the soft pink truth, "do you party?"
Smells Like Records
If Matmos albums can be considered electronic records for the mind, Drew Daniel's first full-length record as Soft Pink Truth is undoubtedly an electronic record for the ass. Do You Party? should probably contain a warning that 'chunky subhuman basslines at loud levels (from the opening track, "Everybody's Soft" and permeating throughout the entire disc) may cause uncontrollable rhythmic pelvic movement.' Here, Daniel has gotten in touch with his sexy inner disco diva, still dancing down at Club Uranus. Do You Party? like a coming-out party, where everything that has been building up for years finally manifests and explodes for the whole world to see, hear, feel and enjoy. Along with catchy melodies and punchy beats, the album is a party mix littered with samples upon samples, tactfully and rhythmically integrated words and sounds accent beats which make for a listen both entertaining as it is dancable. The overload of samples is like a box full of a collection of keychains or souvenir spoons that finally needs to be emptied from the quirky "girl oh girl" samples from "Tender Studies" to grunting and groaning samples elsewhere. Blecchy Blevin Blectum has joined in for a vocal contribution to the head-spinning Vanity 6 cover tune "Make Up," thumping enough to give most electroclashers an example to follow. Daniel's partner in crime, Martin has donated a few synth lines here and there, but sounds of surgery or other musically-forged field recordings are nowhere to be found. This album isn't built for headphonic solitude or an employer's computer speakers, but can be fully appreciated on a bass-flattering sound system, in the clubs, at home, or in a vehicle pimped-out with custom rims and tinted windows. What you -can- enjoy on your computer, however, is the bonus of the included video for "Promofunk." Now if only I could get my hands on those 12" singles. - Jon Whitney
Charlemagne Palestine, "Schlingen-BlÄngen"
New World Records
Palestine's music is not very well known today, partly because there are few recordings available, but also because he moved on to other media as the massive commercialism of minimalist music developed in the late seventies and eighties. His seemingly narrow escape from the title of "minimalist composer" was fortuitous since what that has come to imply in musical terms today does no justice to his work. His music is distinct from what became mainstream minimalism by its focus on sound rather than process and its deep emotional expressionism as opposed to aesthetics, grandeur and polish. Thus Morton Feldman is a much closer neighbor than is Steve Reich. "Schlingen-Blängen" is a drone organ piece which demonstrates Palestine's genius for pulling unbelievable sounds, colors and effects out of a familiar instrument. It is basically one chord sustained for seventy minutes with infrequent additions and removals of tones and changes of registration. This approach to making music, of using stasis to force the listener into concentration on the sound itself, is very difficult to do well and I have never heard it so successfully performed as on this disk. First, there is the choice of the initial chord and its registration and already it is clear that the musician has exquisite taste and expressive powers, not unlike Messiaen in those aspects. Then begins the impressionism. The old Dutch organ in the church of the small Friesland village of Farmsum Delftzijl starts magically to sing its own melodies and rhythms without the player needing to move any controls. The illusion of rapid activity is the result of interferences among the components of the chord within the organ and the church. Such effects are not unfamiliar but their depth and extent here are staggering. Above the dazzling impressionism is the expressionism, these rapid cycles of intensity, melody and colors, as though they were playing some non-existent process-music score, are as painfully beautiful as the original chord. Palestine's comment, "I'm the living hybrid in my own work of the physical gesturality of Jackson Pollock and the spiritual color chemistry of Mark Rothko," hits the nail on the head. The quality of the recording conveys enough of the massive physicality of the experience to be satisfying while still conveying the sadness that one couldn't have been there. The acoustic space of the old church is precisely rendered. Anyone that enjoys drone music and static sound painting in any genre should own this CD—Charlemagne Palestine's music is the archetype.
