Laughter

the human race has one really effective weapon


Leave a comment

2014 Year in Review, Pt. 1 (Dusted in Exile)

Normally I’d post a lengthy year in review here, but this time around I’m just going to link to the Dusted and Brainwashed year-end lists I was a part of, then maybe cap it off with a list of last minute records I heard or ordered that I think deserve some attention.

So, here’s a snippet from my Dusted writeup. Much more after the link. And take some time to look at what the other writers had to say about their 2014 favorites. There is lots of good stuff from everyone involved:

This year was filled with great music from start to finish. There wasn’t a single month that didn’t see the release of something exciting. As winter approached, the continuous flood of exceptional recordings became increasingly hard to follow. By June, keeping up had become little more than a laughable daydream, never mind everything that came out between October and December. Lots of people probably feel this way every December, but 2014 was the year I was swept away. 

Looking back at the time line, it’s easy to see why. Tara Jane O’Neil and Damien Jurado released their records in January, Anne Guthrie’s Codiaeum Variegatum bowled me over in February, and the Toshiya Tsunoda/Manfred Werder collaboration landed in March. Politiken der Frequenz rolled out in April and Carl Hultgren’s first solo album won me over at the end of May. I married my wife in June and shortly thereafter started new work, where listening to new music every day wasn’t part of the job. Erstwhile had already put out the Jürg Frey and Radu Malfatti 2CD by that time, in July. Kevin Drumm and Jason Lescalleet’s The Abyss came out with it and a month later the new FKA Twigs was on the shelves. That one was less impressive than I had hoped, but it still spent a lot of time inside my head. 

And these are just the first albums that come to mind. Coppice, Florian Hecker, LCC, Machinefabriek, Poemss, Protomartyr, Sun Kil Moon, SunnO)))/Ulver, and Nicholas Szczepanik all issued new music in that same period, all worth hearing.

(Read More)


Leave a comment

Review: Jürg Frey/Radu Malfatti, “II” (Erstwhile)

One way to approach Jürg Frey and Radu Malfatti’s II is to concentrate on how they shape their music. The numerous small silences that dot the first disc are conspicuous. So is the album’s low volume and the sharp, maybe surprising, beauty with which Frey plays his clarinet and Malfatti his trombone, but form takes precedence over these. Form and the way sounds are formed. Much of what happens on these two discs is the product of the tension between silence and sound, the difference between expression and phenomenon, and the manner in which sounds beget forms all on their own. By subduing material and structure, Frey and Malfatti knock down the walls that sometimes bind music to a fixed path. What lies outside is a sparse and weightless field where music seemingly organizes—and destroys—itself.

II, as the title implies, splits the work of Jürg Frey and Radu Malfatti over two discs. The first, a Malfatti-credited piece titled “shoguu,” cuts a strong impression. Long, vibrating tones, stark harmonics, and frequent silences comprise nearly all of its material, though certain tones are so smooth and consistent they sometimes sound computer-generated. The likelihood that computers were used is probably pretty low, but the semblance of that analog hum adds a mysterious and blurry component to the performance.

The noise of a depressed valve, a few unexpected squeaks, and the odd bodily clank of brass or hardwood turns up as well, but for the better part of the five sections of  “shoguu,” a subdued, balloon-like spaciousness holds court. The combination of clarinet and trombone produces delicate music, as restrained as it is gorgeous. Without a discernible structure—and without the usual musical tools, like rhythms, chord changes, and other sonic continuities—the duo’s wavering tones come off as autonomous little events, cobweb-like and fleeting. Some of the melodies are so tenuous they seem almost illusory, like particles of dust that might disappear should the sunlight hit them a different way. Malfatti even hollows his trombone’s lower register out, making it feather-like and buoyant, it’s swelling whole tones like vents of warm rising air.

(Read More… at Brainwashed.com – includes samples)


Leave a comment

Video: Dälek, “Police State is Nervous”

New music by Dälek, from the soundtrack to 6 Angry Women. Don’t just put it on in the background. Make sure you watch the video.


1 Comment

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)


Leave a comment

Killer Mike, Ferguson MO, Michael Brown

Killer Mike in USA Today:

As recent research has revealed, rap lyrics have been introduced as evidence of a defendant’s criminal behavior in hundreds of cases nationwide, frequently leading to convictions that are based on prosecutors’ blatant mischaracterizations of the genre. Ignoring many of the elements that signal rap as form of artistic expression, such as rappers’ use of stage names or their frequent use of metaphor and hyperbole, prosecutors will present rap as literal autobiography. In effect, they ask jurors to suspend the distinction between author and narrator, reality and fiction, to secure guilty verdicts.

