Tuesday, July 30, 2013

EP// Mild Eyes: Summer '13 One

Robert Frost was stuck. For months upon months he had been trying to write the greatest epic poem of his generation. The words flowed like a flood, no sooner hitting the page than falling off it under his stressed and haughty breath. The lines he accepted seemed the next day crushed, their beauty obscured by clumsy construction. Then one day Frost awoke, and he wrote a twenty-line poem that has since become his most loved. 'Two roads diverged in a yellow wood', and he took the one less travelled by. For me, Mild Eye's latest EP seems to mirror Frost's journey. Somehow the music's scope is far greater than could be expressed. I imagine Steven Hodson struggling to articulate this transcendence, but in succumbing to such futility, crafting something truly inspired. The ambient landscapes are rife with yearning and grace and the sad acknowledgement of human limitation. It's a wonderful effort by a promising project.

Listen and buy the EP for pennies over at Mild Eye's Bandcamp.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

TRACK// Molly Drake: I Remember

Last night I revisited one of my favourite radio documentaries 'Three Records from Sundown'. In it, record producer Joe Boyd remembers his time working with the infinitely enigmatic Nick Drake, and the result is a heartbreaking story of self-doubt and unappreciated genius. What caught my ear this time however, were the minutes recalling Molly Drake, Nick's relatively unknown mother. Her voice is described as very English, as though drifting down the street from a Sunday afternoon music hall. Nick's own guitar tone can be heard in her piano chords, and in her voice the sad and almost whimsical quality of his. Her music is humbling, and the adulation of Mr Drake caught at the end of 'I Remember' evokes a forgotten era of simple pleasure and the simple summer breeze.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

TRACK// By Toutatis: Rebecca

Something about this track is quietly menacing. Perhaps it's the vocals, deep and seductive as they are. Perhaps it's the velvet piano's organ-like drawl, or perhaps it's the shimmering layer of refined manipulation which hangs over 'Rebecca' like a Victorian smog. Shadowy and ambiguous, every lyric seems calculated and ominous and motivated. Even the bouts of violin-backed sorrow appear planned, their authenticity altered by some curious emotional engineering. It's a strikingly dark number, and one whose antiquated setting captivates from the off. A teaser for By Toutatis' debut LP 'The Songs We Sang to Death', 'Rebecca' has most certainly got my stomach rumbling!

Tiny Lights will drop the album September 2nd, but until then, download 'Rebecca' for free.

VIDEO// Frog J. Michigan: Hello! Ma Baby

Frog J. Michigan's deviously catchy take on Howard and Emerson's 1899 ditty 'Hello! Ma Baby".

Sunday, July 21, 2013

SOUNDTRACK// Chu Ishikawa: Tetsuo The Iron Man

Testsuo: The Iron Man is not the sort of movie that you stumble upon. Shinya Tsukamoto's cult 1989 horror film follows a Japanese businessman turned accidental killer, as the one they call the Metal Fetishist slowly transforms his body into a living pile of metal and tubes and wires. Despite this off-putting premise and scenes that might seem laughable on paper (a gargantuan power drill of a penis), the film is a surrealist body-horror masterpiece. Industrial to the core, the sets provide gloriously complex mechanical backdrops, while imaginative camera angles show them off with a harsh modernist flair. Often music is omitted in favour of horrifying scratching or breathless quiet, but when it is used, it bangs and grinds and pops like some hellish factory. Synths drag themselves from countless iron smokestacks, raining nuts and bolt down on sweating hammers and vicious, spark-fuelled saws. It's the monstrous soundtrack to a monstrously engrossing film.
Listen to the opening credits on Youtube after the break.

TRACK// Elizabeth Veldon: A Repeated Phrase

Somewhere in my consciousness, there's a metaphor pertaining to a train. The steady motion of the wheels is a simple repeated phrase, echoing and reverberating and shifting slightly every time the carriage rolls over a warped sleeper or dislodged Highland pebble. Frost and rain crawl slowly across your window, compelled by the silent wind to etch a quietly mountainous landscape upon the glass. Your breath is an early morning fog, and your thoughts the deep and brooding clouds of a deep and brooding sky. It's a magnificent fifteen minute journey that lasts a mere moment.

Listen and download the track from Elizabeth Veldon's Bandcamp.

Friday, July 19, 2013

PROJECT// Vincent Moon: Collection Petites Planetes

Western music is entirely paradoxical, in that it is both infinitely huge and infinitesimally small. We know of thousands upon thousands of artists and bands, and yet they are all huddled between the staunch bookends of public convention. Pop and rock are accepted staples of this isolated musical expanse, interspersed with volumes of alternative indie electronica and the rare, leather-bound jazz standard. The far more interesting tomes are left outside the barricading bookends, and talk of free-jazz atonality and primal metal aggression. They whisper of the avant-garde and point towards the far-off lands of world music, where religion and ritual are of the utmost importance.

