Category Archives: 2013

Stream: not the Wind, not the flag – “the starmaker”

It took me a really long time to get into the music of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and there were a few reasons why. First of all everyone that I ever came into contact was absolutely ecstatic about them and would insist repeatedly that I listen to them. That’s strike one. The other thing that I couldn’t get my head around was why the songs had to be 20+ minutes long. I didn’t have the patience. Get me to the loud, fast parts and then let me be on my way.

Obviously a lot has changed, and after seeing them live I finally “got” it. It’s really about the journey. Not the Wind, Not the Flag are crafting songs that are just that: about the journey.

Things are considerably freer here than on anything that you would find on, say, a Godspeed album. The sound is rawer, more exciting, more alive. As you listen you can hear the songs coming into focus, taking shape and continuing in a logical trajectory. Just listening to the gradual buildup of “many monsters stand between us” as it grows louder and more active, full of distortion and just about to boil over with feedback I’m waiting for the guitar to just break away and soar into a solo. When the short burst of virtuosic guitar comes to the front it’s heavily shrouded in the noise and feedback atmosphere from where it came. And just as gradually and organically as the song grew, it returns to the somber, echoed and chorused guitar chord swells that began the track.

This is a duo that makes a lot of noise, and they definitely know how to fill a space. It’s almost equal parts Lightning Bolt and free-jazz freak out. The next track takes a much different approach, adding saxophone to the mix for a lot more of a melodically driven composition. That song, “in the province of the mind, there are no limits” is a whole other beast completely.

Definitely worth checking out. Listen above or head over to their bandcamp page. There are some other releases on there for you to listen to, though “the starmaker” from last year is their most recent. Keep an eye out for them if you are in the Toronto area.

Stream: Video Daughters – “Whiteness Where the Water Was”

I’ve already written about my love for all things that come out on Already Dead Tapes, so now it only seems appropriate to continue reviewing everything that I’ve heard from them. Maybe my mission is to keep listening to their output until I find something that I don’t like. We’ll have to wait and see when that happens.

Today we’ve got Video Daughters, out of NYC. Their latest, “Whiteness Where the Water Was” from this past October, is a blurry amalgam of no-wave sensibilities that find a way to combine noisier elements of avant-garde performance with psychedelic pop songs. Take, for example, their track “Winter Skies Smell Like June” with its weighty bass line slogging through the intro while guitars explode in every direction, barely harnessed. “January Sun” continues, with a persistent warped looped effect underneath a denser layer of guitars that slide in and out of key without making room for the vocals. Everything is sliding around by half-step, creating a really unsettling backdrop. There are instances where the anarchy breaks down between sections where the song hints at an obscured hook that never quite materializes.

Video Daughters is Mike Green and Scott Townsend covering all the instruments, and samples with vocals that cover a lot of ground from atonal screams to singing reminiscent of Tim Kinsella in the track “No Hot Coals.”

The tape is currently available on Already Dead Tapes limited to 50 copies, as well as from the band’s own Bandcamp as a download or a CD-R with handmade packaging. If you head over to the bandcamp page you can find some earlier releases from the band as well.

Video Daughters can also be found on Facebook.

Stream/Purchase: Sun Angle – “Diamond Junk”

Sun Angle - "Diamond Junk"

Sun Angle – “Diamond Junk”

WOAH! This was a good find, and a complete accident to boot. I think this marks the first time that a site has said “you may also like…” and gotten it right.

Last night, as I was writing while listening to a track on soundcloud, after which the site decided to start playing things it thought were similar. Though this isn’t similar really at all to what I was listening to, it sure is a damn good find. And it gets better too, as the band, Sun Angle, is from Portland. Close enough.

I only wish that I could have somehow come to know about this band earlier, as their debut album was released back in November. Better late than never.

Somehow the mix of jammy tendencies with psychedelia and a surf-rock vibe makes complete sense. It makes more than sense, it works incredibly well. I’m picking up a distinctly Akron/Family influenced sound. Title track, “Diamond Junk,” could fit on Akron’s “Meek Warrior” for sure. The sound is perpetually in danger of going into the red, and everything is just ringing and feeding back, creating a beautiful, energetic sound that is exploding with ideas. And that one note in the opening ascending guitar line that becomes somewhat of a motive; that note just sounds so shockingly wrong upon first listen. Listen for about 5 more seconds, though, and it sounds so very right.

“Raspberry” places the jam band-type sound up front at the very beginning with it’s bass groove and sharply echoed guitar. Though, it isn’t very long before the distortion comes blasting to the surface, obliterating everything in its path. “Time Snakes” similarly starts out with the understated bass, a complete fake out before the surf-rock/Bow-Wow-Wow guitar comes in, drums rumbling behind at breakneck speed. It’s got that ramshackle quality, where it sounds as though the entire thing might fall apart at any second, that I wish more bands would embrace. These guys are really putting themselves out there on a tight-rope and taking chances.

