A Revolt of the Everyday: Bluegrass and Music's Accessible Fringe
Rob Rubsam comes to the defense of the overlooked qualities of bluegrass, a genre seemingly lost to the numbing of rock radio and novelty.
Rob Rubsam comes to the defense of the overlooked qualities of bluegrass, a genre seemingly lost to the numbing of rock radio and novelty.
There is a lot to Cracked Actor's Iconoclast that might raise a few inquisitive brows, what with it being a deeply sensual and original piece of work that eggs you on as you take a stroll into your own conscience. To see if we could ascertain more about its source, we asked the band's own Sebastian Field to tell us about five tracks that paved his way.
The lines between objectivity and subjectivity seem to be at their blurriest when discussing music, and the death knell of “well, you're entitled to your opinion” has reared its ugly head far too often. Using the lauded film Whiplash as a pivot point, Isaac Powell attempts to run the terms through a sieve and create some distinction.
An examination of how the music of The Longcut fell into my hands, how I let it slip through my fingers, and how I found it again and nurtured it back to health.
With four full-lengths, a stack of EPs, several splits, a compilation and a bunch of globe-trotting tours under their belts, few would argue against Blacklisted’s reputation as one of hardcore’s hardest working and most prolific bands. It may be a little surprising, then, to learn that When People Grow, People Go is their first long-player in over half a decade; a relative eon when you consider the Philadelphia natives released their first three LPs in a four-year span. But, as is often the case, Blacklisted have returned — alongside trusted producer Will Yip — with their most varied and industrious release since 2009’s semi-classic Heavier Than Heaven, Lonelier Than God .
Welcome, everybody, to Off Beats , Noted’s newest column, where a rotating series of writers will take on an artist’s discography and find themes beyond the normal or expected. These can be personal or strictly historical; either way you should expect a unique take on a body of work, 33 1/3 with a wider focus and smaller word count. In our first installment, New Yorker Rob Rubsam goes hard and long on Indiana indie-rockers Murder by Death.
Risk breeds the fluttering heart and tightening chest, and whether we face it boldly or meekly, by choice or on impulse, it's the allure of the unknown that instils affirmation of life within us. Alfie Ryner's Brain Surgery is uncharted territory, an untarnished mountain-top lake with unobserved ecosystems. I play the role of frightened discoverer, taken by the upheaval that loads every glance, rooted by curiosity. This music, loosely formed but with the stinging impact of a slap, playfully defies what you've come to expect from this medium, yet it takes its sincerest form: freedom.
Join us and become tethered as we exclusively stream, in full, the brand new release from Atlantan starlet Tyler Krug , 'the Young Mind, the Weary Heart'. And while you're here, read what the man himself had to say when we asked him about the state of post-rock and what he's learnt over the course of his musical voyage.
If you've ever played the classic neo-noir crime thriller Max Payne , you'll recall the ghostly platforms and graffiti-laced walls of the murky, menacing Roscoe Street Station , a place drenched in dystopian gloom and decorated by cracked mirrors and discarded, bloody needles. There was little in the way of ambience to blanket your hurried footsteps – save for the distant drones of dripping pipes and the occasional non-diegetic stab – and total respite from this near-silent stranglehold was only provided by the beretta-fire of drugged-up delinquents hell-bent on reducing you to ether. If you were looking to soundtrack the cloaked intent of those claustrophobic corridors, though, then the aimless, looping twitches of Irreal, the fifth full-length from Chicago’s Disappears , would provide an apt additional layer of surrealist threat.
A silk web has the fascinating property of great strength, able to bear much more weight than its appearance would have you believe, often as impervious to breaking as steel. I'm reminded of it – the fragility of its aesthetic in direct contrast against its form – by two sisters from Holland, their dainty voices pirouetting on the velvety cushion of equally delicate strums and notes, holding aloft their portly burdens in a display of quiet, staunch aptitude.
Listen to the third record, The Rifts , from Swedish duo A Swarm of the Sun ; a tortured, brooding swell of sounds that fixates as much on loss as it does on redemption. We also caught up with Jakob Berglund and asked him a few questions about blurring the artisitc lines, recording with Magnus Lindberg and what it means to create an album. The perfect reading companion to a record that demands your attention.
