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Mogwai Goes Deep on Les Revenants

May 21, 2013

Les-Revenants

A Mogwai score of a French film?  I don’t need anymore details.  I’m in.  So forgive me for not knowing about the correlated film.  The work is strong enough to stand on its own: a brilliant album, from start to finish.  I can’t say that about alot of releases lately.  Les Revenants literally brings me to tears at a certain point, and I’m not ashamed to fuckin’ admit it.  While I was listening for the second time, all the way through, I suddenly felt like our generation has its own Beethovens.  Please: I’m not putting anybody on pedestals here.  I’m trying to say that listening to Mogwai on this record made me feel like we have our superhumans, our geniuses, our heroes, and they walk among us.  It’s ironic I just typed that, as the film is apparently about people rising from the dead.

It may also be ironic then that the music gave me a sense of hope and contentment.  They play strings and piano like a hard-core band (which these guys are and always will be – in more ways than one) but they can also be as delicate and acute as a seasoned quartet.  I believe Les Revenants is clear evidence of that.  The music is not all uplifting.  There are tense moments too, moments of anxiety and seeming despair.  One track in-particular gets to me, especially if I’m up late writing and the sun’s coming up.  If I play it the damn song gets me every time.  “Special N” (I wish I knew what that means) reminds me of exceptional long nights out dancing with my dear friends.  It reminds me of times when a night turns into the next day, and the next, and we’re all still pumping our fists, getting down to the music together.  Some of my greatest memories are of dancefloors all over the world with my close friends.

Now, “Special N” isn’t a club track obviously.  But it’s difficult to describe a composition that sounds like sunshine.  Oh, and it also has pretty strings, if that helps.  The bottom line: This is a remarkable record.  I’m surprised I haven’t read more about this album.  I’ve been listening to it at least once a day for months.  Mogwai has crafted a fantastic record, full of heartache and the greatest joy.  Their journey is an intense on Les Revenants.  I suggest you check it out.  The vinyl sounds terrific too.

By: Michael Mercer

Geoff Barrow Gets Visual on DROKK

May 11, 2013 2 Comments

DROKK

I don’t know how this record came to be.  I only know it’s produced by Geoff Barrow (of Portishead and Beak) and Ben Salisbury (a film director and writer – I think).  When I pulled it off the wall at Poobah, my favorite vinyl place in Los Angeles, what caught my eye was the dreary stone-like image on the cover.  It looked coarse, but also smooth in places.  Of course Geoff Barrow’s name was the clincher. Being a Portishead fanatic and lover of Beak: The purchase was a moral imperative.  The staff at the record store told me the LP was a soundtrack to a film series.  They also told me the music was satisfyingly cinematic.  They were right!  Now, that probably seemed obvious, given it’s a soundtrack , but that’s not always the case believe it or not.  Sometimes they’re merely song compilations, and so when you hear the songs in that particular sequence you think of the movie accompaniment.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  The great thing about DROKK: It stands on its own merit.

Have you ever heard the opening theme to The Thing; the John Carpenter remake starring Kurt Russell?  It’s a classic minimal score for a thriller.  It’s 2 notes, floating in space, repeating: dun duh, dun duh, dun duh, only imagine it symphonic and bassy with subtle distortion.  A swirling synth line swoops in, sounding like a found ambient sound played backwards, then sped up.  It’s a fuckin’ dark and mysterious way to kick off the record.  Forty seconds in I was hooked.  Then the music came to an abrupt end.  No fade, no transition into the next track at all.  At first this bugged me because the next cut “Helmet Theme” is a speedy techno number that mixes highly unexpected electronic piano riffs with a Richie Hawtin-esqe closing (building stabs and clicky pounding).

The lack of transitions between tracks is annoying, especially with music like this, where it’s obviously backing up an accompanying visual.  The fact that tracks end so quickly, so harshly, these feelings get built up inside me while listening, and when the music meets such an abrupt end it can seem like a let-down.  The funny thing is: Another part of me says fuck it.  Anything different, anything new to explore and listen to.  Right? Another aspect of DROKK that I like: It’s story-like in the way the telling of a good story touches certain emotions within you that you don’t usually think of.  How does it accomplish this?

