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 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/people 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 brought editors Eden Kupermintz and Scott Murphy together to peruse each other’s tastes:
Scott’s Grid and Eden’s Comments
Eden Kupermintz: I’ve been dreading this swap for a while now. Scott’s tastes are not exactly aligned with mine; he listens to a lot of genres and bands which I simply can’t get into. From free jazz to extreme noise, all the way past hip hop and rap, he explores sonic territories that are strange and unfamiliar. However, we also have some tangents, around electronic music and some of the more extreme bands of the metal spectrum. This playlist confirmed both my fears and my hopes: there were parts of it that I couldn’t stand but parts of it which were amazing and further convinced me that my musical friendship with Scott is one which is ultimately fruitful.
Classixx – Faraway Reach – “Grecian Summer”
Eden: I’ve been meaning to check out Classixx for a long time now. As a late comer to the electronic scene, they’re a name that’s been mentioned to me several times as a must listen. I was not disappointed: the main synth riff that opens the track is exactly what I look for in this kind of music; it’s thick, luscious and makes you bite your lip with anticipation. The catharsis is, as these things should often be, in the smack middle of the track. The sampled vocals, the cheerful pings and pongs going around them and the main riff that consists all speak of a hazy, summer afternoon on the West Coast, with humidity sky-rocketing. Much like summer in Israel. In short, this is an infectious, smooth track and a great opener to this list.
Don Cherry – Symphony for Improvisers – “Symphony for Improvisers”
Eden: Oh boy, here we go. I knew something like this was coming of course; Scott is an avid free jazz listener and I just can’t get into anything Jazz. Well, not anything: there are a few solitary, modern instances that I enjoy. However, this isn’t one of them. While Don Cherry is a name to be reckoned with, I just cannot get what is alluring about this. The lack of structure leaves everything floating in the air and, while I can certainly appreciate the level of skill required to produce something like this, it has absolutely no impact on me. I’m left with an assortment of sounds, brief images of ideas that are never fully realized. Perhaps that’s what bothers me most. The fleeting attention span of the piece, and the genre, leaves no stones unturned in the sense that it doesn’t bother to turn any stones. It just points at them and says “hey, check out that stone. That stone is cool”.
Lightning Bolt – Wonderful Rainbow – “Dracula Mountain”
Eden: Now this is more my speed. This album is a fucking classic and Lightning Bolt are one of the bands that made noise rock even happen in the first place. I know Scott is a huge fan of this genre and this track does not disappoint. It’s fast paced and filled with static but yet still approachable (which is no surprise to anyone familiar with the place that Wonderful Rainbow holds within the discography of the band). It just keeps going, pummeling away at its drum n’ bass foundations, until you are thoroughly entrenched within its abrasive sound. The vocals just close the whole thing off, adding a layer of screech and weirdness to the track. If you’ve ever enjoyed The Chariot or KEN Mode, you absolutely have to listen to this band. A true progenitor in many ways.
Pantha du Prince – Black Noise – “Lay In a Shimmer”
Eden: I had no idea what to expect with an admittedly awesome name like Pantha du Prince. I can’t say I’m disappointed, exactly, but something about the track seemed lacking to me. The overall aesthetic is pleasing and it sounds nice but I could have done with just a bit more punch on the drums and cymbals. Since this is essentially chill-out, I know that’s a silly thing to request. However, I don’t mean for the drums to become super heavy or anything. Just a little more shine in the mix would have made them stand out. As it is, the track kind of breezed me by, leaving no lasting impact. Nice, but not good enough.
Pig Destroyer – Book Burner – “The Bug”
Eden: Oh, hell yeah. I’m right in the time in my life where I’m catching up on grindcore and Pig Destroyer is obviously central on my list. I love their unapologetic, misanthropic intellectualism, well on display in this track. The sample is done perfectly and turns the whole thing into a rage filled manifesto. I love the way the vocals are utilized to usher in the heaviest, most abrasive parts of the track. What else is there to say? It’s thrashy, filthy, aggressive Pig Destroyer. This hot, hot Friday noon fits it perfectly as I’m already close to acts of violence against my fellow man. These blastbeats might just push me over the edge (get it?).
