DJ Lorbo’s Freshness of the Week
I have to listen to music. I wouldn’t quite call it a compulsion, though I’d gather it’s fairly close to one. I suppose it feels more like an addiction – if I go too long without listening to new music I start to feel weird and a little uncomfortable.
I love my addiction to music. I adore it.
There is so much music out there that is just so incredible, so unfathomably genius, that I feel pretty damn privileged to appreciate it all so fully.
I love music because it enhances my environment and my state of mind. The mood, the tone, the colors of the music accent my sensory perception of everything, so that I can never really experience the same exact scenario twice. That way, every day is exciting.
I am never bored.
And new music effing rocks anyway. Anyone who says the best music was made 30 years ago or hundreds of years ago needs to open up their ears to some of the truly remarkable artists of our generation. Their music is representative of an unapologetically unique youth culture that’s arisen out of almost unanimous dissent of the state of the world.
Our world right now is f*cked up. Why shouldn’t our music be f*cked up as well?
And so we have artists that challenge the notions of what “music” is, of what the very definition of the word means, and of what is capable of being achieved through sound. Every vision is, of course, unique.
So anyways, here’s some shit I’ve been into the past couple of weeks. Pretty much all great stuff – I don’t really have much time anymore to spend any time with music that doesn’t tend to blow me away immediately. Fortunately for me, I get blown away a lot. I’ve tried to stay with recent stuff – mostly 2009, with a few stragglers from 2008 and one from the now-ancient 2007 – while eschewing some of the other stuff I’ve already raved about in these pages. Huzzah!
Prefuse 73 – “Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian”
betterPropoganda.com recently named Prefuse 73, one of the many aliases of Guillermo Scott Herren, artist of the decade. Listening to his work, it’s really difficult to argue. 2003’s “One Word Extinguisher” is still one of the best albums I’ve ever heard and certainly one of the best all time. His newest album, “Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian,” is, quite simply, ridiculously awesome and comes close to being Mr. Herren’s most accomplished work to date,
29 tracks over 48 minutes. It’s definitely a departure from the more song-based orientation of his earlier work; here we have innumerable little sketches, ideas, themes, colors, stories, concepts, all strung together into a sprawling narrative of sorts. The scenes change so quickly that the track distinctions cease to really matter, and the album becomes not just a collection of photographs or disparate stories, but a remarkable and exciting stream of consciousness.
While perhaps, on a song-by-song basis, “Ampexian” may not appear as strong as, say, “Extinguisher,” there’s really no reason to try to compare the two experiences. What “Ampexian” offers is something wholly unique, something so mind-bogglingly complete in and of itself that it is difficult to find any fault whatsoever. It takes a lot of guts to split up your ideas into 29 tracks. It’s saying, “I’m confident that these images are so fully realized and complete that they can stand alone as individual ideas, no matter how long they are.” And yet the only real way to listen to this album is all at once.
Every sound is lyrical. Every beat, every sample, every quick transition, every rhythm and bass line and groove, is lyrical. This is truly music of the highest order. Enjoy the trip (and don’t hog the bong).
Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
How sick is Yellow House? The atmosphere on that album, that sense of dreamy grandeur and delicate beauty with a hint of unsettled disturbance, couldn’t ever possibly be repeated or, indeed, improved upon. Fortunately, Grizzly Bear don’t try to.
With “Veckatimest,” Ed Droste, Daniel Rossen and company perfect another atmosphere. What that atmosphere is, exactly, is a bit harder to explain. It certainly doesn’t sound like “Yellow House,” yet it sounds very distinctly like Grizzly Bear. The instantly adventurous opening guitar to “Southern Point,” for example, is at once a departure from and an extension of the band’s sound.
The album seems, intriguingly, slightly broader, a little darker, a bit more abstract. The slow and steady “All We Ask,” with perhaps the album’s most beautiful refrain: “I can’t / get out / of what I’m into / with you,” contrasts wonderfully with the brilliant pop song “Two Weeks,” drenched in bright piano and fantastic vocal harmonies.
Ah, there it is! The vocals sure sound a little different this time around. Not only are the harmonies more prevalent and even more absurdly beautiful (“Cheerleader” and “While You Wait For the Others” are the best showcases), but also Droste’s voice is complimented here by both his bandmates in a much larger capacity (Rossen and Christopher sing lead as well) and by a child’s choir. Not as pretentious as it sounds, I assure you – it’s incorporated tastefully and appropriately, blending in with the mix and coloring the vocal palette rather than overwhelming with bombast and epic aplomb.
But back to that atmosphere. Maybe it’s the seemingly wider spectrum of vocal colors, maybe it’s the slow churning and gently driving nature of the songs that seem to walk comfortably along, as opposed to “Yellow House’s” portraits of feelings and moments in time. In the end, it’s different, and I love it.
Telefon Tel Aviv – Immolate Yourself
A day after the release of Telefon Tel Aviv’s stellar “Immolate Yourself”,” Charlie Cooper, one half of the electronic duo, was found dead. As far as I can tell the cause of death is still a bit of mystery, lending the album an unfortunate yet nonetheless enthralling ghostly aura. While the future of the band remains uncertain, fans can still catch Joshua Eustis and friend of the group Frede Nogueira on tour, supporting both the album and Charlie’s memory.
“Immolate Yourself” is dark, dense and brooding, the spacey synths, bottomless bass and propulsive percussion a slight departure from the band’s previous album, the post-rocky “Map of What is Effortless.” This is epic, layered, filmic music, excellent for intimate nights alone and easy to completely lose yourself in. The boys’ harmonies lie submerged within the mix, and when they push their way to the forefront, as in the ridiculously good “The Birds,” the music positively swells emotionally.
