Thursday, January 28, 2010

Magical Mystery Chambers!!!

In keeping with the Wu-heavy spirit and focus, I have to tell everybody I can about this excellent remix project from Tom Caruana. This lo-profile New York DJ has taken the 'mash-up' style project to a new level by using original Wu-Tang acapellas and setting them to his beats made from samples of Beatles songs. Hold the phones to your lawyer Sir McCartney! First of all, you're fucking rich enough you punk ass bitch and you know that the old version of you (with John) would abhor such material-centric principles and appreciate the artistic fortitude it takes to undergo a project such as this. Still never understand why you had to jack Danger Mouse for his Grey Album. Also, I believe that Mr. Caruana has learned from Danger's mistakes and utilized only cleared samples, meaning there's a lot of Jazz and Reggae music covers of Beatles songs being sampled here. Anyways, this record is awesome! The versions of "C.R.E.A.M." and "Daytona 500" might be superior to the originals...might. Even better? It's a free downloadable album and you can find it here. Also, make sure to explore the links on that page for the artist responsible for the cover art, he has a great graphic design eye. Cheers!

A Little Bathroom Reading

After a slew of funny books on baseball, particularly the one about all the unwritten rules governing behavior of players, managers, umps and even fans. I've come to realize that, while baseball's post as national pastime has given way to football and auto racing, these rules govern much of the sporting world and have even bled into the behavioral patterns of everyday folks. Well, those books no longer grace the windowsill in my bathroom. Now, a single tome, hardbound and black without its dust jacket sits there, quickly being devoured. Penned by Robert Diggs, better known as RZA, this book reads much more as a memoir than an instructional guide to HipHop life as the title suggests. Only thing is? That's not a problem. RZA drops numerous jewels of wisdom throughout his recountings, which are fun and frustrating (much as life can be). Well, anyways...I haven't yet finished The Tao of Wu just yet, but I can still give it a strong recommendation. I do, however, feel compelled to point out that it seems interesting to write a memoir this early for Diggs. Maybe it is just an installment with more to come?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Oh so fine in 2009!

Yes, that's me as Cheech Marin (circa Up In Smoke) with my buddy as Walter Sobchak (Big Lebowski) this last Halloween. I'm not really sure why, but it seemed the most appropriate photo to head my Tasty Tunes of 2009 article, which seems to be nearing 'overdue' status. I have decided to forego any lengthy descriptions or rankings in an effort for expedience and honesty. Luckily, you, my fair readers, will realize that you now have some music shopping to do, since you obviously entrust me with the knowledge to give you the musical truth as to what to listen to.

Danny Norbury Light In August King of the Neo-Classical giants that ruled the contemplative forests of 2009.
Hildur Gudnadottir Without Sinking Queen of the Neo-Classical giants. Cello dominated 2009's horizons and skies at all points of vision.
Elm Nemcatacoa The third eye sits upon a temple guarded by wolves of the highest intelligence and patience. Psychedelic wonders!!
Elegi Varde Gloomy, gloomy drone and Classical shards strewn about the floorboards of a Norwegian attic, or is that the storm cellar?
Dakota Suite The End of Trying A broken heart can repeat itself into the darkest corners of a bed mounded in blankets and tears.
A Broken Consort Crow Autumn Part Two Richard Skelton plants the seed of sorrow in a mix of Neo-Classical, Ozark meditation and Field Recordings.
Richard Skelton Landings Skelton sows those seeds and grows a crop of tribute.
Black To Comm Alphabet 1968 Holy Shit!!
Anduin Abandone In Sleep Drone done like I like it. I can sleep to this record or sit and read.
Alva Noto & Ryuichi Sakamoto UTP_ I wish this record had come out before last Winter's snow storm so that I could drive around listening to it's dampened creepiness in the snow.
Klimek Movies Is Magic Soundtracks have rarely been cooler or more fitting (see Fight Club), yet there's no movie to go with this soundtrack. Dope atmospherics!
Kreng L'Autopsie Phenomenale De Dieu When I first listened to Elegi's album, I thought it nearly impossible for music to get any creepier and haunting. Then this album came out and I've been scratching at the walls ever since.
Le Lendemain Fires More Danny Norbury and David Wenngren greatness. Don't fail to sit with "Lois" for some time.
David Wenngren Sleepless Nights The man behind Library Tapes continues to spew forth dream accompaniments with a deft touch.
Simon Scott Navigare The Drone and Neo-Classical hits just kept rolling in in 2009.
Wax Tailor In the Mood for Life French HipHop? Ya don't stop!
Rapoon Melancholic Songs of the Desert Loops of the world, unite!!
Paul White One Eye Open EP, The Punch Drummer EP, Strange Dreams of Paul White and Sounds from the Skylight Londonite Paul White dropped a whole sortie of funky HipHop bombs this last year. A sound of Jamaica, Southern California and England all dashed into this delectable stew of beats.
Nosaj Thing Drift The LA scene is hot right now and Jason Chung turned it up to blistering!
Nalepa Flatlands Also out of the LA scene, my boy Steve Nalepa rocks out the bubble bass and dub so clean, he could make a $3 suit look like it costs $300. No really, seriously.
Murcof La Sangre Iluminada I am in love with Fernando Corona. Now I just need to find a woman willing to have his babies for me. Then, I wouldn't mind seeing the movie that this album soundtracks so elegantly.
Moderat Moderat Yes, I like to dance. I like to dance to German techno.
Lusine A Certain Distance Seattleite Jeff McIlwain ups the ante on smart dance music. Listening to it live in the Seattle Art Museum lobby was a smashing good time. Or was it that I got smashed that night?
Lukid Foma Wow. This album makes me wanna crawl inside some magical vortex between bong hits and sweaty, all-night sex. A real treasure.
Giuseppe Ielasi Aix Vertical stacks of sound like bottomless library shelves make for a rhythmically controlled galaxy.
Dak Standthis/Standthis (Otherside) Again and again and again, Los Angeles is punching cards to the new cool beatsmiths' club. Weird, esoteric and stoned to his eyelids, Dak makes beats for Buck Rogers.
DJ Signify Of Cities A fabulous rebound from a sub-par previous release.

