Play One Note

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

Posts filed under ‘Psychedelic music’

Zelienople – His/Hers (Test)

March 30, 2011

Hey y’all.  I’m gonna try to see how this whole Grooveshark embedded playlist thing works/looks.  So here’s the deal.  If this turns out okay, you get a playlist of the phenomenal Zelienople album His/Hers.  If it doesn’t, well, nothing will happen.  Ready?  WOO!

Aaaaaaand that looks good to me! Well, I shan’t really write anything involved about this, but I’ll say that Zelienople is one of my latest obsessions, and His/Hers is one of their strongest albums. It’s got that Scum-era Bark Psychosis underwater contemplative chaos thing going on, which is a major plus in my book. But why should I prattle on about it? You can listen to it right here! Is music criticism dead? Was the preceding question so 2007? Yes and yes. Enjoy.

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Hubble (Ben Greenberg; Zs)

March 28, 2011

As you may or may not know, I’m an Austinite, and I have a blessedly typical, yet nevertheless awesome, SXSW experience to share with you.

I had just wrapped up an early evening which featured seeing my girlfriend’s friend’s band Other Lives* and was biking home past Cheer Up Charlie’s on 6th Street when I heard what I assumed was two bros engaging in a dueling synthesizer space-out.  It was very Emeralds-esque, and I had to circle back and see what the deal was.  As soon as I rounded the block, the wash of cascading hypnosis abruptly stopped and segued into a head-spinning finger-tapping frenzy.  Anticipation welled in my chest, and I got the feeling that something absolutely unexpectedly amazing was going on onstage.  I rounded into view and was confronted with the sight of a dude absolutely shredding onstage, flying solo.  Holy chops!  I stood outside the fence cordoning off the area and watched the guy just dominate his guitar for 20 minutes.  The guitarist’s face was pained, his posture contorted, as he finger-tapped blazingly intricate guitar fractals.  At some point, I caught my jaw just hanging open, and I laughed to myself in sheer glee.  Occasionally, I’d glance around, and everyone who was watching (probably about 40 in all) had the same ecstatic, engrossed gaze.  A handful of times I’d make eye contact with a fellow traveller and we’d exchange one of those holy-shit-are-you-seeing-what-I’m-seeing glances.  And yes, we’d all convey to each other, this is really happening.  Affirmation was all around.

And then, after about 20 minutes of dizzyingly unleashing a torrent of harmonics and overtones, the guitarist abruptly stopped.  There was a split second of silence before the audience erupted into a round of applause surprisingly enthusiastic for its modest size.  I walked straight up to the guy and gave him my typical dumbstruck intro:

“Hey, man, that was awesome.”

He seemed very generous and grateful, and told me his project was called Hubble—an apt name.  I left, absolutely addicted.

Once I got home, I spent an hour trying to find information on the guy.  As one might imagine, a really obscure act with a name as heavily trafficked as Hubble was kind of hard to come by online.  Determination conquers all, though, and I finally found Hubble’s casette online.  Click the living bejeezus out of that link!  CLICK IT AND LOVE IT.  I also found this excellent video of of Hubble performing on a Brooklyn rooftop.  Here it is:

A secondary takeaway from all this (the primary one being that Hubble is important and beautiful and transformative and that I was lucky to see him live): I have learned that Terroreyes.tv is a totally badass website.

Enjoy.

*I would like to go on record to state that Other Lives is an absolutely phenomenal band.  And don’t be suspicious: My judgment here is not clouded from relational duty or proximal taint.  Their newest album, Tamer Animals, is sad, beautiful, triumphant music.  Listen to them.

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Loop – Heaven’s End

February 27, 2011

loop heaven's endBefore the Black Angels, there was Loop, and Heaven’s End was their Passover—a fuzzed-out, bump-and-grind swaggerfest of razor-wire guitars, drug-fueled paranoia, and addled sexual menace.

Loop got its start in London in 1986, where leader Robert Hampson allegedly learned four chords on a guitar and promptly began ripping off fellow travelers Spacemen 3.*  At least, that’s the prevailing idea.  And admittedly, Loop at times—okay, most of the time—does sound an awful lot like those late, great(er) purveyors of psychedelic sneer.  But Loop does Spacemen 3’s aggressive, addled hypnosis so damn well it’s hard for me to hold it against them.†

