TMT briefly talked with Jason Lescalleet in anticipation of his digital reissue of The Pilgrim, which was originally released in 2006. You can stream the album below and read an analysis complete with some of the composer’s own personal insight below.
With most pop music — and tonal music, in general — it’s easy to rely on both the functions of Western harmony that have been ingrained into us at an early age and lyrics that tell us directly how to feel. But electronic experimental music’s alien, “abstracted” nature can make it harder to relate to for many casual listeners, the processing, blurring, and amelodicism not as clearly defined as harmony and language. But if I hear anyone claim that electronic music isn’t “expressive enough,” then I’ll turn them toward Jason Lescalleet’s The Pilgrim, which is being reissued digitally in a remastered/expanded format by the composer himself today.
The Pilgrim, despite its experimental nature, is one of the more moving pieces of music of any genre that I’ve heard. The album is a towering elegy to Lescalleet’s father that illustrates his knack for “presenting abstract music in a manner that allows the listener to find their own way into the music.” While The Pilgrim very specifically refers to the loss of Lescalleet’s father, the work creates a universality that has the power to speak to many different people. For over an hour, the piece builds and layers gorgeous austere drones in a manner similar to the compositions of Eliane Radigue and some of Kevin Drumm’s recent ambient work, before giving way to a slow-burning cloud of noise that leads into an absolutely devastating field recording of Lescalleet’s daughter singing “Molly Malone” to her grandfather. Nothing is ever explicitly stated, but the mood is undeniably clear and the music emotionally all-consuming. There are moments when both the meditative piece associated with death is evoked and the rage and struggle are thrust to the forefront and confronted. Lescalleet’s sound sources may hold deeply personal significance, but his processing and treatment renders them emotionally accessible.
The original LP pressing of The Pilgrim featured a live performance dedicated to Lescalleet’s father on one side and an excerpt from their last conversation on the other, in addition to a CD containing a 74-minute version of the titular piece. Format is crucial to Lescalleet’s work, and in this sense, the original version of the record is particularly idiomatic to its design. “The length of storage space…relative fidelity concerns and different audiences are considerations I take very seriously” explains Lescalleet. All of these elements contributed to the composer’s desire to reissue the record digitally and “offer [the] audience high-resolution sound files that are virtually free of media restraints.” Thus, The Pilgrim is “realized at its proper length” of 85 minutes, with the remastering emphasizing the “tonal qualities and acoustic properties” of Lescalleet’s sounds. The reissued version is as format specific as the original, and as a result, the piece gleams in its expanded and remastered form.
The Pilgrim is an important album in Lescalleet’s discography from both a personal standpoint and a musical one. In some ways, it marks a shift into more heavily thematic/conceptual works, as well as a movement into some of the other towering long-form pieces in Lescalleet’s oeuvre. However, The Pilgrim remains a particularly haunting, singular listen, a thoughtful masterwork that serves as both a memorial to the artist’s father and a prime example of how narrative and emotion can arise from abstraction.
• Jason Lescalleet http://www.lescalleet.wordpress.com
Before The Bible
Rap music’s flirtation with self-deification is not a new phenomenon. Before Kanye West wrote “I Am A God,” Lil B did him one better with “I Am God.” Of course, the usage of the colloquial “God,” as in “Peace, God” or “What up, God?” originates with the Five-Percent Nation, which has at various times counted among its adherents Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Brand Nubian, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon and many other great MCs. From this list, Rakim clearly stands out as his unsurpassed lyrical supremacy earned him the title, “The God MC.”
“But wait, I thought Clapton was God!”
Shut the fuck up, cavebitch.
GOD is the author of such holy words as: “I can’t even take you niggas serious/ You disturbed in the head, you delirious/ I’m a hundred, lil nigga, I’m the pure/ You a disease, motherfucker, I’m the the cure/ Get him out of here, never shed a tear/ Peel off on him, leave him in the rear/ My only competition is looking in the mirror/ And not killing niggas is the only thing I fear” and “I’ve been a savage, I aint never been average/ I’ve got a bad bitch but you know I keep me a ratchet/ I shoot the seven Apache, up the game I be clapping/ Clapping at everything moving, I get a rush from the action/ This aint no movie, these youngins really be busting these uzis/ They don’t know how to read but they be toting them toolies/ I’ve got visions of bitches popping champagne in jacuzzis/ If you don’t like what I’m doing then go ahead try to sue me.”
HE comes from Chicago, the hometown to two of the four or five rappers who managed to make this site’s Favorite 50 Albums of 2013 and two more who probably should’ve made it but didn’t. On Wednesday at 2:00 CST, HE released HIS debut EP Before The Bible, which actually came out after The Bible, HIS debut mixtape, but who’s counting? Stream below, then click over to HIS Youtube Channel to watch the GOD get busy.
