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!


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?


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.


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.


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.


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.