telling the scene kids what to listen to since 2001.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Unsung guitar heros (or, my top five axe players)

Top ten guitar players. Lists appear in the less adventerous music publications from time to time, to inform the public which axe masturbator can fretwank with the greatest efficiency; these have the predictable figures in the in the upper few. Hendrix. Clapton. Vai (urgh, dirty). Gilmour, if they're feeling slightly risqué. While these esteemed gentlemen may be technically superb (Gilmour, Vai) and, at times, innovative (Hendrix), their 'sound' has become almost familiar to the listener's ear. Imagine how revolutionary 'Voodoo Child' must have sounded the first time around; now, it barely elicits an attempt to air-guitar that riff, or maybe a quick hum: "dummm, de dum dum..". We can't blame Jimi for this; after all, he's dead. Who knows what he would have been doing had he been alive today.

So I present unto you my favourite strummers and pluckers from recent history, and maybe one from the past. Guitar music isn't dead; all the good players can't make enough to quit their dayjobs.

5. Joni Mitchell (Blue era)

Although usually credited for her ethereal and yet to be bettered singing voice (despite a prodigious death-stick habit), Joni's guitar playing sounds as quirky and fresh as ever on Blue. When asked (probably in by Mojo) about her technique, Joni simply responded: "I turn the keys and strum chords until it sounds good." Simplistic at the best of times, Joni's strength is that her strange tuning often lead to very original chord progressions - Blue is stocked full of them.

4. Aurelio Valle (Calla)

With their third full-length, Calla became something much greater than the sum of their parts. On paper, they make deeply melancholic, minimal 'slowcore'. In reality, these words do little justice to the unique mood they craft - a large proportion of their sound rests upon Aurelio's evocative guitar-playing. His touch is slight and subtle, as for most of the record he doesn't actually play in the traditional sense; he allows his guitar to gently feedback, and the few notes he plays are carefully chosen to meld with the beautifully minimal basslines. When he does crank up the distortion and let rip, as on "Strangler", his riffs are jerky, angular and lurch from moment to moment. No doubt strange tunings abound. Please go and listen to Televise, at a substantial volume, in a darkened room, with a glass of whisky.

3. Adam Pierce (Mice Parade)

Better known for his incredible drumming ability having manned the stool for bands like HiM, The Swirlies and The Dylan Group, Adam Pierce became "Mice Parade" (an anagram of his name; clever) for his first solo release in '98 and since then has produced a series of albums that have mixed world, folk, jazz and post-rock influences into one cohesive whole. Mookoondi (2001) showed Pierce at his most progressive - the record is a collection of pieces with a number of movements, tied together by his beautifully simple yet innovative playing; chords are layered, perfectly syncopated riffs fall between the snappy snare drumming. His most recent release, Bem-Vinde Volade, has received a somewhat lukewarm reception due to his inclusion of vocals on almost every track - however, his guitar playing is better than ever.

2. Alex Hall (Grails)

What can I say? Simply the best traditional post-rock guitarist still recording today. Grails' sound is much more than simply an update of Dirty Three's violin-versus-guitar schtick, and the reason for that is the melancholic and maudlin melodies Hall produces. Rather than do the whole quiet-loud-quiet cliché that bands like Mono have done to its logical conclusion (read: inpending apocalypse-loud bits), the band explore each riff and quickly move on, creating a feeling of each song having distinct movements - despite being (almost without exception) under five minutes. Redlight (2003) sees Hall at his very best; the menacing buzz of The Volunteer (complete with sax arrangement), the sparkling traditional Dargai, and the simply sublime title track.

1. Victor Villereal (Cap'n Jazz, Ghosts & Vodka, Owls, Noyes)

If you haven't heard either the full-length Ghosts & Vodka (now reissued with the 7" tracks included as Addicts And Drunks) or the Noyes self-titled EP, lay hands on them however you can. Technically brilliant and sounding unlike any other guitarist that ever lived, VV moves in a space of his own. As G&V, he blended huge emo riffs with difficult time signatures and grotesquely large hooks. As part of Owls, he brought his jerky, notes-dropped-everywhere style to the more serious playing of the Kinsellas. As Noyes, he explored jazz influences, with no less sucess. Describing his playing is difficult at best: at times, heavy and unrefined; elsewhere, his riffs are relentlessly complex in both time signature and melodic composition. Seriously, go out and listen to him. You may ask what he's been doing since, and the truth is no one really knows. Some friends say they've seen him on the streets of Chicago with a heroin addiction, some say he's cleaned up and is furiously working on another record. I can only hope for the latter, in the vain hope that this astonishing guitarist doesn't go unrecognised.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Sexually Frustrated White-Boy Geography (Sefruwhibog)

Lesson #1: Baltimore, Maryland, USA (that’s the United States of Americanisms kids)


According to reliable sources, Baltimore is the “Greatest City in America” [1] and in this city there is stuff to do if you like doing stuff, or maybe even things. This city resides on the east coast of the USA near the capital city of Washington DC, as can be seen on our beautiful map:


