Thursday, April 28, 2011

Honey Ear Trio - Steampunk Serenade ALBUM STREAMING

"Steampunk Serenade" is the debut album for this jazz combo Honey Ear Trio with Erik Lawrence on Saxophones, Rene Hart on Acoustic Bass and Electronics/Looping, Allison Miller on Drums and Percussion. Very souple, elastic and warm interplaying between these three guys who played alongside artists as diverse as Sonny Sharrock, Levon Helm, Marty Ehrlich, Don Braden, James Hunter, Allen Toussaint, Ani DiFranco, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Martin Medeski and Wood, Bilal, Bob Dylan, Brandi Carlile, Branford Marsalis, to name only some and that's already a list. Stream the album below, there's also a cover of "Over The Rainbow", but please don't stop to that track only. The album has already been issued by Foxhaven Records.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committee Part Two ALBUM STREAMING + VIDEO

Maybe beastie but also sweetie, the Beastie Boys' eighth album "Hot Sauce Committee Part Two" is streaming on their Soundcloud page a week before the official release May 3rd by Capitol. Oh spook, that's a major label! So unswag! Whatever. For the fun, because it's fun, watch the video "Fight For Your Right - Revisited" as introduction with a spooking all-stars cast which works as a who's who. Then please stream the album further below.

Hot Sauce Committee Part Two by Beastie Boys

CunninLynguists - Oneirology ALBUM STREAMING

American hip hop outfit CunninLynguists issued their fifth album "Oneirology", which means study of dreams, and you can stream the whole album down here via the band's Bandcamp page. It features guest appearances from Big K.R.I.T., Freddie Gibbs and Tonedeff. Concerning Big K.R.I.T., his awesome album "Return Of 4Eva" is still downloadable for free through the album web page.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Deaf Center - Owl Splinters (2011) REVIEW

Norway again.
Deaf Center is a duo comprised of Erik Skodvin (cello) and Otto Totland (piano), "Owl Splinters" is their second full album, six years after the Lynch/Badalamenti influenced and already excellent "Pale Ravine". Both albums, and their very first EP "Neon City" in 2004, are issued by Type, a worth checking record label. Deaf Center's members are quite busy in their own right, mostly Erik Skodvin who is, besides his solo musical projects, promoting other artists through his own label Miasmah. Debut "Pale Ravine" already set the duo apart from other artists who are bridging the gap between atmospheric electronic music and modern classical coloured with dark textured orchestration. "Inspired by old silent 8mm film reels, the historical architecture around them and the call of the alluring Norwegian landscape, the duo set out armed with microphones to record whatever they could to capture these feelings. Sounds from battered old records, cash registers, broken machines and a half-dead piano were all blended into the mix to add a warm, homely depth to the recordings." (1) This description comes from the liner note for "Pale Ravine" on the publisher company itself but it gives a very accurate idea of what there is to listen to on that debut and what sets this duo apart, the last few words actually sum it all "a warm, homely depth to the recordings." Too often, atmospheric electronic music, or ambient, possesses unearthly quite alienated aesthetics, it's like music made out of thin air, or thick air concerning so-called dark ambient pioneered by Thomas Köner, to name just one, and explored further by plenty other artists, among them Norwegian Deathprod, aka Helge Sten, and audio-virus contaminator for the mighty Supersilent. In my ears, ambient music, as brilliantly created and multilayered it can be, always sounds quite hollow, a bit like computer-animated films where characters and landscapes look almost transparent, like made out of glass. Even if lesser and lesser so, same for ambient music.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Your gHost AUDIO

Ancient Mixtape from a radio show already called Spookrijder your gHost was producing years ago.

This is a blindtest too. Let's play and name the bands/artists.
When there will be at least five good answers, this thing will be available for download.
Yeah, that's the spooking prize!

Vol1SpookrijderTaGueuleMix by Spookrijder

Friday, April 22, 2011

Shearwater - The Island Arc ALBUM STREAMING

On January 15, 2011, Texan orchestral pop band Shearwater presented the three albums of their thematically-linked 'Island Arc' Trilogy - "Palo Santo" (2006), "Rook" (2008), and "The Golden Archipelago" (2010) - in a sold-out, 3-hour epic concert with longtime friends and collaborators at Austin's Central Presbyterian Church. This album consists of excerpts from that concert. The album is streaming below and you can buy it at Shearwater's Bandcamp page.

Flaming Lips - Gummy Skull AUDIO

April 20th, "The Flaming Lips released new music on a USB flash drive inside a seven pound skull made of edible gummy gook (the kind used for gummy bears and worms, etc) – though only five were for sale, personally delivered by Wayne Coyne to Norman/Oklahoma City’s Guestroom Records." Inside of each skull (see picture down below), these lucky bastards at Oklahoma City could find four brand new Flaming Lips' songs. Click here if you want to know more. You can listen to all four tracks below, but don't eat all the gum.