And, in keeping with tradition from lists and years past, I like to give attention to releases not from 2009, but that I discovered during the year. Artists like Onra and Populous have my devotion to their entire catalogue of releases and Aether's Artifacts is a tasty little morsel. Also, in a direct evolutionary step from Poets of Rhythm, the Whitefield Brothers kick out some greasy, spacey Funk. Well, I'm gonna leave it at that. So here's to an equally awesome 2010, with Deru exploding minds and a rumored Boards of Canada album set to come out!! Giddy with anticipation.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Deru: Say Goodbye To Useless

Good things come to those that wait, even if the wait is torturous.

The wait for Benjamin "Deru" Wynn's newest album has been nearly 6 years. Seventy-two months of agonizing, tantalizing anticipation, which seemed to have turned into a period of serious seasoning; a stewing in the musical mind of Wynn. With his first two albums, Pushing Air and Trying to Remember, many a listener and critic had spotted the heavy HipHop influence, but not until February 23rd of this year when their ears are illuminated with Say Goodbye to Useless will they hear the next evolutionary step in the sound of 21st Century HipHop.

Whereas his previous albums were a HipHop-centric stew of Glitch-Hop and Ambient soundscapes, Say Goodbye to Useless is a much more finely honed blend. Those elements still arise, but they are much more complimentary and don't stand in the way of the purpose statement. This album is where Instrumental HipHop was destined to go, in a mystical cornfield involving recluse writers and baseball sort of sense. It might be a fanciful tale, but you always buy into it as a possibility. Well folks, it has arrived. So, strap on your headphones and check the airbags on your easy chairs.

The album starts out with a super mellow, extra long sample-collage of an old French song where the singers lament different desires that almost hint at the universal yearning for powers beyond our terrestrial constraints. Then, with "I Want" Deru takes immediate flight into an album full of superterranean beats that leave behind some of the murkier, less-focused sub-terranean HipHop of before. I know what you're wondering, "Is he saying that 'sub-terranean' or 'underground' HipHop is bad??!?" NO. My word style is deliberate and poignant, much like Wynn's music. I use derivations of terranean to imply a certain feel to the music itself, not whether it is commercially viable or not. Much of Wynn's previous work, while lovely and high-quality, was occasionally smothered by the decay of bodies past. It was as if his music was still partially in an embryonic stage, but gestating under the decay of previous lives and ideas. Now Deru is plotting a course above ground. Spatially the music is more open, even while it is dark in some ways, that color and timbre is not the primary emotional theme. That's also not to say that this is some happy-go-fuckin-lucky sounding record. It's hard to describe. Let's say contemplative instead of brooding. On to the album, shall we?

