It defeats the purpose to be describing music made purely to be experienced, but what then is left to be said? In the world of husband and wife duo Peaking Lights and their album 936, the medium of dub transcends its function as form or genre. In a loose Mcluhanesque sense, it has become the message itself, operating as an undisguised narcotic somewhat like an extension of our bodily senses. This strategy isn’t new, having been pushed to its limits by the likes of Spiritualized, for which music-on-drugs blends effortlessly with music-as-drug. Their sound itself isn’t exactly novel either, drawing as much from the legacy of Stereolab and Broadcast as from contemporaries like Panda Bear and Ariel Pink. But what shines through is the single-mindedness of 936 to remain exactly what it set out to be, an elegantly outstretched loop held together magically without the slightest care in the world. – Dan.
mp3: Peaking Lights – Amazing and Wonderful
936 is out now on Not Not Fun.
It’s hard not to listen to London producer Zomby in the context of the long wait for Burial‘s next (dub)step. The two seem to work best in elusive anonymity, and more significantly, both share an uncanny penchant and deft touch for creating electronic music in mournful and evocative tones. Yet, while Burial’s album work – Burial (2006) and Untrue (2007) – relies heavily on hauntingly intimate vocal samples, Zomby’s palette on his 4AD debut Dedication (2011) is broader and more scattered. That’s where the comparison gets a little unfair, since Zomby’s work seems more decidedly a work in progress in contrast to Burial, who always sounds like the finished product.
But if we take Zomby on his own terms, the moments on Dedication are absolutely stellar, each showing promise of a multitude of different possibilities, ranging from the energetic shuffles of “Natalia’s Song” to the dark minimalism of “Riding with Death” and the delightfully playful bleep parades of “Digital Rain” and “Mozaik”. And in the midst of all that, another surprise is found in the form of “Things Fall Apart”, featuring the familiar nostaligic chants of Panda Bear – the only track to feature vocals. Approaching the end of this concise album, though, we find Zomby settling into a more introspective element distilled into its purest form in “Basquiat”, a moving piano piece underscored by a breathlessly enveloping layer of strings, echoing in parts the nocturnal loneliness of Burial and who knows, maybe his own. – Dan.
mp3: Zomby – Basquiat
Dedication is out now on 4AD.
When I came across Ian Cohen’s post for Pitchfork’s 15th anniversary feature and his selection of the Wrens‘ “Everyone Choose Sides” as the song that meant most to him personally in 2003, it dawned upon me how many years it’s been since I’d listened to that Meadowlands album I loved so much. “Everyone Choose Sides” was my favorite track not just of the album, but probably of anything I heard that year, and I’m quite sure it’s there on that year-end mix cd I compiled with Brian. If only I could find that disc now. It captured everything I loved about American indie rock, precisely at a time when the confessional core of emo wasn’t yet embarrassing (to me at least). Listening to the track again in 2011, I’m shocked at how utterly immediate it still sounds – its impeccable sense of timing and devastating pace bracketed by blatantly blown out guitars and an audaciously abrupt ending. It was defining of its time, and in a silent way it’s patiently grown old(er) with me. – Dan.
mp3: The Wrens – Everyone Choose Sides
The Wrens don’t release albums very often. Meadowlands (2003) was released on Absolutely Kosher, and we hear a follow-up should be due this year.
Reading from afar on the recent London riots, I’m struck by how Johnny Rotten’s “no future for you” still rings true more than 30 years on, hanging ominously over the aftermath at Tottenham. It gave shuddering perspective to what I’ve been listening to lately – Nine Types of Light by TV on the Radio. While the band has steered their fourth album in the direction of lushly padded funk rock, the underlying tensions that have come to so characterize their music remains as disconcerting as ever. “No Future Shock” casts this grim context under an ironic disco light, painting a picture of social dysfunction, growing paranoia and everything that “just doesn’t seem right” whilst goading its listeners to dance it all away, to “do the no future“. It isn’t as biting as the Pistols, but it sure sounds a lot more cynical in unsettling times as these. – Dan.
mp3: TV on the Radio – No Future Shock
Nine Types of Light is out now on Interscope.
SINGAPORE: I’m Waking Up To…
The Psalms – Johnny Mnemonic
Fiercely upfront and dizzyingly discordant, The Psalms have been shaking things up in the music scene here, with growing expectations on their upcoming debut album. The band’s Ishmael’s Wishlist EP offers a raw glimpse of things to come, with its arresting spiral of chaotic rock delivered at breakneck speeds. All donations through the EP’s digital download on Bandcamp will benefit Acres, a Singaporean organization promoting active community involvement in animal protection. – Dan.
To download all 32 songs in one file click here. MAP is published on the 15th of every month, featuring a showcase of music handpicked by bloggers from all over the world.
For all its obvious flaws that are perhaps emblematic of a relatively inexperienced filmmaker trying too hard to imitate John Cassavetes, Derek Gianfrance’s Blue Valentine still makes for absorbing viewing, particularly for those who are able to immerse themselves fully into the improvisational feel of this muted marital melodrama. This ballad of Dean and Cindy (as portrayed by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams), which shifts restlessly between their disintegrating marriage and sense-memory flashbacks to the couple’s happier times together several years before, is accompanied by a score composed by Grizzly Bear featuring instrumental versions of a number of their songs from Yellow House (2006) and Veckatimest (2009). And not much of a surprise that these supple instrumentals fit in wonderfully as the backdrop to Blue Valentine — with Grizzly Bear’s music radiating the same distinct sense of fragility as the film, as well as providing the roiling momentum for its main characters’ most vulnerable romantic projections: She seemed different. I just got a feeling about her. You know the song comes on, and you just gotta dance? – Keith.
mp3: Grizzly Bear – Foreground (Instrumental)
The Blue Valentine OST is out now on Lakeshore Records.