Welcome to the first installment of a new series I like to call “You Should Know This Album.” YSKTA will feature records from years gone by that may have slipped under your radar at the time of the release, or perhaps that was the time when you were going through your digital zydeco faze. Either way, for the most part these will be albums that also slipped under my radar at the time and most likely have only surfaced in my life after a late night drunken conversation with someone where they say: “What? You write a music blog and you’ve never heard that record? You’re such a loser and a sham.” This first one I stumbled upon on my own though…
Shellac – At Action Park - Released October 24, 1994
Like many music nerds, I have somewhat of a permanent sonic boner for Steve Albini. The dude has been at the studio boards for hundreds upon hundreds of records over the years, including Nirvana, The Breeders, PJ Harvey, Iggy Pop, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Gogol Bordello, Silkworm, Cloud Nothings, and a whole other list of people who are renowned for making magnificent soul-bleeding rock and roll. Thus it never even occurred to me to think that Albini ever had time for his own music. But that he did, and all branches of his musical career stem from his 80′s output in his band Big Black. Think post-punk weirdness meshed together with straight-punk sincerity. But it was with his early 90′s creation, Shellac, that Albini really put his heart on wax. They’ve put out something new every few years for the past couple decades, and rumors are that there’s a new one on the way, but the definitive piece for any true record-store geek’s collection is At Action Park.
This is one of those albums that unites the hardcore kids and the indie-scenesters in a blissful coalition. It’s viscous 3-piece attack on sound. Yes, the guitar attack is destructive and forceful, but it’s also locked into some outright grooves. At times it almost feels like Rage Against the Machine, but intentionally much more rough at the seams, minus a rapper and staunch on not having any message at all – you know, real deal garage rock dream of the 90′s shit. And while the songs don’t really have much of a standard formula, (don’t expect a chorus, or even really a verse for that matter,) they each have an individual life force to them that is clearly missing on other music of similar genres. If those early Dinosaur Jr. albums always sounded hook-less and redundant to you, than this record will re-establish your affinity for the power of simplicity. The greatest thing about discovering At Action Park though is realizing what a pivot-point record it is. This is the album that serves as the bridge between Built to Spill and Fugazi, or between Tool and Nirvana. This is the essence of musicians making music for themselves and not caring about who it offends or what it’s lacking to bring it to a wider audience. And honestly, what else would you expect from someone who has his hands so deep in the recording game? When you’ve heard thousands of bands try to put create their own individual sounds, you get a good idea of what it is that you yourself want to create. This is one of those CDs that you play while driving and you don’t even realize when it starts over – it has no weak spots and thus no telling points of when it should end. If you like your rock gritty or you’ve been searching for a good record to play really loud when you’re overwhelmed with anger and frustration, then do yourself a favor and bring this into your life.
Record store day is coming up in a couple weeks – an amazing day where artists put out release singles and other albums that folks won’t ever have the opportunity to hear elsewhere. That is, unless you’re Dan Deacon and you decide to put up the track from your limited 7″ two weeks early on SoundCloud. Well, I’m not complaining. What’s become really amazing about Deacon though is that fact that that while all his songs have a self-contained absurdity, there is an unmistakeable cohesion of that absurdity. Perhaps it’s the approach to assaulting rhythm he takes, but there’s no denying that any song of his is anybody but himself. That goes for “Konono Ripoff No. 1″ as well, which even though is a total ripoff of the “Congolese Konono No.1,” still is unmistakeably Deacon. It’s not as cinematic as things he’s been making the past few years, and thus rings almost like a lost cut off of Spiderman of the Rings. But it’s still fresh as all hell, and it’s the kind of colossally upbeat thing that serves as great launchpad for a Friday afternoon.