As well as being a place to do stuff and things, it is also home to the wonderful Monitor Records label [2] which houses many an agitated math-rock soul. If the spirit of math-rock lies in Chicago (home of Touch and Go, save that for another lesson you scamps) then, for me, the testicles of math-rock reside in Baltimore. Monitor Records house the delightful Battles and Bellini who have connections with Don Caballero (well before Damon Che left Bellini, silly boy).
Within their ranks they also have the noisy schizophrenic energetic little ragamuffins, The Oxes, who must be witnessed live but their Oxes EP and Oxxes LP are available, erm, around. The terrific “Half, Half, & Half” is down below and is a marvellous guitar and drum workout with tasty hi-hat trickery, discordant guitars and the occasional badger mating call. What more could you want? Also amongst the ranks of these luminaries are the up-starts Big Bear who make a hardcore tinged mathy noise (cf the originally titled “Track 1”).
However, Monitor do have a diversity of acts in their roster with the more conventional, yet pretty, indieness of Cass McCombs and the instrumental odd pseudo-tweeness of More Dogs if you like that sort of thing you weirdo. Monitor are essentially so indie it hurts sometimes but they do have some gems. The focus in this lesson has been on this one record label, but with competition in Baltimore being the “Hit-Dat Records” label amongst others, I think my concentration is well deserved.
Class dismissed.

[1] http://www.ci.baltimore.md.us/
[2] http://www.monitorrecords.com/



Bellini – Conflict Between the Fire and the Wet Wood (3.44MB) [from "Snowing Sun"]
Oxes – Half, Half, &Half (3.04MB) [from "Oxxes LP"]
Big Bear – Track 1 (5.01MB)
Cass McCombs – Sacred Heart (5.65MB) [from "PREfection"]

Sunday, July 24, 2005

vitaminsforyou

Okay, another pretentious as fuck post from me. I'll leave the MSPaint to the master.

Montreal. You know it. Whether you dig THAT band or not, you can't deny the city has become a veritable creative hotbed in the last couple of years. I mean, c'mon, Arts & Crafts!

Despite the success of many indie bands from the city, there's a burgeoning electronic scene that's not known much outside of Canada. Mitchell Akiyama, a classically trained musician who began dabbling in avant-garde electronic music more than five years ago, moved to the city and set up Intr_version Records to release his own work and those of 'désormais', a collaboration between Akiyama and Joshua Treble.

After impressing Akiyama at the Mutex festival in the city in 2002, Vitaminsforyou (aka Bryce Kushnier) was signed to the new label. His full-length, "I'm Sorry Forever And For Always" was released in 2003 to general critical acclaim. His MySpace profile proclaims his influences to be DNTEL, Mice Parade, Christian Fennesz and many, many more, and you can clearly hear these influences within his work. He takes a very detailed approach to production, very similar to DNTEL's almost ambient, widescreen canvases. He mixes in clicking, burbling beats, occasional live drums and guitar work, and his own heavily processed vocal to create an album of slowly evolving songs with a deeply melancholic feel to them.


pills, pills, pills, pills

More recently, Intr_version released "Desole Monsieur Soleil C'est La Neige Qui Va Me Liberer", a stopgap collection of four tracks. Featured are a truly amazing performance of "It's Only Snow, It's Only Sunshine" by the Wawa International Brass And Wind Orchestra (yes, brass and wind instruments recreating an entirely electronic track - check it out below), a Venetian Snares remix of "Annie & Nicky", a Blunderspublik remix of "It's Only Snow..", and a cover of a song by Montreal's most hyped band, "No Cars Go" (that's The Arcade Fire, for the hard of thinking).

If you are in any way a fan of this new breed of IDM artist that combines meshes clever songwriting and intricate and delicate production, you need to hear this. If you like DNTEL/The Postal Service, you need to hear this. If you don't like any of these things, then you still need to hear this.

Check out Vitaminsforyou's blog here.

Tracks:
It's Only Snow, It's Only Sunshine (with the Wawa International Brass and Wind Orchestra) (2.48Mb) [from "Desole Monsieur Soleil C'est La Neige Qui Va Me Liberer" on Intr_version]
Annie & Nicky (4.03Mb) [from "I'm Sorry Forever And For Always"]
Churchill (4.95Mb) [from "I'm Sorry Forever And For Always"]

Boris

Boris is a Japanese power trio that play music which people refer to as "stoner" or "drone" mixed with a pinch of "pychedelia" or "krautrock". But as always, the real truth is Boris, like all bands, can be placed quite happily in the genre of "schwererfelsen", as the French call it. The real truth of the matter is, Boris are HEAVY; not like "omfg, this bag is heavy" or "omg I can play KoRN songs" heavy, but Godzilla rampage heavy. An eloquent analogy and one that pushed me towards my next piece inspired by both 2002's heavy rocks and 2003's akuma no uta:


"I fell in love with every girl in a band I ever saw. Don't question it ya JERK!"
Medium: pastels, human excrement, hair follicles Canvas: 40" x 60" skinned rabbits


Comments: Well, there's a lot of things to discuss here. Boris are a band with a multitude of facets and talents and exactly like Boris, so have I. If you look closely, we can pick up the intensely immense epic saga-like appearance of the canvas (notice the difference in vertical and horizontal size which express disproportion of proportional space). Taking a step back we see that one of the members of Boris is apparently attacking the city of musictown; with closer inspection we realise that Boris is in fact shaping the world with subquanteous underterranian outerexternum beats of sound so deep and low in wavelength (that's bass, kids) they can only be brought to life by the visual representation of "laser eyes". Note the 'posers' unable to take a direct hit from the bass beam emanating from the retinas of the member of the band known as Boris.


