Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Movie Review: The Devil Writes Pitchfork ***Warning: Spoilers***

                Pitchfork bashing has taken on a new form: full feature length. From the creators of “Meet the Spartans” and “Vampires Suck” comes an once-in-a-lifetime movie. This movie turns around everything you’ve ever thought you’ve known about the writing duo of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. All those terrible movies they made, gone out the window. Whatever sin they have committed to the screen before has since been forgiven with this ‘tour-de-force’. 

                “The Devil Writes Pitchfork” received a standing ovation at the Sundance Film Festival. At the Cannes Film Festival they won the Palme d’Or. When they gave their speech, they explained they did all those previous terrible movies in order to build up to this final statement. Both of them stated they understood what people had thought of them. Crass, crude, dumbing down our culture, a virtual toilet bowl collecting the refuse we strained out of our society’s anus, they heard it all. Jason told the audience it was important to keep this project under wraps. For mocking the Pitchfork subculture takes time and effort, neither thing they’ve employed on any of their other movies. To ensure the movie would not be ruined they filmed in near-secrecy.

                We begin the movie in a darkened bar on a ship. A gaunt looking man stares blankly at a tall person identified only as “Ryan”. They exchange a few words as the camera passes over legions of dead twenty-somethings impeccably dressed. Finally he puts on a record of Neutral Milk Hotel’s “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” as the ship goes up in flames. 

                After that we see the NYPD going over the scene. Policemen gasp at the amount of cool, relevant bros who died. Brooklyn lost a great deal of their tastemakers that night, one particularly hip cop says while scrolling through his IPOD. Only two survived the onslaught: some Russian scenester named Vlad and an entry-level kid who didn’t know much about music blogs called John “Entry-Level” McEntire. Vlad mutters incoherently about a mythical music snob legend known as “Ryan Schreiber”. Bringing in a translator and police sketch artist they set forth to draw a picture of this man. 

 Despite being a total N00B about music John had been granted near full immunity from mocking by those high up on the music food chain. Brought into the police station on a minor Sonic Youth discography violation, he begins to tell the tale in New York City several weeks ago to Nick Drake, a depressive young detective from upstate New York:

                Five music pirates of the highest caliber are brought in on illegal downloading charges by the RIAA. While the five of them sit in the cell, they conduct a scheme to leak a huge deal of MP3s, creating a loss of millions of dollars for the music industry. In that process, they will gain so much street cred they will be virtual gods of the music blog-o-sphere. John, the N00B, is there alongside a techno fan from the UK who speaks in a near-incomprehensible accent called Adam, Rothgar a huge metal fan from Scandinavia, and Will, a man well-versed on obscure, limited edition releases. Next to them is Kevin Shields, a man trying to go clean from stealing music who wants to ‘support the artists’ which is met with harsh criticism. Kevin is trying to clear his name with the help of a local musician who is leading a “Riot Grrrl” revival called Kathleen Hanna. 

                  All of them head out to California to leak music from Best Coast, Wavves, No Age, and countless other similar artists. They blog about those releases extensively. By attracting so much hype and attention, they work with another group of like-minded people to get a rare bootleg from an early Bob Dylan concert. Upon meeting the corporate types in a parking garage, they kill them accidently only to realize the alleged ‘rare bootleg’ is actually a re-issue. Tempted to go back to New York they are approached by a representative of Ryan Schreiber called Mr. Stapler. Offered more un-leaked MP3s and cocaine than they’ll ever know what to do with they are also presented with a huge amount of money and dossiers on everything any one of them had ever downloaded ever. What they need to do is defeat the gang from Russia on a boat to steal the MP3s and cocaine away from them. 

