(We are delighted to present to you this guest post by Alain Mower, which takes us off the rails of our usual course and onto a very different line.)
Have you ever found yourself sitting in your dimly lit, Victorian Dining Room, listening to your Burzum/Sunn O)))/Dark Space 1st pressing vinyl in the background, sipping only the finest of that last cask of ’73 lambs blood sitting across from your man/woman/android and thought to yourself, “I wish this could be classier, but I don’t want to sacrifice any of my soul-damning resolve to do so.” Well you, classy reader, are in luck, for I present to you ‘Noirjazz – or Darkjazz for you laymen.
No I’m not talking about Shining (Norway)’s brilliant album from this year, I’m talking about atmospheric, soundscape-driven, foreboding and looming, downtempo (old man’s) jazz.
We’re actually going to have a “THAT’S METAL!” — BUT IT’S NOT MUSIC” post today, but we’re beginning with something on the flip side of that, using a title that I think BadWolf originally coined for something else we posted that doesn’t fall within our usual ambit. We don’t do this often, because we know people don’t usually come here for non-metal music. Also, I almost never listen to anything but metal. But I did yesterday.
One of the blogs I follow is written by fellow Seattle-ite Gemma Alexander. Yesterday she wrote about two live performances she caught on Friday night at Seattle’s Decibel Festival, “a world class celebration of underground and experimental electronic music”. Her vivid description of what she saw and heard (which I highly recommend) intrigued me so much that I went in search of music by the two performers — Nils Frahm from Germany and Ólafur Arnalds from Iceland.
Later, having spent more than an hour immersed in the music of both, I decided I ought to share what I found, because it’s pretty amazing.
Nils Frahm is a Berlin-based contemporary/experimental composer whose principal instrument is the piano — and an assortment of electronic effects that transform the sound. I gather that in his live performances, Frahm improvises and experiments, in essence creating new works using his recorded music as the template. Here’s how Gemma described what she witnessed:
(I bet you thought we’d finished our 2012 Listmania series. Think again. BadWolf brings us one more list.)
Three months into 2013, here’s another top 10 about 2012. These are my favorite articles to write every year, and also the most difficult. 2012 in particular was a musical gauntlet. The more promos we get here at NCS and at the other sites I write for, the more metal I listen to, the more I need non-metal records to give myself a break. It’s an infinite feedback loop.
I thought this would be an easy article. So many of my favorite artists in my favorite genres released albums in 2012 that I anticipated the article would write itself. Needless to say, things did not turn out that way. Old favorites like Marillion and Titus Andronicus released middle-of-the-road records. At the same time, I developed a tremendous appetite for hip-hop. One version of this list was entirely populated by rappers, which would have necessitated another top 10 list.
Also, so many metal labels released more-or-less rock records that I debated including them. In the end I opted not to: you know who Graveyard are, and they don’t need me for a cheerleader (seriously, though—listen to Graveyard).
In the end, these ten albums made the cut more-or-less based on play counts alone. They all share certain qualities with my favorite metal albums: intense sound, aggressive or melancholy delivery, vocals. You could call those things the core of my taste. Perhaps they’re also at the core of yours.
(NCS writer BadWolf was in the audience when Death Grips played Detroit last November, and he provides the following report. The very cool photos accompanying this review were taken by BadWolf’s partner in crime, Nicholas Vechery.)
This show was a long time coming. I first heard Death Grips almost exactly a year ago to the week as I write this article, and almost instantly the group became something of a personal muse to me—I wasted no time pimping the group here, and later made them the subject of my first article for Stereogum. In 2012 the band released two albums, both excellent, and in between booked-then-cancelled a major summer tour. For better or for worse, 2012 saw MC Ride and drummer Zach Hill ride the popularity wave at its very zenith, leaving many of their loyal fans tumbling in the surf. So when Death Grips booked a second tour, and played Detroit’s Magic Stick on November 19, attendance was mandatory.
I attended the show with photographer Nick Vechery, too late to catch any of the tour’s opening act, genre-bending MC Mykki Blanco. Although Blanco hails from NYC’s now-prominent Brooklyn hip-hop scene, I find his music less appealing than, say, Azalia Banks on her 1991 EP.
