Monday, September 28, 2009

Caribou Vibration Ensemble Live at ATP-NY on WFMU 9/13/09


WFMU had much of this legendary lineup broadcast in real time. But we just discovered this great live set from Caribou's expanded super bonanza 14-piece live ensemble with Marshall Allen (Sun Ra), Kieran Hebden (Fourtet), Koushik and more including a choir, four drummers and a big fantastic mess of sound!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Shellac At Great American Music Hall June 18th

Last week I stood in the same room as Steve Albini for the first time since July 24th 1987. That was at one of Big Black’s last shows, and it was tremendous, life changing even. You can read about it here and here. It’s hard not to think of that when you’re standing in a room eight thousand miles away from Hammersmith, London and twenty-two years on. The thought holds some gravity shall we say. Last night I walked into the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco to see Albini's current band Shellac as support act Arcwelder was finishing its second to last song. I wish now that I had arrived earlier, as this outfit was kicking some ass.

Shellac came onstage not long after that and booted a fair amount of posterior itself. The stage set-up was a no frills affair, as befits Albini’s view of, and approach to, music: there were no colored lights, and the drummer, Todd Trainer, had a sparse kit just slightly in front of Albini and bass player, Bob Weston. Just as an aside it’s pretty impressive to watch three guys who were all on Homestead’s Wailing Ultimate compilation, Albini was in Big Black, who contributed the electric “Il Duce,” Trainer was a member of Breaking Circus, whose excellent “Song Of The South” was featured and Weston was bass player with Volcano Suns, and their “White Elephant” features one of the catchiest choruses on the album as well as the most abrasive and exhilarating guitar line.

So you got some serious staff for a serious night. And a serious night it was, Albini with his guitar strapped around his waste — as it was on that night in ’87 — Trainer alternating between pummeling the drums in a primal way to holding down tricky and involving grooves that would befit a jazz drummer, and Weston playing sparse but thick and deep bass lines. Albini didn’t say a lot but Weston was a hoot, telling off color jokes (my favorite was “What’s the difference between a hard-on and a corvette?” “I don’t have a corvette.”) and fielding questions from the crowd between songs. But that’s not to say that the night was frivolous all round, hardly, not with Albini at the controls. Shellac are not a light option, their subject matter is heavy, as are their sounds and all this is set on top of awkward time signatures, which might have some saying, “oh that’s so Math rock,” but hey, let’s just stick to the way the band describes themselves, “a minimalist rock trio.”

Minimal indeed, and though minimalism in the electronic world has become so glaringly tedious, in the world of rock, with musicians who can play and have performed for decades it takes on a whole new meaning entirely. Shellac proved this in spades last Thursday night with songs like “Crow” from their debut At Action Park, and “The End Of Radio” from 2007’s Excellent Italian Greyhound. The crowd were there to see Shellac and to bask in the presence of legends, legends who still speak to them, and don’t patronize and who carry an angst that seems to be missing everywhere.

At the end of the night I approached the stage as Steve Albini was putting away his aluminum guitar (a Travis Bean guitar might I annoyingly add) and said “This is the first time I’ve seen you on a stage in 22 years.” He walked over and said “Oh yeah, where was that?” “At the Clarendon in London in ’87.” There was a look of genuine amazement on his face, he was gobsmacked as the English might say, and then he said, “That’s a long time ago,” and shook my hand. I’m not in the habit of talking to performers — let them perform and enjoy — but that night so long ago is pivotal in my life and it was important to mention it to the guy who drove a lot of the power in that room that night. And it was great to see that he hadn’t lost his edge — nor had his bandmates — merely honed it into a new and vital form. Great gig!

Orr

Shellac - Crow mp3

Friday, June 19, 2009

My New Favorite Band From SF = Girls



Our peeps in London turned us on to this band a while ago. Why do the best bands from the states consistently fare better abroad than on their own turf? In this case, that may not be entirely fair to say since they haven't even released their official debut. Time will tell. This is definitely a band to watch.

Though this tune has been floating around the web since '08, the official debut single 'Hellhole Ratrace' will be released on July 13, 2009 via Turnstile Music/ Fantasytrashcan (UK) | True Panther Sounds (US). Lovely tune and lovely video. Happy Saturday!

-Simon Bananaspam
Watch video in HD!
Girls Hellhole Ratrace - MP3

Monday, June 15, 2009

Richie Panic and Eric Sharp present Green Velvet at Mezzanine, Saturday the 20th of June

If you are into deep house, techno or banging electro then you will know who Green Velvet, aka Cajmere aka Curtis Jones, is. I’m not going to give you a detailed history, but since the early ‘90s this dude has put out some quality tunes and, like Felix Da Housecat (another Chicago feline), shows that all this electronic dance music, from Adonis to Justice, owes something to that mid-western city’s sense of effortless, musical cool.

This coming Saturday, the 20th, of June, Green Velvet is gracing the stage of Mezzanine in San Franbloodydisco. Two well spoken, polite and thoughtful young men by the names of Richie Panic and Eric Sharp are putting on the show, primarily for Richie’s birthday (Like he doesn’t get enough attention already. Where was my shagging birthday party? I had to take a reduced rate bus tour of SF. Excitement!). Anyways, these prolific gentlemen, who grace the turntables of every worthwhile partay in the city these days, have also roped in Designer Drugs from NY — East coast electro types who are well worth watching out for, and a fave with the kids, or so I’m told — and local producer and deck tech Andrew Phelan.

You’ll be feelin’ this show I would wager given the staggering aspect of the line up and after the show you might end up staggering around the End Up, with your ears ringings, head nodding and heart ablaze. Such is the effect that Eric Sharp and Richie Panic have on everyone who hears them, sees them, smells them or senses their auras. I would say the night will be a delightful amalgam of banging tunes, shweaty kids and joyous behaviours. In fact, I’d guarantee it, like that beardy fucker from the Men's Wearhouse commercials. Get yer ass down there on Saturday and none of your f@#!in guff. And I’m off to mix the original version of Dajae’s “You Got Me Up” into the Underground Goodies Mix, then flip a copy over, extend the percussion break, mix back in after the break, phase it out to the near the end before mixing into “The Percolator,” and “La La Land” on a third deck. You’re all like, “F@!% you Orr, you old bollocks.”

Orr

Friday, June 12, 2009

Beyond The Wizard's Sleeve Remix Package

I’ve kinda slept on this one, but better late than never. Re-animations Vol. 1 is a collection of remixes by Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve, the collaborative project comprised of ex-Trash dj Erol Alkan — a remixer in his own right — and Richard Norris, psychedelic rock aficionado, ex-label manager of the now defunct, cult, psyche reissue label Bam Caruso label and a founding member of The Grid with ex-Soft Cell keyboard player Dave Ball. Norris was also a member of Jack The Tab with Genesis P Orridge, Ball and the Psychic TV crowd, and it is here that he may have honed his taste for fusing the mental with the transcendental.

Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve once again brings Norris to another point where psychedelia meets dance music, but unlike the acid house inflection of Jack The Tab or the prog house elevation of The Grid, Beyond The Wizard’s sleeve also features sly and subtle folk-psyche touches. In other hands the disparate elements of house, electro, space disco, psyche and folk might fall apart in a disastrous fashion but Norris is an old hand at eclecticism and Alkan is a newer but equally capable craftsman of this nebulous art-form.