                Nick asks who Ryan is. John explains Ryan is a near-mythical tastemaker for the review site “Pitchfork.com”. According to John, Ryan works through so many different groups of people and bloggers that no one even knows if they are working for him. A story is told, which John believes to be true, about the kind of person Ryan Schreiber is:

                “Once, when Ryan was a small-time blogger at Pitchfork, his house was invaded by other Russian bloggers trying to encroach on his release reviews. When Ryan arrived, they asked him to recant some of his previous scores for bands they thought were over and under-rated or else they would hurt his family. They requested Ryan put up the since-long deleted review of John Coltrane’s “Live at the Village Vanguard”. Instead of caving in to their demands he did something unexpected.  Ryan shot and killed his entire family rather than have to recant anything he’d ever written or repost anything he’d taken down from his site. Leaving one man alive to tell the tale, he went after anyone who hosted the text from his embarrassing early ‘creative writing pieces’ style reviews. He even killed those associated with them and hid underground.” 

                Some in the group questioned whether or not to deal with Mr. Stapler. Will tries to escape and is killed. Their attempts to kill Ryan’s representative fail as the representative threatens each one of them personally. For each one had taken MP3s and hype from his boss it was time they repaid that debt. Going on the boat will be tough as the Russian gang takes MP3 leaks very seriously. 

                Keith tells John to stay back that he doesn’t know how much danger will be on this boat. If anything goes wrong John could contact Kathleen, who could deal with Ryan “her way”. On the boat, the group soon discovered there were no hard drives filled with MP3s and no cocaine. Eventually they all were killed, and John says he saw Ryan in the shadows kill Keith.

                Upon hearing this story, Nick reveals the real reason Keith’s group went there: to kill someone who could identify Ryan. Most likely those Russians were the same ones who Ryan massacred much earlier. Ryan wanted Keith's group there so he could slip in and out without detection. According to Nick, Keith was Ryan. Nick told John he was left to proclaim Keith’s innocence. Going further, Nick says John has no taste of what’s cool or not and that’s the reason he’s kept alive. 

                John posts bail. Taking a few items (including his plush headphones) he walks out. Looking around his office, Nick realizes he stole names from objects around his office, such as his Stapler. Running out the door, he passes by a faxed police sketch which shows a picture not of Keith, but of John. Outside he turns his head in all directions failing to see John.

                By now John is busy listening to Captain Beefheart and Faust. He gets into a car driven by “Mr. Stapler” and drives away.

                This may be Jason Friedberg’s and Aaron Seltzer’s best movie yet.

Sweet Trip - You will never know why 6.1

                When I listen to this, I’m reminded heavily of the sort of pysch lounge perfected by The High Llamas and Stereolab. That’s not a bad thing. If you’re going to pick a sound to mine, why not choose something everyone will enjoy. For the most part, this is an enjoyable if not entirely original album. 

                “You will never know why” revolves around ambient pop and shoegaze. “Acting” starts out smoothly before revving up and slowing down. Really the slower, mellower parts are the better pieces of their album. For me, their attempts at urgency fall flat. There are many bands who do fast music well, I figure they should probably stay within their comfort zone. When “Acting” quickens up, I sort of wish they’d get back to the spaced-out sounds offered in the beginning or the end. Oddly, they kill their own mood for no discernible reason.

                The rest of the album passes by pleasantly enough. After a while I grow a bit sick at the lack of sonic diversity. Sure, I’m a fan of minimalism but they use the same beats and patterns over and over again. I wish they had perhaps varied things up a little bit in terms of the sound and kept the tempos a bit lower. Together both of those minor tweaks might have made me a bit more receptive towards this album. 

                As a result, I’m a bit lukewarm to this collection of songs. Spending a whole hour with this San Francisco based band wasn’t horrible but merely uneventful. Had I seen more songs like “Acting” I could see myself enjoying it a lot more.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Godspeed You! Black Emperor

                Godspeed You! Black Emperor has toured extensively over the past few months. Hardly anyone expected to see them again. I mean, you give up releasing albums or touring for about eight to nine years. That’s a long time particularly in the rapidly moving music world. A few years are an extremely long time in the music scene. Eight to nine years could be considered a lifetime. People change a lot, tastes change.

