Here’s a fresh batch of noise punk due out next week on Fleeting Youth Records. The band is The Bats Pajamas, out of Toronto and the album is available for pre-order either as a download (boring) or a limited edition cassette (much better) through the Fleeting Youth Records bandcamp page.
The song above, “Witch Way,” is an immediately overpowering, supremely down-tuned, distortion-fest. Sludge guitars underneath echoed-and-distorted-beyond-all-recognition screams. Its a pretty punishing punk-rock assault that doesn’t let up for so much as a second from beginning to end. The ultra-low tuning reminds me somewhat of Polvo, but I think the slacked strings are at even more of an extreme here, not to mention the heavy low-end that’s going on with the tone. This is a beefy gut-punch of a guitar sound that would maybe fit equally well on a death metal album.
Next up is the song “T.V. Sheets,” in the video below. This one is cleaned up a little bit, clearing away most of the sludge and picking up the pace. This one sticks with a tried and true 3 chord structure that eventually moves up a fourth, lending a bit of a modified or truncated 12-bar blues sound to the song. Also, the video is just a bunch of people destroying televisions, which is something I think we can all get behind.
The album is out in less than a week, on Tuesday May 26th. Head over to the Fleeting Youth bandcamp page to pre-order the cassette and to hear another song, “Wrong House,” which you can also download for free. The band has plans to tour beyond the Great White North in support of this album so you’d probably be best to check their facebook page for updates.
I’m going to get your week off to a great start right now with some fresh noise and drones.
These tracks are coming from a pair of noise/drone artists From North Carolina. The first, Lost Trail, is the husband and wife duo of Zachary Corsa and Denny Wilkerson Corsa. From the sound of it, opening track “Eyes of Fire ’83” finds its footing right away with a huge blast of booming noise that almost immediately finds itself morphing into about a dozen different micro-melodies. Each stream of pitches that emerges from the original blast takes on a life of its own, and it really creates a beautiful texture. The opening blast eventually becomes this lush backdrop similar to a loud sonority being churned out by a large orchestral string section, with all the cellos and double basses bowing molto ponticello on their lowest strings in order to really accentuate the rich overtones.
“In Cold October Houses” takes a similar approach, with a little more focus on the roaring feedback that more or less completely envelops the melody, buried within the cloud of distortion. Unlike “Eyes of Fire ’83” the overbearing roar dissipates, and as that harshness fades the pure tones become clear. This track works more like a suite with various sections that fade out and back in, each exploring different textures.
DOR is a duo of John Rutherford, and Jacob Worden, and they offer up 3 unnamed tracks that are a nice counterpoint to some of the harsher sounds of Lost Trail’s side. Here, steady, glowing tones dominate. Each sound is prolonged, very gradually growing and then shifting in pitch ever so slightly before fading back into the distance. I think that the orchestra analogy is apt in describing this music as well, but the approach is quite different. We’ve sort of moved from Penderecki to Scelsi in a way. Where Lost Trail is clearly approaching from the noisier side of things, and it might be harder to parse out from where exactly the sounds maybe be coming, DOR is more in line with sounds that could come from any of several different post-rock bands, perhaps.
DOR’s 3rd track moves full on into steady rhythm territory, taking their gradually shifting tones and placing them within a new context. The percussion sounds add a degree of coldness to the overall sound, while serving to reign in some of the more ambient elements.
I would highly suggest not only checking out all 6 tracks here on the Arachnidiscs bandcamp page, but also pre-ordering the tape. The packaging looks fantastic, and it’s a steal at $7 Canadian. The cassette is limited edition so get on it.
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.
I’m going to stick with the theme of electronic music this week I guess. Though for the first time in a bit I’m going to be looking at some music from another country: the far away foreign land of Canada.
Castle If sculpts some beautiful Kraftwerk-esque songs with some other strange tidbits thrown in. On “Neuwellen” from their 2012 releas “Zwei Hände [Part 1]” the mandatory kraut-rock ostinato is firmly in place, but as it spins out there are some vocals and wandering synths lines introduced. Psychedelic analog synth kraut rock with, sure, a slight tinge of new wave as the title suggests. It’s new wave through the lens of experimental krautrock.
