Monday, December 25, 2006

Crystal Skulls for Christmas

They're a surfy, retro kickback. A far cry from the rough-around-the-edges distortions of Built to Spill, Modest Mouse, or Iceage Cobras. They are the local band Crystal Skulls.

The Crystal Skulls - Baby Boy

The Crystal Skulls - Cosmic Door

Though their MySpace has a pretty creepy avatar, it's got equally groovy tunes.


image: courtesy of Matteo Montanari at Ruby Mag

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Red Herring

While Winter works itself out and I'm messing around with some new formats for the blog, here's an article I wrote for a school paper (The Prophet, for those to whom it may be relevant). Cheers, and happy holidays!

MP3 Blogs: Turning Tables in the Music Market
By: Sean Maden

Blogs are pretty well-known entities today. They enable internet users to periodically post their personal political, artistic, and academic thoughts online for public scrutiny, a concept that has been around since the early 90s, according to a Juicee News Daily article on the “History of Weblogs.” The concept of mp3 blogging is a more recent innovation. As oppossed to a general blog, mp3 blogs, otherwise known as audio or music blogs, add a unique dimension of musicality to the blogosphere, or online blogging community. Posts by mp3 bloggers contribute music and song descriptions, relevant news and tour information, and a few free tracks by the artist in question while referencing and linking to other blogs and band sites. The idea is simple enough.

The consequences of mp3 blogs are perhaps more far-reaching than a brief description implies. In seeking and selecting new music, mp3 bloggers are promoting sounds they enjoy and think others would enjoy, too. In presenting a name and a track or two, mp3 blogs connect artists to an international community that by-and-large may not have otherwise known of them. Sean Michaels is a writer for Said the Gramophone, one of the first few mp3 blogs that began posting early in 2003. In an interview entitled “Roundtable: Mp3 Bloggers” on The Morning News, Sean states, “The purpose of Said the Gramophone is to expose good songs to willing ears. If people like a song, I hope that they will buy the record or attend the show. Many, many do. I think musicians (and even labels) are beginning to understand that sampling precedes purchase, that it’s a way to learn about and fall in love with music.”

While many blogs present track links using the URLs of tracks an artist has already made available for free on a MySpace or band site, it is true that many bloggers upload songs they themselves have selected, not the band or label. When this is done without direct permission from a band or label, the result is a legal dilemma. The argument of bloggers is generally that providing a few free tracks by a band has a negligible negative impact on their overall monetary success, while promotion of their band’s name can lead to additional record sales and tour attendances. From the aforementioned interview, Sean explains, “Exposure is one of the biggest things we can offer the musicians we promote…name recognition is worth much more than five song sales at the iTunes Music Store.” The lack of explicitly-legal music distribution may cause one to wonder about potential lawsuits, but a USA Today article by Adam Parsick, entitled “Mp3 blogs serve rare songs, dusty grooves,” clarifies, “Even the most popular MP3 blogs have no more than a few thousand visitors per day. Perhaps because of their size, or because they don't tend to offer mainstream pop, they have mostly escaped the Recording Industry Association of America's crackdown on illicit downloading.” Additionally, many mp3 bloggers include pronouncements on their blogs indicating their promotinal intent to artists and labels, and assuring their compliance, should artists want their material to be taken down.

From their fairly recent inception a few years ago, audio blogs have incited a veritable community of independent music fans and artists. Their interactions in reading, patronizing, and responding to others’ posts, promoting new and independent music, and providing news and references about shows and artists, are what make mp3 blogs such a powerful tool for more casual or less-informed music fans. Though both mp3 blogs and commercial campaigns look to promote music, there seems to be a fundamental difference in how music is promoted between the two mediums. In a music market where success is determined by promotional media, a very few select artists end up being heard, by merit of financial backbone and not necessarily because of exceptional innovation, talent, or sound. Pure commercial endorsement tends to promote this sort of market. In contrast, mp3 blogs help to eliminate financial backing from the equation determining a band’s success. The music market one sees in mp3 blogs reflects a shift in focus from a given band’s monetary merit towards the merits of their music. And after all, it’s all about the music.

for reference:

Sunday, December 03, 2006

My Winter Playlist: What's been going on in my boom box

Forward, Russia! -- Give Me A Wall

Page France -- Hello Dear Wind

Massive Attack -- 100th Window

The Jimi Hendrix Experience -- Electric Ladyland

Monday, November 27, 2006

do you KOLF? no i kill.

dear readers,

i am not wise in the ways of html, but i am wise in music. so google these bands:

black bear- a jaunty indie rock band you cant help but snap your fingers to.

born ruffians- a jantier indie rock band.

devendra banhart- the king of freak folk, perfect for those winter days full of scarves and hot tea.

the snow keeps falling(in wenatchee, washinton), but the volume keeps going up.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Hiatus and yellowed hiatusks

Hello brothers, lovers, friends, random web viewers. I hope you are well.

Because I've been alright. Obviously, this site hasn't seen much activity in...forever. But it remains a useful resource. Hopefully in months to come, as issues start to cool down for a lot of the members (many of us, myself included, are undergoing an intense period of college searching/appeasement, high school, extracurriculars, and socializing).

Maybe in the near future we'll see some action up on these pages. I know that in spite of other commitments, my friends and I have still been actively seeking new sounds.

But in any case, here's a warm hello from this side of Thanksgiving day.

<3 Sean

Monday, October 16, 2006

That X Flavor

There are some bands and musicians that play music that has a kind of feel or 'flavor' too it. Sometimes it is delicious.

Rodrigo Y Gabriela are 2 guitarists that add that delicious latin flavor to exciting rhythm and melodic guitar excersizes that are as innovative as they are fun. Their dynamic playing personalities come through in the form of technical ability, a bit of that latin flavor, and beating the shit out of their guitars.

Rodrigo y Gabriela - Tamacun

Rodrigo y Gabriela - Diablo Rojo
Rodrigo y Gabriela - Stairway To Heaven

There are other bands that have a more "party" flavor. The kind of band that makes one want to jump around and have a good time. A combination of happy 70s sunshine rock, funk, hip-hop, with an interesting use of a couple of samples, some great harmonica solos, it sounds like a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack having a crazy fun party time. The Go! Team is a barrel of fun.

The Go! Team - Panther Dash
The Go! Team - Junior Kickstart
The Go! Team - Bottle Rocket

Additional Links:
Radrigo Y Gabriela Site
The Go! Team Site

Monday, October 09, 2006

Modest, mouse colored folk

These tracks range from fairly recent, to mid-90s old, from a band most are by now well acquainted with. A good friend got me into them around the release of The Moon and Antarctica, and I've been off and on with them ever since. Theirs is a growth and development in sound that, I think, seems more sideways than forwards or backwards. They've certainly changed since these few tracks. And increased popularity has correlated to change, for them. But I find earlier Modest Mouse speaks to me more personally. Maybe you do, too?

