Wednesday, July 31, 2013

No Age's new one

I found kind of an interesting quote about the new No Age album, An Object in Spin today and thought I'd share it:

"We wanted to go back to this idea from [2007's] Weirdo Rippers where we didn't really think about songs as a completed structure but just as little moments," [Dean Spunt] says, "like not really having anything to do with a verse or a chorus, but just having parts that can make a whole. The interesting thing with Weirdo Rippers is that we were learning how to play our instruments, so it has a certain quality to it that we, at this point, really can't replicate unless I started playing accordion."

Instead, the drummer picked up a bass, fiddled with amplified contact mics, and toyed with prepared speakers, all in an effort to keep the making of An Object "uncomfortable."

"I could barely play drums, I could barely sing," Spunt remembers of No Age's early days. "But I've gotten to the point where playing drums and signing [has become] second nature... I could play an hour and 20 minutes and not feel tired. I accomplished it, and I didn't know what else I could do in that context. I got to the point where I felt very comfortable, and to me that started to feel slightly scary. I need to try things."

There's more here.

It took me a couple of listens to get into the new one, but I'm liking it now.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Jonsi's guy Ulfur...might have posted this before

Blurt is in the process of reposting reviews from the archives to clean up some nasty formatting problems, so it looks like my Ulfur review is up again (or maybe it never went up before)...anyway, it's a pretty good, mildly glitch, abstract-ish album by one of Jonsi's sidemen, so references to Jonsi and also Sigur Ros are not entirely out of order.

White Mountain
Western Vinyl


These are gorgeous, atmospheric soundscapes, recorded in the interstices of Úlfur Hansson’s stint as Jonsi’s touring bassist. A few burble and pop with something like Jonsi’s electro exuberance, but most move slowly, weightlessly and without much of a grounding beat. White Mountain begins in the sound of birdcall (that’s miasmic opener “Evoke Ewok”) and proceeds as a sort of slow motion nature walk, soundtracked in turn by haunting synth overtones, stray guitar resonances and a chamber group’s piping woodwinds. Hansson made use of what he could find while travelling, building a fragile beat out of a cousin’s rock-skipping in Iceland and hooking up with Mountain Man’s Alexandra Sausser-Monning for the ghostly vocals in “So Very Strange.” The birds caught mid-squawk in “Evoke Ewok” were taped in Chicago. All very catch as catch can, this sound gathering, yet it coheres in a remarkably tranquil, remarkably lovely whole.


Monday, July 29, 2013

Chelsea Wolfe's Pain is Beauty

Just started dipping into the upcoming Chelsea Wolfe album Pain Is Beauty, and it's a good one, much, much, much better than 2011's Apokalypsis which, in my view, got the drama and atmospherics right, but did not deliver on the songs. Anyway, this one is a lot better produced and structured, not as relentlessly, screamingly intense, but more varied and melodic and all the stronger for it. She's sort of in the Zola Jesus/Austra/Julianna Barwick camp of gothy, theatrical, classically-tinged experimental female singers. Anyway, well done, have a listen.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sproton Layer

We went to see Sproton Layer last night and it was actually pretty remarkable.

Sproton Layer was a short-lived, late-1960s band comprised of the three Miller Brothers, Roger, Benjamin and Larry. In it, Roger Miller (later the guitarist for Mission of Burma)sang and played bass, Benjamin (whom I caught doing some kind of prepared guitar thing last year on a bill with Man Forever) played guitar, Larry played drums and there was a trumpet player, too, then Harold Kirchen (who, weirdly enough, has his own semi-famous brother in Bill Kirchen). They played in and around Ann Arbor, Michigan where they all lived for about a year. During that year, they released one single and an album and, you know, went on with their lives as 18- and 17- and 16-year-olds tend to do. (Larry and Benjamin were in a band called Destroy All Monsters later.)