Drug Chart

Walk With Me

In Our Bodies, In Our Heads

Hilary's Time Machine Machine

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

tUnE-yArDs - W H O K I L L (2011) REVIEW

November last year 2010 saw the release of the double album "Tradi-Mods Vs. Rockers - Alternative Takes on Congotronics" on the crucial Belgian label Crammed Discs, where 26 artists from all over the world contribute their own personal takes on more than 30 year old true Congolese Konono N°1's as well as 'supergroup' Kasai Allstars' music. The line-up is indeed pretty impressive and diverse : Juana Molina, Deerhoof, Animal Collective, Megafaun, Andrew Bird, Oneida, Jolie Holland, Wilco's Glenn Kotche, Burnt Friedman, Lonely Drifter Karen, Sylvain Chauveau to name some, all artists esthetically and culturally rather alien to electric Congolese music aka Congotronics. Crammed Discs' owner and curator of that project Marc Hollander could have added tUnE-yArDs aka Merrill Garbus to his project. Already her first album "BiRd-BrAiNs" in 2009 and surely the sophomore "W H O K I L L" today shows that tUnE-yArDs is one of the most African pop/rock project on the West side of the North Atlantic Ocean, yes more so than Vampire Weekend.

The first tUnE-yArDs album, "BiRd-BrAiN", was originally self-released by Merrill Garbus on recycled cassette tape. It was recorded using only a handheld voice recorder (1). Self-issuing recycled cassette tape is what we now call mixtape, mostly in the hip hop world, but it's also one of the only way African musicians are distributing their own music all over the African continent. Technically, Merrill Garbus performs live or in the studio with drum loops made on the spot, which she layers further with ukulele, homemade percussion, found sounds and her own very flexible and passionate voice. Just like Congotronics mentioned above, tUnE-yArDs' esthetics is totally that of DIY coupled with her own instruments handcrafting. The use of present tense is intentional because tUnE-yArDs' sophomore album "W H O K I L L" contains much of the same creative and recording process, except that this time Merrill Garbus used a proper studio, a bass player, Nate Brenner, who co-wrote some of the songs, and a soulful horn section. If the debut "BiRd-BrAiN" could sometimes sound exhausting because of its lofi at time saturated and wild delivery, "W H O K I L L" is a far more comfortable listen while Merrill Garbus hasn't lost anything of her contagious and confident energy.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Panda Bear - Tomboy (2011) REVIEW

Noah Lennox aka Panda Bear is, with David Portner aka Avey Tare, a founding member of Animal Collective which can be set among the most important bands of the last decade, important in their inventiveness and adventurous take on folk, electronic and pop music, important in the very fact that Animal Collective is making music history, the kind of band which influence will still spread for many years to come, just like The Velvet Underground, Syd Barrett, Can, Joy Division, Pixies or Slint to name a few did and still does. Over the years, Panda Bear, being first and mostly Animal Collective's drummer, has shown himself as the most productive member so far with already four solo albums, among them the third and masterpiece "Person Pitch" issued in 2007. His first eponymous solo album dates from 1998 and is considered as the very first Animal Collective related album. With excellent albums like "Young Prayer" and the already mentioned "Person Pitch", Panda Bear also appeared as the main brain behind Animal Collective's process, a presumption made even clearer when "Merriweather Post Pavilion" was released in 2009. Indeed this eighth Collective's studio album showed another creative turn in their career and got Panda Pear's fingerprints all over the place, but channeled through the other member's huge imagination and creativeness to make it one of the best albums of their already very high-standard discography.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Phaedra - The Sea (2011) REVIEW

Norway has a long tradition of exceptional female singers and the last decade has shown the emergence of a new generation of Northern sirens, from brilliant and melancholic soft folk singer/songwriter Ane Brun to indie pop minimalist Silje Nes through toyish jazzy excellence Hanne Hukkelberg or high priestess/poetess Jenny Hval, and of course the Queen of them all Susanna K. Wallumrød aka Susanna, with or without The Magical Orchestra. Phaedra aka Ingvild Langgård can be undoubtedly added to this incredible list, and surely not at the bottom of it.

In Greek mythology, Phaedra (Phaidra) is the daughter of Minos (king of Crete, son of Zeus and Europa) and Pasiphaë (daughter of Helios, the Sun), wife of Theseus (founder-king of Athens) and the mother of Demophon of Athens and Acamas. Phaedra's name derives from the Greek word φαιδρός (phaidros), which means "bright", she is sometimes compared to the Sun. In some versions of the mythology, Phaedra committed suicide out of guilt linked to her love for her stepson Hippolytus and the terrible consequences of her feelings towards him. Phaedra's myth has been the source of inspiration for dozens of writers, the most famous being Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca and French dramatist Jean Racine. Besides the obvious mystery and beauty the name Phaedra evokes, Ingvild Langgård by choosing that pseudonym is carrying a monument of, indeed, mythological proportion on her frail shoulders and she's somewhere doomed to create more extra-ordinary things than most other common mortals. Has she succeeded to fulfill the near divine promises such a name demands? Follow me further.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Jenny Hval - Viscera (2011) REVIEW