It’s been five years since heralded progressive outfit Rishloo last graced us with an off-kilter time-shift or a soaring conclusion to an eight minute stargaze, and despite having an impervious explanation for this passage of time — they broke up; vocalist Andrew Mailloux decided to pursue other avenues whilst the remaining members carried on as the instrumental The Ghost Apparatus — there has always been a feeling that they’d cut the chord too early, that they’d not yet made the record they’d been reaching for with Eidolon and Feathergun .
I don't know enough about sleep-science to properly enforce my intuition that upon waking up, I'm without identity. Most mornings, once the cogs are turning and the echo replies received, I'll think back to those initial post-sleep moments with bemusement. I'm utterly useless in that window, disregarding my phone alarm as some sort of technical malfunction, stumbling through a fifth-dimension buffet of absurd half-dreams like a cat after anaesthesia. But it soon dissipates, to exist only in the form of sporadic remembrances so vague as to render it practically non-existent. And yet, Iconoclast evokes an extended trip into that formless state; a northbound train to consciousness come away from the tracks. A safari in the psyche.
With the new year firmly settled and as the constant stream of new music floods our senses, Rob Rubsam looks back at what makes us listen in the first place.
Arriving fashionably late as ever, we're kicking in your New Year's bash retrospectively with a list of 30 albums that affected us the most over the past twelve months. There's a decent variety we reckon, and we've even gone to the trouble of penning a little diatribe at the start. Enjoy, relax, read and imbibe, and we'll be back soon with an announcement that will knock your new socks off.
It's that time of the year again. Again.
Spending their early career straddling the line between sentimentality and ferocity, Pianos Become the Teeth has always dabbled with sonic ideas, intertwining post rock melodies with screamo fundamentals as it has searched for its defining sound. Pianos has never been the most original band but the execution was clearly there, with their The Lack Long After marrying the two spectrums seamlessly and effectively. That album’s closer ' I’ll Get By ' succinctly hinted at other potential avenues to be explored , avenues embraced on their latest offering, Keep You .
Wil Wagner and company are doing okay. It's a relative term, of course; their version of equilibrium might be past the tipping point of saner men, but consider that they've managed to rally a troop of diligent fans, many homegrown and more from the other halves of the globe – it's likely an over-fulfilment of any success envisioned underneath Melbourne skies. Now they have the unique (at least in the grand scheme of things) privilege of being able to visit various locations around the world, alternate-dimension local watering holes where strangers know not only their names but their struggles. Throw Me In The River is the fruit of their labour, laden with uncertain ecstasy and the compromises of un-fucked-with dreams .
The other weekend I found myself in a familiar trance. I was perusing the wares of HMV — the unheralded vinyl king of Nottingham — looking for bargains to pad out the slither of space left in my Ikea Kallax shelving unit. I picked up some overlooked essentials as a matter of protocol ( Disintegration , Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots ) before plucking for a wild card that I hadn’t gotten round to listening to: You’re Dead! , the latest release from Californian hip-jazz experimentalist Flying Lotus . I suppose as a long-time fan of Ellison’s work it wasn’t that big of a risk, and the prospect of removing the mint plastic covering of a beautiful double gatefold record — adorned with the vibrant illustrations of renown Japanese comic artist Shintaro Kago no less — was too much to pass on.
Earlier this year, we were won over by the spirited charge of Sinai Vessel, an emo band with songs that were bold and ambitions bolder still. Differing lineups have revolved around its creator, Caleb Cordes, and given all of the changes and the charmingly humble humanity of the Profanity EP, we wanted to rummage further into the depths of his quite lovely brain.
I've known myself to waste considerable amounts of time getting irrationally angry at the inconsequential. I wouldn't say I'm a pessimist, but despite best intentions my internal monologue seems stricken by the Napoleon complex, and on a near-constant basis it seethes about stuff it needn't. Dawdling walkers, uncooperative bowling balls, impenetrable packaging – all have fallen victim to the searing heat of my unexpressed vitriol.
With the charming, life-affirming ethos that playing music with your closest friends becomes more joyous with each passing show than going it alone does, Connecticut’s The Guru are a mysterious, technicolour relic of a time gone by, a troupe of young companions that enjoy the same simple pleasures — fond memories, shimmering shorelines, hanging out, that one girl — and, with refreshing maturity, do not mistake thematic complexity for substance. Pretty Things is just that, pretty things , hand-crafted by infectious indie-math loops, fun-loving surf-pop harmonies, jazz-fusion psychedelia and an honest, sun-kissed sentiment.
