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The Smashing Pumpkins - Monuments to an ElegyThe Smashing Pumpkins – Monuments to an Elegy

A Smashing Pumpkins album with Tommy Lee on drums and a running time of a mere 32 minutes?  I’m intrigued.  Oddly, even with the incredibly short (for Billy Corgan) running time, this is one of the more varied Pumpkins albums in terms of sound.  It has the heavy rockers you expect (“One and All”), but also has quieter moments (“Being Beige”), electronic based dance tunes (“Run2me”), and is that a flute on “Drum + Fife”?  Based on the title I guess that makes sense.  Surprisingly, on first listen at least, the album holds together despite these variations, and provides a very enjoyable listen.  It is way too early to know if Monuments to an Elegy will have the stickiness of its excellent predecessor Oceania, but it has that potential.

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3

Dec

2014

Review: Sea Island by loscil

By David Smith. Posted in Ambient, Drone, Electronic, Reviews | 2 Comments »

Sea Island

Several years ago, during a visit to Vancouver, I seized the chance to make a musical pilgrimage. Loscil’s First Narrows has long been a favorite of mine, especially the title track. Languorous underlying drones create a dreamy atmosphere, meticulously placed skittering touches keep the surface complex, the bass layer is unobtrusive yet interesting once you focus there, and mid-range acoustic instruments keep a hypnotic almost-melody going to carry the whole thing forward. It’s a remarkable union of stasis and forward motion that relaxes and fascinates equally.

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Trash Kit - ConfidenceTrash Kit – Confidence

Trash Kit is a post punk trio out of England.  Being a female band leads to lots of comparisons to The Slits and Raincoats and Trash Kit certainly has the hooks those bands did, but Confidence reminds me (and this is splitting hairs a bit) more of New York No Wave acts.  It’s not quite as shambling as a Lizzy Mercier Descloux or James Chance, but there is still a sense the music could fall apart at any moment.  The songs all hang together, though, (primarily due to their throbbing tribal beats) and they present a thoroughly enjoyable whole that explores some truly wonderful melodies and sounds.

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Savages & Bo Ningen - Words to the Blind

Savages & Bo Ningen – Words to the Blind

British post punk band Savages and Japanese psych rock band Bo Ningen came together for the collaborative album Words to the Blind.  Both bands have an experimental bent to their individual work and Words to the Blind seems to have increased those individual tendencies exponentially.  The single track album starts with about four and a half minutes of Savages’ frontwoman Jehnny Beth speaking in French and Bo Ningen’s Taigen Kawabe  speaking in Japanese with only the occasional instrumental note.  It’s unclear if the two are in conversation or even if the words are related.  Thereafter, harsh drones and baselines kick in for about five minutes followed by two minutes of eeriness. 

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Arca - XenArca – Xen

Arca is a very of the moment producer (some of Yeezus and one of my favorite albums of the year FKA twigs’ LP1), and Xen is very of the moment experimental electronics.  The album is hard hitting, glitchy, full of space, and in many ways harsh.  It’s also safe to say it is where a lot of experimental electronic music will be going in the next year or two.  This is an album to listen to on headphones when you don’t have anything else going on and can wallow in the oddness.

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SOLSTØV

Walking alone this evening in an isolated spot in Texan hill country, dusk falling, a deer flashes across my path and halts a few yards away, quivering. I stop and we trade stares for a while, my stillness not quite assuaging her agitation. A bat passes erratically. A sudden movement behind me catches the corner of my eye, and I turn just as a fawn, perhaps a foot and a half high, almost stumbles into my legs. It looks up at me for a long, fragile moment, and bolts away. The moon grows brighter in a vast sky as the last light fades, the gathering night filled with air and glow and darting life and tensile peace. As I walk on I’m listening to Solstøv by Pjusk, an album not from Texas but from Norway, yet evocatively descriptive of such a night as this, a night of peace and vastness and life and surprise and glory. This walk and this music will now live together in my memory.

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Pjusk - Drowning in the Sky

Pjusk – Drowning in the Sky

I visited Ulsteinvik recently, and found time for an all-too-brief hiking excursion up along the cliffs under the guidance of a local school principal. As we clambered up steep slopes in the gathering dusk, buffeted by a stiff wind, keeping an eye out for patches of ice amid the heather, talking about fishing boats and hidden reefs, I realized that Pjusk were playing in my head. Listening to music in its country of origin is one of the perks of traveling, and I had been punctuating my trip around Norway with Terje Rypdal, Jan Garbarek, and Biosphere, among others. But now that I was out on the bare hillside, surf threshing below, all human habitation out of sight, and the iPod safely back at the hotel, it became evident again that somewhere in my brain Pjusk’s music has become what the Norwegian landscape sounds like.

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Porya Hatami - Shallow

Porya Hatami – Shallow

 

I’ve been listening a lot to Porya Hatami recently, and it has been a delightful experience. It all started with a bandcamp sale by the Flaming Pines label to celebrate their third anniversary – a different album was offered for free download every two days. That drew my attention to their wonderful Birds of a Feather 3″ CD series, and to the first in that series, The Black Woodpecker by Porya Hatami, and that led me to his impressive new CD on Tench, which I will review below. But first a few words about The Black Woodpecker, since that was the piece that tuned my ear to Hatami’s sounds.

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Any list implies criteria, but let’s eliminate some obvious candidates. This is not a list of the most original, or significant, or skilled, or successful releases of 2013. There is so much that I simply did not listen to that those kinds of judgments are out of reach (for me as for everyone else). Instead, I asked myself: if I were to be separated from my music for a month or two and could only keep 20 albums from my collection with me, all released in 2013, which would I choose? This approach keeps me from adding or skipping things because I somehow feel I ought to. Worthy or not in the ears of the world, this is what I liked most from this year’s releases. Listen in; who knows, you might like it too.

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2013 was another banner year for the Twin Cities music scene.  Prince introduced his new band, 3rdeyegirl, and started making more appearances than he had in the last few years (including a pajama party at Paisley Park), The Replacements (well, half The Replacements) reunited to record some music to raise money for former guitarist Slim Dunlap and to play some out-of-town festivals (we’re still waiting Westerberg and Stinson…as if you didn’t know), local O.G.s The Suburbs and Run Westy Run also reunited, Low played a 30 minute festival set consisting of a single drone, and Rhymesayers snagged Snoop Dogg for Soundset.  Oh, and on top of all that a ton of great new music was released by artists both new and old, with a ridiculous amount of that music being released by one local label that is absolutely killing it right now.

For my “Top 20 of 2013” list I limited myself to a single word or phrase about each album.  I think the technique worked in that context because each of the albums on the list already had thousands of words written about them.  When it comes to the top releases by Twin Cities artists, however, that isn’t necessarily the case.  Accordingly, while I’ll still be limiting the amount I write about each album, there will be more information than in the Top 20.  Of note, four of the albums in the Top 10, and several more honorable mentions, are available for free download.  So, if you’re at all interested in exploring the Twin Cities music scene circa 2013, get downloading!

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