March 1, 2012

Spacerock with ME!

"Bliss" and "noise" are the same thing - a disruption in the signifying system that holds a culture together... The pleasure of noise lies in the fact that the obliteration of meaning and identity is ecstasy - literally, being out-of-oneself." - Simon Reynolds

This month's installment is a bit of overflow tracks from the Best of 2011 contenders mixed with a grab bag of random assorted entries tagging along according to my stream of consciousness. So dive in!

I'm not sure why Russian Circles didn't make it into my Top Ten, possibly because they were less surprising than those who did, but they're nonetheless consistently mindblowing, and last year's release is their strongest effort yet, as this face-melting lead-off track proves. Next another submission from Opeth's #1 position in the Best Of, this one a shorter, more concise variation on what makes the album so great, a return to classic 70s prog filtered through their previous incarnation as black metal practitioners. The butoh-prog chicks in Yamantaka/Sonic Titan were a left field entry, but tracks like this diptych show why they made it. The similarly monickered Titan take prog to epic proportions managing to conjure bellbottom jeans and blacklights but without being lost in the quagmire of retro. And Pontiak, who had no output in 2011 but are releasing another full-length as I write this, are just perfect made-for-the-cinema desert (or "stoner") rock, supposedly improvised (or perhaps extemporaneous) in the studio. Can't wait to hear more from them.

Some listeners may be surprised to see my inclusion of a fairly mainstream "alt" rock band from the 90s, but Smashing Pumpkins had their moments of pure sonic bliss, especially on their debut album from which I culled this slow-burning scorcher. The relatively low-fidelity from the old school CD mastering on this track requires you to TURN IT UP LOUD! So do it! And now that we're back to the rawkin', make sure you got your rock pants on cuz Turing Machine is a freaking rock juggernaut in the Maserati/Trans Am vein, only named after a meta-computer instead of sports cars (although their blinding motorik does conjure speedy travel).

Taking a turn for the weird/whimsical with this aptly-named track from psychedelic cult/collective Akron/Family's second self-titled (but 5th overall) album, an ongoing cosmic journey. Continuing the whimsy are Sacramento basement-dwelling spaz-psych-proggers Pterodactyl who turned out one of the sleepers of the year last year. Suuns put the weird in whimsy, straddling the line between Velvet Underground hipster drone and woozy damaged electronica. If you're not convinced in their relevance to this set give them until 1:23. Woah, right? The dreamy AM-radio-hidden-away-in-a-flashlight-lit-closet-in-the-wee-hours-of-the-morning sounds of The Rangers exudes a wistful whimsy, a travelogue through nostalgia. And those far away nostalgic rumblings are echoed in this Grails track, Grails being a band who have always trafficked in such time travels and explorations of dream space.

Mogwai actually had two releases in 2011, but the brief EP of kosmiche mostly-electronic excursions Earth Division was less typical of their modus operandi and more subtle than their usual bombast as exhibited on Hardcore Will Never Die. An interesting departure, nonetheless. The somnolent psych of Jackie-O Motherfucker can be equal parts shambling and shimmering, but this track from 2009 will send you skyward. Speaking of shimmering, that seems to be the best word to describe Woodsman's tribal rhythms and fractal guitars - their latest release made the Top Ten of 2011, and this older track is no slouch either. The oblique sample-heavy meanderings of more recent Disco Inferno was preceded by a shimmering sheen indebted to early Factory or 4AD Records bands (A Certain Ratio, Durutti Column, et al.) as shown on this track. And the experimental post punk guitar mangling of Sonic Youth maestro Thurston Moore could be described as alternately shimmering and discordant, abstruse, atonal... and transcendent. It's astounding that he can translate the mayhem and majesty of his electric guitar work to an acoustic setting, with the help of string arrangements by Beck (!). The title of this track says it all, simply. Another one of 2011's very best.

How about another clatter-psych workout from the enigmatic, can't-get-enough-of-'em Woods? Not a non sequitur, this track, which was culled from a pre-first album demo, but instead an introduction to yet another segment showcasing experiMENTAL americana. Following in that vein: U.S. Maple, a loose and ramshackle outfit that colors outside the lines like an even more unhinged Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band; the sinister, psychedelic sprawl and soaring guitars of rural Davis, CA's sadly defunct Thin White Rope; the precursor to the Chicago post rock scene's pseudo-traditionalist entry Califone back when they were developing their sound as Red Red Meat; and, per last month's installment, three more tracks from the bands who bring German motorik to the American road: the always playfully experimental Wilco, the oddly Eno-esque drivin' and cryin' of The War On Drugs, and their former guitarist/cohort Kurt Vile with a fitting tribute to his comrades and contingency amongst us space rockers, the FREAK TRAIN... ALL ABOARD!!!

For you traditionalists who don't mind streaming from this site, the following tracks should appear in the first player below:

The Spacerock Continuum Theme - bRambles
309 - Russian Circles - Empros
Slither - Opeth - Heritage
Reverse Crystal // Murder of a Spider - Yamantaka//Sonic Titan - Yt//St
Wooded Altar Beyond The Wander - Titan - Sweet Dreams
Sun On Sun - Pontiak - Sun On Sun
Rhinoceros - Smashing Pumpkins - Gish
(Got My) Rock Pants On - Turing Machine - A New Machine For Living
Silly Bears - Akron/Family - S/T II: The Cosmic Birth And Journey Of Shinju TNT
Aphasia - Pterodactyl - Spills Out
Armed For Peace - Suuns - Zeroes
Khyber Pass - The Rangers - Pan Am Stories
I Led Three Lives - Grails - Deep Politics
Drunk & Crazy - Mogwai - Earth Division
Skylight - Jackie-O Motherfucker - Ballads Of The Revolution
Insects - Woodsman - Rare Forms
Entertainment - Disco Inferno - In Debt
Space - Thurston Moore - Demolished Thoughts
The Creeps - Woods - Woods Family Creeps
My Lil' Shocker - U.S. Maple - Purple On Time
Take It Home - Thin White Rope - Moonhead
Sulfur - Red Red Meat - There's A Star Above The Manger Tonight
Speak Into The Rose - Wilco - The Whole Love
Come To The City - The War On Drugs - Slave Ambient
Freak Train - Kurt Vile - Childish Prodigy

But don't forget, you also have the option of spacerock to go:

1. Click on the Divshare logo instead of pushing the play button in the player above.

2. Click "download" when redirected to the Divshare site (put it on your desktop for easy access).

3. Once downloaded, drag it to yer iTunes and sync it with yer pod - simple!