- Tom Worster
Tigerbeat6's website describes Death as a remix album "by people who love Numbers, for people who love Numbers," and it's an apt statement. Though you don't have to be familiar with Numbers Life to enjoy these remixes, it definitely helps. Most of the remixes find Numbers' raw energy channeled onto the dancefloor, and why shouldn't they? After all, the history of the remix is rooted in the 12" single. Most remixers have fun with their interpretations of the songs, and it makes sense that they wouldNumbers is a fun band. Gold Chains opens Death with a much-expected cheeky, clubby, self-referencing take on "Prison Life," complete with a skit and a '77-style punk outro; Dymaxion's sample-heavy "What is the Product?" is well-constructed and, though it barely avoids being overly-quirky with its Speak'n'Spell samples, fits well within the Numbers aesthetic. Kid 606's obligatory remix (of "We Like Having These Things") is undeniably (and uncharachteristically?) catchy with a melodic pulsing bassline, and the Numan-esque synth solo at the end is really quite pretty. GD Luxxe's "Get Away Mix" of "Prison Life" comes closest to the perfect remix in the traditional sense of the term. He keeps the basic feel of the song intact, reproducing the original bassline and sampling Numbers' vocals, while adding verses of his own. The end result is a remix that stays true to the source material, while at the same time becoming a definitive GD Luxxe track. Caro and Kit Clayton also add their own lyrics to their interpretations of "Intercom," and "Information," respectively, but it's GD Luxxe's track that works best in this respect. The most notable divergence from the four-on-the-floor is Stars As Eyes, who buck the trend by converting "I'm Shy" (retitled "I Have a Headache This Big") into a dark post-rock anthem, propelled by a one-note guitar line a la the Supremes' "Keep Me Hanging On." Credit should also be given to Stars As Eyes for being one of the only remixers to utilize Indra Duris' drum sounds, instead of replacing them with a quantized drum machine beat. As with any remix album, there are some less-than-stellar tracks, but they're in the minorit. (If I'm forced to name names: Dwayne Sodahberk, DAT Politics, and Uprock.) Most likely the reason that Death works better than most remix albums is because Numbers' source material is open-ended enough to allow a myriad of remixing possibilities, most of which are just damned catchy. - Nate Smith
ASA-CHANG & JUNRAY, "SONG CHANG"
The Leaf Label
Listening to Asa-Chang & Junray for the first time, I was immeditely and pleasantly reminded of the first time I heard Stereolab. This is not to say that the music is at all similar to Stereolab; but rather, their intuitive mix of disparate styles sounded wholly new and wonderful, as if a whole new genre was being created that held infinite possibilities. For a jaded listener, this is always a wonderful experience to have. Asa-Chang & Junray embody the things that most adventurous music listeners are always looking for: something new, inspirational and eminently listenable. Their full-length album Song Chang, released last year, opens with "Hana," a musical statement of purpose if ever I've heard one. Beginning with a ravishing swell of orchestral strings, two electronically-treated voices are heard. Asa-Chang and Yoshimi P-We (from The Boredoms) recite Japanese phonetics "Ha...na...ha...na...da..." Suddenly, a deeply percussive tabla drum begins, with its round, thick beats beats fractured by clever laptop editing. The voices begin to be chopped and re-assembled, as they stutter and trip over the irregular beat. Shrill, supersonic sounds phase from left to right as the song plays like a brilliant collaboration between The Boredoms, Bill Laswell and Enoch Light. The experimental elements are balanced by the perfection and depth of the ethnic rhythms and the high-fidelity exotica-style production. It's playful ear candy, but with a cold, clean edge. Asa Chang & Junray's music would be quite catchy if it were not so kaleidescopically fractured and re-formed, like a brilliant work of Cubist art. In a similar respect to Cubism, it's never quite clear if all of the parts really fit perfectly together. However, the slightly "off" juxtapositions create a drama that illuminates portions of the music that would not normally be heard. The rest of the album continues with the formula set out by "Hana," with a set of sparer pieces each illuminating a different sound source. "Goo-Gung-Gung" is an insane two-minute bit that sounds like a traditional Japanese version of Musilmgauze's violent Middle East breaks. "Jippun" begins with traditional Japanese shakahuchi flute playing, which is quickly digitized and splattered all over the stereo channels, while an adrenalin-pumped tabla rhythm begins. It accelerates and eventually mutates into a something reminiscent of The Boredom's more recent tribal drum-circle sound. The album ends with "Kutsu," a simple short trumpet improvisation played over a randomly shaken taiko beat. Song Chang is a terrific first album by one the best new talents in Japanese experimental music.
