Posts Tagged ‘Mastodon’

Music for swine flu

Monday, May 11th, 2009

I’ve been AWOL for a while because I’ve been dealing with my own personal version of swine flu. Worse than any flu I can remember having, but not THE swine flu. Anyway, I’m more or less back, my head has recovered to the point that listening to music no longer makes me want to plug my ears while grimacing in agony, and I’ll be posting again.

Tomorrow I go see Mastodon, Kylesa and Intronaut. Really I’m most interested in Kylesa. The more I listen to the new Mastodon the more I sigh in sadness at how they’ve changed. Cosmo Lee pretty much sums up my feelings: “After only a minute, I was violently allergic. That singing - ouch. I felt as if an old friend had showed up in a shiny new Hummer. Something had changed irreparably.”

Yeah.

What’s spinning, March 30 edition

Monday, March 30th, 2009
  • 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.

Deluxe packaging in the digital age

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

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.

Things to read

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

Not that this is particularly useful since I don’t do it regularly, but a few links of interest today…

PopMatters has a couple reviews of interest — namely a glowingly positive writeup of AhleuchatistasEven In the Midst… and a nearly as good one of Uz Jsme Doma’s Cod-Liver Oil. I have both of these and neither has really sunk in with me yet despite a few listens to each.

And on an end-of-year list note, check out Adrien Begrand’s site (it’s sort of a blog but not really) for his ongoing best of 2007 project, in which he will apparently be adding stuff for the next several days. He lost a little credibility with me when he named Mastodon’s atrocious Blood Mountain his favorite of 2006, but I still enjoy his writing and respect his opinions. So far he’s done a best-of of compilations and live albums and an “honorable mentions” list. On the latter are two albums that, if I did my top 10 of 2007 now, would make it onto the list: Om’s Pilgrimage and Dälek’s Abandoned Language.

Also, I’m pulling some chains over at ProgressiveEars by coming to the defense of Justin Timberlake. This could be a fun show.

Mastodon @ the 9:30 Club: sucked

Sunday, February 18th, 2007

Last night I saw about an hour of Mastodon live at the 9:30 Club. An hour only, because I didn’t really enjoy myself. I got there late and the show was sold out, so I was stuck in the back corner of the club, where bouncers would periodically push through to throw particularly rowdy folks out the door, and where, more importantly, the sound was atrocious. I don’t know if it was any better closer to the middle of the floor, but in the corner, the volume was nearly unbearable (and I had earplugs) and there was an omnipresent high-pitched screeching that I guess was caused by all the noise bouncing off the walls around me. So to be honest I couldn’t tell if the band put on a good show or not; the crowd certainly was eating it up. (Metal crowds are really incomparable when it comes to really, viscerally showing enthusiasm for the music.) They sounded a little sloppy to me, but, you know, not really being able to hear anything might have contributed to that impression.

An equally big problem is that for the hour that I stayed, they were pretty much just playing Blood Mountain straight through. I have come to really dislike that album, and live it didn’t come off much better; if anything, it seemed even wankier. For me, the whole concert was a battle between wanting to leave early and wanting to stay long enough to hear them do some older stuff. The former urge won out in the end.

What’s spinning, individual songs edition

Tuesday, September 26th, 2006

I’ve recently been listening to some albums with clear standout tracks and as a result have been trying to compile a kind of greatest-hits CD with the music that’s been spinning in my room for the past month or two. There’s a mix of new and not particularly new, and it’s a generally genre-less affair. The songs I have chosen so far (in no particular order):

  • Yo La Tengo - “The Story of Yo La Tango” (I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass): Classic epic noisy stuff from these guys that I’m going to see live tonight. Great way to end a pretty great new album.
  • Mastodon - “Sleeping Giant” (Blood Mountain): The obvious highlight on this album that I’m otherwise still a bit lukewarm about. Some unforgettably majestic guitar melodies here.
  • Christina Aguilera - “Still Dirrty” (Back to Basics): Dumb lyrics (actually not the norm on this album, at least on the first disc — but let’s not talk about the atrocious second disc) mitigated by a seriously bumpin’ production job.
  • Espers - “Moon Occults the Sun” (II): Melancholy, dignified indie-folk that should appeal to a lot of prog fans with their adventurous arrangements and crystal-clear, seductive vocals (both male and female). Another great album closer of a song.
  • Final Fantasy - “This Lamb Sells Condos” (He Poos Clouds): The album title is awful and some of the songs are, too. This is a hugely (over-)hyped album, but on this song at least they get it right.
  • Amon Tobin - “Sordid” (Permutation): Not new at all, but a barn-burner of a breakbeat song thrown into Tobin’s otherwise pretty jazzy sophomore album. Funny, I first got into Tobin through, of all things, a Coke TV ad (that used “Deo” from the next album).
  • Black Bonzo - “Brave Young Soldier” (Lady of the Light): This stuff isn’t generally my thing — this album was a perfect eMusic download rather than CD purchase for me — but there’s some cool stuff going on in this song.
  • Ephel Duath - “The Unpoetic Circle” (The Painter’s Palette): Any band that reminds me by turns of Cynic, Opeth and Pan-Thy-Monium can’t be anything but stone-cold awesome. This is one of the more accessible tracks from what is IMHO their best album.
  • The Coup - “My Favorite Mutiny” (Pick a Bigger Weapon): Disappointing album overall; I think Boots Riley and co. are really losing it. But this would have been a great song even on their old classic records.
  • Tim Berne’s Hard Cell - “BG uh-oh” (Feign): One of the more hyper-kinetic tracks on this album, and one that I was lucky enough to see live (performed by a slightly different ensemble). Berne is still one of my absolute favorite currently active “jazz” artists.
  • Boris - “Pink” (Pink): The title track from this album is one of the more aggressive tracks on a very aggressive record. Sludgy metal at its finest, with a touch of Japanese noise-rock zaniness.

