Thursday, July 26, 2012

finds: twine- s/t (2003, ghostly international)

Purchased at: Gramaphone records via (despite the fact that I'd been to Gramaphone several times I didn't make the connection when I purchased it on discogs and they emailed me asking if I'd rather pick the record up in person)
Price (including tax): $15

I'm not sure how this happened, but the self-titled record by electronic/ambient duo Twine has somehow re-entered my orbit for about the fourth or fifth time since I first bought it in 2003 on CD. This record might be one of only a few examples of an album that I bought based on a pitchfork-recommended review and ended up loving in ways that I could never have imagined. I found the album on vinyl in a now defunct record store while I was living in Portland- what stopped me from buying it, you say? Well, it's simple really- I was young and a bit timid about pulling this record sleeve off of the wall, carrying it up to the front and saying 'I would like to buy this, please.' Kind of absurd as I would have no problem now. In fact I think I might've ordered the CD from insound or something.

Regardless, I used to listen to this album frequently on my old ipod and it was one of the first CDs that I ripped into my new ipod once I'd lost it even though I hadn't listened to it in years. It's typical of the type of stark, ambient, drifting, beautiful nachtmusik that I favor. Twine is composed to two men, Greg Malcolm and Chad Mossholder, who seem to have lived in different cities almost the entire time they've collaborated as Twine. The self-titled record is built on several guitar-based tracks, glitchy beats, wordless female vocals and drifting, bent, decaying atmospherics. 'Asa Nisa Masa' is a minimalist, layering and looping exercise based on the loop of the phrase from Fellini's '8 1/2.' 'Girl Song' was the first track that I heard off of it and remains my favourite track on the album in conjunction with its partner track 'Kalea Morning' which seemed to take the pitch-bent drive of 'Girl Song' and stretch it out into a beautiful, extended drone piece. I used to foolishly try to fit it on mixtapes even though it was over 12 minutes long. I was pretty psyched when I saw that these two tracks share side two of the vinyl version.

I'm not much of an electronic music enthusiast. I know very little about it as a genre- most of the music I go for that falls under that umbrella is ambient music. Aphex Twin's 'Selected Ambient Work Volume 2' has always been a favourite of mine and I had a brief Autechre and Squarepusher phase. What has always fascinated me about electronic music is how vinyl-friendly it is as a genre. It seems counterintuitive that music made in an entirely electronic space would translate better to vinyl than it would CD, but when I threw this record on the turntable it seemed undeniable. A lot of it has to do with the bass and lower registers. Suddenly those chopped up, staticky beats that cover this record tightened up and refused to be ignored. I'd never thought of this record as a rumbler until now. That seems to nail the allure of vinyl for electronic artists and, again, it proves to be unparalleled in this regard as a recorded medium. The vinyl version of this album also has an extra track called 'Sbrent' which, ironically, appears to be a piece built on turntable-sound loops (i.e. needles thumping as they pass into the run-out groove and amplified/manipulated surface noise). I have a handful of similar loops recorded during my many vinyl transfers- I'd always thought it would be cool to build songs over them, but it appears Twine had beaten me to the punch about nine years ago.

While doing the research for this entry I ended up hearing a track from their last album (which was released in 2008 after a five year gap following this record) 'Violets,' which featured a vocal contribution from Alison Shaw of Cranes, which I look forward to tracking down next.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

ruminations: pitchfork 7.15.12

Today couldn’t possibly have started out better than it did—walking from a train through the front gates at Union Park into the shaded (and coolest) section of Union Park to see Thee Oh Sees getting set up before ripping into the giant crowd amassed to see them (the size was truly staggering) for an abbreviated but insanely manic, intense set. They played a lot of the same songs I’ve seen them play the other few times I’ve seen them but, as always, the songs were torn apart and reassembled in ways that are difficult to imagine from their recorded versions. As always everyone bopped together in unison. Water sprayed through the air, Alex and Francis White of White Mystery bounced around backstage, someone blew a ton of bubbles throughout the set, another wonderful individual kept flashing a pair of fans that were shaped like ducks. John Dwyer jumped up and down, back and forth with his guitar high up below his chin and his tongue hanging out. You could see the sweat flying from his hair. Bassist Petey Dammit bopped frantically seemingly oblivious to the heat under which so many others that day would wilt. It was beautiful as only an Oh Sees show can be and it could’ve gone on forever and few would’ve minded (even at a huge festival).

