Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Clark - Empty The Bones Of You

Empty The Bones Of You is not Clark's most popular album.  It was done before he dropped the "Chris" from his name, and while it's not exactly shoved aside, Warp doesn't highly advertise it, and Clark has changed his style of music since then.  But, it happens to be my personal favorite Clark album.


Most of his music is hyperactive and experimental, with insane, intricate beats underpinning melodies that fly around the scale like there's no tomorrow, with heavy distortion accompanying them.  Empty The Bones Of You is a nice change from that.  It's quiet, introspective, and oh so creepy.

"Betty", for instance.  It opens sounding like a Boards Of Canada track, meditative and slightly upbeat.  And then, subtly at first, then not so subtly, starts sounding wrong.  The entire track conveys a sense of creeping anxiety and fear, a sense of dreading what's to come.  It's excellent.  There's also the songs "Holiday As Brutality" and "Slow Spines", which I consider to be a pair.  Like "Betty", they project a feeling of uncertainty, with high-pitched whistles and glacial, crunching beats moving the song along.

But my favorite song off the album has to be the delightfully unsettling "Umbilical Hut".

This song sounds like it was thrown together by some Lovecraftian creature that has only a loose grasp of how music fits together.  Unidentifiable, sweeping industrial underscore worryingly organic sliding noises, along with clacking akin to a giant insect clicking it's mandibles together.  There are odd pauses and gaps in the music where there really shouldn't be, and the song as a whole is the aural equivalent of something crawling into your ear and rooting around in your brain.  

The album isn't perfect, of  course.  Some of the songs are too repetitive, and others aren't that great.  But in my opinion, it's excellent either way.

The third, and final part of these posts will be up soon.  Soon-ish.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Here's a quick, snack-sized break between the epic odyssey of those Clark posts, with the Swedish techno artist, Christian Krogsvold, better known as Waterflame.  Waterflame is one of those artists who I don't like, per say.  I like some of the songs off Green, his one commercial album, but I can't really get on board with his style of music, for the most part.

However, he's one of those artists I can respect.  He uses FL Studios, same as I do, and man, does he get the most out of it.  He makes jump through hoops at his command, and the amount of production and care that goes into pretty much any of his songs is remarkable.  He's been using it since at least 2004, at his expertise consistently shines through.  In short, he's gotten good at this.  Although his best work was earlier, in my opinion, when his music didn't seem as hyperactive, he still knows how to get the most out of the software.

But here's the issue I have with him.  His songs are intricate, energetic, and expertly produced, yes.  But the problem is, they all sound the same.  They're all bubbly dance anthems, or formulaic drums & bass.  Some of them break the mold, like the excellent "Emotion Burst Locomotion", a giddy celebration of being alive, "Jazzbot" (which I could not find a video of, unfortunately), a groovy robotic funk-fest, and "8-Bit Clouds", which is what it says on the tin.

Ultimately though, most of his work ends up sounding like one worn-out, run-together song.  It's all the same beats, the same tempo, the same poppy synths and frantic melodies.  Of course, that's just a matter of personal taste, and if you like that sort of thing, I can see you getting more out his music.  But that's my personal stance on it.

What's funny about Waterflame is that whenever he deviates from his normal style, it always sounds incredible.


Monday, January 17, 2011

Clark - Body Riddle

Warp Records can be used as a sort of windsock for experimental electronica.  They've got all the (relatively) big names: Aphex Twin, Brian Eno, Squarepusher, Flying Lotus, Seefeel, if you've heard of IDM at all, you've probably heard of these guys.  They also host the smaller names, like Clark.

I have a lot to say about this guy, so it's likely I'll be splitting it up into multiple posts.

Chris Clark, who just goes by Clark nowadays to avoid confusion, has no problem with flip-flopping between moods like there's no tomorrow.  Some of his songs are sweeping, majestic journeys through layered synth lines that transport you to another, throughly alien world, while others are slow and quiet, conveying a sense of menace and creeping horror that makes them unique.

Clark's put out a number of EP's and LP's, but I'm just going to be talking about three: Body Riddle, Empty The Bones Of You, and Totems Flare, as those are the ones that jump out the most for me.  I'll probably touch on his other albums a bit.  Let's start with Body Riddle.

Describing Body Riddle is difficult.  Some of the songs, such as the high-spirited glockenspiel-driven "Night Knuckles", and the overwhelming, chaotic dance number "Ted" approach normal music.  However, other songs are indescribably weird.

"Roulette Thrift Run" has a squealing, disturbingly organic synth line that sounds like an octupus is randomly hitting the keys, a what could be an 8-year old humming a completely different song.  It's not the quite pure sonic experimentation of artists like Aphex Twin, but very close.

Other songs are marginally more sane.  "Herzog" is an excellently-crafted sweeping epic that's mostly percussion free, "Frau Wav" is what sounds like a jazz-meets-orchestral track with the drummer going nuts on the drums, and "Dew On The Mouth" and "Springtime Epigram" both make quiet interludes between the madness.

To be continued, or whatever.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

California Girls

...They're undeniable.

I refuse to link the video.   I'm sure you've heard that blasted song.

Ah, chart-toppers.  Britney Spears.  Lil Wayne.  Rihanna.  The Black Eyed Peas.  Ke$ha, and of course, Katy Perry.  The constant, constant, constant rush of fill-in-the-blank, catchy tunes with no substance that are designed hit the top... and nothing else.

