Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

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CLT Recommends: Frank Black – Teenager of the Year (Part 2)

August 23, 2011

After the speedy opening romp of Pong/Thalassocracy (detailed here in Part 1), Black pulls back a bit for the next four and unwinds. The pace slows down towards “amble” and even approaches “truly laid back,” which could easily be mistaken for “coasting,” if he weren’t only six songs into a 22-song set.

3. (I Want to Live on an) Abstract Plain.mp3

An ode to wanting to be elsewhere, which is one of those vague feelings that gets under the skin like nostalgia, only with generally better results. You can’t go back. Nothing is like you remember it. However, with the right sort of wanderlust you can push forward. (Although, unfortunately, nobody ever really trusts a drifter.) Frank says “this town is dead to me,” only using better wording and imagery.

I’ve had it with this town
I never saw those shifting skies
I never saw the ground
Or the sunset rise

A bit later, he hints at the antagonism that lies underneath the unfocused (more omnidirectional than vague) “let’s blow this joint” emotion:

I’m building a frame
A place to put my ten-yard stare

But despite all the underlying tension (most of which I’m attributing to it with no assistance from the source material and a lot of self-awarded editorial leeway), the song itself is amiable, catchy and features a couple of tempo shifts, which as the album goes on become more and more common. This would seem to suggest that Frank Black’s new, um, black is tempo changes, replacing all the groundwork laid by the Pixies’ damn-near-patented “loud/quiet/loud” dynamics.

4. Calistan

This track remains one of my favorite Frank Black tunes (of ever!), not so much for the tune itself (although it does sport some rather large hooks), but because of the subject matter. There’s a dry and dusty near-Western feel to the lyrics (and the music), but what pulls me in is the border town imagery, illustrated by the Spanglish chorus.

Used to be sixteen lanes
Used to be Nuevo Spain
Used to be Juan Wayne
Used to be Mexico
Used to be Navajo
Used to be yippy-ay-I-don’t know

Note that “Navajo” is pronounced “Nava-joe” in accordance with Black’s bastardization of Spanglish pronunciations. In Spanish, the “j” would be pronounced as an “h” (as in “Jesus”)(also, as in the way that the Navajo pronounce it). Black inverts it completely by giving it the hard “j” (probably not an actual thing, this “hard j” — at least not according to prominent Englishologists), doubling the language tweakery by blowing right past the border English “h” and grabbing onto the imported Americans’ (German, Dutch, etc.) practice of pronouncing letters of “foreign” words in completely the wrong way. No doubt about it: English (especially the American version) is a tough language to glom onto, what with it’s shifting “rules” and incessant borrowing from other cultures.

So, as an immigrant, when you’re tangling with a brand new language and its odd habits of using consonants as vowels and taking sudden hard left turns at certain consonant groups and then ignoring them completely later in the sentence, it certainly doesn’t help that the word “jalapeno” or “Navajo” are part of the vernacular. Which rules do you follow? And why do adopted words seem subject to local accents? As if the whole thing wasn’t ridiculous enough (citizenship tests, et al.), you’ve now got the opportunity to further display your “not-from-around-here-ness” by completely fucking up the pronunciation of a word that shouldn’t even be let across the border without a phonetic spelling. You can’t win.

Black being a denizen of L.A. (and the citizens’ band [BUT LATER ON]), he knows his way around the mishmash (and frequently, mismatch) of blended cultures. He references pachinko parlors and karaoke while namechecking the La Brea tar pits, all the while blending things further with his polyglot chorus.

I can identify.

Growing up in El Paso, Texas, a literal stone’s throw away from Mexico, I knew all about Mexicans. (Of course, no one really uses the term “Mexican” any more. Mexicans = people from Mexico. 20+ years ago, “Hispanic” wasn’t really used much in regular conversation. Mexicans were Mexicans and Hispanics were Mexicans with political aspirations.) The culture that is a border town is (dichotomously) diversity defined, while still noticeably marked by pockets of exclusivity . It all depends on which side of town you’re on. Heading to where the money is, border towns look like inland empires (obligatory Lynch reference, yo). It’s all new money wealth and in-ground swimming pools and white teens with riced-up sports cars and bomb-ass ghetto-fab SUVs.

