Thursday, February 28, 2013

advantage Lucy - Have a Good Journey (1996-2000) (2000)

advantage Lucy (Originally Lucy Van Pelt) is a Japanese Indie Pop band that gathers influences from pretty much every feel-good genre there is, from lounge to jangle pop to alternative rock. In 2001 they released the compilation album "Have a Good Journey (1996-2000)" reuniting tracks from all of their albums and EPs released up to the year 2000 including their Lucy Van Pelt stage.

What separates this compilation from most Indie Pop compilations or from all Indie albums in general for that matter is that advantage Lucy has effortlessly pulled off what most Indie Pop bands don't achieve in their entire career; the natural ability to write compelling and short pop songs that don't feel manipulated or forced in any manner. advantage Lucy achieved fullness in a very pure yet varied form, not a single moment on this compilation is wasted, there is always a new musical idea waiting to put a smile on our faces. Whether it's the sharp and simple guitar leads from "Sora Wa Ugokazuni" or the electronic stunts of "Sunny", the semi-heavy guitar rhythms of "Citrus" or even the bitter-sweet whisperish vocals of "Nico" we are never deceived with even a single moment of empty space or "filler" in any of the songs' structures. The vocalist's work was especially refined and soothing, a definite highlight of this compilation, it's amazing how she can quickly change and change back from singing lyrics to wordless vocals like on the track "Citrus", there is an obvious vocalist-band chemistry that I personally can't get enough of. The last three tracks of this compilation are specially stellar, my personal favourite was "Frizz Pop", this track just sums up the whole album for me, it starts with an angry distorted guitar and quickly moves in into these gorgeous sugary vocals very á la Stereolab, then a flute comes in to complement this song, giving it a really funky-feel and putting an ironic point at the end of every verse the vocalists sings, and then the song finishes in a very humorous manner.

advantage Lucy is an example to follow for all Indie Bands and not only J-pop bands, an enormously entertaining compilation that deserves to be replicated.

"It's so funny, it's so sunny, it's so lovely, it's so funky"

Naked City - Leng Tch'e (1992)

Leng Tch'e is a ridiculously overlooked album from John Zorn's Jazzcore outfit Naked City. The album was released in 1992, the same year that Naked City's much more popular Grand Guignol was released, in my opinion Grand Guignol pales in comparison to this masterpiece. This album was also one of the first albums that could be classified as Drone Doom, predating Earth 2 by a year. For those of you who don't know what Naked City are: They are a band founded in 1988 by the insanely prolific artist John Zorn, their sound can best be described as Jazzcore, a mix of Jazz music and Grindcore which, surprisingly, works. Another thing to know is that "Leng Tch'e" is Chinese for "1,000 Cuts." It was an execution technique used in China where they cut off portions of the condemned's skin but kept him or her alive, the album cover actually depicts a real life occurrence of this gruesome act.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Yōran - Montparnasse (1981)

Yōran's 1981 EP "Montparnasse" is a depressing release, not only because of its mood but because it is so unfortunately short and obscure that one is only left to wonder about it without ever really knowing anything about it. The album begins with "Concert Maillol", which starts out as a bitter-sweet ballet-esque piano piece which later degenerates itself into a weary collage of what seems to be a weak synthesizer or a guitar with some of the most  haunting and magnificent field recordings of people talking I've ever heard. Then the track transforms into "Je Derve Avec Láir", starting out with the same notes as the piano piece in the beginning of the last track, only that this time the field recordings feel even more desperate and outrageous. Laughs, whispers, and what seems to be an angry imperative sentence haunt this delicate piano piece, crumbling it into a poem of retreat and pain. One cannot stop thinking that this release has some sort of story at this point of the EP. The next track is "Montparnasse" this time the piano-piece sounds heroic  and even fearless, like it's trying to liberate itself from the shiver-worthy words of whoever is speaking over it. Steps, a howling wolf , delicate screams of pain, and joyless whispers bitterly attack this piano-ballad once again, by the end of this track we feel defeat, as if the music has crucified and tortured itself for the good-being of something else.  "La Bou....." is a toy-box melody accompanied by words that seem to announce a epilogue, an epilogue of sweet death. "Montparnasse" is a self-destructive EP that seems to try to get rid of itself, one can only pretend to understand such a dusted gem. One can only invent its story, maybe it's a haunted ballet studio, a piano-ballet that brought a man to its demise, or maybe just a statement of depression and curiosity in its purest form.

