Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Holy Fuck LP Latin

Just as a general proposition, I’m going to assert that the Best Thing about Holy Fuck is the pummeling: When the real drumming & the synthetic percussive-type noises reach a sort of critical mass, & then everything together all of a sudden is a blur. A raucous & forceful & ecstatic, pummeling blur. That’s the Best Thing.

Historically, the other Best Thing about Holy Fuck has been their sort of giddy freneticism, their madcap ethos. The songs have had a Rube-Goldbergy, slapdash quality to them &, not incidentally, a pervasive sense of humor. The Holy Fuck sound has been vigorous, lusty & hard, but nonetheless delightfully silly. While waiting on pins & needles for the new album, I went back & spent some time with their first, self-titled EP. I was noticing how, here & there amongst all the pointedly-cheesy synthesizing & the sweaty/brawny percussionizing (aka: the pummeling), you hear these effusive, mortal exhalations. A sigh, a pant, a whoot.


HF - Tone Bank Jungle mp3

That’s charming & amusing. It also serves as a neat little counterpoint to all the electronica, a reminder that this is human music albeit (I’ve said this before) all dressed up to sound machine-made. A ten-year-old boy in a robot suit, threatening world domination from inside the tinfoil & duct tape.

Anyway, the new album is called Latin, I have it now & you will soon too, probably. It’s not the kind of thing you want to miss. You’ll find, however, that Holy Fuck are now changing up the approach in a few different ways.

Importantly, the pummeling is alive & intact, so no worries there.

Absent now though are all those comic glimpses of the man behind the curtain –no gasps, no howls. Nor do we get the sudden veering from one trajectory to another –the quick, jerky starts & stutters. Instead, Latin exhibits a kind of ruthless efficiency, an almost-brutal pragmatism. Each of the songs here stakes out its territory within the first moments, cleanly & clearly. & then proceeds to just thrash boldly thrash thoroughly right through to the end. No hesitancy, no incongruous detours. There is still playfulness here, but more in the conception than in the execution.

Notably, there is also some dalliance with Disco (& other dance-beat variants) going on here. Which can play as arch & incongruous, but mostly only if you expect something different because you already know you’re hearing Holy Fuck. Otherwise, the simulation (irony assumed here to some negotiable extent) can get to be too accurate, & the juxtapositional aspect gets lost. So, there are missteps on Latin, if mostly minor ones. But hey: it’s an Experimental band taking risks. That’s the territory.

By now, you have almost definitely already heard the muscular meat & potatoes of the first single, “Latin America.” (& if not, just go here & get it now.) That song stands firmly on the shoulders of prior work & it’s satisfying & comfortable. If you know the band however, you’ll be more surprised by “Stay Lit,” for e.g., which is as close to like a power-ballad as this band is (probably) ever going to get. Which let's face it is a little weird. & in point of fact, a number of the pieces here just sound a lot more like, well, songs than any of Holy Fuck’s past work. So, while rhythm & texture remain the prime elements, you’re going to hear more melody, & you’re even going to hear some flirtation with vocals.

I will anticipate the obligatory objections to this album, at least to the extent it’s understood as taking a step toward “conventionality.” Whatever that even means anymore. I will confess to having bristled initially & more than once on first hearing this album. But, having spent some time now with Latin, most of it works. & what works, works very, very well.

I have not yet seen Holy Fuck play live, which I understand to be pretty much essential. Summer (& beyond) tour dates are planned. The San Francisco stop will be June 8 at the Independent. Here’s a taste from Latin:


HF - Positive Ghosts mp3

Friday, April 23, 2010

Grand Lake - Blood Sea Dream

Wow, several giant steps are being taken in a forwardly direction here by our locally-grown trio Grand Lake. The band’s first LP Blood Sea Dream is freshly set for release next month (& also constitutes the maiden voyage of brand-spanking-new label Hippies Are Dead Records). Excitement abounds, peoples.

