I have this ongoing argument with one my friends that we will eventually begin moving away from the hyper pace of radio pop music back to something more easy-listening, slow, and repetitive. The appeal of repetition has always seemed to hold some place in beat music, riding out a repurposed loop for as long as need be, maybe making a change or two along the way. Hip-hop circa 1994 had this down to a science, hinting at the change-up through verses and choruses, finally feeding it to the listener at the exact moment when they couldn’t have waited another loop for it. It’s like the final showdown in Western films (or samurai movies to be Wu-Tang appropriate). While many beatmakers have been caught up in the maximalist-approach-made-simple via a Macbook and the right software, dudes like Ohbliv are still holding down the groove, like a nod to the head-nod rather than a step toward the dance floor. I can only imagine that if my theory on pop music is wrong, it will only cause these bedroom beatmakers to keep slowing it down and simplifying it, in the face of a music industry continuously trying to find new ways to overfill the space between the MP3s top and bottom. Here’s to ohblivion.
• Ohbliv: http://ohbliv.bandcamp.com
Howe Gelb is one of those artists who perfected a particular style early in his career, and despite releasing consistently solid records for decades, his work often goes unnoticed because it doesn’t follow trends or vary too radically from his initial sound. However, this doesn’t mean that Gelb’s releases aren’t extremely eclectic and varied. For instance, one can find solo piano works, collaborations with Spanish gypsy groups, desert-tinged noise rock, and full-lengths with a backing gospel choir among many many other things in Gelb’s discography. These styles may seem radically juxtaposed at first, but part of Gelb’s talent as a songwriter/performer is largely in making these seemingly disparate genres fit in perfectly with his aesthetic. Part of the reason for this is that many of these styles are embedded in Gelb’s sound to begin with, and with each release, a new element often comes to the forefront. It’s for this reason that Gelb’s stylistic explorations don’t seem as radical as, say, David Bowie, and perhaps this is why his records don’t always receive the critical attention they deserve.
Dust Bowl is Gelb’s latest record, and unsurprisingly it’s another excellent synthesis of Gelb’s influences with the stylistic framing of spare folk arrangements this time. This is perhaps one of Gelb’s sparsest records since his late 90s lo-fi releases for V2. However, the bareness of the production here allows the listener to see how Gelb’s raw musical material can serve as a stylistic melting pot even without the clever production of many of his Giant Sand releases. Dust Bowl features everything from the country blues of “Porch Banjo” and “John Deere,” to the jazzy piano ballads like “The Old Overrated” and “Reality or Not,” to the deconstructed desert pop on “Forever and a Day” and the fragile “Man on a String.” All of the material is undeniably Gelb, and as a result, these stylistic deviations are almost imperceptible, but they’re there. The fact that Gelb can create such a spare album that still manages to conjure up a number of styles is a testament to his prowess as a songwriter. It may not be a huge departure from some of his other work, but Gelb excels with subtleties, and Dust Bowl is another superb variation on his signature sound.
You can stream Dust Bowl in its entirety below via Bandcamp:
• Howe Gelb: http://www.howegelb.com
Spectral Life (extract)
While Locrian’s most recent monolith of a record Return to Annihilation proved more concise and songular than any of their previous work, the upcoming solo LP from the band’s singer/multi-instrumentalist Terence Hannum shifts the dial back into side-long minimal drone. At a low volume, the first excerpt from Spectral Life reaches us as an oscillation of cresting overtones. Cranked up all the way, Hannum’s drones overwhelm with detail and physicality. He finds room in his wide mix for vocal chants stretched to improbable lengths, cymbal crashes layered into a steady pulse, and spiny arpeggio sequences that air out for minutes on end. As they fade into the expanding haze, these voices sketch out a symphonic drone that can reward a close listen or soundtrack a muted meditation. The excerpt stream cuts off when that oscillator starts to squall like mad, and we’re left here imagining the heights (or depths) the session reaches before its conclusion. Black metal tremolo shreddery? Massive synth sub-bass? Tortured screams? Or naw, maybe he plays it cooool and dips all the way down into even purer tones.
We’ll find out when Spectral Life ships from Shelter Press on July 29. You can pre-order it here.
Chaz & Alex
Legit, y’all ready for The Enlightenment? Prepare, because it’s so much more now than what has previously been tasted. Clear a path for Chaz (Metallic Ghosts) & Alex, ‘cause they not only poppin’ that feet-beat, robot boogie, and trash-synth, but they movin’ masses. Try and sit still listening to the entirety of The Enlightenment. I DARE YOU! Vocal manips/clips/samples/bits. Fine sustains, auraing your dance bubble. Galactic dance floors melting into Earth’s skyline. The sun setting into a pair of shoes itching to be tied and worn. Savior blessings for all to gospel in its faith. OMG them POPS!! Then, the automated humorous brand “Certified Hit” twitches in and out your skull.
Chaz & Alex’s influences are not obvious either, but they in there: that Dean Blunt woman-in-the-machine vocode, Young Smoke and Paisley Parks troll-beat cuts, Fortune 500 sample kitche, Splash Tapes laugh-swaggery, and even old school Girl Talk tweet(ish) mashup. Fuck, and if you don’t feel the spirit within The Enlightenment, check ya pulse, ‘cause this might already be your second listen, as the stuttering beat is now making a pace for your valves.
Also, tonight at 10 PM (EST), you have a chance to rub some SPF420 on the backs of Chaz & Alex during their live album release party and DJ set, alongside DJ Clap, 회사AUTO, and リバーブ LITE. Get some Tinychat style!
Noisemaker Eric Copeland, of Black Dice fame, has just released a new LP with DFA Records, called Joke In The Hole, and here’s a free track to listen to until you go down to the record store and pick up the album later this afternoon (if you haven’t already). “Cheap Treat” is a deep funk track that starts off with good ol’ Black Dicey abrasion and ends up a fun and summery jam. The whole record is full of feel-good beats and in-your-face textures. It’s the ideal mid-July aggro-dance record, perfect for your sweaty weekend barbecue or daily shandy sip-off.
NYC, HELL 3:00 AM (trailer #2)
OH FUCK YEAH. Trailer #2 is here for NYC, HELL 3:00 AM, James Ferraro’s forthcoming album on Hippos in Tanks, and while it’s not quite as bizarre or as breathtaking as trailer #1, it’s still undeniably captivating. In contrast to floating safely in the digital sky above New York’s cityscapes, Ferraro this time puts us on the highway, stealing home-video-style glimpses (over and over) of a burning car. By the time we get past the wailing guitar, anxious vocals, and minimal rhythms of the trailer’s main sequence, the vocals CD-skip their way to a riveting symphony of sirens, traffic noise, looped pop, and muffled vocals. And I’m eating it up.
NYC, HELL 3:00 AM is out October 15 on Hippos in Tanks.