Anyone who has ever listened to Deerhoof knows that everyone in that group is ridiculously talented. I would think most fans also know that Deerhoof founding member and drummer Greg Saunier graduated from the Oberlin Conservatory with a degree in Music Composition in 1991. If, maybe, you didn’t know that, then hopefully it now sheds some light on the complex nature of the many rhythmic, harmonic, and melodic twists and turns throughout Deerhoof’s extensive output.
Well, this isn’t a Deerhoof album. This album is, rather, a collaboration between Deerhoof and Chicago-based 22-piece contemporary music group Dal Niente. The result is nothing short of stunning.
Marcos Balter’s compositions, the seven-part “meltDown Upshot” and “Pois que nada que dure, ou que durando” are every bit as complex and engaging as anything found in Deerhoof. Satomi Matsuzaki’s delicat voice, though normally in considerable contrast to Deerhoof’s unbridled, and sometimes thrashing arrangements, is actually complemented here by the orchestration.
On “meltDown Upshot: Part 5, Home” Matsuzaki is accompanied by piano and violins before a distant sounding shuffling snare enters, sounding like an intimate lounge engagement. At the next vocal entrance the voice is doubled by horn, with the ensemble continuing to grow, eventually including glassy, sul tasto string work.
Many of the “meltDown Upshot” songs benefit from a similar treatment, orchestrating in Saunier’s virtuosic drumming, but never placing it in the spotlight. Instead his snare work manages to remain within its place as ensemble backing. Saunier’s trademarked pushing and pulling of the downbeat is kept in check; obviously an element of his style that may work within the context of a four-piece live rock band, but not so much with a twenty-two piece ensemble.
“Pois que nada que dure, ou que durando” I just want to mention because of its use of quarter-tones as prime melodic material. That’s not the only thing that sets this work apart from the “meltDown Upshot” pieces, as “Pois que…” is orchestrated much more spaciously. An air of experimentation surrounds this work, much like some of Deerhoof’s extended works that usually grace the latter third of their albums.
The twenty-plus minute “Deerhoof Variations” works really well at tying several separate ideas from across several songs and albums into one unified work. It’s interesting to hear many of the band’s ideas cast in a much different light.
Get Dal Niente & Deerhoof: “Balter/Saunier”
The album was released last April. You can find it digitally or on CD on Bandcamp; or simply digitally on iTunes, and Amazon. You can also hear the album in its entirety above.
It’s always pretty exciting when a band comes out with an album that is so expansive in its vision that even after listening to the first four tracks you still don’t have much of an idea of what the band is really about. Each track gives you another glimpse into what is possible, and only then can you start to appreciate what is really going on here.
Hello Ocho’s self-titled album actually came out in 2013, and features 13 songs nearly impossible to place into one single genre. I guess we could use the catch-all “psychedelic,” but that doesn’t really make an effort toward clarifying what is really going on here. Songs like “Stickin’ to the Sheets” are created out of a single idea that continually grows over a persistent foundational pulse like what you would expect from kraut-rock inspired minimalist rock. It’s rhythmically driven, and concerned primarily with its propulsion than it is with sticking to a typical, strict song structure.
We immediately shift from the more or less psychedelic, kraut-rock-yness of “Stickin’ to the Sheets” to the bluesy vocal melodies of “Song Gafe’.” There is a considerable amount of focus on the structure here, with an emphasis on more or less refrain based vocals and a pretty catchy hook. Although, that all starts to fall away eventually as the song comes to a close.
From here on out the album becomes a bit more of an instrumental exploration. “Fandancy” and “Charles Romanson” are a bit more experimental, but they are followed by the Animal Collective-ish sound of “Whomp.” Sure, that one is pretty experimental too, but there are also elements of great melodic thinking going on too; once again we’re focusing more on the melodic line here than the structure itself. There are catchy hooks, but somehow outside of the context of a pop-tune format. This works though, it works its strange magic, as everything shifts from one idea to the next, balancing melodic craftsmanship with psychedelic experimentalism along the way.
Hello Ocho’s self-titled album came out in 2013, but there are still copies available in vinyl, both clear and black, available from the Hello Ocho bandcamp page. They also have a bit of a teaser for an upcoming release “In Portuguese,” with a 2 minute sample of a funky, electronic freak out. You can check that one out below. Head to their bandcamp page to get a copy of their self-titled album on vinyl, or as a digital download.