Searching through a bit more of their discography “CUT” opens up with the minimal, but significantly more dancey track “Discussion.” That new wave influence shines through pretty clearly on this track, but the atmosphere one would normally expect from new wave is turned on its head with the addition of distant shrouded vocals.
You can hear tons more over at their bandcamp page. There’s enough dark and moody new-wave inflected kraut-rock to keep you busy for a long time. And if you are in Toronto then you are in luck because Castle If is playing tomorrow night at Double Double Land (209 Augusta, and if you can, then go to Sneaky Dee’s on your way, or afterward. It’s less than a km away and I’ve been craving a King’s Crown lately and it’s a bit out of the way for me) opening for Julianna Barwick. It’s an all ages show, so there’s no reason for you to not be there.
Sure, I understand that if I really wanted to make the proper reference to the book I would have used Branca’s 9th symphony, but after listening to it I can honestly say that I don’t enjoy the work at all.
I don’t want to specifically talk about Branca’s symphonies exactly. I just wanted to move away from the seemingly non-stop album reviews. They are tedious to read and possibly more tedious for me to write. I’m becoming more and more selective with regard to actual album reviews. I have my favorite bands, and I get some (ie. very little) good stuff via email, but from the beginning I have mentioned that I wanted to start to write something that went deeper than just a review. I’m not comfortable with the purpose of writing if it is just to sell something. That’s what I feel like when I am writing an album review sometimes, I feel like I am just trying to sell music, and I don’t think that the main purpose (or any purpose, for that matter) of a writer, or an artist, is to sell anything.
I began to touch upon things that I have been thinking about in a few of my more recent posts, regarding abstraction in music, temporality in music in my post about Autechre, a topic so seldom discussed in music regardless of genre. There was also the Glenn Gould connection post from a few weeks ago, but there have been other things I’ve been considering.
Perhaps Branca is, in fact, a good jumping off point for a discussion of the manipulation of temporality in music. When listening to his symphonies one must, in some ways, throw away everything that they think they know about listening to a piece of music and start over. And there are a lot of pieces of music that require just that.
My next few posts are going to attempt to tackle a few interesting cases of different ways that musicians play with the listener’s perception of time. These manipulations will happen in a variety of different ways, and to different ends. Some of the songs that I am going to be discussing will be taken from things that I have already talked about a little bit on the blog, while others will be taken from familiar bands looked at in different ways.
Temporality, and its use in music, is maybe the most fascinating element of organized sound, and the hardest to describe without getting all metaphysical. I think that I have noted in a few posts about how temporality is suspended in minimalist music, where the incessant repetitions create a void of sorts for the listener, allowing them to focus in on the sound between the sound; the creation of aural illusions where the listener is hearing something that perhaps isn’t written into the score. That is what I would consider a meditative disposal of time, more like a contradiction if you think about it. Minimalism subverts time by making it the most surface level characteristic of the music. The same rhythm, repeating over and over and over and over and over again ends up not being tedious, but rather creates a new kind of silence where the mind starts to filter out what is happening on the surface. One can hear resonance, and the collection of overtones and pure timbre.
I can’t help but think back to the time that I drove up to Toronto in 2005 or so, to catch a performance by the University of Toronto percussion ensemble. There was a performance of Cage’s 4’33”, and Varese’s “Ionisation.” Those pieces, though great, didn’t leave a mark on me as profoundly as did the piece that had just started when I walked in.
As I stood there in the entranceway to the concert hall a performance of James Tenney’s “Having Never Written a Note for Percussion” had just begun. I can’t do justice to the piece by trying to describe what the experience was like, though I will try.
And that’s part of the thing, is that this is a piece that is so simple in concept that capturing it in a recording could not possibly do it justice. The listener is an integral part of the piece. Imagine the slowest, most gradual crescendo that you could ever experience being played out on a single tam-tam (if I could venture a guess, it was being performed on a 40″ instrument) from a performer that was not visible. The only thing that could be seen was the front of the instrument, while the performer must have been kneeling behind it, and with soft mallets (and therefore no sounding attack) they gently built up the amplitude.
