May 29, 2008

Bombastic Very Fantastic [Spiritualized]

"Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs To"

As noted in Matt's posting below on the "takeaway show," certain artists revel in intimacy. While the acoustics of the backseat of a car are certainly enchanting and, what some might call, "rustic," nothin' beats bombast, baby!

Case in point: Spiritualized. I've had the distinct pleasure of seeing Jason Pierce, a.k.a. J. Spaceman, and his band Spiritualized, twice in concert, and if there is one thing that this group doesn't shun its layers upon layers of instrumentation. Pierce has been called by some as a "post-modern" conductor of sorts, backing the group's distinct blend of blues rock, soul, shoegaze and drone with full piece orchestras. Hell...their 2001 album Let it Come Down had over 110 session musicians. Man...that must have been one cramped up studio!

While each Spiritualized album has their own unique sound, there are two standouts that everyone must pick up: there 1997 breakthrough Ladies and Gentleman We Are Floating in Space and their subsequent live album, Live at Royal Albert Hall. Ladies and Gentleman We Are Floating in Space is an absolute tour de force, taking the drone and shoegazing elements of Spiritualized's first two albums, Lazer Guided Melodies and Pure Phase and combining them with blue-eyed soul, british rock and beautiful orchestrations. Live at Royal Albert Hall is a perfect companion piece and has stood the test of time as what I think is the best live album ever recorded. Spiritualized thrive in the live environment, and, for them, bigger is always better.

Here's their video for "Stop Your Crying" from Let It Come Down, which features a bunch of tuxedo-clad orchestra members actin' like rock stars. Classical music is the new punk!

May 28, 2008

take awayshow

So I may be years behind the curve here, but I just learned today of a fellow by the name of Vincent Moon, who makes these mini-videos called Take Away Shows -- essentially, artists performing acoustic in interesting situations (R.E.M. in a car, Arcade Fire in an elevator). Anyway, here is one of the nice ones; Of Montreal and Axe Riverboy doing the Zombies' 'Care Of Cell 44.'

If my middle school memory serves me, they are singing a "round."

May 27, 2008

FULL SHOW: Indie Rock Suckfest, Jamaican edition

Oh man, it's all heating up now isn't it. Fresh off of Matt's Lee Perry post, here comes the full Indie Rock Suckfest Jamaican show. I posted a segment of this earlier, it was definitely one of the best shows we ever did. I remember listening to the recording for a couple of weeks afterwards, because it works as a solid mixtape. Yes there is Bob Marley on here, yes there's Lee Perry - yes, there's even Matisyahu, because we were truly on top of our game, delivering then-unheard music to the masses, or at least to milk delivery men of the greater Chicagoland area.

You have to click here first. Then download the first file on the page.

May 26, 2008

Perry Part 2

Two days ago, I had the honor of seeing the amazing Lee 'Scratch' Perry in Berlin. The man is 72 years old and still going strong.

He spoke in magical rhymes on a number of subjects, including Jesus, sex and vegetarianism:

I love Berlin! If you don't believe me, ask Merlin. If you don't believe him, ask Whirlwind.

No more meat I eat! Take it to the supermarket and park it.

I am the Internet and the Winternet.

When the show was over, I found myself bathed in a sea of satisfaction, regretting only that it might be long before I could hear any of Mr. Perry's morsels of wisdom again. Fortunately, I soon discovered an entire website full of Perryisms.

Lee, bless you.

Lee 'Scratch' Perry - Black Panta [Blackboard Jungle Dub, 1973]

May 19, 2008

Another great find of 2008: Vivian Girls

Don Cavalli had a good run for a couple of weeks, but recently I've been unable to stop listening to this song, "Tell the World" by Vivan Girls. It comes courtesy first of and then this (ahem) highly useful greasemonkey extension. Maybe should have given a "nerd alert" there.

Vivian Girls are playing a show next Monday, Memorial Day in San Francisco, with the legendary T.I.T.S., at the Knockout. I'll definitely be there representing for Hey! Student.

Vivian Girls - Tell the World [probably from a forthcoming album on Mauled by Tigers]

May 18, 2008

The Steve Reich Influence

Steve Reich, more than any other minimalist composer of the 20th century, had a profound impact on popular music. In particular, several prominent electronic music and rock music acts, such as the Orb, DJ Spooky, Tortoise, Spirtualized and Oval, cite Reich as a major influence. It's no secret why: minimalist music, much like the works of dance music, post-rock and, to a lesser extent, space rock, are wrapped in repetition, progressing via minimal change, requiring the listener to pay closer attention to the music at hand.

Though many of Reich's work are seminal, particularly 1976's ethereal Music for 18 Musicians, Electric Counterpoint (1987) is Reich's most sampled work in popular music. Broken down into three movements, "Fast," "Slow" and "Fast," the piece is a blend of Reich's early tape recording works and melodic beauty of works like Music for 18 Musicians. The technique of the piece is simple: a soloist records an electric guitar riff, loops it, and repeats the process. Ultimately, the piece has up to 10 guitar loops playing against the one live guitarist.

