Monday, March 30, 2009
My Disco - Paradise
When I first heard these guys I thought two things: "Sounds like they're influenced by Shellac, I can dig it." and "How do they remember this shit?", but ever since seeing them live a couple weeks back and picking up their latest record Paradise, my excitement for this band has gone beyond anything I've felt in years. Not only is Paradise noisier than most records to date, I haven't heard a record that has literally scared me into feeling frighteningly nervous and uneasy about the world around me until I gave Paradise it's proper attention.
Now, I should probably explain that I like to give my full attention to records I see worthy of my time by blaring it through some already blown, shitty speakers in my car at full volume. This is what years of making records and even recording one myself have got me in the habit of doing. Every DIY dude recording his own records always gives the final master a spin in the 'ol bucket to see how it sounds before putting the seal on it for good. So here are some minimal observations for a minimalist rock band of two brothers and a friend from Melbourne Australia. You'd make the Birthday Party proud fellas.
Recommended time for listening: Midnight after a good rain has ended and the only people on the streets are going too or from a job they hate while you stare at them from the driver's seat parked at a red-light.
You Came To Me Like A Cancer Lain Dormant Until It Blossomed Like A Rose
An Even Sun
A Christ Pendant Comfort Her Neck
Pair & Pear
German For Attention
I - My Disco starts off with this pulsing build up that makes you actually feel as selfish as the title implies. That minimalist drum & bass drone, that seductive grey almost holds your head gently halfway under water as they are at this very moment handcuffing your body to the chair, preparing to pull the curtain only to reveal a world you have already seen for many, many years. Only difference is, they will have lent you their eyes and ears in order to wash away the powder that hides the scars and the God that hides the streets. Be prepared for loneliness to appear in physical form right in front of you.
You Came To Me Like A Cancer Lain Dormant Until It Blossomed Like a Rose - This particular track, I can't help but feel like I'm in on a sick joke that I'm personally unable to laugh at. The singer/bassist of this trio was diagnosed with Hodgkins Disease in 2004. In this song he has what seems like a post-argument revelation/conversation with himself while God listens in a neighboring room. He desperately spurts "You. You came to......" unable to finish his sentence out of complete let down. The bridge is a soundscape of dread induced noise made on behalf of the guitarist to croon alongside his sibling.
/ - What can I say? NOISE. Anyone wonder what noise rock is supposed to sound like? Here is a prime example. They waste no time with this one. This track starts out with a genius of a guitar player so fed up with the delicate hands that cradle such an unforgiving planet, that he is compelled, with every knob and unconventionall guitar/amp relationship you can dream of, to (excuse my language) fuck his guitar into making sounds so sharp and angular you would have wished the world wasn't turned up so loud. The bass comes rolling in with the ever beautifully timed drums to create what sounds like a group of orphans forced to play a dance song at gun point. "The less I see, the closer I feel". Repeated so you don't brush it off the first time. Repeated so you're forced to mirror yourself out of thin air. This has such a cryptic pop undertone to it that by the end of the song, you feel like a quirky misfit forced to dance your little twitch only to dwell on the moment seconds after you and the song are done. Who said you wanted to dance in the first place?
Paradise - As if the jolts your limbs were suffering against your will weren't awkward enough, here's a song to simulate your walk across 17 deserts with only the condemning landscape and a scattering of disappointing mirages to keep you company.
An Even Sun - You've made it this far into the album, this song will test your loyalty or flaunt it's total control over you. Stunningly epic. Like an ugly woman with a beautiful shape standing in just enough mixture of dark and light so you can only see her perfect figure, the guitars are drenched sporadically through out this monumental song. Being the longest on the record, it's also the most unforgiving when it comes to toying with your sanity in the disgustingly precise nature a Nazi scientist would if he had the chance. Once again, tip of the hat to the execution of this song by the bassist and drummer.
Mosaics - I couldn't imagine a better title for this track. the angsty, agitated guitar and drum spurts through out the song almost perfectly resemble a slow walk across a platform made of 3,000 tiny pieces of stone and marble that, at your feet, make up an unusual looking but impressive mosaic. This walk goes out with a riff that could easily be the most "beautiful" sound on the record, so let the riff sink in with your eyes closed, otherwise be prepared to stare directly into the sun.
