Uncommon music criticized by the common man. (Or, exercises in futility masquerading as critical thought.)

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Some Endorsements

Anaal Nathrakh - Domine Non Es Dignus (Season of Mist) For the regulars (that I know of), I can pretty uniformly guarantee you won't derive much pleasure from this album. Then again, "pleasure" isn't exactly something associated with Anaal Nathrakh's strain of brutality. This album is absolutely crushing, unleashing some of the nastiest (and I mean that in the best possible way) music I've heard recently. The relentless beats level everything in sight and the guitars burn down the rest, all while vocalist V.I.T.R.I.O.L "pukes vocal armageddon". Oddly, the addition of the occasional clean vocal breaking through the sonic chaos is an unexpectedly welcome touch and something I hope they make more use of in the future. Not that I have a problem with throat shredding shrieking or bowel loosening grumbling that is so common in black and death metal, but given a choice, I'd rather have more clean vocals. Even something like a Phil Anselmo bark would be a step in the right direction. (Though, that particular vocal style obviously doesn't fit with styles of metal that go for blinding speed.)

Meshuggah - Chaosphere (Nuclear Blast) If something a bit more straightforward is what you be seekin' (and the term is relative, of course), then you might want to give this a try. Yes, I'm late to the game here, which should surprise nobody since my love for metal has only really developed in the last few years. Still, I have to give this album a shout-out. This is my first Meshuggah album and it kills. I've heard that Destroy Erase Improve is their best, so I'll have to check that out, as well as anything else I can get my hands on. Though I'm sure people who know more about this than I would make fun of me, I hear a bit of a Helmet thing as I listen to this. It's that very precise riffing, the barked vocals, the rhythms that tumble over each other due to the constant shifts and bullet-train speed. Of course, I think this destroys 95% of Helmet's catalogue. Definitely worth your time. Seriously. Check it out.

Fantomas - Suspended Animation (Ipecac) I picked this up the same time as the DJ Spooky vs. Dave Lombardo album, as I mentioned previously, and this has been the one to sink its hooks into me first, which surprises me, since this is unquestionably the less "accessible" of the two. But, oy, it's a joy to listen to. It's 30 tracks in about 45 minutes, each track named after a date in April. (Track 1 is "04/01/05" and so forth.) Musically, it's chaotic mind-fuck, metal cartoon music, hence the album title. The liberal use of cartoon music samples and its own restless energy gives the music a bouncy quality, making the overall listening experience a pleasure. Don't be fooled; this isn't pop music and can leave those unfamiliar with the Fantomas spirit scratching their heads. But if you know and love the band, this should hit the spot.

So go out there and spend that cash, people. To borrow a phrase from one E. Dorkin: "Love them with dollars, or I'll hate you with hammers."

Saturday, April 23, 2005

It looks like Lollapalooza announced part of their lineup. I think I'll pass.

Also: I got the previously mentioned Drums of Death tonight. That was quick. I also picked up the new Fantomas disc. (No Z-Trip in stock.) I'm listening to Drums now and it's quite good. I can't really do any sort of detailed review, obviously, but probably will soon. I can say that it probably doesn't Rock as much as I expected, but that's not at all a bad thing. And now the album has just ended and the new Fantomas has started. Sweet. The album art for the Fantomas disc is fantastic as well.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The other day I'm watching Sportscenter and they are doing their "Ultimate Highlight." The soundtrack for this week's highlights is "Shock and Awe" by Z-Trip f. Chuck D. I thought, that's nice, it must be on the new album. Say, when will that drop?

It dropped on April 19th. The album is called Shifting Gears and is on Hollywood Records. Apparently, the lead single, "Walking Dead" f. Linkin Park's Chet Bennington, has already cracked modern rock radio. While that's not a ringing endorsement, I still think I will be picking this up at the same time I pick up the DJ Spooky vs. Dave Lombardo disc.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

So, I just ordered this from Melody Records in Dupont (check the linkage to the right). Based on the reputation of the two principles (DJ Spooky and Dave Lombardo, for those too lazy to click the link), not to mention their guests, this should be awesome.

Speaking of Lombardo, for the unaware, Fantomas has a new album out. Didn't you know Carl Stalling was avant garde?

Tangentially (from one metal drumming god to another), Strapping Young Lad recently released their fourth album, Alien. I somehow missed that. I think that should jump into the top two or three upcoming purchases.