Norway has a long tradition of exceptional female singers, from the folkiest Mari Boine to the most radical noise maker Maja Ratkje through voice artist Sidsel Endresen or energetic rock lady Ida Maria or emotional and personal fav Susanna K. Wallumrød or Jan Garbarek's daughter Anja or... I don't forget the rest of them, except the ones I still don't know about, but there are too many to namedrop any more further. Jenny Hval can be without any doubt added to that already long list. She's however no newbie, Jenny Hval already made some waves in Norway and beyond with two very descent if unbalanced albums "To Sing You Apple Trees" (2006) and "Medea" (2008) with one woman band Rockettothesky (no spelling mistakes). Both albums were released by Trust Me Records, the new and third album "Viscera", under her own name, has been issued by the excellent Norwegian record label Rune Grammofon.

"Viscera" goes even further into the musical, vocal and textural experimentations initiated with the very first "To Sing You Apple Trees" and further expanded with the second "Medea". Where the later could sometimes be a little offputting for its mannered and sometimes contrived eccentricities, this last album sounds far more spontaneous and organic musically while Jenny Hval's voice has gained even more depth, suppleness and her emotional range is simply astounding, she became a fabulous actress for her own somewhat doomed theatrical songs.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Selah Sue - Selah Sue (2011) REVIEW

Selah Sue, real name Sanne Putseys, is a Belgian singer/songwriter with a Jamaican soul. Her influences are Lauren Hyll, Bob Marley, Erykah Badu and M.I.A. while her voice is some raggamuffin, less souple and virtuosic version of Amy Winehouse. On her eponymous debut album, Selah Sue succeeds to sound like none of them, no songs are neither reggae nor nu-soul nor even R&B but a personal mix of all of those influences. Musically, the closest affiliation could be a more rougher around the edge Lily Allen, but where Allen keeps a rather clean white-ass voice, Selah Sue's phrasing and articulation is more, yes, Jamaican. She's a little blonde girl from the surroundings of Belgian town Leuven and she's therefore one striking example of musical globalization. When we are listening to whatever continental European band playing rock, we don't think anymore that rock comes from rhythm'n blues, and blues itself, the roots still deeply anchored in the United States. We even feel the same about jazz, there are so many famous and great European jazz musicians that it doesn't matter anymore. Same with rap and hip hop, they are accepted as international music styles, there's French, Dutch and even Russian rap. It doesn't matter either. But when it comes to reggae, ragamuffin, soul or funk sung in a near perfect imitation of the afro-american singers, it's hard not to wonder. And then, the trap is wide open, and I fall into it right away. Take whatever Belgian or Swedish rock bands, surely when their songs are interpreted in English, who still thinks their vocals are imitations of their Anglo-Saxon counterparts, I believe near nobody anymore. Well, maybe artists like Selah Sue will do the same for reggae or soul, etc., one can be a white-ass whoever grown up in a little town somewhere in Flanders or Bavaria or Lombardy and be drowned at an earlier age to soul and comes out as the next James Brown. It doesn't matter anymore where you're coming from, furthermore it doesn't matter what's your ethnic background.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

K-Branding - Alliance (2011) REVIEW

"Alliance" is the second album for the Brussels industrial trio K-Branding whose reputation is getting over Belgium limited borders thanks to incandescent live gigs (France, The Netherlands, Switzerland), a handful of CD-Rs and their first more than decent debut album, "Facial", two years earlier. Wire Magazine, yes the legendary and very influential 'Adventures in Modern Music' gold-diggers, has selected one track from the album on their Wire Tapper CD. Let's bet it won't stop there.

K-Branding was founded in 2004 and began as an experimental and pretty chaotic combo with free-jazz, industrial and tribal extroverted influences, the debut album "Facial" being an appropriate musical photography. On this record K-Branding was not only noise and confronting burst of poly-rhythms, lead-heavy distorted electronics and abrasive guitars, two and a half tracks could be best filed somewhere between dark ambient and drone music. Furthermore, the album shows much variety of textures and colors as a whole as well as inside almost each titles while keeping an impressive cohesiveness. To me, the closest musical family would be short-lived New-York noise band Laddio Bolocko minus the industrial part but with all the rest, the Americans too using saxophones, electronics, jazzier tribal rhythms, no wave/post-punk guitars and deliberate chaos. But despite the obvious energy deployed by the band, the recording failed to capture the electricity, the omnipresent tribal percussion sounded here and there a little muddy and too low in the mix, the general production being slightly subdued.

The second album "Alliance" shows none of the above mentioned reservations, and in two years time they've gained tremendously in focus, depth and power of purpose. Also it seems they applied the idiom "less is more" by containing their anarchic and confronting nature to deliver music which speaks more to the mind than to the guts, which absolutely doesn't mean this album is devoid of energy. I would say on the contrary, these guys could have been responsible for black-outs in their neighborhood each time they're rehearsing, there's enough electricity in this record to provide an entire town if not a whole Belgium-sized country, and informed people know this little Kingdom is using a hell of a lot of electricity. "Alliance" is also darker and colder than "Facial", more repetitive, but in many ways far more threatening. The violence is latent, crawling under the surface with punctual and efficient, because of it, burst of percussive tantrum and guitar epileptic improv freak-outs.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Lumerians - Transmalinnia (2011) REVIEW

"The Lumerians are a humanoid species, clearly noticeable by their distinctive forehead markings. As a species they are gifted with empathic abilities, but are usually restricted in the use of this empathy to other Lumerians and alien empaths and telepaths. Some Lumerians seem to be able to ritually form a psionic bond with another person, giving him or her the option to "dump" bad feelings and other "mental waste" onto the bond partner. The latter one usually suffers from severely accelerated aging and aggressive behavior. The ritual is performed with the help of a crystalline stone, that seems to enhance the psionic output of the ritual participants." (1)

This little introduction gives a good idea of the extraterrestrial and futuristic music one can expect to hear before listening to the debut album by this Californian quintet. Lumerians are alien species appearing in Star Trek : The Next Generation, and Lumerians' band members indeed look like cosmic monks during their performances (check first video below) and delivers psychedelic retro-futuristic space-rock full of analog synths, hypnotic guitars, lightly tribal always groovy rhythm patterns and multi-layered vocals. It looks like they have all the time in their live while building up their rather long songs, allowing them to open up, wandering slowly till their conclusions. Even at their most danceable moments, there's something pretty relaxing in Lumerians' music, the groove is souple as some lazy but tight funk, and they sometimes remind me of a couple of bands out of that psyche-rock-meets-dance music madchester era at the end of the eighties, The Charlatans and Stone Roses mostly, but without the rock'n'roll bad boy attitude, Lumerians are more atmospheric, esoteric, if not spiritual, very danceable and mind-bending at the same time, music for the mind and for the belly and feet.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

aNoo - Blush (2011) AUDIO

aNoo is a group around a Brussels based Finn, Anu Junnonen, that started off in the spring 2002 and every since then has been creating an original repertoire. In 2008, they released a very promising debut album "The Luckless Lands of the North", their second album "Sinipiika"  is due for Spring 2011, so pretty soon. Stream this first cut from the album below where the band is exploring further away from jazz and folk, and experiments with delicate electronic while Anu's voice is getting at the same time brighter and more velvety, joining some fine up North fairies. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

21 Mini Reviews for the first trimester 2011

The Unthanks, Morning Teleportation, Charles Bradley, Wye Oak, The Low Anthem, Iron & Wine, Ruby Coast, The Twilight Singers, Kurt Vile, Earth, Braids, Tennis, Gold Panda, The Joy Formidable, Yuck, Frank Ocean, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, The Dodos, The Strokes, Jo Hamilton and Julianna Barwick

The Dø - Both Ways Open Jaws (2011) REVIEW

French music business shows a long tradition of pop duos. Serge Gainsbourg's multiple duos, mainly with actresses Brigitte Bardot and Jane Birkin, are the first examples at hands, that of a male musical mastermind, often multi-instrumentist, and a sexy doll of a singer. Stone et Charden could be another example, more or less. That formula really exploded during the eighties, first with Elli et Jacno then later with the excellent Les Rita Mitsouko and the rather underestimated Niagara, among others. In the later years, male/male duos got the upper hand with world famous Daft Punk and Air, and to a lesser extend AaRON. The Dø looks like a band, the 'The' part in the name offers that illusion, but they are a duo of French multi-instrumentist and mastermind Dan Levy and Finnish cute looking singer Olivia Bouyssou Merilahti : D for Dan, ø for Olivia, it's that simple. 
Do is also the alpha and the omega of the musical scale. There is nothing much more to tell about this except that it sounds good.

Elbow - Build a Rocket Boys! (2011) REVIEW

Elbow as a band was already founded in 1991, under a different name (they changed it in 1997), but their debut and excellent album "Asleep in the Back" was only issued in 2001. Following that release, the band was immediately filed in the bandwagon already crowded with Radiohead, Coldplay, Doves and even Muse. Sure Elbow shares with these bands a similar knack for orchestrated but melancholic/heroic songs full of pathos, near prog-rock arrangement and larger-than-life vocals. As a matter of fact, from the first album on Elbow's music is maybe the most 'symphonic' of the whole bunch while being also the least rockish in general, even if they can be pretty hard rocking when they feel like it. Elbow is relying more on keyboards and vocal harmonies as well. But contrary to Radiohead's artistic pretentions, Coldplay's obvious super stardom ambitions, Muse's virtuosic dinosaur rock performances and even Doves' melodramas, Elbow has near always kept a rather low profile attitude, very human and humble while being among the most productive on records.

Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes (2011) REVIEW

I wouldn't have given much attention to this Swedish artist whose stage name reminds me too much of crap manufactured stuff like Jessie J and whoelse with such logo as a name if it wasn't for the buzz around, pretty good reviews and articles about everywhere, from Pitchfork (1) to The Guardian (2). Besides, her music was described as a mix of soul, electro and powdered-sugar pop (3). Whatever, this sounds like tons of other shallow teen idols all over the music business. Concerning her stage name, it's actually her real name Li Lykke Timotej Zachrisson slightly transposed. Then maybe there's some sincerity around. With this overproduction of records all around, I don't think I'm the only one sorting out artists with such superficial 'lookaround'. Good I was wrong once again. Lykke Li's music is nothing like soul, electro and sugar pop, even if it contains all these elements. A contradictory statement which mirrors this paradoxical album on many accounts.

Colin Stetson - New History Warfare, Vol. 2: Judges (2011) REVIEW

Colin Stetson is a Montreal based, Michigan, US, born sax, clarinet, cornet, french horn and flute player who's got some resume, to say the least. People allergic to namedropping, please jump nine lines. He's a member of Bell Orchestre and Sway Machinery as well as accompanying on stage and in the studio dozens of artists, including Tom Waits, Arcade Fire, TV on the Radio, Feist, Bon Iver, Laurie Anderson, Lou Reed, David Byrne, Jolie Holland, Sinead O’Connor, LCD Soundsystem, The National, Angelique Kidjo, and Anthony Braxton (1). Before that, he studied with reeds luminaries like Roscoe Mitchell (from Art Ensemble of Chicago, a.o.), Henry Threadgill and Steve Adams (he's a double bassist, whatever) to name a few (2). The guy's got credentials, it doesn't seem too hard for him to get a job.

He also recorded several albums under his own name or with his own combos, Transmission Trio (3) and Colin Stetson's Slow Decent (4). Both bands offer interesting music which can be filed into free jazz, but of a laidback almost cool kind. Slow Decent is by the way a good name for the music proposed. A couple of recordings from both projects can be streamed on bandcamp (see footnote references). Colin Stetson's most interesting and compelling works are definitely his solo recordings, which really means recordings in solo, just Colin Stetson, his reeds, or horns, and nothing else, no overdubs nor loop (5).

Toro y Moi - Underneath the Pine (2011) REVIEW

Toro y Moi is the odd moniker for one man band and sonic child of Chazwick Bundick (he must have been given names), and "Underneath The Pine" is his second album a year after "Causers of This". Under this nickname, Bundick was making bedroom recordings since 2001, he was then 15. Eight years later, he appeared on the international scene with an album which create a little buzz if not some hype in the indie area and was immediately marked as being part of some sort of 'new' musical genre called chillwave or glo-fi alongside bands like Neon Indian, Washed Out and Memory Tapes. Indeed, "Causers of This"' esthetics ain't so far from these mentioned bands : effects processing, synthesizers, sampling, looping with filtered vocals and simple melody lines (1). Their influences are quite similar too : 80s synthpop, which these bands seems to filter through distorted lens to give some very psychedelic effect (hence glo-fi, like in 'hypnagogic'), early 90s shoegaze and lo-fi, late 70s ambient and some floppy disco beats (1). But to me, the most striking element in this general genre is the vocals, they are not only filtered through different sound effects, they are mostly surprisingly bland.

Grails - Deep Politics (2011) REVIEW

For little less than 10 years, Grails has delivered more than its share of excellent records full of intense, dark and strangely soothing instrumental beauty. Their first couple of albums ("The Burden of Hope" in 2003 and "Redlight" in 2004) were mostly relying on its musicians versatility, mainly multi-instrumentist Emil Amos, with Alex Hall and Zak Riles on guitars, the later preferably acoustic ones, and Bill Slater on bass and synths/piano, with the punctual addition of violin and saxophone. Their influences were already very diversified, from Celtic folk to Oriental music through jazz, krautrock, psychedelic rock and heavy metal. These albums were a little unfocused and relied most of the time on improvisation. Because this is an instrumental band, it was quickly stamped as post-rock. While touring Europe in 2004, London's Southern Studio invited them to record for their Latitudes series and the band, through Amos, decided to cover three pieces from three different combos from the seventies under the title " Interpretations of Three Psychedelic Rock Songs from Around the World". From around the world it is for you can find covers from American The Byrds, Franco-British Gong and Japanese Flower Travellin' Band. One could almost tell that these three bands are the core of Grails' influences, I would add Germans Amon Düül II's "Yeti" era, which will be developped in the years to come.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Akron/Family - S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT (2011) REVIEW

The very idiosyncratic folk-influenced experimental rock band Akron/Family released their fifth album at the beginning of this year, their second on Dead Oceans Records, not counting one complete Michael Gira's (owner of Akron/Family's previous label Young Gods Records) Angels of Light's album as a back up band, countless other collaborations, including vocals to two albums by Canadian post-rock band Do Make Say Think. When you know that Akron/Family was formed in 2002, the least we could say is that they have been busy. Did I mentioned their tours all over the planet Earth? Oh, and their first self-titled album was out in 2005. Such prolificacy is hard to beat, or only by pure improv and experimental artists. If Akron/Family uses improvisation, field recordings and some white noise, it's not to fill in some spaces, they are part of each of their very composed and arranged songs, they are used as instruments in between countless others which are colouring their compositions. "Though each member of the band—Dana Janssen, Seth Olinsky, and Miles Seaton—can be relegated to loosely defined roles (drummer, vocalist/guitarist, and bassist, respectively), all members play several instruments and sing." (1) When listening to their albums, although there are some guests here and there, the full, rich and multi-layered musical architecture of each songs is that of a ten-piece combo, but even in their noisiest and most freak-out moments, the overall sound retains its clarity, and above all the melodies shine through.

Joan As Police Woman - The Deep Field (2011) REVIEW

"Don't judge a book by its cover" is an idiom I try to apply as much as I can, concerning everything and everyone including music. Unfortunately, being just a man, momentarily bearded, mistakes are not out of reach. The first time and beyond until last week I heard the name Joan as Police Woman and judging on the name only I thought this was another angry lady playing electro-punk whatever more preoccupied by socio-politico-(feminist) activism on the dancefloor like M.I.A. and Peaches than just writing songs and composing music. Well, what can I say? I was wrong, once again. About a week ago, one friend asked me what I thought about the last Joan as Police Woman's album "The Deep Field" issued early this year. I couldn't let my ignorance being uncovered again, so I dug into Joan Wasser discography, at least until the first full length "Real Life" after having listened to her third above mentioned and last album. I was damn wrong, this I realized from the first song on: a very elegant eponymous torch song ballad built around a very simple piano melody, a waltz, illuminated by a sweet, warm, hornlike if discreetly beautiful voice.

Nicolas Jaar - Space Is Only Noise (2011) REVIEW

A 21 year old Chilean techno producer from New York, Nicolas Jaar, who has already produced a handful of EPs, very much appreciated in clubs and among djays, has released his debut full length "Space Is Only Noise" and the least I could tell about it is that it contains more space than noise, if kids playing, water flowing and deep bass could be considered noise. This album is the logical continuation of his series of EPs where the term "techno" already had a wider meaning. I mean, this fellah succeeded to throw clubbers on the dancefloors from New York to Berlin with beats running under 100 bpm*. If you don't know what it means, well that's kinda slow. Besides, he doesn't hesitate to add acoustic piano and other seldom found in the so called techno idiom folk and jazz instruments into his compositions and mixes. Fact is, his tracks sustain interests and make you wanna move your ass, if in a lazy motion. On this LP, Jaar decided to strip most of its tracks from their dancefloor beats and groove and you know what? It still sounds so good, if not better. If taking this crucial elements needed for foot-tapping the floor offered him more artistic freedom, the big risk was to fall into lame and pretentious chillout ambient music, giving his choice of instruments it could easily sound like acoustic supermarket music. Well, Nicolas Jaar's compositional and producing skills, his imagination and eclecticism as well as his concentration and sense of purpose helped him to avoid all the booby traps of such musical adventures. His sense of purpose looks rather crucial in this process and the intro for the opening track "Être" offers a hint in a sample from some French movie where a man is saying “How can you talk about a landscape without browsing it from the earth to the sky and vice versa?” (loose translation) That record shows us a landscape even more than a soundscape, a wide landscape where the space is vast and full of noises, but small noises, the ones we have in dreams, bit of this, bit of that, and a sense of floating. In many ways, this is aquatic music, something like being lost at sea in a little fishing boat, half asleep, dreams, memories and real sound intermingling in our subconscious, it feels like finally resting.

James Blake - James Blake (2011) REVIEW

Young British electronic composer and pretty boy James Blake surprised everyone who was following him through his previous and very recommandable four EPs full of minimalist dubstep instrumental with this debut album where he changed into an electronic singer/songwriter. There were already some samples of vocals on his previous works, but this time James Blake sings and samples his own voice, and he does it very well indeed. His voice is fragile and slightly broken if quite highpitched and Blake used it in a very peculiar way, somewhere between Antony Hegarty and a more reserved Lewis Taylor. Indeed there is something of Antony's very emotional theatricality as well as some very sensitive R&B vowel inflexion, the effect can be quite gripping and touching here, devastatingly moving there.

