May 1, 2010

Another Beltane under our belt

Happy spring, you spacerockin' pagans!

Since last month's highlighted album was the recent release by Montreal's A Silver Mt. Zion, I thought I'd go back and revisit their previous work, and the resulting find is the opening track for this month's set, yet another anguished apocalyptic epic that cements their place in the post rock canon (give it til the 3:40 mark if you're skeptical). Next up, equally histrionic and equally Canadian, The Besnard Lakes have come up with their best collection yet with their third release, as this barnburner indicates. Portland, OR, eccentric Luke Wyland, who performs in many guises including the revolving ensemble known enigmatically as Au, has topped himself as well with this EP, strangely enough a collection of alternate versions of previous songs (and one new track, featured here) that manages to improve on those versions every time, a rarity in this approach.

Also rare would be the number of times that Massive Attack has been included on a space rock playlist, but here they are. Their early incarnation as the soulful side of UK trip hop and their gradual transition into a This Mortal Coil-eque ensemble creating neo-goth explorations has come full circle, incorporating all the best elements of their metamorphosis into this, their best album in quite a while. Remaining in the realm of space-tronica, we attempt to rein in the mostly brain-frying avant garde tendencies of experimental duo Autechre by plopping an unusually accessible (if you can believe that) track out of context into the middle of this set to see if it sticks (and I think it works, if nothing other than an interesting transition). As long as we're heading out there, lets dabble in the post-post punk update of the Brits known as These New Puritans and Oaksterdammers called Clipd Beaks who both put out stellar debuts, promising much for the future. And the realm of reinvented post punk and neo-no wave is lucky to have the long-standing pillar known as Liars, who released a return to form tour de force destined to be one of the best albums of 2010.

Confession time: I honestly have no idea how I stumbled upon the next "band", Kukkiva Kunnas . No recollection whatsoever. Suddenly two of their albums appeared on my desktop when I checked in one morning. Apparently I was doing some late night websurfing and came across some free downloads from these (what subsequent research found to be) Finnish absurdists (Finnishness and absurdity being prime movers in my book), but I still have zero remembrance of what led me to them - I'll chalk it up to a gift of serendipity! To add to the mystery, one press release spends a few paragraphs basically revealing nothing about these outsider artists until you come to their motto: “THE METHOD OF HOLY UNANIMOUS AMBIGUOUS INSIGNIFICANCE — THE AIM OF LAUGHING ZEN & PING FU KUNG, in which (if rightly interpreted) all is expressed." as if that clears anything up. Fun stuff though.

And now for something completely different... an impossible transition is often the most fun and ear-catching. So why not zag where should have zigged and drop an IED of stadium-sized Afro-poppin' indie rawk?! Why not Fang Island, indeed, a contender for sleeper of the year award. Next up, the illustrious San Francisco auteur (and Friend of the Continuum) Mr. Joshua Babcock's Society of Rockets. I was assembling this playlist before he turned me on to his current album, so this month we'll return to what I would consider his zenith, the sprawling epic he released in 2007 (I'll get to the new one next month).

Another enigma I know very little about is the Long Beach, CA, psych rock combo Magic Lantern, but I dig this track, culling moments of amorphous drift and tranced-out transcendence from predecessors like Yume Bitsu and Flying Saucer Attack. I look forward to exploring more of their material if I can find it. Continuing the atmospherics is yet another track from the Soft Circle (Hiram Baroosha, formerly of Black Dice) album that I still can't stop listening to. From there it's straight to the heart of the sun with two blistering kraut/psych/motorik blasts from two of the top ten albums of 2010, to be sure, from Nice Nice, who formerly resided in the spazz/math duo category but have broadened their horizons exponentially with this release, and White Hills who have upped their ante by expanding on the Oneida (the drummer's regular band) penchant for face-melting extreme instruMENTALism.

And, as is often my wont, I leave you with a lengthy and slowly unfolding rambler with a title echoing the name of the artist as well as album, Quiet Orchestra. Now git yer spring on!

The following tracks should appear in the player below:

Spacerock Continuum Intro - bRambles - BeeDub's Spacerock Continuum
1,000,000 Died To Make This Sound - A Silver Mt. Zion - 13 Blues For Thirteen Moons
Like The Ocean, Like The Innocent Pt. 2: The Innocent - The Besnard Lakes - ...Are The Roaring Night
Ida Walked Away - Au - Versions
Atlas Air - Massive Attack - Heligoland
Known(1) - Autechre - Oversteps
Swords Of Truth - These New Puritans - Beat Pyramid
Melter - Clipd Beaks - Hoarse Lords
Proud Evolution - Liars - Sisterworld
Please Me - Kukkiva Kunnas - Ordem Progresso
Daisy - Fang Island - s/t
California's Burning - The Society Of Rockets - Our Paths Related
Feasting On Energy - Magic Lantern - High Beams
Earthed - Soft Circle - Full Bloom
Make It Gold - Nice Nice - Extra Wow
Polvere Di Stelle - White Hills - s/t
Quiet Orchestra - Quiet Orchestra - s/t