Friday, May 30, 2008

May Live Mixtape (no live tracks) + Friday Videos

So, over the last while I've been at a fair few cool gigs. Nothing too strenuous, really, compared to other people: I got in the two big acts I wanted to see (Battles & Dinosaur Jr.); two smaller but very interesting shows (Xiu Xiu and Ham Sandwich), as well as a local act which I didn't write up (Heathers, with Hooray for Humans); and I didn't go to any of Bruce Springsteen's three nights in the RDS - although, as it happened, I had to sit on a bus and watch the hordes go in and out for two of those times.

This short mixtape or playlist divides up neatly into the first side of international (i.e. American) acts and the second side of Irish bands. It's all merged into two mp3s, no individual downloads sorry. I've included start times of each song to help, however.

(Apologies for the short post beforehand - some kind of server problems and a nice sunny evening outside)


Download May/Oh Five Oh Eight

Side A: (15:51)

1. Dinosaur Jr. - 'Freak Scene' (vinyl rip) (00:00-)

2. Battles - 'Tonto' (03:33-)

3. Xiu Xiu - 'Apistat Commander' (11:16-)

Side B: (16:34)

4. Hooray for Humans - 'Already Sleeping' (00:00-)

5. Heathers - 'Remember When' (03:30-)

6. A Lazarus Soul - 'The Day I Disappeared' (05:44-)

7. Ham Sandwich - 'Words'(10:17-)

8. The Vinny Club - 'It's Not You It's Of' (14:06-)

The first side is fairly straightforward; basically, the best song or near enough from each gig, as recorded from the album. I put in the vinyl rip of 'Freak Scene' from Bug well, because I could - same reason I put a vinyl rip of Slint, 'Good Morning, Captain' into a previous mix - but also out of technical interest. I'm not one to make a big deal out of the supposed differences in sound between vinyl and CD, but there is a difference between them here (It's a bit like someone talking normally and someone going 'BLEH!' in your ear). So this isn't as loud, but you can turn it up yourself.

The second side deserves a bit more explanation, on account of these all being Irish bands. Hooray for Humans I wrote about previously - this is the title track from their amazing new 7" out on Hideaway Records. They were playing support last Friday in Eamonn Doran's for Heathers and their album launch.

Heathers are two girls and a guitar - incidentally, from my old secondary school in Dublin -who literally are releasing an album and going on a US tour on the eve of their graduation. Here, Not There is a joint release between Plan-It-X Records of Gainesville, FL and Hideaway Records of, er, Deansgrange, Dublin. 'Remember When' is the first song off the album, which is really very good.

A Lazarus Soul played the Village the following night as support for Ham Sandwich, the show which is reviewed here. They were perhaps a little underwhelming, but this is the way they're meant to sound. 'The Day I Disappeared' is a song about notorious Dublin gangland criminal, Martin 'The General' Cahill, taken from their excellent album Graveyard of Burnt Out Cars.

Then Ham Sandwich, and 'Words', because it's my favourite live song of theirs. I could perhaps have put 'Never Talk' in instead, since that was the reason for the gig, but a) there didn't seem to be an opportunity to buy the single and b) I have something else up my sleeve regarding Ham Sandwich singles.

Finally, a sort of random but really good track from The Vinny Club, a side project from Vinny McCreith of Dublin band (sort of in the same league as Fight Like Apes) Adebisi Shank. The album launch for Rocky IV Reckyrd is tonight (the 31st), and I was planning on getting in one last gig in for May but I don't think I'll be able to go. However, it's a banging tune (taken from the Indie Hour podcast).


The Redneck Manifesto (support act for Battles) - 'No One Plans Eleven' from a previous date in Vicar Street, recorded by Foetal Media

Xiu Xiu - 'FTW' from their new album, Women As Lovers

Heathers - 'Margie' (Irish and English), Live @ Eamonn Doran's, 23/05/08.

Ham Sandwich - 'Words', Live @ HMV instore

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Dinosaur Jr. - Beyond 7" ('I Got Lost', 'Lightning Bulb'...)

Back to some good old vinyl. I picked this up at their Academy show on the 12th, "Limited Heavy Vinyl LP/7" including the exclusive track 'Yer Son'". In other words, this 7" has the last three tracks of the CD album plus one bonus. Y'see, back before CDs bands could only fit about 40 minutes or so on to the LP 12" - which is why most albums continued at that length - and anything over had to go onto a second LP or, for a few extra tracks, a 7". (See this post on Drive Like Jehu's Yank Crime for another example)

Beyond is still my favourite album of 2007, so it's nice to have on LP even if it's not entirely necessary. (Though when it comes to consumer goods, what is?) The CD itself is pretty great, with the same artwork as the vinyl except in different places, i.e. the snake bite and gummy lettering of the CD tray which are the labels on each side of the LP... anyway, what is different and almost better about the vinyl is this 7".

Lou Barlow's two songs on Beyond are 'Back To Your Heart' and this second one here, 'Lightning Bulb'. They're both fairly sedate tunes compared to the high-octane rockers like 'Crumble' and 'Almost Ready' which start off the album. But 'I Got Lost', a Mascis-penned tune which starts off this mini record, is even more soft and gentle. Rolling drums over choral/folky singing and guitar, with a cello added in too for good measure. In itself it represents the softer but no less affecting side of Beyond, and of Dinosaur Jr.'s sweet alt-rock bluesy sound.

'Lightning Bulb' is obviously a good deal more bass-heavy, and louder, but it still matches up with the preceding song as the slower, more contemplative sound of Dinosaur Jr. Blend77 said this was originally his favouite song on the album, and while its competitors have always been too strong for me, I enjoy its subtlety. Like 'Been There All The Time'/'Back To Your Heart' (single post here), the Mascis/Barlow combination of songwriting is used to good effect. Indeed, it's the pairing of these two songs it what makes this 7" work so well.