And on CNN:


Leave a comment

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.

(Read More)


1 Comment

Review: Joseph Clayton Mills, “The Patient” (Entr’acte)

Franz Kafka died of starvation on June 3rd, 1924, his throat cinched by laryngeal tuberculosis. The intravenous delivery of food to sick patients wouldn’t be invented for another 35 years and the swelling in Kafka’s throat caused by the infection made swallowing even water difficult. Forbidden from speaking by his doctor at the sanatorium in Kierling, Austria, Kafka would often communicate with his friends and visitors by writing small notes on scraps of paper. Some such scraps were less notes and more fragments or disconnected ideas, phrases impossible to understand without context. It’s something Max Brod, Kafka’s friend and literary executor, recalls in the opening pages of the booklet that accompanies Joseph Clayton Mills’s The Patient. “Usually these notes were mere hints; his friends guessed the rest,” he writes. Mills, accompanied by Olivia Block, Noé Cuéllar (Coppice), Steven Hess (Pan•American, Haptic, Innode), and Jason Stein take a shot at interpreting those fragments on this record, using Mills’s textual score to trace a line around Kafka’s final abraded thoughts.

“The goal of this document is to suggest a vocabulary of actions,” Mills writes. “It should in no way be seen as prescriptive or comprehensive, and the sequence of elements in this document should not be construed as implying a particular linear arrangement.”

The 52-page score for The Patient bears only a passing resemblance to traditional musical scores. It contains a couple of references to particular notes in the Western 12-tone system, a few bar lines (one set displays both a treble and bass clef, but is otherwise blank), a few more very precise frequencies for sine wave generator, and even a reference to Wagner’s “Tristan chord,” but the majority of it is filled with suggested actions of the sort written by George Brecht, La Monte Young, and Pauline Oliveros. They read, “play for longer than you think you should” and “image of water/droplets/dew” and “hushed breath/for unvoiced bellows/vocalist/friction on drumhead.”

Together they are enough to constitute a composition, only the number of performers is unspecified and there are no instructions for how to string individual performances together. Participants have only Kafka’s quotes and Mills’s accompanying directions to guide them, along with a handful of photographs, drawings, medical diagrams, story excerpts, and historical summaries. None of it is prescriptive, but all of it sets a very particular tone, which is why, despite the score’s innate openness, this performance of The Patient sounds so compact, controlled, and potent.

(Read More… with samples)


Leave a comment

Review: I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness, “Dust” (Secretly Canadian)

The last time I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness released a record, George W. Bush was president, Twitter was the latest social networking innovation, Burial was a new buzz word on everyone’s lips, and James Brown was still alive and touring. The Knife were riding high on the success of Silent Shout and Brainwashed readers were placing records by bands like Wolf Eyes, Comets on Fire, and Xiu Xiu high atop the annual reader’s poll. I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness won some recognition that year too. According to Plan nabbed a spot in the top five singles of the year and “The Owl” nearly beat out Boards of Canada’s “Dayvan Cowboy” for Brainwashed’s best loved music video of 2006. Then a seemingly terminal eight-year silence ensued. Now the band has returned with Dust, as if nothing happened. Their lineup is unchanged, Ministry’s Paul Baker is still behind the mixing board, and the artwork is as austere as before. And though much in the music is also familiar, the group’s focus has changed. They cast a wider net on Dust. There’s more variety and the songs are denser this time around, layered thick with circular melodies and crisscrossing guitars.

I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness open Dust with “Faust,” a song they beat out with surgical exactitude. It’s fast paced, built on a thumping rhythm section, and driven by a simple guitar riff that winds in and out of the lead guitar’s meandering accents. The song twitches with energy, as if the band were just itching to play together again, but the performance is controlled, channeled into a concise, coolly played four minutes. “Come Undone,” and, to some extent, “Stay Awake,” feed on that same energy. A quick moving, tightly wound melody skips through the heart of all three songs, and on each the bass and drums add variety to the already rhythm heavy core. The lead guitarist extracts little hidden melodies from inside that wave of sound and spins them through the air, completing the illusion that these songs are all unspooling as they fall through space.

