Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sixx - Sister Devil

2009; 8 tracks

Get this. Get this. Get this. Get this. Get this.

Sixx = members of Von playing Joy Division-esque black metal. First recorded in 1991 but not widely distributed until 2009, Sister Devil is just so dark and bleak and perfect.

"The lo-fi atmosphere and an almost tentative approach to the songs are complimented and tied together by creepy spoken interludes by frontman Goat ... that sound like 'found' recordings of a killer's last confession."

In the boundaries of the circle
Under natural light of white
Sitting with jointed fingertips
A voice which hums
Lost deep within the magic of the circle

Friday, July 29, 2011

Dot Allison - Afterglow

1999; 10 tracks

Dot Allison, or Dorothy Elliot Allison, is a Scottish singer / songwriter, and former lead singer of the trip-hop / electronic group One Dove. Afterglow is her first album as a solo artist.

"This album finds her breaking free of One Dove's sound, beginning her free-form expression within her chosen musical genres. But she does bold new things with the techno/choir/pop hybrid on this album. The lonely piano that begins 'Alpha Female,' for example; the sensual Eurodance grind of 'Mo' Pop;' the absolutely lovely 'Did I Imagine You?;' the Eastern-flavoured keyboard riff that permeates 'Close Your Eyes' -- every song is a gem, infused with Allison's trademark multitracked vocal magic and her daring arrangements. Allison's on-record charisma is phenomenal but despite her ice-goddess looks, her voice can convey a real warmth that makes these songs not just a collection of machinery and mechanized beats, but organic lifeforms with a beating heart."

This may take some getting used to among some, but through the haze Afterglow shows itself to be a charmingly oneiric album. (Yes, I did just come across that word only yesterday, but it is exactly the word I was looking for.)


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Yasushi Yoshida - Little Grace

2008; 9 tracks

Yasushi Yoshida is Japanese performer and composer in the likes of Katsuhiko Maeda (a.k.a. World's End Girlfriend) and Kashiwa Daisuke. Little Grace is his second album, and it is a breathtakingly beautiful compilation of experimental music that focuses on, but isn't exclusive to, the piano. Certain songs may cause you to play them repeatedly...


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

7 Year Bitch - ¡Viva Zapata!

1994; 11 tracks

7 Year Bitch was an all-girl grunge-influenced punk rock band from Seattle, Washington, that yielded three albums in their nearly decade-long career. ¡Viva Zapata! is their second release.

After the release of their first album, Sick 'Em in 1992, the band's guitarist, Stefanie Sargent, died of a supposed heroin overdose. Not long after, the lead singer of another American punk band, Mia Zapata of The Gits, was brutally raped and strangled walking home from a bar. These two deaths left a profound mark on 7 Year Bitch, and ¡Viva Zapata! was made as a sort of tribute to Mia Zapata. It is also the debut of their new guitarist, Roisin Dunne.

All in all, this is one of the most incredible punk / grunge albums I've heard, ever. Their sound is unique and fierce, the guitars and vocals being absolute perfection. I love Selene Vigil's voice so much - she is very convincing, and her lyrics are precise yet rugged... I think I might like the lyrics to "Cats Meow" (wow, that track... I'd give it a 100 / 10) more than is healthy.

There's so many good reasons for you to keep your mouth shut
Like actions speak louder than words
And if you don't have anything nice to say then don't say anything at all
But I can see you've got a lot on your mind
So let it drop to your throat and try not to choke

Disregard the pity if you wanna get to the nitty gritty
Can't survive in the city and still remain witty
No tough little alley cat is gonna come run to no kitty kitty
No tough little alley cat is gonna come run to no kitty kitty
So disregard the pity
Get to the nitty gritty
Remain witty

I also love the tracks "It's Too Late," and "Kiss My Ass Goodbye." If I could have just those three songs on repeat forever, I'd be very happy. But it must be said, there is no way one couldn't at least enjoy this album.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

the carousel - abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz

1994; 8 tracks

the carousel was a dreampop band formed by Elizabeth Price, the vocalist / guitarist of the British indie pop group Talulah Gosh, and Gregory Webster, of the band Razorcuts. The duo released two full-length albums, the second of which being abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz. Lying beneath Price's voice, which is at times ethereal and others shadowy, enchanting acoustic guitars strum away like a heavenly chorus. There are no drums or bass parts, but there is an organ accompaniment on the track "Henry Please Don't Chop Off My Head," which is fitting as the melody is reminiscent of an old English folk tune. the carousel create graceful, celestial sounds of pure inventiveness.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Bedhead - The Dark Ages EP

Friday, July 15, 2011

East Village - Drop Out

1993; 10 tracks

This is an incredibly lovely album, the melodies mild and flowing. Highlights: "Shipwrecked," "Black Autumn," and "Everybody Knows."

