Posts Tagged ‘Einsturzende Neubauten’

What’s spinning, December 23 edition

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

Apparently all the stuff I’ve been listening to lately, with just a few exceptions, is by bands whose names begin with the letters A-E exclusively. Wonder what that means? Anyway, here are some quick impressions.

  • Anti-Pop Consortium - Shopping Carts Crashing — My favorite avant-hip-hop group aside from Dälek, this is their 2001 album that for some absolutely inexplicable reason was only released in Japan. I’ve been hunting for it for years and finally scored a copy for a reasonable price (around $20) on eBay. It’s great; I’d say a notch below their two U.S. released albums, Tragic Epilogue and Arrhythmia, but only a small notch.
  • Aranis - II — I’ll be reviewing this soon, but it’s one of my favorite albums of 2007 so far. Wonderfully composed chamber-rock, full of rich counterpoint, tricky time signatures and beautiful melodies. One of the best records I’ve heard in this little niche.
  • Meg Baird - Dear Companion — The female half of Espers‘ solo album is a very straightforward recording of mostly traditional songs; not the most exciting listen, but some of the songs are pretty memorable. Baird’s wispy voice isn’t particularly well-suited to some of the songs that have her singing more aggressively, but when she’s more laid back, the effect is often beautiful.
  • Baroness - Red Album — Nice but maybe overhyped metal album that’s like a slightly more metal Isis. Still digesting, I think this could grow on me in a big way.
  • Between the Buried and Me - Colors — I just bought this at a Borders in my hometown in North Carolina, and the cashier looked at it and said, “oh cool, bee-tee-bam!” Apparently they are pretty popular among the younger set here in their home state; she had seen them live a couple times. This is off-the-wall extreme metal, kind of reminds me of Unexpect except a little less crazy and a lot less schizoid.
  • Burial - Untrue — I never quite understood the hype around last year’s self-titled debut, not being a follower of the UK electronica scene, but this sophomore effort makes a lot more sense to me. Someone said this is what Massive Attack would sound like in the year 2020, but I think Burial’s sound is perfect for modern-day post-industrial cities. More accessible than last year’s effort, I’m really digging this one.
  • Demilich - Nespithe — This is strange death metal with vocals so low they sound like the singer is belching. No, seriously. When I was on my Gorguts kick a few weeks ago, I went looking for similarly bizarre metal, and this name came up a lot; turns out the album is free to download. I’m getting a kick of out this but I can’t say I’ve really processed it yet.
  • Dillinger Escape Plan - Ire Works — This one’s getting rave reviews at all the metal websites, and I can see why; it combines some of the brutality and complexity of classic DEP material with more of the melodicism seen on Miss Machine. There’s one track that’s a dead ringer for “Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Part II” if it had been written in 2007.
  • Einstürzende Neubauten - Alles Wieder Offen — I’m beginning to think that these guys will never top Silence is Sexy; I was a bit disappointed by Perpetuum Mobile and this one is another small step down. It’s very melodic and accessible, and I was expecting something much harder-hitting.
  • Carla Kihlstedt & Satoko Fujii - Minamo — Two of my favorite improv musicians teaming up: a dream duo for me, and this recording doesn’t disappoint. Naturally, its charms are revealed only after repeated listens, and I’m justing getting started with it, but I can already tell I’m really going to like this one.
  • Scorch Trio - Live in Finland — A limited edition CD-R (400 copies) with no distribution whatsoever, I picked this up from Paal Nilssen-Love at the Frode Gjerstad Trio show I wrote about below. For much of its duration it’s surprisingly spacious, but when the musicians kick it into high gear, wow! Exhilirating, and the recording quality is beyond reproach, surprising for a limited release like this.
  • David Sylvian & Holger Czukay - Flux + Mutability — This is an old one that I stumbled across at Paul’s CDs in Pittsburgh; it was $10 new so I picked it up on a whim. It’s not what I expected; Sylvian doesn’t sing, and the music is two very long tracks of relaxing, unintrusive ambient music. Nothing particularly innovative or even memorable, but certainly pleasant enough for this kind of thing.