- Jonathan Dean
BRITISH SEA POWER, "CHILDHOOD MEMORIES"
This four-piece art-rock outfit is from the misty, seaside town of Brighton, England. Yet, proximity to the salty brine of the Atlantic has had more of an impact on their wardrobe than their music. Dressed on stage in military regalia cross-bred with Boy Scout fashion, British Sea Power look more like retired ship captains than a band. Combine this with their penchant for naturalistic stage setsconsisting of strategically placed trees, limbs and large, stuffed birdsand you might begin to think this band is all image and no substance. Musically, "Childhood Memories" disguises itself as laid back tune, but emerges as a stunning rocker. It opens with a deceivingly subtle, yet terribly catchy hook that occasionally builds up into something larger, only to come down gently to where it began. The tension that this builds finally explodes at the end, as the guitars swarm together to build a wall of sound behind lead singer Yan's repeated chant of "And we go, and we go, and we go!" The B-side, labeled as "Favours in the Beetroot Fields," is actually the (supposedly) CD exclusive track "Strange Communication." It's a gentle, breezy track dominated by Yan's longing vocals and lyrics such as "Well I don't even remember the fall/and I don't even remember at all/and you'll probably never see me again/Such a strange communication," display how, after a couple of hit-and-miss early singles, this band has finally come into their own. With a full-length on its way, it's perfect timing. - Chris Lopreste
nurse with wound, "salt marie celeste"
For those who either missed or were unable to get the Horse Hospital CD release last year, the Nurse With Wound contribution, "Salt," has now basically been expanded. In its original 60+ minute form, the music pretty much played as a loop for the entire duration. The sound waved back and forth between two chords, providing a cold and creepy feeling of ship being lost at sea. The purpose for the original work was originally to provide aural ambience to the art exhibit at the Horse Hospital gallery. With this version, efforts have been made to make this more of a foreground-listening experience, but there's honestly not much else added. Along with the fluctuating orchestral-like chords, other loops are added bit by bit, including sounds that resemble a passing car, a boat horn, piano, creaking boards, and a creaky door. At around the 50-minute mark, all extraneous sounds taken out, leaving the sound of water. Eventually the water fades out, leaving only the droning two chords. Effects fade off shortly thereafter and the drone eventually dies. NWW fans expecting something dense and maximalistic like An Awkward Pause will probably not enjoy this album as much as fans of the droning NWW heard on albums like Soliloquoy for Lilith or A Missing Sense. - Jon Whitney
Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, "Pig Lib"
Invariably, the image of an artist has to have a measured effect on their music, be it a positive or negative one. Some bands are all image and can't muster a good song to meet it, while others have full sounds and amazing songs but absolutely no image. Pavement certainly fit in the latter category, a band that had so little self image they couldn't even properly announce their own demise. With Pavement gone, Stephen Malkmus emerged from the ashes to make music that is all image, little substance, and completely mediocre. What with the pin-up shots for men's magazines and interviews about his sex life, it seems Mr. Malkmus has had little time to formulate anything besides a passable effort on his second solo LP, which also marks the first time he's shared the bill with his backing band the Jicks. He still has a knack for quirky, understated lyrics, and no one can take that away from him, but the music on Pig Lib is in stylistic shambles. Some fans have tried to explain it away with terms like "indie prog" and lengthy descriptions of the darker imagery, but they can't describe around the fact that it's dull. True, Malkmus gets closer to the Pavement sound on this record only in that it's sloppier than his last release. The band does sound more in tune with each other, like these songs are creations of the whole crew, but they trip along like a wounded animal rather than stroll or strut. From the playful nature of "Water and a Seat," with its call and answer and cacophonous backing vocals to the too long jam of "1% of One," Malkmus does sound more comfortable in his voice and the melodies are pretty catchy. That makes it all the more disappointing when there's no pay off. The songs that have promise are too short, and the ones that have nowhere to go get there and stay there far too long. I started getting into the album a little on "(Do Not Feed The) Oyster," but was turned away by the drum roll break into jam territory. All over the album are annoying sounds and noises, usually the overly campy keyboards from Mike Clark and Malkmus himself. Anchoring it all together is an overwhelming feeling that this record exists only as a marketing tool, released just so Malkmus can say he "stretched his legs" on a release and "tried something different." Malkmus' image is the only thing that holds this record together and the reason why rabid fans have already bought every copy on the shelves in the local record shop. For most fans, the man can do no wrong. For me, he certainly tried to do wrong all over this record, and sometimes he succeeded beyond all doubt or reason. - Rob Devlin
