Reviews
RECORD REVIEW: BLANCHE BLANCHE BLANCHE - WINK WITH BOTH EYES
Reviews
Tuesday, 27 November 2012 00:00
 

Night People

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The saying 'its so wrong its right' has never been more applicable in the case the brilliantly and intelligently constructed work of Vermont's off kilter geniuses Blanche Blanche Blanche. Their new album, the wholly analog Wink With Both Eyes might not be everyone's thing but if you get what they're on about you're in for a superbly unpredictable ride.

Sarah Smith and Zach Phillips pack everything but the kitchen sink into every synth laden track despite using no sequencers or computers. Recorded exclusively through a Yamaha mt8x, the same equipment Ariel Pink used on his early releases, the sound of Wink With Both Eyes is muddy yet it strangely packs clarity. It's a frenetic yet exhilirating musical experience. The expertly constructed vocal duets where Phillips's sketchy contributions and Smith's deadpan monotone wind in and out and around each other is amazing but the overwhelming feature of the record is the completely out of whack timing. Every track has a unique lag between its musical structures and applied rhythm. But what is amazing is that it produces a sort of ramshackled discipline that leaves your jaw on the floor. The attention to detail is forensic and the end result frenetic.

There's also a certain hypnotic feel throughout the record and the duo use repetition to great effect. Check 'Jason's List' as an example. The almost stream of conciousness tack gives the album a surreal feel and you feel inside and outside of it simultaneously. The up tempo moments are where the album is at its best. The aforementioned 'Jason's List, the drive of   'Runny Day', the wicked pace of 'Ana's Life' and the tongue in cheek 'Body Talk' are standouts among many. Perhaps the best track is the heartfelt ode to the struggles of parenthood, 'She's Adopted'. Smith asks 'where did my little girly fly, did I lose my little girl, can you see her in my eyes' to which Phillips responds subtely underneath 'I don't wanna know, she's adopted'. Smith finishes the line with hopeful resignation 'she's just one of the kids'.

The overwhelming cerebral character of Wink With Both Eyes when combined with its knowing nods to creative absurdity makes it one of the best albums of 2012. What's incredible about that is the fact that this album is just one of five releases for the prolific and ultra talented duo but rather than get lost in the mire, Wink With Both Eyes stands alone as a definitive blueprint of the best that off-kilter pop has to offer.

James Stocker - November 24, 2012.

 

 

She's Adopted

Blanche Blanche Blanche (USA)
From the album, 'Wink With Both Eyes', Night People.

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RECORD REVIEW: WOODS - BEND BEYOND
Reviews
Monday, 26 November 2012 04:14
 

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Woodsist / Remote Control Records

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Brooklyn quartet Woods have given us seven releases in seven years, a range of folk-driven often-melancholic ponderings of our place in this twenty first century world. Known for their lo-fi sound, this seventh LP sees the band take a leap forward both in production and substance. Bend Beyond has a more optimistic sound than previous albums and where the previous recordings saw them going on long jamming tangents (2011’s Sun And Shame had around twenty minutes of instrumentals, nearly half the album) this new offering is tight, full of light and a joy to listen to.

The sound of open expanse rather than inner city could be a way to describe what we have here, something to listen to with the roof down cruising down the highway to somewhere sweet under a golden sunset. Founder Jeremy Earl has a voice that feels channeled straight from the 60s, and on this LP is moved forward in the mix, rather than being buried under the layers of the lo-fi gauze as in earlier recordings. The delivery is more precise, more channeled.

Multi instrumentalist Jarvis Taveniere gels with Earl to create a synergy that is tight and fluid, a step above their recordings of earlier times. New drummer, Aaron Neveu brings new life to Woods. The album was put together at Earls home in upstate New York. He has said of recording it; (they went) into the sessions of ‘Bend Beyond’ with plans to eschew the spontaneity of their earlier work. A more crafted piece has emerged, and has produced a gorgeous collection of tracks at times polished and refined, yet also with a feeling of having of nostalgia and warmth.

Harmonies in full flight venturing into pure psychedelic bliss-outs are found on Bend Beyond, and all radiate with sunshine. ‘Cali In A Cup’ was the lead single, and is a bright and joyous song, with beautiful harmonica making it all the richer. ‘Is It Honest’ shows Earl’s skill as songwriter, with a strong chorus as he sings “But it’s so fucking hard.” sounding somewhat like the Byrds Roger McGuinn.

