Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Last Nights Presents: March 1st + 2nd "Images Residency" w/ Psychic Ills, Sore Eros, Hume, Street Gnar, Alan Watts + DJ's Andreas Knutsen & Elliptic


March 1st

8pm | $7 | All Ages

March 2nd

w/ DJ's Andreas Knutsen (Other Music) + Elliptic

8pm | $9 | All Ages
89 Varet St. Brooklyn, NY 11206
Subway: Flushing Ave M/J + Montrose L

Some words about the groups;

Psychic Ills; “Faced with a deluge of groove based psych, many listeners failed to notice Psychic Ills peculiar idiosyncrasy, and they got subsumed. Now that all is quiet, or quieter, on
the kaleidoscopic rock front, it's easier to hear the radical economy that sets them apart.
While most freaked-out churners give in to the temptation to throw everything into the
cauldron and boil, Psychic Ills cherry-pick their ingredients and slow roast till golden... a
mirror in a desert gently turning in the breeze” – The Wire Magazine

Images; "Images' album Know What I Mean is a loopy and lustrous treat, briefly glinting with an art-rock edge before it dives back under the woolen waves of psych-rock. Only seven tracks long, the whole album still comes across as a couple of guys genuinely doing something different." - Liz Pavlovic (Decoder)

Sore Eros; "Sore Eros make rich and subtle music that resists easy description or comprehension, but that seems to make perfect sense as soon as one stops trying to figure it out." - Michael Cramer (Dusted Magazine)

Hume; "Yeah, so the track is totally seeped in bong water, but it's also remarkably controlled despite what first feels like blissed out formlessness. On Bandcamp, the song is tagged as both "music concrete" and "pop." Might as well just call it pop concrete." - Jonathan L. Fischer (Washington City Paper)

Street Gnar; "There are combed-over waves of psychedelic fuzz, but underneath is a nasality that is almost Brit-pop, which is something I normally hate, but here it works." - Ari Spool (Impose Magazine)

Alan Watts; "The Group has begun to make the rounds with its industrial-driven pop.." - Shannon Hassett (RCRD LBL)

Qat, Coffee & Qambus: Raw 45's from Yemen - "Mushtaq" | Featured Track

It was quite a treat to receive news of Dust to Digital's latest album Qat, Coffee & Qambus: Raw 45's from Yemen. Inspired by There is seemingly no better narrative ploy put to use than the drug addled bohemian in canonizing a any artistic group or style. It's use spans many mediums (visual arts, musical, literary...) & defies cultural barriers. I suppose people need to interact with the dirt and grime to really feel human, or at least fantasy they are there. Or maybe it's a good tool to make visible a certain bridge and common space as another.

Regardless of any promotional tactics or aides used the music speaks for itself. "Mushtaq" performed by Bolbol Al-Hejaz and Soni Ahmad is an uptempo and altogether gorgeous track. To me they bring to mind the work of Hamza El Din someone who thanks to his success on the world scale, no doubt partially thanks to being lauded by the like of The Greatful Dead or Bob Dylan back in the day, has brought him in the a larger audience, including being one of my first forays into arabic music at large.

(Photo by Chris Menist)

There are strong similarities and resembles present in "Mushtaq", after all Yemen has had close contact with the East North African region El Din was a native of. Each are composed of lyrical narratives that unfold accompanied by oud & at times percussion. Whereas someone such El Din was able to have access to modern recording studios these tracks are laid bare bound to their surroundings & contextual situation. Bringing us back to the original narrative associating the music with the Qat & Coffee scene that the presented musicians have become one with.

Qat, Coffee & Qambus: Raw 45's from Yemen has been lovingly curated by Chris Menist & is available on LP via Dust to Digital Records.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sore Eros - Sickies: Volume One | Featured Album

There is just something about the way Sore Eros are able to hold songs together by such delicate strings that is somewhat awe inspiring. At any given moment tracks such as "Comet Inside" sound as if they are on the verge of falling apart into blissful shambles. Yet they never do, in fact it is this constant interplay of the fully formed & manufactured pop song & the very real & messy mode of human creation that keeps the listener on their toes.

