Posts Tagged ‘Present’

Initial thought on the new Present

Friday, November 13th, 2009

The last three minutes of “Vertiges” are really, really fucking awesome.

More thoughts later but after a few listens, this whole record seems pretty great even if there’s only less than half an hour of actual new compositions on it. Haven’t peeped the DVD yet.

ReR USA has the new Present

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Just got this email:

Well, it’’s finally here, after years of hard work, and we’’re really proud of it. Roger Trigaux’’s (ex-Univers Zero) band, PRESENT, returns with a vengeance on this release: a new studio album CD, plus a three-hour DVD. These are compositions that spread out and expand upon the style of the band’s latest works, NUMBER 6 and HIGH INFIDELITY, and include the Trigaux duo’’s latest epic, VERTGES, as well as Present’’s slick version of JACK THE RIPPER, and Pierre Chevalier’’s fiery, A LAST DROP. The DVD is comprised of live footage from the band’’s two RIO France performances in 2007, and roughly half of the Gouveia Art Rock Festival performance from 2005. As an added bonus, there is archival footage, some of which dates back to the early days of the band, featuring Daniel Denis and Christian Genet. All of this has been exquisitely recorded and mixed by Udi Koomran, with post-video work by Asaf Carmeli, both of whom were out to re-define the parameters of modern-day Rock In Opposition products. The disks come in a spiffy, 8-panel digipack.

Obviously, this sounds amazing. It’s also steeply priced at nearly $40, but I’m sure it’ll be well worth it. In addition to the new piece, I’m really stoked to hear the recording of “Jack the Ripper” - when I saw Present’s show in North Carolina in 2005, one of my absolute favorite moments was when they unexpectedly launched into that classic Univers Zero composition.

New stuff that will probably rock

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

I’m excited about all of these upcoming releases for the remainder of 2009:

  • Anti-Pop Consortium - Fluorescent Black (heard it last night and I already know it rocks)
  • Baroness - Blue Record
  • Between the Buried and Me - The Great Misdirect
  • The Dillinger Escape Plan - Option Paralysis (probably early 2010)
  • Do Make Say Think - Other Truths
  • Epica - Design Your Universe (I am a total sucker for this band)
  • Espers - III
  • Evangelista - Prince of Truth
  • Gaza - He Is Never Coming Back
  • Krallice - Dimensional Bleedthrough
  • Magma - Emehntet-Re (is this really coming out in November??)
  • Present - Barbaro (isn’t this supposed to be out already? can’t find it anywhere)
  • Sajjanu - Pechiku!!
  • Univers Zero - Clivages (technically January 2010)
  • Wrnlrd - Myrmidon

Obviously, I have very little idea about what’s going on in the prog world these days. Any other avant-prog releases I should be paying attention to? (Please don’t tell me about the new Transatlantic album, I care even less than I did five years ago.)

Shub Niggurath - Introduction

Friday, July 31st, 2009

Been inactive here, sorry. Have not been inactive in general. The latest thing I did was a review of Shub Niggurath’s Introduction over at the Washington City Paper (it’s in this week’s print edition as well). To go along with that review, I also did a Q&A with Udi Koomran, who is responsible for remastering the original tape, and who also got me a copy of his early remaster so that I could review it for this site a few years ago. The review here is geared towards someone familiar with the RIO/avant-prog axis; the review at the City Paper is more for laypeople.

Readers of this site will be interested in the question I ask Udi, towards the end of the Q&A, about what he’s been working on lately. Bands like Present, Guapo and Eskaton are involved.

Also in that same question, be sure to check out the link to Udi’s contribution to the Radio Village Nomade soundscape project - a lot like Chris Cutler’s Twice Around the Earth project. Very cool stuff.

My best of 2005 list is here!

Monday, December 4th, 2006

Early December means best-of-last-year list time! Here’s what my Best of 2005 list looks like right now. (For those of you interested in ancient history, my best-of lists for 2004, 2003, 2002, and 2001 are also available in this space, along with explanations of why I delay these lists by a full year.)