Head to another side of town and you’re going to need a guidebook and an Spanish-English dictionary. Of course, each side of town is equally authentic and there are a few areas where you see some dithering (a digital term! for no apparent reason!), but generally speaking, border towns are not so much “Oh, Melting Pot!” as they are a somewhat uneasy coexistence of homogeneous cultures.

But authenticity is key. You can’t get real Mexican food without real Mexicans. Ask anyone who’s lived near the border. Trying to find good Mexican food is a fool’s errand in many parts of the country. This fact was plainly expressed in a very short-lived radio ad that ran while I was living in El Paso. It proudly announced that a restaurant had “Mexican food made by real Mexicans.” There’s an underlying offensiveness to that phrase. (See also: the second part of the restaurant holdup scene in Pulp Fiction, specifically Tim Roth’s shouted instruction — “Mexicans! Out of the fucking kitchen!” Even impulsive Brit stickup men knew who was working the back of the house.)

The insinuation is that the Mexicans will never get out of the kitchen, thanks to continued racism and random oppression from the Man and while you may actually prefer to have your authentic Mexican food to be prepared by authentic Mexicans (i.e., the ones most qualified to make native food), you really don’t get to go around saying so in so many words. Hence, the ad vanished, but for my brother and I, it lives on. Forever.

If you could ignore everything else about undocumented workers, etc., it’s actually the perfect tagline. If you heard an ad touting German food made by real Germans, you’d think “Fuck yeah! Bier und Sauerkrauten FTW!” and never once be troubled by the image of fiercely nationalistic young blonds slaving over a hot, authentic Stoverevekkenkerffumuschitteren. But if you use that phrase in relation to any of the so-called “marginalized” races (for the most part, “not white” [although “White-Hispanic” hits all the buttons at once]), you get in trouble. All hail White Guilt.

But enough about le culture, and more about Frank. The track sports some steely guitar and a windblown feel that makes it the perfect summer track. Of course, this track would be equally welcome in winter, especially since the heat of lyrical imagery would be a welcome blast of hot, dusty air during those colder days. You can almost smell the melting asphalt and see the shimmering, “pool ofwater” mirage spreading across the sixteen-lane horizon.

5. The Vanishing Spies

Another song that touches on the ineffable sadness of life not being nearly as magical as it once was. As you go further in life, the number of “unexplained” occurrences drops, replaced with facts and footnotes and the scars left by Occam’s Razor.

More specifically, this is Frank’s lament (as spoken by Fox Mulder’s office backdrop): I WANT TO BELIEVE.

Give me a blip, oh
And I’ll totally flip, oh yeah, yeah
Say it’s nothing but sky
And I’ll be a lonely guy

As to who the titular “Vanishing Spies” are, Black remains coy (or rather, “noncommittal”), but you can’t argue with the wistful quality of the music. Implicitly (through the power of editorial overreach), I’d say the vanished spies are the no-longer-all-that-common alien visitations. When all the mysteries are gone, all that’s left is life that plays out like a shitty street magician, telegraphing all its misdirection and plainly showing its cards. No one wants that. Not you. Not your kids on their 10th birthday. All he wants is for someone to say it’s “possible.” It doesn’t even need to be “probable.” Is that too much to ask?

6. Speedy Marie

An unabashed love song, filled with ecstatic imagery. Black goes nearly Shakespearean with Speedy Marie, his ode to his (at the time) wife. Early on, he mentions that he “sings this romaunt.” And he does exactly that.

In the sixth track, Mr. Black’s sings “I sing this romaunt”. A romaunt is a romantic poem. And, sure enough, the song ends with a quite lovely, romantic poem directed to a woman. This last section is written and sung in the classic 14-line sonnet style, with a rhyme pattern of A-B-A-B, C-D-C-D, E-F-E-F, G-G. The lines are actually an acrostic; the first letter of each line spells out “JEAN MARIE WALSH,” presumably the Speedy Marie of the title.