And a blah blah blah, “but what is the music like?" I hear you feverishly intone. My humble opinion would opt for the words, top notch. I had already acquired wax discs (not brass disks mind you) of the BTWS remix of Tracy Thorn’s “Raise The Roof” — a little nugget that sits tight in and around Baldelli classics and ze like — and the monstrously wicked remix of Findlay Brown’s “Losing The Will To Survive,” as perfect a fusion of British folk-rock and NY style garage you’re ever likely to hear, think The Incredible String Band meets Mood II Swing – Mood II String? But nothing could prepare me for the excellentyness of their remixes of
Franz Ferdinand’s “Ulysses,” a track that will inspire a Joycean epiphany on the dancefloor and Late Of The Pier’s “The Bears Are Coming,” a chaotic, funky little disco percussion work out with chants of “acid rain” and a number of squidgy noises. Vary nice says moi.

And that is not all, at all, at all. There are eight more gorgeousful things to feast your shell like ears on, including a grand and trippy re-hauling of Peter, Bjorn and John’s “Young Folks,” the just grand re-tooling of Midlake’s “Roscoe,” which my friend Derek tells me reminds him of Journey’s “Who’s Crying Now,” a not unfounded assertion might I add, and an exquisite re-modelling of “Happiness” By Goldfrapp.There are more radical re-jigglings (I ran out of re words btw**) of the Chemical Brothers, Simian Mobile Disco and Badly Drawn Boy, and for twelve measely bucks you’re getting a damnable good deal and a half, so none of yer skinflinty whining. Get out of the house, office, garage, prison even, and get this awesomecore CD. Hokay!!

Orr

**Means "by the way" btw.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Field @ Mezzanine, SF - June 6, 2009

Axel Willner likes to tamper with the fabric of time. This is precisely why he holds my interest over many of his peers in the crowded world of minimal techno. The Field have expanded their live band to a trio including bass guitar. Previous tours displayed a fairly accurate reproduction of his recorded work, likely due to the restrictions of performing heavily sequenced, loop based tracks solo. The two extra bodies on stage enable a more dynamic performance sonically and visually. Axel himself seemed more free to stretch and tweak his familiar chord sequences into shapes that stimulated the crowd's heads and bodies. The space that exists somewhere between head and body music is the place where The Field shine brightly. 

The crowd seemed unsure whether to trip out and be enveloped or to dance, but that said, this may not be true for other stops on the tour where crowds are more naturally enthusiastic. I'd love to see this band evolve into a multi-media experience, strong visuals and quadrophonic big club sound could be the next step forward. The new tracks sounded amazing in Mezzanine, and showed more acoustic timbres to balance with his debut's synthetic sonic palette. It's always pure joy to spot his Cocteau Twins and Kate Bush samples tweaked far enough out of context to mysteriously suggest old tunes resurrected in bright and shiny new ways. 

Monday, June 8, 2009

Bodycode's "What Did You Say" EP on Spectral Sound

Here we have yet another kick ass single from Spectral Sound, Ghostly International’s leftfield house and techno label. This time the pressure comes from South African born, Berlin based, producer Alan Abrahams, aka Bodycode. There are three tracks on his “What Did You Say’ EP, the title track, an acidic paean to an estranged lover, complete with doomy Germanic femaile spoken vocal, that comes across like a minimalist Lidell Townsell colliding with Yazoo’s “Situation.” Next up is a dub mix of the track “Imitation Lover” from Abrahams’ second album, Immune. “Imitation Dub” sounds like early ‘90s Todd Terry mixed with Mood II Swing and Konrad Black, skippy, garage inflected tech with a dark soul. 

Closing out the record is a wicked mix from Baby Ford, the UK acid house visionary and techno maven, who rolls out a mid-tempo thing that’s full of shimmering, dubby effects, and hefty bass. It just grooves along at about 112 bpms, and is great for building up or coming down. Check this rekkid out, it dropped on June 1 and it’s v. nice.

Orr




Thursday, June 4, 2009

God Help The Girl

Scotland has produced its fair share of what could be called twee music. From The Bluebells and Aztec Camera, to Altered Images and the uncrowned kings of twee, Orange Juice. Is there something in the Scottish psyche that makes the nation predisposed to creating dainty music? However, the likes of Glasvegas, Simple Minds, Big Country, The Skids or Sensational Alex Harvey Band certainly didn’t fall into that bracket, but over twenty years later it rears its head again.

This time around it’s in the shape of Belle and Sebastian (are they not quite twee themselves though? ) frontman Stuart Murdoch’s God Help The Girl, a 14-track opus featuring multiple singers, two of which Murdoch brought in by staging a competition on iMeem. The competition had four hundred entries and from these Murdoch brought Brittany Stallings and Dina Bankole to Glasgow in February of 2008. Other more established artists came on board too, including Neil Hannon from the Divine Comedy and Aysa of the Seattle teen trio Smoosh.

Murdoch also added Catherine Ireton, a friend of a friend who had just moved to Glasgow from Limerick, Ireland. In all nine singers joined the fold of the Belle and Sebastien core, and elements were also recorded in London with a 45 piece orchestra. An ambitious project indeed, but the end result is quite beautiful, if not a little twee. The songs will be used in a musical that’s due to be filmed in 2010.

The fourteen-track album seems to detail the trials of a young woman living in a city of today, while the music harks back to Burt Bacharach, Sandy Shaw, Petula Clark, ‘60s girl groups, ‘80s indie pop and classic pop records in general. This may seem like an unwieldy amalgam, but Murdoch and gang pull it off, crafting a delightful listening experience that will have you pulling out your 45s of “Anyone Who Had A Heart,” “Son Of A Preacher Man,” “William,” and “Simply Thrilled Honey.” Creative nostalgia and post modern musical devices never sounded so sumptuous and warm. It drops on the 23rd of this month, so have a wee listen when it does.

Orr

Click For mp3

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Omar Souleyman and Group Doueh Need To Visit San Francisco!

The always excellent Sublime Frequencies are teasing us americans with reports of a recent UK tour, featuring the incredible Group Doueh who spin saharan electric guitar based road music and a recent Bananaspam discovery, the unparalleled Omar Souleyman, who specializes in a bizarre and psychedelic brew of Syrian party music with hyper phased keyboard leads juxtaposed with more introspective emotional Arabic folk music. Here's to hoping the righteous Sublime Frequencies will bring the tour to the United States!!

Simon Bananaspam

Check out the video for "Leh Jani" by Omar Souleyman:


Click For mp3

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Animal Collective @ The Fox Theater, Oakland - May 26, 2009

The Fox Theater itself was a considerable star last night. Absolutely gorgeous venue which combines aspects of other grandiose bay area palaces like the Paramount Theater with an Islamic and Moorish inspired grandeur all it's own that doesn't stick to any architectural traditions, but otherworldly. Such an amazing space to experience music. However, the jury is still out regarding the sound. Was it AC's penchant for dsp caverns of mud and disorientation? Or perhaps the acoustics aren't fully optimized? The venue has only been reopened for a few months, stay tuned.