Robert Johnson – King of the Delta Blues Singers – “Cross Road Blues”
Eden: Blues is another one of those important genres, like jazz, that I was never able to properly dig in its pure form. That is, I enjoy plenty of blues adjacent artists, albums and tracks that use blues to color their compositions. Obviously, blues is important and I recognize it’s importance in both the history of music in general and African-American heritage specifically. I can’t say this track wasn’t fun. The vocals are soulful and deep, the guitar is expertly played and the simplicity of the track is honest and satisfying, echoing an older time. However, it was also nothing special. I wasn’t moved to emotional catharsis and there was no lasting impact. I think I’ll stick with Dorthia Cottrell for my blues-y exasperations.
Swans – Soundtracks for the Blind – “Animus”
Eden: Oh, Swans. Am I forever doomed to not get you? This track just seemed very try-hard. There wasn’t enough meat here for me to really sink my critical teeth into; mostly just Gira falling more and more in love with his own voice. Unlike the expansive aural scapes of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, the drawn out length of this track did nothing for me as did the “crescendo”. Like most of their stuff, it just seems unfocused and unaware of its own faults and pitfalls. I remain unimpressed by this band and unable to comprehend their popularity.
Xenia Rubinos – Black Terry Cat – “Don’t Wanna Be”
Eden: now this is the good stuff right here. I love the hints of saxophone throughout the track, elevating it from the realms of straight-forward progression to something much more interesting. The drums have that punch I spoke of earlier, given the entire song a solid thing which rings true with the vocals. They’re probably the best feature of the album, smooth and evocative without being cheesy or over the top. In general, the entire track is just lush: synths, saxophone, clever cymbals and drum rolls, make this deceptively simple track much more than that. I’ll definitely add Xenia to my listening list as this is the perfect music for crisp mornings or dreamy evenings, both of which I enjoy immensely. Color me excited. Make sure to listen all the way through for the excellent outro.
Zammuto – Self-Titled – “Yay”
Eden: What is this magic? I can’t even completely wrap my mind around what I’m hearing. How many synth tracks are there? Is that a hammond? Are they…are they using a killswitch on a synth? It certainly sounds like that, the erratic riffs breaking up into a million, million earworms. While this was definitely in the chill category of things, it still had a strange pull over me, a sense of wonder and joy that comes with the best of electronic music. How have I not heard Zammuto before? I’ll have to rectify this immediately; what a lovely way to end a playlist!
Eden’s Grid and Scott’s Comments
Scott Murphy: While I’ve typically picked playlist swap partners based on how interested I am in their grids, I knew I wanted to swap with Eden before the submission process. It should be pretty clear to anyone familiar with our tastes that Eden and I are as close to polar opposites as it gets on the blog (though this swap contradicted that assumption more than I anticipated). I wanted to see how our tastes would fair with one another, which is why I selected a diverse sampling from the cornucopia of releases I spun over the preceding two weeks. I’m stoked to see how Eden received some of my favorite styles of music, and I’m equally excited to peruse his typical listening habits as well.
Gates – Parallel Lives – “Eyes”
Scott: As with the majority of Eden’s grid, I’d never heard of Gates or had any clear idea what to expect. The cover hinted at something a bit “post-y,” and that’s more or less the vibe that persists throughout “Eyes.” It’s a very pleasant track that – in a way – reminds me of a less melodramatic 30 Seconds to Mars (and I mean that as a compliment). This is the type of post-rock I would envision as marketable in a commercial sense, and there’s nothing wrong with that; it’s a wholly beautiful listen that has me intrigued in what else Gates has to offer.
Inter Arma – The Paradise Gallows – “The Paradise Gallows”
Scott: Of all the covers on Eden’s grid, this one was by far my most anticipated listen. I assume this fact will horrify him, but I’ve actually never listened to Inter Arma before, and there’s really no reason as to why that is. There one of those bands I always tell myself to check out, but I’ve never taken the time to pull their name up on Spotify and dive in. And though I wasn’t sure what exactly to expect from “The Paradise Gallows,” what I ended up getting was a bit off from what I envisioned. The track blends emotions in a very interesting way; the softer parts sound like funeral doom at maximum happiness (which is still pretty bleak), while the heavy segments drop down into a standard sludge/doom registry. I can’t say I’m completely sold on the track, though, mainly due to the pretty standard vocals that feel too bland for my liking. But other than that, this sounds like a must-listen for 2016, and I’m excited to hear the entire thing and read Eden’s inevitable review.
