Jay DJ Heroin(e) Linden Blair
Sunday, March 8th, 2009

Belbury Poly — From an Ancient Star

Belbury Poly - From an Ancient StarBel­bury Poly, the first and still pop­pi­est artist on Ghost Box’s ros­ter, released their third full-length record ear­li­er this win­ter. Despite being the least abra­sive of the Ghost Box club, they’ve still always retained a creepy vibe, some­thing that is a lit­tle less pro­nounced here. Still, it’s more of what you’ve come to expect from the niche label — gur­gling and plunk­ing elec­tron­ics seat­ed square­ly in a half-imag­i­nary past of British alche­my, mys­ti­cism, and edu­ca­tion­al mul­ti­me­dia.

Also notable is the album art’s increased depar­ture from the Romek Mar­ber homages that have char­ac­ter­ized Ghost Box releas­es. I’d have admired their tenac­i­ty if they had stuck with the same tem­plate through every release, but I guess they can’t be blamed for want­i­ng to try some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent.

And if you are in or around Lon­don, be sure not to miss the Bel­bury Youth Club Night at The Shunt Lounge, this Wednes­day, March 11.

Monday, August 11th, 2008

Ryoji Ikeda

Photo by neural.it

Pho­to by neural.it

I have to admit that I’m rel­a­tive­ly new to this genre, so my inter­est in it is fun­da­men­tal­ly lack­ing in any his­tor­i­cal con­text. But I knows what I likes, and this is grip­ping stuff. In my flir­ta­tions with this kind of min­i­mal­is­tic, abstract elec­tron­i­ca, I’ve found that it’s dif­fi­cult to achieve a bal­ance between a com­mit­ment to exper­i­men­tal­ism and sheer lis­ten­abil­i­ty, but I think Ryo­ji Ike­da suc­ceeds. Though large­ly form­less, save for at most skele­tal rhythms, his new album Test Pat­tern is imme­di­ate­ly engag­ing mere­ly through its mono­chro­mat­ic, micro­ton­al tex­tures. It skit­ters and pops at a some­times fran­tic pace, crack­ling, buzzing, and ring­ing in enough var­ied ways that I’m tru­ly nev­er bored by it. If you’ve been avoid­ing “amelod­ic non­sense” like this, here’s an oppor­tu­ni­ty to have your mind changed. I only hope it’ll lead me to more things that sur­prise me in the same way.
Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

Ratatat, Past and Future

Ratatat - Shiller artworkIt seems Ratatat are get­ting ready to fol­low up their 2006 sopho­more release Clas­sics, which I thought was leaps and bounds above their debut self-titled, and cer­tain­ly one of my favorites from that year, if not this decade. Two weeks ago they released the sin­gle Shiller, whose A-side you can lis­ten to here. Both tracks are creepy and less beat-dri­ven than their recent stuff, for sure, and I’m glad to see them reach­ing again this time around. “Shiller” will be fea­tured on their forth­com­ing LP, LP3, which Evan Mast describes as being “wild­ly dif­fer­ent than any­thing we’ve done” as well as “by far the best album we’ve ever made,” in this inter­view with Audio­junkies. Hey that sounds promis­ing doesn’t it.

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Monday, December 31st, 2007

Department of Eagles

Department of EaglesAlthough I love lis­ten­ing to Break­fast of Cham­pi­ons each morn­ing, there are actu­al­ly very few times I’m com­pelled to take note of any par­tic­u­lar thing they play. But this morn­ing I heard “Fam­i­ly Romance” by Depart­ment of Eagles, and had to call in make sure I got their name.

Depart­ment of Eagles is a duo com­posed of Daniel Rossen (of Griz­zly Bear) and Fred Nico­laus. The song, while amaz­ing, didn’t rep­re­sent the full range of what they do. I was able to snag a copy of The Cold Nose; it’s a sur­pris­ing­ly var­ied blend of odd sam­ples (strings, piano, spo­ken word), elec­tron­ic manip­u­la­tions, drum machine, acoustic/electric gui­tar, vocal cho­rus­es, and prob­a­bly sev­er­al oth­er things I’m for­get­ting. The per­va­sive hip-hop lean­ings — which tend to be dark, DJ Shad­ow-inspired dal­liances — are prob­a­bly most exem­pli­fied in “Forty Dol­lar Rug,” a tongue-in-cheek glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of bach­e­lor life (“Forty dol­lar rug/ Twen­ty dol­lar lamp/ Playsta­tion 2/ Tony Hawk 4”).

Mean­while, they don’t mind sound­ing like Radio­head at times, in their creepy, Kid A-like har­monies, albeit backed by weird things Radio­head would prob­a­bly nev­er touch.

The Cold Nose was orig­i­nal­ly released in 2003 under a dif­fer­ent title, and was just reis­sued this year with some bonus tracks; for my mon­ey, it’s bet­ter than any­thing Rossen has done with Griz­zly Bear, and I’m sor­ry to have only come across it so recent­ly. The project is, as far as I can tell, defunct.

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

Songs of Green Pheasant

Songs of Green PheasantSongs of Green Pheas­ant is the record­ing name of Dun­can Sump­n­er, orig­i­nal­ly of Eng­land, and resid­ing now in Cal­i­for­nia. I’ll be damned if I can remem­ber where I heard about Aer­i­al Days, 2006’s fol­low-up EP to his debut LP of 2005, but for a while in June it sound­tracked my falling asleep at night.

Any­way I just got a hold of his new LP, Gyl­lyng Street, and it’s pret­ty beau­ti­ful. Accu­sa­tions of freak-folk­dom weren’t total­ly unfound­ed before, but I think this release will help to abol­ish that mis­cat­e­go­riza­tion. It’s gauzy, even a lit­tle shoegazey, and, admit­ted­ly, kind of pas­toral. But its chug­ging momen­tums and elec­tron­ic flour­ish­es recall Bibio, Chessie, Cari­bou at times (due to the vocal qual­i­ty, I think), and I swear I even hear a lit­tle Joy Divi­sion. “West Coast Pro­fil­ing” is par­tic­u­lar­ly great, rat­tling along grace­ful­ly for five min­utes before mor­ph­ing into a bleak, fune­re­al elec­tric gui­tar line, soar­ing, uniden­ti­fi­able pipes, and thump­ing, tam­bourine-led per­cus­sion. A great sound­track to the falling tem­per­a­tures.

Saturday, August 4th, 2007

Chessie

Chessie - Overnight

I first encoun­tered this album years ago, when some­body men­tioned it in a forum thread about favorite album art. The cov­er is cer­tain­ly intrigu­ing, with that fat sans (Futu­ra?) and the glow­ing pur­ple moun­tain — and like all good album art, it real­ly lends some­thing to the sound it’s rep­re­sent­ing. The DC band does a kind of chug­ging, throb­bing, ambi­ent dronescape thing, which is typ­i­cal­ly more form­less than the tracks I’m shar­ing here. Overnight is their third and most recent LP, from 2001.

I’m not sure whether “Chessie” is a ref­er­ence to “the Chesa­peake and Ohio Railway’s for­mer hold­ing com­pa­ny, the Chessie Sys­tem,” or “a leg­endary sea mon­ster sup­pos­ed­ly liv­ing in the Chesa­peake Bay,” but it seems to me that both mean­ings offer a per­spec­tive on their sound.