May 28, 2009

Windy & Carl / Landing. Split EP.

2 Blurts

I've probably spent more time listening to Windy & Carl than any other band I know. For the last five or six years, each night as I go to sleep, one of their albums has been playing on the little portable stereo by my bed. Consciousness had spun at least a hundred times before I ever heard it all the way through to the end. These days, it's Songs for the Broken Hearted. This isn't to say that their music is boring or sleep-inducing; merely...vast. Unimaginably so, like the way an electron cloud, dust swirling in sunlight, and a galaxy of stars all look the same when viewed from the right perspectives. If Bach explored the music of the spheres, Windy & Carl have set music to brownian motion.

I remember sleeping over at my grandmother's house as a child, and again later as a teenager when my family lost our house and she invited us to move in with her. It was the house my mother grew up in. Now, my sister lives there, raising her own daughter. My room (now my neice's) was right next to the hulking central-air-conditioning unit, hidden in the hall closet. At the end of the hall was my grandmother's bedroom. Teenagers and the elderly tend to nap a lot during the day and stay up late at night, so we were usually on the same schedule. She spent her evenings knitting and watching TV, and I lay in bed reading and listening to old Pink Floyd records. Hours after everyone else had fallen asleep, she would shuffle by and knock lightly on my door to say goodnight. I'd turn off my lamp and hear her adjust the thermostat in the dark. A minute later, with a distant whir and a white-noise hush, cool air would flood the room. Even under a blanket you could feel the air pressure change, and my door would click as it was pushed shut and the brass latch bounced off the catchplate. To this day, the sound of that air conditioner is my favorite noise in all the world.

When my grandmother died, Windy & Carl, Landing, and some of Brian Eno's ambient works were about all I could listen to. Their hovering thrum took me right back to that bedroom, where I lay in the dark, listening to my home breathe, knowing that she'd just said goodnight.


Windy & Carl's official site
Windy & Carl on myspace

Landing's official site
Landing on myspace

May 27, 2009

Rollerskate Skinny. Threshold.

0 Blurts

I don't know if anyone remembers this band. They came and went without much notice, only releasing two albums and a handful of singles. If they get mentioned at all, it's to note that Kevin Shields' brother was a member. Released inbetween albums, this three-song EP isn't quite up to the flawless perfection of Horsedrawn Wishes (though, what is?), but you can tell they're taking the template they developed on Shoulder Voices (a mixture of early Mercury Rev's tilt-a-whirl symphonies, mid-period Flaming Lips' knack for a killer melody, and, of course, My Bloody Valentine's woozy blur) and fumbling towards something bigger.


Rollerskate Skinny on myspace

Mousefolk. Heads Full of Hope.

0 Blurts

I get the feeling that, if you were a teenager in Britain in the early to mid 80's, you were basically given a band. The government must have been handing out guitars and jangly melodies left and right. There are so many lost groups from that era, it would take another government program to track them all down (although the Messthetics releases have been doing a pretty nice job). Information on Mousefolk seems to be practically nonexistent. I can't even turn up a picture of the album cover. As you might expect, it's great, cardigan-styled pop, but with a lot of frayed edges.

Heads Full of Hope

Mousefolk entry on Tweenet

Les Rallizes Dénudés. Electric Pure Land.

0 Blurts
electric pure land

Be forewarned, Les Rallizes Dénudés are not a band. They're the sound at the end of the world. A real nihilist assault group. Once you hear this, you will become obsessed with tracking down everything you can find, even though feedback shaman Takashi Mizutani has been re-recording the same handful of songs for thirty years. It won't matter. You'll need another fix.

Electric Pure Land

Les Rallizes Dénudés wikipedia entry

Unofficial Les Rallizes Dénudés website (in Japanese)

May 22, 2009

Opal. Early recordings. Volume 2.

0 Blurts
opal 2

Some bands are nearly impossible to review with any objectivity because of where you were in life when they first hit you. I get the feeling that Mazzy Star is not remembered with the same swooning devotion I attach to the crushed-velvet grandeur of So Tonight That I Might See. I can't listen to that album without immediately being transported back to a time in college when my parents rented a condo so that we could all get together for the weekend. My girlfriend and I got there a day before everyone else and spent the time listening to Mazzy Star, making out, and playing chess on a little portable wooden set (I believe she won most of the games). Similarly, She Hangs Brightly is playing on a loop in my college dorm room, its walls plastered with pictures of my girlfriend, lit up by strands of white, twinkling christmas lights.

We discovered Dave Roback's previous band, Opal, just after college when we moved to Michigan. It was the soundtrack to starting a real, independent life with the person I love, colored in by the lush, verdant landscape of MSU's campus, where we spent a lot of time taking walks and wading in streams, or hanging out in the butterfly greenhouse.

Opal managed put out one album of heavily lysergic awesomeness before breaking up. Weirdly, they had recorded enough material for two more albums, one of which was officially released in minute quantities as Early Recordings, and showcased their quieter, acoustic folk and blues side. Fans somehow dug up even more songs for the unofficial Early Recordings, Volume 2, which mixes the acoustic bits with swirling, black-light clouds of Happy Nightmare Baby style jams. Lisa's Funeral and Cherry Jam are easily two of their best songs.

Early Recordings 2

Opal on myspace

May 21, 2009

Mixtape. 22 Bees.

