Sean McCann
“Character Change”

There was a time when a blown note meant something. When a change in tempo and timbre signaled a dynamic shift in idealism. It was the art of composition, now adrift in a sea of improvisation and impatience. The investment in time by a listener presenting diminishing returns. Mozart tossed in his grave; Glass wears a hangdog face; Kanye compares himself to God.

But lo, Sean McCann re-emerges from our apathetic mist with enthusiasm, unfurling long compositions with no worry of rebuke or haunted by missed opportunities. His return isn’t some snooty dressing down of current pop sensibilities; it’s a strident call to recapture the spirit of Sergei Prokofiev. Music is allowed to be fun and exciting, even if carefully crafted notes on a scale are played just so.

At least so it goes with “Character Change,” an agile piece showcasing McCann’s growing proficiency as a composer and musician, each instrument a separate voice conveying a tale as vibrant and rich as the listener’s imagination allows. Early bellows give way to twinkling toes and nose kisses, majestic forest creatures prancing across an idyllic meadow. The mist eventually parts, and we are left in a meadow of unpronounceable respite.

You know, rainbows and unicorns and all that shit.

Sean McCann’s new album, Music For Private Ensemble, ships July 9 via his own Recital imprint. Reserve your copy here.

• Sean McCann: http://mccann.bandcamp.com
• Recital: http://www.recitalprogram.com

Alessandro Cortini

“Resta”

Wow. Say what you will about the limitless capabilities of software synthesizers, but Alessandro Cortini is about to throw down a knob-gripping gauntlet on behalf of the analog realm. Forse 1, his upcoming double LP for Important Records, showcases a series of his compositions for the Buchla Music Easel that tonally chew up and spit out the synth competition.

Check out our first taste, “Resta,” below. Revel in the thick, juicy oscillations of its central chord progression; peep those gentle little upper-register chirps; try to hold back your smile as the cutoff opens up and the piece escalates into beautiful distortion (I’ve just been sitting here playing it over and over for a while). In the composer’s own words: “The real change happens at a spectral/dynamic level, as opposed to the harmonic/chordal one. I believe that the former are just as effective as the latter, in the sense that the sonic presentation (distortion , filtering, wave shaping, etc) are just as expressive as a chord change.” I agree, man. Damn.

The Italian-born sonic guru has put in years of synth work, live performance, and production for the likes of Nine Inch Nails, M83, and Ladytron. A member of Chicago-based synth collective Trash Audio, his Easel played a crucial role in Trash Audio founder Surachai’s Embraced LP earlier this year. Forse 1 (due July 8th) represents some of the first solo work released under his own name — and, according to Imprec, the album represents only one-third (!!!) of his music they’re releasing this year. May all six of these LPs someday reach my turntable safely and come to wholly consume my home with their insane tones.

• Important Records: http://www.importantrecords.com

Maan

“Love Lost”

The KRAAK website’s write-up on Maan compares the Flemish duo’s sound to that of Belgium’s wave era, Shadow Ring, The Fall and Arab Strap. If you have no idea what that might mean, then you’re in good company, because supposedly neither do Tim Depraetere and Simon Marius Apers, the two twenty-something-aged engineering students who comprise Maan. Truth be told, they sound like a couple of brooding weirdos who start just about every song with a cold synth or bass line that screams “sample this,” and that’s more than good enough for me. Also, the perfect irony of a band called Maan releasing an album on a label called KRAAK is not lost here. That album, Manifold, is available now on LP. Stream the single, “Love Lost,” below, and while you’re at it, check out this ghastly fan-made video for “Define My Day.”

• KRAAK: http://www.kraak.net/en

Cool Cops

“Cool Cops”

“I’m a cool cop, I like to skateboard/party all the time”

“I’m a cool cop, I like to go to art museums”

I’ve never actually met a cool cop.

What? Are you looking for some sort of explanation?

• Basketball Club: http://basketballclub.bandcamp.com

Sic Alps

“Carrie Jean”

Guys, we’ve reached the end of an era: the finale of the Chocolate Grinder’s first-annual, three-part Sic Alps video premiere extravaganza! Drag City’s Rian Murphy has some extra special words to mark the occasion, so for this post, I’ll let him take it away:

…and then there was “Carrie Jean.” Over the past month, you’ve been around the world in three days - Sic days, you might say, courtesy of the jet-propelled balloon called, “She’s On Top,” and the video trip diaries that have accompanied each song out into the world. We started you off with the self-titled moment, a glamming, fizzing moment of puro pop. Next came the shift into high gear, with the street-wise (and loving it) speed-dating of “Biz Bag.” Now, we cycle down, cutting the engines and hearing the sounds of the long night of the earth rising up to us. “Carrie Jean” is a slow-marching portrait of a female superman, in whose dossier Sic Alps find all sorts of creepy details that glow luminescent in the dusk. It’s been a heck of a time bringing the Alps to you, Mohammad! Enjoy another day’s images, repeat!

Gotta hand it to Sic Alps for keeping the videos coming all month long. It’s been a SIC ride, to say the least (ouch, I’m gonna get it for that one).

The She’s On Top EP is out now on 12-inch, MP3, and FLAC via Drag City.

• Sic Alps: http://www.sicalps.com
• Drag City: http://www.dragcity.com

Marie Davidson

Marie Davidson

A hi-hat clicks into the natural reverb of an empty room. Claustrophobic arpeggios and low-end drones crest over primal drum loops: boom boom boom boom BA BA BA x 12. A woman’s voice intones (sweet) (detached) (ominous) French (promises) (discoveries) (threats). Close your eyes and its almost like you can see the notes spinning around you, beckoning you in with little vibrating hands. Temporary synesthesia: the snare is white, the bass drum is black, the voice oscillates from green to blue, the synth is too rainbow to figure out. Marie Davidson stands across from you in that part your mind that resembles a derelict warehouse, surrounded by synthesizers, mic in hand, doing all of the things at once, filling the void with dark textures and dark ideas. Just for you, you think. “Just for me.” Her session gathers and loops more little melodies, intensifying, as her words hang in the open space, just for you.

Holodeck Records continues their mission to bring the finest nocturnal, mystifying tones to our eardrums. If Troller’s industrial death-knell spooked you just right, Montreal-based multi-instrumentalist/composer Marie Davidson’s self-titled EP of jet-black electronic pop — now available on cassette — might do it even better. When she packs up her gear and heads out into the night, it’s not over yet. Take a seat. You’ll still hear her in your head, “Je sais que je sais que je sais / Je sais que je sais que je sais” x ∞.

• Holodeck Records: http://holodeckrecords.com

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CHOCOLATE GRINDER is our audio/visual section, with an emphasis on the lesser heard and lesser known. We aim to dig deep, but we'll post any song or video we find interesting, big or small.


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