So Long

Seems like I write this post quarterly, which probably explains why I’m not a CEO of a company, or any other position requiring calm and rewarding longevity. If you followed my other Tumblr hangouts, you know the dominos have been falling. Now, it’s RC’s turn to tick over.

Thanks to new opportunities, the future is blindingly bright. It will also be busy. Extremely busy. Meaning, my E.C. ramblings regarding entombed electro and dusty disco won’t have enough sand to fill a miniature hourglass. So, if I can’t offer quality (“Captain, we have to dive below this flak fire of typos!”), I don’t really want to waste your time. Anyway, I could continue but videos tagged with a single sentence was never my style. I’m just glad paragraph tags don’t cost money.

If you read any of this, thanks. And thanks for sticking with me while I tried to improve my writing. I hope you found at least one neat thing on here. Of course, I hope it was a disco track or a soft jazz song because, well, I’m an ass and retooling perceptions is my fuel.

With that, I depart. In the immortal words of Throwdown, “That’s all there is to say. But I got one thing left to say.”

Codebreaker - First True Love Affair

Debate the merits as an optimistic philosophy as much as you wish, but, in music, eternalism is a very real thing. Genres don’t die so much as they move away to a different demographic, occasionally one of greater exposure, though it’s more often to one with less. Still, once there in the new environs, it does something strange: it finds all related styles, takes portions of their genetic code, and creates a clone. This mishmash is implanted back in its parents and hatches out the others like a cicada. Then, the mutant buzzes back in to town to see who really remembers.

In action: Despite the efforts of ’70s jockeys, complicit baseball organizations, and sticks of dynamite, disco was never vanquished. It just moved back home and spent a lot of time abroad, certainly to less fanfare, but still kicking with a beating ticker. Before RAM made it cool for fours to return to the floor, groups like Codebreaker were the keepers of the roof fire. Their 2011-released The Space Chase would be a banger in any decade, yet it makes a lot more sense now. “First True Love Affair” is how we remember the music of yesterday: as a patchy quilt with frayed edges. It pulls in threads with an anachronistic glee, conjoining chilly electro with Moroder synths and R&B asides. It couldn’t survive in its target time since we’d consider these elements too disparate to fit together. (Imagine blending ratchet with the crop of Kate Bush-alikes. This will be a thing in ten years.) These days, we’ve done enough mental re-arranging to lump all of this into the same pile. It’s an entire night of dancing distilled. And, it’s strong enough to keep doing it. That is, until we wave it away, it leaves, and combines again with the DNA of the many.

Cortex - Troupeau Bleu

Funky jazz with a bossa-nova heartbeat from France? Not the most expected byline for one of hip-hop’s recent go-to sample sources. But, hey, reality exists to confound. So, into everyone’s deck it shall go. And, fetch outrageous prices it sure did. Still, gotta admit, Wiz Khalifa, Curren$y, and Rick Ross know what’s up.

Primarily the concern of Alain Gandolfi and Alain Moin, Cortex cut three LPs in the late ’70s, with a fourth “lost” album finally released this year. (The 1979 recorded I Heard a Sigh. Great title.) “Troupeau Bleu,” is off their 1975 debut of the same name, descending down bubbly progressions like a Slinkee. Though it has the characteristics of soft rock fluff, “Troupeau” swings hard, akin to Harvey Mason taking the reigns on a Serge Gainsbourg joint. The ghost notes are out of this world, keeping pace with the ultra-active bass. Of course, all of that is under the hood. The surface pleasures are more than up to snuff. The clever counter-rhythm piano comps, the searing sax, the ultra cool singer. All of it just right to eat up space in the sampler.

Broadcast - Locusts

Appearing as the flip-side to their “Come on Let’s Go" single and later collected on The Future Crayon comp, Broadcast's “Locusts” now sounds rather timeless since it has, well, finally found its time. The band — yes, they were bigger than a duo in the Noise Made By People days — wouldn’t be that out of place among the contemporary indie-pop cohort rediscovering the pleasures of trip-hop, broken beat, and clicks & cuts. Nearly fifteen years on, others have gotten a handle on how to infuse the futuristic construction of this avant-structuring — as if someone was channel surfing and hit the underlying rhythms perfectly — with the warmth of instruments plucked from dad’s David Axelrod albums. Yet, Broadcast still seems to do this more nimbly, like their primacy afforded them first skate on a freshly zamboni’d rink. “Locusts”’ percussion sputters, the strings are akin to hairballs, but everything seems to be in its right place, even when it would appear the Art Ensemble of Chicago and Can are engaged in a dodgeball duel that has subbed out the ball for their equipment. Huh. Perhaps the younger set isn’t quite ready yet.

