Monthly Archives: May 2009

Balmorhea – All Is Wild, All Is Silent

balmorhea-alliswildallissilentThis collection of folksy post-rock is something of a paint-by-numbers affair, but well-crafted and engaging enough as a background soundtrack that its more obvious faults can be overlooked. All Is Wild, All Is Silent isn’t a terrible album, but it does put one mind of a distillation of ideas rather than something more fresh. Much like Explosions in the Sky condensed the untamed bombast of Godspeed You Black Emperor into more digestible five minute chunks of crescendo and release, Balmorhea pulls from the currents of instrumental post-rock landscapes and whatever we’re calling this “new folk” thing.

Shorter version: A bit of Appalacian twang via art school driving sedately down the highway built by Slint and everyone else.

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Bonnie Prince Billy – Live @ The Apollo, May 21, 2009

Cro-Magnon-male-SkulllThe highlight of this evening was a deeply intimate version of “Blood Embrace” for which Matt Sweeney came out to play some guitar and sing a bit. Mr. Oldham paced, gestured, scowled and delivered in full a deeply moving performance, looking like a cross between a street preacher touched by the hand of god and a cro-magnon, what with his prominent brow and less prominent hairline. It almost felt like the audience was intruding upon a very private conversation of betrayal and bafflement, despite the spoken word portion being a performed excerpt from the film Rolling Thunder.

Mr. Oldham was fully possessed by each song, and in turn the audience was captive to his every move. The seven piece backing band – two drummers, keyboardist, violinist, upright bass, guitar and occassional sax – was incredibly fluid. The violinist – Jennifer Butt? – added her very light vocals to songs when required, but largely played a heavily countrified fiddle that fit well at this well-lit crossroads of country and indie rock. The lead drummer in particular (I wasn’t taking notes, obviously, but my wife says it was Jim White) pounded and deftly flailed, and was a joy to watch. Their version of “Easy Does It” hit all the right notes, being the most uplifting and joyful song he’s ever released; “Ain’t You Wealthy, Ain’t You Wise” was appropriately somber and mocking.

And so for two hours they played mostly newer material, a mixture of the sedate and the downright honky-tonk, ending with an endearing improv sing-along featuring the entire band with the members of Lightning Dust, the opening act whose performance we largely missed due to late arrival. There was one brief encore after that, followed by yet another standing ovation.

The Apollo is a great venue, and far smaller than it appears on television; unlike Town Hall it features seats where people over 5′ tall can put their legs forward a bit.

There was the usual contingent of shouted requests, all of which were ignored. All was truly right in the world.

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People Really Seem To Hate The Dickens Out Of Wavves

wavvesHaving no investment in the lo-fi noisey pop thing I can’t tell you where the authentic stuff begins and inauthentic stuff ends. Authenticity is a great game for idiots to play but those of us outside of the kiddie pool have a completely different set of needs. Out of the pile of stuff I’ve heard, this is pretty decent, some group on SubPop with a real short name was ok for a bit, and the rest gives an overall impression of “you have to be there to get it”. I don’t get why you’d necessarily bother with this stuff when Lightning Bolt exists, though most would make the case for them being unrelated styles.

Skinny kids + fuzzy guitars + buried pop structure / semblance of hooks = this stuff. Continue reading


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Squarepusher – Numbers Lucent

sqnumbersWhether intended to be a cute reimagining of the mid-90s intersection of acid and jungle or merely a nostalgia trip, Numbers Lucent is unfortunately another documentation of how the mighty have fallen into less-mighty ways. For all of the bright coloring (the cover art is amazing) in many ways this is merely a retread of Squarepusher‘s own work, especially Burningn’n Tree, itself a serviceable and enjoyable romp of straightforward bleepy drill n’ bass. While certainly not terrible nor badly-produced, this six song EP is also not very interesting for very long, though it helps that each track ducks out at around the four minute mark.