A Great Adventure or Nothing – Self-Titled – “Quasars in the Distance”
Scott: I absolutely adore the cover art for this album, so much so that I chose to listen to this track first out of the playlist Eden sent me. Unfortunately, the track itself didn’t wow me nearly as much, solely due to the way the guitar is produced and performed. Frankly, everything else really is a great adventure, especially the subtle use of violin at a few points in the track. But the bulk of the track is dominated by this heavily computerized guitar chugging, which detracts from the vibe of the track and makes me tune out every time it pops in. It’s a pretty central piece of the track that inhibits the rest of what A Great Adventure or Nothing is trying to do, which is admittedly pretty good.
City of the Sun – To the Sun and All the Cities Between – “W. 16th St”
Scott: What an aptly named band; this sound just like a sunrise, and its absolutely stunning. Based on the album cover and band/album names, I pegged City of the Sun as another decent post rock band playing in familiar territory. But in reality, this is one of the better acoustic tracks I’ve heard in a very long time. On the version I heard on Spotify, the track blends acoustic guitar in the right ear and soft, sliding electric guitar riffing in the left, all while subtle hand drumming plays underneath. Its how amazing how such simple instrumentation could sound so massive and contain such vivid detail. This one’s going on my “Need to Spin” playlist immediately.
Clipping – Wriggle – “Our Time”
Scott: Like a good portion of our staff, I was stoked to see that clipping. had dropped a new project, especially considering how quickly they improved between Midcity and CLPPNG (both are great albums, but the latter is a clear improvement). What I love most about Wriggle is showcased well by “Our Time,” being the group’s ability to seamlessly filter standard rap tropes through an experimental filter. This isn’t my favorite track on the EP – that goes to the incredible, Whitehouse sampling title track – but it’s still a solid track and a good reason to be excited for what else they have in store.
Earthship – Hollowed – “Valley of Thorns”
Scott: So Eden actually picked “The Edge of Time” from Hollowed for me to listen to, but since I couldn’t find a stream of it anywhere. I decided to listen to whatever track Eden picked to close out his review, which ended up being “Valley of Thorns.” Based on this track, Earthship remind me of Mastodon, except with less progressive tendencies and less bone-crushing sludge. It’s a bit plain for my liking, but I also can’t levy any harsh criticism of the track either. Earthship are clearly doing what they do well, and it’s certainly a fun listen for fans of the heavier side of what rock has to offer.
Carpenter Brut – Trilogy – “Turbo Killer”
Scott: despite what my GosT review may have indicated a little while back, I’m actually an enormous fan of dance music and all of its offshoots, including retrowave. I tend to listen to albums mentioned in posts I edit/schedule, so I actually listened to Carpenter Brut a few months ago when Eden covered them for Unmetal Monday. As both an unabashed dance fan and a vicarious child of the Eighties thanks to my parents, I fully echo Eden’s endorsement of CB. “Turbo Killer” is an excellent track that may or may not have had me dancing in my seat as I typed out this blurb.
Opeth – Still Life – “White Cluster”
Scott: For whatever reason, Opeth are one of those bands that I constantly forget how much I enjoy. I’ve actually never listened to Still Life, but I can’t count how many times I’ve revisited Blackwater Park and remembered what fantastic record it is. “White Cluster” is making me reminisce about that album, and convincing me to spin Still Life in its entirety in the near future. While I’m pretty indifferent to them “betraying” their fans by going full-on prog with their past couple albums, I will say that their seamless melding of heavy and soft has always been their biggest draw for me personally. It’s brilliant how they can open with a brooding, very Opeth-esque riffing before transitioning to a folk interlude and then back again without missing a beat. I doubt they’ll return to this style any time soon (if ever), but it’s good that they have a few extra gems in their back catalogue that are waiting for me to explore.
Red Hands Black Feet – We Must Fall Forever if We Survive – “If I Let the Void In…”
Scott: Honestly, this track confused me from the moment I pressed play. At first I planned on writing how Red Hands Black Feet sound like an upbeat Jesu, but then the band turned and started playing some builds that could fit in a post-black metal track. Then the band meanders through some post-metal territory before petering off as the song concluded. I’m still a bit confused, but mainly I’m not all that impressed. The band never let on what they were going for and often built sections of the track up and then left them hanging at the peak. Kind of a bummer of a conclusion for the swap, but I’m glad the majority of Eden’s picks were decent at a minimum, and usually quite good.