Death Grips took the stage just after Vechery and I purchased our beer.
(Please welcome the return of guest writer Old Man Windbreaker, who has decided to take matters into his own hands. One hopes for the return of his sibling in the comments.)
Old Man Windbreaker greets you once again. After repeated bitching about the lack of content related to Faith No More on this site, One has decided to take matters into One’s own hands… And write about the albums Mondo Cane and Laborintus II by Mike Patton.
One first listened to this album around the the time of its release, back in 2010, without much knowledge about its background except for the introduction in the Wikipedia article. One didn’t pay much attention to the music back then, and forgot about it after the first listen.
Through a fortunate twist of fate, One stumbled upon Mike Patton’s voice on television last month while my cousin was watching Crank: High Voltage, and decided to watch the rest of the movie. One found during the credits that Mike Patton had not sung just one song in the film, but composed the whole soundtrack (which is excellent, by the way). One decided to go back home, and listen to more of his solo work and collaborations.
So, one morning, on a bus ride, to a mall where One would eventually do nothing but have a Subway sandwich for lunch, One huddled up in the back seat listening to this album. Listened to the album once; and twice; and thrice… [It was a long bus ride. But nevermind that.]
Especially for an extreme metal site, we’ve showed a lot of love for Death Grips. Why? Because their music is “metal”, even though it’s not metal, and also because they don’t give a fuck.
How many fucks don’t they give? Well, you may recall that Death Grips signed a deal with Epic/Columbia to release two albums this year. The first one was The Money Store (reviewed for us here by groverXIII). The second one was supposed to be released sometime this month. But last night on Twitter the band said, “The label wouldn’t confirm a release date for NO LOVE DEEP WEB ’till next year sometime,” followed by, “The label will be hearing the album for the first time with you.”
And this morning Death Grips just went ahead and put up No Love Deep Web for streaming and free download. Maybe their contract with Epic/Columbia allows them to do this as long as they deliver some other album for label release, but something tells me this wasn’t exactly what Epic expected. I thought Epic was an odd choice for this band anyway, and maybe we’re starting to see why this wasn’t a marriage made in heaven.
Either way, it’s cool to get this new album. It’s so fresh that I’ve barely started listening to it. The SoundCloud player for the stream is after the jump, and you can go HERE to download it while you can (click the smaller “Premium Download” link — it’s the only one that will start the download of the album). You can also download it off the SoundCloud player, or from the other download links I’m including after the jump.
Also, the album cover is a picture of the album’s title written on an erect dick. No fucks given.
Also after the jump, following the erect dick cover art (NSFW): a Phro-tastic write-up I just received from Phro (also NSFW) about this news.
(In this post, DGR reviews the 2012 album by Soen.)
Talk about a disc about which it has taken forever to compose my thoughts. It’s been floating around since mid-February as a Spinefarm release in Europe but only saw digital release here in the States much later. Soen are a conflicting-as-hell band to discuss because one of the first things everyone does is drop a comparison to Tool. Given that I am a Tool fan and very familiar with their work, I can confirm that the comparison is definitely warranted, but you know what? Soen deserve to stand as their own band.
Yes, they have some elements of the aforementioned band’s spacey prog-rock tone attached to them, but very few bands do it as well; even those who are influenced by it and try to mimic it to a T usually fail. Soen have somehow managed to get close enough to that band’s sound without becoming them or even adopting the Philosophy-101-styled thinking buried in new age mysticism that I’m perfectly okay with Soen.
Yes, getting David Bottrill involved (famed producer, worked with a ton of groups, including Tool) feels like an incredibly shrewd maneuver, and he does his damnedest to give them the exact same mix, but so what, it sounds great. They’re really not mimics. Believe me, Soen are something of an all-star group who manage to do enough things on their own that they feel like a new thing. Cognitive is a really good bit of prog-rock with quite a lot of individuality buried in between echo-heavy bass lines and singalong-worthy choruses, much of which, surprisingly enough, is provided by the drumming work of former Opeth drummer Martin Lopez.