By being surprising.  You’re listening, the tech house beats are increasing in intensity, everything comes together in a grand splash of sound followed by an airy ambient masterpiece – the kind of music you can listen to anytime.  The energy changes, though much of it leans towards an amphetamine pace.  The breakdowns are phenomenally executed, keeping the listener engaged.  Shit, I’ve been transfixed by this record more times than I want to admit actually.  It sounds so fuckin’ good, I’ve fallen asleep in my listening chair hitting play when I should’ve been hitting the rack!  A good record should keep you listening like that.

I hope DROKK picks up a dedicated following.  From what I’ve heard of the new Daft Punk record (I’ll admit I’m waiting like a junkie), this LP also has a future vibe that’s difficult to quantify.  It’s taken me to some crazy places during listening sessions, and I love that about fresh music.  It sparks fresh thought and lets your imagination roam a bit.  That’s high on my list when seeking out new music and sounds: Does it spark something new inside me when I listen to it.  DROKK does that for me.  It’s a record that’s going to stay in my DJ bag and all my players.  It’s that special to me.  If stepping outside the sonic fray is a goal of yours I highly recommend DROKK by Geoff Barrows and Ben Salisbury.

By: Michael Mercer

CRATE DIGGER! #BOSTONSTRONG! Ruby Braff: BRAFF!

April 24, 2013

Braff!

$4.00 from the used bins at Ella Guru!

Who is Ruby Braff? His name doesn’t come up often enough such that he had slipped my mind since those long-ago days of Jazz History classes at UM – so when I saw the LP at Ella Guru I thought, “How cool!”

Boy am I glad I indulged! I’m a fan of Louis Armstrong – one of the very few musicians in my experience who can make me involuntarily happy when I listen to his music – and Ruby Braff carries forth that Armstrong torch with his boisterous-but-not-belligerent style radiating confidently from the bell of his horn.

WARNING: MONO

If you’re like me, you love good mono. Aside from the retro-ness of the presentation (that certain grayness in sound that reminds you of old photographs and anachronistic cocktails), it’s also much less about the loop-de-loops and parlor tricks that stereo-high-fidelity distracts us with and rather just leaves the music to speak for itself. Our expectations when it comes to that laundry-list of audiophile attributes folks ordinarily seek aren’t really high – we understand that these mono recordings won’t have that 3D imaging and soundstaging thing going on, and that there’s not much to expect from the frequency extremes as these recordings were often quite bandwidth limited. All that is left is the music and the performance of the musicians.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy the benefits of great stereo recordings, mind you, but rather that mono has charms all its own and once you’re bitten by them – there’s no going back. In the case of BRAFF! we have a fairly late-issue mono recording from 1956 – two years before the first stereo LPs would be offered on the retail market.

Additionally, because of the limited bandwidth, mono LPs could be quite “Long Playing,” indeed. In the case of Ruby Braff and His Allstars on BRAFF! we’re talking about 12 cuts of mostly-standards … long enough to keep a party going with seriously good tunes!

SO … MUSIC & HISTORY:

In the late 1940′s into the 50′s the larger swing bands began to give way to the smaller ensembles, due as much to the challenging economics of keeping an orchestra paid as it was to the gaining popularity of more introspective and heady small-ensemble compositions emanating from the Bebop, Cool, and West Coast scenes seeking a way out of the traditional “General Relativity” of music theory and into the more radical “Quantum Mechanics” … seeking the finer sub-atomic particles of dissonance and chromatism, and the controversial “flatted Fifth” that seemed to have become Bebop’s signature emblem. And while the Afro-Cuban craze may have kept somewhat-larger bands working, there was no shortage of enthusiasm for these more cerebral styles showcasing much smaller crews.

But then there was this Dixieland revival being fostered, mostly by labels reissuing popular back-catalog from the Kid Ory, King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, Bix Beiderbecke days. The old timers who made their bones in that golden age (think Louis Armstrong, Max Kaminsky, Eddie Condon) were gigging anew, and this also made it possible for new blood to enter the ring playing that good old N.O. style of jazz that can’t help but make you smile. That’s where our man Ruby Braff comes in.

