Tag Archives: new

New Release: Exotic Club – “No Dance”

Exotic Club - "No Dance"
Exotic Club – “No Dance”


Exotic Club’s dark dance music is an intoxicating mix of seemingly mismatched elements. “Alienation,” clearly visible against a dark night-time sky as backdrop. The album art is a perfect description the music contained within.

Well, it’s dance music for sure, while at the same time the effect of disassociation can not be overlooked. Exotic club uses the clean drum machine sounds and buzzing synths of a dance club, adding dark sounding, low and cavernously echoing vocals. When combined with the dancier elements the vocals seem to eschew the very aesthetic against which they are placed. The poppy, upbeat dance beats are not just countered, but downright denied. This is, as the title of the album states, no dance album. It’s dance music that is brooding and dark rather than the light, vapid instrumentals of the music that typifies a dance club. It’s dance music that’s run through an Interpol “Turn on the Bright Lights” filter.

I know that as I started to dig into this tape I found myself overcome with a sense of, maybe not anxiety, but more of a cautious and contemplative paranoia. Exotic Club has really found a direct line to some strange emotive places seldom explored. The desperately pleading vocals that come out of this dark texture, with lyrics such as “it’s Friday night, it’s Friday night, on the dance floor,” on “Lost in Music” that seem on the surface, reading them right there, like they are inviting and celebratory, but the delivery thwarts that interpretation in its droned repetition. The surface of the music, the danceable beats, drum machine hand claps, and buzzing synths paint a picture of a carefree night, while the lyrics and their delivery seem to simultaneously mock it. Ok, mock is a strong word, but listening to the track I think that the lyrics would be better translated as “it’s Friday night and you are supposed to be having a good time on the dance floor, so go have a good time because that is what it is that you are supposed to be doing.” Obviously, their lyric is better.

The robotic exactitude of the arrangement aids in the disassociation, by stripping away any human element, giving a deeper meaning to the coerced good time that the song is suggesting. Taking it out of the club is the track “American Zombies.” It uses the mechanical instrumental arrangement and dark atmosphere to comment on American consumer culture. “Runnin’ around in circles at the Walgreens, toothless smiles…,” listing off the automaton gestures that dominate the vast majority of American’s lives, and repeating each of these things line by line in a trancelike mantra, urging against deviation. Must consume. Must obey. “Forever, forever….forever….” as it is heard echoing into infinity at the conclusion of the track.

Melodies swirl and beats pulse, but don’t for one second take the music on Exotic Club’s “No Dance” as a given.

The tape, featuring a B-side full of remixes, is out now on Crash Symbols. Head over to their bandcamp to pick up a copy (only 100 made), or to download it if you aren’t into the whole physical media thing.


New songs: Sharon Van Etten – “Live at Pickathon 2013”

Sharon Van Etten
Sharon Van Etten

Sharon Van Etten recently played the final show of her tour here in Oregon. The Pickathon is a yearly music festival that happens outside of Portland. This year the festival was on August 4th and we have a really good recording of the entire set. Even more exciting is that this recording provides some really high quality versions of a few new songs that Sharon played that afternoon.

The first song, on my recording simply labeled “New Song” as she opens the set with it and doesn’t introduce it, but I think a fair bet is that the song is going to be called “I Know.” It’s a great choice for a set opener with just Sharon singing at the piano, her voice confident and stronger than ever. She moves effortlessly between a subdued, soft voice drawing us in, and a powerful full-voiced near shout at the top of her range before seeming to calm herself down singing “I know…..I know.” The dynamic play pushes and pulls us through the song, while melismatic turns casually float by before coming to an end with Sharon softly singing “all I ever wanted was you.”

I Know

Abut the other new track, “Tarifa,” Sharon explains,

 “this next song is about a vacation, it’s a new one that we’ve been working on, it’s call Tarifa….it’s [in Spain] on a fucking cliff overlooking Morocco,  but it is amazing – in the middle of nowhere. There was a bunch of bulls, that I was afraid of, in the pasture next to me, but they could give a shit that I was there. They didn’t try to run me over or anything weird. I had to ask my boyfriend, I was like ‘can I wear red? Are they gonna charge at me?’ They didn’t. I tried it out. It was fine. Anyway, this song is about that.”