Some months ago, I did predict great things ahead for this band &, not to be a dick about it, but it is indeed nice to have been proven correct. Blood Sea Dream is brimming with surprises, starting right off with the rather solemn-yet-sexy midtempo opener, “It Takes a Horse,” w/its doorslam percussion & its wistful-cryptic refrain of Please Talk Slow (evidently on account of) You Breathe Fire.

See, I would’ve expected more of a windup to open the album, something along the lines of “Louise,” title track from last year’s EP. But no, that’s actually Track 2 here, except but Wait, this here is “Louise” two-point-oh: punchier, more muscled, 40 seconds shorter, & several fewer degrees separated from perfect.

Not that anybody should get cozy in the frenetic, avant-bruit realm here. Turns out that Grand Lake are now offering up plenty more flavors than just the one. “Carpoforo” is all mannerist-mournful, for e.g., while last year’s “Black Cloud” remains a fuzzbox ghost tale dissonant & distraught. Meanwhile, “Our Divorce” is a jazzish waltz of all things, with actual violins. Along the way we get squealing wine glasses, we get more strings, we get (I think) a freaking glockenspiel. These are just not the ingredients you typically expect to find stirred into your distortion, your feedback, your lovely/strident sample-loops.

Maybe even more surprising, the actual songwriting here is genuinely polished to a glossy sheen. Hooks abound, positively reeking of Pop (uppercase), & yet the band’s Noisy (likewise) foundation –the first & favored flavor– persists throughout. Blood Sea Dream is layered, complex & evocative. It’s a butched-up affair throughout, notwithstanding its sashays into prettiness, now here now there. This is Pop music, but it’s Pop w/a hard-on. Let’s make that the pull-quote, guys!

The Grand Lake dance card looks to be filling up fast, with gigs around town & elsewhere. You might probably want to check right into that &, meanwhile, you can stream the entire album right now, right here.

& plus, hear:

GL - Louise mp.3

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

the XX - "Islands" vid

I continue to enjoy the XX. I put them down, I forget all about them, & then get re-thrilled whenever I hear them again. Watch the narrative that unfolds here via serial variations in the choreography. Nice!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

(Guest Post!) Sleigh Bells

Note: Sleigh Bells are currently touring, opening for Yeasayer. They stopped by the Fillmore SF on 4/17. Intrepid Clatter correspondents Eric & Kathy had it covered:

Sleigh Bells are a thrash metal dude and a hot hipster girl. They play seriously heavy low-end reverb with aggressive female vocals laid on top, using just a guitar and, I don’t know, a laptop?

I was asked to review this show after recently confiding to Clatter personnel that my favorite thing lately is noisy pop-punk with female vocals. This isn’t pop-punk (the geniuses at Pitchfork called it “discordant dancepop”), but in some ways that’s better; of the 4 songs on the Sleigh Bells Myspace page, I like the noisiest and most D&B heavy (“A/B Machines”, “Infinity Guitars”) best. [It does kind of bum me out though that one of those 4 songs ("Ring Ring") is either a joke song or a Funkadelic ripoff throwaway. Stereogum has a fifth song (Beach Girls"), but that's not my favorite either.] Derek Miller (the thrash metal guy) likes his bass as low and distorted as possible, and Alexis Krauss (the hot hipster girl) -- her singing is actually more like chanting. Before going to the show I was already predisposed to like them; they’re “a difficult listen,” and in just the right ways.

We arrived at the Fillmore at a little before 9:00. There was a technician in a red hoodie working on the center stage monitors, and a woman in a holstein-inspired tie-dyed bag standing off to stage right, massaging her own throat. My wife said: “That can’t be [Krauss]; that’s not a very rock star outfit.” Well, it was her, and soon enough the lights went down and she ran up on stage to join the red-hoodied dude, who pick up a guitar and turned out to be Miller.

They launched into “Infinity Guitars.” Now, before the show I hadn’t really heard Yeasayer (the headliner) and didn’t know what their fans would be like, but they seem like a polite bunch. Here they mostly just nodded along. It felt like Krauss was yelling at them, though, and I kinda liked that.

