Monday, August 22, 2011


A few random thoughts on the eve of the start of a new semester.

Two song titles that make me chuckle every time I see them:
"Stupid Prick Gets Chased by the Police and Loses His Slut Girlfriend" by Mogwai and "Eat My Dust You Insensitive Fuck" by Catherine Wheel. Of course, it helps that both are actually great songs beyond having punchlines for titles: the Mogwai song is, fitting its origin, really quite tense and filmic and the Catherine Wheel song, thanks to Tim Friese-Greene's always stellar production work, features the same amazing harmonica sound found on those later Talk Talk albums.

Speaking of said harmonica sound: "The Rainbow" by Talk Talk. The way that note just builds and then explodes from 7:04-7:16 is just wonderful. I'd say it sounds like a rainbow, but it's a little too violent and unhinged (not that I'm complaining). Also, wow, the guitar that comes in at the start. He must be hitting the strings really hard because it sounds way out, but it works so well with the piano. It really is astounding that the same band that wrote this (which is also a great song) made Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock (twenty years old this year!). Both albums have a pretty sterling critical reputation these days, but they deserve more actual listening than I'm sure they get. I know I'm guilty of letting them sit for criminally long times without a spin. As albums they're so intense, though, that it's difficult to do anything else but let them wash over you--there's no fading into the background, especially not with Mark Hollis' voice coming out of the speakers at you.

I'd been hearing a bit about The Weeknd when they released their first album, but I wasn't really in the mood to check out an R&B band from Toronto. With the release of their second album of the year, Thursday, this past Thursday, though, I figured it couldn't hurt to see what they're about. After listening to Thursday, I have to say that I'm impressed: it sounds great, sort of halfway between Brainfeeder and mainstream pop. It reminds me of Massive Attack (pre-Mezzanine, maybe during the Protection era) and early Tricky (circa Maxinquaye) in a lot of ways. I didn't pay enough attention to the lyrics to pick up on the tales of debauchery that supposedly make up all the lyrics, but I can see this being just sort of noirish and outre enough to score a more "sophisticated" night out for a lot of people (kind of like Portishead when Dummy came out--actually, "Cowboys" from Portishead isn't a terrible touchstone for The Weeknd's sound, to a certain extent). The way that the voice is used isn't quite as arresting as Gonjasufi, but the vocals really do grab your attention. I'm interested to see what album #3 in this trilogy will sound like.

A great companion to The Weeknd that came out on Brainfeeder recently is Shlohmo's Bad Vibes. It's less indebted to IDM and jazz than Flying Lotus, so it's able to feel much more like a kind of malfunctioning, robotic R&B, but it retains the kind of glassy, airy tones that made Teebs' album Ardour so great and that Four Tet regularly transforms into moments of great beauty. There are some Burial-style disembodied voices that creep up and moan like ghosts in the background, but they're handled well and aren't really much of a distraction. It would be nice to hear what Shlohmo could do with some real vocals, though. Actually, lately I've been really wishing that Bjork would hook up with the Brainfeeder roster. Just the thought makes me sort of dizzy. Or maybe if Laura Darlington could guest on a few of Shlohmo's tracks the results might be as impressive as her turns at the mic on Flying Lotus' last two albums.

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