Amazon Prime: uh oh

Thursday, September 14th, 2006

Today I got in a small order from amazon.com. They have offered me a free three-month Amazon Prime trial, under which anything I buy gets shipped to me by two-day UPS for free. This is normally a $79/year service. I never understood why someone would pay that much, but now that I have it, it makes a lot of sense and is really a prety brilliant marketing move. Now that I don’t have shipping charges to worry about, I can order from Amazon almost at will, even if it’s just one puny CD, and it shows up at my door two days (sometimes only one day) later. The only problem is that I feel slightly dirty for doing so knowing that this is exactly the kind of thing that could put the final nail in the coffin of independent and brick-and-mortar music and bookstores.

Anyway, today I got the new CDs by The Mars Volta, Mastodon and Yo La Tengo. First impressions of each: The Mars Volta’s Amputechture sounds, well, whiny. Nothing particularly stuck in my head, but then again I’m listening at work and not really focusing on the music. Too early to tell even whether I’ll like this or hate it. Mastodon’s new one sounds way more straightforward, especially in the vocal department, than their previous stuff. At some points I was shocked to find myself drawing comparisons to Dream Theater (though, thankfully, not James LaBrie). Uh oh! Last, Yo La Tengo’s new one is, first of all, the best-titled new release in years: I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass. This would be an awful name if it were an album by a punk or a metal band. But a Yo La Tengo album? Hilarious. And it’s good, too, reminding me more of the heyday of, say, I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One instead of the super-slow droney pop of their more recent work. The first and last tracks especially are classic feedback-drenched epics.

The Mars Volta, soaked in piss

Tuesday, September 12th, 2006

Surprise, surprise: Pitchfork’s favorite punching bag, The Mars Volta, get an over-the-top bad review for their new album, Amputechture! The first sentence alone contains the phrases “piss-soaked indulgence” (piss-soaked? really) and “bombastic, mouth-foaming performances.” Pitchfork’s attitude towards this band borders on the comical, and I’m happy to see that the tradition continues in fine form.

I’m pretty excited to hear Amputechture myself, having heard that it’s a long way from the, uh, piss-soaked indulgence of last year’s crappy live album.

On a more positive note, this Sunday’s New York Times had a long article about Mastodon, another exciting modern band with a new album coming out. There’s lots of name-dropping of 70s prog bands and early metal groups.

And finally (links galore today), Dusted just published a feature-length article about the This Heat box, Out of Cold Storage, that I still need to get my hands on.

Best of an amazing 2004!

Thursday, December 15th, 2005

It’s past time for my latest best-of-year list. I’ve been procrastinating a bit, see, because 2004 was such an amazingly brilliant year for new music that I would have a hard time making a top-20 list, much less my customary top 10. Nevertheless, here’s my best shot. For the newer readers, note that this is a best of 2004, not 2005 — the extra year allows for a bit more perspective as well as a chance to catch up on releases that passed me by originally.