Brown Horse plays out like an audible approximation of a millennial ceiling-starer's vacant state of mind, their eyes wide open but only painted on. Its introspections, from various places on the scale between personal and philosophical, are awash with digital interference and the winsome remnants of home recording – plosive pops and static hisses – the sum of which is as well met as a warm bath. By definition it is a split LP, but the outputs and thought processes of Spencer Radcliffe and R. L. Kelly are in tandem – to the point where one is the hand, the other the glove.
We often look at music with a vacuumous gaze, ignoring the artistic big picture with a gleeful, nonchalant sweep of a Macbook trackpad. But sometimes, the blurred lines created by the literature of musicians offers valuable insight that enhances the understanding of both mediums. Rob Rubsam looks at how John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats has explored empathy in both word and note.
In a vacuum, the sunset is a medley of the warmest shades of red and orange immersing the entire sky, a sight that's globally gazed upon with utmost reverence, held as a standard for that which is naturally and superlatively beautiful. As a daily recurrence, though, it is also the soft fabric that bridges the space separating day and night when they're at an impasse, the motley in-between of binary oppositions. That's the crux of We Could Leave Tonight; it too, in a vacuum, is a veritable array of colours and textures, dense enough to hold its own sentimental cargo – but on a larger scale it braids together the yin and yang of love-sickness and heartbreak and toes the resultant fragile line.
Few announcements of a reunion have been afforded such universal backing as Mineral's in recent years, and so Rob Rubsam took it upon himself to see if the revolutionary emo quartet have managed to maintain their spectacular, captivating aura. In short, yes, and then some.
The digit 0, as a representation of nothing, can be frightening. To have earned nothing or to have nothing left are gut-wrenching notions, all contained within the infinite expanse of that bleak oval. But conceptually, crucially, it is also the starting blocks; the habituated point of return for dusting off and trying again, a reprieve for should you ever blindly jump the gun. It doesn't heal grazed skin nor bruised ego, but that opportunity to start over is a comfort as well as an incentive, and Low Roar seems keen to make that regression; to fall back to point zero with and despite his welts and missteps.
Sometimes albums can come into your life at a pretty impeccable time. You can argue that it’s due to a mental state that these songs can feel so akin to your current circumstance, but that’s cheating the albums of their greatest assets. Sparing the boring details of “woe-is-me”-isms, let’s just say that sometimes concern and stress can mount up exponentially, creating a fog of confusion that every so often requires a rope to ascend out of. That rope, as it were, tends to be in the form of forced self-assessment and planning; setting a path to trudge down to keep sane. It’s this complex idea that Cymbals Eat Guitars’ LOSE so clearly thrives in by personifying an undecipherable idea with clear purpose and understanding.
Ah, the dreaded comparison. Nothing misses the point and narrows the mind more than an argument about how a band used to be better, the “ yeah, but compared to..” closing statement that invariably discredits the album at hand as well as faux-validates the opinion because of its loaded proposition. Here’s a good example: Pale Communion sucks compared to Still Life. The problem here does not lie in the analysis or even the sentiment, but it lies in making the comparison in the first place. It judges a record based only on its position on a linear timeline, and not on its considerable merits in a vacuum. To reach this thought-process, I asked myself if the majority of the criticism points levelled at Pale Communion would apply if it wasn’t an Opeth record, and my research has given me little evidence to suggest they would.
Purveyors of bleak, choke-you-out black metal, Old Soul are the type of band that could soundtrack a violent thunderstorm over an empty ocean. They are monolithic movers of shapes and sounds, yet despite their tongue-in-cheek self-classification as 'dreamo', they avoid genre tropes through the injection of taught technicality and hidden concepts. We caught up with them for a quick chat during the middle of their recent European trip to discuss tour life, the Czech Republic and Deafheaven.
The collaborative LP Devil, Repent! by James Joys and Peter Devlin is a fascinating one -- at times, difficult to listen to, but ultimately it's a fine electronic translation of human erring and the industrial. It's an ensnaring affair, which is the sort of quality that begs for the upheaval of context and intentions so that we may extract as much from the experience as possible. And both Joys and Devlin have wonderfully indulged us with their perspectives on Ireland and the literary left field.
