Life Just Bounces don't you get worried at all. (A weblog of music and otrogenerica)

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

#5: Zan-zan-zawa-veia – "Mysa Fyce" (Glitch City, 2008)

Zan-zan-zawa-veia have to be one of the most interesting thing i've heard in a while, combining the seemingly incongruous (actually, scratch that – completely incongruous) styles of lo-fi 8-bit/chiptune and progressive rock (oh, and torch songs...) and consequently sounding kind of like if Magma had soundtracked a nightmarish Nintendo game at the end of the 'eighties. But also nothing at all like that.

Right from the lilting waltz of opener "Work Song", Mysa Fyce (still pondering the meaning of that one) is all unpredictable structures, gymnastic time sig changes, and technical lead flourishes that neatly sidestep the fretwanking trap they might garner on a "traditional" prog record by virtue of being completely programmed. It's not only ZZZV's compositional styles that impress, but the command they have of adapting the 8-bit idiom to that style. The full musical colour palette is on show, from rumbling sub-by lows to piercing high trills to full-on drum stomping to the sweet synth opening to "Pink Bows" to ace ornamentals like the tide wash effect on "Hrbr Mstr".

i also like how they seem to have come pre-formed with hints of their own strange mythology, too. On further reflection, the connection between chip music and progressive rock doesn't seem quite as far-fetched when you consider that prog was the music of choice for a lot of the people playing text adventures and programming BASIC from the late seventies on (still doesn't really account for the torch songs, but hey). "Zan-zan-zawa-veia" itself could pass for the name of one of those games, or maybe its hero or the land it was set in. Maybe that's also the reason every track title consists of two four-letter words, the vowels sacrificed for space if needed, reflecting the pre-SMS computing conundrum of how to convey the precise contents of your programming endeavours in a mere eight letter filename.

Anyway, whatever – this record has to be heard to be believed. This is only their/his (Zan-Zan is the sole member, so i suppose "his") debut real-world EP, and from this evidence i think he will end up either singlehandedly creating a whole new style or become one of those artists with a completely unique output that get namedropped by cognoscenti in style mag interviews and largely ignored by everyone else. You should get it (from Glitch City, yep!) before either of those things happen, though.

— Listen to "Work Song"
— Listen to "Pink Bows"

Friday, 20 March 2009

Sage advice from Mr. Tom Waits

"Advice for the class of 2000: Run away and join the circus. Get a tattoo, hop a train. Plant a garden and save the seeds. Get married, have kids, wear a hat. Get good with a bullwhip. Don't lie, don't cheat, don't steal. Everyone must put beans on the table. Be devoted to the unification of the diverse aspects of yourself. Remember, most of what is essential is invisible to the eye. The quality of time you spend with someone far outweighs the quantity. And there's a lot you can do with a wah-wah pedal and a bullet mike."

— Tom Waits, Rolling Stone Millennium Special [RS 830/831], December 30, 1999

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

#4: Rainbosws – "Untitled" (Glitch City, 2008)

"Rainbosws produces a minimalistic blend of sound sculpture and ambient music", says his bio, thereby pretty much negating my whole review. But fuck it, i've already written it now, so i'm going to post it anyway.

"Untitled", from what i can gather the first "proper" Rainbosws release (after his track on the Glitch Village 02 compilation & the "for s" single; certainly the first i've heard anyway) starts with a crackle, becoming an oscillating glitch that gradually swells for the first minute-and-a-half. The longer second movement (there are no track titles, only the numbers 1 to 4) continues the rhythmic crackle and intertwines it with murky subterranean-sounding looping, and the two skip off to make beautiful polyrhythms together before being satisfyingly derailed around the 3:00 mark by the noisy bastard son of a great big '70s glam riff.

"3 (ver. 2)" stays more ominously ambient, preferring to bump its clicking, buzzing and glitching variety of textures gently against each other; its slow-burn tension probably be used to score one of the type of avant-garde horror flicks that seek to gradually unnerve the viewer rather than jolt them with surprises. Closer "4", the longest track on the album at 8:34, effectively pits all the attributes of the other tracks against one another, building loops like sediment layers into a kind of digi-noise equivalent of one of those slag heaps that destroys mining towns, slow, but with unstoppable momentum.

While a relatively short release, "Untitled" is nonetheless a worthy statement of intent. Fans of minimal ambient/noise-type styles could do well worse than to intercept.

Download "Untitled" from @ Glitch City (.rar format)

Monday, 16 March 2009

redemption. And fina/ redemption. And fina/ redemption. And fina/ redemption. And fina/ redemption. And fina/ redemption. And fina/ redemption. And fi

This is a video clip someone1 took of a glitch on a Christian radio station in Indiana (WQKO 91.9), where a fragment of what sounds like an advertisement or sermon (though it could really have been anything) gets stuck on loop for just over half an hour.

By turns, it's strange, magnificent, hilarious, and unexpectedly musical.

i can't get enough of this sort of thing. In the increasingly tight control of the digital age, it's a little reassuring to think the ghost in the machine can still bide his time, waiting for the opportunity to prevail.