On the flip side, the mid-length closing track for Beyond, 'What If I Knew' plays out like it usually does, all softly spoken/mumbled vocals, glorious distorted fuzz and noodly, yet slightly muted, guitar solos. It's not a song that has in particular caught my attention much before, at least not distinctly so - it's always been there as the album winds to an end, echoing the delicious sounds of 'Almost Ready' and 'Crumble' while permeating out the feel-good sound of the album. In that sense, it has a slight feel of a pastiche about it, but it's a still a good song in its own right.

'Yer Son', the exclusive bonus track, is a lot rockier than anything else on the 7", and indeed has a different sound on it than most songs on the album as a whole (except for 'It's Me' to an extent). It's hard-rock in a charming way, with echoey stadium vocals, winding guitar solos and a thumping rhythm. Like the way 'Pass the Swan' reminds me of a Thin Lizzy riff, there's something Thin Lizzy-retro about this one too (also, the Dublinese title). I didn't think much of it at first, but it grew on me. As I say, there's something especially charming about it.

Dinosaur Jr. - Beyond 7" (vinyl rip)

A1. I Got Lost

A2. Lightning Bulb

B1. What If I Knew

B2. Yer Son

and if you like this, do buy the album, because it's awesome!


In the previous Dinosaur post I mentioned that the band's sound engineer for their tour has a blog - noel at the controls - and posted up a picture of the set-up at the Dublin show. There's now a link to it on the Dinosaur Jr. homepage, and fans from their shows across Europe have been leaving comments (I left a comment on his post about Temple Bar). Anyway, the above picture is from his blog, and this is what he says about in the comments:

"J is a fan of Battles and I think he had them in mind when he put up that cymbal. We saw them twice at the ATP we just played at. Lou and Murph are fans also. They are a cool band."

So there you go.

(noel at the controls: Damn the Torpedoes!)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Ham Sandwich, Live @ the Village, 24/05/08

I should have got this up sooner, for fear of not getting it up at all. This is going to be a review of both this weekend's gig (the single launch for 'Never Talk') as well as February's Carry the Meek album launch, since I never got around to writing up a show review for that but instead spent all the time writing about the album.

I've already sort of decided that Carry the Meek is the album of the year for me so far. It's just so great that I'd jump at the chance to see the band live again. Unfortunately, this gig wasn't quite as good, overall, as their Whelan's show. It was still a great Saturday night out, a very enjoyable experience for what you could expect - as a friend said after the gig,

"Ham Sandwich [always] put on a good show. Fact"

That's all an attempt to be objective, for something that is a parochial, personal interest. There were a few reasons why the show would fall a little short: Dublin's suffering from a little bit of gig fatigue, not helped by the fact that the universities have had their end-of-year exams in the past few weeks. The Village took some time to fill up, and even then it wasn't completely packed. I personally wasn't starved of live guitar or electro sounds, having been at two gigs in the two previous nights in Whelan's and Doran's. And finally, I'm not a huge fan of the Village venue - it's a bit Studio 54 to Whelan's CBGBs (both the Village and Whelans are in the same building on Wexford St.). It's more difficult to fill up, and consequently their show didn't match the energy and raw power of the Whelans night. But, small quibbles.

Support act A Lazarus Soul were a band I really wanted to see live. Their brand of Joy Division-style, Dublin-rooted post-punk works excellently on record - Graveyard of Burnt Out Cars is poetic, graceful and heartfelt. On stage, early sound difficulties aside, it sort of half-worked - admittedly from high expectations. Frontman Brian Brannigan apologised for their "terrible" guitar sound, but truth be told you couldn't fault his own performance as singer. By voice he reminds me a lot of Sack's Martin McCann, who judging from his Other Voices performance had a terrific and mesmerising stage presence. Brannigan, too, really acted out. At one point in a song he was mock screaming (away from the mic, it being an instrumental passage) at the guitarist, gesticulating wildly - not out of frustration, but out of passion, for the music.

Something about Graveyard of Burnt Out Cars probably works best on record, or in a really perfect gig setting. (Its 80s audiophile sound, likely enough) But to take a particular example, there's a really crucial line on 'The Day I Disappeared', "and the Liffey filled with tears". On record, over the keyboard hook, it wafts almost transcendental over the rest of the song; that night, it didn't seem to hit anything like that. Again, quibbling and overly-high expectations from a support band in a (as yet) only half-full venue. Full credit to Brannigan's stage performance, and I hope to see this band again.

And then there was Ham Sandwich.

Opener, 'Keepsake' and an answer to those who wondered what they were going to do to follow the confetti rain of the album launch (more confetti, more colours). Podge Sandwich apologised for the state of his own guitar - which I noticed something a little off about on 'St. Christopher' - while pointing out that he's not actually the lead guitarist. That role goes to Darcy - fake moustache and carnation - who was crying out for the attention at the last gig. Well, it's true. Listen to any of their songs and notice that all the really interesting stuff comes from the lead guitar laid on top of Podge's. He's their Nick Zinner to Niamh Sandwich's (and Podge's?) Karen O.

Ham Sandwich are a loud band - on CD, production-wise, as I have noted already - and live. Not Dinosaur Jr.-loud, thankfully (at the end of two weeks of gigs!), but they really belt it out while keeping their dynamic range and the intricacies - such as there are - of their sound. This worked best in the sweaty, semi-airless confines of Whelans, but that's not to say it was absent in the Village either.

'Words' epitomises this sound, this loudness, and in my opinion is probably their best live song. This was confirmed in the Village, although like the rest of the gig it still fell short of explosive. 'Words' is heavy, driving - obviously on account of the two guitars, but credit must be given to the excellent rhythm section too - and really just impacts like most pop songs don't. It was the impression I got when I saw them live for the very first time, in the basement of HMV doing an instore the day before the album launch. Footage of 'Words' from that performance has made its way onto YouTube, and while the sound quality is pretty terrible, the energy shines through. Any band who can tear it up like this in a room surrounded by computer games, has got something going for them:

Finally - and before playing the single, 'Never Talk' - the band got down to their ironic pop cover. Previously, in Whelan's it had been Britney Spears' 'Piece of Me' - before 'Click Click Boom' - you can see their performance of it at Galway's Roisin Dubh here. This time, Niamh Sandwich coming out from backstage with a blond wig didn't do anything to dissuade us from the assumption that we were in for the same cover, but in fact it turned out to be Madonna's 'Material Girl'. The fact that, last February, I didn't even know Britney Spears had a latest hit called 'Piece of Me', let alone identify it, but was able to recognise the Madonna song might say a lot about me. Plus, it has a pretty great guitar solo:

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Fugazi - 7 Songs EP

This is where it all began. Or at least, this is one of the places where it all began, again.