"Je Derve Avec Láir"

Double Rainbow - Fuck the Internet (2011)

Fuck the Internet is an EP from Virginia-based Underground Hip-Hop band Double Rainbow. The album is short, simple, and sweet, very sweet. Only form of instrumentation is a distorted, washed-out guitar, which sounds perfectly fitting, and some nice percussion, other than that the album is pretty minimal relative to most Hip-Hop out there, no large amounts of  flashy production. I mean it's not to say its incredibly raw, its just not heavily focused on production. It's just to the point, the lyrics are clever and catchy, has a bit of a punk influence, and it's reminiscent of Hip-Hop acts like Bleubird or Otem Rellik, but, again, with less detailed production. The album also has a bit of a Punk influence, as far as the vocals go at least, and the instrumentals have a slight Post-Rock tint to them. The singer has a great voice in my opinion, some people might think it's a bit whiny but I really don't mind the whinyness. All in all it's a very great Hip-Hop album and I highly recommend it. I also highly recommend that you support the band directly via their bandcamp if you're able to, 7 bucks isn't that much and if anything it'll encourage them to work on and release more music.

Pride is a motherfucker and I've got a civilized mind

Gomorrha - I Turned to See Whose Voice It Was (1972)

Gomorrha were a relatively short-lived German band associated with the Krautrock movement operative in the early 1970s. In 1972, they released their swan song "I Turned to See Whose Voice It Was", considered by many to be their finest album. This album is a masterful blend of more blues-based psychedelic rock and progressive rock to create an extremely lively sounding brand of Krautrock dubbed "Hard Krautrock" by many germanophiles. Personally, this is one of the overlooked gems of the Krautrock movement, and one that definitely earns it's place on this blog

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Monks - Black Monk Time (1966)

One of the most unique and ahead of their time bands ever. From the introduction of Monk Time, the authoritative call of Burger rings out over the driving, noisy and hypnotic instrumentation, and as the Monks launch into their first song, you know you're in for something special.

WaMü- Viafuckt (2012)


          WaMü seem to succeed in functioning within the sphere of organized chaos.  The Seattle noise rock/free improvisation group utilizes violin and alto saxophone along with more traditional rock instrumentation to make for a pulverizing wall of cacophonous sound.  In this respect, they share kinship with contemporaries Little Women, yet where the latter insist on carving out slight homages to their free jazz ancestors, WaMü insist on revitalizing the brutal punk aesthetic of their No Wave progenitors in a modern context.  This pulls more comparisons to bands like DNA and Mars, while Rachel LeBlanc’s shrilly vocals are reminiscent of Lydia Lunch and Teenage Jesus and the Jerks.  Yet, despite all the influence tracking and comparisons, WaMü do manage to craft a sound of their own on Viafuckt that thrives on the interplay between musicians and the willingness to shape their wall of noise into ebbing sections rather than punishing the listener from start to finish.

Carlos Paredes - Guitarra Portuguesa (1967)

The first time I listened to Carlos Paredes' music was on my local cultural radio. Before the music started playing the radio announcer started talking about Carlos Paredes' family and how his father introduced him to the Portuguese guitar and was his mentor. Which made me think about how powerful and transcendent music can be, just to think that an instrument and its very particular music is being passed down generation to generation made me feel very pleased and even moved, what's even more enchanting about this is that it's rare to talk about Carlos Paredes without mentioning his father. He even said :
"When I die, my guitar also dies.
My father used to say that, when he died, he would like that his guitar would be broken and buried with him.
I would like to do the same. If I have to die.”

Monday, February 25, 2013

Psalters - The Divine Liturgy of the Wretched Exiles (2006)

The Divine Liturgy of the Wretched Exiles from Pennsylvanian tribal/anarcho-punk band Psalters starts off with powerful droning hums, then breaks open into beautiful chanting of "Agios O Theos; Agios Eschiros." The chanting itself is wonderful, all of their voices are very strong and emotional, it's actually quite hard to describe. It's all very hypnotizing. A few track later is "Rich Man and Afghanistan," who's beginning consists of manic and splendid screaming, with a chant between each line. It breaks down into tribal drumming with other instruments thrown in.

