January 29, 2009

"Earthly Styles" Podcast!

I'm not entirely certain I'm done with the EP, but nevertheless, here's a podcast of "Earthly Styles" in its entirety.

Earthly Styles

January 8, 2009

Kitty Digs: January, Twenty-O-Nine. "For Turntables Only."

The Beach Boys - Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!) (1965)
Eddie Fisher - The Third Cup (1970)
Nico - Chelsea Girl (1967)
Sun Ra - Strange Strings (1967)
Sœur Sourire - The Singing Nun (1963)
Echo and the Bunnymen - Heaven Up Here (1981)
The Rolling Stones - Let It Bleed (1969)
Jimi Hendrix - Jimi Plays Monterey [Jun 18, 1967] (2007)
Joy Division - Closer (1980)
The Beatles - Abbey Road (1969)

January 3, 2009

Animal Collective: "Merriweather Post Pavilion".

Whether you're one to argue Creationism or a Big Bang, you'll undoubtedly agree that the majesty and order now inherent in our universe was created out of an infinitely complex and mind-numbingly beautiful chaos, keeping in step with "ordo ab chao" and tickling the intellects of generation after generation of philosophers and deep thinkers. In much the same way, Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion is born out of one singular moment of disorder, dispelling amongst the ether the shattered fractals of an intelligent design yet to assemble.

"In the Flowers" integrates spacey piano peckings with subtly-layered ambience, rising and exploding into an anthem of epic proportions; just as suddenly as it springs from the interstices between uncivilized music and ambience, it dissolves again into space. In many ways, "In the Flowers" works for and against the rest of the album.

"My Girls" lacks the spaciness of the aforementioned, and instead soon becomes a pounding disco-centric tune, soaked in the reverb AC has become known for employing. "Also Frightened" is AC circa Sung Tongs, with a synthy twist, and showcases Avey and Panda's masterful vocal harmonizing (a la Wilson brothers) - though you'd almost swear Jean Michel Jarre's Oxygene suite lies buried, reinterpreted, somewhere within.

"Summertime Clothes" and "Daily Routine" share a similar spirit, though couldn't be more sonically diverse, most notably in percussive temperment and melodic expression; the former creates a rigid and unstoppable force through a thumping beat and industrial synth pad, filling every crack and crevice with sun-drenched vocals, while the latter features a much more tribal percussive feel, and one which halts as tinkering keys bleed and coalesce with meandering vocals.

"Bluish" is uncanny in its ability to separate the album into halves which do not necessarily belong together at once - just as multiple universes coexist, yet never overlap - and a large part of this separation is at once recognizable as AC's influences appear like shadows over the music, flashes of the Beach Boys' pop brilliance bursting and disseminating amidst the hazey instrumentation.

Panda saves the somewhat mundane "Guys Eyes" with flashy drumming, and "Taste" stands firm as the most introspective and philosophical track of the bunch. The last three tunes of this otherworldly release really carry well the weight of an already creatively heavy work, with the experimentally-pleasing head-boppers "Lion in a Coma" and "Brothersport", as well as a more reserved classic-rocker in "No More Runnin'".

Overall, Merriweather Post Pavilion is the promise of a bright and sunshiney 2009, though the obnoxiousness of such a promise is escaped narrowly, deftly, with the Collective's intuitive use of the atmosphere surrounding the music - just as important as the warping of space around celestial bodies. Without the pliable (though invisible) stuff between the notes, what have we but one more dry, characterless production stunt? The mastery is gauged in the manipulation of the negative space around the music, in order to create bold and boisterous new worlds - and ones we won't want to leave for some time to come.


January 2, 2009

Stereolab: "Chemical Chords".

There was once a group - scratch that, the Groop - of knob-twiddlers amidst the up-and-coming sea of other shoegazers and knob-twiddlers with a much different agenda; this Groop brought to their music a collective love of a widely-influential genre which was dismissively dubbed "krautrock" at the time of its inception, for a lack of easy categorization (as the music collected many elements of funk and jazz and mingled them with post-psychedelic and prog rock) and also due to its origin in Germany shortly before the world was taken hostage by punk rock.

Seminal progressive acts such as Neu! and Can, among others, were hugely dominant references, and many elements of these bands' styles were applied to a masterfully-prolific songwriting engine (aka Tim Gane) which already combined elements of lounge and french orchestral pop music of the 1960's - and, yes, some early shoegaze aesthetic.

This formula gave rise to over a decade of beautifully contiguous, kraut-infused post-rock masterpieces - such as 1994's Mars Audiac Quintet and 1996's Emperor Tomato Ketchup - as well as an act worthy of acclaim and responsible for influencing a whole new generation of alternative and post-rock groups.

After the untimely death of harmonizing vocalist extraordinaire Mary Hansen in 2002, the Groop inevitably lost steam, and the engine slowed to a halt. 2004's Margerine Eclipse brought about a slightly reinvented machine, slicked and polished and surprisingly back in tact, yet Hansen's absence effectively took a leg out from under the Groop; if you lean a little too hard against the frailness and beauty of Stereolab's post-Hansen releases, it might just topple over.

There are far too many holes in such a once-great formula - simultaneously static and dynamic, sonically - these days, despite founding member and singer/keyboardist Laetitia Sadir's best efforts to patch it up and move ahead.

2008's Chemical Chords cannot be accurately reviewed by any serious Stereolab fan without the words "disappointing" and "uninspired" creeping to mind, and though there are a handful of truly decent (and even enjoyable) tracks gracing the album, the majority of Chemical Chords feels like an unsuccessful reproduction of a much more enthusiastic and purposeful release (being '04's Margerine Eclipse).

Among the better of the fourteen tracks comprising the album, the opener, "Neon Beanbag", reintroduces the staples of Stereolab's tried-and-true style - a trebly, chunky bass line, some bubbly electronics and Laetitia Sadir's heavenly vocals (which still seem to attempt to conjure up the phantom pipes of one Mary Hansen), as well as a melodic french horn cameo - into a motorik-meets-Mozart harpsichord-rocker.

"Three Women" revisits the pure minimalism and lengthy, chugging nature of Stereolab's past efforts (see Mars Audiac or Switched On Vol. 2), and "One Finger Symphony" proves fitting within the bubbly, summer lounge vibe of 1997's Dots and Loops, though a little bass-heavy and operating within much too short a time frame for any Stereolab tune to fully develop. Luckily, our title track is a shiner, seeing symphonic, Parisian-pop bliss interspersed with Sadir's tastefully percussive vocals.

The record begins to become much more insipid with "Valley Hi!", as Neu! bleeds right through the tune at the onset; Sadir's vocals once again save the day, however, jerking this track out of the crowded bowels of the krautrock wasteland known as "indie rock" - a wasteland the next track, "Silver Sands", does not so luckily escape.

"Self Portrait With 'Electric Brain'" and "Cellulose Sunshine" do much to attest to the Groop's incumbency yet as clear pop masters, but it's the closing tune that proves the most satisfying of the lot, sounding as if it were lifted straight from the threshing floor of the Margerine Eclipse sessions; a bass-driven, harpsichord-infused and vocally stimulating track, indeed.

Though 2008's Chemical Chords may not be the reassurance Stereolab fans were seeking that the strength and endurance of the Groop's beloved formula is still intact, it does prove that they're completely unwilling to lapse into creative stagnation, which - considering how long the Groop has been at it and just how much they have been through - is quite a reassurance in itself.


January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

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