The paint is barely dry on his excellent cassette, Time Giver and his late 2011 collection Desolations, but Jon Davis, aka Ghostband, is back in the saddle with another release. The latest release from the mercurial electronic soundscapist is the glitchy electronica of Husbandry, which he dropped yesterday on his Bandcamp page. The eight songs are mellow and subdued, with dusty dubstep beats and unwieldy synths weaving through the collection. As always, it is an engrossing collection of songs and a piece of art easy to get lost in. While I’m still finding my way around his last few releases, Husbandry is another notch in his belt and proof that patience isn’t always a virtue. Stream the record below or download it at the “name your price” price-point on the Ghostband Bandcamp page.
My introduction to Silky Johnson came via a comparison to my favorite beats producer du jour, Clams Casino, which is a risky way to find out about a new artist. Positively, I sought out this free beat tape from an artist that I ended up liking quite a bit. But on the worrisome end of the spectrum, this mixtape, in my mind, was competing with the amazing Rainforest EP and Instrumentals LP that Clams Casino released last year (the latter comfortably snuggling into my 10 favorite records of 2011).
My disdain with most current rappers has led me head-on into beat tapes, and Silky Johnson’s is one of the most fun tapes I have heard recently. Not as dramatic as Dilla or weird as Madlib, Hater of the Year is a joyous, silky and lush collection of __ jams. Album opener “Fuck the Money” is all arms-in-the-air euphoria, while other tracks range from the slippery groove of “Everything” to the stuttering beat and dark soul samples of “Fast Life.” The thing I like most about Hater of the Year is that it never feels like just a collection of his best beats or a hollow cadaver in search of some thick rhymes. The rich collection of songs stand up by themselves, although I am sure more than a few rappers would love to jump on most of the beats. While there is a lot of pretty standard “rap” beats, there are also songs like “Felicity” that meld clapping beats and lush synth flourishes in the style that makes Clams Casino’s work so appealing.
Many rap beat tapes can sound like they are either just songs scrubbed of vocals or tracks that really need a vocal hook to drive them forward. The best beat tapes are stand-alone efforts that don’t need anything but the music to tell a story. They are the kind of tracks that if, say, Ghostface, Black Thought, or Brother Ali jumped on them, yes, they would sound great, but the rappers would just be icing on the cake. Hater of the Year meets those standards in spades and is a highly enjoyable, fully realized beat tape that will put Silky Johnson on the map. You can stream the tape below. Otherwise, he is giving away the record for free download HERE.
I’ve become something of a closeted post-rock fan; pining for the first couple of years when Explosions in the Sky really meant something, trying to avoid the use of the word “crescendo” in casual conversation. Leading a double-life is hard, especially when the genre that turned you into the person you are today has become a clichéd, hollow-out version of its former self. “I don’t want to be that,” I think to myself, “I don’t want to be a cliché of myself.” Nevertheless, when I hear solid post-rock song, I can’t help but bear my soul to the world (or at least to the sliver of Minneapolis’ music community that reads Reviler.)
That’s especially true when the band enlists a couple of members that set down guitars in favor of traditional string or brass instruments. Enter, Group of the Altos. This dodecatet (yeah, that’s right, twelve members) rocks the weeping catharsis like Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Sparrows Swarm and Sing, or A Northern Chorus in their prime, with forlorn strings creaking behind an impromptu ensemble of earnest-to-goodness singers. The Milwaukee-based collective, led by Daniel Spack of Collections of Colonies of Bees and Volcano Choir, combines folk storytelling with epic composition, dragon-breath jazz, and frigid minimalism.
Take a listen to the groups sorta-self-titled EP, Altos, below.
It’s interesting how your expectations can shape your enjoyment of an album. When I listened to Cate Le Bon’s sophomore effort, Cyrk, I did so with a set of expectations. (Or “hopes” might be the better term.) I hoped that Le Bon would pursue an acid-folk direction in the tradition of the ’60s psychedelic Welsh scene that (in part) inspired her (Le Bon is from Wales). Her last record, Me Oh My,struck a fine balance between pop and acid folk, and with Cyrk I was hoping she would do more to tip the scales. Indeed the new record tipped the scales, just not in the opposite direction I was hoping. Cyrk is a collection of pop rock tunes more in the tradition of Stephen Malkmus than Welsh Rare Beat. For a while, this stylistic coup had me convinced that Cyrk was a lesser album. However, free from those oppressive expectations, I might think differently.