What’s spinning, November 13 edition

Sunday, November 13th, 2005

For some reason, September and October were two of the most prolific CD-purchasing months I’ve ever had. I’m still struggling to keep pace in terms of listening to and digesting all the new stuff I’ve gotten in the past couple months — and I’m failing, and thus trying to cut back on new purchases in the near future. (This is aided by the fact that my purchase rate for the past couple months has been entirely unsustainable.) But, here are a few quick thoughts on some of the things that I’ve been hooked on. Most of these are new acquisitions I got in the past couple months, but some are older things that just happened to catch my ear recently.

  • Cos - Viva Boma
    Canterbury-styled fusion has never really done much for me; something about the light, breezy nature of things and the wispy keyboard tones has always turned me off a bit. But Viva Boma gets it right: it’s breezy Canterbury-esque fusion all right, but the band isn’t afraid to rock out at times, and a really strong, almost funky electric bass presence and some rather seductive female vocals definitely help. Definitely need to explore these guys further — conveniently, Musea appears to be reissuing a lot of their albums that were previously out of print.
  • Grits - Rare Birds
    And here we go again: if not quite as clearly Canterbury-influenced, Grits’ jams on this live album are definitely “breezy fusion.” The heavy Rhodes presence makes it palatable to me, along with the fact that the melodies are just really tasty. I remember Steve Feigenbaum griping on rec.music.progressive years ago about how the Grits albums were going out of print. I sure wish I’d picked them up way back then; I’m definitely happy I got my hands on this now. Fantastic stuff aside from a couple really embarrassing poppy vocal tunes, and now a feverish search for As the World Grits is about to start.
  • Ensemble Nimbus - Key Figures
    Another brand of prog/RIO that is kind of hit-or-miss with me is the sort of fusionish avant-rock of the sort practiced by Zamla Mammas Manna, Miriodor, The Muffins and so on. Key Figures falls into that category, but like Viva Boma I am lovin’ this shit. Not implying it’s as good as the Cos album, but this is fun stuff, and I even like the programmed drums. Glad I have this one, as it’s on the long-defunct APM label and, like everything else on APM, has disappeared without a trace in recent years.
  • Heldon - Stand By
    Would you believe that this is the first Heldon album I’ve ever heard? As a serious King Crimson fan it’s always been evident to me that I need to hear this band. And especially after hearing Richard Pinhas’ work in other contexts (such as Fossil Culture with Peter Frohmader), I knew I’d like this stuff. Yet somehow I’ve just never gotten around to buying any Heldon, until now. And now, I know I need all their albums, because this is great stuff.
  • Cecil Taylor - Conquistador!
    And another “would you believe?!” This is the first Cecil Taylor I’ve heard! And while this is a bit mind-bending and challenging to digest, especially consisting as it does of two 20-minute tracks (but hell, if I can handle Tim Berne’s sprawling compositions, I can handle this, or so I tell myself), Taylor’s playing is phenomenal and I can enjoy it even when all I’m doing is just letting the sheer intensity of it wash over me. Must get more… I seem to be writing that a lot, which bodes poorly for my wallet…
  • Enslaved - Isa
    If you like what Opeth is doing but kind of think they’re a bunch of proggy pansies who need to toughen up their metal cred a bit, maybe this is the band to turn to. Accessible, melodic black metal that caught my ear from the first listen, unlike much extreme metal which tends to take a while to sink in with me. And yet another band whose back catalog I still need to explore!
  • The Beta Band - The Best of the Beta Band
    Considering that I have all of this band’s releases, it might seem at first that purchasing their new greatest-hits album is a bit perverse. But it has a bonus CD with a full live performance on it, and I always thought these guys were much better live than on record. Still, it seems like a very odd marketing strategy to pair a greatest hits collection and a live album on one release. Presumably greatest hits albums appeal to casual or new fans, while live albums appeal only to die-hard fans and completists. Maybe they were hoping to snare both audiences. Well, it worked on me, at least. (By the way, the live album is excellent. I haven’t bothered to listen to the greatest hits disc yet, and don’t really expect to.)
  • Nil - Nil Novo Sub Sole
    I’ll be reviewing this one in the near future. I got this a few months ago and was really surprised when it kept finding its way back into my CD player. As a rule, I’m pretty jaded when it comes to symphonic rock, but something about the moodiness and dark edginess of this album has been keeping me not just interested, but even enthralled. I’m not really taken with all of the album, but a couple of the songs are just tremendous. Always a pleasant (and rare) surprise to find new symphonic prog that can push my buttons.
  • Zs - Zs
    I wrote about this one a couple months ago, but it never really sunk in until now. Dual saxes, dual guitars, and dual drums sure sounds like a helluva fun lineup, but what these guys do often seems like it’s as annoying as it is fun. But once I started paying more attention, my jaw basically dropped to the floor at the tightness of this ensemble and the complexity of their compositions. I would love to see these guys live, I can’t imagine how visceral it must be. On record they come off as pretty much entirely academic.
  • Tim Hodgkinson - Each in Our Own Thoughts
    Here’s one that I keep expecting to floor me, but it just never has. I bought it for “Hold to the Zero Burn” (aka “Erk Gah”), which was originally a Henry Cow piece and has been described as the missing link between “Living in the Heart of the Beast” (for the me absolute definitive Henry Cow composition) and Western Culture (my favorite Henry Cow album, overall). So far, though, I haven’t found the visceral appeal of the former or the intellectual delight of the latter in “Hold to the Zero Burn,” and in fact the whole album seems a tad bit anemic to me. It’s so highly-rated by people whose tastes correspond to mine, though, that I keep trying and I don’t intend to give up anytime soon.

