The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'post-rock'
Subject: line found in spam folder: "Laboratory pep rally".
That would make a pretty good title for the kind of record one might see reviewed on Pitchfork.
Another brilliant band has broken up; I have just been informed that Melbourne post-rock trio Season have split (in fact, a bit over a month ago). Which is a pity, as they were amazing live. They have, however, provided fans with a parting gift, and put up most of their material on their web site in MP3 format.
Your Humble Narrator went to see Sigur Rós last night at Somerset House.
The support band was one Amina Strings, who are also from Iceland and have played and collaborated with Sigur Rós quite a bit (I recall seeing a flyer for a gig they did up in Scotland some years ago). Four women who seem to be a string quartet who picked up other instruments. Their set involved them playing various sorts of string instruments (including violin/viola/cello and some sort of harp/koto-like ones), plinking away in synchrony on chromatic percussion, playing a saw with a bow (think Delicatessen; it makes one wonder whether it was an ordinary hardware-shop saw or whether there's a place somewhere that sells special tuned saws for musical use), doing various things on an iBook, and bringing out a Casio VL-1 at some stage, set to Rock 2 (that's the Wöekenender loop). They weren't all that far from Múm territory.
Next up there was half an hour of weird, glacial drones played through the PA as people went to buy overpriced Carling lager in plastic cups. (Aside: Carling is rubbish; it's not so much a generic beer like Carlton Draught, as a homogenised, heavily carbonated piss; probably a similar concept to the US Budweiser, which I've so far managed to avoid. Carling, however, own the live music scene in Britain, and are harder to avoid.) Then Sigur Rós came on. The first thing I noticed was the frontman playing his guitar with a bow. Not one of those E-Bow magnetic devices, but an actual cello bow. The guitar in question looked very traditional, redolent of the blues/rock heritage of the American south; the juxtaposition of it being played with a bow seemed rather postmodern. That's not the only weird thing he did with his guitar; at one point, he held it to his face and sang into the strings.
Sigur Rós played for about an hour and a half, including two encores. They were accompanied by Amina Strings during some of the songs. They played some old favourites (including Svefn-g-Englar and the first two tracks of ()) and what seemed to be some new tracks. One of them sounded a lot more approachable, and almost like a Doves track; perhaps it's a consequence of them having signed to EMI? Anyway, the light show was pretty good too, with the colours (deep golden greens and icy blues) and visual projections (ghostly processed images of moving people and jerky video of electric pylons) going quite well with the music. More photos here.
As usual, here is my purely subjective roundup of albums/EPs of the past six months. Some are new, some are older, but all are things I obtained in the past six months and (in the case of things a few years old), by bands I only recently discovered. This list is, of course, completely subjective; you may disagree, but to paraphrase a Lush lyric, maybe you're right but this is my blog.
- Minimum Chips, Sound Asleep (Sound Malfunction); the long-awaited new 7-track EP/album from the Chips actually came out in 2004, but I only got it this year on account of being abroad. It wasn't a disappointment. Seven tracks, with their trademark tight, jaunty grooves, clunky bass lines, vintage electric organs, glockenspiels, trombones and Nicole's vocals, recorded with the perfectionistic production values their EPs are known for. It varies from twee to angular, and ends with a 1-minute explosion of krautrock-tinged noise.
- The Rumours, We Are Happy (Cavalier Records); tight guitar pop in a classic vein from the Melbourne band, with songs of unrequited love, hopes, fears and moments, delivered in a very Australian pure-pop sensibility; hearing this in the London winter was like sunshine in aural form.
- Sambassadeur, Between The Lines (Labrador); a 4-track EP from a Swedish indiepop group. Elements of C86/Sarah Records-style fey indiepop and shoegazer. Jangly guitars, handclaps, tambourines, catchy pop harmonies and low-key vocals with lyrics (in English) about watching the northern lights and just enough reverb/delay and the odd bit of Mary Chain-esque skronk. I look forward to the album (which is out in Sweden and awaiting a UK release through local shoegazer indie AC30).
- Laura, Mapping Your Dreams (Alone Again). I heard this when walking past Perfect post-rock; evocatively atmospheric moodscapes of layered guitar, driving basslines, drums and the odd synth, glockenspiel and murmured vocal, with not a note out of place. Not too far from Mogwai territory via inner-north Melbourne, and strays into Prop territory in one track. Simply sublime.