                Certainly their music contributes to this feeling of epic-ness, of something bigger and better than normal. Most bands take a few minutes pure song. GYBE had no problem letting a whole song take up twenty to thirty minutes. It gets hard not to personalize how much this group meant to me. Once they went on hiatus I felt alone. Sometimes after a particularly hard time I’d put them on and feel a little less overwhelmed by my situation. Things looked up when I felt the music soar. When you listen to so many musicians working together for a genuine love of music it is inspiring. I doubt GYBE were ever conceived as a money-making enterprise. Moving around the ensemble alone must have been a ‘break-even’ situation, never mind the fact they were ‘taper friendly’ and encouraged the audience to record the concerts. Upon going to the concert with a few friends they remarked how difficult it must be to tour in such a massive group, logistically speaking. 

                We hear great news from the otherwise shadowy collective, from Bruce Cawdon specifically (I know, it is weird they have names). All the shows they have been doing were for a greater purpose. Members from the collective will be working on a new album after the end of the tours. That rewards the faith (or hope as GYBE would put it) of those who continued to listen to the band during the prolonged hiatus. Finally they have decided to rise again from the ashes and release music once more for their devoted. 

                I can’t express how happy I am at this news. Whether or not what GYBE does is considered popular is totally irrelevant to me. GYBE doesn’t mind that Post-Rock or whatever people pigeon-holed it is no longer popular. For them popularity was never an issue nor will it be. Probably the opposite is true: when they began their hiatus in 2002, they noticed the proliferation of countless copycats. They moved on to other greener pastures as the genre tired itself out and exhausted, died an inglorious death. 

                There is nothing in the concerts to suggest what direction their music will be headed. For most of the concerts, they have stuck with their album material. If they do decide to something new, it will be completely unexpected. Perhaps they may be louder or quieter. We don’t know. All I know is I’m glad to see them return after such a long time away. Slow music is making a comeback.

Brown Bread – Cucciola 7.2

                Brown Bread is a strange bedroom project of Astoria native Rebecca Doerfer. Even though it is a rather small EP, there are a lot of different styles and approaches thrown into these five tracks. Ranging from the giddiness of “the 1 I love” to the dusty sounds of “hide seek”, it overwhelms me a bit in how to describe all that’s going on here. Let’s start with the first track. 

                The first track’s skeletal drum programming reminds me of Weed’s EP ‘DC Hope’. Perhaps there’s a bit more emphasis on a higher fidelity than what he offered. “The one I love” is odd. It has a constant music box melody over children’s laughter and wordless singing.

                “hide seek” is probably my favorite. On this track, it is kept so absolutely basic. No percussion exists. There isn’t any singing. You’re left with a tense, expansive mood. I feel this is my favorite song on the entire EP. Simplicity is usually the best for me and the execution for this track doesn’t make me want for anything. 

                Finally there are the last two songs. “White Gold” sounds a bit like lo-fi Le Tigre. I enjoyed this one a lot as well. They spent some time on figuring out how to pace the song. “(y)oohoo” uses environmental sounds such as the sound of rain. It felt like a good closer to me. 

                I liked the middle part of this EP the best. “hide seek” and “White Gold” are my favorites off of it. Some of the descriptors were a bit humorous to me as I didn’t feel so much a grunge feel. Rather, I felt the music had a dreamier, more distant vibe to it. Hopefully Brown Bread continues to improve, as this EP is a big improvement off of her last EP “is dead”. Here’s hoping.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Ear Eater #6

                I sat ready. Food surrounded me waiting for consumption. My computer screen quivered with anticipation as I typed words into it. A few stared vacantly into their computer screens. They knew something was about to happen, something amazing, something that would change their lives forever and ever. 

                Steve Roggenbuck’s face emerged from the darkness. From darkness comes light. His teeth shone brightly out of the darkness. I’m certain Frank Hinton was happy. Everyone who was there appeared to be glad to see her. Words escape me in describing her attire. Photos failed to capture her radiating beauty. 