1 Actually it was graphic designer Dustin Hostetler. A lot of his designs are pretty cool.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

#3: Bălănescu Quartet – "Possessed" (Mute, 1992)

On hearing the words "string quartet" and "tribute" in close proximity, the average fan of music would have to be excused for a sudden inexplicable and irresistible Pavlovian urge to destroy their surroundings with fire, such has been the proliferation of crap in this area recently.

Apparently, the responsibility for lumpen note-for-note elevator-muzak string arrangements of such musical genii as Simple Plan, James Blunt, Natasha Bedingfield and Puddle of Mudd lies at the door of one Todd Mark Rubenstein (i hate him already), who can't even muster any better justification for the series beyond "they sold well, so we kept doing them". (i'm reminded of a quote from Malcolm Williamson, late Master of the Queen's Music, regarding Andrew Lloyd-Webber: "[his] music may be everywhere, but so is AIDS.")

But before the string quartet tribute just became shorthand for a way to sell formulaic musical pabulum to dumbass emos while letting them believe they're being in some way cultured, there came Possessed, Romanian violinist and composer Alexander Bălănescu's tribute to Krautrock Übermenschen Kraftwerk.

The quartet, comprising Bălănescu himself, fellow violinist and arranger Clare Connors, violist Bill Hawkes and cellist Caroline Dale, run through five numbers, "The Robots", "The Model" (respectively "Robots" and "Model" here, for some reason), "Autobahn", "Computer Love" and "Pocket Calculator", as well as three of Bălănescu's own compositions and a David Byrne track, "Hanging Upside Down".

The Kraftwerk versions that begin proceedings are masterful: precisely executed, maintaining both the playfulness and wistfulness of the originals and bringing the kind of grandeur you would expect from a world-class string quartet on peak form.

Allmusic's Jason Ankeny's comment that "[g]iven that the precision of the German electronic band's songs bear[sic] no small resemblance to Baroque classicism, the Bălănescu Quartet needs to do little to make their covers work than to play them straight" is something of a red herring. After all, it's not like Kraftwerk's drum and synthesizer programming, for example, owed a lot to Baroque classicism. Not to mention that Kraftwerk were concerned with ideas of man/machine interdynamics in an industrial age which, clearly, the composers of the Baroque period could hardly have foreseen. (Also, i don't really think i've ever heard any Baroque classical piece with the sheer funky drive of any of these, though i'm obviously quite willing to be corrected if Mr. Ankeny's reading this.)

Rather, the Quartet play out their own version of Kraftwerk's human/machine tension in figuring out how to interpret the German group's technological opuses for organic performance. You can hear it in the squeaks and crunches or four-square percussion on "Robots", the cheerful intonation of "I'm the operator with my pocket calculator!" and the subsequent scraping and pinging on "Pocket Calculator", or the simulated engine-revving on "Autobahn" (i wish this could have been the 21-minute version, but i guess there were probably stamina/sanity issues).

After the Kraftwerk set, Bălănescu's own pieces, "Possessed", "Want Me" and "No Time Before Time", take the floor, building up from fragmented lines into irregularly-timed monoliths underpinned variously by producer/drummer Steve Arguelles' percussion and, on "Want Me", topped by the vocals of weirdly-named madrigalistas Miranda Sex Garden. While this triumvirate (especially the stirring "No Time Before Time"), and the filmic and rather jolly David Byrne interpretation that closes the album are engaging, it's the Kraftwerk versions most people will want this for, and for good reason.

— Hear "Computer Love" as part of "February mixtape"

Tomasz is (still) trying to review every new (to him) record he hears this year (or until he regrets this decision or is overwhelmed by circumstance).
Previous reviews: Magic Lantern, Philip Jeck.

Untitled (Falklands/Iraq)

Cheers: J, Robert Wyatt, Elvis Costello, Clive Langer

It's hard: in weeks they'll be re-opening the shipyard
and drafting up the press releases for the front page.
Citizens drown their sorrows all in a drunk rage
or culture unreality in brains with a skunk haze.
Self-medication got me stressing and questioning
the possession. The lesson was suspect from inception.
Grit in our eyes when we could be diving for pearls,
seems like everybody's striving for the end of the world.
Minstrel boy went to war, she washes up his coffee cup,
heart blacker than anything striking miners be coughing up.
Pray to the carpenter's father knocking up the coffins
as we go down with the same ship we sailed off in, as we
batten down the hatches and hoist up the mainstay,
line up the soldiers, send them off the war the same day.
Water off a duck's back; lambs to the slaughter.
The ships went down in the shallowest of water.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

#2: Magic Lantern – "Magic Lantern" (Not Not Fun, 2007/Woodsist, 2008)

Magic Lantern, whose enormous music sounds like it could hail from somewhere between the Nevada desert and a supernova in a distant galaxy but who are actually (and rather incongruously) from Long Beach, California, wear their psyche heritage on their sleeves, right down to the cognoscenti-pleasing Magical Power Mako reference in their MySpazz URL. This, their first, self-titled record, originally came out on the Not Not Fun label on a CD-R limited to a measly 30 copies. Reissued last year on vinyl by Woodsist Records, it's precisely the kind of slow-burning lysergic desert rock i hoped, well, Desert Sessions would sound like before i actually heard them.

