Friday, December 31, 2010

Red Transistor – Not Bite 8.5


When this begins playing, I don’t care what volume you have it at, increase it. Not Bite deserves it; it deserves you sinking your teeth into the spaz madness that’s about to happen. The singer seems to be working through some intense nervous breakdown, not realizing where he’s at. Vampires attack as he shouts “Not Bite”. Or that could be his dreary, boring life he’s rebelling against.

Drums are around; they go this way and that. Guitars freak out, find their place again. That organ that thing is sort of being tortured in the background, gives the closest thing to an anchor. Urgency doesn’t even describe what’s going on, urgency isn’t enough for this. Your full attention and then some is demanded, expected of you. Just go with the flow.

That’s the first track. “We’re Not Crazy” is an understated, low key affair. Nah, I kid. Its bass pinpoints your ears, going at some absurdly fast speed. Maybe it would be driving music if there weren’t any speed limits. Like the previous track, there’s a bunch of intense noise occurring just enough out of focus to keep you curious. For whatever reason, the singer repeats “We’re Not Crazy” despite the sound indicating otherwise. 

If you wanted a better No Wave EP, I’d be very hard pressed to find you one. This positively oozes energy and chaos. VON LIMO, the guitarist, ended up using leftover ideas from this in his solo stuff. Wish he had keep this band together for over a year.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Hello My Future: 2011


This person seems cool, she should read my blog or save me from a burning building.
According to the news, New Yorkers do a “Good Riddance” day celebration. Taking pieces of paper, they write down the things that bothered them most. Once all the pieces of paper have been collected, they are placed into a giant shredder.

                I thought for a minute whether or not this was a true story by the Daily News. Upon reading the ceremony took place in Times Square, I immediately thought to myself “That’s Why”. New York is New York, Times Square is the equivalent of saying you went to Florida when all you went to was Disney World. Come to think of it, most of the Times Square stuff is owned by Disney too. Coincidence, I think not.

                While most are frantically scrambling things to wish goodbye to (or Good Riddance) I look forward to my future. 2011 offers a great deal of opportunities, not only in politics, business, and so on but in more important fields like new music releases.

                Right now we’re in the “Cruise Control” part of the year. Nobody really accomplishes anything towards the end of the year. Yes, some good things did happen: the 9/11 First Responders Health Care Bill passed alongside “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. Mostly though, you might as well sleep until your New Year’s Eve party.

                Having said that, there are a few releases I’m looking forward to or am hoping will happen. Below are some of those artists who have stated they may/may not be releasing something this year:

Panda Bear – Tomboy (I hope this is released in 2011, and doesn’t become some kind of alt version of Guns N’ Roses “Chinese Democracy” taking years to create yet somehow managing to disappoint everyone).

Deerhoof – Deerhoof Vs. Evil (Yeah, I know they aren’t as relevant as they once were, but I maintain a soft spot for their output.)

Toro Y Moi – Underneath the Pine (Yes)

PJ Harvey – Let England Shake (Yes)

Cake – Showroom of Compassion (I guess these guys got up and realized that their audience was entering into ‘Cool Mom/Cool Dad’ territory. Discovering this, they decided putting out another album would be a great way of attracting a new audience who believe they have taste but really don’t)

Smith Westerns – Dye it Blond (People tell me I should care about this band, but I’ve never listened to them)

Iron & Wine – Kiss Each Other Clean (Advertising executives needed more songs to sell Toyota Camrys)

 The Go! Team – Rolling Blackouts (Honestly, who gives a shit. News flash guys, it isn’t 2005.)

Cut Copy – Zonoscope (Excited about this one, they usually make me smile and feel happy emotions.)

Yanni – Truth of Touch (Yanni is a beacon of light when all else is dark. I hear in this release he’s going to offer his take on the “chillwave” genre, seamlessly meshing it with progressive rock.)

Mogwai – Hardcore will never die, but you will (Sadly, I fall behind on these guys’ output by about a year. Once I hear the album, I’m upset I didn’t get to it earlier. That will change this year.)

Bright Eyes – The People’s Key (Oh good I need music to sob uncontrollably to)

Heidi Spencer – Under Streetlight Glow (Heidi and Spencer are some of the most imaginative musicians around today, on par with Karlheinz Stockhausen’s experiments involving helicopters.)

Battles – TBA (I promise I’ll see them when they get to NYC. Nothing will prevent this from happening this time.)

Beastie Boys – Hot Sauce Committee Part II (Ah, five years must have passed.)

Culture Club – TBA (Do you really want to hurt me?)

Fleet Foxes – TBA (To quote the Kool Aid Guy “Oh YEAH!”)

Hercules and the Love Affair – Blue Songs (I can’t express the emotion of pure joy I have upon telling this to you.)

