Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Music Review: James Blackshaw - All Is Falling

It was just over a year ago that I sort of backhandedly praised James Blackshaw’s Young God debut, The Glass Bead Game, for playing out more or less as expected. I spoke of diminishing returns and transitional works in progress, while at the same time walking away in a manner that I can only mundanely describe as appeased. You see, the 29 year-old guitar prodigy, despite possessing one of the most distinctive, unique and instantly recognizable approaches to classically-tinged, acoustic-based guitar composition, has nevertheless stretched his methods about as far as they can go without a complete aesthetic overhaul. But though he seems content to stay within this chosen world of minimalist guitar exposition, there have been small steps toward broader horizons. The unadorned piano exercises of 2008s Litany of Echoes gave way to headier experiments with drone and the occasional vocal contribution on Glass Bead, while still staying true to a well established acoustic foundation. On his ninth and latest album, All Is Falling, Blackshaw finally takes his first full step out of his comfort zone, adopting a 12-string electric as his primary compositional tool, while honing his tentative flirtations with piano and a small string ensemble.

Friday, August 27, 2010

La Chanson De Slogan

While at first glance this may simply seem like a lame excuse to post the above pic, I also think it's well worth pointing out that said pictorial subjects, Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin, have just this week had their seminal collaborative album reissued for the very first time in the States. Not only is the record one of the true essentials of the late 60s, but it's also one of Gainsbourg's most influential and controversial pairings of his entire career. The album proper is pretty well written up around the web, but the bonus cut amended to the reissue, "La Chanson De Slogan", is what has been quietly killing me as I revisit the album. The track has shown up on most overseas reissues, so it's not exactly a rarity (it was originally issued as a single on the Slogan soundtrack the duo cut in '68), but on the occasion of it's US debut, I thought I'd pass along a little Youtube montage featuring the song. So check that after the cut, and go ahead and dim the lights and dig the softcore sax stylings which punctuate each movement-- pure Gainsbourg.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Synthetic Romance

I ran across this Chocolate Bobka post over at Altered Zones today, and was immediately struck by the gloriously gaudy artwork accompanying this rare collection of left-field 80s synth-pop. I literally have no other context for any of the included artists, but Dark Entries is gracious enough to be offering this up as a free download right now. The original record sleeve isn't shy about what's in store for perspective listeners either:
“Synthetic Romance – for people wanting a collection of modern and futuristic music. The groups are varied, from all parts of the country and all walks of life, with one thing in common – the synthesizer – perhaps the most sophisticated instrument of our century. This album is intended to promote the best new groups performing their own material. It also demonstrates the imagination and foresight of these yet little known musicians.”
And you know what, the results aren't that far off. If you bugged-out over this year's Minimal Waves Tapes Vol. 1 comp (*raises hand*), then this "otherworldly mix of futuristic synth-pop" should scratch a similar itch. If for some reason you need even further enticement, though, after the jump I've got a stream of Those Attractive Magnets' Synthetic Romance cut "Fade Into Silence". But seriously now, this is the kind of stuff that file sharing was made for.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Music Review: Ambarchi / O'Rourke / Haino - Tima Formosa; Fennesz Daniell Buck - Knoxville

Live electronic improvisation lends itself particularly well to collaboration. Where more traditional forms of music have a tendency to emphasize the sheer amount of ideas and personalities present on any given stage at any given moment, composers working the more experimental vein of electronic composition are just as likely to gently poke and prod their collaborators towards lengths previously untapped, slowly massaging the individual strengths of each member until the resultant piece locates the appropriate median between the players. In most cases, this process has a tendency to take quite a bit of time to realize, resulting in some expansive forays that many casual listeners just do not have the interest in pursuing. And that’s fine: improv by nature is an intuitive operation, and more patient audiences with acute listening habits have been quietly supporting similar practices in art for decades. Two new live improv albums featuring trios led by avant figureheads Jim O’Rourke and Christian Fennesz further these methods in an intriguing manner.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Podcast: End of Radio #27 - Phantasmagoria in Two

"For the first time on the End of Radio podcast, co-hosts Jordan Cronk and Jon Staph take a career-long look at two different artists. Playing a handful of selections from each singer-songwriter’s short but influential careers, they chart the similarities, differences and profound effects still being felt through the music of Tim and Jeff Buckley. "

