Thursday, July 30, 2009

What I Heard This Morning: MadLove

Fans of avant-metal-jazz bassist Trevor Dunn (Mr. Bungle, Fantômas, Trevor Dunn’s Trio Convulsant) will be happy to know that he’s going back to rock n’ roll with his new creation, MadLove. After having spent the last ten years since Bungle’s California album basically being an obscure artist with some current Mike Patton-related entanglements, MadLove will likely be the most accessible thing he’s done since, though I’m certainly not accusing California of being “accessible.”

Their new album, White With Foam, will be out September 29th on Ipecac.

Letters From A Tapehead

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Music For Drums: Yoshida’s Sax Ruins…

Sax Ruins
Ipecac Recordings
Released: 7.28.09

Rating: 8.75 out of 10

“Jazz is not dead, it just smells funny.”
Frank Zappa

Tatsuya Yoshida, is probably the best drummer you’ve never heard of. As the beat section of the progressive duo, Ruins, and the compositional mastermind behind Magma-homage, Koenji Hyakkei, Yoshida is an intense and signature-attentive avant musician, the type Zappa might’ve hired or, at the very least, respected.

Reconsidering Ruins, whose components have been confined to bass/drum combos since its birth in 1985, Yoshida enlisted the aid of alto saxophonist, Ono Ryoko. Originally intended as a live permutation, Yoshida has since renamed the duo, Sax Ruins, obviously in response to this new interpretation of his music, now a free jazz progressive entity whose arrangements closely follow its percussive assault. Yawiquo is their first release.

This is pre-“SAX” Ruins incorporating Koenji Hyakkei into the mix, dated 2007. Yoshida is the focus.

Yawiquo is essentially an album of drum solos, Ryoko’s free jazz/big band brass meant to hit as fast and precise as Yoshida does. In the vein of something like Frank Zappa’s “The Black Page #2,” part one having been composed solely as a complicated drum piece, number two its big band counterpart, Ryoko’s task is to follow Yoshida, her exhalant blasts accentuating his prowess. With the album’s opener, “Korromda Peimm,” Yoshida and Ryoko are both excitable and inseparable, but her heavy brass works to develop a tone or mood. Even following Yoshida, she manages to develop both loud and fluid melodies. On the other hand, with a song like “Snare” Ryoko is treated more like a warm-up partner, which exemplifies to some extent the album’s momentary bouts of self-indulgence.

It’s difficult not to call most of this music “masturbatory,” the snippet-length pieces more like boastful showcase demonstrations than fully realized instrumentals. But, as is the nature of something this experimental, when they get it right, it’s something to behold. Pretension doesn’t really mean too much in the face of something as brilliant as “Czerudmuntzail,” whose initial attack decelerates into an almost big band slow dance worthy of some ‘luded, decaffeinated Benny Goodman. Also strong are the rock n’ roll propulsion of “Zworrisdeh” and the sharp tonality of “Gravestone.” The music is handled with the mastery and skill with which Yoshida is known to possess, so in that regard, Yawiquo is a perfectly conceived jazz album. It’s challenging and its entirety is meant to build up to its almost 7-minute climax: the album’s title track. And, for the thirty something minutes it takes to get there, it’s a bumpy but worthwhile ride.

Zappa would be proud to see a still viable underground boasting artists like Yoshida, signifying that jazz is indeed not dead, nor is expression a thing of the past.

Letters From A Tapehead

Breakfast at Sulimay's: Episodes 26 & 27

My favorite elder Philadelphia music critics have new episodes up.

Grizzly Bear, Iggy Pop

St. Vincent, ISIS

Letters From A Tapehead

Monday, July 27, 2009

No Ripcord: Pissed Jeans

Pissed Jeans
King Of Jeans
Sub Pop
Released: 8.18.09

No Ripcord review

Letters From A Tapehead

What I Heard This Morning: Low Low Low La La La Love Love Love

Something light to start off your Monday grind:

Low Low Low La La La Love Love Love - "Blackbird 3" from Other Electricities on Vimeo.

