Sunday, May 29, 2011

New Musics - punk, dubstep, North African journey

This week is several flavors of punk rock, another take on dubstep, and a compilation covering North Africa. Finally completed my Avril Lavigne discgraphy (the studio releases at least), and filling out some Dropkick Murphys.

New Releases:
Art Brut - Brilliant! Tragic!
Label: Cooking Vinyl Records
Released: 5/24/11
Genre: Punk
Art Brut sometimes gets lumped into the UK Indie Rock scene, over here in the US I consider them firmly in the Punk Rock genre, and this album especially. The whole thing reminds me of early clash - stripped down, good guitar riffs, and songs about life and people. The album actually feels like it might be from two sides of a single relationship, which puts half the songs from the girls perspective. An excellent example of punk rock that isn't all noise and bluster.

Filling Out The Collection:
Bassnectar - Underground Communication
Label: Om Records
Released: 2007
Genre: dubstep
Bassnectar is one of the 'big names' in the dubstep genre, spilling out across multiple genres actually. Here sees the inclusion of a lot of hip-hop elements, especially the MC, on top of the dubstep beats that drive the music. The lyrics come with a social message involving the increasing lack of media integrity. The beats, themselves, are top notch.

Dropkick Murphys - Blackout
Label: Hellcat Records
Released: 2003
Genre: punk
DKM has long been a favorite of mine, though I lost track of picking up releases in the early 2000s so I've got some back catalogue to fill. Blackout has a lot of now standards on it, and sounds as good as they ever have. Songs about life, drinking, working, fighting, and getting on with it. This is the album with 'Fields Of Anthenry' which is one of the best DKM versions of a Traditional out there. And the track 'The Dirty Glass' is awesome in that it's not just about a bar, but they got guest vocalist Stephanie Dougherty to sing from the point of view of the bar. Punk Rock Drinking Songs.

Avril Lavigne - Goodbye Lullaby
Label: RCA Records
Released: 2011
Genre: punk (pop punk)
The latest release from pop-punk queen Avril. It sounds more like Under My Skin, but more refined, cleaner. She's still focused on the good and bad of boys, which isn't a bad thing but one wonders how many more albums she can make on the topic. One thing missing with the more experienced sound is the grit of her first two albums, which was part of her charm. For pop-punk rock, though, this album is really good and one of the better pop- albums out there.

Rough Guide To North African Cafe
Label: World Music Network
Released: 2007
Genre: (many)
This regional compilation crosses over many genres, from blues to pop and rock. The languages also cover the entire region. Morocco, Egypt, Tunisian and Algerian artists dominate the fourteen tracks. Very little English is here, some French, but mostly native languages and instruments. Not all the artists here are from North African, or based there anymore, but all the sounds are influenced heavily by that region. Like all Rough Guides, it's a place to start to get interesting new artists.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Week Ending 5/21 - Rock, Dubstep, Gothic Rock, Japanese Trad.

This week is largely a selection of work my wife picked up, which makes it a little less hard and a little more diverse. Also, the new selection has a story behind it; Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi set out to record a soundtrack the way the Italian's did in the hey-day of the Spaghetti Westerns, right down to methods and technology and even finding some of the musicians who recorded music forty years ago. There's no movie, just a soundtrack. I've also throttled back a bit, adding only five albums a week to my collection, which is a good number for me to actually listen to them all at least twice through.

New Releases:
Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi - Rome
Label: Capital Records
Released: 5/17 2011
Genre: rock
The album cover bills this as Starring Jack White and Norah Jones, both of whom lend their voices to this work. It does sound like a soundtrack to a movie, songs specifically recorded for specific scenes. It's not a narrative, it doesn't tell a story, just feels like it's part of one. The music itself is mellow, soaring at times, low key at others, very light. It's also very short, at thirty five minutes it feels both too short and just perfect. Any longer and they might have lost the magic, but you still want it to go on - just like a good story. This is definitely in the top ten of the year so far.