- July Skies, The English Cold (Make Mine Music); sparse, evocative post-rock soundscapes of minimalist reverb-washed guitar, and understated vocals; like a more understated Piano Magic circa Artists' Rifles, with a bit of late-period Slowdive; this is a concept album, ostensibly about the southern English countryside at the outbreak of World War 2, with song titles like Farmers And Villagers Living Within The Shadow Of Aerodromes, Strangers In Our Lanes and Countryside of 1939.
- Robin Guthrie/Harold Budd, Music from the film Mysterious Skin (Commotion); Guthrie's most sublimely ethereal work since Victorialand; works beautifully within the film, and manages to stand on its own too.
- My Favorite, The Happiest Days Of Our Lives (Double Agent Records); indiepop that's like synthpop with guitars, bass and live drums. Shimmering guitar, keyboards reminiscent of OMD or 1980s New Order, the odd melancholy piano, overlaid with alternate male/female vocals. Beneath the sweetness and light there is a darnkess and a deep melancholy; the pure-pop sweetness of Andrea's voice melds incongruously with the lyrical subject matter of suburban alienation, mental illness, violence and loss; the monochromatic booklet with its post-rock-esque blurry photographs and essay about the ghost of Joan of Arc as the original emo kid, adding even more incongruity. It also comes with a second disc of synthpoppy remixes, including one by Future Bible Heroes.
- Trademark, Want More (Truck Records). Theatrical, somewhat spoddy and ever-so-slightly facetious synthpop from three English blokes in labcoats. Parts of it border on goth-club material, with cold, industrial distortion, melodrama in a minor key and Depeche Mode affectations, whilst others head into Human League/OMD club-pop territory, and the rest of it being not unlike Baxendale; polished, clever and very English. The songwriting is nimble, with plenty of wordplay, and the arrangements and production are impeccable, using the medium to its full expressive potential and keeping things interesting. And it features songs equating emotions with oscillator waveforms, and a love song with the words "simple harmonic motion"; how can you go wrong?
When Johnny Cash passed away, I noticed how he had virtually been claimed by the industriogothic scene as One Of Their Own, because of his dress sense and melancholy themes. (Though his covering Nine Inch Nails and Bad Seeds songs probably helped too.) It's funny, as I'm fairly sure that when Siouxsie Sioux and Andrew Eldritch were inventing what was to become 'Goth", they weren't heavily influenced by Johnny Cash, or indeed much country music at all; I doubt that Throbbing Gristle and their ilk were either.
It appears to be a rule that any vaguely dark, ethereal or otherworldly eventually gets lumped into the "Goth" genre, even if it starts life a million miles from goth's tightly circumscribed perimeter. It happened to Depeche Mode (in the 1980s they weren't goth, but now they're Goth As Fuck), and in the U.S. it seems to have partly happened to the shoegazer genre. (In Commonwealth countries, shoegazer is firmly ensconced in the indie-rock tradition, however.)
To wit, a list of artists and genres who might be filed in the "Goth" sections of record shops in 10 years' time:
- Sigur Rós
- Godspeed You Black Emperor, and related outfits; in fact, all gloomy post-rock
- all Norwegian Black Metal
- various German/Austrian laptop glitch techno
And some things you probably won't find filed under "Goth":
- Architecture In Helsinki
- the Dixie Chicks
- The Vines/The Datsuns/Jet
- Kid 606's Missy Elliott mash-ups
Unlike some people, I didn't get to go to Iceland, but I did get to see a small piece of Iceland tonight at the Corner; namely, Múm. They were supported by Minimum Chips (my second favourite local band at the moment) and Architecture In Helsinki.
The Chips played two sets on the side stage: one shortly after 9, when the doors opened, and one after AIH finished while Múm were setting up. For the first set and half of the second, they played without Ian, with the drum kit standing empty and an old analogue drum machine carefully programmed with all their drum patterns. They played all the tracks off Gardenesque, a few old songs from around the time of Swish and a few from various compilations, which was good.
Between their two sets, local twee indie-pop orchestra Architecture In Helsinki took to the main stage and played for about 45 minutes. They played some tracks off Fingers Crossed (some in extended versions) and a few new tracks; their new material is somewhat less sugary than the album tracks, and perhaps a bit reggae/dub/ska inspired in places. (Which makes sense; they have enough personnel to form a ska band, for one.)
