Thursday, June 28, 2012

Mister Rogers Remix

This is the best thing going on the Internet these days. Whoever made this is dialed in.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Bersarin Quartett - II

Just some quick thoughts on this amazing album that I'd recommend as one of the year's best instrumentals.

It hurts to speak of this album. I'm supposed to be kind of good at describing and recommending music, but II is just one of those albums whose grace stays the fool’s hand. The album’s effortless wielding of energies is too lovely to screw up. How does Thomas Bücker blend everything together so magically? The German musician creates imaginary film soundtracks as Bersarin Quartett, and it would take an equally masterful eye to match the masterful ear displayed here. Bücker’s debut album of “chamber-tronics” is a timeless work of art, and where II changes things up is in its emotional direction. Unlike the exuberence of the debut, II feels much more baroque and personal, as if the story being told is about the glories and sunken dreams of one person. “Im Lichte des Anderen” uses but one string progression, yet so much emotion is wrung from it we can clearly see the character barely holding on to the shreds of a love that must be let go. All of the instruments are real, ensuring that the symphonics do not ring hollow. Bersarin Quartett’s music is so effective because in hitting all the right notes in all the right places for seventy minutes straight, so much of what is true about life as a human being is wrapped up in its DNA. Between every drum resonance is our frailty, between the clarinet and violin a buried hope. The piano lives and breathes a joy we won’t allow ourselves to feel. The tasteful electronics are the vehicle we try to ride on the road to freedom. The balance of growth and decay. The unobtainable expressed. Each listen will provide new secrets both in sound and in mind. This music captures a darkness that every human being shares in a quest for lightness of being. Bersarin Quartett strikes again.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Demdike Stare and The Sight Below, No UFOs at the Planetarium

Thanks (once again) to Twee Death another fascinating concert was happening in Vancouver. I don't think I can attend other concerts anymore unless they are put on by Twee Death and at planetariums. I've seen Barn Owl at the Anza Club thanks to them, a place where my animation studio often holds company functions, a place where I have been horribly drunk, pulling my future wife out of the basement dance floor for unprecedented innapropriateness, and many other adventures both awkward and triumphant. I never wrote anything about that Barn Owl show, but wow, that was one of the best I've seen in recent years. Those guys are in it to win it. No scrubs those two. With that show I identified a pattern: Twee Death care about music, and I cannot help but go to all their shows.


On this night we had Demdike Stare and The Sight Below and No UFOs playing in A PLANETARIUM. Or as the locals call it, H.R. Macmillan Space Center. I bought two tickets thinking I'd get a friend to come with me. I was alone at the last show I'd been to, and that really isn't my favorite thing. After dangling the carrot, I got my friend Shawn (who plays for Siskiyou among other things) to accept a free ticket. Why do I pay for other people? I dunno. I'm a dad. Habits die hard. Shawn, the fellows from Hierarchies, and some other chums biked it to the planetarium.  Old Nayt took the Subaru, alone. I had thought about biking, too, but the prospect of chugging up all those hills at 1am just isn't something I care to tackle anymore. There's grey in my beard.

Upon arriving I knew no one, as usual. I decided to get some money so I drove to an ATM. On my way to the car I ran into Samuel Macklin (who I had just seen play a show as Connect_icut a few weeks prior). I didn't realize who he was at first, which made our conversation about our respective children and personal origins all the more fun. Originally from the UK, he lives here now, and his dry and fatalistic sense of humor hadn't betrayed him. He jested (rather seriously) that he knew very little about music, but maintained it as a hobby. I then proceeded to totally ace a parallel parking job. He said he respected Loscil quite a bit, to which I agreed. I mentioned how he (Scott Morgan) also had kids and how between the three of us it was strange that we were amongst the night people. We were on similar wavelengths. It was an enjoyable, light hearted and random meeting. Money obtained, we returned to the venue.

Eventually my friends arrived (I have friends!) and I was introduced to some other people. I just realize more and more that many people bore me, so not meeting people is a defense mechanism against being annoyed by small talk. Who wants to chit chat at the Demdike Stare concert?


The show began with No UFOs. Having the stars slowly rotating while a giant screen projection floated through space really was epic. His music was a mixture of percussive obfuscation and annoying repetitions. The screen sometimes appeared to be three dimensional, as if we were following its journey through sub space. That was an awesome visual trick several of us agreed we were playing on ourselves. Sometimes the music hit a vein that really got me into it, but No UFOs seemed to continuously sabotage my interest. Then without warning the massive sound he had been conjuring cut out. Someone thought he heard him say "Something died." That was the end.