‘It Ain’t Easy’ laments the death of someone close. “It gets hard without much to say / I piled stones in lieu of your grave” and “lookin’ for different ways to make things stay the same” the guitar strings are beautiful in this song. The feeling soon changes as we move or rather crash into the next track, ‘Cascade’. A wall of white noise begins this infectious instrumental which is over all too soon at just under two minutes in length. ‘Back To The Stone’ Cowboy Western landscape sounds less folky than a lot of other offerings on Bend Beyond, almost reminiscent of The Shins in places.

‘Impossible Skys’ is a delight with its accent on the two and four, ‘Find Them Empty’ begins hard with a keyboard riff that balances the guitars in this album highlight. ‘Lily’ has a hippy atmosphere about it, full of nostalgia in a track that is split down the centre, beginning with a melody of pure pop and turning into a layered complex acoustic and percussive mix to complete it… “What a wonderful waste / oh those were the days”. ‘Something Surreal’ has off kilter drums creating a weird sense of unease, as these time signatures are want to do, and it works like a charm. Beauty in dark moments is what this album is all about. It is full of hope and confidence, and an album that is immensely listenable.

Dave Roberts – November 26, 2012

 

Back To The Stone

Woods (USA)
From the album, 'Bend Beyond', Woodsist / Remote Control Records

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Cali In A Cup

Woods (USA)
From the album, 'Bend Beyond', Woodsist / Remote Control Records

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RECORD REVIEW: POP SINGLES - ALL GONE
Reviews
Saturday, 24 November 2012 02:14
 

Vacant Valley / Night People

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In their debut album, All Gone, Melbourne trio Pop Singles have released a melodically powerful and taut record full of jangly and edgy guitar, driving, restless bass lines and imperfectly perfect drums topped off with a melancholic lyrical disposition. The band keep the sum of its influences close. There are sounds reminiscent of Australian luminaries The Go Betweens, The Church and The Triffids, American acts R.E.M. (early), Lets Active, Scotland's Orange Juice while there are also elements of Sonic Youth and US 90s power pop quartet Superchunk as well. However, to name drop these bands in the context of reviewing All Gone is all well and good but anybody who thinks Pop Singles merely ape these influences just isn't listening.

The relationship that clearly developed during the recording of All Gone between the band and producer Rick Farley can be heard loud and clear in the honest production. The music is mixed without frills, without gimmicks and sounds refreshingly live. Tam Matlakowski's voice sounds at times like its in an echo chamber which captures the downcast and at times brutal lyrics perfectly. While musically, the album is largely bright and active, repeated listens will reveal parts that resemble the aching darkness that lyrically pervades each track.  

Peter Bramley's angular bass that dominates All Gone is immediate on opening track 'Hold You Tight'. Not content to just sit faithfully alongside Matlakowski's guitar, it semenax vs volume wraps itself around every track serving to provide the emotion to match the angst. Relationships and the inability to deal with them thematically peppers the album. On 'Hold You Tight', Matlakowski sings about the emotional dangers of commitment; "you brought me here without emotions, and left me when I tried to find them".

The powerful title track is an album standout and precedes the introspective 'Field In Flames' with its gorgeously paced melody belying its dark subject matter. 'The Greatest Feeling' oscillates between urgency and calm, indeed sitting in between mostly holding a feel that you want developed but are pleased that it doesn't.  'It All Comes Out'  powers along despite Matlakowski's uncertainty about giving into love "and all my hopes stay within, it feels like poison, an it looks like guilt'. The supposed disconnect between the music and the lyrics is just an illusion though. Both complement each other nicely.

Its been a long wait for this debut long player and Pop Singles have more than rewarded the patience. A superbly crafted intelligent take on pop and rock. And All Gone is all the better for its no frills, pull no punches approach to both the songwriting and production. Despite its clear reference points and undoubted Australianess, its a fresh and vital take on a genre that will never lose its lustre.

James Stocker - November 24, 2012.

 

Overcast

Pop Singles (AUS)
From the album, 'All Gone', Vacant Valley.

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RECORD REVIEW: GRIZZLY BEAR - SHIELDS
Reviews
Friday, 09 November 2012 01:46
 

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Warp

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Three years in the making, the fourth studio album from indie rock royalty Grizzly Bear was put together after a six month hiatus, which had the band members coming in with fresh eyes, and a feeling of starting over. Recording began in Marfa, Texas, a place known for its arts collective and good vibe, in June of last year. With Chris Taylor producing, a lot of material was put down but only two tracks ending up making the cut onto the completed album, 'Yet Again' and 'Sleeping Ute'. The majority of the songs were recorded in a house on Cape Cod where Grizzly Bear's second album, Yellow House was assembled in 2006. This place belongs to Ed Droste's grandmother, and he has said that some of their best tracks came as the guys "sat by the fire, Dan strumming, me singing and it happened".