Modest Mouse - 'Dramamine'

Modest Mouse - 'Never Ending Math Equation'

Modest Mouse - 'Here It Comes'

Modest Mouse - 'Other People's Lives'

Modest Mouse - 'So Much Beauty in Dirt'

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Am the Upsetter

What's in a sound? It's something like that boom booming of the rhythm and the beat beat of the pulse. The chop of the skank and the flow of the voice, oh so smoothe and indiscreet, a primal feeling that resonates with the limbs and the mind. One big drum, skin drawn taught by social pressures, ready to let loose in one big release.

The roots of the reggae sound find themselves beneath the political rollers and musical whirlpools of the 1960s. For the likes of Desmond Dekkar, Bob Marley, Toots and the Maytals, the Skatalites, and many others, including avid crowds of fans in Great Britain the new sound that emerged was different from the rest. Producers like Coxsone Dodd at Studio One, Lee 'Scratch' Perry, and King Tubby helped to cultivate and spread it. Its realm of association has come to include many names, with ska, dub, dancehall, and reggae being amongst them. Despite their notable differences, each name bears some similar connotations. That strong offbeat skank and those wailing singers. That soul and that beat to connect to.

Burning Spear - Sneakmove
Desmond Dekkar - 'Fu Manchu'
Lee 'Scratch' Perry and the White Belly Rats - Panic in Babylon
Toots and the Maytals - 'Funky Kingston'
Lee 'Scratch' Perry - 'Scratch the Dub Organ'
The Skatalites - 'Skaraven'
Lee 'Scratch' Perry - 'The Upsetter'
The Upsetters - 'Live Injection'
The Skatalites - 'Garden of Love'
Damian 'Jr Gong' Marley - Move!
Desmond Dekkar - 'Music Like Dirt', a la link from the side bar, airs a wonderful set of Jamaican beats every Saturday from 9am - 12pm. It's called Positive Vibrations, and you can access it either by using the live radio streaming feature, or accessing their streaming archive. Well worth your time when you're feeling the beat.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Close your eyes and begin to relax. Take a deep breath. Let it out slowly. As I count back from 10 to 1 you will become completely relaxed.

10. Sometimes there comes a song so beautiful, yet simple, that it cannot be just ignored. The subtle beauty draws you in and holds you there, in a warm little place, just feeling content. Or perhaps, it brings you to tears. 9. Sometimes a sweeping dramatic string melody atop a lovely piano counter melody brings life into focus.

8. The Album Leaf - The Outer Banks

Imagine the soft trickle of a stream in a beautiful woodland area. 7. The autumn wind rustles teh autumn leaves while the sunlight pans through the bare branches. Gentle cold breezes push your clothes against you.

6. The Album Leaf - Shine

The keys are stroked, a somber melody is played and the room goes dark. A gust of wind through the window brushes the curtains outwards. 5. The moon shines in, spilling white light all over the floor. Cool and calm, drift... drift...drift.

4. Agalloch - The Misshapen Steed

A lizard scampers across the sand in the waning moon as the earth turns from blue to orange. 3. A single voice draws one to a deep pool. Fall. Drift. Sleep.

2. Elfonia - Eldalinale

Before you is an endless sea of stars. Two shine brighter. Looking into the eyes of the universe.... find the peace you seek.

1. Motoi Sakuraba - Rena of Arlia Village

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Shut up, I'm dreaming

"'It was a great evening,' said Thomas.

'I'm glad to hear it,' said Jesus.

Then they were silent for a while. Downstairs, Louis Armstrong played his trumpet.

'Jesus?' asked Thomas.

'Yes, Thomas?'

'Can you help Papa?'

'I am afraid not.'

It was a pity, but Thomas understood that some people are hard to redeem. You couldn't ask the Lord Jesus for the impossible.

'Do you think Eliza will wait for me?'

'I would think so.' said Jesus.

'Is it scary when she takes her leather leg off?'

'Of course not,' said Jesus. 'You've faced worse things.'

That was true. In his young life, he had already seen quite a few scary things. A bottombiter, Granddad's artificial teeth, a wooden spoon, a swollen nose, a carving knife, and a woman with outboard teeth. And even so, he was going to be happy later.

'Because I am going to marry her, you see,' said Thomas.

The Lord Jesus put a hand on his head and said, 'You have my blessing.'

Then Thomas fell asleep and Jesus ascended to heaven.

The angels were waiting for him anxiously, heaving deep sighs.

'How are things with Thomas?' one of them asked.

'Yes, how is he?' at least a hundred others asked him in unison. They were all hopelessly in love with him, you know.

'He will be alright,' said Jesus.

'Are You going to call him to You soon?' asked a pitch-black angel. 'I would so much like to play trumpet for him.'

'No,' said the Lord Jesus. He smiled. 'Anyway, none of you would have the slightest chance with Thomas.'

'Why not?' the angels asked, appalled.

'None of you has a leather leg that creaks when you walk,' he said.

That was too much for them. Every single one of them was extraordinarily beautiful, but none had a leather leg. You can't have everything."

--from the end of The Book of Everything by Guus Kuijer

Sunset Rubdown - 'Shut Up I am Dreaming of Places Where Lovers Have Wings'

This track is from the wondrous Daytrotter archives. In travelling between shows, bands happen across Daytrotter's Rock Island, Illinois stuidios, and they leave behind gems like this in their wake. Rubdown is itself one of many side projects that includes the oft-mentioned Spencer Krug, who is better known for his singer/songwriter/keyboardist role in Wolf Parade. Their sound makes me stop and listen. Makes me want to cherish the leather legs of my lovers.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Birds to Fly, You & I

When fall rolls around, all I want to do is cuddle up with a good book, a cup of java, and a cozy wool sweater. Music fades in and out of my perception, along with the sound of rain rolling off the skylight. After all of the brittle leaves have turned to mush, music is my shield against the grey and the rotten, the decrepit and the decaying, the dingy and the tarnished. This is my sound track. It's eclectic, drawing from the roots of Etta James, John Coltrane and Louis Armstrong, and flowering to the young innocence found in La Cha-Cha, Devotchka, and Bears.

Spider Silk Dress- "Too Bright"
Bears- "Over It"
John Coltrane- "Naima"
La Cha-Cha- "Papercuts"
Louis Armstrong-"Black and Blue"
Devotchka- "Lunnaya Pogonka"
Etta James- "Trust In Me"

Rock Opera Revival Pt 2: Side Projects! What?

Hello again kiddies. I am back with more things about the great Arjen Anthony Lucassen and his many projects that encompass many genres. First, more of the same, and then, SO MUCH SIDEPROJECT. Okay, not really so much.. but a little bit. Also, some of these files are in .mpc format. If you use winamp, you can find various plug-ins to play these files from winamps plug-in website. Just google .mpc files and your media players name. It should work.