The second song was new, and Krauss said it would appear on their album in May. I didn’t catch the name. Two syllables, starts with maybe a T or a C? It contained the upbeat lyric, “Do your best today.” Hmmmm.

The third song was “A/B Machines.” You’ve been to their Myspace page, so you already know this, but this song is awesome. It actually got the crowd moving a little bit. And Miller is totally right about one thing: that deep, deep distorted bass cuts through everything. My notepad was vibrating, and so were my pants legs. On the fourth song (“Beach Girls”), Miller departed the stage and left it all to Krauss, who by then had thankfully removed her black-and-white bag.

The fifth song was another new one. It was a slow, sludgy, metal-inflected slog that ended with haunted house shrieking by Krauss. Then something happened: They started playing something, and I’m not sure whether it was a separate song or an ending to the metal slog or what, but it was a quick minute or two, distinctly more uptempo, and almost danceable. What was that? (Besides my favorite part of the show, I mean.)

Here is a picture:

Sorry that I don’t have anything better. My wife & I haven’t quite gotten the knack of taking concert photos. Still, here is another one:

Next came one more new song. It was hard to distinguish from the others, because these guys have a sound, you know? But it had a talky bit and more moans from Krauss, but here (unlike on “Beach Girls”), I felt as if they contributed something.

“Crown on the Ground” came last. This is the closest thing these guys have to a pop song. Some people in the crowd actually started pogo-ing. And really, the bass-heaviness went over the top here; you know how in movies when an Air Force test pilot is going faster than the speed of sound and the skin on his face ripples? Well, that’s how my skin felt with all the throbbing on this song. And now that I think about it, that’s actually a good thing.

Here’s a little snippet of video from that song.

Like I said: awesome. If Sleigh Bells would inject a little more pop into their other songs too, they would totally clinch their place as my favorite new band. So in all, that’s 4 old songs, 3 or 4 new songs. And some of the new ones were pretty good. The show didn’t confirm either the hype or the backlash; they’re just a band, right? And are you going to listen to their full album when it comes out? Of course you are.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


I think the time is pretty much Now, if you haven’t already, to make your acquaintance with BATTLEHOOCH. Yeah. Certainly not the first or only San Francisco band to insist on always shouting its name in the ALL CAPS mode. Yet, it’s an apparent point of honor for these here Hooochers that theirs is the Freakiest band in town. Hey, I can neither confirm nor deny & I’m not here to pick a fight on that. Without taking a position though, will you just look at these boys all mock-serious in their plaid pants & their ponchos.

OK, so the second LP by BATTLEHOOCH is set for release tomorrow 4/16, w/the clever & surprising title of BATTLEHOOCH. If you haven’t yet heard the band, the photo actually is a pretty decent prime indicator of their sound. In a curtains/carpetly way, right? What I mean is, much like the picture, the music is a raucously fun hodgepodge. It's boisterous it's a ballyhoo. Genre-wise, we're all over the map here from faux-jazz riffs to avant-surf to quasi-gypsy in a sort of a Gogol Bordellish vein. Just about every song is a protracted suite full of crazy twists & turns we're here we're there just hold on tight. The musicianship is sharp & canny, but --& this is key-- never self-important. Again, mock seriousness is the touchstone. Absent that pervasive sense of humor, this would just devolve & get all prog-rocky.

That is not the way of the Hooochers though, no no no. I'm going to go ahead & throw you a couple of downloads here but, seriously, go out & purchase yourself this delightful LP in its entirety. That is my forcefully-delivered recommendation. That, & also there are imminent record-release festivities that you may benefit from attending. Tomorrow night in Santa Cruz, then Saturday at Bottom of the Hill. Critical details found here. Couple of songs for you:

BH Only Baby Sharks mp3

BH Somersaults mp3

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Spoon, & cetera.