To wit:

Juxtaposed in each moment’s sight
Everything that I ever saw
And my one delight
Nothing can strike me in such awe

Mouth intricate shapes the voice that speaks
Always it will soothe
Rarer none are the precious cheeks
Is the size of each sculpted tooth
Each lip and each eye

Wise is the tongue, wet of perfect thought
And softest neck where always do I
Lay my clumsy thoughts
She is that most lovely art
Happy are my mind and my soul and my heart

Now that Frank Black has made everything any guy has ever done for his girlfriend/wife/s.o. look like so much underwhelming and non-poetic drivel, I guess we (the guys) have nothing else left to do but punch ourselves in the brain for being cursed with above-average brains (at best) and see if we can somehow shoehorn one of these intricate couplets (my favorite is: “And softest neck where always do I/lay my clumsy thoughts“) into an anniversary card or singing telegram (public domain only I’m afraid — to keep costs down).

Or maybe we can just point out that Mr. Black and Ms. Walsh are now separated, as if that were evidence enough that the amazing amount of effort needed to produce this sort of loveliness is obviously a complete waste of time. Or something.

Also of note: not the first time Mr. Black has gone acrostic. There’s also Ana, which spells out a very simple message… (See the top comment.)

Until next time…

-CLT

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Heavy Rotation 77

August 10, 2011

[More fine tracks arriving at variable intervals, thanks to the stellar musical talents of the Moon Duo, Clive Tanaka and The Voluntary Butler Scheme. No longer can this blog be trusted to be updated in a timely fashion. Perhaps some sort of ur-blog fascism is in order, because if nothing else, it made the Italian trains run on time. With that being said, as long as I’m in charge of providing content, it’s probably a forgone conclusion that as long as “things to do” continues to outpace “time available,” this blog’s tin-plated reputation will never rise above tin-plated. That additional thing being said, the tracks I’m featuring are really excellent. So there’s that… Would you like to play a game/remove a track? Email me: 2timegrime@gmail.com.]

Previous Rotations here:
The Heavy Rotation Archive

Clive Tanaka Y Su Orquestra – Lonely for the Highscrapers.mp3

Clive Tanaka (whom I’ve expressed adoration for previously) is back with a lushly moving track that threatens to shatter even the most jaded of hearts into thousands of pieces. As I’ve said before, it is written exactly NOWHERE that music needs to be made from all-organic components to have “emotion.” Those strange people who cling to some sort of Luddic ideal that prevents them from enjoying something made entirely of electronics need to be boxed repeatedly around the ears (and other sensitive areas) by Tanaka’s mastercraft until they can see the beauty behind the algorithms.

The track washes over the listener, with the beat serving as the only thing keeping it from floating skyward. Tanaka conjures up the kind of misery that loves company, which is the best kind of misery. It’s a larger-than-life feeling that is still purely, subjectively “your” experience, albeit one that everyone can identify with, even in the best of times/moods. When you can wring that sort of emotion out of bits, bytes and presets, you’re truly a “transcendent” artist and this track is, yes, exactly that: transcendent.

Moon Duo – Mazes.mp3

The SanFran bay area and psychedelia go together like acid tabs and orange juice. Moon Duo are no exception, filtering their Cali sun-kissed psych-rock through a variety of effects pedals and a Spaceman 3-esque chug-and-drone framework. While a few of their tracks push towards a mantra-esque repetitionrepetitionrepetition (i.e., Motorcycle, I Love You) that tend to preach directly to the chemically-altered choir, other tracks (such as this one) move beyond the attuned and welcome those who gather at the outskirts, wondering what the hell they’re missing out on.

This is not to say that Mazes completely forsakes the chug/drone/meander of Moon Duo’s more psychedelic outings. In fact, the entire track wraps itself around the rise and fall of some simple tones and while the guitar takes an exploratory run through a couple of effects, the tune itself ties together into a neat, tuneful, ultra-melodic near-romp that calls to mind a mildly-sprawling take on 60s garage pop. It’s a blast that rolls on charmingly, with four-on-the-good-natured-floor. It’s the perfect welcome mat for those wishing to dip into Moon Duo’s spirited acid rock revivalism.