0 Blurts

Barbed pop songs shot like buzzing atoms into the center of your brain. Nothing that obscure. I wanted to make a mix that followed how twee and c-86 style songs gradually elided into noise pop and shoegaze. I think it flows nicely.

1. Another Sunny Day - Anorak City
2. Shop Assistants - All That Ever Mattered
3. Black Tambourine - Throw Aggi Off the Bridge
4. Pop Will Eat Itself - Like an Angel
5. Jesus & Mary Chain - Upside Down
6. The Vaselines - Son of a Gun
7. The Loft - Up the Hill and Down the Slope
8. The Close Lobsters - Pathetique
9. Bubblegum Splash - Just Walked Away
10. 14 Iced Bears - Inside
11. Autoclave - Dr. Seuss
12. The Flatmates - Happy All the Time
13. My Favorite - Homeless Club Kids vs. Future Bible Heroes
14. The Magnetic Fields - I'm Sorry I Love You
15. Elf Power - Nothing's Going to Happen
16. Pixies - Alec Eiffel
17. Flaming Lips - Frogs
18. My Bloody Valentine - When You Sleep
19. The High Violets - 44 Down
20. The Field Mice - Star of David
21. Cocteau Twins - Carolyn's Fingers
22. Galaxie 500 - Tugboat

Sorry, I had to split the download into two parts to get to fit under mediafire's 100mb limit.

22 Bees part 1
22 Bees part 2

May 20, 2009

Rose of Avalanche. In Rock.

0 Blurts

For some reason, even though I know they were British, my mental catalog card for these guys tags them as being from some not quite identifiable European country with a flan-based economy. Oh, let’s say…Finland. Somewhere that learned English idioms and phraseology from SNL’s Two Wild and Crazy Guys, which could account for their rather awkward moniker and an album title so bland it almost sounds pretentious. Or maybe I’m just being led astray by the Fjarkorgstanian titles of a few of the songs. While I’m piling on—that guy in the middle up there looks like a really clammy Richard Ashcroft.

Anyway, despite all of that, In Rock does in fact, you know…rock. Numerous places describe them as goth, and while they do sound conspicuously like Bauhaus or Sisters of Mercy on more than one occasion, they also remind me of Echo and the Bunnymen and The Mighty Lemon Drops. I’d say they were more post-punk with shades of Television-like grandeur. Either way, they’ve been undeservedly overlooked. Not Another Day and Height of the Clouds Part 2 are particularly storming and should have been enough to make them at least minor stars.

In Rock

Rose of Avalanche official site

Rose of Avalanche on myspace

Yume Bitsu. Dryystonian Dreamscapes. Volume 1.

0 Blurts

It would appear that Yume Bitsu (”dream beats” in Japanese) have long since been blown away by their own auspicious winds. Adam Forkner continues to weave his liquid guitar strings into countless other groups, but there hasn’t been a peep out of his masthead band since 2002. Which is too bad, since their hypnotic drones and shimmering pools of blissed-out sound would be right at home in the underground CD-R culture that has spawned all of Mark McGuire’s infinite variations.

This was their only official live release, originally sold as a hand-made CD-R from Forkner’s Yarnlazer site, although you could briefly get a reissue from States Rights Records. Both are long out of print.


Yume Bitsu official site

Yume Bitsu on myspace

Cure. Pornography Tour 1982.

0 Blurts

With taut, claustrophobic, skeleton-dry tracks like these, The Cure laid down the template for countless doom-’n-dance bands to follow, though nobody’s equaled the harsh, majestic gloom they conjure here.

The Pornography album reeks of illness, as if the whole band was suffering from hallucinatory fevers during the recording sessions. The drums beat out a martial rhythm, propelling and grounding the songs, but also sounding accusatory, as if they had their own secret agenda. Guitars stutter and stab, and lead singer, Robert Smith, wails from a black hole of depression.

Figurehead’s opening line, “It doesn’t matter if we all die”, sets the tone, and it doesn’t get any cheerier. It’s one of those albums that “gets you through high school” (or whatever difficult period you’re in), by generally being more dark, isolated and vicious than you could ever hope to be.

The Cure barely survived recording Pornography. In fact, I can’t think of an album that sounds more like the band making it hated every instant of it. And yet, from that, they pulled off a masterpiece. There’s a steely determination in the way they crafted an album as ugly and frightening as they felt at the time. It’s all the more menacing for the way you can feel them holding themselves back, doing a sinister ballet on the line between abandon and despair, and outright nihilism. It helps, of course, that they know how to write killer songs. Underneath all the gloom, it’s obvious that every wail, scrape and clang is as well thought out and placed as the handclaps and violins of any “normal” perfect-pop track.

Live, it takes on an even more oppressive quality. So, enjoy. This kind of hurt is timeless.

Cure Pornography Tour

Official Cure site

Cure on myspace

Múm. BBC Radio One. 5/10/01.

0 Blurts

Kristín Valtýsdóttir wanders in spirals under a silver sky, bent, her fingers pinched and pulling, as if she were drawing a thread from the seam of the ground. A clack and a rattle as another one drops into her hand, she gathers the tiny stones strewn about like the sea’s kitten-teeth. Filling her pockets, sifted by her swaying skirt, they weigh her down.

Back inside the lighthouse, she pours them out of her funneled hands. The stony downpour of exuberance causes daydreaming computers to wake and warm to life, babbling hiccup glitches and the electronic laughter of birds into the cups of her ears.


Múm on myspace

Múm’s official website