Take “Soundhead,” for example, which starts off the album with a lean, muscular rhythm section pounding out a deliciously repetitive riff, anchoring waves of hissy, trebly, wah’d-out guitars.  “Soundhead” is, without qualification, an excellent song, all raw, druggy menace and sneering swagger, a nearly unrivaled opening salvo for any appropriately mean-spirited, drug-addled record.  Derivative, perhaps, but rock criticism’s age-old emphasis on originality loses much of its relevance when you’re restraining an overwhelming urge to do an embarrassingly nerdy fist-pump dance at your computer desk.  Like, ahem, this guy, right now.  I think it’s probably time to turn Heaven’s End down a little bit, here…

I digress.  “Soundhead” isn’t the only highlight on Heaven’s End.  Many of Loop’s engrossingly circular riffs are bass-driven, with layers of noisy guitar wailing added for that particular mind-melting aggro-texture.  It’s a winning recipe, one that Loop exploits to particularly excellent effect on “Straight to Your Heart”:

Yum.  Worshippers at the Black Angels’ feet (and I include myself among that rapt throng) can be forgiven for assuming “Straight to Your Heart” is a lost, Directions to See a Ghost-era cut from Austin’s finest.

And not everything sounds entirely Boom-and-Pierce-derived.  Loop seemed to be at once more experimental (such as on the title track, with its squalls of guitar and reversed cymbal smashing) and more song-oriented (as on “Head On,” which, if it wasn’t smothered in acid-drenched guitars, would sound positively poppy).  On Heaven’s End, Loop was already straying a bit from the template they lifted off of Spacemen 3, a trend they’d continue (hesitatingly) throughout their career.

Loop went on to record two more albums, one of which (1988’s Fade Out) I haven’t heard, and one of which (1990’s A Gilded Eternity) is fucking spectacular, before disbanding in 1991.  Hampson continued his Sonic Boom-aping by starting the experimental group Main, which ripped the buzzsaw distorted guitars out of Loop’s song structures and suspended them in murky, cavernous, cacophonous, dark ambient soundscapes.  Main was good, but not great (certainly no Experimental Audio Research, the drone project Boom dabbled in after Spacemen 3’s demise), and Heaven’s End remains one of the better “These guys should be paying royalties” albums out there.  It’s not original, but it sure does kick ass.

*Amusingly, Sonic Boom of Spacemen 3 has, on-record and with fangs bared, alleged Hampson of doing this very thing.  The quote was something like this: “Yeah, they really ripped us off!”  Who knew songwriters in the 80s psychedelic underground beefed so hard?

†There’s a bit of George Brigman’s Jungle Rot in the band’s swagger as well, but really, the two referents are the contemporary one (Spacemen 3) and the current one (the Black Angels).  Not bad bands to be sonically joined at the hip to, in my humble opinion.

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Blondes – Touched EP

January 28, 2011

blondes touched epThere are times, when suffering from the jagged angularity of your day-to-day, when you need enforced limbo, a sort of pleasant mental suspension and insulation from the unexpected, the harsh, and the real.  Blondes, with their Touched EP, provide that perfect humid, mathematical immersion needed to achieve a happy internal stasis.

The five tracks that make up Touched all consist of variations on that easy-breezy Balearic drift that took peaceful hipsters by storm in 2007.  It’s all mellow synth washes, earnest, buried melodies, and charmingly lo-fi beats on the slow side of mid-tempo.  It’s house music for a humid summer’s night: leached of all drama, devoid of urgency, languid, and warm.

You can point to all manner of contemporary referents, because this Balearic/chillwave sound is definitely a “thing,” but I’m not going to do that because a) I don’t have the sort of complete or even particularly well-informed knowledge of that scene to feel like I can pick influences w/o consulting Wikipedia and Pitchfork and Grooveshark and making guesses, and b) the much more interesting (at least from my perspective) reference point is Manuel Göttsching’s guitar geometries from the late 70s and early 80s.

To tell the Göttsching story the right way would involve a serious digressionary swerve, so I’m gonna just avoid that tarpit and say that he was an ex-Krautrock psych lord who moved away from the acid-drenched, mind-melting experiments of his youth in Ash Ra Tempel toward a progressively more ordered, elevated, and clear-eyed approach, one embodied by albums such as Ashra’s* 1976 album New Age of Earth and epitomized by Göttsching’s own brilliant 1984 effort E2-E4.

E2-E4 is a true rarity, an electronic album that’s over 25 years old and doesn’t sound dated.  It’s a masterpiece of repetition, all fractal guitar figures and stately rhythms and luscious layers of synth.  It’s nearly an hour long, and it’s endlessly engrossing.

Enough about that, though.  (Actually, not enough about that.  I should probably write about E2-E4 soon.)  Blondes continues that aesthetic tradition set forth by Göttsching, and they do it proud.  Even if Touched doesn’t do anything that hasn’t been done before, it’s still more than worth spending an hour drifting in its hypnotic, amniotic warmth.

