telling the scene kids what to listen to since 2001.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

the beans - bassplayer

I've been listening to this record on and off for the last few months. whenever I'm spending some time concentrating on work (coding or revising, as the case may be). On paper, The Beans (one of many, many bands/artists to have recorded under that name) aren't a particularly interesting prospect - another post-rock band out of Vancouver, Canada; once did a 48-hour performance; unconventional instrumentation, etc. Basically, Godspeed. Sort of.

In reality The Beans create something that is truly refreshing. They're as jazz-influenced as bands like Do Say Make Think or Tortoise, but where those bands often fail is in creating a sensation of space, of pieces coalescing out of the aether rather than being strapped to beats. Laid-back brush drum grooves, thoughtful and minimal guitar work as well as delicate basslines drive this record.

The Bean's schtick is seriously improved by their production quality. Instruments sit beautifully in the mix, cymbals seeming to have their own frequency space, and the guitars sitting below them with a big fat low end. Reverb is used tastefully, far more tastefully than I've heard on many recent post-rock albums.

The opener, May 6th Expires, slinks along on a descending bassline and spacious drums, before breaking down into ambient keyboards and foreign radio samples. The continiously shifting theme keeps your interest, though the movements never feel contrived or designed, simply organic.

Galuda spends several minutes setting up a driving, trebly riff that combines with some deliciously martial drumming and tasteful Rhodes. The absolutely sublime Number Four drifts between simple basslines and surging guitars, the piece sounding as if it was composed on a beach somewhere in the Pacific. The brilliantly titled My Love Is A Rhinestone Infused Dodecahedron toys with folk riffage for nearly six minutes, before some very EITS-esque drumming lets the guitars and keyboard open up into spiralling, glassy crescendos - this three minute section should be Canada's new national anthem.

Monday, December 26, 2005

mordy - of'fruits

No, that's not a stray apostrophe in the title.

Mordy are part of the collective centred around Post_Post Records in Poland; as such, information for the non-Polish speaker is hard to come by. Little known outside their native country, the group are attempting to shake off the dour, poor image of Eastern Europe under Communist rule by experimenting with traditional Polish forms along with Western influences.

Mordy would fit into that incredibly broad category referred to by the lay music listener as "post-rock". In essence, they probably owe more to the "post-jazz" of bands like Do Say Make Think than the sound of traditional post-rock (Mogwai, Mono, et. al.) Drums are light and brushed, jabbing with off-beat snares dotting the landscape. The opener, Morskie Opowiesci, floats along on a gorgeous four-note guitar riff and broken jazz drumming. Brief sax interludes and high-fret basswork punctuate the early parts of the song, gradually becoming more and more complex. Drifting keyboards appear and disappear; the whole thing gives a wonderful feeling of movement, as if on a train.

Mordy - somewhere in Poland, maybe

The impossible-to-pronounce Deszcz that follows features sinister guitar parts with a distinct Eastern twinge, and whispered vocals that eventually become chromatic screams as the song dissolves into guitar noise and insane bass work.

Other tracks explore the slightly lounge edge of Mordy - Z Mozgu takes rimshots and smooth guitar and somehow makes something incredibly compelling out of them despite the lounge overtones. Zmora showcases their ability to write twisted pop in the same way as Electrelane; fuzzed-up bass and simplistic guitar patterns. Samurajski is probably the closest they get to traditional post-rock, with its swirling guitars and dischordant jazz sax that eventually compel the band to step on the distortion pedals and pound the crap out of their instruments. Good stuff.

A very interesting and unique record from a country you wouldn't normally think of as a bastion of musical experimentation. I shall be keeping a very close eye on these guys and their rather excellent label from now on.

Tracks

"Morskie Opowiesci" from the album "Of'Fruits", released on post_post (2003)
"Zmora" from the album "Of'Fruits"
(Plenty of tracks available here, though it's in Polish. Break out Google Translate and check it out.)

ryoji ikeda

I think as you get older, the entrenched lines of taste you had as a teenager get gradually eroded away until you're pretty much capable of finding the good in everything. I can remember a time when I would have dismissed any electronic music (dance, electronica, IDM, anything) as "fag music". Clearly I thought that only floppy-haired white boys with a Fender Tele their mother bought them could make valid, life-changing music. We were all like that once.

My enjoyment of truly minimal electronic music began when someone recommended Jan Jelinek's loop-finding-jazz-records to me. I rapidly became obsessed with it's seemingly effortless sea of gentle clicks and whirrs. Though by nature repetative, Jan keeps the listener's interest by subtly altering his loops, slowly and carefully, introducing more melodic elements, adding a slight phase to one beat, or maybe fading a synth line in over four or five minutes.

This highly-anticipated (so I'm told) new record by New York via Japan's Ryoji Ikeda is of a similar breed to Jan's earlier work. Ikeda's modus operandi with Dataplex is the exploration of the sound itself - the fragments of noise from which a track is contructed. As such, glitchy beats and barely-there melodic elements comprise the whole of this 55 minute piece.



I say 'beats', but what I really mean is a loose collection of sounds, sequenced in an order that provide some sort of semblence of structure. What Ikeda is very good at is using the whole frequency range to entertain your ears; very high pitched clicks, slight warbles, and incredibly deep bass parts make your speakers really work for it. Though a "concept" piece in nature, there is some of the nature of pop in Ikeda's work - catchy melodies (though unconventional in execution), syncopated beat workouts, and a series of innovative structures which he effortlessly glides between make this a memorable listen.

Though I'd normally hesistate to recommended something as pretentious as this (or at least, that appears to be this pretentious, if you get what I mean), this is actually a fine record - minimal electronica, exploring contemporary electronic music, but not doing it's best to turn the listener away; a refreshing change.