"Formed in the mid '80s by two brothers, Martin & Paul Kelly,
East Village (originally Episode 4) were the sound of the Byrds relocated to surburban Southern England. Martin and Paul were unique amongst their peers in that they were influenced heavily by The Byrds, Dylan and The Beatles at a time when most people were obsessing over acid house, pills and the width of their trousers. After a couple of years as Episode 4, the Kelly Brothers relocated to East Village, where they were joined by Johnny Wood (guitar/vocals) and Spencer Smith (drums)."

While the band was only Martin & Paul, a rare EP entitled Strike Up Matches was recorded for £78 in one day. After Drop Out was released in 1993, a compilation album, Hotrod Hotel, that contained all of their singles and some unreleased songs, was released in 1994. Try this, you will like it!

I'll get away from the shadows

Thursday, July 14, 2011

3Ds - Hellzapoppin'

1992; 13 tracks

3Ds (or The 3Ds) was an alternative / pop rock band from Dunedin, New Zealand active from the late 80s through 90s. They play attractive-sounding indie pop / punk rock with the occasional female vocals ("Sunken Head" and "Jewel" are my favorites), and overall this is a very likeable, mellow record.

It's a nice day for a dark age

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

2NE1 - 2NE1 EP & To Anyone

2009; 7 tracks

01 Fire
02 I Don't Care
03 In the Club
04 Let's Go Party
05 Pretty Boy
06 Stay Together
07 Lollipop


2010; 12 tracks

01 Can't Nobody
02 Go Away
03 박수쳐 (Clap Your Hands)
04 난 바빠 (I'm Busy)
05 아파 (Slow)
06 사랑은 아야야 (Love is Ouch)
07 You and I
08 Please Don't Go
09 Kiss
10 날 따라 해봐요 (Follow Me)
11 I Don't Care
12 Can't Nobody (English version)


2NE1 is a fairly new South Korean hip-hop / pop girl group consisting of four members - CL, Minzy, Dara, and Bom. Here are their two most recent releases, both full of great k-pop music that tends to the hip-hop / rap / electronic side. They sing a lot of their songs in English. Favorites, ever: "난 바빠" and "Kiss" off of To Anyone. Enjoooyyyy.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dmitri Shostakovich - Symphony No. 5 in D minor & Ballet Suite No. 5 from The Bolt

1989; 12 tracks
Neeme Järvi / Scottish National Orchestra

The young Dmitri Shostakovich was very much the revolutionary who wanted his music to serve the socialist state. "I am a Soviet composer, and I see our epoch as something heroic," he wrote, later adding "I consider that every artist who isolates himself from the world is doomed." He came to maturity during that artistically fruitful and highly active period in Russia immediately after the death of Lenin. A career as a concert pianist looked a strong possibility, for his graduation recital in 1923 was a sensation. But it was his First Symphony, written at the age of 19, while he was a pupil of Maximilian Steinbnerg at the Leningrad Conservatoire, that gave him an international reputation. It was quickly taken up by Bruno Walter, Stokowsky, and Toscanini among others. Two further symphonies followed before the end of the twenties, both at first enormously popular in the USSR. The second, his October Symphony, written for the tenth anniversary of The Revolution when he was only 21, was simultaneously premiered in four Russian cities. Such works exemplify his youthful revolutionary fervour, their technique coloured by his aptitude for writing for the popular media of the stage and the screen, into which he put his considerable energies up to about the age of 35. The latter include his opera The Nose, the ballets The Age of Gold and The Bolt, music for pioneering plays and films, and, at the age of 27, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk.

