Mar 30 2009

What’s spinning, March 30 edition

Published by Brandon Wu under Lists, What's Spinning

  • Agoraphobic Nosebleed - Agorapocalypse Now — The new ANb record is going to piss off a lot of old fans: for starters, there are only 13 songs, and two-thirds of them clock in at over 2 minutes. What’s more, the music actually grooves in places, and there’s a female vocalist (growling and screaming; don’t worry, this is no goth-metal band). I think it rocks and it’s already my favorite ANb that I’ve heard… we’ll see how the diehards react.
  • Arnold Schoenberg/Hilary Hahn - Violin Concerto — I wasn’t familiar with Schoenberg’s violin concerto, and this is my first listen to Baltimore’s favorite violinist. My first impressions on both counts: very favorable.
  • Decoder Ring - Fractions — Really pleasant record from this Australian post-rock/electronic band. Lenka Kripac’s ethereal vocals add a ton, and the end result is a moody slab of chilled-out music that has a couple nice surprises up its sleeve.
  • Flower-Corsano Duo - The Four Aims — 50 minutes of free improvisation, a duo of drums/percussion and shahi baaja, a kind of Indian electric mandolin. I wrote a few paragraphs about this one over at the City Paper.
  • Kylesa - Static Tensions — Savannah, Georgia might seem an odd place for a fucking awesome metal band to emerge, but Kylesa are just that, and their latest album is their best yet. On some of these songs (like the absolutely awesome “Running Red”), they sound a bit like Mastodon does now, only heavier and… better.
  • Mastodon - Crack the Skye — Speaking of Mastodon, I just don’t like their new direction. Crack the Skye is a definitely step up from Blood Mountain, but that just means I find most of it boring instead of tasteless.
  • Napalm Death - Time Waits For No Slave — You know, I never really got that much into Napalm Death’s classic stuff. But this new album totally grabbed me. It’s weirdly hooky and groovy, as far as grindcore goes. In that sense it’s kind of like the new ANb: a pretty great, quite accessible surprise.
  • The BBC - WFMU Studios 9/14/2008Tim Berne, Nels Cline and Jim Black as a trio! Berne and Black play with the chemistry you’d expect, but Cline integrates himself quite nicely indeed. This recording, from a live radio session, is incendiary and entertaining, and the interview segment is amusing as hell. This trio is doing a couple shows in Australia soon; here’s hoping they do some shows in the U.S. soon.
  • The Coup - Kill My Landlord — I’ve been looking for this sucker for years, and it’s finally back in print. This is from the early period of the group, along the same lines as Genocide & Juice, which is far and away my favorite album by The Coup. It doesn’t disappoint. This stuff is way better than the more recent releases like Pick a Bigger Weapon and the hugely disappointing Party Music.
  • The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love — Jury’s still out on this one. Definitely a concept album that has to be listened to from start to finish. Only a couple songs really reached out and grabbed me after a couple listens, but I’m willing to put some effort into this one so we’ll see how it pans out for me.

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Mar 26 2009

“The elves have finally come home to Rivendell”

Published by Brandon Wu under Concert, Prog

Damon Fox of Bigelf on getting added to the Progressive Nation Europe tour:

When I first met Mike Portnoy, I felt like we were cut from the same cloth, a brother from another mother. We could talk rock & roll for eons (we probably will on tour, hell yeah!). Being added to the PROGRESSIVE NATION tour feels like the planets have aligned for us and the elves have finally come home to Rivendell.

Haha. Did he really say that? Gee, guess who the proggy-prog band on this tour is?

Actually, this lineup isn’t bad… Dream Theater, Opeth and Unexpect round things out. It’s a lot more along the lines of last year’s Progressive Nation lineup (replace Between the Buried and Me with Unexpect and Three with Bigelf) than this year’s U.S. tour, which I’m pretty unexcited about. Unexpect always puts on an awesomely spastic show - I saw them three times last year and they just kept getting more entertaining.

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Mar 24 2009

Deluxe packaging in the digital age

Published by Brandon Wu under Digital Age, Metal

Here’s a nice piece by the Washington Post Express‘ Chris Porter on deluxe/limited edition packaging (specifically regarding the new releases by Lamb of God and Mastodon) in the era of the MP3 download.