I find it really hard to believe that, according to last.fm, Abram Shook has fewer than 500 plays, with only 171 people (including myself) having scrobbled at least one of his tracks. His album “Sun Marquee” is full of laid back, sunny tunes that any listener would find impossible to resist. With his laid back delivery and lush production this is the kind of album that deserves to be in heavy rotation, and might even help to quell the depression that usually sets in this deep into the winter.
Saying that his delivery is laid back might be somewhat misleading, as his delivery isn’t anything less than earnest, but one can be earnest and delicate at the same time, can’t they? The delicate delivery, and the precision of the guitar line, not to mention the production on tracks like “Taken” bring to mind Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s sound-world. But in there, amongst the swirl of guitars and the hushed vocals is a bass-groove that eases its way to the fore with flashes of grooving virtuosity. Take “Hangover,” a song that is, at least instrumentally speaking, completely driven by the bass. While the guitar and voice work together to create layers of melody and harmony until they mix together in an ethereal wash of sound, the bass envelops that entire sound and takes the lead. And “Distance,” from above, is much the same way with an effortless bass-line taking hold, sounding like Nate Brenner (tUnE-yArDs) is laying it down.
Every single track opens up new possibilities. Following “Hangover” is “Coastal,” where we find Shook’s voice moving from Washed Out territory to that of Mark Bolan. The falsetto is the same, but the overall timbre, and the doubling, bring out some previously hidden, rougher, attributes.
Throughout “Sun Marquee” a jazz influence is right out front, and when you take the mastery of an instrument that is required for playing that repertoire, combine it with a little rock and chillwave production, then the resultant sound is pretty captivating to say the least. It’s a complex collage that is impossible to pinpoint exactly. With all the comparisons listed above, we can add that “Black Submarine” adds a little Dave Longstreth to the vocals, and even to the guitar playing, with playing that takes sudden dramatic and unexpected shifts like one would expect from Dirty Projectors.
“Sun Marquee” is out now via Western Vinyl as a CD or LP that includes a digital download. Check out the tracks above and click the links below to learn more.
This band was just brought to my attention today and my first reaction (after about somewhere between 1 and 1.0001 seconds within hearing their stuff) was that I had to write about them.
I’m literally looking stuff up about them as we speak, but I think that it would be better if I just sort of let the videos do the talking. There are a bunch of live clips of Child Abuse playing at Death By Audio over the years. From what I can gather the situation we have here is that if you like Lightning Bolt, then you are going to love Child Abuse. Noisy, loud, distorted beyond seemingly all comprehension, unintelligible lyrics and more fierce energy than normal humans can muster in a week, right there on stage in moments.
There’s a pretty OK interview with them here where they discuss classifying their music as a hybrid of jazz and metal and “a bunch of other stuff. Everything really.” It does have elements of math-rock and thrash with the stop-start spasming of rhythm with the occasional quasi-blast beats coming forth nonchalantly from the drummer. To be honest, the entire band makes this music seem effortless, though this is not “easy” music, either to perform or to digest. Child Abuse is most certainly not making background music.
Obviously the most important thing is to listen to them. Their first album is available through Rococo Records.
I’ve written about these guys before when they were trying to raise funds to produce a new release. In that time they finished recording and pressing “Forever Hammer” a 4 song, 18 minute, EP of finely crafted jazz/metal/prog/fusion….well, they simply refer to it as “lungcore” and you should too.
In celebration of this latest release the band will be playing a show on August 16 at the Littlefield in Brooklyn, NY. Tickets are currently on sale and at $10 – $12 they are a steal! Also on the bill is Gato Loco and the Hirschfeld/Nazary Duo.
I’ve had the EP for a few months now, being that I dutifully contributed to the Kickstarter project and it’s great to hear them continuing to evolve their sound. The level of musicianship is way beyond anything else out there, and there really is no band that even comes close to playing anything resembling Jerseyband’s type of music. They are a genre unto themselves.
