Monday, May 30, 2011

The Olivia Tremor Control- Explanation II: Experimental Themes and Dream Sequences[1996]

For me, The Olivia Tremor Control sit at the head of the Elephant 6 pantheon. I'm a huge fan of everything associated with the collective, but I feel that OTC was the first and best iteration of the core E6 crew. Bill Doss and Will Cullen Hart, the main creative producers for OTC, were flanked by, at various points, Peter Erchik, Scott Spillane. Jeff Mangum, Kevin Barnes, Eric Harris, John Fernandes, and just about everyone else associated with any E6 act.

1996's "Dusk at Cubist Castle" is a weird psych-pop album- very heavy on the psych, and certainly not lacking in the pop department. It contains a perfect pop song that doesn't pass the two-minute mark("Jumping Fences"), as well as a 10-track experimental and ambient suite("Green Typewriters"). The production is so saturated with dozens of instruments and vocal tracks that it comes closer to a warm, cozy room of sound, than a wall of sound.

"Explanation II" was a bonus disc released with the first 1000 or so copies of "Dusk at Cubist Castle", and is, presumably, a further illumination of the beautiful and abstract world hinted at in the loose conceptual threads of the album. In effect, it's a disc of ambient instrumentals, supposedly to be played alongside the album, Zaireeka style, to produce quadrophonic sound. The two don't match up in length, so that can't be true, but "Explanation II" is still an interesting sort of ambient; very atmospheric, but very light. I find this album highly relaxing, and for me, it's like going to that weird, paisley-and-dada world that the Olivias managed to conjure up on "Dusk at Cubist Castle".

For an OTC fanboy such as myself, you can sort of see the progression from the odd and moody, yet light and poppy style of "Dusk at Cubist Castle" to the much darker and introspective experimental tendencies of "Black Foliage". If "Dusk at Cubist Castle" took the listener on a tour of the Olivia's strange world, and "Black Foliage" was a deep journey through the more twisted aspects of that world, then "Explanation II" is that time between the two. It's the days where you get adjusted to this strange new place, before you find out what's really going on.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Kevin Ayers- Joy of a Toy[1969]

I've been sick as balls since FBC the other night, so this post will be fairly short, and mostly just to keep the site moving.

"Joy of a Toy" marks the beginning of Soft Machine-genius Kevin Ayers' solo career, and contains an interesting mix of cutesy baroque pop, surprisingly dark and bitter lyrics, and the jazz influences that would become more pronounced on later Soft Machine releases.

Opener "Joy of a Toy Continued" has the feel of a theme song, though there isn't any real story present on the album. If I had to pin down the "concept" of the album, based on lyrics and the music itself, it would be being unhappy while surrounded by irritatingly happy people. "Town Feeling" is sardonic and bitter, with Ayers relaying the frustratingly routine meetings and greetings of life in his happy little town, while "The Clarietta Rag" tells a strange story about a witch riding around on an umbrella, and features some noisy guitar screeches, a hint of Ayers' progressive leanings. "Girl on a Swing" features interesting use of tape loops and reel-to-reel manipulation, and "Song For Insane Times" is a swirling fusion lament, as strange as it sounds.

The second half of the album, beginning with "Stop This Train(Again Doing It)" is probably the more experimental and memorable portion. "Stop This Train" shudders to life, becoming an upbeat dissertation on boredom and possibly train rides. "Oleh Oleh Bandu Bandong" is noisy, dissonant, and psychedelic, especially for 1969. You can really see where Ayers was headed with Soft Machine on some of these tracks, and even where the structure and instrumentation are more conventional, there's always something, be it lyrics, or just general atmosphere, that sets "Joy of a Toy" apart as mocking the naive "psychedelia" of his contemporaries.

Sorry if that was badly written, the thoughts just aren't flowing. This really is a good album, go ahead and download it.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Ghost Musix

I'm done with finals, and now I've got more time than I know what to do with. This post contains what I feel to be the best and most significant drone and drone-like albums in my library. I tried to represent a lot of different styles here.

Growing- The Sky's Run Into the Sea
-Varied drone. Ranges from ambient to Boris-like distorted sections. Highly recommended.

Growing- His Return
-Pretty much straight drone. Really heavy, but in a positive way.

Aglaia- Three Organic Experiences
-It is what it sounds like. Three organic sounding ambient tracks; contains nature recordings and samples

 Boris- Absolutego
-Debut album; Noisy drone doom; really dark and heavy; title track is over an hour long

 Boris- Amplifier Worship
Perfect mix of drone and doom; incredibly heavy, but also groovy in parts

Boris At Last- Feedbacker
Single epic drone doom song; Lots of distinct sections here; Absolutely essential

 Boris- Flood
Another single song album; simulates a massive flood, from rain, to complete destruction, to aftermath; My favorite Boris album

Boris with Merzbow- Rock Dream
Live; This isn't entirely drone, I'm including it because the version of Feedbacker here is so mindfuckingly heavy and apocalyptic that you need to hear it. Amazing collaboration.

 Boris with Michio Kurihara- Cloud Chamber
Boris with their touring guitarist. Noisy drone, full of crazy and scary noises.