The Voluntary Butler Scheme – To the Height of a Frisbee (Dan Le Sac Remix).mp3

Incredibly vibrant stuff here, and I don’t say that lightly (even the music itself edges towards that). The amazing output of one-man-band Rob Jones, The Voluntary Butler Scheme makes the kind of upbeat electronica that a million bedroom producers aspire to. Captivating, melodic and brilliantly evocative, TVBS is pure pop brilliance. Unfortunately, today’s pop world is less concerned with brilliance than marketability and there’s no chance in hell for this slice of immaculate joyousness to claim a place on the charts.

So be it. Now, it’s ours and we can take it places and show it to our friends and watch their jaws drops and be part of the “in-crowd” that is cool we don’t even give a shit that others refer to us as the “in-crowd.” When they do refer to us as that, we’ll express surprise and smile a little. Music isn’t about exclusiveness. Not if it’s done right. It’s about inclusiveness and when you’ve got something this amazing on your hands you’ll be dying to spread it around. Hell, it’s not even going to care if you shove it on your virtual shelves right next to your cherished Gap Band reissues and secretly-loved Kylie Minogue singles.

Music this good doesn’t need a pedestal. It just needs more fans.

-CLT

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CLT Recommends: Frank Black – Teenager of the Year (Part 1)

July 27, 2011

Frank Black’s second solo album appeared without much ado in the summer of ’94. There may have been more “ado” elsewhere (perhaps Boston or L.A.), but for someone in South Dakota who visited the local records in a somewhat religious fashion (when money was available — so, not frequently, but more “periodically”, like a backslidden Catholic [which FB very much could be, if the lyrics of Weird at My School are to be believed]{but he actually isn’t, which is fine}), it was bit of a surprise. All of a sudden, there it was on the “New Release” rack: Frank Black, in all his weird glory, looking like a prom date that was the result of a lost bet.

More background: I discovered the Pixies in 1992, shortly after their dying gasps. These dying gasps of one of the most important bands ever were apparently delivered by Frank Black (known at that time as Black Francis) via an instrument that was very much of its time and place: the fax machine. “Dear Band – We are no longer,” or words to that effect were faxed to Kim Deal (bassist) and David Lovering (drummer). Joey Santiago (guitar), however, received a phone call, and in fact, was invited to play guitar on Black’s first solo album, Frank Black.

As is often the case when you discover genius only to have it torn away by forces beyond your control (see also: Skinny Puppy, Love & Rockets, My Bloody Valentine — all of whom ceased operation between 89-91, right about the time I was getting into them [although they’ve all come back since then]), it leaves behind a feeling not totally unlike the ungainly metaphor of a bandaid being ripped off a fresh wound. Frank Black’s first solo album failed to resonate immediately, but steadily grew on me for the next decade. However, Teenager of the Year arrived a couple of years further down the road when the old wounds were pretty much closed, sealed by fate, etc. and some of the more exposed edges had been rounded off by the quiet resignation that sometimes comes with living life.

The Pixies were indeed a once in a lifetime experience and I had missed out, but… well, there’s nothing you can really do. So you move on and distance yourself a little more from bands that seem to be implosive, and then find all of your overwrought “feelings” about said bands mocked openly by their eventual reunions and endless touring. (See also: all the bands I listed. Except Love & Rockets, who made a few more albums before re-vanishing again, but not before I got to see them as 3/4 of the reformed Bauhaus, which was pretty fucking kickass.)

This sounds more dramatic than it actually is, but the fact remains: Teenager of the Year will always hold a place in my heart that Frank Black (the album) never can and I’m pretty sure that’s because of two year’s worth of perspective. Obviously, I wanted Frank Black to sound like the Pixies. He doesn’t, especially on Frank Black. There are hints and motifs but these are very much Frank Black’s albums.

