Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Week Of 12/20 - Industrial, Dubstep, Psychedelic Rock, House

Late, blame the holidays.

New Releases:
Caustic - Justin Beaber's Never Say Never
Label: Self Released
Released: 12/20 2011
Genre: Industrial
Caustic gave away this free digital remix EP on his website. It's... a remix EP. Nothing massively interesting here, but it does include his awesome cover of Oxyacetalene. Beyond that, good for completionists.

Adding To The Collection:
The Black Angels - Phosphene Dream
Label: Blue Horizon
Released: 2010
Genre: Psychedelic Rock
More from the Black Angels this week. This second album isn't nearly the tribute to Vietnam that their debut album was. Still, they still have the late 60s down pat. The whole album reverbs around, sticking firmly to the rock and roll genre without wavering or faltering.  An excellent piece of rock, but nothing really sticks out above the others. It's just a solid offering all around with no hidden gems, but no clunkers either. Overall, definitely the better of the two albums, a little more experience show through here.

Nero - Welcome Reality
Label: Cherry Tree / Interscope Records
Released: 2011
Genre: Dubstep
From early 2011 before Skrillex's manic style took over. This feels more like the electro combination of Daft Punk and any standard House beats. The female vocals reach back and pull up a lesson from 1990s Trip Hop as well, effortlessly mixing all the styles into a dubstep sound. For all that, it's good in a generic 'toss it in the mix' kind of way. Doomsday is a bit of a heavy bass track, after that though it all kind of mixes together into something good but not great. It will be interesting to see their second album in the future, hopefully they get more adventurous and expand on the sound while keeping the trip-hop style vocals present.

Tabla Beat Science - Live In San Fransisco At Stern Grove
Label: Axiom Records
Released: 2002
Genre: House, Indian Traditional
This one I love, the first half is almost nothing but traditional sounds, tabla and vocals take up most of it. Very little of the Indian House you expect from some of the players here is evident - Karsh Kale,  DJ Disk and Midival Punditz leave it very light. Karsh plays all percussion here, none of his normal house stuff. The second half takes off with a lot of house, scratch, and more DJ influence, in a very nice mix. I don't even know where one track ends and another starts, and don't need to. It all blends so well as a live set that it might as well be a continuous mix album. This album is worth tracking down just for the performances on the tabla alone, really excellent live set.

Fabric Live 37 - Caspa & Rusko
Label: Fabric
Released: 2007
Genre: Dubstep, Electro
Speaking of Continuous mixes, this a joint effort from Dubstep DJs Rusko and Caspa, just shy of thirty tracks of dubstep-house-dub continuous mixing. They range all over the dubstep spectrum from the 2007 era - which is less frantic and more paced. You can definitely hear the dub underpinnings in the heavily altered beats. This is the genre in its most pure and raw form, while it's still very underground, pulling from as many influences as it can. One of the better DJ mixes I own honestly, in any style of electronica. If you're trying to get into Dubstep, or just want an above average dubstep mix, find this and add it to your collection.

Bonus EP
The Cr├╝xshadows - Christmas songs
Label: Self Released
For Christmas Rogue released three songs for download, one track celebrating his recently born daughter, and two more holiday songs of a more traditional bent. All three are good darkwave/goth takes on the holiday, very good slightly down tempo holiday songs to mix up the constant high pitched bells everyone else uses. A nice little present for the season.

Next week - Scottish Folk, Ambient, Arabic, and some modern Jazz from Japan, plus a surprise or two...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Week Of 12/13 - Metal, Psychadelic Rock, Jazz, Dubstep

Running a little late in the day... this week I take a look at the weird collaboration between Lou Reed and Metallica, a late 00s band that sounds like a late 60s band, some dubstep, and future jazz.

