to eleven

Matt’s Top 5 by ymatto
December 24, 2010, 12:27 pm
Filed under: Lists | Tags: , , , , ,

I figure I’m barely half a contributor here, so rather than the traditional top 10, I’m doing a demi.

The Roots – How I Got Over

I believe firmly that The Roots are one of the most talented and consistent musical groups living today.  That said, I have to admit that for me their albums of recent years, while strong, had a certain experimental focus that pushed aside the effortless depth that drew me in originally.  How I Got Over, much like Autechre’s Oversteps this year, seems to take everything they’ve learned in recent years, and pulls it together with more clarity — an album that, if I’m honest, is the first since about “Things Fall Apart” that reaches into my brain and pulls my levers.  Just fully brilliant hip-hop.

Red Sparowes – The Fear is Excruciating, But Therein Lies the Answer

I’ve become a quick fan of the Red Sparowes, and their latest has a narrative maturity and emotional range that sets it apart even from their previous outstanding work.  On the post-rock front, I nearly had to give the year to Souvenir’s Young America on harmonica-based grounds, but in the end the Sparowes was one of a few albums that helped get me through a rough patch this year, so it’s going on the shelf of particular respect.

Super Galactic Expansive – Supersensible Science

I kind of went on about these guys this year, and it’s still an album I come back to over and over.  Momentum and flow, momentum and flow, tight tight electronic sounds, and momentum and flow.  Comparisons can be made, but really it doesn’t sound like anything else; no album got me as excited by its pure freshness this year.

Tipper – Broken Soul Jamboree

I meant to do a proper review for this, but events intervened.  The short version:  Tipper reminds me a bit of Photek from back in the day.  Photek came in at the height of drum’n’bass popularity and dropped a bunch of albums and singles that took this deconstructed, surgically precise approach to the formula.  It had obsessive attention to production quality while still creating atmosphere and raw power (see his Ni Ten Ichi Ryu).  Tipper has been doing very similar things with a range of electronic music, from IDM to breaks to glitch-hop.  His album “Surrounded” was, in turns, cinematic and squelchily electronic — experimental and cohesive — organic and so precise that he offered a DVD-Audio version that was, Dark Side of the Moon-style, mixed into discrete surround sound.  Broken Soul Jamboree picks up where Surrounded left off and truly takes it to eleven.  It’s lush, lush stuff.

Ninjatune XX Box Set

This has to be on my list for delivering the full package — music, art, and information packaged in a way that conveys real appreciation for you the listener.  This was the piece this year that made me feel like a music purchase was an event, not just a CD rip.

Special bonus, one album that was kind of a disappointment this year:  Gorillaz – Plastic Beach

I always like the Gorillaz and I was sure I’d like this.  I bought the special edition deal.  It caused me to discover Little Dragon, which I dig quite a bit.  It has an intro with Snoop Dogg, and Stylo is a properly great song.  But I just do not like this album.  Like, it’s all cool getting Bobby Womack and the National Orchestra for Arabic Music, but 90% of this sounds like the funky eclectic intro and outro tracks to what I hoped this album would be.  I do really like Stylo and Little Dragon though.

– Matt


Tight jeans and long beards: Fang Island, Caspian, Red Sparowes by Jayson
April 19, 2010, 11:32 am
Filed under: Shows | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

We went to the show last night. It was a pretty good time.

I had kinda predicted a basic dichotomy in the crowd, that there would be dudes with beards there to see Red Sparowes and Caspian and various types of younger people in tight clothes there to see Fang Island. I was pretty right about that.

We got there semi-early and following my old person’s guide to shows, I got a chair.

Fang Island. If Captain America was the mightiest sorcerer in these lands, he’d wear that guy’s hoodie-shirt.

Fang Island were up. It felt like it took them a while to get into it. They didn’t sound super good in the Grog, it happens. I was super stoked when they played Daisy. It was a good set overall, but the crowd did not seem that into it.

They finished, and because it was a Sunday night show, got their stuff loaded off and Caspian loaded on pretty quick. Ever since the Grog Shop moved back in… I forget. Anyway it’s had this small problem of bands loading and unloading through the nook where the merch is. Fang Island basically had no place to put their stuff, so they ended up putting it around me. By the time Red Sparowes would come on later I had a little fort built around my chair of amps and drums.

Caspian got set up pretty quickly. Oh, and before I go any farther: bombast; crescendo. This is post-rock. You can’t write about post-rock without using those words. So, done and done.

Caspian. It is dark. They are rocking out, like, hard.

Caspian are not a band I knew much about before the show. I checked them out on their MySpace and liked ’em, so I was moderately looking forward to seeing them. They killed it though. In all honesty, they might have even upstaged the Red Sparowes. Those guys were just completely going off. Now again, assuming that you think this post-rock stuff is beautiful and stimulates the imagination and takes you to a special place, I do, these guys took me to a place that I haven’t been since Godspeed You! Black Emperor. There was bombast and crescendo and it was awesome. I loved it. The crowd loved it. Some drunk lady wanted to have their babies, her drunk boyfriend wanted to watch. You stay classy, Cleveland. One of the dudes in Caspian is 100′ tall.

