April 1, 2010

Album of the year contender!

I know it's only April, but we already have an album that will be hard to beat in the form of the new Silver Mt. Zion release. Wow. What started as a side project now outshadows its predecessors. Imagine an angst-ridden Roger Waters fronting Godpeed You! Black Emperor and you're only half the way there. The crunch of the guitar, the swoop of the strings, the manic pathos and divebombing dynamics...! You'll find a stunner from this album near the end of this month's set. Read on!

First, a nice word of encouragement from my number one fan:

"I read the descriptions and I get psyched to listen to the music. I swear to the baby Jesus, you're the best music journalist online these days. That factors every fucking Cisco router in China, Siam, and the Del Marva peninsula into account. HOW THE FUCK IS IT POSSIBLE THAT YOU AREN'T PAID MASSIVELY FOR THIS? ...You enrich my life by making these things."


Love you too, buddy. Spread the word, ya'll!

We begin this journey with a lengthy tour de force from the enigmatic and defunct Space Needle, incorporating free-floating pych, angular guitar contusions of freejazz intensity, and a wall-of-frenzy finale. For the meek or more pop-inclined: skip to the next track. But for the adventurous: TURN. IT. UP!!!!! To come down off that skronky opus we delve into a much more accessible variety from a pop-friendly guitar band that could be the median between the college boy Afro-pop of Vampire Weekend and the oblique guitar manglings of No Age or Abe Vigoda. This particular shoegazey track sounds like neither of those actually but it's the closest to actual space rock on the debut album by Surfer Blood, a true gem from last year I overlooked in my Best Of segments. Followed closely by a stomper from the highly enjoyable new (fourth? they lost me a couple times along the way) album from Black Rebel Motorcyle Club, simultaneously a return to form and a sonic advancement (and lovingly mastered in the red), perhaps somewhat owing to new drummer and femme fatale Leah Shapiro. Remaining in the epic guitar swagger mode we have Alan Sparhawk's side project Retribution Gospel Choir allowing him an outlet for histrionics not associated with his main effort, the slowcore veterans Low.

Next we drop deep into the realm of dark motorik trance with the stellar new collection from White Hills. The whole album is a sincere homage to 70s krautrock updated through a Brooklyn warehouse sensibility, all murky guitar ramblings and hypnotic groove, which isn't surprising once you notice, as I just recently did, the presence of Oneida drummer Kid Millions behind the kit. Canadian ensemble The Besnard Lakes, whose earlier tense post rock meets melancholy cabaret musing (a la The Dears), have really come into their own on this their third release, as evidenced by this soaringly ecstatic track. Then, a band I somehow missed out on for the past few years, fronted by no less than Wire's Colin Newman, his lovely wife Malka Spigel, and noneother than Robin Rimbaud aka the experimentalist Scanner. They're called Githead and have three full-lengths and an EP under their belt! Who knew? The couple trade off lead vocals (while Rimbaud flails on guitar rather than his usual electronics) but rarely tread the minimalist anthemic punk ground laid by Wire, favoring instead jet-propelled motorik rhythms peppered with psychedelic passages worthy of Neu!

Continuing that forward-moving rhythmic style but this time via synths, loops and samples comes a recent track from Kieran Hebden's Fourtet which shows its kraut roots in borrowing from Cluster and Kraftwerk but updating it through modern house music. Furthering the electro theme is the conspicuously monikered Pantha Du Prince who recently put out an absolutely stunning collection of warm, organic, visceral psych-tronica in the Plaid vein, and while not exactly space rock per se, if you add some hallucinatory multi-tracked vocals from Panda Bear of Animal Collective you end up with some pretty spacey (and tasty) shit! Which reminds me: I haven't played nearly enough tracks from Panda Bear's debut solo album, so here ya go! Panda's old buddies in Black Dice have certainly been prolific, but Hisham Baroocha split from the group quite a while back to pursue various endeavors including the decidedly less noisy solo act Soft Circle which incorporates loops, electronics, treated vocals that evoke spiritual reverence, and various drums including East Indian percussion. Heavy stuff!

Taking it down a notch is a lovely head spinner from Texan space folk duo Tom and Christina Carter, aka Charalambides. And back up a notch, the leadoff track from psych-Americana outfit Sleepy Sun, whose debut was the best album of 2009. The drummer/multi-instrumentalist Emil Amos (also of Grails fame) has been all over the place, sonically speaking, in his prolific work as Holy Sons - here he summons mid-period Pink Floyd with a track seemingly derived from the sound of the Floyd's soundtrack work on More and Obscured By Clouds. Then just to shale things up, an obscure little ditty from Norman Greenbaum, he of Spirit In The Sky and Petaluma fame, with a lysergic love letter to his adopted home state.

Then: the pièce de résistance from our featured band A Silver Mt. Zion (or whatever variation on that name they've taken for this release)... PLAY LOUD! And then... a tribute to Sparklehorse's Mark Linkous who sadly took his own life this year. What a tremendous loss. And carrying us off to oblivion, yet another feedback-drenched barnburner courtesy of manic guitar slinger Ira Kaplan's Yo La Tengo... well, just because I love you.

R.I.P. Mark Linkous

The following tracks should appear in the player below:

Spacerock Continuum Intro - bRambles - BeeDub's Spacerock Continuum
Where The Fuck's My Wallet? - Space Needle - The Moray Eels Eat the Space Needle
Harmonix - Surfer Blood - Astro Coast
War Machine - Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Beat The Devil's Tattoo
Poor Man's Daughter - Retribution Gospel Choir - 2
Dead - White Hills - s/t
Glass Printer - The Besnard Lakes - ...Are The Roaring Night
Displacement & Time - Githead - Landing
Ringer - Fourtet - Ringer EP
Stick To My Side - Pantha Du Prince - Black Noise
Comfy In Nautica - Panda Bear - Person Pitch
Swirl - Soft Circle - Full Bloom
Swimming Pool - Charalambides - Glowing Raw
New Age - Sleepy Sun - Embrace
From Now On - Holy Sons - Criminal's Return
California Earthquake - Norman Greenbaum - Spirit In The Sky Anthology
Kollaps Tradicional (Bury Three Dynamos) - Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra - Kollaps Tradixionales
Cow - Sparklehorse - Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot
And The Glitter Is Gone - Yo La Tengo - Popular Songs