Tag Archives: review

Boduf Songs – This Alone Above All Else In Spite of Everything

I’ve been meaning to post about this album for a while, without quite knowing what the hell to say about it that eloquently conveyed what I wanted to. As you can see, I decided to abandon eloquence. I’m just going to wing it and see what happens.

First off, I still have no idea how to describe these songs in terms that will help anyone that hasn’t heard them know what to expect. That’s probably important. What I can say is that Boduf Songs is the music of one Mat Sweet (and when I first saw that name, back when I listened to How Shadows Chase the Balance, I have to admit to thinking oh my, the guy who did the Grifriend song has taken a drastically different direction. It’s not the same Mat[thew] Sweet – that’s definitely important). I can also tell you that most other people tag it with folk, acoustic and slowcore. Others say it has a black metal aesthetic, Pitchfork – and who doesn’t take them at their word – called it doom-folk. I did see one person call it ‘evil folk music’, primarily, I presume, owing to the way the subject matter is handled (not, I point out, the subject matter itself. That’s probably important, too).

With that in mind, I did, quite briefly, ask myself if I should be disturbed by how close and comforting I find these songs. Why? Because the second I heard the final track – I Am Going Away and I Am Never Coming Back – I loved it. Quite a lot. It does that thing where it gets you at a completely different level than just heart and mind. It’s like a Grimm fairytale creeped up to me and started whispering sweet (no pun intended, but I’ll delight in it anyway) nothings and made my knees all watery the same way as when I blush under the gaze of a guy I’ve got a crush on. It’s really quite odd, not the least because somehow, some way, the lines stay with me until the hammer cracks my skull for the last time, I’ll stay with you until the blood has drained from you completely, sound like the most intimately romantic goodbye ever.

Maybe it’s just me and I should be disturbed by that. This Alone… could be the musical equivalent of being dangerously attracted to the softly spoken, charismatic, good looking guy who makes you feel totally safe to go off alone with him even though you’ve only just met and he turns out to be the kind of guy no one could quite bring themselves to warn you about, possibly because it’s the same guy they think about when they’re alone but don’t want anyone to know.

Hmm, I’m getting off track here… What it really is, is that these songs go to some disturbing, intimate places without ever being wholly discomfiting as you might expect from work of this nature – that in itself not only challenges me to think about them in a different way, but it also – ultimately – challenges the way I think full stop. Interesting.

If you’ve heard any of the previous albums, and here I’ll just make mention that I’m well familiar with the self-titled debut, Lion Devours the Sun, “The Straight GaitorA Great Difficulty in Getting to Heaven” and the aforementioned How Shadows Chase the Balance, you’ll notice a definite progression in terms of instrumentation, as percussion, bass and electric guitar take a more prominent (and welcome) role. Even if previous work could be called folk (a term I’d dispute even though I have nothing to counter it with), it’s far less likely to be applied here.

Nine tracks, each one able to find it’s own place next to you to nestle. I suggest getting to know them all well, they certainly make it easy considering half the time it feels like they know you well already. Oh, and here….take a listen to the song that makes mah knees all watery, and you are quite welcome to be disturbed by that, in fact, I fairly well expect most will. I, however, choose not to be.

Oh, and the album is available on vinyl and digital formats only (for the time being) – buy it at Kranky or whatever your favourite MP3 store is. I used Boomkat.

S4E


Purest Spiritual Pigs – Body Misses

 

Allow me a moment to put you in a different place of the world…

In one of the darker corners in the heart of this little city I call home,  there used to be a nifty little club. To get there, you generally had to run the gauntlet down a street well known for being the centre of bubbling nightlife. Lined with myriad clubs thumping generic beats and  guarded by bouncers who, if they lowered themselves enough to look at you twice, it was only so that they could look away again. You’d have to make it past the ‘gentlemen’ who felt a wolf whistle and a slurred “oy! come-o’er-ere” was a charming enough pick-up line and became indignant when informed it wasn’t; break through the walls of girls locked in arms, trying to hold up drunken friends with one elbow and down their skirts with the other so that they could stagger to the next club and – presumably – maintain an air of dignity about the proceedings. Finally, you’d have to hurdle the odd character that wouldn’t so much mind about their public image and simply flash you a polite smile before diving into the bin next to you to look for discarded cigarette butts to smoke. A quick exit stage left and you would arrive at The Proscenium – sanctuary!

