All posts filed under: Music

album cover The Body No One Deserves Happiness

Isolationist Pop: The Body – No One Deserves Happiness (Thrill Jockey)

Pop music is designed to be a salve for modern living – a way to blow off some steam after our 80-hour a week jobs, letting us lose ourselves in some escapist fantasy for a bit as we listen to Top 40 hip-hop artists talk about booze we can’t afford to drink, clothes we can’t afford to wear, trips we can’t afford to take, in a simulacrum of pleasure and desire. Pop Music can be both necessary AND dangerous. Pop music also brings us a sense of community, of belonging, in the increasingly atomized world we live in. It’s all too easy to feel like you’re living on one of the jigsaw puzzles in the background of Salvador Dali’s The Disintegration Of The Persistence Of Memory, as any sense of familiarity or normalcy plummets into the void of unknowing, right below our feet. It can be comforting to find some like minds and kindred spirits in the freefall, either dishing up real connections or the illusion of intimacy. Either one will suffice, in the Long …

Album Cover Dalhous

When Are We Not Who We Are? Dalhous – “The Composite Moods Vol. 1: House Number 44”

Much has been made, of late, as to the malleable, fluid nature of identity. Daily, we discuss the ramifications of systemic bias; of The Other and our reluctance towards, or embracing of, another point of view. The boundaries of “the self” are not concrete – we are not walled off like some isolationist state. We are open, porous, to all manner of environmental stimuli. We are what we eat, so to speak. So what effect does the environment have on us? What influence, other people? And what happens when that influence goes sour? The Composite Moods Vol. 1: House Number 44 is an exploration of interacting psyches, from London’s Dalhous, on the ever exquisite Blackest Ever Black. The Composite Moods volume 1 posits some hypothetical house, House Number 44, occupied by two random personalities on the hinterlands of society. One of the roommates views themselves as perfectly fine and healthy – a sane, well-adjusted human being. The other is seemingly a mess, “detached, isolated, often feeling helpless and unable to influence the world around them; …

Thug Entrancer - Arcology

The Sound Of Celestial (& Earthly) Harmony: Thug Entrancer – “Arcology”

Since the very beginning, electronic music has always been exploring alien worlds, conjuring images of whirling discs, horseshoe nebulae, and strange, alien races. Whether this is due to electronic music’s arsenal of non-acoustic sound generators – synths and drum machines – which can produce pure, mathematical tones not possible in the natural world; or because of early sci-fi’s adoption of said signal generators to soundtrack their far out fever dreams, is difficult to say for certain. But whether it’s the soundtracks for SF classics like Fantastic Planet or the original Dr. Who score from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, the shifting patterns of the “Berlin School [of electronic music]” of Tangerine Dream, or the amorphous ambiance of beat-less Aphex Twin, electronic music is particularly adept at portraying new worlds, as well as our own, at times. Electronic music took a brief detour into the mainstream, starting in the ’70s, with the dawn of rave/EDM/disco, which was all well and good, not to mention inevitable, given the laser-precision of electronic music’s tonal sculpting. It might have been inevitable, …

Gqom-Oh-The-Sound-Of-Durban-Vol-1-Artwork

Music for Music’s Sake — GQOM OH! “The Sound Of Durban Vol. 1”

There seems to be a line drawn in the sand, in terms of today’s Electronic music culture. On one hand, there’s the huge-budget world of the summer festivals, with massive multi-million dollar events like Electric Carnival or Movement Detroit dragging in hundreds of thousands of the best, brightest, and most beautiful to listen to larger-than-life DJs, elevated 200-ft. above the crowd, hurling lightning bolts through gigantic subwoofer stacks. Then there’s the sound of the underground – martial, militaristic beats echoing from down long concrete tunnels, resounding off of bunker walls, usually dished out on the fly from cryptic, cobbled-together machines. There’s a back and forth, between the “underground” and “mainstream” Electronic music world, with the popular, populist beatmongers diving into the murky depths in search of fresh energy, enthusiasm, and inspiration. Considering how much mainstream music ends up, either intentionally or subsequently, as advertisement for lifestyle branding, it’s no wonder that dance music fanatics feel the need to keep digging, in search of something real, in a sea of marketing mirages. Africa has been an …