It’s more fleshed out than “I Know,” beginning with Sharon and her guitar, and the rest of the band soon following. The verses move through a gentle waltz, while the choruses are more concerned with driving straight ahead.


And while you are checking those out, you should also head over to this site to purchase a t-shirt designed by Sharon with all of the proceeds going to charity.

“The artwork used is one of my early contour drawings when I first moved to New York and the charity chosen is Women in Need (WIN). WIN transforms the lives of New York City homeless women and their children by providing a holistic solution of safe housing, critical services and ground-breaking programs they need to succeed on their own – so the women can regain their independence and their children can look forward to a brighter future.”


Sharon Van Etten designed Yellow Bird Project t-shirt
Sharon Van Etten designed Yellow Bird Project t-shirt

So there you have it. Two new songs and a way to help a great charity. This is where I would normally say “you can catch her on tour” but, like I said, the tour is over. Look for the album within the year. You’ll forget by then, but I’ll remind you.


Album Review: Cindy Lee – “Tatlashea”

Cindy Lee
Cindy Lee

Like I said two days ago, that the next day I was going to write about the other band that was formed after the dissolution of Women, well that was before I found out that Lightning Bolt had released a new track. I’m always one for keeping things as current as possible, so I allowed myself to get a little off track.

Well since Viet Cong formed with Mike Wallace and Matt Flegel (among others, of course) we should now talk about Pat Flegel’s new project, Cindy Lee.

First off this is far more experimental than anything that Women ever did, and it seems that it is going to stand as far more experimental than what Viet Cong is doing (though, to be fair, that album hasn’t come out yet, but I’m just making the assumption based on the track). The album, only available as a digital download now that the cassette has sold out, reminds me at first of the first Sonic Youth album.

Album opener “Fuck Myself Stupid” features a noisy growl of a guitar that sounds as if it has been treated to some preparation of some sort a la “Lee is Free” (I can’t help but allude to Sonic Youth) and that is combined with some moaning as the song continues to grow louder, building to the end. We do start to get some more or less traditional songs on the album, however. Of course I am using that as a relative term.

“Find Another Man” may have a steady beat, (shoddily tuned) rhythm guitar and some vocals, but it is similarly out there. The lead guitar wanders, twanging in the background while the bass holds down a circular steady eighth note pattern. Devolving into chaos little by little, Flegel coaxes eerie sounds from his guitar until another verse forms. The chaos that ensues upon its completion is far more violent than before, and the band seems to revel in the creation of noise and atmospherics.

A supernatural, disturbing vibe seems to emanate from these tracks. Between the cavernous echo that surrounds the instruments, combined with faint voices heard off in the distance and the sounds of someone actually tapping on the microphone (the aural equivalent of an actor suddenly taking notice of you watching him and stepping to face you), these elements combined make for a somewhat uneasy listening experience.

Understand, that I am not saying “uneasy” in a negative light. That takes some skill, to stick with such an aesthetic and to pull it off so well. The mix of control and chaos, of noise with melody, that seems to be the focus here. And I don’t think that the album ever takes it too far. There isn’t a point on the album where I am thinking to myself, “Ok, now this has gone on long enough.” The sequencing of the tracks and the structure within the tracks themselves prevents that from happening.

Take for example the next pair of songs “Holding the Devil’s Hand,” with it’s 60’s ballad style arpeggiated guitar line and high vocal; that song is followed by “Aboriginal Sin,” another burst of screams, arhythmic drums and atonal guitar work with the recording going into the red from time to time. One song is about creating melody while the next is about playing with shape and atmosphere. Each pursuing the same sound in different ways.

Standout track, for me, has to be “Assassination Reality” that is a combination of all aforementioned elements. It’s a noisy, straight ahead rock track taken right from the early Sonic Youth playbook before collapsing in on itself with distorted vocals and prepared guitars. All with a fine covering of the warmth of tape recording for just the right amount of character to the sound. I don’t want to not mention “Promise of Lonlieness” which is a haunting, melancholic, and tuneful while atonal album closer that is rather beautiful.