Vincent Moon's project Petites Planetes roots out this enchanting world music and places it neatly back upon the cultural shelf. Best known for his guerilla film-making style, Moon collaborated with the likes of REM and Arcade Fire before deciding to embark on his search for tradition and folklore. From the singing women of Croatia's Carpathian Mountains to the shamanistic rituals of Java, he has painted intimate portraits of distant cultures. He has preserved the dying Glagolitic mass and recorded the tribal songs of Southern Ethiopia. The Yiddish traditions and the HudHud chants of the Filipino Cordillera have all be committed to film and to tape, each a beautiful expression of the boundless delights of human existence. These musical explorations defy convention. The voices are not perfect, and neither are the instruments. But in each note there is a passion. They retain a truth and a meaning and a spirituality, that has all but seeped through our sad, staunch bookends.

Listen to a wonderful Ukrainian folk song above and then check out Petites Planetes here.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

VIDEO// The Preatures: Is This How You Feel?

Jimmy over at Head Underwater named this song one of his favourites of the year, and it's hard not to share in his opinion. The latest single from Australian band The Preatures is a pop gem, dusted in seventies rock and roll appeal and chiselled by the lead singer's enchanting, punctuated voice. The fabric of the track is permeated by a wonderfully suggestive dance beat, and everything feels breathy and hopeful and curiously immediate. If you don't feel like moving, you are just not human.

EP// Braveyoung: Will the Dust Praise You

Something about that missing question mark fascinates me, and I can't put my finger on just why. It is, I think, the open-endedness of it all. Do the words form a question if there is no punctuation? Is there some vast cosmic truth in the sub-text that couldn't possibly be surmised in a lonely swirl of ink? Perhaps the question is unanswerable, but perhaps the omission is simply Braveyoung's subtle rebellion against convention. The Portland-based project is, after all, "a punk band, kind of."

The four tracks are a strange orchestral triumph, all things said and done. Enigmatic strings form the foundations for a minimalist tower, delicate and vulnerable but undeniably steady. 'No Cure's ambient surroundings ripple and shudder with each stroke of a piano's ivory keys, ascending and swelling through a perfectly demonstrative reverb. The following track is introspection epitomised, fragile notes sent out to probe a haunting static fog. A dark key change creeps up on you, and an oddly human groan leads effortlessly into the final number. Here, strings and piano accumulate in an incalculable expanse of neoclassical awe, distant and pained and tear-jerkingly well-composed.

Stream and buy 'Will the Dust Praise You' from Braveyoung's Bandcamp.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

TRACK// Aperture: #11

This is why I blog about music. For those rare moments when you stumble across something that has fallen fresh from the womb of it's creator, unknown and unassuming. This track's fall wasn't cushioned by a well-penned email, nor pushed into view by well-meaning PR. There is no Twitter account or Facebook page to follow, and the information on the Bandcamp consists entirely of an auspicious lower face and a few genre tags. But does it even matter? The music is played over a backdrop of warm summer rain, water sliding down the wooden cheek of a lonely cello. It's the ambient love-child of classical and electronica, and it's both melancholic and life-affirming in equal measure. What I want to know now is where the ten tracks leading up to '#11' are hiding!

Stream '#11' above and then buy it from Aperture's Bandcamp.

Monday, July 15, 2013

EP// Bad Kisser: Loss

There is something so evocative and emotional about Bad Kisser's music that I find myself lost for words. The whole thing runs for just under five minutes, but in such a short time San Francisco's Folie Gras manages to relate the idea of loss like no-one else. Each track rises and envelopes and impresses itself upon your soul, before ripping itself from your chest and leaving you lacking. They are beautifully, painfully insubstantial, long drones and clear reverberation the only constants in a constantly shifting landscape. At times the vocals are sacred and solemn and choral, echoing off the walls of a vast and vaulted church. At others they flutter between moss-covered gravestones, the lyrics as timeless and indecipherable as the words etched upon the rock.

Listen and download the EP for free from Bad Kisser's Bandcamp.

