It’s not inaccurate to say that “ÁlæifR” sounds similar to other synth-driven cassettes Not Not Fun has produced in the past few years. I won’t bore you with my experience listening to the label or how much I do or don’t enjoy this track, but if you’re looking for similar music of theirs in the release pile, Moon Wheel just may be right there with ya. What kinda feel does this have compared to other Not Not Fun releases? For starters, it has more of that hidden underground retro-futurism feel. Example: a laboratory miles under 1950s Earth, walls consisting of wires and plugs and mainframes, cots for the cult of scientists living there, led by their chief, sleep standing up, farm vegetables. They were trying to harness inner-world energy to create everlasting life. And the project was called “ÁlæifR.” Fed through tubes and filters, this everlasting substance absorbs bits of heat and shattered light within its proximity, so the lab is constantly below freezing and dark. There’s a side-paneled room for absorption testing, but nobody has ever walked out everlasting and alive. So they continued, lost beneath the Earth’s surface. Evolving their vision and hearing. Now, humans have a piece of what was “ÁlæifR” via Moon Wheel’s newest self-titled cassette on Not Not Fun. Out as of yesterday: GET IT!! Nope, I bought em all… maybe.
“Compliments 2 The Chef”
Action Bronson and Harry Fraud are head chefs on this new cut off Peter Rosenberg’s upcoming New York Renaissance mixtape, a showcase of the city’s finest talent. The amuse-bouche is a light one: Fraud lays down a chilly R&B beat pilfered straight from the grocery store muzak aisle, and Lauriana Mae’s crackling hook floats atop it, setting a laid-back, Sunday supper vibe. Once again, Bronson gets us mouthwatering with the food descriptions: on the menu tonight is “baby lamb,” “stuffed zucchini flowers/mixed ricotta with the egg” and, for all you haters, his own “bubble tea tapioca.” Aside from his foodie lexicon, Bronson’s also got a penchant for stream-of-consciousness associations that always keep you on your toes. “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink it,” philosophizes Bronson, “2 in the pink, one in the stink.” It’s crazy, a little bit of horse ebooks zen, but all great chefs are mad.
Buff as Fuck
First of all, kudos for Transept for absolutely wrecking the album-title universe with their latest album Buff as Fuck. The title of their first release, TRSPT001, left a lot to be desired. But at the same time, it represented an effort by a group who knew where they were going but weren’t there yet. The songs wandered a little, despite the beauty found in the upper-atmosphere melodies in “The Demands of Levitating Heavy Stones” and “Leopard Slug Love Song,” and the mixing leaned a little light, but any worries one might have about their sophomore LP is eliminated within seconds of hearing the pre-release stream.
Opening track “Happysburgh” is especially significant, because it comprises one-third of the LP and provides a perfectly executed juxtaposition to the rest of the album. It’s also really heavy. Not the kind of heavy, like, “teenagers wearing eyeliner and moshing” heavy; it’s more akin to a bathtub full of ground beef, and you’re pushing your fists down into the meat trying to reach the bottom of the tub but you keep going down further and further. Or imagine you wake up and you’re covered in modeling clay that slowly hardens as you eat your Cheerios. Your progress is not impeded, only your acceleration, and you begin to find that the lethargy increases exponentially, taking you months to brush your teeth and years to walk across your yard. “Muscle Beach” is another standout on the album, combining a crushed military snare with a triumphant melody that reverse-decays into ambient decadence.
Listen to Buff as Fuck here
• Transept: http://trspt.net
The Flaming Lips
“Ashes in the Air” [NSFW]
Birth, death, baby, corpse, goatee, no goatee: life presents itself to us in the form of binary oppositions that are, most of the time, packaged up neatly into little idealistic parcels without us having to worry much about it. Well, all that stuff goes out the window in the NSFW clip for The Flaming Lips’ Bon Iver collaboration, “Ashes in the Air.” It addresses many of the big, scary questions explored in The Terror, the band’s upcoming, 13th full-length, but as far as I can tell, there are no sparknotes for a visual text that features Residents-styled astronauts, goateed babies, cavemen covered in flour, paint-slicked cadavers, and human meat grinders. Guess it’s a matter of trippy interpretation, then. If your head isn’t spinning by the second half, just wait for the seizure-inducing animations and the gruesome finale. Psychic pain is the Lips’ biggest pleasure, and it’s ours as well. I just hope my mind will stitch itself back together, in time to get ripped apart again by The Terror when it strikes later this month. Thanks for the nightmares, Mr. Coyne.