That’s it. The piece is simply an incredibly lengthy crescendo that is followed by an equally lengthy diminuendo. But being there you feel like you are standing inside the sound. For the first second that I walked into the room I could remember the break between the “silence” that I was experiencing just outside the door to the hall and the sound that I was now in the middle of while standing at the back of that hall. As I stood there that memory of the divide slowly faded and all that my mind could focus on was what was happening right there in front of me, and all around me. Time had stopped. In that time I could focus on every single little pitch and overtone that was created. The sound enveloped everything in the room, so present as to seemingly take a physical form. Now, the sound was not loud enough to make anyone recoil in pain, it was just in the room with us, creating a presence.
The piece built up so slowly that the idea of past, present and future were irrelevant. There were no more points of reference. Time had effectively ceased to exist. And that is something that is very difficult to get through on a recording.
I think that in this way Branca’s symphony (several of them, but I’m thinking of the 3rd specifically right now) and Tenney’s piece have a lot in common. They are contradictions of simplicity and complexity, of loud and quiet, something and nothing, all at the same time. Branca’s wall of microtones, as well as Tenney’s, find similar ways to grab hold of the most illusive element of music, and that is the manipulation of temporality. They grab a hold of it and turn the entire piece into the exploration of that one impossible thing.
Toronto thrash punk is alive and well, apparently. THIGHS sound like Tangiers having a seizure. The disjointed, monomaniacal, throbbing rhythms with ultra crunchy guitars and shouted vocals is nothing but pure energy and raw power. A song like “Tunnelr” covers a lot of ground in it’s 2 minutes, going from stomping, mosh inducing potential energy to the release that comes toward the end in the form of a 3 against 2 rhythm that sounds down right groovy coming out of krautrock-land where they began.
Each of the 9 tracks are similar in their sound: dominating bass pushed almost to the point of distortion, the guitar’s tentative grasp on pitch. Think the rhythm section of “They Threw Us In A Trench and Put A Monument on Top” era Liars with the guitar-as-extension-of-the-drums noise blasts of “Drums Not Dead” era Liars.
It’s actually remarkable how quick THIGHS goes from noise to total silence. The start-stops are so crisp and punchy, placing the intermittent silence at equal footing to the noise-stomp that encloses it, for example in the track “Horse.” A song like “Meat” pushes the mechanical kraut-rock sound to an industrial grind, driving that one chord into your head one measure at a time.
The self-titled album is available as a download on bandcamp for any price you care to pay, though I would suggest grabbing the limited edition (only 100 made) vinyl from Not Unlike for only $15. This should be on your turntable right now, loud enough so that the walls blow out while people 2 miles away call the cops.
It’s hard to tell whether this was a really great year for music or if I was just paying attention more than last year. That sums up my feelings at the end of every year. I don’t want to do too much of an introduction because I have quite a bit to say. I’m not putting these releases in any particular order, they are just my favorites. Some I listened to more than others, but putting them in order just seems too subjective and a pointless waste of time.
Chad VanGaalen – “Diaper Island”
Listening to this album filled the void left by Women not releasing anything this year. This was my gateway into listening to more of VanGaalen’s stuff and it remains my favorite album of his. With it’s haunting and warm sound, psychedelic imagery and noisy guitars Diaper Island hit all the right notes. Standout tracks “Peace on the Rise,” “Heavy Stones” and “Do Not Fear” would be a good fit on any year end mix. (review here.)
Fucked Up – “David Comes to Life”
Simply put, this is one epic album. It may seems like a chore to listen to this nearly 78 minute hardcore opera about love and loss, but when it comes down to it the album still relies on catchy hooks, pure unbridled emotion and more guitars than have ever appeared on any album ever. The complexity of the arrangements may be overshadowed by the brash vocals but take another 10 or 20 listens and you’ll undoubtedly start to appreciate how truly brilliant this album is from it’s structure and lyrics right on down to the execution. This continues Fucked Up in their clear evolution of a hardcore band that is always searching for new ways to expand the medium.
