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April 26, 2007

Thee Oh Sees – Sucks Blood

Filed under: Hype,Music — ihggy @ 1:34 am

[Castle Face Records; 2007]

The Oh Sees (terrible band name, but you knew that), featuring ex-Coachwhips frontman John Dwyer, make lo-fi, atmospheric, “haunted bedroom” pop music on their second record, Sucks Blood. The mood is generally low-key and quiet, basically the exact opposite of the high-energy punk of the Coachwhips. Sure, there is a tiny amount of thee garage in a few of the tunes (most notably the opener “It Killed Mom”), but it is slowed down and chilled out to the point that it is hardly recognizable. Make no mistakes; the sounds of Sucks Blood are quite beautiful and relaxing.

What really sets the album apart is the fact that Kelley Stoltz’s production choices (soaking everything here in a thick haze of reverb and distorted drone) don’t feel like a gimmick, or a mask to hide subpar songwriting, as is the case with many bedroom guitar pop albums. Instead, they give Sucks Blood a wonderful atmosphere and stylistic coherence, and always allow the songs themselves, which are very well written, engaging, memorable, and catchy when appropriate, to shine through. This record is a lovely, serene subaquatic journey. It was recorded thousands of years ago at the bottom of the ocean and won’t be discovered for another few thousand years. These are ancient sounds of the future. I do not know how else to describe it.

Buy Sucks Blood and hear more songs through The Oh Sees myspace, http://www.myspace.com/ohsees !!

April 18, 2007

Boredoms – Super Roots Vol. 9

Filed under: Hype,Music — rkodrzy @ 11:04 pm

[Commmons; 2007]
What a nice surprise it was when I discovered that Boredoms were not on hiatus or broken up, but were releasing an album this year! And it was to be the real deal! A full length album and a continuation of the long running Super Roots series, which has thoroughly documented the evolution of the band from their roots as a schizophrenic noise free-for-all into their current form as a smooth flowing psychedelic trance groove. In fact some might even go as far as to say that the most exciting thing about Boredoms is that you never know what you’re going to get next. They keep you on your toes like few other bands do.

Which brings us to this latest release, Super Roots Vol. 9. My first impressions are of the artwork, which is very nice looking. Seadrum/House of the Sun seemed to be lacking in this department, but now it seems the gang is back on top of things in the visual department. But we’re here for audio, are we not? We are. And the first thing to note is that this is a live album. One forty minute track of solid Bore-dom. Sounds amazing, right? Live Boredoms! New material!

Well, it turns out that the band has kind of got itself stuck in a hole. By displaying so many changes between each of their earlier works, when they put out something that sounds similar to their old stuff, it is a bit of a let down, even if the music itself is good. Vol. 9 sounds like a cross between Vision Creation Newsun and “Seadrum.” Borrowing the shimmering psych kaleidoscopic sounds and driving beats from the former and the meandering and less dynamic sound from the latter, this live performance certainly packs a punch in the fun area of the brain. Danceable grooves and endless clattering drum lines are thrown like a blanket over everything, and there is a constant momentum driving the music ever forward without even a second thought. Overtop it all, a choir of vocalists lay their droning chants…which is probably what sets this release apart the most from the group’s earlier works. Yeah, so not much different.

While this is certainly not a bad release, and hell, I’d even go as far to call it a good release, it is a slight disappointment for fans of Boredoms who are accustomed to being thrown for a loop with each new release. The real question to ponder here is whether or not the band has become stagnant. I suppose we will find out when their next installment comes out.

Blind Willie McTell – The Devil Can’t Hide from Me

Filed under: Music — RadioFly @ 10:42 pm

[Fuel 2000; 2004]
Blind Willie McTell has spent his entire life and the decades since its end being briefly rediscovered and subsequently re-forgotten quicker than the White Stripes can butcher one of his tunes. Nonetheless, McTell’s unique combination of finger-picking, slide guitar, and expressive southern drawl appears on all the big-time blues compilations. These few songs make up the entirety of most music fans’ knowledge of Georgia’s greatest bluesman. Perhaps this is due to the fact that no McTell recording has gained prominence on the level of Robert Johnson’s King of the Delta Blues or Lead Belly’s King of the 12-string Guitar (a title that many of McTell’s fans would disagree with). The Devil Can’t Hide from Me may fit the bill, however, as it is a dazzling session on par with either of those two compilations.

Recorded by the Library of Congress’s Alan Lomax in Atlanta in 1940, McTell was at the apex of his greatest creative period. Though Blind Willie’s most famous tune, “Statesboro Blues,” is absent, he delivers more than enough to make up for that. The grizzled Georgian starts right up after a brief dialogue with a great slice of his soon-to-be-extinct country blues twang before moving into a comical exchange in which Lomax attempts to coax McTell into playing “Ain’t it Hard to be a Nigger, Nigger?” McTell declines, instead playing perhaps his best song, “Boll Weevil,” a startlingly catchy cut that features slide guitar good enough to make Duane Allman jealous.

The impromptu session moves quickly along, showcasing everything that gave McTell his reputation throughout the southeast, starting with his vocals. Blind Willie sings not in the gruff tones of his Delta Blues brethren but rather in a smooth southern drawl. Lyrically, McTell both recalls his dodgy past as a traveling bluesman (“Dying Crapshooter’s Blues”) and soulfully foretells his future as a preacher (“Amazing Grace”). As the recording progresses, two things make themselves clear as constants. The first is Willie’s elegantly nimble guitarwork. The second is Lomax’s constant badgering of McTell to play certain songs to the extent that he seems likely to bust out “FREE BIRD!!!!!” at any moment. McTell, un-phased, always parlays his requests into interesting dialogue before taking control and playing whatever he damn well pleases.

