Monday, April 21, 2014

Boyfrndz - Breeder (2014) ALBUM STREAMING

Austin, Texas, is not only Psych Fest (impressive line-up once again this year), it's also the birthplace of many essential psychedelic and post-hardcore bands from legendary 13th Floor Elevators to The Black Angels and White Denim through the crucial Scratch Acid and The Jesus Lizard without forgetting post-rockers Explosions in the Sky and many more. Boyfrndz could be added to this extensive list thanks to their sophomore album "Breeder", via Brutal Panda Records, which dropped this month almost two years after their debut "All Day Pass". If their first album offered some pretty dense and powerful tracks, somewhere between post-hardcore and math rock, the whole sounded quite monotonous, the uniform sound palette and the shy subdued vocals being its main drawbacks.

Boyfrndz's second effort represents a hell of a giant step, not only does the band improve on those mentioned downsides with a more colorful production and stronger vocals, they are further expanding their hypnotic and intricate sound with memorable hooks and some surprisingly emotional deliveries. Math rock doesn't have to be drowned by numbers. It would however be unfair to box Boyfrndz in one musical genre for sure, they are actually rather difficult to label, or let's imagine a more concise and near devoid of guitar solos Mars Volta or a less insanely neurotic Blood Brothers... or maybe let's not imagine anything at all and just listen to "Breeder".

Boyfrndz could very much become the next big thing, this album is epic and anthemic at times, open-eared Muse's fans could enjoy them, if they are not afraid to see their skirts lift up for awhile. Saying this, I'm a little afraid they could become emphatic-for-the-sake-of-being-emphatic, there are some hints here and there on "Breeder", like their fellow city folks ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead or, yes, Muse, or even, no, Yes (the shadow of Jon Anderson has been spotted in some corners), so let's discover them right now : spooking stream this thing below.

Elysian Fields - For House Cats And Sea Fans (2014) ALBUM STREAMING

The enigmatic Elysian Fields hit it hard in 1996 with their moody late-night atmospheric album "Bleed Your Ceddar", which was signed on the now defunct Universal Music Group's parent Radioactive Records. Since then, Jennifer Charles and Oren Bloedow, the couple behind the band, fell into some kind of general oblivion while recording more albums mostly released by European labels. The band's mysterious discretion is all the more puzzling considering the general high quality of their now seven full length LPs and excellent live shows (Their March 31st Brussels concert at Le Botanique was sold out).

The oddly titled "For House Cats and Sea Fans" has been issued by French label Vicious Circle last February and it contains first an impressive list of guests. Besides mainstays like jazz pianist Ed Pastorini and drummer Mike Johnson (Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, Beth Orton), one can find cats like jazz bassist James Genus (Dave Douglas, Michael Brecker, Chick Corea, a.o.), jazz drummer Ben Perowsky (from Dizzy Gillespie to Chris Speed), famous jazz keyboards player John Medeski, experimental artist J.G. Thirlwell of Foetus fame or even cult musician James Chance playing saxophone on "She Gets Down". Elysian Fields' Oren Bloedow is himself a pretty busy guitarist with several solo albums and multiple collaborations while Jennifer Charles appeared on "Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By" Lovage, some John Zorn's records and even guest appearances on two French singer/songwriter Jean-Louis Murat's albums. The cover painting of "For House Cats and Sea Fans" has been created by John Lurie, mostly known as composer and jazz maverick sax player for The Lounge Lizards. Namedropping is hard to avoid with such well surrounded chaps.

Now the music proposed by Elysian Fields remains rather unchanged throughout the years. On this last album they are indeed still delivering dark smoke-filled sometimes eerie but always stylish slightly jazzy dream rock, the focal point being the sensual almost lascivious voice of Jennifer Charles for sure but also the often original musical  arrangements which offer much variation in textures and colors from song to song while keeping the whole album homogeneous. This seventh opus could pretty much be one of their best albums with "Queen of the Meadow" in 2000 and "Bum Raps and Love Taps" in 2005. But enough blahblah, please stream "For House Cats and Sea Fans" below.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Eric Holm - Andøya (2014) ALBUM STREAMING

The debut full length LP for London-based American Eric Holm released by Bristol's Subtext this month is a mind shattering exploration of sounds created by fixing contact microphones to telegraph poles that connect the islands of Andøya, a northernmost island in the Vesterålen archipelago, situated about 300 kilometers inside the Arctic Circle. Eric Holm then mixed, edited and tailored his sound materials into a six-piece soundscape of desolation, solitude, coldness and total remoteness. The result is at times bordering on industrial music with unfathomable syncopated tribal beats as well as the darkest of ambient music with guts-shuddering low end frequencies. The magnificent album cover is a perfect illustration of this challenging and breathtaking album which reveals more and more details at each listen. A strangely natural yet unnatural experience.
Spook it for yourself below (The track "Åse" appears twice, sorry for this).