My first bone to pick of the day is that I would like to know who in their right mind decided to schedule Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall with overlapping set times. They share a huge cross-section of devoted and passionate fans. Fuck, they’re from the same city, play shows together and are each other’s cheerleaders. During Thee Oh Sees set Dwyer called out ‘Ty Segall?! Can you hear me?! Yell if you can hear me?! You guys are going to have some moving to do soon. Not yet! Please stay!’ There was a fast-moving mass exodus across the length of the entire park to catch the remaining 30 minutes of Ty’s set on the red stage. During Segall’s set he got the entire crowd to yell out ‘Dwyer!’ twice only to look over at the VIP area to find Dwyer himself waving from the side of the stage. The highlights from Segall’s set included a distinctive cover of ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’ during which Segall got the crowd to chant the ‘oi!’s for him. At one point he went down into the crowd, microphone in hand (until the microphone died) and direct the crowd to carry him almost all the way to the soundboard and safely back to the stage. When another crowd member was lifted up he even said, ‘Take that kid to the back and then bring him back up here! I believe in you guys!’ The music was every bit as fierce and face-melting as it had been at Lincoln Hall a few months ago.

Watching from a spot next to the soundboard at the green stage while waiting for Real Estate to start the bar had been set impossibly high. What would’ve worked would in place of Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees having overlapping set times would be that Segall and Real Estate could’ve been switched. It would’ve been nice to have a breather and not have condensed two highlights from the day into a little over an hour. Real Estate’s live show isn’t exactly what one would expect from hearing their recorded output—it’s still mellow and smooth but they do manage to inject a surprising amount of energy into their material when they play it live. After witnessing the mighty Oh Sees/Ty Segall double-header this fact becomes little more than an amusing footnote. I didn’t enjoy their set as much as I had when I saw them at Lincoln Hall last Halloween, but they did play ‘Out of Tune’ which is probably my favourite song of theirs. They also wilted a bit under the unforgiving sun—the green stage is situated perfectly to achieve this affect, which is why there were volunteers next to the soundboard on hand giving out free bottles of water throughout the day. A group of kids even carried one of their friends who had collapsed up next to the soundboard and everyone gave this dehydrated kid a lot of room—the volunteers got him a folding chair and some type of electrolyte-heavy drink while waiting for the EMS staff to come and take him to their tent. They were speedy getting there as well. Witnessing these types of things always does a great deal to restore my faith in humanity—it’s nice to know that people still instinctually want to help each other out in a similar situation. Once the clock struck five we were ready to leave in pursuit of food and to say ‘hi’ to all of our friends with booths at Flatstock—this would be Dan Grezca, Sonnezimmer and the Bird Machine. This couldn’t have happened at a better time as the area was nice, shady and cool and I was starting to feel a bit woozy and overwhelmed myself.