Friday, April 15, 2005

A few things:

I caught part of the WWE Hall of Fame ceremony a couple of weekends ago. When Mean Gene Okerland came out, they played his cover of "Tutti Frutti" as his entrance music. I had completely forgotten how sublimely ridiculous Mean Gene's singing style is. Bravo!

On the other end of the spectrum: this is now on the radar. I've seen the Staalplaat label name a number of times, but had never heard of this. I came across this while jumping around The Wire. Sound art! I remember a while back hearing Mercury Rev's "Chasing A Bee" for the first time and thinking that the wild shrieks of feedback toward the end sounded a bit like an overamplified vacuum. Consequently, I could see some of this stuff being very interesting.

If you missed it, the City Paper had reviews for a couple of Rune Grammofon albums this week. I can't vouch for the discs personally, but I certainly think they should be worth checking out if they are of the same quality as the RG stuff I have heard (Supersilent's 6 and Scorch Trio's Luggumt).

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

A Question

Once again, something CO said in the comments has got the ol' noodle going. Just something to throw out there, perhaps to be fleshed out in some fashion at a later date.

Modern Art vs. Modern Music

CO said he "can enjoy abstract painting for what it is and the emotive response it creates," while he does not get the same enjoyment from free jazz. Obviously, there is no rule saying that liking one means you must like the other, taste being subjective and all. Still, I find this fascinating. Again, because he's not the first person I've known to have the same feelings when it comes to modern visual art and modern music. It begs the question: what is it that makes equally "abstract" or otherwise modern visual art easier to digest than its musical counterpart, even though the former can run into even wilder abstraction? What is it that makes Rothko harder to understand or enjoy than Rothko? Why are the (relatively) experimental works of Kiarostami more palatable than Iran?

Just a thought.

Monday, April 11, 2005


I've made a number of additions to the collection in recent weeks:

High on Fire Blessed Black Wings
Mars Volta Frances The Mute
Orthrelm 2nd18/04 Norildivoth Crallos-Lomrixth Urthiln
Anata Under A Stone With No Inscription
Anaal Nathrakh Domine Non Es Dignus
The Flying Luttenbachers Systems Emerge From Complete Disorder
Meshuggah Chaosphere

Those last four discs came in late this past week, so I haven't had a chance to listen to them much. The High on Fire disc is incredible. Completely balls out and Matt Pike's guitar is as blazing as ever. The Motorhead comparisons are apt and this album is highly recommended.

The Orthrelm disc is pretty awesome, too, even though I wouldn't recommend it to everyone. Orthrelm are a guitar and drums instrumental duo whose musical complexity is absurdly over the top, making it a completely exhilirating, if difficult, listen.

The album I've been listening to the most, though, is the Mars Volta disc. The album, though an exhausting seventy-seven minutes long, is engaging for nearly its entire duration. The only time the finger gets itchy to press the skip button is, ironically, towards the end of the album's shortest track, "The Widow", which has a couple of minutes of electronic, atmospheric noodling at the end. While it meets just about every definition, good or bad, of the phrase "concept album" (which really needs some better PR; what's wrong with a concept album?), it is a very rewarding listen. Pick it up if you can spare the time.

As for some previous additions:

The Z-Trip disc is pretty great. While it has a number of great blends and will get asses moving, it isn't as good as Uneasy Listening or the Future Primitive disc he did with fellow Bombshelter DJ, Radar. Frankly, there was a bit too much banter, which really dulls the momentum in spots. The Future Primitive disc, also a live album, did a much better job of keeping the party going.

The DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist disc, another built from 45s set that is something of a sequel to their awesome Brainfreeze album, is a good 'un as well. While I like Shadow's solo stuff, I really like the discs with Chemist more, simply because it sounds like their having a blast. That kind of energy is contagious.

Baile Funk 2, put together by DJ Greg Caz and DJ Sean Marquand, is a tremendous amount of fun. Until I picked up the Mars Volta disc, this was the album I was spinning the most. I was not familiar with anything on this album prior to buying it, making this a most pleasant surprise. Some of the fattest funk grooves you'll hear. Put it on at your next party, won't you?