So that's the back story, and it's important because when you see this band, your first thought is "No fucking way they wrote all this in 1969." It's incredibly aggressive and block-simple in some parts...the band comes on stage in phases, with Larry banging out four-four on the kick drum. His drumming is really powerful and, when it needs to be, elemental, but also complex sometimes. There were a few places where Sproton Layer reminded me of the clattery intricacies of the Ex, others where it sounded more like the lock-step pummelling of the A-Frames. And through it all there's a wild thread of psychedelia, a wide-eyed child-like take on the world that sounds a lot like Syd Barrett (no points for getting the reference; they were playing a ton of Syd before the show.) So psychedelic punk with a jackhammer beat...pre-punk, btw, and right on the heels of Barrett's masterful Piper at the Gates of Dawn, still, in my book, the only reason to listen to Pink Floyd. Fun stuff and way ahead of its time.

They were pretty damn tight, too, no idea how much they've been practicing, but enough...

I wasn't working, so no photos, but here's one from back in the old days.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Running with Safety Scissors

Hard to imagine you could hurt yourself falling on's chilled and liquid and translucent, with wavery washes of synthetic tone and slumping, slouching mechanical beats. The album is called In a Manner of Sleeping, and it's the latest from SF (originally MN) electronic artist Safety Scissors aka Matthew Curry. It's been out since mid-June on Bpitch Control (isn't that Ellen Alien's label?).

Anyway, the track they're pushing has vocals, so just because of that, it is relatively warm and accessible as these things go...but more than that I like how the beat shambles and percolates in a kind of living, organic way..."it's the journey, you will enjoy, when it's over, you'll begin."

So I interviewed Michael Silver from CFCF yesterday and I'll be writing a feature pretty soon for PopMatters, but just to hold you, a) this guy has no formal training in playing, composing, music theory, etc., it's all self-taught (and what he's taught himself is towards the esoteric end: stuff like Philip Glass and Stephen Reich) and b) he is really interested in what he called "derelict technology" that is, sound making techniques that were hyper-modern at one time but now resonate with a very specific, very limited period (like the synths on Peter Gabriel's So). Anyway, interesting stuff, lots to do to get it into feature format.

We're going to see Roger Miller's pre-Burma outfit Sproton Layer tonight at the Flywheel, but I don't think I'm writing about it, at least not anywhere but here.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Fuck Buttons...exactly how does this work?

Hey look, I've got another interview up at Blurt today.


A billion bloody fans can’t possibly be wrong, can they? Fuck no! But what will they think of the new avenues of expression the British band traverses on new album Slow Focus? Benjamin John Power and Andres Hung have some explaining to do.


Two years ago, a Fuck Buttons song was broadcast to over 1 billion people. It was “Olympians” and, fittingly enough, it was incorporated into the London Olympics’ opening ceremony, along with the equally blood-pounding, equally ecstatic “Surf Solar.”

“We were approached by Rick Smith from Underworld who was working on the opening ceremony,” says Benjamin John Power. Power, along with Andrew Hung, has made up Fuck Buttons since the mid-‘00s. “He just proposed to us that he wanted to include us. We didn’t really know in what capacity our music was going to be used until quite late on in the day. We were as surprised as anybody else.”


FUCK BUTTONS - stalker - TARKOVSKY from joppippoj on Vimeo.

I reviewed Tarot Sport a while back for Dusted, too.

Laura Veirs

Last time I caught up with Laura Veirs, she was hugely pregnant with her first child but still managing a tour comprehensive enough to include Northampton, was all to support the really lovely July Flame, another of her excellent but (I think( insufficiently appreciated albums. She is very bright and eloquent and has a beautiful voice and a way with melody...she's married to Tucker Martine, a talented West Coast producer who frames her songs in striking and unexpected ways.

So anyway, Ms. Veirs has another album, the first since her collection of children's music, and it's wonderful. My favorite song is "That Alice" a rather raw, rather rocking tribute to Alice Coltrane (it is volume two, after "Carole Kane" in her series of tributes to obscure but excellent female musicians). But "Sun Songs" is good, too.

My Laura Veirs interview and live show review got mangled by the Blurt archival system, but check them out if you can get past the formatting issues.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

All left turns: my Sonny Smith interview

Wow, that was quick. My Sonny Smith interview is up now at PopMatters.