Micachu and the Shapes

The Fox Theater
Oakland, CA
April 14, 2010

Again I missed the first band, I’m sorry you (well, I) can’t have everything. So, Deerhunter & Spoon: is that like the dream team or what?

Anyway, I’ll be brief.

Most people are too polite to come right out & ask the question pointedly, but I can still read the thought bubbles floating over their heads. They wonder if, perhaps, I am starting to get a little too old for all of this going out to see bands at all hours of the night. & the succinct & appropriate response to that query, unspoken or otherwise, of course is Fuck No I Am Not. I will allow, however, that this whole getting up & going to work the next day is beginning to, uh, present some challenges. Moreover, the (hopefully prompt) writing of the Very Important blog entries is supposed to occur when exactly (?) well, There as they say is where the Rub is at. So brevity, yes, will turn out to be a hallmark of this post. The day's hours are finite.

Deerhunter: that’s just my favorite band all over again because (as one would hope) they came out & built up a Stonehenge fucking Monument of guitar distortion. I had never seen them play live before, & so it was a real treat to see the ensemble in action. I had seen Atlas Sound a couple of times, but Deerhunter is a real band it’s not just the Bradford Cox show (in spite of Mr. C.’s little crowd-surfing expedition toward the end; I never expected that). Every member is integral, musically speaking, & it’s all the goods. One nice surprise was bass player Josh Fauver at center stage, all earnest & spunky & bowing after every song. Whatta hunk I’m just saying. & “Nothing Ever Happened” did actually happen, thrillingly, for about fifteen minutes in the middle of the one-hour set. So Deerhunter was pretty great.

Of course it really was Spoon’s audience there, though, & I did overhear some sporadic audience griping between sets about DH's set having gotten too “edgy,” among other silly descriptors. Whatev.

OK, so: Spoon. This was not my first time seeing Spoon. Spoon are just consummate pros, you know? Like, I am not sure by what metric anything actually constitutes a “hit” anymore in the Industry's current distribution modes. But let’s just say that Spoon have a lot of songs that you know really well. & let’s also save a step by just agreeing that Spoon really know how to crank the shit out of every one of those numbers. I love those guys. I love their capital-C Cool nonchalance. I love that they are like kung-fu masters of the Pop Hook. Wax on Wax the hell off, right?

I do have to go ahead & mention that there was some kind of constant, aggravating BUZZ noise in the PA throughout the entirety of Spoon’s set. Everybody just had to ignore it & hope for it to be resolved & cured but that never did happen. So I was not cool with that rather glaring technical difficulty. But I'm done talking about it now, thanks.

I took some notes, I had a decent set list going. But right now I’m at work & it’s out in the car. “Everything Hits at Once” was played, I can definitely tell you that bc it’s my favorite Spoon song & they don’t always play it. Let’s see, I remember “Cherry Bomb,” “Target,” “Camera,” "Evah," all that great stuff. Oh, Bradford came out & jammed with them for “Who Makes Your Money” from the new album, that was cool. Oh yeah, & they covered a Wolf Parade song, also pretty cool. The band was loose (it was mentioned a few times that this was the last stop on the tour), but they were On.

Spoon, they know what they’re doing & they do it very well.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Shine On.

The Diamond Sea
Sonic Youth
1995 (single)
2006 (Track 11, The Destroyed Room: B-Sides and Rarities)

You might want to settle in and pour yourself a beverage, this is the “alternate ending” version. Go ahead & press Play now, it takes a half an hour.

SY-the Diamond Sea mp3

It starts all YoingYoingYoingYoing, quietly. That’s the idling amp, it white-whispers a phase effect. It will be the guitar’s voice phasing, in a couple of seconds. Drumsticks click a 4-count, & we’re off.

I think it’s fair to say that Sonic Youth have pretty much always provoked controversy & they (maybe) always will. The naysayers tend to fall into one of two principal camps: (1) the reflexively-dismissive (SY= pretentious, mere noise, it’s too damn weird), and (2) the hipper-than-thou (SY= sell-outs, dinosaurs, it’s too damn conventional). The pendulum swings errantly.

