Archive for January, 2010
This album could be seen as being part of indie rock’s minor creative renaissance, which has been noted on this here blog and elsewhere. Truth be told though, Phil Elverum – aka The Microphones aka Mount Eerie – has been making startlingly original modifications to the indie rock template for years now. He just hasn’t received anything like the level of recognition he deserves.
So, while the current upsurge of indie creativity may not be responsible for the brilliance of Elverum’s latest album, it must have contributed to the unprecedented level of critical attention the album has received.
Wind’s Poem has certainly garnered a fair amount of critical adulation. What’s been overlooked in the rush to recognize Elverum’s singular vision is that this album is, to an extent, a collaboration with Nick Krgovich of No Kids. This is a shame because Nick is another indie visionary who deserves more respect and attention than he gets.
It’s easy to understand though. Wind’s Poem is a million miles away from No Kids’ breezy, R&B-inflected chamber pop. Influenced by Elverum’s avowed love of black metal, many of the album’s songs are smothered by pitch-black sheets of heavy guitar drone. Topped off with Eleverum and Krgovich’s fey vocals, the results are actually rather more like a self-consciously literate take on Tremolo/Loveless-era My Bloody Valentine than anything genuinely metallic.
But even the album’s quieter moments, like “My Heart is Not at Peace”, have a deeply disquieting undertow of low-end boom. Eleverum and Krgovich are both artists based in the Pacific North-West and Wind’s Poem really does sound like the organic voice of that region’s wooded wilds. This sense is reinforced by the album’s multiple Twin Peaks references – most obviously on “Between Two Mysteries”.
The rich complexity of the album’s words, music and production is carried right through to its packaging – two clear vinyl LPs housed inside a lavish, bronze-embossed gatefold sleeve. This is an album you need to own and you can buy it at Insound.
If you’re in Vancouver this Friday, don’t… erm… sleep on this:
If he keeps releasing ’em, this here blog will keep reviewing ’em. 2009 was another busy year for Richard Youngs. He released not one but two excellent albums of new songs and found time to indulge in some rather more abstract projects, like this LP on Black to Comm‘s Dekorder label.
Abstract synth noodling is the order of the day here. To an extent, we’re in the realm of post-Tangerine Dream space music but Youngs is intent on exploring only the most asteroid-riven stellar regions. Instead of gliding smoothly through the cosmos, his keyboards bump and crash and grind – a glorious vision futuristic technical imperfection that would warm the cockles of Philip K Dick’s heart.
This sound will be familiar to fans of the UK avant rock under-under-underground that spawned Youngs. The noisy head-rush of Sunroof! and the broken techno of Astral Social Club are both evoked.
Throughout side one, tracks like “Runway” and “Descent” efficiently induce a sense of blissfully plunging into the existential void (think of the “inner space” sequence in 2001) . However, as side two progresses, the clashing rhythms and extreme stereo separation can start to grate a little – if you’re not in the mood, you may just find it irritating.
Overall though, another worthwhile release from Richard Youngs. It seems like the kind of thing that will sell out fairly quickly, so don’t hesitate: buy it from Scratch.
This here blog has been a bit quiet since the start of this here new year. Apologies. There are many good reasons for this, the best of which is the creation of a CSAF Records website (http://csaf-records.com/). The label is currently looking for contributions to its 10-20 2010 series. Interested parties should apply via the usual channels.
Normal service will be resumed very soon indeed. Prob’ly.
In totally unrelated news: is “This is How We Walk on the Moon” by Arthur Russell the best song evar or what?
Like the recent best of 2009 list, this top ten does not claim to be definitive. It’s not just that the whole thing is highly subjective, it’s mainly that this list has been compiled by someone with a really, really terrible memory. Doubtless, something utterly indispensable has been wantonly omitted.
Once again, the desire to spuriously identify broad, overarching trends has been resisted, for the most part. But one trend does assert itself rather forcefully: As many bloggers and crtitics have already noted, it seems clear that the first half of the decade produced much better music than the second.
Let’s get this over and done with then, shall we? Taking it from the top…
1. Fennesz – Endless Summer (2001)
Most of the very few truly new opportunities presented to musical artists in the noughties stemmed from the astonishing things that could suddenly be done with real-time digital signal processing. No album took advantage of these opportunities with more emotively musical aplomb than Endless Summer.
2. Antipop Consortium – Arrhythmia (2002)
It’s not a fashionable opinion but one could easily argue that indie rap produced a great deal of the decade’s most original music. Arrhythmia is the sound of a sub-genre at its delirious creative peak. Every single second of every single track is still breathtakingly exciting. Fashion be damned.
3. Burial – Untrue (2007)
Nobody captured the decade’s anhedonic zeitgeist better than Burial. Untrue recycles elements of ’90s underground dance music and contemporary R&B into an immediately recognizable signature sound. Mournful, delicious and still definitively contemporary.
4. Tujiko Noriko – Make Me Hard (2003)
Noriko was simultaneously one of the decade’s best digital electronica artists and one of its most intriguing songwriters. Her song’s aren’t particularly memorable though – they’re all texture and flux, drifting by like clouds. Make Me Hard is the most ambitious and well-realised of her many albums.
5. Scott Walker – The Drift (2006)
With The Drift, Scott Walker finally managed to boil his music down to its core essence. The result was a stark, nightmarish collection of fractured narratives, with Scott intoning cryptic fragments of song over monumental, unforgiving blocks of sound. Totally compelling.
6. Sonic Youth – Murray Street (2002)
Those of you who believe Sonic Youth haven’t produced anything worthwhile since Daydream Nation need to hear Murray Street and eat your words. Honestly, this album is something of a perfect storm – an ecstatic culmination of years of research into the power of rock noise.
7. Joanna Newsom – Ys (2006)
With the long, wordy songs all sung in Newsom’s impossibly kooky squeak and garnished with Van Dyke Parks‘ garish, relentlessly melodic string arrangements, Ys should be awful. But the sheer quality of this material and the conviction of its delivery win out. The results are utterly affecting.
8. Alva Noto – Prototypes (2000)
For some of us, the early noughties were all about the glitch – the disruption of precise digital sound into something gritty and abstract. On Prototypes, Carsten Nicolai – aka Alva Noto – refined the digital glitch, making it ornate and reintegrating it into a minimalist simulacrum of pop’s 4/4 rhythmic grid.
9. The Fall – The Unutterable (2000)
It was either The Unutterable or Tromatic Relexxions, Mark E Smith’s tragically underrated collaboration with Mouse on Mars, under the guise of Von Sudenfed. Together, these albums represent the perfection of a dance-rock hybrid Smith developed in the 90s and mostly abandoned in the noughties.
10. Gas – Pop (2000)
If Prototypes took glitch into the white-walled spaces of contemporary art, Pop dragged it semi-conscious into the depths of the woods and buried it under a thick layer of moss and peat. Lush and sinister in equal measure, this is a magnificent testament to the meditative properties of hiss and static.
“Sway” has been floating around the Internet for a little while now. It appears to be some kinda live recording of a new Seefeel song, made from the audience at a Warp Records showcase in Paris, last year. This would seem like tentative confirmation of rumours that the legendary, recently-reformed UK post-rock act is working on a new album. If any of you have additional information regarding this topic, please do share it via the comments box.