Friday, October 31, 2008
Englishman Mathew Sweet records his intimate and dark little songs alone, often at night, in his bedroom studio. And whatever spirits he is able to conjure, it seems he's more than comfortable in their presence. 'How The Shadows' is full of quiet and unassuming songs rife with stark atmospheres and an air of palpable blackness. Like the wonderful and moody photographs on his website, Sweet's music displays an isolationist tendency, but oddly, it's not (at all) a sad kind of vibe. Musically, it's a beautiful and melodic kind of acoustic guitar-oriented sound, but lyrically there's a lot more going on - some deeper, almost threatening contemplations and parables are at work within. It's a work of accomplished subtlety and near-Lovecraftian storytelling. On the surface, and instrumentally, Boduf Songs resembles a kind of 'folk', but this is the kind of 'folk' for fans of stuff like Neurosis, maybe. If black metal went slow and acoustic, this may well be the sound of it. Very enjoyable, and probably even better in the wee hours of the night. Thoroughly impressive! (Kranky)
Boduf Songs website
Thursday, October 30, 2008
This very early (1970) film by now-respected Canadian director Cronenberg was written, produced, edited, and directed by him, and it shows an embryonic, if underdeveloped hint at what his future works (particularly fine films like 'Dead Ringers', 'The Brood', or 'Rabid') would become. In the grand spirit of, and dedicated to cultural engineers/literary geniuses Brion Gysin and William Burroughs, this brief synopsis is being done in a cut-up style, basically my own quick-jotted notes while watching 'Crimes of The Future'.
Cold clinical sterile expressionless
venereal disease hospital
harvesting renegade organs
created by bizarre disease affliction
chirping whining screaming
fetishistic taboo detached sexuality
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
When he's not releasing fine experimental sounds via his own indie label Cohort Records, John D. Gore creates his own. 'Living Underground' is a collection of 'manipulated field recordings', and this proves to be a fairly oppressive and gray set of textures. The opening cut reminds me of the sounds of machination and automation - like a subway tunnel mixed into oblivion. It's like a strange kind of dirty static. And with the album's title, it's not hard to believe that these recordings did originate from a subway tunnel. The lengthy second cut is more ambient, and brings a sort of drone underneath the distant rumble. Track 3 is more of a shrill drone/noise - the higher pitch seems to signify faster motion, perhaps. I can almost feel the ground move from the force of the trains, somehow. This ends up with a collage of sirens, which only enhances the stressful environment of 'Living Underground'. Overall, a fine set of urban soundscapes - definitely not a relaxing listen, but more one of kinetic energy and big-city unease. Industrial ambience, indeed! (Cohort Records)
Arriving as a nifty and highly collectible 180-gram vinyl LP (the CD is included as a bonus), this split release showcases a pair of bands from two very different backgrounds who (soundwise) share a similar dynamic and direction. New Jersey post-hardcore/emo-gazer group Thursday present the first 4 tracks. Their 'In Silence' is an atmospheric slice of instrumental sweetness accented by what sounds like a heart machine as a metronome - clever and dramatic. 'An Absurd And Unrealistic Dream Of Peace' returns to the rock with Geoff Rickly's tortured vocals and the band's trademark aggressive-yet-melodic approach. Thursday's final song here, 'Appeared And Was Gone' was remixed by Anthony Molina of Mercury Rev, and it begins as a lovely and woozy piece of piano-driven sadness, with trippy electronic effects filtering through until the huge conclusion, which brings down the house with an almost Sigur Ros-style momentum. It's a dramatic and stunning freefall into the abyss - both beautiful and frightening, somehow. Brilliant work.
Japanese act Envy's hardcore/post-rock side begins sweetly, with 'An Umbrella Fallen Into Fiction' - a light and airy yet contemplative piece that steadily swells into a huge screamo/shoegaze monster, complete with death-metal style vocals. It's an odd juxtaposition of the beautiful guitar melodies with grating vox, but it seems to work for Envy. Imagine Mono with gutteral vocals during the crescendos. You'll love it or hate it, I'd bet. Their other tracks follow a similar pattern, with 'Pure Birth And Loneliness' being a particularly skyward explosion of melody, martial drumming, and sad whisper/screamed vocals. Solid and epic work all around, and a must-have for fans of either group. (Temporary Residence)
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Unjustly overlooked NYC heavy rock act Living Colour are probably seen as being relics of the late 80's, with their riff-heavy radio hit 'Cult Of Personality' being their main claim to fame. But little did I realize that the band has reformed in recent years, and this well-recorded live document proves that the band (fronted by charismatic Corey Glover and anchored by guitar virtuoso Vernon Reid) is as relevant as ever. Combining elements of funk with heavy, almost metallic rock, this band's wise and politically/socially-charged attack shows a much more intelligent and literate angle than their supposed peers in the rock world. But message aside, the band can fire it up musically as well as anyone out there, too. 'Funny Vibe' is a tremendous showcase for Reid's guitar pyrotechnics, and even shows his proven jazz chops. It's wild and ferocious, and certainly lively until the end, which dips slightly into a near-psychedelic freakout mode. Cool stuff. 'In Your Name' flirts with electronica and drum & bass, though don't let that scare you away - this material is still guitar-based, through and through. 'Open Letter To A Landlord' is a muscular jam that has a special pertinence in relation to CBGB's and owner Hilly Kristal, who supported the band way back from the start, and to whom this recording is dedicated. 'Terrorism' is a fittingly strong and amped-up rally cry against, well, our very own (American) regime. 'Glamour Boy' lightens things up a bit, and 'Cult Of Personality' closes it out with flair and fervor. A fine, fine album, with passion and energy to spare. I am impressed! (MVD Audio)
Living Colour website
As a half of Charalambides, Carter has been a major player in the modern folk/psychedelic realm. She has released numerous solo recordings, many of which in insanely limited quantities (read: collector's bonanza), and this is her third (relatively major) release on Kranky.
Created almost solely by Christina herself, 'Original Darkness' is the result of a single-minded vision indeed. Her wispy, ghostly ethereal songs here seem to function as an exorcism of sorts - but in a subtle and understated way. There are no rants or soul-rending here, as Carter's tense collection of moody, sometimes flighty, other times intensely and quietly introspective songs flitter and float above, casting a gray and shadowy cloud just overhead. She works her distinctive and vulnerable voice along minimal drones, gently-strummed/plucked guitars and atmospheric keyboards to create magickal songs that are more like incantations rather than hummable melodies or 'pop' songs. Christina Carter's music follows her own intuition, rather than established patterns or structures. 'Original Darkness' is a deeply personal and internal dialogue that at times can be as unsettling as it can be liberating. (Kranky)
Charalambides personal label, Wholly Other
Christina Carter bio page at Kranky