Sometimes, I sit at my desk for a long time. I listen to music and carefully consider what to say about it. Other times I know exactly what to say, or decide to be swift and reckless, applying no filters to what is written. For this, I thought it best I do both.
Pillars and Tongues are magic.
The Making Graceful is from the forthcoming album The Pass and Crossings, due towards the end of June through the wonderful Endless Nest.
A proper review is to come, but in the meantime you can listen to that song, and I can consider just how exactly I will be able to put into words something that is already distilled darn-near perfectly in its own language.
As Ain’t No Night’s release date is still TBA, this is the artwork for Candidate
I spent a while trying to put my finger on just exactly what it is this album reminds me of, steadfastly resisting the urge to use yet another correlation to the realm of films, but I can’t help it, really. I spent a good decade wanting to work in film, and as a consequence a significant portion of my twenties was spent watching them, devising and half-finishing scripts, and idolising Jim Henson (amongst many others, but, you know…the dude was awesome. He made a frog ride a bike, which was an exceedingly difficult thing to do).
Why am I even talking about Jim Henson? Pretty much because he created vastly intricate scenes that were gone in the blink of an eye. His visual craft was such that sometimes you only understood how damn impressive it was if you studied it carefully and properly, otherwise it was a deceptively simple, but pretty (or scary, as was often the case in The Dark Crystal) picture. And that’s relevant.
Those two paragraphs aside, believe it or not I intended to mention Hal Hartley, but I’m getting a bit off focus here.
I mentioned this duo at the end of last month, and this release – three weeks later I’m still impressed by it. The last album I reviewed (Conjoined), I liked – to be honest, I favour most things that subvert any pre-existing ideas I have about the way I think things should be (i.e. spoken word and music don’t belong together). Ain’t No Night, feels and sounds like a more assured and fully realised album, to the point where I completely neglected to be aware of that idea. The unison between words and music is almost seamless here, which is not at all to say that there aren’t two unique and distinctive voices at work.
Clearly, I’m not American, so I can’t claim to have any authority on what is (or what makes) an American story, but this is where the Hal Hartley reference comes in, who is American, and told (what I take to be) American stories. Matt Finney’s lyrics – and delivery – remind me of the underlying narrative in Hartley’s films, where the story, the actions and reactions are in plain view, but the viewpoint itself generally comes from the audience – rarely did the actors in a Hartley film imbue their performance with any overt clues as to what they were thinking or feeling; you have the scene and the words…and yourself.
I may be wrong, but I believe this is one of the greater achievements of art, if not its outright intention – that is, to hold a lens to a story or concept – a reality – that is simultaneously reflective, ultimately giving the audience (of any art) an opportunity to participate no matter how introspective or personal the story actually is. Matt Finney achieves this on Ain’t No Night, as exemplified quite well on the title track (a gritty, bluesy number that alternates between acoustic folk and heavier doom/’gaze), with lyrics that, in moments of otherwise silence, have the capacity (and/or tendency) to creep into somone’s consciousness; in a way that – even if no one’s ever said them to you – can make hearing them feel like some sort of vicarious deja vu (if that’s possible).
During the spoken word sections, Heinali’s music is generally subdued, in the same kind of way storm clouds gather and roll across the sky before they break – they’re quiet, but their presence and imminent storm is unmissable. The compositions on this album are a force to be reckoned with indeed, ranging from subtle to palpable.
The intracacies of the music again lie just beneath the more overt surface. The instrumental sections in the first track, In All Directions, are quite searing at first (like when a storm first breaks), but as the song progresses, the sudden and startling ferocity of it recedes and other layers are revealed. To me, it sounds like the musical translation of an irrational, emotional reaction, followed by a gradual calm as more information is brought to attention.
Which is what made me think of Jim Henson, by the way. One of my favourite scenes in The Dark Crystal lasts for about 3 seconds or so – a straightforward pan across a forest that acts as the lead-in to another (story-developing) scene. At a casual glance, it’s a nice scene showing some of the quirky flora and fauna that populates the world, but it’s an amazingly intricate scene if you pay just a little bit more attention to it. The more detail you unravel, the more you understand about the world Henson is trying to show – same thing here with Heinali’s music. It is aesthetically very easy on the “eye”, but you could give that eye a good workout if you had the inclination.
There’s definitely quite a bit going on, both lyrically and musically. It’s like very finely tuned chaos – neither overwhelming or confusing, which may or may not have to do with the relative succinctness of four tracks, but at 35 minutes I warrant it has more to do with careful use of light and shade.
Ain’t No Night‘s official release date is as yet unannounced, but is due late spring (I presume that’s US) on Paradigms Recordings.
In the meantime, you can further whet your appetite with Candidate, their take the Joy Division track.