Born in Boston in 1927, Braff undoubtedly grew up with the sound of Dixieland, and as he matured the music matured into the Jazz Age that made Louis Armstrong a household name. As a youngster he originally wanted to be a saxophonist, but his folks thought the instrument too big for their delicate boy … so trumpet it was! By his late teens, early twenties the prodigy was already gigging – by 23 he had been hired to play with Edmond Hall’s band, the “Edmond Hall All Stars” (known as ‘the best band Boston ever had’) at the Savoy Cafe right there in Boston. This is likely when he got a serious, hungry-man-sized dose of New Orleans Jazz. In 1950, Hall left Boston for NYC … Ruby followed three years later.

Add another three years and we’ve got BRAFF! – this record – as historical testimony to the popularity of the New Orleans/Dixieland revival. His fourth record, but only his second as solo headliner (the middle two were shared with Pee Wee Russel, “Jazz At Storyville” – Vols. 1 and 2). With more than 20 album credits to his name and a career that lasted into the 21st Century, Ruby Braff is one of those rare Jazz musicians that made it through the roughest times and managed to stay delightfully relevant.

Jack Teagarden once called Ruby “The Ivy league Louis Armstrong” – and we know how very fond Jack was of Armstrong – so this was high praise, indeed! Like Armstrong, Ruby is one of those musicians and BRAFF! is one of those records that just makes you happy.

I got very lucky to pick my NM copy up for $4.00 … you may not be so lucky. As it turns out, it would appear that it’s kind of collectible – which means that you’ll find it out there for sale in VG to NM shape for between $15 and $90!

Get out there and dig those crates!

Chris Sommovigo

CRATE DIGGER! Public Image LTD: This is What You Want / This is What You Get

April 24, 2013

PiL This is what you want

$4.00 from the crates!

Another fantastic find from digging in the crates at Ella Guru, this one travels through time for 29 years from 1984 until 2013 – unscathed, unscratched, nearly noiseless – like a perfectly preserved time capsule concentrated with 1980′s supergoo. What I mean by that is simply this: PiL, in whatever it’s incarnation, always seemed able to lampoon the music habits of Pop while also making it their own. In this case we’re getting heavy doses of slapbass, simple dance rhythms, brass-strikes, synth-soaked and reverb-rich – some of which could easily have been drawn in part from Simple Minds, Culture Club, Madonna, Chaka Khan, Eurythmics, Thompson Twins, The Art Of Noise, with some more musically-satisfying influences creeping in later (Talking Heads, Devo, Laurie Anderson, Alien Sex Fiend, et alia) … you get the idea.

This Is What You Want/This Is What You Get is probably also one of the most broadly known LPs even if the whole of the LP isn’t so broadly know, because this is the source of the single that everyone seems to know: “This Is Not A Love Song” – emblematic of John Lydon’s nose-thumbing modus-operandi that seems to permeate just about everything I’ve heard from him, since the days of the Sex Pistols. Irreverence in spades, best served with doses of snark and sneer.

But further to my sentiment that this is not only a record worth having, but a record worth keeping, is not so much the appearance of one of the most recognized signles from PiL, but the balance of the album itself – as it seems to me that the single is outclassed by just about everything else on the record. Ironic? Not really – perhaps even going to prove what Lydon & Co. were probably laughing at all along: the taste of the public-at-large for music stops at the most easily digestible.

Opening the record, therefore, are the two most easily digestible tunes: “Bad Life” and “This Is Not A Love Song” … and then things start to get hairy from there. By the time you’ve gotten past the four Side A tunes, you’re deposited squarely into “The Pardon” … a soundtrack-to-a-nightmare made of hypnagogic hallucinations that could as easily been included in a nighttime driving scene from David Lynch, Richard Elfman, or Tim Burton.

In fact, Side 2 is a kind of Alice-In-Wonderland trip through disturbing (yet addictive) rhythm-and-noise platforms for Lydon’s unmistakable vocalisma: activist with a megaphone shouting slogans. By the time we’ve hit the final track, “The Order Of Death” there’s a distinct change in the overtrack – deep, saturated, analoggy synth swells (almost Pink-Floydy in soundscape) and a simple dance-rhythm as the slogan repeats up and under: “This Is What You Want / This Is What You Get” … like a flow of lava slathering the earth, trying to silence Lydon’s protest … and yet all that remains, post-flow, is Lydon’s hypnotic repetition:

“This Is What You Want / This Is What You Get”

This *IS* what you want.

