Latest Reviews

Track Review: Yuck – “Rebirth”

By Brendan Frank; July 23, 2013 at 11:58 PM 

When Daniel Blumberg parted ways with Yuck earlier this year, it created a few interesting narratives. How do you self-correct when your frontman and principle songwriter flakes? The most obvious answer is you turn to the next best in-house option. Guitarist Max Bloom isn’t a slouch by any means, in fact he penned two of the strongest songs on the bands debut album (the perky, spring-loaded “Operation” and the striking instrumental “Rose Gives a Lily”). The quantity was the concern. Was Bloom just content to take a backseat to Blumberg, or was it because he’s a slow worker who isn’t productive enough to fill in the lead role? Based on the strength of “Rebirth,” the answer seems like it’s somewhere in the middle.

Overt symbolism aside, Yuck appear have moved on from Blumberg. Their sound has remained grounded in the same era that their debut paid such loving homage to. The guitar-heavy distortion of Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth is all but gone; in its place, the candied swirl of shoegaze that only accentuates the clarity of Bloom’s voice. This is “Rubber” if it were major key. The stand-alone strength of “Rebirth” suggests that Yuck still have a hole or two to plug, but it’s still punctuated with the easy sort of melodicism that made their debut so loveable.

Download “Rebirth” for free over on Yuck’s website

Track Review: I Break Horses – “Denial”

By Brendan Frank; July 16, 2013 at 12:00 AM 

Swedish duo I Break Horses are due to their follow-up to Hearts (which we quite liked, back in the day) in October. In preparation, lead single “Denial” was sent down the pipeline earlier this week. The shift is apparent immediately, and will likely draw comparisons to the likes of Washed Out and Neon Indian. What sounds like the score from a 1940s film reel spliced with space-age ambient noise disintegrates before your eyes, and gives way to a clean-cut, dance friendly arrangement. Less drug-induced stupor and more lucid dream. Jittery, icy synths, drum rolls and vocal loops tumble down from on high, while vocalist Maria Linden’s refrain: “fade out/’Cause you are dying” carries a melody that could trade barbs with anything on their debut. In this case, it’s as much about the delivery as the words. Even though “Denial” pushes the four-minute mark, it’s over way too soon; this one has some serious replay value.

Track Review: Motion Sickness of Time Travel – “Black Umbrella”

By Josh Becker; July 1, 2013 at 12:00 AM 

Current leading lady of drone Rachel Evans has a new tape out on German experimental label SicSic. It’s more minimal electronic drone with ethereal layers of Evans’s siren-like vocals. What’s interesting here, however, is the shape the drones take. Opening track “Black Umbrella,” for instance, is surprisingly dynamic for a MSoTT work. If you’ve ever wondered what she’d might sound like on Raster-Norton, now you know: buzzes, glitches, and clicks mingle with the drones of both her synths and her vocal chords to produce what might be the liveliest of her songs to date.

At five and a half minutes, this is hardly the kind of stargazing epic we saw on her self-titled album last year, but it still represents a step forward for her nonetheless. “Black Umbrella,” impressively, is something we haven’t heard from Rachel Evans before–a drone track that’s anything but static or glacial–yet it’s still so very clearly her, a sign that she’s become so comfortable with her trademark sound that she can drastically alter it while retaining its essence. Alva Noto fans, take note: this one’s for you.

Track Review: Stimming – “Cherry Blossom”

By Josh Becker; June 25, 2013 at 12:00 AM 

Hamburg’s Martin Stimming has been making gorgeous minimal tech house for several years now, and his latest eponymous album is no exception. “Cherry Blossom” in particular stands out with its stately piano and light, bittersweet orchestral flourishes; those who enjoyed Reform Club’s excellent Claro Intelecto from last year will find plenty to enjoy here, especially those delayed string pads. His distant, muffled vocals and dripping synths only add to the track’s mystery and melancholy, while a bongo-assisted groove maintains its danceable propulsion. This is minimal techno in the sense that it relies on just a few key instrumental elements to create an atmosphere greater than the sum of its parts, but “Cherry Blossom” goes to show that romance need not be anathema to the typically cold genre. This one’s for the lovers.

Track Review: Arctic Monkeys – “Do I Wanna Know?”

By Brendan Frank; June 20, 2013 at 12:00 AM 

Even in your early twenties, there are some prospects that just make you feel old. Album number five from a band you grew up with as a teenager is one of them. Just over two years after the release of Suck It And See, Arctic Monkeys are poised to drop their follow-up. After debuting “Do I Wanna Know” at several shows on their current North American tour, the Sheffield foursome released the studio version in the wee hours of Wednesday morning with no notice.

Centered on a brawny, undulating riff and glam-styled percussive thuds, it’s one of the most restrained pieces Arctic Monkeys have ever offered. It’s a cynical love song, driven as much by anxiety as desire. The occasionally maligned Americanization of their sound continues, with a few exceptions: “You ever get the feel that you can’t shift the tide that sticks around like summat in your teeth?” asks singer Alex Turner, hamming up his accent. Touchstones from “R U Mine” are present yet again, namely the falsetto call-and-response from drummer Matt Helders and a sense of gloom and gravity behind the guitar lead. When the twang syncs up with the melody at the chorus, the results are infectious. This one has Josh Homme’s fingerprints all over it, right down to the “Go With the Flow”-inspired music video.

