We Are Failed
Russel M Harmon (a.k.a Russel.M.Harmon) lives in Reykjavik, Iceland, which is an awesome place to live if you make the kind of music he makes: bleak, electronic soundscapes occasionally accompanied by ice-cold beats that sound more like satellites and arctic radio coms than an MPC. Originally released in September 2012 during one of Iceland’s three yearly winters (winter, winter, winter, summer), We Are Failed builds slowly and purposefully, allowing the listener to soak in the atmosphere of the song before amping up the white noise and intensifying the drums (such as on “Without You, I’d Cease”). Here it is re-released with new artwork and a full side of remixes by the professional Rano Tapes. Refined to the point of being clinical, this is not impressionistic music in the least. Rather, it plays like an album of modern architecture, purposefully constructed and painted within the lines, but using Harmon’s emotive palette of grays and blues. Dig “Tragedy Fractures” for a dramatic dance number from about as far north as music can go and still be danceable.
They Might Be Giants
“Call You Mom”
Okay guys, I’m gonna be real with you: it is hard being a They Might Be Giants fan. I’ve spent a good part of my adult life trying to convince people that this band rules, but it often falls on deaf ears. Once, I went so far as to give a group of uninitiated friends extra tickets to see TMBG, only to have said friends leave a few songs into the show. I think part of the reason TMBG seem so impenetrable is because of their singular ability to tap into an emotion a friend of mine once described as “happy sadness.” The band’s music is often unapologetically silly, but lurking underneath even the goofiest moments is an undeniable sense of melancholy. These sentiments of John Flansburg and John Linnel’s are far too uncommon in an age where ironic appropriations of other decade’s music are considered cutting edge. That’s not meant to be a criticism of genres such as vaporwave, but I think that this modern irony/cynicism may partially be why the Johns’ new music is often overlooked or pigeonholed, despite the fact that their last two albums are quite possibly some of the best of their career.
2011’s Join Us easily ranks among Lincoln and Flood as one of TMBG’s most consistent records. It found the band experimenting with electronic production while tightening up their power pop prowess. Lyrically, Join Us was both subtly defensive and dark with songs like the the scathing “You Don’t Like Me” nearly reading as TMBG’s playful defense of their career-long aesthetic.
If Join Us was the band’s defense statement, then 2013’s Nanobots is the group’s full embrace of themselves. This time the electronics/expanded instrumental palette of Join Us often goes hand in hand with the more overt power pop moments, and a sense of goofy weirdness pervades through everything. There’s also a handful of miniature songs reminiscent of Apollo 18’s “Fingertips” suite. However, unlike that work, the miniatures on Nanobots are less radio rock deconstructions and more Maher Shalal Hash Baz-esque exercises in the ability of brevity to convey emotion.
Then there’s “Call You Mom” which boasts unabashedly E-Street Band-esque arrangements and a classic pop chord progression. While the track may have some of the more straightforward production of the record, it’s lyrically a perfect distillation of the band’s “happy sadness.” Despite it’s clever wordplay and uptempo accompaniment, “Call You Mom” is a cutting portrait of emotional immaturity and social awkwardness ruining a relationship. So, put your preconceptions aside, take TMBG’s advice and “join them.”
Nanobots is out now via the group’s own Idlewild Records. You can listen to “Call You Mom” below:
• They Might Be Giants: www.theymightbegiants.com
the orange tape
Reckno ran out of yellow copies of the orange tape, but now the orange tape comes in pink!
Yes, I am talking about cassettes, but no, none of them are orange — at least the plastic part isn’t. dtpcu, who’s called a “nomadic super weirdo” by UK cassette label Reckno, has dubbed his/her/their newest release the orange tape and has filled each side with dense, mystifying collages of sound. dtcpu cuts detailed samples of polyrhythmic pop and pitch-shifted recordings of pre-teenage conversations with X-ACTO blade precision, then slops on glue and sticks them on a floating backdrop of noise and drone.
Each 15-minute side of the orange tape is filled to the brim by one of these colorful collages; get your pink one now!