However, the opera was to be the young composer's undoing, for in January 1936 Stalin attended a performance. The climate of the time strongly advised a concept of 'Socialist Realism,' and the work was immediately condemned in and editorial in Pravda, as was his ballet Bright Stream. It was a time of danger for the composer, and he suppressed his Fourth Symphony after rehearsals had started and responded with his Fifth to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Revolution, with its now well-known tag 'A Soviet Artist's Reply To Just Criticism.'

Shostakovich's Fifth was first performed in Leningrad on November 21, 1927, and it was received with tremendous enthusiasm. Shostakovich's friend, the cellist and conductor Rostropovich, has suggested that it was only the forty-minute ovation that greeted the first performance that saved Shostakovich from the same fate as his mentor, the celebrated producer Meyerhold, who disappeared.

How should we see Shostakovich's Fifth? Before its first performance in Moscow, the composer was quoted as defining it as a 'lyro-heroic symphony.'

"Its main idea is man's emotional experiences and all-conquering optimism. I wanted to show how, overcoming a series of tragic conflicts arising in the intense struggle which rages in one's soul, optimism is born as a world-outlook." He has also admitted that "any work of art contains autobiographical traits" and on another occasion added "the theme of my symphony is the making of a man."

The Ballet Suites 1 to 5 present a variety of movements from Shostakovich's youthful ballet, theatre and film scores, and the fifth of these comprises eight movements from his three-act ballet The Bolt, written in 1930-31 and first performed at the Kirov Opera and Ballet Theatre, Leningrad, on April 8, 1931. The setting is a Soviet factory: drunken workers are sacked and in revenge one tries to sabotage a lathe by persuading the operator to drop a bolt into the machine. At the last minute the machinist repents and the saboteur is arrested. The music is extremely vivid in the composer's headlong rhythmic poster pantomine style, satirizing the bourgeois.

Since Shostakovich's death it has become clear that he put into his music sentiments that in any other art would have resulted in direct opposition of the Soviet State.

Your business is rejoicing.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Silk Flowers - Silk Flowers

2009; 10 tracks

Groovy and dark,
Silk Flowers is a New York-based trio featuring Ethan Swan, Aviram Cohen, and Peter Schuette. This is their first full-length album after releasing the EP As Above So Below, and they more recently released another full-length, Ltd. Form.

Silk Flowers' self-titled album is very dark - the deep, rich vocals are similar to those of Joy Division, and the underground atmosphere of the jungle-like grooves and beats contribute to a distinct spookiness. It took a few tries for me to appreciate it, admittedly. Still, it is very listenable. "Costume" is a favorite. Jazzy, colorful, unpredictable... Silk Flowers made me feel as if I were in a morgue or graveyard full of dancing zombies.

The dead have highways. Only the living are lost.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Wymyns Prysyn

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Agnes Obel - Philharmonics

2010; 12 tracks

"Danish singer/songwriter
Agnes Obel's first major release, Philharmonics, is without a doubt one of the most powerful records I have heard in recent memory. An album that lacks the overproduction that has managed to creep its way into nearly every genre of music, her skill as a pianist would be enough to impress most.

Obel's musicianship extends far beyond keyboards, however. With her delicate vocals and eloquently layered harmonies, Obel crafts songs that speak volumes without unnecessary frills. The majority of the songs consist mainly of piano/keyboard and vocals, with some guitar and strings filling in on some tracks, and any sort of rhythm section on only two of the albums 12 songs. With some instrumentals in the mix, Philharmonics is an incredibly diverse, but at the same time cohesive album. While her popularity will need time to grow in the US, Philharmonics has reached double platinum status in Denmark, and has been nominated for various other awards in Europe as well."

Yeah I looooove this album. Especially the track "Riverside."


Monday, July 4, 2011

Alan Hovhaness - Mysterious Mountain / And God Created Great Whales

1994; 8 tracks
Gerard Schwarz / Seattle Symphony

There are places in the imagination where journeys unfold, where serenity and truth reside. In these places, the spirit responds to softly beckoning institutions, which in turn become pathways to summits of peace and profundity. And along the pathways, exquisite details vibrate with color, ephemeral and fragmented, the mindscape fertile and enigmatic. Alan Hovhaness is just such a traveler, a seeker of that which is spiritual and true, and his vehicle is music.

