Friday, October 13, 2017

Behind The Shadow Drops

H A R M O N I C

The new album from Takaakira Goto (of Japan's preeminent post-rock outfit MONO) is now out from Temporary Residence and I made sure to order my clear die hard smoke streaked edition (just 18.00) not a bad deal and now that it's arrived 




I can say I'm very happy listening to it the more I hear it the better it gets
there's an aspect of constantly raining showers blending in the wind's memory
or old photographs slowly getting clearer even as they're on the verge of being forgotten
It's hard to describe exactly what it is that I feel while listening to this music but its soothing
and haunting and I like the way it evokes a personal reaction in me as if by association of the intensity of the feeling, I don't know exactly, I just like to follow where ever Taka wants to take us along for this sojourn summoning dreams from the well of memories. 

In some of the sequences I'm reminded of the collaboration with World's End Girlfriend,
one of my favorite recordings, Palmless Prayer/Mass Murder Refrain.  While this latest offering with John McEntire, percussionist for Tortoise, among other guest musicians, glides in and out of that territory, it does so in a fresh context that sounds interesting, to me.  Just listen to in on YouTube.



That's what I'm doing right now.   I'm on the song Utopia. Each track successively bleeds into the next, furthering a progression captured in its own unique way with each song. I'm digging it the more I listen to it, but I gotta be honest, the first few spins weren't doing it for me, but by now, this album is really getting ahold of me and I can feel it carrying me away down the course of its own dark river.


Taka -  Thank You   for  bringing your music to our ears.    There's a lot to consider with this album.
The end of day dreams. Trace of snow waltz. Utopia. Positive shadow, negative light. Sonata. Harmonic. Ether. Warm Light. And a reprise of Utopia.   It's classified as  'ambient, post rock, trip hop,' and I'm ok with those designations anyhow, so I'd only add that it's very much in the vein of soundtrack music, inasmuch as we have a tendency to visualize music across the screens of our mind's eye. This album just comes across like a sophisticated documentary that I suppose might be construed by wild degrees of variance across different people, but due to the eerie image of the album cover, which appears to be an ape with outstretched human hands, triggers associations with Stanley Kubrick for me, and with that being the primary driving factor, as I shut my eyes and fall back listening to these tracks, the Sonata carrying me further along the lullaby creek bed into dream land, then crosses over into the Harmonic, I'm left with plenty of impressions to consider as the echoes fade away.  Here is an album of delicious mixtures in the let's keep it simpler and call it post-darkwave department. There seems to be an evolution of passing through the various phases of a spectrum to these tracks.  I like the use of piano in the Ether section and the various moods fit together into the ambient atmosphere very well, overall.  One of those albums one slowly grows to love over time, the more one spends with them, as it should be with the greatest music.  This album will keep me happy choosing a diving off point throughout October, if nothing else good is released.

My stack of MONO wax is one thick slab, and near to complete as I could hope for. I've seen them enough times live to have acquired a small stack of my albums signed by them. They are my favorite band of modern times. I'm really digging this little side excursion into the darker corners of a labyrinthine hidden underground carnival H A R M O N I C Taka cooked up with the help of the Tortoise drummer and several other amazing musicians, it's like the musical equivalent of lying on a tropical beach under a full moon at midnight where the only sounds are the waves breaking along the shore into the distance and the wind sighing through the coconut trees. It's about disappearing completely into the environment without leaving a trace.  It's music that rewards whether listened to or ignored. A proper sound track for our times. 



Friday, September 1, 2017


January 11 at 11:10pm ·


It's a post modern amalgamation of avant garde jazzmanship stirred into a potent rallying call for transgressive artistry worldwide. All seven songs push the envelope of the commercial mainstream past the shattering point. Each one does so in its own way. Some by virtue of their musical conception and length. Others for their savage lyrical attack which leave virtually no stone in our frigid culture unturned. Hearing it the first time my senses were so sharpened I swear I thought I caught subtle cues and references from blind pariahs like Kanye to lost jaded sirens like Beth Gibbons. I was born upside down. I was born the wrong way round. We're all Blackstars. We're not new stars. We're not wandering stars. Man she punched me like a dude. 'Tis a pity she was a whore. 'Tis my fate I suppose. That was patrol. That was patrol. This is war. 'Tis a pity she was a whore. Man I'm so high it makes my brain whirl. Dropped my cellphone down below. Ain't that just like me. Here's an album crafted with all the elements of classic records of the past. One twelve inch vinyl platter. Seven cuts from start to finish. I'm still marveling that he managed to consecrate this album to eternity just two days after his sixty-ninth birthday. I heard recently from someone that if you make it past your sixty-ninth, you gain another twelve years or so. Something tells me this must be true. Major Tom took this exit route through the Tannhauser Gate. There's something too canny in the way everything lined up. Hold on Side 1 just ended. I've got to go flip the record over now and listen to Side 2 again. The new version of Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime) is truly a jump forward into progressive popular funk blending and twisting into a sinister symphony awash in creepy beats stirring up a steady downbeat rhythm flowing on in weird and inventive ways. The original version released last year was a modest exercise in sophisticated noir jazz, all shadows and fog. On the album proper it sounds as if it were beamed in from outer space by a radio transmission from a distant exoplanet. I could listen to the music on this album forever. Bowie's crooned narration on this song borderlines on malevolent intent and blurs the murderous with a lovelorn longing I don't think I've ever heard elsewhere. When I first heard the beginning of Girl Loves Me I could not believe my ears. A song sung in Nadsat how about that. Where the fuck did Monday go. Talk about horrorshow.      #Blackstar    


     The solemn, undulating tones represented by the music at the onset of the epic 10-minute title track from David Bowie's Swan Song ★ really help propel the listener into the darker undercurrents of a futuristic world, perhaps the few ragged remnants of ours before the last of its evidence is obliterated off the face of the Earth, our enigmatic superstar carves out his final alluring persona, himself really, portrayed as both blind, stumbling everyman ("button-eyes") and aging dark priest of the sect of a cult signified by the image of a black star on the cover of their bible.

     In short, Bowie has pulled off the remarkable deft stunt of immortalizing himself in the eyes of popular culture by realizing his lifelong dream of writing a play to be performed on Broadway. That it would be a sort of parallel sequel to the persona he developed in filming Nicholas Roeg's cinematic adaptation of Walter Tevis's science fiction novel The Man Who Fell To Earth was an unpredictable maneuver, as was casting Michael C. Hall (famous for playing the titular role of the serial-killer slaying DEXTER) in the lead part.

     The real question remains, how good is this album, really? I'm all too happy to relate that it ranks among the greatest albums he ever released. If you haven't really listened to ★ yet, take my advice and do so at night. Turn out all the lights, and light 1 solitary candle. Then push PLAY or let the diamond needle drop. You will not be disappointed.

     It's hard to pin-point exactly why his band delivers a pitch perfect performance of all 7 songs except by listening to it. Suffice it to say they find a way to balance contrasts for an alternately loose and tight execution, piloted by the sure expertise of their legendary crooning frontman.

     ★ became the exceptional experimental followup to 2013's excellent return to form The Next Day, where David proved he was still the boss after a 10 year absence from the scene. I do not believe its possible to over estimate just how monumental of an album Bowie has left us with to listen to endlessly without tiring of it.

     This is an album which hearkens back to the good old days, when they clocked in at about 42 minutes, and usually featured 9 songs, 5 on one side, 4 on the other. Yet ★ sounds like a study of extremes by contrast. Despite having just 7 songs, the 10 minute progressive master track, the Keystone song or center of it all, frames the simple set of tunes in a serious and heavy concept.

     During a time when the Compact Disc format pushed bands toward releasing albums over an hour long and often featuring well over a dozen tracks, the album ★ achieves far more with what appears to be less. Yet beneath its slickly produced surface, upon repeated listens, Bowie's final studio album proves to resonate richly with many unfolding rewards for any listener.

     David Bowie's lyrics provide a constellation of meanings and are even presented graphically as such in the liner notes of the original LP, exemplified beautifully for the second track 'Tis A Pity She Was A Whore. These 7 songs are aimed and fired with the deft precision of a human cupid, each one strikes the heart in its own way.

     I think Bowie wanted to challenge a new generation of artists and rockers to greater heights of aspiration with these 7 songs. Notice, in either content or structure, how at least 6 of the songs push the envelope in what can be said or played on the radio. Throughout his storied career, Bowie released many albums setting incredibly high standards of musicianship and lyrical content. With this album ★ he sets the bar impossibly high once again, and he dares us all to reach for it.