Unfortunately it looks like their web presence hasn’t been updated much since the release of their last full-length, the phenomenal “Beast-Wedding” from 2009, that can be heard in its entirety on their Bandcamp page. Their past releases “Little Bag of Feet for Shoes” and the live album “Lungpunch Fantasy” can also be heard on the site too.
If you are in NYC, go to this show, you’ll be sorry if you don’t.
Colin Stetson is a saxophonist that is clearly out of his mind.
Sax players, in my experience, are a divided lot. They usually either stay on the side of jazz or classical and never the twain shall meet. More accurately, they will stick with party lines and immediately show their loyalty to their chosen side by hating the other group with every ounce of expendable energy that they have. This means that any energy that is left over after obsessive study of all things saxophone is dedicated to speaking down to the other side. I feel as though Colin Stetson may be an exception to that rule, or maybe he just didn’t get the memo. He clearly doesn’t think that there is a need to take a side. Perhaps he is creating a new side, because his music sounds like nothing I have ever heard before. If all contemporary composition for the sax sounded like this I would actually pay attention to contemporary compositions for the sax.
His music is a non-stop barrage of sound that searches for, and finds, ways to make a unilinear instrument such as his sound polyphonic. It’s not that it just sounds that way, it is. Stetson employs not only a complex melodic line that pops out over a sea of supporting, textural, notes; he uses everything that his instrument and he himself physically has to offer. Percussive key clicks serve as not only drums of sorts, but mimic the pitch and timbre characteristics of the pizzicato plucking of a double bass. Multiphonics, or complex clusters of pitches sounded simultaneously as a result of overblowing certain key combinations, help to not only thicken the sound, but provide unique colors to certain parts of a song.
The circular breathing technique, which is essentially breathing out while breathing in concurrently, means that there doesn’t have to be a single break in his melodic line. Ever. For minutes at a time the notes just flow. It’s remarkable.
While all of these things are great, they don’t make a song in and of themselves. All of these things would mean so much less if they weren’t coming from a virtuosic performer of such a high caliber.
“A Dream of Water” takes off like a rocket and doesn’t let up. Melodies are hidden inside other melodies, weaving in and out of each other. There is a constant flurry of septuplets rolling through the air while a plain-spoken voice enters, noting observations and asking some questions: “There were those who knew only the sound of their own voices, there were those who knew the rules, there were those who freed their bodies…what was it? What was it?” The voice doesn’t simply make the track more accessible to a certain extent but also serves to haunt the listener, making the pervasive rapid notes carry more weight.
With “Home” the percussive techniques are amped up while the general mood is considerably more sedate. Colin sings through his instrument, humming in a way that transforms the saxophone partially into a theremin in its thin and straight tone. He also sings on the track “Judges”, but there it is a bit more like a growl or a choked scream. His ability to circular breathe isn’t just used to crank out a million notes without stopping, but also to lay down a single foundational pitch like the flat bass pedal tone that remains throughout “Lord I just can’t keep from crying” while a soulful spiritual is sung over top. His inhaling can be heard while the bass note continues to grow louder and more intense while this time the sax seems to take on the sound of a didjeridoo.
An entire ensemble of percussive tongue slaps, key clicks, and growls are summoned in “Red Horses” while “The righteous wrath of an honorable man” is pure blazing virtuosity, fingers flying all over across (this time) silent keys. The notes pop and squeal, leaping out of the furiously fast line. The work on this piece is truly awe inspiring. Starting from nowhere and then soaring for two and a half minutes at breakneck speed before abruptly stopping. The end comes suddenly as a car slamming into a brick wall at 80 miles an hour with nary a note out of place.
The album closes with a track that layers multiphonics atop an endless pedal tone, just as in “Lord I just can’t keep from crying”. Here, however, multiphonics slowly turn to a growl as the volume grows, sounding like something between an overdriven guitar and a siren, until eventually the track slowly fades away.
One of the many great things about this album is that Stetson’s bag of tricks doesn’t grow tired by albums end. His technique is flawless and his songs are multifaceted. There is just so much to listen to and so much to listen for. On the one hand it’s great to just sit back and listen to all of the notes fly by in some of the tracks. Another listen and one can begin to hear the different melodies weaving through each other; another ten listens can easily be spent marveling at how he put this all together without recording over himself a million times.