All Left Turns: An Interview with Sonny and the Sunsets

By Jennifer Kelly 23 July 2013

“People are always asking, ‘When did you decide to write a country record?’ Or ‘When did you decide to write a new wave record?’” says Sonny Smith, the San Francisco-based songwriter, monologue-ist, and father of 100 imaginary bands. “That sounds really bland, you know? Like you’re just picking a genre on a map, or like you’re pinning the tail on the donkey.

“There’s always a misconception that we think of this stuff way beforehand, like a director who decides to make a Western,” he says. “I think you don’t know what you’re doing for a while, maybe until it’s about halfway made and then you see it. It reveals itself for what it is.”


Monday, July 22, 2013

Ezra without the Harpoons

I give Ezra Furman's first solo record The Year of No Returning four stars at Blurt today.

The Year of No Returning
Ezra Furman


All by himself for the first time, songwriter Ezra Furman struck out in a lot of different ways on The Year of No Returning. He made the record shortly after dissolving Ezra and the Harpoons, his band since college, which had hit its critical high water mark with the 2011 release Mysterious Power.

Moving back to Chicago, holing up in an attic studio, working with a revolving crew of local musicians, it all seemed to free him to work in a variety of styles. The record swaggers– and mostly successfully — through garage rock, Dylan-ish rasping acoustic, piano ballads, epic psychedelic and rollicking country rock. Emotions run raw through all these styles – even at his smoothest and most ballad-y, Furman’s voice cracks and hiccups with feeling. Yet there’s a sleekness, a feeling of finish and craftsmanship, in cuts like “Lay in the Sun” and “Down”. Mysterious Power felt like a fast, rattling joyride. Year of No Returning seems more like a Sunday excursion to the local scenic high points.


Friday, July 19, 2013

Múm's new album, Smilewound

Smilewound, the upcoming album by Múm, is way blippier and more electronic than the last one...almost austere compared to Sing Along to Songs You Don't Know. Not that there isn't pop and melody and lush-ness in these songs, it's just chopped and italicized to the point where you have to search for it in the mix. I think I'll probably like it more as I listen to it more...unlike Sing Along which I liked right away.

Here's the first video

I wrote a review of a Mum show a couple of years ago for Blurt, but I'm not sure it's accessible anymore since the redesign. Anyway, surprisingly great band live, way more fun than you'd guess from the records. Lots of bouncing around and dancing.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

La Machine...reissued

Reissue of the long-lost, drone-y, kraut-y, lo-fi Phases and Repetitions from Providence drum-bass duo La Machine. The band was a sort of side project for Six Finger Satellite's Rick Pelletier and John Loper..It's on Castle Face, whose co-founder John Dwyer says:

The year was 1996 (a guess really), when I had La Machine play in our Olneyville warehouse space. It was the first time I danced in front of other people. (I was later told I was really good)

I think maybe it was the first time I can recall where I stood in front of something I would consider modern psychedelic music. Not a rehash of some ghost from the past but something new to me.

We had a plethora of hardcore, improv, and noise bands in New England... but this... this was something different. It was churning and it had a haunting floor - scraping ass on it. It had hints of nausea and a cyclic simplicity that to this day I still love and listen to often. Loudly, stoned driving through the desert. Laughing. They played and my friends skated the quarter pipe my flate mate had built... it was my first successful party and I thank La Machine for it.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A striated, ever-shifting mesh of loosely collated sound.

I have a review of the latest album from French noise-experimental guitarist and composer Richard Pinhas up today at Blurt.