Kedr Livanskiy

The Most Alive & Honest Thing In Moscow: Kedr Livanskiy’s “January Sun” EP (2MR Records)

“Lo-fi” homemade & handcrafted objects offer an immediate glimpse of the heart & soul of a place. Whether it’s a handstitched quilt, decked out with regional colors and designs, or a disintegrating flyer for a punk show that happened a decade ago, handmade, locally-sourced objets d’art offer an essential insight into the hopes, dreams, styles, and preferences of a people. This is particularly true of “lo-fi” or bedroom music, which seems to inherently evoke images of intimate listening in close quarters with the artist, as they unveil their secrets, like a hidden jewelry box from under the bed. As the world seems to succumb to Pop’s hypnotism, as the spectacle continues to get bigger, bolder, and less accessible to independent participants, the need for raw, intimate, accessible art will continue to expand exponentially. January Sun is a glimpse into the hidden, jewelled kingdom of Kedr Livanskiy, who crafts weightless, otherworldly synthpop and antiquated future beats from a skeletal configuration of bare synth, drum machine, and voice. Each element, however, seems packed in styrofoam, steeped in …

Radiation City – Synesthetica — Pop & Personal

Food Writer Regan Hoffmann posted a tweet in February, as part of the “music writing exercise” #mwe hashtag campaign, speaking on The Carpenter’s “A Song For You”: “I’m finally able to look past the offputting sugary arrangements to understand how dark Karen Carpenter was. #mwe” Much of the most timeless Pop music flirts with darkness. From the sexual exploits of Led Zeppelin, to the “watching-a-train-wreck-as-its-happening” voyeurism of Amy Winehouse’s career, we seem to prefer our sweetness with a little bit of the bitter. Historically, much of this darkness is implied, behind the scenes – from Stevie Nicks’ cocaine enemas to Karen Carpenter’s tragic eating disorders to the expat bacchanalia of the Rolling Stones Exile On Main Street. We find out, after the fact, all manner of disturbing, fascinating details. Maybe it’s because we’ve had nearly 100 years of eccentric pop stars. We’ve learned to peel back the shiny outer layer, looking for a scoop, some kind of narrative to hang a batch of songs on. Something juicy. Many of today’s pop artists realize this fact, and …

Walking Two Feet Above the Ground: DIIV – Is The Is Are, album review

Is The Is Are is a record born out of hardship and tumult. Coming four years behind Zachary Cole Smith’s breakout debut, Oshin, Is The Is Are describes the confusion & contradictions of stardom, addiction, early romance, dappled in shadows and clouds of reverbed guitar and distant vocals. From Smith’s own mouth, he will tell you much has changed in the last four years, and guitar music isn’t precisely en vogue at the moment, as he told Pitchfork during an interview, “Guitar music isn’t what people are talking about, and I don’t know if it’s 100 percent what the world needs, My ambitions are higher, of course, but I have to consider all options, because I don’t know what will happen.” So does the world need another distant, detached Dream Pop/New Wave romantic depressed shoegaze record? In this instance, the answer is absolutely yes. We need Smith’s voice. And not only for its redemptive powers, but also for describing the journey to the edge of night, along the way. It is tempting to talk about Is …

Sia: Sunlight Through Deadened Skies —MUSIC

Today’s pop star – no matter what genre they’re working in – exists in a strange, contradictory limbo of expectations. In a world rife with Celebrity Instagrams, Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, blogs, vlogs, and Tumblrs, fans have come to expect a 24-hour voyeuristic glimpse into a star’s lives. High profile celebrity antics, broadcast across the world thanks to Social Media, and endless beefs seem to keep these big names permanently trending, and the cycle continues. The message seems to be that a certain amount of authenticity is expected of our pop stars. Those that step out of line, or toy with ideas of persona ala Lady Gaga or Lana Del Rey, can bring down a fiery rain of outrage and derision. Oddly enough, female musicians seem to suffer from this more than anybody. While somebody like The Weeknd can be almost applauded for “playing a character”, in a way pioneered and popularized by David Bowie in the ’70s, people seem to expect every single song written by a woman to be 100% autobiographical, that she …

