Thursday, July 30, 2009

Music Review: Magnolia Electric Co. - Josephine (**)

"Jason Molina can’t catch a break. He released what is easily his best work, 2003’s Magnolia Electric Co., with his band Songs: Ohia, and was instantly acclaimed for so boldly breaking with his spare alt-country sound, but never really capitalized on the buzz this earned him. On subsequent albums, Molina adopted the Magnolia Electric Co. moniker and continued his move toward classic rock territory – releases often met with shrugged shoulders and Crazy Horse comparisons. Both reactions are totally understandable; Magnolia Electric Co. (the band) have never fully recaptured that intangible inspiration that so defined the last Songs: Ohia album. Perhaps as a delayed reaction to this growing indifference, the newest Magnolia Electric Co. record, Josephine, is being touted as something of a return to the stripped-down country of Molina’s early Songs: Ohia days." [Continue Reading]

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"A Serious Man" Trailer

And here we go again. At least it doesn't look like they're handing over all the best parts of the film right outta the gate the way they did with Burn After Reading. And why are possibly my two favorite Coen films-- Barton Fink and Miller's Crossing-- conspicuously absent from the rundown at the end? Not that anything could actually keep me away from this film mind you, but ya know, just sayin'. (via Awardsdaily)

Video: The Fiery Furnaces - "Cut the Cake" (acoustic version)

Ran across this clip of The Fiery Furnaces performing an acoustic version of "Cut the Cake" on Newsweek's Pop Vox blog (don't ask). The cut comes from the brother-sister duo's fine new album I'm Going Away. There is also a pretty lengthy interview with the band, wherein a couple of Matthew Friedberger's answers really caught my eye. Here's a taste:
"Matthew: You know, I have one more thing to say about it. Some people say: oh, our records, in the past, they're convoluted. It makes it harder for people to get to the tune. And this record we're making it easier, going easier on people in their busy lives. And no, it's not true. In this record we're making the audience do more work. We're giving them a simple version. Then they have to imagine how it should be elaborated in a convoluted way. They have to fit into the nooks and crannies of their personal difficulties. Which I'm sure they'll do. We'll do more of the work next time."

Monday, July 27, 2009

'Yearbook' and 'Essentials' Updates

If you haven't yet taken the time to explore the furthest reaches of the In Review Online website, then now may be an appropriate time to indulge, as I've just updated my annual 'Yearbook' and 'Essentials' pages. As the decade comes to a close, I wanted to take one last opportunity to properly account for each individual year of music thus far, and it's on my 'Yearbook' page where you'll find my lists of the Top 20 Albums of each year (2000 - 2008).

In regards to the 'Essentials' list, well, that one was just too unwieldy for any one man to read through, so I trimmed it down to basically my favorite albums of all time. Of course, there are hundreds of other 4-star albums out there, but these just happen to be my personal favorites. I won't be touching these lists for a long while, so now is great time to get familiar with some of these records that you may have never had the opportunity to hear before.

And of course, I'm still taking a look back at each individual year in my bi-monthly Decade in Review series here at Stereo Sanctity. So yeah, I'm sure I'll be as sick of this decade as you are by the time we hit December, but for now, this has been an illuminating look back. Hope you enjoy.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Music Review: jj - jj N° 2 (***)

"A strange thing has happened as the internet becomes the primary source for music related research and consumption. Whereas previously an artist’s anonymity could be detrimental to their commercial success, now more than ever a strategy like this can actually be leveraged advantageously, potentially yielding an even more fervent cult of followers (see: Burial). Of course, obscuring an identity with a moniker isn’t necessarily a new trend (see: Boards of Canada, Aphex Twin), and there are exceptions to every rule (good music is good music after all), but as information becomes more and more readily available, it’s sometimes the questions left unanswered that are most compelling." [Continue Reading]

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Music Review: Bowerbirds - Upper Air (**1/2)

"Bowerbirds’ 2007 debut, Hymns for a Dark Horse, struck me as one of the most underrated albums of its year. Its 10 tracks felt immensely personal, and the initial limited pressings by the Burly Time label (each stamped with a copy number) compliment the modesty of its recordings. It's also a very consistent album; there was a feeling throughout that you were listening to a band on the brink of scene ubiquity. And I’m sure I wasn't alone in my adoration for the record, but nevertheless Hymns had a hard time finding an audience amidst the deluge of high-profile 2007 releases. Mostly because Bowerbirds aren’t as freaky or provocative as some of their better known contemporaries, and because they actually released a record that rewarded– no, demanded repeat listens. Singer/songwriter Phil Moore’s inscrutable lyrics read like out-of-time transcriptions from a naturalist's mind, and when Moore's compositions were supported by Beth Tacular’s sighing accordion (as they often were), the results were frequently sublime." [Continue Reading]

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Podcast: End of Radio #7 - 'The Horrible Truth About Burma'

"For their first artist-exclusive podcast, hosts Jordan Cronk and Brian Webster take a career-long look at Boston art-rock legends Mission of Burma, playing selections from each of their official releases while discussing the history and legacy of this still-active group."