Desolation Row
Richard Pinhas


Richard Pinhas has been a provocateur since the 1960s, building shifting, shivering, monuments of noise with treated guitars, synthesizers, drums and a collection of like-minded souls. First with Heldon, later as a solo artist, more recently as a collaborator with Merzbow and Pascal Comelade, Pinhas has layered guitar texture on guitar texture in vast oceanic swells of sound. Movement in his pieces seems to rise up from the depths, pulsing through iridescent sprays and squalls like some elaborately muscled, violent beast. For Desolation Row, Pinhas’ 16th solo record, the artist is flanked by noise experimenters Oren Ambarchi, Lasse Marhaug, Etienne Jaumet and Nowl Akchote, who bend guitar and pedal sounds into massive, free-form shapes. Drummer Erick Borelva keeps these extended feedback and overtone symphonies in motion, pummeling rainbow shimmering auras into kraut-y propulsion.


It's not on the record I reviewed, but here he is with Merzbow.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Bodies of Water Twists Again...

This is two years late, this post. Tell those nice folks in Bodies of Water I'm sorry. Their CD was in a pile on my desk, but it's an old layered pile and the current stuff tends to be on top. Anyway, I found Twist Again a few weeks ago and was all "oh cool, new stuff from Bodies of Water!" and put it on my iTunes and (big surprise) liked it a lot. The whole time I had a growing suspicion that it had come out a while ago, but I was thinking months, not years.

Ahem. June 2011.

So what should you know about Bodies of Water? They're a foursome, comprised of two married couples. They're from California. Their slightly more popular side project Music Go Music often earns them comparisons to Abba, and I hate Abba, so let me tell you, it's a spurious comparison.

I had a very early interview with Bodies of Water at PopMatters and afterwards David told me that it was the best thing anyone had written about them so far (this was 2007, so that might not be true anymore).

I also did a piece on Music Go Music for Blurt. (It's hard to read because it hasn't been reformatted for the new site design.)

What about the new album? It's lovely, quirky, epically romantic but a bit more mature and settled than previous efforts. Maddy Costa at the Guardian said, "Twist Again, BoW's third album, is a calmer, more controlled affair than either of its predecessors. The four-part gospel choir has been abandoned in favour of a focus on David's brooding baritone and Meredith's nightingale trill, and where familiar musical ingredients appear – abrupt changes in tempo, flurrying saxophones, galloping guitars – it's with an appealing new restraint."

Monday, July 15, 2013

Jackson Scott's Melbourne

Another lonely four-tracker, breaking out of the bedroom in a big (though wistful and diffident) comes Jackson Scott out of Ashville, NC with his new album Melbourne. People are saying Deerhunter and Mac DeMarco, but screw that, let's haul out the high-test comparisons -- The Clean, Guided by Voices, Jesus & Mary Chain, Olivia Tremor Control. This is really good. Never mind that it's on Fat Possum. (That bothered me, too.)

Um, that farm implement site gave him a nod.

There's not much information about this guy on the web yet (nice content-free one-sheet, btw, glad I looked it up). But I did find this interview on The Schoole of Abuse.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Love this song

That's all, happy Sunday.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Today in Providence...and Northampton

So except for a little bit at the end, I'm going to take a break from the music for one post, and tell whoever's interested (and possibly some hapless music people who aren't) about today. This was the day I drove Sean to Providence RI to try out for Book of Mormon.

We got there way early, so found the place, convinced ourselves we hadn't found the place, reconfirmed that this was the place and left to kill a couple of hours around Brown. Brown is a lovely campus, mostly closed today with the kids on summer break, but beautifully gothic and hilly and there are of places where you can huff up an incline through neighborhoods that belong in an Emily Dickenson poem, then look back down into an extremely modern, glass-tower-and-factory-type city. I believe I enjoyed this part more than Sean did, because he was still pretty antsy about his audition. We had some tea at a tea-only café on the main drag at Brown and Sean said, without prompting, "I'm so glad I'm going to school in a real city." Take that Providence. Take that Brown.

So, Sean's slot was at 11:30 and we headed back to the car around 11 to make sure we had time. The audition was being held in a very nondescript, not especially central neightborhood of one- and two- and three-story multifamilies. The audition was actually in a converted fire station (I didn't go in, so I can't tell you much about it, like whether the pole was still in there, etc.) When we arrived the first time, two hours early, I was convinced we had the address wrong. We didn't. There was an elementary school across the street, so this is where I parked and Sean went in by himself.