A Christ Pendant Comfort Her Neck - Dripping with the fresh paint of stone cold realization, This song best works as a soundtrack to a dying young woman clutching her crucifix necklace in her final times. As the vocals literally spell out the origins of her weakening atmosphere, the bass, drums and guitar seem to be the grieving band that agreed to play the funeral procession.
Pair & Pear - A pair stand partially nude together at a fruit stand. One stolen pear to nourish both of their hunger for that evening. As If the air wasn't dense enough with judging mouths upon them, we've got this rapid eye movement of an unorthodox rhythm section and guitar relationship that weaves in and out of the lyrics with just enough grace and cross-sectioned beauty to knit a funeral yearn.
German For Attention - Odd time signatures call for an odd feeling to be created. This minimalist masterpiece of modern noise rock comes in with a demanding guitar riff that leads by example for the other members as they layer onto each other. Sounding at times out of sync, the trickery can be misleading. Follow closely and find the rigid and definitive pattern etched into the ionized air is 100% premeditated. Almost perfectly in key with the grunting guitar work, the words "settle" are sang with a hint of enthusiasm. Or about as much enthusiasm a recently turned amputee would expel in a fit of inappropriate joy.
Land - Feeling spit out on to the ground. The only thing you can relate your current state of being to is an unwanted newborn. Things around you look and sound eerily and purposely bland. You anxiously await every strum of the strings but when you get it, you're not so sure it sounds as welcoming as it did the first time. A beautiful way to end a phenomenal record. You rub the crust and murky water from your eyes, stand up, take a look around and let the sand and isolated hills of dirt be explained by the drum's theatrical doom. Who can think of a better image to accompany this abandoned landscape? sing it to yourself as you look to the sky: "It flew. Until It fell".
Posted by Zia Records Blogs at 3:06 PM
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Hello Zia, this is Colin from Eastern in Las Vegas. Recently, while about halfway through working on my new solo album, this one complex and disturbing record cracked me, stopped my work, and made me re-examine the way in which I developed my songwriting ideas into a finished product. This doesn't happen very often, and it actually took a few listens before I really understood what was going on. I'm occupied by this record now, and I'm happy it tripped me up, because now its inspiration has allowed me to feel a renewed sense of confidence in my ability to achieve higher standards in my own work by exploring what I'd expect would turn people away from my record. Simply put - if fans and critics are hailing this album as the future of music, then I feel like anything is possible, and my musical aspirations are only limited by my own failure to realize them.
I'm talking, of course, about the new Animal Collective record, a sleeping giant of an LP, ready to rage and explode into a spectacle worthy of two schools of criticism - admiration and scorn. To listen to this record and really get what makes their latest production, "Merriweather Post Pavilion," one must be prepared to face their own fears about what makes music enjoyable and accessible in the first place. For anyone who feels an inherent drive and passion to seek out the core elements that lie beneath the obvious in what constitutes "a good song," you are in for a treat. However, if you aren't willing to confront a part of your brain that is genetically designed to receive audio signals and respond with a filter that ignores and/or rejects melodies and beats that it doesn't fully comprehend, then you will simply hate this album. It's up to the listener to decide whether they are "up to a task" - willing to fine tune their aural intake, and dig deep into what these seemingly mysterious songwriters are trying to tell us. I believe there are many reasons for us all to pay attention to this album, and ultimately this band's future.
If you're thinking it's one of those pretentious albums that seeks to gain success simply by testing the various music industry's critics willingness to pretend to "let you in on their little secret," than you're missing the point. Hype is a commodity that is sold by record companies and their retail cohorts, meanwhile, critics make a living from selling you their literary input surrounding this Hype. Let's be clear, Animal Collective has been riding the Hype's engorged & erect penis all winter long, with what seems like a chorus of unanimous praise, by the industry & alternative magazines, blogs and the many comments left on social-network websites. We shouldn't allow ourselves to be dictated by Hype simply to tell our friends that "we absolutely LOVE that new record," simply because we're supposed to. There has been, and will be, a continuous pressure by individuals who think they "get it" to convince the "apparently ignorant" that they're supposed to like this album for Hype's sake. Ignore their motives if you can bare to. C'mon - it isn't hard, just give up any internalized notions that it's important to be judged by your peers for enjoying good music.
