Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Road

I just finished watching the movie adaptation and simultaneously starting the book. That is, by far, the most emotionally moved I have been in response to a movie in a few years. Not for the terrifying bleakness or the ravenous hunger that drives all post-apocalyptic survivors to madness, cannibalism and despair. For the tiny glimmer of hope for humanity McCarthy has for us right now, yet in his frame of putting us through the worst circumstances ever and seeing some of that humanity, compassion peak out on the other side of nothingness.

One thing I noted as a recurring theme in both the books and movies to The Road and No Country For Old Men: binoculars. In No Country, Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) is standing on a plateau scanning the barren fields below for his prey while hunting and also in spotting the injured dog. In The Road, 'The Man' is constantly "glassing" his environment for safety reasons; to see other people (potential predators) from a distance is a way to stay alive. But the theme to me seems to be for the narrator to have a feeling of distance from the rest of the world. His mindstate is one of being alone in the way he thinks and looks at the world, life.

One last bit. The movie was fantastic in all ways in my mind. The soundtrack by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis fits like a glove. The sound of the world in dissolution around them at all times is perfectly done. It is a sad, crying, aching world that is crumbling at all moments. The acting is fuckin' brilliant, but then what else would you expect from the likes of Viggo? The cinematography is just about bleak enough to squeeze tears out of anybody's eyes on its own. Well done.

Get on the Dice-K Express to psychological Hell!

Just when my boys, the Boston Red Sox, get rolling and reforming into a playoff contender again? They send Daisuke Matsuzaka to the mound. The number one cause of episodic Tourette's Syndrome in my household. What a colossal waste of fuckin' cash this guy has turned out to be. Sure, he can throw 413 different types of pitches and needs every one of 'em to get through 5 and two-thirds innings, but it is beyond maddening to watch a pitcher, night-in and night-out, get to 3-2 counts on every god damn hitter he faces. This guy needs to pay back the rest of his remaining contract and go back to winning games for Japan in the World Baseball Classic. Hey, at least Old Man Wakefield is taking the mound on Friday. Here's to hoping the knuckler is floating like a drunken hummingbird.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Rhymes With A Passion

Sitting at the throne of the laughing king/talkin' 'bout human trafficking

Svarte Greiner: Penpals Forever (And Ever)

I remember seeing Deaf Center at the Triple Door during Decibel Festival's Ambient Showcase two years ago. I sat there with my friend Scott and a couple of new friends (other performers at that year's festival), all of us having our minds splattered on the hard table top in from of us and our hearts liquified in some oozing molten melancholy. I've never felt closer to a male group therapy session; beating drums and yelling amidst campfire flung light. It was clearly a shared visceral, emotional evening.

In the time since then, Deaf Center has gone on somewhat of a sabbatical . Svarte Greiner and Otto Totland having moved on to other projects without officially announcing time of death on Deaf Center. Totland has not produced at the frequency of Greiner, but made an absolutely smashing breakthrough with Nest (see my review for The Silent Ballet). Greiner has continued to pour out his scratchy, steel wool mind on scattered, ever-darkening and more haunting releases. His latest is Penpals Forever (And Ever). His music really has progressed to a point where I feel I'm listening to the soundtracking of a truly schizophrenic and deranged mind, from within, not cinematically. It's an important distinction. I won't waste my breath attempting, at this late hour, to describe the individual peaces, as they seem only movements within a whole that is not dissectable. To communicate how it feels as if actually inside a truly sick (genius?) mind, is to say that there are many noises that make me check if my own environment is making them or if they are part of the music. Intermittent drum beats that made me inspect my turntable to see if it was clicking or knocking its motor (it certainly was not). Low bass rumbles that tricked me into thinking a plane overhead my house was unusually low on its approach to Sea-Tac Airport. This truly is disturbing music; most disturbing for its addictive quality.

Score: 8.75/10

Monday, June 14, 2010

Choose Your Torture

Would you rather have bamboo shards shoved under your fingernails while being waterboarded or be forced to watch Meg Ryan movies for 72 hours straight?