Fugazi's first release, Dischord 30 in 1988 was this self-titled seven-song EP. Now better known as the first half of the 13 Songs album, with their second EP, Margin Walker (to be posted subsequently). It is obviously the bridge between Fugazi's later, more progressive output and the nascent hardcore and post-hardcore of Minor Threat, Embrace, Rites of Spring, One Last Wish, Egghunt, etc. I don't know what exactly it was like to hear this fresh for the first time 20 years ago, but I reckon it must have been pretty great.

You see, I'm a bit of a conflicted Fugazi fan. I've never gotten into albums like Red Medicine, The Argument or even In On The Kill Taker; I enjoy Steady Diet of Nothing adequately - enough to name a blog after it, at least - but really, 13 Songs and Repeater are where it's at for me in relation to Fugazi listening.

I absolutely won't deny the quality of the other albums, but they aren't where I am with regards to musical headspace, right now. Which is a little strange, since I consider myself to listen to a fairly broad range of post-hardcore music, though mostly those - like Hot Water Music, for example - who ran with the early Fugazi sound. Still, I do sometimes get the feeling like I'm trapped in 1991.

The important thing with Fugazi, whichever of their albums you listen to, is that they write smart, progressive hardcore songs and play their guts out without simply being loud and aggressive. On that basis, they have become undeniable world leaders in modern punk rock.

(The above photo is from the inner sleeve of the EP, showing the iconic cover image of Guy Picciotto (by Adam Cohen) presumably just after having been taken. The sleeve photo, as indicated by the signature, is by Glen E. Friedman. Dischord Records are now shipping, for $25, Keep Your Eyes Open: The Fugazi Photographs of Glen E. Friedman, a collected 9x11" hardcover book of photographs from between 1987 and 2002. Sounds good!)

7 Songs starts off with 'Waiting Room' - "I am a patient boy, I wait I wait I wait" - with its great walking bass line and instantaneous hardcore crunch, it's a great catchy hardcore song. The next song is a bit more expansive, coming in waves of distortion and feedback to collapse finally into the rhythic intro for the following, third song - these two 'Bulldog Front', and 'Bad Mouth', exemplify the theme of deconstucting hardcore, taking apart the aggressive attitude and replacing it with something - lyrically and musically - with a more critical eye. 'Burning', closing the first side, takes a more metaphysical approach, as well as containing some of the abstractions familiar in most other Fugazi songs - "There's something acting on this body"... "I wanted a language of my own, my lips sucked empty and I mouthed the lines". Moreover, it performs that classic balancing act between rhythm-led, tense grooves and semi-explosive, semi-cathartic guitar noise that pretty much defines, insofar as anything does, the Fugazi sound.

The flip side amps this up even more with 'Give Me The Cure' which, after a curiously melodic opening, turns into a taut, driving behemoth of a song. On this track, I think, the band first really hit their groove, on "I've never thought too hard on dying before", hitting with a searing intensity and an economical running time. 'Suggestion', again, is a slightly longer song, but with the same kind of rhythms and curled-in melodies. Lyrically, it's a cutting examination of sexual politics, and in the end a hard-hitting statement that "we are all guilty". Again, like 'Burning', the conclusion comes screaming in from near-silence, but switching instantly into the explosive opening of 'Glue Man'. Guy Picciotto's harsher vocals taking the lead on "I spent it all", it has all the heavy, layered feelings of the Fugazi sound with an extra metallic, discordant edge - a perfect atmosphere of near-psychosis for the subject matter. And there, with a single drumbeat over feedback, it ends.

(The drawing above is my own, one of my older ones, inspired by the lyrics to 'Bulldog Front')

Fugazi - 7 Songs

Fugazi on Dischord Records

Fugazi - 13 Songs on eMusic

Friday, May 23, 2008

Xiu Xiu - Live @ Whelans, Dublin 22/05/08, A Promise

If you think this looks bad, you should see the vinyl cover (which I didn't buy) (and which isn't censored). It's very classy, in its own way.

This was the first and mostly only Xiu Xiu album that I heard. The reason being, it would be nice to have an X in my CD collection, and also because the cover turns up on some of those 'Worst Album Covers Ever' lists. Later I heard Fabulous Muscles, and didn't like it much. The main reason I was going to this gig was as a favour to the friend (mr x. indeed) whom I got into Xiu Xiu and, as these things happen, ran with the idea. However, I really don't regret turning up for this show.

Even if I wasn't much of a Xiu Xiu fan (pronounced 'shew or 'shoe shoe', as in Xiaolin) there is something wonderful about Jamie Stewart's music, despite of and because of all its twisted qualities. I put on A Promise to listen to this week, for the first time in a while. Compared to the supposedly more pop-oriented Fabulous Muscles (or the probably louder debut Knife Play), A Promise is an exercise in semi-acoustic, tense minimalism.

The gentle, haunting melodies which open 'Sad Pony Guerilla Girl' reminded me a lot why I like the minimalist, esoteric sounds of Si Schroeder, and there's even a hint of Slint-like sparseness in the guitar work. Along with this "beautiful nylon progression", then there are also the quiet interjections of more agressive noise, the eventual break "into the kind of sadomasochistic no-fi explosion anyone already familiar with Xiu Xiu would expect" (Pitchfork).

Minimalism, with carefully placed bursts of over-saturated catharsis, is generally something I've always been a fan of. It's the basic description of Moss Icon-type 'emo' music, for a start. But in more subtle forms it crops up all over the place.