As with all of the great blues musicians, it is impossible go wrong with anything that Blind Willie McTell put on record. Nonetheless, The Devil Can’t Hide from Me still stands as the seminal complete session from McTell, showcasing both the music and life of one of the blues’ best and most interesting legends. If this record has one flaw it’s that it doesn’t come with a sunny front porch and rocking chair that you’ll want after your first spin of “Boll Weevil.”

For more information on Blind Willie McTell, check out the upcoming book, Hand Me My Travelin’ Shoes.
For those interested in other Georgia bluesmen, Curley Weaver and Buddy Moss are the finest.

April 11, 2007

The Pop Group – Y (Re-issue)

Filed under: Hype,Music — Ben-yr-arur @ 2:22 pm

[Radar; 1979, Rhino; 2007]

A good 28 years after its original release, a much-needed re-issue of The Pop Group’s “Y” has arrived on our shelves. Previously only available for extortionate prices, this was an album that had been crying out for a re-release for years. And let me tell you something, it’s certainly been worth the wait.

The fiery band burst onto the scene with Y, their debut, boasting a quite wholly sound; they hammer together funk, jazz, punk, dub-reggae and most impressively make it work. The band wore their firebrand hearts on their sleeve (“Our only defence is together as an army / I’ll hold you like a gun”) and were by no-means afraid to tell people what they thought.

The album opens with the sharp guitar notes of “She is Beyond Good and Evil,” which is the only song on the album that comes close to matching up with their rather ironic name. This album is anything but “Pop” and shortly after the first two brilliant songs are over and the rushed piano noises of “Snowgirl” and the screaming guitars mixed with wailing voices of “Blood money” hit you it’s obvious that it’s not going to be a comfortable listen. The album then pushes on, breaking barriers and revolutionising the sound of punk as it goes as if nothing is happening. “We are Time” comes slap-bang in the middle of the record and represents everything that is good about the group. A ridiculously infectious bass and lead guitar line combination slalom throughout the course of the album-defining song. All the while, drums rattle in and out and Mark Stewart screams memorable lyrics in an almost desperate manner “I, You, We, Are Time.” It wouldn’t surprise me if the band themselves actually believed that they were time; this album is so ahead of it’s time and groundbreaking it’s astounding. The band continue to rampage through the album continuing to defy genre, their sounds ranging from the frantic guitars of “Words Disobey Me” to ambient piano number “Savage Sea.” The album is finally capped off with the somewhat subdued “Don’t Sell Your Dreams” in which the band use reverb and mixed vocals to their full effect and leave their personal imprint on the listener.

One thing that’s always amazed me about this album is the quite ridiculous production, and in its new re-mastered form it manages to sound even more amazing. The production makes the band sound almost otherworldly and eerily distant as if they are trapped in a vast cave with their own sounds echoing around them.

By no means an easy listen, but once you have given it the time to sink in you can begin to probe through its many layers. It’s incredible that even after numerous listens this album seems to throw out new sounds each time I put it in again, and now that this has all been re-mastered it sounds even better than ever. There is also a bonus track, this is the b-side to “She is Beyond Good and Evil” and is essentially the a-side in reverse with the vocals stripped away. This again represents how innovative the band really were.

There are no longer any excuses as for not owning this album. Go forth and buy!

April 5, 2007

Wooden Spoon – The Folk Blues Guitar of Wooden Spoon

Filed under: Hype,Music — Shiny Beast @ 5:59 pm

[Bo’ Weavil; 2007]

Wooden Spoon is a UK guitarist directly descended from John Fahey and his Takoma brethren; being subtle about this would be missing the point. He operates using the same folk-aesthetics mixed with a considerable understanding of melodic composition. Mimicry is simple for proficient musicians, but Wooden Spoon goes well beyond that, continuing to explore the style by scooping out new flavors from the well sampled basin of delights.

Solo-guitar endeavors such as this need to develop character throughout the album to remain worthwhile. Like Fahey, Robbie Basho and others, Spoon personifies his instrumentals with care, crafting dynamic guitar melodies that convey as much emotion to the willing listener as poignant vocals. Opening track, By the Riverside, starts off innocent and attractive but gradually perks up its sense of adventure and takes off on a journey to wherever your imaginary riverside leads. This sets up the refined conflict that is visible for the remainder of the record: understated, quiet beauty versus a curious yearning for new experiences. Dead Shrimp sounds like a Huck Finn adventure while Cherry Mash could be the music of a midday picnic. To close, In the Dark City is a lingering track that employs ambient loops and string plucks that hint at an ethereal, yet exquisite, visit to this shadowy haunt. Though a slight change from the rest of the album, it serves to remind listeners that this album is a product of the 21st century and that it’s not a bad thing – Spoon isn’t on a mission to produce hopeless nostalgia. He reminds us that somewhere in that big, modern city, there’s 17 minutes and 31 seconds of a hushing journey waiting to be perceived.

Instead of playing an alchemist and trying to mix and match styles to form his own, Wooden Spoon simply takes that which has been most affective to his music career and works with it for his own artistic purposes. While it is not musically innovative, nor does it have a historical context to add mystique to the sound, this album’s charm and character make it a worthy listen for fans of John Fahey’s then-revolutionary guitar.

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