-->
Music

Degenerate Art Ensemble: Cuckoo Crow

Filmore Mescalito Holmes

Seattle's Degenerate Art Ensemble makes bird the word with their eighth collection of chaos and calamity.


Degenerate Art Ensemble

Cuckoo Crow

Label: Tellous
US Release Date: 2007-11-13
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes
"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."

– Hunter S. Thompson

With the release of their eighth album, Seattle's own Degenerate Art Ensemble achieves everything the Animal Collective has ever tried, and frequently failed, to achieve. They began as a jazz sextet in the early '90s and have expanded to a full strength 45-piece orchestra at one time or another, but it's with minimal numbers here that they aptly traverse the plains of sampled ambient sound, homemade instrument noodling, symphonic caterwauling, electronica, art house jazz, post-punk, and all out noise. However, no matter how far out there they get, they never forget that essential mother's heart soul of all music: the beat. Remember that general measuring time thing that used to be all the rage back in the '50s? It's back.

The DAE isn't a self-serving, one-dimensional, indie wank-tank. This ensemble was born out of a live touring theatre company, matching the band's visceral music with Butoh inspired dance and abstract physical presentation. Having to keep the performers' timing more or less in mind grounds the band in ways that promote a more positive experience for the random listener, contrasting the majority of the Animal Collective's go-nowhere-for-no-reason meanderings. DAE pieces, commanded by conductor Joshua Kohl, grants vocalist/choreographer Haruko Nishimura free reign to ramble in Japanese, English, or complete nonsense as she sees fit. The key word there is that it fits. It's not just trendy flavour of the week fulfillment at market prices.

Cleanly produced by Robb Kunz and Jherek Bischoff (Xiu Xiu), Cuckoo Crow is a veritable cornucopia of styles executed with lucid perfection to drench any haphazard listener in pristine pools of ethereal wonder and soul grit. "Checkersplitter" sounds like someone finally gave Tom Waits his own Cirque du Soleil show under megaphone vocals and a grimy, bass guitar bassline. It's certainly one of the busier tracks given the lunging beat propelled by flute, violins, and bass clarinet, leading to plenty of Haruko vocal nonsense and a bubblegum plucked second half. Other tracks, like the simple indie-rock and horn/string progression that is "Spacegirl 9", humbly hum along like a newborn fighting off sleep, inspiring quiet awe in those who can slow down long enough to appreciate such small things. Though I can only imagine the actual visual aspect of this work, my head bounced between swaying and bangin' for the duration of the experience. Cuckoo Crow the album is undoubtedly the best advertisement for the Degenerate Art Ensemble live extravaganza. At this point, I'd kill several immigrant cows just for the opportunity.

8

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less
Music

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Keep reading... Show less

Scholar Judith May Fathallah's work blurs lines between author and ethnographer, fan experiences and genre TV storytelling.

In Fanfiction and the Author: How Fanfic Changes Popular Culture Texts, author Judith May Fathallah investigates the progressive intersections between popular culture and fan studies, expanding scholarly discourse concerning how contemporary blurred lines between texts and audiences result in evolving mediated practices.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Kuinka appeal to ornery Renaissance royalty with a joyous song in their infectiously fun new music video.

With the release of Americana band Kuinka's Stay Up Late EP earlier this year, the quartet took creative steps forward to deftly expand their sound into folk-pop territory. Riding in on the trend of moves made by bands like the Head and the Heart and the National Parks in recent years, they've traded in their raw roots sound for a bit more pop polish. Kuinka has kept the same singalong, celebratory vibe that they've been toting all this time, but there was a fork in the sonic highway that they boldly took this go-around. In this writer's opinion, they succeeded in once again captivating their audience, just in a respectably newfound way.

Keep reading... Show less

Merseybeat survivors, the Searchers made two new-wave styled, pop rock albums in 1979 and 1981. They covered Big Star, Bob Dylan and Tom Petty. What could possibly go wrong?

Imagine the plight of the Searchers in 1979. You've been diligently plugging away at the night-club circuit since the hits dried up in the late '60s, and you've just made a great, pop-rock record. Critics love it, but radio won't play it as they're too busy scrambling around to find bands that look like the Pretenders, the Boomtown Rats and Elvis Costello, but who sound like… well, the Searchers.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image