In 2000, Arjen released the Universal Migrator in 2 parts. Part 1, The Dream Sequencer, and Part 2, The Flight of the Migrator. While part 1 was more electronic and atmospheric, part 2 was extremely heavy. Originally Arjen intended only female vocalists on the first part, and only male on the second, but it didn't work out that way. Though there is still extreme variation in the 2 releases. Especially in the vocals and the way the music feels. The album is about the last man on mars. Humanity had migrated to Mars because it was impossible to live on earth. He is the last survivor. He uses the Dream Sequencer to go back in time and re-live his past lives in the Dream Sequencer, and in The Flight of the Migrator, he goes back to the dawn of time and the beginning of the Universe.

Part 1:
Ayreon - One Small Step
Ayreon - Carried by the Wind
Part 2:
Ayreon - Dawn of a Million Souls
Ayreon - Into the Black Hole

One year following the release, Arjen somehow came across a young singer named Astrid Van Der Veen. She was only 14 at the time, but he was so impressed with her voice, that he developed a side project just so he could work with her. Generally, the way Arjen selects vocalists for his projects, is if they give him a certain feeling. Like, they make the hair on the back of his neck stick up, or give him chills. So for this project, he re-worked previously made Ayreon songs, and mixed them so they would be more subdued and ambient. He let astrid write all the vocal lines and lyrics, so it was a collaborate effort, which is rather unusual for Arjen. It was a good follow up to the Universal Migrator part 2, in the sense it was it's opposite. As you will soon find out, Arjen likes to do opposites.

Ambeon - Cold Metal

Ambeon - Ashes
Ambeon - Dreamer

Just one year after Ambeon, Arjen released a straight-forward heavy metal project called Star One. If featured 4 singers: Russell Allen, Dan Swanö, Damian Wilson and Floor Jansen. If you don't know who they are, that's okay. If you do, good for you, you get a cookie. Russel Allen and Damian Wilson handled of the powerful rocky vocals, Dan Swanö handled the deeper more creepy vocal melodies, and Floor Jansen did a lot of higher register vocal stuff. Combined, It sounds very interesting. All 4 singers are amazing in their own rights. The various songs on this project are based on Arjen's favorite sci-fi series or movies. Star Wars, Star Trek, Alien, Dr. Who, Dune, and even Stargate are featured. It's a little cheesier (eh?) and completely different from Ambeon. In fact, it was mostly a reaction to Ambeon that he made Star One. SPACE METAL! YEAH! WOO!

Star One - Set Your Controls
Star One - Songs of the Ocean
Star One - Sandrider

2 years later, in 2004, Arjen put together one of his most, in a sense, star-studded release. He recruited such big names as James Labrie(dream theater), Mikeal Akerfeldt(Opeth), and Devin Townsend.(hey it's that guy again) The Human Equation spans 2 discs, ranging from folky to heavy to electronica, it is by far the most diverse and bombastic Ayreon releases. The story is a little different as well. A man is in a car accident, and goes into a coma. The events surrounding the accident seem kind of odd, as there were no other cars nearby, and nothing at all in view. He just smashed right into a tree. 11 singers play out a story where they take on the role of a specific emotion or idea. Agony, Reason, Pride, Love, Passion, and Fear are all present. The 5th Ayreon release takes you into a man's mind to face his troubled past, foolish pride, and ruthless nature. It's pretty neat.

Ayreon - Day 3: Pain
Ayreon - Day 8: Hope
Ayreon - Day 14: Pride

Arjen's latest project, entitled Stream of Passion, was brought about by a contest for the Human Equation. He held a contest for a young female singer to send an audition tape or recording of somekind, and he would let them sing on his project. A young Mexican singer named Marcela Bovio won the contest hands down. Arjen liked her singing so much, he started a side project just to focus on her voice. He allowed her to write the vocals and lyrics, and he recruited a band of young musicians from various places. Mostly out of nowhere. Another interesting choice is the lead guitar role was given to an American woman currently living in sweden named Lori Linstruth. Also, he finished with a young dutch drummers, and the piano/keyboard player is Marcela's boyfriend Allejandro. It's the last thing he's released, and now all we can do is wait for more.

Stream of Passion - Passion(Music Video)

Stream of Passion - Out in the Real World(Music Video)
Stream of Passion - Calliopiea

Other Links:
Ayreon's Website
Stream of Passion Website
Ayreon Wiki

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Rock Opera Revival Pt 1: Arjen Anthony Lucassen

I can't quite remember anything about 1995. Sure, I was alive at the time, but I was young and events around me didn't seem very important. If only I knew! If only I could have guessed that the revival of that ancient form of musical expression, the rock opera, was about to be revived/reinvented/made more metal. At least, eventually.

Let's start things off with some knowledge. Arjen started his musical career in a small rock band called Bodine. They released 2 albums together, and Arjen grew as a musician and started to play bass at this time. In 1984, he joined a hard rock band called Vengeance. He was in vengeance for awhile, and then, in 1995, he released his first CD under the name of Ayreon: The Final Experiment.

The Final Experiment is a concept album about a blind minstrel named Ayreon that lived during the middle ages. Scientists from the year 2085 or 86 or something, have developed a new technology that allows them to send telepathic messages through time. Mankind has virtually destroyed themselves. They are attempting to send the messages back in time to change the FUTURE! However, Ayreon goes and sings about these terrible events of the future, and is banished by the wizard Merlin. So the final experiment fails, and mankind is doomed. How uplifting. There's more to the story/characters, but I don't want to spoil too much.

The sound of The Final Experiment can best be described as a hard-rock romp through a medieval fair. There are multiple singers, and Arjen basically plays every instrument on the album. Keyboards, guitars, bass, flute. There is also some electronica elements in it. It's a very unique approach to a fantasy rock opera with sci-fi elements.

Ayreon - Sail Away to Avalon
Ayreon - Computer Reign (Game Over)
Ayreon - Charm of the Seer

Just one year after The Final Experiment, Aryeon's second album, Actual Fantasy, was released. It was more a collection of short sci-fi/fantasy stories than a single story. It is the only Ayreon release that is like this. Some of the story themes expanded in later releases, like the song "computer eyes" is about a device called "The Dream Sequencer," which Ayreon's 4th release deals with exclusively. This release had a lot more electronica elements then the last release, and the keyboards play a more prominent role in many songs.