I know that there are only 3 songs here, but I am still just sitting here listening to them over and over trying to figure out which one is my favorite. I think that the only answer for me is going to be to buy the album. It’s out now on vinyl, CD and cassette at New Moss Records. Come to find out, their lineup is pretty great. But, more on that later. And, on a side note, I’m wondering if this album is a response to that one Supergrass album

Buy//New Moss Records//Soundcloud//

Stream: John Dwyer – “Eggs at Night” and my Top 10 Thee Oh Sees tracks

John Dwyer - "Hubba Bubba"
John Dwyer – “Hubba Bubba”

Frontman of Thee Oh Sees, John Dwyer, is releasing a solo album entitled “Hubba Bubba.” You can hear the synth heavy (more like exclusively synth) track “Eggs at Night” below.

Last month Thee Oh Sees announced from the stage that “This will be the last Oh Sees show for a long while. So dig in.” I learned about it on twitter and quickly started to feel panic set in. It was impossible for me to fathom not having a few new albums by Thee Oh Sees coming out at the steady clip that they have been for the past several years. I see them as the lynchpin that holds the San Francisco scene together. When we all heard that the band was going on a break at first we all went to the worst cast scenario, which would be that we would never hear from them again (though that seems absolutely ridiculous thinking about it now. There is no way that John Dwyer could be away from music for any length of time, let’s be honest. So even if there weren’t any Thee Oh Sees shows he would still be creating music in some form, either solo or with Ty Segall. By the way, why hasn’t that happened yet? That seems like an obvious matchup…but I digress) and then we all came to the realization that a “long while” for a band like Thee Oh Sees, that have been touring non-stop for the past 5 years, is probably only a few months.

So I’m not intending this post to be a send-off to Thee Oh Sees by any stretch. I just want to take a minute and maybe get some other people interested in the band that may only have a passing familiarity with them. Thee Oh Sees are probably the last band that I have gotten really heavily, obsessively into, after seeing them only one time I was hooked. Their live show is amazing, and I can’t even begin to imagine how tiring it must be for them to do it over and over and over again. Not just tiring from the physical standpoint, but also add to that the fact that they are typically playing a very similar set night after night. It’s become noticeable of late that the jammy extensions of songs are getting jammier, which I think might be a way for the band to try to find new ways to keep things interesting. I’m assuming that this time away is just going to result in throwing all of the old songs out of the set-list and starting over again. Clear it out and start again.

With that in mind, I’d like to give my top 10 tracks by Thee Oh Sees. Sure, some of them are in regular rotation on their (former) set-list, but I don’t think that their live show really gives an idea of the band’s range.

1. “No Spell” off of their most recent album, 2013’s “Floating Coffin.” Now, it is really hard to choose a song from this album, there are just so many great tunes. “No Spell” sits toward the middle of the album, tucked away between songs that are more typical Oh Sees fare. I think that what really does it for me is the textless “chorus.” It’s just different enough from anything that they have ever done, and just has a great emotional grab to it. It’s not the typical structure that one would come to expect either.

No Spell

2. “Tidal Wave” from a 7″ b/w “Heart Sweats.” Short and sweet and right to the point. The clipped guitar style in the verse with the slap-back echo that bursts into another textless chorus with John’s yell. It’s just catchy as hell, and may go unnoticed by some because it doesn’t appear on an album….though it has probably been heard by more people than any other song of theirs thanks to it being used in Breaking Bad.

Tidal Wave

3. “Enemy Destruct” from “Help.” There are few bands that know how to open an album as well as Thee Oh Sees do. This is definitely a set-list staple, and for good reason. The guitar stomps through each beat with great intensity. Noisy throughout, and heavy.

Enemy Destruct
4. “Stinking Cloud” from “Castlemania.” This album just doesn’t fit in with any of the others. It’s experimental for them. John sings in an affected croak, saxophones and flutes appear on many of the songs, there are acoustic tracks that trot out a distinct Kinks influence. This track in particular is a bit of a slow burn, with some oddly insightful lyrics.

Stinking Cloud

5. “The Dream” from “Carrion Crawler/The Dream.” This album is the one. If you need to know where to start with this band, this is it. And this song is maybe their best live. You have to imagine this songs going almost twice as fast when it’s played live. And as soon as those opening chords start to ring out in all their open-stringed glory, all hell is about to break loose and you had better hold on.

The Dream

6. “Lupine Dominus” from “Putrifiers II.” This one let’s the not-quite hidden krautrock come out, sounding closer to something that Cave would release, but it still makes complete sense. Psych-krautrock.

Lupine Dominus

7. “I Was Denied” from “Warm Slime.” Another anthemic live staple. How could you even go wrong with a song that has a line “I got fucked up, suffice to say. la la la la la, lalalala la, lalalala la, lalala la…” Bonus points for the brief freakout toward the middle of the song.

