Saturday, January 19, 2008

Parson - Throw Some Ds (Planet Mu)

With 2007 bathing in grime, it seems that everyone is ready to jump on the dubstep bandwagon. But with a sudden saturation of new artists and material, how does one decipher and pick out the standouts. We could thank Mary Anne Hobbs and her acclaimed BBC Radio sessions, as well as an excellent Warrior Dubz compilation on Planet Mu that served as a good stepping stone into the world of dubstep. The label followed up with 12" releases from Pinch, Benga, MRK1, and my current subject, a debut release from Parson. Based out of Austin, Texas, Chris Parson drops immensely h-e-a-v-y bass over dark step with chopped vocals with a definitive unique US hip-hop flavor. With the help of Skint, the B-side is just as dirty ("filthy" if you will), vibrating my neighbors baby carriage across the street. This two track EP also secured a spot on 10 Tons Heavy and 200 compilations from Planet Mu. And if the wide vinyl grooves are too much for your expensive needles, pick up the lossless FLAC version from Be sure to also grab Parson's Ghostliner EP with a remix by Distance on Dubline Audio.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Landau Orchestra - Janus Plays Telephone (Milan)

Landau, a group of musicians collaborating across the net, set aside their staple IDM sound that perfectly suited Merck (oh, Merck, [sigh!] how I miss you), and organized a real orchestra, full of brass, percussion and string instruments, along with a pair of turntables, a laptop and a Rhodes. The experimental jazzy downtempo result is instantly gratifying (kind of reminds me when The Herbaliser joined forces with a group of nine players to form The Herbaliser Band and release an instantly classic Session One). The Landau Orchestra is geared more towards an all electro-acoustic instrumentation, and the sound is executed flawlessly by this highly skilled and professionally trained group of jazz musicians. Releasing on Milan Records have opened up some potential doors for Landau, since the global label provides major support for film and television (friendly warning - Milan is a member of the RIAA), and provided an opportunity for Landau to remix Javier Navvarate's soundtrack for Pan's Labyrinth (iTunes download only). Overall, I'm glad that a long standing electronic group is able to infuse the IDM heads with a kick of jazz - perhaps we'll see a full film score in the future. Recommended if you like Nostalgia 77, Skalpel, Jaga Jazzist, and Jazzanova.

Gridlock - Formless (Hymen)

Here's another perfect example, of how dating music can underestimate its beauty and importance - a 2003 release on Hymen that still holds up really well today. San Francisco's Mike Cadoo and Mike Wells decided to end the ten-year Gridlock project in 2005, yet Cadoo continued his development in music and released an acclaimed ambient and shoegazer album on highly regarded n5MD label (which, incidentally, he manages), titled In Distance, under his Bitcrush alias. In Formless, we can already detect Cadoo's early transformation into atmospheric soundscapes offset by solid, post-industrial influenced IDM beats, that he has been perfecting with Wells, along with his drum'n'bass influences from releases as Dryft. Gridlock even managed to secure a spot on a coveted Travel Sickness box set compilation (which I finally tracked down in Spain and snatched at a hefty price). To me, this is the music that blends all of my favorite elements, and is at the root of definition of IDM, even as the term is on its way out. Highly recommended for collectors who wish to own a piece of history. RIYL: Beefcake, Architect, Proem, Displacer. Favorite tracks: Pallid, Chrometaphor, and Displacement

Belong - October Language (Carpark)

With their debut release on Carpark, the New Orleans duo, Turk Dietrich and Michael Jones, grind through filter overload, guitar based, heavily processed and distorted loops that seem to go on forever. For me, noise happens to be a new territory, and with the tightly clenched jaw I smile at its beauty, as I attempt to stand upright through the torrent of shoegaze unleashed by a hurricane. The intricate detail is revealed through layers of intense sonic bombardment, like staring at an abstract sharply outlined object for minutes, only to see its true contour after glancing at a white wall. As silence fades in, I am left with only microscopic sediments that encapsulate the feelings of destroyed and tumbled New Orleans. Considering there's a lot of data to sift through, the quality of the mastering is top notch, performed by none other than another New Orleans native and friend, Joshua Estis (Telefon Tel Aviv). Estis and Dietrich have previously worked together under Beneli moniker in remixing Nine Inch Nails' The Fragile. Dietrich also played the guitar on a track for Telefon Tel Aviv's Map Of What is Effortless. Highly recommended if you dig Ben Frost as much as I do. Also for the likes of Fennesz, Tim Hecker and William Basinski.