Lost Satellite of Max Richter

she spins
spitting messages unconsciously
to audiences she's
unaware of

beeping, chattering into the void
sweeping the vacuum
for the shattered remnants
of love or existence
that last touch, fading into
a cosmic echo

scan the frequencies
to see if she's still out there
floating less as a heavenly body
and more as a message or a hope

as she spins further into
the vastness, the full-to-overflowing emptiness
swallows her signal
a sip from some universal broth
she begins to attain
some sort of enlightened loneliness

flashing as some unexplainable nova...

Monday, June 7, 2010

working against the cold

working against the cold
most people suggest
making a fire
the creation of heat

but I strike hammers to wires
allow for their vibration
and resonance to
vaporize the arctic air
run a hank of horsehair
across strings
until they burst forth
in a volcanic sinew of a cry
or lament

with just that
I could stand naked
in the face of all
the world's glaciers

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Free The Robots: Ctrl Alt Delete

Ever since I first threw this record on a few days ago, it feels and sounds like a direct descendent of Company Flow's Little Johnny From the Hospitul, an album clearly ahead of its time. Sure, the trademark click-chop LA beats are there and some slightly cheesey synth lines (check "Turbulence"), but the more dusty than digital aspect to much of the rhythm production harks back to that wake of sonic destruction laid down by El-P & Mr. Len in 1999. But 'Chris' (a Cher-like figure, I guess?), who is FTR, never sounds dated or retro. There's a taste of Dubstep style bass tones and samples that sound off time or wrongly situated in some audio processing software, but end up fitting perfectly (again, a la Little Johnny...). Some of the snare hit sounds executed here splinter and crack like a 2x4 being smashed against your studio-cup headphones. Then there is some lovely psychedelia in "Wandering Gypsy" that certainly shares some nucleic acid with Edan's Beauty & the Beat.
Make sure you have your ears checked by your local audiophile before you listen to this record, as to make sure you can handle the bass tones and rumble.
In parting, what I think I love best about the Los Angeles explosion (Flying Lotus, Deru, Noasj Thing, etc.) is that some of my armchair anthropological theories have been proven wrong. I never thought the grit and wisdom of East Coast HipHop would be infused into the slangin' West Coast style. Oh, how wrong I am, but how happy can a man be for being wrong?!?

Score: 7.5/10

Lorn: Nothing Else

Walk to your nearest record store, browse the internet to your closest music retailer, beat up that little kid on the corner with a bag of records, do whatever you can to get your hands on the newest album on Brainfeeder (Flying Lotus's label). Nothing Else is the debut album by Lorn, some kid from the 'middle of nowhere' in the Midwest. Lorn employs the same dark side of Boom Bap HipHop that Deru so enjoys, but in a context even darker and grittier. The chunkiness of his bass drum sounds are rivaled only by that big fucking fictitious asteroid that's going to demolish Earth any day now. His synthesizers are slick and dirty all at the same time, often sounding like an old ballpark organ grinder fed through a Cuisinart cheese grater. Occasionally, the amputated bits of human voices pop up and drown away just as quickly. And one of the dopest parts of this album is that while it is most certainly an album full of vicious, tooth rattling beats, you can bang your head like you're at a Metal concert until it rocks right off your spinal column. A must have for sure!

Score: 8/10

Friday, June 4, 2010

Grails Black Tar Prophecies Review on

Score: 6/10

All serious listeners and music fans have a handful of artists they believe absolutely should be more popular; they obsess over the relative obscurity of some of their favorite musicians. Portland post-rock demigod Grails is certainly one of those bands for me. Yes, the band has certainly garnered a healthy level of popularity and success, but I sense that it has hit a glass ceiling (one it's sure to crash through anytime now). Then again, it rarely sets up camp on any particular label for more than a record or two. That can be advantageous for a band (it's not tied down), but it can also constrain an act to a tier below more successful and widely known bands. With Black Tar Prophecies Vol. 4 being released on Important Records, Grails may be leaning towards a more permanent home.

