Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Josef K - The Only Fun In Town (1981)

Josef K were a short-lived Scottish post-punk outfit named after the main character from Franz Kafka's The Trial. Their entire recorded output was a scant 22 songs in a 3-year period; but their influence has been showing up everywhere lately, especially in the work of bands like Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party (think jagged post-punk guitars over funky bass lines and dance-able drum beats).

Chief songwriter, singer and guitarist Paul Haig broke the band up after what he felt was repeated slights from both the critics and record-buying public (resentful for having never really "made it" outside of Glasgow), he and guitarist Malcolm Ross, bassist David Weddell and drummer Ronnie Torrance all went their separate ways;
their official releases would tally five singles and one album.

I'm thinking this record here is a pretty good place to start with Josef K, there's also the 2006 compilation Entomology that has all 22 tracks of theirs, but this record The Only Fun In Town is a more cohesive statement.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Boris - Flood (2000)

I only have a few Boris albums, but this is the one for me; it starts out with this repeated arpeggio riff that lasts a good six-and-a-half minutes before any other instrument appears, then slowly drums creep in, then...

...I'm not giving any more away. Download it.

I do recommend that you listen to this on really good headphones...

Boris - Flood (2000; Noble Label)
65.1 mb, ripped at 128 kbps

Sebadoh - Harmacy (1996)

It seems that the consensus pick among Sebadoh fans for their best album is 1994's Bakesale; but for some reason I always had a stronger bond with Harmacy. Probably because Lou Barlow and Jason Loewenstein's songwriting duties were split; Jason contributed nine songs here (making Sebadoh an actual "band" as opposed to a Barlow project) and the pair focused more on straight-ahead songs with better production values.

It also has a more cohesive blend of styles here; instead of the genre-hopping madness
and the lo-fi experimentation they explored on previous records this is a really great pop album. Don't get me wrong, I'm not dissing Sebadoh's earlier work; those records all have a special place in my heart (and on my record shelf) but as I've said before I'm trying to get you, my regular readers, friends, fans, well-wishers, countrymen (as well as my enemies) into all this great music.

I feel this record is the best place to start with Sebadoh. Then work your way backwards...

Sebadoh - Harmacy (1996; Sub Pop Records)
50 mb, ripped at 128 kbps (sorry; it's also a sloppy mix of .mp3's and .m4a's)

Conductive Alliance - Water Glyphs (2010)

I love getting submissions because they're mostly pretty good. Chicago's Conductive Alliance is actually really good, they sound like an updated version of that city's once burgeoning post-rock scene; think a futuristic interpretation of bands like The Sea and Cake (but less jazzy), 90 Day Men (and less proggy) or Tortoise (less psychedelic) that was raised on pure pop melodies and electro beats- this would be my loose interpretation of their Water Glyphs EP, a seven-track suite that spans almost 27 minutes. It's a wonderfully crafted and unique blend of all the above styles that both reference their respective influences while never coming close to ripping them off and sheds the arty pretension some of those bands have been accused of; Conductive Alliance is way more accessible than those bands.

Anyhow, do yourself a favor and download this, I'm sure it'll be near the top of one of my year-end lists...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Godspeed You! Black Emperor - The Classic Years

Taking their name from a Japanese documentary about an outlaw motorcycle gang, Montreal's Godspeed You! Black Emperor (often stylized as GY!BE) are to me the best example of the term Post-Rock; a sprawling, cinematic grandeur set to music. They evoke wind-swept and desolate plains in one movement, then on to a post-apocalyptic crumbling cityscape a few minutes later and then back to a dense and forested, seemingly endless orchestration piece after that; all in the confines of one song (sometimes lasting just short of half an hour).

Started in 1994 by Efrim Menuck (guitar), Mauro Pezzente (bass) and Mike Moya (guitar); GY!BE would undergo so many line-up changes and configurations, (sometimes up to 20 members would be performing on stage at one time) the number of credited members for most of their albums would settle somewhere around nine. Adding cellist Norsola Johnson, guitarist David Bryant, Thea Pratt on French horn, violinist Sophie Trudeau, Thierry Amar on bass, percussionists Aidan Girt & Bruce Cawdron, Grayson Walker on keys, James Daytron on guitar, bassist Gregory Borys, multi-instrumentalist James Chau, some guy named simply "Christophe" and guitarist Roger Tellier-Craig, the full scope and tenor of the band's sound would adapt itself around the strengths of the musicians involved.

To listen to GY!BE is an activity in and of itself; what they demand from the listener is unlike any other musical experience I've encountered before or since. I'm basically posting their entire discography here, save for their early cassette-only release All Lights Fucked on the Hairy Amp Drooling (from 1994) and the 2004 Tiny Silver Hammers EP. My favorite of theirs (and my second favorite album by any band of the new millennium) is Lift Yr. Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven; it's an hour-and-a-half, four-song magnum opus that runs the gamut from chamber music and classical ensemble pieces interspersed with post-rock guitars and bombastic drumming, building to explosive crescendos replete with field recordings; all the while experimenting with drony textures and and ambient passages.

