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!


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.”


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!!


**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.


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.


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