Friday, January 21, 2011

Braids - Native Speaker (2011)


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For fans of: Animal Collective, Glasser, Neon Indian

An Animal Collective comparison is inevitable; the ambiance at many times recalls Feels, the crescendoing electronics recalls Strawberry Jam or Merriweather Post Pavilion, and the vocal stylings of Raphaelle Standell-Preston often sound like Avey Tare if he were to suddenly to lose his adam's apple. Nonetheless, Braids do a great job taking what's so great about An. Co. and employing them in new ways. I'm a sucker for these powerful female vocals, and all the instrumentation is carefully laid down and very atmospheric a la Fever Ray, albeit much more upbeat and organic. You won't find the most amazing chord progressions or impressive drumming or anything like that here, but they make up for their possible lack of experience by making use of some great ideas and influences. - Matthew Foster

"Depending on whatever aspect of Braids' music captures listeners at any moment, they call to mind widely varied influences. Over the course of their debut, Native Speaker, shades of Animal Collective, Bj√∂rk, Karen O, the Cocteau Twins, Siouxsie Sioux, and Yeasayer pop up in the most improbable combinations, making for unpredictable -- and sometimes thrilling -- listening. Opening track “Lemonade” defines the band’s sound, from its intricate instrumentation to its free-flowing structure to Raphaelle Standell-Preston's angelic voice, which coos surprisingly profane lyrics like “Have you fucked all the stray kids yet?” Standell-Preston's singing and the band’s playing are both forces to be reckoned with, but for most of Native Speaker they work together instead of competing with each other. “Glass Deers” suggests a less-weird Sugarcubes (even with Standell-Preston's insistently trilled refrain “I’m fucked up”), while “Same Mum” gives the band’s sound a tropical lilt. Still, some of the album’s best moments happen when Braids calm down a little. The album’s sensual title track shows how ably the band can make eight minutes feel like half that, with softly encompassing drones and erotically inclined vocals. “Lammicken” takes the band’s sound in an enticingly different direction that sounds like filter disco and dream pop blurred together, as Standell-Preston sings “I can’t stop it” in countlessly different ways. As intriguing as Native Speaker is, it’s not perfect: Standell-Preston's vocals can border on grating, and sometimes the band’s approach feels formless instead of abstract. Nevertheless, Braids' uniquely feminine experimental pop is largely a success." - AMG

Friday, January 7, 2011

Red - Felk (2000)


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For fans of: Jandek, David Grubbs, John Cage

Of all the strange music I've heard, this could very well beat them all for the strangest. It's an experimental mix of blues and minimal electronica that somehow manages to fit together quite nicely. The track "Dyin' in the Wine" even features what could be a complete dub techno track behind the guitar strums and barely comprehensible vocals. As if the strange genre blend isn't enough, there are random background sounds throughout including baby cries that give an interesting contrast between everyday life and the bizarre music in the foreground. I'm not sure this will hold up well to multiple listens, but if you like music that blends diverse styles and sounds like nothing else, you're sure to be awestruck by this. - Matthew Foster

"France's Red (aka Olivier Lambin) comes across as the aging soul that is fortified by strong wine and an innocent but overactive imagination. It is as if the man had just discovered music and the wonders of a recording device and decided to incubate himself in his garage to record one strange, chilling, yet wonderful album. The creepiest element comes from the contrast made by the sound of a very young child that can be heard crying in the background throughout a good portion of the disc while the older Lambin eerily rambles, croons and babbles away, like the ghost of Elvis Presley fused with the voice box of a horse. The rough guitar ballads (including covers of Hank Williams' "I Saw the Light" and McKinley Morgenfield's "Baby Please Don't Go") screech with honesty and passion, while other tracks are awash with loops of drones and other makeshift electronic noises. His pathological version of Talking Heads' "Road to Nowhere" is enough to make one think (and possibly worry) about what else is out there to enjoy. The next time you see a light on in someone's basement in the middle of the night, just pray that they are doing something productive like Lambin does. It is always nice to be graced by damaged beauty." - Exclaim

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Robert Hood - Omega (2010)


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For fans of: Jeff Mills, Omar S, Redshape

I was resisting this because of the Soundtrack tag, but it's really more of a concept album inspired by a film rather than something meant to be heard while watching a film. While I can't speak for how exactly the music relates to "The Omega Man," I can say confidently that this is a fantastic piece of techno. Surprisingly, I think this is my favorite thing I've heard from Hood yet. I really enjoyed both Waveform Transmission Vol. 2 and Minimal Nation, but neither really wowed me like this one (I should give them more listens though). It's propulsive and builds with several layers that interact in an undeniable groove, and also subtly shifts through these layers revealing a new sound that seems to come out of nowhere. If I hear more like this, Robert Hood will become one of the first names that come to mind when I think "Detroit Techno." - Matthew Foster

"Omega is a concept album of sorts from Robert Hood, the “godfather of minimal” and a founder member of the shadowy Underground Resistance, the political wing of Detroit's electronic music scene, of which he was appointed Minister of Information.

In the vein of fellow former UR member Jeff Mills' groundbreaking project in which he wrote his own re-imagined soundtrack to Fritz Lang's dystopian vision Metropolis, Hood has based his latest digital excursion on The Omega Man, the 1971 sci-fi classic starring Charlton Heston, which in turn was based on Richard Matheson's 1954 novel I Am Legend (the legacy of which is unfortunately tainted by a more recent, woefully substandard vehicle for Will Smith). Like Metropolis, it is also something of an unsettling version of the future, but one devastated by science unleashed, biological war and populated by marauding psychotic survivors, something that Hood is mindful of in using the film as inspiration (it is not strictly a soundtrack) for his latest work. “It’s definitely metaphoric,” he says, “and if we don't heed the signs, this is where we'll end up. We live in a society where we just consume. We just take.”

As inspiration, it has proved valuable. From the eerie layered vocals of opening track Alpha (The Beginning) and the glitchy, ambient electronics of The Plague (Cleansing Maneuvers), Hood's scene is evocatively set. Towns That Disappeared Completely introduces a throbbing 4/4, punctuated with a stabbing synth. Alpha is firmer still, industrial and threatening, machine music and evidence of his deft skill in making hypnotic minimalism captivating. Think Fast is funky and flowing, while Are You God? pulses before building to a clattering, almost arrhythmic crescendo. The Family Watches and War in the Streets are on the surface chugging, stripped-down club tracks offered substance by Hood's sinister subject matter. Saved By the Fire and The Wheels of Escape twist layers of bleeps and bizarre effects over urgent, pulsating percussion, while the charging, hypnotic synths of album closer Omega (End of Times) are genuinely unsettling.

In affording his stripped, mesmerising minimalism a jarring, apocalyptic context, so it becomes all the more engrossing." - BBC