PrismCorp Virtual Enterprises
Home™ / ClearSkies™
PrismCorp Virtual Enterprises, an “applied genetics” corporation from Hong Kong (and also the umbrella entity for subsidiaries Macintosh Plus, 情報デスクVIRTUAL, Laserdisc Visions, Fuji Grid TV, Sacred Tapestry, and more), has just unveiled its first project under its own name. Unsurprisingly, it’s PrismCorp’s grandest statement yet: a two-album suite called Home™ and ClearSkies™. If last year’s album by 情報デスクVIRTUAL could be considered bold for the extremely minimal editing of its source material, then what could be made of these albums, which feature even less artistic manipulation?
Throughout the 39 tracks — yes, this is yet another endurance test — PrismCorp takes the bland sounds of resort music MIDI jams and keyboard demo sequences and drags them into an aesthetic domain. But not kicking and screaming: these tracks are harmless, no matter what the context. What changes, however, is the audience’s perceptions. This is simulacrum, with no apparent “substance” to be found in both the original and the recontxtualized, unless that substance is the packaged escapism and dollar-bin emotions designed specifically for the spa goers, wellness seekers, and luxury elite. What’s left, then, is a feeling of vacancy, utility folding under a seemingly indifferent/anti-aesthetic hand, where even our homes and the clear skies are designated as mere goods for PrismCorp’s virtual product line, our emotions pre-determined, tailored, and ultimately manipulated without our knowing. Welcome Home™.
Home™ and ClearSkies™ are out now on Beer On The Rug. Several videos, including tracks that weren’t released on either album, can be found at PrismCorp’s YouTube channel.
Chocolate Grinder Mix 77
Little April Shower
For the first time in my life, I am living in a place where the changing of seasons also means a change in the weather — a change in the color of the trees, a change in the smell of the air. You see, I grew up and went to college in a place where the only indicator of springtime was a trip to Rite Aid for some Claritin. Now, I watch the city parks and distant islands beam bright green, and witness fluorescent leaves budding inches away from my apartment window. Oh, and it’s raining. It’s just like that one scene from Bambi with the thunderstorm, but it lasts longer, and it’s really more of a constant drizzle. In fact, that scene from Bambi is the whole inspiration for this mix. The brain-numbingly nostalgic “Little April Shower” starts the mix off like a lamb, and you’ll just have to listen to find out what it turns into.
Oh, and have a happy 4/20 weekend readers. Stay high, stay dry.
Stream below, and subscribe to our podcast here.
[00:00] Chorus from Bambi OST - “Little April Shower” [excerpt]
[00:50] Rice Master Yen - “Hollay”
[02:35] Oh No - “Perfect Cylinders”
[02:50] Liz Christine - “Two Seconds”
[03:58] ECO VIRTUAL - “Morning Haze”
[04:46] “Little April Shower” [excerpt]
[05:11] Dil Withers - “Hi-Fi”
[06:02] Lalic - “Shelter/Sanctuary”
[07:35] Dane Chadwick - “Gas Drugs”
[09:20] “Little April Shower” [excerpt]
[10:04] Constrobuz - “Leaving Earth”
[12:23] Yong Yong - “Leggings”
[13:37] Triad God - “Bland Day Tumm My Tung Joe Ter Ruler”
[16:04] Ohbliv - “Skycavern (Outro)”
[17:13] 회사AUTO – “scr๏๏ge [chopped & screwed]”
[19:16] Weak Stream - “As Aqua Fauna’s Sanitation”
[20:06] Infinity Frequencies - “Stars”
[20:57] Electric Sea Spider - “Honey Spoon”
The new Azealia Banks video is sort of like Madonna’s “Bedtime Story” video with the whole eyes-as-mouths thing, except with more owls and illuminati imagery. As long as she keeps coming out with crazy clips for us to gawk at, I think we can all put up with the constantly-prolonged wait for her major label debut, Broke With Expensive Taste — a big “what if” of a release that appears to be standing on the precipice of Detox-level purgatory. In the meantime, let’s just watch owls fly out of A.B’s forehead and hope for the best.