Philip Glass - Music In Twelve Parts

Orange Mountain Music, a label created by Kurt Munkacsi, producer of most Philip Glass recordings, re-[re]-releases a new recording of the classic Music In Twelve Parts as a set of twelve individual [iTunes only] files (upgraded to 256 kbps), scheduled at one per month in celebration of the great composer's 70th birthday year. I grabbed the first two parts from iTunes (at $1.99 a piece), and became instantly entranced in the hypnotic repetitive patterns that explored the flow of melody, and just when I would "tune into" the presented concept, it would change like a school of rapidly swimming tiny fish. Throughout the pieces I find myself drifting in and out of consciousness, and after twenty minutes (per track) I feel relaxed and refreshed, like from a lengthy meditation. Not surprisingly wanting more, I looked up an earlier, 1996 recording of the same work. Although the three disc set is offered by some retailers at over forty dollars, I was shocked to see the entire performance available in MP3 format (also at 256 kbps, yet DRM-free) from Amazon at only $9.99. What a steal - DONE! I must comment that I like this older recording to be better - it is warmer, more organic, and is a tiny bit slower. My recommendation would be to skip the marketing gimmick and head over straight to Amazon, to try the digital rip before you commit to the entire album. Perfect head-cleaner for a busy mind. Prescribed for musicians at a piece per day, prior to recording sessions, preferably on an empty stomach.

Music In Twelve Parts (Amazon MP3 Download)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Swod - Sekunden (City Centre Offices)

Swod is front running the evolution of modern classical composition with their second full length release on one of my favorite labels, City Centre Offices. The ping-pong approach of passing the files back and forth among two talented composers who met in Berlin in 1991, Oliver Doerell and Stephan Wöhrmann, cemented a perfect distance bridge for a marvelous result. Minimal piano melodies and lo-fi filter sweeps of hissing field recordings and "the voice of a long dead cinema icon" allow for new discovered samples on each rotation. Being a long time follower of Dictaphone (Oliver Doerell's project with Roger Döring), I instantly recognize the borrowed clicks, tweaked chirps, and many other electronic treatments that are so characteristic of Dictaphone's earlier releases on CCO. Wöhrmann's piano playing adds yet another dimension to the style, and gently shifts the genre from future jazz into neo classical. I listen to this album over and over, and it seems to perfectly accompany the sentimental feeling I get when I stare out the window and watch the world run through its senseless cycles. No wonder the duo has scored silent films. Highly recommended if you like Porn Sword Tobacco, Julien Neto, Xela, and of course Dictaphone. Favorite tracks: Ja, Sekunden, and Paintage.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Pan Sonic - Katodivaihe / Cathodephase (Blast First Petite)

Always ahead of the game, Mika Vainio and Ilpo Väisänen have been experimenting with sound and noise since 1993. Before blasting their latest 2007 release through my speakers, I dusted off this Finish duo's 1997 release, Kulma, to see how it held up after ten (10!) years. And it totally mashed my mind! Here's my advice to all the artists looking for inspiration for creating innovative sound - Pan[a]Sonic's done it. The abstract and minimal sound design constructed through custom made instruments and recorded live straight to DAT (that's right, I said live) only gets more of my respect with years. In Katodivaihe, pure tones, ultrasonic pulses, and sine waves are joined by Hildur Guðnadóttir's eerie cello treatments on three astonishing tracks. The thick and low-rumbling techno beats groove with the dying circuitry and remind me of a very first all-electronic music score by Louis and Bebe Barron for 1956 Forbidden Planet (I'm a proud owner of that vinyl soundtrack). Besides this album, Vainio managed to release a single EP, titled Ikuinen, under his Ø alias for his home label, Sähkö Recordings. Recommended if you follow evolution of sound with Autechre, Alva Noto, and Fennesz. Favorite Tracks : Laptevinmeri / Laptev Sea and Suhteellinen / Comparative.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Cepia - Natura Morta (Ghostly International)

With tracks ranging from downtempo to glitchy breaks to clicky electronica, Huntley Miller releases his first full length record on Ghostly. In the past, Miller has furnished a three track and six remix EP on Sublight, and has played the bass and keyboard for a Minnesota based five-piece band, Suki Takahashi, which provided a track for Merck's Dosage compilation back in 2003. He has also contributed a treatment to Lusine's Flat Remixes. Within repetitive loops and crackling beats, something wobbles and bleeps around the statically discharged sounds, which are at times fragmented and at once familiar. With composition revolving around personal responses during a secluded production period, Miller deconstructs the melodies that hint at the state of our dying nature. Favorite track: Untitled.

Morgan Packard - Airships Fill The Sky (Anticipate Recordings)

In his micro minimal and abstract release on New York's Anticipate label, Morgan Packard, a classically trained musician, adds treatments of saxophone and accordion to straight flowing and experimental beats. Compared to releases by 12k label (Taylor Deupree comes to mind), Packard's album is full off organic pads, swirling ambient sweeps and glitchy samples. It is a perfect tool to cleanse one's palette between styles, and gently push the post-ambient listening trends towards the slow and minimal techno. I only have the digital version from iTunes, so I can not comment on the additional DVD which comes with the release, and includes "audio-visual sculptures" (with completely different music), stemming from live performances of Packard and visual artist, Joshue Ott. RIYL: Thomas Fehlmann, False, Pantha Du Prince. Favorite track: Waterbugs.