Peter Bellamy with Various Artists - The Transports (1977)

Peter Bellamy was a prominent figure during the English traditional music revival of the 1960s and 1970s. He dropped out of college in 1965, at the suggestion of friend and fellow traditional musician Anne Briggs, to pursue a career in music. He formed The Young Tradition, an a capella traditional English singing trio, with members Royston Wood and Heather Wood. This group took influence from family singing groups the Watersons and the Copper Family, as well as traditional singer Ewan MacColl. The group disbanded in the early 1970s and Bellamy took on a solo career, performing traditional English songs a capella or with his Anglo concertina. Sadly, his life took a tragic end after he committed suicide in 1991. The Transports is Peter Bellamy's masterwork, a folk opera consisting of traditional songs re-worded by Bellamy that tell the true story of Henry Cabell and Susannah Holmes, two convicts that fall in love, have a child and are both separated after being transported to prison colonies in Australia. Several other prominent English folk revival figures join Bellamy, each playing a specific character in the story line. Collaborators include: Nic Jones, A.L. Lloyd, Martin Carthy, Dave Swarbrick, June Tabor, Mike & Norma Waterson, Cyril Tawney and more. Arrangements are by Dolly Collins, sister of traditional musician Shirley Collins. Complete with period instrumentation, this album is a striking and powerful blend of English traditional music and history. Hopefully this album will leave you feeling a bit different.

The Transports
Hashisheen - The End of Law (1999)

Hashisheen is one of the many projects created by Bill Laswell, a prolific and eclectic musician, most notably for his work as a Bassist during the 80's and 90's. While Laswell was already recognized as a talented musician by the time this project was started, it is not a straight forward track to track album, the songs were not made with any intention of being heard separate to the vocals, they simply compliment the album's true purpose, to tell a story.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 - Lovelyville (1991)

Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 was a band which emerged from California in 1985. They could best be described as "Experimental Indie Rock" or perhaps Noise Rock, personally I like the term "Indie Rock on cocaine." Their album Lovelyville was released at the band's peak in 1991. Combining elements of Indie Rock and Noise Rock, even with some strange sound collages thrown in. The album even perhaps includes aspects reminiscent of 70's Psychedelic rock and Post-Rock, a few songs, like "Nail in the Head," have segments that, if they had been played by a band like Do Make Say Think, I wouldn't raise an eyebrow. Most of the songs on the album start as standard Indie Rock songs and proceed to degrade (or perhaps upgrade) to a hectic clamor of instruments. Some turn into a more repetitive and slower Post-Rock-esque ambient tracks. A lot of  the tracks on Lovelyville has a very powerful feel to them, they sound massive, but for as many massive songs there are equally melancholy and depressed songs, like "Nothing Solid" which, despite the screaming vocals, still sounds very mellow, and frankly, sad. And on the other spectrum Maverick and the next two tracks following it are just playful clips of the band messing around. Really the whole later parts of the album after what was probably my favorite track, "Nothing Solid," takes a large turn for the weird. "The Meat Display" especially is interesting, but the track that follows, "Strife is Good," is a plain eerie song which turns into distorted and painful sounding cry of "ow!" The whole ending tracks of the album are quite a trip, and the album ends on a rather ambient, melancholy, droney note.
All in all the album is magnificent, quite astray from most Indie Rock being released at the time, in a very good way. For those who didn't like Caroliner because the band just seemed too bizarre, but at the same time were interested by some of the aspects in their music, this band is certainly something you might want to look into. Even then regardless of what you like you should certainly give this hidden gem a shot.

See that guy, he's a lot like me, he's a lot like me, he's dumb as hell 
See that guy, he's a friend of mine, he's a friend of mine, he's dumb as hell

David Shea - Hsi-Yu Chi (1996)

Another interesting release as part of the Composer Series on John Zorn's Tzadik label. The album itself is intended as the soundtrack for an imaginary film, similar to Boris' Sound Track from Film "Mabuta no Ura" Hsi-Yu Chi sees David Shea embarking on numerous different paths, all under the watchful eye of Zorn himself, who assumes his position as Alto Saxophonist for this album. The album takes a large influence from the music of the east - which is hardly surprising, considering Zorn's fixation with the orient (just look at Tzadik's New Japan series) - including a large number of samples from various styles of ethnic music from across Asia, as well as a multitude of samples from what sound like retro Kung Fu films. The integration of some of the samples sound so organic - it's as if Shea rented out the studio to a group of virtuoso Chinese Musicians as Florian Fricke did with Popol Vuh's "Yoga". But the samples would be naught without the very competent musicianship from the wonderful roster of musicians that Shea brought together for this album. From Marc Ribot's seedy guitar parts on "Five Fingers" that interlace perfectly with the oriental samples to Sim Cain's Thunderous drumming on "Black Wind Cave,The Weapons", the mood each musician creates is amazing, and really enhances the cinematic aspect of this pseudo-soundtrack. Even the jolly sounding drumming and drones  sound as perfectly in place on Hsi-Yu Chi as they must on any Hindustani Classical Music LP.But my favorite facet of the album is Wu Man's use of the Pipa, a traditional Chinese stringed instrument that sounds not unlike the Japanese Shamisen. Her lightning fast playing on a song like "Fists of Fury…" is simply breathtaking, the sharp, piercing sound of the Pipa cutting through the song and completely demanding the listeners attention - it's completely captivating.
This release is great - it's varied, segueing from meditative pieces to far more funky and off-kilter pieces perfectly, seamlessly blending excellently sourced samples with great instrumentation - overall, a stellar piece, and another testament to what a great label Zorn has established with Tzadik

