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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Princeton’s Rotwang is back, following his full-length debut Awful with an only-ten-minutes-shorter EP called Crisis.  It stays the course of its predecessor’s dystopian ambiance, although despite the panicked title, this is actually the more tuneful of the two.  The melodies are just as angular, but bolder, especially on opener “Vertigo”, which might just barely qualify as pop if not for an insistently ear-piercing mid-section synth seizure.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011
When all the elements on Ride's first album are at play in perfect alignment, Nowhere becomes a magical record, one that you can see deserving of its reputation as one of the best the shoegaze genre has to offer

This week sees the British DVD release of Upside Down, a documentary tackling the history of seminal UK indie label Creation Records, which was extant from 1983 until 1999.  Primarily dedicated to propagating 1960s-influenced alternative rock of all sorts and permutations, Creation was a collision of rockist traditionalism, hyperbolic bravado, and influential innovation, responsible for bringing the likes of the Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Oasis, and Super Furry Animals to the world at large.

Of all Creation’s myriad releases, it’s Ride’s 1990 debut Nowhere that I adore the most.  Yes, Oasis’ first two albums are more tuneful, and My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless is a visionary work by an uncompromising musical auteur, but it’s Nowhere that touches me like no other record in the Creation back catalog. Long held as the second-best band in the shoegaze genre (after My Bloody Valentine) and the second-best band from Oxford, England (after Radiohead), Ride has never really gotten its proper due.  As such, I held hope that the 20th anniversary deluxe reissue of its first album this year (yes, the record actually came out 21 years ago—don’t ask) would go a ways towards drawing attention and accolades to the dreamy melodic charms of the disbanded foursome’s music.

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Thursday, Apr 28, 2011
Here Holy Spain offers tenacious thunder for the true blue rock 'n roll redux crow.

Here Holy Spain is rooted in Dallas’s oft-neglected music scene, but its punk grunt, sonic savviness, and gut-level rock ’n roll nuances explode well beyond the death zone of John F. Kennedy. Although irreverent neighbors like Reverend Horton Heat and the Toadies call North Texas a home, the megalopolis remains aloof in the American pop music consciousness compared to its southern sister Austin, which seems to ooze with reporters chasing the next trendsetters.

Up-close and face first, Here Holy Spain is a consummate power trio whose heavy combative licks feel more like the 1990s than today’s era of Cee-Lo and Arcade Fire. As such, the tough vein it probes is akin to the stoner rock of Nebula and Fu Manchu, with screamo edges for added potency, and moody, atmospheric rhythmic roiling too, such as the slowdowns on “Names” from its latest album Division .

Still, the group avoid minefields that might stem from its style: it avoids warp speed and amphetamine angst; it refrains from stuttering metallic mosh pit hamminess; and it doesn’t fly the flag of ornery hell-raising with a Southern backbone. The band is more methodical, balanced, and tuneful, able to wield rhythmic curves and deafening sonic blasts in equally controlled measures, as “Waiting, Wearing Your Skin” evinces.

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Wednesday, Apr 20, 2011
England's loquacious Lothario cuts a blazing path of heated poetry, jumbled sonics, and searing beats on his homebrewed release that's gaining some noteworthy attention in the UK. Currently touring his homeland, Dizraeli is humbly making a name for himself, keeping his feet rooted in home soil but a hopeful eye on bigger designs.

Dizraeli is a name that, at least on the American side of the pond, may have many scratching their heads. The British spoken-word artist/hip-hopper has been working a steady, mindful pace, setting his own course whilst picking up a growing number of admirers along the way. In 2009, Dizraeli unleashed his debut album, Engurland (City Shanties). The album finds the rapper delivering his sputter-quick rhymes deftly, whilst musing over love, both found and lost, in a time of social unrest. Spinning lyrical conundrums over hip-hop-jalopy beat-science, Dizraeli embodies the spirit of contradiction; he finds a fresh and unique counterpoint between the chest-thumping swagger of hip-hop braggadocio and the densely knotty theories found in your political science textbook. It’s a musical vision worlds away from the obscene displays of bling radiating from the glossies we’ve become accustomed to. Tongue planted firmly in cheek, the artist infuses his words with razor-sharp acumen, traversing the line between aggression and hope, never once skimping on the grooves. Here, he talks about his introduction into UK’s beat-poetry scene, recording his debut, and the literary inspirations that feed his musical diet.   

* * *

Tell me about your introduction into the beat poetry/spoken word scene that has emerged in the UK over the years. Can you give some of the details of your first forays into interacting with audiences in front of an open mic?

My introduction to spoken word was at university, at the African Caribbean and Asian Society’s poetry evenings. People came to perform words of all sorts, and I brought my rap lyrics to the mix. I’ve always thought of my work as songs, whether with musical accompaniment or nor—it’s still a surprise to me when I’m called a Poet. I write for music, in the same verse/chorus/verse form that songwriters have used forever. But nonetheless, what I do seems to work at poetry events. From university days I started going to the slams which had started up in Brighton—where I lived then—and found myself winning them. Slams were a completely new thing for me and for most English people, and they were an exciting place to meet writers and performers of all kinds; both a harsh competitive environment and the most fertile ground imaginable for creativity. My first slams were a slap in the face for me—I brought my very earnest utopian lyrics to this fairly tough, cynical arena and people didn’t get into them at all. I learned that people relate to what you have to say if you say it with humor and a sideways twist, not if you beat them over the head with a daisy chain.

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Wednesday, Mar 16, 2011
New this week from the depths of the electronic underground comes a new record from Brooklyn's FaltyDL, a hot potato back-to-back mix from Bok Bok and Jackmaster, plus a tearjerking dancefloor heater for the price of free.

This week I return to bring you a strong trio of electronic gems, as usual in the categories of an official release (album or EP), a DJ mix from the week, and an unofficial, free, or bootleg track, hopefully available to download. There is clear overlap between these three selections, something I make no apologies for—I like what I like, but the influences coming in on these artists music are notably varied, and connecting those dots will, I hope, be the fun part. 

FaltyDL - You Stand Uncertain (Planet Mu)

Brooklyn a la London producer Drew Lustman a.k.a. FaltyDL put out his second LP for the Planet Mu imprint this week, the follow-up to his 2009 debut Love Is a Liability. What was clear from that record—and a series of EPs he put out leading up to that release—was that 2-step and UK garage were the focal point of Lustman’s rhythmic palette. But despite the obvious nod to these sounds in his productions, they always seemed to be informed greatly by avant-garde jazz drums and hip-hop, two great reasons to choose New York as your jumping off point, and even greater reasons to flesh out a UK breakbeat already greatly indebted to hip-hop and its roots.

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