                All sorts of people were at the official gathering. Shaun Gannon appeared. Holding a camera Shaun was the videographer for the event. We heard countless people introduce and network among each other. In order to avoid the noise Steve showed off the surrounding area. Firefighters stood by outside. They were at the ready in case things got too hot for the poetry reading. 

                 Andrew James Weatherhead came out to Chicago from New York. While he introduced himself he explained how New York audiences were a bit more difficult than in Chicago. Though he had a slow delivery it was funny. Some of his poems had amazing lines, such as “Four more beers”, “Emails are unbelievable”, “Sleds sledding on other sleds” along with reading tweets. Metazen received some attention as Andrew read a few poems he had submitted to Frank Hinton’s site. Using weird details (ink jet printers, Statue of Liberty, etc.) made the poems that more graspable. 

                Frank Hinton read. “Fantastical Magical Life” got played.  According to Cassandra Troyan this was the first time anything like this had been done at Ear Eater. We watched her type things into a computer for the video. Once that had finished she read in a computerized voice with the caption “Sad Cave” above it. That was the title of the poem.  A girl and a boy hung out together. Each one began to explore the other, slowly, gently. Both of them rode in a boat together. Having such a long one drew me into the material. While it lasted 37 minutes it had become a whole environment with its short, suggestive sentences.

                Timothy Sanders read at the actual, in real life party. He’s the author of “Orange Juice”. According to Cassandra Troyan the book sold out. Coming all the way from Austin, Texas he began with a poem about a growling thing. I liked his delivery. Each word came out so clearly. For the first poem, he did a fantastic job of mentioning every single possible detail, how the animal moves, what it thinks, what it says, etc. Smells were described. Anything you could possibly want a description of had been included.  

                Meghan Lamb continued the evening. Introduced as a ‘poly-artist’ she had visuals and sound backing her up. The visuals included pieces of Americana, bits of farms, clear blue skies, etc. None of these are things I encounter on a regular basis. Her poem followed the video beside her to some degree. Listening to it explain the process of aging, awareness, and the bleakness of years passing. Growing up can be a bit gross and awkward. The poem felt extremely, unrelentingly dark. She asked why she pushed away all those bits of childhood, too quickly it felts. Stuffed animals were thrown on the floor. An ambient noise built up slowly. Using the same words over and over again made sense towards the end as Meghan made an entire environment come near collapse.

                Closing the evening was Mike Kitchell (known as “Impossible Mike” for the impossibility of his greatness). “A Contingency of Evil” got read first. He read it with a huge amount of energy. This one appeared to be bleak and surreal. Something was done with a millipede, something I cannot repeat on here nor want to. Really it takes a lot to shock me but the extreme details and gruesome actions were quite perverse. Later that evening I had nightmares about millipedes. 

                Seeing all the poets after the reading was exciting. We got a great feel of how they were normally. Great amounts of alcohol were consumed in the name of art. The inside of the refrigerator revealed that I and Cassandra Troyan enjoy the same brand of hummus, the rich creamy taste of Sabra. Everyone grew merry at the end. Virtual hugs were exchanged. It was a great performance. Ear Eater forever!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Mark Fell – Manitutshu 8.7

                Mark Fell got into Acid Techno at an early age. You can hear it in some of his work. No matter how obtuse or difficult the material he puts out (and he’s well-known for putting out some challenging material) acid never seemed to be too far behind. Manitutshu is Mark Fell’s tribute to acid techno. 

                The album is the third one Mark’s released in the course of the past few months. Usually artists tend to space things out a bit more evenly. Considering the several year hiatus he took from SND and his own solo’s work previous small output, it is a bit of a maniac release schedule.