New Releases:
Knife Party - 100% No Modern Talking
Label: Earstorm
Released: 12/12 2011
Genre: dubstep; electro-house
A digital only released I picked up off Beatport, a nice little electro-house/dubstep 4-track EP. Internet Friends is very house, a little spastic, and for a dance tune like this also funny. Destroy Them With Lazers continues the mayhem of the first track, less heavy house-bass kick and more dubstep drop and lots of electro thrown in to keep it up in the air. Track 3 is kind of dull by comparison, sort of plods on with the electro. Fire Hive, the final track, though is nearly pure dubstep madness, not as frantic as some releases lately, but still very energetic.

Adding To The Collection:
Lou Reed + Metallica - Lulu
Label: Warner Bros.
Released: 11/1 2011
Genre: Metal; rock
This collaboration seems almost natural, like it should have happened years ago. Actually, it probably should have because this effort is a little weird. Not particularly musically challenging. Lou nearly speaks all the lines, like poetry instead of singing a song. Metallica, for their part, pretty much jams some banging tunes through out the whole thing. Some decent editing probably could have cut this monster down to one disc, instead of two. A seventy minute listen is all this needs, not a near ninety minute epic. It's just not That interesting. Though there are some really good songs on it. Pumping Blood and Little Dog are downright catchy, Mistress Dread is nice and dark. Overall though, you have to be a big fan of both artists to want this.

The Black Angels - Passover
Label: Light In The Attic
Released: 2006
Genre: Psychadelic Rock
The Black Angels have done something a lot of bands have tried to do since the 60s ended - recapture that rock sound it had so clearly created. Fuzzy guitars, blues rhythms, medium tempo, updeat and downbeat both, rock that sounded like it was trying to find itself. They also, in the process, created a very odd little Vietnam/Anti-War album that would also fit right into the late 1960s. They don't sound like a band trying to recreate the sound, they sound like a band playing the sound. All very dirty, bluesy, rock and roll. The one irony is the hidden track - a Jimmy Cliff cover of his song 'Vietnam' with new lyrics for the Iraq War, and it's just awful. It's a terrible modern rendition lacking all of Jimmy Cliff's timbre and style. It's also the only non-rock track, all acoustic. They should stick to the rock, because they're very good at it.

Dzihan And Kamien - Gran Riserva
Label: Six Degrees
Released: 2002
Genre: Future Jazz, House
Dzihan and Kamien are two artists that push electronic music really as far as they can by not being artists who create electronic music. This release is heavily jazz influenced, almost to the point of being a standard jazz record. But just enough other elements sneak in, other little bits and aspects from house and trip-hop, to keep it in a 'future jazz' style. Something different, something really good came out of the recording sessions for this. It's mellow, without being light, it's trip-hop without letting the beats take over. It's all amazing, but mostly background music, not dance music. Every time I find a D&K album I'm not quite sure what to expect, but every time I'm pleasantly surprised by it. Definitely worth tracking down if you have any interest in jazz that isn't quite jazz anymore.

Next week, more psychadelic rock, dubstep, house, and industrial. Until then, Listen Hard!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday Morning Vinyl - Punk and Industrial

This morning I finally finished out the 30th Anniversary Bad Religion Box Set and converted the last two albums to digital - News Maps Of Hell and The Dissent Of Man; and I found an old Front 242 single hanging out in my vinyl crate.

Bad Religion - New Maps Of Hell
Label: Epitaph
Released: 2008
Genre: Punk
New Maps Of Hell was one of those albums I saw come out, but I wasn't really paying attention to Bad Religion at the time, I still hadn't gotten back into them after Process Of Belief. Given the excellence of this album I should have. It's quick, tight, and fast. This is the kind of Bad Religion album I really enjoy, it isn't overly preachy in the message (which is still their standard issue commentary on society). The songs themselves are precise, but not over produced. No one song really sticks out above the others here, though. If I had to pick out a single I don't think I could. Everything is good, just above average in my ear, not an album I'd skip around on. Definitely worth picking up and adding to your punk rock collection. Also, it's catchy, I just bounce right along to the rhythms here.