While Cyrk may not be as closely aligned with my own tastes as I would like, I have to admit that Le Bon has crafted some pretty fine pop gems. Synthesizer-driven tracks like the titular “Cyrk” and “Fold the Cloth” contain some incredibly catchy hooks, in addition to enough unstructured weirdness to keep them from sounding conventional. “Julia” even features some pure moments of noise freakout.
Le Bon also seems to have found more confidence with the guitar (perhaps in part to sharing a tour with St. Vincent last summer). Lead track “Falcon Eye” demonstrates Le Bon has the chops to take a strong guitar lead, though she still generally leans on the synths for more adventurous forays. “Ploughing Out Pt. 2” is another good example: aggressive but steady guitar licks over a rollercoaster synth ride.
To my great relief, Le Bon hasn’t completely abandoned acid folk either. Her Nico-esque vocals still give very tune a psychedelic vibe, as do her bizarre and occasionally mystical lyricism. “Greta” drips with dreamy, surreal mood, and Le Bon employs a mix of rambling piano chords, trumpets, and her distinctly unorthodox enunciation to great success. “The Man I Wanted” also hums with a low-key, Velvets-vibe that Le Bon makes her own.
Cyrk may not exactly be the record that I was hoping to hear. For a finely-crafted pop record with psychedelic undertones, though, I do believe it is a success. While my own preference would be to hear Le Bon dive headfirst down the rabbit hole of psychedelic weirdness, I have a feeling that most listeners will prefer it her way. If Cyrk keeps growing on me, I may even eventually be inclined to take that stance as well.
Cate Le Bon will be opening for Veronica Falls on 2/17 at the 7th Street Entry.
Veteran MC, activist, community organizer, muralist, and b-boy I Self Devine is a “hip-hop architect, marked for death, lost in the marketing”—true statement. All that will change, however, with the release of his sophomore record, the highly anticipated The Sound Of Low Class America, on Rhymesayers. The former Micranots MC has a rich history; he was around for the first wave of indie hip-hop and part of the pre-Rawkus era generation—he and the Micranots released Obelisk Movements in 2000 on Big Juss (of Company Flow’s imprint Sub Verse Music). The Micranots returned from Atlanta to Minneapolis and released The Emperor & The Assassin on Rhymesayers in 2003. After several 12-inches, cassettes, and records, the Micranots took a pause, and I Self Devine released his critically acclaimed solo debut, 2005’s Self Destruction on Rhymesayers.
LA State Of Mind is the first in a quartet of EPs slated to be released in advance of The Sounds Of Low Class America. It captures the essence of his early years growing up in South Central Los Angeles during the post-civil rights era, at the crossroads of The Black Panthers pro-black movements and the gang culture that followed.
The opening track, the brooding Gang Starr-inspired “Dream Crusher”, scores with Benzilla’s hard drums as I Self keeps it classic. “Cali was Iraq,” offers I Self, describing the urban landscape’s similarity to a war field. “I was raised by gangsters, pimps, and activists.” On the reflective “Zero To 5ive,” I Self warmly reminisces over lovely horns with echoes of Pete Rock. “Death In The Air” is aided by chopped samples of early classics. The bouncy “Diamond Movement,” produced by Oh No (of Black Starr and brother of Madlib) strikes a exuberant chord. Then there’s the hard-hitting jewel produced by The Alchemist (Eminem, Mobb Deep), “Thingz.” I Self welcomes the darkness: “A black cat crossed my path, it’s good luck today, I woke screaming I don’t give a fuck today, money falling out the sky like it’s Paid In Full, I’m Wood Harris, I’m Tiger Woods.” LA State Of Mind is the shining center-point. The elegant boom-bap of “Justice,” produced by Benzilla and I Self, shines light on those who are caught in the struggle and strive for love despite their surroundings. “Survive the hood, no congratulations.” The thunder of “Sweat Equity” takes a hyper-charged beat and paints the view of daily urban life. The revolutionary inner-hood narrative “Bastards Of The Party,” is another stunner produced by Benzilla and I Self that paints the streets of his youth with tales of drug raids, police violence towards the youth, and graphic urban reality-based stories. It closes with “Mecca” where I Self surveys his former stomping grounds with joy.