*Yes, that’s a name change.  Sometimes you just gotta reinvent.

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In Defense of Kanye West

January 3, 2011

in defense of kanye westOkay, I’ve had enough of this shit.

Before I begin, a bit of throat-clearing.  First, a confession: I haven’t heard Kanye West’s newest OMG GREATEST ALBUM OF ALL TIME, and I doubt I’ll be seeking it out anytime soon.  That’s got nothing to do with Kanye West and everything to do with the fact that I almost never listen to rap anymore (and when I do, it’s usually of the mid-90s New York hardcore variety, or else denizens and fellow travelers of the Stone’s Throw stable).

So I don’t listen to rap much now, but there was a time period, somewhere between 2005 and 2007, where I probably listened to rap as much as or more than any other genre of music.  And I can say that, even if Kanye West’s ego got so big that he exploded and he rained chunks across half the states of Illinois, Michigan, and Indiana after he released 2005’s Late Registration, or else released Master P-quality platters of crap yearly for the next 20 years, he still would have gone down as one of the best rap producers of the 2000s, and been a well-appreciated, if underrated, lyricist to boot solely based on the dizzying heights his first two records reached.  Graduation was a thick, luscious icing on that already pretty perfect cake, and if 808s and Heartbreak was a bit curious, it was, at least, an incredibly audacious move, a noble and well-intentioned and bold attempt.

Second, the timing of my missive might seem somewhat odd.  Why this, why now, over a year after West committed his ultimate act of depravity (mentioned below, and yes, that sardonic clanging you hear is the Three-Alarm Sarcasm Alert), and given the admission that I probably won’t listen to the recently released My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy?  The answer is simple: Scrolling though the K’s of my mp3 collection, I saw my neglected copy of The College Dropout and smiled.  And then I thought about it.  And then I frowned.  Yeah, not very poetic, but that’s what happened.

The fact is, despite the critical gushing and soaring album sales, Kanye West is routinely lambasted and ridiculed by those who “know better,” those who don’t “get” the hype, and, perhaps most importantly, those who find West actively odious and repellent.  The list of unforgivable strikes against Kanye West’s meteorically arced career is long.  They include various acts of extreme vanity, (apparently) unfounded outspokenness, (apparently) misdirected self-confidence, and general assholery.  We can all agree on this.  We can also all agree that West’s greatest sin to date appears to be his interruption of Taylor Swift’s bland and trite and manufactured acceptance speech during the 2009 MTV VMAs.  Sure, interrupting anyone is rude (it’s certainly a pet peeve of mine), and it’s easy to feel bad for Swift, who is excellent at playing the down-home country girl, but forgive me for being a cold-hearted cynic if I’m not even remotely moved.

Let me be clear: I haven’t seen the video that Taylor Swift won a completely empty and worthless VMA for, but I can assure you it sucked the suck of 10,000 Dyson vacuums hooked up to one another Human Centipede-style and retooled to inhale the souls of anyone with a shred of taste.  How can I be so confident?  Two reasons.  First, because Taylor Swift is a farce, a talentless pretty face coasting off the fact that she allegedly writes her own (dreadful) songs.*  To trash her seems utterly redundant, an act akin to informing someone of the shittiness of a pile of shit.  Second, MTV is emphatically not an accurate arbiter of what is good, art-wise, and really has no business doling out awards anyway, at least not ones that anybody with a modicum of critical awareness should care about.  If you honestly feel that a VMA signifies anything other than the current and projected future monetary value of a star, well, you and I likely don’t see eye-to-eye on an impressively wide range of topics.

Now, I have seen the video West announced his preference for when he interrupted “poor” old Taylor Swift (the aw-shucks 21-year-old country girl, incidentally, made $18 million in 2009, the year West was just oh-so-rude to her), and it, too, is a shitstorm of appalling proportions.  I can’t back West there.  Plus, the case can be made that since West supported, as an alternative to Swift’s video, a video in the same realm of shittiness, he shouldn’t be lauded for it on the grounds of enforcing better taste.  Very well.  However, the VMAs, as previously mentioned, are a complete joke, and I heartily applaud anyone who manages to crap on it in any way.  Here’s to you, Mr. West.

