Regression (Nate Young)
“When Nothing Works”
“The sounds that most interest me are the ones that have some sort of depth, or sounds that have ‘the spook.’”
– Nate Young, 2011
“I know how to write good… songs and music theory has done nothing but make the process more efficient.”
– Nate Young, 2013
Taken together, the above quotes pretty accurately define Nate Young’s musical output throughout the last few years. As Young’s career has progressed, it’s become clear that capturing “the spook” has been a major guiding force behind all of his projects. It’s undeniable that the common thread between the aesthetics of Young’s seminal work with Wolf Eyes, his lo-fi blues deconstructions with Stare Case, and the synth ooze of his Regression experiments is the underlying layer of delightful creepiness that he manages to create in each context.
But other major elements that have gained increased importance in Young’s work is form and structure. He’s mentioned this on various occasions, and the classification of his work as “songs” in the latter quote shows that Young’s records are truly “composed” works as opposed to the free improvisation that often dominates the noise world. This attention to structure is quite possibly one of the reasons that all of Young’s various projects have set critical high water marks recently. By finding ways to understand and control “the spook” in various mediums, Young has managed to create a distinctive voice that cuts through regardless of genre and/or production.
It should therefore be no surprise that Blinding Confusion, his upcoming Regression LP for NNA Tapes, is another excellent formal study of “the spook.” As a matter of fact, Blinding Confusion manages to pace and structure Young’s minimal materials so well that it may be his best Regression material to date. Take the excellent “When Nothing Works,” for example. It’s full of Young’s beloved spook but can be divided into a clear A and B section (nearly like a singular verse/chorus), with Young subtly shifting the hierarchy of his sonic materials throughout. In this sense, Young’s composition is near classical in nature, but the resulting sounds are pure overtone-drenched synth spook.
“You’ve Always Meant So Much to Me”
You’ve seen Simon Fowler’s drawings on record sleeves, walls, and particularly badass torsos, representing the cream of the contemporary doom/drone metal crop: sunn 0))), Earth, Boris. JR Robinson, composer/leader of Chicago-based ensemble Wrekmeister Harmonies, recruited Fowler for the drawings that accompany the forthcoming You’ve Always Meant So Much To Me LP — both on the sleeve itself and the video you see above. In an exercise of time-lapse tension-building, Fowler’s hands flit around the frame with a fast-forward stutter, detailing a flowing geologic mass somewhere between a cloud of vapor and a chunk of the Earth’s mantle striking through the crust. Watch cross-cut shots of the black and white image burgeon into finely shaded complexity as Robinson’s sounds swell from silence into severity.
Robinson demonstrates mastery above all in conceiving an ambitious composition and uniting a cast of collaborators — Fowler included — to realize it. The labyrinthine structure of the one-track album You’ve Always Meant So Much To Me juxtaposes passages of atmospheric electro-acoustic drift with bursts of doom metal that maximize the talents of some of Chicago’s extreme music luminaries (Wrest, Sanford Parker, Bruce Lamont, Mark Solotroff, Mind Over Mirrors, etc.). The 11 minutes excerpted for this video begin in an elegiac haze of oscillator drone and ritualistic chanting, but then progress into a bruising segment of down-tuned guitar sludge, demonic howls, and drum battery — all of which interweave with the violin and cello phrases floating in the high end of the mix. It’s difficult to discern which collaborator plays what here on record, but it’s easy to imagine Robinson’s grey-bearded visage overseeing the proceedings from atop the crag sketched out before us, his hands stretching down through the layer of mist to align the tones pouring from his cast into one cohesive statement.
Thrill Jockey releases You’ve Always Meant So Much To Me in a vinyl-only edition on June 11. You can preorder it now. Meanwhile, JR Robinson will reunite many of the album’s musicians for a performance in Chicago’s Bohemian National Cemetery on June 22.
Theme for Google Chrome “Racer” Game
Following Google’s I/O Conference last week, CNN Money reported that the tech behemoth’s “coolest demo was also its least important.” The demo in question was for a little concoction humbly called “Racer,” a minimalistic car game to be played on any mobile, Chrome-equipped device. CNN’s Adrian Covert goes on to assert that he’s most excited for the technological connectivity the game puts on display. He writes, “What made today’s demo so great is that it offered us a glimpse of the future.” To which I say balderdash. On TMT, this particular sort of site, we’re quick to ascertain that what Covert really should have written is “it offered us a sound of the future.” Because, you understand, this zippy little browser game has had its theme music composed by none other than Giorgio Moroder himself.
If you’re unsure of who Giorgio is, or why you should care, then I simply defer to the robots. Yes, the good old boy’s suddenly having a very good year. But then again, he’s had year upon year of very good years for a while now. It makes the plainest kind of sense why Google would employ this electronic pioneerb — who forded into his career in the land of the autobahn, in the era when synths were the next frontier — to score their game about computerized motor speedways.
Check out the theme in full below. It’s exactly what fast computer cars in a browser called Chrome would want. Nay, my friends: it’s exactly what they need.
”// LIVER DONOR //”
Anonymous asked: “What is the deal with ORGAN DONOR? Who is he/she? And where could I get a copy of his/her stuff? I really dug what you guys posted on SoundCloud.”
Dirty Tapes responded: “NOT EVEN SURE AT THIS POINT.. ITS ALL UP IN THE AIR, LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE ON THIS ‘LABEL’ - SUPER LIMITED COPIES OF ORGAN DONOR WILL BE AVAILABLE ON CASSETTE, HAND DUBBED, PRINTED, AND NUMBERED.. WHEN THEY WILL BECOME AVAILABLE, WHO KNOWS –”
Tape labels. You gotta love ‘em. Like, “Hey man, I ordered a tape from you two months ago, and it still hasn’t arrived. I just wanted to make sure you received my payment. Thanks.”
But anyway, it does look like this ORGAN//DONOR will be receiving the coveted Dirty Tapes cassette release, of which there has only been four, all of which have been incredible, and this one will, by no means, be dropping the ball.
Keep it up, Dirty Tapes. Whatever merit history deems this cassette tape revival worthy of, you’ve got it figured out now.
“The Railroad” [Lee Hazlewood cover]
Some of my favorite moments on Modest Mouse’s records are the forays into folky territory and/or the idiosyncratic use of orchestration. It’s not that I don’t love their bashy guitar rave-ups, but there’s something wonderfully strange and infectious about Issac Brock and co.’s incorporation/interpretation of the aforementioned idioms. For these reasons, it makes sense that Brock would be a fan of the constantly underrated Lee Hazlewood due to the latter’s strange take on folk/country music that frequently incorporated lush orchestration while messing traditional song forms. With his cover of Hazlewood’s “The Railroad,” Brock seems to be drawing a direct line between his use of folk music and Hazlewood’s. For both artists, folk/country may be a starting place, but the end product often winds up resembling something else entirely.
Brock’s interpretation of “The Railroad” features a circus-like Hazlewood-esque arrangement, but instead of adopting a faux croon, Brock plays up the quirks of his own voice and alternately growls/yelps in a near-Tom Waits-ian fashion. In the end, Brock makes “The Railroad” very much his own, and the booze-soaked lyrics could almost pass for something off of Lonesome Crowded West. Hazlewood’s style suits Brock well, and it’s interesting to hear him acknowledge and warp his songwriting influences while working with very new arrangements.
You can stream “The Railroad” via YouTube below. The track will be on SideOneDummy’s Hazlewood tribute record Thriftstore Masterpiece: Trouble Is a Lonesome Town, out July 9.