Bad Religion - The Dissent Of Man
Label: Epitaph
Released: 2010
Genre: Punk
This came out at the same time as the 30th Anniversary Box Set, and is exactly when I decided to jump back into picking up Bad Religion albums off the strength of the track Wrong Way Kids. It's an excellent song, but is the best cut on the album. It's not quite the same over-produced mess as Process Of Belief (can you tell, I wasn't particularly thrilled with that album?), but it's also not quite the quick, masterful speed of New Maps Of Hell. They backed off the accelerator just a little, but still produced one good album. The B-Side wasn't nearly as good as the A-Side though, all the really good stuff is on the front half of the album. A good solid release, here's to hoping we get more like this in the future.

Front 242 - Headhunter
Label: Wax Trax!
Released: 1988
Genre: Industrial/EBM
Front 242 are the original EBM group (they even invented the term). And when Headhunter hit American clubs in the late 80s it dropped like a fucking bomb. Everyone, even people who really weren't into the Indutrial scene, loved it. And not some watered down DJ Mix, the original F242 mixes. This single contained the seminal song, plus the B-Side of "Welcome To Paradise" which contained clips from preacher Farrell Griswold, set to a moderately harsh percussion background. Not quite fully danceable as Headhunter, still, a popular track. This one is old school EBM and Industrial from before they introduced guitars into the scene. Both tracks are on Front By Front, as the single here is long out of print, form WaxTrax! before TVT had to step in and buy them up.

Next Sunday is Christmas, though I'll probably be here listening to some records from my collection and getting out a post before family takes over the day. Probably find a few short records to digitize.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Week Of 12/6 - Rock, Metal, Dubstep, Psychobilly

This week a new Black Keys album lifts off with a solid rock sound to it, Korn mixes it up with a Metal-Dubstep collaboration album, I find an odd Dubstep compilation, and add some Psychobilly to the holiday music scene that is usually mind numblingly bad.

New Releases:
The Black Keys - El Camino
Label: Nonesuch
Released: 12/6 2011
Genre: Rock, Blues
Teaming up with producer Danger Mouse for this release, The Black Keys take their drum + guitar show and rock it out a little bit. With a sound that reminds me a little bit of the production quality on Danger Mouse's side project Broken Bells, but giving it a little more bluesy feel. The whole deal is very stripped down, understated, but with a big loud sound. There's a lot of rock and roll fun behind this album, very upbeat in a lot of parts. But the crowning gem on this one goes to Little Black Submarines, which starts off acoustic, before blaring on some heavy guitar and rhythm. I'm not sure I can actually explain the emotional connection I had with this song, but it's sad, longing, uplifting, and majestic all at once. The whole album is a good listen, enough variety in the songs to prevent them from sounding too similar, without gettign too far away from each other either.

Korn - The Path Of Totality
Label: Roadrunner Records
Released: 12/6 2011
Genre: Metal, Dubstep
For their latest effort Korn has decided to take a step a little further from traditional rock/metal albums by finding and working with a whole series of dubstep producers. It works amazingly well. The fuzzier heavy dubstep fits in nearly perfectly with heavy metal guitars and speed. Like most Korn albums I don't find all of it particularly good all the way through, bits and pieces at a time. There's always a few standout tracks though, Narcissistic Cannibal and Get Up! are two awesome songs. Overall the back half the album is much better than the front half. The Special Edition of the release has two bonus tracks and a DVD with the video Encounter, which is a live-shoot done in a crop circle, a sort of video best of. Dubstep producers that worked with then are Downlink, Kill The Noise, Skrillex, Noisia, Dastik, Excision, 12th Planet, and Feed Me.

Adding To The Collection:
Dubstep Madness
Label: Hypnotic Records
Released: 2011
Genre: Dubstep
Not sure where to really begin with this one. It's a two-disc set, almost all of it falling inbetween the older lighter stuff and the new heavier style. It also has a bunch of weird covers and remixes on it. About a third of it are original productions, all of which are excellent. The rest are some really good and some really odd choices to dubstep. By far the more interesting are Riders On The Storm (which is also the best cover of the song I've ever heard, replacing Jim with female vocals), Pass The Dutchie (which doesn't get all that far from its roots), Ice Ice Baby, Don't Stop The Rock, and Ghost Town. Thirty two tracks of decent dubstep, but nothing is particularly experimental, this whole thing is middle of the road filler for the most part.

