For those who missed our last installment, We post biweekly updates covering what the staff at Heavy Blog have been…
These posts are written by: Scott Murphy
In their down time from story-boarding episodes of Rick and Morty and Mr. Pickles for Adult Swim, the team at Williams Street Productions has been an odd source of quality underground music compilations and albums. Not only does their catalog feature works from the likes of Captain Murphy (a.k.a Flying Lotus) and Destruction Unit alongside annual, multi-genre compilations, nearly all of these albums are entirely free to stream and download. If you’re searching for a negative here, there isn’t one, a point the company proved yet again last month with their most avant-garde offering to date. The appropriately blunt title for NOISE should point to the abrasiveness of this collection of tracks; an eclectic range of compositions from an equally broad roster of artists, all of whom approach “noise” as a malleable concept meant to be stretched to its limit.
Before jazz became a regular occurrence in my rotation, I thought bandleaders were exclusively pianists, trumpeters saxophonists given the prevalence of the instruments in the genre. This quickly changed as I ventured further into the genre, exploring the discographies of artists like bassist Charles Mingus and flutist/clarinetist Eric Dolphy (who, to be fair, also played alto sax). But it wasn’t until hearing Jack DeJohnette’s drum solo on “What I Say” – from Miles Davis’ Live-Evil – that I truly fell in love with jazz drumming, drawing me towards eminent jazz percussionists like Max Roach. To be clear, none of this is meant to frame Eli Keszler as a jazz drummer; his playing and composition on Last Signs of Speed doesn’t fit neatly in any particular style. Yet, as I listened to Keszler’s use of texture throughout the album, it reminded me of the songwriting sensibilities of drummers like Roach – musicians with a deep understanding of percussion’s mechanics and how any additional instrumentation should be placed in the surrounding space.
Nearly every drone metal album is bound to receive the inevitable comparison to Sunn O))), and unsurprisingly so. Drone is a difficult genre to master, what with it’s focus on mood and experience instead of typical songwriting tropes. Yet, while perusing reviews of Crystal Shipsss’ I Will See No Moon No Sky a couple years ago before writing my own, I found a blog with an interesting take on the album genre. While not verbatim, their general assertion was as follows: Crystal Shipsss’ brand of drone metal may recall Sunn O))), but in the end, no band can claim ownership of “the drone.” But let’s fast forward a bit – what exactly does any of this have to do with Twinesuns’ excellent new album, The Empire Never Ended? Well, after but a few minutes into the album, it’ll become clear that 1.) the bands sounds like Sunn O))) & 2.) this by no means discounts the sheer intensity and invention that they bring to the genre.
There aren’t many labels that balance consistency and quality quite like The Flenser. Since launching in 2009, the San Francisco-based curator of “dark experimental” music has presented some of the best bands fitting of this classification. And though it was probably due to my own personal taste evolving more than anything else, 2014 seemed to be a particularly phenomenal year for The Flenser’s roster, complete with incredible releases from Botanist, Have a Nice Life, Kayo Dot, White Suns and Wreck and Reference. But of all these gems, perhaps the most lasting release from the bunch has been Planning for Burial’s Desideratum, Thom Wasluck’s captivating blend of shoegaze and ambient drone that feels like an organic, non-GMO version of Jesu’s poppy doom metal.
Though it may seem like we talked ad naseum about how fucking spectacular 2016 was in terms of new music, the fact remains that we saw more fantastic albums drop than we could seemingly keep up with. But just when we thought our palates were satiated, here comes 2017 with an excellent early roster of release announcements, some we’ve expected for a while and others that came out of nowhere. The following is a surely incomplete list of all the albums worth craving as we ring in the new year. Some of these albums have been fully announced with pre-order links and all that jazz, while others are merely probable assumptions based on various updates on social media. Regardless, these are all phenomenal projects worth looking for in the coming year. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and we encourage you to comment with some albums you’re anticipating so we can share in your excitement.
While it’s unfair to call the “electroacoustic” tag unhelpful, the meaning of it’s name is far more self-explanatory than the works it labels. For those unfamiliar with the genre, the underlying concept is relatively straight forward: electroacoustic music applies any number of digital effects to acoustic (or more accurately, non-electronic) recordings, whether it be instruments, found sounds or field recordings. This method creates a certain detached tangibility – a recognition of the deliberate, musical purpose of sounds which you often times can’t quite link to a specific source. Such an odd bricolage may cause some to question the musicality of these works, but to the contrary, it’s precisely this careful crafting of disparate sounds which established the genre as a unique art form all its own. The process experimental music veteran David Toop used to create Entities Inertias Faint Beings illuminates precisely why this is:
Welcome back to Heavy Buys! We launched this feature a couple months ago to share some recent physical music purchases we’ve made, whether it’s a small-time purchase to round out one’s collection, or a debt-inducing splurge. Vinyl, CDs, and even cassettes are all possible topics here. As long as its physical media, it’s fair game. While Jimmy’s inaugural installment covered his autographed copy of John Zorn’s Hemophiliac, I’m starting a monthly column covering all of the vinyl I’ve purchased in the past 30 days (give or take). This stack of records comes from several hours spent in four separate stores, including trips during a weekend visit with friends in Maine, my go-to hometown shop in New Hampshire, and a Black Friday binge while down in Connecticut with my girlfriend for Thanksgiving with her family. After you’ve gone through all of my picks, be sure to comment with any of your own finds!
For those who missed our last installment, We post biweekly updates covering what the staff at Heavy Blog have been spinning. Given the amount of time we spend on the site telling you about music that does not fall neatly into the confines of conventional “metal,” it should come as no surprise that many of us on staff have pretty eclectic tastes that range far outside of metal and heavy things. We can’t post about all of them at length here, but we can at least let you know what we’re actually listening to. For those that would like to participate as well (and please do) can drop a 3X3 in the comments, which can be made with tapmusic.net through your last.fm account, or create it manually with topsters.net. Also, consider these posts open threads to talk about pretty much anything music-related. We love hearing all of your thoughts on this stuff and love being able to nerd out along with all of you.
Even a cursory glance of our biweekly “What Heavy Blog Is Really Listening To” posts (last week’s update here) will reveal that there is a great deal of variety among our staff’s musical tastes. Due to this, we brainstormed the idea of “Playlist Swap,” another biweekly segment that takes place between playlist updates. We randomly select two of the participants from each update, have them pick their favorite track from each of the nine albums in their grid and then send the list over to the other person to listen to and comment on. Within these commentaries occurs praise, criticism and discovery, and we hope that you experience a few instances of this last point as well. This week’s post has Nick and David going tête-à-tête with some things the two already share their admiration for and some unexpected surprises!