VIDEO// Snowmine: Silver Sieve

Snowmine's music video for 'Silver Sieve' is fascinating to watch. Stitched together using scenes from 'Senestrorsum', an enthralling short film by Martin Francis Shields, the characters move with careful deliberation and a jerky hand-drawn charm. The pace of the song is at once both a perfect contrast to this surreal, drowsy motion, and the perfect accompaniment to it's galloping action. It's a well-crafted piece of pop, but even if that isn't your thing, the video is well worth checking out.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

ALBUM// Denison Witmer: Denison Witmer

A little breeze blew over recently from our friends at Songs:Illinois, in the form of Denison Witmer's new album. Apart from having a pretty awesome cover, the eponymous release is full of a strange sort of sadness. These soft-spoken modern ballads have all but relinquished themselves to the futility of the 21st century. They scream with yearning and folk-tinged nostalgia, but acknowledge that in truth their voice is merely a whisper among many. This album is a work of rare, understated beauty. It was made for Denison, and your listening seems, not invasive, but rather incredibly humbling. The guest vocals from Sufjan Stevens are also an extremely enjoyably bonus!
Listen and download the album from Denison's Bandcamp and then visit his website.
Witmer is also playing at a few places throughout Western American in September!

Sept 9 – San Francisco @ Cafe Du Nord
Sept 10 – Los Angeles @ Bootleg Bar
Sept 12 – Ventura, CA @ Zooey’s Cafe
Sept 13 – San Diego, CA @ Music Thing Festival
Sept 14 – Tempe, AZ @ Last Exit
Sept 16 – Colorado Springs, CO @ TBA
Sept 17 – Ft. Collins, CO @ Everyday Joe’s
Sept 18 – Denver, CO @ Soiled Dove
Sept 21 – Wenatchee, WA @ Cafe Mela
Sept 22 – Seattle, WA @ Tractor Tavern
Sept 23 – Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge

Saturday, July 13, 2013

EP// Lunova Labs: [shhht_20]

Lunova Labs is Kevin Erwin's musical brainchild, and his latest EP is based on trees. It looks fairly strange written down like that, granted, but Erwin manages to pull off the concept with minimalist flair. Airy and sublime, electronic synths and passages of natural percussion dance a slow duet. A muted breeze blows, rolling off silver waves and carrying with it the perfectly sad keys of a distant piano. In one moment the echoes of a voice can be caught, and in others the momentary rustle of a bird's wing. Everything feels beautifully short-lived, like the liberating impermanence of building a grand sandcastle too close to the gently swelling tide. It's ambience as it should be.

Listen and buy the EP from Belgium label Silenced and their Bandcamp.

Friday, July 12, 2013

MIXTAPE// The Dirty Nil: Mix​-​Tape Vol. 2

Hamilton-based trio The Dirty Nil have covered four tracks for their summer mix-tape, from classic Iggy Pop to an angsty version of Merle Haggard's country stunner 'Mama Tried'. It's grungy and it's loud and by God it's wonderful rock and roll! It's also free to download until the end of the summer!

SOUNDTRACK// Paul Mercer: The Hands of Orlac

Robert Wiene's 1924 silent horror film 'The Hands of Orlac' is an excellent piece of cinema. The influential German director takes the surreal expressionism of his 1920 magnum opus 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari' and combines it with the strikingly realistic. Instead of small, stylised stages, Wiene opts for far grander locations. His use of space and light is infinitely more refined, and the opening train crash is one of the most stark and atmospheric and believable scenes ever captured on film.

Although undoubtedly an outstanding film absent music, Paul Mercer's 21st century soundtrack is undeniably fitting. Dark and experimental, it's a neoclassical manifestation of Wiene's chilling vision. The restless unease of composers such as Rautavaara is offset beautifully by moments of climactic minimalism. Echoes of Arvo Pärt's 'Tabula Rasa' and the brooding piano of John Cage emerge from Mercer's myriad of instruments, forcing you to listen and compelling you to watch.

Listen and download the soundtrack at Paul Mercer's fascinating Bandcamp.
You should also check out 'The Hands of Orlac' on YouTube.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

EP// The Lighthearted: Sugarcoated Poison

The title track from The Lighthearted's debut EP 'Sugarcoated Poison' is a picture of pure pop bliss. Painted on a canvas of rhythm and smoky stage-presence, Louise Rademakers' vocals are subtly slower than pianist Sarah Samuels' terrific playing, lending the whole affair a sultry vintage appeal. Joined by drums and bass, this small ensemble oozes a long-forgotten intimacy. Each of the members sound audibly comfortable, bouncing off one another and radiating a curious warmth.

With the next tracks Rademakers makes her beautifully high voice beautifully obvious. Soaring and yet grounded, they form a surreal bubble around the EP that threatens to burst at any moment. A fleeting transcendence takes hold, willing the songs not the end and making those final moments gloriously satisfying when they arrive. Lyrically the girls are on point, with even the infrequent cliché retaining a strange and heartfelt familiarity. Is this the soundtrack to the summer? I think so.

