Monday, February 28, 2011

Kilim4nj. Darkja55. Ense. - From Th3 Stairw311 (2011)

Cimmerian. Tenebrous. Cinematic perfection: I think of this amazing dark jazz ensemble in such terms and more. 1 EP and three albums later, the Kilimanjaros have crafted the strongest set of compositions since their debut half a decade ago.

Sonically its quite the sunken affair, euphoric and noisily adrift in the murk. The bases are covered nicely: 'Celladoor' breathes in and out in glitchy little dissonances awash in the drone, 'Giallo' swaggers down the blacklit urban corridors with to a post-bop midnight groove and a choir of ghosts at its beck and call, but the biggest treat of this witching hour comes in the form of 'White Eyes', a gorgeous filmworthy violin/horn-led moonlighter that does Twin Peaks-era David Lynch and crooners such as Julee Cruise very proud indeed.   

In any case, my AOTY so far. While everyone and their grandma creams their jeans to the latest Radiohead release or whatever Pitchfork shall undoubtedly hype in coming months, I doubt any of it will be capable of setting the mood faster (or better) than this dark little dream machine.

Listen Here - "Les Etoiles Mutantes"

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Mr. M1ster - Pv11 (1990/2010)

Twenty years after a supposed release date that never came, prodigal 80's atmospheric pop-rockers Mr. Mister finally had their legendary lost album Pull mastered and released at the end of 2010, causing many fans of the band (including myself) to rejoice with great fervor.

Although I don't really advertise it on a daily basis, I'm quite the aficionado of artsy pop/rock bands like Toto, Tears For Fears, and the 80's/90's incarnation of Yes, groups whose sound is comparable to the pseudo-industrial clarity of production that marks the various tracks across Pull. Furthermore, the razorback axe-work of Trevor Rabin and the larger-than-life voice of Richard Page couldn't be better, factors which would be droolworthy for me even if the songs weren't too hot.

On the contrary however, the compositions here ARE quite good for the most part, and that makes the twenty year expectations all that more rewarding, with particular nods to the 80's King Crimson-ian eastern-scaled powerhouse 'Learning To Crawl' and mid-tempo blazers such as 'Close Your Eyes' and 'Surrender' whose hooks are just as good as the band's earlier hits, if not better.

To my comrades out there looking for that magical late-80's crystalline production, wrought with great songs and performed by a rock band who were at the height of their musical prime, you have found nirvana.

Listen Here - "Learning To Crawl"

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Terry Callier - What Color Is Love (1973)

The best soul album of the 70's.

...well, that's how I'd like to sum this review up, but being that mistah Terry Callier isn't well known even among soul enthusiasts, I'll elaborate: he, along with his more famous childhood bud Curtis Mayfield, occupied a roster on Motown for a good part of the decade. Unlike his good chum however (and in fact unlike anyone else on the label), Callier possessed a distinctly spacey yet intimate songcraft that lent itself just as easily to folk and baroque-tinged pop as it did to the bellowing James Brown theatricalia psychedelica that was expected of a legitimate soul singer.

That said, 1973's What Color Is Love serves a dual purpose amidst his output: it can be approached as a singular point where his romantic style of songwriting came together into a near perfect set of stoned soul smashers ('Candyman', 'A Song Of The Sun'), heartwrenching balladry ('Just As Long As We're In Love', the title track) and even a fine slice of epic folk-jazz ('Dancing Girl'). On the other hand, every artist hits a milestone early on that can be said to be relatively "untoppable" by all subsequent output in the ears of casual listeners: Marvin Gaye? What's Going On. Bill Withers? Just As I Am. Isaac Hayes? Hot Buttered Soul. For Callier, What Color Is Love is that sort of defining moment.

Listen Here - "Just As Long As We're In Love"

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Pendulum - Hold Your Colour (2005)

Arguably classic post-Y2K drum & bass debut from a couple of Australian wankers...with a little twist on my part. The album sold out pretty quickly upon its initial release, and was reissued in 2007 with two new tracks replacing 'Another Planet' and 'Still Grey' which closed out the original LP. The problem, however, is that much of this brilliant record's flow was lost because now every single damn song had something like 3 FREAKIN' seconds of silence at the end of it.

Therefore, I have taken a fair amount of time and liberty to clean up, arrange a bit and ultimately upload THE definitive version of Hold Your Colour for the pleasure of my devoted fans. I've cut away the silences at the end of every track, re-added the two missing tracks from the original release, and also kept the two 2007 reissue tracks as well. The result: 16 great D&B cuts that bleed together into a wonderfully singular experience, brought here in 320 CBR that was converted from FLAC every step of the way.