     Listening to the album for me is very much like being guided over twilit nocturnal waters on a sleek black ship and being taken away on a journey of discovery.

     The 3rd track and popular lead-in single Lazarus has this effect on me. I can picture a prow cutting through black water as it transports the listener across the first side of the record album, depositing us on the far shore of silence where we are forced to allow the implications of the lyrics to sink in.

     Flipping the record over to side 2 reveals the strident and post-modern tones of the new version of Sue (or In a Season of Crime) which has significantly evolved since its initial austere form as a strictly noir exercise with classical stringed instruments on a limited Record Store Day release as a 10" record on Columbia's vintage retro label. Here on the album proper, this spookily narrated murder mystery gets a proper overhaul into one of the album's heaviest and most progressive cuts.

     We then segue into Girl Loves Me, a song with the unforgettably catchy refrain of "Where the Fuck did Monday go?" and mostly sung in the language created for the dystopian novel A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, Nadsat, which roughly translated means "teen-speak."

     The penultimate track Dollar Days amounts to the perfect Bowie tune, casually delivered. It's nothing to see. It's nothing to me. I think one of the main reasons the album is so successful lies with the amount of freedom Bowie seems to have granted his fellow band mates. There is a greater degree of free-form jazz explored by the saxophones, for instance, than what we'd become accustomed to in the past.

     The hauntingly familiar tones of the saxophone's signature lead-in to the final track immediately establish that this is it:  the final Bowie song; and it doesn't waste its time gathering everyone's attention to embark on this one last trip together sailing the wind-rippled and moon-licked waters of our late night excursion into the uncharted, sunken tropical reefs of the human soul.

     When the album is over, I can't help but feel left behind, as if Major Tom took his Gemini Space Craft onward past the Morning Star without us. The Man Who Sold The World may not have been able to give everything away, but he certainly left us with a legacy to ponder over and enjoy, for the remainder of our short lives here on this planet.

     We're ★s!




Wednesday, January 18, 2017

REFLECTION II






Okay, so listen up, punks. I'm listening to Eno's latest ambient album REFLECTION right now. I couldn't find it on the normal channels online, so I logged in to Spotify and found the four minute and twenty-one second excerpt--and am listening to that on repeat. *(Click the image above to link directly to the Reflection excerpt on Spotify)


I just wanted to set the record straight here. In the previous section of this diptych on Eno's latest release, I waxed on about some ridiculous notions concerning the potential for his ambient music to evolve radically over an indefinite period of time; for it to potentially mutate into an unfamiliar form. While such fancies make fun notions to suddenly jot down by the ends of my fingertips whilst madly blogging without a care in the world, I return in this sobering sequel to reassure you all that no such thing could possibly take place insofar, at least, as the original tape loop recordings Eno pioneered 42 years ago. (I assume the technique which yields REFLECTION to be analogous to that, only in digital format.)

The point being, if you set up the original different-length tape loops to play endlessly, yes they'd never quite repeat the exact same configuration of sounds yet rest assured the exact same level of tonality and texture would remain consistent throughout all eternity.   This is the answer we'd expect to hear from Mr. Eno, were he required to explain the nature of his ambient tape loops. I feel Reflection to most likely be constrained within the same inflexible parameters which allow the digitized loops to interplay--producing endless sonic configurations--while remaining relatively consistent in tone and texture.

I've been getting increasingly intriguing glimpses into the full potential of the Reflection app from having listened to various differing snippets of Reflection.  Namely, the four sides of the 2LP vinyl (which I more often than not select to put on the turntable randomly, as if the four tracks were on shuffle) and now this endless looping four minute, twenty-one second excerpt on Spotify unspooling gently in the background from my office computer here.

Given the observation that even this limited four minute snippet loop doesn't get old after multiple repeats, it widens the album's vista into a dimensional fourfold.  I think of the album as a folded up, sonic hypercube now. That renders the app as the spaceship that will catapult the listener into warp drive. This is your spacey dJ & vinyl junkie Thornswrath signing off for now, reminding you that we are well underway into the unfolding Technological Singularity.