Radiohead – “The King of Limbs”
Radiohead will never be able to catch a break ever again. They are caught in the terrible, yet still enviable, position of people expecting great innovations from album to album and then fans and critics regularly misunderstanding their music and heaping faint praise onto them. Make no mistake The King of Limbs is a fantastic album. Sure, it is short, and there isn’t much in the way of guitar on it, and it’s really percussion heavy. It’s still a Radiohead album though and in my mind they are nearly at the level where they can do nothing wrong. There are definite gems on here and it should not be simply cast aside. (review)
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tUnE-yArDs – “w h o k i l l”
Probably the most divisive album of the year. I have yet to come across anyone that could say, “Yeah I heard the tune-yards album, it was ok”. The reactions were always hard to one side. If I recall correctly even those of us in the Tympanogram camp were at odds over how we felt about it. My take on it is that it’s a wholly new sound that is interesting rhythmically to a very high degree, orchestrationally it also makes great use of everything available but never tries to go too far, or do too much. This album manages to do all of those things while continuing to keep it interesting and different from song to song covering a variety of moods. (review)
Wild Flag – “Wild Flag”
This is a straight up rock record. I had been looking forward to its release ever since Carrie Brownstein left NPR to pursue music in a touring band once again. They manage to easily sidestep any of the normal pitfalls of a debut album because all of the members of Wild Flag are seasoned pros. Each track is exciting and energetic and simply rocks. They captured the energy of a live show and released it simultaneously as they toured across the country garnering acclaim for their exciting, energetic show. (review)
Colin Stetson – “New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges”
This album is the only thing I have listened to that has left me absolutely speechless and astounded upon its conclusion. It’s flashy, arty and walks that line between art-music and jazz. It’s another album that stands in a category of its own, which is exactly the kind of thing that I’m attracted to. What’s even more amazing is that it’s almost all solo saxophone music, except for one track that Stetson performs on French Horn. On the surface it is not exactly the kind of thing that I would be drawn to, and maybe it’s not the kind of thing that you’d be drawn to either. To you I would say this is definitely worth a listen or ten. It’s damn near revolutionary and will leave you spellbound. (review)
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[audio:http://quartertonality.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/05-From-no-part-of-me-could-I-summon-a-voice.mp3|titles=From no part of me could I summon a voice]
Starfucker – “Reptilians”
Catchy as hell, synth-laden, danceable pop tunes about life and death, though mostly about death. This was definitely an album that I had cast aside earlier in the year, but when I came back to it I found that I was surely missing out. There’s something satisfying about a thick, buzzing synth sound.
Tim Hecker – “Ravedeath 1972”
I definitely don’t fashion myself an expert on ambient music, but there is just something so moving about this album the way that it uses masses of sound to create an atmosphere that is ethereal and familiar all at once. I can’t quite put my finger on exactly what I love about this album. Maybe it’s the fact that I keep coming back to it, that it keeps forcing me to come back to it. It’s just so damned intriguing.
Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks – “Mirror Traffic”
The Pavement nepotism is obvious. I became absolutely obsessed with Pavement when I finally started paying attention to their albums around 2006. Come to find out I was wasting all sorts of time missing Pavement because Malkmus has been putting out fantastic albums since right after Pavement’s last album came out in 1999. “Mirror Traffic” is full of songs with interesting harmonies, sudden shifts, catchy melodies and Malkmus’ literate and sometimes cryptic lyrics.
The Two Koreas – “Science Island”
I know that hardly anyone is going to agree with me on this album. I also know that not too many people have heard this album and that is a shame. That is also partially the reason why I am making it a point to mention it on my year end list. The music is sloppy to a certain degree, totally embodying a garage rock aesthetic. Every track is a barn-burner sung with a sneer with plenty of jangly, noisy guitars adding to the overall experience. If you listen to anything on this list, or are inspired to listen to anything new I would suggest most highly this album. (review)