Filling Out The Collection:
Bauhaus - ...And Remains
Label: Beggars Banquet
Released: 2009
Genre: Gothic Rock
This little gem is actually a small set of leftovers from the Bauhaus Omnibus Editions of their re-releases. Three new studio mixes are included: a new mix of Bela Lugosi's Dead, another mix of Terror Couple Kill Colonel, and an early studio mix of Double Dare. Then there's three live tracks from a halloween show at the University of London Union in 1980. It's straight from the soundboard, and you can hear the mix is off a little - bit this is history. And lastly there's a Poem that Peter Murphy ended a show with early on. It's a short little EP of bits for die hard fans, a little bit of Gothic Rock history here.

Yoshida Brothers - The Best Of, Tsugaru Shamisen
Label: Domo Records
Released: 2008
Genre: Japanese Traditional, Rock
The Yoshida Brothers take a traditional Northern Japanese style and instrument, and fuse in a bit of western style with it. It's very much a traditional sound, but it feels like rock and roll when they play it. This collection puts together some of their best tracks over the previous ten years, a good place to start if you're interested in them. Both brothers play the Shamisen, there are very few other instruments on the album anywhere.

Blow Your Head: Diplo Presents Dubstep
Label: Mad Descent / Downtown Music
Released: 2010
Genre: Dubstep
This compilation covers the entire gamut of Dubstep, from the hard fast stuff to the low end stuff. Dubstep encompasses a whole suite of tricks, all of it manipulated music. One track is vocals with nothing but a clap and snare hit behind it, another is a lot like very standard trance music - though it's all basslines and drum hits. One track is even just called 26 Basslines - and it is just that and only that. All of it's danceable (which is the point), some of it more so than others. As I'm just getting into the genre this really feels like it was a great place to start.

Rough Guide To Paris Lounge (with Bonus Disc: Marianne Dissard "Paris One Takes")
Label: World Music Network
Released: 2011
Genre: Traditional, Pop, and many others
Paris Lounge doesn't focus on a style of music (as some Rough Guides do) but a region, in this case Parisian musicians, of all sorts. From pure pop music to electro-swing. Ballads, rockers, dance tracks and styles going back to Paris' lounges of the sixties. This is a good cross section of musicians recording and playing in France today.

Marianna Dissard is from Paris, but based in the US now, the bonus disc on this compilation was recorded in Paris during a one day break in her tour, it's a series of new takes from her debut album and a few cuts from her upcoming album. Her sound blends French Euro-Pop with Americana, it fits well in the Indie-Rock scene if you're looking to expand that horizon, but it's distinctly not that. Her voice melodic and soft, the songs are mostly of an upbeat bouncy nature.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Week Ending 5/14 - Jazz, Gabber, Industrial, Metal

Slowing down on how many albums I look through in a week, gives me a nice long backlog of music sitting on my desk taunting me. This week I scored a Charlie Parker box set for 6$, the new Skindred finally arrived from the UK, some old GabberTrance, and brand new Industrial from the legendary Ogre.

New Releases:
OhGr - Undeveloped
Label: Metropolis Records
Released: 5/10/2011
Genre: Industrial
Ogre is one of the originals on the scene in the 1980s when it broke into the clubs, from Skinny-Puppy through KMFDM and Ministry. He's been everywhere, this is his third solo released under ohGr. It doesn't show off the more modern guitar and crunch laden Industrial, it feels old school, early 90s Industrial, though you can tell there's the experience of time behind it. Some of the songs feel a bit repetitive in the chorus, not everything is club-friendly. But there are a few really standout tracks (Crash being my favorite). It's a good album to put on to get things started, an opening salvo for the day.

Filling Out The Collection
Charlie Parker - The Yardbird Suite: The Ultimate Charlie Parker Collection
Label: Rhino Records
Released: 1997
Genre: Jazz
Charlie Parker is without a doubt one of the greats of Jazz through the 40s and 50s, and even beyond as his sound carried onto the next generation. Bird is a timeless classic. This 2-Disc set covers his entire career from his time with Dizzy Gillespie at the start to his various bands - quartet, quintet, and sextet, septet, all-stars, and orchestra. A little bit of everything is here. It comes with a booklet that hi-lights his career along the way, some of the ups and downs. In total the 38 tracks here going right up to the unfortunate end of his career in 1955 with his death. If you want a wide selection of The Bird's work to get started with, or even just a box-set that you can put on this is an excellent resource to track down.

