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Psychedelic music blog covering psychedelic, folk, drone, metal, and all other forms of out music.

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Ben Frost – By the Throat

August 27, 2010

ben frost by the throatI don’t have much to say right now, except that By the Throat, the latest album by Austro-Icelandic soundscape genius Ben Frost, has blown my mind at work all week.  Instead of spending too much of your time describing what this roiling, aggro, drone-heavy, Tim Hecker-esque masterpiece of menace sounds like, I’ll just let the album art do all the talking.

That’s right: In this instance, at least, a picture’s worth a 700-word blog post, and this album cover looks exactly like how By the Throat sounds.  Which is to say, like a pack of wolves marauding across a floodlit snowdrift.

Which is to say, fucking badass.

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The Sea-Ders – Thanks a Lot

August 20, 2010

Here’s a tasty little psychedelic fillip to get you through your Friday, or your whatever, really:

Check it out: the Sea-Ders.   I’m going to be a little anthrosociocultural linguistic detective here and guesstimate that their name is a reference to the famed cedars of Lebanon, with a little English play on words to demonstrate their allegiance to the Union Jack and their related musical invasion.   Cool, right?

What we have here is the Sea-Ders, in “Thanks a Lot,” putting a deliciously filligreed touch on a pretty typical slice of Rubber Soul-era, Rubber Soul-influenced pop.   But boy oh boy, what a touch it is.  These young lads are really fleet of finger, what with rococo arabesques of minor-key guitar framing what is essentially a candy-coated hand-clapper.

It turns out that Lebanese modalities have a surprising (and welcome) overlap with early psychedelic brooding, something “Thanks a Lot” really underscores.   The guitar solo in particular pries open that third eye, heaping on serious amounts of otherworldliness and Otherness in more or less equal measure.  (Another delicious element: that unbalanced, rolling, sinister bassline.  Boy, does that get me.)

Peep that date: 1966.   This is from that amazing early, early era of experimental rock where every year marked an exponential growth of creativity, daring, and complexity.   And 1966 is pretty early to be sounding this awesome.

Anyway, I don’t know much about these guys, except that this song is the lead track off of the superb compilation Waking Up Scheherazade, which explores first-wave garage-psych nuggets from the Middle East.  I also know that other Sea-Ders songs don’t really touch the magic of “Thanks a Lot”.* Pretty excellent stuff, if you ask me.

*In a way, that’s to be expected, as so many of these 7″ garage bands were good for one or two spectacular songs and a whole bunch of derivative pap.   And, you know, somehow, I find that really alluring about this era: nebulous bands forming and disbanding in some sort of unknowable viscous, primordial psychedelic stew, briefly sparking genius before resuming their normal lives.

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Andrew Douglas Rothbard – Exodusarabesque

andrew douglas rothbard exodusarabesqueChalk up Exodusarabesque, the 2009 album by Andrew Douglas Rothbard, as one of the two most unique, defiantly genreless efforts I’ve heard all year.1 A stupefyingly complex melange of blistering psychedelia, mystical folk, chamber pop, synth pop, trip-hop, and general noisy bastardism, all generously served up with a healthy dollop of sensory overload, Exodusarabesque is a delectable, sinfully rich earful.  Another way of putting it: Listening to this record is like looking at one of Louis Wain’s psychedelic cats.

(How hard is it to describe this shit?  I used the word “melange.”  You don’t EVER see me use the word “melange,” because it’s a fucking awful word, but that’s how scraping-the-bottom-of-the-critical-cliche barrel Exodusarabesque makes me.  Hell, I’m floored and practically drooling right now just listening to it.  You try writing well when you’re floored and drooling.)

The weirdest thing about Exodusarabesque is how out of left field it is, at least to me.  You see, I’m already somehwat familiar with Abandoned Meander, Andrew Douglas Rothbard’s previous release, and, well, it ain’t like this.  What was it like?  Oh, thanks for asking!  It was, in brief, shamanistic out-folk.  Some of the songs had an ecstatic, incantory fever to them, almost like an alarmingly dexterous iteration of Current 932, or maybe Six Organs of Admittance on an ADHD-aided sugar rush.  It was difficult to place exactly, but very easy to paint broadly.  Part of “that whole thing,” as it were.

More Current 93 similarities: There was a seriously apocalyptic edge to the whole affair, a really earnest, panicked edge to everything.  The intensely busy production work definitely played a part; at  times, it sounded as though Lubomyr Melnyk had picked up a guitar and teamed up with Kevin Shields and a doomsday street prophet.  It was pretty good, but ultimately too weird for me to return to with any regularity.  (If you don’t know ol’ Tom very well, rest assured that the “too weird” thing, coming from me, means a LOT.)

As for Exodusarabesque?  None of the above applies.  Sure, it’s a busy, cluttered, at times incredibly bizarre record, but it’s an intensely inviting clutter.  The record is overstuffed with ideas, rife with unexpectedly vibrant clashes between genres.  Blown-out folk weirdness blends effortlessly with seductive instrumental trip-hop rhythms.  Lush, textured psychedelia meets propulsive house touches.  Occasionally, what sounds like two totally different songs played simultaneously will occur, and it will sound awesome.  At its finest moments, I’m reminded of what would happen if early (good) Animal Collective and Luomo got together, huffed Day-Glo paint fumes, and made a pop record.  It’s fucked up and wonderfully addictive and I’m quite confident in asserting that Exodusarabesque is like nothing else you’ve ever heard.

Speaking of confidence, that’s another thing all over Exodusarabesque that was nowhere to be found on Abandoned Meander, or at least not in such obvious quanitites.  That’s right: This is a profoundly confident record, one clearly made by someone assured in his abilities.  How else can you possibly explain the fearless originality all over this album?  There’s touches everywhere, like the jarring cut-ups that mimic a negative beat all over “Wisely Wasted” or the lush, almost sonically luxuriant psychedelic breakdowns (in both senses of the word) that characterize “Cypherbets.”  And if you want a true display of out-and-out balls, look no further than the absolutely monstrous, four-minute wall of backwards drums and razor-wire shredding that ends the title track.  The strident, quavering seer from Abandoned Meander is clearly gone.

There’s more.  “Elief,” with its brooding bassline and mumbled falsetto harmonies, sounds like the best outtake off of the Flaming Lips’s Embryo ever.  “Lil’xmoke” takes a languid Kim Hiorthøy or Four Tet track, detonates it, and seductively emotes all over the glued-together fragments.  I could go on, but I’ll spare you.

With Exodusarabesque, Andrew Douglas Rothbard has made something unexpected, brave, and important.  The transition from willfully obscure, deranged backwoodsman to brilliant genre alchemist/beatsmith is complete, seamless, and gratefully accepted.  Everyone: Listen to this man.

1The other is Lists by Colorlist.  Lists, from 2008, is an absolutely astonishing, gorgeous, and compulsively listenable slice of jazz-inflected electro-acoustic composition.  It’s one of three records by the band, and if anyone—ANYONE—knows where I can hear more from this fantastic Chicago duo, let me know, because I’m kind of a desperate fan over here.

2It really, really pains me to reference Current 93, because I fucking loathe that band. I just do. I’m sorry, but I find them almost comically unlistenable.

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I’m looking to steer the ol’ psychedelic music blog towards writing about, y’know, psychedelic music.  Exodusarabesque is a hell of a start.  We’ll see, though.  I have a pretty bad attention span.  If I can think of anything neat in the pipeline, I’ll put it in here.

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