In early 2011, singer Trish Keenan, who had such a knack for being the grounding voice of Broadcast’s outre compositions, unexpectedly passed. Remaining member James Cargill has said there’s another album in the works featuring Keenan’s contributions. One hopes so. Now is a great time to give people the reason to catch up.

Rose Tattoo - Butcher and Fast Eddy

There comes a point in life when one relents and admits AC/DC is kinda awesome. Sure, it’ll happen with other dad-rock-relegated bands, too. (For instance, you’ll buy a CCR boxset after a dinner party discussion with an engineer. Bet on it.) But, it’ll probably happen with AC/DC first. You’ll be cruising in a friend’s car, digested-a-thousand-times classic rock feeding in through the FM dial. Suddenly, zzzzzzt, old Young chords will draw blood. You’ll feel a rush; awoken, alive. What was once dusty will sport a new lustre and you’ll tap into an energy shared by brutes, sick-bucket blues, and the empowering properties of no-nonsense rock.

They’ve got you. The bar room doors are held wide open. Similar strains begin to wander on in.

Australia’s Rose Tattoo will be one of the first to request a pint. Started in ‘76 to meet the more-slide-guitar demands of ex-Buffalo Peter Wells, the band’s eponymous debut (1978) is charged by the same ancient rock guiding a certain Scotch family. Indeed, “Butcher and Fast Eddy,” the six-minute A-side talker, has a beat you could probably dial-up on your grandma’s organ. In musical terms, it’s sheer simplicity, rarely removing the needle from the groove. Yet, that’s not accounting for the intangibles. Wells slides are meathead menacing, a luring stare you can feel burning into the back of your skull even in the darkest alleys. And, Angry Anderson’s whiskey-saturated rasp is a penny in an outlet. Together, the two spin a story of deceit, taking tropes and rendering them utterly convincing. It’s legit, CNN for tough guys.

And, you probably would’ve skipped it if you held on tightly to your outmoded ideas regarding a slashed acronym. But, you know there’s more between the lines than all night shaking. If not, you will soon.

Upcoming Metal Releases: 4/13/2014 – 4/19/2014

Yeah, it’s Monday. If you’re reading this in your office cube, we feel for you. We do.

Upcoming Metal Releases: 4/13/2014 – 4/19/2014

Yeah, it’s Monday. If you’re reading this in your office cube, we feel for you. We do.

Ausmuteants - Tinnitus

"Did I miss my time?"

Welcome to the five words which incessantly loop throughout my brain during the day. It has been especially rough recently, as I’ve been pouring over punk retrospectives constructed from the oral retellings of the folks who were in the thick of it. Hindsight is not only 20/20, it powers a Cyclop-ian beam of energy, cutting through what you perceive to be your modern manacles. Cool, instead of wasting my life I could be released by music. PHOOOOOOOOOOOOONG. You daydream about the freedom of decades ago, when a path was blazed for you by braver geniuses.

Of course, that big brain could, uh, be you now. Hey, you’re a “fuck it” away. If only you could find the time. And didn’t have work tomorrow. And…could…play…something.

I get the feeling Ausmuteants, keyed up miscreants from Geelong, say “fuck it” a lot. Except, they follow through. Their sound is part Dickies DGAF, dashes of Devo, and a dollop of chocolate Undertones, all played on equipment found in The Murder City Devils' dumpster. It doesn't try to be the hot thing, it just does its thing, like those hallowed heroes of all yellowed, curling zines. And, god bless 'em for it. In their insulated insolence, they inspire moments of true brilliance. “Tinnitus,” is Total Control if they spent all weekend stuck in a hermetic chamber filled with grey-matter-munching helium. Its puttering simplicity would’ve floored Kim Fowley. The groove holding its ticking synth line would’ve required a crowbar to pry off Peel’s needle.

Best part, though? Could be you. Except, it wasn’t. Answer to the query posed initially? Yes.

