In their ongoing In the Fishtank series, the good people at Konkurrent have once again brought together two unlikely bands for a collaborative recording. In one corner, we have Boston, Massachusetts, prog-metal legends Isis. In the other we have Glaswegian post-rockers Aereogramme. The resulting EP does actually find a middle ground between the two groups, providing a half hour of startling beauty coupled with moments of untempered aggression. The disc starts with the nine-minute "Low Tide". Featuring a much more blended mix of the bands' styles that the rest of the disc, the track moves from fragile, emotive post-rock to driven, powered Krautrock. True to both bands' styles, the track adds layers and volume to almost surreal heights, until the drums almost sound like they are being played on the roof of the studio. "Delial" follows, and is clearly an Isis song with Aereogramme adding texture around the edges. Following Isis's template to perfection, interlocking drums and bass create a massive wall of sound as the vocals are buried, straining to get out. The chorus explodes and you can practically smell the sweat and see the veins bulging. Aereogramme add just enough of their knob twiddling to keep things interesting without defusing the song's power. But it's the closer "Stolen" that is most surprising. Running over ten minutes and built on ethereal, barely there guitar lines and airy vocals, the track slowly ascends to a Sigur Ros-like hymnal. But both bands refuse to get soggy here, and as the track winds down in its final minutes, it never offers the payoff you might expect, instead continuing to swirl until it disappears altogether from your stereo.
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
The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.
70. The Horrors - "Machine"
On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke
"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.
Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.
Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.
I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!
Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.
Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.