The funnest and most ironic fact surrounding the release of this album is that, no matter what the critics want to write about its being "the one" to go buy "right now," NO ONE will simply "get it" after one spin of the record. There's way too much to discover in this album. It will very easily stand out for many years as a solid pillar of cross-genre inspiration, that unique and special kind of songcraft that challenges how we accept and define pop songs that make us feel like it's good to be alive. After 9 years of interesting full-length gems of electro-psych-folk-noise, these guys delivered us the "sleeper treasure," a rare present that we will listen to for at least another decade, chronicle its continuing relevance, and only later begin to realize how much MPP broke ground for resetting a whole generation or two of our eardrums and expectations.
Yes, it's okay to admit that AC just raised the bar in a way we can't understand yet (but we will), and it's so refreshing to know that our lack of perception is based on much more than the whims of the rock intelligentsia. Instead, we will figure out what MPP has to offer us comprehensively, because this record's magical exploration of sound firmly owns its place amongst the historical ranks of aural experimentation that have been destined to retrain the way in which we recognize and respond to the contradictions and interplays between the standards of harmony and cacaphony. What makes this Baltimore, MD clan of pop-noise soundscape weavers stand apart from the Brian Enos, Sonic Youths and Radioheads of the musical paradigm-shifting set, is that they've managed to cast theses standards together - craftily serving up harmonious cacaphony of legendary musical proportions, whilst predictably remaining "just another newish (or FINALLY discovered) indie rock group that Hype has decided to capitalize on its inevitable supposed-to-be-liked hip band status."
Muted, low-fi warm beats lie solid like a soft foam mattress, not the harsh center of what we've come to expect of the usual electronic acts. The drums provide a dreamy bed for the layers of arpeggiating, reverb-soaked twinkly synthscapes layered like fluffy sheets, tucked in nice and neat in the corners. The big cozy inviting comforter on top are, by far, what drives this album and separates it from AC's previous ones. Harmonies like these invoke images of the hallmarks of pop-magicians The Beach Boys or even, somewhat akin toCrosby Stills & Nash. They intend to hit each note and make us blush for admitting our pride in their accomplishment. Unlike past records, (excluding Strawberry Jam, which I believe provided the groundwork for the vocal experiment they needed to deliver this ethereal vocal blanket) where they recorded vocals almost drunkenly, with a scream-and-respond sloppiness, MPP makes sure we know they mean to not falter in their production. It's not slick and studio-produced, as much as it's confidence. They feel good about presenting themselves with certainty. They very complexly cover all the bases in the frequency range, which is part of the reason why the first few listen are strikingly confusing and mysterious. We simply don't understand what's going on, because although much of the way in which they're using their vocals and instruments aren't completely original or groundbreaking in and of themselves, together they present a wall-of-sound that will survive the criticism of generations to come. This album is really the first 21st Century record to set a standard for what is unique about our music in general, not just electronic music, psychedelic music, or even pop music, but American music. I say this not simply to join the critical parade, but because this album is plain and simply that good. If I avoid it, I'd be straight lying, and I'd be in denial about how powerful it has been in affecting my own songwriting.
Now, if you buy it and claim to hate MPP for all the wrong reasons, I implore and insist that you put aside your pop-culture filter brain function and pretend no one has said a single word about it getting 5 out of 5 stars. Just know that you probably hate it because you really just lack the confidence and patience to get past thinking you'd be giving in to pressure. Get beyond the Hype and affirm your willingness to accept that sometimes it's okay to make yourself vulnerable long enough to really listen.
Play this record around your children and grandchildren while they grow up, and one day they may thank you for exposing them to the album that went on to nurture the hottest bands they will fall in love with when they reach the age you are now. It was powerful enough to make me rethink what is possible regarding what goes into making music. Over the next few years, as we discover new bands, and our excitement about whatever we get turned onto to over this time, we inevitably may push this album into the backs of our collective minds, but it will still remain an archetype, a haunting memory that will invade our creative intentions, and I welcome this with open arms.