Ironic, then, that the same night that Xiu Xiu was playing the Boss was playing the first of several massive gigs in Dublin. Springsteen's Nebraska, with its Suicide-homage 'State Trooper' and its generally near-unbearable levels of emotional tension, is one of my favourite lo-fi records. And apart from that and Born to Run, I've never bothered to listen to anything else by him. (Maybe when I'm 30).Whelans was a welcome return from the moderately large size of Vicar Street and Battles last week, and you've got to wonder whether Bruce would have liked to have been out at our little niche gig rather than at his own huge concert. (Ok, that's a dumb question). Minimalism is a great thing, in small doses.

Support act for this leg of the tour was a nice young man by the name of Chris Garneau. His set sounded a lot more like Xiu Xiu than Xiu Xiu actually did, in some ways. A series of quiet keyboard songs bookended by two songs on possibly a melodeon sitting down on the floor of the stage.

Then Xiu Xiu came on to set up all their own instruments, which included a stand of tiny cymbals, with a bag full of drumsticks to share between lead singer Jamie Stewart and keyboardist and cousin Caralee McElroy, and an electric cello/upright bass for the rhythm section. Jamie Stewart's soundcheck mainly consisted of him doing drum rolls on his single snare and saying:

'Shalom, shalom... salaam, salaam'

Peace in the Middle East perhaps? Although I guess it makes sense for testing out both hard and soft speech sounds. Either way, it was pretty cool. Other things to note were that both Jamie Stewart and his cousin had their nails painted, and that their electrical equipment was taped together with pink electrical tape.

Anyway, Xiu Xiu absolutely rocked. This was their first ever show in Ireland, as well as the most punk rock show I've seen so far this year. (The promoters, Forever Presents, were the same people who brought Dan Deacon around the last couple of times). Essentially, I wasn't really expecting them to sound like they did, but I enjoyed every moment of it.

Highlight of the night was obviously 'Apistat Commander', as it was probably the only song that I knew already, but the performance - second to last song - was fantastic. It's a track that the Pitchfork reviewer for A Promise describes as "a quivering opera of existential agony that swells from its breathless introduction to a distorted chorus sounding like the Magnetic Fields covering The Cure's '100 Years'" and "one of the most arresting pieces of experimental pop I've come across in years". Pitchfork seem to write a good deal about Xiu Xiu - indie of that ilk and all that - but that seems like honest praise.

It was the song that got me into A Promise, and I guess too into a lot of electro, noisy pop since. And when I say 'noisy', I mean absolute emotional freakout kind of noise. Jamie Stewart was smashing the hell out of his snare drum for this song, and likewise with his guitar for the following final song. Seriously, this is the sort of stuff I go to gigs for. Post. Punk. Rock.

The Sigla Blog - Musical Rooms Part 26: Xiu Xiu

Those Geese Were Stupified: another review of the gig - kinda slightly less enthusiastic

Xiu ('Sad Pony Guerilla Girl' and 'Apistat Commander' from A Promise)

Xiu Xiu on eMusic

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

New Blog! Images Made Beat

A third blog has been added to my portfolio, along with Hardcore for Nerds for music and Steady Diet of Books for literature. Images Made Beat is for some of my own artwork, which is generally drawings made from my own photographs. The name is hopefully kind of descriptive, as well as expressing my love for Kerouac-type culture.

You might recognise a couple of the images from posts here on this blog, like Oi Endoxos Necros: A Mixtape in Tragedy and Mclusky Singles - Pt. II. At the moment the design of the site is pretty sparse, just a bit of basic information on each artwork. And apart from a bit of better graphics, I intend keeping it that way. There are only three sets of two and three works each up at the moment; more will be added periodically.

In the meantime, be sure to check out some of the 30-45 minutes, via YouTube, of combined visual and auditory awesomeness of Battles live in Dublin in the post below...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Battles pt. 2 - a History of Kings (live in Dublin 2006-8)

Since I did really enjoy the Battles gig last week, and because I haven't been to any more in this mad month of May (though I have three planned for later this week), I thought I would present a few videos from YouTube of Battles playing Dublin. These are from their Temple Bar Music Centre (TBMC) show in July 2006, their Tripod show in August 2007, and from last week in Vicar St.

[the title of the post doesn't really mean much, except that a common complaint about history is that it's all about the dates of kings and battles. Plus, the four members of Battles are all pretty great.]

It's also an opportunity to look at the Battles sound, and how it has developed or stayed the same over the last couple of years. I attended both the Tripod and the Vicar St. shows, and I'm still sticking to the 'less interesting, more enjoyable' paradoxical description. In addition, Mirrored wasn't even out for the first gig in TBMC, whereas it and 'Atlas'/'Tonto' were the huge draws for the latter two shows.

I also found a couple of other reviews of the Vicar St. gig, so you don't have to take just my word for it:

No Ordinary Fool

Tenacious Timothy ("Bloody. Brilliant. Gig.")


Battles - 'HI/LO', TBMC July '06

First up is 'HI/LO' from EP C - which Pitchfork describes as " lurching upbeat stomp that leaves gaping-wide chasms for keyboards to fill with carnival pinwheels" (EP C/EP B review). This performance is in the Temple Bar Music Centre, in the heart of Dublin city centre/bohemian quarter. I saw the Draft, Bouncing Souls and Black Keys in that venue earlier in 2006, and haven't been back since (in which time it has changed it's name to the asinine 'The Button Factory' and will be hosting Ireland's other post-rock heroes, God Is An Astronaut, this Saturday - unfortunately the same night as Ham Sandwich and A Lazarus Soul play the Village). Anyway, the first thing to notice about this video is how cramped the band appear. I didn't even spot Dave Konopka until about thirty seconds in.

The second thing to note is the difference between this song and the songs from Mirrored. (There's also a video from Nialler9 of 'Leyendecker' being performed at that gig) I'm not sure there is much of a difference, if you're just talking complex, instrumental and repetitive math-rock. But it's still a stage removed from the sound of Mirrored, even if it is probably my favourite song, with its needling keys, on EP C. The focus of the video, though, is on drummer John Stanier most of the time, and rightly so. I heard a reviewer on the radio make his case for Stanier as the frontman of the band - albeit a vocally silent one - which to me makes perfect sense.


