Laughter

the human race has one really effective weapon


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Review: Songs: Ohia, “Didn’t It Rain (Deluxe Edition)” (Secretly Canadian)

Didn’t It Rain is the sixth and final Songs: Ohia studio album, the enigmatic zenith of a seven-year run that saw Jason Molina record with no fewer than seven different bands. But Molina never stuck with one group for very long, on the road or in the studio, and he wouldn’t until after 2004’s Magnolia Electric Co. was completed. So it’s no surprise that, for Didn’t It Rain, he traveled to Soundgun Studio in Philadelphia to play with eight musicians he barely knew. That was how he had always worked.

The only two people at Soundgun who had recorded with Jason before were producer Edan Cohen, who, in 2001, manned the boards for Jason’s cover of Boz Scaggs’s “Sweet Release” and Jennie Benford, who that same year sang backup on the Cohen-produced 7” version of “Lioness.”  Everyone else came to the game a rookie. Surrounded by posters of blues musicians from Chicago that Molina had brought with him, they were all asked to play in the same room together and to invent their parts as they went along. Mistakes would be made and overdubs were not an option, so the idea was to keep playing and to capture the performance raw. It’s a strategy Molina had used for past records, but it had never yielded anything as cogent and heavy as Didn’t It Rain.

(Read More… at Dusted in Exile)

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Review: Scott Walker + SunnO))), “Soused” (4AD)

Bish Bosch is an exhausting record that takes off at an exhausting pace. Its first four songs occupy more than half of its total running time, and Scott Walker stuffs every minute of that opening half hour with awkward transitions, asymmetric structures and lyrics that, at their best, speak to the intuitive and subconscious mind. At their worst they necessitate an annotated guide and draw the listener away from the already messy music, pulling them through the twisted and endless avenues of Walker’s varied interests. They’re a diversion that leads to confusion as often as poignancy. Walker casually drops references to Frank Sinatra and communism in Romania, then leaps to astronomy and Roman history, and in the middle he skips through something about the spread of diseases among animals, a topic he laces with images of Hawaii, Pope Julius and dead men in zoot suits.

Connecting unlikely — or invisible — dots can be its own reward, even if the picture it forms is ostentatious. It can also be a distraction, with all of the disparate elements sitting side by side as naturally as a bright red paisley patch on a torn white wedding dress. With Bish Bosch the novelty of Walker’s combinations often swallowed the content, transforming his poetry, music and ambition into a muddy and overwhelming wave. Fortunately, Soused avoids this fate.

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Review: FKA Twigs, “LP1” (Young Turks)

Tahliah Barnett’s first full-length record nearly falls apart just as it should be settling in for the long run. After an intro and two great songs that fill out Barnett’s previously restrained sound, no less than three additional writers and four producers show up for “Hours,” each one contributing to a bloated, awkward middle that feels out of touch with everything Twigs has ever touched.

The guilty party includes Eminem and Lana Del Rey producer Emile Haynie, Florence and the Machine cohort Dev Hynes, instrumentalist extraordinaire Michael Volpe, aka Clams Casino, and Arca, who was Barnett’s primary co-conspirator for EP2. With a bevy of bakers like that in the kitchen, “Hours” can’t help but sound aimless and over done, languid even. And unfortunately Twigs does little to help out as she lays some of her weakest, most blandly provocative lines over the top: “How would you like if my lips touched yours / and they stayed close baby till the stars fade out / How would you like it if I sucked before I bite? / But it wasn’t too hard so it felt alright.”

Paul Epworth, probably best-known for producing and co-writing “Rolling in the Deep” with Adele, surfaces next, notching a writing and production credit of his own into the liner notes. Unsurprisingly, his contribution gives LP1 a borrowed, polished, and radio-friendly sheen, one that veers disappointingly close to cheap AM soul-funk territory with its over-slick, faux-seedy guitar and keyboard licks.

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Review: SunnO))) & Ulver, “Terrestrials” (Southern Lord)

Six years in the making, SunnO))) and Ulver’s first collaborative record arrives at the end of a long stretch that saw members from both bands performing together in various configurations.

According to Stephen O’Malley, the basic tracks for Terrestrials were first laid down in 2008, shortly after SunnO))) performed at the Øya Festival in Oslo, Norway. A couple of years later, O’Malley, Daniel O’Sullivan, and Kristoffer Rygg met in Oslo again, this time with percussionist Steven Noble. Together they performed a series of concerts as Æthenor and released the results as 2011’s excellent En Form for Blå. Prior to that, Rygg had produced a track for SunnO)))’s White1 and O’Sullivan had recorded with O’Malley on Æthenor’s debut album, Deep in Ocean Sunk the Lamp of Light. Terrestrials represents the first time Greg Anderson, Jørn H. Sværen and Tore Ylwizaker have joined the party, but there’s a long musical relationship playing silently behind the scenes here.