Bearcubbin’! - Girls with Fun Haircuts

If we’re ever on the Newlywed Game together, you should probably know The Mercury Program is one of my all-time favorite bands. Easy and cool, yet burning with the rhythmic fire of Tony Allen, The Mercury Program reconstituted Tortoise for the library. Their gentle cheeriness was camouflage for monster prog chops, calculating math rock equations with wistful twinkling. I still jam their discography at least once a month which makes me naturally predisposed to enjoy anything with that DNA.

Problem? Other avenues took me away from the “scene” for far too long. Now, I’m back in town and finding there’s a sizable circle sharing my kinda sweet tooth.

One of those bands is Portland’s Bearcubbin’! who do this thing with a cheekier wink. It’s closer to Battles or STAGE KIDS, jittering courtesy of a high-caffeine intake. They play hop-scotch with their style, sometimes landing with a Fugazi THWUMP or inside a square marked Dub Housing. They win you over when the asides grow boyfriend/girlfriend familiar. Then, you can’t imagine your life without their manic Pixy Stix attacks and angular guitar chiming.

Far Enough, But Not So Far That You Can’t Get Back - An Interview With Simon Slator

Four Patterns, British tone synthesist Simon Slator’s third full-length, is the ambient album you embrace without a sell-by date, the one lasting longer than a cut flower. Free to be heard thanks to the loving dusting provided by Free Floating Music, the decade-old drifting cloud measures well compared to the style’s ideals, Brian Eno’s Discreet Music and Music for Airports. The former, however, is the most accurate comparison. Where Eno examined the algorithmic elasticity of two melodic lines, Simon Slator squares the master. The product echoes the original ambient intention while providing an intricate proof for adherents to pick apart. Yet, it’s the purity of the formula which wins out, eventually subsuming divergent desires and leaving a listener in a state of blissful focus. It’s Occam’s, essentially. Four Patterns doesn’t click or cut. Nor does it incite tinnitus like a white noise whirling dervish. It’s spartan traditionalism speaks to the power of unuttered simplicity. You reward it as your first mate on a raft riding tides of sleep or a guard against outside forces during a relaxing reading rendezvous. It returns the favor by being exactly what you expect when imagining RIYL explanations. The revelation is, of course, Four Patterns makes good on the promise.

Now, after ending a self-imposed hiatus, Slator has reappeared with grander ambitions. His newest, The Lake, reflects a private press new-age-y aestheticism/asceticism. It still walks the ambient line, this one traced by ’90s practitioners named Alio Die and Steve Roach. But, the shimmering synth spring is fed with an Iasos-ian tributary of self-awareness, consciousness, and transcendence. The three tracks attune themselves to your troubles, eating away at stress-created pathogens in the manner of white blood cells. That’s not a happy accident. The creator, in his own words: “The final track, “The Lake”, is about isolating oneself from the world. The imagery is that of taking a small boat out into the middle of a lake, and just floating there with just the gentle ebb of the water for company. You’re far enough out so that nobody can disturb you, but not so far away that you can’t get back.” In a way, it’s the matter equivalent of Lustmord’s anti-matter, achieving its goal through the same means, though evoking a contrasting emotional end.

Needless to say, heady stuff, in all senses. Thankfully, Simon was able to further elucidate. He filled me in regarding his process, past, and how he’s currently shaping his art.

…..

To start, do you mind detailing who you are and how you came to compose ambient music?

By day, I’m a mild-mannered analyst/programmer from the town of Tamworth in Staffordshire; and by night I’m a waiter/chef/mixologist/Xbox technician to my two children.

I first started composing ambient music back in 2000 – I was making music using DOS-based tracking software at the time, trying to make something that sounded like Tangerine Dream, Jean Michel Jarre and Mike Oldfield. Back then, I just saw ambient music as soft randomness – a way of getting several minutes of music to pad an album out without any real effort.

In the accompanying liner notes of the Free Floating Music re-release of Four Patterns, you mention this work was born of a more mathematical and theoretical approach. Can you break down your process in that regard? And, did you have an inkling the four patterns would fit together so seamlessly, or was it more of an operation of chance?

A lot of my compositions from around that time started by developing distinct patterns and finding interesting combinations using different sounds; but after a while, I started getting an impression of what the piece represented. With “Four Patterns”, I wanted it to be more abstract. If memory serves, I’d been reading up on pieces like Terry Riley’s “In C” – which had a similar principle on a much larger scale. It was all strictly tonal, so I had no doubts that the four patterns would lock together seamlessly, but the chordal harmonies were (deliberately) pure chance.