Friday, August 20, 2010

All Delighted People

Not that you needed me to pass this along, but here it is anyway. Asthmatic Kitty describes the EP (not an EP) thusly:
All Delighted People is built around two different versions of Sufjan’s long-form epic ballad "All Delighted People," a dramatic homage to the Apocalypse, existential ennui, and Paul Simon’s "Sounds of Silence." Sounds delightful, yes! The song was originally workshopped (oh we hate making workshop a verb, but time is money!) on Sufjan’s previous tour in the fall of 2009. Other songs on the EP include the 17-minute guitar jam-for-single-mothers "Djohariah," and the gothic piano ballad "The Owl and the Tanager," a live-show mainstay (and Debbie Downer if you ask us; what’s it doing on a "Delighted" EP?). Raise Your Hands!
Yes, that's a "17-minute guitar jam-for-single-mothers". What more could want on a Friday morning?

<a href="http://sufjanstevens.bandcamp.com/album/all-delighted-people-ep">All Delighted People (Original Version) by Sufjan Stevens</a>

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Beaterblocker #2

The Beaterblocker label is now offering an eight song charity compilation featuring unreleased tracks by a slew of my favorite current experimental sound artists, including Eluvium, Nite Jewel, Es, David Daniell, and the one and only Keith Fullerton Whitman. It's only £5 and it benefits the London-based Homerton Hospital. Pretty sweet deal. Below you'll find a video of KFW updating a patch he originally performed at the 2008 No-Fun fest, and though it has no relation to the comp (that I can find at least), this is the first that have I seen and/or heard of this piece. In fact, there are many interesting clips on KFW's Vimeo page for the more adventurous amongst you to peruse. Give it a spin and grab the comp at Diogenes.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Music Review: Bottomless Pit - Blood Under the Bridge

Alright, full disclosure, this record is being floated a handicap of at least one and a half stars right out of the gate for its incredible guitar tone. This is some seriously hollowed-out, mid-90s Touch & Go production here, and if I didn’t know better I’d assume that Steve Albini had engineered it. That shouldn’t come as much of a shock, though, as Bottomless Pit’s indie cred runs pretty deep. Formed by guitarists Andy Cohen and Tim Midgett after the demise of the late, lamented Silkworm (T&G vets themselves), Bottomless Pit quietly released their debut album, Hammer of the Gods, in 2007 amidst a flurry of talk about a handful bands—Dinosaur Jr. and Les Savy Fav in particular—who seemed to be attempting to resurrect 90s indie-rock for a new generation of blog-dependent listeners. But despite their best efforts via album titles and band moniker to pass themselves off as some sort of demon-eyed metal act, Bottomless Pit continue to embody this sound as effortlessly and beautifully as any other veteran act from the day. Their new album, Blood Under the Bridge, compacts a lot of the ideas from the debut—while thankfully carrying over that wonderfully nostalgic production sense—and as a result it hits more immediately for those indie-rock fans weary of the direction their genre has taken as the scene has been monopolized and the product commoditized.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Tunnelvision: Pantha du Prince - Live at the Echo

Normally a new End of Radio podcast would be filling this space on a Friday, but Jon and I unfortunately couldn't properly coordinate our schedules this week. Fear not, however, for we are coming back strong next week with our long promised Tim and Jeff Buckley show. Trust me, it'll be worth the wait.

In the meantime, check out this pretty awesome video of Henrik Weber, aka Pantha du Prince, ricocheting bits of his minimal techno constructions around Los Angeles venue the Echo (just across town from my apartment in fact). The clip was put together by Videothing for P4k's Tunnelvision series, and the songs come from this Spring's immaculate Black Noise LP.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

No Bad Films—Only Mediocre Directors

This is something that I don't feel like a whole lot of people recognize nowadays, and now more than ever it is intersecting with my life, which is why I bring it to the fore. And I don't just mean film; I continue to be baffled by some of the compromises many take with their listening habits-- perhaps even more so. A carefully considered and uncompromising ideology is what art consumption should be built upon. I can't stress this enough. Words to live by:
"I don't believe in good films and bad films. I believe in good and bad directors. It's possible that a mediocre or very average filmmaker might from time to time make a successful film, but such success doesn't count. It matters less than a Renoir failure, insofar as Jean Renoir is capable of making a film that fails. Among his films, the one I like the least is "French Cancan", where exterior contingencies seem to me to play too great a part. Nonetheless, "French Cancan", by virtue of it's subject (and inveterate showman's merging of his personal and professional lives), and of Francoise Arnoul's guiding performance, mattered more in the year 1955 than all the rest of French cinema put together.