Mika Vainio, "In The Land of The Blind One-Eyed is King"
"They bestride the Earth." John Peel said that once on his old BBC World Service show to introduce a Fall song and as a vague reference to how he would often stretch his own programming rules in their case. I feel the same way about Mika Vainio. Unfair preferential treatment is in order and a new release must be celebrated. Vainio's recorded works have been in the areas of techno (as Ø, Philus), installations (Onko), out electro-rock (Pan Sonic and Endless), and finally soundscapes, which is where In The Land belongs together with Kajo and Ydin. In this context and that of nineties and naughties electronica, In The Land is hardly radical but it is exceptional. Vanio's work has a quality and coloring that is uniquely seductive and the finesse with which he applies his personal voice to a variety of tasks sets him apart. For example, the very short opener 'Sunder Here, Sailor' is a vicious attack of animal and machine noise that, without diminishing its power, has a watery metallic sheen that makes the meaning ambiguous and defies to be labeled as noise. Throughout the album Vainio combines familiar material with the alien, and friendly production with the downright disconcerting so as to keep both the soundtrack to the imagined movie dynamic and its narrative interesting. The only lulling you'll find here is temporary. But ultimately what overwhelms is the music's sheer melancholic beauty. 'The Colour of Plants', of plain and simple construction, just a handful of throbbing drones and pure tones, sings of the deep yearning for and impossibility of transcending our deadening corporeality. 'Snowblind' returns to a favorite resource of Vainio—amplified hum. At only six minutes long it develops a into monumental resonant chord with depth and emotion worthy of its drone music heritage (see the Charlamaine Palestine review in this edition). One more important difference between Vainio and many of his colleagues in electronic music is his commitment to what's known in the wine industry as low-yield—the notion that one cannot allow a vine to produce copious fruit without diluting the wine and that to make a concentrated wine, the vine's vigor and productivity must be either naturally or artificially curtailed. As numerous artists have demonstrated, electronic music is very easy to make and the whish-washy results of high-yield methods are abundant. In contrast, Vanio's stance seems almost defiant.
- Tom Worster
subarachnoid space, "also rising"
I have no problems with countlessly referring to the awesome Terrastock festival last year. With Terrastock, as opposed to pretty much any over-hyped multi-band fest, it's an opportunity to see some uncommon bands mixed in with the more popular fanfare. Sure, everybody loves talking about ATP, CMJ and SXSW, but nearly all of those bands tour extensively and play sizable shows all their own. Bands like Kinski, Motorpsycho and this San Franciscan quartet were some of the unexpected tasty treats the crowds were wowed to in September in Boston, alongside the omnipresent Sonic Youth (do they -ever- turn down a fest?), Damon and Naomi, and Acid Mothers Temple. While SubArachnoid Space are hardly a new band, the sound that night was somewhat of a new sound for the group. While they dished out the instrumental distortion-heavy guitar work, the rhythm section was doing something quite exciting and refreshing. The drummer and bassist had a dub thing going on between them which worked in a peculiar yet delicious way. Talking to the group and some fans afterwards, I was disappointed to find out that their older recordings, some of which were available that night, were not representative of the show. It's now almost April and their current album is finally available. Unfortunately, that dub-like vibe remains only a fading memory as it was clearly not captured. "The Harsh Facts of Life" is a strong opening to the album and showcases a tightly-knit group with a bass and drums clearly in sync with each other while the guitars drone on. While SubArachnoid Space's sound is clearly taking the bombastic, quiet/loud approach popularized by numerous angry instrumental rock bands over the last few years, the group's melodic tendencies are more towards long, drawn out parts more remeniscent of music from a couple decades back. Much like an improvisational ensemble, the band begins with a strong idea and lets themselves get carried away. This is a tactic which works well in a live setting, but appropriately capturing rehearsed improvisation for a studio album isn't the easiest task. Unfortunately, the down side is that to me this music becomes almost too predictable at times, with songs that start off strong but end up in a rather sparse and directionless wash while the band often repeats themselves, meandering through hollow, lengthy drones. With that in mind, I'm anxious to see the band live again, because in that environment it works much better. On top of that I need some sort of indication that my memory isn't lying to me at this point. - Jon Whitney