  1. Bar Kokhba Sextet - 50th Birthday Celebration Volume 11
    Even now, as I begin to tire of John Zorn and his millions of side projects, this outfit gets me excited every time. The sextet — guitar, violin, cello, bass, drums, percussion — lends a rich orchestration to Zorn’s tuneful Masada compositions. This bargain 3-disc set captures the group at the height of their powers, and boasts a sound that skillfully combines beauty and skronk.
  2. Charming Hostess - Punch
    I guess technically this is an archival release, recorded in the late 1990s. However one categorizes it, it’s a worthy follow-up to the Charming Hostess big band’s Eat, and might even be better than that rather astonishing debut. Impossible to easily describe and also impossible to dislike.
  3. Orthrelm - OV
    “Impossible to dislike” sure as hell doesn’t describe this one, though: it’s about as grating as can possibly imagined. I actually heard this in an independent record store — they put it on without knowing anything about it, and only lasted about three minutes before they had to change it. Imagine a metal record skipping continuously (for 45 minutes) in the middle of a particularly speedy riff, and you get the idea. The thing is, though, it’s genius — a kind of metal minimalism that’s hypnotic and affecting once you get over the initial shock of it all.
  4. Iron & Wine - Woman King
    Sam Beam is a fantastic songwriter, but on previous Iron & Wine albums I’ve felt that the minimal arragements made his songs less exciting than they could be. This six-track EP ups the ante a bit with bigger production and more instrumentation, and to amazing effect. Combined with the (also very good) EP he did with Calexico, also in 2005, this was easily the best year yet for this excellent indie songwriter.
  5. Maneige - Live à L’Évêché
    This archival release was my first exposure to this French Canadian symph group, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it remains a lasting favorite. I’ve yet to hear anything from these guys that I like as much as this album (though I haven’t disliked anything I’ve heard). Really beautiful melodies and a keen sense of orchestration, all done in a pretty tasteful way — if only Maneige had been the poster children of 70s symphonic rock and not, say, ELP!
  6. Tim Berne - Feign
    I get the sneaking suspicion that any year this prolific avant-jazz saxophonist releases something new, he’ll make my top 10 list. Feign features Berne’s “Hard Cell” trio (piano/sax/drums) and is as energetic and driving as one might expect, without sacrificing Berne’s trademark compositional complexity. Now if only he would do more live performances outside of New York City and Europe…
  7. Pelican - March Into the Sea
    This post-metal band, second only to Isis in my estimation, has a weird habit of releasing absolutely brilliant EPs followed by somewhat disappointing full-length albums. Such was the case in 2005; March Into the Sea consists of a brilliant 20-minute title epic that is my favorite song the band has yet recorded. Unfortunately, the full-length album that followed a few months later seems mostly uninspired in comparison.
  8. Painkiller - 50th Birthday Celebration Volume 12
    While the Bar Kokhba set listed above is charming and lyrical, this entry in the Tzadik 50th Birthday series is mean and ugly. Painkiller was always Zorn at his skronkiest, but here the noise factor is actually toned down quite a bit thanks to Hamid Drake’s drumming that actually, dare I say it, swings at times. And as it turns out, a kinder, gentler Painkiller is a better, more listenable Painkiller. Still seriously aggro, but no longer annoyingly so.
  9. Frank Zappa - Imaginary Diseases
    I don’t count myself as a huge Zappa fan, but I’ve always loved Waka/Jawaka and The Grand Wazoo as much as any diehard FZ fanboy. This album, a live performance from that same period, is a treasure for folks like me who like Zappa’s big-band material and wish there were more than just a couple official releases of the stuff. Long-expected and well worth the wait!
  10. Present - A Great Inhumane Adventure
    This one makes it onto my list almost entirely thanks to the rendition of “Promenade au Fond d’un Canal,” which attacks the listener with all the ferocity and subtlety of a tyrannosaurus rex. Present can get pretty dark and eeevil, but this is just might be the most deliciously violent they’ve ever been on record. I wonder if there are any survivors from the live show where this was recorded. Are they all brain-dead by now?