Alan Hovhaness' 2nd Symphony, Mysterious Mountain (1955), is just such a place, imaginary. It is of no importance that the title was added later and that it does not describe a particular place. One can still journey there, and by a path of one's own choosing. Of an early performance of the symphony, critic Claudia Cassidy wrote in the Chicago Tribune:
"It seems to remind everyone of something... and it reminds me of the Alhambra. I don't expect you to take the same journey, but there it is for me in its rich textures, its formalized designs, its serenity of scrolls and arabesques, its sudden sounds - harp sounds - of water spilling with a glint of the metallic into a hidden pool."

Even if the particular journey is open to interpretation, the composer's intention is clear: to create an aural impression steeped in his own spiritual philosophy. Namely, that "Mountains are symbols, like pyramids, of man's attempt to know God. Mountains are symbolic meeting places between the mundane and spiritual worlds. To some, the Mysterious Mountain may be the phantom peak, unmeasured, thought to be higher than Everest, as seen from great distance by fliers in Tibet. To some it may be the solitary mountain, the tower of strength over a countryside - Fujiyama, Ararat, Monadnock, Shasta or Grand Teton."

That imaginary place where the "mundane and spiritual worlds" meet is the logical quest of an artist such as Hovhaness. Early in his eclectic education he developed a passion for the mysticism of sound, which was first fed by exposure to Armenian and Indian cultures, and later by those of Japan and China.

Also included in this recording is Prayer of Saint Gregory, a simple, homophonic string chorale supporting a plaintive trumpet solo. Prelude and Quadruple Fugue is an example of Hovhaness' compositional style, the most prevalent of which being the contrapuntal techniques of the Baroque. If portions of Mysterious Mountain evoke Renaissance choral writing, the "Alleluia" of Alleluia and Fugue (1941) does so even more. Both modal and imitative, the piece seems to intone the syllables of the title, and the composer giving testimony to his faith.

And God Created Great Whales (1970) is unique among the compositions on this disc. It is, in fact, less "composed," even at times aleatoric. Players are instructed to "continue repetition, rapidly and not together in free non-rhythm chaos" for a given period of time; and later, "very wild and powerful!" From the din, a pentatonic melody emerges, preparing the way for four recorded songs of the great humpback whale. (For musical purposes, the third song has been slowed down to lower the pitch, but the low pitch of the fourth remains at actual speed.) The result is a hauntingly portentous depiction of earth as it emerges from its primordial chaos. The composer writes: "Free rhythmless vibrational passages, each string player playing independently, suggest waves in a vast ocean sky. Undersea mountains rise and fall in horns, trombones and tuba. Music of whales also rises and falls like mountain ranges. Song of whale emerges like a giant mythical sea bird. man does not exist, has not yet been born in the solemn oneness of Nature."

There is a center to everything that exists.

Polvo - Celebrate the New Dark Age EP

1994; 7 tracks

Polvo is a North Carolina-based indie/math rock band from the 90s. Some call them the originators of the "math rock" genre, something I don't think I'm very familiar with, but this release does seem to contain the integral qualities of "math rock," according to Wikipedia: "rhythmically complex guitar-based style of experimental rock." Polvo work on many different levels, their sound being highly complex and sometimes even hard to follow. It is constantly evolving, transforming and creating something new out of the disorder that just was. The greatest part of Polvo, if I may argue, is the lyrics. They are every bit as circuitous as the music. Look at these, taken from my favorite song on the EP, "Every Holy Shroud":


Celebrate the new dark age with us
Calculate the irony with someone you can trust
Feel the holy shroud that keeps us warm
Show me something round and I'll analyse the form
Give us something brown that sticks like glue
I'll recognize the taste and appreciate it too
This is how it works when we write well
Let me hear a bomb I'll compare it to a bell
I don't understand why you don't get it
I can take the time to insure that you regret it
We are seeing through your weak designs
Fellow connoisseurs flip a coin and make a sign


This is most definitely a release not to miss. Polvo are a band whose masterful creations, both intense and lovely, are labyrinths in and of themselves.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