Regardless, humility is hardly a criteria for public perception of greatness, as legendary world-class assholes like Michael Jordan, Roman Polanski, Keith Richards, or, on a more underground scale, Damon Che of Don Caballero or Mark E. Smith of the Fall, can freely attest.  (Polanski raped a child and still gets more slack cut for his auteurish ass than Kanye West!  Forced sodomy of a 13-year-old?  But he makes great movies!  Churlishness on Twitter?  Lynch the overconfident angry black man!†)

If Kanye seems more outspoken then the aforementioned critical darlings, that’s because everyone’s more outspoken today.  West, like any celebrity so inclined, has a staggering array of options to broadcast his opinions that were utterly unavailable just ten years ago.  Jordan didn’t have Twitter or the 24-hour news cycle or an attendant blogosphere to oversaturate the market with his image.  A parade of Nike ads, as ubiquitous as they seemed at the time, cannot hope to compete with the information overload smorgasbord West’s got at his disposal.  Anyway, rap, since its literal inception as a recorded medium in “Rapper’s Delight,” has been preoccupied with boasts and brashness.  Pride and confidence and swagger and self-centeredness are ingrained in hip-hop’s very DNA, and West is simply continuing that trend.

Enough with ego.  Though I’m almost certain that’s why the majority of West’s detractors despise him so, I believe that topic’s been parsed enough.  It may be that you just don’t, you know, like his music.  And that’s fine!  My question to you is, what contemporary rapper/producer of his stature is better?  Who crafts lyrics as incisive (when he’s not being lazy) or clever or humorous and assembles beats as ambitious and daring and dynamic and writes pop hooks engaging enough to entrance millions?  I’m curious, because I can’t think of any.  I can think of artists who embody the first two (the RZA, Madlib, MF Doom, Pimp C (RIP)), some who embody the last two (Just Blaze, Swizz Beatz, maybe?), one who does the first and last (OutKast), and a handful who do any one of those (except the second) better than West.  But nobody fulfills all three.  It just doesn’t happen.

Now, if you don’t like rap, that’s okay, too.  I can totally see why you’d dislike—even hate!—Kanye West’s music.  After all, he makes rap, and you hate rap.  I can also see why you would hate Off the Wall if you hated pop, or Sleep’s Holy Mountain if you hated stoner metal, or In the Court of the Crimson King if you hated prog rock.  But to have an agenda against any of the artists who made those classic albums specifically because of the genre they inhabit that you dislike generally seems like an unusual misdirection of emotion.

In sum, forgive the man his indiscretions.  He’s hardly the worst offender out there, and chances are you’ve forgiven worse.  The fact that he happens to make some truly transcendant music (listen to the albums, people, not just whatever singles you happen to come across) is a big fucking cherry on top.

I rest my case by leaving you with these:

“Spaceship,” off of The College Dropout:

“Heard ‘Em Say,” off of Late Registration:

“Amazing,” off of 808s and Heartbreak:

Happy New Year, y’all.

*Please don’t think I’m suggesting Swift doesn’t pen her own material.  However, with today’s ubiquitous and hologrammed enterainments, I think we can all agree more elaborate lies have been successfully passed off.

†I’m going to leave this well alone, but I definitely deleted a passage ruminating on this topic a bit, one in which I focused on West’s famous (and laudable, and courageous, and accurate) assertion that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” on live TV.  When was the last time any other rapper (or pop star) who had the ear of the nation said anything so brave and controversial and meaningful?  Ten years?  Twenty?

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HAPPY NEW YEAR

December 31, 2010

2010 WAS GREAT!  2011 WILL BE BETTER.  FORMAT CHANGE: FROM NOW ON ALL I’M GOING TO WRITE ABOUT IS MUDVAYNE OVER AND OVER AND OVER IN ALL CAPS.  SOUND GOOD?  WOOOOOOO LET’S GO

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David Crosby – If I Could Only Remember My Name

October 29, 2010

david crosby if i could only remember my nameIt’s a chill Friday.  I’m relaxing, trying out my new headphones, sitting in a ridiculously comfy ergonomic chair.  Sipping on tea.  Basically feeling transcendentally mellow.

It’s chill outside, as well.  I mean, chill for central Texas.  I biked home from work in 55-degree weather.  Yes, folks, there’s a nip in the air, and it’s times like these when we turn inward ever so slightly, finding enjoyment in our own quiet thoughts and maybe, just maybe, if we’re lucky, those of one we love.  Let’s face it, peeps: ‘Tis the season to get mellow and sexual.

Maybe I’m talking out of my ass.  I probably am.  And I’m okay with that.  The point I want to make, in typically elliptical and roundabout fashion, is that I’m listening to David Crosby‘s debut album, If I Could Only Remember My Name, and it fits these chill times like a warm, easily distractible glove.  This is easily the best thing David Crosby ever put out, and the best Crosby, Stills & Nash solo album by far.  It’s lightly druggy, abstract, introspective, and exquisitely calm and languid—perfect sweater weather music, perfect post-sex come-down music.

I’d give this album more words than this but I’d rather just let this particular album speak for itself.  Put it on and chill out.