Ayreon - Actual Fantasy

Ayreon - Abbey of Sinn
Ayreon - Computer Eyes

Arjen, at this point, waited until 1998 to release his next rock opera. This one... was a SPACE OPERA. It involved time travel, aliens, and an experiment for a highly advanced race of beings to rediscover their emotions. By taking stereotypical characters as portrayed by old movies, Arjen created over-the-top silly characters. A barbarian, a futureman, a hippy, a highlander, a crusader, an egyptian, and an indian. And some other characters I probably forgot. Into the Electric Castle is an attempt to analyse emotions through ridiculous characters. Successful? Well, I'm not sure. It's a fan favourite. The sound for this album is a lot more of a "psychadellic rock" feel than the other ones. It's not quite as heavy as some of his other projects.

Ayreon - The Hall of Isis and Osiris
Ayreon - The Decision Tree (We're Alive)
Ayreon - The Castle Hall

Now, for the sake of making this a little more edible, I am going to divide it into chunks. Probably 2. This is chunk 1. Chunk 2 will probably be done by tomorrow. I plan to go from the 4th Ayreon release to Arjen's latest side project, Stream of Passion.

It should be fun!

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Eux Autres.They're French?

Boy and Girl bands have become something of a trend nowadays (what with Viva Voce, White Stripes, Mates of State and...well...i guess i don't really have any more examples, but whatever). The newest old band out of that group is Eux Autres. I say newest old because while they've only recently become popular on a more than local level (due to their finally getting it bumped up from self releasedom and now being on Grenadine Records) their cd is actually more than 2 years old. so. This should be a lesson to all you indie bands out there.


Anyway, the real reason that i called you all here today to hear about this wonderful wonderful band is due to the fact that they will be playing at the (newly relocated) Vera Project on Saturday Nov. 18. The headlining band is Math and Physics Club, which makes the show noteworthy already, and the fact that Eux Autres is opening is just the icing on the cake!

Now for what all you soulless bastards came for; the music (or does the fact that you came for music mean that you do have a soul? ...sigh...i don't even know anymore):

Eux Autres- Patrick Nil (my personal favorite)

Eux Autres-Ecoutez Bien

Eux Autres-Salut Les Copains

Eux Autres-Other Girls

Eux Autres-The Things They Carried

Math and Physics Club-Weekends Away

Math and Physics Club-Movie Ending Romance

Thursday, September 28, 2006


This is a selection of past items and references from across the mp3 blogosphere. I'll start off with this selection of old old Neutral Milk Hotel cassette recordings. They emerged shortly after I had begun to peruse the web for mp3 blogs, and promptly affirmed my conviction that they are a unique and unequaled source in spreading and networking music that people love.

Regarding this set, I believe Shannon was a neighbor and friend of Jeff Magnum, the lead singer and mind behind Neutral Milk Hotel. Living in a room near to his in the same apartment building, Shannon would hear the band rehearsing and composing material. As a parting gift, Magnum gave Shannon some unpolished tapes with songs on them, and half a year ago decided to release them on the web for all to hear. They're rustic, yes, but they're oh so sweet in that way that only NMH can achieve.

Neutral Milk Hotel - "Dead Dog (unconfirmed title)"
Neutral Milk Hotel - "Now I'm Going Down (unconfirmed title)"
Neutral Milk Hotel - "Gardenhead"
Neutral Milk Hotel - "Circle of Friends"
Neutral Milk Hotel - "Say Goodnight (unconfirmed title)"

Next up is a link from (yet another) local group: Harvey Danger. These guys, especially lead singer Sean Nelson, have been at it for years and years by now. Nelson in particular is an exceptionally active and important guy in Seattle city culture. He hosts a local music show on KEXP called Audioasis and regularly writes for local indie weekly "The Stranger," all in addition to making the odd show with his band at The Croc. The group's latest album, "Little By Little," was released free in its entirety online, in an interesting experiment with album marketing. It's still up (and has been since July), and as I've enjoyed it immensely, I hope to make it available to those who haven't yet experienced it.

Harvey Danger - Little By Little

Finally, a number by The Desks. A granular and rough outfit themselves, their album is also available entirely free online. Much to love in their intrumental distortions and blood-curdling vocals.

The Desks - Calendars

Image is courtesy of Sylvia Ji. Today has been outstanding for finding artists of the visual new favorites include Ytje (who did the album art for "Little By Little," and MWM's works.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Reclusive fall psychedelia

Since my recent discovery of King Crimson from the depths of my father's dusty record collection, I've been more and more intrigued with that genre-spanning psychedellic sound. It permeates 'post-rock' and electronica, seeps into nu jazz outfits and wraps up independent musicians in a blanket of distortion and experimentation. And the likes of Pink Floyd and King Crimson indicate that it's been around awhile, too. An attempt of sorts at weaving modern and early-modern psychedellic sounds. A crimson set for a crimson season.

Pink Floyd - 'One of These Days'
Silversun Pickups - 'Waste It On'
Pink Floyd - 'Welcome to the Machine'
Incubus - 'Pistola'
Silversun Pickups - '...All the Go Inbetweens'
Incubus - 'Under My Umbrella'
King Crimson - '21st Century Schitzoid Man'

Monday, September 25, 2006

Exploring an artist: Devin Townsend

In 1993 Steve Vai released a CD called Sex & Religion. Albiet incredibly cheesy and terrible, it was a young Devin Townsends first foray into the realm of rockin' music. Even if it was with Steve Vai. From this experience, Townsend acquired a distaste for the music industry and for major record labels. However, his first musical "project," if you will, was done through Century Media. In 1995, the first taste we had of his work came in a little package called Strapping Young Lad. A combination of thrash, industrial, and progressive metal, it featured a very dense synth laden romp through extreme music, coupled with a keen sense of irony. Titled "Heavy as a Very Heavy Thing," it introduced the bitter, sarcastic, yelling side of, as he would be affectionately called by fans from this point on, "Hevy Devy."

2 Years Later, Devy would metaphorically drop his own personal atomic bomb on music. Entitled "City," the second SYL album was a multi-layered romp through a desolate urban landscape. It is quite possibly one of the heaviest albums made in the last 10 years. Even though on the surface the album is just loud, angry vocals and banging guitars, underneath it all is a very fine attention to detail. It is not just random noise. Devin created the closest thing to calculated madness that has ever been released.

Strapping Young Lad - SYL
Strapping Young Lad - Happy Camper
Strapping Young Lad - Oh My Fucking God
Strapping Young Lad - Detox

The best part about Townsend is his unique style that constantly evolves, but never seems unnatural. Not satisfied with the music industry and tired of being angry, he set out to create a new sound. While SYL's City was negative and angry, his next release, entitled Biomech, went in a completely different direction. So Devy constructed a new band. Ocean Machine: Biomech is the complete opposite of everything SYL represented. It was an atmospheric boat ride through happier lands with a brighter outlook on life.

From late 1997 to 2001, Devin released 4 solo albums. Along with Biomech was Infinity, Physicist, and Terria. While each was very different, they all had the sound of "Hevy Devy" on them. Devin assigned "Colours" to each album. While SYL would be considered red, Biomech is blue, Infinity is white, and Terria is Green. Physicist is more of a failed attempt to work with a member of metallica, which may or may not be viewed as a good thing.