The buzz in the air for Animal Collective was considerable during the opener Grouper's set. She seems very early on in her musical journey. Her ambient, lo-fi with layers of looped vocals and guitar melodies is pleasant enough, but has light years to go before feeling right for a support slot like this one. For the time being, Grouper would be better suited to support slots for very small clubs or instore performances like the one we caught at Aquarius Records last month. Digital distortion is rarely if ever pleasant. Is it possible that a new generation of audio dilettantes may not hear the difference?

When a white orb was lowered above the stage, it was nearly show time for the veterans. Animal Collective's current stage setup is more spare than ever. Gone are the dual strummed guitars and acid howling through digitech processors punctuated by floor tom freakouts. Tonight the three current animals are manning samplers, mixers and keyboards on white draped tables with lights projected on them. Occasionally Panda Bear would remind us of what a fantastic drummer he is while Avey Tare's manic energy would keep the crowd focused on the massive sounds on offer. The whole visual scene with the venue's glowing eyed idols on either side of the stage and the Floyd'esque projections on the floating orb made for a stunning psychedelic environment.

Ghost rave pop is the main order of the evening. Eight albums and years of improvising on stage have fine tuned the AC vibrations to an acute window of ecstasy. There was an enormous sense of community amongst at least 1/4 of the audience. The remainder of the audience weren't sure exactly why they were there, but this speaks to the power of the media approval and recommendation matrix. Puzzled faces were preparing to "say they were there." Fair enough, we have all been enriched. Everyone wins in this musical village.

This band is now clearly in the major leagues, despite their devoted relationship to their more outre tendencies and refusal to engage on a direct pop star-to-fan level like others at their stage in the game. It's refreshing to see a band sticking to their roots and remaining true to their grain. The new songs are also sounding good and perhaps another progressive direction is in the works. The beauty of AC is in their live reinterpretation of their back catalog and the works in progress feel of new and developing tunes. Animal Collective perform tonight in Big Sur at the Henry Miller Library and we are tempted to go and do it all over again!

The "Summertime Clothes" single is due out on June 22 in the U.K. and July 7 in the U.S.
Domino is currently giving away the Dam Funk remix of "Summertime Clothes." Check it!

Simon Bananaspam

Click for mp3 - "Bleed" (Live)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Moderat album is very niiice!

The nice people at BPitch Control sent me the Moderat record a week or so ago and given that Modeselektor is involved I noticed that it has been garnering significant love and column inches. I fired it on my i-pod and gave it a listen t’other day while trekking down to a shopping mall in Daly City to get my (late) taxes sorted out. This record, long stretches of freeway and multi lane thoroughfares like John Daly Boulevard are really suited to each other for reasons that become blatantly evident when you shove it in yer lug holes. Urban sprawl, exhaust fumes, low muggy skies, dank underpasses and an alienated (resident alienated) mindset provide the perfect backdrop to the glorious noise.

What can I say that hasn’t already been said? Not a lot to be honesht, but let me throw in my two cents worth by stating that this outfit’s fluid and seamless fusion of techno, dubstep, indie rock, ragamuffin, psychedelia and any number of other genres is pretty bloody inspiring. I would anticipate that some young and receptive ears (and some old ones too, perchance) will give this a listen and then young and receptive legs will walk out the door and go buy an old synth at a pawn shop, download some cracked software and go at it.

It’s also refreshing to listen to a record and not be able to pin down exactly what genre it is. Thank Christ for that, and I wish there were more records like this from which you could grab a banging tune or three and just fire them in the mix. Genres bore the knickers off me, and when you consider that styles of music like house, hip-hop and techno were borne out of eclectic dj cultures then it seems like a betrayal that they have been distilled down to these very recognizable and defined categories. Anyway, these German cats avoid that high school fixation by taking your head through variations of beat, tempo, mood and texture, before turfing you out on the other end of the record with your tail between your legs and your head up your arse (or further up if it was already lodged there).

There’s no need to tell half of you savvy fuckers to go and get this, as you already have it, but thanks for bearing with me (as opposed to baring with me, which even I wouldn’t advise you to do). By the way it was recorded at Hansa Studios in Berlin, where Bowie recorded Heroes and U2 crafted Achtung Baby. So there’s some analog recording bidness going on with this here record here, and Bay Area producer and tech maven Kit Clayton (that rhymes nicely huh?) provided the programming of a reverb algorithm designed especially for the recording of the album. So now all you SF (and environs) types can get all proud, self-congratulatory 'n' shit.

Furthermore Les Grandes Marches is ridiculous and the whole, entire record is a keeper and a way forward. Listen to it after The Field's new album and hate yourself for not being of Teutonic stock. I’m Scottish of Irish decent so there’s a fair chance of some Viking blood in my veins. That’s Teutonic enough for me to don a helmet with horns on it, fire on this rekkid and lep about the room like a mad thing, in a nice, sensible sorta way mind you. Get this record it’s fucking bang…ggging!

Orr

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Who wouldn't go to see Wooden Shjips?

I went to see Wooden Shjips again on Friday night, this time at Thee Parkside, a killer venue in my humble opinion. There were two other bands playing, but I only checked out the Shjips, I arrived just before they played and bounced after they finished their last song. I’ve been a fan since about the fall of 2007 when I heard their self-title debut and after their sterling contribution to the Mojo magazine Syd Barret tribute, In Search of Syd: 15 Mind-Bending Freakouts. Their debut really made an impression with it’s measured, krautrock and psychedelia infused groovers. I covered the record in my nitewise column in October of 2007, but unfortunately didn’t get a chance to see them until they played at the Eagle Tavern in January of this year. I didn’t have my ear close enough to the underground of the live rock scene in the city, but thankfully now I do.

Friday’s performance at Thee Parkside was stand out as per usual with the bass player, Dusty, laying down hypnotic, minimal but super funky (am I the only one who wants to dance at Wooden Shjips shows?) grooves as the guitar player, Ripley, intones softly but menacingly while his guitar creates a tower of sound. They played a selection from the first album and the most recent one, Dos, and finished their all too short set with “We Ask You To Ride.” I want to see this band on a bill with one other band and on a savagely large sound system with retina blistering visuals. Wooden Shjips is easily one of the best outfits— if not the best — in San Francisco right about now. No contest. Keep eyes and ears peeled for more. And they're off to Europe this month to bless that continent with their tripped out grooviness. Those lucky European bastards would get so see them more than us, they would, wouldn't they?

Orr

Friday, May 15, 2009

Jarvis Cocker's Rocker!

What happens when you put Jarvis Cocker, his band and Steve Albini in a studio in Chicago? Simple, you get Jarvis’s upcoming album, Further Complications, which will be released stateside on May 18th, and then you get rather, somewhat and possibly, hella delira and excira (as they say in Dublin, or Baile A Cliath if you’re a Gaelic speaker). Whereas some of Cocker’s work has been quite slick sounding while still carrying his British working class view of life quite successfully, this one is a much rawer affair, in fact Jarvis is pretty much rocking out on this one.

The first single from the record, “Angela” is a kick ass affair about a young lady who might work in the sex industry that rolls in on a rippling vein of fuzzed out guitar, slapped out drums and lyrics like “and she’s nearly 23, making four fifty an hour, complimentary shower, they call her Angela,” “I feel the sap rising tonitie,” and other un-parental musings. “Caucasian Blues” is a frantic rocker about being a typical white dude, who is “hung like a white man,” and has “no sense of rhythm.” .” The title track absofuckinglutely rules and it contains the line, “I need an addiction, I need an affliction to cultivate a personality.” Nuff said.