This paragraph is pure hearsay, based on what Sean told me after. Sean got to see a few of the other auditioners, some pretty good, some not. Most of them were trying out for the other part (whose name escapes me at the moment), not McKinley (who sings the "Turn It Off" song about suppressing gay thoughts). Sean chose McKinley because it had only one short high B in it, not a lot of sustained ones. He said he hit the B and all the other notes. He felt like he did reasonably well. He felt pretty certain that nothing would happen. He is almost surely right. He is, after all, barely 18, has only been taking singing lessons for a few months and has learned everything he knows about tap dancing from Youtube. (But someday...)

So anyway here's what I learned about professional auditions (from the parking lot):
1. They are not very glamorous. The neighborhood looked sort of like one I used to walk through on the way home from junior high, lower middle, not dangerous, but not remotely evocative of "Smash."
2. They don't take very long. Sean was in and out in 20 minutes.
3. They are more fun to think about than to actually experience. (Which is true of a lot of things.)

But on the other hand, we had a really good time afterwards, stopping in Northampton for Mexican (Sean -- chicken tamales, me -- cheese quesadillas, both -- plantains) and going to Turn it Up afterwards, where I found a bunch of really cool stuff, a Loren Connors box set, which I did not buy, and a CD reissue of the Monks Black Monk Time which I did.

Ahem, music at the end, did I say?

The whole thing was, obviously, bittersweet, since I have spent the last 18 years doing silly things with Sean and he is about to go off and do silly things with other people. But it was mostly very sweet, and I loved being a part of it.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Cool stuff from the WFMU heavily played list

I've been out foraging for new music, and, as usual, the best stuff is over at WFMU.

My plan was pretty simple: find a video or soundcloud or bandcamp for the first five artists on their list.

It worked out pretty great.

Here are Deux Filles...

The music is extraordinary, and also the backstory is pretty intriguing. Deux Filles was a conceptual project from soundtrack composer Simon Fisher Turner and producer Colin Lloyd Tucker (who were both briefly in a predecessor to The The, remember them?). Anyway, they made up this band out of whole cloth, constructing a really elaborate, tragic biography. to quote Discogs:

"The short, mysterious career of the aptly named female French duo Deux Filles is bookended by tragedy. Gemini Forque and Claudine Coule met as teenagers at a holiday pilgrimage to Lourdes, during which Coule's mother died of an incurable lung disease and Forque's mother was killed and her father paralyzed in a grisly auto accident. The two teens bonded over their shared grief and worked through their bereavement with music. However, after recording two critically acclaimed albums and playing throughout Europe and North America, Forque and Coule disappeared without a trace in North Africa in 1984 during a trip to visit Algiers, where Forque had lived from birth to the age of five. Theories from abduction and murder to a planned disappearance to spontaneous human combustion have been floated, but in the ensuing years, not a trace of the duo has turned up except for a mysterious letter purportedly written by Coule claiming that the pair journeyed to India on a spiritual quest, only to meet with further hardships. Indeed, the short and terribly unhappy lives of Forque and Coule are at the root of the small but fervent cult following the mysterious duo have gained since their disappearance, not least because the placid, largely instrumental music on the duo's albums betrays no hint of the sorrow that framed their personal lives."

All false, but a kind of art in itself.

Second up is a compilation from the Soul Jazz Label called TV Sound & Image: British Television Film & Library Composers 1956-80: Volume One, which is exactly what it sounds like, but also awesome.

Here's the lead-off track, "Condition Red" by Barry Stoller, which is from the soundtrack from The Sweeney. Puts that Mission Impossible theme right in its place, don't you think?

You can stream clips from the rest of the album here.

I'm going to skip William Tyler's Impossible Dream in third place, because while I love the album and will probably shoe-horn it into my 2013 top ten somewhere, I've already blogged it and reviewed it and this is about new music...or at least new to me.

This next thing is from the Blind Shake, out of Minneapolis, a noise-punk band best known, if they're known at all, for their work with 1960s visionary Michael Yonkers (I interviewed Michael Yonkers for Dusted a few years ago, and it's a very interesting, very sad story. Check it out if you're intrigued.)