Devin Townsend - Life
Devin Townsend - Christeen
Devin Townsend - Bad Devil
Devin Townsend - Namaste
Devin Townsend - Canada

2003 was a year that changed how Devin worked. Almost simultanesouly, Devy released a new self-titled SYL album, and an album entitled Accelerated Evolution. Accelerated Evolution was the first time an album was released under the moniker "The Devin Townsend Band." The two bands toured independantly for each of their releases, and while most SYL fans were not so fond of the self-titled release, Accelerated Evolution recieved widespread acclaim. In 2005, SYL made another release that many fans considered "sub-par." (whatever fans. I like them.)

Strapping Young Lad - Force Fed
The Devin Townsend Band - Storm
Strapping Young Lad - Love?

In early 2006, The Devin Townsend Band released Synchestra. The album is meant to be listened to as a whole, and follows a "story." Later, in July, Strapping Young Lad released their latest, and perhaps final, album, entitled The New Black. They toured with ozzfest(ew) to support it. Devy, according to various quotes, is sick of SYL.

The Devin Townsend Band - Vampira (Video)

The Devin Townsend Band - Gaia
Strapping Young Lad - You Suck
Strapping Young Lad - Wrong Side (Video)

Additional Links:
HevyDevy Records
SYL Myspace
DTB Myspace

Friday, September 22, 2006

Stand Up Children, It's Time For GBV!

'Nuff said?

Not nearly. Starting in 1984 and breaking up in 2004, Guided By Voices has been an influential and integral part of the independant music scene for generations now, shitting out many many records, generally with over 20 songs on them. The two main members of the band that always remained constant were Tobin Sprout and Robert Pollard. While they tend to be inconsistent, they have 5 CD's that are amazing the whole way through. These are; Bee Thousands, Alien Lanes, Hold on Hope EP, Propellor, and Under the Bushes Under the Stars. Ironically that's less than half of all of their music.
Guided By Voices-Alien Lanes-Blimps Go 90

Guided By Voices-Alien Lanes-My Valuable Hunting Knife

Guided By Voices-Hold On Hope EP-Fly Into Ashes

Guided By Voices-Hold On Hope EP-Tropical Robots

Guided By Voices-Hold On Hope EP-A Crick Uphill

Guided By Voices-Hold On Hope EP-Hold On Hope

Guided By Voices-Propellor-On The Tundra

Guided By Voices-Under The Bushes Under The Stars-The Official Ironmen Rally Song

The band had a small breakup in the late '90's, and Robert Pollard at that point started a Solo carreer. I've posted an example of his solo work below.
Robert Pollard-From A Compound Eye-Dancing Girls and Dancing Men

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A Pressure Difference

"I used to be 25 years old, living in Gothenburg. I used to wish I was living on a tropical island with my grandmother. I used to play in other bands. I used to care about who I really was. I used to have a girlfriend. I used to take long walks. I used to think I was special. I used to bake. I used to be an agnostic. I used to groom myself.

None of that really matters anymore.

Now I am Agent Simple and I dance to my own tunes."

Agent Simple - Brother

Below is Dan's (from Said the Gramophone) original description of the following tune. It's a tune that's been captivating me lately, and the warmth in the words is a good reflection of the song.

"You play the shaker on this one. And never, never stop. This is the kind of song that the mushrooms in the forest sway in unison to; singing harmony while the squirrels play flutes so small you can't hear them. It will make everything around you sing. And it will make you want to go home. Even if you're sitting at home right now, it will make you want to go to your favourite place in your home, one you always loved but have forgotten about. It'll make you realise why you have to leave every day, and why you might eventually have to leave for a long time, but the squirrels, the mushrooms, they'll still be there if you want to come/go back. I try not to swear on this thing, but holy fuck this song is good."

Agent Simple - Make a Right At Jordfallsmotet

Readymade are an odyssey of chimes and organ and piano. Their dark whimsy fits well with the Agent Simple selections.

Readymade FC - "Rehearsed Disaster"
Readymade FC - "The Fake But No Finish"
Readymade FC - "Simple Appareil"


Agent Simple's homepage and MySpace

Monday, September 18, 2006


When I see someone use the genre label 'post rock' in a sentence, I have to ask myself "post what?" Are we already beyond rock? Did I miss the memo and get stuck back in that era-ancien, Arctic Monkeys time period? The title itself makes me think of a great ideological leap in musicality. Though it's almost pretentious in nature, it causes me to stop for while. And consider. What's become of the ole' rock/pop unigenre? Not too long ago it was restricted to a few bands fortunate enough to make it onto labels, and through successive decades of marketing and fashion, it's beginning to shatter into fragments, empowering those smaller local labels.

Maybe it'll all come to a sudden stop one day. Musicians will put down their instruments and become lawyers and real estate salesmen. But what would fill the gaping artistic hole? Would we revert back to Elvis and Zepplin? Maybe it'd be more like the mass sobering of western society in the aftermath of World War II. Classical music and post rock will be all that is left in the wake of change...Like music's own existentialist revolution.

It'll be that throaty French woman's voice, trailing from the dusty radio in Saving Private Ryan, that saves the art. Maybe then we'd be post-something. Or maybe we'd just have outdated ourselves.

Mono - 16.12
The Evpatoria Report - Cosmic Call
Chopin - Nocturne in Eb major (Op 55 No 2 performed by Donald Betts)
Explosions in the Sky - Day Six
Chopin - Etude in Ab major (Op 25 No 1 performed by Donald Betts)
The Evpatoria Report - CCS Logbook
Foxhole - Forgiving Monarch
Joy Wants Eternity - From Embrace to Embrace
Rachmaninoff - Piano Concerto

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Squeak Squeak Squeak

The Bicycles have come! Straight out of Toronto, this band can rock! They also demonstrate an ability to write quite beautiful songs that make you want to dance all the same. With a sound that is reminiscent of I Was Born A Unicorn by The Unicorns, they are one of the...happiest...bands that i've ever heard.

The new album The Good The Bad and The Cuddly aspires to measure up to old bubblegum pop like The Kinks and Beach Boys and succeeds admirably- not to mention their CD has 17 songs, which is pretty cool if i may say so myself.

Take a gander:

The Bicycles-Longjohns and Toques

The Bicycles-B-B-Bicycles

The Bicycles-I Know We Have To Be Friends

The Bicycles- Gotta Get Out

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I Am Not Afraid of You And I Will Beat Your Ass

New Yo La Tengo album out. For its title, see above.

From the new album:

Yo La Tengo - Pass the Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind
Yo La Tengo - Beanbag Chair

From elsewhere:

Yo La Tengo - Little Eyes
Yo La Tengo - Don't Have to Be So Sad
Yo La Tengo - The Love Life of the Octopus
Yo La Tengo - From Motel 6 [live]


Almost forgot about this gem...