- Chris Sommovigo

CRATE DIGGER! Anachronic Jazz Band

April 22, 2013

anachronic

Starting off my new series, “CRATE DIGGER!” – within which I’ll briefly profile some amazingly cool records I dug out of the crates at used record stores – we’ve got this crazy cool LP from the French label OPEN, from the Anachronic Jazz Band.

$4.50 from the used bins at ELLA GURU Record Shop in Decatur, GA.

I don’t speak nor do I read French, but I do know that the French were and remain pretty crazy for American Jazz. From fairly early times in Jazz history the Europeans seemed to show far more love and respect for American Jazz and its musicians than Americans did. Sad but true. So many greats found energetic and positive reception in Europe while at home they still had to deal with kro-magnon racial issues that made life difficult-to-intolerable. Without dragging myself up to far onto the soapbox about it, I’ll just say this: Anachronic Jazz Band do an odd and delightful justice to the music of the masters they have chosen to honor.

In short: in the mid-1970′s this group of extraordinary musicians re-imagined some of the great post-swing-era music as if it were composed for Dixieland/Hot Club style. And you’d think … WHA?? But – yes – it’s amazingly cool. Who’d have thought that tuba and banjo had a place in Yardbird Suite? Anachronic Jazz Band, that’s who!

Great tunes abound on this LP, from the aforementioned Yardbird Suite, ‘Round About Midnight, Anthropology, Blue Monk, Tin Tin Deo, Jordu, Pent Up House, Bernie’s Tune, and Move round out the whole of Sides 1 and 2. You even get a lovely little vocal and scat from Mssr. Daniel Huck – who is apparently still gigging in the same style around Euro.

More to come very soon from CRATE DIGGERS!

- Chris Sommovigo

Atoms for Peace Down and Dirty Side Shines on Wax

April 12, 2013

Limited Edition 180 gram Double LP  

I didn’t understand what other critics were hearing when they stated Atoms for Peace’s AMOK was such a musical “departure” for Thom Yorke.  This record felt like Radiohead and Yorke during my first listening session with a compressed download of the LP!  As soon as I was groovin’ to “Default” (Track #2) I could feel the vibe of  Yorke’s amazing solo album The Eraser.  The choppy, dubby bass kicks and wavering synth lines encircling Yorke’s vocals, it definitely felt like a familiar sonic trip for Yorke.  I learned after listening to the album that these were obvious connections, as this group of musicians toured in support of Yorke’s Eraser album prior to making AMOK.  Reportedly it’s why they came together for the LP.

I think Atoms for Peace shows there are no coincidences.  These guys were born to play together. I wasn’t surprised at all when I read they toured in support of Eraser.  This felt like a continuation of that recordthe energy, the sway; both were very familiar.  However, the subtleties of the music that carve the originality into AMOK, that truly sets it apart from other Radiohead music did not reveal themselves to me until I experienced this record on wax.  Great analog will do that for you.  We are, after all, analog-beings.  Whether you believe it or not; your brain knows the difference between 1′s and 0′s (digital) and continuous analog waveforms.  We communicate in analog! Hearing AMOK through the late-night glow of tubes in my system also reminded me of why I still enjoy vinyl so much.  It’s not just the superior sonics, it’s the textural experience of interacting with the physical media.  Everything about it beats the shit out of digital downloads.

I had AMOK on CD first, so I could hear some new grooves in the bass guitar, but that was obvious with Flea on bass and Nigel Godrich on keyboards (Radiohead’s producer, as well as Yorke’s solo work).  Something was going to change compositionally with this group .  Listening to the vinyl, it was immediately apparent that Yorke’s magnificent sonic signature had been greatly enhanced.  The sound is still deep yet dirtier, a little shiftier, and, just downright funkier.  All that courtesy of Flea’s handy-work on his bass guitar.  There’s sublime chemistry between Yorke, Flea and Godrich captured here.   AMOK is a sonic sleigh-ride through their musical bond.  That may sound a little gooey, but trust me: their music is far from it.  It’s interesting, engaging and fun.