Insane Clown Posse – The American Metaphysical Circus (In this release, the ICP follow-up on their “Miracles” questions. Various sources indicate that Godspeed You! Black Emperor will be their backup band, and Diplo have worked with them on mixing a few tracks. Shaggy 2 Dope states that they were inspired by John Barton Wolgamot’s poetry for the lyrical content.)

Justice – TBA (This will do justice to your face)

Ducktails – Arcade Dynamics (Yes, Chillwave is coming back, out of the cold, towards the light.)
The Strokes – TBA (Inspired by Interpol’s massive failure of a record, they wanted to fail colossally as well.)

Artists I want to have albums from:

Washed Out – Come on, you’ve released countless EPs. Get it together, stop doing Adult Swim bumps, and write roughly 10 songs.

Neon Indian – This year I heard countless people say how your album was ‘the album of 2010’ even though it came out in 09. Wouldn’t it be nice to school those kids with even more infectious noise pop?

Joy Orbison – Your EPs are sick, absolutely massive. If you released an album, I promise to listen to it day and night for a month. Not a good month, mind you, like April or something.

Games – Each EP brings you a little closer. Unlike a lot of EP releasing people, I don’t think you’re blue-balling me. I sincerely believe you’ll deliver on your promise. 

Deerhunter – I’ll see a release from you this year because that’s how you roll. 

Black Dice – Something needs to come out of you guys. “Repo” did not do it for me. You must restore my faith in abrasive noise. 2010 didn’t have enough good noise; correct that problem by next year.

The Samps – Thoroughly enjoyed your EP. Put out an album and I’m certain I’ll drool over it.

Outer Limits Recordings – Your songs are still stuck in my head. Get them out with new material. PS, I like your style and will dress up as you for Halloween if you do come out with an album.

Unouomedude – Florida dude, you are so the man. Your music reminds me of summer bonfires on the beach.

Weed – Adore this sound. Create more of it. The EP never left my head.

Additionally, I also hope for world peace.

Grandaddy - The Sophtware Slump 7.4



Grandaddy specializes in a certain, overly-dramatic emo rock. Due to that genre’s almost non-existence in polite society, that might explain why they’ve since disbanded. Nonetheless, despite the genre no longer being a viable option, this is a testament to the fact that even music I’m almost genetically programmed to dislike can have some bright spots.

Apparently the whole album works as a concept album musing over technology and its various failings. The songs refer to the coldness that technology brings us, disconnected from actual emotions. Of course, this means that occasionally things get cheesy. But most of the times they tend to avoid outright cringe inducing awfulness. Plus, starting out a pop album with a 9 minute song is fairly ambitious.

Pop is the main goal here. “Crystal Lake” is easily the catchiest, most fun song on here. While still referring to the darkness going on with the rest of the album, the playful keyboards in the background makes it a little more manageable. Jason Lytle may not be the best singer, but he seems aware of his limitations and his delivery makes the song that much better for me.

There’s some experimentation here as well. “Jed’s Other Poem (Beautiful Ground)” comes across as a surprisingly touching dirge. The broken drum only adds to the effect.

Honestly, this isn’t something you’ll always be in the mood for. But if you want to throw a pity party for yourself, it makes a surprisingly good soundtrack.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Nurse With Wound List: The Project


I’m a tremendous music snob. Some see this as a never-ending problem of mine, my need to endlessly criticize popular music. But that’s not all I do. Another one of my goals is to help others understand that simply because something is obscure or abstract does not necessarily mean it is good or a high-quality product.

                Thus I come to the holy grail of music snobbery/avid drooling record collectors: The Nurse With Wound List. Packaged with Nurse with Wound’s first album “Chance Meeting on a Dissecting Table of a Sewing Machine and Umbrella” and expanded on their second album, it served as a tribute to the artists who helped influence the Nurse with Wound project. Some of these artists are certainly worth hearing; I doubt you’ll hear much that sounds like AMM or Cromagnon. On the other hand, there’s also some serious filler or showing off at hand. Some of these artists’ inclusion seems like a precursor to James Murphy’s ode to the pissing contest “I’m losing my edge” with pointless name-dropping.

                Both opinions are equally valid. Steve Stapleton suffers from ideas in both camps. On one hand, he does produce an excellent product on occasion. However, as is the case with so many industrial/avant-garde artists, he suffers from being a poor editor of his work. Instead of being obsessed with creating a great product, a great deal of his releases take advantage of the rabid fan base that he’s accumulated over the years with his releases. In other words, he shouldn’t release limited edition runs of pure garbage for the sake of raising money to live in Ireland.