I Self Devine’s relationship to hip-hop is a thorough, dark, often complex view of the struggle (as related to growing up in a political environment) and informed by the birth of hip-hop. LA State Of Mind wins with tracks such as “Dream Crusher,” “Death In The Air,” “Diamond Movement,” “Bastards Of The Party,” and the emotional “Justice,” which all capture the essence of I Self’s journey. Strong production—mainly from Benzilla and I Self, alongside Oh No, Alchemist and Emazin—serves as a soundtrack to the to golden era. Like KRS-One, I Self’s goal is to inform and educate by dropping musical jewels. Righteous music that speaks to the minds those searching for the truth. This is “conscious” hip-hop for fans of Micranots, Immortal Technique, Mos Def, dead prez, Brand Nubian, Brother Ali, and Public Enemy. I Self Devine proves there are still those who treat their craft with great respect. As KRS One says, “Knowledge reigns supreme over nearly everybody.”
At first glance, Sensational Living, the new LP from local experimental artist Orchard Thief (Sam Molstad), is fairly similar to the aesthetic he’s been laying down on his last few tapes. Like in his past material, Sensational Living is made up largely of Molstad’s looped, wandering guitar forays set against the backdrop of distorted vocals and beats.
Upon closer listen, though, there are a number of aspects that set Sensational apart from previous works and show Molstad evolving and coming into his own as an artist. For one thing, the nine tracks on the new record are often substantially and conventionally melodic. And I don’t mean this in a bad way. Molstad still weirds things up pretty well with stuff like “Cheerleader’s Returns” psychedelic guitar squalls or “Dank Sprankles” minimally pastoral meditation to the tune of chirping birds. While maintaining its “experimental” uniqueness, the sound on Sensational is more palatable and mature. Molstad’s highly-reverbed guitar tones and ghostly mutterings convey a lazy, melancholy mood. It’s mostly pretty music that doesn’t resort to tired pop tactics.
In his unorthodox sound, Molstad has forged a sort of future primitive aesthetic. It’s otherworldly sounding, even though the low-fi recording style brings the music distinctly back to earth. The choice of real-over-canned drumming grounds the sound even further. Listen to lead track “Sensational Living” and you can get a sense of the music’s enveloping intimacy—it’s like hearing an old Roy Orbison song played at the wrong speed and filtered through a strong sedative lens.
Molstad’s older work had some rougher, more dissonant edges, but much of that has been smoothed away and molded into an equally complex—yet more agreeable—shape. There’s still pure noise and disharmony incorporated, though it’s to Molstad’s credit that they are done in such a way that heightens the record’s more ambient qualities. Sensational Living presents a whole new level of musicianship for Orchard Thief, and hopefully he continues to evolve even further.
Orchard Thief’s record release for Sensational Living is tonight, 1/12, at the Hexagon. You can pick up a copy of the new LP there or via Space Lung/Land Breathing.
We might not all realize it, but throughout the Midwest there’s a ton of tiny scenes filled with great bands that are hard to even discover. While the Internet’s ease draws us closer to our Midwestern bretheren, most of us have no idea of what great things lie scattered throughout the neighboring cities and states.
Influenced by the aforementioned Midwestern isolationism and named after the location of Jim Jones’ Jonestown cult, Ghosts Of Guyana formed sometime around a year ago in Sioux City, Iowa. While the sound definitely echoes the town’s early 2000s post-hardcore roots (see early 2000s favorites Swing By Seven), Ghosts Of Guyana add a dreamy space rock element to the sound. The opening track, “If You’re Not There You’re Light Years Away,” bursts out as a direct descendant of Unwound’s late-period output, while tracks like “Stevin’ King” bob in a seven-minute sea of delay. If You’re Not There You’re Light Years Away is a short at eight songs, but long enough to remind you of the great bands hiding all over the Midwest that play for the love of what they do.
