I was speaking to someone recently about this blog, I said that I try to keep it about ‘current’ music and he asked me a very pertinent question the answer to which I probably need to work out: What constitutes ‘current’? Well I’m not sure. I’ve written on here about albums from as far away as the sixties and I probably will again, but I’m trying to keep up to date on here. Sure Big Brother and the Holding Company are sweet, but you can find them pretty easily in their last 40 years of being around and if you haven’t then I assume you are a musical idiot and feel sorry for you. I’m trying to shed a light on things that are fading, short-runs of records where only a few remain to be snapped up, or little underground bands that might not be around next year because the churning seas of the underground music industry are so crushingly unforgiving in most cases. I’m not operating the ‘Four month rule’ because that’s a little too stringent; but blanketly I’ll be trying to keep it to releases from the last 3(ish) years. Music from the sixties was great but it’s around (for those not in the know, check out Big Brother and the Holding Company, the Electric Prunes, 13th Floor Elevators, the Seeds and Groundhogs for a starter). Feel free to fill the inbox with hatred when I inevitably break this rule next week by writing about Wishbone Ash or something.
I’ve had this idea in the pipeline for a long time, but given last week’s article comparing to identically named forms of media I decided I’d go along a similar, albeit more obvious route this week. It’s not clever, (although I’m not saying last week’s was either) I’m not going to make any profound observations; what it really boils down to is the equivalent of the age-old argument amongst children of:” “my Daddy could kick your Daddy’s butt.” On one hand we have Bob Dylan’s original, mysterious and stripped down version of his own All Along The Watchtower versus Hendrix’s legendary, 60’s-defining, Acid-drenched cover. Myself, a self-confessed Dylanophile, may not be in the most objective of all positions to adequately judge such a fictitious contest, but to deny that Hendrix’ version is less than a masterpiece would be sheer idiocy, so I won’t do that. Both versions bring extremely different things to the table and both are worthy of serious attention. So here we go: Dylan vs. Hendrix, All Along The Watchtower vs. All Along The Watchtower. The most exciting 60’s fantasy that doesn’t involve Marianne Faithful and a Mars Bar.
After last week’s well-received Little Women appraisal (re-iteration: if you haven’t yet bought and come to a conclusion about Little Women’s Throat record, what are you doing with your life?) I was advised to dig up and check out Naked City, a Brooklyn band who take the same psychotic jazz math-metal and apply it to grindcore. As a chap of the heavy persuasion, I have been known to dip my toe in the whirling rapids of grindcore, but can never have been said to be a fully-fledged without-reservation fan. I sing the praises of Nails from the rooftops ‘till someone asks me to leave and Coalesce are kind of grindcore’s Cobalt for me; very real alternative to the classics of the genre, but I’d never call myself a fan in the same way as I would of drone metal. Sure I like speed and I get really excited when an album has a sub-three minutes song because getting to the point is something I praise highly; but so often whatever musical interest I have evaporates under the unrelenting clusterfuck of unintelligible noise as three second songs come and go. While a fast commute is always great, you wouldn’t want to travel to work straddling a ballistic missile Dr. Strangelove style, there is a limit to speed before it just becomes an end in itself or a liability.
[I've had a bit of time off and have been writing overtime, so for the forseeable I'll be posting two articles on a Friday. I'll try to keep it to one with the best picks from my collection and the best of 2012, but who knows?]
Today I received a reply to an interview I’ve mailed off to Antipidean drone-space-dreamsludge merchants Sneeze the Wizard, famous for having the most awesome album cover of the year, and it’s only fugging January. Y’see usually interviews for this blog are done by email, rather than instant messenger or Skype; partly because my schedule is as inflexible as a granite block, partly because recording a Skype interview while doing shorthand is hard and mainly because I hate people. Well anyhoo, some artists do alright with the impersonal interview email, but Sneeze the Wizard really grabbed it with both hands, including for my delectation an extended post-script (yes babies, that’s what P.S. stands for) bearing the title POST INTERVIEW RANT – BONUS INFORMATION/anecdotal information and began with the phrase “Sneeze the Wizard was created with the goal of creating anti-industry music”. Where is the sign-up sheet for team ‘hell yes!’? These guys rule. Also their band is a result of the anger that arose from a teeshirted fop not knowing who Roger Ebert is; as someone who has literally executed corporal punishment on people who aren’t familiar with White Light/White Heat, I sure can understand that one; and tie it all up with a certain sort of ur-fav rude song title, Tool’s Hooker with a Penis about the same kinda shit.
This week I turn to the classic dark ambient album Stalker. I’ve been mulling over the sounds of the album since deciding to include one of the tracks in a film edit I’m doing currently. (Nothing big, it’s a short film I made with my friend a few years ago and I’m re-editing it out of boredom, really) It’s a classic of dark ambient music, combining sinister soundscapes with jarring dissonance. It’s unsettling and vivid: music for a witch burning or a walk through Chernobyl. But what I’d like to talk about most in relation to this album is its inspiration: the Andrei Tarkovsky film of the same name.
