Latest Blog Posts

by Josh Antonuccio

1 Mar 2011


It’s hard to believe that 1991 was 20 years ago. In the wake of that anniversary, many have been harkening back to reflect on the top records of that year: U2’s Achtung Baby, Nirvana’s Nevermind, Pearl Jam’s Ten, Metallica’s (self-titled) “Black Album” just to name a few. Yet as grunge and the new wave of punk slowly emerged, an entirely different sound was inching over the horizon. Just three years from the brilliant Isn’t Anything, My Bloody Valentine (named after a Canadian horror film), had produced its masterwork, Loveless, a record of such sheer grandiosity and nuanced ingenuity, that it would become the reigning influence of independent rock, as well the expected candidate for every rock critic’s record collection, for years to come. It would also be the last musical statement from the band to date.

Bandleader Kevin Shields invested innumerable hours of studio time trying to create new and unprecedented sounds with this record, at times emerging from all-day sessions with absolutely nothing on tape. The process also found Shields barring any employees with Creation Records from access to the sessions. It was this kind of secluded and extensive work ethic that ended up nearly bankrupting the record label. However, it also ended up providing one of the most profound musical statements to emerge out of that year.

by Corey Beasley

28 Feb 2011


“Styrofoam Boots / It’s All Nice on Ice, Alright” begins with some fleet-fingered acoustic work by Isaac Brock, his voice slightly distorted, as if he downsized his band to a single-man shower stall recording studio. He’s back to mulling his old devils, those questions of God and man and who’s going to come out on top, in the end. This time, though, Brock’s tone sounds quietly unperturbed as he pours over those concerns—lighthearted ones, you know, like whether or not God exists and, if he does, if he actually has our best interests at heart. “Well, all’s not well, but I’m told it’ll all be quite nice”, he sings as if to himself, “You’ll be drowned in boots like mafia, but your feet’ll still float like Christ”. Think about that image: Brock’s got that walk-on-water routine covered, just in the wrong direction. If that’s not a frame-it-and-put-it-in-the-Met picture of human foibles, I don’t know what could be.

See, Brock’s not out-and-out denying the presence of a higher power. “I’m in heaven trying to figure out which stack”, he continues, “They’re gonna stuff us atheists into, when Peter and his monkey laugh / And I laugh with them—not sure what at / They point and say, ‘We’ll keep you in the back’”. That’s not an antagonistic relationship. God’s doorman lets him in, even though Brock doesn’t even believe that God owns the place. Sure, he’ll be in the backroom, “polishing halos, baking manna and gas”, but he’s still up there. It’s notable, too, that it’s not Brock but a barroom stranger, “looking a bit like everyone I ever seen”, who comes off as spiteful, saying, “Anytime anyone gets on their knees to pray, well, it makes my tailbone ring”. The stranger believes that “God takes care of himself / And you of you”. That Brock puts these words in the mouth of someone else, the type so slick that he “moves just like Crisco disco” and polished enough to “breathe one-hundred percent Listerine”—that’s telling. The better part of Brock’s mind might agree, but there’s another part that just can’t go along with it. That’s the part of him that thinks St. Peter’s probably not such a bad guy, after all. His doubt, his unwillingness to completely cede a reluctant acknowledgment of the possibilities of faith, that’s what keeps him writing about God and existential crises through all of his albums. If he knew for sure, it wouldn’t interest him anymore.

by Jason Mendelsohn and Eric Klinger

25 Feb 2011


Klinger: I’ve said in the past that artists’ big statements tend to garner the most attention. And here we are, Mendelsohn, covering our fifth double LP. By my math, just under one quarter of the albums we’ve examined have required two slabs of vinyl and a gatefold cover suitable for separating seeds and stems. And every one of them, at one point or another, has been described by some critic somewhere as “sprawling”.

But there’s the rock & roll rub—boring, generic suburbs are also described as sprawling. So are winos. The backlash against these albums is practically built right in. And so with the 22nd album on the Big List, we’re once again asking the question: is Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland a bridge too far? The tight, structured feel of Are You Experienced? has been replaced with 16-minute jam sessions (“Voodoo Chile”) and sound effects widdley-woo (“. . . And the Gods Made Love”). Does this retooling of the Hendrix sound still work?