Download: Memory Cassette - Call & Responses EP


One-man New Jersey-based dream-pop project Memory Cassette (aka Memory Tapes, aka Weird Tapes) is now giving away a download of his new remix EP, Call & Responses. Download it at the We're Tapes blog. (via GvB)

'35 Shots of Rum' Trailer

Freshly issued trailer for Claire Denis' new film, 35 Shots of Rum. I'm no Denis expert by any means, so I'll leave it to InRO's Sam Mac-- here writing for the Playlist-- to sum up what the film may have in store for American audiences, who will get a chance to see the film later on this fall.
"'s the notoriously cryptic filmmaker's most stylistically straight-forward work since at least 1997's ensemble drama "I Can't Sleep," far removed from the filmmaker's last film, 2005's heavily symbolic and narratively opaque epic "The Intruder."

He continues:

"As was the case in Denis' 2003 reverie "Friday Night," a simple plot yields complexity and emotional force; Denis proves most capable at pealing back the layers of this vibrant family and leading us inside. Like so many films this year (Kiyoshi Kurosawa's "Tokyo Sonata" and Oliver Assayas' "Summer Hours," to name a couple), Denis' latest is a perfectly calibrated study of the ties that bind families and the stubbornness that often fractures their loving relationships."
If any of this interests you, I'd also recommend checking out InRO's recent Directrospective on Denis' work, "Cinema of the Skin".

Monday, July 20, 2009

Adam Yauch (aka MCA) Announces Cancer Diagnosis

You've probably heard by now, but I thought I'd pass it along anyway: Adam Yauch (aka MCA) of Beastie Boys fame has been diagnosed with cancer of the salivary gland. He announced the rather sad news on the Beastie Boys website (youtubed below) alongside Adrock, but you can go ahead and leave it to these guys to put on a happy face. It sounds like things are gonna be alright though. Their new album, the ridiculously titled Hot Sauce Committee, is getting pushed back a bit however. All the more reason to cop that recent reissue of 1994s awesome Ill Commination. Seriously.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

GvB: 2009.5 - Favorite Albums of the First Half of '09

Somehow I completely overlooked this. Last Monday, the great Gorilla vs Bear blog dropped their list of the best records of 2009 so far. I gotta say I'm diggin the results, especially the Pisces and jj picks (the latter of which, I have a feeling, is waiting to explode). Here's the 12 item list, but make sure to continue on over to GvB to check out their favorite songs, 7"/12" and EP's. And in case you missed you it: my picks for the best of 2009 so far.

01. grizzly bear | veckatimest
01. white denim | fits
03. smith westerns | smith westerns
04. phoenix | wolfgang amadeus phoenix
05. animal collective | merriweather post pavilion
06. fever ray | fever ray
07. night control | death control
08. jj | n° 2
09. pisces | a lovely sight
10. st. vincent | actor
11. cass mccombs | catacombs
12. various | underwater peoples records showcase

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Music Review: Tomutonttu - Tomutonto / Tomutonttu [Reissue]

Whether seen as some mysterious religious sect operating out of Finland, or, more likely, as a spooky haven for like-minded experimentalists, the Fonal label has, in recent years, become one of the more challenging and rewarding imprints in contemporary underground music. The secret to their consistent success would seem to be their quality control; among labels Fonal is second-to-none and matched only by Norway’s very different Rune Grammofon. Seriously, just take a look at a few of Fonal's recent releases – Islaja’s elegiac Ulual YYY, Kemialliset Ystävät’s mind-melting self-titled release, and Paavoharju’s genre-defying Laulu Laakson Kukista – and you’re all but guaranteed to find something strikingly original, if more than a little odd and challenging for less adventurous listeners. Fonal have managed to carve out a niche amidst the ever-expanding horizon of avant-garde boutique labels through an unflinching, label-wide electro-acoustic aesthetic which traffics in noise as often as it does melody.

Considering this, Finnish cult artist Jan Anderzén seems like a natural fit for the label, regardless of the fact that his full-time gig fronting the aforementioned out-folk collective Kemialliset Ystävät has amassed enough product to probably single-handedly satiate the Fonal minions. But as KY has grown into more of a full-band affair in recent years, Anderzén has adopted the Tomutonttu banner for his solo work, a project which may deal even more directly with the relationships between noise and acoustics, structure and dissonance, provocation and pure surrender. The moniker itself translates to “dust gnome” in Finnish, which is as fitting a description as any for the truly fascinating sounds found on these two records, both recently reissued by Fonal after languishing in obscurity on the Ultra Eczema and Beta-lactam Ring labels the last few years.