The trip glides through Middle Eastern-style percussion and acid stabs on “Unless” to the drum-n-bassy get-down of “Reverse Running” into the atmospheric broken beats of “Judge Jury and Executioner”.  This is one of those albums where, as I listened closely, I got the overwhelming sensation that all players were at the ascent of their craft; their peak performances.  They also seemed to be challenging each other musically.  I could feel the almost-magnetic flow between the notes as their instruments weaved in and out of each other.  There’s magic happening here. This record always eventually gives me a case of the head-bobs no matter where I’m listening: Trader Joe’s (our favorite US grocery store chain) or the airport.  Speaking of the airport (LAX unfortunately): I was listening to this album in my car while waiting for a friend to arrive and I noticed how beautifully the music complimented my view of the wildly modern space-ship-looking Encounter restaurant in the middle of LAX.  I think the place has been in numerous movies.  Anyway, as I looked around at incoming and outgoing flights as well as the rest of LAX – not at all impressive because of the pain-in-the-ass construction going on, I was still taken with the overall visual compliment while listening to AMOK.  When I dropped the needle on the vinyl at home that memory came back as sharp as last nights dream.  No listening sessions following the trip to the airport using the CD have grabbed me the way the vinyl does.

This record goes for the gut, and it’s got a firm grip on mine.  Now, admittedly, like a close friend of mine who’s also a big Thom Yorke fan, I didn’t really love this record when I first got it.  I think my expectations were unrealistic.  I mean, Thom Yorke, Flea, and Nigel Godrich?  Are you kidding me?  Could anyone blame me for having such high hopes for this musical team?  I don’t think so.The great thing is; they delivered in spades!  AMOK  by Atoms for Peace is in my top five records for 2013.  If this sounds like something that grabs you try to find the 180 gram limited edition double LP.  I’m rockin’ it right now!

By: Michael Mercer

Shlohmo’s Vacation EP: Ambient Goodness

February 6, 2013 1 Comment

Shlohmo has created some of the most interesting music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.  That’s a huge statement, but I believe it.  The mad combination of his keen senses for wild spacial arrangements, and the willingness to add a dash of funk in the most unlikely of places coupled with an obvious love for his craft makes his music infectious.  You can feel the soul he digs for in the pit of your stomach on the Vacation EP.  You know, that face you make at your buddy at an underground warehouse party when the bass drops on a sick sound system: You tighten your face, squint your eyes, pump your fist, and say “fuck yeah.”  Now, don’t let that mislead you.  Shlohmo’s music is not fast.  It’s future soul, laid-back organic grooves hovering in an electronic universe.  The feeling I’m referring to is that same feeling that makes you say, before you have to turn the stereo off, “okay, one last spin”.  That’s how I feel when I listen to Shlohmo’s music.  I feel calm, serene.  This is not music I can hear without bobbin’ my head at some point no matter  what I do.  This is chill music for the consistently unimpressed, those that can’t help but seek anything but top 40 bullshit.

“The Way U Do” is a slicked-back dirty groove.  This sounds like a sliver of what the adventurous Herbie Hancock would do if he was Shlohmo’s age today.  The bass is dubby and fluid.  It’s also seemingly distorted on a system that’s not revealing, but on a resolute stereo the record comes alive straight out the gate on this track.  There’s a laid-back guitar solo, or at least it’s a sampled guitar solo, that’s just get-down and funky.  Now, knowing Shlohmo and his amazing usage of unexpected sounds,  I could be wrong about anything I identify with in this review!  Same with the flowing, synth-bass heavy “Rained the Whole Time”.  Now, again I’m not certain of this, but given the title, and what “rain” means to those of us who’ve lived in the streets (where letting it rain means a hail of bullets) one of the kickdrummy, clicky samples is the sound of a semi-automatic pistol being cocked.  The way he sat it back in the track, giving things a sway, making it the back-bone of the arrangement is brilliant.  Combine that with an almost non-stop hovering satiny bass-line, floating alien bleeps and blips, wrapped in this silky smooth ambiance and you’ve got a picture of this sonic joyride.  Crank this up in your headphones.  It’s great no matter how you spin it.