That’s a bit of a history lesson; here’s a little etymology.

The proscenium is the arch that separates the stage from the auditorium (thus, also commonly known as the proscenium arch). The word itself has Latin / Greek origins, and in simplest terms referred to an entrance. The Proscenium that was the club couldn’t have been more aptly named. It was indeed something of a line, an encompassing arc and a threshold for a variety of sub-cultures. It was a dark, smoky place with velvet lounges in one corner, steel columns punctuating the dancefloor and a variety of gadgetry, gizmos and toys peppered elsewhere. In the dividing line between performer and audience, few social lines existed and the goths, ravers, punks and forbears of modern hipster culture all danced to the same music – music just like Purset Spiritual Pigs create.

I’ll start with the basics… PSP is a music project that encompasses a variety of artistic disciplines. For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to concentrate on the musical side of things here and now; more specifically, the album Body Misses. The album itself is partly collaborative – six of the album’s eleven tracks feature the talents of a variety of contributors, while the remaining five are the solo work of Minneapolis resident Helena Thompson.

Having a variety of resources, insight and creativity to draw from,  Body Misses dabbles in a similarly vast array of ideas and styles, from punk to post-punk, rock, industrial, grunge and new wave. Occasionally infused with subtle touches of other influences, like the tribal percussion heard on Blood-Let, you might think it all sounds like a bit of a haphazard mixed bag. Rather than being a case of “too many cooks”, though, what’s on offer is a cohesive body of work that by no means misses its mark. PSP very much bring danceable rock to the arena, with a dark, gothic and industrial edge. For an immediate visual and musical reference, think The Crow having a little tryst with Run Lola Run.

At the forefront and tying it all together is the somewhat diffident and occasionally deadpan delivery of the vocals by Helena Thompson. Oh, and I don’t mean the shy version of diffidence, either. While musically exploring a variety of genres and concepts, the perspective is consummately maintained lyrically and vocally. There is a an air of reserved disenchantment within the world view of Purest Spiritual Pigs, one seeming to be well-earned and perhaps the end-result of a few battle wounds.

At the start, I mentioned a “different” place, but that city street is the kind of place that exists in prominence the world over. I always thought it was strange that the place I liked – my world – was the subset to that, it was the darker place, a swept-away secret on the fringes of society. I get the impression PSP knows both of these worlds quite well. If not, they certainly are fluent in their respective languages, with subject matter on Body Misses delving into the corners of them both. There are a number of dark stories here from behind the curtains; stories that speak of the kind of stagnancy that exists in these worlds and the frustrations that result. There is also an underlying awareness and implication that it isn’t all there is, that these windows will have their blinds pulled at any moment – which might not necessarily be up, either.  Purest Spiritual Pigs seem well aware that sometimes the darker corners are the ones you need to move out from, other times they’re hiding the better alternatives.

You can look, listen to and learn more about Purest Spritual Pigs in the following places:

PSP Website
MySpace

You can also buy Body Misses in CD or digital format:
CD Universe
CD Baby

 S4E


Spotlight on Android Lust & The Human Animal

When it comes to attempts to succinctly convey the tone of Android Lust‘s particular brand of electro-industrial music, there are a few common ones; like Female NIN, gothic, dark, aggressive, moody, seething, rawHR Giger even gets the odd mention, more than likely owing to the erotic overtones of the mechanical/android/alien aesthetic that’s prevalent in both the imagery and sound. I make no arguments to any of those (I’ve used them myself), but they don’t really do full justice to music that can sometimes be really quite haunting and beautiful.

Shikhee, the woman behind the moniker, has a fantastic knack for combining incisive lyrics that highlight some of the darker recesses of human nature – the ones a lot of us think or feel but would rarely, if ever, openly admit to – with music that somehow makes it not only ok to sing along with them, but to agree wholeheartedly with them as well. Stained, for example, from 2002’s The Dividing, takes a look at some fairly hateful thoughts – “I know not how to cease this feeling of hate in me / I just want to see you bleed  / I know what I want / I want to stop seeing red / I know what I want / I just want to see you dead“. Whether you interpret those words as being directed inward or outward, the purity of loathing is made pretty simple, yet the song itself is almost ghostly. The main vocals are strong and smooth, delivered with a sense of mild disdain, but there is no venom in them and ultimately the prespective takes on shades of a fragile hurt. The implication is made that the protagonist has simply become resolved to the desire, but it also seems to make clear that the anger is coming from a deeper, less accessable pain.