You know those moments in life when you’ve got to pee so fucking bad, but whatever you’re doing at the time is so massively epic that you just unnaturally push through? And then you just remind yourself, “OK, I’m not going to remember the urinary implosion part of this memory.” Well, this Sexmob show almost reached that point. It actually came to a close just at the moment when I was like,” OK, I might have to make a move here.” It would have been tough too – because it was a sit-down show in a really small theater and I was sitting dead center - not only would the entire row need to stand up for me to exit but the band would have totally watched me go as well. Oh well…anyway… Steven Bernstein and his slide-trumpet have led Sexmob on some unique voyages over the years, but this performance of songs all from Fellini movies was some next-level shit. I’ve never nodded my head so fiercely to such quiet music, and then sat so still for such raging music – it was a twisted world of dichotomous magic. Read the full review HERE at State of Mind Music, and here’s a tidbit…
…You want to talk about getting taken for a ride? This was easily one of the most intense 75 minutes of my music listening history. Be it Kenny Wollesen’s sexual escapade with his drum kit‚ or Briggan Krauss’ harmonic exploration of his muted saxophone‚ this was four unstoppable talents breathing as one. But not only pulsing with one another‚ but with the room and the crowd. Every murmured grunt from the room was taken in by the band and reverted into acknowledged echoes — pure mutual absorption and true artistic foreplay at the peak of fruition. I entered that room thinking of Sexmob as the guys that do cool novelty covers. I left knowing them as a unified link to the divine…
I read a random tweet a few months back that said – “Not now. I’ll give it another try next year.” Me, every year, regarding Trout Mask Replica. I feel the new music from the artist known as Stamping Mill may soon bring equal responses. To put it quite simply, this music is difficult. That’s not to say it isn’t fully intriguing, wholly original, and helmed by a fully talented musician. But it does seem like the kind of thing that would be on exhibit at the Guggenheim, and that David Byrne would view with his head slightly cocked to one side like a dog that’s trying to make out what you’re saying. This is music that makes you truly question the intent and goal of its’ creator. Some make music to please, or to unite, or to induce movement… and some make music to challenge and perplex. There’s several epically self-defining statements from the man simply known as Joseph about his Stamping Mill project, on his site…
.:. I can no longer pretend to enjoy playing live music… Stamping Mill will not be performing live now or in the future.
… This is not easy listening music and it’s not for everyone. In fact, there is a very good chance that you will despise this music at first or perhaps conclude that it’s not music at all; but make an effort to understand what I’m trying to do before rejecting it outright.
.:. For me, music is about a constant struggle to create a unique piece of artwork… Stamping Mill is an attempt at art – that is the ultimate goal here.
.:. I reject the process of songwriting by committee and I will never compromise with band members or producers again. I make music alone for people like myself that would rather put on headphones than go see a live band.
Obviously, this man is not a dancer. His statements also seem to highlight the fact that this music is the result of his frustration and anger with the music industry. Which leads me to wonder… if he had never gone through the musical ringer, would he had ever been led to make such absurdist music? While he is the sole creator of these sounds, isn’t the entire history of modern pop and rock the true collaborator? This music is essentially the result of one man’s frustration with the tonal rhythms that society has pounded into his brain. While he claims this to be the most solitary music of all time, perhaps it’s actually the most widespread demographically collaborative music anyone has ever made.
The music itself is composed by expanding on a computer program’s production of random musical notes. Thus, the natural absurdity that results is equal to a trio composed of John Cage, Captain Beefheart, and Hal 9000. This is the closest anyone has ever come to making music that sounds like a Jackson Pollock painting. While composed of stacks of random actions, the end result is a fully realized piece of art that exists solely in relation to itself and to the artist. The debate over whether it is actually good or not is an arbitrary discussion that can only result in a theological argument about whether anything is this universe truly has a right to exist. So much like Trout Mask Replica, the true determining question is not whether or not you like the music, but whether you have put yourself out there and actually experienced it. Don’t be afraid, give it a shot.
What the fuck is aleatoricism?