This album has me spellbound in amazement at his superhuman abilities. “New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges” is quite an astoundingly daring, creative and virtuosic masterpiece of an album.
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Music has the ability to take on a character of its own and often the musicians that are creating it feel that they are a different person while in the studio. This much is quite true for hip-hop producer RJD2 whose instrumental album “We Are the Doorways” was released under the moniker The Insane Warrior.
According to an entry on his blog he wants us to think of The Insane Warrior as “a completely different dude”. He even goes as far as imagining that he wanted, at one point, to create different names for the artists that are responsible for creating all of the material that he himself is releasing. This makes sense; if an album is written, performed and produced all by the same guy, but the music changes wildly from one album to the next why not change the name of the artist accordingly? The binding element is that they will all be released, as “We Are the Doorways” is, as an RJD2 production. Similar to how Kevin Drew and Co. have released solo albums in association with Broken Social Scene. This could be a great gambit for getting consumers to become fans of a certain “brand” of music while allowing performers and producers to indulge their every whim of creativity. But I digress.
“We Are the Doorways” is a keyboard driven instrumental album with improvisatory, jazz inflicted breaks contained within a usually steady dance groove that serves as the foundation. The lead synth sounds are thick and fat with a crunch that is reminiscent of something from 1980’s television like Knight Rider, especially on the track “Within the Maze”. The character of much of the music holds equal footing in kitschy 80’s vintage and ultra-modern jazz/prog-rock fusion with a lot of energy. There are spots that border on the chugging motorik rhythm of krautrock as well, but there is more of a looseness in the compositions than krautrock would normally allow.
There is a lot of sonic ground covered in the course of the album. This only seems appropriate considering his desire to create enough differing music to substantiate a name change for each release. It is exciting to hear from an artist that is a prolific musician with a need for incessant creation. The album just sounds good. There is space in the mix, and nothing is ever crowded or overbearing. The drum sound is clean and dry with no reverb that I can detect on anything. This flies in the face of most records coming out today. I think that it is this dry sound that keeps the synth sounds from being cheesy or over-saturated with some sort of sentimental emotion. The dry sound has the extra added effect of tightening up the sound, giving it a more mechanical feel but still maintaining a looseness in the music, much like a jazz ensemble. The Insane Warrior is both tight and loose in all the right places.
Despite the change in sounds from track to track RJD2…errr The Insane Warrior does not usually mess with the structure of the songs. They are usually in a sort of Verse/Chorus/Verse setting. Stagnation can be more noticeable without lyrics to fall back on, and rather than have a constant solo he chooses to vary the “Verses” slightly and places some interesting diversional sections in between familiar material and never goes on too long. It seems as though he is aware of the limitations of instrumental music in that regard.
Tracks like “Black Nectar” and the aforementioned “Within the Maze” are studies in contrast in and of themselves. “Black Nectar” begins with a recurring ostinato over which a jazz flute solo appears. The flute only makes a brief showing in this one track, thankfully. Following the forgivingly brief flute solo is a spacey, amorphous section whose dark tone contrasts sharply with the majority of the album; it sounds like something that could have appeared on the Blade Runner soundtrack. Meanwhile “Saint Ignatius Belsse” features calimba, glockenspiel and vibraphone in a thin texture that makes the music seemingly float on air. As soon as the drums kick in the piece begins to swing like Milt Jackson’s Modern Jazz Quartet.
There is no better way to describe “The Mountain” than to say that it sports a raunchy 70’s porn groove before zooming into a slick guitar lead. The guitar here, used sparingly on the album, adds another interesting timbre to the increasingly complex sonic landscape being created across the album. The guitar tone and style sounds like “Three Friends” era Gentle Giant with a combination of the crunchy synth. The album, at first listen, reminds me to a certain extent of the work of Squarepusher with the fast paced virtuosic bass playing replaced with the soundworld of the late 70’s and early 80’s krautrock and prog of Triumvirat and Gentle Giant combined with the improvisatory nature of more recent act The New Deal.
The Insane Warrior’s “We Are the Doorways” is an ever changing, synth heavy, instrumental surge of energy with a virtuosic zeal that seems to hop gleefully from one genre to the next while maintaining a truly unique sound all its own.
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