If you boil it all down, it’s possible to accredit the United States as being the roots of most modern music, at least on a superficial level. This country popularized jazz music, which eventually led to rock ‘n’ roll, which may have led to everything we’ve ever heard since. This is a huge over-generalization, I know, but stick with me here. Although the origins of rock-oriented music may be in the states, we all know that some of the greatest achievements in the genre have come from places beyond our borders. So much so that there are very few styles that we still consider to sound “American.”
One sound that does recall images of the new world is the finger-pluckin’ steel string American raga, the kind of acoustic music that makes us all think of the old Takoma Records days. One modern master of this sound is Daniel Bachman (once known as Sacred Harp). His output lately has been plentiful, and his newest LP is yet another mesmerizing account of the grand American landscape. The album is called Oh Be Joyful, and it’s out on One Kind Favor. Check above for an inspiring video for the lead-off track “White Oak” which features Bachman strumming and plucking away like it ain’t no thang. His music has always sounded effortless, but the video makes it look even more so. With hints of drone from what I think is called a Shruti box, the record travels through scenes of frantic storms of guitar to simple sleepy folk songs.
• One Kind Favor: http://www.onekindfavor.net
Being from Baltimore, you get used to the same conversational points of reference. Crab cakes. The Ravens. The Wire. Occasionally, someone who’s done their reading will astutely mention that the indie gods of Animal Collective went to school in the area or that Tupac actually attended the Baltimore School of the Arts (alongside Jada Pinkett-Smith, just in case you were wondering). But Charm City probably isn’t going to come up in a conversation about killer up-and-coming punk bands. That is, until now.
Dope Body is the best noise rock outfit representing Baltimore right now, and possibly one of the best things to come out of the area since Dan Deacon’s trippy electronics. “Weird Mirror,” from their upcoming punk salvo Natural History (out May 22 on Drag City), is proof of that: you’ve got your ripping, chugging riffs; lyrics about cigarette hypocrites; and a feverish, Mission of Burma-esque feel throughout. It’s a tune metalheads and fist-pumping lacrosse bros (for whatever reason, two of Maryland’s largest musical constituencies) can come together and rock out to — and that’s how you know it’s great.
Astro Nautico, the label responsible for putting out solid releases by howse, Time Wharp, Kuhn, Obey City, and Paul Jones, recently dropped Atlantics: Vol. 2, a beastly (and free) 41-track compilation of bass-heavy dance tracks, suffocated hip-hop, and ethereal bathdub constructions. Each morning this week, I’ll pick one of my favorite tracks, so you can start your day off astronautically.
In less than one minute, aaronmaxwell takes you absolutely nowhere with “sunsets.” Which is why I love this track. This cut is so laid back you feel like any momentum you might have — while dancing, walking, fucking, whatever — is canceled out by its dragging aesthetic. aaronmaxwell recently released a nine-track album called Dianetics. Stream it at his Bandcamp and/or download it here. Then come back here and listen to “sunsets” again.
Padang Food Tigers
Ready Country Nimbus [album stream]
Now this is how I like my folk: not closed-off in some stuffy studio, but outside getting some fresh air. The sound of Ready Country Nimbus, the latest LP from the London ambient-folk duo, is steeped in nature: rain, bird chirps, and waterfalls permeate the fog of droney acoustics, with flourishes of bells and banjos. The taut two- to three-minute running times keep the relaxing mood from veering into the purgatory of monotony, and the absence of vocals allows the lush instrumentation to seep into every last crevasse of your skull. Put this on, slip two cucumber slices over your eyes, and get ready for one of the best musical relaxation experiences to be had.
This treepunk shit is chaining itself up, ain’t it? I mean, totally in a good way. It’s super jovial and serious-mustache-face all at once. Like how T-buggs blends cute pop with grime. Are Alphabets leading a new craze? Hopefully not. Hopefully they can solely make it they’s own thing. For awhile now, I’ve had this idea that modern literature is defined in and of itself. Thus, something is only considered literature if it has to be adapted into another form of art, opposed to just copy and pasting. Maybe. But this applies to music too. Lil B got his corner of hip-hop. Lieven is poppin’ off his own style of field recording. Alex be drippin’ them mixes. Alphabets, please keep it leafy and punky in a fashion that nobody will dare try repeating, please.
• Alphabets: http://alphabets.bandcamp.com