Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Record Review: Cloud Nothings - Attack on Memory

Attack on Memory may be the second official Cloud Nothings full-length, but it’s easier and more accurate to recognize it as an artistic rebirth. When pressed to take his one-man indie-rock bedroom project on the road last year, Dylan Baldi recruited an ad-hoc live band; apparently sensing potential in their on-stage energy, something lying dormant in his songs sprung anew. Invigorated by and confident in their camaraderie, the reconstituted Cloud Nothings approached former Big Black/Shellac frontman Steve Albini to bottle the lightning they had stumbled upon. And it’s that immediacy which defines Attack on Memory, a spiritual commencement down once familiar sonic byways but one which now feels almost alien amidst a synth-addled, emotionally ambiguous independent music landscape.

PopMatters Feature: ReFramed No. 20 - Robert Bresson's The Devil, Probably

The Devil, Probably is one of Robert Bresson's deepest, most compelling dramas, worth remembering for far more than its controversial subject matter.
Calum Marsh: If the films of the great French director Robert Bresson don’t require critical reevaluation, it’s because for the most part they already have been. Considered for many years to be too demanding and coldly intellectual, Bresson’s work has more recently been embraced by the critical establishment, and a few of his most popular films—Au Hazard Balthazar and Pickpocket in particular—have pretty much secured their place in the canon. This is certainly a positive development, and I’m happy to see any of Bresson’s films celebrated so effusively.

But, as with many of the canonical directors discussed in this column, selective praise can have unfortunate consequences, as when later, less easily digestible works find themselves eclipsed by their author’s suddenly minted classics. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Bresson’s filmography has been subjected to precisely this sort of narrow cherry-picking, and it’s kept late masterpieces like his The Devil, Probably, from 1977, off the public radar and out of the popular critical discourse altogether. And, as usual, we’re here to tell you that this is a real shame, because The Devil, Probably is one of Bresson’s deepest, most compelling dramas, worth remembering for far more than its controversial subject matter.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Record Review: Burial - Kindred EP

It’s been nearly six years since William Bevan unassumingly released his debut album under the Burial moniker. Less than a year later he would alter the course of modern bass music with his sophomore album, Untrue, seemingly setting the course for a career of grand gestures and media-parlayed over-exposure. Bevan, however, has yet to release a true follow-up to Untrue, instead strategizing a series of enigmatic, lateral moves through the shadowy underground of UK electronic music. With that being said, not much more than a calendar year has passed without some sort of new Burial material, though most of it has not been nearly as documented while none of it is widely available in physical formats. Perhaps as acknowledgement of his sound’s singularity or perhaps sensing the pressure to ultimately advance beyond his prior work and thus considering his next move with uncommon regard (or probably both), Bevan has dropped a series of low stakes, high reward EPs in the interim.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Record Review: Pop. 1280 - The Horror

Over the last couple years, Brooklyn’s Sacred Bones Records has risen from regional curiosity to national concern on the back of an ideologically sound stable of artists and a unified visual aesthetic, priding themselves on community and collective vision. The breadth of this vision has remained impressive, ranging from the slow-burn psych of Amen Dunes and Psychic Ills to the expansive hardcore of the Men to the gothic electro-pop of Zola Jesus, but a uniquely macabre thematic streak has helped crystallize the imprint’s MO.

New York City noise-rock quartet Pop. 1280 fit the label’s maxim to near perfection, and in the wake of the Men’s blistering 2011 missive Leave Home, stake legitimate claim for Sacred Bones as the preeminent destination for US avant-rock. The band’s full-length debut, The Horror—from name on down—continues to build on a very specific strain of the label’s corpus. With a dark, uncompromising foundation in the artier, industrial end of East Coast guitar rock—think Cop Shoot Cop, Swans, and more recently Liars—but with an ear toward the uniquely Midwestern provocations of the Jesus Lizard and Killdozer, Pop. 1280 have a firm grasp on the sonic lineage they hope to sustain.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

PopMatters Feature: ReFramed No. 19 - Michelangelo Antonioni's Zabriskie Point

What happens when an admitted auteur makes a grand -- and quite insular -- artistic statement? Critics are dumbfounded, which means it's time for our preservationist pair to break out the accolades.
Calum Marsh: As you know, Jordan, the films we tend to gravitate toward in this column are mostly obscure or neglected, like forgotten late-career coups by otherwise canonical directors or great films considered “minor” by the high guard. Zabriskie Point, an English-language drama by legendary Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni, represents a different sort of case altogether: widely available as an inexpensive, reasonably high-quality Region 1 DVD and unforgotten by anyone who’s seen it, Zabriskie Point‘s major problem isn’t that it’s lost or unseen—it’s that it’s hated. Other than perhaps Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut and some of the most difficult Godard projects, no film we’ve written about in these pages is as intensely reviled or rejected as this one, which has been considered a definitive, irredeemable failure since its release in 1970.

Record Review: Guided by Voices - Let's Go Eat the Factory

Exactly seven years passed between the date of Guided by Voices' last show (New Year’s Eve, 2004) and the January 1st, 2012 release of their reunion album, Let’s Go Eat the Factory. During that time, GBV leader and man of a thousand songs Robert Pollard released approximately 95 albums either on his own or with new bands and past collaborators, the individual details of which I doubt even Pollard recalls. So forgive me if GBVs reunion feels…not exactly anticlimactic—I saw the band perform late last year for the very first time and it was one of the great festival experiences of my life—but certainly inevitable in relation to the rate of Pollard’s continued output. That’s not to take away from the importance of this reformation; it is, after all, a reunion of the band’s “classic line-up,” the one responsible for a string of the best indie-rock albums of the mid-‘90s, from roughly 1992's Propeller to 1996's studio debut Under the Bushes Under the Stars. So just to reiterate: Out of Pollard’s dozens upon dozens of interim releases, I listened to maybe four and, perhaps more tellingly, don’t feel like I missed all that much. Let’s Go Eat the Factory, by contrast, was one of my most anticipated records of the new year.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Record Review: Machinedrum / Matthew Dear / Todd Terje - SXLND / Headcage / It's the Arps

With dance music arguably experiencing its most fashionable popular standing since the late ‘90s, it’s been interesting to watch various strains of once-thought-to-be niche genres co-opted for widespread gain. No longer simply a case of subtle, sample-based nods towards the outlying landscapes of the electronic world, multiple forms of bass music, techno, and synth-based electro have been appropriated wholesale by some of the world’s most visible pop and hip-hop stars. What this ultimately means for producers is some residual monetary gain, a bit of collateral exposure, and probably some remix opportunities that wouldn’t have likely presented themselves just a few years ago. For fans, it means a glut of small-scale releases of the sort that underground producers have long trafficked in, only with undue expectations now placed on every new move these artists make.