                What I hope to do as I go through this list is to point out the good, the bad, the indulgent, the repetitive, the unnecessary, and the sublime. Already I’ve done about two artists off this list (Red Krayola and Cromagnon). Hopefully this project of mine will produce some great fruits. I have no promise that this will be finished in a year or two. Rather, think of this as something going on in the background, as I try to sort through what’s worth searching out. Besides, I do try to give each recording I review multiple listens, to see if there’s something I might have missed the first time around. Any recording or artist from the list will be specifically tagged as “Nurse with Wound list” to allow you to better sort through the countless artists (well, 294 artists isn’t countless, but it is a lot). 

                People ought to enjoy music for its quality, not some perceived indie or street cred. One should be able to appreciate it on something besides its exclusivity or rarity. And some of the artists on this list are near impossible to find in print or even on the internet. Most are from an era of pure weird, when hippies roamed the Earth as actual hippies rather than whatever it is you’d call them now (sorry, the world isn’t as kind to idealism as it once was). So that means a great deal of creativity was unleashed, along with excessive amounts of indulgence.

                Hopefully you’ll be able to better sort through this so-called “shopping list” with a better idea of what to purchase/get rather than simply standing with jaw agape.

Shit and Shine – Bass Puppy 7.7


Dubstep worries me. Every time I see it describe a band, I cringe a little inside. I don’t know why I do this, maybe I’m not English enough? Maybe I’m not tough enough? Honestly, when people ask me what my literal beef is with dubstep, I have a difficult time explaining. So when I saw Shit and Shine’s new offering was going to be dubstep based, I had two thoughts:

1.       Perhaps these guys can enlighten my mind.

2.       Perhaps I’m going to start disliking Shit and Shine.

Thankfully, it was the former rather than the latter. For one, they haven’t given up any of their trademark aggression and noise.  If you ever needed music to listen to while you acted in the most depraved manner possible, you could do worse than Shit and Shine. Shit and Shine are gross, disgusting, utterly foul people with the most twisted sense of humor I’ve seen since Lou Reed sang about how you shouldn’t shoot someone in the head since you’d stain the carpet.

“Bass Puppy” comes up first. Named after one of the sample players in the band, it is the more chaotic of the two tracks. Multiple grooves are born and destroyed through the course of the song. Random distorted vocals blast through the colossal noise. Lumbering along, it eventually transforms into a high-pitched locked groove towards the end.

Alternatively, “Fuck You Folk Singers” remains the calmer track. It displays Shit and Shine’s talent of letting something go on for an undefined period of time. Things such as subtly are put into use as the track threatens to burst out into full blown assault. By hinting at this rather than actually delivering it, it ends up being quite fantastic. Also, they apparently know their audience through those Pussy Galore samples “I hate your fucking guts” for their remarkably bizarre album “Exile on Main Street”.

Overall, I feel like Shit and Shine helped me through this often disappointing genre.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Will “Kung Fu Panda 2: Kaboom of Doom” help to raise Panda Bear confidence?

Panda Bears have had a hard year. First, their most prominent Bear Noah Lennox failed to release his new album “Tomboy”. This hits this socially conscious and painfully hip (some might say alt) population of Panda Bears particularly hard. After they had converted him into becoming a full-fledged Panda (an act that they usually reserve for the most dedicated zoologists) he spat upon them. Only those EPs have prevented him from being torn apart for their amusement.

The recession hit the Panda population pretty hard as well. Never the most sexually active animal, they remain the only non-human animal for whom porn has been created, in an attempt to bring up their numbers. Seeing other Pandas having fun doesn’t increase confidence. I mean, most Pandas still live with their parents, having just graduated from a reputable State University. Working odd jobs, they contribute a little to the family finances, but they barely have enough to support themselves, let alone a boyfriend/girlfriend. So that Panda porn only reminds Pandas how much greener the grass is on the other side. China has tried to help, allowing Pandas more leeway in the one child policy, in an effort to stem their declining numbers. But it is hopeless as even environmentalists look for increasingly more adorable animals like Polar Bears, sheep, and former Simpson writers.

What are the Panda Bears to do in light of this receding interest? That’s what the Kung Fu Panda movies are for. Seeing a Panda master the art of Kung Fu, an art which most Panda are woefully ignorant of, they gain pride in their species. Obviously, since these are Panda Bears, a few minor changes are needed to make the movie more palpable for Panda audiences.

Jack Black is strangely enough considered an annoying jerk that has no actual talent in the Panda world. Here in the human world, they are beloved by tastemakers like Regis and Kelly. Instead, like the previous movie, Jack Black’s lines are redubbed using James Franco’s voice, a character that is truly appreciated in the Panda community. I mean, that guy was in Freaks and Geeks, how could you not like him? Also, in the Panda version, the pop culture references change. Instead, there are way more Animal Collective jokes, which work on multiple levels for Pandas.  More James K. Polk jokes are also included, since that former US president enjoys a strong cult following among the bamboo eaters.

