The Big Ship
When a band names themselves after a track on one of Brian Eno’s most lauded albums, it should be expected that said group would specialize in a particular brand of sophisticated ambient art pop. Well, Chicago’s The Big Ship are just that band! The group openly worships Eno (check their Twitter moniker for yet another example of this), but sonically they more closely resemble Bad Timing-/Eureka-era Jim O’Rourke with a dash of doomy post-rock drone. Like O’Rourke, these two boys love interlocking repetitive guitar parts that expand in texture as their works develop. Interestingly, O’Rourke often openly admitted to treating the aforementioned Drag City albums as musical melting pots for his deep array of obscure 60s and 70s influences. In a way, the stitched-together approach of an album like Eureka was a sort of precursor to hypnagogic pop, with its attempts to marry such disparate influences as Burt Bacharach, minimalism, and Ivor Cutler in order to create a completely new work out of the fuzzy memories of old.
It’s clear that nostalgia is also an important part of The Big Ship’s aesthetic as well, and in the video for “A Rabbit” (one of the most exquisitely song-oriented tracks off their excellent debut full-length for Hausu Mountain [disclosure: Mukqs is involved with the label]), director Nick Ciontea makes a direct reference to this by processing what looks like old family video footage. The effect of the processing often gives the viewer the sensation of watching a videotape of another videotape being played back on a VCR. I can’t help but wonder if in a way this reflects The Big Ship’s seeming love for 90s experimental art pop and, in turn, those artists’ love of prior generations’ forward-thinking art songs. Near the end of the video, images get blurred and distorted to the point where everything looks like a beautiful blurry mess. This implicitly reminds us that original influences, though still present, often get blurred when passed through generations of different artists. When the referential art of a man like O’Rourke becomes the source material for a band like The Big Ship, you get a very pretty song and video just like this.
The Big Ship’s debut album A Circle is Forever is out March 26 on Hausu Mountain. You can watch the video for “A Rabbit” above.
“La Musica de Harry Fraud.” Every time you hear that two-second snippet, you know you’re in for something good. From the commercial heavy-hitters (Wiz Khalifa, Rick Ross) to the Marijuana MCs (Curren$y, Smoke DZA), to New York’s hip-hop champs, young and old (Action Bronson, Kool G Rap), Fraud’s classy, brassy samples are beloved by all. On his latest mixtape, Adrift, Fraud doesn’t call upon one or two of his pals for rhymes; he enlists an entire fleet of flowsters. All of the aforementioned names are featured on the 23-song tape. But wait, there’s more! You’ve got tracks featuring Pusha T, Danny Brown, Fat Trel, and even Mac Miller, as a treat for the kiddos. The varied performers are united by Fraud’s keen eye for rich orchestral samples and commanding drums, and despite the over-stuffed guest list, Adrift never threatens to sink under its own weight. Just be prepared to hear “La Musica de Harry Fraud” A LOT.
• Harry Fraud: http://www.harryfraud.com
For an art installation called “Cover Versions” at the Laura Mars Grp. gallery in Berlin this past December, artist/musician/producer Andrew Pekler created the ultimate concept album: one record with 300 different covers. Pekler took dollar-bin LPs of retro easy-listening (with classically corny artwork featuring misty seascapes, pastel-tinted portraits of beautiful women wearing polyester, and grainy closeups of candle-lit still life) and covered-up the existing text on the album covers with colorful circles and rectangles. For the art exhibit, all of the albums are displayed on wooden shelves, in the style of a hip indie record store, while Pekler performed the music contained within each record.
Similar to his visual artwork, Pekler’s music can also been described as a collage. By arranging found sounds and field recordings into completely original tunes, Pekler is a master of taking from the endless ocean of existing artwork (good or bad) and making it into something completely new and progressive. Here, Pekler samples the original records from the installation and creates entirely unique works that sound nothing like their originals.
Only available physically in the form of those 300 LPs (as of now, you can still grab one from German distributor Fantôme Verlag), digital versions of Cover Versions are limited to a sampler of the record on SoundCloud and the full piece “Candles,” which you can hear below.
