Wednesday, June 20, 2007

5 A Day: Day Two

This is one of the songs that I was listening to on my way back to my house, so this will be the post video. This is late because I went bowling. Not only did I have the wrong shoes (they were a size too small), my ball was a pound heavier than I would have liked it to have been (14 instead of 13). I bowled well given the circumstances. I should have done better, but it did take away the stench of our poor performance at trivia. Anyway, this is the video for Mass Appeal by Gang Starr along with the review of the five albums I listened to today.

Love of Diagrams - Mosaic

Love of Diagrams is an Australian post-punk trio that maintains many of the standards of post-punk through their brash, defiant sound. The guitar playing of Luke Horton at points reminds me of Sleater-Kinney at points, but the guitar is not the primary instrument on this album. The primary rhythm is that of the bass as played by Antonia Sellbach. The fact that the bass was at the lead made listening to the instrumentals entertaining because the guitar would snake around and through the bass line while the drums had an interesting interplay with the bass. The sound of the band overall was very reminiscent of Siouxsie and the Banshees in their early, non-goth phase. But unlike a lot of post-punk bands in the current era, Love of Diagrams didn't sound like a rehash of previous post-punk bands. They had a little of a pop edge while still maintaining the angularity of post-punk, helping them to stand out from the cacophony.

I have listened to the first album The Target is You, which is a primarily instrumental album. This album is a clear turn from that point in time, but it is clear they came from that background as the lyrics are not particularly good. The voices are good. The interplay between the vocals of Sellbach and Horton are entertaining, but the words didn't really mean a lot and weren't super interesting. Additionally, on a negative, the album was a touch too long. It began to lose steam towards the end. The songs were still pretty good, but they were not as strong as the first half of the album.

On the whole, this is a band that has a very tightly wound sound. It is fun and interesting to listen to them work off of each other instrumentally. I thought that this album was definitely worth multiple listens, and I'm looking forwards to what will come next from them.

Magik Markers - Tale of the Whale

This is an compilation of live performances by the Hartford, CT-based trio of Magik Markers, who are well known as former openers for Sonic Youth. Magik Markers use guitars, random objects, and drums to make a cacophonous sound reminiscent of no wave bands like Teenage Jesus and the Jerks and DNA. This would normally be a good thing for me as I love DNA and like Teenage Jesus and the Jerks (I'm not a huge Lydia Lunch fan, but that's another discussion). Unfortunately, this similarity was not a good thing for them. I thought that this album was really uninteresting and uninventive. Frankly, it reminded me of really old Sonic Youth instead of sounding like their own band. It was a girl sing-talking over a cacophonous noise created by guitars and drums crashing together. I found their music to be really stagnant, which is something that can't be said for a lot of no wave. Additionally, I wasn't really feeling the improvised lyrics on the tracks, which would have been better served with banshee screams or wailing in my opinion. And, to pile on, the recording quality of this album is terrible. It sounds like their was a microphone set up towards the back of the room to pick up the sound of the band instead of getting a board feed, which would have been cleaner and clearer. Regardless of my school boy criticisms of their sound, this was really one of the more unenjoyable albums that I've ever listened to, as I found myself bored frequently while listening to it. Magik Markers never have to worry about me going to one of their concerts ever.

The Mars Volta - Frances the Mute

As is well known, The Mars Volta is one band that arose from the split of seminal emo band At The Drive-In (and no, not the emo you know and hate. good emo.). Containing Cedric and Omar, The Mars Volta has been pushing the boundaries of music since ATDI's dissolution. If I had to describe The Mars Volta to someone that was uninitiated, I would probably begin them on this particular album. Frances the Mute is the second cycle released by the band. And, yes, I used the term cycle instead of album. Mars Volta albums are to be listened to in one sitting, and, after listening to Frances the Mute, I don't know any other way that they can be listened to. The primary influence of prog on Frances the Mute allows for The Mars Volta to push the boundaries of music, infusing their own sound with Afro-Cuban rhythms, psychedelic influences, free jazz, art rock, and fierce band interplay dynamics.

As crazy as all of this sounds, Frances the Mute works because all of these things do not sound crazy together or unintentionally noisy. The primary problem that comes with being so heavily experimental is that is can be pretentious or predictable. These are two adjectives that will never be used to describe Frances the Mute as The Mars Volta own the sound, making it seem completely natural that a loud guitar solo came right after listening to frogs chirping in the night. Such dynamics made this album a complete standout as well as got me to understand why so many people that I respect (read: Henry Rollins) hold them in such high regard. Nothing comes quickly with this album. Songs rise and fall on their own pace, so that could be frustrating if you like quick resolution in your music. If you are willing to be a voyager on the sonic trip, The Mars Volta will be more than happy to take you to new levels of sonic experimentation, lyrical intensity, and emotional depth.

Broadcast - The Future Crayon

The Future Crayon is a compilation of EP tracks, B-Sides, and rarities from Broadcast during the period in which they recorded The Noise Made by People and Haha Sound. If you have heard about Broadcast and are interested in learning about them, this is a good place to get a sense of their aesthetic, which takes many cues from the work of The United States of America (the Psych band, not the country) with its vintage synths and floating, disaffected vocals. This is a bad place to get a sense of the band because the album is not cohesive as their regular albums.

The Future Crayon is broken into two parts: accessible and not so much. The accessible side is the material that would be later refined and turned into their "crossover" album Tender Buttons. The second half is more experimental, but is clearly born of the sessions for their earlier albums. If you have only heard of Broadcast in passing or actually listen to and love Broadcast like me, The Future Crayon is a pretty substantial pickup well worth its cost.

Chris Stines - Who Am I? Part I - Chris Stines

This album was made available to me by freeform stalwart WFMU as part of their 365 Day Music project. Although WFMU is a radio station that already goes 365 days a year, the 365 day project posts obscure, bizarre records everyday on the station's blog. This is one such album. While the name of Chris Stines is not certain, it is certain that this release is a prime example of outsider music. The album is strange, awkward, slightly incomprehensible, unrehearsed, and mildly uncomfortable to listen to. But, even still, it has the redeemable quality, a certain je ne sais quoi that makes it likable. One thing that goes the way of the album is the fact that he is just singing over other people's beats and the lyrics are slightly comprehensible. While I was skeptical when I started, by the middle of the first track, I was really into it. My enthusiasm didn't wane as the album went on either. If you are not into strange musical displays, this probably won't work for you so much as you will think it is just a really weird musical display by some half-wit with no talent. But, if you are into things like Gary Wilson, Jandek, The Shaggs, Daniel Johnston, and Jan Terri, I highly implore you to go over to WFMU and download this now.