• GOD: http://youaintgod.com
DREAM SEQUINS® [trailer]
Be inside the inside. Mentally congregate all dreams and realities to one ‘said’ point. Find yourself falling only back upon your bed. Calmly find yourself NMΞSH’d OUT in DREAM SEQUINS®. All of this you’ve seen before in life, whether as a picture or scenic. So now you can OWN it by way of ID imagination and consumption. Feed off the in-flux of new and chartered territories. You’re on and off Earth. Sky is the limit seems nearly tangible. Crushed in the fade of sound, or was that sound? Am I talking, or hearing someone talk outside my home and that is my DREAM SEQUINS®?
When you awake, your laptop is opened up on THIS post via Tiny Mix Tapes, and you RE:watch what you just experienced in bed. NMΞSH sucks your mind grapes out and into the future. Now you begging for all the answers, but you only got this [trailer]. What to do? Get back at him around Feb. 27 and feel DREAM SEQUINS® via AM DISCS. Freak on the video below:
Fat City from Beijing is the now-defunct duo of guitarist Ma Meng and vocalist/synth noodler/misc-noise-device artist Zhu Wenbo. This, their self-titled crowning achievement, almost got lost to oral history. It documents a brief but intense period of no-wave/kraut revival that percolated up from the Beijing underground for a white-hot stretch circa 2009-2011. It was recorded onto tape in the basement studio of fellow kosmische explorers Li Weisi and Li Qing of Soviet Pop in November 2011 for cassette release on Rose Mansion Analog, at the time Beijing’s standard bearer for lo-fi grit tunes. Sadly, RMA soon after ceased to exist, and these tracks sat collecting virtual dust until being dug up and digitally mixed/mastered by P.K.14 vocalist Yang Haisong at the end of last year. Like the recording itself, Fat City’s physical release plays with the analog/digital divide: the packaging is a brutally spare 7-inch sleeve containing a plain-black-sleeved CDR and typewritten lyrics insert. It was produced in an indefinite edition of maybe around thirty copies, given away to friends and family as a final goodbye to a band and an era fondly remembered by the aforementioned 30 people.
The members of Fat City are still around: Ma Meng will show up to the occasional gig, and Wenbo still runs the weekly experimental music series Zoomin’ Night. But the band’s dead as dirt. Go here and name your own price for the full download to get a taste of what they were all about. I guarantee that whatever money you choose to spend will go directly into printing flyers for shows that will be attended by mostly friends of the bands playing.
Lizards of Camelot
Lately, I’ve found myself completely fascinated by the pop music coming out of Brattleboro, Vermont. Artists like Chris Weisman, Ryan Power, Ruth Garbus, Zach Phillips, and Great Valley are crafting some of the most harmonically fascinating songs that are rife with smart/sarcastic/sincere lyrics and wildly inventive production. These folks are creating an incredible alternate universe of pop craft that largely ignores current trends in favor of exploring the beautifully weird possibilities of songs.
Great Valley’s latest album, Lizards of Camelot is another excellent entry into the Brattleboro scene’s canon. The record also feels like a larger group statement since the band’s normal duo of Peter Nichols and Jo Miller-Gamble is often augmented by many of the other key Brattleboro players. Lizards of Camelot is a silly concept record about well, lizards of camelot. In other hands, this concept could easily devolve into pure novelty but Great Valley keep the narrative subtle and the music playful and inventive. For instance, it took me until the gorgeous “Moat of Love” to realize that Nichols was literally singing about lizard people royalty. Like the best work of Ween and Ariel Pink, Lizards of Camelot proves that the ridiculous can still be profoundly beautiful and transcend the strictly goofy.
Lizards of Camelot is out now via NNA Tapes. You can stream five tracks off the record below:
It seems like ever since BBNG’s buzz began building two years ago with the release of their “Odd Future Sessions” video, the boys themselves and perhaps whichever – if any – PR machine is behind them, have been hell-bent on promoting the group’s music as being somehow removed from, or even evolved beyond, the jazz idiom; as if the words “jazz” and “bop” are code for “old-man music.”
[If that’s the case for you, then it’s probably because you, like the BBNG players, are in your early 20s or even younger, but unlike them, you aren’t currently enrolled in a Humber College jazz program and your only exposure to jazz comes from sideways glances at your grandpa’s record collection. What you need to do is realize that your grandpa was/is a bad (grand)motherfucker and go digging through said record collection.]
Pardon me for getting sidetracked there. The point I was getting to is that, contrary to what’s been said in countless interviews and blog posts, BBNG’s music up until now has NOT been removed from the jazz idiom at all, really. The only thing they’re doing differently than the typical modern jazz group, as far as I can tell, is playing popular hip-hop instrumentals. Still, putting one’s own spin on the non-jazz hits of the day is in fact a jazz tradition — one that’s as old as the genre itself.
This new song “CS60,” off their forthcoming III album, might be their farthest step in a new direction, but it still at least nods to fusion. Nevertheless, whether BADBADNOTGOOD is most comfortable being called a jazz trio or a synth-beat-rock outfit or just a group of musicians, they do bring something young and fresh to a genre that’s too often unfairly dismissed as old and stale. Stream it below, daddy-o.
• BADBADNOTGOOD: http://badbadnotgood.com