Tuesday, June 23, 2009

no BraiNEr supplements.

each week you can crab five tracks from us to inspire contributions for the night.

click on the image to download

Friday, May 15, 2009

Song of the Pearl - Arbouretum - Thrill Jockey - 2009

It’s debatable whether a record should be judged against a band’s previous work, let alone against one previous song. But perhaps the most disappointing flaw of Arbouretum’s second LP is the absence of a cut that rages quite as long or breaks as hard as “The Rise” did on Rites of Uncovering. The 11-plus-minute exploration of big harmonies and fancy feedback is the debut’s highlight, but there’s nothing quite as bold this time around. Sure, Song of the Pearl is tighter, smarter, and more meticulous than the previous full-length, but it’s also a touch less raw and calmly tempered by its maturity.

Fans of straightforward blues-oriented rock likely won’t mind as much as the psychedelically inclined. While there is plenty of fuzz and hum dispersed across solid riffs and slick licks, the tracks on Rites never seem to depart for a surprising trip. “Infinite Corridors” is ostensibly this album’s freak-out, and, while weird, prior history indicates that it never really wigs out the way it could. To be fair, the gas left in the tank is burned up by the subsequent “The Midnight Cry,” where an explosion of furious kick-drumming works into the grungy chuk-chuk-chuk-chuk of a punk song replete with a guitar solo that mocks up a bagpipe’s tonality.

The album pinnacle is opener “False Spring,” a thorough musical expression that imparts an understanding of Arbouretum’s collective ability. The dueling guitar solo cuts itself cleanly from the verse, and then plays out like a track meet; one sprinter takes the lead aggressively out of the blocks, only to see his advantage give way to a lingering rival at the first turn. He paces the leader on the second leg, but ultimately sputters like a key in the ignition, allowing his competitor to charge far ahead for the finish line. After a quick breather, he takes a victory lap, shredding through the crowd’s percussion, his laurel wreath suggested by a frenzied tambourine.

Unfortunately, the track may be too aptly named; after the opening kick, other climaxes are not so out-of-breath, even seemingly reserved. A lead guitarist of David Heumann’s caliber should be free to roam, but just a track deeper and he’s relegated to window-dressing on the low slunk of “Another Hiding Place”, adding a flourish or accent here or there, but never asserting his movement. His conformity isn’t a total loss; by staying with the pack he rubs up closer with guitarist Steve Strohmeier, a recent addition to the group by way of their split-EP release Kale. Strohmeier is a more than adequate complement to Heumann and certainly adds another dimension for the group. But that wrinkle comes at the loss of some dynamic; the duo tends to weave together rather than push off against the other.

Song of the Pearl, then, is well-executed, but stuck in the same gear, especially in its middle. Heumann has surrounded himself with very talented players, and as an ensemble they are tight, tied together by the bombastic percussion of Daniel Franz. And perhaps the artists believed that wandering head-on into stoner rockdom might be a bit redundant. They may have been right, but while the terser arrangements are often clever and always fine-tuned, the group never seems to become more than the sum of its parts. Toss in forgettable lyrics, and Song of the Pearl doesn’t quite push any particular button hard enough to fully satisfy, despite its brilliance.

1. False Spring
2. Another Hiding Place
3. Down by the Fall Line
4. Song of the Pearl
5. Thin Dominion
6. Infinite Corridors
7. The Midnight Cry
8. Tomorrow is a Long Time

by Jay Dryburgh
for Tiny Mix Tapes

Friday, April 24, 2009

Matthew Zapruder - Dragon Chinese Cocktail Horoscope - SideCho - 2009

It can be troublesome describing what an artist sounds like, but perhaps Michael Zapruder has taken away some of the guesswork since he serves as Pandora’s musical curator. A little predictably, the music genome project spit back three other white guys that play songs, listing Will Oldham, Luke Haines, and (huh?) Dave Matthews. But to me, for richer or poorer, Zapruder more closely resembles Randy Newman. Like the better Newman moments, his latest full-length Dragon Chinese Cocktail Horoscope is raggedly intimate, even-keeled, and admirably restrained. The dry consistency, however, at times caricatures Newman “just singing about what he sees,” slowing the pace to a drip with sentimental imagery bordering on antiquity.

