Infinite Frontier

April 25, 2011

Halfway through reading an article about sustainability, real sustainability, and population growth I began thinking about the finiteness of the Earth’s resources     and the possible reactions humanity would have to the dwindling of those resources. The article focused aggressively on population growth and overpopulation, which I agree are the real problems and combating them in some way is the real solution, but my mind began to wander and focused on space exploration as a solution. I didn’t consciously consider the migration of man into space as the best solution to the problem of overpopulation because I realize that it is entirely unrealistic; the technological breakthroughs required for man to seriously inhabit space as a replacement for inhabiting the Earth would be unachievable before the time we had obliterated the planet with the overpopulation that needs to be solved now. Read the rest of this entry »


favourite records of 2010

December 30, 2010

Best albums of 2010?  Here’s ten that i’ve been enjoying the most

 
Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma


On the first listen I was impressed, though not amazed. I had been anticipating Cosmogramma for months, but when the initial spin dealt fewer propulsive rhythms and a lot more textural ambiguity than 2007’s already texturally-ambiguous Los Angeles, my enthusiasm was tempered.  By the end of the album I knew it was an undeniable success, yet I still wished for just a little more solidity, some aspect I could hold firmly while the smoke settled around me.  In spite of this uncertainty, I continued to play the record, and it became familiar. The ambiguity began to clear, and soon I was aware of how all of the potentially disparate elements of Flying Lotus’ sound are fundamentally integrated. To claim that he “fuses” anything would miss that point: nothing needs to be fused.  Electronic beats are still at the core of Lotus alter-ego Steven Ellison’s sound, but now more than ever, they’ve become one ingredient among many, including free-jazz and impressionistic orchestral interludes, ambient drone, and Thom Yorke, who makes a surprisingly effective cameo. Ellison reputedly programs his music without quantizing (you could probably call that “playing it”), which gives the album a loose, almost live feeling, as though he somehow found a band capable of recording his strange suites. And on the tracks that actually do feature live musicians (especially the ones with Thundercat’s superhuman bass playing) the line between human and machine gets fuzzy. Flying Lotus’ mission seems to be the destruction of this boundary; here he comes closer than ever.  While it might not hit the emotional highs of some of the other best releases of this year, nothing else matches Cosmogramma in its unwavering craft, and no other album from 2010 has come to feel so essential.
(Zodiac Shit, Nose Art, And The World Laughs With You [ft Thom Yorke])

 

Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest


Nostalgic posturing could be the defining aspect of modern hipster culture, making it all too easy these days for an indie artist to rely on smeary photographs and plastic instruments to create something to fit the scene.  Deerhunter have made a nostalgic record (it’s in the title!) but unlike their (literally) pale imitators, their sentiment is neither hackneyed nor cloying. Halcyon Digest is an album that creates joy from sadness, projecting tragedy with optimism. Bandleader Bradford Cox is an ever-endearing and relatable persona; here he gracefully treads the line between pitiable protagonist and indie authority, while the band plays with the sinewy style that has always made them a pleasure to hear. And moreso than any past Deerhunter record, Halcyon Digest is intensely emotional— melancholy and euphoria in an intoxicating cauldron. (Memory Boy, Helicopter)

 

 
Midlake – The Courage of Others


This probably wasn’t the record most Midlake fans were hoping for; it has neither the whimsy of Bamnan and Slivercork, nor the lyrical pathos of The Trials of Van Occupanther, though it comes closer to the latter. Instead, Midlake have crafted (and “crafted” is really the operative word) a record with such painstaking care that they seem unaware that the subtle variations which must be obvious to a band working so intently for so long are largely lost on an audience accustomed to livelier stuff.  On first listen The Courage of Others sounds monotonous, almost bored. But Midlake is one band which deserves the benefit of the doubt, and repeat listens reveal a stirring soulfulness—The Courage of Others is undeniably restrained, but within that restraint it affirms the importance of every note. There are still hooks, but they take time to sink in—hooks aren’t really the point any more. Midlake are no longer making indie rock, they’re simply making the music they want, and it’s hard not to appreciate that honesty, especially when the results are so pure. (Rulers Ruling All Things, Winter Dies)

 

