Monday, May 7, 2012

The Machine - RedHead (2010)

For fans of: Demdike Stare, Culoe De Song, Wolfgang Voigt

Yeah, incredibly hypnotic trance inducing tribal house music. Big bouncy beats that'll get you locked in, drums to get your blood pumping, and spacey synths and strange sounds and samples to make you gaze in awe. All of it looped to no end and played with indulgently. It won't let me sit still, I don't want to sit still, this is great. I don't care if it's super repetitive, I have no idea how much time is going by when it's on. - Matthew Foster

"Matt Edwards goes by many names -- Matthew E, Rekid, Quiet Village, Sea Devils, Radio Slave -- and now you can also call him RedHead. Whereas under his various other guises he creates old-school acid house or electro-pop or disco, as RedHead he makes music that doesn't seem to care very much whether you're interested in dancing, though you can go ahead and try if you want to. "Continental Drift" is the most disinterested of the six very long tracks on this album; it sounds like a ship's mast creaking, with ocean waves, a ride cymbal, and a static but strangely urgent synth chord that sustains itself for the length of the track and, brilliantly, brings out the actual pitch of the creaking ship's mast. It's a very cool, but excessively long track. It's followed immediately by the funky, burbling groove of "Opening Ceremony (Fuse)," which is, oddly enough, saved from monotony by the sudden appearance of a Gregorian chant sample. "Leopard Skin" sounds like something Muslimgauze might have recorded after a visit to the Amazonian jungle; "Talking Dolls" blends an unassuming house beat with dubwise vocal snippets, and "Root People" blends a house beat with field recordings in a manner that brings to mind African Head Charge crossed with Jon Hassell. Only the grim and rather boring "Spell Bound" fails to cast much of a spell; everything else on this album is weirdly brilliant." - AMG

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Hundred Waters - Hundred Waters (2012)


For fans of: Dirty Projectors, The Books, Braids

Hundred Waters create a sound that is truly their own here. It's part pop, part folk, part experimental, and is largely electronic. They clearly know what they're doing when they mix electronics into the otherwise organic songs and it never comes off as amateurish. The singer has a very soft voice that's easy to get drawn into. The album definitely fits into modern indie music well, and is one of the more accomplished albums I've heard in a long time. - Matthew Foster

"It’s been a rough couple of years for bands tied to folk-tronica. The genre has become contemporary easy listening built to soundtrack an overpriced sushi dinner in a chic hotel restaurant, or perhaps music that gets drowned out by the roar of a Starbucks frother. Critical respect has been lagging, but a new bright spot has appeared in Hundred Waters.

The group’s self-titled album debut builds upon their EP by crafting a tapestry of 60′s British-inspired folk updated with contemporary electronic flourishes. On album opener “Sonnet”, it becomes clear that this is a band with a unified musical vision and a tightness akin to jazz musicians. On “Visitor”, vocalist Nicole Miglis’ breathy vocals wash over rippling synths before everything morphs into a percussion-heavy head banger, a word not typically associated with this style of loungy electronica, yet the Gainesville, FL sextet pull it off.

Hundred Waters is at its best when space is given for a song to breathe, as on album closer “Gather”. Stripped down to Miglis’ somber voice, piano, and cello, the result is haunting. Tranquil lullaby “Caverns” finds Miglis channeling Björk, delving into the depths of a cavern on a lazy boat ride, as drops of water trickle down from the stalactites. This close tie to nature continues on “Boreal” where Miglis moves everything to a forest scene.

There’s a glut of sound packed into most tracks, which works both for and against the band. While it makes for an interesting spin, it restricts the listener from completely engaging each track. The ADHD-like shifts peppered throughout illustrate the band’s incredible talent, but at times the erratic demonstations come across as a band flexing their musical muscle for the sake of it.

There’s a lot to love here despite its flaws, and the band stands to have a break out year – that is, if audiences can keep a patient ear. True song craft and musicianship is at work within Hundred Waters, and that warrants some serious attention." - COS

Friday, February 10, 2012

Lindstrøm - Six Cups of Rebel (2012)


For fans of: Mark E, The Field, Oneohtrix Point Never

With intense funk and progressive interludes, this album is packed to brim with a heavy sound and a deep groove that carries through the whole album. Spacey synths and altered vocals fill out the tracks and keep my attention peaked. Lindstrøm's not making the same music he's made before, he's taking his space-disco into places it's never been and he's doing it with as much finesse as ever. If you can delve into the sugary layers here, you're in for a treat. It's the first great album of the year for me. - Matthew Foster