These two tunes set the tone for the entire record, and of course you get a couple of slower numbers in which Jarvis gets to stretch out and flex his proletarian ennui in a more deliberate and paced manner. “Hold Still” is the first of these and it contains the kicker line, “we’re cosmic dust, but you’re everything to me,” which could be perhaps tongue in cheek. Cocker goes on to say that he feels “Like a single parent at the fair,” and once again he’s taking us back to the silent desperation of working class Britain, a realm that he is truly familiar with.

“Leftovers” is another slower number, a love song with an opening line “I met her in the museum of paleontology, and I’ll make no bones about it,” it’s hard not to laugh out loud, except that he goes on to detail his love for this person who shares his fascination for dinosaurs, and he tells her he will “fall upon your neck just like a vampire, just like a vampire who faints at the sight of blood.” Anyway, it’s Jarvis so you’re gonna get staggering lyrics that’ll make you laugh, think and maybe even cry. “Pilchard” is a fast, mostly instrumental Krautrock inflected work out which will just divine for frugging around the kitchen to after you’ve a had a chip butty or two.

Proceedings close with the raw disco of “You’re In My Eyes (Discosong)” which opens with what sounds like a looping Philly disco sample, low in the mix with Jarvis talking over it about lurve. Barry White, god rest him, would be proud, likewise Gamble and Huff, and Stan and Hilda. There’s no point in trying to wax cleverer than Jarvis, this is a top album and that’s that.

Orr

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Nah'feel's remix of "She's Electric" by Nightwaves

Russell Gaskins, aka Nah'feel, is the true definition of a music industry worker: he works bloody hard and he works it. I met him at the peak of the SF house scene in ’96 and we immediately hit it off because of our passion for music and philosophical attitude towards its creation and propagation. And though he was working in the hip-hop field and was a rapper and beat maker, he had an appreciation for beats of any kind. An introduction to the deeper, abstract house of Omid Nourizadeh (16B), House of 909 and Don Carlos made him keen to craft his own beats in that vein, and his early experiments were pretty damned good. In fact, an airing of one his first tracks in the sadly missed bricks and mortar version of Primal Records in Berkeley got more than a few kids in there kinda weasely to figure out what this new toon was.

Russell headed down to LA in ’97 to work for the Vibe/Spin ad department and from there on to Arista’s A&R dept before settling at Chrysalis Music Publishing. He still makes beats, works on production for some big name hip-hop and r&b artists and in his spare time dons the guise of Nah’feel in order to bust out house inflected breakbeat numbers or add that flavor to tracks like “She’s Electric” by Los Angelean electro groovers Nightwaves (check out the original too, it’s a sexy doozy). Mr. Gaskins’ remake, though birthed in the image of Larry Heard and The 45 King, is a key contender for Balearic jam of the moment. And though the hot avenues of LA may be far from the balmy streets of Ibiza Town, the vibe sits just right.

Russell mellows the whole thing out, keeping the tempo at 110 bpm, adding a little rock guitar and just a pinch of jazziness. The outcome is languid but sensational, you can work the morning mood with this one, warm up with it, or shove it between the Stone Roses and Sheer Taft for optimum Balearia. You don’t need to have a beard, be from Norway or craft smooved out eurodisco to be Balearic, you can dwell down in LA, not care about that genre at all, and just make great music for listening and dancing to. Russell Gaskins does that. Nite Jewel, Nightwaves and Nah’feel, all the ‘Ns” add up to nice down in Los Angeles, and right now that city seems like a better bet than Promoterville, I mean San Francisco. There’s more where this little nugget came from, believe you me.

Orr

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Field - Yesterday and Today.

If you’re in need of a strong fix of floaty, ethereal techno that possesses nuances of shoegaze rock and Krautrock, you need look no further than the music of one Axel Willner, the Swedish producer more commonly known as The Field. His next album, “Yesterday and Today,” which will be released on May 19th by German label Kompakt, is an extended exercise in atmospheric electrolove, punctuated with rushing strings, live bass, all manner of electronic whooshing and clicking, and dizzying heights of lush, repetitive groove and melody.

There are only six tracks on the record, and clocking in at just over an hour, each track takes you on a long, cerebral run that combines the minimalist template of German techno and fuses it with an otherworldly sense of texture and melody derived from a respect for bands like Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine. But this is just not another motorik work out by, or for, bespectacled bedroom dwellers. Willner throws elements of rock and funk into the heady mix, their corners sticking out through the slick veneer that covers his beautiful machine music, conspiring with clicks and whirrs to tumble the carefully balanced, fragile, yet muscular creation into a primordial ooze of messy glitch.

Each track is a marathon session of electronic finesse, which will sound excellent in the head and triumphant on select dance floors. For proof of this check out the title track and the one which follows it, “The More That I Do.” At around eight minutes and ten minutes respectively each track suspends you, and time, in a drifting and driving state of ethereal emergency (if such a thing exists). The latter track will really work the dancefloor too, taking it, and the dancers, to new heights, carrying both on a carefully wrought sonic platform where My Bloody Valentine collides head on with DJ Pierre at his Wild Pitch finest and Wolfgang Voigt’s all absorbing micro-worlds.

To crown all this afferent glory Willner includes a cover version of “Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime,” the 1980 hit by British synth pop group, The Korgis. However, he doesn’t feature vocals in the chorus and only intones the first verse, the chorus being an instrumental section which kinda leaves you hanging. However, given that the song has been rendered by Glasvegas, Erasure, The Dream Academy and Army Of Lovers amongst others, this is not such a band thing and Willner’s take on it is beautiful, as is the entire album. Yesterday and Today, a magnificent listening companion and an extra-terrestrial dance partner.

Orr

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Lost World/Dengue Fever @ The Castro Theatre - 5/5/09

For this year's San Francisco International Film Festival, the annual silent film accompanied by live music pairs The Lost World with LA's Dengue Fever. This tradition is reminiscent of the Barbican Centre London's excellent silent film and live music series that has featured Lambchop, The Delgados and others in the past.

Harry Hoyt directed The Lost World, aided by the pioneering stop motion animation work by Willis O'Brien, only better known for his work on King Kong. This is Hoyt's journey back to a jurassic wonderland, aiming to satisfy man's fixation with the ancient prehistoric creatures that roamed our planet. This particular print has had vivid color tinting to bring the monochromatic masterpiece into a modernized otherworldly space.

This otherworldy visual accompaniment suits the evolved 2009 version of Dengue Fever. Dengue Fever have always been an entertaining party band that brings the 60's psych, garage and surf vibes. This ambitious pairing has inspired them to instrumental and vocal heights that shows a band with tremendous scope and understanding of textural nuance. Instead of visually fixating on the beauty of Cambodian queen, Chhom Nimol we are watching sequences of humorous human trivialities juxtaposed with dinosaurs roaming the earth and culminating with an amazing climax of a Brontosaurus invading London! 