Fifteen-minute lead-off track "At the Mountains of Madness" sets the mood and the benchmark, its hypnotic motorik-meets-Motown drum pattern supporting an insistent guitar raga as trippy flute motifs freeform away in the distance. "Vampires in Heat" continues the blitzed atmosphere with a groove so laidback it's hardly going at all, while the riffed-up "Chance Encounter" could be a loose-limbed cousin to Mogwai's Jewish hymnal interpretation "My Father, My King", or even, towards the end, Sleep's legendary Dopesmoker. When a discernible vocal finally appears, on fourth and final track "Gateway", the effect is a little like having Mark Lanegan sing to you while the anaesthesia wears off.

This is a record well worth a listen for those that appreciate either expansive psyche-rock ventures or stuff that tends to garner the "freak folk" label nowadays. Or anyone who's every fantasised about Mark Lanegan on an operating table, obviously.

— Hear "At the Mountains of Madness" as part of "February mixtape"

One very important thought.

I remember when I was talking to my supervisor and he highly recommended that I go and get my doctorate.

I said, "By the time I get my doctorate I'll be fifty!"

And you know what he said?

"You'll be fifty anyway."

— Edith Eva Eger, ballerina/psychiatrist, in Third Agers (BBC World Service)

V/A: "Free Filthy Rich" mixtape (free download)

Originally lifted from Certified Banger; props to them

i was surprised and dismayed today to learn of Filthy Rich's current incarceration. i was at secondary school with Rich and we would chat about rap and engage in ridiculous keystyle battles in forums at the end of the nineties. We lost touch for a fair bit but met up again recently at an El-P show in Leeds where we talked sketchily about a possible 30KB/Rich collaboration soon. Well now Rich is away on a two-and-a-half year bid for selling chemicals that cheer people up, while those who pick the right kind of crime can just keep gettin' away with it as they destroy people's lives. But hey, law enforcement needs priorities innit!

Anyhow, some of Rich's associates and rapping partners have put together a freely downloadable mixtape in his support, including tracks by the man himself as well as the likes of long-term associate Noz, Random Era, Philly Whizz, Pedigree Chumps, Mr. CRF and Beit Nun.

Get it @ Megaupload; if you want, there's also a discussion thread going on at this forum.

Track listing
  1. Filthy Rich – "Crime and Punishment"
  2. JND & Noz – "The Incident"
  3. Filthy Rich – "Who the F**k Are U?"
  4. Chris L – "Cheese Feast"
  5. Random Era, Mr. CRF & Filthy Rich – "Pull Yer Pants Up"
  6. EdXL – "Crocodile Smile"
  7. Filthy Rich – "Lord of the Bling"
  8. Ben B & Old Owl – "Burning Slow"
  9. Filthy Rich & Noz – "Destroyer"
  10. Mr. CRF – "Check the Profile"
  11. Filthy Rich – "The Winter of My Discontent"
  12. Beit Nun – "Can't Stop Me"
  13. Filthy Rich – "Battle Raps"
  14. Pedigree Chumps & Big Bam – "Here We Go Again"
  15. Filthy Rich – "Lunatic"
  16. No-Mad – "The Universal Throne"
  17. Philly Whizz (feat. Filthy Rich, Lee Scott & T.L.) – "3 Verse Murder"
  18. JND & Experimentality – "Will to Live"
  19. Filthy Rich – "Song of Times Gone By"

Monday, 2 March 2009

#1: Philip Jeck – "Sand" (Touch, 2008)

The first in an ongoing series wherein i review every new (to me) record i hear this year (or until i regret this decision or am overwhelmed by circumstance).

Liverpool sonician Philip Jeck must have developed some kind of sonic alchemical device, judging by what we know about his compositional methods versus the sounds on Sand. Jeck is a kind of plunderphonic turntablist, using a variety of antique and modern turntables (apparently he's got about 200 now) to process sounds lifted from found records into new music.

The result is seven description-defying screeds of echoing, pulsating soundscapery wherein loops of glitches and rhythmic clicking rise and subside while high, ethereal washes take solos like jazz horn breaks and textured drones avalanche in and out behind it all. This is not by any means to suggest that it's some kind of bland wash of sound; "Residue"'s sudden interplay grabs the attention, for instance, and the jarring cut at 4:39 on "Chime Again" has you wondering momentarily if the needle's fallen off the record, before the sound pulls back the focus to reveal a subtler bed of textures underneath. Imagine (sometime Jeck collaborator) Fennesz covering The KLF's Chill Out at incredible volume at the other end of a very long (Mersey?) tunnel, and you still don't come all that close.

How he does all this with turntables and existing records is beyond me, unless, like i say, the turntables are actually a front for some kind of sound-melting consolidation contraption, or the records he's sampling accidentally fell off the back of a lorry and into a timewarp as a job lot in about the year 2274. The reason so many folk in the experimental music-type communities placed Sand so high in their end-of-year lists, however, is more readily apparent.

— Hear "Chime Again" as part of February mixtape