I’ve never been one to fetishize the hold-the-vinyl-in-my-hands-while-listening-to-the-album experience, even though I came of age in the LP era, bought super-stacks of wax and like the format just fine. But I’ve long since moved onto CDs and, more recently, MP3s, and now I don’t really think twice about not having physical artwork and lyrics in front of me while listening to music; if I want to see what the album cover looks like, or what dudes are yelling about, I can find the info online. And while I still want a hard copy of the albums I really love (on CD, not even vinyl), like with music people, the majority of the music I listen to these days is in the MP3 format, played on my computer, with no extra-musical doodads influencing my experience.

That about describes my experience as well, except I’m a little younger than Chris and grew up in the dawn of the CD era.

Anyway, I’m not psyched about this new Mastodon, but then I haven’t heard it yet. I was so disappointed by the direction the band went in with Blood Mountain that I’m pretty sure I’m going to dislike Crack the Skye just as much. Seriously, I was shocked that Blood Mountain got such a good critical reception, and now that the new one is getting equally good reviews I don’t really know what to expect. I plan to buy it anyway (the basic CD version for $9.99, not any limited editions) and see what’s what.

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Mar 23 2009

Pitchfork & PopMatters on the new Decemberists

Pitchfork reviews The Hazards of Love and gives it a lowly 5.7. In the summary blurb, the phrases “stoner metal sludge” and “prog-folk” are invoked. On the other hand, while PopMatters’ review starts with the ominous phrase “There have been signs that this was coming” and compares the album to GenesisLamb (usually a kiss of death in a mainstream publication these days), the review ends up being very positive indeed. All this makes me feel cautiously optimistic about how I might like this one. I haven’t bothered listening to the low-bitrate version that leaked a couple weeks ago, so I’m looking forward to hearing the release with fresh ears.

Also reviewed today at Pitchfork: Kylesa’s new one, Static Tensions. Kylesa are a hip sludgy metal group with at times very distinct Pink Floyd influences, two drummers, and a rotating cast of vocalists (though the chief screamer is guitarist Laura Pleasants, who rocks). Pitchfork gave it a good review, and I agree: this is a good ‘un.

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Mar 20 2009

A note on the blog overhaul

Published by Brandon Wu under General

My old blogging “platforms” did not support post titles, per se (the date and time of the post stood in as the title). I am in the process of literally going through every single old post and adding a title (this is as much for my reference, and my entertainment, as anything else). Until I get through with that task, the old posts may look kind of weird in this current layout.

Said layout, also, is likely to change, so don’t get too used to it.

Finally, I am looking into the feasibility of importing all the old comments into the new system. This may or may not be doable with a minimum of pain, and for this particular enterprise I don’t think my pain tolerance is going to be too high.

Until these things are done, this new blog platform won’t officially go live, but I’ve activated Technorati integration etc already, so I know folks will find their way here before then. For those of you: this thing is still in a preliminary stage.

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Mar 20 2009

Second blog overhaul in almost 10 years

Published by Brandon Wu under General

It’s kind of amazing to this that this blog contains my scattershot ramblings on music over almost the last decade. Looking back, I’ve written more than my share of asinine and embarrassing crap, but some of this is pretty entertaining.

Anyway, in 1999 this thing started as a static HTML page that I updated manually, on a clunky website using HTML frames (those were the bad old days). By 2002 I had rewritten the entire website to be at least slightly dynamic, using PHP scripts to read data from text files (still no database-driven content), and the blog followed suit. Somewhere around 2005 I kicked around the idea of using PHP and MySQL to recreate the website in a database-driven form, and even started writing my own blogging platform. However, I didn’t have the time or motivation to see it through, and in part I’m glad, because there are now lots of blogging platforms out there far superior to anything I could possibly write.

So after a couple relatively painless hours of work I’ve ported all the content from my blog into this WordPress blog, thus bringing it into the Web 2.0 era. Still got to nail down what look & feel I want (right now this is just the same thing I use for my photography blog), but getting the content moved is a good start. Hopefully this means I’ll actually start writing in this thing again, at least occasionally - looking back over the last 9 years of posts convinced me that this is something worth keeping up.