Sunwølf did something quite special with their new album, Beholden To Nothing And No One. Presented in two parts, what's immediately recognisable is the sense of scope with which they work. Their offerings are grand and archaic, a deft exploration of what can be achieved through instrumental music. What in one moment seems an experimental rummage can turn into deliberate, concentrated wonderment, and without the bindings of musical expectation, they're left to amaze us just as the world does -- in unpredictable bursts. Below, we aimed to pick their brains in return for melting ours.
No matter the circumstances, no matter the person and their methods, everybody needs time to heal. We find solace in company and in solitude, we reconsider our direction, we put our headphones on and release ourselves momentarily of burdens and commitments. Tim Showalter 's chosen technique is self-assessment through his music; except with the intent to aid the healing process for as many people as he possibly can. And rather than delicately tend to his wounds with cotton swabs and kisses, on HEAL he took a more heavy-handed approach. “I ripped out my subconscious, looked through it, and saw the worst parts. And that’s how I got better.”
Hailing from the Toronto underground, Dean Tzenos and his newly-acquired bandmates are renowned for their involving, energetic live shows and a sound that dances between the jagged edges of arrogant noise-rock and the oft-hidden melodic flashes of industrial. If it sounds unusual, it's because it is; Hard Boiled Soft Boiled is a sonic experiment as much as anything, with a narrative as vivid in timing as it is in theme. We caught up with Dean to disuss the LP, his involvement with Buzz Records and how tight-knit the Toronto DIY scene has become.
With their wondrous and eclectic debut LP Kalaboogie, DOOMSQUAD captured both the fluttering of curious birds and the faceless fires of industry in a sound that blended the mercurial with the mysterious. It was an ambitious work of art founded on a set of principles shared by three siblings, and represented an ethos that was as much about their heritage as it was about looking forward. We took the chance to catch up with Jacklyn Blumas to discuss the bands' processes, influences and manifesto.
Designated a skate rat, albeit a “precociously inspired” one, Jonathan Boulet has achieved a fair modicum of success as an indie rock musician. However unlikely as it may seem, by 21 he was signed to the major Aussie label Modular – for context, this is the same label who house the likes of stalwarts Tame Impala, Cut Copy and The Avalanches – and found two of his songs getting featured in separate FIFA console games, where they were able to etch their way into the subconscious of millions of players worldwide. It's the career start that many dream of, and we spoke to Jonathan so that we may ascertain the spring of his course.
As nuanced and intimate as The Albatross is on first impression, no small amount of mystery remains in repeat listens. Another run through affords the listener time to foc us on the soft noodling of each guitar, the quietly busy rhythmic undercurrent, or to try and piece apart some of the more interpretable lyrics. We took a little time with the band’s vocalist, Conor Murphy , and learned that while Foxing has only just begun to test the waters with their wonderful debut LP , t heir writing process and direction are anything but timid.
With their intriguing make up (they're a dectet - there's ten of 'em), it was impossible not to have questions after the release of their suave new album, Wooden Boy . Luckily, guitarist Darvid Thor was happy to oblige, and we've gained a healthy insight as a result.
Oozing Wound are a band that aren't difficult to like. They play music for the same reason we listen to it -- it's fun, engaging, and hopefully unpredictable . It's fair to say that they aren't the most serious guys in the world, but at the same time, they definitely care about their output. In a world where thrash metal has become that dodgy uncle at a party, it's refreshing to see that the carnage from the old metal days -- massive riffs, stupid-BPM blast beats and Swanton Bomb's off stages -- still has a place. Oozing Wound are here to remind you that you're not that fucking important after all. We had a quick chat with them, and this is what we learnt.
Join us as we have a profound conversation with our Greek friend LogOut, on the importance of people in life and in music, as well as what it is to have and discover your identity.
We talk to Jim Ver and Ted Reglis, otherwise known as Mockbirth, about the awful social state of Greece, Tom Waits, Charles Bukowski and the blurring of lines between scenes and cultures.
Sarah P, one half of Keep Shelly in Athens, talks to us about the group's origins, what 'home' means to her and how she feels about the current situation in Greece.
RT @Modernvinyl: The Hotelier’s "It Never Goes Out" coming to vinyl, http://modern-vinyl.com/2015/02/24/hoteliers-it-never-goes-out-coming-to-vinyl/
24 February 2015