What’s spinning, May 18 edition

Friday, May 18th, 2001

Okay, my impatient readers: here’s an update.

In case my mysterious and virtually total absence from various music-related boards wasn’t enough of a clue, I’ve been away from the music scene for a bit. Oh, I’ve been listening to tons and tons of good music, but I haven’t been buying much, and I haven’t been writing about it much. This is mostly because I’ve finally immersed myself in photography, as I have wanted to do for some time. While it hasn’t replaced music as my consuming passion, it has left a bit less time and far less money for music.

In any case, a list of stuff I’ve been listening to a lot for the past month or so:

  • Arise From Thorns - Before an Audience of Stars
    Acoustic gothic-styled rock with pleasant female vox. Pretty nice stuff; lots of acoustic guitar, which I like, and a dark, moody atmosphere, which I also like. The whole thing is sort of on the level, with few peaks and troughs, but there are a few gorgeous acoustic guitar solos and some cool lyrics.
  • Einstürzende Neubauten - Silence is Sexy
    Still spinning a lot. What a great album, man. See below for comments. I find myself singing the ridiculously catchy “Dingsaller” refrain to myself a lot.
  • Garmarna - God’s Musicians
    Rockified Scandinavian folk music - pretty nifty stuff. I will now demonstrate my utter lack of knowledge about European world/folk music by saying that when I first heard these guys, they reminded me of Capercaillie, the band that plays rockified Celtic music. I was introduced to them by a friend at Yale, who played me a couple tracks from Vengeance, which is next on my list.
  • Karnataka - The Storm
    Sort of like a modern adult contemporary band with good female vox and lots of guitar solos. At their best, they write stuff that’s on par with the most beautiful pieces by, say, October Project. Unfortunately the album is quite uneven, with the best stuff at the beginning and end. Nevertheless, I like it.
  • Colin Masson - Isle of Eight
    Three really long compositions, almost completely instrumental and almost all of it played by multi-instrumentalist Masson. A lot like Mike Oldfield, but with more of an emphasis on the guitar work (mostly electric, with some nice acoustic parts). The textures are cool, with good variation in the thematic material. When the female vox kick in things get much simpler, but at least those parts are quite catchy. A pleasant surprise.
  • Radiohead - Kid A
    I listened to it a bit when I first got it and liked what I heard; now, listening more closely, I still like what I hear. “Idioteque” reminds me strongly of Squarepusher, but then that’s about all the experience I have with that sort of beat-driven music. The opening track couldn’t be more perfect.
  • A Silver Mt. Zion - He Has Left Us Alone…
    This took much longer to grow on me than Godspeed You Black Emperor! albums, but it’s now one of my favorites. Wistfully beautiful stuff, and perfect for road trips or train rides.
  • Spaced Out - Spaced Out
    Fusion. Not my cup of tea, in general - the stuff tends too much towards soloing without much melody. But there’s definitely some good music on this album, particularly the bass playing which is showy and fun. Fusion fans should definitely get a kick out of this one.