The band is squarely in the ethnofuturepast sound world with colors that remind one of Jon Hassell's treated flute and trumpet melodies from "Dream Theory in Malaya", only to crash back down to a late 60's Cambodian space lounge with garagey Farfisa and snaky guitar lines. Dengue Fever could be aiming for the next chapter of ethnoforgery, or ethnofuturism, pioneered by one of our favorite labels, Sublime Frequencies. We'll definitely keep an eye on this band and see if this challenging live score will influence their future works. Props to SFIFF for this inspired program that won't leave the memory for some time.

Simon Bananaspam

Click For mp3


The Emperor Mack Sheen Rekkid Is Not Half Bad, Squire.

I know it’s been a whole bloody week since I set finger to keyboard in order to craft another captivating shlice of opinionated bollocks. Sorry for keeping you hanging bananafans. Sometimes the problem is inspiration and other times it’s superfluous matters like money, work, stress and cagey building owners. No need to elaborate, believe me.

Luckily Space Beyond The Egg, the upcoming LP by The Emperor Machine, which drops on June 1st, arrived in my email and I’m getting my shell like ears around it right about now. Two tracks in and I’m already hooked. Future single, “Kananana” is really doing the bidness if you ask my humbly opinionated ass. Tough drums are linked up to clicky guitar work, a simple but effective bass groove and some very lushly lovely analog synths, which convey the all important Cosmic -— or Kosmiche even — transcendence that one should expect from all E Mack Sheen tunes.

Needless to say they deliver it in track after track, including the "What’s In The Box” single, which dropped in the fall of last year and is included on this here record here for your listening and undulating plaisir, mais oui! “Snatch Shot” is a chewy slice of bumpy, whooshy electro funk that will have you bouncing your body to the box in the wee hours of the morning timez, and though most of the record is instrumental, allowing you drift off on a cloud of pleasantly and gorgeousfully wonderful melodic reveries (ooh er, shouldn’t be allowed), the song “What You Want” has vocals that advise one to do what one wants. A splendid thought indeed! Proceedings close with “Not None,” a chunky basslined little item with soft percussion, dramatic stings and echoing synths. It finishes things up nicely

Do I be liking this here record? I sure does, and that does be all from me.

Orr

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Ruts.

In 1979 things were starting to get a little tense in the UK. In May of that year Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister, heralding the start of a conservative era that lead to the mess we’re in right now. Were there other factors? Of course, but when you deregulate and privatize everything and leave the functioning of society at its most important points to private interests, the financial being one of those, then you end up with a big, greedy balls up, which is where we’re at currently.

In 1979 the punk era was winding down, segueing into what followed it, new wave. However, one British band, which kept the flag flying for punk, was The Ruts. Most of us on that side of the pond became aware of them when their rousing single “Babylon’s Burning” crashed into the UK charts in the summer of ’79, eventually settling at number 7 in June of that year. It was raw and fast, but melodic, the sound built from a fascination with reggae, metal, straight up ‘70s rock and the music of their punk and new wave peers.

The band was comprised of Malcolm Owen on vocals, Paul Fox on guitar, John "Segs" Jennings on bass and Dave Ruffy on drums. Owen was a magnificent front man, kinetic and full of righteous rage, as reflected in the fact that The Ruts started out as part of an anti-racist collective in West London called People Unite. They had a deep respect for the West Indian community and featured a prominent reggae sound in their music.

The next single that really made me sit up and take notice was “Staring At The Rudeboys,” a frantic ditty about an altercation with some racist skinheads, which was released in the spring of 1980. Then in July Owen died of a heroin overdose, a surprise to some given the anti-heroin stance of the song “H-Eyes,” the b-side of their first single “In A Rut.” The band became Ruts D.C., from the Italian Da Capo, meaning from the beginning and explored reggae and dub more.

However, in their first two years with Owen at the helm they crafted incredible, rousing singles, and the classic album The Crack (cover featured above), with its memorable cover. The single “West One (Shine On Me)” was released in August 1980, an obvious tribute to Owens. I heard it on a compilation album called Cash Cows, a Virgin Records release that featured some of their best artists. However the record was pulled due to a legal wrangle over a track by The Professionals, a band that featured Paul Cook and Steve Jones of The Sex Pistols. A store in Derry called Quaver — where The Undertones began their careet — was handing them out for free over Christmas 1980, and my mom got one for me. There are some top tunes on that record, including “Dirty Blue Gene” by Captain Beefheart, but “West One” was my favorite.

In 2007 Henry Rollins, standing in for Owens, at a London benefit gig for Paul Fox, who was battling lung cancer, announced to the crowd that “West One (Shine On Me)” was easily one of the best songs ever written about being lonely in the big city. Some will arguer otherwise, but it is definitely the most rousing, Enjoy it and check out The Ruts a little deeper if you haven’t already.

Orr  

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Higamos Hogamos, Infinty Plus One

I am becoming ever such a little bit fatigued by the current glut of Kraut rock inflected material that is being released from the indie rock and dance music world. It’s not that Kraut rock is bad music, far from it, it just seems a bit too trendy at the moment to channel the likes of Faust, Neu!, La Dusseldorf et al. However, when it is done well does this  really matter? To be honest: probably not.

So with that in mind I am listening to a new offering from the reputed UK dance music label, DC Recordings, which is home to Padded Cell, The Emperor Machine and Kelpe among others. The British imprint’s latest release is from an outfit called Higamos Hogamos, which is comprised of Toby Jenkins and Steve Webster, a duo also known as Fort Lauderdale.

Their new EP is a four-track vinyl item and a six track download release. The record features the tune “Infinity Plus One,” which appears in its original form and in remixed form by The Emperor Machine, who provide two mixes on the wax plus an extra redoodle that appears on the digital version only. “The Creeper” is given a remodeling by Muscleheads  while Higamos Hogamos's previous single “Major Blitzkrieg” is bent out of shape by 22 Inch Wife.

All in all, if you like spacey, Cosmic or Kosmische accented material, which can emotionally resonate with you while motionless and horizontal or while in motion and vertical, then you will probably like this. Hokay! The tracks are cool, with the Emperor Machine mixes getting me most interested while the original mix of “Infinity Plus One,” with its opening line, which states “Across my sky blue heart your indelible jet trail,” gets my other vote. It’s a nice record, go and do be getting’ it.

Orr


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

It's Grand But Not Douchey.

Black Francis, Frank Black or Charles Michael Kitteridge Thompson IV, and his missus , Violet Clark, or Violet Clark Thompson, have just done a new LP. The collabo is called Grand Duchy, and that doesn’t sound kinda like douchey, nor does the album itself. In fact, it’s a rather subtle likkle surprise if the truth be known, and the truth should always be known, should it not? What do you get when you take classic Pixies inclinations and fuse them with just a smidgen of synth pop and new wavey gorgeousfulness, and then have yer old lady channel a bit of Kim Deal while remaining thoroughly individual and vocally involving?

You don’t know! Jeepers! You get Grand Duchy for cryin’ out loud. The album is called Petits Fours and it’s on the Cookin' Vinyl label. The first single, “Lovesick,”sounds like the Pixies colliding with “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” then it doesn’t, and it forces you to wrap your flakey head around some bloody chewy lyrics and the cutely menacing (how that?) vocal delivery of the not so shrinking Violet. The chuckly bit with him asking “What are you wearing?” and Violet girlishly answering “I Don’t Know” is so bloody addictive and funny that it just sets the tune out as a stone hard classic. The stonesy guitar riff is bloody excellent too!