The pace lends the record a restlessness that doesn’t always afford enough patience to allow its slow development. A clanging railroad crossing and reel-to-reel hiss displace “Can’t We Bring You Home” somewhat jarringly from the contemporary, an effect echoed by the acoustic hymnal “Second Sunday In Ordinary Time.” These cuts float on their brevity, but the same cannot be said of “Black Wine” a pastoral epic that clops along for a redundant nine minutes, despite vocals recalling a tender Roger Waters. With a difficult narrative thread to follow and minimal thematic variation, “Black Wine” becomes a medieval chore with little at stake for payoff.

Yet Zapruder generates great suspense when he’s inclined to hurry, as proven by “Ads For Feelings,” which strolls along a meandering guitar and surprising orchestration grounded by a charging bassline. It’s an interesting way to manipulate the tempo into a whistling shoegazer somewhere between Fujiya & Miyagi and Yo La Tengo circa I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One. Likewise “South Kenosha” is well-balanced, effectively distorted, and punctuated by a warm organ that shimmers through a pelting hi-hat cymbal. Appropriately, lush instrumentation and narrow vocals understate a build that recalls Sufjan Stevens. Here, Zapruder really warms up, the electricity less stratified as if thatched together by the hum of feedback. And as another display of Zapruder’s range, “Bang On A Drum” grooves hypnotically, playing an organ’s wobbly timbre against an in-and-out tabla that eventually takes control of a pounding break.

Yet perhaps the more reserved and symphonic efforts ask too much of the storytelling for an album where images are not as spartan as they are threadbare. While Zapruder admirably removes the mood from the contemporary, the album’s staid pace and sleepy vocals isolate the work. And that perhaps, is not a bad thing, if each singer-songwriter is marooned at their piano. But the haunting lack of urgency in Zapruder’s voice and keys evokes uneasiness, its unabashed leisure, the brand reserved for a flaneur, sprawls over the entirety of the record leaving too much air to breathe.

1. Happy New Year
2. Lucy’s Handmade Paper
3. Ads For Feelings
4. Can’t We Bring You Home
5. Black Wine
6. Harbor Saints
7. South Kenosha
8. Bang On A Drum
9. White Raven Sails
10. Second Sunday In Ordinary Time
11. Experimental Film

by Jay Dryburgh
for Tiny Mix Tapes

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Future Will Come - The Juan MacLean - DFA - 2009

After a 14-month gestation, The Juan MacLean’s 12-inch single success “Happy House” has finally blossomed into sophomore LP The Future Will Come. For MacLean, the long cultivation yields abundantly, with new wave and cosmic influences sprucing the framework of solid disco-house. DFAll-Stars Gerry Fuchs of !!!, Nick Millhiser & Alex Frankel of Holy Ghost!, and vocalist Nancy Whang guide MacLean through his robotic coming-of-age narrative masterfully. Despite some darker moments, their truly colorful playing keeps MacLean’s introspective robo-protagonist grounded, halting his steely gloom on the brink of short-circuit. In a sense, The Future Will Come is like a robot growing from the earth, often cold and exact, but equally organic and fresh.

The album’s first half sets off a bit manically, reeling from a pre-album breakup on “The Simple Life.” From here, MacLean endures some growing pains; each track holds up individually, but there is some clunking along as MacLean is rewired. The Hercules & Love Affair string arrangement on single “One Day,” for instance, doesn’t seem to jive with the vocoded Italo-cheese of “A New Bot,” which in turn seems to have little in common with the solemn horn-infused house ballad “Tonight.”

But from there, The Future Will Come blooms incrementally, driven from the ground by the grittiest keyboard performance heard on a dance album in some time. The percussion from a stable of synthesizers and ivories emulates the raw, soulful pierce of Whang’s pipes, bringing both energies to a head. “No Time” is particularly exemplary, as MacLean and Whang find computer love across verses that reveal the lubricious details of robot-on-woman flirtations. The trope is sustained by sonic counterparts: a stammering organ jitters against the drunken wonk of the other, as the fling climaxes in an impressively compact build.

Yet Whang’s strong performance is double-edged, as it exposes an uneven vocal effort from MacLean. At times, his melancholy breaks the deadlock grapple for mood between heavy instrumentation and Whang’s effortless pep. But with MacLean sharing leads, “The Station” drags like an awkward karaoke duet of The Human League, and the otherwise strong title track sounds as if MacLean forgot to boot up his voice box.