But this's very Wire-y and just kind of awesome.

Free Music Archive: The Blind Shake - Garbage on Glue

Okay, I've got to do some work today, so let's finish things off with Molly Drake, a jazz-pop singer fromn the 1950s who just happened to be Nick Drake's mother.

Here's what her bandcamp has to say about a new release of her music from Squirrel Thing:

Squirrel Thing Recordings, the label behind the mysterious lost recordings of Connie Converse, is proud to announce the release of Molly Drake—a self-titled collection of never-before-heard songs recorded in the 1950’s at the Drake family home, and lovingly restored by Nick Drake’s engineer John Wood. According to Joe Boyd, legendary producer of Five Leaves Left and Bryter Later, “this is the missing link in the Nick Drake story.”

Molly Drake is a comprehensive first look at a singular and sophisticated artist, whose influence on her son’s celebrated musical style is undeniable. The CD features a custom letterpressed jacket, family photos, and a biography by her daughter, Gabrielle Drake.

Much like her son, Molly Drake’s music is at once beautiful, charming, dark and pensive. The easy elegance of her lyrics belies their deeper themes of regret, memory, dread, and the sublime, crystallized as only a poet can. Her performances are intimately staged in the family sitting room, and perfectly complemented by her own piano accompaniment.

You're curious, right? Have a listen.

and that's it for today.

One side note, I am taking my son, Sean, to Providence, RI tomorrow to audition for the national tour company of Book of Mormon...he sent them a headshot and resume as a lark on Thursday night and got an invitation to audition about 20 minutes later. (He must look like a Mormon!) We are all kind of giddy, but also expecting nothing at all from it. My son has the most interesting things happen to him. I feel privileged to be along for the ride (or, to be more accurate, the drive).

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Liking CFCF, not crazy about Oneohtrix Point Never

I've got a couple of electronic records in the listening pile this week, which is always an opportunity to sound like an idiot, but I'm really, really enjoying CFCF's Music For Objects and somewhat less enamored of Oneohtrix Point Never's R Plus Seven. So, with the caveat that I do not really have any expertise in this area, I thought I'd think a little about why.

First the CFCF, which is a wonderfully restless, pointillistic montage of piano and percussive sounds. All the tracks are inspired by inanimate objects (hence the title), so that "Glass" has a lovely, crystalline clarity, while "Bowl" is somehow denser, earthier and, not sure how to say this, but a rounded-ness. all the tracks are made (by CFCF's composer/producer Michael Silver) out of the same basic elements, computer sounds, piano and something that sounds like malleted percussion, like a marimba or such (though the sounds might be synthesized, no idea about that). So there's an overall texture, but also a lot of variation in the individual pieces, a sense of personality almost. I really like it a lot.

Here's "Camera," which is built, more or less, on a not-quite-real-life sax-like sound suggests. I'm not sure what it has to do with a camera, but it's got quite a nice sense of slink and syncopation to it.

Oneohtrix Point Never's R Plus Seven is supposedly not intended as songs, but rather sonic material for an upcoming album. Which is maybe the problem. It's not that the individual sounds aren't intriguing, there's just no impetus to move from one to another. I think that Daniel Lopatin should have kept this private, maybe, and shared the finished material with us later.

What do you think?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Frightened Rabbit's Pedestrian Verse

"Sounds like a celebration and reads like a eulogy..."

I wrote this ages ago, and the record's been out for a while, but the review must have gotten misplaced somehow, because it just went up yesterday at Blurt.

So, no actual news here, but it does (I think) read pretty well.

Frightened Rabbit
Pedestrian Verse


Frightened Rabbit, out of Scotland, has always balanced the triumphant with the desperate, building large-scale, cathartic climaxes out of ragged guitar riffs, throat-sore shouts and gut-punched, rabble-rousing drums. Their sound has always been simultaneously a fist in the air and an open wound, a celebration of overcoming that is not quite certain, not quite over. Pedestrian Verse is the band’s fourth full-length, the first for Atlantic subsidiary Canvasback, but in no way a betrayal of the band’s rough-edged aesthetic. Pounding, pulsing, head-rattling “Holy” is among the band’s best rockers ever, and “State Hospital” another in a continuing series of poetic but dead-on conjurations of mental illness.