These are songs the band could have written in 2007 or ’08, after wrapping up their tour for Fear Is on Our Side. They’re white knuckle rockers that burn with the same fire as “According to Plan,” but they are far more insistent, far less translucent, and far from the norm.

(Read More… with sound samples)


Leave a comment

Jason Lescalleet and Kevin Drumm on the Road

As reported by Tiny Mix Tapes:

11.07.14 – Somerville, MA ­ – Hassle Fest VI (156 Highland Ave.) *
11.08.14 – Montréal, QC ­ – La Vitrola ­(4602 Boulevard Saint­Laurent) *
11.09.14 – Toronto, ON ­ – Double Double Land ­ (209 Augusta Ave.) *
11.10.14 – Detroit, MI ­ – Trinosophes ­(1464 Gratiot Ave.) *
11.11.14 – Lafayette, IN ­ – The Spot ­(409 S 4th St. Wednesday)
11.12.14 – Cleveland OH ­ – Now That’s Class ­ (11213 Detroit Ave.)
11.13.14 – Albany, NY ­ – Upstate Artist’s Guild ­ (247 Lark Street)
11.28.14 – Mexico City, Mexico – Festival del Bosque Germinal *

* Kevin Drumm & Jason Lescalleet

This Is What I Do Volume Two is currently available from Lescalleet’s Bandcamp site. It will be deleted upon completion of Volume Three, so get it while you can.


Leave a comment

Shelley Parker, Live at Flussi Festival

http://entracte.co.uk/project/shelley-parker-e154/

From the Entr’acte website:

Sleeper Line is a five-track EP constructed from the original components of a live set performed in December 2012. These components — manipulated found sounds — were recorded at various times and in various environments: Dungeness Power Station (2012), street recordings post-Notting Hill Carnival (2007), a prior live performance at the White Building in London (2012), and a cassette recording made in the cloakroom of the Metalheadz Sunday Sessions club night (1997). The cyclical process of merging analogue and digital media, elements of dance music and varying locations and timescales, sits at the core of the compositional and sonic structures of the EP.

Shelley Parker is an artist based in London. Her practice explores the experiential potential of sound and image through the manipulation of technology and the study of structure and material. Live audio feeds, bass frequencies and found sounds are recurring themes within her performance, installation and music production.


Leave a comment

Wandelweiser and Michael Pisaro in Boston

Serbian pianist and composer Teodora Stepančić, along with members of the Wandelweiser collective, will be joining Michael Pisaro at the Goethe Institut in Boston on Thursday, November 6th for a set of composed and improvised music. Details can be found here.

On Tuesday, November 11th, Michael Pisaro will be joined by Joe Panzner and Greg Stuart at the New England Conservatory. They will perform Closed Categories in Cartesian Worlds and White Metal. An untitled work from John Mallia and Katarina Miljkovic is also on the bill. Further details here.

Last but not least, Michael Pisaro, Jason Brogan, and Joe Panzner will perform Pisaro’s Concentric Rings in Magnetic Levitation at the John Knowles Paine Concert Hall at Harvard University on Thursday, November 13th. Details here.

All performances are free and open to the public, and all of them start at 8:00 PM.


Leave a comment

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.

(Read More)


Leave a comment

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)


Leave a comment

“Didn’t It Rain” Deluxe Edition + Live in Malmö, Sweden

News that Secretly Canadian will be releasing a deluxe edition of Didn’t It Rain got me hunting for good MECo./Songs: Ohia bootlegs on Youtube this past week. The below show, recorded in Malmö, Sweden on August 30th, 2009, is one of the better I’ve seen.

Check out the version of “Ring the Bell” Secretly Canadian posted to Youtube while you’re at it. Like Magnolia Electric Co., the Didn’t It Rain deluxe edition will include solo demo versions of songs from the album, plus early versions of a couple of songs that ended up on separate releases. Release date is set for November 11th.


Leave a comment

Review: Michael Pisaro/Greg Stuart, “July Mountain (Three Versions)” (Gravity Wave)

Wallace Stevens wrote “July Mountain” in the last year of his life, suffering from stomach cancer. A recognition of mortality and imperfection hides in his poem’s first eight lines. They gently and beautifully remind the reader that life on earth is a fragmented thing, and that there are no conclusions, no full and final stops that shine a light on all the dark corners in the world. Instead we are all “thinkers without final thoughts in an always incipient cosmos,” forever watching the world and the stars spin themselves into new configurations. The poem explicitly uses music as an image for that interminable metamorphosis, and Michael Pisaro’s composition of the same name demonstrates just how apt an image it is. July Mountain (Three Versions) illustrates Stevens’s contention, combining field recordings with incredibly stealthy musical contributions provided by Greg Stuart. Bowed snare drums, piano, bird calls, jet engines, and numerous other sounds, from sine tones to insects, unexpectedly coalesce over its 21 minutes, forming a quivering and effervescent peak for anyone willing to make the ascent.