If the album seems to plod in its second half, you’re trying too hard. This is visceral, deep music that requires a little bit of work and patience (and a love for darrrrrrrrk synths and nighttime).
Fever Ray – Fever Ray
This is Karin Driejer Andersson’s, one half of the mysterious and enticing dark electropop duo The Knife, debut solo album, and it’s just as intense and all sorts of interesting as her group’s definitive 2006 album “Silent Shout.” With Fever Ray, however, Andersson tones down the menacing and dynamic dancefloor confidence of that record with an anxious, unsettling, and almost claustrophobic dread. Songs like “When I Grow Up” and “Seven” exude a kind of innocence that’s at once endearing and a bit spooky, while billowing, throbbing percussion and dark synths eerily compliment the stories
As always, Andersson’s voice takes center stage, and it’s modulated in all sorts of directions to keep her sounding as alien as possible. Yet there are moments when she sounds delicate, fragile, and vulnerable, and it’s at these times that the album truly shines.
Flying Lotus – Los Angeles
This is the music of the future for all intents and purposes. Mary Anne Hobbes, BBC reporter and music obsessive, called Flying Lotus, a.k.a. Steven Ellison, the Hendrix of his generation, and listening to the ambitious, sprawling, and otherworldly “Los Angeles,” it’s tough to rebut. Flying Lotus crafts elegant beats and soundscapes, layered and layered with glitches, melodies and atmospheres. Modern music just doesn’t get much better than this, and I am almost completely at a loss to speak of it any further, other than suggesting that anyone who considers themselves a music lover would only be doing themselves a disservice by passing up this wonderful album by one of the great artists of our time.
Faunts – Feel.Love.Thinking.Of.
Over a handful of recordings Faunts have grown from an epic electronic post-rock band to purveyors of smart electronic pop, and they’re all the better for the change. Like last year’s incredible “Saturdays = Youth” by sprawling shoegaze veteran M83, “Feel.Love.Thinking.Of. conjures images of the 80’s, most notably those classic John Hughes films, whilst sounding distinctly of this generation. It sounds youthful and mysterious, dreamy and comfortable.
Whereas the band’s previous EP, “M4,” was made up of lengthy, swirling ruminations with dancing guitar melodies and slow burning builds, “Feel.Love.Thinking.Of.” has as much in common with electronic indie like The Notwist as it does with the swelling grandeur of, say, Mogwai, without sounding, oddly enough, like either (with the exception of “Input,” a primarily vocal track that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on The Notwist’s excellent “The Devil, You + Me”). What Faunts achieve, then, is an interesting originality of tone that sounds imaginative, intriguing, and incredibly listenable.
Well this is a little bit of a departure. I saw Deacon in an interview at the Baltimore studio, hidden deep in the woods, where he was recording his latest opus, and he boasted of the wider palette of instruments that “Bromst” would consist of.
He wasn’t kidding. Mallet percussion, horns, guitars – quite the expansive line-up. And yet this is still distinctly Dan Deacon. Much of his trademark whimsy is still intact: the chipmunk vocals; the hyperactive, glitchy melodies; bouncy rhythmic grooves that travel across landscapes and dip and curve and fly smoothly, building and intensifying. But many of the tracks here do take their time. “Snookered,” at just over eight minutes, is an album centerpiece and a glorious example of the new Dan Deacon sound. Beginning with a lone mallet melody, building to a chanted vocal section, followed by a rhythmic, manipulated a capella section, it takes quite the journey before finally reaching its destination.
Other standouts are the sure to be crowd-pleasing “Woof Woof” and the rapturous “Of the Mountains.” And at a little over an hour, there is plenty of music here to get completely lost in, something I was more than willing to do.
Fans of Deacon’s “Spiderman of the Rings” may find the album’s relatively mellow tone blasphemous. Time will tell what the Dan Deacon live show will become; once known for performing solo among the crowd rather than on a stage to a crowd, he is now touring with a band and playing staged venues. No doubt his ability to bring together and command community among his followers will remain intact.
Also, I’m a sucker for awesome packaging, and “Bromst” includes a booklet that can be crafted into a miniature tent:
School of Seven Bells – Alpinisms
I just can’t stop spinning this album. What beautiful music this trio makes! Benjamin Curtis, previously of Secret Machines (and better off now that he’s out) here teams up with twin sisters Alejandra and Claudia Dehaza to create a wonderful psychedelic gem of an album.
Curtis flexes his programming and electronic chops here, crafting driving and swirling beats and grooves drenched in reverb and sound. The sisters, however, really bring this project to the next level. Their voices compliment each other as perfectly as you’d imagine twin sisters to be capable of – different enough to almost be able to distinguish between them, yet close enough that they sound positively anthemic together.
And those lyrics! Some of the best lyrics I’ve heard in ages, dealing with life, dreams, reality, and love in such a personal and visceral way. “Sometimes I go whole days / listening bored half asleep / I don’t say anything / that means a thing to me.” Been there, girls. It’s tough to mention standouts – the whole album flows together in a terrific blend of futuristic electronic and droney, shoegazey psychedelic.
!!! – Myth Takes
Find me something wrong with this album.
El Guincho – Alegranza
Alright, so this one’s been out for a little while (early 2008), but just cause I’m a little late to the party doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the thing now that I’ve shown up. El Guincho is Pablo Diaz-Reixa, a native of Barcelona, and he wears his heritage proudly. His unique blend of Cuban, afrobeat, tropical, and dub filtered through sample-heavy electronic sounds poised to destroy your next dancefloor party. Billowing vocal harmonies and ethnic, jostling percussion exemplify the kind of joyous, rhythmic music that artists like Panda Bear and Skeletons fuse into their sounds.
Added bonus: some of the trippiest artwork I’ve seen.
Mother Teresa and Iconic Realism
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