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Caroliner - Rise of the Common Woodpile (1991)

Caroliner is probably one of the most unique and most interesting bands I've ever listened to. Claiming to be a memorial band for a singing bull named Caroliner from the 1800's, all of the members of Caroliner remain completely anonymous, and from release to release the band name changes from things like "Caroliner Rainbow Solid Handshake & Loose 2 Pins" or "Caroliner Rainbow Fingers Of The Underworld & Their Unbreakable Bones." It isn't really known whether this means a change in the lineup, or if the band is just doing it for fun. Really we don't know a whole lot about the band apart from their music. And these guys are strange. They are REALLY strange. Combining weird and sometimes downright terrifying lyricism with a mix of Noise, Industrial, and Bluegrass, they are basically in a world of their own. Their music is often simply dubbed "Industrial Bluegrass" but there's much more going on than that. One last thing to mention before I get on to the album itself, is the fact that most of their albums include some sort of custom made packaging which is hand painted, and included random items presumably found in the garbage by members of the band. You can learn more about Caroliner's releases and where to buy their music here.
The album itself, "Rise of the Common Woodpile," was Caroliner 3rd release, this time as "Caroliner Rainbow Open Wound Chorale." This album is probably a good starting point for Caroliner as it's probably their most accessible work. And as of writing this it's still my favorite album by them. The first track of the album, "Hazel Wet Lap" is a fine example of Caroliner, awkward, sloppy, and noisy playing, deranged vocals, and even more deranged lyrics. The rest of the album follows suit in a crazy, over-the-top, and incredibly unique album. In my opinion the best tracks are either Burdensome Blood or Victory Arms Force. All this being said Caroliner is certainly one of the most horrifying yet amazing bands I have ever witnessed, and you should definitely share the madnesswith me.

Walking each day I'm about to burst 
Legs move myself; They feel the worst 
Every knife in the house is mine 
Carving on the leg makes 'em fine

Ghost - Tune In, Turn On, Free Tibet (1999)

Ghost is an interesting band, and one I'm surprised that more people don't know about it - guitarist Michio Kurihara has even worked extensively with fellow Japanese rockers Boris, yet the band still remains relatively obscure. They broke up shortly after the release of at the end of the 20th century, only to reform later and release another album in 2004. Still, Tune In, Turn On, Free Tibet remains a testament to this interesting and unconventional group The first part of the album stays in relatively traditional Psych Folk territory - normal for Ghost at least - although the idea of Tibet and Buddhism flows throughout - for the first 30 or so minutes, this is a very serene album. Opener "We Insist" obviously pays homage to the central theme of the album by incorporating certain Tibetan instruments, and in fact, the first part of the album features Masaki Batoh's very hushed vocals over tenderly played acoustic guitars - at times, Batoh's singing is almost whisper quiet, and at other points, it sounds more like he's speaking than singing - it's beautifully tranquil, almost quiescent at times. Sometimes the pace and the intensity quickens - The vocal harmonies on "Comin' Home" for example - but for the most part, the first part of the album is tranquil and serene psych folk made up of a few easily digestible songs. The relatively noisier and more psychedelic "Change the World" gives a glimpse of what's to coming, building into a psychedelic guitar freak-out before fading back into mellow, guitar-centric psych folk before lapsing back into noisy, loopwheeling psych rock
The second part is a completely different monster - the 30 minute title track "Tune In, Turn On, Free Tibet " is the real centerpiece of the album - the song starts off as extremely spacey and serene - it retains the poignant beauty of the rest of the album - but it's a shifting, snaking song - it shifts from thunderous tribal-esque percussion to oscillating bleeps and bloops, to crazy psychedelic guitar freak-outs. It's an immense piece, and while I prefer the soothing, mellow folk-oriented first part of the album, it's the second half that really makes it a unique record and shows off the prowess of Ghost as a band, cementing them as powerhouses within Japan's modern Psych scene.