Litanic Mask - Vampire Album Review
On Vampire, the second LP from gothy Portland synthpop band Litanic Mask, the trio draw upon vampire mythology to comment on the inability of people to connect. Like their name, a Litanic Mask is a thin veil, separating the viewer from the viewed, while giving a ritualistic flair. In this case, the porcelain shield would be the sound walls of noisemakers Mark Burden and Andrea Kulish, whose pounding beats, pulsing synths and melodic keyboards make rays of light in the darkness, through which vocalist Kenna Jean swims in and out of focus. While she sings, "All I wanted was to see/ Your reflection in my mirror", you get the sense that it might be she, and not the other person, who vanishes into smoke when you look.
When asked about the influence of late '70s and early '80s electronic music on his own record, A Period of Review, Seattle ambient pioneer and head of the Palace Of Lights label Kerry Leimer told The Ransom Note:
What interests me most about "A Period of Review" is the sense that it really is that period now in review. So many years on, in the constant rush and search for something "new" there's plenty of evidence that alot can be overlooked and never fully comprehended. Especially now, when more work is published than any one individual could ever hope to have even a passing familiarity with, it's always helpful to at least understand the way ideas and aesthetics about expression originate and evolve."
A Period In Review (Original Recordings 1975-1983), a lavishly packaged document for RVNG Intl.'s stunning archival series, rewinds the clock to investigate this period through the works of the under-known/under-appreciated luminary, K. Leimer.
Orcas - Yearling Album Review
Yearling, the second album from Orcas -- the collaboration of Thomas Meluch, better known as Benoît Pioulard, and Rafael Anton Irissari, who also makes graceful ambient shoegaze under the name The Sight Below -- seems very intent on a time and a place. In this case, a summer in Germany, where most of these songs were written. To shift between subject and setting, Yearling switches between ambient drift and yearning ambient pop, with plaintive vocals courtesy of Pioulard. This can be seen most evidently in the one-two punch of album openers "Petrichor" and "Infinite Stillness", the former being a glowing nimbus of field recordings and swelling organs that sound like the backlit tree on the album cover, and "Infinite Stillness" being a piece of epic now wave splendour, with solid, stately drum machines and a plodding bassline and the first appearance of Pioulard's angelic vocals, that brings to mind the best era of The Cure. With a couple exceptions, this more song-oriented approach is a new feature of Orcas', whose self-titled debut was more focused on improvisation and ambiance. Most of Yearling was already written in the summer of 2012, and having a backbone to work off allows the music to be both loose and organic while still being tight, controlled, and ultimately, more human and more personal than any of the participants' solo careers.
Seer could be seen as a New World Symphony of a vast, prehistoric continent that exists only in your mind. Or in a galaxy far, far away. Music has been attempting to describe nature for as long as there's been music -- attempting to evoke a babbling brook or the spring rain, through a keyboard or the beating of stones. The story of music could be seen as man's attempt to get closer to nature, to describe what it is to be human and what it will be, in ever-increasing detail and complexity. It could be because of this drive that many would-be world-builders took to the emerging field of electronic music, where it became possible to work with the building blocks of sound and with recordings of the natural world, to construct abstract movies of the is as well as the never-was. This was the dream and the vision of the tape-manipulators and the inventors of singing electric machines -- to create a new musical language, unfettered from musical prisons; the imagination set free. The lovers and writers of science fiction recognized this pioneering, visionary quality of early electronic music, and, very soon, the sound of old synths quickly became synonymous with classic sci-fi cinema. And because of this, it becomes almost impossible to listen to a record like Seer and not hear it as a film score. The question is: What kind of movie is it?
Doomsquad - Kalaboogie Album Review
After the decline predicted and lamented by Explosions In The Sky and Godspeed You! Black Emperor in the 2000s, the Canadian band Doomsquad provide a ritualistic dance party for the new world. Doomsquad provide a new skin for the old ceremony in the form of technological shamanism, where shakers and bone rattles meet Moogs and psych-out guitars in a forest clearing. The main challenge confronting a band that combines multiple genres is that their music inherit the strengths and weaknesses of each, similar to crossbreeding in Nature. Doomsquad’s latest record, Kalaboogie, may be judged by the standards of modern day dance music as well psychedelic and epic indie rock, and they risk losing the listener at every turn. The good news is that, rather than succumbing to the weaknesses, like some poor, mangy rabid mutt, Doomsquad have contributed something to each genre they work in. Kalaboogie, may be made of pre-existing parts -- trance music, triumphant indie rock, industrialized dance music and doomy, decadent mid-tempo disco -- but it is its own beast, its own spirit, inhabiting its own world.
