Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Skindred - Shark Bites And Dog Fights

Released: Fall 2009
Availability: readily both digitally and physically
Label: Bieler Bros. (independant label)

Skindred formed in the late 1990s out of a barely known band called Dub War. Originally signed with a major label, they thankfully wound up on Bieler Bros. A combo of rock, dub, reggae, metal and punk; they call it Ragga Metal, I'll go with that.

Over the course of the three albums they've released as Skindred they've refined the sound down to a well oiled machine, singer Benji Webbe brings a thankfully fresh new voice to the standard growling shout common in metal.

Stand For Something - A solid opening, Skindred's strong ties to Reggae places a lot of emphasis on social issues, and how we affect the world around us.

You Can't Stop It - Continuing on with the theme, more of a revolutionary rock anthem.

Electric Avenue - This is, beyond any doubt, the best cover of this track I have ever heard. The hard guitar edge adds a whole new dimension to this track, making it the punk song it always wanted to be.

Calling All Stations - Benji's voice goes from low rumble to melodic here. A sound that first attracted me to this group back when they were Dub War. The kind of track you want to hear let loose on the dance floor.

Corrupted - More reggae influenced than other tracks, still maintaining a dance floor stomping beat.

Who Are You? - Slowing down a bit, this track asks the ever important question; who are you to tell me I can't succeed? Interestingly the song fades out near the end and then comes right back in answering the question.

Days Like These - Picking back up again, this song occilates between slow and fast, without sounding forced.

Invicible - A solid ending to the album, another positive message song that also does well on the dance floor.

The album is short and sweet, coming in at just over 30 minutes with 8 tracks. Personally I find this a nice change compared to todays standards of packing sixteen plus mediocre tracks into an hour or dealing with solos dragging out the middle of a song.

It's good to see a group just get down the basics of delivering a solid album of hits.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Lou Reed - Metal Machine Music

Released: Summer, 1975
Availability: available, usually easily found - almost always a special order (listed as a Limited Edition)
Label: Buddha Records (Sony Music imprint;) [originally on RCA Records; major label]

Lou Reed is without a doubt one of modern rocks influences. A member of the Velvet Underground, has worked with countless musicians throughout the ages. One of rocks giants.

Metal Machine Music is not music. Says so on the album cover. It comes complete with an utterly made up list of equipment.

Metal Machine Music is two guitars in feedback loops - if you put on a pair of headphones the stereo recording will put a different experience into each ear.

Part One - guitars in a feedback loop. No melody, no beat, no rhythm.

From where I listen, music is a completely visceral emotional response. You can sit people down and discuss for days composition, and execution, and quality, and everything else. But when the lights go out, all your left with is "Do I like it or not?"

From there the real discussion starts, what does it make you feel? The same song can evoke different emotions depending on the mood you started listening to it in, and sometimes the same song will always lock step you back to one single emotion. When we encounter new music is as important as what new music we encounter.

Part Two - guitars in a feedback loop, for another 16 minutes.

I could present thousands of words on the history, value, revelations, commentary and influence this album had on the music industry. The number of people who went "wow!" and the number of people are just utterly pissed off this even exists.

Here's some of the things I've done listening to this album:
Fall asleep listening to it; Clean my house; meditate; given me a migraine; soothed and relaxed my nerves; driven people out of the room leaving me in peace.

I usually put it on a very low volume and let it become background noise, overwhelming all other forms of background noise a city has to offer.

Part Thee - see part two.

Zeitkratzer managed to make a live version of this album. Translated to notes and played by orchestra. It is currently more easily found than the standard release album.

You could consider this album as a Koan. Or you could consider it as a bunch of noise. Maybe both.

There is no middle ground here, you can either listen to an hour of two guitars feeding back into amplifiers, or you have to immediately turn it off. Sometimes I can only listen to one part. Sometimes I sit on the edge throughout the entire toneless rhythmless mess of noise - captivated and fascinated by it all.

Part Four - the last several seconds actually picks up a repeating rhythm. On the original record release some of the LPs had a locked groove so this suddenly rhythmic portion would repeat until you physically stopped the record player. On the CD is lasts barely over two minutes before ending. (secretly I wish they took it all the way to the edge of the CDs recording limits.)

If you can find it (I don't believe it's that hard, but it's not that easy either) I suggested finding the "Inanition" by Controlled Bleeding, the song 'Hymn From The Shadows' is another piece that goes especially well with headphones and the quiet subtlety of that track provides an excellent counter point. If you can't find it, any quiet long piece of ambient music works as well, some suggestions:
Future Sound Of London - Lifeforms Paths 1-7 (single, possibly out of print as well)
Any recordings of Buddhst Monks (I have several, new age shops love to stock these)
Any of Chopin's Nocturnes

So what is this? Besides over an hour of two guitars stuck in a feedback loop?

Depends on when you ask me.