As a side-note, we’re planning on exploring beyond our local scene a bit in the coming months—so keep a lookout for a new series exploring bands rocking just a short road trip away from us.
Fire in the Northern Firs bring a kind of hazy, shoegaze-leaning fuzz-pop to the table—unsurprising, considering the bands that they have previously been in. Bringing together members of First Communion After Party; Goodday, Montag; and Sun and the Satellite; the group recently self-released a six-song cassette of blown-out rock-and-roll that is as confident of a declaration as you would expect from a group with such a pedigree.
The songs range from the coolly abstruse noodling of cassette closer “The Wedding Crier” to fractured pop of “Something to Write Home About,” which seems to combine the best parts of local bands Leisure Birds and Gospel Gossip into three-and-a-half frantic minutes of pop exaltation. The basswork of Shane David Kramer gives the music—which easily slips into the cloudy ether—a solid backbone, especially on the last half of “Flavor Savior” and the confident strut of “It’s A Dark Horse, Brad.” The three guys powering the machine behind Carin Barno’s spaced-out (and manipulated) vocals create a warm sonic texture that bends and grooves. Never succumbing to conformity, they make sure the band doesn’t lose control of its driving, kraut-centric sound.
The type of music showcased on Field Guide may have worn tread on their tires, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work. The group isn’t breaking any ground that hasn’t been explored in the local scene over the last few years (a good chunk by bands they were in), but they put their experience to good work.
Don’t miss Fire in the Northern Firs tomorrow when they play the Reviler two-year anniversary party at the Turf Club. More info HERE.
MEDIA ADVISORY: CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS, TO HOST U.S. CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE HEARING ON SOUTH TEXAS ENERGY.
States News Service February 8, 2012 WASHINGTON — The following information was released by the office of Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold:
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) today announced that the committee will hold an official Congressional field hearing entitled, Exploring all the Energy Options and Solutions: South Texas as a Leader in Creating Jobs and Strengthening the Economy , on Monday, February 13, 2012, at 9:00 AM CST in the Performing Arts Center at Texas AandM University-Corpus Christi. The hearing, which is open to the public, will allow Members of Congress to hear testimony from experts about energy production in South Texas, the job creation it provides, and government red tape that impedes production efforts. site corpus christi texas
Texas produces more energy than any other state. It ranks number one in crude oil production and Texas refineries account for one-fourth of the total amount of U.S. petroleum refining capacity. Texas also leads the country in natural gas production, producing approximately 30 percent of the nation’s supply. Over a one-year period from June 2010 to June 2011, the oil and gas industry added over 28,000 jobs to the economy, making up almost 13 percent of job growth in the state over that period. Texas is also the largest producer of wind power in the United States, since overtaking California in 2006. This hearing will analyze the contributions that Texas, particularly South Texas, is making to power the American economy and what could be done to ensure that this progress continues.
Details for Monday’s hearing in Corpus Christi:
What: Official Congressional Field Hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in Corpus Christi, Texas – Exploring all the Energy Options and Solutions: South Texas as a Leader in Creating Jobs and Strengthening the Economy Date/Time: Monday February 13th at 9:00 AM CST (doors open at 8:30 AM) Hosted by: U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform — Chairman Darrell Issa (CA) and Rep. Blake Farenthold (TX) have confirmed their attendance Location: Performing Arts Center at Texas AandM University-Corpus Christi 6300 Ocean Drive, Corpus Christi, Texas Witnesses: this web site corpus christi texas
Ms. Elizabeth Ames Jones, Chairman, Railroad Commission of Texas Mr. Jeff Weis, Executive Vice President, Orion Drilling Company LLC Mr. Aaron Hees, President, Charro Operating LLC Mr. Charif Souki, Director, Chief Executive Officer, and Chairman of the Board, Cheniere Energy Partners, L.P.
Mr. Scott Stanford, Operations Manager, Royal Offshore, Royal Production Company, Inc.
Mr. Mark Leyland, Senior Vice President, Offshore Wind Projects, Baryonyx Corporation Mr. Roland C. Mower, President and Chief Executive Officer, Corpus Christi Regional Economic Development Corporation Mr. Robert E. Parker, President, Repcon, Inc.