Over all Shields has a sound that is clearer and louder, what Droste has described as more "in your face" than their previous work. Daniel Rosson (lead / backing vocals, multi-instrumentalist) has said of Taylor's producing "Part of his strength is that he pushes us, he enables us to try stranger stuff, he pushes us to that side of ourselves.. he is always thinking of the whole palette, whereas Ed and I might be more worried about a melody or a lyric". However you look at it, Shields is one hell of a brilliant and emotionally charged album, showcasing GB's experience, skill and knack for hitting the right note, that right feeling, every time.

'Sleeping Ute' begins the LP with a strum of guitar, and the stilted progression that distinctly marks their sound before a note is even sung. The time signature is all over the shop, making the track feel like a bad night's sleep, as it thrashes about trying to find a footing. Then it all calms down... "if I could find peace / If I could lie still / but I can't help myself" to finish resolved and refreshed. At this moment you realise the next nine songs are going to be a treat. 'Speak In Rounds' has an emphasis on the vocals in its intro, with various layers entering the mix as it builds up to an inspired ending, you can just imagine how damn good it would be live. Droste leads 'Yet Again' in what is an absolute highlight of the LP, and a highlight of the year in indie musc. "Take it all in stride / speak / don't confide" he sings in the chorus, so catchy it will follow you around all day. His voice is yearning and raw, the harmonies utterly beautiful

'The Hunt' has plenty of texture and showcases how incredible and diverse Droste's voice can be. It is full of restraint, and twangy guitar, another example of the beauty that can be found in Grizzly Bear; "And I'll leave it all as it should be / where are you / and I stay me", it's gold. 'What's Wrong' saunters along, has beautiful strings, those vocals harmonies the band does so well, magical woodwind sections full of texture and light. The percussion of this track is jazzy, with the whole thing coming together majestically.

It's an interesting scene to imagine one of the best indie bands to come out of the music Mecca of Brooklyn, holed up in a grandmother's house getting this amazing and intimate album together. Though, it does fit in with the indie way. These are bands with massive followings, making inspired music, who a lot of the time cannot afford health insurance. She is one lucky granny to have witnessed the birth of such a great album, by such a well formed and experienced collective as Grizzly Bear. Times today are turbulent but the future is all the brighter for having bands like this around.

Dave Roberts - November 9, 2012

 

Yet Again

Grizzly Bear (USA)
From the album, 'Shields', Warp

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Sleeping Ute

Grizzly Bear (USA)
From the album, 'Shields', Warp

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RECORD REVIEW: THE XX - COEXIST
Reviews
Saturday, 27 October 2012 00:00
 

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Young Turks

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I'm always amazed at how artists' second albums are always for the large part more harshly judged when compared with their first. Rather, it would be good to see reviews of those second albums actually home in on the album in question in isolation. The unnecessary and perhaps unwanted hyperbole that surrounded the self titled 2009 debut by London outfit The xx which involved soundtracking the Olympics, the 2010 UK elections and being awarded the Mercury Prize has unfortunately overshadowed their second Coexist, which in this reviewers humble opinion simply builds on that first release. If that's a criticism, it's hard to see why. But that is of no matter. The point is, Coexist deserves to be seen in its own context and is probably the better for being in the shadow of its unfortunately overrated predecessor. It certainly feels more pure.

There is little need to forensically dissect The xx. Quite simply, the trio make simple yet intensely personal songs that employ space to intense effect, follow emotively patterned chord progressions, employ an appropriate mixture of live and electronic beats and top things off with warm, yet strangely dissonant and on the surface dispassionate vocals. Coexist as its title suggests is an thematic album about the difficulty of relationships and opener 'Angels' gets straight to the point; "And everyday I am learning about you. The things that no one else sees. And the end comes too soon". This sentiment appears again on the beautiful closer 'Our Song'; "And there's no-one else, who knows me, like you do, all I've done, you've done too". The vocal harmonies and the effects employed underneath the guitar and bass here heighten the emotion perfectly.

The lauded beauty in the chase in terms of attempting patience, tolerance and understanding of another is laid bare but ultimately it is often a failed adventure. As ever, symbiosis between two people who have the ability the think outside themselves is fraught with emotional danger. 'Chained' exemplifies this with its employment of past tense; Separate or combine, I ask you one last time, Did I hold you too tight?, Did I not let enough light in?". In general throughout the record, The chase and the ultimate failure to capture, is exemplified beautifully by Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft who vocally employ call and response to great effect and when singing on their own, while emotion drips from their veritable mouths, theirs is an ultimate aloofness that could be a metaphor for the fact that no matter how close people momentarily get, in the end we're all alone.