The recording is available on Cindy Lee’s Bandcamp page for only $2 Canadian. And of course, as with all Bandcamp pages, you can preview all of these tracks. Oh look there’s the player right there at the top of the page. Maybe you’ve been listening as you read along.

They have a few shows opening for Deerhunter at the end of this month in BC, which makes total sense. So check that out if you can. Also check out this lengthy interview that will give you a lot more insight into the actual band and the story behind the meaning of some of the song. It’s pretty interesting.

Friday, August 30 @ The Rickshaw Theatre (Vancouver, BC)

Saturday, August 31 @ Sugar (Victoria, BC)

//Purchase via Bandcamp//

EP review: of Montreal – "The Controllersphere"

This EP picks up exactly where “False Priest” left off. I mean that in the most literal way possible. This release can be viewed as an addendum to their last full length offering that was released not 7 months ago. “The Controllersphere” is 5 full tracks worth of Kevin Barnes trying out some of his more daring ideas, heading off in directions that aren’t explored in previous albums and possibly giving us a look at what is to come. This seems to be the way that of Montreal likes to do things now, releasing an album and not too long after its release more tracks that might appeal to their more ardent fans are presented. It was the case with “Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?” of 2006 where “Icons, Abstract Thee” followed. Also “Sunlandic Twins” featured a bonus EP as did “Skeletal Lamping”.

This release is the third that takes its name from one line of “Faberge Falls for Shuggie”, which appears on their breakthrough release “Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?” In a way one can draw a line through these three releases, “Skeletal Lamping”, “False Priest” and “The Controllersphere”. This trilogy can really represent a new direction for of Montreal that saw Kevin Barnes becoming significantly more influenced by psychedelic rock and funk and allowing those influences to really take shape in his songwriting.

The opening track, “Black Lion Massacre” takes the ideas of “False Priest”’s “You Do Mutilate?” and creates another freakishly frightening sonic landscape with the spoken word coming down to us through a backdrop of apocalyptically overdriven noise and feedback. A sort of live energy side of of Montreal that is rarely captured on disc is evident here, drenched in the noise of caterwauling guitars and drums that are wild and  more present than usual. As is usual with of Montreal releases some of the tracks have rather eccentric titles, such as “Flunkt Sass vs. The Root Plume”. The track starts off innocently enough with a gently strummed acoustic guitar appearing for all of ten seconds before exploding into a tripped out, layered nightmare that is perfectly depicted by the cover art, which is done again by Kevin’s brother David. The song continues to build as Barnes screams out in his best Ziggy Stardust, sounding like he is re-entering the atmosphere after space travel without the aid or protection of a shuttle. The screaming, loud, live sound is present in this track as well, like the first.

of Montreal - "The Controllersphere"

Lyrically the themes that of Montreal has been exploring for some time now like loneliness, unrequited love, feelings of insanity and obsession, are explored throughout this EP. The line “Even this ghetto world that has nothing, doesn’t want me” appears in “Flunkt Sass vs. The Root Plume” explores themes previously broached, but the added volume and noise adds a new dimension and desperation to the sadness. The insanity is dialed up to a breaking point, it’s like Kevin Barnes’ primal scream captured on record.

“Holiday Call” is a soulful, spiritual track that is based on folk elements, though those elements are somewhat buried beneath quite a bit of the usual panoply of psychedelia. At over 8 minutes long it is the lengthiest track, allowing for a very interesting turn of events at about the halfway mark that conurs up the sounds of middle eastern folk music with a repeated fiddle gesture, placing the usually busy, up-front bass in a more secondary role. Barnes mentioned via his twitter stream (@xxofmontrealxx) upon release of this EP that it was heavily folk influenced, and that was the direction in which he was going to be heading. He is certainly a man of his word, as odd and unbelievable as that word may often be, he manages to make it happen.