Source : FACT magazine

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

White Suns - Totem (2014) ALBUM STREAMING

New York trio White Suns' third album "Totem" was out March 14th on The Flenser, and the least I could say about it can be summarized in one word : relentless. Two guitars, drums and electronics for a successful yet earaching but ultimately galvanizing fusion of post-hardcore and noise. Still this music can't really be labelled noise rock, the structure of each tracks composing this cataclysmic album is closer to the wildest free improv, only it is indeed structured. However the guitars sonic palette remains close to no wave bands like early Sonic Youth, Pussy galore or later noise combos like Harry Pussy or Trumans Water, the vocals ferocity reminds me of Big Black or Scratch Acid, while the disjointed shattering metallic rattlings joined to various electronic tremors and hellish percussive stomps gather impressions left by bands like Wolf Eyes or Prurient. Despite those references, which are ultimately mine, not theirs, in a manner to situate this album, White Suns produced a more than interesting yet quite terrifying sonic journey. Not for the faint of heart though.
Stream this spooking thing below and tell me what you think of it.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Julia Holter <> FOCUS

Once in awhile a musical miracle occurs and Julia Holter, a Los Angeles-based composer, singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, is one of them. August 2013 saw the release of her last album "Loud City Music" on Domino. She had already two full length albums under her belt, "Tragedy" (2011) and "Ekstasis" (2012) as well as a double tape EP, "Eating The Stars + Live on KDVS" (2006/2011) (click the links, sometimes it streams!) and a couple of CD-R where Julia is flirting with John Cage's music, "Cookbook" (2009), she's basically reading recipes on top of background noises and crackling  jazz music on vinyls, and with musique concrete/field recordings, "Celebration" (2010). Both incursions into so-called avant-garde music and modern composition shouldn't scare the common mortal, they show more where Julia Holter is coming from than where she's getting at. She also counts numerous collaborations with other musical artists, most notably bedroom pop one woman band Nite Jewel's Ramona Gonzalez and underground psychedelic folk icon Linda Perhacs, which second and last album, "The Soul of All Natural Things", was issued just a month ago, about 44 years after her first and brilliant "Parallelograms". One could say that Julia Holter's music is mixing and/or gathering all the above mentioned elements, John Cage, field recordings, modern composition, songwriting, pop and to a certain extend psychedelic music, a bit of free jazz even, for some very idiosyncratic, pretty unique and surprisingly accessible if not blissful results. Despite the ambition of her music, maybe one of the most striking side of it lies in its playfulness. Julia's music can be considered conceptual or cerebral, but it near never falls into pretentiousness, sterile intellectualism and self-seriousness, it remains spontaneous and, yes, pleasant, even in its most mind-shattering moments.

Let's explore those three pieces of work :

Julia Holter - Tragedy (2011) REVIEW

"Tragedy", Julia Holter's first album, is loosely inspired by one Euripides' play, and tragedy, "Hippolytus". If she interspersed portions of the original text into her lyrics - they were “positioned by an aural logic rather than in the chronological order”, informs the album booklet*, musically this record follows nothing but itself, and it goes in a variety of directions that defies the imagination. Still, the album contains an introduction, an interlude and a finale, just like in a tragedy, and Julia Holter shows this way and on the outside her undeniable respect for structures, which are also intrinsic to each song, yes song, on this near "mystical revelation" (Piero Scaruffi) of an album. Well, the structures on those songs ain't conventional for sure. But maybe one of the first most striking thing about this record is the variety of styles touched upon, each song being its own dimension and each song exploring several soundscapes, while still succeeding to create incredibly homogeneous songs and a miraculously consistent whole.

Julia Holter - Ekstasis (2012) REVIEW

After the groundbreaking first album "Tragedy" a small year earlier, Julia Holter released her second one "Ekstasis" on RVNG Intl. in 2012,  re-issued by Domino in 2013. Both full lengths have been recorded during the same period span of three years after the playful and minimalist (sonically close to Dominique A's "La Fossette") CD-R "Eating The Stars", but if "Tragedy" was loosely based on a concept (Euripides' Hippolytus), "Ekstasis" doesn't follows much else than the definition of its title, the ancient Greek word for ecstasy, which means to be or stand outside oneself. This second opus contains a collection of ten more personal songs, which covers different subjects and moods, while remaining once again rather consistent. And indeed, ekstasis there is, to a certain extend, throughout almost the entirety of this thing, and surely while listening to some of the most compelling songs in Julia Holter's as well as in anyone else's catalogue. This album benefits also from the addition of ex-Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti guitarist Cole M. Greif-Neill who mixed the whole thing and gave a brighter and cleaner sound to it than its predecessor. Julia's voice is way more prominent and we can really enjoy the extend of its beauty, even through different echoes and always tasty electronic effects. Furthermore, Julia Holter chose for more immediate song structures and quite conventional singing but if her compositions get closer to a pop format, with memorable melodies and even some further extended reoccurring rhythm patterns, at times reminding more adventurous chillwave stuff, they stay far from being called pop songs, i.e. intuitive experimentations, unorthodox instrumentation and unexpected developments still prevail and keep them thrilling (thrillwave?).

Julia Holter - Loud City Song (2013) REVIEW

With her third album, "Loud City Song", issued by Domino in August 2013, Julia Holter clearly shows one of her intentions in its very title with the word 'Song', in the singular : she is indeed focusing on songs more than ever before. The singular could give the idea that this record is to be apprehended as one long song made of nine segments or movements; the conceptual artist rears its head again after the less interrelated approach on the previous "Ekstasis". "Loud City Song" also exhibits some further aesthetic improvements compared to Julia's earlier, and brilliant, efforts. First, Julia Holter strongly improved on the album cover, both "Tragedy" (2011), that pale grey collage thing, and surely "Ekstasis" (2012), with its bleak, blurry, amateurish pic, like some carbon copy of a lost Cocteau Twins b-sides collection, were pretty lame and generic layout-wise, in my humble opinion. Second, she improved on the production and recording process, she eventually went out of her bedroom and entered a studio with a bunch of musicians and a co-producer (ex-Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti guitarist Cole M. Greif-Neill), it gives "Loud City Song" a warmer, more organic and expansive touch (even though both home-recorded "Tragedy" and "Ekstasis" already sounded remarkably refined).