Track Review: Josh Mason – “Dying In A Canoe”

By Josh Becker; June 13, 2013 at 12:00 AM 

I know the title sounds morbid, but in Josh Mason’s world, death is a beatific, placid thing. Traces of guitar, swarms of static, drones hovering in the distance like a city skyline silhouette, and a pointed harmonic sensibility combine to make something abstract, intangible, and beautiful. Fans of Fennesz’s glitchy folk experiments, Hakobune’s arched stillness, or Taylor Deupree’s wistful glances to the past will find plenty to love here. This music can be as dense and muggy as the humid air of Mason’s home of Jacksonville, Florida, but like a calming summer’s day it never gets oppressively thick or unbearably scorching. It’s out now on Mason’s own Sunshine Ltd., and it comes highly recommended for those of you looking for some new summer ambient music to float down a lazy river to.

By the way, the title refers to an organism in a symbiotic relationship, which in turn is defined as a “close and often long-term interaction between two or more different biological species.” What would those be in the case of this two-track album? Perhaps it’s the blurred and overlapping relationship between instruments, but I’d like to think it’s really referring to the relationship between sound and listener; music depends on listeners to be heard, and listeners can easily be enriched by beauty. Sample “Dying In A Canoe” below:

MP3: Josh Mason – “Dying in a Canoe”

Track Review: Daft Punk – “Doin’ It Right” (Feat. Panda Bear)

By Brendan Frank; May 20, 2013 at 12:00 AM 

Spoiler: Daft Punk’s new album, Random Access Memories, is a colossus. It’s ambitious in the way few dance records dare to contemplate, and in exactly the way you’d expect from a pair that have twice changed the face of EDM. Amongst the meekest of RAM’s tracks is “Doin’ It Right,” a downbeat, elliptical piece that frames Panda Bear’s (a.k.a. Noah Lennox) swimmy vocals in a surprisingly intuitive fashion. It may be the most doleful piece Daft Punk have ever put their stamp on. “Everybody will be dancing,” the vocoder pledges, bittersweet like Daft Punk have never been before. Like most of RAM, “Doin’ It Right” is more about the groove than anything else, coming in a glorious full circle. It’s ideal for the after-party, like the comedown following the night of your life.

Stream “Doin’ It Right” along with the entire album on iTunes

Track Review: Minilogue – Everything Is All You’ve Got

By Josh Becker; May 16, 2013 at 12:00 AM 

I’ll bet you didn’t even know you wanted a two-and-a-half-hour double album of Swedish experimental minimal dub techno, did you? But if Blomma‘s length seems intimidatingly large, its opening track “Everything Is All You’ve Got” is enticingly warm. Over the course of twenty sweet minutes, its Carbon-Based-Lifeforms-like acid ambiance and murky vocal samplings slowly bloom into a weird, bleep-bloopy 4/4 floor stomper. Once you’ve returned from orbit, check out the whole album, out now on Cocoon Recordings.

Track Review: Black Flag – “Down in the Dirt”

By Malcolm Martin; May 9, 2013 at 12:00 AM 

Do you remember that episode of Star Trek where Spock had to choose between stunning the real Kirk or stunning an impostor? Right now I feel like Spock, and I’m not sure where to aim all my frustration. A recent schism has erupted in the Church of Black Flag, compelling hardcore fans to choose between two different simultaneous reunions, both with central figures of the band’s splintered history. One is led by founding guitarist Greg Ginn, joined by on-and-off (mostly off) frontman Ron Reyes, Screeching Weasel’s Dave Klein as tour bassist, and Gregory Moore, who once played as part of Ginn’s stopgap project Gone. The other, touring under the name FLAG, is headed by fan favorites Keith Morris and Dez Cadena, along with Chuck Dukowski, Bill Stevenson and Stephen Egerton of the Descendents.

A couple of days ago, the “real” Black Flag released a new song on their website called “Down in the Dirt.” The song only affirms my suspicion that news with the words “new song” and “Black Flag” together isn’t necessarily great news. Ginn is still a whiz with angular riffs, sending his guitar reeling across his disjointed bass lines. Reyes’ lyrics sit somewhere between vague pseudo-political rage and schoolyard taunts: “Fiction, romance, all the things that you say / Come down in the dirt and play.” Delivered with fleeting enthusiasm, the message here feels phoned-in and dismissive.

This single heralds the release of Black Flag’s first studio album since 1985’s In My Head. But in 1985, this song would’ve just been okay. By the end of the Black Flag’s original incarnation, the band had already begun experimenting with different forms, incorporating heavy metal and spoken word, and taking on more complex subject matter. “Down in the Dirt” feels, well, regressive and kind of self-indulgent. Meanwhile, the “fake” FLAG is sticking strictly to playing songs from the band’s catalog. Probably the wiser decision. But for the sake of the Enterprise, it’s might be best to stun them both just to be sure.

Black Flag’s as-yet-untitled new album is due sometime this summer via SST Records. Exchange your email address for a copy of “Down in the Dirt” at their website.

Track Review: Quasimoto – “The Front”

By Josh Becker; May 7, 2013 at 12:00 AM 

It’s not exactly the new Quas album we’ve all been waiting for — only five of the tracks “new,” for starters — but Stones Throw has still done right by us with the release of Yessir Whatever. On “The Front,” originally found on a limited-edition 7″ from 2005 but available in digital format for the first time, Madlib — actual Madlib; his higher-pitched alter ego only crops up occasionally here — laments his community’s violence (“One of my closest niggas told me he had to get a vest”) and reminds us that he “ain’t got no label,” his more blatantly hedonistic alter ego only cropping up every now and then. If the lyrics are a bit more serious than we might expect, however, the music is comfortably Quas: tape-saturated bass and guitar samples from a bygone funk era, bookended by blasts of brass beamed straight from the Golden Age of Radio and cheekily repurposed snippets of old adverts. There’s a timeless quality to Quas songs; according to the label, the songs on Yessir were recorded over the course of twelve years, yet nothing on Yessir sounds lamely dated or lazily rehashed. Madlib is consistently excellent, and he makes it sound consistently effortless.

The Front by Quasimoto on Grooveshark

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