Psychobilly Christmas
Label: Cleopatra Records
Released: 2008
Genre: Psychobilly
This one opens with a nice instrumental rendition of We Three Kings by The Reverend Horton Heat. After that, it goes off in a whole bunch of directions, all of which touch on holiday themes, but are decidedly not "traditional" holiday or christmas music. No one would play this in a mall, unfortunately. All of it great Pyschobilly in its own right, now with a Christmas theme. I Saw Mama Kissing Santa Claus goes from silly little ditty to excellent song with the addition of an upright bass. You're A Mean One Mr. Grinch gets a needed rock infusion. Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer likewise transforms from holiday cheese to an actual rocker. On more original somes I'm Getting Pissed For Christmas and Gunslingin' Santa are just the right touch to take the edge off family gatherings. There are nineteen tracks on here, all of which are a switft kick in the backend, unlike most "rock'n christmas" style songs or albums these really pour on the rock, hard.

Bonus Track:
The Razor Skyline - The Longest Night
I don't know when this was first released by the band, but it's been arounda few years. It feels like it might be a traditional christmas song, with a darkwave/goth rendition, but I'm pretty sure it isn't. A good little number to have in the holiday rotation to keep it all from being dull ballads and 'classics'. Released free to the public via Vampire Freaks.

Next Week:
I finally get to the Lou Reed and Metallica collaboration, some future jazz, some heavy blues-rock, and more dubstep, and maybe a little Moombahton thrown in the mix... maybe. Listen Hard!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sunday Vinyl - Punk, Gothic Rock

Sunday morning, let's get some of the vinyl in my collection into iTunes. This morning two more albums from the Bad Religion Box Set - we're into the period where I really go into them, so it skips over some releases as I go through this. And a Gothic Rock single I found crate digging one weekend. Punk and Gothic Rock share a history, so it's content appropriate.

Fields Of The Nephilim - For Her Light Two
Label: Beggars Banquet
Released: 1990
Genre: Gothic Rock
This is the second part of a 2-part single on 12", the CD had all four tracks. Fields is classic old school Gothic Rock. Lasting from the mid 80s to the early 90s, a short run but no uncommon in the goth-rock scene. High guitars, deeper vocals, rock rhythms. Fields incorporated some psychedelic rock elements as well, which was unusual. This little two track single is pretty standard. A Side is exactly what you expect. The B-Side is an instrumental, very dark, ambient almost. The bass guitar carries the tune through with some percussion, a few other elements behind it, and some spoken word under it. The B-Side is definitely the more interesting the two tracks, the A-Side is a classic though.

Bad Religion - No Substance
Label: Epitaph Records
Released: 1998
Genre: Punk
The follow up album to The Gray Race, one of their best albums I think. This album wasn't as well received, but they continued to play around with their formula here, not just hashing out the same basic idea over and over. This one moves away from anti-government sentiment more prevalent earlier, and more onto the social themes always there. For that, the only three tracks that stand out on Side A are the title track, The Hippy Killers (about the post-hippy generation having to inherit what's left), Raise Your Voice! which is as much a call to arms for free thinking as any anthem can be. Side B opens with a volley of anti-religious sentiment. But moves onto the general social commentary of needing to not settle for less, and thinking for yourself. It's a good album, and should have done better than it did. Unfortunately it didn't produce any real "radio hits" for people to latch onto.

After this album is New America, which is rough and angry, but also not a great hit for them. New America would be their last release on Atlantic and end their association with "big record companies" through the 90s. After that was The Process Of Belief, which did produce more radio hits, and is an ok album, but it's anger seems buried in over production and I lost interest in them for a while, until very recently with the release of The Dissent Of Man, so I'll pick up again on vinyl with their 2000s releases going forward.

