Matt Jones & The Reconstruction
“Hand Out The Drugs”
Two years ago, Matt Jones almost died — and the twist here is, unlike some sappily spun story about a bearded, dumped dude finding hope in some hackneyed Thoreau-esque cabin-escapism, Jones readily admitted that even if it was Music that saved his life, it was Music that almost destroyed it, too. Indeed, his airy voice sweeps with devastation and delicacy, that breathy scrape that tails into sweetly clawing trills like the comforting hand that grasps, almost violently, at your shoulder to comfortingly rear you back from the edge, from collapse. Yes, dark and beautiful, as the cliché goes, the kind of heavy shit that makes you glad you’re only inside the narrator’s shoes (or roped to the narrator’s chair) for just four minutes at a time, but damned if he doesn’t wind it all together with such poetic allure.
I’m not here to spin the same old story that Jones deserves just as much romanticizing and rabble as the big Grammy-folkies or any other; I’m just here to remind you that there’s always something you’re missing, that one might never know what poignant, revelatory musical moments can be mined from unassuming voices, moments, songs that prove more rewarding and endearing than any of that stuff that Starbucks is selling you. Peek into Michigan’s folk scene — it’s been churning along for a while now — particularly with Jones’ recently-released Half Poison / Half Pure. Then peek down an overlooked street in Detroit’s northwest corner through the lens of director Oren Goldenberg (Our School). A hazy, daydreamy drift along crumbled curb-sides in front of the houses and the people of the suburbs of post-post-industrial America that often get left outside the frame.
It builds. It starts to roll. The clapping begins. Clap along.
For me, it’s that low, pitch-shifted vocal sound (probably just a synth?) that makes Lunar Miasma’s “Expanded Dimension.” When it creeps in, I instantly picture the steam punk Blade Runner city: dark, pensive, filled with neon lights bursting through ambient smoke ‘n’ shit. Mission accomplished? I should also add that “Expanded Dimension” reminds me of how utterly burnt out I am on moody synth-ambience — a matter of overexposure I guess. But forget that; sometimes you’ve got to take a step back and listen with fresh ears. Props to Lunar Miasma for keeping it real, sticking to his guns.
Ladies and gentlemen, Derek Rogers, since 2008:
Cassette, cassette, cassette, cassette, cassette, cassette, cassette, cassette, CDr, cassette, cassette, cassette, cassette, cassette, cassette, cassette, CDr, CDr, cassette, cassette, cassette, cassette, cassette, cassette, 3-inch CDr (ooooOOOOooo!), CDr, cassette, cassette, cassette, cassette, CDr, cassette, cassette, cassette, cassette, cassette, cassette, cassette, cassette, cassette. And now, as of Wendesday June 13th, 2012, we have vinyl.
Yes, the list of tapes and CDs above is massive (that’s no less than 40 releases in less than four years), and many including myself have only had the chance to listen to but a fraction of Rogers’ output thus far. Still, the move to wax marks a very grand occasion for this particular purveyor of drone, and this video preview for Saturations (magnificently put together by TMT’s own Lee Noble) ushers in the Greenup Industries release with humbling aplomb, announcing the vinyl as especially important somehow.
The music features waves of shimmering, trembling ambience beneath a seance of singing strings (generously bowed by collaborator Petra Kelly). The visuals really add to the piece’s overall impact with the camera’s slight unsteadiness and woozy, dream-like qualities making for a nice match to the music’s shy, transcendental beauty. Also, word on the street is that the video has the mausoleum from the 1979 flick PHANTASM in it. (Anybody…? Okay, I haven’t seen it, but that detail seemed important enough to mention.) Anyway, Rogers and Noble give the lifeless so much life here, taking on stationary objectivity and packing it with the emotive locomotion of a million love-of-your-life breakups happening simultaneously, all the while staying ingeniously subtle.
Have I reviewed this yet? Here’s the review: “Linear Truths” is gorgeous.
1999 was a rough year for East Coast rap: Bad Boy Records floundered in the wake of Puff Daddy’s dud of a second album, Ma$e retired from the game unexpectedly early to follow a Christian calling, and talented Big L was murdered just blocks from his home. Now, 13 years later, we’re back in 1999 — only this time, it’s the debut mixtape from Joey Bada$$, a 17-year old rapper from Brooklyn who steeps his sound in the hearty, break-heavy beats of the 90s. Bada$$ may still be in high school (“Fuck trigonometry!” he sneers on FromdaTomb$), but his flow is startlingly mature, recalling A1 or perhaps even a young Nas. The top-notch production from DOOM and Freddie Joachim provides the perfect canvas for the MC to show his skills — deft syllabic switcheroos, hazy stoner pontifications, and plenty of nostalgia.
• Joey Bada$$ - http://badassjoey.tumblr.com
VHS Vision [album stream]
Crash Symbols have been on an interesting tangent lately: full-on 90s-style beat-making, digital Dreamcast thumping, padded house music, more synth squabbling, a wild mashup of low and high fidelity. Actually, I’m just describing Cosmic Sound’s VHS Vision, the somewhat schizo-project of producer Stephen Ferris (which was actually released in 2010, but is now finding a proper new home). Like I said, the mix of more vintage sounds with a digital sheen creates an interesting effect, kind of like when movies put a quiet sad song over a huge action scene — you know what I’m talking about. Maybe that technique can only be used so much before it becomes a total cliché, but the musical equivalent is still working wonders. As a result, a lot of VHS Vision feels like a sound collage, even though it might not be. I’m into not knowing.
Existers [album stream]
Do you remember elementary school music class? I was taught melody, timing, and harmonies by doing exercises like splitting the class into three sections to sing “Row, row, row your boat” all starting at different times, or having different parts of the room make rain noises by stomping their feet or rubbing their hands together. The music teacher signaled the start and end of each part, and it all kind of degenerated into noise in the middle, only to have it kind of come together at the end. What is the adult version of that? A bunch of people sitting around in a circle, pressing play at designated times on their laptops or smartphones? It would be like a “Kumbaya” for the digital era. Why would I clap my hands together when I can press a button that makes the noise for me?
Never forget Existers. And you won’t, because Lucky Dragons are timeless. The album’s title track is a singalong campfire song, except the campfire is one of those electric fireplaces and everyone is wearing neon colors and sitting “Indian-style.” How did those uncoordinated kids turn into this? From drowning in pixels.
• Lucky Dragons: http://luckydragons.org