For more years than I care to count, I have been listening actively to Sonic Youth. I continue to be challenged & surprised, mystified & thrilled by much of what I hear. I can say without much irony that, maybe, I never really heard any music before I began to learn how to hear Sonic Youth. I hope I’m still learning: how to hear music, how to ignore every ridiculous kind of hierarchy that people want to interpose between the music & my two ears.

Anyway, right here from 0:02 is where the one camp will be heard to complain about rock star tropes & conventionality & whatnot. Because, unlike much of what SY have done (& have historically been understood to “stand for”), this here is a song, with a clear chord structure. At least for the moment: tandem guitar solos introduce what is about to be a sung melody.

0:38 “Time takes its crazy toll,” sings Thurston in one of his typically “trippy” lyrics. The sung parts of the song follow an A/B structure: alternating back & forth between two distinct melodies. No chorus, no bridge. Here’s what he’s on about: mirrors, reflection, diamond, crystal. Is it a drug parable? Adolescent allegory? Tragic love tale? Who cares, honestly. Thurston’s lyrics often seem to consist of a handful of Groovy clichés (here, e.g., dressed in dreams, lonely storm, running wild, love, sand, blood) shaken in a bag, & then arranged strictly according to rhyme. I don’t actually have any objection to that approach. Anyway, three verses, then we move on.

2:25 A little interlude, & then, 2:42, again with the “rock star” solos. This was right around the time SY very suddenly shifted from esoteric art band to Lollapalooza headliner, hence the backlash. Anyway, notice the bass, accelerating tempo at 3:15 & evolving into a new motif, the first indication that what’s ahead will be a serial structure, a series of discrete sections that may/may not refer back to the ostensible “song.” It all starts to stretch out here.

By 4:26, that one guitar is getting pretty noisy. Increasingly-extraneous overtones, drifting afield of any melodic reference, evolving away from the “song,” but back toward what’s more commonly understood as SY territory. At 4:38 it’s the bass, again, that triggers a shift by actually standing pat, declining to make the chord change, & then it modulates sharp. The guitars both are more noisy still, there’s some feedback, shading & modeling the contours.

4:41 A brief plateau (albeit monolithic), then 5:06 one guitar steps out deliberately: four notes descending, almost doorbell-chime tones. The other guitar is howling. The four tones repeat. The snare drum heats up a little. Beginning at 6:19, I think that’s the classic SY drumstick-wedged-in-guitar-frets move: just hitting those strings, bridged so tight they ring like churchbells. Harmonic overtones y compris.

Can we digress a little? Forget about music for a moment? Remember when we talked about Jasper Johns? In 1954, he made that painting & called it “Flag.” It’s nothing but a flag &/or it isn’t a flag at all it’s a painting. “Of” a flag, maybe. Or maybe it isn’t a painting “of” anything. Because it doesn’t re-present in the way a conventional painting does. So it can only be understood as “depicting” a flag if it actually is a flag bc that’s all it is, except it isn’t: it’s a painting. It only sort of is a flag, but it also stands apart & sort of refers to “the” Flag. Remember that?

“Flag” is constructed of the irreducible, coded elements of “the” Flag (the stripes, the stars), but rendered rough, ostentatiously textured, made to operate both as (1) a sensory object and (2) a conceptual provocation.

What if there were art in a similar vein that, instead of connoting “flag,” connoted something like “rock music.” Something that only “sort of” actually is the thing it refers to, but also sort of stands apart & comments on it? Well. I submit that that’s Sonic Youth. The list of coded elements is longer & their relative irreducibility more varied. But I don’t understand SY to have ever set out to make actual Rock music in any sort of conventional way. SY makes art pieces that only sort of actually are Rock songs. But which also stand apart, sort of referring to, connoting (signifying!), Rock songs.