Still, while “The Station” stumbles and “Human Disaster” is a strange melo-operatic turn, the remaining tracks — including album-ending trump card “Happy House” — never derail. “Launch me into space,” Whang echoes to herself on the swan song, an ambition requiring both man and machine. This makes the inclusion of MacLean’s most galvanizing single seem appropriate rather than a cheap afterthought. It marks a dance album somewhat evolved to the point that even a robot could come around on its human potency.

1. The Simple Life
2. The Future Will Come
3. One Day
4. A New Bot
5. Tonight
6. No Time
7. Accusations
8. The Station
9. Human Disaster
10. Happy House

by Jay Dryburgh
for Tiny Mix Tapes

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Weird electronic shit with female vocals.

Tom & Jerry - Hecuba
The Royal Family - Free Blood
You Are Amen - Pollyester
Summer Song - YACHT
Ms. Broadway (remix) - Glass Candy
Cable TV - Fol Chen

Mondayed #5

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Fools Mix

Wednesday on Mondayed Mix

Shack Up - A Certain Ratio
Funky Way - Calvin Arnold
Upside Down - Carol Cool
Straight to the Bank - Bill Summers
If You Want Me To Stay - Sly & the Family Stone

Thursday, March 19, 2009

XRABIT + DMG$ - "Hello World" - Big Dada, 2009

There’s no keeping up with XRABIT + DMG$ on their debut LP Hello World, but thats doesn’t mean it’s not worth going along for the ride. Texas MC tag-team DMG$ name-check with great effuse, yet with great economy, wringing each reference thoroughly until it pushes narrative, spits game or wisecracks in equal utility. It’s a relentless effort, but it reveals the soul of an indomitably affable dirty south album. Producer XRABIT is aptly named for both the pace and jackhammer thump of his beats that borrow from Detroit and the Bay as much as Houston and Atlanta. Together the trio crafts shout-out-loud hooks over a wide-open bass that could rattle trunks on the road or the dance floor. The result is a trans-phat party album saturated in a sophomoric deadpan with a bold taste refined by its self-awareness.

Berlin-born XRABIT proves to be a surprisingly natural counterpart for his American MCs, despite his geographic removal. He bares a range of worldly influences lightly, fastening non-traditional hip-hop elements to an 808 backbone that often transform tone or mood. For example, by helping himself to a dirty italo-synth line, “Are We Friends” becomes a grimy club number featuring go-go bells on loan from the DFA. DMG$’s hypnotic and sedated delivery of the hook — “I’m so high, truly fly, you inhale smoke, while I inhale sky” — twists it into a bizarrely conflicted anti-drug message.

XRABIT + DMG$ turn in strong bump-and-grind jams as well, notably the big bounce of pseudo-player’s-anthem “Trak’s Promise” and “Thundercats,” a Ying Tang Twins satire that literally purrs. The conspicuously entitled “Party In My Pants” stands out on the strength of its obscurity, referencing Nino Brown, Paula Abdul, and Justin Slayer (who should not under any circumstance be Googled at work.) XRABIT provides the touch of a sinister guitar on a hook that’s hung on the tiptoe peppy organ, like the Grinch replacing a stocking. The song is about exactly what you’d think, but MCs Trak Bully and Cool Dundee each turn in their most cohesive verses on the disc to earn the punchline.

But for all the friendliness and southern hospitality, XRABIT + DMG$ are just putting in work. There’s a charming passivity in the hook of “Ferris Bueller,” a nonchalant explanation: “So cool, everybody wanna be so fuckin’ cool — I’m from Texas, home of the young and the reckless, and we just let it do what it do.” But don’t get hustled. The trio has a plan, and the evidence is “Dirty South,” a hard rep track that lopes like a country line dance. It masquerades as a deep-fried celebration of cornbread and cowgirls, but it settles into a clear refrain: “We gon’ turn the world on to some Dirty South shit.” A lot of yarns are spun on Hello World, but no statement is delivered so matter-of-factly; and yet it doesn’t seem like so much of a stretch if XRABIT + DMG$ continue to run their mouths.

1. Damaged Good$
2. Ferris Bueller
3. Love Of My Night
4. Are We Friends
5. My Stereo
6. Trak’s Promise
7. Salt Shaker
8. Party In My Pants
9. Thunderkats
10. Follow The Leader
11. Same Ole
12. Dirty South
13. Cheese

by Jay Dryburgh
XRABIT + DMG$ on Tiny Mix Tapes