There is the occasional good song that creeps in.  "Raise Your Glass" by Pink, at first blush, sounds like your typical A plus B song, A being alcohol and B being dancing.  But on re-listening, it's an ode to everyone out there that's different, odd, nerdy, and overall not the perfect Barbie doll that most pop songs promote.  Hell, one of the opening scenes is her in a Rosie the Riveter outfit.  '

And, of course, Florence + The Machine's "Dog Days" is excellent.  I'll be doing a separate post on them some other time, for sure.  But it more then deserved the number 9 spot it took back in 2010.

And then, of course, there's Katy Perry's California Gurls.  Which doesn't.  It may be the shallowest song I've heard ever.  Now keep in mind, there are probably more shallow songs out there, it's just that this particular example struck me unlike any other.  Here are the lyrics, for what it's worth.

California Gurls alternates between sounding like aural porn and the statewide version of a college fight song.  That's kind of it.  The main thrust of the song seems to be something along the lines of "California is the best because we have women who will have sex with you!".

Snoop Dawgg appears to make himself sound like a scumbag.  I mean really, to quote the lyrics: "I mean, like, she's the one!  Kiss her, touch her, squeeze her buns!".  Yuck.  Euurrrgh.  I don't want to get anywhere near that man, for fear of being molested regardless of my sex.

To be fair, Katy Perry does have talent.  "Who Am I Living For" and "Not Like the Movies" of the same album  both demonstrate her excellent voice, although both sound suspiciously autotuned.  They're also both excellently produced, although I doubt she had any hand in that.

So yeah: Katy Perry: one or two of her songs suggest she's a talented musician, most of them suggest she has the brains of a raisin.

(Random thing, I did a very strange remix of that song, so go listen if you like strange things.)


Sunday, January 9, 2011


Remember the old days, when your dad would take you down to the lake, sun shining, with the tackle and bait, you'd wait patiently until you caught a big one, then he'd show you how to gut a fish?  It doesn't matter if you have, Bibio's music is the aural equivalent.  It washes through you and into you, remind you of the old days, even if you never had them.

A bit of explanation, for those who aren't familiar with him: Bibio is an a British electronica artist out of Wolverhampton, and Warp Records puts out most of his music.  His music varies from album to to album, but for the most part, it's a strange brew of nostalgic folk rock by way of Boards Of Canada.  Although that seems to have changed.

Fi, his first album, with a few exceptions, is free of percussion, and is quiet and rather sad and experimental at times.  A lot of the tracks are driven by guitar tracks and flutes backed by would could be synth lines, with field records of things like wind and flowing water to augment them.  Hand Cranked sounds like it came out of a Wild West saloon at times, and while sounding very unique, is extremely repetitive at spots.

Ambivalence Avenue is probably my personal favorite.  It's a twelve-track album that incorporates his earlier sound with a strange blend of poppy, eerie vocals and hip-hop beats.  The inclusion of vocals is welcome and sounds fantastic.  "Lovers Carvings" is a upbeat, lovely ride.  "The Palm Of Your Wave" is a beautiful, catchy minimalist track about leaving each other, and "S'Vive" is a glorious, glitchy mess.

His most recent is "The Apple And The Tooth", a collection of remixes and a couple of original songs.  I'm not partial to it, but there's a fantastic remix of "Sugarette" by Wax Stag on there, and Bibio himself does a jaw-dropping remix of his own song with "The Palm Of Your Wave (Bibio Remix)".

Bibio: experimental, nostalgia-soaked, and awesome.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Black Moth Super Rainbow

BMSR are...


They're hard to describe.  Image a band made up of aliens from Jupiter constructed of cotton candy and LSD, playing analog synths that sound like spiders live in them and a drumkit that sounds like it hasn't been tuned since the 40's.  Their music covers you in pink goo that gets all over you and into your eardrums.  And it's glorious.

In short, they really don't sound like anything else.

To provide a more helpful description of the band: BMSR do extremely psychedelic music, that sometimes approaches rock, but more often just classifies as electronica, just 'cause it's to weird to fit in any other category.

Their frontman, who goes by Tobacco, has actually done a bunch of other music, which I might blog about some other time.

My favorite part of the music, predictably, is Tobacco's vocoder-altered vocals (say that five times fast).  As I'll probably say a million billion times, I love digitally manipulated vocals, and I love the ones in BMSR songs.  I just wish there were more.

One of their more recent albums, Eating Us, is probably their most poppy album to date. Some of the songs almost sound like conventional pop rock songs, like the acid-bathed high energy "Born ON A Day the Sun Didn't Rise", and the BMSR-meets banjo "American Face Dust".

If anybody was looking to get into the band, I'd recommended they check out Eating Us.  It's their most accessible album by far.

BMSR: psychedelic, gooey, and awesome.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011


WHOMP WHOMP WHOMP.  If you've been to a club, you've heard it.  Dubstep is a love it or hate it genre.  I cite it a lot to people, not because I particularly like it, but because I find it so fascinating.  Dubstep is a genre of extremes.

First of all, let me clear things up and say for the purposes of this post I'm talking about mainstream Dubstep.  Artists like Nero and Rusko, or smaller names like Mt. Eden and Chrispy who put all their energy into the loud, wobbling bassline that, for better or worse, has defined the genre.

For those who don't know, let me explain: Dubstep is a genre of dance music originating in the UK, like a lot of electronica.  Most of it's roots came from Grime, and Dub.  The Step kind of came out of nowhere.  It's characterized by a head-bobbing, swinging rhythm.

Ultimately, I feel like the genre is eventually going to collapse under it's own weight.  It's already gone stale  Let's be honest: it all pretty much sounds the same.  And there's pretty much a Dubstep remix of everything now, because it's so easy to do.

Dubstep either has to evolve, or fade into the backround.