The song "Unluck" opening the album was somewhat worrying for its use of something between a vocoder and an autotune and there was some concern these effects, mostly concerning autotune, would spread increasingly through the album and make it unlistenable, but fortunately not. On "Unluck", these effects are parsimoniously used and it could recall some similar sound effects found on early Prince's records (so it must be a vocoder). By doing so his already fractured voice seems even more fractured and Blake doesn't hesitate to break it even further by cutting his vocals in the middle of a word like on the song "I Mind" or make some voice extracts jump anywhere in the audio spectrum like some backing singer intervening out of the blue and from any place when he feels like it, on "Unluck" or "To Care (Like You)", for example. There is also some very subtle vocals overdubbings, mostly his own voice, in a lower or higher register, in the left and/or right channel, as backing vocals or lead, and it never sounds heavy or thick, on the contrary, his half whispered almost catlike voice brings lightness and you wouldn't even notice the overdubbings if you wouldn't be told. The result is far from random and offers some delightful listen.

The Psychic Paramount - II (2011) REVIEW

Alright, let's take a goddamn rollercoaster ride and be teleported on the roof of a high-speed train wheeling at 350 km/h (218 mph), I wonder how the hell I can still be standing with that hurricane wind pushing against my chest, rubbing my crotch, pulling my hair out, eroding my ears off, squeezing my cheeks and engulfing my eyeballs, but I am standing, I'm not sure how, while I'm surfing left, then right, then up over that hill, then down into this valley, on both sides the landscape became horizontal parallel lines while at the front side "darn, that bridge is low", I've got the time to close my eyes but not to duck and CRRRAAASSSHHH!!! I'm in it and already out, I'm still standing, looking behind, "holy shit, that bridge collapses!", it was only made of bricks, another bridge hits my back full force, I feel the impact huge BBRRROOOOKKKSSHHH, this one was badass, it was made of concrete, and I'm still standing, "fuck me, this bridge just crumbled down!", looking at my hands, touching my face, everything's there, and the railway goes right, then left, then down into that tunnel, all sounds are muffled for a nick of time, then out again, going up, going up, going up, going up, going up, then suddenly down, I'm riding that cannonball of an iron horse, "YEEEHHAAAAAA!!! I'm the post-apocalyptic cowboy, I'm invincible, I'm the Paramount of mankind and Superman's a sissy!"

Anna Calvi - Anna Calvi (2011) REVIEW

Anna Calvi, the name, sounds like a premium luxury brand, a perfume, a scarf, a handbag. Anna Calvi, the singer-songwriter, sounds like a Southern Gothic desperado of a guitar-heroine with a powerful, haunted and evocative voice. Italian musician names can be very misleading, especially for women, it's hard to sort them out just by name : Nina Nastasia, Cecilia Bartolli, Lisa Germano, Gabriella Cilmi, Emiliana Torrini, Laura Pausini, they could all be opera singers, or the Italian girl-next-door, because everybody got one, and some could be pornstars, but rock musicians? Dunno. Well, Anna Calvi is obviously one, and after Marnie Stern, we got another guitar virtuoso on our hands, like Marnie Stern, she brings a different approach and genuine sound to her instrument. "That pursuit of difference is clear in her live performances, where you can see her distinctive, circular playing style – half picking and half strumming – up close. She adopted the technique, she says, to make her guitar sound like 'a piano going up and down'" (1).

Monday, April 4, 2011

Destroyer - Kaputt (2011) REVIEW

As much as I dislike this 80s revival thing which is happening for some years lately, one man Canadian band Destroyer ninth album ode to the blue eyes soul of... the 80s is another matter completely. Dan Bejar is by all means no revivalist, the structure of his music is deeply rooted in the 90s to the present day and his references are too numerous to count. The band's admitted influences are Pavement and Guided By Voices, as well as other indie and shoegaze bands. As far as I could go, with the sixth album "Your Blues" in 2004, which shows Dan Bejar performing alone largely surrounded by MIDI-simulated orchestration, then the fantastic "Destroyer's Rubies" in 2006 and "Trouble in Dreams" in 2008, both recorded with a full band this time, the influences of the 80s in the arrangement and orchestration have always been extremely present and all over the place. This is the clothing, the naked body is where lies the real musical influences listed above. All the above mentioned albums contains rather long songs which are very often shifting tempos, rhythms and atmosphere with Dan Bejar sometimes very verbose and rather mannered vocals where he forgets more than once refrains or bridges. If you take the album "Destroyer's Rubies", one of their most guitar oriented albums, the clothing is pretty close to melodic and rather light guitar bands of the eighties, from Orange Juice (Edwyn Collins) to Aztec Camera, but the way the song are built and the freedom with which Dan Bejar is throwing his voice all over have few to do with the very traditional songwriting of 80s pop/rock bands. This structural freedom can be more regularly found during the 90s indeed. Besides, Destroyer tends to extend their songs in some progressive way, yes like in the expression 'prog rock' made so famous during the seventies, mostly with bands like Genesis and Yes, although Destroyer is again, clothing and body, closer to some less pretentious, lighter and maybe more genuine bands like Supertramp and surely Steely Dan at the end of that decade and already creating the sound of what will come a little later during the eighties.