April's Swag - bite-sized, but very tempting (and even a bit delicious)
Once again, there’s been so much going on this month that I’ve spared little time to dig up the best bits from the nether regions of the internet. Lucky for us both, I don’t have to look very far to find something worth bringing to your attention – to recap those I already have:
After that, I suggest sinking your teeth into these:
Heinali and Matt Finney – Plainsong Shoegaze/Drone/Ambient | 15MB – 320 kbps MP3
You may have caught the recent Conjoined review over at [sic], if not, this duo blend heavy shoegaze-drone a la The Angelic Process/Nadja, with spoken word vocals. These guys have got quite a few things in store for this year, with another album set for release later this spring on Paradigms Recordings titled Ain’t No Night – keep your eyes and ears out for more info soon, as there’s some seriously good stuff going on with that. Currently available for free download on Bandcamp right now is their take on The Cure’s Plainsong and Radiohead’s Creep. To top it off, from May 1st, Dreamcatcher – a half-hour soundtrack over two movements (Lucifer 1 and Panopticon), which recently accompanied a photo exhibit – will go up as a ‘name your price’ download, with all funds raised going towards financing another album later this year; some very absorbing work all-round.
Wild Dogs In Winter – Homba* Post Rock/Ambient | 120MB – 320 kbps MP3s
Released last year but only just recently brought to my attention, this nicely done 10-track album has more than enough weight to grab – and keep – the attention of Blueneck, I Like Trains, Our Ceasing Voice and Her Name Is Calla fans. Available on Bandcamp as a digital download (or purchase the CD).
Sleepy Sun – Marina Psych/Stoner Rock | 14MB – 320 kbps MP3
If you know me, you know I can’t get enough of these guys and their particularly sparkling blend of hazy psych/stoner rock. To celebrate their upcoming US tour, Sleepy Sun have made a live version of the single Marina available for free download, which you can grab here.
Other Lives – For 12 Folk/Rock | 6MB 192 kbps MP3
It was nice to see this new track go up on RCRD LBL the other day, as I’m quite fond of Other Lives’ self-titled debut. (Not so nice to see RCRD LBL decide to go the same direction as Daytrotter and disallow direct downloads without registering for a user account – they better not introduce a poorly functioning, site-specific “download manager”). Slightly more old-school psych-folk in this track, but very nice indeed – grab it here.
NeTE – Greatest Non-Hits 1 LP Industrial/Gothic/Lo-Fi – 73MB 128 kbps MP3s
Some of you may remember my Australian music special from a while back, and briefly mentioning I couldn’t recall any Australian goth bands I was into during the 90′s. Well, while I was trying to jog my memory, I happened upon a site called Shame File Music – a label dedicated to experimental Australian music. Long story slightly shorter, I grabbed this collection of tracks, and while I can’t say I heard them back then, I can say there’s some stuff here worthy of a listen now. Grab them from Internet Archive.
*These are available as ‘name your price’ downloads. For Bandcamp releases, you are able to enter any amount, including $0. For Mamaleek’s Kurdaitcha, voluntary donations (via PayPal) to support the artists can be made through the Enemies List download page linked above. As always, though I know times are tough, I encourage sparing a few bucks where and when you can to support the artists making the music you enjoy.
No matter how much time I spent listening to Ways Of Meaning before coming here and attempting to write about it, it always felt like it wasn’t enough.
If you recall, last time I used the visual artistry of director Wong Kar Wai to draw parallels between discerning nuances in the visual and musical realm, though admitting I’m more a student in the matter than an authority. If you’ll allow me to further that theme for a moment, I think I’ve graduated to the next chamber. My task to learn this lesson is to fill pails with water, then carry them back to a certain destination without letting them spill. Thus far, I’ve been arriving to a stern, disapproving glance at my empty pails and swiftly sent marching back until I’ve not only mastered the art of balance, but can extend it beyond myself to the fluid substance given temporary form and which I carry at arm’s length while I move with impetuous impatience.
To clarify things, the water is a metaphor for the thoughts I gather when I listen to Ways Of Meaning, and in the course of feeling rather confident in them, I turn on my computer, open up a blank page, only to think I don’t have nearly enough to say. That it clocks in at almost a third of the listening time as A Young Person’s Guide does little to negate the sense that there is something vast and intricate to explore, and that I have much more of it to do before I can consider writing about it.
It may appear as though I’m doing the release a disservice with diversionary tactics, or perhaps that I’m inadvertantly disregarding it by virtue of admitting my grasp feels fleeting. So I want to say that, like A Young Person’s Guide, it would have been easy to take this music at face value, but if I was ever prepared to do that I would have just strung together some nifty words. You know the ones: ambient, mourning, resonant, fluid…and if I started to run out maybe I’d reach for pretty, then a thesaurus – they’d all be relevant and true. But it’s much more honest for me to say that those are the words I was left with after I’d finished listening. They were the few drops left in my pails, the ones that looked like sad little dregs, because they’re not only somwhat superficial in their application here, they show little about what I thought – so here’s what you should know…
When you think about the kind of music that soundtracks the events in daily life, from the commonplace, everyday occurances to those that take us by surprise, the ones that leave us slightly winded and uncertain what’s going to happen next, it’s natural to make immediate connections to music that plays loud enough to get through the noise in your head.