UK’s Low Low Low La La La Love Love Love is putting out their third album, Feels, Feathers Bog and Bees in late October. Their single, “Blackbird 3,” is like a Sigur Rós take on The Beatles, reinterpreting “Blackbird”’s vocal harmonies over soft acoustic strings. There is a nature sounds or subliminal message quality to the song, characteristic of this type of meditative folk.

Letters From A Tapehead

Monday, July 20, 2009

MCA’s statement...

As the Beastie Boys have spent the year on a reissue kick, they’ve also been prepping the release of their new album, Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 1, which was supposed to hit the shelves in mid-September. However, plans for the album, and subsequent tour, have been postponed due to the following:

It would be an understatement to express that the Beastie Boys are one of the pinnacle bands in my life, an indispensible aspect of my past and present. As their music’s filled many a backdrop in the episodic events of my life that I can still recall, and been spliced in many a tape I’ve recorded over the years, the news of Adam Yauch’s run in with cancer doesn’t go over without some sort of reaction. His optimism and sense of humor are intact, so I’m sure he’ll pull through and the Beasties will continue to keep the party going a little longer. It would be a sad world without them.

Well wishes from a big fan,
Letters From A Tapehead

Light In The Attic carries the weight old school...

Despite it having ended a few months ago, I still like to check out updates at Record Store Day's official website just to scope out potential news bits or points of interest involving our ever-beloved record stores.

Last week, there was an entry about the record label, Light In The Attic, who packed four employees into a van and sent them out armed with records and merch for ten days so that they would visit 50 record stores along the west coast. The whole idea was to reinstate or revisit the old school methodology behind independent labels and how they delivered materials to independent record stores.

The participants wrote blog entries and recorded some videos:

There's also a three-song EP available for download, just in case you want to sample what the label has to offer. That Monks reissue is looking good.

Letters From A Tapehead

Thursday, July 16, 2009

What I Heard This Morning: Vivian Girls

Brooklyn lo-fi trio, Vivian Girls, are releasing a new album this September entitled, Everything Goes Wrong. “When I’m Gone” is its first single.

I don’t hold much faith that this new album will be much different than its predecessor, but I enjoy what Vivian Girls commit to tape. Their sung harmonies and ghostly instrumentation are enjoyable. “Tell The World” is still one of my favorite singles from last year.

Letters From A Tapehead

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Revolution 09.09.09 Remastered, or Let's Watch How Revolver Was Made...

To me, September 9th marks what will be the single biggest musical happening this year.

As the countdown continues, an excerpt of the mini-documentary about the making of Revolver has been made public, and can be viewed at The Beatles home site. The full documentary will be available with the remastered version of Revolver.

I will be penning what might become a feature series about The Beatles' remastered catalogue for No Ripcord, possibly starting around the end of August, or early September.

Letters From A Tapehead

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Progression of a New York Retro-Prom Queen

Yeah Yeah Yeahs
It’s Blitz!
Released: 3.10.09

Rating: 6.75 out of 10

In 2002, Yeah Yeah Yeahs singer Karen O was interviewed for a documentary entitled, Kill Your Idols, that focused on NYC’s No Wave movement in the late 70s and how it influenced the millennium’s crop of retro-wavers and two-car garage rockers. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs were still an up and coming act whose presence was regionally felt, Fever To Tell and “Maps” yet to wrap themselves around hipster America’s cerebral cortex. Karen O, amidst an unsettling surplus of “like, like, y’know,” basically appropriates the unoriginal Noel Gallagher-ism about acting like the biggest band in the world. I can’t say it hasn’t gotten her far.

Excerpt of Karen O’s interview from Kill Your Idols.

As the motored fuzz of 2003’s Fever To Tell rang in an era of noise for Karen O and her two faithful Yeahs (Yeah #2, guitarist Nick Zinner, and Yeah #3, drummer Brian Chase), the badass fishnet anti-fashionista hollering and gasping like Siouxsie Sioux mid-smoker’s hack has found the excess and glamorous plasticity in being a rock star, and now wears it with dazzled extravagance like a fine fur. It’s Blitz, the Yeahs’ third album, takes the bleeding ink stamped hand of Karen O, washes it, manicures it, and gently escorts it through the velvet rope and past the doors of VIP exclusivity. Meet Karen Ohhhhhhh. Watch the bulbs flash.