On our way back to the red stage as Chavez were finishing up we stopped by the volunteers at the green stage to grab a few more bottles of water (we’d both drank about three bottles each by this time in the day) before staking out a prime spot next to the red stage soundboard. We were able to sit and stretch out in the shade that had just started to cover the grass in front of the red stage as we listened to AraabMuzik. At first I found it a bit grating, what with the recurring scream samples and whatnot, but as his set continued I found myself positively hypnotized by some of the huge sounds. About 20 minutes before Beach House started people started to smash their way into our personal space to the point where we finally just gave up and went toward the back. While it was a shame to give up a really nice angle from which to snap a few pictures (yes, I ended up having to take a few jumbotron pictures) I think it was a good decision that allowed me to enjoy their set more since it was the main reason I wanted to attend the festival at all this year. I’ve missed Beach House at every stop they’ve had in town since 2009. There’s always been something that’s gotten in the way, which was a real shame since I loved ‘Teen Dream’ so much. I watched the webcast of their set at Pitchfork in 2010 (there hadn’t been enough other bands that I wanted to see to warrant shelling out the money for a ticket). My expectations were mainly based on that experience and were actually set quite high. Somehow they managed to surpass my lofty expectations despite the fact that we were really far away from the stage, a lot of people around us were talking and the full impact of the sound system kept getting carried away in the open air. Their 50 minute set was surprisingly emotional for me. 2010 was quite a crazy year and ‘Teen Dream’ was the soundtrack for most of it. I found myself feeling things I hadn’t felt at a concert since when I went to see the Cure five times on their Dream Tour in 2000. I also found that they played most of the songs off of ‘Bloom’ that I wasn’t that wild about but witnessing them in a live setting made them make more sense to me—another commonality that they share with the Cure. This is an increasing rarity for me these days and all of this packed quite the emotional wallop. As if that weren’t enough they had a fantastic light show and as they were playing the sun started to set. I know that Beach House are feeling the backlash from all of the hype that has surrounded them and built to the breaking point over the last two years, but I can honestly say I couldn’t give a fuck what anyone else thinks of them—anyone who isn’t into them is really missing out. Victoria Legrand’s voice was a bit scratchy and sounded road-worn when she would speak, but somehow sounded smooth and flawless when she sang. ‘Silver Soul’ seemed restrained, wistful and sad in contrast to the vibrance of the album version. ‘Myth,’ ‘Lazuli’ and ‘Other People’ packed quite the punch live and were incredibly, achingly beautiful. When they played ‘10 Mile Stereo‘ I was sure it was over and then they launched into my favourite track off of ‘Bloom’—the endlessly building album-closing epic ‘Irene.’ Not surprisingly, it was even more massive live. It sent chills up and down my spine at at least three different points. For some reason I thought they’d leave it out of their festival set, but the fact that they ended with it couldn’t’ve made for a better end to today. It was magical. I was already excited having a ticket to their show in October at the Riviera, but now I can hardly wait. While I thought that this particular Pitchfork lineup was pretty weak all around this year I was relieved that all of the best acts were piled into the last day of the festival. Seriously, though, whoever scheduled Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall deserves a spanking. How COULD you?!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

review: lower dens, no joy at the empty bottle- 7.13.12

Pitchfork weekend is here again. I’d thought it was just me, but after speaking with several peers I’ve confirmed that this looks to be one of the weakest all around lineups in years. Last year there were a few bands that I wanted to see on the other days—i.e. Neko Case, Thurston Moore, Wild Nothing, Woods, etc.—but this year all of the bands I had any desire to see were all piled up in the Sunday lineup. The only two playing on other days were Atlas Sound on Saturday and Lower Dens on Friday. ‘Nootropics’ has been making the rounds on my turntable fairly often since its release so I was a bit bummed that I would be missing their set on opening day. When the Empty Bottle announced that they’d be playing an aftershow I jumped at the chance to buy myself a ticket—even going so far as to break my ‘no weekend shows at the Empty Bottle’ rule.

I showed up in time to catch the bulk of No Joy’s set. I hadn’t heard any of their music, but what I’d heard about it seemed promising. I’ve heard them described as a shoegazer band and also as a loud version of Lush. I’m not so sure either of those tags would be that applicable to them, but they were quite loud and their songs were built around female singer harmonies. They were far more of a feedback-drenched straight-ahead rock band with some nice blissed-out tangents built into their songs. I thought their last song was particularly great. The bass and the drums were locked into a fuzzy groove with the guitars weaving thick layers of drone over the top. The singer was doing some looping of both her voice and some of the impressive controlled guitar feedback bursts that she had going. The other guitarist chimed in at dynamic moments with thick fuzz-drenched arpeggios. It was quite brilliant and I wouldn’t’ve been the least bit upset if this set-ender hadn’t gone for a few minutes longer than it did. They were the type of band where the massiveness of the guitar sound could make drums sound puny, which forces the drummer have to put forth more effort. This particular drummer was the type I like too—chunky beats with minimal use of cymbals or flashy fills.