Theoretically speaking I see Sore Eros pop song-craft as a critique of the current mainstream pop world. A vast landscape full of electronically precise rhythms & melodies, thanks a lot sequencers & autotune, void of any traces of the passionate & spontaneous moments of creation leading to the final... uh... product. In this sense their intimate moments of revelation, possibly for both the listener & performers, provide an outline of how to continuously strive toward moments of artistic realizations & purity.

Sore Eros Sickies: Volume One is available now digitally from the band & on cassette via Night-People. The group are also playing in Brooklyn this Thursday March 1st at the Last Nights Presents: 2 night Images residency at Big Snow Buffalo Lodge as part of the first night with Street Gnar & Hume. For more information check out the Facebook Event Page or our upcoming show schedule.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Matthew Sullivan & Sean McCann - Vanity Fair | Video

On their brand new LP Vanity Fair Matthew Sullivan & Sean McCann step beyond any specific notions of genre. Well perhaps their working genre is labeled as experimental or avant garde but in the end aren't those labels meant to be completely genre free & ambiguous in it's final outcome, & often times in it's process of creation & display. However you would like to look at it the pair forge ahead leaving a new path of sonic terrain in their wake.

Perhaps it is the wild & uninhibited ideals of the "West" that leads to the unique visual & sonic voice the duo have. Similarly minded cult figures such as Smegma come to mind, yet Sullivan & McCann seem to be pretty much void of the absurd & comedic aesthetic that collective tend to display. Maybe I'm wrong & it has nothing to do with coastal relationships, maybe one of these dudes is from Maine or Mississippi. Regardless these guys are on to something here since they have been able to get me to video visually made up of two near static images and thoroughly enjoy myself.

Matthew Sullivan & Sean McCann's Vanity Fair is available now via McCann's Recital imprint.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Street Gnar- Study Wall | ALBUM REVIEW

Over the past several years, bedroom-pop auteurs churning out hiss-y, homespun indie rock have been dime a dozen to say the least. It seems as if in this generation, one wakes up every morning to find their computer screen alit with another “of-the-moment” 18-25 year old kid with a sardonic attitude and a batch of tunes straight out of his momma's basement. Now, that is certainly a generalization; this I know. I know I am actively taking part in the Pitchfork-patented hyper-categorization and homogenization of modern music as we know it, pigeonholing artists into such small niches from which they can never escape.

This is not my intention with Street Gnar; the nom de plume of Case Mahan, a Brooklyn-via-Lexington, KY tunesmith whose newest collection, Study Wall, both conforms to and rejects many of the tent-poles which made many of his lo-fi pop cohorts successful in the first place. While many of his peers often value style over substance, Study Wall has killer slacker-pop tunes to back up his skater/stoner image.

The album begins with “Twenty-Two, Twenty-Two,” perhaps the album's finest song, and a perfect starting point for our discussion of the aesthetics of this release. Coming straight out of the gate with chiming guitars that wouldn't sound out of place on a Fifth Dimension-era Byrds tune (or one of R.E.M.'s charming, early recordings) and drums that sound like they were tracked in a tin can, we know we're in for an enjoyable ride that wont' rock the boat too much.

And rock it he doesn't: the following ten tracks are thoroughly enjoyable guitar pop tunes that are informed by the genre's multi-generational history. Pulling from the fertile musical soil of the past five decades, Mahan's studied approached to songwriting is perhaps his biggest asset. It's as if, holed away in his Kentucky basement, Mahan dutifully absorbed his parents' record collection while firmly keeping a finger on the pulse of the blogosphere, showing a particular affinity for the lo-fi guitar pop stylings of groups like Woods and The Fresh and Only's. Using the prerequisite pop auteur arsenal of guitars, bass, drum machines and synthesizers, Street Gnar has managed to craft an album that sounds decidedly of-the-moment while retaining essential elements of pop/rock classicism.

