Thursday, May 21, 2009

School Of Seven Bells - "Alpinisms" CD

From the ashes of indie rock act Secret Machines and the more experimental On!Air!Library! comes this sweet and swirly bit of auditory candy. Elements of shoegaze register quickly on this radar, as does the gentle shuffle of trip-hop/electronica, all gelled together in a melodic and accessible pop framework. 'Face To Face On High Places' is an early standout, with the cooing reverberated vocals of twin sisters Claudia and Alejandra Deheza channeling Liz Frazier without being a knockoff. It's a warm and lilting vibe here, from the minor-key layered textures of the ethereal 'Half Asleep' to the Joy Division-like starkness of 'White Elephant Coat'. Call it 'dream pop' if you want, as 'Alpinisms' certainly scales some otherworldly reverb-friendly heights, yet has a well-pronounced melodic, song-oriented form. Imagine a well-balanced melding of Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine, His Name Is Alive, Postal Service, and Bowery Electric, and, if a few of these are already in your collection, you'll be in for a treat with 'Alpinisms'. A beautiful and enjoyable record. (Ghostly International)

SOSB website

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

"Síðasti Bærinn (The Last Farm)" (director: Runar Runarsson)

This short film was nominated for an Academy Award, and won several other less-newsworthy awards, after it's initial release in 2004. Filmed entirely in the pristine and majestic isolationist landscapes of Iceland, the 16-minute film documents an elderly farmer's reaction to his beloved wife's passing. It's a gentle reflection on the transience and inevitable change that comes with time. The score is a lovely instrumental set by Sigur Ros' Kjartan Sveinsson, which can be found (along with the film itself) here.

The Oratory Of Divine Love - "Meditatio" CD

An alias of prolific sound-architect John D. Gore, this new project is a single 51-minute track of subtle, reverberated sound. It all begins as a dark and spacious machine drone (or is it a collage of natural environmental recordings?), echoing infinitely in all directions. 'Meditatio', from the onset, seems almost too dark to be meditational music, as the sound-leviathan here is massive and all-encompassing, leaving little room for any light to shine through. However, over the course of this long piece, the sound manages to open itself up to a more open, and dare I say, even spiritual vibe. Here, the piece evolves into a chorus of what seems to be effected voice-sounds and crystalline tones -- a transformational journey, unquestionably. As the oppression is lifted, an almost joyous feeling permeates the recording. Whether or not this is the intended outlook, I don't know, but it works. Kudos to Gore, as this is a straight DAT recording with no overdubs -- he successfully creates a journey that, with some patience, is handsomely rewarded. (Diophantine Discs)

Flipper - "Love" CD + "Fight (Live)" CD

You just can't keep a good Flipper down. Most bands, when losing their charismatic lead singer (as Flipper did when Will Shatter passed away back in 1987), simply wither away. Not so here. After some kinda 'meh' releases in the 90's, this set of new releases (one studio, one live) from all the surviving original members show a feisty and faithful continuation of the group's legendary noise-dirge-punk spirit. With bassist Krist Novoselic in tow (on both releases), Flipper's skronky, atonal riff-o-ramas are spot-on, sloppy, and messy as ever. This is thick, sludgy, and greasy nihilist rock that just simply smokes. 'Love' is co-produced by Seattle scenemaker Jack Endino, and he captures the group's raw proto-grunge faithfully -- slow, insistent, and relentless riff-driving madness. Bruce Loose's vocals are just on this side of sanity, and the band's legendary and trademark wallop is still there. The live album, 'Fight', brings a mix of classic tunes and new ones, and is every bit as intense and unhinged as ever. Flipper may have been through some tough times, but they are back and firing on all cylinders. Make no mistake, 'Love' and 'Fight' are huge, mean, and well worth a listen. (MVD Audio)

Flipper site
Another Flipper site

Mugison! Is This Monkeymusic?

One of Iceland's favorite musicians/madmen (and award-winning songwriters), Mugison (his parents know him as Örn Elías Guðmundsson) has revamped his website, and he's even made some of his fine recordings available for free just have to join his mailing list. Fair enough. Get a sample here.

He's been called Iceland's Beck, but that's just not fair. I like Mugison much better. He was featured performing the memorable 'Murr Murr' in the Icelandic music documentary 'Screaming Masterpiece'. He's toured the states opening for Queens Of The Stone Age, and he's had his recordings released over here through Mike Patton's Ipecac Recordings, so you know not to expect sappy radio music. Mugison's the real thing, and you should check out his work. It's nothing like Bjork or Sigur Ros -- there's no pixie voices here, just a man, his guitar, and maybe some other noises, too. Bottom line, you can trust Mugi for some verily fine songs.

By the way, the title of this post is in reference to his 2005 album, the fine 'Mugimama! Is this Monkeymusic?', which includes the aforementioned 'Murr Murr'. So, while you consider your free downloads, check out his latest video, the sexually-charged 'Jesus Is A Good Name To Moan', whereas Mugison finds his 'rawk' muse!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Craft beer and indie brewmaking is alive and bright!

So it's spring at last, birds are twittering, trees are budding, grass is mowing, and beers are brewing! This month, I have a nice selection of beers (and, uh, one 'malt beverage') to drink and think about. Remember, the scale runs from 1 to 5, 1 being worthless pisswater, 2 being fair enough (but i wouldn't buy), 3 is average and drinkable, 4 is excellent, and 5 is amazing enough that i will seek it out in the future. Remember, do your part and support craft and indie beer - don't do the corporate thing (Anheuser-Busch, Coor's, Miller). They are inherently evil and will take your soul and your money.
Enough of my sermon, it's time to imbibe!

KASTEEL - Rouge (Belgium) - 4
An aroma of rich cherries and maybe some woodiness, very reminiscent of a fine wine, but minus the sulfites. With almost no head upon first pour, this Belgian kriek is sweet and strong (8% ABV), but not at all overbearing. Very nice for a fruit-infused brew. Kasteel's Rouge is well-balanced, and a fine beer to sip and enjoy. Tasty and unique!

GOOSE ISLAND - Summertime (Chicago, IL) - 4

Nice. This one's a golden kolsch (German lager) with a smooth and malty taste at first, and a pleasantly hoppy follow-through. One of the better Goose Islands I've had. A smooth and refreshing beer with a complex flavor profile. Quite a treat!

SCHLAFLY - Helles Style Summer Lager (St. Louis, MO) - 3.5

A light, pale lager, this toasty-flavored beer has a nicely-balanced malt/hops combination. I sense a slight citrus zing almost. A good and mellow German-style lager that should please just about anyone, from mainstream consumers to craft beer afficionados. Absolutely no problem here.

BACARDI SILVER SIGNATURE - Mango Guava Lemonade (St. Louis, MO) - 1

Okay, Must keep an open mind here, right? Sweet frou-frou drinks can't all be despicable and stomach-churning, can they? This fizzy soft-drinklike "malt beverage" has a lemonade-meets-artificial corn syrup taste that feels heavy and weird. Nice for a sip, but over the course of a whole bottle, it's overbearingly sweet and manages to completely obliterate all my taste buds. No, thanks.

FLYING DOG - Kerberos Tripel (Frederick, MD) - 4

Flying Dog seldom disappoints. This Belgian-style Tripel Ale is a murky gold/amber with a bold and zesty citrus/coriander/spice taste and a dry finish. It's 8.5%, so expect a kick. Kerberos Tripel is full of rich, full-bodied taste, and is certainly not for beginners. Solid any way you look at it.