Skindred - Union Black
Label: 7PM Management / BMG
Released: April 2011
Genre: Metal, Ragga-Punk
Skindred are part punk rock, part heavy metal, and part ragga. Born out of London, lead singer Benji carries the group to a new level with his vocals. Always loud, always rowdy, this is their fourth release, and it's the first release since their move back to the UK after several years trying to take off in the US. They're sound is bigger, bolder here. The first single Warning is just that, it attacks with ferocity, and delivers the opening salvo an an album that doesn't slow down. The whole thing comes off awesomely, a few tracks go above and beyond. The defiance of Own You and Game Over almost make them anthems, while Guntalk and Bad Man Ah Bad Man just rock along in a danceable beat rarely achieved in anything related to metal. Skindred consistently tops out as one of my favorite bands.

Ultimate Gabber Trance, The Beats From Hell
Label: Hypnotic Records
Released: 1996
Genre: Gabber, Trance, Techno
The early 90s saw a rise of trance music, and when it hit raves it got sped up a little. And sped up a little more. Eventually it reached 180+ Beats Per Minute, that was Terror Trance. At over 200BPM it shifted into Gabber Trance, a hard, fast, twitchy, all rhythm style of beats. It's hard to imagine just how fast this music goes, how much it throws you onto the dance floor. Hard to find on releases even back when it was just getting into the mainstream dance scene. This ten track compilation is full of choice high-BPM cuts. Not particularly good to listen to all at once, though it does blend nicely into the background if one is laser-focused on something. But taking a few tracks and dropping them into the middle of a playlist is sure to break things up, keep things moving, and make sure the listener is always paying attention. If you want really fast and hard techno go out and find some Gabber.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Week Ending 5/7 - Metal, Pop-Punk, Rock, Darkwave

This week contains the last of the I:Scintilla discog, an unexpected find, and some other filler. On Tuesday I wandered down to my local indie-store and checked out their New Release end-cap. Half of it was releases from the previous week. I thought about the new Beastie Boys album, I thought about saying 'fuck it' and going home albumless. But I knew there was more out (there always is) and wondered why they showcased a whole 6 albums. Out of hundreds. Wandering back into the metal section I located the stores only copy of Leave's Eyes new album, even then it's not NEW - it's just New In The US. Inside, I'm a little sad.

New Releases:
Leaves' Eyes - Meredead
Label: Napalm Records
Released: 4/20 2011 (5/4 2011 US)
Genre: Metal (Symphonic Metal/Epic Metal)
Female lead vocals fronting angry Nordic men playing heavy metal. Sounds silly put that way, but this really good stuff. I don't like calling this genre "Symphonic" because it doesn't involve a Symphony - though one track has an orchestra and they add in a plethora of instruments. So Epic Metal - and they really do make the songs sound Epic - larger than the speakers. Liv sings in English, Old English, and Norwegian. They even toss in a cover of Mike Oldfield's 'To France'. Thankfully only one song felt the need to mix the excellent vocals with death-metal-grunts. I really am not a fan of that particular combo so often employed by the genre.

Filling Out The Collection:
Pizzicato Five - Quickie EP
Label: Matador Records
Released: 1995
Genre: Rock, Jazz
Pizzicato Five is one of the few acts to get out of Japan and into the US that isn't some form of Punk, Classical, or preceded by "J-". A jazz-rock duo, they easily slide between a solid jazz sound and a good rock swing, sometimes feeling a bit 1960s about the whole thing. I ran across this little single almost accidentally in the used section. A four track EP with some edited, and remixed, tracks off of the Made In The USA album. It's a nice little taste of the whole album, they even include a karaoke version of "Magic Carpet Ride" (along with a radio edit), which removes everything but the chorus. And they bring in an MC to put down a rap on a remix of I Wanna Be Like You.