From personal listening experience, I know that the work has been sampled by three popular music artists: the Orb ("Little Fluffy Clouds"), RJD2 ("the Proxy") and Bullinuts ("Pizzle Road Rhapsody"). Here's the first movement of Electric Counterpoint, "Fast," followed by "Little Fluffy Clouds" and "the Proxy." Enjoy.

Steve Reich - Electric Counterpoint (Fast) [Different Trains/Electric Counterpoint LP, 1988]

The Orb - Little Fluffy Clouds [Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld LP, 1991]

RJD2 - The Proxy [Dead Ringer LP, 2002]

May 17, 2008

Massive Attack: A Retrospective

"I was lookin' back to see if you were lookin' back at me to see me lookin' back at you"

When Portishead recently released their first album in over ten years, Third, I began digging back into my catalog of what the music elite have conveniently dubbed “trip-hop.” Hatching from Bristol, England, in the beginning of the 1990s, the trip-hop movement was a revolutionizing fusion of two prevalent musical movements of the 1980s: hip-hop and British dance culture. While trip-hop eventually gave birth to sleepy, coffee-shop acts such as Thievery Corporation and banal DJ mixes from Costes, it also created inarguably some of the most interesting works of modern music. Though many cite Portishead as the landmark group of trip-hop, I always had a stronger appreciation and respect for the founders of the movement, Massive Attack. Their first and third albums, Blue Lines and Mezzanine, respectively, are easily two of the greatest musical works of the 1990s.

Blue Lines (1991)

A striking amalgam of hip-hop, dub, soul, house and jazz, Blue Lines is a startling work. The speak-song of Robert Del Naja (aka “3d”) and the tongue-twisting raps of Tricky strike a delicate balance with the more prevalent voicework of songstress Shara Nelson and reggae artist Horace Andy, creating a sublime work of contrast. As with all subsequent Massive Attack albums, the production is top-notch, sounding modern and timeless nearly two decades after its release. Standout tracks include the powerful opener “Safe from Harm,” percussive hip-hopper “Daydreaming,” and, of course, “Unfinished Sympathy,” one of the greatest singles from the 90s.

Massive Attack - Unfinished Sympathy [Blue Lines LP, 1991]

Mezzanine (1998)

With the lukewarm reception of their second album, Protection, Massive Attack set out to break the trip-hop mold with Mezzanine, a work strikingly darker in tone then their previous works. Recruiting Cocteau Twins singer Elizabeth Fraser to provide her shimmering vocals, Mezzanine absolutely shines in both production and writing. “Angel” is an opener equally as impacting as Blue Lines' “Safe from Harm,” starting with crisp drum machine beat before collapsing on itself in a wave of distorted guitars. 3D’s patented sing-song is employed perfectly on “Risingson” and “Intertia Creeps”, which are clouded in an absolute feeling of paranoia. Arguably, the album’s standout track is the stunningly beautiful “Tear Drop,” with Fraser’s angelic voice wrapped around a dusty groove and achingly beautiful harpsichord arpeggio.

Massive Attack - Tear Drop [Mezzanine LP, 1998]

May 16, 2008

Don Cavalli - "New Hollywood Babylon"

This is basically the weirdest song I've heard this year. I really like it. Mexicans... Chinese!!!!!

Don Cavalli - New Hollywood Babylon [Cryland LP, 2008]

May 15, 2008

Kid Creole

New Hey! Student blogger Matt recently posted this video to his personal blog. Could he have known that this is one of my favorite songs ever? Hey Matt, when you get back from running around Europe, post some more of this goodness over here!

Also, I dunno if this is why Matt posted this video, but there's a whole compilation of Kid Creole that just came out. Amazon link here. I first heard of Kid Creole from (erstwhile?) Hey! Student blogger Justin, who passed along a compilation called Mutant Disco, which I highly recommend. It features Kid Creole, Lizzy Mercier Descloux, and lots of other zany disco folks like Cristina.

May 12, 2008

The real new M83

The title of this post is a Fall reference. So here’s a track that’s actually off of the new M83 album. It starts off with a now-trademarked cheesy voiceover, and jumps right off into a tremendous buildup of sound. The voiceover works for me in a really strange way though, it adds this sort of forced dramatism to it. I always read about how Mogwai or (especially) Explosions in The Sky were “cinematic.” M83 is just working backwards here, they're scoring their own dialogue. This music is slower than their other stuff... when the “Highway of Endless Dreams” ends after 5 minutes, it feels like it’s just gotten warmed up.

M83 - Highway of Endless Dreams [Saturdays = Youth LP, 2008]

May 7, 2008

L.S.P. + A.W.K.

Lee 'Scratch' Perry in the studio with Andrew W.K.

I don't know how fate had it that these two fellows crossed paths, but I do know we are all lucky to be able to witness it.

May 3, 2008

dip dip dip.

An earlier incarnation of this song first appeared on Diplo's album, Florida. It featured a notable verse from Jamaican rapper Vybz Cartel, which has become fixed in my brain as one of the most romantic in music history -- namely the line:

Three things in my life are certain: Death, You, And Income Tax.

I think this will be my wedding vow.