What’s most interesting when comparing and contrasting these two records though—released just a year apart from each other—is how Anderzén so acutely approaches each individual document, utilizing the same basic instrumentation yet arriving at two completely separate destinations, which, while sounding very unlike each other, are unquestionably birthed by the same mind. 2006's playfully titled Tomutonto is certainly the noisier of the two records, sharing sonic similarities with the fractured pieces of early Black Dice and the provocative sound-experiments of Boredom’s leader Yamataka Eye. And while it certainly isn’t easy listening, the record manages to successfully operate by its own unique internal logic, spinning something hypnotic out of the din.

A recurring theme in Anderzén’s work would seem to be nature, as an untold number of wildlife samples color his music. Most conclusively, the nine untitled tracks which make up Tomutonto at times feel more interested in emulating the chaos of the outside world than actually cohering into standalone songs (you’ll notice no pauses between tracks here). In fact, Tomutonttu finds Anderzén ditching nearly all of the acoustic instrumentation which is so integral to his work with Kemialliset Ystävät, here instead operating in an almost purely analog environment. On the surface, a lot of the music on Tomutonto can seem to have little in common with Anderzén's band output (at least sonically); but the way this artist tweaks his samples and so provocatively patterns his minimally arranged loops actually attests to a noticeably cerebral kinship within his collective work.

Take track 4, which is built almost completely from a high frequency noise loop, only to unravel into a soft, almost pastoral stretch of ambiance. It's immediately followed by a quivering, undistorted guitar line (rare instrumentation for this album), which in turn is joined by monk-like moaning and goblin-esque jitteriness. In isolation, this can make for some pretty creepy music. But, more often than not, Anderzén offsets this demented vibe with moments of clarity. As a result, the bird loop which propels track 7 can feel almost like a window to the outside world, though the dentist drill intrusions, dinging clocks and distended piano chords all lend a suitably menacing undercurrent to the surroundings. Perhaps foreshadowing his following album, Anderzén graciously expands on this more serene vibe over the last two tracks, wherein he juxtaposes whining flutes and a washing machine's hum against ghost vox and copious amounts of ambiance and sustain. It’s an appropriate lead-in to what is a much more composed follow-up.

Tomutonttu then is a far more palatable album by comparison, though it’s still resolutely a noise record—it just so happens that the shrill, unexpected heights of Tomutonto are curbed in favor of something more organic and meditative, though arguably even less direct. Opener “Tteema” is still grounded by what sounds like a heaving leaf blower, only this time attention is diverted by plinking, unilateral keys. The effect, intended or not, is less overwhelming, more, dare I say, soothing?

Two live tracks anchor Tomutonttu, and they’re near polar opposites: The first, “Live in EU I”, blasts a pregnant elephant horn around some returning chipmunk vocal squiggles before free-jazz sax phases out whatever structure Anderzén so vainly attempts to fabricate. By comparison, he abandons form altogether on the shimmering “Live in EU 2,” which is the closest either record gets to true ambient sound, and the one moment during these recordings where the heart can overtake the mind and the stasis can actually breathe an intangibly renewed spirit into the surrounding shrapnel-like sound collages.

Of the two, I’d have to give the slight edge to the more recent self-titled record, though the degree of quality here is so incremental that it’s difficult to negotiate the differences within a 4-star system. Taken as separate entities (as they should be of course), it’s obvious both of these records ably accomplish their prescribed goals, one through unapologetically brute force and the other with a patient sort of zeal. Still, both these albums will probably only appeal to those with a pretty firm grasp on modern noise, particularly those with an affinity for the more extreme work of John Wiese, Carlos Giffoni and Kevin Drumm. If that sounds at all enticing, or if you feel like you can stomach work of this nature, then you’ll certainly find a lot of inventive techniques on display throughout Tomutonttu’s catalogue. As evidenced by that groundbreaking self-titled Kemialliset Ystävät album from 2007, it was already suspected that Anderzén was working at a highly impressive level around this time, and if nothing else, these two Tomutonttu records boldly cement that inclination. [Published 07.16.09]

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Dusted Feature: Face the Musician - Oneida and Rated O

Dusted has launched an interesting new feature wherein they speak with an artist or band about a review they've published, in hopes of creating, in their words, "a dialogue [that] would enrich everyone’s experience with the album and give Dusted readers a chance to approach the industry-standard record review from the artist in question’s perspective." It's a fascinating concept, and one that Kid Millions of Oneida approaches with great credence. Here's an excerpt that caught my eye:

"Sometimes it’s interesting to consider the concept of the "listener." The audience is at once inside and outside the O. Oneida has been a band for 12 years and we are dedicated to this craft of creating music and performance on our own terms and in our own context. This is everything for us. Say a listener – and I would include myself in this relative to bands I love – is someone who by definition has a casual relationship to what we do – say in the best possible situation. This is someone who sits down and listens to what we do or comes to a show. Even in this rarefied world of say indie-rock or whatever – this person is a minority. At the same time – they are fleeting. They do not live or die by whether or not we record another song or play another note. For us, it is something more vital – so we gotta attend to that. It is one of our priorities in life – plain and simple. That’s the reality of Oneida for us." [Continue Reading]
I myself plan on reviewing Oneida's 3xCD Rated O (their follow-up to Preteen Weaponry) in just a couple weeks for InRO, so keep an eye out for that. In the meantime, you'd do well to check out the entire interview. It's certainly gutsy to have an artist openly discuss a current review, and the results are predictably engaging.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

InRO Feature: The Best Albums of the Year (So Far) - 2009

"Do not adjust your monitors, we are not reliving 2002."

"Seeing as how I’ve long considered the second year of the new millennium to be the best (or at least my favorite) in terms of music, it should be fairly easy to tell why I'm so high on the first half of 2009. '02 was a banner year for experimental-electronic records and, more importantly, the year that the genre really took a foothold in the modern indie scene. Landmark records from the likes of Keith Fullerton Whitman/Hrvatski, Philip Jeck, Kevin Drumm, Tim Hecker, Ekkehard Ehlers, FennO’Berg, and Black Dice all took advantage of the ever-mounting advances in technology to chart unexpected and fascinating fusions of ambient, noise, improv and out-rock." [Continue Reading]

Music Review: Future of the Left - Travels With Myself and Another (***)

"For a passionate cult of devotees, when Welsh masochists Mclusky unceremoniously (yet inevitably) snuffed themselves out a few years ago, a little piece of their musical identities died. I know it did for me at least, and when word came down that two-thirds of the band were reforming as Future of the Left (joined by Jarcrew bassist Kelson Mathias), I could just imagine the sadistic smirks on the faces of those who had been suitably scarred by Mclusky’s potent brand of fire-breathing mayhem. Questions arose: Would they attempt to harness the gale-force destruction of their former side or would they devolve into pure mayhem? Never ones to be outguessed, the newly formed trio opted for neither approach, or at least not exclusively, and instead their debut album, 2007's Curses, is a rational (term used loosely here) outgrowth of the slash-and-burn fury of Mclusky, only this time with a greater emphasis on rhythmic intensity and unhealthy dollops of intestine-stabbing keyboard leads thrown in for good measure. On the whole, Curses is more formal in regards to structure than Mclusky's output, though I have a feeling the album melted more faces than it was given credit for, an unfortunate side-effect of being released in arguably the deepest year for music of the entire decade." [Continue Reading]

Video: Bibio - Making of "Sugarette"

Here's a quick clip of Stephen Wilkinson showing off his live sampling techniques on the wonderful track "Sugarette", from his newest album as Bibio, Ambivalence Avenue. This subtly ambitious record has unassumingly become one of my very favorites of the year so far, and had I heard it in time, probably would have cracked my half-year top ten. For those who missed it, this six month recap I speak of is up right now in the latest edition of the 'End of Radio' podcast, with a full written feature making it's way to InRO later today. Stay tuned.

(via F4kcast)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"Jennifer's Body" Red Band Trailer

So I'm a little late on the take with this one, but I just couldn't resist. I'm not sure why, but I trust Diablo Cody much more than an aging Sam Raimi to successfully traverse this tongue-in-cheek 80s horror-schlock territory (and this from someone who quite enjoyed Drag Me to Hell) It just seems to me that she eats, sleeps and drinks this particular brand of trash cinema that I too am so fond of. This red band trailer for Jennifer's Body certainly reveals hints of Heathers, with maybe a little Return of the Living Dead-style sexuality thrown in for the guys, and it looks to be a trashy good time. I can't lie, this one's got me excited.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

"The Informant!" Trailer

Another one of Steven Soderbergh's patented 1-year double-dips: his new film, The Informant!, following hot on the heels of this Spring's elegant The Girlfriend Experience (one of my ten favorites of the year so far I might add). We could see some Oscar consideration for this film, particularly for Matt Damon-- assuming, of course, it doesn't devolve too far into middle-brow comedy. This being Soderbergh however, I'd highly doubt it.