Fair warning: This video contains images not recommended for the squeamish

Of course, there are times when subject matter and music are more closely related and forthright. Sex and Mutilation, also from The Dividing, is a manic, glitchy and hyper-kinetic track where the title words are half-screamed with an edge of desperation, while Kingdom of One (and in particular, the remix from 2004’s Stripped & Stitched) is probably the only song I’ve ever heard that uses the normally preternatural sounding and “offensive” C-word in a pointed and derisive manner and yet keep it from actually feeling crude – i.e., it completely avoids the “shock factor”. It certainly puts it beyond merely interesting listening and right into intriguing.

One of the words I neglected to mention in those common descriptors is cold. There’s a couple of reasons for that – firstly, it happens to be one I don’t really agree with. Yes, electronica is rarely ‘organic’, and yes industrial elements tend to lend themselves well to the ‘coldness’ inherent in the mechanical; two things that can often see music of the genre feel cold. The other reason I point that out is that even if there are some older AL tracks that can earn that tag, there is no way possible I would apply it to The Human Animal.

The latest album arrives four years after previous album, Devour, Rise and Take Flight – those four years seem to have been quite well spent. According to the Android Lust website, The Human Animal is “a journey through the psyche of man, as man realizes the futility of living in the grips of ego and surrenders to seek answers within.” Even if you don’t get a good grasp on that concept, you’re unlikely to feel like the album is over your head – in a nutshell, The Human Animal is a very well executed, consistent and accessable album.

Taking a slightly different approach this time around, Shikhee spent some time on the streets and subways of New York, recording sounds that have been incorporated as “rhythmic and melodic elements“. More importantly, though, is the inclusion of live musicians during the recording process for the first time. Losing none of the trademark hard metallic edge, the entire album feels like a deeper, richer experience than much of what has come before it.

From the first few moments of the opening track, Intimate Stranger, you know you’re listening to an Android Lust album – Shikhee’s voice is unmistakable – but the sound has taken on some dirtier, grungier blues tones, which maintains the aforementioned gothic moodiness but also gives it a more prominent and wickedly seductive edge. (You know you’re hooked if you feel the urge to to sing a song like Rub Me Raw when out and about – it would be an interesting experiment to see how well other bus passengers would take to my vocal renditions of “Won’t you smother me ’til I’m sick of you / Crush me ’til I scream for you / Rub me ’til I bleed for you / Rub me raw“. I’m sticking to humming it for now).

There really isn’t a song on here that won’t get under your skin in a similar fashion. At times a little sinister (The Return), other times darkly bluesy with a cat-like fluidity (A New Heaven), and there is yet still moments that are murky and haunting (Flow (of Impermanence)). Android Lust really knows how to get into your head and seduce your darker side out to play, and The Human Animal will stalk you with every track in such a way as to make it impossible to resist.

But of course, why would you resist? In the words of Android Lust herself, it’s a sin not to want things.

You can listen to The Human Animal here, with option to purchase a digital copy, or better yet, buy a CD version here (a very nice deluxe package is also available).

S4E


Irata – Action-Packed Post-Rock for Spy-Ninjas in High Speed Car Chases

…and somewhere there’s clowns

I’ll be the first to admit that, for as much as I like the genre, post-rock has a few problems. Without going into too much detail, it’s laregly owing to a few common cliches and the greater stumbling block of being able to effect long-term engagement (particularly with instrumental post-rock). I mention those (albeit briefly) because it’s nice to come across an instrumental post-rock act who, by and large, avoid those problems.

Having recently discovered the label Silber Records, I took it upon myself to explore a few other titles in their catalogue. (First, the lovely China Mountain by Lotte Kestnerreviewed over at [sic]). Next up on my “hit-list” was Irata‘s self-titled debut, which I admittedly approached with equal amounts of trepidation and anticipation. Trepidation owing to the aforementioned issues; anticipation owing to Silber’s own description:

Irata dwells in the world where drone, post rock, & metal unite into a giant monster to kick your ass. Guitars, drums, bass, & saxophone form this instrumental group from Greensboro, NC.