I'm Rick James, Bitch!, put together by DJ Eleven and Cosmo Baker, is another winner, functioning as something of a greatest hits collection mixed by a couple of top-notch DJs, with bits of dialogue from the classic Chappelle's Show skit sprinkled throughout. A great party record that is a reminder of how good Rick James was.

Sadly, the DJ Spinbad record ran out of stock right after my order was placed, so that never came in. Might have to check Turntable Lab to see if it's been re-stocked, and pick up the first volume of Baile Funk, too, if it's still available.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

I have been drafting a piece for this site re: avant-garde music when CO posted the following in the comments of a previous post (about QBICO Records):

The more abstract music (or any art) gets, the more its about the process.

I was going to try to incorporate this sentiment into my other mini-essay, but have decided to briefly address his point instead.

Let me start by saying that CO is not the first person I've heard make this statement re: modern or abstract art. And while it's not entirely untrue, I think its value is overstated. I find this to be particularly true as it applies to free jazz. Frankly, there is not much of a difference between a free jazz performance and any other type of jazz performance. Depending on the performers, it could be just as ordered as a chamber quartet, or as sweaty and blaring as a rock concert.

Now, if "process" encompasses more than the live creation of the music (and based on CO's comment that he could watch it but not listen to it, I did not take him to mean more than that), then there are certainly numerous differences between free jazz and more traditional jazz. But, implying that the greater value of free jazz resides in its creation and not in the finished work unfairly diminishes a rather sizable body of music. I think this sentiment stems largely from the fact that avant-garde art is viewed as primarily "academic" in its appeal; the relatively small audiences for such art reinforces this notion. As such, avant-garde works are assumed to reside within a sort of experimental vacuum, where the form is tweaked for the sake of tweaking, but with no real artistic goals in mind. Certainly, this spirit of "what will happen when I do this?" does exist, but how else do you innovate form? If not for artists who try to go beyond the formalistic restrictions of their art, there would be no progress.

Of course, whether a person likes "new" art is entirely subjective and is not the point here. However, to ignore the art for the sake of the form renders innovation meaningless and essentially stifles creativity.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

I just finished listening to the two CDs I bought tonight, back to back, on headphones: Orthrelm's 2nd18/04 Norildivoth Crallos-Lomrixth Urthiln and The Mars Volta's Frances the Mute. Wow. Just...wow. What will I dream about tonight?

(Funny...I think Orthrelm may have actually packed as many, if not more, notes into their album than MV, even though the latter's album is more than twice--77 minutes compared to 28--as long. Headspinning.)

Friday, April 01, 2005

It appears that Lollapalooza is attempting to resurrect itself yet again. After the tour was brought back, then canceled before it began last year, I figured it was gone for good. It turns out I was wrong. Adopting the more popular weekend format instead of being a traveling circus, Lollapalooza will be taking place in Grant Park in Chicago this summer. It will be interesting to see what the make-up will be. I'm guessing it will be pretty much like Coachella, featuring mostly rock-pop-rap-electronic music of the indie persuasion, with some "bigger" name headliners to pull more folks in. No official lineup has been announced, and I'm too lazy to look for rumors, but a quick guess of the bigger names they will try to showcase includes Jane's Addiction (unless Perry Ferrell isn't even involved with this one), Wilco, Sonic Youth (unless they get lynched by the clueless Trustafarian jackasses at UPenn), The Flaming Lips, Beck, Kanye West, etc. "Second tier" acts I would expect to see are Interpol, Franz Ferdinand, Mike Watt, Tortoise, Will Oldham (in some incarnation, possibly with Tortoise), Kasabian, M.I.A., Slint (if they stay together that long), and perhaps The Mars Volta. A jam band or two could even sneak into the mix, given the success of Bonnaroo. Of course, with 70 bands, they could really create something super-diverse, though I wouldn't count on anything too leftfield. This ain't All Tomorrow's Parties or No Fun Fest. Still, the ticket price seems right, and there's always a chance that they could surprise with some out-of-nowhere choices (not that there's anything wrong with a lineup consisting of the above), so it's definitely worth consideration.

And if you're not down with that scene, you could always try to catch Ozzfest. With Sabbath, Maiden, plus a mystery headliner on the main stage, with Arch Enemy, The Blach Dahlia Murder, Mastodon and Soilwork kicking ass on the second stage, it should be a blast.

A sad, fat clown joins Powder in remake of Bee Gees song.