Posts Tagged ‘Experimental Rock’

h1

The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground & Nico

Sunday, November 25, 2012
The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967)

The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967)

I write this, actually, while listening to Loaded.

I’ll have to admit this took a while for this one to grow on me. It was hard for me to step beyond the dreamy xylophone (that’s what that instrument is, right?) that opens “Sunday Morning.” What a beautiful song. It evokes what Sunday morning is to me – kind of sad day (maybe because Monday is the next day), but strangely peaceful and slow.

Finally, I’ve given it more of a listen, this is quickly becoming one of my favorite albums ever. Not only is it a historic album (punk and noise can trace their beginnings here), but it is a very good album that’s still enjoyable today. Because even today, there is nothing else that quite sounds like it.

This album has some rockers: “Waiting for the Man,” and “Run Run Run,” but it’s the more experimental stuff that I really like. I absolutely adore “Venus in Furs” and its S&M themes (“strike, dear mistress, and cure his heart”). The lyrics are kind of trashy, but it’s the strings, the beat, and the vibe that absolutely makes this song. I’ve never heard anything like it. It gets even darker with “Heroin” but for some reason that song never struck me as much.

At points the album can get slow and sweet, with “I’ll Be Your Mirror” and “All Tomorrow’s Parties”. It gets downright wtf with the closer track “European Son” where it’s an all out noise fest. Sometimes I feel if Sonic Youth had been a band twenty years earlier they would have been a lot like the Velvet Underground.

Yeah…this is a group I’ll have to check out more. Definitely a treasure of the late sixties/early seventies.

Advertisements
h1

Portishead – Third

Friday, November 23, 2012
Third (2007)

Third (2007)

This is one of those rare examples of an artist coming back after 10+ years and completely hitting the mark.

Third just might be Portishead’s best work. Why? It’s true of every Portishead album, but there is not a bad track, and Third contains Portishead’s best track, in close contention with “Roads” – “The Rip”.

Like every Portishead released, Third explores themes of alienation, pain, and anger with such alarming beauty. It is a bit experimental compared to Dummy, and maybe less so than Portisheadbut Portishead will always be one of my favorite groups. Beth Gibbons lyrics are pure poetry – only she could pen something so absolutely chilling with such earnest warmth. This is especially evident on “Nylon Smile”: And I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve you / And I don’t know what I’d do without you. “The Rip:” In my thoughts I have bled / for the riddles I’ve been fed / another lie moves over.

More than most other artists, Portishead creates this dark ambiance that is hard to qualify with words. Listening is always a wonderfully cathartic experience; when we hear our own fears voiced and explored in Portishead, it’s strangely peaceful. I guess like falling into deep water, to reference the track of the same name?

All I can say is, I really hope they release another.

h1

Sonic Youth – EVOL

Friday, August 19, 2011

EVOL (1986)

Sonic Youth is the only band I’ve driven over three hours to see, by myself. I hate driving, and I hate being by myself, so that speaks volumes for how much I adore this band. I waited anxiously for the band to begin – I was going crazy with no one to talk to. Just as I started to wonder if I had made a mistake, the band came on. The first few strains of “Tom Violence” shook the entire room, all doubt was dispelled. Seeing Sonic Youth live was a treat – especially when they closed with “Cross the Breeze.”

I can’t exactly remember the first time I listened to EVOL. I must have been a sophomore or junior in college. It didn’t strike me immediately, as did Daydream Nation or Sister. It was definitely a grower. But this is a psychotic and edgy trip. It’s like Sister, but rawer.  The lyrics are just as fascinating as the perfect blend of melody and noise. They could just be read for their own sake=. As the album title suggests,  a sense of foreboding and doom hangs over the whole album,  like there’s a horror movie going on in your mind, like an eighteen wheeler bearing down on you, but your frozen in place, like a vampire hypnotizing you before it bites into your neck. This album is a storm.

Every song on the album is good and worth listening to. “Shadow of a Doubt” is an absolute masterpiece, a bipolar trip that shifts between chilling guitar plucking and piano to a release of screaming and guitar riffage. “In the Kingdom” completely defies me to explain – it would probably take me another two hours to just write two sentences that can somewhat accurately describe the song.

There are so many intricate details that you could listen to this forty times and still pick out something new – and that, at least, is what has kept me coming back, much like all of Sonic Youth’s stuff I’ve had the pleasure of listening to.

h1

Kayo Dot – Choirs of the Eye

Monday, March 29, 2010

Choirs of the Eye (2003)

This has to be the weirdest, most confusing album I own.

And where to start?

Extremely experimental meets post-rock meets classical meets jazz meets metal. None of those things should go together. But somehow, Kayo Dot have managed to do it. Whether that leaves you with something listenable is debatable. Personally, it leaves me dumbfounded that it has been done so well.

I got Choirs of the Eye because I’m such a huge fan of maudlin of the Well. I was expecting much of the same. While there are some similarities, Kayo Dot takes it to a whole new level of experimentation and challenge.