I admit to not really having paid much attention since Go Plastic; it would appear that my laziness was prudence in disguise.

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Coil – Black Antlers

bantlers“I will be all right if you hold me” repeats Jhon Balance in “Sex With Sun Ra”. One dead man singing about another dead man.

While not quite the eerie moment of “Tattooed Man” on The Ape of Naples, it is genuinely difficult for a fan to separate the intended and accidental inferences and references from this semi-public parade of self-inflicted wonders and tragedies. Black Antlers reminds us of the stunning breadth of Coil‘s work: a pastoral cover of “All the Pretty Little Horses”; abrasive blasts (“Wraiths and Strays”) and gentle oddities (“The Gimp”); an amazing reworking of “Teenage Lightning”; the multi-layered sadness and longing of “Sex With Sun Ra”; and a very odd-but-excellent cover of a very early acid house track.

I’ve toyed with the idea of doing a large scale Coil guide, along the lines of the one I did for Venetian Snares, but such a project would take weeks and lords knows others have done it already. I am not a David Toop or related meta-thinker when it comes to music and the interrelated webs of influence and “singing back to the text” and all that kind of stuff. At best I am an impressionist painter of words and a minor wit, trying to translate the ineffable into the comprehensible, for both myself and others. I don’t really “get it” either, but some day I hope to.

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A Completely Convenient Truth

Otherwise, is there anything more embarrassing than a pack of liberal blogger types sharing microbrews and enthusing over The Decembrists, the single worst musical group in all history, the nadir of human aesthetic achievement, the final proof that human cognition as we know it, which originated song before speech, will end thusly, whistling grisly half-melodies as the ants inherit the earth?

When you’re right, you’re right. (Outside of being wrong about The Magnetic Fields.)

More Decemberists hatred here.

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Agoraphobic Nosebleed – Agorapocalypse


You can (legitimately) listen to the whole album at the appropriately-named

I think something is lost in their transition from absurdist drum machine HATEHATEHATE to a more band-like experience, particularly the expansion out to two and three minute long tracks. The drum programming is more like a drummer and less like an angry smear; it’s quite impressive as a simulation.

I’m partial to “Hung from the Rising Sun” myself but overall I’m not too enamored thus far. It’s sufficiently angry, but is it sufficiently vapid?


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Charles Atlas – To The Dust: From Man You Came And To Man You Shall Return

caThough I am indeed big into The Orb – I’ll be at the Friday show in July at the Music Hall of Williamsburg – the genre “chill out” is generally just fucking terrible. The name is an awful anachronism – though it was once a utilitarian description, a serene contrast for weary riders as the serotonin train pulled into backwash station.

Somewhere along the way it became shitty hip-hop with no bite.  The music is even worse than the name, if you count the offenders against the few worth picking from the wreckage. Thievery Corporation? Filla Brazilla?

Jesus Tittyfucking Christ, MD. Continue reading

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Michael Gira Is Not An Idiot

He sees people paying 30 bucks to see Throbbing Gristle.

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Fire on Fire – The Orchard

fire-on-fire-orchardSome of the more interesting current music fads include MBV reconfigurations, usually with several ladies in the mix; the emergence of “hipster metal”; and lo-fi quirk-rock, of which there has been a steady underground that is righteously pissed at the success of johnny-fuzz-lately types like Wavves.

Sour fuzzy grapes aside, the cultural current that interests me most is the pastoral retreat, and not just because pretty girls in peasant dresses lends sensual surreality to any concert experience. It seemed to bubble and rumble in the wake of the beginnings of the Iraq War and no doubt will continue percolate through this whole temporary recession/destruction of everything and everyone period.* One response to having no discernible power is to withdraw from the culture and its trappings, and to look back at what was imagined to have been.

A kind of conservatism, even, which is the closest thing to a slur that you can bust out during these days of hope und change, and so I don’t engage in such madness lightly. Continue reading

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