A director possesses a style that one will find in all his films, and this is true of the worst filmmakers and their worst films. Differences from one film to the next-- a more ingenious script, superior photography, or whatever else-- don't matter, because these differences are precisely the product of exterior forces, more or less money, a greater or shorter shooting schedule. What's essential is that an intelligent and gifted filmmaker remain intelligent and gifted no matter what film he is shooting. I am therefore an advocate of judging, when there is judging to be done, not films but filmmakers. I will never like a Delannoy film; I will always like a Renoir film."

-François Truffaut, 1957

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Music Review: Rangda - False Flag

False Flag is the kind of record that keeps out-rock stalwarts passionate in their pursuit of total sonic annihilation. On the back of reckless confidence, so many of these so-called “super-groups” fall ego first into such needless indulgence that it’s gratifying to finally see one work so well on its own terms. So while this unexpected (if completely symbiotic) collaboration between Six Organs of Admittance leader Ben Chasny, ex-Sun City Girl Sir Richard Bishop, and avant drummer of the moment Chris Corsano, isn’t far removed from the noisy improv one would expect from these three, it’s also much more inspired than many pairings of this sort—and a helluva of lot better than the last few Six Organs records. In fact, False Flag, with its deft handling of shaman-like guitar reveries, balls-out percussive assaults, and face-melting noise improvisation, is in the top tier of anything these three have done recently. Chasny and Bishop are especially compatible bedfellows, having between themselves explored just about the furthest reaches of the electric guitar spectrum. What that encapsulates, of course, is both extremes—ruminative on the one hand, gut-crushing on the other—and the duo is noticeably locked-in as the album immediately detonates with the spraying skree of “Waldorf Hysteria”. Following with the scorched-earth guitar duel “Bull Lore”, False Flag sets up an important pattern of attack and release, and the contrast between these poles is what lends the album its tenacious thrust.

Friday, August 6, 2010

"Voi ei, ei voi olla totta"

Via Fonal:
"Ette pysty edes aavistamaan kuinka kehnolta tuntuu katsella kyseisen kappaleen ensimmäisen version päivämäärää: 15.4.2008. Kaikki vaikutti silloin vielä helpolta. Levy tuntui muodostuvan itsestään ja me vain seurailimme vierestä. Nyt on vuosi 2010, kappaleesta on tehty luultavasti 15. versio emmekä ymmärrä mihin kaikki tämä aika kului. Iltaisin, ennen painajaisuneen vaipumista, me kurjat ristimme jääkylmät kätösemme ja toivomme että joskus mahdollisesti ilmestyvä levy tulee olemaan niin perkeleen hyvä, eikä tämä ihme renklaaminen saa tiskivettä pumppaavia sydämiämme kivettymään lopullisesti. Kipu ja ahdistus! Me täällä Turussa toivoisimme että olisitte armollisia ja pitäisitte mölyt mahassanne. Säästäkää meidät ivaltanne ja antakaa meille leipää jos semmoista keikoilla kerjäämme."
Translation? New TV-Resistori song-- their first recording since 2006s underrated avant-pop gem Serkut Rakastaa Paremmin. And it's free. Or something like that. Get on it folks.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Sex With an X

Twenty-one years after bowing out with but two seminal EPs and a solid full-length to their name, legendary Scottish indie-pop duo the Vaselines return on September 14th with their second album, Sex With an X. Never thought this would happen, but there you go. Below you can watch Eugene Kelly and Francis McKee briefly explain the album/song title and it's origins. Also, in case your interested, I reviewed last year's definitive Vaselines compilation, Enter the Vaselines, for InRO. Check that here.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Music Review: Menomena - Mines

"More than most any modern band, I get the feeling that Menomena really respect the notion of quality control. Sure, it’s easy to point to their casual release schedule for proof—three albums in seven years, and another long-form experiment that was purposefully deemed a one-off (2005s Under an Hour)—but it’s also glaringly obvious in their attention to everything from production values to album artwork (which, if nothing else, continues to lend credence to the physical consumption of music). So when it comes to their newest album, Mines, it’s really no longer a question of “good” or “bad”, since we’re basically guaranteed quality at this point, but just how good this thing can possibly turn out. The short answer: really fucking good. And this, on their least obviously experimental album to date, is nothing short of galvanizing—one of America’s best art-pop band’s reconciling all their disparate tendencies into yet another endlessly fascinating and subtly complex exploration of the pop form.