This one was tough, because while I love all these albums, none of them really stands out and the order seems almost interchangeable. I also had a hard time with OV — it’s an incredible work, but hard to figure out where it goes on a list of favorites because it’s simply not something I’d want to listen to every day (or week, or month for that matter).

And a bunch of honorable mentions in alphabetical order: Scott Amendola Band’s Believe, Banco’s Seguendo le Tracce, John Coltrane’s One Down, One Up: Live at the Half Note, The DecemberistsPicaresque, Earth’s Hex; or Printing in the Infernal Method, Electric Masada’s At the Mountains of Madness, Ephel Duath’s Pain Necessary to Know, Satoko Fujii’s Angelona, Guapo’s Black Oni, Indukti’s S.U.S.A.R., Koenjihyakkei’s Angherr Shisspa, Konono No. 1’s Congotronics, Jérôme LangloisMolignak, Miasma & the Carousel of Headless HorsesPerils, Nil’s Nil Novo Sub Sole, Opeth’s Ghost Reveries, Rova::Orkestrova’s Electric Ascension, The Vandermark 5’s The Color of Memory, and Wilco’s Kicking Television: Live in Chicago.

Obviously, it was a pretty good year for me. Nothing completely jaw-dropping like the top four or five albums from 2004, but a really, really large group of very good releases (and admittedly, comparing any year to 2004 is a little unfair, given how amazing that year was). Any one of those albums on my honorable mention list would probably crack my top 10 at some point in time, given my mood, emotions, time of day, whatever. It’s odd, and surprising, that three of my top ten albums are archival releases, but regardless, there was plenty of excellent music to go around in 2005.

Three great shows in three different cities

Monday, July 11th, 2005

In the past couple weeks I have been lucky enough to see three fantastic live shows — and no, I didn’t make it to NEARfest. A little while ago I saw Sleepytime Gorilla Museum at the Black Cat here in DC. I’ve been told many times that this band is one hell of an experience live, so my expectations were kind of through the roof. Maybe because of that, I ended up a little disappointed, but it was still a great show. Probably based on the kind of younger, punkish audience that the Black Cat brings, SGM played mostly their loud and heavy stuff - the first half of Of Natural History, namely, plus “1997″ from the debut. The performance was fantastic and impassioned, but the sound was awful — maybe because I was standing too close to the stage. I could hardly make out anything aside from the percussion and occasional violin; vocals and guitar especially were way too low. But anyway. The performance-art aspect of the show was neat, and I’ve never enjoyed watch a band set up so much, thanks to all of SGM’s bizarre homemade instruments.

Also, there was one opening band of note, because they were so bad. I forget what they were called, but when they got on stage my interest was piqued thanks to their lineup of five guitarists and a bassist lined up in a semicircle around two drummers. But then they started playing, and damned if they didn’t sound like a pedestrian power trio. Why have five guitarists if they’re all going to play the exact same (boring) riff?

Show number two was a week later, in Pittsburgh’s Garfield Artworks: zany tech-metal band Behold… the Arctopus with new Tzadik signing Time of Orchids. (And a few other bands that I didn’t quite care for.) Behold I went to see on the recommendation of Steve F.; they played an amazingly impressive brand of super-fast complex instrumental metal. Guitarist, drummer, and Warr guitarist, the last of which was clearly the focal point of the band. Pretty incredible talent all around, but it was all a bit too much for me. The way I see it there are two ways to look at a band like this. One: you think Dream Theater is talented? Wait ’til you hear these guys! Or, two: you think Dream Theater is wanky? Wait ’til you hear these guys!