As a warning for this album, I would like to add here the first lines of the review for this same album on Pitchfork Media : "Every era has a sound. When considering this, it can be easy to forget that the sound [is] developed as a way to express something. Music heard as kitsch years later was once put forth with complete sincerity. I mention this in connection with Kaputt, the new record from Dan Bejar's Destroyer, because the first thing that strikes you about the album is its unusual sound, one for which we've all developed a cluster of associations." (1)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Dumbo Gets Mad - Elephants At The Door (2011) REVIEW

One man Italian band Dumbo Gets Mad delivers the UFO of the beginning of 2011 with "Elephants at The Door". After some investigation, it appears that the guy is coming from Reggio Emilia, a small town not that far from Bologna, he's collecting Sonic Youth albums but don't listen to them that much, he is obsessed by waves (hence the video for "Plumy Tale"*, he digs Captain Beefheart (which makes him part of my family) and read Don deLillo (I haven't read this chap and maybe I should) *. He even wears a mustache, but that can be shaved the next minute. What won't be erased from memory in a while is the impression and pleasures given by this impossible but true album.

Very much drowned into the DIY idiom, maybe for lack of other ways, the guy's got access to a recording studio*, his own or some neighbours, no one can tell but him. The fact remains, sonically, this is the richest and most layered record you will stumble upon in a while, past or future. The amount of different sounds, from vintage synth to guitar effects and tape machine through water bubbles and alien voices give the effect of floating into some very busy outer space, or the deepest ocean, surrounded by the most extravagant but friendly creatures, and even a mermaid, if you like : this fellah's girlfriend is singing here and there when she feels like it, it looks like : capricious, playing hide and seek, temptative or little worrying, just like... a mermaid.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Radiohead - The King of Limbs (2011) REVIEW

Two heavyweight album releases in a 5 days period from two artists/bands who have marked forever, in one way or the other, the now 30 to 40 year old in the middle of the 90s, two artists/bands whose former albums were issued in 2007, so four years ago (tell me if I'm wrong, time is a fluctuating matter), let me tell you... well, I don't really know what I wanna tell you. PJ Harvey and Radiohead are both busy since the end of the 80s and issued their first albums in the early 90s, and both are still big hot hype news 20 years later, as much among the picky music lovers than for the average Joe (or almost, concerning PJ Harvey). It is hard to find other artists in the past who succeeded to last that long while at the same time keeping the esteem from rock critics, music lovers and anyway having several albums stamped platinum in their discography. U2 and The Cure were already old news 15 years after their debut, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin were filed as obsolete after the punk period,... it's possible I forget someone. I can only imagine some month of February 2021 where both Arcade Fire and The National would both release an album in a 5 days period, hoping for them they'll be still there and not made obsolescent by some musical revolution, or by their own contribution.

Friday, April 1, 2011

PJ Harvey - Let England Shake (2011) REVIEW

« Let England Shake » is the best PJ Harvey's album since « Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea » in 2000. « Let England Shake » is also her first real album since 2000. Indeed, « Uh Huh Her » (2004) is a collection of previously unreleased new demo tracks in the same vain as « 4-Track Demos » was in 1993, except that the later was presented as a collection of demo tracks and not as an album. Then there was the bleak and lugubrous « White Chalk » in 2007, voice and piano near exclusively, more a digression, if interesting and here and there compelling, than an accomplishment. « White Chalk » is an exercise in style that should be considered as such, and like the previous « Uh Huh Her », it should have been issued as a collection of rarities and demos. Concerning « White Chalk » I'm always very glad when an artist quite as established as PJ Harvey is ready to challenge oneself, and the very fact she's no piano virtuoso doesn't play in my opinion, but there's always some inevitable comparisons to make when other artists are doing it way better : Regina Spektor's « Mary Ann Meets the Gravediggers and Other Short Stories » (2006) is one example, a closer one, esthetically and geographically, could be An Pierlé's « Mud Stories » (1999). And if both mentioned ladies are far better pianists than Polly Jean, I could add whatever album by Daniel Johnston during the 80s, compared to him Polly Jean is Glenn Gould himself. I don't forget the second collaboration with John Parish « A Woman a Man Walked By » in 2009 to which Polly Jean wrote and sang the lyrics, John Parish composed the music. So that's no PJ Harvey's record per se. That in mind, this new PJ Harvey album is undoubtfully some major musical event, it's a bit like a come back, and that could explain the fuzz this album is creating around critics (aggregate scores on Metacritic is 88%, just like Pitchfork Media, the NME Gave a 10/10) and surely fans, and Polly Jean's got loads of fans. But why so? Why such esteem? Why such near devotion? How comes PJ Harvey became in all the meanings of the term a rock icon?