The sample track below should be a good enough indication of the album's sound for the skeptics, so I won't waste my type on a play-by-play. I don't expect to be thanked for my wonderful audio editing abilities either, but I did a helluva job here. Enjoy!!

Listen Here - "Sounds Of Life"

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Landberk - Indian Summer (1996)

Throughout history, there have been infinitely numerous progressive rock bands who stop dead in their tracks developmentally once they're an appropriately acceptable King Crimson, Yes or Genesis pastiche. But then, like stars in the arctic sky, you have bands like Landberk...who in the course of three albums go from King Crimson's early 70's period to a snazzy crossover act that draws just as much inspiration from groups such as early Radiohead and the shoegaze scene as they do from obscure 70's pretensioners.

Indian Summer, a 1996 release which would prove to be the final album from this illustrious band, is also in some ways a realization of their potential as a unit, a contemporary in some ways to King Crimson's eclectic THRAK, which came out a year or so before this record. Vocals and guitar work are distorted into near oblivion at times, pitted against a cloud like ambience that would feel more at home on Slowdive's Pygmalion. Still, its not all drums and spacey guitar noodles: '1st Of May' is a solid alt. rocker blighting along with that classic 90's melancholy and 'Dustgod' comes across as the ideal marriage between The Smashing Pumpkins and post-87 Pet Shop Boys.

While I have been doing a lot of name dropping here, I just find it rather refreshing that a Scandinavian progressive rock band managed to successfully incorporate some of the cooler musical movements that were blooming twenty-some years ago and cut some fine songs in the process.

Prog., art rock, shoegaze, alternative rock...whatever your crack is, this baby's got it.

Listen Here - "I Wish I Had A Boat"

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

This Heat - S/T (1979)

Blistering and demented even in it's quietest moments, This Heat's debut is a fundamentally different specie of record than it's infamously more accessible followup Deceit; they fume and smolder with strange, primitive ideas.

Put another way, the songs present here are worlds within themselves: 'Not Waving' is the ideal drone-jazz funeral dirge, or perhaps its merely the band's nod to Brian Eno and his work with No New York the previous year...but when you have such menacing, virulent industrialism at play on the groundbreaking 'The Fall Of Saigon' and an uncharacteristically amazing throwback to Can's classic percussive heyday on 'Twilight Furniture', the fact that this fantastic group debuted before 1980 seems almost like a fantasy. Amalgamating many of the best qualities of free jazz, fledgling post-punk, no wave and progressive rock into a compelling horror story before others had caught on is no small feat after all...

Get this classic today.

Listen Here - "The Fall Of Saigon"

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Alexander O'Neal - Hearsay (1987)

Another 80's R&B classic to liven up thine mix when the night feels a little too long for comfort. To those who might doubt how good this is....well, the album title says it for me. Personal highlights: the dreamy quiet storm epic 'Sunshine', Grand Theft Auto-radio favorite 'Criticize' and the gorgeously paced title track.

Listen Here - "Hearsay"

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Iona - Open Sky (2000)

In an intriguing deviation from most Celtic rock music (which tends to be either lean towards the overtly sappy like Clannad or mehish punk a~la Dropkick Murphys), we have groups like Iona, who take their heritage and chalk it up with influences as diverse as jazz, ambient and progressive rock to create some damn powerful tuneage that stands out from the crowd.

Truth be told, this is just as much a spiritual experience as it is a musical one. Joanne Hogg, perhaps better known in some circles as a major contributor to some of the songs from popular RPG Xenogears, is the driving force behind Iona and sounds utterly without peer with her pipes throughout the songs on Open Sky. The other trick to the band's sound however, along with a fantastic guitarist and drummer, is the role of violin throughout these pieces. While the keyboards float along like morning mist, the violins sound stark and lonely, and without their presence this album wouldn't be nearly as engaging as it is.

Looking for something ambient and soothing to the ears yet works equally well as a top-class progressive rock album?

X marks the spot mothafuckas'.

Listen Here - "Light Reflected"

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Jun Chikuma - Bomberman Hero OST (1998)

One of the most underrated franchises in all of video game fandom meets some seriously dope Drum & Bass here on an old school N64 classic soundtrack, consisting of nineteen tracks that don't outstay their welcome thanks to a distinct sense of pacing: few-to-none clock over 3 minutes, and flow like the River Jordan from the jungle japin' 'Foehn' to the strangely out of place guitar/flute led 'Loom' without a fuckin' hitch.

Even if you've never played this game, every second of material here is terrifically timeless nevertheless. Hell, if it weren't some obscure Nintendo soundtrack most of you would have scooped it up ages ago!