Avril Lavigne - Let Go
Label: Arista Records
Released: 2002
Genre: Pop-Punk
Yes, I'm a fan of Avril Lavigne. She's a bit pop, a bit punk, and she keeps her clothes on for album covers. There's nothing particularly spectacular about her debut album - how it skyrocketed to such levels I'm not sure I can really say. It is pretty grounded, and Avril is an excellent singer. The songs are definitely teenage fodder, but not vapidly so, and she isn't G-Rated nor is she about sex appeal. Which, as I write it, is probably why it made it so hi up the charts. There's just no bullshit here, it's clean fun pop-punk rock. Enough attitude mixed in with enough actual life. A good opening album.

Avril Lavigne - The Best Damn Thing
Label: RCA Records
Released: 2007
Genre: pop-punk
Her third album, better than the first not as crunchy as the second. Something interesting I discovered - the normal release of this album is clean, there is no Explicit Release. The Deluxe Release (which I didn't get) has the Explicit words put back in (and there is no Clean Deluxe Release). Kind of annoying, because I don't need the DVD, but I really don't like edited music. It's only four tracks with the swears removed (Bitch, I'll note, is not edited out anywhere). This one is a little more rock, few more ballads on it too, not as dark as 'Under My Skin' was.

I:Scintilla - Dying & Falling (plus Remix album)
Label: Alfa-Matrix
Released: 2010
Genre: Darkwave
The last of the I:Scintilla discog (almost, see the end). Dying & Falling is their full sophmore release album. It's good, solid gothic-rock/darkwave type stuff. Not quite industrial, not quite stripped down enough to be Gothic-Rock; hence 'Darkwave' which it kind of is and isn't, genre labels... fuck 'em. The album though, is good. Nothing on it stands out quite like some of the tracks on Optics though, nothing really caught me. Though, just like on the single preceding it, Ammunition really is catchy.

Resuscitation The Remix Album
It's another remix album, basically this has turned into a Label Gimmick, they put out a 'Deluxe' release with a second disc of other bands remixing some album tracks. Sometimes you pull out some real gems, sometimes it's just some industrial/variants you can toss into a mix and let run all night. Thus is the case here, I put this through a few listens and may not ever really come back to it for that One Track.

Now, the 'complete discography' of I:scintilla is loaded. It came on a 2GB USB Flash drive with a neat I:Scintilla logo on it (tiny flash drive actually). Which is cool, and cost 30$ for all six releases (2 EPs, 2 Albums, 2 Remix Albums). Normally all that would cost around 80$, making it a great deal if you're missing most (or all) of their discog. BUT - it's not complete, it should have been called the "Alfa-Matrix Flash" because it is missing their first self-released 6-track EP. That would have, in all honesty, been awesome to include. It's out of print, never coming back in print I'd wager, and would make this little gem of a buy Perfect. As is, I filled out a bands discography sooner rather than later, without regrets. Now I just have to figure out how to file a two-inch Flash Drive in my CD shelves. . .

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Vinyl Files

With a newly acquired USB Record Player I can now take my records and put them on iTunes. The first part of this endeavor is my Bad Religion discography, I was gifted their Box Set last fall, which contains all 15 Studio Albums on Vinyl, even the ones that have been (and remain) out of print in any other format.

Since ripping Vinyl is done in real time - you can't just him "Import" and walk away for two minutes, I'll only be importing 1-2 records a week from my collection.

Starting with Bad Religion, going from their opening salvo to their latest endeavor (skipping, naturally, the ones I do own on CD and have already added).

How Could Hell Be Any Worse?
Released: 1982
Short, sweet, to the point - right out of the gates Bad Religion joins the ranks of the established American Hardcore scene, and shoots to the top. SoCal punk rock was no holds barred music. Bad Religion came out with smart lyrics, Greg Graffin is also an outstanding vocalist. Everything here is good, and is still available on CD.

With that release, how could hell be any worse indeed?

Into The Unknown
Released: 1983
Well, for starters Bad Religion could immediately abandon hardcore and come out with what is the absolute worst punk rock record ever made. It's not even punk rock. It's an entire album of Flock Of Seagulls B-Sides and Rejected Tracks, that's what it is. Prog-Rock disaster.