Battles - 'Tonto' and 'Race:Out'/'Tij', Tripod August '07

This set of videos, of exceptionally high quality, was filmed by foetal media. They have an impressive range of Irish live videos - including one of Battles, to be posted further on - as well as Crayonsmith's 'Lost in the Forest' and a series of Redneck Manifesto live vids (check out 'No One Plans Eleven' from them).

I wasn't aware of the amazing video for Tonto until sometime after this gig, so I don't think I appreciated this song as much as I should have, and indeed did at the last performance. But regardless of how cool you think it is, its hypnotic, enveloping rhythms are plain for all to see and hear. Of special interesting is the maintenance of the rhythm section at extremely low tempos towards the end, and then the final interplay between guitar and keyboard - done to great effect in the music video, but also live.

From earlier on in the gig, this is also the frenetic drum intro to 'Race:Out' (with the drummer still having his shirt on) segueing, in an inversion of the album tracklisting, into the distorted sampling of 'Tij'. This I think neatly brings up the more interesting vs. enjoyable part of the shows. The energy was there at this stage, but it was more sporadic and it wasn't that complete sense of visceral ecstasy which you get when a show really starts rocking out (You can briefly see the back of my head, not doing much, at about the 2:11 mark). Only to be expected, of course, and I completely enjoyed this part of the show on an intellectual level; but it hadn't really gotten started by this time. Still, there was a tension in the air as to what exactly they were going to do next - even, I reckon, if you had all the songs memorised - as well as the curiosity of seeing the sounds actually being produced on stage (especially the sampling procedure).


Battles - 'Atlas', Vicar St. May '08 (excerpt) and Tripod, August '07

The top video (just 3:05 minutes long) shows conversely the more purely 'enjoyable' aspect of the live experience in Vicar Street. Shot from the balcony above, it is essentially the one single beat being played over and over for about a minute and a half (notice the surge in excitement when the kick drum comes in briefly) followed by the further repetition of the introductory part of the song with the crowd turning into the "sea of pogoing fans" I mentioned previously. Thankfully the video cuts off shortly after Tyondai Braxton starts singing (and the crowd responds in adulation) since the sound quality can't handle, you know, the actual song. This is where the gig kicked off last August, and last week this was following immediately on to Tonto which was in itself genuinely amazing, but the principle still stands that the show is broken up into the conceptually interesting and absorbing, and the physically astounding and intense.

Below it, is the coup de grace - or perhaps de sueur - the full performance of 'Atlas' as recorded by Foetal Productions in August '07, all eight glorious minutes of it. Rock on - since it's the one song everyone came for, right?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Battles - Atlas & Tonto+ (vinyl rips) & Live @ Vicar St., Dublin, 15/05/2008


Mirrored - two contrasting opinions:

from The Obligatory End of Year List: Hardcore for Nerds Gets Zeitgeisty

"Not to sound too self-conscious, but another hipster pick. Another show – like Dan Deacon – that I only got to see the second time around. But another excellent, outstanding album, and truly one of the most interesting of the year."

from Zen and the Art of Face Punching: Best of... (what year was it again?) - 'the serious letdowns'

"I have no idea WHY people are flipping over this. I think it sucks, big time. Are people just that desperate for something different? EP C & B EP were both pretty cool and while I'm sure this is in line with where they were going, its a ride I am happy I got off early."

I normally quote ZAFP to back up my own opinions/descriptions of albums (e.g., this post) but not, however, in this case. Since both Brendan Campbell and John Stuart Mill have taught me the value of defending my opinions, I shall attempt a spirited defence:

Battles, Mirrored may neither be invulnerable to criticism nor untarnished by hipsterism and hype. In fact, they would be the first two reasons for not liking it. But it's still a damn good record. I enjoy Battles not just because it is comple math-rock, but because it is absorbing, intelligent music of its own right. Mirrored is catchy, driving and absorbing to listen to. Difference is not the main attraction. So sorry if it seems too much like Don Cab for Cutie, but that's the whole charm of it. And aside from the charm, the chops are undeniable.

Mirrored is an enjoyable record, more so because of its difference. It is rock music with a new kick, yes, but one which is fairly accessible. Perhaps not immediately so for a lot of people, but that is only an indication of its ability to spread beyond people already interested in math-rock. The new sound of Battles has the ability to draw the listener in by playing on the existing sounds of rock music, and making something new and exciting out of that.

And another point of view - from Geek Down: Best of 2007: Albums

"...Mirrored showcases a sort of minimalistic rock music. While seemingly complicated, it's really not. In place of complication is a lot of patterning that is usually frowned upon in rock music. The kind of things Battles do on Mirrored are usually qualified as "repetitive" on rock releases (I'm sure a great deal of critics have called this album repetitive). But the patterning and repetition on this album only serve to unify its disparate elements (read: instruments of different timbres). I've used this comparison in a previous entry, but Mirrored works on its own logic. The tracks work as one singular unit as opposed to different units reacting and responding to each other. Changes in the tracks seem completely fluid from every aspect of the composition. I think it's pretty groundbreaking, because the learning curve of understanding unified compositions is so immense for non-classically trained musicians (including myself). It's really hard to explain and I feel pretentious doing it, but that's all I hear. Mirrored is completely unified..."

John Stuart Mill - On Liberty:

"The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error"


Battles, 'Atlas' 12" single

1. Atlas (full version)

2. Atlas - DJ Koze Remix

Battles - Atlas

Buy from Warp Records and in mp3/FLAC from Bleep.


Battles, Tonto+ EP

1. Tonto (Album version)

2. Tonto (The Field remix)

3. Tonto (Four Tet remix)

4. Leyendecker (DJ Emz remix feauturing Joell Ortiz)

Battles - Tonto

CD with two extra live tracks, and bonus DVD with both formats including Atlas, Tonto and making-of Tonto videos, available from Warp Records and in high quality mp3 from Bleep.