Mendelsohn: In a word: no. I’m usually the first one to go to the word sprawling. But for me, “sprawling” indicates a monotony of sameness. Electric Ladyland is a mish-mashed fuster cluck of ‘60s rock music. An ADD-riddled trip down memory lane. A hit-and-miss package of shoddy production values and even shoddier songwriting by a tiny, British, bass-playing imp who had the gall to ask the Jimi Hendrix to play lead on some sub-par Brit-pop drivel.

I mean, it’s Hendrix, so he’s got a pass from me, carte blanche, but this record is completely devoid of rhyme or reason. Except for the 16-minute “Voodoo Chile”, which is just awesome. He should have just stuck with that. You want a big statement? How about an album where all of the songs clock in around a quarter of an hour and feature two five-minute guitar solos apiece.

by Daniel Ross

24 Feb 2011


The Acorn (Rolf Klausener, middle)

With their latest LP, No Ghost, Canadian folk-poppers the Acorn have done a strange thing: scaling down and de-glorifying their craft (after the immaculate Glory Hope Mountain from 2008), making it seem like a wonderful progression towards a woodsy, utopian breed of rock. There is an awful lot of joy in the record, as if time spent recording it in the wilderness—they retreated to an isolated cabin to piece the tunes together—was as freeing an experience as it should be, and the heaviness of Glory Hope Mountain had been lifted. Rolf Klausener was on hand to curtly and efficiently answer a few questions about No Ghost and shed a little light on its gestation.

+++

No Ghost—first things first, it’s not a concept album. In fact, there aren’t really any large themes drawing it together as such. Did you want to move away from the scale of Glory Hope Mountain?

In short, yes. The process of writing and recording No Ghost had little planning being it other than the location. Writing GHM was an all-encompassing affair which, creatively, dominated the better part of two years. For better or worse, we wanted No Ghost to be a lot less premeditated and commit to whatever came out of the cottage sessions.

by Stefan Nickum

23 Feb 2011


To pair Jamie XX’s interest in this territory with a musical figure like Gil Scott-Heron makes even more sense than perhaps the original conceit of I’m New Here. On Jamie’s official, Scott-Heron-approved remix record poignantly titled We’re New Here, Jamie bring Scott-Heron’s voice into the underground in the spirit of Heron himself. The breakbeat sounds of dubstep, hip-hop, and UK garage are at work here, and their relevancy to Heron’s spacious, spoken-word jazz material is essential.

Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie XX - We’re New Here (XL Recordings)

Last year poet, proto-rapper, and avant-garde jazz pillar Gil Scott-Heron returned to the fold with his first album in decades. Released on Richard Russell’s inimitable XL Recordings imprint I’m New Here is a collaborative affair between Russell and Scott-Heron that saw the revolutionary artist in the context of a sparse pastiche of 21st century electronic sounds. The result seemed to celebrate Scott-Heron’s legacy with a dose of nostalgia at the same time it launched Scott-Heron’s graying, monolithic voice into the future. The title said as much, re-casting Scott-Heron as a timeless figure, his visionary soul as new and fearless, as it was old and wise.

I’m New Here was undeniably Scott-Heron’s record, despite the musical crafting by Russell, and yet the potential for exploring the tensions between Heron’s legacy and his relationship to the underground of today could be mined even further.  Enter Jamie XX of breakout London R&B rock outfit the XX. Jamie is the band’s principal producer and supplier of the group’s electronic elements, and has—since the group’s meteoric rise—been making a name for himself as a member of the UK’s underground “bass music” scene.

//Mixed media
//Blogs

'Knee Deep' Has a Great Setting That Ruins the Game

// Moving Pixels

"Knee Deep's elaborate stage isn't meant to convey a sense of spatial reality, it's really just a mechanism for cool scene transitions. And boy are they cool.

READ the article