In the present example, I think “The Diamond Sea” actually refers back to itself, as a “song” when, at 6:52, there is a slow-ish reprise of the chords (!) of the song (remember the song?). It’s probably the least expected development at this point after several minutes of what might fairly be called a Space Jam (truth to power, sorry), but there we are. Easing back into the song, the melody, & then 7:12 Thurston is singing another verse. Just the one, though. & still just that little bit slower. We’ve been outside for awhile now, & we’re taking a brief look back in.

Then we move on again. 7:58 begins a lengthy, slow meander. Drifting, if inexorably. By 9:58 the two guitars are shimmering against each other in a sort of auditory moiré pattern. Sporadic taps on the cymbal, the drums seeming to have dropped out almost altogether some time back. When did that happen? Is this a little disorienting? At 12:24 undercurrents are modulating, there’s no real solid ground. Did you ever read about those scientists in the ‘60s, taking LSD in their laboratories & then trying to keep notes? I keep getting lost here, having to go back & start over. Because this intoxicates me.

At 13:34 we’re rousted, after a fashion, with a single high note, then some feedback that builds for a full minute. 14:36 were those the doorbell chimes again? In reverse this time? At 14:46 a glottal stop, & then 14:58 the drums thrash a little, along with some backwards sounds at the periphery. By 15:51 it’s chaos. It’s anchored, but it’s chaos. Notice the texture. At 16:33 notice the texture. At 17:18 the texture. (Shit, for that matter, you could go back & just notice the texture at 14:00, at 8:58, at 4:54, & (not the slightest bit incidentally) at 0:02.) Shifting again into another new phase at 17:42, every image freakishly elongated & in black & white every voice slow motion underwater, a burglar alarm three blocks over. It’s a terrible movie, it’s waking from a dream. I love this part. Notice the texture.

OK but, texture, what?? Well, we can’t hope to hear this the same way we hear normal music, that’s not what this is. In normal music, you listen, e.g., to the melody, the harmony, to the way the soloist both accommodates & challenges the chord changes, that sort of thing. It’s a specific kind of structural interplay that is largely absent here, bc it’s just not what makes this music interesting or satisfying. &/but is this music at all? Is it “just” that art stuff discussed supra? Is it “just” noise? Yes, yes, & yes. It is capital-A Art, theoretically deployed, call it bullshit if you must. It’s also a bunch of old, broken cast-off guitars, tuned all “wrong,” played loud & sloppy & fast. Sonic Youth is pretentious elitism ­& it’s anti-elitist Punk, capital-P no apologies. Naysayers on every side are one hundred percent correct &/but don’t have the first idea how to shut the fuck up & Just. Listen.

There is Music here, but it is mostly not to be found in the rudimentary melodies, the inscrutably-haphazard harmonies, the (often, virtually) perfunctory rhythms. That’s not the intended focus here, it’s just the scaffolding. Here, those are just the coded elements (i.e., the stripes, the stars), just enough to situate you & provoke you. So then what you listen to hear here are the rich (shit, the endless!) variations of texture. It’s not about pitch it’s about timbre. It’s about relative depth, it’s about dynamic. It’s about dissonant tunings at high volume making harmonics that vibrate in your chest. It’s all about the way the thing just feels on a tactile level. You can’t hear it if you don’t shut up & listen. But it’s there for you. It’s fundamentally hedonistic, it’s luxurious it’s sexy it’s gorgeous it’s delicious. It fucking rocks. We don’t have a settled vocabulary to discuss it. This is not what they teach at Berklee, at Eastman, at Julliard. You’re pretty much on your own here. But you got ears.

At 18:41 a whole new palette of sonic colors is introduced. Like if everything were suddenly backwards, played in reverse. It’s an element that’s been hinted-at earlier in the piece (e.g., at 14:58), & now becomes the primary motif. Reminds me of all the mirrors referred-to eighteen minutes ago in the lyric: reflecting back now, turned inside-out. Backwards cymbals crash, feedback feeds back backwards. A rhythmic structure starts emerging, oddly, until at 19:43 everything (again!) degenerates, seems again to burn. Bass “notes” (quote-unquote bc it’s pretty much all melting textures now, all flaming magma) modulating now flat. I’m hearing scattered references to earlier thematic segments, suggestions of a reprise. Then made explicit at 23:14, where the guitar solo of 3:00 is revisited & reinterpreted, briefly. There are only a couple of minutes left, I’m shutting up I’m hearing giants walking.