Perhaps I felt a disclaimer was necessary earlier while trying to formulate a context for which to describe Shlohmo’s music.  When you’re dealing with genius like this, given their contributions to a rapidly expanding art-form, it’s necessary to grasp at something to give it present-day context.  Music like this is timeless, it will always sound modern, like “poeme electronique”; written for the 1958 Worlds Fair in Brussels.  Play that today and it still sounds like outer space.  That doesn’t mean it’s easy to compose an interesting piece of experimental modern music that feels original, while spitting in the face of the avant guard.  Shlohmo’s got that magic touch.  His tunes are forward-thinking but laid-back in composition.

That’s what side A of this EP sounds like: My generation kickin’ back at the club at sunrise; the DJ bringin’ the vibe down so we may catch a break for a minute.  It sounds like the collective breath we’d all share after a night of giving it all we had on the dancefloor.  You’re smiling ear-to-ear, the sun’s crept over the horizon and you’re talking to your friends about getting breakfast.  If those are memories that sound anything like yours, I highly recommend checking out Shlohmo’s music, especially this and his Places EP.

Side B’s got some remixes for you.  Airhead delivers a subtle, but powerful ambient rework of “The Way U Do” with a swooning bassline that’ll hit ya in the knees.  The guts of the track are surrounded by echoing vocals, the seeming sounds of clocks and who knows what else, but it works.  It’s butter.  This is perfect latenight driving music.  Nicolas Jaar’s remix of  “Rained the Whole Time” closes the record.  The intro is a refreshingly acoustic-sounding landscape, especially the drums.  It’s got electronic elements as well, that drop out of nowhere a minute and a half into the track.  All of a sudden everything changes.  I love it when that happens.  The low end drops and you’re checking for all the rattles in your listening space!  Fans of experimental electronic music should definitely give this a spin.  Take a break from your every-day and lose yourself in this.  You won’t regret it.

By: Michael Mercer

LUX: Another Glimpse into the Mad Stillness of Brian Eno

December 26, 2012

Brian Eno – LUX

Some friends told me that buying ambient music on wax is a waste of money.  As an admitted ambient addict I must wholly disagree with them.  Much of the transmissive power that makes ambient music so universally appealing is its majestic use of space and subtle elements with sonic familiarity:  Sounds from anything in life; nature or manmade, like city traffic, or the sounds of the park on the edge of that city; wheat-covered hills in an apple orchard bustling in the mid-day breeze.  What we call ambient has grown beyond anybody’s imagination I think.  However it’s a genre (or combination of many for that matter) of music where authentic sounds and the act of capturing those new sounds are the epicenter of the art form.  So, in many ways, ambient music is always futuristic.  It’s timeless.  That’s what I love most about it.  You can always find something fresh to listen to.  Does that make it all sound good?  No, but Brian Eno is no stranger to this craft.  LUX is too good for itself actually.  While I enjoyed it tremendously it is a tease for the money (2 x 180g DMM mastered vinyl – includes 4 prints).  I’d only recommend hardcore Eno fans shell out for the vinyl of this EP posing as an LP.  Perhaps it’s the other way around.  Either way, as a fan who tries to consume everything Eno, I’m psyched I ordered this one.

LUX is a masterpiece of ambient minimalism.  Now, let me be crystal here: I can’t believe I just typed that shit either, but this album can be transformative.  There I go again, tossing out another practically meaningless word in order to attempt a description of genius.  OK, stop blagging and get to the music, right: The vinyl kills the provided MP3 download (duh).  That’s not always true however, some compression (when executed correctly) lends itself to certain types of music., but not this sound.  Eno’s sparse compositions are spacious and lush.  He envelops this piano with floating synth sounds on side D.  The noises sound like a starlit sky, away from the light pollution of civilization.  It’s like a sonic wool coat. The velocity of the piano strokes waver with the intensity of the encasing space music.  It’s perfect for meditation.