Maybe it will be this movie that truly helps to teach Pandas about their rich heritage. Their contribution to Chinese culture is second to none. Seeing that Panda effectively defeat his enemies might convince Pandas that perhaps now is a good time to raise a family, despite the obvious hardships that such a decision entails. Perhaps their children might master the art of Kung Fu, an art which Pandas have yet to fully comprehend. We can only hope.

Ekkehard Ehlers – Plays 8.9


Sometimes, good things happen. “Plays” effectively demonstrates how sampling doesn’t have to be some crass affair but rather an entire new way of looking at performance. Ekkehard Ehlers has made albums similar to these since, but this one has a sweet spot in my heart. Each two songs serve as dedication pieces, so that adds to the emotional resonance. 

The Cornelius Cardew pieces are very airy, the first one being a brightly colored drone, and the second having a darker, angrier feel to it. Perhaps this was reflecting how Cardew started out with his idealism in music, only to go out into left-wing politics. Or it could be acknowledgement that his life was tragically cut short. 

“Hubert Fichte 1” opens up with one of the most abstract beginnings. With only a high pitched tone sustained other elements are eventually added, making for violently churning bass. The second part is probably my favorite thing on the whole album. A weird, smoky jazz coalesces, complete with jazz guitar and lazy horn. Even without an actual melody or core to relate to, it works well in its free form. Who knew that a German author could have such a wide range, from abstract to emotionally close? That’s at least what I get out of these two pieces, of a person spanning the worldly and other-worldly. 

A mellow core appears with the John Cassavetes work. Easily the most recognizable reference here (it being the only internationally well-known figure), it has a cinematic quality to the sound. Both pieces share a similar tone of happiness and contentment. Out of all of the pieces, these two are the most accessible, containing well-done melodies and easy to follow outlines.

Brooding occurs through both Albert Ayler tracks. These are the darkest moments of the entire album, acknowledging the difficult life he had, the disappointment, and being the only person on the album to have killed themselves. Dark tones emanate without phrasing any melody. Rather, the tones interact with each other to create a sense of movement. 

Robert Johnson has probably the weirdest treatment. For the first track, you hear various distorted guitar chords. It sounds like the guitar player has gotten a little drunk (what eventually killed him was a poisoned bottle of alcohol). Sadly, as interesting as the first track is, the second kills the mood. Robert Johnson 2 is simply a dance track, which feels extremely out of place considering all that came before.

Despite that poorly fitting closing track, it works. This is a great album, filled with true dedication for each of the artists mentioned.  

Monday, December 27, 2010

Snowstorm

Ah yes, the first snowstorm of the year has arrived. For a few hours, you sort of stare at it. It possesses certain innocence in the beginning. Nobody’s touched it yet, it is still pure, and it has yet to bother you. Your small step, that one which starts your commute, ruins the little sympathy you have for it, as does digging your car out of the snow, walking through the dangerous parking lot, and realizing that your train has been delayed. Thankfully I didn’t send the night having to sleep on a bus due to the blizzard, though I know a few people did. For those people, you beat the 8 hours I spent stuck on Amtrak. 

                New York should be better prepared for snowstorms, yet it always forgets something in preparation. I’m not sure what, there have been countless ones. Maybe the one in 93 might have been the worst one I could remember. Balls of ice kept hitting me in the face for that winter. They hurt. I felt sad but overcame.

                Times like this I long for my Costa Rican origins. I miss hanging upside in a tree, sleeping, eating low-calorie branches, sleeping, reading The Economist, sleeping some more, partying, sleeping, hanging out with hot sloth babes and sleeping. All that sunshine meant that the fragile chillwave ecosystem could flourish.

                Up in the winter, I just get a bunch of drone artists like William Basinski and Phil Niblock. Neither one of those artists is bad, but I feel that they represent a colder version of me. You see, I used to be much more of an introvert. Magical people convinced me of the importance of going out there and meeting people. College taught me that. People taught me that. But most importantly, music taught me that.

                Snow then cramps my style instead of matching my style like it used to. Instead of reading endless, vaguely depressing books, I read happy, ultra-snobbish books. The current book I’m reading, expect a beautiful book review for it in roughly a year or so (I’m a slow reader).

                What I do like about the snowstorm is it allowed me to contemplate my life, the blogs I read, the people I’ve been fortunate enough to meet, and all the great things that have happened to me. Last year was filled with sadness but I have a strong feeling that in 2011 everything will be better. In fact, there will be a list describing what releases I hope to see and/or look forward to.