personalized expeditions in music from a musician who doesn't matter

Discoveries part 1

Posted by r on December 18, 2011

Just some stuff about music by other people after the break.

After that big rant at least partially about The State Of Music Today, I’ve actually spent some of this week stumbling upon some pretty amazing new (or, at least, new-to-me) stuff.

First, there was Animals As Leaders. Found ’em while I was looking up info on 8- and 9-string guitars; the forumites over at utter the name “Tosin” (as in Tosin Abasi, the 8-string guitarist and central focus of AAL) in hushed, reverent tones as if he were Jesus. It’s not hard to see why; this is unabashed full-on shredder stuff with virtuosity on a level that hurts to experience.

I listen to the first / eponymous Animals As Leaders record from ’09, and I’m not sure whether to feel awed (as in “how the hell did they actually PLAY that”) or dirty (as in “I feel like I’m listening to a Satriani-Weather Report collaboration”). The newer album the band just released last month, Weightless (which apparently hit #96 on the Billboard album sales chart on release; I’m so behind the times!), is less overplayed / more glitch-oriented, and thus less of a frustration-inducing guilty pleasure. But I figure we’d better start at the beginning (even though the Youtube audio codec is absolutely murderous to this music):

Further Wikipedia reading on Animals As Leaders eventually led me to the very different act Rosetta. Only their first record from ’05, The Galilean Satellites, is up on Spotify, so that’s all I’ve been able to hear so far… but what a doozy this album is, influences-wise, for an old fart like me.

Building on quintessential slow modal goth vamps a la Joy Division or The Cure, Rosetta proceeds to add “just enough” metal to stick it to the listener but good, with Cookie-Monster / Pink-Eyes-style gut-screaming vox barely making it above some incredible, jazzy, barely-controlled over-drumming and an impossibly dense, thick wall of droning guitars capable of evoking the vastness of the universe at large, with an average song length of about ten minutes. At times I’m also reminded of late 80s Sonic Youth and/or Hum’s finest moments. Not faint praise, that.

This particular track from early on in The Galilean Satellites ends with the longest, loudest bVI chord you’ve ever heard (I guess non-theory-equipped folks will have to trust me on this?). I hate this overused eTerm, but… talk about truly epic. This music is what the overrated Godspeed! wishes they could have been. Again, the horrific Youtube audio compression really doesn’t do this monster justice; listen on Spfy if you can. I can’t wait to hear these guys’ later records.

Simon Break, aka The European (whose incredible homebrew album In A Very Real Sense Now has been in my biweekly rotation in full for about 18 very real months now), tweeted about the following James Ferraro track. This came from Ferraro’s most recent album Far Side Virtual. I don’t currently know much about Ferraro, but I gather he’s quite prolific and typically experimental.

As you might be able to guess by the fantastic, complete-with-horrid-bitmap-aliasing album art as depicted in the Youtube video still, this record is purely inspired by what I might call “Encarta music”– soulless, melody-free General MIDI “multimedia pop” of the mid-90s. It’s “music” best suited for the mind-blowing experience of Windows 95, or perhaps hold music during a call to your favorite online computer parts vendor. Unlike every other MIDI-based artist since 1983, Ferraro leaves his dense-yet-thin-sounding sequences completely unquantized, which has the effect of somehow auto-aging the record appropriately for the goal… even though over-quantization was of course de rigeur in the era / style being aped.

Far Side Virtual as a whole is hilarious, complete with 90s speech-synthesis “waiters” offering you expensive culinary delights of the convenience-driven future over the top of a particularly unlistenable track. The old AOL Instant Messenger (or is that Skype?) “your pal is signing off” sound even finds its way into several songs. No matter which application it was stolen from, I know I LOL’d.

The good friend known on the Internets as Soopageek has tried for years to get me to listen to Chrome, one of his longtime favorites. We had a listening party down at the shop last night and he snuck a Chrome track from 1978’s Alien Soundtracks in while he had command of my phone’s Spotify client. All I can say is wow. I’m pretty pissed at myself for not paying heed to his admonitions earlier. It’s like a way funkier, harder-rockin’ Residents record. Every track I’ve heard from the record so far is fantastic, but here’s the one he started with.

And about 30 minutes ago, I pulled up the Punch Brothers’ most recent album, Antifogmatic, on the way down to the shop as my first brush with these guys, following a passing but obviously admiring mention on Mike Neer’s great lap steel blog (never mind that there’s no dobro in sight with the Punch Brothers). It’s a bluegrass record– but a bluegrass record in instrumentation only. The best analogy I can come up with is that this music is to bluegrass as Shudder to Think’s Pony Express Record was to cock rock 17 years ago. It’s willfully fragmented, dissonant, harmonically unstable in all the right places, and, again, almost masochistic to experience due to its sheer virtuosity– both compositionally and performance-wise. And I say all this only four songs in!

Here’s a cell-phone-captured live performance of the second track from Antifogmatic, which will give you some idea what I’m talking about. It’s nice to see someone wield a mandolin with full-on rock faces going on… and mandolinist Chris Thile has fully earned the right to those rock faces. Frankly, they’re all just amazing players.

I’m pretty sure there were a few more things I found that blew my mind this week, but I’d better get back to work on my own decisively non-mind-blowing music project immediately at hand.

3 Responses to “Discoveries part 1”

  1. j-dawg said

    I like the track by Chrome.

  2. soopageek said

    I’ll definitely be checking out more Rosetta.

    I found myself listening to Alien Soundtracks and Half Machine Lip Moves in their entirety on Sunday morning… possibly a couple of times each.

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