Bad Religion - The Empire Strikes First
Label: Epitaph
Released: 2004
Genre: Punk
This album picks up a lot from the previous one, faster, leaner, cleaner. Less production and more raw music to it. Like a lot of punk from the early 80s, this one is anti- almost everything even near the military-industrial complex. Side A is short and sweet, everything is fast, the songs range around the two-minute mark, only the last three are particularly long reaching three minutes. This is exactly the kind of album that needed to come out after Process Of Belief to bring them back down to a much more raw sound. Side B is longer songs, some of them sound like they're trying for a certain level of radio-friendliness but don't quite make it. Still good, still the faster, angrier, Bad Religion that feels like the 80s might be happening again in Punk Rock. Much better than the previous album, getting back to that sweet spot of really good music, angry riffs, and solid lyrical delivery.

Next Week - finally finishing off the Bad Religion box set with their latest two releases, and maybe find another record in my collection to add in.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Week Of 11/29 - Reggae, Rock, Modern Classical, House, Electro, Industrial

This week is light and heavy, not much rolling down the middle. Intros are boring, onto the music.

New Releases:
Jimmy Cliff - Sacred Fire EP
Label: Collective Sounds
Released: 11/29 2011
Genre: Reggae
Jimmy Cliff is a reggae legend, with about four decades of music behind him. This little EP is five tracks of mostly covers (the Black Friday Record Store 12" is 6 tracks on Vinyl). He covers The Clash with two versions of Guns Of Brixton, opening and closing the EP. The first one is a nearly straight up Reggae protest song, you'd almost never guess it was a Punk Rock song, but given Reggae's close association with early Punk music in the UK this is unsurprising. The second version has much more bassline to it, more drums, it's a little deeper, both versions are excellent. Jimmy has one original song on here, which is a nice little ballad. And he also covers a Bob Dylan song - I've always held that Dylan is not great as a performer but is one hell of a song writer, and I think this proves it, A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall is great as a reggae song. But my favorite track (the second track on the CD version of the EP) is Jimmy's cover of Ruby Soho (originally by Rancid). It turns a moderately sad broken-heart punk song into a full on classic, it's just beautiful (and again outlines just how close Punk and Reggae really are to each other). This is an awesome CD, even at only five tracks.

Dave Clarke - Fabric 60 DJ mix
Label: Fabric
Released: November 2011
Genre: House, Electro
Fabric is a nightclub in London, every month it puts out either a DJ Mix or a Live Mix. This month was a DJ Mix from Dave Clarke. It's heavy, bassy, with electro undercurrents, and absolutely not a standard House mix. Dave eschews standard dance-house rhythms and club-cuts in favor of a more driving style. The opening tracks lay down a deep, heavy, bass line than doesn't really let up until about a third of the way into the mix, where more electro, and even a few goth-rock elements take over and carry it through to the end. Overall, a good mix, better than most, and a different from just about anything else. If you want a less thumpy and more rhythmic house mix this is a good choice.

Adding To The Collection:
Chris Isaak - Baja Sessions
Label: Reprise
Released: 1996
Genre: Rock, Light Rock, Rockabilly
I am not a particularly big Chris Isaak fan, my wife is which is how this ended up in the collection. On the other hand I don't find him outright bad, he's very easy to listen to, has a good voice, and is generally good for a slow day. This album is very mellow, a little surf rock sneaks in, a lot of 1950s and 60s seems to sneak in too. This also has a cover of Only The Lonely - and I'm a huge Roy Orbison fan. For a moment when I first put this album on I almost thought Roy was singing the track, it took me a few seconds to realize that Chris has not only some good range, but can really do the song justice. I'd pick up this album for that cover song alone.

Sarah Brightman - Harem
Label: Angel
Released: 2003
Genre: Modern Classical, Rock
Sarah Brightman has a gorgeous voice, with amazing soaring ability to it (without getting into the ear splitting too high level). The music behind this album is fairly generic Arabian beats, nothing too clever was done on that front, the classical pieces behind it are likewise very good but also just background music. Sarah really is the primary instrument on this one, and I'm not actually sure I could pick out individual songs, but when I put it on to listen to the whole thing is just a delight. It's about an hour of audio enjoyment. The special edition version I have here has one bonus track and a DVD with some video footage - not actually adding a lot to the album honestly. It's near for collectors though.