Early Sunday morning it rained ferocious in my city, but the dog needed walking & so duty called. We went outside in the wet cold. We trudged, bundled, up to the park & around the pond. It was barely light. I wore headphones & listened to “The Diamond Sea” w/volume high, hearing nothing from the real world & feeling underwater. So the world around was as if silent while inside, in my head, it was very, very loud. Like I was deep inside of something relentless & oblivious & unspeakably beautiful. Soundless, ducks landed skimming the water from the air, the dog barked also soundless, in the downpour in the near absence of sunlight everything somehow gleamed. & shined & shined.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

(Guest Post!) Method Actors

Ooooh. Guest post. Sexy.

I grew up in a suburb of Atlanta, sort of halfway between Atlanta and Athens, and I graduated from the University of Georgia in the late ‘90s.

Wait, the guest post is about Georgia? Yeah. Still a little sexy, I hope. … No? Yeah, that’s fair.

Anyhow, as a result of my geographic fate, growing up I was lucky enough to be exposed fairly regularly to a lot of the bands in the now classic ‘80s Athens scene. R.E.M. like everyone else, but I also absolutely LOVED Pylon in high school.* Watching the documentary Athens, GA - Inside/Out now makes me weirdly sentimental.

* By the way, it makes me really happy to see that fellow Atlantan and Clatter poster boy Bradford Cox is such an ardent supporter of Pylon.

I only knew the Method Actors, who interestingly started out as both Pylon’s management and opening band, by name. So reading that someone reissued a lot of their early stuff made me really curious. Okay, really excited. But then, I strangely possess a lot of Georgia music pride. Seriously, I run a lot, and yet there are exactly two bands on my “running mix” – OutKast and Mastodon.

This Is Still It didn’t even sort of disappoint. Consisting of just two dudes – guitar and drums – both singing these weird almost operatic-tinged vocals (don’t worry, nothing like Geddy Lee), it doesn’t seem like The Method Actors should work. But Vic Varney and David Gamble took a minimalist approach to create a very unique form of new wave. Their songs basically boil down to a bunch of spastic jangle guitar rock that seems to have little use for the tropes of much of the rock music that preceded it. Similar to Pylon, at times they almost seem like a danceable no wave band. Imagine if DNA was a little more interested in song structure, or, say, being tolerable to the masses.

If you ever thought The White Stripes were groundbreaking in the sounds they could wrest from just a guitar and a drum kit, well, I present to you The Method Actors. They managed to fill a LOT of space with very little. Hopefully This Is Still It will cause the music world to remember The Method Actors as more than just a footnote in the history of Pylon and the Athens scene (themselves too often just considered footnotes in the history of R.E.M.). The Method Actors were easily unique enough to be remembered in their own right.

Zach Cincotta is an entertainment and business attorney representing awesome bands, record labels, and other small businesses. You can contact him here and follow him on Twitter here.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

los Mumlers, dos.

Easter Sunday grew darker & colder all morning long until finally it pissed rain, all on into the night. It was cool with me, I was getting myself better acquainted with the Mumlers, & there was a little some vodka involved, too. Again, just like the last time (infra), the weather seemed somehow to fit the mood.