Thursday, January 5, 2017

REFLECTION




I bought Eno's latest ambient album REFLECTION yesterday, and after listening to it several times, have been able to determine just what his remarkable accomplishment is, this time around.  It's this:

Eno has released an album whose ideal and ultimate format is not the vinyl LP, nor the CD, but rather, the APP available for purchase on iTunes.  To my mind, this is a significant achievement. 

The REFLECTION APP allegedly self-generates endless mutations of the music's keynote themes, arranged and programmed by Eno himself to engender non-identical variations for as long as (I assume) you keep it playing on your iPad or computer or smart phone, whichever the case may be. 

The question which immediately leaps to my mind, and which I'd seriously love to ask Brian, is just how far from its set parameters can the sound of Reflection's music deviate over the long term?  Because the possibilities which come to mind are fascinating:  Are the parameters set by Eno such that, sort of like being continually wound around the prongs of a tuning fork, yet only allowing a limited scope of infinitesimal variations, which despite being permitted to play for a century (let's say), would result in only minor evolutionary changes?  Or, is it possible that, after allowing Reflection to play for an extended period of time, might the sound complicate itself in a manner which could potentially degenerate into unbearable noise?  Or more wondrous even, is it possible that in a manner much like life itself, could the music of Reflection, after being allowed to play a sufficient amount of time, begin organizing itself into completely unexpected and startling patterns?  I suspect that either Brian Eno is wondering about this himself, or he already knows the answer (which more than likely would be the former supposition, which is to say, the parameters are limited enough by which this "river" of music, although constantly changing over the course of time by minor increments that are barely noticeable, will yet retain its essential shape of a river of continually flowing music, regardless how long it plays).   

Here's a YouTube video of a guy showing off his LP version of REFLECTION, for your perusal. 




There's another YouTube video of a prog guy "reviewing" REFLECTION, and although he brings up some good points, I have to say, he doesn't even offer to tell us what he thinks of the music itself--he merely concludes that he "can't" offer a review due to the fact Eno has "outdone" him by having provided this endlessly generating ambient suite.  So here's that guy's "review" (or lack of) so you can check it out for yourself, then I'll conclude this entry by providing my own opinion on what I think of it, in contrast to his other legendary ambient recordings.  





So while the above YouTube video may have been worth checking out, I'm still a little disappointed that our prog guy there didn't even offer us his opinion on whether he liked it that much, or not.  As for me--while yes, I can clearly state that I enjoyed having REFLECTION play out in the background, I don't think it's anywhere near as satisfying or good as, say, THURSDAY AFTERNOON, or DISCREET MUSIC, or MUSIC FOR AIRPORTS, or even LUX.  That said, I find it a worthy addition to the Eno canon.  I remain most amused by the fact that the 2LP version (which  necessarily slices the potential endless nature of the music into 4 separate segments) is most certainly the least optimal version of the album.  That's a first, in my experience.  This renders the CD as being better than the LP, because at least we get all four tracks as one 53-minute, uninterrupted experience.  Leaving the APP as the optimal format for this particular album.  (I must note here that Adrian Belew came out with a similar concept with his album FLUX, also available as an interactive APP which allows the listener to play around with the parameters--set by Belew--in order to create their own alternate versions of FLUX.  Eno's REFLECTION is a bit different in that it's not interactive). If I could set up a permanent installation in my home--or even outdoors in a garden, for instance--of the REFLECTION APP, I certainly would.  I'm willing to bet Eno himself, at the very least, has done so, specifically with the intent to stand by for the rest of his life in order to see how far the variations stray from his parameters.  

REFLECTION joins Eno's most minimal works (such as NEROLI and some of his lesser-known ambient installation albums) and as such, I personally find it to remain valuable insofar as putting on more discreet background music for relaxation or writing purposes goes. It's a lovely addition to a stellar career in having pioneered this sort of thing.  What I like about the 2LP vinyl version is that I can pretty much disregard the four sides (a, b, c, & d) and listen to them in any sequence without really interfering noticeably with their progression.  The only annoying thing about it, really, is having to get up and flip the records over three times about every thirteen minutes.  That's why I intend to secure for myself the APP for this wonderful new Eno album.  Make no mistake about it:  Eno has always done his own thing, and that's what I consider to lie at the heart of being very punk indeed.