Plus we need more rock albums with synthy bits and women shpeakin in shexy French accentsh (Or Sean Connery accentsh even). Check the song “Fort Wayne” for that: top tune, great lyrics, completely fun and hooky, hooky hooky. Do I really need to dissect every track, ‘cos I hate to, but let’s just say “Black Suit” rules on high, from the dense drums and bass intro (nice bassline) to the overall spooky but energetic feel of it. Black Francis channels some weird, grating anger and it’s ever so welcome.

Am I blowing too much smoke up this album's ass, or maybe I’m just blowing too much smoke, or just blowing too much. Take it to the gutter, sher why not as they say in the old country. Francis you do look divine btw. And I forgot about “Seeing Stars,” a special, little slow number that comes over all coy and folksy/rocky before the bass slinks down and the pair ‘o’ them throw in some glacial synth work while Violet intones “I’m guess I’m seeing stars again,” in a way that you want to hear over and over, except that they only do it for a short while and you want it to never end and you'll remember it and cherish it forever and a day. Yer knowurramean?

This album is fucking great, just go and get it and stop reading this shite. All right?

Orr

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Van der Graaf Generator - Darkness (1970)



Here's your daily dose of prog. (thanks G.M.) Taken from 1970 German Television footage. See also two mp3's from a 1967/1968 demo tape from the more elementary and slightly more straight forward earlier incarnation of VDGG. Folky melodies hinting at the darkness to come. Happy Tuesday!

Van der Graaf Generator - Firebrand (the master tape is audibly shrampled but gives way after the intro)
Van der Graaf Generator - Sunshine

-Simon Bananaspam

Monday, April 20, 2009

J Dilla, Slum Village and Fantastic Stuff.

I can’t really add anything to what has already been written about the sadly missed hip-hop producer Jay Dee (aka J Dilla), but it’s hard to forget the first time you ever heard a Jay Dee track. I remember hearing Slum Village back in late ’99 or early 2000. Their material had already been circulating since ’96 or ’97, when their Fantastic Vol 1 record dropped on indie label Donut Boy Records. It soon became extremely hard to find and was finally given a re-release in 2005. In late '99 there was much excitement about the upcoming US release of their follow-up album, Fantastic Vol. 2, on the Good Vibe Recordings label out of Los Angeles. It had already dropped on the British imprint Wordplay Records in 1998, creating a serious buzz. 

By this time Jay Dee’s impact on hip-hop was fully realized, due to his work with some of the genre's finest, including A Tribe Called Quest, The Pharcyde and Busta Rhymes. In early 2000 the hype surrounding the imminent release of the second installment of Fantastic was palpable and bootlegs were already circulating. I scooped two of them and they both contained a track called “Players,” which just blew me away with its languid groove and atmospheric feel. All the spacey funk of Dilla’s grooves was coupled with some very distinctive flow from rappers Baatin, and T3.

The bootlegs were merely a warm up to the killer package that Good Vibe put together for the release of Fantastic Vol.2. I bought it on triple vinyl and CD and gave both a good old twirl. Tunes like “Players,” “Climax (Girl Shit),” “Back and Forth” and “What It’s All About” were in heavy rotation at my apartment, work and on the decks when I would play hip-hop out. Around the same time Detroit rapper Phat Kat released his “Dedication To The Suckers” EP on the House Shoes Recordings label, featuring the track "Don't Nobody Care About Us," which had another devastating beat by Jay Dee, and featured the prolific Detroit music impresario Brian Gillespie in the executive producer’s chair — a man who we can thank also for bringing us Detroit Grand Pubahs.

So the point is that Slum Village’s Fantastic Vol. 2 made a really big impression on me and still does when I pull it out for a re-twirl. If you see it around on CD, or if you are so lucky to find on wax, scoop it on sight. It’s proof of how good hip-hop can be when it’s not a corporate controlled monster, and a valuable testament to the sonic genius of Jay Dee. It sounds good in the heat as well, and it’s hot as bejaysus today.

Orr


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Sébastien Tellier live in San Francisco

Sébastien Tellier came to San Francisco in the last couple of days and he played The Independent last night. I actually ran into him on the street on Thursday afternoon on the way to gym, he was walking up around Polk and Post with his friend Francois, so I had to stop them on the street and confirm that it was he. Indeed it was and it was only then that I remembered what my buddy Dax had been telling me for over a month, “Sebastien Tellier” coming to town in April and we need to get tickets ‘cos it will be awesome!”

And awesome it was. Tellier’s set was inspiring, uplifting, hilarious and accomplished all at once. It was an organic experience, with the singer coming on stage with two keyboard players and a drummer, seeming a little stiff and unprepared before launching into “Kilometer.” The organic aspect was that, of course, as the show went on Tellier and the band became looser, more daring and more musically involving.

By the time he had seated himself at an electric piano and started hammering out “La Ritournelle,” some five or six songs later, he was drenched in sweat, had polished off a bottle of wine or two, and was in fine form. Leading up to this he had knocked out a selection from his most recent long player, Sexuality, carried out a guitar solo in the crowd and pulled some seriously understated but highly effective poses.

The show culminated with him lying on the piano crooning to the crowd, which was by this time in the palm of his Gallic hand, before finishing with an encore of “Roche,” the first track on Sexuality. It was very captivating performance by an extremely unique artist, Long may he perform, put microphones against his crotch, wear very hot pleather jackets and write excellent music.

Orr


Friday, April 17, 2009

Junior Boys at Bimbo's.

Went to see Junior Boys at Bimbo’s last night. I love that venue and it was a great show. Max Tundra opened in fine, funny and quirky style, and included a hilarious nod to ‘90s rave toons in his set — killed me. Junior Boys took the stage soon after and rocked a very groovy, electric, and atmospheric collection of songs, all topped off with Jeremy Greenspan’s soulful white guy delivery. The crowd was young and really enthusiastic, and they stomped the floor hard for an encore when the boys finished. They opened their two-song encore with “FM” and it was all over way too soon. Now I have to attend Sebastien Tellier tonight in order to recapture the fervor…hopefully.

Orr

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Lil' Louis - "French Kiss" Version 1



The first time I heard this track was on a friend's Walkman, cassette fresh dubbed from a KDVS (Davis, CA.) late night house radio program. This felt like a forbidden jam. X-rated for sure and the exhilarating vibe of this naughty groove and decelerating tempo did a number on the teenage psyche. DJ Louis Burns, a Chicago based house producer hit it right with this classic track. The first version of the video, which was rejected by the label was a recent youtube discovery and worth sharing. Check it!

-Simon Bananaspam

Monday, April 13, 2009

King Roc's Chapters

I have to confess, I’ve been on a Steely Dan kick for the best part of a week and other music has faded into the background. It’s hard to beat “Glamour Profession” as you walk through the quiet streets of North Beach in the wee hours of the morning. I love walking through quiet cities in the dark, mainly because the music in your headphones becomes a real soundtrack and you can thread all your own triumphs and losses through the lyrics, with Becker and Fagen’s tales of sordid trysts, chemical dependency and lost dreams creating a backdrop your imagination can work with.

