Beaches & Canyons
We recently had an article about modernism in Life & Art. Before that, we covered last month’s GenArt exhibit – where an “artist” had chosen to tack napkins onto a display wall and call it “art.” Relax – it was art. However, there was no feeling inside – ambiguous, clever conclusions were fashionably absent. It left you with a blank stare and a creepy inner dissonance, because you simply shouldn’t comment on its non-artiness: down the free Heinekens a little faster as your brain loathes you. Unattentive listeners may site a similar observation about Black Dice, but I disagree. To me, this is what “modernism” sounds like.
Play “break the ice.” On the surface there are druggy caterpillars that represent pretentiousness. We can see them scattering about, so they exist (sans your current philosophy bent). You break the ice, they fall in, squirming inside the cold ocean, floating around – forming sad facial expressions. It seems genuine. Then you realize they are performing an everyday routine and yearn for you to enjoy it. Not just to enjoy it, but to “drown” right along with them. You finish your beer and jump in. It’s freezing, but you secretly prefer it that way. Addiction sets in, and you sink to the mysterious bottom, inertly wishing that you could stay there. On the sharp, rocky floor you come upon Black Dice.
Black Dice’s Beaches & Canyons is not an album you can love like London Calling. Play this in an automobile during heavy traffic and you’ll feel bizarre – out-of-place like a monkey. Listen to it while you’re pre-occupied – studying is (oddly) ideal. Each of the five epic tracks on Beaches & Canyons is laced with fringed vocals and/or chanting. Song two, “The Dream is Going Down”, comes on like a stone-washed heaven, then a baby’s whimpering interrupts the faux serenity and boils tension until it sounds like the definitive level of Max Payne (violent videogame). “Endless Happiness” spies on a middle school kid in his bedroom practicing the recorder, as UFOs hover down and shake the chimes on his family’s porch (like Signs overdosing on reality, minus box office buzz).
This is not music made solely for burnouts, nerds and glazed-eyed partiers (well…). Brooklyn’s Black Dice have composed an intelligent disc of infinite cinema-like modernism for the dome. It is a largely focused walkabout at dawn filled with guitar, percussion, water sounds, bass, screams, and peyote visions. You’re the dog – the music is the hoop. By the end of the umpteenth minute of track five, you’ll be doing hula-hoops. A must have for your music collection – downloading single tracks from Beaches and Canyons is pointless.
For more info visit www.dfarecords.com.
Yesterday’s New Quintet
Most producers will only work with equipment in a “smoke free” studio – not this time. Yesterday’s New Quintet AKA rapper/producer Madlib (just to straighten things out, this is only one man) has been putting out albums from his “smoked out” studio, the Bomb Shelter, for well over a decade. With more than 70 (not a typo) under his belt, Madlib has decided that this effort should explore the “wonder” that is Stevie. These fourteen tracks are not just instrumental covers of Stevie Wonder’s recordings; instead, he does something with each song that is all his own (example: Wes Montgomery’s “A Day in the Life”).
Each of Madlib’s mental cohorts is given a chance for their own virtuosos throughout the disc: Joe McDuphrey, Monk Hughes, Malik Flavors, Ahmad Miller and Otis Jackson Jr. each get their “Place in the Sun.” If their names aren’t enough to spark some interest, maybe the epiphany that each song “they” play is originally composed by a mad, musical genius is. Seek this one out, whatever the expense.
For more info visit www.stonesthrow.com.
Now You Know
This is the country blues album that will block those gargantuan asteroid bombs coming our way. At first, it was Beck’s Sea Change, but Doug Martsch of Built to Spill delivers the goods like a somber, honest milkman. It recognizes (indirectly) all of the strife happening in today’s world, but stays roosted in a personable location, playing the slide guitar with additional inspiration and meaning. To hell with expensive ties wrapped around necks of heads filled full of lies, let’s watch Lonesome Dove, think while the sun falls, and leave masculine boasting to the crickets.