Yo La Tengo - Speeding Motorcycle

Image by "Mr. Asami of San-X"

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Winter is a state of mind

Over the past few years, Winter has become my favorite season. I look forward to those dark weekend evenings, when you can hear distant sounds trailing from the performance hall at the local church. Its pews cleared and its doors open, the place turns into a gathering spot for teens of all ages, and its echoey acoustics bear the noises of bands and audience members through all corners of the intersection in front of my house. Sadly, I've never heard the sounds of this band echoing off the telephone poles, resounding between houses, and consolidating in the pools of light under those street lamps that turn on a bit earlier than the others. But they've played that venue (and yes, they're local). And I can relish only in the prospect of coupling Boat's quirky, meaningful songs with the busy lives of their audience; teens who still fight with their parents, still love their lovers, and still appreciate the finer points of killing their eardrums. God I'm going to miss this place.

These are from Boat's live performance at KEXP, a local nonprofit station that supports great alternative music:

Boat - Clogged Castle Quickly
Boat - Greased Hairclip
Boat - Holding All the Globes
Boat - Laterus Last Cans

The photo is a work of The Knitters, I believe. Apparently they're sort of a gang that, as opposed to tagging, leaves street art in the form of knitted works that cover telephone poles, mailboxes, anything. Also the signs in the background make me suspect that this photo is of a tag in Fremont (very funky Seattle district, in case people visit).

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Funk, Folk, and Polka.

We all need to get funky sometimes. And sometimes, we all need to get funky. However, settling for formulaic white boy faux-funk is no way to go. Funk without soul is barely funk at all. This is why Tower of Power is so necessary. They've been funking around since the late 60's, and are still active today. But I regret to say I only have a few samples from the 90's. I'd recommend checking out their earlier work, since it is said to be their best.

Tower of Power - Soul With a Capital "S"
Tower of Power - Souled Out
Tower of Power - Mama Lied

When the folk music comes to mind, it usually isn't paired with post-rock and metal. However, Portland based quartet Agalloch has combined all three. Besides the bizarre genre fusion, Agalloch deserves recognition for the power their music commands; it can be beautiful, it can be unsettling and harsh, and it can be heavy. By sweeping through explosive riffs, acoustic medleys, heavy drums, dark rasping vocals, and piano passages with a soft synth string acommpaniment, the band creates a sense of atmosphere that few could hope to achieve. Agalloch stands out as a unique musical experience.

Agalloch - Limbs
Agalloch's Myspace
Agalloch's Home Page

While T.O.P. is funky, and Agalloch is unique, Finntroll is a completely different beast. Another example if bizarre genre fusion, finntroll have combined the harsh vocals and grinding guitars common to black metal with a form of finnish polka. That being said, they also like to dress up like trolls in music videos and play fake acoustic looking instruments. There is a linked example below, but first a bit more foreplay. It may be difficult to justify taking something like this seriously, until you hear it. They polish it, coat it in a harsh, catchy, brilliantly technical performance, and make you want to jig-mosh. Yes. Jig-mosh. At times you will want to dance a jig, and at other times you may have this bizarre urge to smash someones face into pavement. The musical beast that is finntroll amuses, entertains, and makes one want to raise a glass.

Finntroll - Trollhammaren(music video)
Finntroll - Ursvamp
Finntroll's Myspace

P.S. Fight the system.

beat drooz

It feels so good to immerse yourself in the effervescent cloudburst that is Yesterday’s New Quintet. Madlib’s jazz hip-hop fusion side-project deploys the electric piano and clavichord fused with a small synthesizer to create a genre-muddling sound exclusive to YNQ.
Yesterday's New Quintet - Prelude
Yesterday's New Quintet - Julani
Yesterday's New Quintet - Uno Esta
Yesterday's New Quintet - Sun Godess

Coughs play out like some deranged carnival calliope or like heavily corrugated metal; Anya Davidson howls her spinto like a scorned prom queen backed by racking guitar riffs, ungainly percussion and a whining saxophone. Be that as it may, they’re not without appeal. Their brand of skronk has a massive head trauma charm that makes you feel warm on the inside. To be played at high volumes.
Coughs - Elephant
Coughs – Fright Makes Right
Coughs – Garter Snake
Coughs - Narwahl

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Bumbershoot 2006


This year at the Seattle Arts festival affectionately known as Bumbershoot, I noticed a lot of changes. It seems that this year the festival organizers have finally come to terms with the overwhelming crowds and evened out scheduling times. I found that I had more than enough time to make it between shows I really wanted to see, where last year I had to sacrifice several show opportunities for the sake of a place in line at one. Very cool. And the lineup seemed to be spread very nicely throughout the entire three days. At about $25 for my presale tickets, I might have paid twice that for the amazing time I had.

Flatstock was back again this year, too. For those not in the know, Flatstock is Bumbershoot's independent poster artist convention, where artists sell, display, and give away their art, posters, and random goodies. Most do promotional art for local shows. The styles span far and wide in terms of how artists deal in form and color, with many many amazing collages (via silkscreening) and multimedia juxtapositions. Danial Danger and Tara McPherson (on the side bar) are two such artists I met at the show last year, and hopefully I'll be integrating the works of some other amazing persons I met this time around.

Now, to the music. Wow. I wasn't expecting such a drastic improvement in acoustics, but jesus. Even at the outdoor stages, all the equipment was working, most (if not all) the instruments could be heard, and the crowds were actually MOVING. This made all the difference after spending five plus hours each day standing in lines, standing at shows, and standing around talking to friends. Saturday I saw, in this order: The Purrs; Rogue Wave; Deerhoof; and Cloud Cult. Sunday: The Village Green; Speaker Speaker; and Izabelle. I'll embellish on my faves.

The Purrs are a great local group with a mellow and surfy rock tone about them. Something you'd want playing in the background as you sip a pina colada and flirt with Money Penny at the coastal tiki bar.

The Purrs band site

I was very taken aback at the crowd who came to see Deerhoof. While the group isn't exactly low-profile at this point, I certainly didn't expect the overwhelming positive reactions to all the abrupt breaks and tempo changes, winded drum solos, heavy bass and timid sub-English vocalizations amidst the otherwise tight and upbeat melodies. And they pulled it off at the crappy dancehall venue, too. It was bloody insane, and I loved every second of it.

Deerhoof homepage

Cloud Cult had interpretive painters at their show. If you ever get the opportunity to see them live, go. It isn't really possible to articulate the joy I felt by witnessing an absolute masterpiece emerge from lines and forms on white canvas, each element and color a materialistic realization of the emotions in the music as they emerged and passed. The group is from Minnesota, and their heavy folk and acoustic inflections show it. But they are also human organisms, standing on a floating chunk of rock, on a spinning sphere in the middle of a gaping vaccum. And somehow the tenderness and emotion of the vocals and synth and Cello make me see that, too.