I’ve also been listening to a lot of various MP3s. A few Outkast tracks that have convinced me that I need an Outkast album, now. More Garmarna, most of which I actually like better than the stuff on the album of theirs I have. Some tracks from the album of remixed Sigur Rós songs, some of which are really cool and some of which suck a fat one. Univers Zero “Central Belgium in the Dark”, from the Crawling Wind EP - ah, classic stuff from one of my all-time favorite bands.

Stumbled across Brendon Rapp’s music blog. Some interesting reading there. Hi *Legion*.

They say money’s the root of all evil but I can’t tell
You know what I mean - pesos, francs, yens, cowrie shells, dollar bills
Or is it the mind state that’s ill
Creating crime rates to fill the new prisons they build
Over money and religion there’s more blood to spill
The wounds of slaves in cotton fields that never heal
What’s the deal?
Black Star, “Thieves in the Night”

Mos Def, whatever I might think of his solo album, writes some damn fine lyrics. The Black Star album - his collaboration with Talib Kweli - is masterful.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer is dominating the list of “top ten most visited reviews” on the stats page, with no other band having more than one album on the list. Blah. I hate those guys. They’re just so bad. Arr.

Borrowing CDs from the radio station

Saturday, April 7th, 2001

My apologies for being utterly delinquent in updating the website. I usually refrain from giving my reasons/excuses, but I feel like whining, so here: I have three books to read, three papers to write, and two problems sets to complete, all in the next week. Plus, Yale Cup, an Ultimate tournament here at Yale, is next weekend, and it involves coordinating the activities of some six hundred athletes (some from as far as Texas or Utah) for two days and one to three nights. Hence, I’ve been busy, which is still no excuse, I guess.

My two latest borrowed items from the radio station have been The Fucking ChampsIV and Einstürzende Neubauten’s Silence is Sexy. I listened to the latter album first, while doing some homework, and it did nothing for me. IV has been in my CD player almost constantly for the past five days, though. It’s mostly instrumental guitar-rock — I hear influences ranging from punk to metal to King Crimson (a bit). It’s all electric; usually I find this sort of thing monochromatic and grating - even 80s Crimson turns me off after just one or two listens. However, for some reason I was captivated by this stuff - maybe it’s the melodicism, the complexity hiding underneath the stereotypically metal-sounding riffs. I dunno. I’m going to buy this album soon.

As for Silence is Sexy, I listened to it again, and now I find it absolutely fascinating. There’s an intriguing mix of whimsically (insanely?) bouncy, catchy stuff and subdued, muted, repetitive, subtle stuff. The former is flat-out fun: techno-ish backbeats and a sense of humor bring Höyry-kone to mind, oddly enough. The latter stuff is transcendent: a few listens to the opening track or “Redukt” really bring out very small, subtle parts of the music that are truly beautiful, stimulating, and unique. Even the spoken word piece “Beauty”, juxtaposed against a droning, almost (but not quite) static background, has a certain air of mystery and intrigue to it. The closing track of the first disc is a beautiful and appropriate ending. The only piece I really don’t get is the sole track on the second disc, the nearly 20-minute long “Pelikanol”, which features an endless interplay between laid-back vocals and what is listed as a drill. Hmm. In any case, this is an album that really rewards close attention - leaving it on as background music isn’t going to cut it. Highly recommended to those who enjoy more experimental Krautrock and post-rock.

In Rob Kroes’ book If You’ve Seen One, You’ve Seen The Mall (1996), which I am reading for a paper, he writes in his chapter on rap music:

Instead of seeking fusions and crossovers, black artists, fearing a renewed expropriation of what they consider to be their cultural property, have time and again resorted to a strategy of defiant protectionism. Thus, for example, bebop was meant to take jazz music to such dizzying heights of complexity that white musicians could no longer hope to steal and adapt it. More recently, similar trends seem to have occurred in rap music. In their lyrics some of the more notorious rap groups express a vicious sexism and racism, an utter obscenity and nihilism, whose sole aim may seem to be to erect barriers beyond which white groups will fear to tread.

I’m not sure this thesis holds up to scrutiny. Obscenity and violence, after all, have long been a big part of hip-hop - old-school gangsta-rap groups like NWA are arguably as offensive as anything out there today; this is not a new phenomenon. And the emergence of Eminem indicates that perhaps there are no “barriers beyond which white groups will fear to tread”.