In one of those awesomely profound WTF moments, the legendary DJ and producer DJ Shadow was actually kicked off of the tables at a headlining gig of his in Miami on Friday night. Even though the absurdly obnoxious Miami Mansion Nightclub had not only booked Shadow for the gig but had highly promoted him as the main attraction, whoever the snooty, coke-dripping fuck who runs the place is decided that Shadow’s music was “too future” for their 3 AM Friday night crowd – yes, his set started at 3 in the morning. I guess when a DJ is playing such amazing music that the crowd is actually focused on his set, it becomes a lot harder for the club to push $8 Heinekens. “Hey Tony, turn this crap off and plug in my iPhone so we can hear this sweet dub-step remix of “Gangnam Style.”" Honestly though, if this isn’t one of the most depressing signs of the end of the modern DJ, then I don’t know what is. I’m sure when he was bringing his turntables into the club that night, most of the bouncers there were like “Whoa, those are the craziest laptops I’ve ever seen.” Truly the club has no right or reason to call itself a music venue, and to be honest I don’t think it’s something they claim to be – but I mean, look at the venue – if I was a DJ it definitely seems like a hot room to rock. However, it doesn’t look like like the normal nor ideal place to be in the audience and watching a DJ perform. Shadow’s been pretty vocal on his Twitter feed about it. Today he posted “Obviously I should have never been booked there in the first place. Square peg in a round hole, etc.”
But to his awesome credit, he also posted this – “I don’t care if I get kicked out of every rich kid club on the planet. I will never sacrifice my integrity as a DJ…ever.” And this just a moment ago: “Ironically it was drum and bass that broke the camel’s back! Note to self…play more drum and bass!!!”
With all the latest news of DeadMaus basically saying he’s only in the DJ game for the money, and along with the whole other string of button-pushers out there, it’s great that there’s still a DJ that you can believe in and who’s actually standing up for himself and his music. I’ve had mad respect for Shadow ever since Entroducing… blew everybody’s minds in 1996, and now my love for the man has only gone light-years higher. Here’s a really shaky video of him getting kicked off the tables, as well as my favorite and the biggest and darkest track off that debut album, “Building Steam With a Grain of Salt.”
I always feel like a complete douche when it’s somebody’s passing that makes me aware of their life, but such is the case with the late, astonishingly great pianist, Austin Peralta. And as shitty as it sounds, I’m thankful that anything happened to allow his music to enter my life. Son of the legendary Z-Boy Skater Stacy Peralta, Austin died 4 days ago at the absurdly young age of 22. No cause of death has been given yet, and that makes one assume it was something really shitty. Regardless, the kid played the piano like a young Dave Brubeck if there was a gun being held to the head of his first-born child. His attack was merciless, his flow was seamless, and his joy and passion for his art was undeniably bombastic. I watched about 20 videos last night of his performances, and in each one he gives his band-mates that smile like they just won the Little League World Series.
This shit is really fucking sad people. Austin was beyond talented – he was magical. And we as Earthlings can’t handle losing any more fucking magic these days. It’s really one of those things that makes you question the nature of destiny, and wonder if his fire burned so bright so young because it wasn’t bound to be held for long. He was pushing the frontiers of music forward – above and beyond. The fact that he was on Flying Lotus‘ Brainfeeder Label, and that he collaborated with modern production wizards like Lotus and Thundercat was a sign that boundaries truly were non-existent anymore. So for humanity’s sake, raise your glass to this kid, feel some sorrow for the Peralta family, and put your children in front of a musical instrument.
Here’s my 2 favorite videos I stumbled upon – The first is Austin at the Tokyo Jazz Festival when he’s only 15 years old. 15 fucking years old! Sweet mercy, it’s incredible. The 2nd is from last year of him going ridiculously deep on a cover of the Flying Lotus track he played on forCosmogramma.
Here’s the start of my review of the new Dan Deacon album - Sometimes trying to describe a Dan Deacon song is like trying to explain color to a blind person — rather frustrating and most likely doted with grandiose metaphors. So let’s just start with this: I’m fairly certain that after my first headphone session with America, the molecular structure of my brain completely realigned itself. Combining the ferocity of 2007′s Spiderman of the Rings with the majesty of 2009′s Bromst, this latest release from Deacon is an album that you can do nothing but completely succumb to. Don’t try to wash the dishes to it — don’t try to throw it on at a bar — just sit back and let this motherfucker consume you.