  1. Isis - Panopticon
    I think I might be biased in favor of this one since it was my first real encounter with this kind of post-rock/metal hybrid. Nevertheless, Panopticon is epic, sweeping, majestic, and absolutely gorgeous: all while being balls-to-the-wall heavy. That’s quite an accomplishment in my book.
  2. Magma - K.A
    When I first heard this, I couldn’t believe how good it was. Now, after having heard some live recordings of Magma from the past few years, I have no trouble believing it. These guys still have it — incredibly, after 35 years they really are still at the top of their game. An instant zeuhl classic, made even better by the fact that it boasts easily the best production and sound quality of any Magma album ever.
  3. Sleepytime Gorilla Museum - Of Natural History
    One of the most promising new bands out there, and if their live shows are any indication, even an album as coherent and powerful as this one doesn’t come close to fulfilling that promise. No sophomore slump here — Of Natural History, especially its first half, pretty much blows me away — but I’d wager that the best is yet to come from these guys.
  4. Electric Masada - 50th Birthday Celebration Volume 4
    This is the record that spurred my tentative exploration of John Zorn-related projects into a frenzy. Dense and intense fusion in the best sense of the term; like Bitches Brew-era Miles that rocks harder and sounds, well, a lot more Jewish. My review hypes it up a bit more than is necessary, but this is still a sterling release and a must for fusion fans.
  5. Zu & Spaceways Inc. - Radiale
    Combine the brutal intensity of Italian free-jazzers Zu and the funky inclinations of Ken Vandermark’s Spaceways Inc., and the result is… one of the best albums of 2004. The first half features some wickedly heavy fuzz bass that would do any upstart zeuhl band proud; the second half opens things up a bit and has some killer covers of Funkadelic and Sun Ra. I prefer the less claustrophic and funkier latter half, but both are fantastic in their own right.
  6. Guapo - Five Suns
    I’m a bit off on my review of this one, harping a bit too much on Guapo’s overt Magma influences. True, those influences are there, but man do they know how to use those influences to make something pretty stellar. The 45-minute titular suite is a hard-driving, nonstop instrumental beat-down that’s hurt only by the fact that it’s front-loaded, opening with its best and most creative 5 minutes.
  7. Kruzenshtern & Parohod - Songs
    Where the hell did these guys come from? Wild punk-jazz klezmer, with an upbeat melodic sense tempered with a healthy penchant for all-out noise. And vocals that you’ll find either annoying as hell or unbelievably hilarious (I love ‘em). Definitely the most unique item on this list; I hope there will be a follow-up coming soon.
  8. Tanakh - Dieu Deuil
    Smoky indie-rock featuring some of the most haunting, beautiful melodies of the year. Jesse Poe’s lyrics and rich vocals combine with many interesting, slow-paced instrumental interludes to make one of the more distinctive indie-rock efforts I’ve heard recently. One of those records that transports you into a different world while you’re listening.
  9. Thinking Plague - Upon Both Your Houses
    This live recording from NEARfest 2000 is essential for fans of this contemporary American RIO band, mostly for its hard-edged, focused takes on tracks like “Warheads” and “Kingdom Come.” This is a rare, valuable document of a top band in top form, and one that rarely performs live.
  10. Mastodon - Leviathan
    I really think I prefer the thrashier, dirtier Remission, but for some reason I keep coming back to this one. If “progressive metal” didn’t mean “symphonic prog with cheesily heavy guitars and even cheesier squealing vocalists,” Mastodon would be the ultimate progressive metal band. Instead, they’re just a kick-ass metal band with lots of proggy tendencies, and nowhere are those tendencies more evident than on this album.

This list, more than any other best-of-year list I’ve done, is likely to change practically daily. Any number of albums could pop into the top 10. Just a few honorable mentions, as I browse my alphabetically-ordered list: Amarok’s Quentadharkën, Tim Berne’s Acoustic and Electric Hard Cell Live, Anthony CurtisBook of the Key, The DecemberistsThe Tain, The Dillinger Escape Plan’s Miss Machine, El-P’s High Water, Faun FablesFamily Album, Satoko Fujii’s Zephyros, Receptor Sight’s Cycles and Connections, Univers Zero’s Implosion, Wilco’s A Ghost is Born

The list could go on, but I think I’ve made my point. And the really shocking thing? The really shocking thing is that 2005 hasn’t been a disappointment after the awesomeness of 2004. Probably not quite as strong overall, but there’s been some amazing music released this year as well. Over at Pitchfork, in his review of Koenjihyakkei’s new Angherr Shisspa, ex-Ground and Sky reviewer Dominique Leone makes the bold claim that “In 2005, rock-based progressive music is bubbling below the surface with almost as much vigor as it did in the late 60s, just before it hit the pop charts in the early 70s during the heyday of Yes and ELP.” Based on the above list and my projected list for 2005, I’d have to agree. It’s a good time to be a fan of progressive music (with a lowercase, not a capital, P).

Note: you can also see my continually-updated top 10 lists from 1997 through 2005.

Brann Dailor on Phil Collins

Thursday, June 23rd, 2005

Brann Dailor is the drummer for Atlanta tech/math/prog-metal band Mastodon. In an interview at SuicideGirls, he talks about some his influences and mentions the likes of Bill Bruford, Tony Williams, Elvin Jones, Neil Peart, etc., as well as Phil Collins, about which he says:

I guess the only surprise [in my list of influences], for some people, people that have never heard Genesis before the exit of Peter Gabriel, is Phil Collins. People just kind of chuckle when they hear me say that, thinking that I’m joking, being ironic or something. I’m totally not! He seriously was… I mean, they go “Sue Sue Sulio” [Laughs], but [that] being said, even some of the Genesis stuff that came out that was super poppy had some killer drums on it, if you listen to it. I know that might be blasphemy saying that, but it had the best drums in pop music, that’s for sure.

Good interview, by the way.