 
Spoon – Transference


There’s a looseness about Spoon’s latest album that I guess could be mistaken for a lack of effort, though it seems more the product of a band that’s been around long enough to simply know what works without belabouring the process. Transference is satisfying, due in no small part to Spoon’s typically excellent engineering, which lends the collection of rather minimalistic songs a sense of weight and richness. The band sounds less constrained than on 2007’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga; there’s an airy, improvised quality to much of Transference, and humourous touches abound—abrupt cut-offs, weird vocal effects, missed lyrics—having fun rarely sounds so polished.  And the cover art is the perfect metaphor for the album: apparent laziness transferring a brilliant result. (Is Love Forever?, Written In Reverse)

 

 
LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happen

ing
“From this position,” declares James Murphy on “Pow Pow” (a sequel to his 2006 single “Losing My Edge”), “I can say ‘serious,’ or ‘copout,’ or ‘hard to define.’” Murphy’s final record as LCD Soundsystem takes to heart the indie-establishment’s proclamation of Murphy’s supreme coolness within the indie-establishment; so while Sound of Silver had a sort of communal comfort to it (we’re all North American scum, it’s us vs them, etc), This Is Happening sees Murphy embracing his newfound reputation with a collection of songs that are sometimes cold, sometimes confrontational, and generally more condescending than their predecessors. Even the silly single, “Drunk Girls,” is depressingly anthropological, and when Murphy’s at his snarkiest (“You Wanted a Hit,” in which he sneers “well maybe we don’t do hits,” as if anyone expected otherwise), the record gets decidedly uncomfortable.  But the synths are still explosive (“One Touch” is particularly fierce) and the more introspective pieces (“I Can Change,” “All I Want”) surpass Sound of Silver for their affect, although the dance is drearier than ever (is LCD even about dancing any more? Perhaps not). The weariness and anger that pervade This is Happening makes me hesitant to recommend it as LCD’s best work, and yet it is these same qualities that give the album its sense of assured purpose, making it a fitting conclusion to a trilogy of fantastic records. (One Touch, I Can Change)

 

 
Taylor Deupree – Shoals


Brian Eno called it holographic music, in which any given sample of a piece is encoded with the greater whole. Shoals isn’t quite the hologram as Eno’s Thursday Afternoon (which Deupree names as his favourite album), but they share a similarly static structure.  Over the course of four lengthy tracks, Deupree expands on the sound he explored in last year’s Weather and Worn 7”, making minute adjustments to loops and drones which accrue so gradually that their transformations might go unnoticed. But that’s part of the appeal: for attuned ears, Shoals is a complex and fascinating illustration of electronics and acoustics blending organically.  And as an ambient record, Shoals is as soothing and enveloping as Eno’s classics, adopting a cyclical rhythm in which the songs shift from major to minor, from slivers of hazy morning light to still fog over a midnight lake. (Shoals, Rusted Oak)

 

 
Liars – Sisterworld


After years of continually taking drastic turns between albums, Liars have finally achieved a signature sound, a refined amalgamation of everything they’ve done up to now. The stomping screaming of They Were Wrong So We Drowned, the chanting droning of Drum’s Not Dead, the bizarre melodic hooks of Liars are all present in Sisterworld, but never have these sounds been so masterfully arranged and produced.  “Refinement” might seem antithetical to Liars’ aesthetic goals, but the heart of the band has always been its careful application of tension and release, which remains fully intact here. The improved production lends a textural depth that the band has hinted at, but never entirely achieved, in the past. And the lyrical content, depending on your mood, is as uncomfortable or enthralling as ever, depicting the frustrated existence of the anxious and sociopathic. Sometimes it’s hard to take, other times it just feels great to shout along, “stand em in the street with a gun/AND THEN KILL ‘EM ALL!”  (Proud Evolution, Scarecrows on a Killer Slant)

 

 
Oneohtrix Point Never – Returnal


In the cold cold north we need more good music for dark, icy times. Last year, Oneohtrix Point Never released Rifts, a sprawling compilation of three past EPs, which was about as comprehensive a winter soundtrack as anyone could ask for. Returnal continues in that style, though it’s expectedly tighter and more carefully sequenced.  Ambient and experimental records too often end up sounding contrived or meaningless. Returnal is neither—it accomplishes what only the best of the genre does, immersing the listener in its own unique landscape. And while it doesn’t quite surpass Rifts for its ability to create a synthetic world, it comes close with a lot of time to spare. (Describing Bodies, Where Does Time Go)

 

 

Emeralds – Does It Look Like I’m Here?