The production values are, predictably with this sort of release, where Study Wall ultimately falls short of greatness. The electronic drums throughout, especially on otherwise catchy as hell track “It Came In,” never quite mesh with the early GBV grit present in Mahan's songs, and simply come off as obligatory. Instead of using some of his recording limitations to his advantage, they ultimately reek of being just that, limitations. Generally, Mahan is at his best when the electronic textures are at their sparsest, such as on the aforementioned “Twenty Two, Twenty Two,” and the psych-rock rave-up “Let It Grow,” which sounds like King Tuff fronting the 13th Floor Elevators. The more textural side of Street Gnar is not always for naught though, as displayed on the lovely little ditty “Would You,” where Mahan makes use of a melodic synth flourish that truly makes the song. Well, that and the ripping guitar solo at the end.

Ultimately, Study Wall is an extremely enjoyable collection of pop tunes that just don't feel finished. The artificial elements present in the recordings never quite gel enough with the album's 60's/90's rock vibe, leaving the end product sounding more like a collection of demos than anything. Had Mahan taken a bit more time to hone the arrangements and put together a proper band, Study Wall could have had “classic” written all over it. Instead, the album feels like an underdeveloped first taste from an artist who will almost certainly grow into his own. I would keep an eye of this fella, y'all. Something tells me this won't be the last we hear of Street Gnar.

Study Wall was self-released by Mahan through Bandcamp on Feb. 1st. Check out the album player above to stream it in its entirety. You can catch Street Gnar live next Thursday, March 1st, at The Big Snow Buffalo Lodge in Bushwick, as part of Last Night's Two Night Images Residency. Other groups on the bill include Sore Eros & Hume. For more information check out the Facebook Event Page. Come on down, y'all.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Royal Baths- "Faster, Harder" | VIDEO

Royal Baths are Brooklyn via San Francisco retro rockers, mining their sound from a mix of early seventies blues-rock and present day garage tunes, who've just had a new album released by Kanine. It's called Better Luck Next Life, and it rips. Focusing on the dingier, dirtier side of the group's boozy rock sound, the video for first single “Faster, Harder” acts as a grainy, 16mm come on from singer Jeremy Cox. “I love my damaged girl, we share a wicked world,” Cox croons of he and his lover, whose “shared perversions” are seen throughout the six-minute clip. Get yo' hands dirty folks.

Better Luck Next Life is out now via Kanine Records. You can catch the Baths live at 107 Suffolk St. in Manhattan on February 26th.

The Feeling Of Love - "Numboy" | West Coast US Tour

France's The Feeling of Love definitely know their way around the contemporary (garage) rock underground. Tracks such as "Numboy", taken from their latest release Dissolve Me, contain all the hallmarks classic hallmarks; fuzz guitar, simple but entrancing rhythms, topped with some hazy vocals that seem to be leading the way.

The group have won the hearts of many least of which is garage wunderkind Ty Segall who they will be releasing an upcoming split 7" with on Permanent records. After all, time & an endless stream of compilations have shown us garage-rock extends beyond all national borders.

The Feeling of Love's Dissolve Me is available now via Kill Shaman records. The band may also be seen along the west coast of the US this February & March, where you can also grab Ty Segall & the group's split 7".

Feb 24th - Vancouver, BC @ Waldorf Hotel
Feb 25th - Seattle, WA @ Cairo
Feb 26th - Olympia, WA @ The Guesthouse
Feb. 27th - Portland, OR @ Ella St. Social Club
Feb 29th - Sacramento, CA @ Bows & Arrows
March 1st - San Francisco, CA @ Wharehouse
March 2d - San Francisco, CA @ Great American Music All *
March 3d - L.A., CA @ Troubadour *
March 4th - San Diego, CA @ Casbah ^
March 5th - L.A., CA @ Pehrspace
March 6th - L.A., CA @ Burger records instore
March 7th - Isla Vista, CA @ Biko Garage
March 09th - Davis, CA @ Davis Bike Collective
March 10th - Oakland, CA @ 1234GO!
March 11th - San Francisco, CA @ Knockout

