Grouper – A I A [2011]

Posted in ambient,dream pop,psychedelic folk by deek on April 25, 2011


Liz Harris’ music as Grouper has always existed for me in the moment between consciousness and slumber, when the day’s thoughts stray and splinter into non-sequiturs, when memory atrophies into instantaneous forgetfulness. Not to be confused with sleepiness nor a codeine-induced haze, this state is one of cognizance, though on the precipice of unconsciousness. Often in Grouper’s music, this unawareness manifests itself as déjà entendue, whether that be the ‘gymnopédist’ opening of “Disengaged” or further flung moments of partial recollection. While Liz’s music is gorgeous on a purely aesthetic level, this false, indelible immediacy is, for me, the ensnaring characteristic of Grouper. Unsurprisingly, this ephemeral comfort is once again present in A I A, Grouper’s much-anticipated, two-part follow-up to her breakthrough album Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill. For many, the appeal of that formative release was its ability to synthesize Liz’s prior penchant for fluid structure and dronescapes with the focus of a singer-songwriter superstructure. But let’s just get this out of the way: a Dragging clone A I A is not. Instead, on Alien Observer and Dream Loss, Grouper once again resides in the ethereal gauze of Wide et al., with only the track “Alien Observer” recalling the singer-songwriter idiom frequented on Dragging. While split into two LPs that can be appreciated independently of each other, Alien Observer and Dream Loss work best when played sequentially, especially since the two are thematically similar. On each, that aforementioned cognitive tampering is the most pronounced of Grouper’s discography. Liz’s remembrance ranges from the fleeting familiarity of her flowing vocal and disintegrating tape loops on the opener “Moon is Sharp” to far more concrete anamnesis. This clear reminiscence goes as far as (pseudo) quotation, of others and herself. Just as Dragging’s “Disengaged” is founded on a slight perturbation of Satie’s hollowed melody, “(first heart tone)” commences with what resembles the opening notes of what seems to be a Messiaen piece, only to disperse into newborn lines. Of even more vivid familiarity is “No Other,” which is seemingly identical to Grouper’s 2007 single “Tried.” Although it may seem distasteful for such distant reuse, “No Other” is contextually appropriate in both sound and theme. Adaptation and sampling aren’t uncommon for tape manipulators and pedal pressers, but Grouper’s aesthetics transcend the rhetorical device of shallow recollection often found in music of her ilk. Not only does she induce recognition, but Grouper melds memory and sound to the point at which memory is codified through her sounds. Akin to Schnittke’s ‘polystylism’ — the juxtaposition of past styles against modernity — Harris employs her sources and references as a catalyst for a listener’s cognitive editing, splicing their memories with Grouper’s and injecting herself into their consciousness. And yet, when I detach myself from A I A, I’m left feeling uneasy over the legitimacy of what I’ve found, whether ‘identified’ elements are truly present. The quotations and allusions I was so sure I heard now seem tenuous, not even placeable. Perhaps it’s in these mistaken identities where we can find the essence of A I A. Alien Observer and Dream Loss permit and accentuate their listener’s past, fusing with and wrapping around his/her subjective history. For each person, the resulting resonance is unique, so I do not feel comfortable asserting much about this process for another. But for myself, this sound/synapse transposition is as haunting as it is beautiful — surely Grouper’s best. -tinymixtapes

Between the Buried and Me – The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues (EP) [2011]

Posted in metalcore,progressive metal by deek on April 8, 2011

On paper a two part series of conceptually linked releases relating to a pair of space age characters facing similar issues light years apart sounds a bit eccentric. In fact, it sounds more like something spawned from the LSD damaged gray matter of Mastodon than that of Between The Buried And Me. But with “The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues“, these North Carolina natives have blasted off in exactly that direction. This three track, 30 minute long release represents many of the finer points of Between The Buried And Me and the progressive tech metal juggernaut they have become. Given the heady concept the band are exploring one would expect them to employ a Cynic-like onslaught of space rock and digital effects. Ever the ones to avoid the status quo though, the group instead veer off in a more organic direction, going so far as to erupt into some surprisingly frivolous Mr. Bungle-reminiscent moments. As with any Between The Buried And Me release, the band exhibit an exceptional grasp of their individual instruments, tearing through stunningly complex arrangements with blistering performances. It seems any band can shred with proficiency these days though and depth is where Between The Buried And Me repeatedly set themselves apart. Whether it be the haunting organic tinges of the ever looming keys, the unexpected dips into slide guitars and what even sounds like an accordion on “Augment Of Rebirth“; the band showcase a somewhat kookier side that gives levity to what is often an epic, if not extremely turbulent voyage. Melody, while not explicitly the main focus of the release, remains as key and uplifting as ever, helping to punctuate this first half of the groups lofty tale. Truly Between The Buried And Me‘s songwriting has become more elaborate and cohesive without sacrificing any of the bands adventurousness. Whether they set their mind to passive harmonizing or a punishing metallic onslaught, they exude the same amount of passion and attention to detail. A select few bands can implement this level of control and precision over what should be an all out aural cataclysm and rope it all in. But only this one could cultivate this much artistic intent and explosive creativity from such a fearsome cyclone of instrumental chaos. – theprp.com

