Alpoko Don
“Lord”

Alpoko Don’s music is so raw, one can only write about it without pretension — a tall order for me, but here goes:

I come from a non-religious family. Mom’s a non-practicing Methodist (agnostic). Dad’s a non-practicing Jew (atheist). I’ve never been to a church or temple service other than weddings and funerals. Culturally, I identify with my father, meaning I’ve inherited his neuroticism, penchant for gallows humor, and taste for Gefilte fish. I trust in science before spirituality, though my understanding of both is tenuous at best.

All that being said, if church sounded anything like the video above, I could probably be convinced to go. Hell, I might even throw a buck or two in the collection plate.

Actually, on second thought I’d rather just shell out $7.99 for the MP3s below. Props to Alex at Steady Bloggin’ for putting me on to Alpoko first in February and again just recently.

• Alpoko Don: http://www.alpokodon.com

Alastair Galbraith / Jean Jacques Palix / David Watson

Pure Speculation [excerpt]

One of my favorite thing about Alastair Galbraith’s records is the dichotomy between “noise” and “song” that permeates his discography. Galbraith has always been adept at creating lurching drone-y soundscapes that somehow manage to give way to moments of melodic bliss. Like many of the best noise rockers, Galbraith’s music creates a world where form, melody, and harmony all rely on/emerge from noise/drone.

On Galbraith’s collaborative work Pure Speculation with Jean Jacques Palix and David Watson, the composer utilizes his collaborators to create a sprawling 22-minute work that merges several disparate soundworlds into a coherent whole while continuing to explore the dichotomy between noise and melody. This is articulated early in the track, when Palix creates a gloriously rustling palette of sounds that Galbraith uses as the instrumental foundation for a song before giving way to a massive drone anchored by Watson’s signature bagpipe playing. The ebb and flow between each section of this work too is handled masterfully. When the white noise of the piece’s opening field recordings return, it provides the first obvious sign that the trio imperceptibly structured the piece so that certain formal tendencies reoccur and develop into different themes.

While Pure Speculation makes me wish for more work from this trio, the album is so rife with structural intricacies and shifting timbres that I know I won’t tire of this lone piece any time soon. Stream an excerpt of the album below:

Pure Speculation is out October 7 via La Station Radar and available for pre-order now.

• Alastair Galbraith: http://www.alastairgalbraith.bandcamp.com
• Jean Jacques Palix: http://www.jjpalix.free.fr
• David Watson: http://www.hsmithagency.com/watson/index.html
• La Station Radar: http://www.lastationradar.com

Ryuichi Sakamoto + Taylor Deupree

“Jyaku”

Man, I hope when I’m an old dude I am one tenth as cool as Ryuichi Sakamoto. As if this dude’s reputation as a founder of techno and a goddamned Academy Award winner wasn’t enough, he manages to do pretty much whatever he wants with his solo career nowadays, producing everything from acoustic piano works to experimental electronica. Sakamoto is also doing a cool surrogate older brother/young sad thing too by reaching out to a lot of like-minded younger electronic artists like Fennesz, Alva Noto, and Taylor Deupree, who all share his interest in imbuing the avant-garde with melody and beauty.

Sakamoto’s most recent collaboration with Taylor Deupree, titled Disappearance, continues the composer’s exploration of this duet dichotomy, which is a welcomed departure from the borderline schlock New Age of 2011’s Flumina with Fennesz. Instead, Disappearance is a looser, more minimal record full of gorgeous ethereal drones, clicks, and scrapes (alternately from Sakamoto’s prepared melodies and Deupree’s field recordings), including Sakamoto’s spare piano playing.

Deupree and Sakamoto clearly took time to weave their sound sources into a synthesized whole, which is especially apparent with album opener “Jyaku.” This particular track is a great example of the two artists’ aesthetics merging, and the overall result is so streamlined that it’s near impossible to tell what’s going on. Even Sakamoto’s signature piano subtlety meshes within the textures, as opposed to calling attention to itself as one of the lone purely acoustic sounds. The whole thing calls to mind the vibe of Andrew Chalk’s best work — the Oren Ambarchi-led Afternoon Tea record — and some of Nicholas Szczepanik’s recent recordings. Yet the piece still remains distinctly Sakamoto, while re-contextualizing many of his trademark sounds into new sonic terrain.