There’s a bit of a sonic theme throughout all four sides, though admittedly my lack of proper acumen for explaining the thematic musical structures won’t do this body of work justice.  Picture your run-of-the-mill New Age garbage, and imagine that not all symphonic music, simplistic in form, was not invented for dime store elevators.  There’s an inherent truth in the construction of  ambient music, as it reflects life itself at times, only audibly.  If I were to give a video cue to the nuanced wizardry that comprises LUX I would say: Imagine the obliqueness of a planetarium, the sense of deepening space above and around you spreading out through simple map points on the dome.  Brian Eno paints those map points in the sky w/ his own sonic brush.  To be brutally honest: This could all be bullshit.  It’s what came to me while enjoying the hell out of this pressing.  Vinyl forever…

By: Michael Mercer

Burial Defies Convention

November 18, 2012

It’s rare, finding an artist whose music you can play repeatedly for years and never get tired of it.  Connecting with the music like that is a glorious thing.  Today there is so much noise out there, good and bad, but noise nonetheless.  Ascending beyond the hum of sameness requires something to behold.   Burial’s music, for example, doesn’t sound like anything else to me!  I know that sounds ridiculous.  All music is, in some way or another, an extrapolation of something that came before.  Artist’s are as easily influenced as anybody, and that reflects in their chosen medium.  That’s just a tiny slice of the whole of course, but I can usually hear something familiar in alot of different styles of music, both new and old.  When I heard Burial for the first time I felt like I did during my first spin of Radiohead’s Kid A.  That album just wrapped itself around my brain.  I knew they had changed the game of rock-n-roll forever.  There was nothing to compare it to, and any attempt to over-classify it and stick in into a box doesn’t jell with the spirit of that classic record.   Burial is dark and light, hard and soft, quiet and loud.  OK, I’m grabbing at opposites while attempting to describe an artists sound.  I realize this seems as if I’m getting ahead of myself.  Sorry: this is just rolling from my head to the keyboard as I listen to Burial’s mesmerizing use of space.

One of the things I cherish most about my introduction to Burial is that it came courtesy of Anton Newcombe of Brian Jonestown Massacre!  He sent me a link to a track on Untrue years ago when I was supposed to interview him for a website I was writing for at the time, but it fell through.  I forgot about it.  Then my dear friend and editor at Positive Feedback: Dave Clark (also a friend of BBD) turned me onto Burial via the full LPs  When I first heard Untrue in its entirety I thought: This maniac locked himself in a dark room, full of recording gear for months and concocted this crazy shit.  But it sounded fantastic!  Burial managed to make some of the oddest sample choices (clanging metallic twinges and such) sound melodious and fluid.  His music has a dark background, but its not black all the time.  Think of an audible representation of a starry night when you’ve driven beyond the reach of urban light pollution.  You know, when you venture far off from your hometown, and the stars begin to shine brighter as you get farther away from the concrete jungle.  Burial has that same sonic signature.  His music is so spacious, so wide-open while sounding deep and drivy at the same time, it’s one of the dualities about this enigmatic artist I admire: His ability to seamlessly blend the cosmic texture of space-scapes with edgy percussion sounding almost alien.  Burial, this self-titled masterpiece, is all that and more.

“Southern Comfort” is not what you might imagine that title suggests.  It’s like a filmscore for a sci-fi thriller, at the sametime I can hear this track complementing a scene in a movie which takes place in a club bathroom, with spacey tech house music filling the background.  “Spaceape (feat. Spaceape)” is my favorite cut on the album.  Echoic, yet stripped-down purcussive elements come out of the sonic darkness, welcoming this heavy Rastafari lyrical flow that weeves in and out of pulsating stabs.  The low end extension bounces with intensity.  It’s hypnotic.  Compounded with verses like “stimulating the audio nerve directly, no one conflicts with me” and “so alien so viral”, it’s an addictive audible joyride.  Even the two-minute long, minimalistic vibe captured through drops of rain and distant, soaring synths in “Night Bus” resonates with me in ways that are challenging to pinpoint when I hear it.  Frankly, it just sounds like my generation.  It’s not the only soundtrack of course, but Burial’s music feels relevant, especially in the midst of ludicrous Youtube cardboard cut-out cyberstars and our homogenized obsession with empty celebrity.  I think his music will prove timeless.  I wonder if Goldie is a fan.  I’m sure he is.  If fresh, darkly tinted ambient music with serious soul speaks to you and you don’t know about Burial I highly recommend remedying that situation immediately!  The review copy used was the 12″ 33 1/2 pressing on Cargo Records.