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Dec 24 2008

Best of 2007 - late, but coming… eventually

Published by Brandon Wu under Archive

Well, my best of 2007 list is now long overdue — I usually do these things at the beginning of December. I’m working on it now; in the meantime, you can check out my best of 2008 list at the Washington City Paper. Yes, I sold out my principles to do a year-end list for this year, even though I haven’t heard anywhere close to all the 2008 albums I want to hear yet. When I do a best-of-2008 list here next year, it will probably look very, very different from the list at the City Paper. Still, there might be some things of interest there. Sound clips and everything!

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Sep 30 2008

Nasum + my first review at the City Paper

Published by Brandon Wu under Archive, Electronic, Metal

In the deal of the year, I recently got Nasum’s Doombringer for six bucks from The End Records (sorry, the sale is over, but if you’re into this stuff you can still find the two Crowpath albums there for six bucks apiece). It absolutely slays. I’ve never managed to get into grindcore all that much, but this is amazing.

In other news, I’ve reviewed the new record by Richard Pinhas & Merzbow on Cuneiform, Keio Line, but not here — it’s my first print review for the Washington City Paper, DC’s alternative weekly. It’s on their website here. The short version is that I really, really like this album, and in fact it may be my favorite non-Heldon Pinhas record. Go get it if you like this guy’s music.

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Sep 23 2008

Today’s collection of random crap

Some fun things today.

First off, in the Washington Post music blog, Post Rock, comes a scathingly amusing dismantling of the new album by indie-pop sensation Jenny Lewis (of Rilo Kiley fame): “If you were wondering why you couldn’t find a review of the album in today’s paper, it’s because all the potential reviewers either fell asleep or forced themselves to sleep via a hammer to the cranium by the 43rd time Lewis moaned “black sand” on the album’s bore of an opening track.” Ouch!

Secondly, this video, which is hilarious and painful and embarrassing all at once:

You might imagine that all the metal blogs have been sneering at this. A lot.

Finally, thanks to those who have been asking — yes, I’ll be writing reviews of some of the recent shows I’ve seen, including Extra Life and Mogwai. In the meantime, check out my photos and brief recaps of a couple shows over at Black Plastic Bag: one of a great show by Sigh and Unexpect, and one of the aformentioned Mogwai show.

Speaking of Mogwai, looks like they’ve had to cancel the remainder of their U.S. tour because their drummer started having problems with his pacemaker. Bummer for them and the fans, best wishes to the drummer for a quick and full recovery. I’ll particularly miss the updates to the band’s USA tour diary that they’ve been posting on their website — it has been absolutely hysterical. Some choice excerpts:

“People loved Fuck Buttons’ set and it made me wonder how brutally strong the LSD must be in this city. I mean, some guy shouting into a children’s toy while another mentally ill person screams monkey noises into a cheap effects pedal really just isn’t enjoyable unless you’ve been fed an heroic dose of hallucinogenic drugs.”

“The show was really quite good in San Francisco apart from the usual idiots who are afraid to keep their mouth shut for 10 seconds in case they start having an introspective tour of duty into their own minds and then nervous breakdown… [the next] show was a bit of a stinker we thought and the tourettes victims were out in force. One exceptionally stupid man shouted for a song he happened to like halfway through a song we were playing. I do wonder what he thought this would achieve…… let’s stop playing this and start doing requests.”

“Washington D.C. SHOWTIME! Here we are in what is hopefully not going to become Sarah Palin’s new hometown. I suppose there’s a real chance of her becoming VP seeing as the Americans had a cocaine and alcohol cowboy in the whitehouse for the last 8 years.”

Ah, we’ll miss you bastards.

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Sep 15 2008

Rick Wright is gone

Published by Brandon Wu under Archive, Prog

RIP Rick Wright.

As I mentioned in my writeup of Aussie Floyd last year, Pink Floyd was the group that made me the music lover I am, and so Wright’s passing affects me quite a bit. I’ll be listening to Broken China tonight in memoriam.

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