It’s easy to say that she went Blondie, NYC’s celeb-sampler of rock females providing enough examples for ease of comparability. But, as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have made for themselves at least a credible ink spot in the annals of contemporary music, I believe it’s fair to say that O is working to fashion her own celebrity, twisting the source material enough to tie it firmly around her microphone. She’s gotten fabulous about it that’s all, ”glitter on the wet streets/silver on everything” her new steez.

However, I wouldn’t accuse It’s Blitz! of being anything other than a progressive experiment, as O is still in the dressing room, her partners left holding the purse, sitting on the cushioned meat seat while she figures it all out and asks, “How about this one? What about this one?” As the album’s first single, “Zero,” sparkles like a disco ball exchanging reflections with a coke mirror, its clubbish, dance-friendly drive is a shock to anyone unaware of their shift.

Maintaining some post-punk cred with producer Nicky Launay (Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, PiL, Gang Of Four), aided by TV On The Radio’s Dave Sitek, It’s Blitz! caters to an historical perspective regarding the permutation of punk to post-punk to new wave, as the initial “fuck you” gesture of crudely sewn rags ultimately mutates into Madonna-wear. O demands, “Dance! Dance! Dance till you’re dead,” for glam’d shaker “Heads Will Roll” and then seemingly questions everything with the fuzz rut “Shame And Fortune,” (”Shame is soft and safe/Lose when I play your game”).

There’s nothing particularly exciting about the music herein: “Shame And Fortune” fashions a decent enough riff, “Dull Life” tries to retain some of YYY rock sensibility. Even dance track, “Dragon Queen,” carries a thick bass groove that gets in your head for days and days.

But, O carries this album, charisma enhancing its not-so-distinguished or interesting pseudo-vitality. “Softshock” is light and forgettable, “Skeletons” is overdone and melodramatic, “Runaway”’s repetitious hook overpowers all the symphonic layers meant to sweeten its resolve. And yet, it’s not bad. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are ambitious in their determination to make themselves anew, and that’s commendable. But they’re unsure how to make it work. It’s Blitz! is really a testament to Karen O and her progression as a rock icon, as opposed to her progression as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ lead singer.

Granted, it wouldn’t help YYY to remain a huffing and puffing wolf of a noise band, revving to blow houses down as if that wouldn’t get boring after awhile. But, as Karen O continues to work her way into NYC’s post-CBGB rock consciousness, it would help if the band were all on the same page. Or, at least if they sounded like they were.

Letters From A Tapehead

Thursday, July 09, 2009

What I Heard This Morning: Warpaint

When I heard the song "Elephants," I was forced to listen. Los Angeles alt-quartet, Warpaint, possess an engaging sadness or desperation that seems to permeate their sound, which is a complex hodgepodge of post-punk, folk and psychedelia. Even trance, to some extent.

At times, the vocal passion compares atmospherically to someone like Björk, but the playing is on its own level. I don't want to say it's unique, but the jazzy percussion and light fretwork Warpaint mesh together defy the sort of lush tone and engaging harmonies that would typically draw someone to music of this sort. It's not beautiful, just captivating.

Their EP, Exquisite Corpse, is due for September release. Red Hot Chili Pepper, John Frusciante, was at the boards.


Letters From A Tapehead

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

No Ripcord: Faux Hoax

Faux Hoax
Your Friends Will Carry Home 7"
Released: 5.19.09

No Ripcord review

Letters From A Tapehead

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

A Streetband Named Battlehooch…

Released: 6.23.09

Rating: 7.75 out of 10

Battlehooch is a band of varying degrees of rambunctious excitability: the life of the bonfire, the street act that causes traffic, a crowd attractant, the spontaneous living event whose faces wind up on anonymous Flickr pages and blogs. Their album, Piecechow, is a tireless and goofily progressive vagabond bonanza, indicative of the kind of live show they put on. It’s fun; it’s fast; it’s odd; it’s the kind of quirky parade of jubilation that almost dissolves the line that typically delineates “band” from “performers.” You can imagine madmen on elevated unicycles juggling machetes to the music herein. It really is a party for its allotted playtime.

