Thursday, March 31, 2011
Search Term: "Tutelage"
It's about 30 seconds of a drum machine that's been overclocked to splatter rhythms twice as fast as anyone could have any real use for, overlayed with ribbits and croaks at odd intervals. And that's the whole of it, apart from the warbly snippet of a biology class film that kicks things off. Bon appetit!
Phyllomedusa's blog suggests that this fellow has spent an awful lot of time making intentionally unlistenable music, purportedly to "decimate human ears" in order to lay the groundwork for an amphibian takeover of the planet. It's to his credit that I'm not sure whether it's some sort of unwinking character work or a genuine otherkin obsession, but either way, he clearly knows a lot about frogs! Which is kinda cool. I too like frogs. I'm less fond of Phyllomedusa's aggressive aural misanthropy, which frankly doesn't push through the realm of pointless silliness to reach the extremes of upsetting sound and subject matter that he's aiming for (cf. Venetian Snares), but I at least have more respect for an animal lover who's following his own musical muse than I do for, say, Katy Perry. Croak on, Phyllomedusa! May your career be free from annoying "Bud! Weis! Er!" jokes from the peanut gallery!
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Artist: Anna Kashfi
Search Term: "Procurement" [This song is from an album called Procurement]
The Anna Kashfi with whom we are concerned today is not the actress of questionable provenance who was briefly married to Marlon Brando, but rather a London duo who named their band after the actress. I'd never heard of the band's namesake until I went searching for info on this song, but just in case you're someone who has spent more time boning up on the life and loves of Brando than I have, I thought you'd appreciate the clarification.
If this song is indicative of their output, Anna Kashfi sounds like the sort of melodically dark band that I would enjoy very much. Here, singer Sian Webley breathily addresses the violent, decades-long conflict between the IRA and UDA in Northern Ireland, as well as devoting a verse to the KKK for good measure. I can only assume that the chorus, "See the good in me/There must be good in me," is ironic. Musically, "See the Good in Me" recalls the Cowboy Junkies' dronier moments as well as the desolate indie-folk that Steve Albini occasionally produces (e.g., artists like Nina Nastasia or Didn't It Rain-era Songs: Ohia). It's an arid, woozy desert of guitars that's traversed confidently but meanderingly by Webley, with lots of empty spaces that give the listener time to soak in the bloody horrors on display.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Search Term: "Meerkat"
Ooh, this is a good one! I know just yesterday I was throwing a fit about how nothing happened in that Thought Criminal song and yet here I am, getting set to gush about a deliberate ambient track that unfolds in such slow motion that it may as well be a slideshow. I guess I should mention that I reserve the right to judge these songs based on any number of whimsically inconsistent criteria.
More importantly, though, Meerkat (a guy named Joshua Trout) actually sounds like he put a modicum of thought into selecting the four synth chords that softly breathe for three minutes, not to mention the gorgeous, understated keyboard bells and trills that hover above it all. Despite the title "Drowning," the effect reminds me more of watching a sleeping bird slowly bobbing as it rests in a calm lake. It's very pretty. It reminds me why there was a time when we all cared about Moby's music.
Monday, March 28, 2011
Artist: Thought Criminal
Search Term: "Thought Leader" [This song is from a Submerge Records compilation entitled Follow the Leader]
Last October, I attended a Blonde Redhead concert in Detroit with my friends Tim and Jess. Electronic artist Pantha du Prince was the opening act, and--possibly as a love note to the minimalism and repetition of Detroit techno--performed a monotonous set that evinced none of the detail-oriented expansiveness of his 2010 album Black Noise. Clearly he was doing something up on the stage, but as Tim pointed out, it sounded like he'd simply set all the loops on his laptop to 120 BPM and his spontaneous involvement in what we were hearing was limited to occasionally fading elements in and out of the mix. Others in the club seemed satisfied, but my friends and I were bored stupid. (Blonde Redhead was terrific, however.)
I mention this because I freely admit that I may be a little stingy with the credit I'm willing to give certain electronic artists for the amount of plate spinning that goes into their compositions if the audible proof of that effort isn't immediately evident. Basically, I feel guilty for how often I've thought that house music is the refuge of producers who aren't ambitious or talented enough to attempt anything more complex; I know that not all house music is off-puttingly simplistic, but you can easily get away with that sort of thing under the house banner. Which Thought Criminal do, judging solely by "Cog." Listen very closely, and there are indeed a few different timbres and minor rhythmic flourishes that saunter through the song, but the two-note sequenced bassline that anchors the song is five minutes of unchanging tedium. Sure, you can dance to its beat just as you could dance to an unbalanced washing machine if the rhythm were steady, but this would be underwritten even as incidental music for a club scene on Walker, Texas Ranger. I keep thinking, "I must be missing something," but I am ultimately forced to conclude that there's nothing to miss.
Monday, March 14, 2011
Artist: Eddie Henderson
Search Term: "Sunburst" [This song hails from the album Sunburst]
Jazz can be a lot of things: expressively sad, infuriatingly shapeless, cathartically noisy, comfortably nonchalant. But rarely have I heard a jazz instrumental that made me think, "Adorable!" Horn player Eddie Henderson has hit upon that recipe, though, with endearingly funky help from members of Herbie Hancock's band. It's accessibly upbeat and effervescent in a way that completely sidesteps any hint of a dark side. In fact, the silly envelope filter on Alphonso Johnson's bass makes me feel like this track should have accompanied a warm-color-drenched animation during Sesame Street's '70s peak. It's a joy to hear "The Kumquat Kids" bop along, and everyone slinks and shines under the tootelage of Henderson's trumpet. (Get it? Hysterical.)