* w/ Ty Segall, White Fence, Mikal Cronin
^w/ Ty Segall, Mikal Cronin

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Two Night Images Residency at Big Snow Buffalo Lodge March 1st & 2nd w/ Psychic Ills, Sore Eros, Hume, Street Gnar, & Alan Watts + DJ's


March 1st
Sore Eros
Street Gnar

8pm | $7 | All Ages

March 2nd
Psychic Ills
Alan Watts

w/ DJ's Andreas Knutsen (Other Music) + Elliptic

8pm | $9 | All Ages

Each Night at Big Snow Buffalo Lodge
89 Varet St. Brooklyn, NY 11206
Subway: Flushing Ave M/J + Montrose L


Josh Tillman, the recently departed drummer from folk-pop heroes Fleet Foxes, is Father John Misty. Having had somewhat of an epiphany regarding himself and his music, Tillman up and left his longtime home of Seattle, WA for the greener, sunnier pastures of Los Angeles. In his own words: “...In a critical, singular, mind-altering moment of clarity [I] became aware of this giant, blatantly fraudulent contradiction between my internal narrative, my conversational voice, my sense of humor – and singing about my pain like a fucking decrepit wizard.”

The result of this radical self-acceptance is Fear Fun, a rollicking, psychedelic hayride of a record coming out May 1st via Sub Pop. Above is the beautifully shot video for the album's 1st single "Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings," a highly enjoyable barn-burning rock dirge, starring Parks and Recreation it-girl Aubrey Plaza. Also, you can check out the candy colored cover art below. Get Psyched, kids.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Present - Lifetone | PREMIERE

Stoked to receive the exclusive premiere of the newest track from some of NYC's finest electro-ambient practitioners The Present. "Lifetone" is one of the smoothest slow jams to unravel before my (& possibly your) ears in some time. To give you an idea of what I mean when I first listened to the tune at my office a coworker promptly stated that this was "like some serious spa type stuff". It's easy to understand such a reaction as one is able to easily get lost in layers of budding synth textures, autotuned vocals, & of course an ever present yet subtle beat that propels everything along. Yet this is not some throw away office new age music.

It's easy to see the duo of Rusty Santos & Mina Ohashi fitting snuggly in with their musical friends & peers such as Gang Gang Dance or Animal Collective (who Rusty has done production & engineering work for). What the two set out to accomplish with The Present treads similar waters as the aforementioned artists. The Present have their eyes & ears on the dance floor though perhaps they tend to hang in the chill out room rather than going for the all out dance assault.

The recent stream of "Where I'd Rather Be" steps the tempo up a bit further pushing their compositional ideas towards getting the body moving. Opening with a rolling synth line that sets the stage for what's to come as Mina's vocals further take center stage, even as they are continuously cut & rearranged throughout. It is these off-kilter elements that keep The Present off the beaten path & that leave the listener on their toes waiting to catch their breadth.

You can find more tunes on The Present's soundcloud page as they gear up for an upcoming EP.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Hume - Phasing

At times I find the task of writing some of these features. There are moments when I feel it's impossible not to make direct references points to other artists who have come to define certain sounds or even general vibes, sometimes this bums me out because it seems unjust to whatever the music & musician(s) I'm actually talking about...

Anyway in this post Animal Collective / internet based landscape Hume & the track "Phasing", from an upcoming 12", sure have a finely honed sound. A nice blend of subtle electronic flourishes, percussive interplay between seemingly all parties, & some blissed out vocal deliveries. In my mind & ears this seems to move into a more singular sound than many artists working with similar tools. Something just mellow enough to be head bobbing rather than body shaking & too thoughtfully placed to be a stoned misadventure.