 Black Rebel Motorcycle Club- The Effects of 333
-Highly unexpected album, a blending of ambient and drone, somewhat post-apocalyptic sounding, interesting use of mechanical noises

Celer- Capri
Ambient/drone. Very calming, one of my recent favorites.

Earth- Phase 3: Thrones and Dominions
It's a bridge between the pure drone metal of Earth 2 and the stoner rock of Pentastar. It's also oddly upbeat on some tracks. A little underdeveloped, but still quite enjoyable.

 Earth- Hibernaculum
This is an album consisting of old Earth tracks, redone in the new Earth western-drone style. Just as heavy, but less distorted. Very cool.

Earth- Hex: Or Printing in the Infernal Method
This album marks Earth's shift from crushingly heavy drone doom to a more western oriented drone doom. Sounds odd, but the best things always do. You owe it to yourself to get this. Sounds like: dying in a mystical desert

Earth- 2: Special Low Frequency Edition
If you don't know what this is, then fuck you.

 Eluvium- Talk Amongst the Trees
This album sounds a lot like its album cover. Warming, fuzzy, droning ambient

Eluvium- Copia
Very calm, hopeful ambient drone. Features brass and strings to great effect. Sounds like coming home after a long journey and seeing everyone you love waiting for you.

Enemite- Wuyuan (The Necrolatry)
Oh god, this is actually scary. Dark ambient, sounds like a Buddhist monastery taken over by demons.

 Journey to Ixtlan- Journey to Ixtlan
Droning desert rock, contains some growling and a heavy dose of psychedelia.

 Khanate- Khanate
 Scary drone doom supergroup, features Stephen O'Malley.

 Lichens- The Psychic Nature of Being
Drone featuring vocal loops and acoustic guitar. Very spacey, sounds like camping in a canyon haunted by native american ghosts.

 Om- Conference of the Birds
Drone doom rooted equally in Eastern mysticism and heavy drug use. Features Al Cisneros and Chris Hakius of Sleep. Absolutely awesome and groovy.

 Om- God is Good
First full album featuring new drummer Emil Amos of Grails. Features more eastern instrumentation. Different, but I actually like Amos' style more.

 Sleep- Dopesmoker

 Stellar OM Source- Rise in Planes
Psychedelic drone using analog synths. Kind of eerie and ethereal, but not creepy.

 Sunn O)))- Black One
It's Earth-worshiping drone doom with guttural vocals in the background. Not my favorite, but a pretty significant group in recent years.

 Tim Hecker- Radio Amor
Glitchy, melancholy ambient/drone. Well produced, simultaneously calming and intriguing.

 Wooden Shjips- Dos
Droning psychedelic, garage. Very fun, on the very border of drone, krautrock, and The Doors.

 Yoga- Megafauna
Very noisy psych-drone. Another album that sounds a lot like the album cover.

 Super Minerals- Multitudes
Vaguely eastern psych-drone. Features cool field recordings at some points.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Cheval De Frise- Cheval De Frise[2004]

This is a short one, just to keep things current.

Cheval De Frise probably fall under that weird umbrella that is math rock. It seems like anyone who plays with more than one time signature gets lumped into math rock, and especially in this case, it doesn't seem quite right. It's drums and a heavily muted acoustic guitar, making all kinds of weird noise. There's literally no sustain on any of the guitar- everything mutes out as soon as it's played, which is an interesting sound that works well with the inventive drumming backing it. The sound is really unique, but a lot of the tracks on this album(tracks, not songs, there's no repetition or recurrence here) sound sort of same-y due to the unique tuning and weird rhythmic style.

Overall, it's an interesting album, if somewhat predictable toward the end. It's full of weird rhythms, all carried out in a great fashion, and they manage to conjure up sounds I've never heard from an acoustic before. Cheval De Frise are in a league of their own, making distinct and weird music consistently and in France.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Drone megapost to come

I'm working on a post containing more or less all of the drone and drone-like I have. It'll run the gambit from doom drone to Stars of the Lid, so stay frosty- I'll try to finish it soon.

I got this idea from Austin, for free

Spring Playlist 2011

1. Holger Czukay- Cool in the Pool

2. The Beach Boys- Vegetables

3. Thee Oh Sees- Two Drummers Disappear

4. White Denim- Mess Your Hair Up

5. Bibio- Lovers' Carvings

6. Donovan- The Trip

7. The Incredible String Band- Job's Tears

8. The Hospitals- Getting Out of Bed

9. Harry Nilsson- Me and My Arrow

10. The Gerbils- Is She Fiona?

11. Growing- Untitled

Monday, May 2, 2011

Giraffes? Giraffes!- More Skin With Milk-Mouth[2007]

In the realm of mathy noise duos, Giraffes? Giraffes! can proudly claim a spot alongside Hella and Lightning Bolt. G?G! are more accessible than either of the other two, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's watered-down. The songs have more structure, or at the very least, fall into recognizable rhythms, but the phrasing and structure are still as wild and unpredictable as ever.