Time of Orchids, on the other hand, I knew from their latest release, Sarcast While. As I state in my review, it’s not an album that I am 100% enamoured with, but I like it a lot and was really excited to see these guys live. They didn’t disappoint. They were alternately powerful and beautiful, looked like they were having fun despite the fact that the audience could have easily fit in my apartment’s walk-in closet, and did a wicked awesome performance of “All You Ever Wish” to close out their brief set. Great stuff — one of those bands I became a bigger fan of after seeing them live.

Show number three was the best of the bunch: Present at Local 506 in Chapel Hill, NC. I had hoped to catch Present in Baltimore and Richmond as well, but as it happened this was the only show I was able to make (though I was sorely tempted to go up to NYC yesterday just to see their show there, but common sense — and financial sense — kicked in, alas). This show was fucking unbelievable. Let me say again: fucking unbelievable. Again, the audience was tiny, 20-30 people tops (though this was considerably larger than at the Behold/Orchids show). But the sound was good and the performance was breathtaking. Right from the beginning I knew I was going to be happy, because they opened their set with “Jack the Ripper” from one of my favorite albums ever, Univers Zero’s Heresie. I hesitate to call it a “cover” since I think Roger Trigaux might have written it — he was still in Univers Zero when Heresie was written. I’ll have to check the liner notes, or someone can tell me in the comments. Anyway, Present’s rendition of this song was tremendous — as one might expect, far more powerful and aggressive than the original.

Otherwise, they played the two long suites from No. 6, both of which were great but especially “Ceux d’en Bas”; two new pieces which sounded a little different from the rest of the band’s material — I don’t remember precisely how, but maybe a little less repetitive, with a few more symphonic flourishes; and closed the set with “Promenade au Fond d’un Canal” from the debut album. This closer was particularly stunning — the addition of the cello and reedist really fleshed out the sound of this piece, which sounds kind of spartan on the studio album.

Of particular note was Keith Macksoud on bass, who was just a total monster. He had a couple jaw-dropping solos and was always just huge. He actually broke a string on his bass twice (to go along with the cellist completely shredding his bow during “Jack the Ripper”). Also impressive was keyboardist Pierre Chevalier, who was playing repetitive themes with metronomic precision but also had some great freakouts and solos. Of course Dave Kerman was up to his usual tricks, bringing back the Barbie doll schtick I remember from NEARfest 2000 with Thinking Plague.

Really, the band was just the tightest, most powerful live beast I might have ever seen. Their show was easily the best I’ve witnessed thus far this year, next to Nels Cline and Wilco’s performance back in February (though that, of course, was a completely different game). I’m gratified to hear that they blew people away at NEARfest as well, and I hope the other shows they played were better-attended than the Chapel Hill gig. Truly, truly astounding stuff.

Finally: it was nice to get an opportunity to chat with various members of the aforementioned bands — Nils from SGM, Chuck and Jesse from Time of Orchids, and Udi from Present. All stand-up folks it seems, even as they play music that’s mean as hell!

Best of 2001, revisited

Wednesday, February 25th, 2004

So, as anyone who reads this blog on a fairly consistent basis (insofar as it’s consistently updated, at least) knows, I do my best-of-year lists a year after the fact to correct for a number of errors, most obviously the fact that I can’t possibly hear or buy all the great albums released in a year all that quickly. The folks over at The Turntable - the blog associated with Stylus - do a similar cool thing, which is go back and draw up a new “best of year” list a year after the fact, and compare it with their old lists. The differences are interesting at least. So here: I’ll do the same thing - here is my Best of 2001 as I would have it today. Note that I made this up without looking back at the original Best of 2001 list I posted in December of 2002.