In the interval since Winter of Mixed Drinks, Frightened Rabbit has toured relentlessly – and so has played many of these songs repeatedly, on stage, before laying them down to tape. As a result there is more of a live, kinetic energy to this album, and less of the studio experiments and sound collages that dotted previous albums. The sound, too, is noticeably cleaner, with keyboards, in particular, showing up more sharply than before. Yet though these songs may be fresh out of the shower, they haven’t been blow-dried or overstyled. The shout-along choruses of “Woodpile” rumble with raw masculine intensity, the drums punch through power chords vibrating with dissonance. Everything is urgent and loaded with consequence.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Dan Melchior's K-85

A new album from one of my favorite songwriters...check out K-85 from Dan Melchior.  My review ran yesterday in Blurt

Album: K-85

Artist: Dan Melchior

Label: Homeless

Release Date: July 02, 2013
Dan Melchior

Dan Melchior layers wry, idiosyncratic blues folk with spooky auras. He gets ghostly, unsettling textures out of the most basic kind of drum machine rhythms (from a Kent K-85, hence the album title), a pedal board and perhaps some synthesizers. The first half of K-85 is mostly song-based, with the extraterrestrial touches relegated to the margins. But starting with about “Air Nippon” Melchior takes a left turn into the existentialist abstraction, raising the fundamental what-does-it-all-mean (if anything) question, with muffled, meandering, self-questioning experiments in instrumental sound.

The last few years have, maybe, taken the spring out of Melchior’s smart-assed prankster persona.  His wife Letha continues to struggle with cancer (and its treatments), and the guy who wrote bleakly humorous songs like “Me and JG Ballard” and “The Cruel Pang of Beauty” has lately turned more bleak than funny. There are some sharp lines in lyrics-heavy songs like “Dirty Lies” and, especially, “Mockingbird,” but you get the sense that the clever turn, the biting aside, are not really Melchior’s main objective anymore. The songs are haunted by the proximity of loss, even the words fading into nothingness against a background hiss of static and fuzz.

Monochrome Set

By the time I finished my review of the reissued Strange Boutique...the Monochrome Set were in color.

Good record, though....

Monday, July 8, 2013

New Queens of the Stone Age

I finally got around to Spotifying the new Queens of the Stone Age, and while I liked it okay, I couldn't help but feel like it's not as good as R or Songs for the Deaf.  I totally understand that Olivieri is probably hard to be around, but he was the kick in the ass for this band, the main reason that their melodic, dreamy elements were so desperately necessary and vital.  Without him, they're sliding further off into the soft-focus, and it's fine, but I'm probably not buying the album.

Though I'm thinking of putting R back on my iTunes. 

Here's the single, would be fun to see them play out sometime.

Bill (my husband) was asking if I was going to get this, and weirdly, that was more likely when they were on Interscope than Matador.  He was asking because he'd read Sasha Frere-Jones' piece in the New Yorker.  Which is pretty effusive. 


Saturday, July 6, 2013

Zola Jesus and JG Thirlwell

Versions, the new collaboration between Zola Jesus and JG Thirlwell, is coming out this summer, and it's a monster...sort of at the intersection of experimental singers like Julia Holter and dance-leaning, extended vocalist like Austra...oh and there's a full set of string arrangements, courtesy of Mr. Thirwell and the Mivos Quartet. The whole thing started at the Guggenheim a couple of years ago, and what do you know, there's video.