I Was Denied

8. “Toe Cutter-Thumb Buster” from “Floating Coffin.” Amazing opening. The last time that I saw them live this is the track with which they opened. The piercing squeal of feedback followed by the bone-crushing low end distortion is something that can’t be beat and will never not be effective.

Toe Cutter – Thumb Buster

9. “Meat Step Lively” from “Help.” Another live regular, though they don’t include the flute part live.

Meat Step Lively

10. “The Coconut” from “The Master’s Bedroom is Worth Spending a Night In.” I picked this one just because it is another one of those songs that show the band stretching out and trying new things. It’s moody, a bit slower, and focuses a bit more on vocal harmonies and lengthier, more legato melodies in the verses.

The Coconut

Supposedly, despite the hiatus (JPD insists that the band is not breaking up), there will be a new album released within the next month or two. I will definitely be covering that as soon as I can get my hands on it. Until then, enjoy these, and enjoy the solo track.

Stream/Download: Brutal Truth/Bastard Noise – “The Axiom of Post Inhumanity”

Brutal Truth/Bastard Noise - "The Axiom of Post Inhumanity"
Brutal Truth/Bastard Noise – “The Axiom of Post Inhumanity”

It is no secret that I am a fan of noise music. I’ve written on the topic more than a few times and I often find myself listening to varying levels of “noise” at home. For some reason I never think of it as anything other than something that is pretty experimental, and therefore in a genre of its own. I never have thought about the implications that noise music may have as a way of reinterpreting a genre, or as using those implications to align itself to a genre. It’s understandable that this could be a next step, having noise stand in where other older forms and music/semiotic indicators have grown tired and been wrung dry of any meaning.

Sure, it is experimental, and it is always going to be fairly experimental to present noise as music in and of itself. But if we are to re-imagine noise as yet another degree of abstraction (something I have also already talked about on here) then why can’t noise fit into the genre of, say, metal, instead of just being something that only comments on itself, or is merely interpreted as a challenge to everything else?

Late last year, on November 11th, two bands, Brutal Truth and Bastard Noise, compiled a split album entitled “The Axiom of Post Inhumanity” and it works to do exactly what I described in the last paragraph. Noise, on this album, stands in for brutal de-tuned guitar crunch and growled, grind-core vocals. I think that presenting music this way brings a whole new depth to both noise music as well as metal. The noise, for lack of a better term, means something before it’s even heard. And, presented in this context, the album is free to explore all of the many possibilities that noise has to offer, much in the same way that a metal album might be shaped. From all consuming intensity to sound that echoes across barren wastelands, the abstraction of sound is starting to bring itself back around to the point that it’s not heard merely as that abstraction. This is an interesting, and exciting, step in the evolution of metal.

There is definitely a lot of stuff to grab onto with this album. Many of the tracks are over 7 or 8 minutes long, but each of them is a gripping and intricate display of experimental noise as metal, or maybe it’s metal as experimental noise. Either way, this split is worth a listen. Check it out above.

Some Christmas Songs

[Ed: January 9, 2014: I love when a site gives you something to share and then almost immediately takes it down.]
For those of you that do, or even those of you that don’t celebrate Christmas, here is a collection of songs put together by Burger Records that is sure to get your holiday party off to a good start. This 3+ hour compilation of Burger Records artists is perfect for any year end get together. Just start it up and let it play all afternoon.

And as a bonus, check out the Christmas themed track by Sonic Youth, “Santa Doesn’t Cop Out On Dope.” Give a listen below, then go get drunk on egg-nog (try it with Malort) and try not to pay attention to anything that your racist uncle is rambling on about.

“…on Donner, on Blitzen, but never on smack….”

Stream/Download: Twin Peaks – “Flavor b/w Come Bother Me”

Twin Peaks - "Flavor b/w Come Bother Me"
Twin Peaks – “Flavor b/w Come Bother Me”

As I continue to play through all of my favorite releases of the year, trying to put together some sort of end of year compilation, the release that I come back to almost every day is Twin Peaks’ debut LP “Sunken.” I think that I’m going to have to say definitively that that is my favorite release of the year. My one complaint about “Sunken,” though, is that it’s way too short, but I guess that this tiny little single can tide me over until 2014 with its expansive 4 minutes and 17 seconds of material. I’m just going to consider these two songs as “Sunken” bonus tracks.

Both “Flavor” and “Come Bother Me” are considerably more poppy, and considerably less washy/reverbed out. You can take a quick listen to both the tracks above, and then you can head over to the bandcamp page to drop $1 on a download, or send it as a last minute gift.

According to the bandcamp site the single was released on cassette via Tripp Tapes this past Friday, December 20th with a 7″ via Jeffery Drag Records coming soon.

You can buy “Sunken” over here on CD, vinyl, or as a digital download. Check out the video for “Stand In the Sand” off of that album below.