Listen and download 'Sugarcoated Poison' for free at The Lighthearted's Bandcamp.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

TRACK// The Coppertone: Young Blood

Amanda Zelina is the poster-girl for self-empowerment. In cutting herself free of an unfair recording contract, Amanda lost all the rights to her music. Fiercely determined, she went ahead and raised $20,000 to buy those rights back. 'Young Blood' is the soundtrack to her campaign, an unshakable and catchy and furiously impassioned blues anthem. Throbbing with an unparalleled emotion, lines like "I'm taking back my name" strike at your heart with the rarely wielded clubs of honesty and integrity. Two values often found lacking, Zelina's sincerity is humbling, and curiously restorative!

Listen and download the track at The Coppertone's Bandcamp.

Monday, July 8, 2013

VIDEO// Martha Argerich: Chopin Polonaise No.6

Martha Argerich was only twenty-four when she took the International Chopin Piano Competition by storm in 1965. Despite this, and despite her plethora of awards, I find people split into two groups when exposed to her playing. There are those who rever her as one of the greatest 20th century pianists, and then there are those who dismiss her fiery aggression as musical immaturity. Myself, I sit in the former congregation. On some pieces Argerich plays perhaps a little fast, but to call that a lack of depth is surely a hollow observation. Passion, vigour and that smile at 5:30 make Martha one of my favourite pianists, and her rendition of Chopin's Polonaise No.6 is nigh on perfect.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

TRACK// Blinker the Star: Future Fires

Blinker the Star's latest number 'Future Fires' is frontman Jordon Zadorozny's attempt to squeeze all the energy and excitement of a full album into a single three and a half minute track. In terms of achieving such mountainous aspirations, I think the song initially struggles. The opening chords feel somewhat unimaginative, dowsed in a chorus effect and propelled unwillingly forward by a less than riveting drum phrase. Things get a little better with Zadorozny's wonderfully subtle singing and undeniably strong synth-work, but it's the vocal chord progression at the two minute mark which saves 'Future Fires' from burning up. The scope of the track is finally realised, and the numerous layers of synth and vocal and percussion synchronise for a fleeting moment of blissful exhilaration.

Listen and download the track at Blinker the Star's Bandcamp.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

EP// Kerity: Twin Systems

The vast emptiness of space has enchanted man since the beginning of time, and Kerity is not immune to its cosmic allure. Bewilderment and fear stand hand in hand as a small craft beeps and whirrs at the edge of infinity. The opening number is layered with sound, yet silence permeates the drum passage as much as it does the synths and sonic glitches. Kerity's use of the calm and the quiet reflects almost inimitably the unconquerable still of space, and it's that musical backdrop which makes this EP so great. It's a lone speck of human existence, groping through the darkness to chance upon the stars.

Listen and download the EP at Kerity's Bandcamp.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

SPLIT// WTCHS​ / Thoughts On Air

If this 7" split were a building, it would be a furiously compelling one. The opening track 'Mr. Hands' is a long corridor, angular and twisting and terrifying. Its unsettling dimensions are oppressive, the relentless drums pressing into your back as you face a wall of noise and reverb. You relinquish yourself to the dissonance, and in doing so realise that in amongst the harsh chords and squealing post-punk guitar licks, there lies a pounding, almost primal excitement. WTCHS​ have effortlessly harnessed some untapped ferocity that makes you want to run and scream and laugh. 'Mr. Hands' rejects convention in an outpouring of soul and rebellion and sadness, and it's that cacophony of emotion that is so unbelievably symphonic.

​Thoughts On Air's counterpoint to WTCHS' restless fervour is 'Harness', an equally powerful track. You've escaped 'Mr Hands' claustrophobic fist to find yourself in a space so vast and open you feel lost. Voices emerge from this eerie euphoria, skewed and upsetting as you descend into yourself. The combination of boundless scope and beautiful introspection is something you simply have to hear, though it's the interplay of the two tracks on this 7" that make it so wondrously enticing.

Listen and download the 7" at WTCHS' Bandcamp for free!
Thoughts On Air's Bandcamp page is also worth checking out.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Whimsy and Regret

I haven't posted here for about four months. The reasons will inevitably vary, from exams to family life to my unsurpassed laziness. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to start writing again, and Music Dissection is as good an outlet as any for me to do just that. However, I need to think some things over. Verbosity is a major flaw of mine, for example. The desire to be lyrical smothers my words. The pressure to be poetic stifles the flow and turns the letters a queer shade of gunmetal grey, and by God it's frustrating. Reviews take eons to write, and if I'm to make a career out of this (which I sincerely hope to do), that needs to change. Let's just pray I can make something out of this July 1st reboot...

Also, I've changed the look of the blog, so everything looks subtly cleaner, and the page loads marginally faster. Some old posts may look a bit weird, but bear with me!