                Manitutshu is a bit maniac itself. Right from the beginning you’re treated to a hyper-active sonic landscape. The first track pings and splatters around the eardrums. All the glorious funkiness and processing you’ve associated with Mark’s previous efforts is here in full. Despite the supposed nature of the work (these were original samples for Native Instruments) they hold together quite well. It’s Native Instruments loss since they rejected these pristine sounds. 

                Actually, this may be Mark’s fastest work. Each piece blazes through its track length. For me the third track would probably be the most recognizable track. Others show a new path for Mark’s focus; particularly the fifth which evolves so startlingly fast. The ninth track even shows off a particularly aggressive approach unusual in Mark’s mellow world.

                Finally there’s the giant closer, a remix by Mat Steel. Some would consider this more “SND-like” in terms of its repetitive nature. I feel it may be more of a digital version of Zoviet France. The extremely slow and almost-industrial vibe the track gives off reminds me strongly of that seminal band.

                Overall, this may be one of my favorite things Mark has put out in some time. It is less abstract than “UL8” and more immediately graspable than “Multistability”. With Manitutshu, Mark shows us a little of where he may take his sound and SND project.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Did Youtube Kill the Flash Animation Star?

                Some sentences are unforgettable. They let you know what kind of world you live in, what truly motivates people. John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill, Barack Obama, and countless other leaders have inspired us. For me, I have one single sentence that has gotten me through the longest and hardest days:

                “It’s Peanut-Butter Jelly Time”

                A banana comes forward. It begins dancing. Seeing the banana dance to its heart’s content reassures me all is good with the world. Even after the flash animation craze has ended, sometimes I long for peanut butter jelly with a baseball bat. You know, the quintessential American pastime: eating food and violence.

                Flash Animation warmed me in the evening. It served as a night light, comforting me in its self-contained environment. Sure Flash Animations continue but they don’t have the same amount of importance. Watching two eggs (Weebl and Bob) talk in gibberish about pies gave me hope in the future of humanity. On the opposite end, “Foamy the Squirrel” gave me no hope about anything. After I saw any “Foamy the Squirrel” episode I’d feel simultaneously relieved and guilty, the kind of emotion you experience after masturbating. 

                 Entire communities came together to celebrate the weird. People used to huddle around the computer watching pointless cartoons on “Ebaumsworld”. Once you made it big on Ebaumsworld, you could start your own website. Possessing your own website made you a big deal. Usually there would be some marketing gimmick thrown in, “Salad Fingers” spoons being a particularly egregious example. Yes, that animator happened to be a sick, disturbed individual but that made his animations only that much better.

                Homestar Runner might have been the “Seinfeld” of Flash Animation. The weird yet wholesome humor made it a perfect pick. You could show it to your parents, to your younger siblings, really to anyone. Somehow they managed to transcend the ordinary. An entire environment, really a village worth of material got compressed into a single website. Unlike a lot of flash animations, they were able to use inspiration from viewers via Strong Bad’s emails. Later they sold DVDs of the popular email segment. Countless spinoffs of spinoffs existed. “Teen Girl Squad” grew off of single email. Other parts of the site lightly mocked lesser flash animation cartoons. 

                The internet cycles through fads. Every Myspace has its Facebook. For Flash Animation, its demise was YouTube. Unlike Flash Animation, YouTube videos require less work. Most YouTube clips don’t inspire others. Instead, the emotion from the viewers is usually one of laughter, pity, or embarrassment. Oddly the creator of the said YouTube clip has roughly the same range of emotions.

                Where did the Flash Animators go? Most of them went to work on weird, quirky cartoons such as “Home Movies” or “Gary the Rat”. Both of those happen to be personal favorites of mine, especially “Gary the Rat”. Anyone who can have Kelsey Grammer voice a giant rat lawyer is a hero in my book. These were the successful, non-embarrassing ones. “Stroker and Hoop” was one of those that after you finished watching it you wondered “Why?” and proceeded to do some chore to wash the guilt off you had from wasting a half-hour of your life. 