So, the gig was pretty good. Not too different from the last time I saw them. Subjectively, the experience seemed more enjoyable (a bigger crowd, and less time for things to get going) but not as interesting (less feats of sonic endurance, and of course I've seen most of it already)

Second act on the bill, Irish (and, specifically, Dublin) instrumental post-rock heroes The Redneck Manifesto were a big draw, as they don't play live often. I haven't so far properly warmed to their sound - a bit like a heavier, more rhythmic Mercury Program - but's easy to respect their energy and ability to carry an audience. Bassist and apparent frontman Richie Egan has been doing interesting stuff in alternative-pop solo project Jape, from whom there might be some videos posted here soon.

Battles playing Tonto and Atlas together (in that order, and followed by Leyendecker) was easily the best part of the night. Their live performances are in a little bit remixes of themselves, and it's the interpretations of sounds and rhythms which make watching them so enjoyable. It's also a direct experience of the crafted math-rock sounds of Mirrored (and works before it), and to an extent a physical experience of a very cerebral, technical record.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Dinosaur Jr - Dinosaur (reissue) & Live @ the Academy, Dublin, 12/05/2008


HFN106 - rocking out like it's still '86, or sometime closely around then:



This is Dinosaur Jr.'s first album, Dinosaur, back from before they had to add the 'Jr.' part. The first three albums have been reissued on coloured vinyl on Baked Goods, and I posted up Bug already. They all come with the same marble/splatter patterns, just in different colours.

I haven't got You're Living All Over Me yet (red) because, strange as it may sound, I've never gotten into it. Bug is my preference ('Freak Scene' et al.) for their earlier work, followed by this. It's not specifically the noise tracks, it's just the - to me - general incoherence of the album.

Dinosaur starts off with the explosive rocker 'Bulbs of Passion', full of mumbling quiet parts, distortion-drenched parts, and parts of full-on screaming. And then there's 'Forget the Swan', which they played in the encore last night and has a riff which really reminds me of Thin Lizzy (maybe that's why they played it for their Dublin show?). But I'm getting ahead of myself.

You probably can't make many grand claims about Dinosaur against the rest of their catalogue, but it's still a solid and rewarding album to go back to. Moreover, it has some near-perfect moments buried in the mumbly, raw and occasionally jangly sound (often the moments are those mumbling, distorted jangles in the first place) which is all very familiar Dino Jr. territory. The whole think is a melange of rock, some folksy sounds, noise and sweet, sweet melodies:

Dinosaur Jr. - Dinosaur (1985)

That's the back cover (design by Lou) below, with an incredibly youthful and short-haired J. Mascis and a goth-like Lou Barlow. Then there's the two sides of the record, with photographs that I think are a little better than those I managed to take of Bug, but that still don't show a true impression of the vinyl. It's partly translucent, so depending on whether you hold it up to the light, or put it down on the platter, it never really looks the same way. Click to enlarge:


And so, on the show.

First up, Lou Barlow walked on stage and said:

"The support band didn't show up

but luckily I had this guitar with me"

So the special guest was a 30 minute solo acoustic set with Lou Barlow. I'm not sure if it was planned, but as it was he only had four strings on his guitar and as such, had to mostly stick to songs he played on his ukulele.

He started off with a few Sebadoh songs; you could tell by how short they were. I listened to III a while ago and didn't really connect to the lo-fi, kinda Minutemen-ish sound, but I have to say I enjoyed his set quite a lot. Some of the longer songs sounded slightly Daniel Higgs or Pupils-ish (and right after his set, they played a couple of Lungfish songs over the PA, from Love is Love I think), or a bit of Eddie Vedder on the Into the Wild soundtrack. It was a very calm and relaxing way to start off a gig. Real nice.

Then the full band set up. A trio of stacked amps for J. Mascis, and when Dino Jr. started playing it was simply ridiculously loud. I think perhaps because of the size of the room, it didn't feel physically uncomfortable but it was recognizably extremely high on the decibels level. I've been to see the Locust and while the extent of their noise terrorism onslaught hasn't yet been repeated in my experience, Dinosaur Jr will probably come next down the line. Right now, my ears are still ringing.

Unsurprisingly then, I don't know what the first two songs were, except that they were purely and viscerally enjoyable. There might have been equipment problems, or maybe J. Mascis hadn't woken up yet (before Barlow went on stage, shortly after the doors opened, Mascis shuffled through the venue in an anorak and carrying what kind of looked like a grocery bag) but it wasn't until the third song, 'Crumble', that the clarion guitar sound arrived.

I've heard mixed reviews of Dinosaur Jr. reunion shows, that there are as many lax, lacklustre 'off' nights as there are on. Not that I have anything to compare it to, but I'm pretty sure that this was an on. 'Almost Ready', 'Been There All The Time', 'Freak Scene', 'Back To Your Heart' (I think), as well as 'Pick Me Up', the "sweetest non-metal metal riff" of 2007 (thanks, landanimal) were all there in incandescent glory, as well as plenty of songs from Living All Over Me and (so I'm told) Green Mind. So pretty much, it was all there and all switched on.

I'm tempted (and, at least, this was my feeling at the time last night) to accord this 'gig of a lifetime' status with Slint's Spiderland show last year. I obviously 'came late' to Dinosaur Jr. party, but so much so that Beyond was largely my first exposure to the band. I was aware of Dinosaur Jr. as a big, influential 80s alterna-rock band (and I had You're Living All Over Me bookmarked in my eMusic queue) but it wasn't until repetitively hearing the 'Crumble' single on Phantom FM that I got hooked. Really, this show was as much about seeing the recent album performed (best record of 2007 for me) as it was about experiencing a musical legacy of two decades ago.

That may or may not have been the thought of the somewhat older guy in the flannel shirt (now as thin as tissue in 2008, ha!) beside me and the quasi-metalheads with which he started a moshpit, but - apart from wondering what Ian MacKaye would do - it was easy to recognize the energy this band stirred in people. When they played that aforementioned riff from 'Pick Me Up' the room was mostly stilled however, just an incredible groove moving through the audience.

I generally prefer punk and indie to rock'n'roll, but this was a rock show. While at first it was an experience of epic audio proportions, it was also a considerably physical spectacles. The last few posts, on albums and 7"s, I've been getting into the aesthetics of things, and the same with this show. The three musicians in a straight line (Mascis, Murph and Barlow) across the small-ish stage was a simple and effective presentation; on top of which visually, were layered the volumes and volumes of sound and energy.