paik, "orson fader"
This Michigan group can also be added to the list of unexpected treats during the Terrastock 5 festival. Their new full-length album is also a burst of instrumental rock energy, introduced through a wall of overdriven guitar noise in a short introductory track "Detroit." From the start, the instruments are tactfully given their own breathing room from each other so the ebbs and flows of repeated phrases don't easily fade into a dreary oblivion. The band picks up speed with the more lavish "Tall Winds," incorporating more movement within the melodies, and by the third and fourth track, the group has shifted gears into a live performance mode, blurring the lines between songs' endings and beginnings. Songs like "Purple," and "Ghost Ship" open with a melody provided by bass guitar, with creative and consise drumming, but each are predictably overcome by the gritty sounds of loud guitars, the former ending in an anthemic wash that turns into an almost directioned improvisation. While I'm fond of the appropriate production decisions on this album and can hear a group which uses a bit of restrain when it comes to stepping on each others toes, I feel like there's something missing which was clearly "there" at their live shows. Perhaps this is how I will constantly feel about recorded drone rock albums, but it's that intangible further development which could hypothetically be a catalyst to something incredible. - Jon Whitney
Thomas Köner, "Zyklop"
This two disc set is comprised of installations and live performances and, despite some interesting departures from Köner's recent output, is encumbered by its scope and formlessness. It starts with some whispered vocals, which unfortunately are scattered throughout the entire recording, never really adding anything or fitting in. Köner moves through some very nice ambient themes over the course of the first disc, accompanied by a noisy background that sounds suspiciously like the radio crackle from Unerforschtes Gebiet, while mostly unprocessed environmental soundsincluding birds, insects, and waterfill out the "topographie sonore." The rattling of branches provides a suitable, but almost overwhelming, counterpoint to the gracefully shifting melodies in the background. My main complaint is that, although there's enough activity and detail to keep me interested, the piece as a whole doesn't really reach out to the listenerit just exists formlessly on its own, without any need for effort or interpretation. Köner, as usual, synthesizes some great sounds, but this is not one of his better pieces. The variety on the second disc is a reward for patience, as these installation soundtracks feature better structure and more creative manipulation of field recordings. "Des Rives" is a refreshingly rhythmic track incorporating the sounds of traffic and a busy train station into an amalgamation of minimal techno beats and industrial noise. "Zyklop" opens with some filtered tones, popping noises, and what sounds like a few slow-running lawn sprinklers; after a few minutes a pure-sounding drone emerges and then plays a slight variant of the main progression of Köner's Daikan. Continuing with the variations on past work is "Tu, Sempre," which combines an apparently unaltered Unerforschtes Gebiet with some effective elements (something that sounds like a woodpecker) and some ineffective elements (more out of place French vocals). Despite the hypnotic low bass and layered rhythmic elements, the vocals ultimately succeed in annoying me by the track's end. The highlight of the album is the final track, another version of "Zyklop." Köner maxes-out the filtered static and radio noise to hide some slow volume swells and an incredibly epic melody filtered through distance and bad reception. Its brief emotional impact almost makes up for the previous 100 minutes, and then the lawn sprinklers and slight digital glitches take over again for the album's finale. I'm glad to see the incorporation of more elements into Köner's sound, but this recording could use some judicious editing, and is probably not essential. - Steve Smith
Thomas Köner, "Daikan"
After my first listen to this album at a low volume level, I was a little worried because there didn't seem to be much going on; but luckily, subsequent listens on a decent system revealed a great level of detail, much of it buried under immense low end. The focal point is the periodic repetition of a low-pass-filtered percussive sound, stretched out to such an extent that its booming decay lingers long enough to reveal the slow fluctuations of a vibrating membrane. This is accompanied by a harmonically rich, but somewhat muted, midrange drone that very slowly fades from complete silence to full volume and then back again to nothingness, bringing new layers of sound with each iteration. The tonal elements resemble Köner's more recent Unerforschtes Gebiet recording in their texture and evocation of abandoned places. Here they are softer. The percussion and gradual variations in amplitude lend a mysteriousand somewhat humanelement to an otherwise uninhabited landscape. Midway through