During the break between their set and Lower Dens the highlights of my sizing up of the crowd included an odd quartet of what I can only describe as some new breed of indie music-loving douche bags. This is something I don’t really remember existing when I first went to shows back in the late 90s and early 00s. To whit—they had an impassioned conversation about their favourite Walkmen songs and started yelling over each other about which songs were better. The highlight—‘I fucking love “In the New Year!” That song makes me want to punch someone in the FACE!!!!’ Three of them then started bouncing around like a bunch of gorillas and a few of them even started punching each other on the arm. One of them ran into me. The sober one turned and apologized to me. Later the sober one turned down another one of these individuals’ invitation to go get breakfast in the morning. After the sober one left the scorned breakfasteur said to the other two, ‘Did you fucking hear that?! That’s some fucking cold shit!’ Indeed. I also noticed a disproportionate number of tall women leading around their crew-cutted/preppy boyfriends who were much shorter than them. Kind of a surreal night.

Once Lower Dens were set up they all left the stage and then returned about 15 minutes later to start their set. I still don’t understand why bands do this and I still hate it. They launched into their set on some wooden drumming and bumbled their way through their first song. It was incredibly surprising to me that a band of their caliber, on their returning round of touring behind an adored album could give off such a sense of disconnection from each other and what they were doing. The drumming was stiff, the bass playing was bare minimum, Jana Hunter’s singing seesawed from graceful and haunting to lazy and mumbly and the guitar player simply didn’t seem to have his live sound sussed out. How this would be possible for him at this juncture is beyond me—I’m all for some heavily effects-laden guitar, but for whatever reason most people just think it’s enough to pile that stuff on there and believe it’ll automatically sound cool just because you’ve done it. A lot of his melodic lines were swallowed in whining, microphonic feedback (aka the bad kind). He even caused a false start while failing to double a keyboard line played by Hunter. What’s more if he’d just soldiered through it’s likely no one would’ve noticed. That said it’s kind of hypocritical of me to call ‘foul’ over this because I’ve stopped songs once they’ve started too (actually I think I’ve only done this four times in about seven years). What was revealed to me was that Hunter is the one doing all of the heavy lifting in this band—with things the way they were she could’ve had any three nimrods onstage with her. The music on ‘Nootropics’ is restrained and hypnotic—it sort of hovers along over the course of its songs which was evident in Hunter’s vocals and guitar playing and even in her effortless switches to keyboards, but the music was never able to take off because it was so heavily anchored in the laziness of the other players. It boiled the songs down to a half-assed 80s sound. Who knows, maybe they were having an off night, but it certainly didn’t seem like it. Most bands I’ve seen are able to pull off similar atmospherics even when they’re having a rough time—they are able to let their frustration fuel their performance. If they were having an off night there was no evidence of any frustration at this—only apathy and disconnection. Instead I left after about 30 minutes because I had to be up for work at 6am and this performance was no longer worth the sleep deprivation. I still like the record.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

diary 7.7.12- notes from the heatwave

song- artist- album

1. goodbye bread- ty segall- 'goodbye bread'
2. i am- radar eyes- s/t
3. sugar- my bloody valentine- 'eps 1988-1991'
4. little girl- spiritualized- 'sweet heart sweet light'
5. new fast- disappears- 'guider'
6. i am not a game- ty segall & white fence- 'hair'
7. dreamboat- the walkmen- 'heaven'
8. hold on me- mikal cronin- s/t
9. lord i don't even know my name- spectrum- 'soul kiss (glide divine)'
10. king of the decade- white fence- 'family perfume vol. 2'
11. that's the way- led zeppelin- 'iii'
12. logn- sigur ros- 'valtari' b-side
13. 6 o'clock- the verve- 'no come down'
14. life of his own- sharon van etten- 'leonard' 7"
15. dear betty baby- lower dens- 'batman' 7"
16. on the sea- beach house- 'bloom'
17. white moon- the white stripes- 'under great white northern lights'
18. my lagan love- kate bush- 'cloudbusting' 12"