Now, I would not mean this to suggest that the Mumlers’ music is universally mournful. I mean, it’s not like it’s fucking morose or something. No. It’s warm & it’s welcoming without reservation. But there is, at bottom, a quite clear acquaintance with sorrow stirred into even the most upbeat of these songs. I mean, shit it’s the blues right? OK, I’m stating the obvious. But, Hear:

I’m happy to have stumbled onto the Mumlers last Tuesday night, just in from the rain. Their album, Don't Throw Me Away appears to be available all over, but I note that it's on some kind of short-term special (6 bucks) right now at iTunes. The songwriting is solid, the instrumentation is variegated & imaginative (clarinet! accordion!), & onstage these guys are immediately charming. The bonus to all of that was when the Mumlers turned out to be a local band (San Jose, that counts), which tends to yield opportunities to get out & see the Mumlers some more. For starters, I see shows coming up on May 7 at the Uptown in Oakland (for free), and May 26 at Bottom of the Hill.

If we’re lucky, maybe it will rain.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Color Your Life.

Twin Sister: their songs are pretty, they’re light, they’re very airy. &, but actually, No they're not. Because they can also be kind of angular & dark & dissonant, even. In fact Noisy enough, on at least one occasion, to have provoked actual controversy in my household. Oh, & but don’t forget bouncy. Frequently, they’re bouncy.

On the new EP, Color Your Life, Twin Sister’s songs continue to follow actual trajectories. They start out in one place, & then they go & they end up somewhere very much else. There’s really no predicting where they’re going to go along the way. &, actually, I’m not always immediately certain of where they’ve just been. So: Replay.

Earlier, I have said that Twin Sister makes (maybe deliberately) imperfect Pop. It occurs to me now that there is a fundamental, uh, inefficiency to these oddly-timbered & meandering songs. Which are therefore sort of the polar opposite of Pop. Ok, candidly: I’m not sure I understand yet what this music is or is trying to be. I’m not sure the band has a clear handle on that yet, either. To my ears, this music continues to teeter on the edge of coalescence. It hasn’t yet settled into whatever it’s going to be.

By way of a digressive (& admittedly oversimplified) analogy, I will cite to Talking Heads, circa 1977. From the perspective of the music they emulated (which was Funk), their efforts were clumsy, rudimentary, unsuccessful. Along the way though, they made something wholly fresh & genuinely thrilling. That's what I'm trying to get at when I say that the best feature of Twin Sister's version of Pop is that it's done sort of wrong.

At this point, I can’t always clearly discern where Twin Sister are coming from or where they’re going. But they’re evidently getting very busy, & I think they’re going to do some very interesting things. I’m on the edge of my seat.

In the meantime, Color Your Life is eccentric, surprising, fun, & (for now) free. For the next week or so, the download is gratis at the band’s website. But I can go ahead & start you off right here:

TS - Milk & Honey (mp3)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Mumlers

If, just hypothetically, one were going out to a show on a Tuesday night (a very stormy, rainy Tuesday night actually), & if there were three bands on the bill of the aforementioned show, then, Well. It might be reasonable for one to not be in such a hurry to get there, right, since the headliner won’t go on until like, what? Ten o’clock?

“One” in this particular instance being (hello?) Me, & “the headliner” here being Morning Benders, and “Tuesday” I’ll just go ahead & tell you was the night before last. & so anyway, I waited out the rain (& the hail, Jesus!) for a little while there before heading on out. Because (let’s face it) probably the first of 3 bands on the bill will be something to just endure while spending all your cash on beer, waiting for the show you came for to come on & get started already. (& I’m on my feet here, right?) I mean, probably you won’t miss anything good that early. Right?

I knew what I was doing, I took that risk.

I don’t know much of anything about this band called the Mumlers. I don’t know how long they had already played before I got there. I think I heard about 2 and one-half songs, something like that. But Wow I really wanted to hear some more of that. It was a Bluesy, countrified thing with lots of horns so –like a New Orleans sort of deal, I guess. The singer is a gangly youngster with a “bad” haircut (is homemade the new chic?), & a graveled, soulful voice sounding older than his fresh face looks. It wasn’t my usual thing. But I really should’ve gotten there on time, this time.

I’m going to have to check out this band the Mumlers. I’m going to start right here & here, & then I’m going to get back to you on this.