                Perhaps at some point, in the not-so-distant future, we’ll be explaining to our children what Flash Animation was. Perhaps we’ll even explain what YouTube was. All I know for certain is that anywhere, on any given day or time, it is Peanut Butter Jelly Time.

Forma – Forma 7.4

                Forma might best be referred to as “Komische Pop Music”. You see, none of their songs reach the same track lengths as their fellow label mates Bee Mask, Mist, or Fabric. Instead, you’re given an easily accessible 35 minute album with plenty of warm, inviting melodies. They don’t intimidate the average listener say the way Mist’s track lengths do. 

                Beats exist, though only in the simplest of ways. Even though Forma would be perfectly fine leaving the beats alone they allow them to develop as part of the drones. Slowly but surely each song manages to flow into the next. I think of it as a current of sound, always present, never ceasing.

                Each song is named after some obscure number. Their intention (Forma is a trio) is to give it more of a futuristic bent. “Forma 237A” begins the journey into this mellow territory. Listening to the first song, you become a bit unaware at how quickly or slowly the next song creeps up. Actually, each time I try to listen to just one song, I get a bit sucked into the sonic ecosystem this fine Brooklyn group has created.

                Spectrum Spools is only a few months old but I’m already pretty pleased with their picks for 2011. Forma continues their fine tradition. Forma also offers audio from some of their concerts in the Brooklyn area (being a trio of komische music isn’t exactly a profit making endeavor). Support them as best you can.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Matt Margo

                Matt Margo ought to drive you wild. With his finger in so many pies, it is pretty difficult to avoid bumping into him. I’ve seen him (virtually) in countless ustream chats. In his own words, he’s still exploring himself as a person, as a writer. Though he is exploring, he’s doing a great job. Since I see him everywhere I notice how much of other people’s work he readily consumes.

                Cormac McCarthy’s Dead Typewriter” combines a few of his interests. Besides the joy of being named after a still living author’s supposedly deceased typewriter, he has multiple categories one can submit under. It is a literary blog but Matt appears to be a bit more open regarding what counts as poetry, what is art, sound, and photography. Sometimes the lines blur between each form. Matt realizes this and offers what are extremely welcoming terms. 

                A lot of the submissions celebrate the beauty of randomness. There are an unusually large amount of ‘algorithmic wordchains’ and ‘asemic writing’. For Algorithmic wordchains you can technically read them though they prefer to be near-nonsensical. Whoever can read asemic writing probably has some serious issues or is incurably insane. 

                Other submissions are a bit more graspable and slightly less experimental. Flarf, that delightful poetic form, is given a home, as are fiction dribbles and cut-ups. Really, I don’t see enough people doing cut-ups so it is good to see someone wants to give them a home. See Logan K. Young’s piece for an example of the form’s madness. Even though he didn’t state it, normal poetry of the make it yourself kind, occasionally appears on its hallowed pages. The fiction dribbles keep up the slightly cryptic tone Matt has set for the site. Keeping a piece only 50 words long reminds me of the ‘micro-story’ genre, a one I used to dabble in a long time ago. 

                Harsh noise gets some attention. As a big fan of noise, I’m glad to see I’m not the only one. Though seeing the harsh noise releases on his blog further convinces me that noise fans exist on the internet. Noise fans otherwise can never admit to it in person or even meet each other in person. Sometimes I think geography exists for the sole reason of keeping weird music fans apart. My personal experience hasn’t shown me any other alternative reason. Matt knows the genre well as he puts a ten minute limit on the noise pieces. Without any kind of structure, noise often outstays its welcome even with its few fans. 

                The site is full of love. Under the contributors section, he allows any contributor to write as much or as little about their work, lives and interests. I’m glad to see Matt taking a more personal approach to literature and music than “Here is a link to their blog. Have fun.” Reading about each one of the contributors makes me happy. Whatever the contributor did is suddenly humanized. Now I think of the contributors as people rather than faceless people on the internet. Having spoken with people about their perception of bloggers, Matt’s approach is something more people ought to be doing. Most people I speak with barely think of the individual behind the actual pieces of writing. Seeing how some of his contributors do multiple art forms (Matt and a Finn named Jukka-Pekka Kervinen) cheers up me enormously.