Do you remember the first time ambient music clicked with you? What was it about that experience which inspired you to create your own soundscapes?

I believe it was when I heard Steve Roach’s “Structures from Silence” for the first time. I loved how gentle, fluid and rhythmic it was – very calming and meditative, but also very uplifting at the same time. I wasn’t much of a composer in the traditional sense – more of a pragmatist – and realised this music was more than just “soft randomness”. You had to trust your ears and your imagination more than your musical knowledge. Ever the pragmatist, it inspired me to start exploring and learning through composition and experimentation.

You’ve recently started composing again after a break. On this side of the divide, do you feel any differently towards your old work?

I must admit, since “Four Patterns” was re-released, there’s been a surprising amount of positive interest in my older works, so I’ve been taking the time to re-appraise them – trying hard not to listen to them with “artist’s ears” and stop listening for things to fix or tweak. It’s been quite beneficial as I’ve now started looking at them in a more positive light.

Is there anything new informing your compositions now that could only be captured or understood by the older you?

I’d say my new compositions are deeper emotionally – I don’t think the younger me would have made anything like “The Lake” as, while it still works as a series of ‘sound-paintings’, he probably wouldn’t have empathised with the spiritual and social themes within it.

Where would you like to take ambient? Is there a dream end goal — say, working with an orchestra ala William Basinski? If time, money, and outside forces weren’t an obstacle, what would you do?

If given the opportunity, I’d love to make ambient music with more exotic and traditional instruments – kind of like ambient/world fusion. It may sound a bit of a novelty, but I reckon if I formed a quartet of Hurdy Gurdy players, you’d at least get some of the most folksy drone-ambient music ever made!

How do you get into the right frame of mind to write, perform, and record? Is stoking the fire easier or harder the longer you do it?

Admittedly, it’s difficult when you work full time and have a family to support - you’re lucky if you get an hour to yourself each night; but I try and do a little bit each day, even if it’s just for 10-15 minutes or so; and if something’s working, I might go and make myself a cup of coffee so I can keep going for another hour.

Are there any new sounds/artists currently catching your ear?

As I’ve been out of the loop for some time, I’ve still got quite a bit of catching up to do; but recently, I’ve found the music of Phillip Wilkerson, Mark Ward, Scott Lawlor, C.Paradisi and The Lime Room quite interesting indeed.

Finally, to those who are beginning to create their own music, what advice can you impart to help guide their travels?

The only things I would say is: remain positive, be honest with yourself and have fun.

…..

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Davidge - Gallant Foxes

It was perhaps unavoidable Neil Davidge’s Slo Light would garner comparisons to Massive Attack, the group he has co-written/co-produced with for a few decades. Sure, he has other credits — DNA, the under-appreciated Sunna, haunting bro dreams as Halo 4's primary OST sculptor. But, the iconic iconoclasts of Bristol are his calling card. And, on the opening title track, Davidge appears intent on befriending slammed scribes by giving them a familiar point to pivot thinkpieces upon. Flowing from a trip-hop rhythm set to a slow tumble are “Teardrop"s. It’s pretty, well-produced, well-written. Just kinda blah. You think you get it. You crack another nutshell.

Then, “Gallant Foxes” leaps over the lazy designations.

Now, “Foxes” isn’t fresh, either. Quite the opposite, in fact. Reference: So Young So Cold, modernized, oomph’d, and volumized. The requisite irresistible Parisian ingenue here is actually Welsh, canny, and more worldly than you, thank you very much. Hello Cate Le Bon, a skilled crooner who somehow can attain aloofness and detachment while maintaining oodles of charisma. She rides a near-perfect electro pulse, recalling an era when enterprising engineers brought motorik into the garage for tinkering. Need a mix pairing? The Barlow-assisted Anika and the Godrich-guided Ultraista would be natural companions. Makes sense: Of course Davidge joins a table set for two others forever lashed to their significant paychecks.

Comparable to those compatriots, Davidge is able to free himself on subsequent tracks without cutting the umbilical chord attached to his true strengths. Slo Light burns slowly and is all the better for it, unveiling new aspects whenever the wick is relit. It’s kinda like…Massive Attack in that resp-crap. Sorry.