Outlands - Love Is As Cold As DeathWe all come from somewhere. Outlands, the duo of Melissa Smith and Mark Arciaga, are obviously more concerned with where they're going than where they've been, as evidenced by the fact that they hail from Virginia but currently reside in LA. They're willing to travel thousands of miles to find somewhere that suits them, somewhere they belong. And you can hear this same sense of adventure, this quest for self, for something unique and personal, on Outland's debut LP for LebenStrasse Records.
On January 9, 2014, we lost one of the most eloquent voices of the freedom fight, Imamu Amiri Baraka, the man formerly known as Everett LeRoi Jones. Amiri Baraka was one of the most published and respected artists of the Black Arts Movement, and his work had an extreme polarizing effect. He was made the Poet Laureate of New Jersey, only to have that title stripped away because of his poem "Somebody Blew Up America", was a controversial statement about 9/11. He was a lifelong advocate for equality, but has been accused of anti-semitism, misogyny, and racism. He was a contradiction. Remembering Leroi Jones, Examining His Recorded Output as Amiri Baraka Amiri Baraka was an artist at the crossroads: between pre-war and baby boom; between black and white; between free-jazz and hip-hop. He stood between hippies, beatniks and black power; sci-fi and harsh realism. He occupied the intersection between humor and ugly truths. As we continue to lose more and more of the older generation of freedom fighters, we run the risk of forgetting – forgetting the struggle, and the oppression they were struggling against. As we get further and further away from slavery (the Southern kind, anyway), we are in danger of forgetting its face and losing sight of its specter, even if it's only in our minds.The 20th Century was unique for being the first full century with recording technology. While we may not get the scent of tear gas on the breeze, or know the humidity of an August afternoon in Birmingham, we can strive to remember and understand through records, photographs and film. Going through the recorded legacy of Amiri Baraka, from the '50s through the '90s, is like opening a time capsule. It reminds us of the revolutionary power of jazz, poetry and theater. In 2014, all of those forms have almost entirely been de-toothed and un-fanged, become a tool of the bourgeoisie that they panned, bombed and smashed. It's easy to forget that these were the voice of the people. It calls us back to a time of street theater and community workshops: these were a time of action. Without this reality, it is all too easy (and dangerous) to co-opt the art of revolutionaries past, to bolster your own cred, while safe and comfortable in your air conditioned citadel.
Ron Morelli's L.I.E.S. (Long Island Electrical Systems) is like a techno factory. It's easy to picture powerful pistons and sparking conveyor belts producing these roughly hewn beats. Across 2 discs -- one of collected singles and another of new material -- 19 producers from the L.I.E.S. family bend and warp techno, disco and every hue of house music, then pack it in styrofoam and cotton before shipping it off. L.I.E.S. has been called "Workingman's Techno", due to the no-nonsense approach to their productions, as well as their relentless release schedule. They have put out over 30 releases in 2013, and compilations like Music For Shut Ins are essential, providing a snapshot of not only where L.I.E.S. stands, but it also gives an interesting insight into electronic music as a whole.
L.I.E.S. (Long Island Electrical Systems) - Music For Shut-Ins
Good Romans - Open This Door, Never Look Back
When most people think of jazz, they either stop at Duke Ellington's sophisticated big bands, or possibly make it as far as the edgy, revolutionary architecture of bebop, if they're hip. This extremely limited viewpoint overlooks the fact that, in its essence, jazz is essentially improvised instrumental music. On Open The Door, Don't Look Back, the Finnish duo Good Romans strips the influence of jazz down to its bare RNA, pointing out its role in nearly every underground, avant-garde movement since. They manage to trace a very tenuous line from Django Reinhardt to Supersilent, which is a very abstract journey, if you missed the connecting steps. Using a very concise palette of electric guitar, drums and abstract electronics, Good Romans take you on a guided tour through nearly every genre that jazz has touched, from instrumental post-rock ("Smiling No"), to harsh freeform noise ("Moha Rave") and droning ritualism ("Hardanger"). They cover a lot of ground, but there is smart sequencing here, with miniature soundworlds strung together like a string of pearls. Some of the cuts are harsh, like a splash of cold water. This seems intentional: the intention is to shock, to make you pay attention and make you listen to some sounds you had not previously thought of as music.