Yndi Halda - Enjoy Eternal Bliss (Burnt Toast Vinyl / Big Scary Monsters)

I've been listening to Yndi Halda for a while now, and it's an album that does not get old or tiresome. Rather, like a trip back home after a nostalgic year, the melodies are at once recognized and welcomed back with the feelings upon the very first listen. This is a first EP from a Canterbury (UK) based five piece instrumental post-rock band, although it has been floating around ever since its initial release as a three-track demo. Since then, Yndi Halda (which literally means "Enjoy Eternal Bliss" in Old Norse, a Medieval Scandinavian language) got signed by three labels, toured around the globe, and achieved world-wide distribution deal in February 2007. One of the band's talented members is James Vella, with an excellent release on Dynamophone Records under his side-project moniker A Lily [more on that later]. I'm going to skip all the adjectives and simply recommend this album, for the likes of This Will Destroy You, This Is Your Captain Speaking, Joy Wants Eternity and Caspian. Favorite tracks - all of them.

Boxcutter - Glyphic (Planet Mu)

With the music community intensely micro focused on dubstep, it seems that everyone except me has thrown up Burial on the pedestal of their 2007 charts. Glyphic, however, tends to careen away from the mundane dark moods and breathes fresh elements into a spotlight style. The experience in production and techniques behind the album clearly shows Barry Lynn's artistry as he incorporates complex jazzy grooves, deep rumbling (and properly EQed) bass, and the detailed dubbed out breaks, with every track on an album offering a unique experience. Producing from Northern Ireland's Lurgan, this is Lynn's second LP on Planet Mu, which immediately falls into my category of intelligent listening music [hmm... perhaps this is my queue to trademark a new acronym]. Lynn is one of the artists who will propel the development of the genre, continuously exploring innovative approaches and push the envelope of its evolution well after the others have exhausted the winning formula. Watch this one. Favorite tracks: Foxy and Fieldtrip.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Reminder - Continuum (Eastern Developments)

On a label "under the guidance" of Scott Herren (Prefuse 73), Joshua Mikah Abrams releases his first future jazz and instrumental hip hop album under the name Reminder. Abrams' experience, however, dates back to the 90s, with some notable contributions as a professional double bass player for The Roots' Organix, Godspeed You! Black Emperor's Yanqui U.X.O., and (of course) a couple of last albums for Savath & Savalas. Abrams is also a member of Town And Country, which has been consistently outputting downtempo albums for the Chicago's Thrill Jockey label. A little rough around the edges (which is a desired effect in the genre) the composition of trip-hop sampled beats, live instrumental deep grooves and urban rhymes from Thaione Davis, mark Continuum as an ideal entry level album. For the likes of Ninja Tune fans. Favorite tracks : Pinheiro's Message (with Akin's Portuguese spitting vocals), Now I Disappear and Dri (for its lo-fi jazzy vinyl sound).

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Aaron Spectre - Lost Tracks (Ad Noiseam)

I have a lot of respect for a versatile artist - the one that attacks the musical and the noisy, the atmospheric and the tight, the beatless and the micro-programmed. Names like Lusine, Kattoo, Hecq, and Murcof come to mind among a few, and I am excited to add Spectre to that set. With a range of style that encompasses glitch and breakcore, under his Drumcorps moniker, Spectre returns to Ad Noiseam in 2007 under his real name, with a strikingly gorgeous downtempo and idm album (when are we retiring that term "idm"?). This collection of nine tracks spans about six years of production, but (going along with my new "resolution" of not emphasizing on composition and release dates), the album is fresh, original, and is anything but dated. Warm melodies, solid beats, and protective frequency space for the bass - something too often overlooked. Highly recommended for the likes of above mentioned artists. Favorite tracks: Voices, remix of Lapsed Break Ya Neck, and Degrees featuring the lovely voice of Kazumi (think Pink Lilies or Arovane's last album).

Beware Of Safety - It Is Curtains (self)

The Silent Ballet announces their Top 50 Releases of 2007 and I frantically spend weeks just trying to catch up to the albums I missed. Among the many, rated at number sixteen (seriously, screw the numbers, huh?) comes a self released album from a Los Angeles based band. Just when I thought I've heard enough post-rock last year, BoS releases an album that makes me want to thrust it into the hands of music-agnostic-listeners and shout, "Here... here is an album that breaks through, regardless of the packaging, regardless of the wide distribution, regardless of the overblown pricing that never trickles down to the artist.. here is an album that is what it has always been about - music". Compared to the likes of Joy Wants Eternity, Explosions In The Sky, and This Will Destroy You, the four piece band skillfully controls dynamics, and the circulation of repetitive melodies and rhythm. Anxiously awaiting an LP. Favorite tracks: Kaura, The Difference Between Mind and Rain and To the Roof! Let's jump and Fall.