There's also elemental nod to the role self esteem and self concept play in encounters. The role these elements play and the impairment they have on a relationship is evidenced on 'Fiction'., Sim sings "I wake up alone, with only daylight between us, last night the world was beneath us, tonight comes my way. We'll be torn apart by the break of day, You're more that I can believe would ever come my way'. Sensitivity can be a blessing and a curse.

Coexist, at the end of the day is not going to leave its listeners with their jaws on the ground. That's not the point though. Coexist has the ability to connect and invokes familiarity in the experiences of us all. It does it without grandstanding and knows its place in the scheme of things. But it also does it with intelligent reflection. The music and the lyrics are sublimely linked in unison which is all the more impressive when you consider how Sim, Madley Croft and producer Jamie Smith wrote the album apart from eachother. Coexist, is a delicately constructed take on the euphoria and pain intense relationships deliver across their good and bad times, while its happening and when its over. Heartbreak is painful and the difficulty of putting it all on the line fraught. Whether its worth it, The xx leave it up to you.

James Stocker - October 27, 2012.

 

Chained

The xx (ENG)
From the album 'Coexist', Young Turks.

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RECORD REVIEW: CAT POWER - SUN
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Wednesday, 17 October 2012 00:00
 

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Matador

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Anyone who has been to a Cat Power gig knows her unique personality and emotions are something she wears on her sleeve, laid bare for all to experience. It is a great thing to see such honesty on stage, and it comes through whole-heartedly in her music, songwriting and vocals. After what have been a frustrating and heart wrenching few years for Chan Marshall (which you can read about elsewhere if you so desire), she has come out on top with a stunning LP, gutsy, beaming and aptly titled, Sun. The album which comes in at just under fifty minutes in length, sees Cat Power embrace electro for the first time, while also retaining the other styles she has become known for: namely indie rock and folk.

The single released front and centre, 'Ruin' was put out as a free download via Matador's record store on June 20, with the album as a whole coming out in the first week of September. It's the first release of all new material from Marshall since 2006, and was released with a limited edition format of vinyl including a deluxe LP with bonus 7" vinyl plus bonus tracks. While still retaining some moments of melancholia, there is a noticeable shift towards optimism and a new direction. The introduction of an electronic component to her music has been one of the most obvious changes. Nicholas Jaar, a US American-Chilean musician has remixed 'Cherokee', with a sublime result (audio below), which for probably the first time has seen a Cat Power track grace the dance-floor (Sasha played the remix at New York's Electric Zoo festival). Several album tracks have shown Marshall's leap forward, or sideways at least, in sound, notably '3.6.9.', 'Always On My Own', 'Real Life' and title track 'Sun' featuring looped vocals, heavy synths and a more industrial sound.

'Human Being' highlights her beautiful vocals, layering them deliciously in a song that is best listened to with headphones for full effect. The intro to 'Manhattan' reminded me of 'Tainted Love' for a second, but that all evaporated once a simple piano entered the mix soon joined by vocals. A standout track, it is full of experimentation with an off-kilter feeling, and works brilliantly as it builds itself up to a stripped back outro. 'Silent Machine' thrusts forward like a Mac truck, a track with dirty edge and a jarring piece of distortion halfway through which falls away innocently as if it never happened. 

The final track on Sun clocks in at just under eleven minutes in length. Aptly titled 'Nothin But Time', this opus throws it all together. "They wanna live / they wanna be somebody / they wanna give / and be wanted / they want to forgive / and not be forgotten / they wanna reach the end / they wanna live their way of livin", Marshall sings as if she almost pleading. Loads of overdubs and layers abound in this song, as they across Sun, giving them a sense of volume that is at times deceptive as often few instruments are actually present. This closing track however is massive, and feels so even before Iggy Pop enters the fray to excellent affect.

To say Chan Marshall poured her heart and soul into this recording is something of an understatement. Being a musician in America today is not easy, they are feeling the effect of the current economic crisis as much as anyone else. Her house was in foreclosure, and she has been quoted as saying (of recording Sun) "I'm going to fucking pay for this shit myself". So she could retain control she cashed out her retirement fund and threw herself into the project. Sun debuted at number ten on Billboard top 200 chart, her first in the top ten list, and the first the for the label in its 23 year history. It came in on the Billboard 'alternative / indie album chart at number 2. The honesty, resilience and pure grit that shines through on this album is a credit to Cat Power. Her hard work has paid off in spades.