Black Tar Prophecies Vol. 4 was initially rumored to be material left off of the Vol. 1, 2, & 3 album, but to these ears, that can’t be true. It’s partly due to recording qualities and styles, but also playing styles. There’s a bit more polished sound to the final mix, scrubbing away some of Grails’ signature grittiness. In the same spirit, gone are a few of the droney, opiated sounds. Yet, this is, for the majority of the EP, not a bad thing, and it is still obviously a Grails record.

The zenith of Vol. 4 materializes in the groovy “Self-Hypnosis.” For a little over eight minutes Grails pays fantastic homage to the 70's psych and stoner rock that has influenced it. Wah-wah effects and disturbingly unassuming synthesizers place this jam firmly in the hands of Aerosmith circa “Sweet Emotion” (a huge guilty pleasure of mine, by the way). On the other hand, there are dueling Pink Floyd guitars dog-fighting through international airspace. As for the drums, I sense just a touch of Ginger Baker. What’s most impressive about “Self-Hypnosis” is how all these worn-on-the-sleeve influences are packed in together but the song still retains that surge and ebb style of build-up and release known to every Grails fan. This reveals another sterling quality of the band and its music: Grails has deftly avoided the trappings of both traditional and post-rock song structures. This attribute is exactly why “Up All Night” leaves such a bitter aftertaste.

“Up All Night” has the boys from the Rose City jumping ship and doing some sort of cinematic lounge act, sans the singing of course. As the song lacks the teeth and dark soul of everything else the band has done, it sounds as though it could squeeze into place on an 80's cop dramedy as one of the more serious, introspective songs. To get a true picture of what this means, imagine a B movie adaptation of Beverly Hills Cop. “Up All Night” also really shouldn’t be the closer for this EP, because it neither bashes its way to a grand finale nor hushes the last light out of the record. This was also a problem with Take Refuge In Clean Living. “Clean Living” trudged grudgingly to a finish line that “Take Refuge” clearly deserved. In the case of “Up All Night,” it might be better served on the cutting room floor with a completely new song written to take its place as the caboose. This may sound harsh, but focus on the fact that Grails’ sound has always laid firm roots in Americana (be it Appalachian or Frontier), and the loungey, clean aesthetic of “Up All Night” scrubs that grit away. It leaves, in its wake, a sonic Las Vegas; the promise of sin and hedonism in a sterile surrounding; the finely controlled illusion of chaos, which invalidates itself with emptiness and boredom. Another testament to the strength of the band is that, after all that “Up All Night” does to sink its own ship, it has still produced another first-rate release.

While some of the darker drone and drug haze is sublimated, the almost-as-scary-as-Svarte Greiner ambient pieces, “I Want A New Drug” and “New Drug II,” add a lovely dimension to the band’s sonic canon. They both feature the stark ramblings of a preacher, who happens to sound exactly like the one from A Silver Mt. Zion’s “Broken Chords Can Sing A Little.” “I Want a New Drug” also employs a warbly, drowning sample of a choral version of “Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen,” making the opener spectacularly spine-tingling and dark. Whispered voices, one of which I swear calls my first name, whip me into the throes of a supernatural encounter with a wandering ancestral specter. And then, the preacher questions, “Can philosophy lift a man out of the cess pool of this life?……… never has.”

Maybe that should be the closer. It would certainly be impressive to drop into silence immediately after that bleak line.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Say Hey Word! Kid

Normally, I cringe at watching Braves games; the racist team name, the insidious "Tomohawk Chop" and the fact that Chipper Jones has always annoyed me, for no good reason. But Jason Heyward compels me to watch. He's that good; on pace for a .290/30HR/100RBI rookie season. That's something that Mays, Ruth, Aaron and Griffey didn't do. Only Albert Pujols has done that (or better, of course) to my knowledge. So, I can put aside my murderous rage incited by bigoted white America's continued hate, intolerance and insensitivity towards Native Americans to watch this kid play ball. Hopefully, the Braves hit some hard times and are forced to trade the Say HeyWord! Kid (nickname of my creation, a play on his last name and Willie Mays's nickname, in case you're too stupid to figure that out).