I have this ongoing argument with one my friends that we will eventually begin moving away from the hyper pace of radio pop music back to something more easy-listening, slow, and repetitive. The appeal of repetition has always seemed to hold some place in beat music, riding out a repurposed loop for as long as need be, maybe making a change or two along the way. Hip-hop circa 1994 had this down to a science, hinting at the change-up through verses and choruses, finally feeding it to the listener at the exact moment when they couldn’t have waited another loop for it. It’s like the final showdown in Western films (or samurai movies to be Wu-Tang appropriate). While many beatmakers have been caught up in the maximalist-approach-made-simple via a Macbook and the right software, dudes like Ohbliv are still holding down the groove, like a nod to the head-nod rather than a step toward the dance floor. I can only imagine that if my theory on pop music is wrong, it will only cause these bedroom beatmakers to keep slowing it down and simplifying it, in the face of a music industry continuously trying to find new ways to overfill the space between the MP3s top and bottom. Here’s to ohblivion.
• Ohbliv: http://ohbliv.bandcamp.com
Last year’s excellent Paralytic Stalks marked a new chapter in of Montreal’s career. After a trilogy of records (and a handful of EPs) exploring the darker regions of sexuality from the perspective of his alter ego Georgie Fruit, Paralytic Stalks was the first time in quite a while where Barnes was conclusively singing directly about himself. And being freed from the schizophrenic funk that marked his Georgie Fruit songs allowed Barnes to appropriate and subvert other genres; as a result, Paralytic Stalks impossibly succeeded by incorporating textural and harmonic elements of contemporary classical composers such as György Ligeti, Krystof Penderecki, and Steve Reich, among others. However, one of that album’s strengths could be found in Barnes’ ability to use these musical tools as a seamless addition to his already broad palette of styles. In no way did these newfound experimental chamber elements feel forced; instead, Barnes simply superimposed his well-defined harmonic/melodic language on top of the stylistic signifiers of those composers’ work to stunning effect.
It seems that full-length genre exercises may be the big theme of the group’s new stage, and the lead single “Fugitive Air” — from the band’s forthcoming album, Lousy with Sylvianbriar — shows off what may be the dominant sound of their new work. Barnes has mentioned that this new material has been largely influenced by Gram Parsons, but Barnes isn’t about to go full alt.country on this stuff. Instead, “Fugitive Air” is another excellent merging of Barnes’ musical language with a new genre. During the first half of the song, his voice and guitar bear some similarities to fellow twang warper Neil Michael Hagerty of Royal Trux/Howling Hex before giving way to an ultra poppy melody reminiscent of early oM albums like Horse and Elephant Eatery. Perhaps the influence of Parsons’ songwriting style may have reined in Barnes’ proclivity for sprawling form. As a result, “Fugitive Air” boasts only three distinct musical sections, as opposed to the usual shifting structures of Barnes’ work. Hopefully, this exploration of genre will continue in of Montreal’s future work, because “Fugitive Air” and Paralytic Stalks show that Barnes has a knack for appropriating and warping any style given to him.
You can stream “Fugitive Air” here:
Lousy with Sylvianbriar is out October 8 via Polyvinyl
Howe Gelb is one of those artists who perfected a particular style early in his career, and despite releasing consistently solid records for decades, his work often goes unnoticed because it doesn’t follow trends or vary too radically from his initial sound. However, this doesn’t mean that Gelb’s releases aren’t extremely eclectic and varied. For instance, one can find solo piano works, collaborations with Spanish gypsy groups, desert-tinged noise rock, and full-lengths with a backing gospel choir among many many other things in Gelb’s discography. These styles may seem radically juxtaposed at first, but part of Gelb’s talent as a songwriter/performer is largely in making these seemingly disparate genres fit in perfectly with his aesthetic. Part of the reason for this is that many of these styles are embedded in Gelb’s sound to begin with, and with each release, a new element often comes to the forefront. It’s for this reason that Gelb’s stylistic explorations don’t seem as radical as, say, David Bowie, and perhaps this is why his records don’t always receive the critical attention they deserve.
Dust Bowl is Gelb’s latest record, and unsurprisingly it’s another excellent synthesis of Gelb’s influences with the stylistic framing of spare folk arrangements this time. This is perhaps one of Gelb’s sparsest records since his late 90s lo-fi releases for V2. However, the bareness of the production here allows the listener to see how Gelb’s raw musical material can serve as a stylistic melting pot even without the clever production of many of his Giant Sand releases. Dust Bowl features everything from the country blues of “Porch Banjo” and “John Deere,” to the jazzy piano ballads like “The Old Overrated” and “Reality or Not,” to the deconstructed desert pop on “Forever and a Day” and the fragile “Man on a String.” All of the material is undeniably Gelb, and as a result, these stylistic deviations are almost imperceptible, but they’re there. The fact that Gelb can create such a spare album that still manages to conjure up a number of styles is a testament to his prowess as a songwriter. It may not be a huge departure from some of his other work, but Gelb excels with subtleties, and Dust Bowl is another superb variation on his signature sound.
You can stream Dust Bowl in its entirety below via Bandcamp:
• Howe Gelb: http://www.howegelb.com
Spectral Life (extract)
While Locrian’s most recent monolith of a record Return to Annihilation proved more concise and songular than any of their previous work, the upcoming solo LP from the band’s singer/multi-instrumentalist Terence Hannum shifts the dial back into side-long minimal drone. At a low volume, the first excerpt from Spectral Life reaches us as an oscillation of cresting overtones. Cranked up all the way, Hannum’s drones overwhelm with detail and physicality. He finds room in his wide mix for vocal chants stretched to improbable lengths, cymbal crashes layered into a steady pulse, and spiny arpeggio sequences that air out for minutes on end. As they fade into the expanding haze, these voices sketch out a symphonic drone that can reward a close listen or soundtrack a muted meditation. The excerpt stream cuts off when that oscillator starts to squall like mad, and we’re left here imagining the heights (or depths) the session reaches before its conclusion. Black metal tremolo shreddery? Massive synth sub-bass? Tortured screams? Or naw, maybe he plays it cooool and dips all the way down into even purer tones.
We’ll find out when Spectral Life ships from Shelter Press on July 29. You can pre-order it here.
Chaz & Alex
Legit, y’all ready for The Enlightenment? Prepare, because it’s so much more now than what has previously been tasted. Clear a path for Chaz (Metallic Ghosts) & Alex, ‘cause they not only poppin’ that feet-beat, robot boogie, and trash-synth, but they movin’ masses. Try and sit still listening to the entirety of The Enlightenment. I DARE YOU! Vocal manips/clips/samples/bits. Fine sustains, auraing your dance bubble. Galactic dance floors melting into Earth’s skyline. The sun setting into a pair of shoes itching to be tied and worn. Savior blessings for all to gospel in its faith. OMG them POPS!! Then, the automated humorous brand “Certified Hit” twitches in and out your skull.
Chaz & Alex’s influences are not obvious either, but they in there: that Dean Blunt woman-in-the-machine vocode, Young Smoke and Paisley Parks troll-beat cuts, Fortune 500 sample kitche, Splash Tapes laugh-swaggery, and even old school Girl Talk tweet(ish) mashup. Fuck, and if you don’t feel the spirit within The Enlightenment, check ya pulse, ‘cause this might already be your second listen, as the stuttering beat is now making a pace for your valves.
Also, tonight at 10 PM (EST), you have a chance to rub some SPF420 on the backs of Chaz & Alex during their live album release party and DJ set, alongside DJ Clap, 회사AUTO, and リバーブ LITE. Get some Tinychat style!