what would motivate a drone/ambient label like kranky to put out a good ol’ rock record? not many reasons, i’d reckon, but when you get around to listening to their latest release, the question quickly becomes more of why not? lux by disappears sounds nothing like what the label has done before (stars of the lid this surely ain’t), so much so that they felt the need, almost apologetically, to provide an account of their actions: “it still fits in with the kranky aesthetic, because at the core it is minimalist head music“, their website reads.
but lux sounds so darn badass, so cocky in claiming its place among post-punk forebears like the velvet underground, the stooges and suicide, that you know kranky just couldn’t say no. and in a way, they are right – the unrepentantly primitive but stubbornly focused rhythm section forms the core of their music by pounding away with the clinically entrancing effect of a minimal techno track. at the same time, as the blistering album opener “gone completely” would show, it’s everything else that they manage to squeeze in – the drone, the reverb, their inner demons, their outer punk – that makes this record such an engaging listen. – dan.
mp3: disappears – gone completely
lux is out now on kranky.
the last kranky release of the year, felix‘s you are the one i pick, sounds totally at home with the growing corpus of minimal ambient records the label has become so well known for. yet, the duo from nottingham offers something different, mainly in the recurring form of lucinda chua’s semi-autobiographical streams of consciousness. “knock down the walls, i’m coming home“, chua singspeaks in the first line of “death to everyone but us”, offering us immediate access to her thoughts, musings, rants and polemics, and providing the song with its many fragments of loose narratives. her piano flourishes occasionally but demands less attention, especially compared to the strings and guitars of chris summerlin which really takes control in the second half of the song before tapering off. as the opening track of the album, “death to everyone but us” is bold and almost brutal in its execution, and as the title suggests, serves as a rather direct statement of intent for something the label itself terms “delicate and spare chamber pop”. – dan.
mp3: felix – death to everyone but us
you are the one i pick is now out on kranky.
what did you want to see, what did you want to be when you grew up? it’s a perfect question posed by a duo still reveling in childlike wonder, both currently making music that touches the oldest of souls. it’s a fairytale collaboration just waiting to be made, taking place under the envelop of bradford cox’s solo atlas sound project, and featuring the buoyant vocals of animal collective’s noah lennox, aka panda bear. the fruit of that partnership is “walkabout”, a track revolving the simplest of loops, built upon a sample of “what am i going to do” by the dovers, and circling playfully around the theme of childhood dreams. it’s a song that hops and skips from one idea to the next, but never deviating far from the central question. the contribution of panda bear is distinct beyond his vocal contributions, especially with the incorporation of field samples that invoke both the faraway and vaguely familiar and which blend perfectly with cox’s signature dreamscapes. this sounds like the meeting of long lost playground buddies, meeting when they’re both grown up and finally ready to make a song to last a lifetime, and for me possibly the best thing i’ve heard all year.
mp3: atlas sound – walkabout (ft. noah lennox)
“walkabout” is featured on atlas sound’s upcoming album logos, out on kranky 20 oct.
in a space of three short years, the staggering output of deerhunter and its affiliate acts has thoroughly infiltrated the fragmented psyche of indie music (if such a category makes any sense at all). 2007 was the year most of us got our first glimpse of the band with its post-shoegaze cryptograms album and the impressive follow-up fluorescent grey ep, which boasted a title track invoking the rotting corpse of david baker’s mercury rev. showing no sign of slowing down, 2008 saw the consolidation of the hegemonic grip of the band, which started the year with bradford cox’s solo project atlas sound, and ended it in style with the devastatingly beatitiful couplet microcastle/weird era cont.
this year, we already have two related releases to contend with, lockett pundt’s solo effort lotus plaza, and the band’s recent ep rainwater cassette exchange. the former’s the floodlight collective already has the makings of a classic as it reaches towards the outer limits of both ends of the dreampop spectrum, with album centerpiece “what grows” representing just about every possibility of such a project. rainwater cassette exchange is no less adventurous, as evident in the opening title track with its deceivingly naive holiday-themed melody blending surprisingly well with the song’s garage inclinations. it’s only may, but i can’t wait for what else the band’s got to offer for the rest of the year.
mp3: lotus plaza – what grows?
mp3: deerhunter – rainwater cassette exchange
all deerhunter, atlas sound and lotus plaza releases are available on one of our favorite record labels, kranky.
i’ve really been digging up old stuff recently, and one of my favorite re-discoveries is the now defunct new zealand band dadamah. the band only played three gigs in their brief existence from ’91 to ’94, and released two 7″ singles and one ep. all these songs were quickly picked up then by the newly birthed kranky label (now firmly recognized as one of the best experimental labels) as their second ever release, which also turns out to be the last and only standing document of the band’s work. for a band this underrated, the music itself is sublime. most befitting of the band name, both their production and delivery rely on primal instinct. and while fellow countrymen the dead c (the only other nz band from that era and scene i’m familiar with) often makes for a heavy, seasick inducing listen (which i’m in the mood for only on some days), dadamah sounds surprisingly accessible considering their sonic palette. a great example is “papa doc”, which sounds exactly like an ian curtis/patti smith guest-duet for the velvet underground. don’t let this pass by you.
mp3: dadamah – papa doc
for some reason or another i never got about to listening to deerhunter‘s fluorescent grey ep, the record released in the aftermath of cryptograms and in anticipation of last year’s impressive microcastle. listening to it for the first time yesterday evening, i’ve come to appreciate why i love this band so much today, especially in the final song of the ep, “wash off”. while most of the record demonstrated the band at its most incisive and refined, “wash off” lets the threads run a little looser, beginning with stripped down mechanical rhythm that soon disintegrates into a thick swamp. repetition and drone are given their rightful place, but never allowed to overshadow the subtler nuances of atmosphere and effect. the shifting variable is of course noise, or more accurately the degree of noise permitted, something which the band manipulates with utmost control and mastery.
mp3: deerhunter – wash off
atlas sound – let the blind lead those who can see but cannot feel (kranky)
bradford cox ended his year on a high, with the release of deerhunter‘s microcastle, the much lauded album that’s found its way to most year end lists by now. but let’s not forget how he started the year with a bang as well, with his solo effort under the atlas sound moniker. while cox’s more direct work has been fittingly channeled to deerhunter, atlas sound remains his personal solace, where every feeling is indulged and every idea entertained, no matter how scanty or odd. the end product, though, fits seamlessly like one long dream, vague yet unforgettable.
mp3: atlas sound – river card