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February 28, 2007

Otomo Yoshihide – The Prisoner (Soundtrack)

Filed under: Hype,Music — RadioFly @ 1:02 pm

[Headz; 2007]

Otomo Yoshihide is one of the few modern musicians that can accurately be labeled a jack of all trades. The Japanese turntablist/guitarist/composer has spent the last decade at the forefront of avant-garde music. Though this most recent outing, the soundtrack to Adachi Masao’s film The Prisoner, is most certainly a noise release, Yoshihide’s myriad backgrounds (particularly his work with rock and free jazz) have a tangible effect on the music. Here filling the role of both composer and player, Yoshihide has enlisted a star-studded roster of noise artists, including his American counterpart, Jim O’Rourke, and the sine-wave diva Sachiko M.

The soundtrack opens with O’Rourke’s gentle, lonely acoustic guitar, seemingly the center of a huge empty space. From there, sounds slowly build to fill that space until the acoustic guitar is all but lost in the brilliant cacophony. Immediately it becomes clear that, though this soundtrack is certainly Yoshihide’s piece, he allowed the players significant room for improvisation—a skill at which they all excel. That improvisation, in addition to the use of some relatively conventional guitarwork, gives The Prisoner a pleasant sense of vitality many similarly structured noise records all-too-often openly strive against.

Just as the record appears to be heading towards “background music” status with some more solo acoustic from O’Rourke, a noisy trio of electric guitars from O’Rourke, Yoshihide, and the Japanese Avant-Garde scene’s resident cowboy, Akiyama Tetuzi crashes in with the power of Japan’s famed bullet train on “International.” “Escape,” meanwhile, echoes Fushitsusha and sees some veritable riffage from Tetuzi that forms an unholy but completely effective alliance with Sachiko M’s eerie sinewaves. The next track, an epic twelve minute affair that features 11 musicians, forms a solid backbone for the soundtrack.

This soundtrack not only injects some much-needed life into the oft-mechanical realm of noise, but it is a worthy edition to Yoshihide’s impressive discography. I haven’t the faintest idea who Adachi Masao is, but if he enlists music this good and interesting for his movies, I’d wager they are worth seeing. This soundtrack, meanwhile, is a must-listen for anyone interested in modern noise music.

For more information on the Prisoner movie and soundtrack, visit: www.prisoner-m.com

February 23, 2007

Nublu Orchestra – Nublu Orchestra Conducted by Butch Morris

Filed under: Hype,Music — Cy @ 1:20 pm

[Nublu Records; 2007]

Contemporary jazz is an area I feel that many jazz listeners plan on getting around to sometime, but just never really do. This is probably due in part to the absolutely astronomical amount of quality jazz released during the late 50s and 60s, and due also to contemporary’s lack of a solid canon from which to begin exploration. I’m sure music nerds pick up a couple of the more highlighted releases each year (like Coleman’s Sound Grammar of ’06), but not much intensive exploration is done in the genre. I’m no exception to this.

Thus, I was pleasantly surprised when I heard Nublu Orchestra Conducted by Butch Morris. Think Herbie Hancock combined with Squarepusher’s more jazzy songs and the serenity of cool jazz (along with vocals and some healthy avant sections), and you get Nublu. Yes, electo-funk-avant-jazz. Normally I’d think such an album would be trying to achieve too much, overreaching genre boundaries, but somehow this one pulls it off with ease.

Electronic blurbs furnish songs with funky guitars and bass, soulful female vocals and complex yet relaxed percussion. Winding sax and trumpet lines wisp about all around, keeping things interesting and providing effective melodic centerpoints which build on the groovy beats and bass. Many of the songs manage to sound both catchy and unorthodox in form at the same time, making for an album that can be enjoyed both casually and intensively. You can be sure that when I throw a party for jazz-heads, this album’ll be in rotation at some point during the night.

Nublu Orchestra Conducted by Butch Morris is a versatile, well-crafted and refreshing release in a musical age where jazz has largely taken a quiet backseat to today’s more popular music. The album has a rejuvenating effect on me, similar to that of Pharaoh Sanders’ Karma (which I also highly recommend), and it shows that jazz still has some neat tricks up its sleeves. Nublu Orchestra is definitely my current favorite release of the year.

February 22, 2007

Eloe Omoe – Marauders

Filed under: Hype,Music — Shiny Beast @ 11:15 pm

[Animal Disguise; 2007]

Sometimes an ad-hoc genre does its job surprisingly well, sorting a sound into its personalized Tupperware, giving fast access to hungry listeners. “Free-sludge” plays that role for Tim Leanse and Sam Rowell’s debut LP, Marauders. Armed with drums and a bass guitar equipped with numerous effects and distortions, their music is brash and loud. Their heritage lies solidly in the realm of free-jazz while their execution is inspired by noise and their own explorative desires.

Leanse’s wild drumming starts up right from the first track. The boxed rhythms climb side step into the sky then crash back down without taking any breathers to check for broken limbs. Meanwhile, Rowell and her bass are the metamorphic centerpiece. Somewhere within “Meanstreak” is a bassline worthy of Clint Conley’s approval, but that’s hardly the point: it undergoes a turbulent transformation like smog hitting the clean city air, and brings some of the album’s highest highs. Haze follows the duo on “Unimog Lust” for five minutes of acerbic drumming and liberating low frequencies.