Dustin Wong & Takako Minekawa
“Party on a Floating Cake”
You might know Dustin Wong (who recently played our unofficial SXSW party) through his work with the sadly defunct Ponytail or his two brilliant solo guitar releases on Thrill Jockey, or because you watched him sit in front of you and craft symphonic guitar loops for 40+ minutes, his feet darting around a crescent moon of Boss effects pedals, one hand on the fretboard and one hand picking with ludicrous accuracy or turning a delay knob or a volume knob or seemingly all of these things at once, his head bobbing, making it look easy. If you live in Japan, you’re lucky enough to be able to catch him in concert in the coming months, and for this, I propose an international Freaky Friday situation with you where we switch consciousnesses and I can walk around in your body in Japan and go see Dustin Wong perform and you can be me here writing things about Dustin Wong or doing whatever else you want.
But whoa, what we have here is something else: a collaboration between Wong and long-revered multi-instrumental Japanese songstress Takako Minekawa. After a string of increasingly experimental electro-pop albums in the 90s, culminating in the partially Cornelius-produced Fun 9 in 1999, Minekawa has laid low for over a decade now. She and Wong met at one of his shows in 2011 and began to exchange ideas and music over email before workshopping material over the following years. The pair releases their album Toropical Circle on May 15 through PLANCHA Records, but in the meantime, we get “Party on a Floating Cake” and its accompanying video. Hear Wong’s rapidfire delayed melodies weave and loop together like cotton candy pouring out of the machine as Minekawa delicately drones, coos, and chants her way back into our shibuya-kei daydreams. See watercolors and glitter and arts-and-craftsy psychedelic paper things swirl around in an animated journey not unlike, say, a party on a floating cake.
Deerhoof, Dal Niente, and Marcos Balter
Live at the Ecstatic Music Festival
Man, the people behind the Ecstatic Music Festival are sure doing this whole contemporary classical/indie pop/experimental cross pollination thing right. First of all, they’re successfully pairing some of the most forward-looking indie rock artists with some of the more sympathetic young classical composers; then they’re graciously sharing the well-recorded results with the public for free via WQXR. It’s like theIn the Fishtank series for a more classical set.
One of the more seemingly disparate but successful collaborations of this year’s festival is the pairing of Deerhoof with composer Marcos Balter and the Ensemble Dal Niente. It’s often easy to forget that Greg Saunier and John Dieterich of Deerhoof are classically trained performers/composers underneath the band’s rock-oriented arrangements, sugary melodies, and occasionally lo-fi attitude. Of course, this training is apparent in Deerhoof’s formal ingenuity and harmonic complexity, but they’re so good at integrating these complex gestures into the song format that it’s not always apparent upon a cursory listen. However, with this collaboration, the more classical/experimental nature of Deerhoof’s sound comes to the forefront. Part of this is due to the well-thought-out programming of the set. Balter’s opening work for soprano saxophone revels in noisy yet melodic extended technique that’s comparable to Deerhoof’s more skronk-filled tunes, and his second piece, the elegant art song Ear, Skin, and Bone Riddles, is similar to a standard Deerhoof tune with its near folky melodies and abstract arrangements.
Then comes Deerhoof’s Greg Saunier’s lengthy Deerhoof Chamber Variations, which successfully recontextualizes several of the band’s songs into a classical work. At first, it’s tempting to try and play “name that tune” with the piece, but after a while, the work becomes its own entity and takes on a near-Gershwin quality. Saunier’s orchestration of his band’s melodies serves to illustrate the hidden complexity of the group’s pop craft, and hearing Deerhoof play a set after this suite makes all of the individual parts jump in a whole new way. Balter’s closing work for Ensemble Dal Niente brings all of these elements together in a wholly successful way that manages to merge the idiosyncrasies of both ensemble’s instrumentation into a coherent explosion of textures.
You can stream the concert in its entirety below, courtesy of WQXR.