“Say Amen” [ft. A$AP Ferg]
Perfect timing — Bodega Bamz’s clip for “Say Amen,” the third video off his Strictly for my P.A.P.I.Z. mixtape, comes less than a week after white smoke started pouring from the Vatican. Bamz and A$AP Ferg spit before the altar, in the confession booths, and — in a bit of a Dan Brown twist — what appears to be a dungeon. Ferg plays priest garbed in a Diplomats beanie and a heavy wooden rosary, while Bamz preaches to his audiences in both pew and pit. A bit of Sunday schooling from two of New York’s freshest faces in rap.
The Flaming Lips
The Terror [live at SXSW]
Look guys, I love the Flaming Lips a lot. I’d go so far as to say that they’re one of my favorite bands ever. Sometimes I’m pretty sure they’re my favorite even (at least top five). And you know what? I pretty much love Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots too (I mean who doesn’t?), but what I say next I say out of love: goddammit, I really don’t want to hear my beloved Lips play some of those songs ever again. After the skronk fest of 2009’s Embryonic and all of the frequently amazing long-form experiments and collaborations that ensued afterwards, it just seems that the Lips have much more potential as a live band than the standard greatest hits spectacle that they offer.
Well, Wayne Coyne and peeps have a new record coming out, and last Thursday at their headlining gig at SXSW, the Lips lived up to their experimental live potential by performing The Terror in its entirety. The album isn’t quite as bashy as some of the band’s recent work, but it’s instead wonderfully cold, electronic, and Kraut-y. A huge theme for the Lips’ work throughout their career is the eternal struggle between good and evil, and The Terror seems to explore this concept more completely and maturely than perhaps any of the Lips’ other records. This live recording of the new material sounds great, but it really just makes me want to hear the whole thing in its fleshed-out studio form. It’d also be great to hear it without the army of dudes screaming to hear “Yoshimi” or “The Wand” between every song. I really hope the Lips don’t listen to those dudes and instead pull a Greendale-era Neil Young and play The Terror in its entirety on tour, because it pretty much rules.
The Terror is out April 16 — yes, new release date — via Warner Brothers. You can stream the Lips’ live performance of the album in its entirety, courtesy of Slow Nerve Action, below:
Visions / Voices [album premiere]
Take a piece of string, thread it through an entirely metal object (maybe a coat hanger or a wire shelf from your oven), wrap each end around your fingers, bend over forward, and, with the object hanging freely, put your fingers in your ears and gently tap the object against a hard surface.
Félicia Atkinson is a conversationalist in a world of sometimes sealed artistic enclaves. She avoids the critical staring contest, that prolonged game of theoretical wink murder, where Bourdieu’s gaze meets “the critical gaze” meets the “male gaze” meets the “artistic gaze” meets the “symbolic capital” of some other unnerving gaze. Or was that just a blink?
With all the impressions that Visions / Voices might leave on you — disorientation, joy, diverging moments of memory, escape — the one that struck me most was a feeling of creative cataclysm. The need to create. This is an album that holds a reminder deep within its core of how joyful making music and art can be, not in some deep structural quest for a eugenics of sound, but in the rewarding work of the “experimental” as a process, rather than a delineated generic other.
Although the aforementioned “Big B” might say that “a work of art has meaning and interest only for someone who possesses the cultural competence, that is, the code, into which it is encoded,” he misses the power of broken codes, of residual artistic content, of blurred disciplinary boundaries, of transgressions that engage rather than exclude, of mistakes and duff notes. This is where Félicia Atkinson shines.
For an attention to sonic detail like hers shouldn’t mean an assumption of exclusivity. Visions / Voices is inclusive yet challenging, coherent yet discursive.
But wait! There is one thing that’s exclusive about it for now; you can listen to the whole album below for the first time. Eight tracks from three years, tessellated into a stunning whole.
No strings needed for now.
Visions / Voices is out March 29 on Umor Rex.