5 Must-See Acts At Coachella 2016 (And 15 Runner-Ups)

Every year, all eyes and ears turn to the Palm Desert in Indio, California, as Coachella kicks off the summer festival season. This year is no exception, with two full weekends in April featuring a mixture of the most recent up-and-coming talent with a smattering of high-profile reunions and legacy bands, in typical genre-defying fashion. Music festivals are a great way to catch a handful of your favorite acts, while checking out some of the latest buzzbands. With so many bands out there, dishing out high-quality sounds for major labels, indies, and self-produced gems, it can be hard to know who to catch when they come through our towns. Anyone who’s ever been to Coachella can tell you – it’s easy to get overwhelmed. We’ve compiled some must-see acts for Coachella 2016, to make it easier and less stressful, so you can focus on having a good time in the Palm Desert. 5 Must-See Acts At Coachella 2016 LCD Soundsystem: The biggest headline of Coachella 2016 has got to be the reunion of LCD Soundsystem. …

Thanks For The Elegance: David Bowie – Blackstar review

In the mercurial world of Pop Culture, holding people’s fascination for five minutes is a minor miracle, let alone five decades. So how has The Man Who Fell To Earth, The Thin White Duke, Ziggy Stardust, the man once known as David Jones, managed to remain relevant the entire time? This string of monikers is one clue. Bowie remained relevant to today’s world of Celebrity Deities and shifting personas because he helped to create it. Bowie re-defined himself at least seven times, during his lengthy and illustrious career. He has been an alien, androgynous, gender-bending, elegant pop cultural royalty, as he played with the ideas of identity and persona, injecting Pop Culture with a much-needed thread of High Art. It could be argued that modern Pop Star personas like Lady Gaga and even Top Shelf glitterati like Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, or Lana Del Rey wouldn’t exist without this British gentleman named after a big damn knife. Bowie partly remained relevant by mining the Avant-Garde underground for the most interesting and innovative modernist musical techniques …

Christmas Gets Weird And Messy With Cassie Ramone’s ‘Christmas In Reno’

Coming of age in 2015 is a weird and complicated thing. I avoid the phrase “becoming an adult”, as no one’s really sure where adulthood begins, or ends. For most people in their 20s, 30s, and probably 40s, “adulthood” is exactly the same as adolescence, full of libidinal angst, existential confusion, social insecurity, and a weird mixture of egotism and self-loathing. This is never more apparent than during the Christmas season. For many/most 20- and 30-somethings fortunate enough to be living in the First World, Christmas-time finds most people doing whatever is the modern version of circling your wishlist in the Sears Catalog in Crayola Marker. We’re overgrown children, with outsized pocketbooks and desires. But adulthood will not be deterred, even if we don’t know what it is. Obligations begin to sneak in, as we begin to have extended families, friends, office parties. Our friends start having kids, and, oh so gradually, it stops being about OUR wish list, as the torch is passed to the next generation (lucky, ungrateful ducklings!). Cassie Ramone, formerly of …

Sunn O))) – Kannon album review

For the first five decades of its existence or so, heavy metal was perceived as one of the most primitive musical forms, second perhaps only to punk. It was the soundtrack of tall boys, tight pants, raised trucks, and torn denim – the exact opposite of cultured. Metal has gotten downright cerebral in the 21st Century, as a number of brainy individuals sought out to blend the brawn of downtuned guitars through eight-foot amplifiers with any number of intellectual pursuits. The cowled duo of Gregg Anderson & Stephen O’ Malley, as Sunn O))), are largely responsible for the intellectualization of heavy metal, without ever losing the force, the pure beating power of the electric guitar. Rather, they turned metal on its head, slowing it down to a tectonic crawl, transforming bestial Black Sabbath riffs into an unholy black mass of bass frequencies that are more like weather patterns or continental drift than songs. Over the course of their career, Sunn O))) have incorporated the atonal minimalism and repetition of 20th Century classical composers, like Ligeti, …