Ways Of Meaning is like the music that was already there. It’s those natural layers of sound that hum underneath motion and thought, that drive it, and the music you hear when just for a moment you allow memory or imagination to steer your thoughts instead of the other way around and reacting to them. If provocation itself, the instigation as opposed to cause and effect, of sense memory had a sound, this is what I think it would sound like.
Each time I played this album, I had 40 minutes to simply listen to the music and think of ways to describe it, but that, perhaps unfortunately, doesn’t interest me as much as what I actually did. I spent much more of the time delving into other things – things that if I mentioned would probably look stark and unusual, because they’re mine alone and I remembered or imagined them in a context that (I insist) will only make sense to me. It isn’t the music that I have fleeting grasp on, it’s the confidence to share the secrets I found when listening to it.
Ways Of Meaning is available on the 3rd of May, on vinyl and digital download, through Desire Path Recordings.
Adrift For Days‘ debut album, The Lunar Maria (released 2010), is undoubtedly my favourite Australian album of recent years. With it’s sedate, psychedelic, doom-laden sludge, infused with blues and tribal elements, it’s safe to say very few Aussie albums have impressed me both immediately and to such an extent that I had to ask just where the hell this came from; and by that token, what else I’ve been missing out on in this vast country of mine.
Who better to ask than the guys responsible for making me a born-again Oz music noob? Mick (Kaslik) and Lachlan (R. Doomsdale) were kind enough to spend a little time answering some questions, starting with how this all came to pass in the first place.
I mentioned this a few weeks ago, briefly, and the other day decided to try something a little bit different in terms of elaboration. Despite the drawbacks, and my lack of talent, I wanted to mess round with a visual medium and had this bright idea of trying my hand at a visual interpretation of each track on the release, but I wanted it to contain a smilar, unifying thread (as does the release itself), so here’s what I did…
I made the particularly inspired choice to google for an image of a moth (yup, firing on all cylinders that day) and chose this one:
Not that it probably matters, but that’s an Emperor Gum Moth, which I chose primarily for the relatively blank canvas of the wing span and the leaf-like shape and texture of the antennae (see a full colour version of the above photo here). I basically divided the image into five segments, then re-made it using whatever I felt like while I listened to each track. So here’s my visual interpretation of Mothhunting:
In amongst the panels, along with original segments of the photo, is the following: a snake eye; bee wings, legs and body; a fish, a metal screw; blood vein; wire mesh; paper; smoke; sand; water; glass; salt and Hungarian words; with touch ups, filtering and effects using both Photofiltre and a couple of bits n’ pieces on Photobucket, like the frame once it was all re-assembled.
Each of those components represents an element in the respective songs, though as the specific components I chose were down to purely personal interpretation, I’ll leave you to do the same. What I will say is that you may note there is an underlying tone that is consistent throughout each panel, that various textures are prominent, yet generally maintain that tone in some way. Most of them have subtle backgrounds intended to indicate certain forms of movement, which are underneath the more present forms in the music and generally fluid, but occasionally fractured.
I shared the first track, Ghost Doze, last time, so take a listen to the title track Mothhunting.
Oh, and I’m not quite sure why I went for Hungarian as a language in there – I originally chose Japanese but that didn’t work. I am, however, a big fan of sweet paprika, a deep, coppery-red powdered spice that also comes in smoked and (very) hot varieties. I often cook large pots of Hungarian goulash, to which generous portions of paprika is added, and is a favoured dish to cook during winter. I suspect that, for some reason, that little cottage on the cover is entrenched in my mind as belonging to some Hungarian village somewhere.
I had something of a full circle moment the other day when I saw Pillars And Tongues had a new Daytrotter Session available (recorded back in Spetember last year, available to download March 3rd).
I had not long discovered Daytrotter when I took a quick listen to their debut session from February, 2009. Back then I was intrigued just enough to bookmark it, promising myself I’d come back later and take a proper listen. It took me a few weeks to do so. In a odd coincidence, I chose March 3rd, posting about it the same day simply because I thought it very necessary to tell everyone about it.
That day I was instantly enamoured – the kind of enamoured where you can’t help but insist absolutely everyone must hear it too, and inbetween that insistence you spend many other moments listening yourself and finding as much else as you can – information, music, whatever is out there.
This time around I wasted no time in acquiring the session, though I have spent the better part of a week listening to it before ultimately, once more, finding it very necessary to tell everyone about it.
Most people, including myself, tend to perplex a little over describing the music of P&T, (believe me, there are good reasons I haven’t linked to my first post!), but the most common summary is folkish drone (or vice versa – droneish folk). Others tend to veer a little towards the metaphysical; I’ve seen mesmerising, spiritual and even holy used. For the time being, I’m going to continue with my original position, but tone it down somewhat and simply suggest it’s music you need to hear.