One of Wynn's most noticeably improved attributes is his rhythm programming. While he has always been a solid rhythm programmer, I would now easily class him as an Elvin Jones of the HipHop/Electronica world. What do I mean by that? Well, his poly-rhythms are sick and slick, without making percussive mud or distracting the listener from the melodic and harmonic portions of the music (though, to be honest, much of his harmony & melody is syncopated to the rhythm, rightly so). This shines through most clearly in his cymbal patches and patterns. On "I Want" and "Peanut Butter & Patience", the cymbals are what really polish up the rhythm tracks and give it that real riding, driving feel. In fact, one other comparison is Amon Tobin. Tobin is keenly aware of good cymbal use, but has by and large utilized samples as his source instead of direct programming. Deru has a sniper's deadly eye for an ear for rhythm and has now hit his stride. This cymbal work does not, however, over-brighten the tunes or make them too metallic. It's as if you took the excitement of Funk and shifted its environs to be post-apocalyptic. They are still warm little organic structures squishing their way through a largely fabricated and cold world.
"I Want" has its haunting quality that scrapes the line with a surging, undeniable rhythm that could probably make Neo-Cons get up and dance. Okay, maybe after a scotch or two, but you get the picture, right? "Peanut Butter & Patience" carries this dance party on further, where layers of repose and pause give way to glacial calving of even more irresistible funkiness and butt-shaking goodness. And then this is where the major fault I find with record lay. The very next track, "Hello", drops that momentum. The song is still a quality track, that once it builds over time, becomes its own serviceable banger, but it does not let the listener down easily from the previous 8 minutes of ecstasy in motion. And to be honest, I sometimes find myself skipping past this one, more because of its placement within the album rather than an 'I don't like it' kind of thing. In fact, the swelling organ (musical!! get your minds out of the gutter!!) that takes it over halfway through gives this a touch of Post-Rock wandering. Now, when I normally skip past "Hello" I am immediately rewarded with the soul and rump shaking number called "Basically, Fuck You". This returns us to the mammoth rhythm made to alter the planet's axis that I so love. This song does a dance to the death with the Johnny Greenwood Monster That Eats Techno Sounds. That monster flosses its teeth with the garbled tape loop squeals of a lost future projection. I don't drop Mr. Greenwood's name in light jest, I actually feel like this could be a song made for Radiohead consumption and that Thom Yorke could start crooning his pale-ass Blues all over the place and it wouldn't be awkward. Though, I'm glad he doesn't, because this thumper is special all on its own. One night, I put it on repeat and danced to it for about 40 minutes straight. Another smashingly delightful highlight on this album is "Fadeaway". With a wavering dawn opening of reversed string notes, "Fadeaway" quickly hops into a Funkmobile of HipHop rhythm and sways gently onto a Jazz orchestra dance floor where the reeded woodwinds are prominently featured. These clarinet and oboe strutting flourishes immediately bring to mind one master of the weird, Moondog. It is, however, a simply gorgeous piece that begs to be the soundtrack to a late night bicycle ride around the neighborhood under a full moon. This is followed appropriately by the dark, Tyler Durden-esque growler known as "Days, Then...". In fact, I'd put it into a mix with any number of the darker tunes from Tobin's Supermodified.

So, with all that said, I am still allowing the larger energetic arc of this record to reveal itself to me, as, at times, it seems to deny its natural course (see my notes on "Hello"). However, I'm trying not to let this distract me from all the other great qualities of Say Goodbye to Useless, because I would be even more annoyed by a straight through-and-through non-stop thumpfest. Deru is not making dance music stricly for the dance floor or the dance party, no, this is music that you can dance to, but should also think and talk to.
A fabulous effort and the first great album of 2010.

Score: 8.5/10

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

For my 2009 nightcap, I went to Decibel Festival's New Year's Party. On the bill was Lusine, Nosaj Thing and Apparat. Lusine's set was blisteringly fantastic as he played all familiar material (mostly off of A Certain Distance), yet skillfully remixed and reworked. This is another bit of evidence proving electronic music's progression past its old stereotypes of cold, redundantly reiterative and lacking a fluid live feel. The directive to dance is still there, but now artists are working out of the box and into new open fields. Nosaj Thing certainly can rock it and he was up next. Without any resignation or hesitation, I can certainly say he was irritatingly choppy at times, enough so that his set was underwhelming. Surely, Thing slammed down some chunky tracks of his hyrbid HipHop Funk, including a couple that my friend and I agreed are new tunes, but not enough to overcome his addiction to choppy tricks that can kill the groove. Then Apparat closed out the night, though we didn't make it all the way through his set (too tired). He threw it down for sure, even including some of the more slammin' dancefloor wreckers from the Moderat project. My personal favorite from that project is "Seamonkey" and he put it through the grinder and came out with a splendid live version. All in all a fabulous night and New Year's. Hopefully, your's was as successful.