I’ve owned this music two and a half years. To this day, I haven’t wrapped my mind around  it. The music is an explosion of every instrument imaginable, from trombone to flute to heavily distorted guitars to strings to drums. It’s violence cuts, its numbness subdues, its ethereal beauty entrances. Like other maudlin of the Well music, the lyrics are sheer poetry, when you can understand what Driver is saying. He croons like Jeff Buckley and Thom Yorke (though is not as talented as either).

But it isn’t for the singing that you listen to Kayo Dot. It’s the fact that it’s insane, not only for its extreme intensity, but also for its laid back moments where it almost grooves, lulling you into false sense of security before it blows up on you again.

Choirs of the Eye, at least for me, is a musical challenge unlike any other. What it accomplishes has likely never been done before. Sure, there is avant-garde music. Maybe there’s even avant-garde music that’s been blended with metal, jazz, and classical. But I doubt that it’s been done with as much success as Kayo Dot did with Choirs of the Eye.

Before listening to Choirs of the Eye, I never would have believed music like this could exist. For at least this one thing I can consider Kayo Dot’s Choirs of the Eye a success.

h1

maudlin of the Well – part the Second

Saturday, May 16, 2009
part the Second (2009)

part the Second (2009)

[This review first appeared on Blogcritics. To see the original, click here.]

Last night, I was up until 2:00 a.m. despite the fact I had to wake up early. I blame maudlin of the Well’s brilliant new album, part the Second.

The story behind the recording of this album is amazing and shouldn’t be glossed over. From 1999-2001, maudlin of the Well released three albums. The latter two, Bath and Leaving Your Body Map are among the most genius pieces of music I’ve ever heard. These albums seamlessly blend metal, jazz, and indie in an amalgamation that is breathtaking and awe-inspiring.

However, maudlin of the Well’s avant-garde nature also kept them from being more widely known. They disbanded in 2001, some members of the group going on to form Kayo Dot, an even more avant-garde group, which, ironically, is more well-known than maudlin of the Well.

Yet over the years, through music message boards, forums, and blogs, maudlin of the Well slowly began to pick up a devoted following. They gained what notoriety they had the hard way — through the mouths of people who could not shut up about how great they are.

In a MySpace blog post in 2008, maudlin of the Well front man Toby Driver mentioned he wanted to record some older songs that were never recorded, but was restricted by financial issues. Response and enthusiasm from fans was massive. Several people made large donations so Toby and the band could accomplish this. The donations made it possible to go beyond the one song and record a full-length studio album, not an album of leftovers, but of mostly new material.

[On] May 14, 2009, this dream and hard work manifested when part the Second, was released over the Internet completely for free, In Rainbows style.

I was among the first to download the album, and I was absolutely enthralled with what I heard. maudlin evolved their sound in a way that was unexpected and surprising to me. Most strikingly, though maudlin of the Well is considered a progressive metal band, most of part the Second is comparably soft and soothing, almost post-rockish. In fact, I would hesitate to call any part of this album metal, though glimmers of it are hinted at in various strains. The new incorporation of violin and piano blends in perfectly with the inimitable maudlin of the Well sound, and both instruments fit in as if they they had always belonged.

The compositional layering is practically on a symphonic level – cerebral listeners will enjoy its complexity. The sign of a good band is a natural, evolving progression from album to album, and maudln of the Well has achieved that. Hints of Kayo Dot abound, especially evident in track four, “Clover Garland Island,” though the album itself is undeniably maudlin of the Well.

Part the Second is a softer listen than maudlin’s other albums. Genre-wise, as with all of maudlin’s music, it’s difficult to classify. I would say it’s highly experimental and would call it post-rock, perhaps post-metal. Track one is great, and is very laid back and relaxing. The piano outro at the end is reminiscent of Radiohead’s “All I Need,” to use the In Rainbows comparison again, though maudlin of the Well are nowhere near that band’s genre.

Track two is a little harder – though hard, it is absolutely beautiful. Another highlight is the piano outro on the last track, which is the perfect ending for this album. Though picking highlights might cheapen the rest of the listening experience – know that I think that it is all good.

Fans of post-rock will love this new release. In fact, anyone who loves experimental music that pushes boundaries will love part the Second.

Of course, if you’re already a maudlin of the Well fan or a Kayo Dot fan, or just love interesting music, what are you waiting for? If you have gotten this far, then chances are you’re somewhat interested. Do yourself a favor and download this album – and why wouldn’t you, when it is completely free? It is available in three different formats, including higher than CD quality, which will appease all the audiophiles out there. While we’re on that note, download Bath and Leaving Your Body Map as well – they’re now out of print and the CDs go for $50 plus on the Internet. No one’s going to be losing any money off you, and from what I’ve read, the members of the band themselves are cool with this.