And Múm were pretty good. Their music was rather sparse, drifting between pieces. It is probably a dreadful cliché to say that it evokes the sparse Icelandic landscapes, but it did. They played a number of pieces, including some new ones, melding from piece to piece. I was expecting them to be standing behind laptops and controlling some mysterious process that made plinking noises, but most of the music was live, played on melodica, violin, keyboards (including a vintage Wurlitzer and a Moog), guitar, drums and xylophone; oh, and the obligatory PowerBook. They finished up with an encore of I'm 9 Today. And the Guns'n'Roses T-shirt one of the band was wearing was quite amusing.
And someone kept blowing soap bubbles over the audience during their set. Probably an AIH fan.
Music heard today:
- Cartwheel, Yellow Keys - a recent 7" release by an Australian act. An electric guitar phrase looped over a fast drum machine and synth bass; slightly reminiscent of acts like Foil and some of Ollie Olsen's projects before he got into drugmusic, only crossed with an indie-pop aesthetic; one could file this alongside Stereolab or Minimum Chips.
- Clag, Goldfish. From a 7" by this Brisbane indie-pop band, from sometime in the 90s. Look look look in the goldfish bowl there are purple fish and green fish and pleasant fish and mean fish. The bowl will be rocking and the fish will be dancing, at the little girly fish the boys will be glancing. Quite possibly the most twee thing ever committed to vinyl, but it works. I'm still not sure about the gargling solo though.
- Piano Magic, Low Birth Weight. I'm really going to have to get this; it's quite good, in a somewhat muted shoegazer/postrock vein.
I also managed to hear a preview of the upcoming I Want A Hovercraft EP, and it sounds quite promising, with some very nice post-rock instrumental moments.
I just picked up the new Mogwai album, Happy Songs for Happy People. I was surprised to find an insert in the album stating that the CD comes with a demo version of Cubase SX and the multitrack audio files of the first song on the CD, required to remix it. The Cubase demo is PC-only, so I don't get to see how the damned thing works under OSX, where most of my plug-ins can't go. The separate files are all .wav files, though, so if you don't mind not being able to load the .CPR Cubase SX project, you can still have a go at them. (Btw, Cubase SX files appear to be a RIFF data type; maybe some penguinhead will reverse-engineer them in due time, at least well enough to import them.)
Anyway, it's an interesting experiment; giving songs for the fans to remix like that. I can't see the copyright-crazed majors allowing their chattels to do something like that (i.e., if Radiohead did that, it'd probably come with a special rights-managed remixing program which ran only on your Trusted PC™ and let you give a few play-once low-bitrate Windows Media copies to a handful of friends before self-destructing), but I think it makes sense for indie artists. Mogwai probably have more to benefit from a fan-made remixes of one of their songs floating around the MP3 nets and being played by laptop-glitch DJs from their Ableton Live-equipped iBooks than most artists; much in the way that Björk has to gain from all the bootleg remixes of her songs floating around.
As for the album: haven't heard the whole thing yet, though it sounds good. It seems that the detour into Radical Jewish Thrash Metal that was My Father My King was just that, and the album is a progression from Rock Action; if anything, it's more introverted and subtle, though in a good way. In places they're starting to sound a bit like Sigur Rós, though.
Speaking of Sigur Rós, I also picked up their Sigur 1 - Sigur 9 single, which came with a DVD of videos. The one for Svefn-g-englar is not bad, and quite apt; it basically has people dressed up as angels moving about in slow motion around an Icelandic landscape, under a volcanic cliff and a featureless off-white sky. (The video was a US import, where they are released through MCA/Universal, which is presumably why it's a Region 1-only DVD.)
(Interesting that Mogwai hail from Scotland and Sigur Rós hail from Iceland. I wonder how long until a post-rock band emerges from the Faroe Islands, a point roughly halfway inbetween.)
Lugubrious Montréal postrock collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor, known for their left-wing views and disdain for U.S. foreign policy, detained as suspected terrorists at Oklahoma petrol station. An attendant became suspicious and called the police, and soon enough they were surrounded by heavily-armed FBI agents.
"I just feel very lucky that we weren't Pakistani or Korean," Godspeed You! Black Emperor frontman Efrim Menuck told Pitchfork at the band's Chicago performance on Friday night. "They detained 1,000 people in California, no one knows what happened to them. We're just lucky we're nice white kids from Canada. That's what I feel lucky about."
