo-fi depressive black metal recordings that always sound like demo tapes, you'll find no blastbeats here. This is a purely ambient venture that rivals the likes of early Lustmord. Droning layers of electric guitar slink across our conscious mental processes, navigating dark and untouched hemispheres of repressed memories. Meditative and patient, these environments quietly shriek of malevolence, misanthropy and discontent.

Without resolution, this album eloquently leads us down a road toward hopelessness. Listening to this record is akin to watching the apocalypse unfold before your eyes after ingesting an overdose of sedatives.

Get It Here

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Brilliant Colors - Introducing (Slumberland, 2009)

In December 1989, Slumberland Records released "What Kind of Heaven Do You Want?", a shared 7" featuring early line-ups of Velocity Girl, Black Tambourine, and Powderburns. Two decades later the label is still true to their original Twee / C86er aesthetic, offering us The Pains of Being Pure of Heart and this retro wonder, Brilliant Colors.

This all girl trio provides us with many vital late 80's elements: jangly hooks and melodies, muffled New York No Wave atonal vocal delivery, blown out reverb guitar (think sloppy but charming early Kevin Shields), punchy but loose basslines and the crucial Black Tambourine-style tom heavy drumming.

The only negative criticism I have is that the record is 24 minutes long. At an average of 2 minutes a song, every time I'm really feeling something, its suddenly over.

Most importantly, this is just a fun record. If you were a teenager in 1989, dig this; if you're a teenager in 2011, dig this. Introducing is a nostalgic joyride that many should be able to relate to.

Get It Here

Or: Introducing - Brilliant Colors

tUnE-yArDs - WHOKILL (4AD, 2011)

Yes, the name looks absurd. That’s because this is a soundtrack to the theatre of the absurd. The calculated cacophony of Oakland songstress and producer Merill Garbus is some of the most oddly attractive yet puzzling music I’ve heard recently. No wave / post-punk / indie / dance pop that Laurie Anderson and the ghost of John Cage would drunkenly dance to.

The first track verbally introduces us to the character that she is, an anti-diva, anti-M.I.A and anti-inhibition personality with impressive instrumental talent and an incredibly commanding vocal range and presence. A sort of “I am awkward, hear me roar’ mystique. Gifted and unbelievably different, she dispels any attributes of her initial outing Bird Brains.

The first four tracks, “My Country”, “Es-so”, “Gangsta” and “Powa” bang out bizarre but rocking dancefloor numbers. Then with “Riotriot”, she eases into a delicate ballad that seems timely, only to twist the mellow vibe a couple minutes in, creating some kind of psychological carnage.

“Bizness”, the proverbial hit of the record, showcases a beautiful horn section with a very soulful and passionate vocal delivery.

“Doorstep” delivers with one of the most avant-garde vocal cuts on the album. “You Yes You” is essentially a cryptic funk track complete with discordant electric guitar rhythms.

Then there is is finally rest for the weary listening traveler. “Wooly Wolly Gang” is a somber and sweet lullaby admirable for its simplistic line-up of vocal track, acoustic guitar and drum machine, but one that still has a haunting and somewhat disconcerting nature, in keeping with the rest of the record.

Wrapping things up is “Killa”, a peppy and positive fly-girl number that reaffirms Garbus’ female confidence and audacity, one that again confuses by feeling as if its as comfortable in the Caribbean as it is in the club.

African pop, funk, R & B, and jazz are all homogenized with honest acoustic folk pop; however, the lyrical material is ripe with extremely relative themes of self-image, race and gender issues. She takes nothing as lightly as it sounds. This is heavy and intense music that I find difficult to call pop. She deserves better.

This post originally appeared as an article I wrote for

Get It Here

Or: Whokill - Tune-Yards

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Spektr - Mescalyne (Moribund, 2007)

This entire album is frantically sharp and steeped in hollowed layers of tattered atmosphere. The French black metal duo present the four song ep Mescalyne with full electronic voracity of brightly distorted, melodic guitar hiss and meticulous drumming that often slips into a rhythmic dichotomy, enhancing a sense of depth. I would almost venture to say that this album is seemingly gray rather than black in it's tone. This album is far too taken care of, as an important representation of it's creator's art to be thought of as low-fi or cold recorded. Though it's feeling brings a chill, it doesn't remind me of damp viking crawl spaces, looming heavy moans. Mescalyne is reflective of the Gothic shadows of the ages and the intellectual horrors that emerge from progress, holy faith and validity. Or it sounds like broken glass has been inserted behind your eye sockets while waking up in a wind tunnel, which ever translation you prefer.

--Sean Dail

Get It Here

Friday, June 3, 2011

Harry Nillson - The Point! (RCA, 1971)

This is the town and these are people of Harry Nilsson's “The Point!” This album is the story of Oblio, a young man with no point. You see, the town in which Oblio lives, everyone has a point on the tops of their heads and everything in the town has a point; literally. So, the story is a classic tale of bridging differences as Oblio is banished to the pointless forest that surrounds the town due to his lack of having a point in order to ultimately find that everything has a point.

So to get to the point, American song writer Harry Nilsson creates a fantastic world of imagination that mirrors our own reality. In the mid to late sixties societal norms were starting to change and the point was to offer a perspective that allowed American culture to reflect on the functionality of individuals and their value they offer, no matter the differences. Anyone who is familiar with the voice of Nilsson knows the power and clarity of his use of melody and harmony rivaling the best of vocalists. And some say there has not been such a singer since. The entire album is a dreamy, smooth piano pop piece that is laden with strings and 60's orchestra sounds. As the good humor and contemplative feeling of reflection drifts up and down like a lullaby, Nilsson intermittently pops in with the narrative of the story.

“The Point!” was later made into a musical play and an animated film. The album has Nilsson providing the voices for all the characters involved, which gives a sense of old school story telling as if kids were sitting in a semi-circle around grandpa imitate and contort his voice to match the characters. And as the story seems a little elementary, the simple yet perfectly portrayed cast of characters combined with the angelic voice of Nilsson, deliver a well satisfying dose of comfort. Many have grown up listening to this album or watching the animated version during their childhood. I had only been turned on to this piece about four years ago and as an adult and first time listener, I was able to fully appreciate every narration and song on the album, thus having Harry Nilsson's “The Point!” still be a valid one.

--Sean Dail

Get The Point! Here