Friday, October 10, 2008

Spooky Palms, giddy Chandeliers

Two reviews have gone up in PopMatters over the last couple of days, both synthetically driven, but that's about all they have in common.

I'll be in Chicago over the weekend and probably mostly offline until Tuesday, so have a good one...

About those reviews.

It's Midnight in Honolulu
(Rare Book Room)
US release date: 9 September 2008
UK release date: Available as import

by Jennifer Kelly

Electro cool and naked primitivism

Palms is one of those bands that exists in theory more than actuality. Its two songwriters live thousands of miles apart. Nadja Korinth resides mostly in Berlin, but is often, as an employee of BBC news, elsewhere. Ryan Schaefer, a native of the Midwest, now calls New York City home. For this, their first collaboration, the two developed songs separately (very separately), meeting only in the studio to align their separate visions.

It’s Midnight in Honolulu is therefore, and perhaps necessarily, a diverse and heterogeneous album, with lo-fi pop songs sitting alongside electro-rants, primitive ululations atop machine-age sampled beats. Songs are sung in three different languages, predominantly English and German, but also French, and yet sound not so much like pretentious displays of abilities, but rather, dispatches from far-flung locations. It is possible, maybe even necessary, to enjoy this album without ever really getting a handle on it. Is it electrified freak folk? Experimental pop? Particularly melodic drone? Primitive-obsessed IDM? Yes and no. Sometimes. Maybe.

The rest


The Thrush
(Obey Your Brain)
US release date: 14 October 2008
UK release date: 15 April 2008

by Jennifer Kelly

In at least one way, synthetic music is never wholly live, since its most basic building blocks are tones and sounds that have been recorded and stored, not blown or strummed or pounded. Yet, as Chicago’s Chandeliers demonstrate, what you do with those stored bits of sound can be as live as you want it, the foundation of an aesthetic that is as improvisatory and communicative as any traditional-instrument jazz band. Their first full-length is built on improvised jams—one guy taking off from another guy’s idea, two people talking with notes and rhythms—that visibly move and adapt while you listen. Recorded partly with Icy Demons’ Blue Hawaii and partly at Mahjongg’s home studio, The Thrush melds the popcorn beats and synth flourishes of disco with the scratchier funkiness of world-rhythms.

“Mr. Electric”, right off the bat, calls out 70s porn funk with its buzzy synth bass, syncopated, stop-short drums, washes of plasticine synthesizer tones. “Mango Tree”, the only cut with vocals, is slithery with falsetto soul trills, lush with multiple keyboards. It sounds very much like those late 70s soul-into-disco crossover hits, all bass and mock insinuation.

They’re interesting cuts, but feel a bit overthought and overcrowded, at least compared to the two clear winners near the end. “Bamboo” is far scruffier and more ominous, adding the sub-bass threat to its syncopated sheen. It’s followed by even dirtier “Graffiti” whose clattering drone (and melodica) evokes dub-steppers like Appleblim, while its bass funk underpinnings remind you of Mahjonng. These tracks strip off some of the sheen inherent in those cold, perfect electronic sounds, and pare down the number of ideas working simultaneously...for a clear album highlight.

"Mr. Electric"

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