Cloud Cult - Living on the Outside of Your Skin
Cloud Cult - Car Crash
Cloud Cult - Breakfast With my Shadow
Cloud Cult - Fairy Tale
highly recommended: Cloud Cult - 6 Days to Madness

Izabelle is a spacy rock outfit. My friends asked me what they sounded like, and I sarcastically said 'Radiohead,' since "everybody sounds like Radiohead." But suprisingly, these guys resemble the rh fellows more than a little bit. Maybe if they had made an album after the Bends, but before the OK Computer paradigm shift, they'd have changed their name to Izabelle and masqueraded about in that alterego.

Izabelle site


Other members who feel inclined to comment about their Bumbershoot experience need only e-mail me their bit. I'll be sure to edit it in with mine to keep them all in one spot. Also the tracks in this and subsequent posts should all be references to urls that the band has provided on official sites. To complain or discuss the issue with track uploads, please see the post below this one and respond there.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


In, rather briefly, debating the concept today, I find that upon critically assessing it, I am very disgruntled in regards to the nature of an mp3 blog. It has always seemed to me an effective promotional tool, at least in theory. A new audience of potential patrons becomes interested in a band's name where before there was no such knowledge of the band. While to my understanding the upload of a copywrited file without explicit permission by its owner is by nature illegal, I cannot help feeling justified when the act of uploading promotes the band by spreading by way of spreading their name. And for some reason, the proposed alternative of track 'sampling,' ie. via iTunes, seems inadequate and repulsive. I wouldn't be able to assess a band adequately via a clip of the first thirty seconds in their songs. Streaming might be a feasible alternative, as it is both inconveniencing enough and thorough enough to promote a band and their sound while encouraging listeners to purchase an album. But in that regard, downloading three tracks from a given artist seems practically as effective.

But is it worth the risk of injury to the band, by way of distributing their material for free? Is there serious risk of prosecution by band affiliates or record labels who feel they have been victimized by illegal distribution of their material? Is it enough merely to say one will be prompt in taking down a file that a label or group doesn't want up?

Should this project continue, I feel like these questions must be addressed. The direct reference to already-existing url's on official, legit band pages and MySpaces seems in direct compliance with the band's goals in providing those links in the first place. In the future, I believe it may be neccessary to use purely indirect url linking from official band sites and MySpaces.

All questions, comments, and concerns are very much encouraged. And may the God of pop culture have mercy on our souls.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Caring is sexy

This is a set of abrupt textures and anti-pop statements. And an experiment with Yousendit, as has been extremely inconsistent.

Forward, Russia! - Thirteen
Deerhoof - Scream Team
Icy Demons - Icy Demons
Think About Life - Paul Cries
Paul Hogan - It (lowfi)


For those interested, Sam should be offline until about mid-September or so while he's paying Seattle a visit. Incoming there will hopefully be some feedback on the Seattle arts festival: Bumbershoot, which is happening this weekend. Deerhoof, Cloud Cult, and The Purrs were among the great performances I got to see Saturday.

Friday, September 01, 2006

my house on fire

I snagged these gems from the Ethiopiques Vol. 8 compilation CD. The Ethiopiques series features Ethiopian and Eritrean singers and musicians from the 1960's-1970's; a solid collection of shimmy-inducing instrumentals and ethereal creole vocals.
Ethiopiques Vol.8 - Girma Bèyènè - Ené Nègn Bay Manèsh
Ethiopiques Vol.8 - Bahta Gèbrè-Heywèt - Tèssassètgn Eko
Ethiopiques Vol.8 - Samuel Bèlay - Qèrèsh Endèwaza

"One of LA's most daring new artists wears a buzzing halo. This young musical romantic weaves together a true 'love-sound' that falls between honeyed melody and avant-electronics. Daedelus chops and splices disparate acoustic sources into incredible works of staggering resonance. His production style is very unique; it has a precise impact that will make you wonder if you’re dreaming or dancing."
If were to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to only keep ten CDs with me, you could be damn sure a Daedelus album would make the cut. The weave and weft of his music make love to your ears and trigger sensations of floating.
Daedelus - At My Heels
Daedelus - Lights Out
Daedelus - Like Clockwork Springs

Sunday, August 27, 2006

technical messy

I've recently been enamored with (now)five-piece Dutch band We vs. Death. Comprised completely of instrumentals, their sound is startlingly immediate, both meditative and cathartic. It's difficult not to be drawn in by the majestic sprawl in their driving rhythm, swelling brass, and pulsing post-rock anthems. Their melodies lilt, sway, and escalate into beautiful aural climaxes; build swaying edifices reminiscent of Explosions in the Sky.
We vs. Death - Wave Goodbye
We vs. Death - Pictures From Stellenbosch
We vs. Death - And How to Translate It

Next up is the eccentric 7 Year Rabbit Cycle, an Oakland-based band featuring Rob Fisk and Kelly Goode(ex-Deerhoof). Their sound is characterised by starkly organic compositions, desultory percussion, and jaunty vocals.
7 Year Rabbit Cycle - Pirate
7 Year Rabbit Cycle - Wren
7 Year Rabbit Cycle - Puppies

I saw these fellas in Los Angeles, it was quite the spectacle. Captain Ahab ejaculate the vulgar inner dialogue of women in various stages of life over sleazy house beats. They're a pink samurai sword up the ass,
but you know you like it.
Captain Ahab - Ride
Captain Ahab - Party Baby
Captain Ahab - Girls Gone Wild

Saturday, August 26, 2006

mic check, one two

It's common sense that first impressions are important - our initial experiences shape our future handlings. This is something I've been thinking quite a bit about lately, particularly in relation to music - nearly everyone's taste is constantly evolving and growing, but where did that base, that foundation come from? It's a question that's difficult to answer. I do know that what I live for - musically, at least - is that sort of epiphany you have every once in a while when you're digging and discovering. It might be something as simple as finding a great riff or hook. It might be something as momentous as realizing there's a whole new genre of music out there that you've never listened to before. One of the biggest ones for me, however, was the first show I ever saw live. The band was Luna.

Luna is a love-child of the Velvet Underground; it's obvious that frontman Dean Wareham and company are enamored of the slowly propulsive guitar drones, looping bass riffs, and straightforward drums that the VU made so perfectly. I meant that "love-child" part literally, though; where Lou Reed was the paragon of NY hipster cool, Wareham instead chooses whimsy and an affected sleepy innocence.