Dave Roberts - October 17, 2012

 

Cherokee (Nicholas Jaar remix)

Cat Power (USA)
From the album, 'Sun', Matador

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Ruin

Cat Power (USA)
From the album, 'Sun', Matador

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RECORD REVIEW: THE FRESH & ONLYS - LONG SLOW DANCE
Reviews
Saturday, 13 October 2012 00:27
 

Mexican Summer

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Long Slow Dance is San Francisco art pop outfit The Fresh & Onlys fourth full length in just five years. This is in combination with the additional release of two EP's and the peddling a stack of 7" singles on a variety of labels over that time. Within their first twelve months, they had produced two full length albums, their more rock inspired self titled debut in 2008 and the turn towards more melodic tendencies, albiet them being employed within the prism of 70s west coast psychedelia on the more pop inspired Grey-Eyed Girls in 2009. Their break out record, 2010's Play It Strange saw them move out of the DIY approach and into the studio and brought their unique take on merging rock, pop and folk further to the fore. Last year saw the Secret Walls EP released on east coast Brooklyn based label Sacred Bones which laid the path nicely for their latest record, the aforementioned Long Slow Dance.

Long Slow Dance sees them build on the more crisper production values they've sought to employ since coming out of the home recording paradigm. Every musical element is on full show. There's no hiding of the flourishes and subtle licks that were often overwhelmed by the whole. Long Slow Dance puts them front and centre. Unlike their fellow San Fransican bretheren who they are often, somewhat mistakenly, associated with, Thee Oh Sees, Sic Alps, Ty Segall etc., who continue to effectively trade their pysch and garage tendencies in DIY dirge like sudgy realism, The Fresh & Onlys are unabashedly pop minded. Most of their tracks conform to the verse, chorus, verse approach, but to simply leave them there in any analysis would be missing some pretty obvious departures.

This record can be taken in two parts essentially. The A side contains some classic pop moments with three of the first four tracks (the singles), sparkling expansive reverb laden opener '20 Days & 20 Nights', the intensely melodic ode to relationship frustration 'Yes Or No' and the straight forward yet lyrically cryptic 'Presence Of Mind' being fast paced ditties that hardly touch the ground. That doesn't mean there isn't space to reflect on frontman Timothy Cohen's conflicted and troubled take on relationships as the opening track exemplifies. Wymond Miles and Cohen himself provide the perfect melody on guitar and piano respectively to allow that to occur.

The title track sports the telling lines, 'You supply the innocent mind and I'll bring the guilty heart'...you be the purest of wine and I'll be the dirty cup...and we'll make the perfect romance'. Indeed, Long Slow Dance is one long cautionary tale of the apparent futiliy of attempting to triumph over uncertainty and learning to live with it. And the difficulty of managing self concept in presenting to that special other. This often comes in the form of the self-deprecation on display above. The slow burning 'Dream Girls' is further evidence, 'You can have everything in the world, but you'll never hang on to dream girl'. Cohen seems to exort us to plant our roots in reality.

The second side sees the quartet in its more experimental light with nods to approaches employed in past releases. Mariachi like Latin influences appear in the latter half of 'Executioners Song' while 'Euphoria' rocks out with its punk like disposition replete with orchestral like synth flourishes. 'Foolish Person' is the longest track on the record, virtually doubling the three minute diet of the others. Cohen here is determined to learn from past mistakes, 'You called me a fool once, but you would not say it twice'. The track takes a dramatic turn, becoming a reverb drenched wall of pyschedelic new wave like sound, almost like a cartharsis of sorts. It's an indication that while Cohen, writing partner Shayde Sartin Miles and Kyle Gibson wanted to make a disciplined record, their earlier tendencies to get loose have not been completely diminished.

While mostly Long Slow Dance might be the result of a determination to put polish on past releases, there undoubtedly is nods to The Fresh & Onlys lo-fi roots. That's one of the pleasurable aspects of the record. This band might see themselves as serving art in one form or another but put simply and as Sartin himself has said, "we're still slugging away". The record itself was still recorded on tape. As found in Cohen's self-deprecating lyrics, the band might have been determined to produce a tighter more focused record and in that they've succeeded. But in the end, Cohen, Sartin and company seem acutely aware that they've simply made 40 odd minutes of pure reflective pop that they hope is well received under their own terms. They needn't be concerned on that score.

James Stocker, October 13, 2012.