I know it’s impossible to analyze this album in a vacuum, as if I had never heard some of what’s being done here before, but now that I have gotten that rant out of the way, let’s talk about Cognitive.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Metalheads are geeks. Even the ones who may not seem geeky on the surface, you talk to them for a bit and the geekery will come out. It’s just hiding right beneath the surface.
Okay, well maybe this isn’t true of the violent offenders who are in prison and would just as soon rape you as look at you, but all the rest — geeks. That includes me, mind you, and every other metalhead I know. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, because frankly, every friend I’ve got is a geek in some way. If you don’t agree, then try to convince me otherwise through rational argument (I’m not gonna suggest that you fight me, because . . . duh . . . I’m a fuckin’ geek!).
Thanks to our buddy Phro, I have found a geek anthem. Undoubtedly, there are other geek anthems, but I do like this one. It’s catchy and funny and you can understand the words, and I think understanding the words really is essential for a song to be an anthem, because if you can’t sing along, then it really isn’t an anthem, is it?
The only problem is that it’s not metal. I’ve tried to think of a metal geek anthem, and nothing is coming to mind, maybe because in most of the metal I like, you can’t understand the fuckin’ words. So if you have a metal geek anthem in mind, leave a comment. In the meantime, I’m goin’ with this one. It’s called “I’m the One That’s Cool”.
Percussion is an important part of almost all forms of music. Of course, it’s vital to metal, and it’s not limited to the drums. I may be stretching the dictionary definition of the word percussion, but I’d go so far as to say that in genres of extreme metal that use distorted down-tuned guitars and bass, those instruments are used more for percussion and rhythm than for creating melodies.
The presence of percussion instruments in all the world’s cultures stretching back many thousands of years suggests there’s something about the appeal of beat and rhythm, the patterns of sounds and silences, that’s innate in human beings, something we’re born with rather than something we’re taught. Maybe it comes from the beat of the heart we heard in the womb, or maybe it’s a puzzling product of natural selection, but whatever the explanation, the human affinity for rhythm — and especially for percussion — seems like an essential part of who we are (even for spastic white-bread dudes who can’t dance to save their lives).
In this post I’ve gather some fascinating videos of some fascinating people doing fascinating things with percussion, and what they have in common is that they’re using their hands and fingers to strike a variety of different instruments (and machines) directly. The music isn’t metal, but it’s metal, if you know what I mean.
I learned about Efrain Toro because my wife and I had the pleasure of meeting and spending a little time with his daughter and her new husband on their honeymoon last spring while we were on vacation. Efrain Toro is a Puerto Rican percussionist and music teacher who has some interesting ideas about rhythm. Much of what I’ve read about his theories is over my head and I suspect would mean a lot more to people who, unlike myself, have some actual musical training. But from what I’ve read about him, he seems to be regarded as one of the best percussionists in the world, across a wide range of musical styles and types of drums.
Yesterday Joe and Mario Duplantier of French metal titans Gojira put up a video on YouTube recommending some of their favorite music videos and showing brief clips from the recommended vids. I thought the idea of this was cool — one band going further out of its way than you typically see to promote the music of other bands. I was also surprised by what they recommended.
I didn’t necessarily expect that all of Gojira’s recommendations were going to be metal. Lots of metal musicians listen to music from other genres, and the Duplantier brothers do seem like the kind of people who would have diverse interests and tastes. But their recommendations were dominated by not-metal, and the not-metal videos they recommended were in most cases not what I would have ever guessed, ranging from South African rap to the music of Lhasa de Sela, an American-born singer-songwriter who was raised in Mexico and the United States, divided her adult life between Canada and France, and died of cancer in 2010 at the age of 38.
The picks do shed light on the visual content of Gojira’s own videos. As you’ll see in Mario and Joe’s video introduction to their picks, they like videos by bands “who are not scared to be different”, and videos that are surreal and dreamlike.
I found this exercise interesting, in part because of the insights it gave me about the Duplantier brothers and Gojira, and in part because I enjoyed watching and listening to most (though not all) of the recommended videos. If nothing else, it got me out of my metal shell at least for a little while — long enough to want to go back inside it soon. But I’ll carry some of these songs with me when I go. Maybe you’ll get something out of the exercise, too. Let’s start with the Duplantier brothers’ video.