Disappearance is out September 3 via Deupree’s own label 12k. You can listen to “Jyaku” below:

• Ryuichi Sakamoto http://www.sitesakamoto.com
• Taylor Deupree http://www.12k.com/index.php/site/artists/taylor_deupree
• 12k http://www.12k.com

Chocolate Grinder Mix 90

Dérive

When I make a mixtape, I tend to focus first and foremost on the playlist’s transitions — the connective tissue between the songs on the mix. I’ll choose an opening track and then actively search out another one whose beginning simply sounds good coming right after the ending of the first song; fundamentally, the mixtape is a sonic journey, a linear path that the listener follows, so every metaphorical step must make sense in the context of the one that immediately preceded it. I don’t believe there’s anything particularly novel about this additive, song-by-song method of mixtape curation, but as I started to assemble this Chocolate Grinder mix, I began to consciously consider the limitations and possibilities of this technique. It occurred to me that, when I make a tape for a specific person, I try to stick to a generally consistent vibe throughout the entirety of the mix; a Wolf Eyes track and a Danny Brown song are unlikely to exist on the same CD.

But why not? With this eight-song playlist, I decided to undo all of the restrictions on genre, artist, or any other category that I normally self-impose while making a mix; the only criterion for each track was that it had to make sense — often on a basic sonic/aesthetic level, but occasionally in terms of context — in relation to the song that came directly before it. And before this introduction becomes completely overlong, I have to mention one fascinating result of this unrestricted, automatist method of mixtape curation: in seemingly every draft of this mix that I came up with, unexpected and completely unpremeditated connections between the songs were revealed. For example, it wasn’t until several listens through this final version of the mix that I realized that Dean Blunt’s chilling repetition of “There are gonna be gunshots” at the end of “Six” foreshadows “Hold My Liquor’s” intrinsic link (both in Justin Vernon’s referential opening lyric, as well as in Chief Keef’s legal issues) to the gun violence that continues to cripple certain part of Chicago.

Stream below, and subscribe to our podcast here.

[00:00] Takako Minekawa and Dustin Wong - “Party on a Floating Cake”
[04:53] Julianna Barwick - “One Half”
[08:00] Dean Blunt - “Six”
[10:34] Co La - “Remarkable Features”
[14:09] Arca - “Anaesthetic”
[16:08] Kanye West - “Hold My Liquor”
[19:53] Lil Wayne - “Love Me (feat. Drake & Future)”
[23:58] Carly Rae Jepsen - “Call Me Maybe (Saint Pepsi remix)”

After School

“Heaven”

The average K-Pop company’s breakneck pace of profiteering on the backs of their $pit$hined star-products never fails to astound. One dizzying example is boy band B.A.P, who made their debut in January 2012 and dared five “comebacks” (i.e., new EPs and corollary press junkets, tours, adverts) that year alone. And now they’re on track to break that record in 2013.

Then there’s legendary girl group After School (whose “Shampoo” — it must be said — remains a top contender for the Korean pop machine’s truest masterpiece). They made their Korean comeback this year with the First Love mini-album and a music video-minded mastery of pole-dancing (executed in parallel with the Japanese debut album by After School “sub-unit” Orange Caramel). Now AF is gearing up for Japanese language single “Heaven,” the group’s best work since their vaunted 2011 heyday. The ebullient hit’s flattened funk riffs sponge some groove from Daft Punk’s recent Nile Rodgers reruns, minus the interview-espoused rockism: there’re plenty of drum machines and fake-as-shit strings in “Heaven” after all.

The video’s intro pole-dancing sequence also features a bonus minute of mesmeric G-funk. Here’s to hoping that’s an excerpt from the instrumental of “Crazy Driver,” the b-side that’ll be featured on the “Heaven” single when it drops on October 2.

• After School (kr): http://a-school.co.kr
• After School (jp): http://www.after–school.jp
• Avex Trax: http://avexnet.jp

Jesu

“Homesick”

After battering us into a state of bright-eyed submission for more than 10 years, industrial pioneer Justin Broadrick’s Jesu project has built a catalog nearly as deep as his seminal output with (currently reunited and touring!) Godflesh. More than simply his outlet for clean vocals and shoegaze textures, Jesu channels Broadrick’s tonal savagery and production mastery into monolithic compositions just as rooted in the mind (see: your interior retreat into long-buried emotions) as in the body (see: the wide arc formed by your sludge-paced headbanging). Though the project’s EP releases can stretch into drifting side-long structures or incorporate electronic techniques developed under the Pale Sketcher moniker, each “proper” Jesu album finds Broadrick complicating his template of defeated balladry and distorted catharsis in the context of another song cycle.

“Homesick,” the opening track of the forthcoming Everyday I Get Closer to the Light From Which I Came LP, buries Broadrick’s vocals a little lower in the mix than usual, while his unmistakable down-tuned guitars pound out a major key progression in time with the martial drum track. As ever, God is in the details: the chiming synth phrases that crest over the low-end, the four-chord arpeggio masked behind the wall of gain, and guitar overdubs layered in as the track climbs up to its conclusion.

Everyday I Get Closer to the Light From Which I Came arrives September 24 through Broadrick’s own imprint Avalanche Inc.

• Jesu: http://www.avalancheinc.co.uk/jesu.html
• Avalanche Inc.: http://www.avalancheinc.co.uk/store.html

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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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