Wednesday, May 27, 2015

What I'm Digging: Windhand

I got Windhand's 2013 album Soma when it came out, listened to it, and then forgot about it. I almost deleted it from my iPod but figured it was a good commute album. Then I got into Bell Witch's album, and decided to revisit the doom metal I had. I came across this song, which I barely listened to in my initial spins on the album, no doubt because it takes a few minutes to build. But when it does, it has this gorgeous melody on the chorus, which combines perfectly with the wall of fuzz from the (4? 5? 10?) other guys in the band.

So yeah. I dig it. Here's a video of them playing it live in Bulgaria, of all places.
Two side notes: 1. So, the rhythm guitarists job is basically to bang his head and strum that one chord super loud for eight minutes? He's like the dude in Arcade Fire who bangs his head and hits a drum. Or Bez from Happy Mondays.
2. The singer has said that she can't eat before shows because they are so loud and heavy it makes her have to shit.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Oddisee Review

I reviewed Oddisee's The Good Fight at RapReviews. I'm a fan. Nice counter-programming to the standard mainstream bullshit.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

What I'm Digging: Electronic Music

Maybe as a result of listening to mostly dark and heavy metal music for much of the past year, I've been listening to electronic music a lot recently. I feel like I needed some lightness in my life.

Ikonikia's 2013 album is a full of 80s-inspired beats. 

Fatima Al Qadiri makes the kind of music that they must have played at the noodle bars in Blade Runner.

Bonobo, whose "Cirrus" video I saw at a dance performance by Polibolus.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

What I'm Digging: Bell Witch

Bell Witch are a Portland doom duo comprised of a bassist and drummer. They make heavy, glacial music that combines elements of doom, Pink Floyd, and ambient music. Their latest album, Four Phantoms (on the unstoppable Profound Lore label), is four long songs about spirits who have died violently. Two of the songs clock in at over 20 minutes. It is all about textures and atmospheres. It's at times brutal, and at times really beautiful. All at that agonizingly slow doom pace. I can't stop listening to it. Good stuff.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

I Went to A Show: Liturgy at the Chapel 5/1/15

I didn't go to a single show for the first two years of my daughter's life. I finally broke that spell in April by going to see Belle and Sebastian. Last night I went to my first heavy music show in years when I went to see Peacers, Liturgy, and Lightning Bolt at the Chapel in San Francisco.

I think the Peacers is fronted by the guy from Bay Area garage band Bare Wires. Either way, they were a sloppy garage/noise band whose songs seemed more like sketches or ideas than fully fleshed out songs. They weren't terrible but I wasn't a fan. They did make Liturgy seem all that more amazing, because Liturgy were the exact opposite. There was no scrappiness or sloppiness to them at all.

I really like their latest album The Ark Work, but it is a challenging record. It is synth-heavy, and Hunter Hunt-Hendrix's new hip-hop influenced moaned singing style doesn't always work. I wasn't sure how it would translate live, but it totally worked. They became more guitar-oriented, and since the synths were coming through Hunt-Hendrix's guitar, there was less cacophony than on the album. This allowed the epicness of the songs to shine. They operate as a whole, building to "Reign Array."

There was also a trance-like effect of their music. I went to the show with my brother-in-law, and both of us have young children and are up early. He mentioned that Liturgy was sort of putting him to sleep, even though they were really loud and heavy. Which isn't a sterling compliment, but it points to the drone-like elements of their music. It is similar to techno music in its abstraction, the way it builds, and the non-reliance on traditional song structure or singing to drive the songs.

Drummer Greg Fox is the key to the band. Hunt-Hendrix may write the songs and lyrics and own the concept of the band, but Fox is what keeps it going. He is by far the best drummer I have seen play. He plays fast, precise, and complicated patterns, almost all of which are some variation of a sixteenth note. The rest of the band were all strumming as fast as their wrists would allow, and it was up to Fox to create the shape of the songs. He was incredible, and a blast to watch and listen to.

The band was a little subdued, which may owe to the fact that they weren't headlining. They basically stood there, only occasionally banging their head. I think part of it was that there is so much technical precision required in their songs that they were busy trying not to fuck their parts up.

They closed with "Generations," off of their last album. The crowd finally snapped out of their stupor, and a little most pit started, although the kind of most pit that 30-something hipsters start. No one was in danger of breaking a limb or even their glasses.

Hearing Liturgy live really made The Ark Work make sense to me, and brought it to life. I don't totally understand Hunt-Hendrix's philosophy, and his moaning singing sometimes sounds weak and shitty, but I really admire what he is able to do and the force and vision behind their music.

We left before Lightning Bolt because I had a train home to catch, and the idea of getting an extra hour of sleep was more enticing than seeing a band I had never listened to. True to form my kid woke  up cranky and sad and I was very glad I wasn't hung over.

This are some clips of different live shows that gives some idea of what they are like:

Friday, May 01, 2015

You're Breaking My Heart: "Chalet Lines"

One of the most depressing things I've learned through the dysfunctional us vs. them political divide in the U.S. is even things we all should really agree on can be the source of intense debate. Like that torture is wrong. Or that rape is a bad thing and is a problem. A friend of mine and I had a joke a while back "I'm coming out against rape." The joke being that rape is such an obvious thing to be against it that it is hardly brave or even notable to take a public stand against it. That joke isn't so funny anymore. When the Democrats made rape on college campuses an issue, the right's response was "come on, it isn't REALLY an issue, and what was she wearing anyways? Wasn't she sort of asking for it?" (I don't think the issue has been handled brilliantly by the left, but when we can't agree that rape, as an act, is a thing to be against, we are fucked as a society.)

Which brings me to Belle and Sebastian's "Chalet Lines," from their 2000 album "Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant." The song is a harrowing tale told from the perspective of a woman who has recently been raped. It is a quiet song that conveys a range mixed emotions: despair, shame, depression and anger.

"He raped me in the chalet lines
I had just said no for the final time
Although it’s last month it’s like yesterday
I missed my time, I don’t think I could stand
To take the test, I’m feeling sick
Fuck this, I’ve felt like this for a week
I’d put a knife right into his eyes
My friend can’t see
She asks me why I don’t
Tell the law
Oh what’s the fucking point at all"

It kills me. Every single time I listen to it. Goddamn.

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