Put both of these albums together though, and you see some patterns emerge. Lots of sci-fi references and UFO fascinations trotted out. Pop culture meets skate culture meets L.A. melting pot meets mystic shit borrowed from Native American culture and fringe cults. It’s all in there and it’s all a continuation of Bossanova and Trompe Le Monde, the last two Pixies albums and the two that most fans agree are the weakest. And they are, if we’re being honest, although it took me a few years to figure that out. They’re by no means “bad” albums (in fact, stacked up against 95% of all other bands’ output, they’re actually excellent albums, but when you set the bar as high as their first 2-1/2 albums did…), but they are definitely more Frank’s albums than they are Pixies’ albums.


This is probably why Frank Black (again, the album) felt like a continuation of Black’s solo album aspirations from Bossanova and Trompe Le Monde, only extended to an actual solo album. I wanted the Pixies to go backwards and reclaim their glory. Frank just wanted out. Kim just wanted a million cigarettes and a semi full of booze.

The towel was thrown in well before the faxing, though. I still have in my possession a 1992 bootleg of a live set the Pixies did opening for U2 in Florida. Pretty lifeless as live sets go, with the band sounding more “perfunctory” than anything else. Still, it was the first time I’d heard Manta Ray, which is one their best b-sides.

It was a combination of various things that turned this into the perfect summer album, my head space being one of them. At some point, you lose your teen angstiness and are then able to appreciate lighter efforts like these, rather than feeling that if it’s not a doom-laden epic (like, say, the Cure’s Disintegration), then it isn’t a serious artistic statement. There’s plenty of hummable tunes hidden throughout Black’s album, as well as some weightier pieces, but nothing that drags you and your soul down to the darker side of town to make a deal with the devil or, at the very least, play a bit of craps in a metaphoric back alley.

It’s a sprawl of an album at 22 tracks, but most of them breeze by quickly enough that it never feels like an effort, even if you listen to it from front to back. There’s some surfer vamping, some steel guitar, a lot of angular guitar (even some regular guitar!) and plenty of quotable lyrics. The incredible thing is that out of 22 tracks, there’s only a handful of clunkers, most of which are purely subjective clunkers. There’s really not a bad track on the album.

I’m going to run through Teenager of the Year from front to back, pointing out anything I liked or thought was interesting or anything angular and spiky enough that I can hang a digression from it. I won’t be posting the whole album, but I will be posting (and addressing) most of it. Those that don’t make the cut will still be toyed with briefly before being dismissed. Hopefully, you’ll find this to be half as entertaining as I imagine it to be.

CLT Recommends: Frank Black – Teenager of the Year

Teenager opens with a pair of blistering, get-you-in-get-you-out, punk-as-post-punk-deconstruction-reconstructed, catchy-as-all-hell two minute romps. Here they are in their sequentially numbered glory:

1. Whatever Happened to Pong?.mp3

The opening track begins with a head fake: guitar that feints in the direction of anthemic mid-tempo rock before sprinting in a new, punkish direction. The title gives it away. An ode to Pong, which much like anything else that appears overly-simplistic, is also an ode to wasted youth (not the drunk kind of wasted, although I would imagine Frank was no stranger to the booze — after all, he went to college).

My brother and I used to play it down at the bars
Taking money from guys more used to the playing of cards

Most of the lyrics mimic the ball action (a sentence opening which will seem progressively dirtier with each readthru), paddle, left, paddle, right, with the riffs shifting gears here and there to allow another verse before the chorus heads back into the left-right action.

Now virtually everyone’s singing a popular song
But I still believe in the excellent joy of the pong

Bash radio. Get nostalgia. And it’s purposeful nostalgia. Time travel namecheck upcoming.

Now if they take it H.G. Wells
I’ll be on the first flight
To a time before the Kong
Oh, whatever happened to Pong?

Progress. It’s a killer. Everything seems better when you look at from a distance. Frank Black, proto-gamer longs for sub-8-bit graphics and sub-midi-file bloops.