Unwoman - Knowledge Scars
Label: self-released
Released: 2002
Genre: Industrial, Dark Ambient
This is Unwoman's first official full release from the early 2000s. It's very raw, not overly produced, and does not have a lot of clutter. The sound ranges from an industrial tone to what was a signature Goth/Darkwave sound from the late 1990s and early 2000s. The whole thing is structured nicely, and you can see that she has a lot of room to grow into. Her cello doesn't feature overly much on this one, it's just as much that as it is standard industrial/darkwave synths and drum machines. Overall, not a bad album to have on hand. The one track I'm on the fence about is Freedom From Religion - it's an early track to be sampling George Bush, but after nearly a decade of the industrial scene sampling his speeches and quotes it sounds dated, and a little tired. The song structures are light, not overly done, and feels a lot like a one-woman production from top to bottom.

Bonus Track:
Dire Disorder - Let's Get Naughty (Dire Disorder Remix)
Label: self-released (soundcloud)
Released: 2011
Genre: Moombahton
Dire Disorder takes Jessie And The Toy Boy's club track "Let's Get Naughty" and turns it into a full on slow heavy Moombahton track. This is all low bass, slow groove, kind of dancefloor hit. Pure fun, and extremely danceable. I love the low basslines and slower rhythms of Moombahton and this track delivers it excellently. Nice little cut from the clubs made even better.

Next Week - a Psychobilly Christmas Album, a 2-Disc Dubstep compilation with some really weird cover productions, and the new albums from Korn (mixing Dubstep and Metal) and The Black Keys (pure blues-rock awesomeness).

Listen Hard!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday Vinyl - Punk & Dubstep

Sunday morning, spent digitizing some records - another album out of the Bad Religion Box Set and a Dubstep 12" I picked up a while back.

Bad Religion - Stranger Than Fiction
Label: Epitaph Records
Released: 1994
Genre: Punk
Side A - This side is hit and miss, it feels very generic Bad Religion. But there are some tracks on here that get stuck in the head, the title track, and The Handshake both are excellent songs.  Incomplete and Infected can both be left on the table, they just don't excite me much. Side B, now this side is much better I think, faster, a little more punch. Television opens the side up and reminds me immediately of the early 80s Hard Core scene. Marked and Slumber are both great tracks, and you can hear an evolution in the sound of Bad Religion here, they're moving away from the formula a little, expanding the riffs. And the last track 21st Century Digital Boy is awesome, really, could easily fit into a Bad Religion album another half a decade down the line without skipping a beat.

The album is a definite bridge between the 80s and 90s here, as punk rock takes back off in the 90s the next album from these guys is The Grey Race, one of my all time favorite albums out there.  They're finally letting the guitars go further out from the basic riffs and rhythms they've been using for a decade or so.  Late 90s Bad Religion is one of my preferred eras of listening to that.

Downlink - Biohazard / Vasik - Zombie Apocalypse
Label: Rottun Recordings
Released: 2011
Genre: Dubstep
This split 12" is a 2-track single. Biohazard is a fuzzy, dirty track. Good on the dancefloor, not quite a heavy pounder on the bassline, still it delivers with the drops and grinding bits. At over seven minutes, the opening is a little slow, it doesn't really get started until about a minute fifteen seconds in. Slow, methodical rhythms with synth breaks keep the song from becoming repetitive at least. It also exits slowly with synths repeating the outro until it just stops, not fades. The AA side is Zombie Apocalypse, which opens with the speech from Night Of The Living Dead, then some piano, then a slow dubstep fuzzy beat. This one plods along nicely, just like a zombie apocalypse, chasing you down until you just run out of energy and can't run anymore... scattered with zombie grunts and noises as well, which it could probably do without, but aren't completely out of place. These two are heavy bangers meant to keep a dancefloor at high energy, but they aren't so slow you lose energy, just enough in here to keep the floor going without wearing it out too quickly.

Next week I continue to go through the Bad Religion box set...