They finished it up, loaded off, my fort got a little bigger and everybody left. I don’t know if it was because they were there to see Caspian or because it was 11:30 on a Sunday night, but about half of the place cleared out.

Red Sparowes. Projection.

The Red Sparowes got to it. Jason told me he thought Caspian’s massive amount of onstage rocking was too hard of an act to follow. I think the Sparowes stage show got defeated a little by the Grog’s relatively low ceilings. I can’t say for sure since this is the first time I’ve seen them, but when I saw Godspeed they did the projector thing too. Their stage was totally dark. You listened to the music and watched the movie. I think this was supposed to be the same deal. The Red Sparowes movie was a combination of a lot of nature footage and lots of computer graphics of stuff like DNA flying through the universe and subatomic particles and that kind of thing, with a bit of Twilight Zone-horror stuff here and there. It made me think of something that you’d watch for your Raelian introductory seminar or Dharma Initiative orientation or if you watched a lot of Nova on PBS. I thought they killed too though. They have two steel guitars on stage! You can’t front on that. I dug the whole experience.

And that was it. Show over. No fake encore, which is actually ok with me. The people watching was just ok. We had a guy walking around in an actual pimp coat, he looked foolish. Because it’s Cleveland there will always be a guy in camo shorts and a couple of beefy, bald guys with goatees. Hipster who would probably be totally entry level in Williamsburg but are the kings queens of Cleveland Heights. Someone is running around with 4k worth of camera. She has been at every show for the last 13 years, her face changes, but she is always there. I also learned that you have to have your keys on an exposed carabiner on a rear belt loop, it is law.

– Jayson

What I’m Listening To by jason

Ug. It’s that time of year. If you are a student, you know what I’m talking about.

Finals are just around the corner. Because I work at a college (and Jayson is a student), it’s hard for us to do much for the next two weeks. In response, we’re trying to do more because we’re complete bad-asses like that. It’s not always easy, though, and today was just one of those days.

I haven’t even had time to sit down and listen to music today, though I have been listening to some stuff throughout the week, and you know what? You should be listening to it, too!

Jayson got me listening to Red Sparowes. Their new album, The Pain is Excruciating, but Therein Lies the Answer is going on my “writing mix” because it’s moody, it’s not going to put my to sleep, and most importantly for my writing mix, it’s all instrumental. I also got their ep, Aphorisms on Amie Street for a steal. I’m hoping to see these guys this Sunday (see also: things jason and Jayson are doing because they have no time to do ANYTHING).

To Eleven reader Devin got me a digital copy of the ultra-rare Come, Come to the Sunset Tree by the Mountain Goats. I’m still on the lookout for a physical copy of this one, but for now, this copy will tide me over. It’s an collection of demos from The Sunset Tree with a couple of completely unreleased songs. Rad.

Inspired by Max Tannone’s Mos Dub that I was on about last week, I busted out Mos Def & Talib Kweli are Black Star, which is a great album. I’ve liked Mos Def for a while, but I’ve never listened to any Talib Kweli besides this album. I’ll have to go fix this immediately.

I’ve also started listening to the new Kaki King album, but I’m going to review it later, so I won’t talk about that.

OK…it’s back to the fray for me. Say hi to Jayson if you see him today!


Review: Red Sparowes – The Fear Is Excruciating, But Therein Lies the Answer by Jayson

I do love what they call post-rock.

2010 seems like the big year of stylistic departures so far, and the new Red Sparowes continues the trend. The songs on The Fear… sound more like individual pieces, rather than movements of some greater composition. The sheer volume of their previous albums is diminished here. Instead there’s a more quiet, more personal sound. Thinking about the earlier albums, this is a soundtrack to more personal events than of a large scale drama.

The song titles are a hell of a lot shorter too.

These are subtle changes though, the Red Sparowes sound is intact, if a little more delicate. The more personal direction seems to carry over in the theme of this album. The liner notes discus the uncertainty of the current times and the deliberate fostering of misinformation to allay fears. It’s reads as a more personal conflict that the wider ones explored on previous albums, which explains the changes in the sound. I don’t want to give the impression this a meek album, or an entirely quiet one, it just sounds more focused. There are still loud, bombastic moments. Also, I continue to love the steel guitar, it’s more prominent than it was on Every Red Heart and I’m glad.

Non-fans seem to disregard post-rock as background music, but in doing that, they miss out. There is a range of complexity here that reflects the breadth of human emotion. The Fear… has an almost Expressionistic quality to it. You owe yourself a good listen with this one.

Red Sparowes – The Fear is Excruciating, But Therein Lies the Answer is out on Sargent House.

– Jayson