                Despite the dead typewriter, the future looks bright for Matt Margo.  To celebrate the blog’s three month anniversary (in blog years, three months equals a year) he’ll be doing a live reading of some of the material this evening at 7:30PM on ustream. I’m excited by this prospect. Harsh noise walls may or may not be played as he’s particularly fond of them even creating his own noise project accessible here. I’d suggest he look into a favorite genre of mine, yet to be created, called “Polka-Noise”. By this evening I hope he gets some pictures of butterflies or carrots (those remain the only submissions he has not received). I’m dreaming of a noise dance party.

Rape Faction – Gone Forever 8.1

                Rape Faction is a group who makes scuzzy, disgusting, low-life music. At no point does the music know what’s going on fully. Guitars jut this way and that being tortured beyond belief. Bass lumbers through each of these eight tracks. Vocals fail to find their way through the hazy noise. It is fantastic.

                “Vaporizer” shocks you into their world. The bass is fuzzed out to near-cartoonish effect. Or it would be funny if it wasn’t so loud. Listening to the song, it appears to be stuck in its own grimy nightmare. “Whiteboy Uptown” sounds like mid-80s Butthole Surfers. Yes, it actually is that chaotic. Drums keep up a martial beat as the guitars try in vain to avoid vast fields of feedback. “2010” barely has a bass line; it is more of a relentless pulse. Guitars grow into a giant mess. 

                The interludes help you cope with the large amount of noise for they don’t believe in bringing you in lightly. No, this Montreal-based band wants to drag you into some bad times. “Everything Dies” reminds me of some sort of dreadful addiction. You’re trying to wean yourself off, but the time moves so slowly. Guitars aren’t even concerned with avoiding feedback. On multiple occasions you can feel them heading into the point of no return, heavy into the red. Eventually it descends into guitar and drum noise. 

                Grimy doesn’t even begin to describe the depraved nature of this album. Familiarity with loud, abrasive shoegaze bands helps. Whatever the singer is singing is for atmosphere; picking out a lyric is near-impossible. No worries though. It is the atmosphere, so consistently kept up, alongside the decadent sound which makes this a real joy of an album.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Hecker’s “Speculative Solution”

                Florian Hecker delves into perhaps the weirdest aspects of music. I call it ‘music’ because his work tends to elicit some extreme emotional reaction. Generally speaking that emotion is disgust accompanied by slight nausea. Roughly 0.0000000000001% of the world cares about what he does, with an even smaller percentage enjoying it. Even users of the infinitely nerdy music forum “WATMM (We are the Music Makers) find Hecker atrocious, and consider his release on Rephlex akin to Judas’s betrayal of Jesus.

                Anything this polarizing attracts me. Long ago, when I first began exploring the noisier aspects of sound, I remembered his epic release “Sun Pandemonium” on what then Mego. During that time, a lot of other noisy music caught my ear. Most of those groups I’ve since forgotten, but something stuck with me about Hecker’s work. It had to do with the sheer amount of detail. How does someone pack so much into a single song? When is there a determination of when the song should end? None of his compositions had any set limit, development, or even coherent structure. The clincher for me was the amount of humor, and a constant nagging feeling that I never really heard the whole thing. Whenever his songs ended, I’d go back to them, trying to decipher exactly what it was that interested me.

                Lately he’s been prolific. Hecker has been traveling around the world playing his obtuse music in rooms filled with people conditioned to tolerate great deals of visual and acoustic pain in the name of art. The releases have been pretty consistent in their flow and quality. Besides the usual art gallery he has been getting into the fashion world, with a sweet three tracker. Though it didn’t have much in the way of linear notes explaining the humor it was still funny. It was funny how people modeled to barely-comprehensible grooves.