Hume's track "Phasing" will be available on an upcoming 12" out this April. For those in the Brooklyn area Hume will be playing March 1st at Big Snow Buffalo Lodge as part of a Images/Last Nights curated two show residency.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Last Nights Presents: Magik Markers // Key of Shame // Colour Bük // Michael R. Bernstein THIS SATURDAY

Key of Shame (members of Sightings & NNCK)
Michael R. Bernstein (of Religious Knives & Double Leopards)

Saturday February 18th
49 S. 2nd Street Brooklyn, NY
8pm | $7 | All Ages

Wooden Shjips - Remix 12"

As far as contemporary dance music goes I don't think that many of Wooden Shjips biggest fans have a clue what's going on. Most likely too lost in a haze of kraut grooves & smokey blues boogies to ever really make it into 2012. Yet here we are & in the 2010's 12" remixes of well... just about anything is totally in, invariably forcing everyone one in the music world to dust off their dancing shoes. Maybe it's the internet & how the contemporary cultural landscape is an endless sea of remixing. It always comes back to the internet...

Regardless Thrill Jockey has stepped in to make us realize "Oh Yes, Wooden Shjips are prime fodder for remix material. Situating their own unique blend of hypnotic & ethereal organ riffs, rhythmic emphasis, and penchant for head nodding stoned bliss within the realm of contemporary electronic dance music is a perfect match. Listening to Andrew Weatherall's remix of "Crossing" matches the vibe of the group's original while still allowing for the version to venture into ideas solely Weatherall's own." So there you are, or it is, & even if I'm not dancing along (I'm not necessarily the type) I'm at least bobbing my digging the deep grooves being cut.

Wooden Shjips Remix 12" will be available Feb. 21st via Thrill Jockey.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Dustin Wong - Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads | Album Review

Dustin Wong, ex-guitarist of beloved noise-pop spazzers Ponytail, has been goin' it alone for some time now. After leaving behind his old band, another successful project (Ecstatic Sunshine,) and his native Baltimore, MD; Wong made the decision to take the reins and do things on his own terms and, all things considered, things seem to be panning out pretty nicely. Quickly embraced by the scene in his adopted home of Brooklyn, frequently featuring on choice bills throughout the borough's DIY circuit, Wong's latest material brims with the inevitable confidence brought upon by an ever-growing audience.

On his second effort for Thrill Jockey, the beautifully titled Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads, Wong's signature brand of dizzying technicolor guitar pop truly shines and sounds like a man at the peak of his creativity. Deciding to stray from the long form, meditative compositions found on 2010's Infinite Love, Wong instead focuses on consolidating ideas into concise, 3-5 minute psychedelic bursts. That's not to say the tracks feel entirely separate, in fact each fades into the next so seamlessly you might easily miss where one track ends and another begins, retaining a laconic fluidity without ever becoming too boring or repetitive.

Opening cut “Ice Sheets on Feet Prints” sets the tone of the record beautifully; A kraut-ish guitar figure thuds away, quickly making room for a barrage of shimmering, layered guitar textures, until the whole thing bursts wide open with a pulsating drum track and Wong's now-infamous foot-on-the-monitor guitar heroics.

If by now you haven't noticed, the guitar takes center stage on this record; particularly Wong's explorations in texture and color through use of his extensive collection of effects. The above photo is strikingly evocative of Wong's guitar stylings; swirling beams of color coming at you from all angles. At the heart of Wong's technique lies the loop station. Each track is delicately constructed from a series of intricately layered guitar figures being pumped through various pedals, resulting in highly rhythmic hypnotic jams. The later album track “Pencil Drove Hill Moon” displays Wong's mastery of the loop station as he impressively harmonizes and manipulates single note patterns into a mosaic of ambient guitar grooves. Wong's effect wizardry is certainly not limited to his beloved loop station, however. Take “On/In the Way,” a short cut that has Dustin pulling out all the stops, using spring reverb and slap-back delay to create a percussive, West African styled lead and a bouncy mimicked bass line that you can't help but bop along to.

Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads is ultimately a rather enjoyable record; just one that goes on for a bit too long. Had Wong made the decision to snip a few tracks here and there and tighten things up a bit, he would have been making a wise choice. That's not to say the album drags, because it doesn't. The sequencing is one of the album's strong points. I just feel Wong's tunes are best enjoyed in slightly smaller doses. That being said, this new record is sure to please fans of Dustin's previous work and lovers of experimental guitar pop music; and it's a damn fine record. Just one that could've used a trim here or there.