So what are you waiting for? Go listen to part the Second and download it at maudlinofthewell.net. You can also listen to it the site if you wish to hear it before downloading. And also, consider giving the band a donation, as they worked very hard on this release.

h1

Sonic Youth – Sister

Monday, March 30, 2009
Sister (1987)

Sister (1987)

[This review originally appeared on Blogcritics. To see it there, click here.]

It’s 1987 and a new force is taking over music. Since the early eighties, Sonic Youth had been gaining steam in the noise and alternative scene, and in 1991 all it took is the spark of Nirvana to set the revolution off. But four years before that fateful event changed the alternative dream forever, Sonic Youth released Sister, continuing in the vein of their previous releases of EVOL and Bad Moon Rising by experimenting, ironically, by making their music catchier and more accessible.

But don’t make the mistake by thinking this is an easy album to listen to.

Sister is absolutely brilliant and should not by any measure be taken lightly. I almost want to say “shame on you” to all the owners of Daydream Nation that have yet to dive back into Sonic Youth’s catalog and explore this album of utter, psychotic brilliance.

Speaking of psychotic, the album kicks off with the rocking opener, “Schizophrenia,” a trippy dirge of alternate guitar tunings and strange chords that give its driving beat a sort of madness. Despite being off-putting, “Schizophrenia” is also eerily calming. I can’t really do it justice by mere explanation – the song is absolutely brilliant.

“(I Got A) Catholic Block” is, hands down, one of the greatest songs I’ve ever heard. Its angry, honest, and I want to even say primeval sounding, because it somehow touches something deep and instinctual, repressed since the dawn of human consciousness. If I could use one word to describe the song, it would probably just be “intense,” as cliche and overused that word is used to describe music. Anyway, just like the first song, I feel like I’m failing miserably at describing its greatness.

Track four, “Stereo Sanctity” is yet another highlight of Sister. Like “Catholic Block,” it has an eerie, intense, driving beat that makes me feel fire in my belly, but if you were to ask me why it did, I wouldn’t be able to explain. Sonic Youth is, to me, more intense than any metal music out there. Though it’s not as heavy, just what they do with their notes and their blasts of noise just sort of throws me off and shakes my perception of how I see things. Any music like that entrances me.

Probably the most ethereal song on the album is track seven, “Pacific Coast Highway.” Kim Gordon does well here – most of the songs she writes for the band don’t really do it for me, but she has her occasional moments of brilliance. “Pacific Coast Highway” is one example of that. Starting off hard and intense, it eases and slows, then going back to its original intensity. It’s just a cool song.

Love it or hate it, there’s a song after “Pacific Coast Highway” called “Hot Wire My Heart” that is a demented sort of pop. I like the song, but at first couldn’t really recognize whether or not it was even music. Sonic Youth has that effect on me.

I’ve only gone through some of the highlights of Sister, but it’s a great listen and will probably surprise and maybe even scare you. Sister is considered by many to be Sonic Youth’s best, Daydream Nation or no. I prefer just to let each album stand on its own – they are both just different manifestations of the same creative genius that is Sonic Youth.

Regardless, picking this album up would be a great investment in great music, great music meaning chaotic and noisy while still having the hooks that makes it catchy in some strange messed up way.

h1

Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation

Monday, February 23, 2009
Daydream Nation (1988)

Daydream Nation (1988)

I admit lately that I’ve been having a slight fetish for the classics. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.

Alright, if you’re reading this review and you’ve never heard of Sonic Youth, I’m jealous of you. Why, you ask? Because you have an oppurtunity I don’t have anymore, and that’s discovering this wonderful band. Yeah, that’s right; I’m jealous of you!

If you want to know more about the musicality and themese of this album then this post probably isn’t the place to read. Try the sum of all human knowledge.

I alluded to this album barely in my review of maudlin of the Well’s My Fruit Psychobells, saying something along the lines that Sonic Youth was one of those more chaotic bands that defined my music taste a little over a year ago. For the time, Sonic Youth certainly were chaotic, but I guess by today’s “noise” standards, they’re pretty melodic.

Daydream Nation is a happy medium between Sonic Youth’s chaotic, noiseful past and their more melodic future, which probably peaked from Goo in 1990 to Washing Machine in 1995. 

I didn’t really know all that at the time. I just heard that Sonic Youth were a neat band. Luckily, I was willing to give them a little patience. Being a noise rock virgin, I think that was a necessity. As such, I gradually immersed myself into Daydream Nation, first listening to it as I fell asleep, then picking choice songs on my way to class. Finally, I was listening to the album back to back quite often, leading me to buy Sister, Goo, and Dirty.

Sonic Youth and Daydream Nation are definitely growers. 

“Silver Rocket” is absolutely killer. “Teenage Riot” sucked me into liking the band. “Cross the Breeze,” track four…wow. Amaaazing. “Total Trash,” Candle,” and the “Trilogy” also deserve honorable mentions.

Great video below, uber intense stuff.