Getting deeper into the new Panda Bear album, I can’t help but be reminded of Jean-Luc Godard’s response when asked to explain why his 1965 film Pierrot le fou featured a copious amount of blood — the cavalier French filmmaker replied that “it’s not blood, it’s red”. A dense and lustrous sonic spree that builds on and yet departs from the kaleidoscopic pop of his third album Person Pitch (2007), Noah Lennox’s new songs have the tendency to slip into streams of wild abstracted beauty that make for some of the most illuminating moments on Tomboy. Take “Last Night At The Jetty”, a daytripper’s threnody seemingly executed in slow motion, its vistas of sound and undersea melodies lined together in hallucinatory dreamtime. - Keith.
mp3: Panda Bear – Last Night At The Jetty
Panda Bear’s Tomboy is available on Paw Tracks.
Before his performance at the Esplanade Recital Studio, we managed to catch Conor O’Brien of Villagers for a short live session at the legendary Snakeweed Studios. Time was tight, and we were all excited and raring to go. We were relieved to find Conor to be as affable as we had imagined, and even with his Mercury Prize nominee credentials, he still stunned us with how perfectly he nailed his takes. Album title-track “Becoming a Jackal” was crisp and urgent, dripping with a deadly honesty that rang long after the last whispers of the song and the breath-bated stillness that followed.
Riding on that hushed silence, Conor’s delivery of “The Pact (I’ll Be Your Fever)” was by comparison restrained and deliberately paced. Tensions build slowly through the song, finding glimpses of release only near the end. It all seemed rather effortless, if not for the reminder at the start of the video of all the dedication and hard work that had gone into this. Before we knew it, we had to rush him off for his Esplanade soundcheck, but his songs and personality continued to ring true in our hearts.
mp3: Villagers – Becoming A Jackal
I’m Waking Up To is a proud supporter of Snakeweed Sessions, which brings our favorite musicians to Snakeweed Studios in Singapore. Becoming a Jackal is out now on Domino Records.
Pearl Jam rehearsing “Not For You” on Saturday Night Live in 1994. Stumbling upon it accidentally, I was reminded of how much grunge and ‘noisy’ music I listened to when I was younger, particularly when I was in junior college and in the army as a conscript. In grunge music I heard everything I wanted to say, and that was why it was everything I wanted to hear.
I was always more attracted to Nirvana, whom I thought were cleverer and more ironic than the very earnest Pearl Jam. Still, two decades into their career, Pearl Jam are plodding along, cranking out their brand of 70’s-inspired rock in a way that we now expect them to – a gravelly, stoical voice propped up by heavy guitar riffs, all firmly anchored to a trusty rhythm section.
When Cobain quoted Neil Young’s lyric “it’s better to burn out than to fade away” in his suicide letter, it sounded heroic; but in our current age of media-fuelled fads, the lyric sadly sounds more like an advertising slogan than saintly wisdom. I now have even more admiration for artists who achieve longevity. For this reason Pearl Jam are finding favour with me, because I understand how difficult it is to do the same thing for 20 years. My Twittery fingers can’t do it.
This “Not for You” video happens to exemplify Pearl Jam’s workmanlike nature. It’s a rehearsal but they’re taking it very seriously, and when the song climaxes, the band stomp their feet empathetically as the guitar strumming and drum hitting get harder. But that’s all to it. No fireworks, no surprises, no wigs, no wheelchairs, no angels’ wings or foetuses. When Pearl Jam claims the song is “Not for You” I believe them, because I see a band doing their own thing out there. - Song-Ming.
mp3: Pearl Jam – Not For You (Live SNL Rehearsal 1994)
Song-Ming Ang makes art about music. His latest publication, The Book of Guilty Pleasures, co-edited with Kim Cascone, is available from his website.
SINGAPORE: I’m Waking Up To…
DJ Koflow – Make Your Hands Clap, Toes Clap
DJ Koflow is one of Singapore’s most celebrated DJs. His claim to fame started when he won the national DMC Championship in 2003, and he continued to skyrocket by receiving many honourable mentions in local and international media. He dropped his debut album The Turntable Instrumentalist despite a heavy production and performance schedule, with the record speaking volumes of his myriad influences. Jazz, hip hop, funk and soul all seamlessly flow together in the hands of one of the country’s brightest mix masters. - Brian.
To download all 36 songs in one file click here
How can we explain the recent success of House of Balloons, the debut album/mixtape released by Canadian duo The Weeknd? One would typically cite Drake’s stamp of approval combined with its free download distribution strategy, the latter playing no small part in working up the music blogosphere’s hype machine. More insightfully, the record’s indie appeal has been attributed to its critique of R&B’s VIP area hedonism. Or we could even consider the hegemonic impact of Pitchfork, not simply in proclaiming its Best New Music status, but in regularly assuring the music world that R&B does indeed have a place in the indie world.
Or do The Weeknd know something that we don’t, as they seem to imply in album closer “The Knowing”? I have my doubts. The album is an enjoyable enough listen, with its R&B slow jams fed through the most broodiest soundscapes of the day. Yet, sticking to a formula, however current and fashionable, has never assured one of indie success. At the same time, though, it’s probably unfair to put it down to good luck, as much as that must have played a part. But I talk too much, and don’t spend enough time admitting how much I love House of Balloons, an album that simply sounds great at this point of 2011, for reasons perhaps only the luxury of hindsight will reveal. - Dan.
mp3: The Weeknd – The Knowing
House of Balloons is current self-released as a free download.
Guitar instrumental music isn’t supposed to sound like this, so leave your romantic notions at the door before stepping into the world of Bill Orcutt, reissued in its shockingly raw entirety in a compilation titled A New Way to Pay Old Debts. Armed with nothing but his downtuned four-stringed vintage acoustic Kay guitar and DeArmond pickup, Orcutt’s repertoire is emotionally intense, a picture of the artist completely absorbed in his craft, capturing through the most limiting yet familiar of instruments the myriad ideas that must be firing from his brain at any one time. “My Reckless Parts” exemplifies this in most frightening terms, with Orcutt’s yells punctuating the start-stop madness of his hardcore blues, delivered with nothing but wild abandon. You’ll probably never hear anything else like this again. - Dan.
mp3: Bill Orcutt – My Reckeless Parts
A New Way to Pay Old Debts is out now on Editions Mego.
Yes, this sounds a little too much like “Red Right Hand”, that haunting trail of suspense building upon itself from the crackling introduction, that dark baritone delivering a chilling tribute to Nick Cave, impressive though a far cry from the master. But all is forgiven of young Nicolas Jaar when it becomes evident where he takes the track from its beguiling starting point of muder balladry, or at least what he dares to try. The wayward strings are his weapons of choice, with its precise old school horror film inflections forming a surprisingly fluent bridge to what seems to be Act Two, where different elements converge to build a stronger, more resolute rhythm. Even if somewhat abrupt in conclusion and slightly underdeveloped at parts, Jaar’s imaginative use of shifting ideas and moods in musical space is an experiment that’s gripping enough to warrant repeated listens. - Dan.
mp3: Nicolas Jaar – Too Many Kids Finding Rain In The Dust
Nicolas Jaar’s debut album Space is Only Noise is out now on Circus Company.