“Now you should know by now, that it’s a small sound that holds you down,” sings Martsch on the first track, “Offer”. It is quaint advice, but carries significant weight in our time of acne-free glitter pop and artists/publicists who seem to have wolves’ eyes directed at the bleeding heart of music. Martsch references an old blues man named Mississippi Fred McDowell as his main influence for this album. Based on research, McDowell was a helluva slide guitar player, a diehard believer in the blues, and an equally diehard disbeliever in rock ‘n’ roll. Martsch’s respect for him as an artist is evident – he’s not sneaking a note into his guitar case and carrying it into the studio. This window to the past is clearly heartfelt and adds a desperate, wailing vibe. It stretches across his work here like a ghost – one who is not easily pleased, but tapping his foot just enough.
Martsch covers McDowell only once, on “Woke Up This Morning (With My Mind on Jesus), and the result sounds like Nirvana unplugged, if Kurt was running off of an extra large Powerbar and moderate optimism. It’s not a mark for the blackboard, but the lyrical push onto religious grounds is unnecessary, since it’s the sole time Martsch gives a literal sermon on humbleness.
Moments when he sings a line like, “Isn’t it amazing how everyone’s crazy about violence they can’t conceive…what’s in my heart is good enough for me…it was good enough for me,” are the true cake. It’s not being said by a wuss teenager in a garage, it’s being said by someone who feels lost in a world lusting for a scary mushroom clouded victory – whoever’s “side” it may be on.
For more info visit www.dougmartsch.com.
Static Delusions and Stone-Still Days
When you “forget” to leave your dorm room during one of the 62,113 fire drills throughout a given semester, sometimes you get a warning in your mailbox typed on extremely reddish orange paper, cheerfully resembling a flame. It tells you that fires and their cousins (said using Smokey Bear’s country accent) – fire drills – are nothing to giggle at. Refusal to leave the building may result in severe penalties, and/or having to utilize the “stop, drop and roll” technique with rare Ninja Gaiden-like precision.
This is nothing to be sarcastic about. It’s life and death, not life and 40 extra minutes of zzzz. But, let’s just say a slightly more-ignorant-than-usual batch of FSU Seminoles, trendy terrorists, or perhaps, half-ibis, half-man creatures took over campus and actually set it ablaze. What would you do, and more importantly, what band’s anthems would you want blasting out of UM’s PA speakers as you ran for your life?
Why, the Catheters silly. Residents of Seattle, Washington (rain), the Catheters bring the kind of thickly sooted rush that is achieved only when running at top flight and tripping carelessly, but purposely (for slow-mo guilty pleasure) on your untied shoe laces inside a scorching inferno. As you dash through scary hallways decorated with burning loose-leaf notebook paper and pom-poms, just let an oversized ibis mutant stop you with the Catheters as your fatalistic soundtrack. You’d drop kick him/it though a brick wall, run outside and French kiss those dewy eyed cheerleaders like the inner-jock you aren’t.
Static Delusions and Stone-Still Days cleans the sludge off of Unsane’s sound and slimes it all over Stone Temple Pilots (or, your “more legitimate” grunge [grunge?] band of yesteryears). Vocalist Brian Standeford is young but accomplished at churning his howls into dwindling screams. For a better gist, download “The Door Shuts Quickly” and “I Fall Easy.” By the way – avoid the last track, it’s cashed.
For more info visit www.thecatheters.com and www.subpop.com.
Kamaal: The Abstract (promo copy)
The fact that this album was scheduled for release over a year ago, only to receive the same fate as J-Live’s first album, should “q” you in that it’s far from mainstream. Using 1999’s Amplified as the sole reference point (Tribe’s days in the limelight are long gone, admit it), you might expect a very flaky album, but not so. Kamaal: The Abstract is as rich as Twinkie filling, without having to chew through a spongy coating to get into it. From the first note (a slightly distorted guitar lick) there is no way to predict what’s coming next; by its last, it’s impossible not to know what Q-tip expected from the audience.
The laid back feel of this album does what songs (if you can even call them that) like “Vivrant Thing” and “End of Time” (feat. Korn) failed to do on Amplified – they let us relate. This album is a lot more about people than images. However much a listener likes to hear about other peoples’ dreams, nothing can ever compare to hearing about other people.
The enchanting loops on Kamaal, coupled with nice sax, trumpet and guitar solos, compliment Q-Tip’s voice. His lyrics are an asset to the song, instead of the weighty foundation. Rather than break this album down track-by-track, listen to the whole thing. After forty-some minutes, you’ll know a lot more about Q-tip (a man who sounds a lot like a friend that you’d want to have).