"Hans-Peter Lindstrøm is back with what's technically only his second "proper" solo album, and it is a feisty one. The unpredictable Norwegian producer seems to be taking some cues here from his labelmates (and sometime-remix cronies), the prog pranksters Mungolian Jet Set; Six Cups of Rebel is chock-full of the kind of bizarre, cartoonish, sci-fi lunacy and cheekily maximalist, gonzo musical odysseys they've made their stock-in-trade. In particular, the album is animated by a virtual armada of goofy, muppet-like voices -- most or all of which are Lindstrøm's own, tweaked and twisted in ways even the Knife might find extreme. It's certainly recognizable as the work of the same artist -- his sense of pacing, patient and playful in equal measure, remains as masterful as ever -- and features a unified, suite-like structure, but this is a far cry from the understated elegance and monumental minimalism of 2008's Where You Go I Go Too. It doesn't start out that way, however. The album opens in relative stillness and solemnity, with a single, spiraling organ figure gradually augmented by swelling, skyward organs, until the sudden rug pull of "De Javu" launches into demento disco mode for the next 20-odd minutes. Here's where the loopy vocal phantasmagoria really holds sway -- from the bluesman yowling "I can't get no release" to a curmudgeonly fellow muttering "All I want is a quiet place to live" to a chorus line of scatting space creatures demanding "What kind of magik do you do?" -- interwoven into a string of strutting mutant dance jams. The less vocally oriented second side embarks on a slippery arpeggio-thon that meanders like a prog-tinted jam session, featuring improvisatory drumming and oblique quotes from "Here Comes the Sun." It passes through the twitchy, zapping acid-funk of the title track en route to the glittery, expansive synthesizer fantasia of "Hina," which comes full circle with a swooning, celestial susurration of voices. It's the first time we feel a satisfying sense of prolonged suspension. The album is in a near-constant state of masterfully sustained harmonic and rhythmic tension. Just when you thought it couldn't possibly last, that swirling organ line reappears like a devilish deus ex machina, and sends the whole thing circling around again." - AMG

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Current 93 - Thunder Perfect Mind (1992)


For fans of: Swans, Comus, Six Organs Of Admittance

It's both creepy and thoroughly interesting, part pastoral folk, part abstract experiment. The lyrical themes are far-reaching, and the music is subtly psychedelic, with chimes and flutes. Even though it doesn't grab me as quickly as a lot of music does, it excells at being transportive. - Matthew Foster

"Of course, the music on Thunder Perfect Mind is nothing less than essential, the first entry in David Tibet's masterful three-album run that also included the classics Of Ruine or Some Blazing Starre and All The Pretty Little Horses. With TPM, David Tibet created his first highly personal tour de force, a sprawling double album that finally gelled all of Tibet's myriad influences - esoteric, lyrical and musical - and represented the very culmination of his promising, though uneven early career. Thunder Perfect Mind is that rare class of albums where every track is a highlight - the crisp medieval balladry and bizarre Gnostic cosmology that comprise "The Descent of Long Satan and Babylon," the melancholic funeral dirge of "A Song for Douglas After He's Dead," the atmospheric gloom of "A Sadness Song" and the swirling, spectral psychedelia of "All The Stars Are Dead Now." The collaborations on TPM are among Current 93's finest: Jhon Balance's vocals on "Rosy Star Tears From Heaven" pushes the track into the kind of Satanic fury previously only heard on Comus' First Utterance, and Bevis Frond's Nick Salomon contributes an electrifying third-eye guitar track to the side-long prophetic Blakean hallucinations of "Hitler as Kalki (SDM)." David Tibet and producer Steven Stapleton transform holophonic krautrocker Sand's skeletal "When The May Rain Comes" into a masterpiece of phased Euro-folk, evoking the wet cobblestones of a half-remembered old-world Berlin." - Jonathan Dean

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Oneida - Happy New Year (2006)


For fans of: Fly Pan Am, Liars, Six Organs of Admittance

Oneida are a band that have always been on the fringe of my attention, with sometimes captivating, but sometimes alienating noisey indie rock. With this one, I don't feel too detached from the music, and can really sink into the kroutrock-like grooves and enjoy what's here. They use a wide range of instruments, and successfully create a wide range of styles, from folk to blues, though always with a noisey, pschedelic, but also laid-back feel. You can tell that they're not using a million dollar studio, but it doesn't seem to hold them back at all, incorporating a bunch of electronics and effects. - Matthew Foster

"Reflecting the cyclical nature of earth and life itself, Oneida's eighth full-length album, Happy New Year, presents ideas of death and rebirth, and the continuity, and yet tenuousness, of existence. It's a poetic work of circling guitars and melodic phrases and vocal lines repeating and layered like monastic chants. The opener, "Distress," is comprised of a four-line phrase about the fleeting nature of beauty ("So fades the lovely blooming flower/Frail, smiling solace of an hour/So soon our transient comfort flies/And pleasure only blooms to die"), with modal harmonies and haunting, sparse background music, while the dark musings of "The Misfit" explore the notion of evil and perfidiousness, referencing perhaps the character in Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man Is Hard to Find." But the band isn't trying to present an image of hopelessness, of a hell, or even a limbo from which you can never escape. Rather, they seem to be exploring the realm of purgatory, where, though it may require a great deal of time and sacrifice, there is hope of redemption. Both "Up with People" and "History's Great Navigator's" offer suggestions for improvement ("Open your eyes, the things you see/Are determined by the height of the ground you seize" and "Cross your heart, hope to die/Calm your voice, set your eye/Turn your back and go," respectively) as the band grooves along with quick drums and purposeful noise; it's all very much planned, controlled, with Oneida, acting as Virgil, guiding listeners along. Though the screeches and rumblings that occur in some of the songs (though as an album, Happy New Year is much less hard than what the band has previously produced) may occasionally seem arbitrary, in fact everything is very tightly contained. The idea of messiness is only put there to add effect, not because Oneida are losing control of their message and their statement. The record may not promise happiness or salvation, but it does propose ideas that can be contemplated in the time between the winding melodies and riffs, and perhaps one day, we too, like the Pilgrim, can continue on alone." - AMG