Dustin Wong - Pink Diamond from Thrill Jockey Records

Dustin Wong's Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads drops this upcoming Tuesday, Feb. 21, via Thrill Jockey Records. Above is the appropriately neon hued video for album cut “Pink Diamond.” Also, if you happen to be in the New York area, Dustin's having a record release party on the 24th of Feb. at La Sala in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Should be a rad one, kids.

-Dylan Smith

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Black Twig Pickers & Steve Gunn - Natch 1

The good people behind Black Dirt Studios have announced a new series of collaborative recordings titled Natch. The first pairing of the batch comes in the form of some backwoods fried string music by Black Twig Pickers & Steve Gunn.

The music which skillfully unfolds develops upon key points of both the Pickers' & Gunn's oeuvres. The droning & buzzing frets of acoustic guitars, fiddles, and what have you are off & running, subtly blending elements of folk, blue grass, with moments of improvisation that owe as much to laid back jamming as it does to serious & technical improvisation. Meaning all you nerdy folk heads out there will have something to grab and decipher while the rest will be able to hang along for the ride & groove.

You can a watch the video for Black Twig Pickers & Steve Gunn's collaboration above.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Last Nights Presents: Psychic Ills, Images, Alan Watts

Come join us for a very special show with Psychic Ills, Images, & Alan Watts. The Psychic Ills are NYC art-rock veterans who the Village Voice named the best psychedelic band in New York for 2006. This will be their tour kickoff show before they head west for SXSW. Big Snow will provide the most intimate show experience to see the band for quite some time to come so don't miss out. Joining the bill will be Images who have been roaming around the nyc experimental diy scene for a while now & have recently released their newest full-length Know What I Mean & are prepping an upcoming 7" due out shortly. If that is not enough Alan Watts will be getting the night started with their particular brand of space-rock as they begin to prep for the next album.

Friday March 2nd
89 Varet St. Brooklyn, NY 11206

Dylan Ettinger - Wintermute

Dylan Ettinger's "Wintermute" & it's accompanying video shoot for the moon with it's hybrid of cold-wave meets contemporary underground pop. Taking in some concrete compositional forms that bring Ettinger out of the instrumental synth haze he's been living in for the past couple years.

The sharp mix of synths, programmed drums, topped with some blurry & gloomy vocals fit in perfectly with the current strain of synth worshipers out there. Yet unlike some other more space-minded compatriots Ettinger doesn't shy away from places the vocals firmly in the front row. What's more is that "Wintermute" offers a seriousness lacking in the at times comical to-cool-for-school mentality that many of his Not Not Fun label mates seem to shoot for. Now if someone can tell me what the masked topless girl in the corner of this video symbolizing we'll be getting somewhere.

Dylan Ettinger's Lifetime of Romance will be available next month via Not Not Fun.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Last Nights Presents: 2 shows this weekend w/ Blues Control, Jonas Reinhardt & more

One final reminder for Last Nights shows this weekend

Key of Shame - Threnody for Marcus Junius Brutus

Possibly needing a little introduction, Key of Shame is the project of Mark Morgan (from noise-rock luminaries Sightings) & Pat Murano (i.e. Decimus & of No Neck Blues Band). The duo explorations into the nether regions of noise come to full fruition here unrestrained by the larger group setting each normally inhabit.

It may even be possible that noise isn't the prime word choice for this work. The extremes in volume and grating frequencies are somewhat absent while listening to Threnody for Marcus Junius Brutus. Instead there is more of focused intent to mine the grey matter of sound with a buzzing, hissing, & all together dilapidated sonic trajectory which underneath all the grime sounds like a horror film soundtrack attempting to be plugged into the movie. Those who have followed Murano's Decimus moniker in the recent past will have an idea of what's in store for them here.