All in all, a good opener. Catchy with a bit of fluff but still spiky enough to snag outre ears. Oh, and check the video, which was made with the combined power of stock video and couch change:

2. Thalassocracy.mp3

In case you needed to be reminded, Frank Black has a (partial) college education. Grossly simplified, thalassocracy means “ruling the sea.” The sea is another of Black’s fascinations. He refers to watery kingdoms and accompanying mythology a few times in his preceding work. On the Pixies’ 1989 album Doolittle, he touches briefly on one “ruler of the sea” in the song, Mr. Grieves:

What’s that floating on the water?
Old Neptune’s only daughter

(To make the syllables work properly, you have to pronounce Neptune as “Nep-tune-ah” like Black does here. He’s halfway to the Fall with that one word, echoing Mark E. Smith’s appended “-ahs”.)

On Trompe Le Monde (above), he’s got an entire song about the underwater world, Palace of the Brine, which, believe it or not, refers to the Great Salt Lake in Utah:

In a place they say is dead
In a lake that’s like an ocean
I count about a billion head
Every time there’s a motion

Later he gives it away, through the restorative power of screaming:

Beneath reflections in the fountain
The starry sky and Utah mountains

This, however, is some sort of vindictive fight song, for lack of a better term. It roars out of the gates and never slows down, with Black spewing intricately layered invective in the general direction of his nemesis. It paints an ugly-as-sin word picture using $64 words and heady references:

Wait
It isn’t so great since you learned karate chop
You’re walking machs and I’m just swimming in the slop
You waved your wand at me and made me dance flip flop flip
I want to sing for you and make your head go pop

But, like anything else Black writes, a picture will emerge. It seems to be a trick of evolution the protagonist is railing against. Someone has made it onto land (karate chop/walking machs) while he’s still stuck in the sea (swimming in the slop). There’s even more to it: “waving your wand” – fishing rod, “dance flip flop” – caught on the line, “sing for you and make your head go pop” – sirens?

The chorus refers to both the Inuit Indians and Caeser, which seems to be an contrasting of living in harmony with nature as opposed to the Romans’ relentless march towards domination through conquest/technology. This is confirmed in the second verse:

Hey
You’re spraying in the windy and I’m just pissing off
I’m literally deaf down here from your canned philosoph
Soft, soft, soft, soft, softly can you hear me through the sucking of your quaff
I’m thalassocracy and you’re just Romanov

In other words, I am the sea and will be forever. You may have evolved but I’ll outlast you and your “kingdom.” (Incidentally, the Romanovs were the last ruling Russian family before the February Revolution ended their reign, leaving the country in [eventually] Lenin’s hands.)

All in all, extremely deep stuff for a 97-second punk-pop tune. This one-two punch of bare-faced nostalgia and multi-layered mythological narrative speeds by in less than 3-1/2 minutes, laying the groundwork for the rest of the album. It’s an intro that lets you know exactly what you’ll be dealing with (oddball shit + brain exercises), even if the tempo rarely reaches this pace again.

That’s it for this section. This retrospective will continue (hopefully) over the next few weeks. If nothing else, the cumbersome introduction is out of the way, leaving us with plenty of music to enjoy between wordy bits from yours truly.

-CLT

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Sonic Collision 9

July 25, 2011

It’s been a long while since I’ve posted under this heading, but I’ll be goddamned if I’m the only one who can’t get these particular mashups out of his (or her, as the case may be) head. My unofficial apologies for the sporadic posting schedule, one that only becomes more sporadic as time goes on and would most likely be unnoticed if I didn’t draw attention to it with every introductory paragraph. Onwards we go, to the better times and music that lies below this awkward paragraph that now hangs here like something awkward (possibly a gawky and eternally forlorn teen) hanging over a particularly fun party (with great music), killing the mood with his (or her, quite possibly) eternal forlorness and awkwardly decorative noose.

Now that you have this wholly inappropriate word image in your head, please try to enjoy the rest of the post.

Previous wreckage here:
The Sonic Collision Archives

Fissunix – End of the Walrus (Daft Punk vs. the Beatles).mp3

This track heads up the Collision solely because I still find myself wandering around doing a non-hippie approximation of John Lennon, much to the consternation of the pets, children and my wife. Why, in the name of all that is considered holy by various demographic groups, would a grown man sing “I am the walrus,” especially in a voice that was made for writing?