Like labelmate Oneohtrix Point Never, Emeralds use analogue synthesizers to forge a familiar yet striking sound.  But while OPN’s latest record focuses on drones, Does It Look Like I’m Here? explores guitar-driven post-rock, 80s sci-fi soundtrack, minimalist music, and, occasionally, noise. The aesthetic is similar to OPN and the result is still largely ambient, but with an added edge that, at times, almost amounts to excitement, which might be preferable depending on your listening goal. Either way, Does It Look Like I’m Here? is an excellent companion piece to Returnal, and for fans of the genre both records come strongly recommended. (Candy Shoppe, Double Helix)

 

 

No Age – Everything In Between


No Age pull a bit of a weird trick: off-key singing backed by sloppy guitar and drums that resolve into something catchy and compelling. I think part of the glue might be the duo’s fondness for guitar drones, which keep the record lush, and provide an occasional break from the poppier tracks. I don’t have too much to say about Everything in Between, I just found it to be a consistently enjoyable and engaging listen. Still wish they’d put a bit more effort into the vocals, though. (Fever Dreaming, Common Heat)

 

As always, lemme know what I missed in the comments!


Cuica, Bass, Melodica

December 27, 2010

ghostly improvisation


Loop pedal part 6

October 12, 2010

cowboy cube

escape dream

factory funk (funk factory)

across the long table, teacup

sleepwalking, a mouse ghost

oil and time reflect

parade of gangster fools


favourite albums of 2009

December 22, 2009
another year, another list.
  • 10. Drafted By Minotaurs – Aversion Therapy


    Aversion Therapy is Infraction Records’ first vinyl release, a collection of enveloping electro-acoustic drones that carry an unusually emotional undercurrent. The songs ebb and flow, swelling to eventual climaxes with a greater sense of direction and purpose that much ambient music lacks.

  • 9. Mountains – Choral


    Mountains make me feel all warm inside, and Choral is the musical equivalent of basking in a pool of sunlight.

  • 8. Oneida – Rated O


    This was my introduction to the band: a massive album that spans three LPs and a dozen genres. Listening to Rated O in its entirety takes two hours, and if you have the time it’s worth it. I haven’t fully absorbed everything yet, but the album seems to function best when you allow yourself to drift in and out of its trance, pleasantly surprised each time by how much you’ve been unconsciously enjoying it.

  • 7. Tosca – No Hassle


    Tosca’s last album, j.a.c., was a mess—it had some good tracks, but no flow, and most of the record was plagued with embarrassingly bad vocals. No Hassle sees Tosca learning from their mistakes; it’s strictly instrumental, and the wonderful ambience of their earlier records—mostly abandoned for j.a.c.—makes a welcome return. As its title suggests, No Hassle is about relaxation, not provocation, and the inclusion of a second disc containing an hour-long live version provides for a particularly relaxed engagement. I suppose critics might call this lounge-music, but there’s a depth and emotion to it that betrays Tosca’s skill and experience, and the album has enough moments of small brilliance to earn a strong recommendation.

  • 6. Bibio – Ambivalence Avenue


    Ambivalence Avenue is a bizarre little combination of folk-pop songs with huge overdubbed harmonies and the kind of headphone hip-hop for which the Warp label is renowned. At first I found it quaint, if not maddeningly catchy, but repeat listens reveal the craft. It’s instantly pleasurable and it’s got legs; what else could you want? Fans of Prefuse 73, Flying Lotus, and Boards of Canada would certainly appreciate this.

  • 5. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest


    I was hoping this would be the album of the year, and while it is certainly stunning, it takes what I always found to be the band’s most endearing quality—their sometimes-meandering soundscapes—and largely restrains them in favour of tighter, poppier songwriting. With the haze mostly cleared, Veckatimest is a stronger album than its 2005 predecessor, Yellow House, but the highest points of the band’s debut still make me wish they’d stretched out a bit more on Veckatimest. But by all other accounts this record is an achievement, cementing Grizzly Bear in the enviable position of emissaries to a unique and sophisticated style.

  • 4. The Flaming Lips – Embryonic


    It’s obvious that Grizzly Bear plans every note well ahead of time. The Flaming Lips seem to just play and allow the songs follow. That’s a mark of experience, I suppose, and Embryonic sounds like the work of a band that knows exactly what it’s doing. The lyrics might be silly but the atmosphere is compelling, and after a few listens the myriad subtleties begin to reveal themselves, and to a listener like me—for whom Embryonic is an introduction to the band—it becomes obvious just why they’ve been around for so long, and why they remain relevant.