The whole review is HERE at State of Mind.
Here’s the whole USA Suite – it’s rather fucking incredible.
…it’s usually because of Dinosaur Jr. The prolific shred-champion, J. Mascis has always written some songs that have grabbed hold of my heart while simultaneously causing my ears to bleed (“The Wagon” “How’d You Pin That on Me” “Get Me” and on and on.) But if you had told me in 2000 that we were dawning the crest of some of my favorite Dino Jr. tunes of all time, I wouldn’t have even given you the time of day. Reunited bands never, ever, make better music than they used to, but leave it up to an act with a prehistoric name to create the definitive argument for longevity. In other words, starting with 2006′s Beyond, which shockingly brought Lou Barlow back into the band, Dinosaur Jr. has been consistently turning out fucking amazingly brilliant music. The reason for this successful assault on the predictably mundane is that these tunes have always shared a common theme of acceptance and of a conquering push through not letting shitty crap take you down. It’s almost like in the late 80′s Jay had some brilliant notion that if he kicked out his band, it would only cause a ripple through time resulting in incredible songs and music that couldn’t have existed otherwise. Or maybe it’s just dumb luck.
Either way, things are amazing right now in the world of the quiet wizard. Two cases in point: 1st is the above picture taken in Portland over the weekend of all of Dinosaur Jr. and all of Sebadoh posing together for the first time EVER. And yes, that is Mascis with an unexpectedly enormous smile on his face. Give it up to Mikala Taylor at www.backstagerider.com for grabbing the incredible pic. I wonder if they ever talk about the meaning of Barlow’s infamous track, “Freed Pig”? 2nd is this brand new video for “Watch the Corners” off of next week’s release I Bet on Sky. The song has the classic Dino vibe of being prepared for crappy situations, and the video has the brilliant Tim Heidecker portraying the role of the overly-protective but totally awesome Dad. You can streaam the entire album at NPR right now: www.npr.org/2012/09/09/160628084/first-listen-dinosaur-jr-i-bet-on-sky. If you really dig it, then FUCKING BUY it next week – these aren’t superstars people, these are working musicians and they deserve your pocket change. I’m gonna go ahead and say this is my favorite Dinosaur Jr. video EVER. It just makes me feel the way that music you love is supposed to make you feel.
Lorn’s latest is one of those albums that Lester Bangs would have hated, but that all the music-writers that were inspired by him will love. It doesn’t go as deep into the possibilty of modern elctronic production as Flying Lotus does, but it still branches into territory that is somehow still uncharted. Definitely worth a slight embrace. Read the full review HERE at MV Remix.
Did you ever wish that the soundtrack to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre had a solid backbeat to it? Well there seems to be just as much inspiration from an illegal slaughterhouse as there is from Daft Punk on Ask the Dust, the first release on the Ninja Tune label from Milwaukee artist Lorn. It may be easy to lump all electronic dance music together these days, but this is definitely not the album that will be inspiring the wearing of candy-necklaces anytime soon. Embracing a far more sinister presence than that of his peers, Lorn crafts a 45-minute unified piece that forces the listener to embody the warming darkness of their subconscious as they crush the dance-floor. Don’t be afraid though, Ask the Dust is wholeheartedly beautiful…
The palest man in rock and roll continues the argument for the possibility of him being the most important musician of the 21st century thus far. 2007′s final White Stripes album may have shown his only signs of not living up to his reputation, and that’s most likely why he stopped the band. Blunderbuss is hot fire. Read the full review HERE at State of Mind.
So if you’re waiting for a White Stripes reunion before you give Jack White the time of day again, then welcome to eternity. As much as we all love the quirky nature that Meg brought to the band, thank God that she’s not around for this album. Or praise Satan, or whatever it is Jack does. Regardless, it’s about time the man got a chance to flesh out his tunes with an actual drummer. There’s no doubt that all of these songs would have composed the next Stripes album had there ever been one, and there was never any doubt that he could make it on his own, but there’s still something wholeheartedly refreshing to hear these tunes fleshed out in epic fruition…