By: Michael Mercer

Vinyl Archeology

November 6, 2012

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While perusing the stock of a record fair last year, my buddy was analyzing how I shopped. He assumed I bought records strictly because of the music. When I pulled out a copy of Stryper’s “To Hell with the Devil” with its original cover artwork, he learned that my interest was deeper than just what was in the grooves. There are many points to a record that a CD or, God forbid, a digital download can provide.

This came into view once again this week. After hearing a particularly enjoyable song on XM’s “Hair Nation” station, I did some Google research which, as it normally happens, led to a few more Google searches.

The song was “Hot Cherie” by the American band Hardline. This band released their debut album, “Double Eclipse,” in early 1992 at a time when “hair metal” and hard rock was falling out of favor. Two songs from the album broke into rock radio. The first was an original track titled “Takin’ Me Down,” co-written by Johnny and Joey Gioeli along with Journey (and Hardline) guitarist Neal Schon. “Hot Cherie” was the second release and made a better run up the rock radio airplay charts.

Reading through the history of “Double Eclipse,” a bunch of well-known names popped up. In addition to Schon’s appearance and writing credits, his Journey cohort Jonathan Cain co-wrote two tracks. Rock royalty Eddie Money co-wrote one track. And then there’s band member Deen Castronovo.

Castronovo’s previous experience included his role as drummer in the “supergroup” Bad English. After Journey broke up in the mid-1980s, keyboardist Cain and guitarist Schon met up with Cain’s former Babys bandmates singer John Waite and bassist Ricky Philips to form the new band. Castronovo was recruited to fill out the rhythm section. Bad English released two albums and three top 40 singles (including the #1 hit “When I See You Smile”). When Journey reformed, Castronovo joined Cain and Schon in the band’s second era.

But getting back to my original search, I wanted to know more about “Hot Cherie,” which Wikipedia stated was “a cover of a top 40 hit by Danny Spanos.”

Danny Spanos had some minor successes back in the early days of MTV and my personal record collection includes his less popular “Here Comes Trouble.” As Wikipedia is wont to do, the song being a “Danny Spanos” hit doesn’t fully explain the ancestry of the track.

A year before Spanos released the EP “Passion in the Dark,” the Canadian band Streetheart wrote the song, but it wasn’t released until their 1984 compilation “Buried Treasures,” after they disbanded. This led me to find some Streetheart material.

My local record store had a copy of the band’s sophomore release, 1979’s “Under Heaven Over Hell.” The sleeve lists the band members as Ken “Spider” Sinnaeve on bass, Kenny Shields on vocals, Daryl Gutheil on keyboards, Matthew Frenette on drums, and John Hannah on guitars. This lineup changed slightly from the first album where Paul Dean was the band’s guitarist and co-writer on three of the 2nd album’s tracks.

Some of these names were familiar and required another web search.

Dean left Streetheart after the first album and drummer Frenette split after the second when they formed Loverboy with singer Mike Reno and bassist Jim Clench. After replacing Clench with Scott Smith, Loverboy went on to record eight studio albums, four of which went multi-platinum in the United States.

The name “Spider” Sinnaeve also sounded familiar. After Streetheart broke up in 1983, Ken played on Helix’s 1984 “Walkin’ the Razor’s Edge” before joining Tom Cochrane’s band Red Rider for their RCA Records debut. Later, Sinnaeve would join a touring version of The Guess Who in 1999 and replace Loverboy’s late bassist Scott Smith in 2001, filling out 60% of the roles in Loverboy with 60% of Streetheart .

Record collecting is an experience on many levels. Whether you’re enjoying Neal Schon’s wailing guitar on “Hot Cherie” or admiring Robert Sweet’s fantasy artwork on “To Hell with the Devil” or following the family tree of Canadian rock bands, there’s just so much more on offer from a 12-inch vinyl canvas. Hours of entertainment can be had in addition to the 40 minutes of music found on a long-playing record. So pick up a good liner note and give it a read!

- Sam Fiorani

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