"More Skin With Milk-Mouth" is a more professional and concentrated excursion than their prior LP "Superbass!", but keeps the barely-controlled chaos. "When the Catholic Girls Go Camping, the Nicotine Vampires Rule Supreme" gives you a taste of what this album's all about- weird titles, and some crazy stuff going on all over. Effects are used to great effect here, with the guitar swinging into a blazing overdrive midway through, and not letting up until the track screeches to a halt.
"I Am S/H(im)e[r] As You Am S/H(im)e[r] As You Are Me And We Am I And I Are All Our Together: Our Collective Consciousness' Psych(my track name cuts off here)" boasts the craziest name, but is surprisingly the most docile of any of the tracks here. A latin-tinged mathy intro leads into gently plucked guitar, backed by a glockenspiel. After several minutes of calm, the track builds back up as the percussion comes back in and the distortion comes back on until a spoken-word sample on lucid dreaming interrupts some furious snare-pounding and tapping.

"The Ghost of EPPEEPEE's Ghost" is kind of fun, but doesn't really do anything. It's more of a segue built out of guitar chimes and the kind of drumming you'd hear at the very end of an metal show. As soon as it ends, the hammering pulse of "Emilie Sagee's Secret" runs forward. This is easily the most active of all their songs, replete with nonstop hammered arpeggios and handclaps, but another unexpected turn comes along, and it ducks back into a bunch of guitar chugs and squeals with a spooky little glockenspiel part until a final crazy sprint toward the end. Closer "A Quick One, While She's Away" is probably my favorite on the album- it's acrobatic, yet calm, and it has a lot of distinct phases. 1) the rollicking intro, which bounces into 2) the acoustic section, with some cool slide work in the mix, followed by 3)a bunch of feedback and power chords, punctuated by 4) the arpeggios around 5:30. After 6) some buzzing riffage, the intro rhythm is brought back in and looped to provide a background for 7)the reverb-laden outro, in which the guitar makes a lot of noise.

"More Skin With Milk Mouth" is light on the math, light on the noise, but heavy on rhythm and great hooks. It's a good place to dive into math-rock, mostly because it's closer to rock than it is to math. Check out "Superbass" for something a little less structured but a little less developed.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

I'll never be a rock and roll saint

It's Lou covering Bill. What's not to love?

Free bonus track: Peter Gabriel covering Teenage Spaceship. That sounds nice, huh?

The Travel Agency- The Travel Agency[1968]

I won't use the words "lost masterpiece", both because they're overused, and because "masterpiece" is a big word for an album you happen to really be into at a particular time. I feel safe, however, using the phrase "forgotten gem" to describe this release by the mysteriously underappreciated Travel Agency.

Information on this band is scarce, but from what I can tell, they released only this, their debut LP, along with a few singles. I guess they just got swept up in the massive amount of new acts making psychedelia in the late 60's, but I'm honestly surprised that they didn't make much of a splash. The production here is great, and there's a lot of interesting sounds from just about every band member.

Opener "What's A Man" starts off with a pleasant, if overlong intro of harmonium and organ, with wailing vocals spiraling around. As the drones fade out, a nice little riff comes in, kicking the album into gear. The surprisingly nimble bass and drums set up a shuffling backbeat for the remarkably versatile vocals, and the lyrics are a pleasant departure from flower-power, with such gems as "You can't imagine what i'm thinking/ We've got to fight them when they're small/ Or their disease will soon be spreading/ And then we'll never kill them all" popping up in a well-written anti-war monologue.

"Sorry You Were Born" is an uptempo number, with some nice harmonies on the bridge and some engaging guitar work. "Cadillac George" is a skronky, buzzing tune about some kind of asshole bigwig, and "Lonely Seabird" slows things down for an ethereal dirge that really showcases the singer's unique voice. He manages to get that backmasked sound without any effects, which is pretty neat.

"So Much Love" has some great harmonies, but it's a little bit uneventful, and ends up falling behind the rest of the album. "Make Love", however, is a (relatively) aggressive song, with great performances from everyone, especially in the rhythm section. "That's Good" is the longest song on the album, and a great song to boot. It starts with some joyful harmonies and snarky lyrics("life is SO happy") and blossoms into a stomping, organ-laden jam in the middle, vocals slowly fading to the end. "I'm Not Dead" is a great psych-pop song, with some peppy guitar work backing up still more fantastic harmonies and featuring both a key and tempo change. "She Understands" fades in with a swaying, yet driving bass and guitar interplay, yet again showcasing The Travel Agency's fantastic harmonies. "Come To Me" and "You Will Be There" aren't bad, but are the most unremarkable tracks on the album. Closer "Old Man" makes up for the preceding two songs, and sounds somewhat like the opener, but does enough on its own to be memorable.

There are strong performances from all band members on this release, but what really stands out for me are the harmonies(as if you couldn't tell). The bands that use vocal harmonies to great effect tend to develop their own, instantly recognizable sound. The Beatles had their harmonies, The Beach Boys had theirs, and even The Olivia Tremor Control developed a unique style of harmony. The Travel Agency have done the same here, and it really makes this largely unnoticed album memorable.