Key of Shame's Threnody for Marcus Junius Brutus will be available via Italy's Holiday Records. For those in New York Key of Shame will be playing Feb. 18th at Death By Audio with Magik Markers, Colour Bük, & Michael R. Bernstein (of Religious Knives & Double Leopards) as part of a Last Nights curated event.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

High Places - The Pull

High Places have certainly come a long way since they first made their way into general music consciousness back in 2007. The duo of Rob Barber & Mary Pearson in recent years have shed some of the murk & tightened up their compositional structures allowing their creations to take on new highs of pop prowess. What's more is that along with these sonic innovations have also come a newfound sense of confidence most readily heard in Pearson vocals, which now take center stage to help propel the bits of electronics percussion & shimmer further into the limelight.

"The Pull", taken from Original Colors, demonstrates the group's new streamlined electronic aesthetic. The video matches the electro clarity the majority of the track with some pristine shots of the band & organic matter. The video tackles chiaroscuro uses of light & dark as the screen cloaked in a pitch black with glimpses of light into the world the duo inhabit.

High Places Original Colors is available now via Thrill Jockey.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Terry Riley - Aleph

Terry Riley, one of the leading figures in Minimalist and contemporary avant-garde composition at large, returns with a work which grapples with the past while not rehashing former accomplishments. The press release for Aleph makes no small point is stating that this work is a "modern classic" in the composers career, and one that manages to touch upon themes used throughout Riley's oeuvre.

Aleph sits in a place where the words "modern" and "classic" can sit cosily side by side. It commissioned for John Zorn's Aleph-Bet Sound Project at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in 2008, yet the original premise and concept for the work stretch back to Riley's heyday and take ideas from his improvisatory keyboard workouts from the 1970's and heard in works such as Shri Camel or Persian Surgery Dervishes. The results are a playful, yet meditative, swirl of classic minimalism that recalls and builds upon what Riley has been working at his entire career.

Terry Riley's Aleph is available now via Tzadik.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Hospitality - Hospitality | ALBUM REVIEW

Brooklyn based trio Hospitality certainly don't appear to be trying very hard. From the obtuse band name to the seemingly obligatory faded photograph which graces the cover of their self titled debut, the band seem on the surface to be purveyors of bland, middle of the road indie rock; that is, until you listen to their record.

Opener “Eighth Avenue” romps along like any good indie-pop song, breathy female vocals included, until the knotty chord changes and tense melody of the chorus come along to let you know this won't be your average ride on the merry-go-round. Instead, the group leads us through 10 songs of pure pop innovation; from the sparkling twee of “Betty Wang” to the woozy wash of “Sleepover,” the album varies just enough to avoid stagnation, yet never too far as to alienate the listener. Hospitality is a band which operates like the best of chefs; taking simple, unassuming ingredients and transforming them into something beautiful through sheer knowledge of the craft. Take lead single “Friends of Friends” for instance. Where a lesser group may have let the simple structure and infectious vocal melody carry the tune throughout, Hospitality fill in all the right gaps to make the track a true earworm. A horn flourish here, a slight jerk in rhythm there, and what could have been a very tepid tune is suddenly a song which you find yourself humming at random intervals throughout the day.

Hospitality - Friends of Friends from Merge Records on Vimeo.

Aside from the band's gleefully off-kilter version of pop, the lyricism of frontwoman Amber Papini is what makes Hospitality such a rewarding listen. Being a twenty-something starving artist in New York myself, Papini's trials and tribulations concerning being just that can alternately make one smile and cringe. Riffing on topics varying from young, maudlin guys who aren't very good in bed (“Eighth Avenue”) to not caring how far uptown a friend lives (“Betty Wang”) Papini has managed to romanticize the lives of young New Yorkers, yet still sneak in a jab or two. “So you found the lock/but not the key that college brings/and all the trouble of a BA in English Literature/instead of law, or something more practical,” Papini croons on the incisively titled “Liberal Arts,” a song which stings with upper middle class regret. Plus, post-collegiate blues never sounded more tuneful.

Hospitality is a record which took three-plus years to complete, and it shows. It sounds as if every element was labored over again and again, usually an indication of so-so songs to begin with, but not the case here. Here, each detail seems perfectly in place, almost as if it were one of those “magic eye” posters; it may not seem like much at first, but look closer. Ah, now you see?

Hospitality is available now through Merge Records. Above is the funny/rad video for "Friends of Friends."