“By the Teeth of Our Skin” is the most distilled example of their sound, switching between spotlighting unscripted rhythms and dripping bass tones that would be familiar territory for doom metal bands. The album concludes with “A Bigger Boat,” which after the previous half hour of music only retreads ground, reminding us that they’ve learned how to represent the sound of a recent third degree burn victim floating through a dome full of ice water.

As a freshman effort, Marauders is a nice recording of talents and ideas. Its level of awe inspired is not consistent, however. With a background in free-jazz morals, it’s disappointing that only twice could they pull off extended tracks where they consistently infuse nuanced sounds throughout. These two Bostonians have the ability to genuinely synchronize, though, and their future should be monitored by everyone who perks up to listen to the creation of a “free-sludge” categorization.

February 21, 2007

SSM – SSM

Filed under: Hype,Music — ihggy @ 11:07 pm

[Alive; 2006]

The self-titled debut of Detroit band SSM fits right in with the Alive Records not-quite-garage rock throwback tradition. On SSM, the band takes a relatively authentic and straightforward organ-driven garage style, tears it apart, and reassembles the pieces using heavy 70s dinosaur rock riffs, synthesizers, electronic beats, and noise as adhesives. The result is one of the most interesting and eclectic rock and roll shake up records of the past few years. At its high points, SSM sounds like it could have been made at any time within the past few decades. This is pretty impressive, considering the band’s heavy use of electronics. Take, for example, the track “Sick”. It’s driven by an electronic backbeat and a blown-out synth, but it still rocks the same as any number of garage classics. It also boasts another one of SSM’s stylistic flourishes– brief time signature shifts.

The record’s undeniable timeless classic, however, is the tune “Dinosaur.” It combines something close to Spector-ish production, a creepy but incredibly groovy bassline, an even creepier organ, synth strings, and jagged edged, damaged guitar riffage and ends up being one of the most strangely catchy memorable and exciting tracks of the past couple of years. Throw in the stomper bridge with a great guitar solo from the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, and it’s impossible not to win. Entirely modern, yet somehow ageless.

Though SSM is at their best when they strike this balance, the straight-up rock tracks are typically very good too (the first two tracks especially). Indeed, the record’s only real missteps come when they go too far in the electronic direction. The real clunker here, “Ain’t Love”, uses cheap sounding beats and annoying synths and sounds to obviously “dancey”. Like Stylex or something. It doesn’t feel genuine at all. It feels like the band was like, “well dancing is pretty big right now with the kids, and we have all of these synths, let’s make a dancey tune and get an audience.” I’m not buying it! To be fair, not all of the mostly electronic tunes are bad. “Put Me In”, while very dancey, is never obvious, and has a great groove.

And even when the band is making some productions mistakes, the songwriting quality remains very high. Seriously, SSM is a real steamroller, almost all of these tracks hit. If the band continues to write such good songs, and continues to synthesize their electronic and rock and roll tendencies, they could create some stone classic albums.

February 20, 2007

Deerhunter

Filed under: Artist Profile,Music — RadioFly @ 11:53 pm

DeerhunterBy now, any mildly internet-savvy music geek has grown wary of the indie hype machine that is Pitchfork Media. Their current project is Deerhunter. The site has their share of misses, but let there be no doubt they got it right this time. Deerhunter just released their second full-length (the band’s first on Kranky) to solid reviews from hipsters and hippies alike. This psych pop record, Cryptograms, actually started out as two EPs; one was more all-out craziness while the other was to be more pop-oriented. This amalgam works perfectly, particularly as a starting point for new fans.

The next step for those that dig the record is to find a way to take in one of their beautifully chaotic shows. Though their live act brings a lot more noise to the table, it bears the same spirit as the record—Deerhunter revels in being one of the last bastions of American psychedelia. And, yes, the front-man, Bradford Cox, is approximately 8’4,” 95 lbs, which gives him an ethereal presence (as opposed to the imposing one that is so often reported), which quite nicely suits the show.

Turn it up, FAGGOT!Deerhunter’s sudden rise to the relative indie superstardom will undoubtedly produce a desire for more material. The band is happy to oblige with a new EP already slated for April, but the real treasure of the Deerhunter’s catalogue is the self-titled debut (alternately and more elegantly titled Turn It Up, You Faggot!). Much more akin to their live shows, Deerhunter  stands as one of the best American noise rock albums in recent memory. Though the band still had psychedelic leanings, they could more accurately have been described as noisy post-punk with their roots clearly in Confusion is Sex-era Sonic Youth. Despite some studio effects like the distortion of Cox’s vocals, Deerhunter  does not have the sheen of Cryptograms—this is a grimy record straight from the depths of Atlanta’s suddenly fertile indie rock scene. As Deerhunter continues to climb in popularity, this record will become harder and harder to find–scoop it up while you still have the chance.

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