I think it was in the middle of 'Pick Me Up', again, that a transfiguration of the stage overcame me. There was an angularity between guitars, drumsticks, mic stands and lightings that just merged into one powerful, violent image (standing pretty much front and centre). Picasso's Guernica, above, came into my head a lot like An Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump came to me for Dan Deacon. Of course, a Dinosaur Jr. show, loud as it may be, and as knuckleheaded as some of the fans may be, isn't a war zone - it's much more positive, emotionally - but there is a sense of destruction and collapse in the music; particularly in the elaborate, tangential adaptation of blues and hardcore which defines the J. Mascis-led sound.


On the way out, I picked up the Beyond LP + 7" (vinyl merch is going to make gig-going considerably more expensive for me!) so I might make a post of that sometime - although I still have the two Future of the Left 7"s from the last gig I was at, so I'll have to do them first. In the meantime, here are the links to the 1988 Peel Session and the 'Been There All The Time'/'Back To Your Heart' 7" that were posted up earlier:

Peel Session 11/88 (includes 'Raisins', 'Does it Float?', 'Leper', and 'Bulbs of Passion') (original post)

Dinosaur Jr - 'Been There All The Time' 7" rip (original post)


There are no trees outside the Academy, but there are trams.


This is J. Mascis's trio of stacked amps (well, 2 2/3rds stacks). The sound engineer (who lived in Dublin in the 70s) is blogging the tour. This photo is either from Dublin or Belfast, judging by the railings in the background I'm guessing the Academy in Dublin but, logically, the set-up should look exactly the same in either place.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sunday Videos: from Si Schroeder - Coping Mechanisms


HFN105 - taking you in the complete opposite direction to screamo.


Si Schroeder's 2006 album, Coping Mechanisms, got a re-release on vinyl this February with new album artwork. (That's a photo of the LP directly above, beside On The Road: The Original Scroll, and some Polyvinyl invoices)

The concise version of his Myspace description states:

"Si Schroeder is a six-foot hairy male who makes 'music'. This 'music' has generally sounded like the combined contents of his record collection (mostly classic sixties pop, scratchy old ethnic recordings and the odd bleep or two), on top of which he layers ruminative, whispered vocals about the tough times we all live in and go through. His adventures have lately brought him into the arms of Dublin tastemakers Foggy Notions (***** Best Album of 2006 for his debut COPING MECHANISMS); nomination for the 2nd Choice Music Awards (the Irish Mercurys); and National radio and TV appearances. An argumentative sophomore album is currently in the works. His current live shows attempt to find a bridge between live electronics, guitars, drums, percussion, and the combined singing of men, women, children and machines. In various guises Si Schroeder has blown the PA systems of Dublin, London's influential Kosmische club, PopKomm Berlin, Oslo, New York's IntelFest, and Chicago. Expect toy pianos and toy planes, bleeps and beats (and bleats...) bells and chimes, drones and choirs..."

The Si Schroeder track I posted before, on last month's 21st Century Bites 'electro' mix, was instrumental (track 2, 'Brailowsky - schroedersound remix'), but the album is not. Soft, understated singing over an eclectic mix of guitar sounds, keyboards and electronic beats, all with an eerie minimalism which unfolds into potent emotional force. There's a gentle rise and fall in all of the songs, and a tendency to absorb themselves, slowly, into your mind so that they make the world outside seem beautiful.

"hats off to mr schroeder for doing something very new and inventive with laid back electronica. really really superb stuff"

road records - coping mechanisms [no longer in stock]

This album works really well on vinyl, what with its ambience and exuded calm. That's not to get elitist, Luddite or overly romantic, but sometimes a thing works well in a particular setting. The titling of the cover, which looks totally like something from the 1980s, is an added bonus in that regard. I have both Spiderland and Loveless on LP, and Coping Mechanisms is just as enthralling as those on the record player.


All the songs are good, but I keep coming back - naturally enough - to the first two, 'The Reluctant Aviator' and 'Lavendermist'. Just last weekend, I saw this video of 'The Reluctant Aviator' from the Airfield sessions for Channel 6's Night Shift (via graveyardshiftshane from Phantom FM). It has about a minute of 'natter' at the start between Si Schroeder and the Night Shift presenter, on the origin of the song's theme and the transferance of phobias, and then a very sparse, yet powerful, live performance of the song:


There is also this video of 'Lavendermist' performed at the Eurosonic exhibition, in January of this year, in Holland. I'm not sure if it's just me, but I get this strong Lungfish vibe off the deep, circular electronic riff at the heart of the song. 'Lavendermist' was the track that got me into Coping Mechanisms and Si Schroeder in the first place (sorry I can't embed it, as it is probably the one video most worth watching): Schroeder


From the same festival, another performance of 'The Reluctant Aviator' - not quite as good video quality-wise as 'Lavendermist' above, but an interesting take on the song vs. the Airfield session as well:


And finally, a video for the track from later on in the album, 'A Little More'. It's a little wackier - both in images and sounds - than the two songs above, but still very good in its own way. The Myspace credits the video to "some derd niffer" (and the YouTube just to Si Schroeder) so I'm liking the probable Albini/Slint reference:


Myspace - Si Schroeder

Trust Me I'm A Thief Records; (buy releases)


oh yeah, and he's playing with Matmos in Dublin on my birthday, as part of the Foggy Notions Future Days festival, with Dan Deacon playing two days later. woo!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Ampere & Sinaloa - Split Recording


HFN101.5 - teaching you about the amazingness of the split release. (technically, a .5 in a number means a split release between labels, not bands; that's the first thing you've learnt!) Following on from this and this.



"To the seven of us involved in the creation of this collection of sounds, images and words, it is more than just a record. It serves us as a individuals as a creative and expressive output, but more importantly this is an attempt at communication and a sharing of thoughts, feelings, and experiences. We have all been moved by records before, whether it be by a progression of notes, the strike of a drum, words to sing along to, writings on an insert, or better yet, all of the above. As it is a medium we can relate to we use it in attempt to continue the conversation, from record to record, and from person to person. In the end perhaps this will fall upon deaf ears, but hopefully we can spark further communication and continue together to create a shared space for discussion and growth."