This is apparently not the first time they have been harassed by The Man. Though, with incendiary albums like Yanqui UXO, it's not really surprising. (via Rocknerd)
Another review of last week's Mogwai gig. That quiet flute bit certainly did lull one into a false sense of security.
I went to see Season tonight at the Empress; they were pretty good, in a cinematic, soundscapey sort of way. The processed guitar/bass alternated between indie post-rock, shoegazer and even went metal for a few bars. They brought in a cellist (a woman named Kaz) towards the end for their song Russia, which added a lot to it; it ended up somewhere in the vicinity of New Order meets Black Tape For A Blue Girl; not a bad thing at all.
Anyway, they won't be doing any gigs for a while, but hopefully will have another CD out by the end of the year.
Apparently Glaswegian post-rockers Mogwai are coming to Melbourne in October. They're playing a set at alternateen rock fest Livid. I wonder if they're doing a solo gig as well; I don't really fancy paying some huge sum of money to see a short set by them and get a bunch of extreme-sports demos and skate-metal shows as a bonus.
I'm listening to Seascapes of the Interior's demo CD, and it's brilliant. Very atmospheric and soundscapey, with piano, fiddle, effected guitar, analogue synths and more. Can't wait to hear what their album's going to sound like.
Tonight, I finally got out again to the Empress, getting a much needed dose of live music and Guinness. Seascapes of the Interior were brilliant, playing three 10-15-minute atmospheric pieces, with guitars, violin, piano, analogue synth and plenty of effects; a bit like Mogwai in some ways, only not. And Heligoland were quite lovely too, and very atmospheric. Makes me wish I had a turntable, so I could buy the 7" single they were launching.
Oh yes, I picked up the new Piano Magic album, Writers Without Homes, today. Currently am halfway through it. The packaging is very nice (4AD's house design firm v23 were involved), and so far, the album sounds mellow and understated, with poignant bits of atmosphere, song and spoken-word about lives, stories and such. I think it'll take a few listens to fully get into though.
When I watch old films in which animals appear, I get sad because those animals are certainly dead now. And that certainly prompts my private epitaph and I have to say it out loud "That dog is dead. That cat is dead. That horse is dead..."
Interesting to see that Simon Raymonde, of Cocteau Twins/This Mortal Coil fame, is involved on some of the tracks here. (This sort of cross-pollination, I've noticed, is something characteristic of 4AD acts; what, with This Mortal Coil, and Robin Guthrie producing the first Lush album, and so on...).
For readers in Sydney: Prop are playing at somewhere called The Basement, in Circular Quay, this Friday, along with post-rock outfit Ukiyo-E. Prop are a mind-blowingly good band, and well worth seeing.
I had a dream this morning just prior to waking. In it, I ordered a CD single/EP from a semi-obscure independent band from somewhere around Norway or Iceland. (Their name, which escapes me, started with 'C' and they were of an atmospheric/post-rock/shoegazer style. Their artwork used colourised photographs/textures in vivid oranges and blues, with neat typography overlaid.) The CD came with a mail-order catalogue; in it there were various albums/EPs they had out and T-shirts, as well as a new single named "Lily's Song" or something similar. There was also an album of that title, due to come out in 2009, so it must have been a preview. A page of their catalogue also offered a single from The Cure (titled "regret"), for some reason. (Perhaps this dream took place in the future?)
Yesterday I was at PolyEster Records where I picked up a copy of a photocopied zine named Sadness Is In The Sky. Interesting; it's all about music of an experimental/post-rock/soundscapey/shoegazey vein. Not the easiest on the lines, with about three times as many fonts on each page as there should be, and a distinct paucity of white space. The visible JPEG artifacts in some of the photos add a charmingly early-noughties-low-budget-zine feel to it.
Oh, and it came with a CD, which has some nice music on it. Haven't heard all of it, though some of it is pretty doovy; I should probably look out for Console and The For Carnation when next in the record shops.
Tonight, I strolled down to the Empress Hotel to see Sydney postrockers Sealifepark, who were in town. They played a great show, tight and full of energy; playing some tracks off their recent album Wildlife Documentary and some older tracks, to rousing applause. Afterwards, cajoled into an encore by the audience, they launched into an energetic performance of what I think was a Clouds cover. At one stage (just before Straight Roads Return, I think), one of them said that they feel almost at home at the Empress as they do at the Hopetoun (one of Sydney's better-known interesting live music venues; incidentally, where I saw Prop, who are playing tomorrow night).