Panda Bear – Tomboy [2011]

Posted in neo psychedelia,psychedelic pop by deek on April 6, 2011

At the end of 2009, if you glanced at a rock critic’s “best of” list, Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion was probably on it. The album followed what had been 10 years of recording and touring for the band, but soft-spoken member Noah Lennox took the newfound success in stride. “I think one thing that helped us is that we had kind of a slow build,” Lennox tells Weekend All Things Considered host Guy Raz. “It wasn’t like we were playing to 10 people and then suddenly we were playing shows of 20,000 people or something like that.” Another thing that might have helped: Lennox was far, far away from the limelight. A few years ago, he moved from his hometown of Baltimore to Lisbon, Portugal. Lennox also records as a solo artist under the name Panda Bear. His third album, 2007’s Person Pitch, also landed on many year-end lists, and his fourth, Tomboy, comes out this month. Lennox says Tomboy has a darker feel than much of his past work, due in part to his work habits in the basement studio where he recorded it. “There are no windows, so every day I would go in there and turn off the lights and have my gear set up,” Lennox says. “You can’t help but have the atmosphere and environment come out in what you’re doing.” Lennox’s music, both as Panda Bear and in Animal Collective, is dense and filled with soaring refrains, which he creates using sequencers, synthesizers and many layers of vocals.”I like to think of it like salt and pepper — you put these weird little sounds in there to spice up the song,” he says. “I’ll often think about making music and making food. I’m a terrible chef, though.” Tomboy also sports another trademark of Lennox’s catalog: a cavernous sound heavy with reverberant echoes, much like those that occur naturally in the churches of Lisbon. Lennox says he’s always been attracted to those big, hollow tones. “These stone buildings that have really high ceilings … it’s always been a type of sound I’ve been drawn to,” he says. “I kind of slap it on everything, unfortunately. Music just sounds really good to me in that kind of space.” – NPR

Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues‎ [2011]

Fleet Foxes are one of those bands that arrived so fully formed that it was hard to imagine where they’d take their sound next, and judging by the long gap between their debut LP and the upcoming Helplessness Blues, it seems the group may have struggled with that notion some as well. The eponymous lead single from the record finds them honing their intricate baroque folk while at the same time trying out a more straightforward, lyrical approach. The most notable difference between “Helplessness Blues” and the Sun Giant/Fleet Foxes material is that frontman Robin Pecknold’s words and vocals are front and center, high in the mix. Over a surging acoustic instrumental, he sings about existential fear (“What’s my name? What’s my station? Oh, just tell me what I should do”) in a hopeful and earnest way. Some will probably call these lyrics hokey, but they’re delivered with such sincerity (and vocal warmth) that I can’t help but go along for the ride. The song is essentially two halves, and around the three-minute mark, the whole band appears, and it bursts into a more reverberant, orchestral section that just shimmers. It’s here where you remember how great these guys sound when they’re firing on all cylinders, and it’s easy to think there could be more of this kind of lovely sprawl on the record’s other tracks. -pitchfork

TV on the Radio – Nine Types of Light [2011]