There are so many amazing elements to this record, it's hard to know where to begin.

Just look at the pictures above, for a start: the rich fall colours, layered across the CD case, with artwork (by Sinaloa member Pete Zetlan) bearing more than a little resemblance to Scott Sinclair (Sinc's) work for Hot Water Music, especially that of the superb A Flight and a Crash; the case itself made of beautifully textured, woody paper, slightly glossy to the light and to the touch in parts, an inch too wide for an ordinary CD case; and on the back, the characteristic buzzsaw stamp of Ebullition Records.

If that seems a little superficial, then read the quote above. "more than just a record". To risk being clich├ęd, it's an experience. Primarily a sonic one, of course; it doesn't fall short in that regard. But there is also the multiplicity on inserts; lyrics sheets with, on Sinaloa's side, detailed explanations of each songs (as on all their releases, it seems); a little white booklet with writings from each band member, from each band - two of which are reproduced below.

The simple fact is, this is one of the most crucial records I've ever heard or bought (it came out in 2006 - same year as La Quiete, below - and I downloaded it from Zen and the Art of Face Punching in 2007, buying it not too long afterwards). So I'll skip straight to the sounds:

Ampere is a band I'd hesitate to call screamo, though not (I hope) for the usual inward-looking definitional reasons which characterise modern hardcore. I associate screamo with an epic sound, something that Ampere completely lacks except in a weird, totally compressed sort of way. They remind me more of early-to-mid 90s hardcore emo bands like Mohinder or Swing Kids, only more technically advanced; but at the same time, they have clear links to the later 90s screamo sound via Orchid. Confused? Don't worry, I don't know what I'm talking about either. Blend sums it up pretty simply in two sentences: "Blazing fast chaotic bursts of noise and frantic hellish screaming with unintelligable lyrics that are guaranteed smarter then you would ever be able to tell without reading the liner notes. Small doses of melody and harmony appear only to be wiped away clean by a complete hurricane of noise." Judging by the syntax, I'm guessing he might have been listening to the band as he was writing that...

Ampere and Orchid guitarist Will Killingsworth also founded the utterly brutal and conceptually amazing Bucket Full of Teeth, which is a bit like Pig Destroyer for '00s emo kids. Ampere did another excellent split with Wolves (who in turn did an excellent one with Sinaloa...), who are the closest thing to a second coming of the Swing Kids as I've ever heard. In general, you don't want to listen to this stuff for too long - a point I've made several times before - so half of a split album is almost perfect. Play this to anyone who thinks emo is for pussies (it still is, but it's for pussies who can rock out!)

If that description is completely useless and has left you dazed and confused after listening to fifteen minutes of grind/hardcore/insanely noisy punk, don't worry, Sinaloa is both a lot easier to explain and to listen to. Calmer, softer, but still passionate screamo and hardcore, they hark back even more so than the previous band to the 'origi-emo' sound; blend again -

"Sinaloa, on the flip side, are a much calmer brand of punk and hardcore. They more closely resemble the mid 90's brand of emo pioneered by bands such as Moss Icon and Native Nod. Dont get me wrong, they still inject their own dose of chaos, its just not a full on assault on the ears as much as Ampere is. They use a more tuneful approach, using jazzy signatures and solid rock drumming to make a perfect "Yang" to Amperes "Yin"."

If I was to also try and describe Sinaloa's sound in a more prosaic manner, it would be that they are a band that play their own unique style of surprisingly laid-back and yet impossibly anxious screamo, combining sonically some of the Lungfish churchbell heartbeat, the Moss Icon exposed bank, and even a little bit of the Drive Like Jehu aloha, luau. They are the kind of band which inhabit some kind of space between their own notes, so that every moment of their songs can be a sort of ephemeral, preternatural bliss. And so on.

Now, open your ears.


"We all have opinions and personal politics that tend to guide our lives and the decisions we nake. these are the ideas, concepts, or methodologies that we hold close. some we come up on our own, while others we may have adopted from other sources like books or people we respect. whether it is a seemingly minor decision like adopting a pet from a shelter; or something that you can carry with you daily, like pursuing a career for a non-profit organisation, these ideas have purpose at the time we incorporate them into our lives. as with anything else, over time as we learn new things and gain life experience which eventually changes our views. i feel that often times we don't go back and revalidate our personal politics as our views and goals change. it is important that we go through a revalidation and question why we do the things that we do. if someone asks you why hold an opinion close, you should be able to answer why with confidence. if you can't answer, then why do you feel so strong? maybe your view are dated or they were never truly yours to begin with. it doesn't make you a weak person if you decide to pull back on something that you previously felt strongly about. we all need to ensure that the decisions we make contribute to our ultimate goals and what we want to accomplish. take time to think about what you are doing and the impact you want to make. make sure that you exerting your energy in a way that is constructive in helping you accomplish these goals. we all have the power to accomplish a lot if we keep ourselves in check."

brendan campbell


"so much time is wasted. time is flying. days are passing like seconds, and months are passing like minutes. before you know it the years are passing you by... where did all that time go?

Make the most of the time that you have. Make every second count.

"And I guess that's what growing up really is, not the continuous aging or learning or movig on, it's the loss. It's forgetting exactly what made you a kid in the first place. It's the realisation of good things used to be..." - Mike, in Abandon #4

It's time we redefined what growing up is.

"It's not how old I am, it's how old I feel" - Minor Threat

I think at a young age an element of fear gets put into our heads about getting older: the fea that you are just getting closer and closer to death, that things start to go downhill, that the best years of your youth are the best years of your life. why not make each year the best year of your life?

Stay inspired. Stay motivated. Be your own inspiration

You are in control of your own life

Let's live our lives the way we want.

Have fun, stay punk.

Love, Meghan"


Ampere/Sinaloa - Split (from ZAFP)

Ebullition - Ampere, Sinaloa

Ampere/Sinaloa, Split at Interpunk


"Sinaloa is a state. Everybody sings"