  1. Present - High Infidelity
  2. The Dismemberment Plan - Change
  3. Magma - Theusz Hamtaakh Trilogie
  4. Mogwai - Rock Action
  5. Miles Davis - Live at the Fillmore East: It’s About That Time
  6. Sleepytime Gorilla Museum - Grand Opening and Closing
  7. The Beta Band - Hot Shots II
  8. Green Carnation - Light of Day, Day of Darkness
  9. Outkast - Stankonia
  10. Satoko Fujii Quartet - Vulcan

Some other great albums released in 2001: Femi Kuti’s Fight to Win, System of a Down’s Toxicity, Djam Karet’s Ascension, Explosions in the Sky’s Those Who Tell the Truth…, Avant Garden’s Maelstrom, Bob Drake’s The Skull Mailbox, Cannibal Ox’s The Cold Vein, and John Coltrane’s The Olatunji Concert. Whew. It was a good year, apparently. Oh, and the best surprise of the year was Dream Theater’s Live Scenes From New York, which was actually really good - light-years better than their previous live album (though that’s damning with faint praise, I suppose). The Coup’s Party Music was pretty good, but a little disappointing.

You may note that Krakatoa’s Togetherness disappeared from my list (from #4 originally). I still think it’s a great album, but I just haven’t been inclined to pull it out very often for the past couple years. Same goes for their other albums, including the newer one on Cuneiform, which never really grabbed me that well in the first place. Hmm.

Also, High Infidelity took a huge leap from #7 to #1, and after peeking back at the archives, four of the ten items on the list above were not on the old one at all. Still, the top few more or less remained constant, which is cool.

Dismemberment Plan @ The Bowery Ballroom

Monday, November 19th, 2001

So last Wednesday night I went once more to the Bowery Ballroom, this time to see The Dismemberment Plan. This was one of those shows that I’d been anticipating so greatly that I almost managed to be disappointed just because my expectations were so high. Nevertheless, they put on a fantastic show and I left quite satisfied. They played a ton of stuff from Change - all of the last four songs, which all kick ass, as well as “Superpowers” and “Come Home”; and a lot from Emergency & I - all of the last six songs except “8 1/2 Minutes”, plus “What Do You Want Me To Say”. They also played a bit of earlier stuff - “The Ice of Boston”, “Bra”, “OK, Joke’s Over”, “Onward, Fat Girl”, as well as “The Dismemberment Plan Gets Rich”. Good stuff.

The crowd seemed to be much more satisfied with the earlier, more punk-ish pieces - the reaction to “Bra” was astonishing - but I was particularly taken with the new stuff from Change. “Following Through” and especially “The Other Side” were really high-powered and well-played. The band was clearly having a great time, with bassist Eric grinning foolishly for half the show and frontman Travis joking with the crowd between songs. A fabulous show, marred only by the terrible opening band (Need New Body, who seemed to be more about gimmicks than music) and a second act that I was rather disappointed by (Ted Leo and the Pharmacists).

I’ve seized with the ice cold rage of a lover betrayed, half a million miles away
I’ve cried so hard for hours and not known why, I never do
I’ve been knocked down flat by joy that makes my face pulse like a sugar high
I’ve been cornered by the screams of a body as it freed itself of its mind
Dismemberment Plan, “Superpowers”

Of course I made my standard stop by Other Music, intending only to pick up the Múm album, Yesterday Was Dramatic - Today is OK; I did, but I also ran across the new Present (which is on a Belgian label! - bless Other Music) and convinced myself to also drop eight bucks on eight minutes of Magma - the single, Floe Essi / Ektah.

The Múm I got because it’s been getting insanely high praise and has been recommended widely to fans of Sigur Rós. I think the latter is just because they’re also from Iceland, because aside from the pretty melodies I can’t see any relation at all, musically. Múm plays a very sparse form of electronica, and have a pretty neat knack for making very brittle rhythms sound soothing and attractive. It’s not at all what I was expecting, but I quite like it. But of the three purchases, the new Present, High Infidelity, is definitely my favorite. I’ve only heard the Cuneiform twofer that has Triskaidekaphobie and Le Poison, so I was quite surprised by the very different feeling of this new one. It’s moved away from the “Univers Zero with guitar” style of those early albums, and has a much more aggressive sound to it now, helped on by some loud bass and Dave Kerman’s drumming, which is less atmospheric and more tear-your-head-off than Daniel Denis’ ever was. I dig it.