I realize the use of text is somewhat out of place considering this is meant to be a visual-only piece but as I fear nothing about "trends" or "the man" and his own "rules about art" I've mixed the mediums of literacy and artigism meticulously.


As a final note, Boris are freaking awesome. It's pretty hard to get a hold of their stuff, but then again there is a reason you're scene kids.


Tracks:
Boris - Ibitsu (2.00mb) [from "Akuma no uta"]

The Robot Ate Me


"OMFG THIS ROXXXXXXOR"
Medium: Digital Oil Paints Canvas: 4" x 4" pixel board


Comment:
This is a picture I painted about my experiences with the band The Robot Ate Me and their latest album, Carousel Waltz. In all my years, after all the gigs and records I've seen and heard, I don't think I've ever come acro such a pleasing album, lusciously simple and honestly upbeat. Their songs sink into your veins like lysergic acid diethylamide and I used this as inspiration for this emotive piece. Here you can clearly see the "face" is made up of my physical (not my inner) face. Note the slightly askew eyes and rickety smile annotating the volatility of TRAM's sound. The rainbow is representative of the range of pretty sounds that The Robot Ate Me can make. The figure delicately cut from his surroundings is a member of said band. See how when he sings, beautiful black doves float serenely from his mouth (yes, that's a biblical reference to Noah and the bible).

All in all, this album is pretty much better than drugs. Like cannabis. So it's like a class C substance.

It's on 5RC. And that means they're scene. So go get it already!


Tracks:
The Robot Ate Me - Bad Feelings (2.70mb) [from "Carousel Waltz")

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Tiny Hawks!

After reading some guy's Audioscrobbler chart in my musical neighbours (like you do) and seeing Tiny Hawks really high up in the list, I wondered what the hell they were like. The name suggested twee indie pop, maybe some indie folk rock stuff - I was not prepared for a two-man guitar/drums hardcore assault that falls somewhere between a super-sped-up ..Trail Of Dead and the noise-attack of Hella/Lightning Bolt. Screamed, almost indeciperable vocals, hugely overdriven guitars that fill most of the frequency space, riffs that stop/start/thrash wildly about like fish on land make up this incredibly addictive record; it's so short (at under 15 minutes) you can't just listen to it once. There's so many great moments; the thundering breakdown of "The Things You Belong To And Those That Belong To You" conjures up Level Plane heros Gospel, the disjointed, stabbing guitars of "Are You The King Of Olives?" bring to mind Ghosts & Vodka if Victor Villareal had spent his early years as a hardcore guitarist.

Tiny Hawks are Gus and Art (no idea about surnames) from Olneyville, RI, and have been playing together for about two years. Check out an interview with them here. They've just released their debut 12" (called "Fingers Become Bridges") onto CD, out on Corleone Records, while the LP was released on Mogonono Records. I absolutely recommend ordering yourself one, as it's limited to 1000 copies.

(image taken from lotsofnoise.com)

Tracks:
The Things You Belong To And Those That Belong To You (2.87Mb) [from "Fingers Become Bridges on Corleone]
Whenzy (2.04Mb) [from "Fingers Become Bridges"]

Friday, July 22, 2005

Gaston.


I've been listening to a lot of math/postrock records recently, and enjoying the jazzier edge much more than that straight-laced, quiet-loud edge.

I recently stumbled across Gaston in the hunt for more stuff in this vein. Like the excellent Ganger, the band often use two basses to create a really unique sound - just listen to Hanjin and try and figure out at what points you're hearing bass and where you're hearing guitars. The drumming is superb as well; i'm reminded of Mice Parade's Mokoondi with its jazzy, complex feel.



The release I've got hold of is their debut on Beau Rivage called "What Time Does Your Train Leave Today?". You can pick up it from direct from their website. The record just flows together beautifully into this one big extended melodic workout.

Tracks:
Hanjin (4.51Mb) [from "What Time Does Your Train Leave Today?" on Beau Rivage]
Bobeck (3.62Mb) [from "#1", a 10" on Becalmed Records]
Cargo (4.27Mb) [from "#1"]

enter.

This will be my MP3 blog.

[edit] Okay, our MP3 blog. I'll write a load of pretentious crap, and El Papa here will provide us with his interpretations of bands via the under-appreciated medium of MSPaint.