Archive for July, 2011
Well, it seems that people are quite interested in the subject of A.R. Kane videos, so here’s a reminder that – despite very well-founded claims to the contrary – there really was a video for “Baby Milk Snatcher”.
And here is the clip for “When You’re Sad” (Link supplied by Jon Dale – thanks Jon!)
It’s easy to write off The Cure as having contributed nothing to the world beyond a few novelty pop hits and the enduring tedium of mall-goth culture. Robert Smith and the boys would perhaps be more firmly ensconced in the pantheon of rock greats if they’d ever tried to produce a Kid A-style avant garde masterpiece. After all, even the Stones had a go, with Their Satanic Majesties Request!
Well, hang on their a second – none of this is entirely fair! First of all, 1984’s The Top could easily be said to represent an attempt at Sgt. Pepper-style technicolour psychedelia. Regarded by some Cure fans to be the band’s only truly bad album, it was – in a very real sense – the Satanic Majesties of the 80s. Then there’s the much more highly regarded Pornography, on which sheer angst alone pushed the band to the brink of distraction. Or how about that much-loved stadium doom epic Disintegration?
We’re getting ahead of ourselves here, though. The thing is, no matter how strung-out, expressionistic or colourful The Cure’s music got, it was always firmly rooted in guitar-based pop. In fact, that’s exactly what made The Cure so great! Smith managed to produce immersive masterpieces of nightmarish angst and dreamlike beauty without ever deviating much from the instantaneous effectiveness of the three-minute pop song. Even when drenched in FX, these tunes were never cheaply impressionistic – they were always painfully vivid and often unforgettably catchy.
On the band’s second album, Seventeen Seconds, they managed to infuse the skeletal new wave of early singles like “Boys Don’t Cry” with a genuinely spooky ambiance, without actually changing anything terribly obvious. Later albums were heavier on the flanged basslines, delay drenched guitars and soundscapey synths but they never quite surpassed the magnificent nocturnal focus of Seventeen Seconds.
The Cure – “Play for Today”
The Cure – “In Your House”
Seventeen Seconds was the first in a loose trilogy of albums that defined The Cure’s artistic zenith. Glenn Ponda has already written a brilliant post about these albums but this here blog can’t help adding its two cents.
Faith, the trilogy’s second album might be the most “complete” album in The Cure’s discography. It marks a transitional period between the bare-bones early material and the fleshed-out later albums. It’s also arguably the band’s most genuinely bleak and effectively gothy record.
The Cure – “All Cats Are Grey”
The Cure – “The Drowning Man”
Which brings us back to Pornography, very commonly considered to be the great Cure album. It certainly has the greatest claim to being an attempted avant garde classic – the band’s proto-dreampop formula really does strain under the shear weight of angst and self-loathing unleashed on Pornography. The album’s closing title track is mixed in such a way that everything seems to be in utterly the wrong place. A mood of alienation and impending oblivion looms large throughout.
The Cure – “One Hundred Years”
The Cure – “Siamese Twins”
Presumably, the self-destructively drug-drenched horror of Pornography couldn’t be sustained without serious damage to the band’s mental health and commercial prospects. For the rest of the 80s, The Cure’s albums became less one-dimensionally bleak – mixing widescreen goth rock with jaunty novelty tunes and all points in between. In the process, the band became a massive hit with teenage outsiders, both downcast and quirky (and both!) So, while Smith and co. may not have enjoyed quite the critical reputation they deserved, they did end up playing to stadium’s full of truly devoted fans, to whom they meant the world.
The high-point of this period was 1989’s Disintegration. Overlong and overwrought, Disintegration probably doesn’t quite deserve the reputation it has but it is, somehow, The Cure in excelsus. Currently available in a rather deluxe 2LP edition, it’s as good a place to start as any.
A fan video featuring Scarlett Johansson being goofy. Track thirteen from volume two.
The massed editorial staff of this here blog hasn’t had time to come up with any proper reviews recently, so here’s a round-up of what’s been on the office turntable over the last couple of months.
Belong – Common Era
A superb development of the submerged pop style Belong has hinted at in the past. Some fans are claiming this album isn’t “drone” enough and that the band should do more stuff like October Language. They are wrong: October Language was a pointless exercise in brazen Fennesz copyism; Common Era is something quite unlike anything else.
James Blake – James Blake
The backlash is unwarranted. James Blake is a genuinely impressive collection of sometimes shockingly sparse post-dubstep productions. Sure, Blake’s sad-sack vocals are sometimes a bit much (“I Never Learned to Share”) but – for the most part – the inventiveness of his production style outweighs the slightly forced emotionalism.
Burial – Street Halo
Signs of progress here, albeit slow progress. Still, Burial is the kind of artist who moves at his own pace. And even if this was just more of the same, that wouldn’t make it any less beautiful. Streets ahead of even the best of the rest of the post-dubstep crowd (see above).
Kate Bush – Director’s Cut
Hmmm… Kate has re-recorded songs from her two weakest albums (The Sensual World and Red Shoes) and turned the bass up really high to make sure the new recordings sound nice and “analogue”. Why one of the great pioneers of creative digital pop production should feel the need to do this is a bit of a mystery. Also, one might question whether the problem with those albums was actually to do with the production or whether the songwriting was, in fact, a bit sub-par. To be fair though, a good deal of the material here is vastly improved by the new, more understated arrangements, especially “This Woman’s Work”.