Battlehooch Plays L Train and Classic Clowns at the Vulcan Lofts 8-6-08 from Battlehooch on Vimeo.

With big band chaos aplenty, “The Special Place” is Piecechow’s adrenaline shot, shouting out Devo style amidst honking honks and hooting hoots. Following is the cracked-out Duke Ellington brass instrumental, “Chuur,” whose quivering exhalant blasts resonate atop the song’s otherwise funk-laden beat-drop. “Take The L Train” is gypsy Beefheart meets Paul’s Boutique, a street beat and woodwind prancing like one-legged Ian Anderson and a lasting guitar tone that sounds something like The Guess Who.

Consider Battlehooch a sponge, victims of their collective record collection and the obvious elation they feel toward what they do. Porch banjo (“Classic Clowns and Lords”), drum core militarism (“Fishmilkery/Fishmilk”), psych funk (“Please Damo”) and Arabic Queen (“Looks You Can’t See”), Battlehooch is a font of raw eclecticism that somehow seems unified under the band’s ambitious umbrella.

But, Piecechow, despite its lack of dead air, seems less a representation than a facsimile of Battlehooch and what they deliver. If there’s any drawback to their album, it’s that it probably misses the mark as far as what this band is capable of and what wonders a live show would behold. At least Piecechow doesn’t make the mistake of sounding professionally polished or sterilized: The benefits of DIY.

Letters From A Tapehead

Monday, July 06, 2009

Breakfast at Sulimay's

A friend recently brought Breakfast at Sulimay's to my attention, citing his father's relationship to restaurant patron and critic, Joe Walker. Bringing contemporary music to the opinionated temperaments of Philly elders, Joe, Ann and Bill, Breakfast at Sulimay's is an amusing five minutes worth of objective critique that mostly contradicts the sometimes over-thought and self-indulgent musings that critics, (myself included as low rent and illegit as I am), oftentimes commit to public view. You might not agree with what they say, but you'll probably laugh.

Letters From A Tapehead

What I Heard This Morning: Jónsi and Alex

Riceboy Sleeps is the name of the upcoming album from Jónsi Birgisson of Sigur Rós and his companion, Alex Somers. The album is to release later this month, but a free MP3 is being offered to anyone willing enough to give up their email address.

Lately, I've been inundated with ambient music: swelling tones, shapeless auras, floating textures...(adjective + 50 cent word = unique observation regarding art, beauty, subtlety, atmosphere, etc.). If you hear enough of it, the music begins to mean less and less as it carries no signature and easily fades its category, another homogenized addition to the canon.

Riceboy Sleeps - All the big trees from on Vimeo.

But, as Sigur Rós basically eats and sleeps atmosphere, Jónsi brings the same intensity to this project, making it a distinct stepson of the Sigur Rós tradition. The results are undeniably beautiful.

Riceboy Sleeps - Daníell in the sea from on Vimeo.

Letters From A Tapehead

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Soundgarden: 4th of July

How appropriate.

A Happy 4th to everyone. Keep our troops in your thoughts.

Letters From A Tapehead

Friday, July 03, 2009

What I Heard This Morning: Magnolia Electric Co.

"Little Sad Eyes" is a cut from Magnolia Electric Co.'s upcoming album, Josephine. The song sort of reminds me of vintage Van Morrison, bluesy with a danceable jazz angle. The Black Keys came up with something similar on last year's Attack & Release, but Magnolia Electric Co.'s attempt seems more polished. Not better, just "studio" as opposed to "garage."

"Little Sad Eyes"

Letters From A Tapehead

Thursday, July 02, 2009

No Ripcord: Sunn O)))

Sunn O)))
Monoliths & Dimensions
Southern Lord
Released: 5.18.09

No Ripcord review

Letters From A Tapehead

New Selections — Emma Ruth Rundle, Tropical Fuck Storm, Primitive Man, Private Life, Uniform, Erika Wennerstrom, Djrum, Windhand

Starting August off with some new singles. Emma Ruth Rundle:  " Darkhorse " (via Rarely Unable /  Sargent House  / YouTub...