If you listen to extreme music, then you live and breathe for the moments that you only find every so often that only extreme music can provide. That moment where a record just totally blindsides you. Most records are the emotional equivalent of being gently prodded as you get by someone trying to look through your head at a gig or cinema screen (chart music is the emotional equivalent of someone repeatedly poking the back of your head after you have politely but insistently asked them to stop); on a good day you’ll find something that hits you like a burly man whose pint you just spilled; but if you follow extreme music you live for the moment when you are hit by the emotional equivalent of an intercity train. A raw emotional gut-punch that tears your expectations apart like a forest of Scots pines in the wake of a plane crash. It happens more and more infrequently as you immerse yourself in music but it’s the kind of Rosetta stone zero-sum moment that resets all the dials and reminds you: yes, the music of today is even more banal than that of yesteryear, you aren’t becoming emotionally numb. A real and genuine expression of what music can do can be found on Little Women’s debut full length album, Throat. I can describe what it sounds like here, and I will, and I can describe what it does to me, and I will. But trying to describe this music using words more than any other album is the hypothetical equivalent of hitting a bullet, with another bullet fired side-on from a speeding train. I sure hope I nail it. We’ll see.
|This is not a pint of my friends cider.|
Let me tell you a story. Y’know why pubs are called pubs? Most of you will know it’s short for public house. But why are they called public houses? Well because waaaaay back in the mists of time, when a chap would brew some beer, he put up a flag over his house and his house became ‘public’ while the beer was drunk. The flags became wooden signs and the houses became bespoke drinking establishments and now I can lean against them. Excellent. This was supposed to segway into a praise of home brewing but kinda failed, hey. Home brewing! My friend has been making some cider in a bucket in his flat, apparently much to the annoyance of his flatmates, and this Thursday (yesterday if I can write this in time, no small task) it was time to head round to his and sample it. This was one of the moments of my not unexciting life where I very consciously think “do I have a will, and if so, is it filled out properly” because my friends cider could conceivably end my life.
|Pure Reason Revolution. Photograph - Vikki Nye|
Today my In Search of Space weekly margin doodle thing takes a little bit of a step back. Usually we take time out to celebrate a single spinning black void of awesomeness, and occasionally open it up to give a big ‘hell yes’ to an artist or person; but today we’re gonna go a bit bigger and praise an invention and through it, and entire way of life. I thought I’d do this because I’ve had a few drafts of this kicking about for various people and have never finished one, it’ll serve as a bit of a respite from my usual ranting so that I can rant about something else, how novel. So take off your coat, order yourself a drink, sit down, not in the big chair, I’m going to sit in that and tell you about the electric guitar because every artist I've drooled over on here has used one.
Well, I’m back. Apologies for last week but work and socializing had been taking up practically all of my time. It was actually a bit of a shame because over Christmas I got about a dozen new albums, all of which I was quite eager to write about. I can still write about them of course, but their freshness and my enthusiasm for them will likely wane by the time I get around to writing about some of them. Not this one, though. I’m still very much entranced by Seahawks wonderful full-length debut. I mentioned in the last article that I’d hardly heard any albums from last year – well since then I’ve managed to accumulate another 4, more than doubling my previous total. (I’m always that “late to the party” type person. The first time I ever watched an episode of Friends was right after it was cancelled.) This album is one of them. It’s a bit of an obscurity actually, as it has a very retro sound and really could have been released any year in the past 20.
[Due to doing a harder and smarter course than I, Adam hasn't made deadline this week. Not to worry, his next article is about this little piece so in the meantime you've got tons by me to enjoy, and you can listen to this music. Have a good one. Steven.]
I should have expected this. Every time I put my preferences in print something comes along that like a bowling ball totally knocks my list to shit, as indeed has happened since the posting of last week’s lists. I explained this a bit in the list article, because even if you could be totally objective about art (which, ha, you can’t) then it’s probably literally as well as practically impossible to listen to all of 2011’s music at all, certainly within 2011. There will always be at least one record that you find after you put your list into print that should have gone on there, and the debut album by Yamantaka//Sonic Titan is that record (or the first of those records). Here I was, first day of the new year and living my grey dull predictable life, and along comes the self-titled Yamantaka//Sonic Titan debut in a painfully short flash of colour and excitement leaving me and everyone else present that day with slightly perplexed joy wondering what the hell just happened.
[Part 1 of 2 of albums I never got round to talking about - cept I had this written and I couldn't be arsed condensing it, so I post it now.]
Y’know what’s an edgy film? The Grapes of Wrath, “Wherever there’s a cop beating up a guy, I’ll be there” I mean, that’s awesome stuff. You know what film isn’t edgy and just fucking trite? Human Centipede. That isn’t tough, it isn’t clever and it has no edge. Splattering the screen in blood isn’t how you make a film edgy; a film shouldn’t mess with your guts, it should mess with your head. Y’know who are an edgy black metal band? Liturgy, because they really embrace the musical form. Y’know who isn’t edgy at all and is just fucking trite? All the racist ear-rapists masquerading as black metal. That shit is just clogging the airwaves. It isn’t even good. Liturgy are good though, their latest offering, Aesthetica really is something. Daring to tear the genre apart; these are dudes who know and who deeply care about black metal and metal music, and are trying to make something of it more than it is. Leading man Hunter Hunt-Hendrix (I know, right?) has even written a manifesto on ‘transcendental black metal’. See, I read a lot of Marx and the like when I was sixteen (and a pretentious little shit, the difference now? I’m not so little) so I really like the idea of a music manifesto. As it is, Transcendental Black Metal works as a kind of generic state-of-the-union mixed with a statement of intent. Here’s what’s wrong with black metal, here’s how Liturgy are going to make everything okay.
I’m a movie geek as well as a music geek (although if the two central tenants of my id were to fight, music is about three times bigger than movies) but I often find myself getting more excited about upcoming movies, and talk more about movies than I do about music to my non-nerd buddies. I guess it’s because being told a story is a much more cerebral pleasure to music, which is far more primal. Music shouldn’t be trying to tell us a story, it should be a quite literal emotional rollercoaster where all of the work is done by the listener; movies are a different kettle of fish, doing so much more of the legwork for the audience. I watch so many more movies in the home than I do in the cinema. There are two reasons for this.