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Guided by Voices – Static Airplane Jive

October 19, 2010

guided by voices static airplane jiveI’ll get around to it, but permit me a brief and related digression: I recently saw Guided by Voices here in the lovely city of Austin.  The performance was excellent, about what you’d expect from Robert Pollard.  There were high kicks, microphone twirls (did I just make up a term there?  Microphone twirls?), and spectacular between-song banter.  There’s a reason Pollard has a live album consisting solely of his rambling observations, 2005’s Relaxation of the Asshole (to which I say, hurr).  There was also lots and lots of Pollard-centric beer guzzling, the upshot of which was the charismatic singer’s slurred demand for “Austin pussy” during GBV’s first encore.  A demand that, I’d like to point out, was met with throaty cheers by men and and tepid snorts by women.

Oh, and they played songs.  Great songs, in fact, largely culled from their classic, early-to-mid 90s lineup that featured Tobin Sprout’s George Harrison to Pollard’s Lennon/McCartney.  They played “hits” (which, by GBV’s standards, means “songs that more than 100 people have heard”) off of Alien Lanes and the untoppable Bee Thousand alongside phenomenal(ly) deep cuts off of Tonics & Twisted Chasers, Clown Prince of the Menthol Trailer, and I Am a Scientist.  Each EP rarity was prefaced with an announcement of its origins.

This reverential, real-time crate-digging is not uncommon for Guided by Voices, but they didn’t play anything off of my favorite release of theirs, 1993’s Static Airplane Jive.  Though their song catalog probably runs into the thousands, I had reasonable hopes they’d drag out a tune or two from the EP, simply because when I’d seen them before and they’d done so, playing the 51-second, loopy acoustic ballad “Hey Aardvark” (more on this later).  No luck this time, though.

The show did, however, impel me to revisit Static Airplane Jive, and my decade-old love for the relatively obscure little EP was rekindled. I still stand by my assertion that Static Airplane Jive is the greatest thing Guided by Voices ever laid to tape.

Bold, I know. But I’m one bold bro. From an exposure/historical significance perspective, Static Airplane Jive doesn’t hold a candle to Alien Lanes, let alone Bee Thousand.  However, taken as a document divorced from its context, Static Airplane Jive stands as Guided by Voices’s most powerful, clearly distilled statement.  Consisting of six incredibly brief songs (only one passes the three-minute mark, and only one more the two), Static Airplane Jive blasts through a surprisingly diverse array of genres in exhilarating fashion.  They run through anthemic, fist-pumping arena-pop (“Big School”), trippy, circular incantations (“Damn Good Mr. Jam”) and blistering psych-punk in various iterations (“Rubber Man,” “Glow Boy Butlers,” “Gelatin, Ice Cream, Plum”), all in under 11 minutes.  Every second is absolutely essential listening.  Nothing here is wasted.

Oh, and there’s also that aforementioned little acoustic ditty, “Hey Aardvark.”  I’ll be blunt, as I too infrequently am: The song is perfect, one of my 10 or 15 all-time favorites by any artist.  It’s simultaneously bittersweet, longing, and carefree, effortlessly folding each of those emotions into its brief, modest span.  It’s also sonically fascinating, featuring incredibly warmly recorded acoustic guitars and an in-the-red Pollard intoning sweetly simple, vaguely surreal lyrics, and bookended by subtle, difficult-to-place percussive touches.  Blah, blah, blah—it’s impossible to describe “Hey Aardvark” using the reverence it deserves.  You have to listen to it.  You just have to.

Now, Guided by Voices probably doesn’t fall into many personal definitions of what a psychedelic band sounds or behaves like,* especially today, with our glut of strung-out, droning star- and navel-gazers.  But that glosses over that weird little moment in the early-to-mid 90s where a handful of bands like Aspera Ad Astra, All Natural Lemon and Lime Flavors, the Strapping Fieldhands, and the Olivia Tremor Control fused Nuggets-era garage rock’s anthemic brevity with post-punk’s penchant for damaging and uglying up perfectly good pop songs.**  The music these bands made was alternately weird, catchy, unsettling, sugary, and strung-out.

Guided by Voices isn’t often thrown into that lot, I wouldn’t think, but a document like Static Airplane Jive makes a good case for doing so.  Brief, tinny, fractured, burnt pop.  Sounds about right.

*And yes, I’m getting sick of quibbling on my own damn blog, so maybe I’ll stop doing it soon, but here I go anyway.

**Succour: The Terrascope Benefit Album compiles a number of these bands (along with some others) to give an excellent snapshot of mid-90s out-psych in many of its iterations.

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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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