Posted in art rock,electronic,funk,indie rock by deek on March 31, 2011

TV on the Radio have been many things in the decade since they first dive-bombed New York City’s outer boroughs. Arty a cappella reductionists on 2003’s Young Liars EP; sky-bound funk-slop visionaries on 2004’s still-epic Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes; tenacious, politically ravaged anthemists on 2006’s Return to Cookie Mountain; and most recently, a manic pixie dance band on 2008’s Dear Science. Throughout, their songs have been marked by lead singer Tunde Adebimpe’s to-the-heavens demon howl, producer/multi-instrumentalist Dave Sitek’s searing gospel-funk hoedowns, and an ineffable sense of drama — theirs is a sound that is meaningful but shaded, aggressive but delicate. It can burn as quickly as it can fade away. TV on the Radio make Important Music for Important Times. So, as the country claws its way back to sanity, if not normalcy, Nine Types of Light begins as a surprise of sorts: It’s lovers rock. Which isn’t to say this band has never loved. Guitarist Kyp Malone’s “Lover’s Day” from Dear Science remains an oft-quoted Brooklyn sex jam, and they are an undeniably physical band — not quite hip-thrusters, but Adebimpe’s wounded, off-kilter sensuality is a particularly unusual brand. They just haven’t been this intimate about their feelings before. “I’m gonna keep your heart / If the world falls apart / I’m gonna keep your heart,” Malone sings softly on the chorus of the stuttering, mandolin-accented “Keep Your Heart.” Later, on “You”: “You’re the only one I ever loved.” “Will Do” is a torch song that begins with such plainspoken unfussiness that it could appear on a Taylor Swift album. While drummer Jaleel Bunton and bassist Gerard Smith were Science’s lifeblood, pumping and chugging out some fractured take on disco, now they’re barely audible at times. And is that a banjo on “Killer Crane”? It all raises another question: What happened to the lupine fury? The apocalypse of the soul once proffered with such ferocity? It’s still there intermittently — “New Cannonball Blues” and the stomper “Caffeinated Consciousness” jerk the wheel into the oncoming traffic of blues rock. But mostly Nine Types of Light feels like the liquefying of a band, ten years and four albums deep, into the soft tenderness of pre-middle-age satisfaction. Like, maybe family life sounds pretty good right about now — and it fits them well. Interpreting the album’s title is a dicey proposition, but taken literally, it’s revealing: TV on the Radio have shifted constantly, from the humble visible form of light that brightens the world in their earliest days to the violent gamma explosions of Return to Cookie Mountain, straight to the cosmic light of the sky — a destination not unfamiliar to this band during Dear Science. And here, they return to the earth’s surface, intact, with their eyes open to what’s right in front of their faces. They want to be — and have the chops to be — all kinds of bands. And this album has a there-and-back quality, one they couldn’t have pulled off five years ago. TV on the Radio have flashed unknowable cool, have been a troupe for our times, and have shaken their asses to kingdom come. Acquiescence is no simple trick when you’ve conquered. But then, what’s wrong with a night on the couch with a loved one? -Spin

Ann Beretta – Bitter Tongues [1998]

Posted in punk rock by jheisel on February 27, 2011

Radiohead – The King of Limbs [2011]

Posted in alternative rock,electronic,experimental rock by deek on February 18, 2011

Toro y Moi – Under the Pine [2011]

Posted in chillwave by lifetimeguerintee on February 9, 2011




…And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead – Tao of the Dead [2011]

Posted in alternative rock,indie rock by deek on February 2, 2011

It had to happen. After 16 years and six albums, these noisemongers finally indulge their proggiest tendencies on this epic excursion inspired by frontman Conrad Keely’s childhood love of ’70s concept albums (Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, Yes’ Relayer, Rush’s Hemispheres, etc.). Tao of the Dead is split into two songs, each tuned to a different key: Part I, a 35-minute jam in D effortlessly shifts over 11 chapters; and II boasts six movements over 16 minutes in F. The band’s typically thunderous melodic sprawl and cryptic musings on life and death perfectly fit the conceptual bill, with everything cranked to its natural extreme. – Spin

Bright Eyes – The People’s Key [2011]

Posted in indie folk,indie rock by deek on February 2, 2011

Bright Eyes leader Conor Oberst took a break from his band after 2007’s Cassadaga to focus on a slew of other projects, including a few solo releases and a record with Monsters of Folk. He even threatened to retire the Bright Eyes name in 2009, though that would fade with time when he announced a pair of EPs and The People’s Key. The record stands as his eighth with the Bright Eyes band, which this time is joined by a slew of guests. The 10 tracks on here include appearances from Autolux’s Carla Azar, Cursive’s Matt Magnin, and the Faint’s Clark Baechle, among others. – prefixmag

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