I saw Zola Jesus at Beerland at SXSW a few years ago, when no one knew who she was yet (I had to ask three people) but she was pretty intense even then.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Swimming Pool Qs

If you're into that punk-ish, jangle-y, guitar-chiming kind of sound associated with early R.E.M. and Pylon, you may already know about the Swimming Pool Qs, an Athens, Georgia contemporary of R.E.M.'s that made modest waves in the mid-1980s. Cipher Bureau (in some sort of partnership with Bar/None) is re-releasing the second and third Swimming Pool Qs albums this summer in a package called The A&M Years...and it's well worth checking out.

Here's some contemporary press about the band and the albums:

"Visionary pop eccentrics from Atlanta," noted Melody Maker. "Some of the most compelling rock sounds in all of America...lofty architectural style distinguished by the elegant and muscular guitar duets between Jeff Calder and Bob Elsey and [Anne] Boston's rhapsodic alto phrasings," said The Village Voice. In Rolling Stone, Kurt Loder wrote, "Overlaid with Calder's unusually literate songwriting sensibility, this musical melange is one of the freshest sounds coming out of the South." The Swimming Pool Q's were chosen as support act for LOU REED on his New Sensations comeback tour.

Here's some video of the Swimming Pool Qs in Atlanta in 1980.

Hope you all had a nice 4th, if you celebrate the fourth, and a good Thursday otherwise. We all (me, Sean and Bill) ran a 4 mile race in Keene, none of us covering ourselves in glory, but it was pretty hot. Then Sean had to go to Hairspray rehearsal (it's opening tonight) and Bill and I went to Amherst to see The East, which I enjoyed a whole lot...had a beer, came home, read a trashy sci-fi thriller...nice day off all in all.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Andrew Cedermark

Andrew Cedermark, who used to play guitar in Titus Andronicus, has a really nice, ragged guitar kind of album that people are likening to Springsteen and Japandroids, but I'm hearing more of an early 90s thing, to be specific, Silkworm and Superchunk. I like it. I just found out about the Titus Andronicus connection 40 seconds it's not that, it's the album. Which you can hear below.

Some shows coming up but nothing near me.

7/11 – Brooklyn, NY – Shea Stadium *
7/12 – Baltimore, MD – Golden West
7/13 – Cleveland, OH – Beachland Tavern
7/14 – Chicago, IL – The Burlington
7/16 – Nashville, TN – High Watt
7/17 – Oxford, MS – Lamar Lounge
7/18 – Athens, GA – Flicker
7/19 – Raleigh, NC – King’s Barcade
7/20 – Charlottesville, VA – Tea Bazaar

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

I don't really get People of the North until I read the Louise Bogan poem

I'm pretty sure that one member of People of the North teaches English, so it's maybe not surprising that their references are higher brow than, say, the average Japandroids album. But in any case, this particular album is named after a Louise Bogan poem that I read (first in excerpt in the press packet, later in toto on the web) and that sort of cracks open the whole enterprise.

You'll have to click through to get to the paragraph about the poem, or you can read it here:

Sub Contra

Notes on the tuned frame of strings

Plucked or silenced under the hand

Whimper lightly to the ear,

Delicate and involute,

Like the mockery in a shell.

Lest the brain forget the thunder

The roused heart once made it hear,

Rising as that clamor fell,

Let there sound from music's root

One note rage can understand,

A fine noise of riven things.

Build there some thick chord of wonder;

Then, for every passion's sake,

Beat upon it till it break.

And simultaneously listen:

Okay, that's enough right. You don't really want to read my review, do you?

Oh all right. Enjoy.

Sub Contra

People of the North

Thrill Jockey


Sub Contra, named for a Louise Bogan poem, layers supple volleys of abstract drumming over a wavering layer of distortion, a harsh buzz of sound that grows thicker and thinner like varying grades of sandpaper. Electronic auras fuzz to life then fade, bits of silvery space rock zoom forward then fade back into a power station hum. Signposts are few along the lonely roads these compositions travel, no words (except for a buried, indecipherable vocal in “Drama Class”), few melodic elements and not even much evidence of time signature.


Monday, July 1, 2013


Just surfacing briefly from a work-induced fugue in my inbox is Holograms sporting a nicely gothy, jittery post-punk vibe, I'm thinking early 90s. Album's out September on Captured Tracks.