 

20 Days & 20 Nights

The Fresh & Onlys (USA)
From the album, 'Long Slow Dance', Mexican Summer.

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RECORD REVIEW: MATTHEW DEAR - BEAMS
Reviews
Sunday, 07 October 2012 00:00
 

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Ghostly International

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There is no one on the indie music scene quite like Matthew Dear. Since 1999 he has been a DJ, recorded eight albums, nine EPs, remixed many artists including The XX, Hot Chip, The Chemical Brothers, The Juan MacLean and Spoon. He has had three aliases (False, Audion and Jabberjaw), and co-founded ground-breaking record label, Ghostly International, and its dance-floor orientated offshoot, Spectral Sound. Apart from all this, Dear also has a degree in Anthropology, something which comes through somewhat in his lyrics as he sings of the social and cultural status of humanity, with all its quirks and strangeness. He has developed a style he now owns, musically and visually; he is a fan of crisp white shirts and well tailored suits, something you don't see too often at a warehouse rave behind the DJ console.

All this has led to Beams, his latest offering as Matthew Dear, and while not a completely new direction from his previous LP, Black City, it inhabits a different quarter of that city. He told 'The Guardian'; "New York City is a black hole, for this perspective, Black City was being sucked into the black hole, and Beams is the tail of light shooting out the other side. New York is a living machine, it can chew you up and spit you out very easily – Beams is realising your place within the machine." This new LP is indeed not as claustrophobic as Black City, it's more of a party, although an at times weird one. "I thought I'd write a little call to arms to everybody: let loose! Everything's a bit more amorphous in my life now, bubbly and gelatinous. I'm letting things ooze into different places. When you realise there's no clear path or answer, things just are." There are tracks here on Beams ready-made for the dance-floor, be it a dark, smokey and shadow filled place, but one where everbody is welcome, no matter how weird.

'Her Fantasy' dives straight into the atmosphere of what Beams has in store for us. Looping clips of Dear's unmistakable vocals, dense layering and orchestration, high production and beautiful Korg synths which carry the whole track. The video which you can check out below pays tribute to Kenneth Anger, an early underground Hollywood experimental film maker who worked exclusively in short films, with erotisism being an underlying element. It suits perfectly with love, sex and relationships being at the core of Dear's songwriting. The six second outro to this track is awesome as it slides immediately into 'Earthforms', which introduces a funk laden bass line over driving percussion. "It's alright to be someone else sometimes" sings Dear in this groove train of a track.

Van Rivers and Subliminal Kid (Blonde Redhead, Fever Ray) from Sweden were involved in production of 'Headcage', a tale about a teenage boy trying to coax a girl out through her bedroom window late at night, to have some fun. Of 'Get The Rhyme Right', Dear says  "I am a big fan of the rock music David Lynch makes. A song like "Ghosts Of Love" captures the perfect blend of creep and beauty. This song aims at a slightly more dance-floor friendly version of that aesthetic. "Like God, in my disco." ''Temptation' was written about his relationship with his wife of seven years, "It was expunging of the soul in that song: here I am, cut me with a sword, let me bleed, and I'll get back up and we'll move on."

It might take a few listens until you can get into Beams, as Dear's work is dense, and at times hard to penetrate. The payoff is rewarding however and this artist's extensive back catalogue opens doors to other worlds dark and shadowy, unlike anywhere you have been before. Beams is the endpoint, but given the prolific output Matthew Dear is known for, more worlds are yet to be explored.

Dave Roberts - October 7, 2012

 

Headcage

Matthew Dear (USA)
From the album, Beams, Ghostly International

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Her Fantasy

Matthew Dear (USA)
From the album, 'Beams', Ghostly International

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RECORD REVIEW: TEENGIRL FANTASY - TRACER
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Saturday, 06 October 2012 02:20
 

True Panther

Teengirl Fantasy Facebook

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On Tracer, Nick Weiss and Logan Takahashi, aka Teengirl Fantasy, have left behind the samples that abounded on their previous effort 7AM in favour of a record that comprises exclusively original material. It has to be said its a good move, as Tracer highlights their ability to develop and curate caringly sculptured and restrained tracks that range in influence from the employment of their unique take on classic house, Detroit inspired techno, soul, R&B and IDM mixed in with Indigenous influences in the form of Andean pipe music. Within its joyous pop like prism, these elements are all washed together with with a sense of restraint, yet glowing ambience and not unlike 7AM, the record has a auroric feel.