Because dear friends, the simple (but not all that simple, really) addition of Daft Punk’s bottom end and assorted electronic noises. And let’s not forget the various inserted samples from the movie Tron. Those help a bit. But mainly it’s just Fissunix’s mastery of his media, turning an old “standard” into the finest electro-rock.

Fissunix on the World Wide Web

Krazy Ben – Fake Disco Flex (Fake Blood vs. Arabesque vs. Dizzee Rascal).mp3

Aw, Ben so Krazy. So c(k)razy that I’m sure he’s sick of internet writers opening paragraphs with any variation of those worn out words. My apologies in arrears for not leading into this paragraph more forcefully. This mashup deserves more than that.

As you can clearly see (and imagine) from the “cover art,” this is a hi-energy track (as is evidenced by the missing silent letters), which pops and bumps like the warped vinyl of a dancefloor classic that has been exposed to the heat once too often. The vocal stylings of Dizzee Rascal rub up against Fake Blood’s nu-house and the occasional string squiggles of Arabesque to devastating effect.

Krazy Ben’s tumblrrrr!

-CLT

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Heavy Rotation 76

July 13, 2011

[What? This old thing? Actually, a bit better than that. This week’s combatants for your hearing affection are Curve, WALSH and Insect Guide. Perfect mood music for whatever it is you’re doing today, including reading this here blog thing. Need a track removed? Just ask: 2timegrime@gmail.com.]

Previous Rotations here:
The Heavy Rotation Archive

Curve – I Feel Love.mp3

I have an inordinate amount of affection for Donna Summer’s I Feel Love. If I’m at all honest with myself (and by extension, you), I probably have no fewer than 20-25 versions of this track floating around my hard drive like so many pulsating disco divas. Giorgio Moroder laid down the ultimate in basslines on the original and the twin powers of Toni Halliday and Dean Garcia emulate this immaculately, trading in their normal percussive wash of wah and distortion for a bottom end that just won’t quit (or words to that effect). Welcome to alt.disco.

Insect Guide – Insider.mp3

This track is the sort of wintry mix that cozies up next to you on the couch in front of a roaring fire, casually draping an arm across your shoulder before leaning in to whisper threats in your ear. Insect Guide’s whole album runs this way, seducing with instrumental haze while roughing you up a bit lyrically, like a street thug in a velvet smoking jacket.

Walsh – Sweet Draemz.mp3

As the highlight (there’s a joke in there but I’m too lazy to throw quotation marks around it) WALSH’s Smoke Weed About It EP, Sweet Draemz delivers the fogged-up goods. Plays like a narcotized Hawaiian vacation dream. You know, the kind where you can only move about 3 feet per hour and everyone’s mouths are moving but no words are coming out. Like that, except that the perverse weirdness of the dream is replaced with the preternatural calmness that only comes from being chemically altered. Sunshine that shimmers and water that peaks in near-motionless waves. To sum up with more clarity, it sounds like a possible b-side for Brian Eno’s atmospheric “diving-into-a-toilet-bowl-in-search-of-a-lost-suppository” track, Deep Blue Day.

-CLT

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Heavy Rotation 75

June 19, 2011

[Another three tracks submitted for your approval. This week’s lineup features Psychic Dancehall, Pepepiano and Pink Playground. No unifying theme other than the initial “P”, which is nothing more than a happy coincidence I just noticed as I was typing up these very words you’re reading. (Or glossing over.)  Need a track removed? Just ask: 2timegrime@gmail.com.]

Previous Rotations here:
The Heavy Rotation Archive

Psychic Dancehall – A Love That Kills.mp3

There’s no shortage of love songs out there. Psychic Dancehall has a killer of a love song: an echo chamber threnody built on the belief that love exists and is wonderful but that this same love will rip the floor out from underneath you with alarming frequency. The music itself fades nearly away at points, leaving the vocals alone in the reverbed darkness, save for some fatalistic minor chords and an approximate organ tone that embeds itself firmly in the audio wallpaper.