the piece, the drone descends rather conspicuously through four closely-spaced notes, in what is reminiscent of a threateningly futuristic movie soundtrack. After this big event, some quiet, almost mechanical, filtered noise emerges, along with repeated bass-rich volume swells that sound like more stretched out percussion, this time played backwards. The slight hissing and patient rise and fall in volume are like breathing; and the middle part of this recording is really quite beautiful, despite the abundance of low-end making it almost claustrophobic and morose. Shades of the descending melody are audible as the original sounds return, and the drum sound re-enters and grows more and more extended throughout the remainder of the piece. It finally ends with a sustained rumble. Even with the limited range of sound that Köner seems to have confined himself to, Daikan is quite stunning and is a fine addition to the Köner collection. - Steve Smith
Terre Thaemlitz, "Lovebomb"
While I love sociological criticism woven into art, if it is so deliberate that it is an album's strongest point, I'm bound to be disappointed after the first listen. That being said, Lovebomb is an extremely well-founded concept album about love and the expression of culturally specific social processes, an overarching thesis that I won't attempt to evaluate. Thaemlitz covers many angles and perspectives in his exploration of this ubiquitous emotion, using generally interesting, but sometimes run of the mill, electro-acoustic music. The listener is first welcomed with some glitched-up, timestretched-out pop music; the meandering piano line and horribly distorted vocals reference music's obsession with "love." The track is convincing without coming off as overly clever. The second song, constructed from an African National Congress radio speech calling for "reactionary violence" against colonial oppressors, uses cut-up and lightly flanged spoken word in a result that slightly resembles the tonalities of traditional African singing. It's interesting at first but not something I'd like to listen to repetitively. "SDII" begins with Sammy Davis' computer-processed call for restraint following the assassination of Martin Luther King; then the dialogue fades into an immense, and slightly unsettling, drone. "Lovebomb" is incomprehensibly lush, progressing though gentle washes of synthesized and edited sound, orchestral samples, and chaotic walls of noise, without the music ever being truly interesting. The subsequent track contains some simple, plaintive piano melodies and a recording of Italian Futurist F.T. Marinetti, all subjected to digital manipulation so that they're entangled in a gentle web of sound, as it explores relationships between futurism, fascism, and racism. This piece probably contains the most music-driven emotional impact. "Signal Jamming Propaganda" combines the word "love," excerpted from various pop songs, for an amusingly schizophrenic, but quite expected, montage. The last few tracks continue to be thought-provoking in their perspective and material, but not so much in their music, and the final "bonus dance track" is catchy in a non sequitur and superficial sort of way. Lovebomb, as a whole, is good but inconsistent, and its sociological criticism is almost too overt for me, so in the end it is just a slightly above average electronic album.
- Steve Smith
LCD SOUNDSYSTEM, "GIVE IT UP"
2002 was a good year for James Murphy. Not only did his label, co-owned with Pat Mahoney, release some of the year's best records (Black Dice's Beaches and Canyons and The Rapture's "House of Jealous Lovers"), but his own self-proclaimed "electro-disco" one-man group, LCD Soundsystem, put out the underground dance hit of the summer. His second release as LCD Soundsystem simultaneously caps off a spectacular 2002 for Murphy while hinting at an even better 2003. "Give It Up" begins where the "Losing My Edge" 12" left off, but with some minor adjustments. Gone are the Casio beats and the hipster-scene criticism, and much of the electro influence. Instead, we're given a fuller, more band orientated sound (although it's Murphy who plays all the instruments), featuring a propulsive, funked-up bass line and an all-around fiercer rhythm section. The result is an instantly danceable track, engaging from the very first notes of the opening drum roll. One would expect more of the same on the flip side of the 7", but "Tired" delivers a pounding, dirty rocker that is quite befuddling at first. But after a few listens, it's clear that Murphy (along with Mahoney on this track) can just as easily write songs that sound more appropriate in a dank bar than at a chic dance club. Yet, even though Murphy has proved he can do more than just write a good dance tune (although it's still what he does best), I would hate to see LCD Soundsystem release a full-length anytime soon. After two singles as good as "Losing My Edge" and "Give It Up," I'd be begging to hear an LP, but I have a nagging feeling that these tunes are best served up in small doses. - Chris Lopreste
We know that sometimes these CDs are somewhat challenging to find, which is why we have a community section which can be used to obtain nearly everything available on this site.