July Mountain first appeared as a single piece on a limited edition CDr released by Engraved Glass. To the “California Version” presented on that disc, the Gravity Wave release features two additional performances. One of them, the “Austin Version,” is a complete rendition, combining 20 field recordings unique to that city with 10 layers of percussion recorded by Greg Stuart. Instructions for how the field recordings are to be obtained are minimal (make 20 of your own, or get them from the composer, just make sure to point the microphones at mountains or valleys if possible), but their durations and their arrangements with respect to one another are very well defined. They are all ten minutes long, and there are only ever ten recordings playing simultaneously.

On the percussive side, the featured instruments include resonating surfaces teased by sine waves, vibraphones wrapped in tin foil, and “seed rain,” a steady stream of seeds, rice, or beans poured over crotales or a glockenspiel (the score gives the performer plenty of choices). Their timings and durations are specified by time markers—four bowed wooden blocks at nine and a half minutes, one projected sine tone at five and a half minutes, lasting for seven minutes and thirty seconds—and the methods suggested for playing them, including the exact qualities to be elicited from them, are described rather than strictly notated. For example, the instructions for the bowed snare drum read, in part, “Sounds may be created by bowing on any part of the instrument and by bowing on a drumstick or doweling with its tip pressed against the drum.”

(Read more… includes samples)


Leave a comment

The Monthly List: April and May’s Top 21 Albums

A short and sweet “Monthly” this time around. Lots of changes on the horizon for me, including new work. Reviews will still come, probably at about the same rate, maybe slower, though this may be the last thing I put on the blog until the end of the month. My goal is always to write more, but coming home from one eight hour job and jumping right into another that requires an equal amount of hard work (or more) can be tiring.

Expect more, but smaller posts, and maybe a series of much briefer reviews to help get through all the amazing music that’s coming out this year (or that has already been out for awhile).

Links to my favorite sites for reviews and information can now be found in the sidebar. You can always find good info at Brainwashed.com, Dusted, Just Outside, and All Music Guide, and samples are available virtually everywhere. Forced Exposure and Boomkat are good places to go if you’re looking for the more obscure stuff.

As always, formats posted are the ones I own. Further record-buying resources can be found in the sidebar as well.

  • Carl Hultgren, Tomorrow on BLUE FLEA (CD)
  • Windy & Carl, I Walked Alone/At Night on BLUE FLEA (7″)
  • Good Area, Cubic Zirconia/Bad Karlshafen on KYE (7″)
  • Fennesz, Bécs on EDITIONS MEGO (CD)
  • COH, To Beat on EDITIONS MEGO (CD)
  • Coppice, Vantage/Cordoned on CADUC. (CD)
  • Venetian Snares, Huge Chrome Cylinder Box Unfolding on PLANET MU (CD)
  • Photek, Risc vs Reward on ASTRALWERKS (CD)
  • Marcus Schmickler & Julian Rohrhuber, Politiken der Frequenz on EDITIONS MEGO/TOCHNIT ALEPH (MP3)
  • Jason Lescalleet, Electronic Music on RRR (LP)
  • Jason Lescalleet, Much to My Demise on KYE (LP)
  • Robert Beatty, Soundtracks for Takeshi Murata on GLISTENING EXAMPLES (LP)
  • Kyle Bobby Dunn, … and the Infinite Sadness on STUDENTS OF DECAY (MP3)
  • Ambarchi/O’Malley/Dunn, Shade Themes from Kairos on DRAG CITY (MP3)
  • Wen, Signals on KEYSOUND RECORDINGS (MP3)
  • Angus MacLise, The Cloud Doctrine on SUB ROSA (2CD)
  • Kuupuu, Sous Juju on EM RECORDS (2CD)
  • Loren Connors, Night Through: Singles and Collected Works 1976-2004 on FAMILY VINEYARD (3CD)
  • Jack Rose, Kensington Blues on VHF RECORDS (LP)
  • Shirley Collins, Sweet England on FLEDG’LING RECORDS (CD)
  • The Clean, Anthology on MERGE (2CD)