Posted by Zia Records Blogs at 3:30 PM
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Whoa, some Mastodon fans will not be happy with this new album to put it lightly. I am expecting the shouts of “sellout” at any moment. Does it sound like their other albums? A little yes, a whole lot of no. You can immediately recognize the all fills drumming and jaunty song structures and the style of the guitar players, but several things certainly went out the window this album. There are not a lot of gruff vocals, clean singing is the leader. Most of all though, the fast, frantic nature of their earlier releases has been slowed down quite a bit. This band is approaching making heavy music from another direction, not relying on lots of palm muted riffs or fast tempos, but rather the combination of all the elements of the band’s instruments, songwriting and arrangement to craft a piece of work that gives you the feeling of being high up in the air, or in outer space or in another dimension where the laws of physics are different. This seems to be keeping with the themes of the band’s albums. “Remission” was related to fire, “Leviathan” to water, and “Blood Mountain” to earth. So “Crack The Skye”? Definitely air, space, the ether, the unseen places beyond the veil of the world around us. That’s what I get from it.
This is much more than a “metal” album, it is simply a dense, rock n roll concept album that messes with your head at times. The first track “Oblivion” has a transition from one part in the song to another that sounds like you shifted a radio dial to another station and just happened to pick up a song that went with the other song you were just hearing. It’s hard to explain, you just need to listen to this album! Especially the last track, “The Last Baron”, this song is eleven minutes of incredible. On this album, you will experience everything from dreamy guitar licks to smoking solos, and I couldn’t forget to mention this, Scott Kelly from Neurosis demonstrating his commanding voice on a few parts. There is a lot going on in this recording and you really have to listen to it a few times to pick up the nuances.
It’s sad that the vinyl version doesn’t come out until a few weeks after the CD release. This is an album made to be listened to on a record player. I also highly recommend that you read the lyrics along to the album while you listen to at least once, it adds to the experience. There definitely is a somber and sad tone to some of the material on this album, but it’s only part of the journey, and that’s important, Mastodon albums take you on a journey. Whether fighting white whales or braving the dangerous mountain, Mastodon’s music is in a class all it’s own. So, please keep in mind that this album is a definite departure from where they left off with the last release, and that seems to be the point, if the concept is to go beyond what is known.
Will that voice shouting “sellout” have any credibility? I don’t think so, since the term is so loosely used. These guys didn’t turn into emo pretty boys, they aren’t trying to get their songs into Coke commercials, they are simply taking the next logical step in their progression as a band. What will the next album be like? Hell, it could be the opposite of this, they could make the most insane blackened metal out there, but it all depends on what destination they choose to compose the next journey to. Indeed this is another Mastopiece.
Posted by Zia Records Blogs at 3:51 PM
Friday, March 13, 2009
Spot lights flare into the audience at the House Of Blues – Las Vegas, four larger than life shadows appear on the stage, and right there before you it’s like the gates of heaven are opening and showing all the way of modern day rock music. The drums start booming that body-moving beat. My head starts bobbing as the bass comes in droning that hypnotizing lick. Finally, the day has come. Kings of Leon are back in Vegas opening with track two of the new album, Only By The Night, and what a beauty it is.
If you don’t know much about the Kings of Leon, let me catch you up on their background a bit before I tell you why this band is a must have in your audio collection. The band consists of four family members. Three brothers: Caleb Followill (lead vocals/rhythm guitar), Nathan Followill (drums, vocals), Jared Followill (bass guitar/vocals), and their first cousin, Matthew Followill (lead guitar/vocals). The four were raised in Tennessee while also travelling with their preacher grandfather, and being home schooled. A true American success story, the band is recently, finally getting the credit they deserve.
Only By the Night is a dark nocturnal driven rock monologue to the life of a band that’s up living when everyone else is resting his or her head to have some bizarre dream about Tom Cruise conquering the world with scientology. No. This soul-expanding album is best served with a full moon rather than a crazed in the closet actor who needs to realize that scientology is the real “Mission Impossible.”
As a huge fan of this album I have true trouble telling you which tracks are the album highlights. When I first heard the album track one, Closer, was an instant favorite. Spacious sounds filled with painful vocals that truly embody a release of hard times and embrace you with a feeling of ease.
Track two, Crawl, an instant and eternal fondness is an angry battle hymn that gives the listener a real empowerment of the midnight crusader. And finally the last track of the album, Cold Desert, gives departure such sweet sorrow with melodic sway and heavy presence in the heart of the listener.
Every time I listen to this album I enjoy it more intensely than the last. I strongly recommend this album to anyone who’s looking for a modern rock opus that is sure to make it’s place in where rock n’ roll is going, and where we all have been in these hard contemporary times.
Posted by Zia Records Blogs at 8:19 AM