Upon the first couple of spins, Tracer does not readily reveal itself. Bar its experimental and restless beats, which initially may serve to annoy, it comes across on the surface as somewhat innocuous. Repeated listens however will reveal that it is anything but. It actually becomes quite an addictive ride with previously unnoticed aspects coming alternatively to the fore each time. That's the special thing about Tracer. Its unwillingness to allow restraint to become pedestrian indicates an acute awareness of how important it is that intent marries fruition. While musically, it may not be instantly received, there is also a definitely immediacy to the record in a production sense, derived from the fact that at its heart, it was recorded live.

The sparkling and restless introductory moments that usher in the opening track, 'Orbit', are indications of what is to come. The track ends having kept its listener in a state of suspension as it builds and builds and never blows - a feature of the record as a whole. It ushers in a seamless move into 'EFX' a track that revolves around the soul driven, emotive voice of Los Angeles singer Kelela Mizanekristos. It's reliance of percussive elements rather than a forefronted beat itself allows the vocals to shine in a variety of forms, whether they be in their quieter moments or the triumph that is the chorus. These aspects make the track an absolute stunner. The beat sits up front and centre on 'Eternal' as Andean pipes wind in and out of the four to the floor pitch driven house action. Noah Lennox guests on 'Pyjama'. The combining of the omnibus like cacophonic sounds of Panda Bear with the detailed and disciplined yet washed out disposition of Weiss and Takahashi's embellishments is fascinating. Laurel Halo contributes to the mesmerising yet restrained beauty of 'Mist of Time'. It's organic beat sitting nicely, yet somewhat jarringly against the vocal arrangement. That it works is evidence of Teengirl Fantasy' musical chops.

'End' begins Tracer's second side, replete with Andean pipe, electronic piano and a xylophonic base for the beat. Percussive elements and synth flourishes are added incrementally and sporadically to create appropriate effect. A drawn out keyboard sound completes the early morning mood. 'Vector Spray' percussive and beat work shuffles along perfectly up against the oscillating urgency of the synths, effects and flourishes. 'Inca', an appropriate reference to the debt the album owes its South American influences, has an adventurous jungle like feel and just as you get settled in to the visions this creates along comes Romanthony, of Daft Punk 'One More Time' fame on the overwhelmingly classic house inspired 'Do It'. But rather than groove, the track positively pumps almost stomp like throughout apart from its introspective like bridge. The album closes with the appropriate 'Timeline', a track that continues the beat driven trajectory of the previous one, albeit in a far more restrained manner.

This is an intelligent record. Weiss and Takahashi employ their transitory and experimental tendencies and musical sophistication to great effect without coming across and insular or impervious to their audience. If that audience is willing to invest just a little of their time in Tracer, they will understand that its protagonists are not standoffish navel gazers. Tracer is an outward looking album gifting its listeners the opportunity to create their own visions. And these creations had better come quickly. That the album extends less that 40 minutes suggests a determination on the part of the duo to get in and get out quick, do the business without overstaying their welcome; another example of understanding their audience. This is no easy task; that Teengirl Fantasy have been able to combine their penchant for transition and experimentation with being accessible to those with an open, intelligent musical mind means Tracer will continue to be vital and important in the realm of electronic music in the years to come.

James Stocker - October 6, 2012

 

End

Teengirl Fantasy (USA)
From the album, 'Tracer', True Panther/R&S.

Teengirl Fantasy Facebook

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**We reviewed the new album, 'Held' by Holy Other a few days back. Listen to Teengirl Fantasy's take on the track 'Love Some1' featuring Kelela.

 

Love Some1 (Teengirl Fantasy Remix feat. Kelela)

Holy Other (ENG)
Original track rom the album, 'Held', Tri-Angle.

Audio Stream

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RECORD REVIEW: HOLY OTHER - HELD
Reviews
Wednesday, 03 October 2012 04:21
 

Tri-Angle

Holy Other Facebook

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As evidenced through his musical approach and his on-stage non-persona, Mancunian based electronic producer Holy Other has always been focused on creating mood and atmosphere for others rather than identifying or representing specifics of himself. Oscillating quite deliberately between laconic and tension filled elements in his music and employing non-lyrical approaches to vocals, his at once spatial yet sometimes claustrophobic sound realised through the meticulous cutting and splicing of house, minimal techno and R&B genres renders his end product very much an art that is definitively open to interpretation as well as being modern, vital and present. The standout debut EP With U from last year kicked off the shadowy producer's musical career nicely and debut long player, Held, builds greatly on this base.