However, I’m not here to write about Steely Dan, because what could I tell you about them that hasn’t already been written. So I want to tell you about another record entirely, which is equally usable for nocturnal excursions, from another time, place and style. King Roc is a British musician and dj, who deals in deep house and minimal techno. About two years ago when he became fatigued by the 4/4 beat of those genres (who doesn’t) he luckily ran into Australian graphic designer and illustrator Seb Godfrey, aka Drunkpark.

They conspired to craft a concept album that didn't need to explain itself, and would all start with a set of four collectable 12"s, each with poster by Seb. The first one, which dropped in the winter of 2007, had chance as a theme. Three more themed 12 inchers followed and now there is a CD of these tracks, which have not only been compiled but taken apart and restructured in different genres to what they were originally created in.

The album takes in ambient, trip hop, house, techno and rock. It’s a damn good listen, mainly because there are so many atmospheric, involving tracks on it. The record sounds brand new but somehow takes your mind back to the glory days of the early ‘90s when the likes of Orbital, BBG, and Jam and Spoon were ruling the dance-floors. Hypnotone also come to mind on more than one occasion during the course of the record. No need for a track by track dissection, just scoop it and prepare to immerse yourself — or be immersed — in a drifting, throbbing and elevating musical experience. Hokay?

Orr




Thursday, April 9, 2009

Super Furries With New Album.

The new Super Furry Animals record, Dark Days-Light Years, is almost upon us, it will be released digitally on the 14th of April and vinylally on the 21st. It’s a bouncy, twelve track opus with the lads returning to earlier psychedelic and kraut rock tinged territory. It also has some grand song titles, such as the opening track, “Crazy Naked Girls,” and the humdinging, “The Very Best of Neil Diamond.” I’m not a huge Animals fan, so I’m hearing this record with fresh ears, and a little stroll around 25th Street and Harrison, near the park, in San Francisco this morning was vastly improved by these toons and others like “White Socks/Flip Flops,” "Mt" and “Moped Eyes."

The Super Furries take ‘60s inflected rock, 'n' roll it around in tripped out German inflections and hints of funk and electronic dance music. The arrangements are addictive, the lyrics compelling and wry, and the overall feeling of the record is that of a certain world-weariness that’s fortunately bolstered by an unvanquished capacity for optimism and joy. Nick McCarthy from Franz Ferdinand provides the German spoken word guest vocals on “Inaugural Trams,” and does a wunderbar job btw.

It’s a great record for walking around, driving around, getting around, arsing around and fucking around to. “Inconvenience” is a hot jam too, and “Cardiff In The Sun” is a kicky slice of dreamy, modern fuzzydelia. A well scoopable rekkid I have to say. Niceness!

Orr
Click For mp3

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Lemonade - Big Weekend (Roman Stange Mix)

At the moment I am inundated with rock stuff that I need to listen to, ponder and then wax poetic about. However, in the meantime before tackling this sysiphean task I am dragged back into abstract electronic territory by a gentleman by the name of Roman Stange. Stange is a Michigan native who arrived in San Francisco via Kurdistan and Boston. Being from that mid-western state he has that magical touch for techno inflected strangeness, or is it Stangeness? You decide.

Anyways, he gave me a dvd with some toons on it, and quite a few of them were well good, but one kinda jumped out at me in a big way. I gave him a call to enquire about the name of it and it is his remix of Lemonade’sBig Weekend.” It’s a loping, rolling technoid thing with touches of the original vocals and bass-line and some drifting dislocated synth sounds that bring it into an outer orbit. This coupled with incessant, tough, stripped down drums that evolve effortlessly into elements of the original’s more staccato rolls make this track perfect for arranging the dance floor into some semblance of order before shaking it up again with a stirring a bass break culled, once again, in whole from the band’s own version.

A dirty, grungey sound coupled with some crisp textures and percussion elements make this track a winner for the AM come down, or for pushing the floor forward while not being too pushy about it, but effectual enough to maintain movement. That’s a feat in itself and Stange seems to be able to achieve it fluidly. That his beats are way funky is a welcome addition to his capacity for brain tickling oddness.

Keep an eye on this guy, and his Auralism imprint, which is also home to the likes of Alland Byallo, Clint Stewart and Jason Short. To top all this off Stange's down-tempo tracks are equally involving and mesmerizing, making you sway gently while projecting a lush yet quietly unsettling sense of empyrean elevation. Stange is one element, one voice, in San Francisco, that is pointing the way forward to the post-minimal, post electro, post-post-post punk event horizon which we are silently but relentlessly approaching. I think we’re going to hear more about this guy, in fact I hope so.

Orr

Click For mp3

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Welcome! From Orr

To those of you who might be new to reading Bananaspam — I’ve noticed a few new folks from near and far — welcome to the blog and let me give you a brief run down on what I do. I write about records that I like, plain and simple, be it an indie album from yesterday, a rock album from 1981, a house record from 1989, a disco tune from 1978, an Italo thing from 1982 or some new electronic thing that’s not out yet. I’ve been djing since 1986 and I’ve been a vinyl junkie since 1980. I have a lot of tunes, so please don’t expect a format or a genre or a marketing niche, those are corporate bidness concerns, my concern is music.

I’m also a classic Detroit techno nut, I love top 40 r&b from the ‘70s til today (if there is any of that anymore), classic hip-hop takes me back, I’m partial to the Undertones, and Thin Lizzy rocks me too. I’ll listen to Mary J one minute, a Baldelli classic the next and I’ll fire on Motorhead for a rush. I love music and I adore vinyl, but music in any format is fine as long as it makes a glorious noise! Genres are for mainstream radio; music is for life!

Orr

Click For mp3

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Saturday, April 4, 2009

Dark Entrails - The Horrors' upcoming second album.

Sometimes an album speaks to you, and you can think about it in terms of era, politics, a change of the guard, a draw of the cards. And sometimes an album just grabs you because it’s really fucking good. The Horrors’ new opus, Primary Colors could be slagged by the uninitiated as the work of a group of Cure copyists. Is it not, it is an album produced by a group of young Englishmen who grasp the future as passionately as they do the past. But the future is rarely grasped, it unfolds in a leisurely fashion, it tugs at your eyes and head like the arching, blurred streetlights on Mission Street that punctuate every unarriving bus and every thought lost on a Bay Area gust of air or abruptly found again in a seismic shudder.

“Mirror’s Image,” track one on Primary Colors doesn’t let you indulge all that fog drenched paranoia and self indulgence, it lunges out at you the way you’d expect a product of the isles to do, it comes on like the intro to a mellow German minimal house track before it slowly, methodically and slyly grabs your head and fucks it into a distant, never imagined tomorrow, full of shreds of Bauhaus, Ride, The Cramps, The Doors, The Sonics, Neu!, and the Horrors. Anglo-Saxons, Celts and Normans, the earth cooling and people traveling over water and then you forget about all this in dark, loud rooms, filled with dark, loud people, their eyes and smiles and glances flooding into your delicate head

By track five, “New Ice Age” your battered and delighted psyche gets a chance to realize that is has just been pummeled by an excellence that rains down blow after blow. “New Ice Age” wheels around, grabs you by your collar and swings your drunken ass around the room and loses your dollars…holler! We could continue with this poetic tail chase, but let’s put it in simple terms (or not). This is a really good album by a group of artists who have grasped the music with gobsmacking clarity and who have so subtly and deftly cultivated a look and a style that they can subvert the intended effect of this image, turning it in on itself, and blowing your preconceptions out of the water, as you ponder all the other skinny white boys with accents and tight pants, who might look just a tad on the gothic side. Is it a way of saying, hate us, assholes, ‘cos of the way we look. We rock nonetheless? Who says you can’t be excellent and dress excellent? The Horrors beg to differ.