ルナパーク・アンサンブル (Luna Park Ensemble) - Mushi Kui Mandala

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Gustav Holst - The Planets

1973; 7 tracks
Leonard Bernstein / New York Philharmonic

Born in Cheltenham, England, on September 21, 1874 (the autumnal equinox and the first day of the ancient Egyptian New Year),
Gustav Holst was a Virgo (The Hermit; an Earth Sign) and possessed of a decided propensity to Idealism and Truth. Young Holst neither drank nor smoked. He was a strict vegetarian, often subsisting on dried nuts. He was completely single-minded about everything. Naïve and idealistic, he abhorred profanity, never lost his temper, and was shy and solitary. He was a Mystic and obscurantist, more at ease in the silence of the library than the drawing room. He became immersed in the Hindu epics and learned Sanskrit in order to read them in their original texts. He would always maintain his belief in "Dharma" - one's natural path in life. For Holst, the search for Wisdom became more important than the search for Beauty. Holst surrendered completely to involvement: When he worked, he overworked, and his delicate healthy offered little reserve capacity. Invariably, he was forced to recuperate from nervous and physical exhaustion. Understandably, for an Englishman, he adored warm climates and, whenever time and fortune would permit, he traveled to the Middle East, North Africa and the Mediterranean. He once decided to go to Algeria, to recuperate by riding his bicycle in the desert. This absurdity is matched only by the fact that he actually did so.

Even in old age, Holst pursued the course of gathering information on everything. He read incessantly. Simple events became highly significant to him. In 1934, at the age of 60, he died: The cause, bleeding ulcers. His most valued possessions were Beethoven's tuning fork and his master key to St. Paul's music school. He was surrounded by the countless books he indiscriminately devoured: Jane Austen and Leon Trotsky lay side by side.


His mother was a piano teacher, and his father was determined that Gustav become a musician. So he studied. By the age of 18, his impact upon was limited to appointment as a village organist. By 20, his first major compositions were already performed. Encouraged, he applied for a scholarship at the Royal College of Music. He tested eight successive times before he finally succeeded. Frequently, he was unable to even hold a pen: His hand became so crippled from neuritis that he devised a special pen nip, fitted to his finger, so that he could notate his compositions. In 1903, he began teaching music, eventually becoming music director at Morley College and at St. Paul's Girl's School - the only positions that he truly loved and that he held until his death. Students loved him.

By 1908, he had already experimented with two operas based upon the Hindu writings that so fascinated him. He became a fairly prolific composer, who preferred writing for the voice - thus, he left considerable choral music, operas and songs. He achieved slow but steady recognition, and, with this increasing fame, came relative financial stability. He also became well-regarded as a conductor. However, aside from a small coterie of friends and well-wishers, Holst's reputation grew without creating any real general enthusiasm. But them, he was very, very susprivious of too much recognition. When people asked for his autograph, he would hand them a typed slip of paper that stated that he didn't give autographs.

Interested in eternity, Holst studied astrology and learned to cast horoscopes. He also studied astronomy, and learned computation of light-years in order to understand the Space-Time continuum. His composition The Planets became the most popular and enduring example of his mystical mindplay. Listening to the relentless, threatening, mecahincal march that opens "Mars, The Bringer of War," audiences were sure this was Holst's personal statement about World War I. (After all, the horror was so fresh.) But Holst never heard a machine gun. In fact, he had finished the sketch for "Mars" just before the war - in 1914. A friend gifted him with a semi-private performance of the work, on September 28, 1918, by the London Symphony Orchestra. The effect upon the small audience was intense - and in the halls, during the playing of "Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity," char-women were said to have set aside their scrubbing to dance with each other.

The Planets requires large orchestral forces, and its wordless chorus adds further dimension. It made Holst famous, and, by 1921, he was internationally known. The work is cast into seven musical sections. Each is a self-contained tone poem. While not exactly elaborate program music, each section does convey an easy means for dreaming along somewhat prescribed paths. The titles are Holst's own.


Friday, July 1, 2011

I feel like I should post something today, the first day of the month.

Here is my new favorite song ever... The Sundays - "Folk Song." I have never heard of them but right now, I wish I had listened to them years ago!

And a picture of me and my cat Clarence, awww he's so cute.

I have a ton of drafts of cool music posts, hopefully juillet will be a little more interesting than juin! :(

oh, I watched Hellraiser for the first time ever yesterday, and I really liked it. I also watched The English Patient and just got that book today, so I'll maybe read that after the other hundred... and maybe I won't be that scared of scary movies after all.

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