It is, at least, a combination that sparks intrigue, as my taste for projects blending drone into the mix has only been recently developed.

Ok, so what you can expect is some well-paced and energetic instrumental pieces that appear to draw heavily on action over emotion – which for me means it rocks without draining my energy. The riffs hook easily and there’s no unnecessarily extended or drawn out builds into cinematic-like climaxes (where often – even without lyrics – one can come away with the feeling of being a tad emotionally manipulated). These guys get straight into it and give it all right there. It might be just me, but I can see this being a great soundtrack to an action movie with tons of car chases and spy tactics. And ninjas. (Yes, there is some subtle subversiveness in this here music. Also, I just like ninjas).

You’ll get the post-rock, the metal and the drone, seasoned with the occasional touch of blues, shoegaze and even a light sprinkle of Middle Eastern influence. If it suffers from anything at all, it’s a bit of a tendency for repetitiveness, but at least the pace is swift enough to be able to carry it.

I’m often fascinated by the titles some post-rock bands will bestow upon their songs. Again there’s a common tendency to issue them with unnecessarily overlong and convoluted names that perhaps serve as an attempt to better clarify the story or concept with the listener… But I’m looking at this tracklisting and I have to say I find the comparitively succint Clown Rehab far more fascinating – my imagination has run away with it already (last seen wondering about the effects of clown addiction, whether or not one who suffers from it would hide big red noses and floppy shoes in various places about the house. It might seem like I’m making fun – I’m not. Consider it more having fun with what I’m being presented with; which I actually think is cool that I can do 😉 . If one was to actually take a more philosophical approach, one might consider it to be a reference to the often implied notion that the happiness of a clown is a facade, and perhaps there is an addictive quality to maintaining that).

So there you have it, taken it on the nifty action packed level and let your imagination do some wilder things than mine; or study it all a little more deeply and find your own rewards.

You can grab Irata’s album here.


Ernest Ellis – Hunting

“I was born without you, but I’ll take your hand” – I Am The Beast

Since late last year, after hearing When I feel Like Jesus’ Son The World Will Feel Much Different, I’ve been waiting for Dew Process to deliver on their promise and release Hunting by Ernest Ellis, so it was a (pleasant) surprise when I made an impromptu visit yesterday to my local music store and finally saw it sitting on the shelf – particularly as I’ve since confirmed that it (18th June) was the release date. Fate, eh?

The past few years, and particularly following the success of Bon Iver, there seems to have been no shortage of folk albums written during extended periods of self-imposed isolation – with much of Hunting written while secluded in a cabin in Australia’s Blue Mountains, I have a feeling the comparisons are going to be immediate and rife. Fair? Maybe; in some aspects they have a few things in common, but to simply label Hunting Australia’s answer to For Emma… would be lazily selling it short.

Much like the landscapes in the Blue Mountains, there’s wide open space populated with vast, diverse and sometimes distant scenery. The songs seem to have inherited that instinctive urge to stop for a moment to take in the magnitude of what surrounds us and compare it to the spaces a little closer to home. The result is an album centred with calm, pop-folk sensibility, and gently belies some of the darker themes that seem to arise in moments of introspective exploration.

The album draws on a variety of genres – with occasional trance-y or trip-hop beats, like in I Am The Beast (supplied by fellow Aussie composer Russell W), alt-country balladry such as in Valley Song, and some blues-rock in tracks like Bad Blood. The influences and sounds are diverse, but subtle enough to be pulled together into a distictively consistent and pleasing sound. Ernest Ellis may well be the beast, but as the above picture and this album would suggest, one with a fairly refined veneer.

For the uninitated or simply curious, it’s sure to appeal to fans of bands like My Morning Jacket, Band of Horses, Phosphorescent, fellow Aussie folks Angus & Julia Stone and the aforementioned Bon Iver.

You can buy Hunting via the Dew Process store

S4E


I Love it When….

….artists release great follow-ups to their debut albums.

Fever by Sleepy Sun

There might be a number of bands out there offering top-notch psych-rock, but none seem able to pull off the combination of hazy, mellow and bluesy while still managing to be bright to the point of dazzling quite as well as Sleepy Sun (which may just well be the most apt name ever). I’m a big fan of last year’s Embrace, and in fact the only complaint I had about it was that it was just too darn short! Leave them wanting more might be good advice because I was looking forward to their next release from the get-go and was a little more than stoked when I first heard about a new album being released this year. (Not quite so stoked when I found out the first single, Open Eyes, was being released via download only. First, I refuse to use iTunes – I hate it and won’t compromise on that even for the most special of artists, second, the very few other avenues there were to purchase the single I can not access. Lame, because I miss out on the extra content. Slight repreive by the fact that Stereogum hosted the single, and made it available as a free download. Which was nice).