Pepepiano – I Understand You.mp3

If you can name this genre, than you can own it and charge other unimaginative musos for using it when attempting to describe indescribable audio tones without resorting to lazy shorthand like “ethereal” or “the Cocteau Twins on acid.” “Electronica” doesn’t really do justice to Pepepiano’s audio collage/collisions. I Understand You progresses like a series of jump cuts, from twee-ish charming to white noise Bomb Squadding (that’s a PE ref, yo) to nu-disco electro-jacking, all in under three minutes. On second thought, it’s less like “jump cuts” and more like an MPD sufferer falling down a long flight of tuneful stairs, each one triggering a burst of white noise or tasteful sample.

(To better help you visualize this song, imagine the “floor piano scene” from Big, only instead of Chopsticks, it’s late-70s/early-80s synth vamps and instead of Robert Loggia, it’s a hyperkinetic robot made out of day-glo and refracted sunlight (which is made out of radio static and a second-hand store boombox).

Pink Playground – A Man Alone (John Barry RIP).mp3

Even if you don’t know John Barry, you know John Barry. Houston’s Pink Playground knows John Barry, offering up a well-crafted ode to the composer of the James Bond theme. Capturing the neo-noir atmosphere of Cold War spy gaming via sonic craftmanship is no easy feat, but this track is done to perfection, taking you back to a simpler time when men were men and seduced women and shot a lot of foreigners with misshapen heads and drama!tic accents. (The “!” is intentional. And a potential punchline/punchsymbol[?]. However, if it doesn’t at least make you smile with bemusement, then feel free to consider it a typo.)

 -CLT

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Heavy Rotation 74

June 12, 2011

[A fine trio of selections for this oft-delayed return to partial form. Featuring the talents of Like Some Cat from Japan, Just Another Snake Cult and Light Asylum. A bit electro, a bit goth and a bit wall-o-sound. Safe for all ages but possibly enjoyed most by those in the 30-45 demographic. Need a track removed? Just ask: 2timegrime@gmail.com.]

Previous Rotations here:
The Heavy Rotation Archive

Like Some Cat from Japan – Johnny Ramone.mp3

If you’re a fan of LCD Soundsystem, Whitey or any other fine purveyor of the oft-maligned musical form known as electro-rock, then this Cat is right up your alley (didyouseewhatididthere). Bouncy, bright beats meet deadpan recollections of something that easily could have happened, probably didn’t happen and who gives a shit if it did or didn’t as long as you can sing along with it and you probably will. It all sounds so plausible: Johnny Ramone/1994/a request for cocaine. It’s smart-arsed brilliance laid on just thickly enough to put you on the inside of the joke but not so thickly you feel you need a trucker hat and a PBR just to pretend to enjoy it on a different level than everyone else. Doubleplusgood.

Just Another Snake Cult – I Know She Does.mp3

Speaking of alleys, this is right up mine. Just Another Snake Cult roll up a patented (probably not, actually) blend full-bodied shoegazer-esque pop. It’s spirited and uplifting without being cloying. The backing vox are to die for. (And if you’re in a rival band, possibly to kill for.) It’s a love song. (Not usually up my alley, but hear me out…)  But it’s the kind of love song that actually makes people believe in love rather than just the airy ideal of love. Plus there’s some organ, which is always a bonus. In other words, it’s exactly like the Charlatans meeting Phil Spector for drinks in an underlit club with the Black Hollies playing on the jukebox. Exactly like that. (This will not be discussed, although it may be on the test.)

Light Asylum – Dark Allies.mp3

Quite possibly the synthest, gothest track ever. It’s like every seminal goth band DJing an 80’s Night down at the local club, taking turns blasting ABC and OMD and all other sorts of abbreviations at girl-drink-addled club kids and announcing each track (and drink special) with patented “goth vox” just to shake things up a bit. Light Asylum kicks out a pristine ruckus (ha! that makes no sense at all! moving on…) reminiscent of an early-rising Clan of Xymox or a goth-er Apoptygma Berzerk. Good for very nearly scaring children except that the bright synths would cause breakouts of rhythmic motion rather than pants-wetting.

-CLT