If you like any of these albums, please support this band by buying their records or checking out their current (or "side") project A Silver Mt. Zion...

f#a#oo (1997; Constellation Records)
145.7 mb, ripped at 320 kbps

Friday, August 20, 2010

Françoise Hardy - La question (1971)

Of course, when talking about French pop music, Serge Gainsbourg's Histoire de Melody Nelson is unquestionably the best offering from the genre; the next best is La question by Françoise Hardy. I consider Hardy the preeminent of all French female vocalists; sadly, she never earned the respect she deserved on this side of the pond. Let's change all that.

Where Gainsbourg's Melody Nelson was a raunchy and lecherous romp through dirty Parisian alleyways- its seven tracks clock in just under 28-minutes; La question is a mellow affair, like a beckoning fireplace and bearskin rug after schussing down Courchevel all day. Sparely arranged (most tracks just feature Françoise and an acoustic guitar) it could have as easily fallen into the chanson category, the all-encompassing term used to describe most Francophone music that fell outside of standard pop/rock fare; think of Jacques Brel as the torch carrier. Although I would argue that this is a pop/rock album in the same vein that Carole King or Joni Mitchell could be considered her American counterparts.

At the end of the day, Hardy could've made her career alone on her stunning good looks and her status as a fashion icon, but her voice and personality carry the music beyond that; this is really a wonderful album.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Jimmy Giuffre - Free Fall (1963)

After Ornette Coleman had his way with jazz, tearing it down from the inside to see what it was made of (thereby creating "free" jazz); it opened the door for such greats as Cecil Taylor, Eric Dolphy, Sun Ra, John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, Pharoah Sanders and Jimmy Giuffre to stretch out and do their collective "thing". On this album, recorded in 1962 by the Jimmy Giuffre 3 with Giuffre (clarinet), previously featured Out Sounds-favorite Paul Bley (piano) and Steve Swallow (bass); the trio set out to create a free jazz masterpiece, and the results are stunning and provocative, maybe even more so than any of the aforementioned performer's works.

The reason I say so is because of Giuffre's study of microtonal music; or the idea that there exists between the 12-note scale another series of "micro" tones (this idea was also being studied by Harry Partch; who later expanded his ideas by writing charts explaining these tones as well as building many instruments to play these new "notes"). The clarinet (as well as most of the woodwind family) are able to play quarter tones; and Giuffre gave his music a wider palette by playing with a non-traditional up-front weapon. He was overlooked for some ridiculous reasons- he played the clarinet, not considered a pure lead jazz instrument like the sax or trumpet; his music wasn't like the "energy" or "fire music" that Archie Shepp and Sun Ra were playing, his was more pointillistic, spatial, subdued and airy. No one was ready for this music.

This record anticipated the Free Improvisation movement by a good five years; by combining elements of the Third Stream school, free jazz, the avant-garde as well as classical indeterminacy, Free Fall is an exciting listen to a set of a ferociously abstract and investigative tracks. This is the 1998 re-issue with bonus tracks.

Stockholm Monsters - Alma Mater (1984)

The fickle and cynical British press unfairly slagged this band as New Order-wannabes (even though almost all their stuff was produced by New Order bassist Peter Hook); but that's a really shitty and reductive way to describe Stockholm Monsters. Along with some of the other Factory Records bands of that era, they helped bridge the gap between the early label's artier post-punk groups (A Certain Ratio and Joy Division) and the late-decade dance club vibe of the Happy Mondays and Electronic. A band that never got their due because their ever-changing façade meandered around so many genres: an eclectic blend of sunny synth pop experimentation mingled with jangly guitars and electro beats.

I read an interview a few years ago with John Darnielle (of The Mountain Goats, a man I highly respect and cherish as one of the greatest American songwriters of this generation) where he said this was his favorite album ever. It must be awesome if he likes it, right? Listen for yourself and decide.

This is the 2002 re-master from LTM Recordings, with a slew of bonus tracks...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Atmosphere - Lucy Ford: The Atmosphere EP's (2001)

I can remember watching one of those HBO-televised rap battles years ago and was blown away that the dudes killing it were from Minneapolis of all places. I can remember Eyedea winning one year, and finding his first album he did with Abilities (2001's First Born). I wasn't blown away by that record, but I remember the clerk at Repo Records in Rosemont, PA (R.I.P.) telling me (I can't remember his exact words) that "I might want to check out the other rappers on Rhymesayers, like Slug or Brother Ali..." Long story short: I went back later that week and sold back that Eyedea album and picked up some Atmosphere.

Atmosphere is DJ Ant (Anthony Davis) and MC Slug (Sean Daley), also two of the founders of Rhymesayers Entertainment, a Minneapolis-based hip-hop collective that put the Twin Cities on the map. This album collects Atmosphere's first three EPs (Lucy, Ford 1 and Ford 2); it features production from a few other guys besides Ant- tracks from Moodswing9, Jel (of the group subtle and the anticon. collective) and El-P (founder of the DefJux label and Company Flow). The track The Woman With The Tattooed Hands is one of the best hip-hop tracks of all-time; I would consider it Atmosphere's signature song, in that it contains examples of all the trademarks of a great Slug rap: smart lyrics, great storytelling and excellent flow and delivery.

Grip this now!