The Sight Below
There was barely time to breathe as Rafael Anton Irisarri prepared for his set. While wearing his classic oversized hood, he used the planetarium's settings to vivid effect. The lights went down, the stars came out bright as night and the sky ended up rotating rather quickly. As The Sight Below, Rafael often uses some dubby, nocturnal pulses, but on this night his set sounded a lot like his solo work and wow it was easily the highlight. When the shower of shooting stars started crossing the dome, it was truly magical. Everyone around me agreed that this was their favorite part of the show. I even went into a dreamlike state at one point. It was really great. Rafael did an amazing job. I have known him for a couple years now, but I didn't get to talk to him after his set. I did say hello, but I was still reeling from a somewhat out of body experience, and he seemed like he wanted to be alone. I might, too, after such an engaging set of ambience. Decompression is important.

The Sight Below
Not long after this the two fellows of Demdike Stare began their totally bizarro take on electronic/found sound performance, coupled with their trademark obscure footage collages broadcasted above their heads. The footage was definitely memorable. I was peeved at the over use of repetition as it took some of the magic away, but I'm still affected by seeing some of these fragments from B movies and art films. Whoever edits them has a psychotic sensibility, and these videos cause quite a bit of discomfort. They are DARK. Shades of the occult, nightmares, pungent smells, wild erotica, and subterranean morality. I could not name you one of the video sources.

Demdike Stare

I enjoyed their set in an intellectual way. I cannot say the Demdike Stare music really struck a chord in me. They take a really strange approach. Lots of tone pieces, accentuated by eerie found sounds, samples of spooky piano, chains and off kilter "rhythms" created sometimes by drums but more often by the interchanging of parts. After the show I asked Shawn "Why would you repeatedly create music like that?" So much dread! I am not sure I've seen a musical act full of more dread than this. Which is probably a good thing. Something to expand my horizons with in the future perhaps? Not sure, actually. I feel like they are going down a path I may have been interested in years ago. I don't believe humanity is inherently cursed or bad, a feeling which the videos seem to embrace. The whole thing was pretty pessimistic. If Demdike Stare wanted to change the way they make music or do the videos it would be met with much protest from fans. So they're kind of stuck there stylistically. As exercises in discomfort Demdike Stare songs take the prize.

Demdike Stare
All photos courtesy of Steve Louie's Flickr photostream. Dude's got tons of great Vancouver concert photos.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Moonwood ~ The Strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the Strength of the Wolf is the Pack

Originally posted on A Closer Listen. Jakob Rehlinger Face-friended me the day after this was published. Must have liked it okay. :) Or we both live in Canada and it's just a coincidence.

“The Law For The Wolves” is a poem from The Jungle Book that spells out how wolves are to conduct themselves, and a resounding line depicting the unyielding cycles of nature is where the Canadian duo Moonwood went for the lengthy title for their latest release. While the law of the jungle is dog eat dog, the Moonwood family seems to be much more interested in sharing avenues into consciouness expansion as their freaky psych-folk would indicate.

Given the number of releases over the last five years Moonwood strike an improvisational chord, and yet there is a deep level of intention pulsing here. TSotPisW,atSofWisP (even the abbreviation is too wild for capture!) is a lot like the group’s other albums, and yet absolutely different. The rumors are true: the band is influenced by Tibetan funeral music, krautrock, Balinese gamelan, classic psychedelic heavy rock bands, traditional Japanese and South Asian music, dub, free-jazz and avant-folk. It all appears on this album, stemming from a strong backbone of acoustic guitars, jangly percussion and a healthy dose of bamboo flutes.

The circuitous guitar style and eastern scales define much of how the rest of the music sounds, but what that might be changes from track to track. The playful early dawn of gamelan percussion, gongs, and hallowed vocal harmonies on “Invite Me To Stare Into The Darkness” is followed immediately a Cambodian psych jam in “Grafitti Blossoms”. The album jumps around quite a bit, and while a consistent theme of ritual and psychedelic encouragement is achieved, the strength of the record lies in the second half. It is as if the experimentalist menagerie of the first half were a warm up for the final charge into darkness unknown.

“It Takes A Child To Raze A Village” begins this journey with some bayou-styled guitar bendings reminiscent of Jack Rose and Evan Caminiti at the same time. From here a steady pace is established, the acoustic engine sparkling with additions of eastern violins, (perhaps) ekatantari, and opium-soaked tambourine. It’s a soundtrack worthy of your journey across a forlorn landscape or the River Styx, except with eyes still full of wonder and optimism. “And The Snake Shall Be Your Watchman” features what sounds like a bowed electric guitar and those familiar but haunting spirit harmonies, setting the stage for one cracker of a closing track.

Any grief taken with the style schizophrenia (shame on you) will be absolved by “Where The Flowers Blossom Red”, a monster psych folk track that begins somewhat unassumingly before launching into a vivid arrangement with the filters your mind puts up to keep you from the edge. This is the snake dance, and Moonwood is poised to coax your soul’s release in a Grails-esque bacchanalian purge. It is very enjoyable closure for an album that is as sonically fascinating as they come. All the talk on the Internet about these folks using a minimalist approach needs revision, as while one can imagine these instruments appearing around the campfire, the glut of styles and instruments from around the world amounts to much more than a simple bowl of granola. This is a sultan’s nocturnal feast for the ears.