Listen Here - "Redial"

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Grum - Heartbeats (2010)

Graeme Shepherd, AKA Grum, is an odd bloke hailing from the U.K., who up until his 2010 debut Heartbeats was mostly known in production/DJ circles for his various lauded remixes of popular House staples. In taking off with thirteen tracks of original material though, it seems he's set his sights on new horizons with the hopes of making his own stake in clubs across the world.

That said, this record certainly works wonders for the dancefloor - it's a curious blend between Daft Punk inspired electro pumping and 80's soft pop along the lines of Genesis and Madonna, with certain tendencies from both sides of the equation taking their own particular emphases depending on the track at play. Hell, 'Cybernetic' and 'The Really Long One' wouldn't be out of place on Discovery at the very least. But then you hear something like 'Through The Night', with that whole Yamaha keyboard layering the atmosphere and watery vocals going in and out, and you're like "Why is Hall & Oates Private Eyes playing? 1981 was a long freakin' time ago!" But as my ex-roommate used to say - "The party's only over when the music stops."

Fans of the 80's, fun, early House and less chaotic electro-pop will find much to love here. Everybody else will probably be too busy listening to Sonic Youth B-sides or something. Their loss!

Listen Here - "Through The Night"

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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Ramases - Glass Top Coffin (1975)

Underrated and lauded in many underground circles back in the good ol' 70's, Ramases are basically the symphonic folk equivalent to psychedelic space gods Hawkwind and their ilk, sending their operatic tenors of voice and eclectic instrumentation alike to the infinite nether and beyond and letting their starborne intentions carry on to new worlds.

Glass Top Coffin, remastered and reissued after thirty five years in obscurity, was this communal collective jamboree's final release in 1975 before they split up to go do...whatever hippies do when they aren't playing music or indulging in mild altering contraband. Considering how beautiful and compellingly listenable this sophomoric finale was though, I guess the breakup couldn't have happened at a better time - amidst the acoustics and vibratto-harmonizing, there's a classically induced sheen borne from euphoric strings and woodwinds mingling amidst the sunshine pop and would-be Fairport Convention-ing which befits the "space opera" image as though it were a match made in heaven.

Fans of spacey subject matter, troubadours brimming with bard like delivery, baroque folk-rock and beautiful music on the whole will be blasting off with glee when this record gets a'spinnin'.

Listen Here - "Mind Island"

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Friday, February 4, 2011

Destroyer - Kaputt (2011)

Easily cutting the best album to come out this year thus far, Destroyer is an interesting project from Dan Bejar (of The New Pornographers fame) that blends post-punkish Indie-pop sensibility with that dreamy jazz quality that marked the delicious commercial efforts of such 80's acts as Swing Out Sister and Prefab Sprout, with results that can only be described as magical.

Atmosphere reigns supreme here to these ears, groove-leaden basslines punctured teeth-and-all with horns and darkling sax, with keyboards occasionally manifesting before pulsating down south of the mix once more. I can see how the typical alternative listener wouldn't think much of any of this - jazz pop anything, "Indie" or not, has never exactly been high on this generation's radar.

People who don't let "old people music influences" get in the way of a good time will see this for the treasure that it is though: a contemporary slice of classy, laidback rock that should dissuade those thinking indie-rock has run out of ideas.

Listen Here - "Kaputt"

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Secede - Bye Bye Gridlock Traffic (2003)

I can't say much for the opinions of those who consider themselves well-informed, but Secede is probably my single favorite individual in the IDM/ambient-electronic spectrum and in a class all his own. He doesn't cut releases very often, but when something does rear it's head it tends to blow most of its competition out of the water, such as the tremendously splendid Tryshasla from 2005.

Bye Bye Gridlock Traffic is this musical magician's 2003 debut, thirteen exercises in organic, nearly unbelievably deep soundscapes that never cease to relax nor entertain. Favorites would include the glitchy phantamagoria of 'Crave & Fall', 'Return To Island CX' with its sparkling keyboards that morphs about a quarater of the way through into some kind of world-trip hop beatfest, and firmament treading 'Outran', a dream amidst many brilliant visions lost in the night sky.

To be blunt, what gets me the most at the end of the day is how Secede succeeds, effortlessly at times, in holding onto a certain human touch to his songwriting, whereas various IDM superstars making their names through Pitchfork and the like appear to struggle violently to obtain a semblance of that very same thing. Hell, even half a trip in this record makes it so I can't even remember what I enjoyed in his more well-known competition to begin with. Scary!

Listen Here - "Outran"

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