The group is used to adverse reactions as evidenced in their jaunt around the UK with the Arctic Monkeys last year, which produced what best could be called a mixed reception, with the Monkeys’ fans hurling a fair amount of projectiles at them. That’s a good sign though? Right? The Horrors’ sophomore piece is top music from a top band, obviously staffed by some smart, thoughtful types. Only thoughtful individuals would crash their Birthday Party and garage inclinations into uncharted stretches of kraut rock, electronics and lush, layered shoe gaze territory. More horror please.

The Horrors will be in the US in April and May, including appearances at Coachella, Webster Hall in NY and The Fillmore in San Francisco. Check ‘em.

Orr

Friday, April 3, 2009

Less Is More In The Here And Now

Sometimes the swirl of thoughts in my head becomes too much, and I am left in stasis by their movement. Isn’t that a conundrum, a contradiction? The doctors say I’m really low in serotonin, chemically low in joy, chemically high in stress, prone to days of darkness, weeks even. Not much fun, huh? Leaves you prone to things and wrongful accusations of being a curmudgeon. But maybe we’re all guilty of being blessed but still selfishly feeling we’re being oppressed. By ourselves? But we could be worse, or we could be rubberneckin?’ Not really my style to be honest but sometimes you have to count your blessings.

In the calm eye of the swirl of my thoughts is where I count them, and on that islet, that eyelet, all is well. All is well simply because the music comes through in waves, through a narrow opening, it becomes joy like that in Kavanagh’s “Advent;” “We have tested and tasted too much, lover. Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder.” From a wallet too full, comes no hunger, and my music was always a music of hunger. When there’s unlimited supply — like EMI — then there’s a dearth of anything that even approaches soulful, whatever soulful means. Is it an energy, like anger? Then the same plastic paddy from North London had something to say on that too, an energy derived from an abundance of cortisol, and a hunger for joy. Take the medicine and feel the calmness. It’s underwhelming is it not?

Land of hunger indeed, but I’ll spare you Bonoesque meanderings on the Famine etc. You can rubberneck about it later on wiki. Back to that compressed joy ready to unfold. It rolls out in sound always. It floats, sways, grinds and halts in fluid motion or in stacatto rhythms. It shunts back and then lurches forward, one step back and two steps into the future. The music never hints at anything or anyone that produced it, it just is. It never needs to come from an unlimited supply, it can come from nothing, from a dollar out of fifteen cents, or no sense at all. Maybe that’s it, nonsense, this nonsense.

Maybe the music I hear is dwarfed by a goliath with an unlimited supply, it may stand meek surrounded by lawyers, guns and money, but when it elevates, when it lifts off, when it soars into the future, it bursts out through that narrow opening where wonder is kept, and it blooms, it balloons, it explodes its colors in my head and the storm clears and the eye of it becomes all of it, the aye of it even. The music never stops, it never can and never will. Like Weller said, “see the tyrants panic, see their crumbling empires fall, then tell ‘em we don’t fight for fools, ‘cos love is in our hearts,” and in the swirl of our heads, and in the hunger and in the narrow channel where joy comes in slowly and leaves fast and where the future sleeps like Shelley’s lions in slumber, only to rise “in unvanquishable number.” The future is here, it’s time to wake up.

Orr

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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Bullion - "Young Heartache" EP

I keep harping on about the looming post electro era and how it will manifest. It seems it will do so in a number of ways through a number of artists. From Nite Jewel to the diverse and artful onslaught of Exploited Records to this, one of my newest discoveries, Bullion. I can’t say I know much about this artist except for the “Young Heartache” EP, which I just purchased a few days ago and a few things I’ve listened to online, including the rather wicked “Rude Effort” off the “Get Familiar” 7” EP, mastered by MJ Cole no less, but I have to say that I've like what I've heard.

The “Young Heartache” EP is a sly amalgam of hip-hop, Balearic vibes — or a feel that can be easily placed in a Balearic context. Isn’t that the essence of Balearic? — and that abstract capacity for wide-eyed, Beach Boys type arrangements that make Animal Collective compelling. But this is British beat music; the raw, crooked edges of electro colliding with the enveloping warmth of the post-Bush, coke comedown. It’s infinitely less defeatist than Burial and though the music stargazes and sun worships it won’t turn into cocktail fare for yuppies.

Fire on “Time For Us All To Love” and “Are You The One?” for a brief glimpse of what is to come, and what has always been; tuneful forward, looking beat music that lifts a foot, a mood or a movement. This one creeps up on you, and that's always a good sign. A keeper, so keep harping on about it.

Orr

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Blank Dogs, Brilliant Colours and Nodzzz @ The Knockout, SF 3/29

Thanks to its staff and resident DJs, who have paid their dues through enough of the indie scene's ups and downs to know something good when they hear it, The Knockout has been able to host a number of up-and-coming Brooklyn bands all out of proportion with its size and location. Shows like The Vivian Girls last year (just before their album--the original pressing, that is--went to the top of the eBay watch lists of bloggers everywhere) and Blank Dogs last night are must-see events if you live in SF and care about what goes on in that far away land where indie bands move to "make it," whatever that means in this day and age. Blank Dogs definitely fit that NY mold, teetering precariously between punk and post-punk with hints of the Ramones and Television as well as early Cure and, most interestingly, with a rickety home-built synth lurking off in the corner, Pere Ubu. As you might expect from a relatively new band with a toweringly large discography (Mr. Blank Dog is an avid home recorder, apparently), some songs hit the mark more than others. The untapped potential of that synth, though, looking so weird and cool yet not making much of a sound, was the real disappointment of their set.

Despite the occasional heavy-hitting touring band, however, some of the most exciting stuff going on at The Knockout is decidedly home-grown. The only San Francisco band on much-hyped NY label What's Your Rupture?, Nodzzz humbly took the opening slot, starting the party off right with a different set of late '70s influences, this time closer to the nerdy Athens, GA college rock of the DBs, recalling the B-52's, even, in the time before they hooked up with a producer ("I'm from Planet Z!", shouted one guitarist). Nodzzz have gotten a lot of attention already, but it is nice to have them here as a local band and playing around frequently. They really do put on a fun show. Sandwiched between them and Blank Dogs were Brilliant Colours, a relatively new local band who have the honor of opening both this show and the aforementioned Vivian Girls gig last year, and who are quickly finding their sound, putting their own mark on the '80s indie anglophilia that their name evokes. Like a poppier Wedding Present or a less distorted Black Tambourine, they've been looking for the sweet spot between energy and melody, and they're getting pretty close to finding it; their debut 7" has just been released and is definitely worth picking up. All in all, it was one of those all-too-rare nights: come for the out-of-town band you keep hearing about, leave amazed instead by everything that's going on in your own backyard.

-DJ In the Manner of a Leprechaun