  • 3. The Field – Yesterday and Today


    I don’t envy Axel Willner for having to create a followup to 2007’s From Here We Go Sublime. That album hinged on a trick: the splicing and repetition of tiny samples to the point that the source material was completely obscured—except for when Willner decided to reveal it. Wilner must have realized that while a single gimmick is not enough to sustain two albums, the complete abandonment of his signature sound would disappoint. So for Yesterday and Today, Willner utilizes his cool formula to new effect, creating lengthier and more melodic tracks that play as an album, with a satisfying pace that Sublime never quite achieved. And on tracks like “Yesterday and Today” (which features John Stanier doing the drum machine’s job) and the hypnotizing “Sequencer”, Willner gracefully transitions into new and experimental territory, affirming his ability to reinvent without forgetting the sound that got him here.

  • 2. Giuseppe Ielasi – Aix


    In a lengthier review, I pretentiously described this record as “musique-concrete distilled through a minimalist-techno apparatus”. The interaction of so many disparate elements (everything from aerosol cans to double-bass) should be cold and sterile, but Aix is the opposite—meticulous construction only supports its sensuous textures and satisfying rhythms. Japandroids is number one for less delicate reasons, but truthfully if I could keep only one album from 2009 it would be Aix. I’ve never quite heard anything like it.

  • 1. Japandroids – Post Nothing


    There’s an honesty about Japandroids that makes them so endearing; they sing about girls, about being homesick, being drunk, and about trying to have a good time in spite of everything. The lyrics generally amount to a sentence or two (“we used to dream/now we worry about dying/and I don’t want to worry about dying”) but the band delivers them—usually in unison—with such raw enthusiasm that it’s hard not to be affected. I don’t know why certain chords elicit certain emotions, but Japandroids seem to know, inspiring both jubilance and sorrow, and especially a kind of wistfulness in between. So while you’re partying to Post Nothing (and it really is a great party album) don’t worry if you get just a little overwhelmed—I’m sure the band would understand.

Honorable Mentions

  • Giuseppe Ielasi – (another) stunt


    Kind of a companion piece to Aix, only constructed almost entirely from samples of old vinyl records. Rhythmically and texturally tantalizing. And for only six dollars!

  • Taylor Deupree – Weather and Worn (7″)


    Experimental label 12k’s inaugural vinyl is a brief but beautiful musical equivalent to watching the rain falling outside your window. Even the record itself is transparent: a clever visual metaphor to compliment the delicate ambience. (If you don’t have a turntable, don’t hesitate to get this on itunes; it’s sublime)

  • Eluder – Drift

    One of my favourite ambient artists releases a free EP and it’s of higher quality than most of what I paid for. The cover art says it all. (download here)

  • Seaworthy – 1897

    Half of the album is eerie drones, the other half a strangely hypnotic solo guitar, bookended by field recordings of outside the munitions shelter where the record was made.

Single of the Year

  • Animal Collective – “Summertime Clothes”

    I wasn’t as enamoured with the album as the general hipster population (personally I like Person Pitch more) but “Summertime Clothes” is the band at its peak: I hear it and I start to get all nervous and excited.

Oh, and as promised, here’s the tracklisting for the mix I made (which you should really listen to, on account of it being extremely well-done):

0:00 Japandroids – Heart Sweats
4:20 Bibio – Fire Ant
9:10 Mountains – Choral
21:27 Grizzly Bear – While You Wait For The Others (ft. Michael McDonald)
25:52 Oneida – 10:30 At The Oasis
38:10 Animal Collective – Summertime Clothes
42:32 Giuseppe Ielasi – Untitled 7
44:50 Flaming Lips – The Sparrow Looks Up At the Machine
48:57 Seaworthy – Ammunition 2
54:33 Tosca – Springer
59:34 The Field – Leave It
71:04 Richard Skelton – Brook
77:36 Flaming Lips – Gemini Syringes
81:10 Tim Hecker – Pond Life
82:27 Japandroids – Sovereignty
85:53 Taylor Deupree – Worn


I had a dream

December 11, 2009

about Metal Gear Solid 4 last night.

Read the rest of this entry »


Tasty

December 6, 2009

Found on flickr.


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