Mercifully out of print for 25 years, only available either when you run across one of the original pressings (some 10,000 were made, some of those may even still exist) or through their 30 Years Vinyl Box Set - which is how I ended up with it. The lyrics are Bad Religion smart all the way, cutting and well sung. It's the synthesizer that kills me, really and truly. Just fucking awful.

Luckily, they put out an EP "Back To The Known" soon after going back to punk, and promptly broke up. Until a few more years had passed and they all got back together and put out the album "Suffer" in 1988 - which tore off the listeners face and shoved broken glass into the establishment's eye.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Week Ending 4/30 - Industrial, Darkwave, Bhangra/House, Noise

Five new albums this week - three of them New Releases and the other two playing catchup from previous purchases. I actually have a good half dozen albums waiting for me to catch up, I try to only add a manageable amount - so I can actually listen to it all, sometimes that's easier than other times.

New Releases:
Karsh Kale - Cinema
Label: Six Degrees
Released: 4/24 2011
Genre: Bhangra, London-House
This doesn't quite fit under Bhangra completely, Kale is of the breed of Bhangra that the London DJs of Indian heritage have added London-House to. So it's very club-friendly and bouncy. But you can hear the underlying Indian music, this release is even more House than his previous works. The second track, Mallika Jam, shines as an outstanding example of Bhangra-House fusion, and the track Supernova is very bouncy, really fun, but purely a club track (very Juno Reactor, actually). When he does bring in vocals (which is often enough here), they are always Indian.

Label: Metropolis Records/KMFDM Records
Released: 4/24 2011
Genre: Industrial
This is the 17th studio album from KMFDM, and after nearly 3 decades they've still got some punch left. WTF?! brings back some of the glitch of the late 90s KMFDM, while still keeping the 2000s full band sound. There's a little more machine here than in the previous few albums. The opening Krank is a straight up KMFDM name-dropping anthem. Come On - Go Off, Rebels In Kontrol, Lynchmob, and Vive Le Mort, are classic KMFDM, mixing guitars and industrial for a 'classic KMFDM sound'. But the two tracks that really stand out are: Amnesia - which sounds like Sisters Of Mercy getting ahold of a tank and running through the industrial genre like it were paper. And 'Death & Burial Of C.R.' which takes a very old little rhyme and turns it into a very creepy piece. It's the perfect end track to the album - and really comes alive when listened to with headphones,.

OK*Ztein*Ok - Prolet*Kult
Label: KMFDM Records
Released: 4/24 2011
Genre: Noise
When KMFDM finished WTF?! Sascha locked himself in the studio alone and produce this weird little 6-track EP of noise. It's low key, glitchy, barely there beats and rhythms. Vocals are odd snippets of speech and spoken word. If you're into almost structureless adventures into soundscapes then you'll appreciate this. It's not quite the full on layered harmonics of other Experimental/Noise artists, but it's close. Definitely an album to immerse into with headphones.

Filling Out The Collection:
In the continued effort to load up the backlog of music orders, two more from I:Scintilla this week.

Optics Remix Disc
Genre: Darkwave (remixes are Industrial as well)
Released with Optics as a 2-Disc Limited Edition, it's nothing but Remixes of tracks from Optics itself. It's nice, and some interesting things are done with the tracks, but only mixes of The Bells actually stand out, mostly based on the fact that that's the strongest song taken from the Optics Album to work with. Nothing gets too overly-Club Friendly, nothing goes too far out into odd directions either. Overall, it feels like a record label gimmick to put out a Limited Edition release.

Prey On You
Label: Alfa-Matrix
Released: 2009
Genre: Darkwave
The lead single off the latest album "Dying & Falling" - the first two tracks are from that album, the third track is exclusive to the single, and the other 5 are remixes. Prey On You gets three remixes, all of which are pretty good. The Ammunition Remix actually manages to take some of the frantic punch out of the original (which does come out like a machine gun and is an awesome track by itself). The last track Hallowed (and one remix of), is OK, but you can see why it didn't make the final album.