                Now we’re given a full-feature length of weird. Hecker’s been working with a Continental philosopher named Quentin Meillassoux. The album “Speculative Solution” is based around Quentin’s concept of ‘hyperchaos’. Sometime long ago I dreamed of an album this potentially weird. Like his previous album, this one is recommended without headphones as the music works better in a large (speaker) environment. For those who feel it isn’t strange enough, how about a 160 page booklet accompanying the release in difficult Continental philosophical language. Oh, and five metal balls are included. Perhaps the booklet explains their purpose.

                 I’m glad this kind of work exists. Every time someone tries to tell me how pointless such music is, I point to a specific instance where my life ended up being demonstrably better. Here is that story:

                “After I had arrived on my multiple stopper plane from Denver to New York (I don’t have the money for direct flights) some children were making little children noise. You know the kind. Little pieces of singing in extremely off registers eventually filled up the toothpaste tube of a plane. Everyone on the plane grew angry at the lackluster parenting. I didn’t. Remembering Karlheinz Stockhausen’s song “Gesang Der Juenglinge” I thought ‘how cool’. The rest of my plane ride I thought about how great that piece was and how it allowed me to relax and embrace my environment.”

                That’s what Hecker’s music is for. Too often people hide themselves in headphones without really interacting with everything around them. Retreating into your own sonic universe isn’t the way to go. You miss a lot by closing yourself off. Hecker reminds you of the expansiveness of music. Headphone use is not advised.       

Ezekiel Honig – Folding in on itself 7.8

                “Folding in on itself” is a warm record in multiple ways. Ezekiel uses gentle, slow-moving melodies alongside field recordings. While I was listening to it, I thought of some of my favorite artists on the 12K record label, particularly Shuttle 358. It is that smooth. The field recordings merge so well with the melodies; it is as if the two were created simultaneously. 

                Things move slowly. One of the hallmarks of the record is Ezekiel’s patience. Having such a slow-paced album allows you to focus on the small details, such as the rhythm or small beats. For the first song, he avoids beats altogether, allowing only a wavering drone. 

                Ezekiel’s melodies are often melancholy. They remind me a bit of Terre Thaemlitz’s early work (particularly Soil), which combined these elegant sounds with a modern-day sonic neurosis. Folding in on itself doesn’t have the same darkness of that album, but it does have a similar bleakness. 

                My personal favorite on the album is “Ancestry Revisiting Each Other”. On this track the field recordings take over. The composer tries to invade the sounds of the city, hesitating at times. Personally, the conflict between these two different sources made this track one of the most interesting ones. 

                I like the intense focus on the quiet. Even when beats are introduced, they are so slight that you have to put up the volume to notice. This is a perfect album for a quiet rainy day.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Fungi Girls – Seafaring Pyramids 6.2

Fungi Girls make care-free garage pop music. “Seafaring Pyramids” is a nice additional to a proud tradition of garage rock. It does sound considerably better in this album format than it did in the grubbier, murkier mixes they first offered. They span the genres of pure garage rock to shoegaze.

“Pacifica Nostalgia” focuses on a garage rock a la’ the band Harlem. “Dystopic Vision” has a more shoegaze, spaced-out approach to the song writing. The vocals are placed a bit further back. On “Kowloon Walled City” Fungi Girls do their best job of foraging an identity but still somewhat miss the mark.

That’s the problem. After I finished the album, I don’t feel any particular ill feelings. I don’t believe Fungi Girls are a terrible band. Fungi Girls are fairly good at what they do. Considering their age and location, they are head and shoulders above their local peers. Once the album finishes, I can’t remember anything that just happened.

I know it was tasteful, I know they did a proficient job, but there isn’t anything on here which would make me want to return. On later albums perhaps they’ll impress me a bit more but at this point I only consider them one of many bands making proficient yet unremarkable albums.