The insular approach that produced With U in the 'bedroom' was replicated with Held. Indeed, such an approach can be seen as absolutely essential to producing the uniquely emotive atmosphere created in each track. In fact, it's his shyness and self-deprecating nature that has produced the anonymity and the difficult subject of this record - relationships. The distance the producer put between himself and the outside world is represented by the record's intensely personal nature. Speaking to Stereogum back in August;

"I just tried to... close myself off to any critical world as well. I just tried to make what I wanted to make, ignoring other factors, which was pretty difficult. And I wasn’t going out, so it was kind of in a closed, solitary experience — quite a miserable one — which I’m not sure if you picked up from the record. It’s less optimistic than the last one".

One of the key differences between Held and With U is that Held represents a whole whereas With U was really simply a loose collection of ideas represented in diverse tracks. There is a definitive theme that pervades the record of the difficulty of establishing and maintaining close and meaningful relationships in a contradictory world of overt individualism and crushing conformity. And Holy Other does not seek to inform but to celebrate that individualism by creating the space for the listener to interpret each track in any way they like. One could pick out moments of hope and optimism in places; but at the same time interpret them in the most morose and downcast of ways.

Musically, Held employs uncertainty and confliction to great effect. The slow quickening of the off beat and the opposite tones in the vocal that dominates opening track, '(W)here', seems to reflect that title - wanting to keep someone close, but not quite sure how to intellectualise that and reconcile it with the thirst for eternal space and individual identity and the fear of having that subsumed. On 'Tense Past', the tortured female vocal sample turns itself inside out and forms into an almost tortured plea for understanding. It could be interpreted as a somewhat immature cry for help in a metaphorical sense or a knowing demand for closeness or space. 'Inpouring' is probably the best example of Holy Other's musical growth since With U. His use of female and male vocal samples almost mirror each other but seem poles apart in terms of what's behind their anguished cry. The restless beat sets Held apart from the more seamless approach of the past. 'Love Some1' holds its pattern before a slow contemplative beat combines with percussive elements that seem to represent confusion. The low tones can be seen to further represent the anguish associated with the emotionally tense and gut wrenching wrestle with trying to rationalise something as irrational as love. 'U Now' comes closest to actually representing words but thankfully, they are never fully expressed almost reflecting hopes and dreams falsely prescribed and bought but never realised.

The title 'In Difference' is deliberately two words instead of one. Holy Other isn't indifferent to the idea of love, he just isn't sure how or if it can play itself out in a modern sense, if it ever could in the stifling days of male dominated cultural norms. The jarring vocal duet also represents this. 'Past Tension' seems to be a call and response of sorts at its beginning and unfolds to almost offer glimpses of clarity, almost like rays of sunshine peeking out of the gloom. The standout title track is another reflection of the aforementioned musical growth since With U. It again highlight's the producer's intelligent use of male and female vocal samples, while seeming to feed off each other in complementary ways, they rather admonish the other with their alternate whispers sitting underneath serving as some sort of cautionary tale. It employs an omnibus like turn half way through in what seems to take an age for the track to change from the emotive almost foreboding nature of its first half into the either a relaxed or contented or thankful and relieved finish. Final track 'Nothing Here' suggests no happy ending. It seems to exude the cautionary tale that unless both are fully cognisant and confident (but not overly so in the latter sense) in the meaning of self and space, after a time, all relationships inevitably sour. Whether that serves as the end of them or they morph into a difficult cacophony of compromised compromises, subjugating and subordinating individual growth to some kind of impossible societal norm is anyone's guess. It is our constant search for independence in love that seems ever elusive.

Holy Other's take on love smacks of intellectual maturity, accurately reflecting the modern dilemma of the demands for aspiration and expectation still there from more conservative elements of society and the push towards more individual takes on what that actually means and looks like in a relational sense. It's also an intensely personal document of how an essentially shy young man makes individual sense of the expectations and demands the dominant material culture of the modern western world puts on how people in relationships should behave. This review has, as can probably be ascertained, taken on the form of a personal catharsis of sorts. That Held enables such a personal interpretation of love and relationships without it once uttering a word of certainty speaks volumes for Holy Other's manifest ability to allow his music as art to be interpreted so broadly. Subordinating the self while wearing your heart on your sleeve is no mean feat. One things for sure though, while this is an album about love and relationships, it's pretty clear that not all is smooth sailing in the intensely private and insular world of its protagonist.

James Stocker - October 3, 2012.

 

Love Some1

Holy Other (ENG)
From the album, 'Held', Tri-Angle.

Audio Stream

 
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ALBUM OF THE YEAR

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EP OF THE YEAR

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