Lawrence English – Kiri No Oto
Lovely vinyl reissue of English’s CD from a couple of years ago. Oceanic digital textures.
Gang Gang Dance – Eye Contact
These Brooklynites have come a long way since their free-noise beginnings. Eye Contact is pretty much their pop move – sounding, at times, like an utterly demented Black Eyed Peas attempting world music. In a good way, obviously.
Hype Williams – One Nation
How does this duo’s stoned amalgam of lo-fi 80s and 90s references manage to sound so irritating and so seductive all at once? There’s some kind of evil genius at work here but Hype Williams is giving few clues as to what the true nature of that genius may be. There isn’t even a tracklist!
In Serpents & Seas – Notes from the Quiet Household
Notes from the Disquiet Household, more like it! Finely calibrated, Nurse with Wound-style spookiness from this duo featuring the always-excellent Esperik Glare. Available by donation from the relevant Bandcamp page.
Kellarissa – Moon of Neptune
Phenomenal second solo album from Destroyer’s current keyboard player. Exceptionally classy minimal synth pop that will appeal to fans of Nico and Zola Jesus.
Kellarissa – “Undock”
Mountains – Air Museum and Koen Holtkamp – Gravity/Bees
Over the last few years, Brooklyn’s Mountains duo has produced a stream of consistently satisfying albums in the post-Fennesz/Greg Davis mold. Air Museum represents a fairly decisive move into the analogue realm. Sometimes the results sound like old Mountains tracks played entirely on vintage synths, sometimes they sound like Sonic Boom’s Experimental Audio Research project and sometimes they sound like crap. Not a bad album, as such but certainly a dispiritingly unimaginative one. Mountains man Koen Holtkamp’s latest solo effort is similar but a bit rawer and ultimately a great deal more satisfying. When Holtkamp’s guitar manages to drown out the droning synths, it gets seriously awesome.
My Bloody Valentine – Lost Tracks & Rare Cuts
Basically, the famous Unreleased & Rarities bootleg cut to vinyl. Featuring “Kevin Song” and “Bilinda Song”, now retitled “Just Like Us” and “The Time of Day” (by whom, it’s hard to say). Pretty much essential for all serious MBV fans.
My Bloody Valentine – “Just Like Us” aka “Kevin Song”
BJ Nilsen & Stilluppsteypa – Space Finale
The analogue underground could learn a great deal from this record. This audibly-digital electronica epic goes further out into the cosmos than most contemporary drone rockers could ever dream of.
Max Richter – Infra
Possibly his best yet, perhaps because it’s his most polarized. An extremely effective juxtaposition of gorgeously melodic strings and tense, dissonant electronics.
Secret Pyramid – The Silent March
If you like Flying Saucer Attack and Lovesliescrushing then you need to know about Vancouver’s Secret Pyramid. This expansively beautiful cassette release should be available for download from his blog once the tape sells out.
Shackleton – Fireworks
More darker-than-dark dubstep from the deep down depths. Shackleton’s Fabric mix suggested an artist treading water. This double 12″ represents a fearless recommencing of his sub-aquatic explorations.
Tape – Revelationes
Absolutely bloody wonderful new album from the Swedish post-rock/electronica trio. These boys have got the tunes, they’ve got the textures and they’ve even got really nice cover art.
Tape – “Companions”
Moritz von Oswald Trio – Horizontal Structures and Vladislav Delay Quartet – Vladislav Delay Quartet
The latest album from the Basic Channel/Rhythm & Sound man’s cyber-jazz trio is a great deal warmer and more human than you might expect. At times it sounds like a “live band” take on the early Rhythm & Sound material – a perception reinforced by the presence of regular R&S vocalist Paul St. Hilaire on guitar. The debut album by the quartet led by MVOT percussionist Vladislav Delay, on the other hand, is as dark and alienating a record as you could hope to hear. Any time things threaten to get a little nice, Pan Sonic’s Mika Vainio blasts the whole thing to hell by unleashing a storm of harsh, metallic drones.
A very lo-fi video shot from the audience of a 1989 gig in Sheffield. Track 12 from volume two.
CSAF Records now has a digital store where you can buy the connect_icut albums They Showed Me the Secret Beaches and LA (An Apology) as high-quality downloads (FLAC, 320k MP3, V0 etc.) for $1 US per album.
Featuring mixes by Kuma, Esperik Glare and connect_icut. Kuma’s mix is a (post-)dubstep banger that will delight fans of the big fluffy bear’s acclaimed bass-heavy productions. The connect_icut “Ill Mix” features an unwitting guest appearance from a legendary rapper. The connect_icut/Kuma collaboration was produced by connect_icut using elements of Kuma’s remix but none of the original “flt” samples! The Esperik Glare mix is dark, abstract, complex and yet oddly beautiful.
1. Kuma Tope Suicida Remix (6:24)
2. connect_icut Ill Mix (5:50)
1. connect_icut/Kuma Once Removed Mix (5:30)
2. Esperik Glare Remix (3:55)