Fever really is a perfect follow-up. While undeniably continuing the simply gorgeous and addictive sound from the first album, nothing here feels like footnotes of Embrace, even when taking into consideration that Fever’s last track – Sandstorm Woman – appeared as a B-side to one of Embrace’s singles (Sleepy Son). I’m actually more than happy about it making the cut for the album, because it’s a stellar track that deserves some special attention. The duetting vocals of Rigamaroo are also superbly done, and Wild Machines epitomises everything I love about Sleepy Sun – straight-up psych-rock jams perfectly balanced with dozy melodies.

Only one thing…the album is, once again, too blardy short!

Buy it now in various formats via ATP Recordings.

S4E


Deftones – Diamond Eyes

....obviously.

Album cover for Diamond Eyes

Once and again with my near-irresistable urges, I really wanted to call this post “OMG, Deftones”, except that this time the reason mostly eludes me, other than that I wanted to make some form of easily recognisable exclamation. Thankfully, however, I can most of the time recognise what is unnecessary silliness on my part – it’s just that it’s also often too late. (I guess even if not, I can’t resist pointing it out, anyway).

When I heard Deftones were releasing a new album, I googled for more info – as one does. Two pieces of information increased its desirability by quite a bit. 1. Despite the mixed reception, enough had issued ‘best since White Pony’ to make me go ‘ooooh, really?’ 2. As seen above, the album cover features a white owl.

I’m not even kidding about #2. Owls rule.

While I have all of Deftone’s studio albums, plus the Back to School EP and B Sides & Rarities, White Pony was my first foray into their catalogue and remains a definitive favourite – helped in no small part by a rather massive obsession with Passenger (not to mention a few other incredibly good moments in the way of Digital Bath, Change (In The House of Flies) and Pink Maggit). Passenger is, in fact, the only song that could even hope to come anywhere near the high playcount for my other obsession, Tori AmosCooling (rather interesting combo, really, if you think about it).

Diamond Eyes doesn’t really offer anything (to me) quite like Passenger – as well it shouldn’t, and wasn’t necessarily expected. At least, it doesn’t offer it in any one track. Let’s face it, it was one hell of a sexy song, and on the whole, Diamond Eyes is a pretty damn sexy album.

Musically, I think it’s some of their strongest work. If I had to suggest any particular reason why, I would do what most others have and point to the tragic circumstances surrounding the current (and hopefully temporary) absence of original bassist, Chi Cheng. Life-altering events have a habit of inspiring drive, to cut back to what’s necessary, and to change what you see as important. Working on the now indefinitely shelved Eros at the time (and respect to them for that decision), they brought in Silvio Vega for Diamond Eyes. And, in reading an interview here and there, altered their writing/recording process – rather, as with White Pony, all songs were written before the recording process began, and it shows.

There is a point to be made here, and Deftones make it quite clearly. Chino’s vocals are more pronounced and stronger than ever – I’m not the biggest fan of high-pitched, screaming vocals, but in the places they occur, it’s quite an acheivement here in that I can actually handle them without grimace – while Carpenter’s guitar work matches that focus with driven, decisive and often quite hard-hitting, infectious riffs(particularly effective on tracks like Prince and Risk). Heavy and hard-edged, yes, but not exactly weighted by what some would see as the burden of the circumstances.

Occasionally, I think I’d like to know how Chino’s mind works when I read the lyrics to Deftones’ songs. Then I think it would be a bit like a magician revealing his secrets – or perhaps just a flasher revealing something else, it’s hard to tell and I think I’ll stick with the wondering, it’s much more enjoyably indulgent. They are composed like a selection of thoughts – the kind of fleeting, fragmented ones that arrive in between remembering to breathe. Singularly, they come across as being overt in their intention, but in context they’re a somewhat more obscure and would best be left at suggestive.

That’s probably quite enough, I think, so I’ll leave it with current personal fave, You’ve Seen The Butcher.

S4E