Luna - Lovedust

This song, more than any other, sums up Luna for me. It's perfect for those times when the air seems to be filled with a sort of drugged elation. The flourishes are what make the song - the lazy, soaring guitars; the bells and castanets at 3:12.
This is a song for watching the sunset go down with someone you love. It is also, depending on how you look at it, a song for a 13-year old boy who is discovering music all over again.

Hi. Welcome to Kind of Like Floating. My name is Sam; I love pop music.

Who says we don't patronize local bands?

Whistler July 07 014

Portland's low-fi post-pop-punk-thing The Thermals released their new album, The Body, The Blood, The Machine on Sub Pop last Tuesday. Due to the loss of drummer Jordan Hudson, remaining band mates Kathy Foster and Hutch Harris split up their multiple duties for this record. Hopefully this news won't impact the group's live performace. And if you've seen them live, you understand what I mean.

Their new material is more political and activist in nature (something the album's name reflects). The Thermals have always been straight-edge social commentators through their lyrics. But from 2003's More Parts Per Million to this latest effort, there's been a noted shift in focus from cynical, introverted speculation about their profession and industry, to cynical, extroverted speculation about society, politics, and now the ideological and religious automatons domineering the state. In terms of how this shift in focus impacts the aesthetics of their music....what impact? Aside from the noticable jump in sound quality between 'Million and their second LP Fuckin A, there seems to be very little else going on with production and sound. Whether there should be is certainly moot. That characteristic abruptness, fuzziness, and energy is all still here. And it's a characteristic that always has made the group's shows favorable occassions to exchange sweat and hair with your shirtless neighbor. I'll be the first to assert that impulsive headbanging and jumping has therapeutic merits.

From The Body, The Blood, The Machine (2006):
The Thermals -- "A Pillar of Salt"
The Thermals -- "Power Doesn't Run on Nothing"

From Fuckin A (2004):
The Thermals -- "How We Know"
The Thermals -- "Stare Like Yours"

From More Parts Per Million (2003):
The Thermals -- "No Culture Icons"

While we're on the note of PacNW groups, two others sprung to mind in writing this. Whalebones is a local getup who opened for last Monday's Wolf Parade and Frog Eyes show at the Showbox. They delivered a solid performance that blended perfectly with the sounds of the other groups that night (and my god, Wolf Parade absolutely springs into pure, colorful life onstage), not to mention the animal theme in their names. The Fleet Foxes are the other local group who, like the former, have slipped well below the popular radar (and also have an animal-themed name), though they certainly deserve a look and a cappuccino for their efforts.

Whalebones -- "Ladyfingers"
Whalebones -- "Another Jungle"
Whalebones -- "Blood Bank"

The Fleet Foxes -- "Anyone Who's Anyone"
The Fleet Foxes -- "Icicle Tusk"
The Fleet Foxes -- "In the Hot Hot Rays"

The Thermals' Site and Resources
Whalebones on MySpace
The Fleet Foxes on MySpace

Image is an original by the poster

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Vells' Bells

Music is art. And, as art, is comprised largely in the copying, modification, juxtaposition, reiteration, and recombination of other peoples' works and ideas. So what's worse than stealing? I've heard tell that failing to let oneself be influenced by a good idea qualifies. Fine and well. But one quickly tires of hearing uninspired Radiohead and 'Young ripoffs all the same. I suppose as much as hearing endless Beatles ripoffs a generation ago while the then-contemporary namesakes continued to set their own standards.

But where's the room for a younger generation in this equation? If, as myself, one didn't grow up with The Beatles, The Who, and The Grateful Dead, is it justifiable to revel in imitations (whether by chance or deliberation) decades after the original* flame ignited? Such a thought crossed my mind sifting through the odd review and description of The Vells.

The Vells are a Pacific Northwest band currently signed to Seattle-based Imputor records, their latest album being "Return to Echo Falls." Apparently they sound a bit like The Beatles and The Beach Boys, hence the "low marks for originality, then, but a fair grade for general pleasantness" from one reviewer. While I can see the worth in drawing associations, it's hard for me to see it in an accusatory pointing of fingers. Especially since I didn't grow up with The Beatles. I'll burn in my own way. Hopefully that doesn't prevent me from examining the group in a meaningful way. Let's start with: Having members involved in the likes of Red Stars Theory, Modest Mouse, and Stagger Lee, the Vells are embodied in a quartet of active PacNW musicians.

Experienced indeed. The Vells seem extremely refined in their first LP effort, not completely unlike the resolve found on The Arcade Fire's debut "Funeral." Immediatly from the get-go of "In the Hours of Flowers," the grooves are set in a rustic trend. One that is developed and explored, the fuzzy bass and lead melding naturally with the crisper drums and vocals by means of a smoothe keyboard primer and occassional horn section. It's synergy with virbrancy that screams the bright green-with-gold etchwork of the CD's packaging (an eco-friendly, yet attractive cardboard holder. Yes, it's criteria for praise).

In contrast, it's suprising to hear the greater clarity and lift of moodiness from that of 'Falls on their 2002 self-titled EP on Lucky Horse Industries, as exemplified in the last Vells track provided (Beatles associations be damned!). The group has a new album out in September this year, and hopefully with its release there will follow more press coverage and tour dates.

The Vells -- "Larger Than Life"
The Vells -- "Mansour III"
The Vells -- "Light on the Right"

On a vaguely-related note, here are a few tracks by the aforementioned project with Vells' drummer Jeremiah Green (also of Modest Mouse). The group formed in late 1994, and is worth your ear, if only by merit of association and innovation of sound (as I percieve it...hah!):

Red Stars Theory -- "Combinations and Complications"
Red Stars Theory -- "Our Nearest Neighbors"

*Whether 'original' is the correct term is certainly debatable. The Beatles didn't manifest spontaneously in a vaccuum, to the best of my knowledge.

Image of The Vells' self-titled EP album art, by Kevin Willis


The Vells' Official Site
Red Stars Theory band site

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Banners and flags

Can it be? Personal webspace? Yes. And after the caching and template edit issues, it's gotten its shakey self off the ground for the time being. This is where we present the reader with information, news, It being a ramshakle venture and all, let's give it a shot.

A shakey selection, quavering strings and horns and tones, the running theme seeming "homemade." Sean from Said the Gramophone afforded reference to two: Antarctica Takes It! and The Red River. The final group, The Briney Depths, rounds off in rustic whistling and strumming. Yes, their brushes quaver and shake. But the color of their dreams and affairs stands out on the canvas with striking resolve.

The Briney Depths -- "Calling Out"
Antarctica Takes It! -- "Circuits"
Antarctica Takes It! -- "I'm No Lover"
The Red River -- "The Real Danger"
The Briney Depths -- "No Culture No Past"
The Red River -- "The Mighty Tide"



Antarctica Takes It on MySpace and around the blogosphere.
Image courtesy of The Briney Depths on MySpace.

edit 8-23: The Red River tracks will now be online for a limited time. Highly recommended!