(Read more)


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Review: Machinefabriek, “Attention, the Doors are Closing!” (Self Released)

The list of Rutger Zuydervelt’s collaborations runs long and crosses disciplines the way most Bostonians cross the street. From records with Will Long (Celer), Nils Frahm and Peter Broderick to soundtracks and scores for Chris Teerink (Sol LeWitt) and Alexander Whitley (The Measures Taken) to sound installations for the Museum Oud-Amelisweerd and Schouwburgplein in Rotterdam — one would be forgiven for thinking the Machinefabriek name covered the work of an entire artists collective and not the output of a single Nederlander from Apeldoorn.

His latest work, Attention, the Doors are Closing!, was produced for the Dutch-Spanish choreographer Iván Pérez, who conceived and developed this piece for the contemporary dance division of the Moscow Ballet. Pérez’s stated intent was to mine the social and psychological complexities of living in Russia, and to do so by placing a special emphasis on the role of intimacy, a concept that he understands rather broadly: the intimacy of taking the bus to work, of hearing your neighbors through the walls, of bumping into someone at work, and the usual suspects, too, like falling in love.

If the music is any indication, the unspoken subtext of the ballet is all tension, fear and paranoia. Zuydervelt taps into these uncomfortable states for the duration of his score, a knife-like, often pitch-black affair that will probably strike most listeners as being unsuitable for dance.

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Review: Nagual, “Nagual” (Ergot Records)

The Avatamsaka Sutra—one of the best known of the Mahayana Buddhist sutras—teaches that the firm line between the ego and the rest of the world is an illusion. Likewise, every rock, river, hill, animal and person, held as distinct in the peanut shell of the mind, interpenetrates and reaches out into the universe. Their separateness is only an appearance. In reality, people and places—as well as ideas—intertwine and dance with one another in a shimmering mesh of light sometimes called Indra’s Net.

Now hold that thought and extend it to the apparent gulf separating, for instance, Hindustani classical music from rock-‘n’-roll, particularly the German kind of rock n’ roll produced by bands like Amon Düül or Popul Vuh in the 1960s and ‘70s. That’s the region of Indra’s Net in which Nagual play on their debut for the Chicago-based Ergot Records.

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Review: Richard Youngs, “Summer Through My Mind”

When Richard Youngs agreed to record a country album for his debut on Ba Da Bing Records, it was like he had accepted a dare. “I haven’t got a country bone in my body,” he admitted to Ben Chasny in his 2012 BOMB Magazine interview. Label boss Ben Goldberg had given Youngs a whole list of dream records he’d like hear from him, which means other options must have been on the table, but the British singer-noisemaker elected to try his hand at America’s Appalachian offspring anyway.

What he ended up with doesn’t sound like Jimmie Rodgers or Hank Williams at all, though there’s more going on here than meets the ear. Youngs uses all the right tools—acoustic and slide guitar, banjo, harmonica—but his songs are looser and more exploratory than most things in the country canon. Looser because they sound as if they were committed to tape by osmosis; Youngs captures most of his ideas rough-hewn and leaves them that way. More exploratory because, without a drawl or a connection to the style’s traditions, and without a backing band to rein him in, Youngs is free to improvise on his idea of the country sound and free to ignore the usual conventions.

Read the rest at Dusted Magazine


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Review: COH, “Retro-2038”

Back in May, as the Daft Punk machine squeezed out its Steely Dan yacht rock tribute and bamboozled writers (“does good music need to be good?”) with their AM radio, disco-pop revival, COH quietly released a throwback record of his own on Editions Mego. Both the Punks and Ivan Pavlov name-checked Giorgio Moroder and both took dance music as a starting point for their endeavors, but the similarities basically end there.

Pavlov’s songs steer clear of most radio-friendly conventions and follow a much harder to define trajectory. They fly through the computerized sounds of Spiegel’s Expanding Universe, navigate the twisting textures of Morton Subotnick’s Silver Apples of the Moon and fall into orbit around Kraftwerk’s android funk and Pan Sonic’s crippling beats.

Read the rest at Dusted…


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The Monthly List: August’s Top 10

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New music from Keith Rowe and Graham Lambkin, Rephlex, and Bruce Gilbert dominated my August listening habits, along with Recollection GRM’s excellent 2LP release of Luc Ferrari’s Presque Rien. 

I managed to write a review of Making A and both of the Electric Dance Music compilations, plus I have reviews of Helm’s Silencer 12″, COH’s Retro-2038, Kevin Drumm’s Earrach, and a series of Mystery Sea discs on the way. Two of those will  show up at Dusted Magazine if all goes as planned, my first two for that publication. I’ll keep publishing at Brainwashed.com as well, and I hope to get a series of short reviews under way, which will be exclusive to this site.

Last but not least, I’m going to return to WZBC this month with a twice monthly show of electro-acoustic, improvised, and generally experimental music. I’ll be on the air every other Sunday for two hours, starting at 6 o’clock Eastern. You can listen in Boston by tuning into 90.3 FM; or you can listen online at WZBC’s website. Just click the large red play button on the left.

Shows will be archived and available for replay for two weeks after the broadcast, at which time they will disappear forever. No permanent download links. That starts this week, Sunday the 15th. I hope you’ll tune in.

As always, formats posted are the ones I own. Others may be available. If you like any of the samples I link to, please buy the album. You can find numerous retailers carrying these titles at the bottom of this page.