The changes in mood on this EP are more sudden, like the entire “Skeletal Lamping” album, which comprised songs that were seemingly comprised of several short songs melded together. Unlike “Skeletal Lamping” the songs here are still cohesive, and more or less similar in sound to those that appear on “False Priest”. “L’Age D’Or” and “Slave Translator” are definitely spawns of the funk of that album.  Each track is rather wordy. Barnes rushes to fit them all in, even more so than usual. He screams like his body is being torn apart from the inside out one minute and the next is harmonizing sweetly with himself. “The Controllersphere” ends where it began, in a wall of noise. This is a powerful 5 track EP that delivers exactly what was promised not too long after “False Priest was released. of Montreal is great at creating a world of their own both on record and live where their shows are theatrical spectacles concocted from the mind of Kevin and David Barnes. It seems fitting that Polyvinyl is releasing this EP concurrently with a book of David Barnes’ artwork entitled “What’s Weird?”, which I’m sure would be a perfect companion to this release.

[audio:http://quartertonality.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/02-of-Montreal-Flunkt-Sass-vs-the-Root-Plume.mp3|titles=Flunkt Sass vs the Root Plume]

Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

I know what you are thinking, “This album has been out for almost 2 weeks, we already know how good it is”. This is all true, but I’m trying to catch up with all the things that I want to write about and I have been addicted to the new Dirty Projectors album. Maybe this is because I only started regularly updating my blog within the past week and I have had the new Phoenix album for over a month. Perhaps the excitement about it is gone. Actually, come to think of it, that is exactly what is so right about this album. After listening to it regularly for over a month the magic is not gone.

This happened with my first introduction to Phoenix not too long after “It’s Never Been Like That” came out. I believe that was during the summer too. Maybe it wasn’t a summer, but Phoenix has carved a nice little niche for themselves in writing really upbeat, summer-sounding tunes that benefit from fantastic production that is not heard too often on albums. There is something warm and convivial about their songwriting style. It’s easy going. It’s carefree but extraordinarily articulate and perfectly crafted. It’s, in a word, French.

Thankfully the days of “Funky Squaredance” are gone. The albums just keep getting better and more finely tuned, no more needlessly long and unforgiving songs that wander here, there and everywhere. I think that is the criticism that I have of the album “United” as a whole. It wanders. One song is a dancy jam, the next is an over-produced ballad that sounds like it is straight out of the year 1987. Maybe the sound recording technology in Paris is slightly behind ours, but I doubt it. These guys have money, they can do what they want. Though maybe they didn’t have that much money back then, but they should now. But I digress. The point is that they have found their voice on this album.

Finally, as I have said before, 2009 is going to be a great year for music. It is already shaping up to be one. Albums like this don’t exactly come around every year.

Phoenix is not afraid to make music that is recognizable, because it is reminiscent of another era. They have captured our attention because of their ability to make songs that sound like they are from our childhood, or sound like they could be. When listening to “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix” there is an overwhelming feeling of “oooh where have I heard this before?” or, if not, for me at least, the songs are already connected to memories.

Wolgang Amadeus Phoenix, the new album by Phoenix is out now.
Wolgang Amadeus Phoenix, the new album by Phoenix is out now.

A little less guitar-driven than “It’s Never Been Like That” it is not accurate to say that this album is synth-driven, but there is definitely more of a balance. Phoenix sounds more lush, bigger, more forceful. The production is tastefully done and everything is really clean sounding and pitch perfect. The world would be a much better place if everyone took as much care in creating their albums in post as Phoenix.

As would be expected this album is full of catchy hooks, and the obligatory instrumental track, though this time “Love Like a Sunset” is a song with an instrumental building up to it. I think this works a little bit better than previous attempts like “North”. It must be important to them that they show that they aren’t just some ultra efficient pop-song writing machine, and they want to show that they are fantastic instrumentalists as well. They can definitely craft a longer composition, and rarely does it come off overblown or long-winded. Seeing them perform on Saturday Night Live a while back (it seems like forever ago now) made me feel the same as when Spoon played last season. It feels like this is the little band that could, even though they have been around for a while with a steadily growing audience. The performance there was great, so great in fact there were rumblings that they were playing along to a pre-recorded track (they absolutely were not).

I have heard the music of Phoenix described as sounding like a sunrise. I think that metaphor is quite apt, especially for this album.

Below is the track 1901: