Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Best of 2008: Year End April






This might seem a little odd, but at least one other person has done it so far, and at the end of March no less (commonality: Foals, Antidotes). I had the idea about a week ago, when I realised that I bought exactly five new albums that I could say, with a high degree of likelihood, would end up on Best of 2008 list. So those are the first five releases pictured above, roughly in order of preference. The next two and, later, three are a slightly more complicated story.

But first, to the mixtape:

01 - 14:25

1. Ham Sandwich, 'St. Christopher'

2. Human Bell, 'Hanging from the Rafters'

02 - 09:04

3. Foals, 'Balloons'

4. The Black Keys, 'Lies'

5. Shooting at Unarmed Men, 'This Song Comes With a Picture'

03 - 07:43

6. Chequerboard, 'Penny Black'

7. Sinaloa, 'Tread, Not Trudge'

04 - 08:31

The Jimmy Cake, 'Red Tony' (long-form version only)

Year End April, 7 tracks

Year End April (YEA 01-04), 3 tracks + bonus


Artist/Album/Track title:

Ham Sandwich/Carry the Meek/St. Christopher

From listening to their singles on the radio and from seeing this band live in February, I would already have a very high opinion of Ham Sandwich. But this album is really, really good and I would have surprisingly little hesitation in saying this will probably still be my #1 record by the end of the year. It's solid to the point of being flawless, with hardly the one song of filler and keeping up its energy throughout.

'St. Christopher' is the opening track, with a little piano melody leading into the rhythmic post-punk/pop-punk/whatever sound of the group. Just as any of the other songs on the album, the combination and trading off of the male/female vocals work very well. And from there it goes, keeping its beautiful melody and trading up its dynamics until the end of the song explodes into a repeated chorus.

This whole album is very loud, and pace Bob Dylan's comments on modern sound recordings, I haven't enjoyed the production of an album so much since I first heard American Steel's Jagged Thoughts. If it's done with the right degree of sensitivity, good production can make an album into something shimmering and wonderful.

Original post: Ham Sandwich - Live at Whelan's, 23/02/08

Human Bell/Human Bell/Hanging from the Rafters

This is one hell of a post-rock record. I bought the Human Bell LP basically because it was on recommendation at Road Records (where I've bought more than half of this list), and specifically because the description and pedigree caught my eye. A collobaration between Andy Heumann and Nathan Bell, the latter a former member of Lungfish, this is seven instrument guitar songs of a variety of different styles. The 'more bluesy kind of Slint' part from the Road blurb caught my eye, and really this is a bit like Lungfish covering Chulahoma-style Black Keys.

This track, the opener to side B of the LP, is the longest on the album at over nine minutes, although most of the other songs average out at about five or six. It has a short intro before the main rhythm of the song kicks in, and then it's all hypnotic guitar blues, scuzzed-out background and snappy drumbeats. Like Lungfish, there is something hugely hypnotic about this band's sound; and like the Black Keys, there is something heart-jerking and colourful about its expression.

The important point to make is the variety of the songs on this album: as I say, there are seven of varying lengths, centred on instrumental guitars but also bringing in Nathan Bell on trumpet at times; and exploring different aspects of the post-rock sound from Slint or the For Carnation to Mogwai. I said previously:

"Human Bell experiments with a variety of grooves, and a variety of minimalist approaches to music. If the combination of richness and minimalism isn't a glaring paradox, then that's what it means to toll the human bell:"

Original post: Human Bell - Human Bell


Apparently 'Skinscore' (Skinxc?) is now a word - at first I thought this was a slightly redundant phrase describing, I don't know, Oi or something else with actual skinheads in it, but then I realised it meant bands associated with the (excellent) TV show Skins. Since at the moment it basically only consists of Foals and Crystal Castles, it's not the most solid of genres with regards to quality: but despite its pejorative origins, it does throw up some music of considerable interest. This same place where I found that term was a Drowned in Sound article trying to trace Foals back to all the other math-rock bands, everything apparently from Slint to Q and not U.

This is taking the view of Foals as a breakthough math-rock band comparable to the success last year of Battles - which, in fact, Foals do quite resemble on their full album. 'Balloons' is one of the two singles, the other being 'Cassius', to make the cut for that album. Jerky, angular guitars, with frenetic pacing and the colour of a jazz saxophone, make this out still as an excitingly oblique take on what I - and many of the readers here - would find more familiar from listening to Q and not U. (This week a new limited-edition 7" from Irish band Hooray for Humans came out, by the way; so expect something on the blog about that soon, assuming that I am able to pick it up)

The whole album, however, is largely just as energetic as these two singles and encompasses a wide range of interesting sounds and styles. It may not be the single most complex thing to be released this year, but there is plenty to engage and challenge the listener, with post-punk stylings and repetitions and more than a touch of electronics. Particularly if it ages well, this album is assured a high placing in an end-of-year top 10.

Original post: Foals, 'Cassius' video + vinyl rip

The Black Keys/Attack and Release/Lies

This album completely crept up on me, sending me into a flurry of illegal downloading and then trips to HMV to fork out over-the-odds money for an admittedly rather nice gatefold. The 'Strange Times' single makes for a pretty good encapsulation of their 'new' sound, which isn't so much new as their trademark blues rejigged and enhanced by the inspired production of Danger Mouse. But considering my disinterest in their last two full-lengths, I was going to need more than a catchy single for convincing.

'Lies' was the second song up on the band's Myspace page, and basically is there to represent the bands softer, balladic side. I read on a message board a conversation between some guy who had his own advance copy and was itching to share the news with everyone of how good Attack & Release was. He mentioned that there was one really good slow-ish song, and someone else asked 'is it Lengths good?' (that being a pretty awesome slow, countrified number from Rubber Factory); he said 'it's better than The Lengths', and the reply went to the effect that that was a physical and scientific possibility. Well, it ain't, 'cos this song is very possibly better.

So, long story short, the spacious and semi-exotic sounds of Danger Mouse as added to the Black Keys' rejuvenated groove have made this song, along with all the others on their new album, into fantastically novel blues-rockers. Attack & Release has totally reaffirmed my belief in the Black Keys as important, progressive and sonically powerful artists. As well as an album that's immediate to your ears, it's also paradoxically something that you can get lost in the sound of.

Original post: The Black Keys - Attack & Release, Chulahoma

Shooting at Unarmed Men/Triptych/This Song Comes With a Picture

Jon Chapple, the bassist and singer from Mclusky, moved to Australia with his new band in the last few years. Having previously released the rather good album Yes, Tinnitus! and a few singles, this was something to look forward to when it got a European release, which it did on March 31st this year. Although, as I explained in my review of the gig, I find the Future of the Left an impressive band I still prefer this side of the post-Mclusky tree.

Triptych is, as the name suggests, a triple-disc album. Spread over those three discs are twelve (well, actually thirteen when you include a 'hidden track' at the end) songs, but don't worry, they aren't anything near 15 minutes long each. In fact, the first disc - from which this song is taken from - clocks in at a little over nine minutes in length. Overall it seems as if Shooting at Unarmed Men had just too much material to fit on one CD, and instead of going for the too-ordinary double album, decided things come better in threes.

Which is what they do, because Triptych works rather well. It's difficult to explain if you're not familiar with Mclusky, but the Jon Chapple 'part' of their sound was in a large part the broad, expansive post-hardcore foil to Andy Falkous's scatterfire punk; lots of complex, epic bass rhythms carefully wrapped up in three-minute punk songs. Which isn't exactly what's in this track, 'This Song Comes With a Picture', but is part of the whole tapestry of the album. Triptych lines up bursts of lo-fi, rock'n'roll sounds which almost hark back to 70s punk (and a shade more on the British side of it, as well) with more extensive strips of hardcore and post-. Altogether, it's an interesting listening experience and one which brings together the catchiness of their earlier work.

Original post: Shooting at Unarmed Men, 'Girls Music' (Promo Single)


So they are the five albums which originally came to mind; I think, if five equally good albums come up every four months in the rest of the year, that should leave them with on average a 2/3 chance of being in the top 10 (my probability maths is a little rusty, but basically 10 over 15). The middle three I all bought on LP, so - having got my first record player in January - they make an important introduction into the world of modern music on old formats for me. Top is the only one I've caught live, although I could have gone to see (3) if I didn't mind the Skins-core fans, and (4) I saw a couple of years before the current album.

In addition to those five, are a couple extra that I've been getting into this year. Chequerboard's Penny Black is a bit of a dark horse, not because of any lack in quality, but because it's a bit 'out-there' in terms of the music I listen to (it's been played on Lyric FM - only by John Kelly though, naturally). Classical Spanish guitar over glitchy electronica, if you liked the Si Schroeder track from the 21st Century Bites mix, you should really like this too; but if you didn't, then probably not. Chequerboard is all one man, John Lambert - musician, producer and full-time graphic artist. The album is a beauty to behold, as you can see from this example of the artwork below (from The Indie Hour):

I bought his earlier album, Gothica, recently and the CD booklet was entirely taken up with a comic book short story (graphic novella?). Penny Black has a kind of Victoriana theme going on, and it's probably just my imagination but the music does seem somehow reminiscent of late-19th century Ireland.

The second extra track, from Sinaloa's new album, is more of a white horse for this list - as genuinely really good modern screamo record. I first got into Sinaloa from their 2006 Ampere/Sinaloa split and which I still think is probably their best work, but their full lengths are excellent too. They don't just play modern technical hardcore, but also have a strong vibe of the original Moss Icon/Indian Summer sounds. A certain person commented on Zen and the Art of Face Punching that they thought Sinaloa was the blandest of the new emo bands (and subsequently what sort of punishment they would deserve for saying that). But I can see at least in part where they are coming from; Sinaloa's sound is quite repetitive and that dreaded word, same-y - even after listening to them quite often and quite closely. The thing is, their style is just so purely and powerfully emotional that it just doesn't matter. I guess it's a bit like saying that all blues songs are bland, if you didn't appreciate the emotion in them.

Oceans of Islands is an album I'm pretty sure I want to get on LP, and if I order it from Purepainsugar in Europe like I'll have to, I should be able to get the latest repress of Indian Summer discography along with it. Woo!

Finally, the fourth 'bonus' track in the long-form download is from an album which has made a big splash in the Irish indie scene when it was released in the middle of last month. (I hadn't got it at the time of first making up the mixtape, which is why it's only on the long form version, and to tell the truth I haven't listened the full way through yet). The last Jimmy Cake album was released when I was about fifteen, so they haven't been a group that I've been aware of apart from very generally, but their long-awaited new album Spectre and Crown sounds very very good.

The Jimmy Cake are a sort of post-rock musical collective, who've been rotating members over the last five years. Lots of instruments, and a lot of different sounds, but all very good. You can read all about their album launch show here and here. This opening track sounds a bit like Ham Sandwich strung out on opiates and as performed by GY!BE (although the Godspeed comparison isn't allowed, because it's both too easy and too inaccurate). Jazzy, layered, and rather beautiful.

The album artwork, too, is extremely aesthetically pleasing. It was commissioned from a Japanese artist, Atsushi Kaga, who is based in Dublin. The whole CD case is this beautifully smooth black, with the iconic image on the front and tracklistings written elsewhere in a calligraphic, wispy font which is almost unreadable. The spine (the green bit in the picture) is a detachable peace of card which, along with all the information in Japanese (I have a copy of the Ramones' Leave Home with the same thing) has the tracklisting in a normal font and the barcode, usefully located away from the main artwork. Really, for the best album artwork of the year, it's between Chequerboard and The Jimmy Cake at the moment.


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Weekend Video - The Last Shadow Puppets, 'The Age of Understatement' (pt. 2)

"Directed by director Romain Gavras, their debut video is as big as Mother Russia..."

The Last Shadow Puppets are a side project/collaboration by Alex Turner of Sheffield indie band the Arctic Monkeys and Miles Kane of the Rascals. I never particularly liked the Arctic Monkeys, but I wouldn't say I never enjoyed their sound. Back when they were really big, i.e. the whole of 2006, it was in part refreshing and in part suffocating. There's only so much charmingly sloppy punk that I can take - especially when it's not really punk, just sounds similar - and ubiquity became a curse for something I never fully warmed to in the first place. Distance helps, and when I heard 'Yellow Bricks' on the radio for the first time in a while today I was reminded of how much I did actually like that song.

Anyway, this new group takes Alex Turner's distinctive vocal style and melds it into what everybody calls a more 'cinematic' sound: spacious, broad strokes and lush arrangements (in part from Final Fantasy's Owen Pallet) all harking back to sixties pop and the seventies music that built on it. The single 'The Age of Understatement' comes in two 7" versions, the better of which is the second with a cover of a suitably pop-tastic David Bowie b-side, 'In the Heat of the Morning':

The Last Shadow Puppets - 'The Age of the Understatement' (pt. 2), vinyl rip

Weekend Video - Cap Pas Cap, 'Said Say It'

Cap Pas Cap are a Dublin indie band who play jerky, repetitive pop music. So, kind of like an Irish Foals. I bought their EP Not Not is Fine in Road Records on Monday and I've been spinning the record and watching this video for most of the time since. Did I mention it's really infectious?

'Said Say It' is the first track on the flip side of the EP, and runs for just under five minutes of quirky, captivating angular guitar sounds and percussion. For the most part it's a very simple rhythm repeated over and over, but it's the way that it's expressed at each stage that makes the song so interesting. Especially the percussive breakdown at about three and half minutes in.

The video itself is quite interesting, taking this odd continually revolving shot with a fisheye lens - which looks a bit stuffy at first, but when you think about the structure and dynamics of the song I think you realise that it works quite well. The expansive back garden and posh house could be in any number of places in South County Dublin ('So-Co-Du'), although the label address does go back to the leafy suburb of Blackrock.

Weekend Video - Dark Room Notes, 'Love Like Nicotine'

Dark Room Notes are an Irish indie band, originally from Galway but now based in Dublin, who were voted the favourite act by the viewers on this year's RTE Other Voices series. More on the electro end of the musical spectrum, this rather catchy song is from their debut single; the b-side to which is an 'Evil Disco Flood Remix' which quite interestingly takes the whole catchiness of the song apart and reconstructs it as something quite different.

The video, right from the opening credits and later on, in the dance sequence, is based on the famous French film-maker Jean-Luc Godard's Bande à part and is shot in the Temple Bar Gallery of Photography in Dublin city centre (the part where all the cultural types hang out).

You can tell, I think, by the way that the guitarist is wearing a sweater that this is an indie band, but they've also got some really catchy grooves going on with the song. In my head this is what I would like to think that Q and not U's Power sounds like, instead of deleting it off my hard drive after two listens (itself after a legal eMusic purchase, I might add). If you like anxious, quirky indie-pop with a bit of a dance beat, you'll like this.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Grant Hart - 2541

"twenty-five forty-one, big windows to let in the sun" almost all you need to know about this song. Other things you might want to know is that this EP was Grant Hart’s first solo release, shortly after leaving Husker Du, in 1988. The address of the title is a house that the band lived and worked from for a long period. 2541 preceded his first full-length, Intolerance, which featured a re-recorded version of this song (not quite as good as this one though, apparently), and which I’m meaning to get one of these days.

I downloaded Hart’s later solo album Good News for Modern Man a long time ago from eMusic – around the time I was first listening to Metal Circus, and then Zen Arcade. That is to say, before I heard any of the later, ‘poppier’ Husker Du stuff. GNFMM, nevertheless, blew me away as a catchy-as-hell, soaring and jangly pop record. 2451 has a lot of those qualities, both on the title track and the two b-sides, 'Come Come' and 'Let's Go'.

Grant Hart - 2541 (10" EP version, vinyl rip)

check out this similar but more detailed post on the CD version.


I haven't been able to take properly satisfactory photographs of a lot of my latest stuff, hopefully I might make another effort this weekend (I have the blue Dinosaur vinyl to go with the green Bug reissue, more on which below). But for the moment, here's a decent photo of what the record looks like:

(500 pixels wide, so click to expand slightly. That's not the sleeve the record comes in, obviously)


I bought this second hand from Spin Dizzy Records in the Georges' Street Arcade in Dublin, and inside came an original SST mailorder catalogue which I've reproduced below. Notice this 'new' album shown in the top right corner. The reverse has been resized just so much that it should still be legible if you view it on its own (click to expand).

Sunday, April 20, 2008

'Oi Endoxos Necros': A Mixtape in Tragedy

(as usual, click to enlarge. All artwork done by myself)



Introduction -

OI ENDOXOS NECROS (ΟΙ ΕΝΔΟΞΟΣ ΝΕΓΡΟΣ), if I remember correctly, was an inscription on the set of a play I saw on Saturday night, Seamus Heaney’s The Burial at Thebes (itself an adaptation of Sophocles’ Antigone). It was written in the stone over the wreaths laid for the fallen brothers Eteocles and Polyneices, the first of what would be many dead bodies over the course of this Greek tragedy.

'The Glorious Dead' is, as far as I can make out, what Oi Endoxos Necros translates to; but the exact meaning isn't that important here. This isn't meant to be a macabre mix, or over-occupied with death, but rather a collection of songs that could be reasonably described as 'tragic' in some aspect.

It's a little more than that though - it is a reaction to my first proper experience of Greek tragedy. The Burial at Thebes was, undoubtedly, an excellent production; a fascinating political drama up until the second half, when people started dropping like flies (and yes, I know that's meant to happen. And it was executed [sic] extremely well). The themes explored in the first half - conflict between religious and secular demands, the exercise of authority, the duties and bounds of citizenship - seemed to be abandoned to dramatic despair and drift; no redemption, no real statement, not even a recognizable acknowledgement of nihilism. Just death (one suicide, an attempted parricide, another suicide, and another) and dramatic necrophilia.

So the non-essential purpose of this mix is not just to illustrate the soundscapes of darkness, tragedy and human doom in the first instance, but to project forward into some hardcore songs that actually have something to say about the tragic in life.

But most of all, just some powerful tunes.


Oi Endoxos Necros: Pt. 1 – Doom as a Non-Metallic Element

1. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – ‘The Lyre of Orpheus’

2. Tom Waits – ‘Misery is a River of the World’

3. God Speed You! Black Emperor – ‘East Hastings’/“The Sad Mafioso…”

4. Envy – ‘Unrepairable Gentleness’

Oi Endoxos Necros: Pt. 2 – The Positive Force! Reprise

5. Hot Water Music – ‘Minno’

6. Leatherface – ‘In My Life’

7. Lungfish – ‘Descender’

8. Bad Religion – ‘Materialist’

9. Rancid – ‘Turntables’

10. The Bouncing Souls – ‘For All the Unheard’

11. buried track (s – ‘gm, c’)


Oi Endoxos Necros: A Mixtape in Tragedy - two individual files (Sides 1 and 2) [download this for smoother and snappier transitions between tracks (long form mp3) and also for vinyl rip of the last song :)]

Oi Endoxos Necros: A Mixtape in Tragedy - 11 tracks [download this if you want separate mp3s]


Albums and release dates:

The Lyre of Orpheus, Anti- 2004

Blood Money, Anti- 2002

F#A#[infinity], Kranky 1998

A Dead Sinking Story, Level Plane 2002

Forever and Counting, Doghouse 1997

The Last, BYO 2001

Talking Songs for Walking, Dischord 1995

The Process of Belief, Epitaph 2002

Life Won't Wait, Epitaph 1998

The Gold Record, Epitaph 2006

Touch & Go, 1991



1. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, ‘The Lyre of Orpheus’ has an obvious connection to Greek tragedy, but updated to a very twentieth-century folk-rock epic. “Owwww momma” Cave sings, a plaintive cry which probably echoes Dylan’s Memphis blues but is also imbued with a tragedy all of its own. Add to this Warren Ellis’s needling guitar – I absolutely love the riff on this song – and you have a tense, doom-laden tale of mythological and human pride, arrogance and visceral violence.

The Bad Seed’s 2004 Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus double album is the only thing by Nick Cave that I listen to; the Birthday Party never appealed much, Grinderman is of peculiarly little interest, and the Bad Seeds catalogue I am content to leave as mostly a mystery. The A.V. Club review for their latest album, Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! is a pretty good read, mostly for lines like “Lyrically, Cave’s dick is still hanging out of his pants” and “the ageing Cave, to his credit, can still eat his weight in sleaze”. Extra credit goes to the commenter who pointed out that in the video for ‘Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!’ Cave looks like “one part Disco Stu and one part Fredo Carleone”. The worrying thing is, he looks more like John Cazale’s character from Dog Day Afternoon than either of those.

The film The Proposition is excellent, however. Now there’s a Greek tragedy, or at least what I think a Greek tragedy should be!

2. Tom Waits, 'Misery is a River of the World' - the same A.V. Club review mentioned above had a brief discussion in the comments as to whether Nick Cave is a 'boring and girly' imposter of Tom Waits. Or more prosaically (or even perhaps, more poetically):

"BAH by albtraum

Every time I read a review of a Nick Cave album, it sounds cool and Tom Waits-y.

Then when I buy and listen to a Nick Cave album, it sounds boring and girly. I won't be fooled [regarding Dig, Lazarus Dig!!!] again."

I don't think I've ever tried to rank the two artists against each other, although I do lump them together (as I have done here) very roughly in terms of style. I guess direct comparison obscures the different backgrounds they come from - Tom Waits from being a 1970s beat/gutter poet, Nick Cave from starting off in punk/post-punk nihilists the Birthday Party - as well as their obvious musical differences now. But yes, I do reckon the one goes quite well with the other.

This song is the first track from Blood Money, and it serves well as an introduction to the tone of that album. Semi-bestial vocals, in a childrens' sing-song rhythm over eerie carnival music it's pretty frightening as well as being utterly captivating. Lyrics like "if there one thing you can say about mankind/there's nothing kind about man" showcase Waits's dark view of, well, everything, and the incessant thick beat of the song combine to induce a peculiar kind of musical claustrophobia; and when the accompaniment is stripped down for the haunting call "Evr'ybody row, evr'ybody row", it's hard not to buy into the tragedy of the song, and of Waits's performance.

3. Godspeed You! Black Emperor, 'East Hastings'/"The Sad Mafioso..." is the second movement of the second track (East Hastings) on their debut album F#A#∞. This was (pretty much by coincidence) the first GY!BE release I heard, and it is still kind of my favourite. Partly for this song I could have used any post-rock band anything from Slint to Explosions in the Sky, for the beginning is just sparse but affecting guitar work, and later parts bring in the jerky, rhythmic strings for which you could listen to something like the Kronos Quartet, who performed the memorable score for Darren Arronofsky's Requiem for a Dream and latterly, along with Clint Mansell and Mogwai, his most recent film The Fountain (That never got a proper release over here, so I haven't seen it, but I have the soundtrack and it sounds really good - it would have been included here if there was space). But whichever compartment of their sound you are referring to here, it's undeniably affecting. To my mind, Godspeed are fairly unassailably the kings of post-rock.

What the specific title "A Sad Mafioso" was meant to refer to, I don't know. I can imagine some kind of a Scorsese character, looking out on a rainy street and pondering the validity of his existence while sadly and desperately smoking a cigarette. Certainly, that's the vibe I get from the atmospheric, minimalist intro to the piece; and the heavy strings of the rest merely add a crushing weight of emotion to the scenario. This being GY!BE, that existential dilemma probably revolves around his position in a capitalist society and its tension with his criminal exploitation of his own people in it. Just somehow, it's unbearably tragic.

4. Envy, 'Unrepairable Gentleness' is equivalently post-rock, just couched within the sounds of blindingly screamy hardcore rather than classical strings and composition. From the point of this album and somewhat before, Envy morphed considerably into a broad-stroked, layered and expansive post-rock act, disappointing many of their hardcore fans (in both senses of the word) fans from previous albums. Personally, I far prefer this side of Envy's sound (A Dead Stinking Story and Our Dreams Walking This Way onward), not least of all having followed their development from that point, via 2006's full-length Insomniac Doze and last year's EP Abyssal. The immediacy (comparative to some extent, absolute to another) of this release presents a good middle ground for those who tend to lose interest at their later works.

'Unrepairable Gentleness' forms an epic screamo song which, buried in its onslaught, contains a massively powerful sense of tragedy. It communicates tenderness in a way only that several tons of distorted guitar sounds and throat-shredding vocals can; an emotion and a melody that is all the stronger for being found in a place that it would be difficult to include, otherwise. When you hear the rise and fall of this song, it should be close to bringing you to tears. Any less, and you probably aren't ready for Japanese screamo.

"If you hear this, I hope it eases some troubles..."

5. Hot Water Music, 'Minno' is a song from the band's third album, Forever and Counting. Insofar as I can possibly rank any of their albums above on another, it is one of my favourites; there is just something extra special about the guitar composition on this one, the purity and the flexibility of their post-hardcore approach to a particular sound. Others may not find their most varied, interesting or original, but for me it's definitely one of the most affecting.

This song in particular, with its gentle, caressing intro is also one of the most meaningful and tragic of the band's whole output. As the band explains in the notes for their Live at the Hardback CD:

"In remembrance of an old friend who took his own life under the 13th St. Bridge. He left us for reasons that no one but him may ever understand. Though we were left uneasy and confused, we were left with the memory of all the good in him. This is for Minno. Rest in peace. We'll remember you."

I said before when posting that CD that, in relation to lyrics, Hot Water Music "more than any other band I know, showed me how much words could truly mean". How that applies to this beautiful post-hardcore song is up to you to decide, but I think it's pretty obvious. And more broadly, it's about how post-hardcore is about really saying things - in this case, about the complex emotions of suicide - that other genres merely raise the issue of. So call this the reprise of the previous songs' explanation of tragedy, which was largely to convey the feeling in an artistic manner - not to actually speak about it. Both, of course, are valuable; but this way is more hardcore.

5. Leatherface - 'In My Life'; Leatherface and Hot Water Music go together, despite coming from opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean (Florida and Sunderland) and not coming from musically the exact same kind of origins. I wrote about their BYO split before, which introduced me to the former band. But apart from their single masterpiece Mush, the effectively mini-album The Last is where it's at. The CD version from BYO Records collected together two sessions' worth of recordings, one of which was in fact a discontinued post-breakup project called Pope (and their album cleverly titled Johnpaulgeorgeringo) and wasn't really all that good ('Kingsane' is good though). But the first set which is The Last proper, from 'Little White God' to 'Ba Ba Boo' is gold. On request, I've posted it here.

Those six tracks have some of the most affecting, and most tragic, Leatherface songs. 'Little White God', for example, is a searing, slightly reggae-inflected description of drug addiction. A little left-field - and not to say left-wing, as well - is the balladic 'Shipyards' about (presumably) the Thatcherite and post-Thatcherite erosion of British industrial society in the 80s and 90s:

"Throw the fisherman lines

close the shipyards and mines

Leaving only water, we'll still have old wives tales

about the old days

deep lonely water

the old days"

In terms of tragedy, that would be the song I would want to have put on here, but it's an unusual soft piano song (no less, and in fact more, affecting for that in my book) and not the same as Leatherface's normal post-punk sound. 'In My Life', however, is straight-up Leatherface emotional hardcore right from the opening chords. The meaning of the lyrics isn't as clear, but you can feel the passion in the closing lines:

"In my life

In all of my life

In all of my fucking life"

6. Lungfish - 'Descender', another of the post-hardcore trio featured on my first mixtape (Hot Water Music, 'No Division', Leatherface, 'Gang Party', and Lungfish, 'Non Dual Bliss'). Some way different from either of the other two bands or their common ancestors, Lungfish are roughly 'Dischord proto-emo' (in the words of this eMusic dozen), laying down their heavy-rocking, hypnotic grooves since the mid-90s without much notice of what other groups have been doing, or almost what they have been doing themselves (to judge by the repetition of their albums!). I think it was this song or 'Samuel' which made me realise on first listen to Talking Songs for Walking that Lungfish were not just another Dischord post-hardcore group, but something much more exciting. To this day, I still prefer their first album over anything else, mainly because it plays the loudest and, as much as I dig their spacier sounds, I'm sucker for walls-of-sound guitar distortion.

'Descender' is one of the darker, and perhaps more direct, songs on the record. It's about, or so I've heard, an acid trip (hence the "churchbell heartbeat" of the final lines) but also about a tender, tragic story of youthful experimentation and misgivings:

"I took a look at her tattered shoes

I offered her mine but she refused

She said: I want these cuts on my feet, man

gotta be as sensitive as I can…

…The tiny cuts in your skin

They let a little fresh air in

You dilate your opening

And when it starts to gush


That roaring, explosive climax is also kind of bone-chilling for the raw passion and emotion it exhibits, and the certain mysterious, tragic sense it reflects and which runs through a lot of Lungfish songs.

7. Bad Religion - 'Materialist'; from post-hardcore to what came before it, for me at least. The Process of Belief-era Bad Religion isn't hardcore for anyone who can remember the 80s (when, well, Bad Religion released Suffer and of course their first, s/t album) but it was punk for me when I was listening to it. First of all, it's loud and fast, a quickfire barrage of melodic guitar and rising vocals. That's Brian Baker from Minor Threat on guitar, by the way. Second of all, it's the hyperliterate, hyperkinetic lyrics which probably have most fans grasping for the lyric sheet and the dictionary: "incipient senescence" being a case in point. I'd been listening to this band for two years when I got an 800 on my verbal SATs. But it's the simple phrases that are often the most effective, and for this song it's the tragic turn of

"Mind over matter, it really don't matter

If the street's idle chatter

turns your heart strings to tatters"

that got my attention for this song, and grabbed for it a place on the mixtape.

8. Rancid - 'Turntables' is another one from my earlier appreciation of punk rock, and another one from the gabbatape where I posted the title track from the Life Won't Wait album. It's still my favourite of theirs, by the way, and still one of the favourites out of all my albums. There's just something about the combination of enthusiasm, attitude and diversity of sounds - not to mention Rancid's considerable pop-punk chops - that make every song on that album resonate with feeling for me. For this song, it's the semi-tragic take on social realism:

"When there's no more food on the table

What once was strong, no longer able

And an open mind, no longer stable

And it spins like a DJ's turntable"

After I picked this song out, it obviously occurred to me that maybe I should have chosen something from Operation Ivy - like 'Junkie Running Dry' or 'Take Warning' - but in the end I stuck with this. Less authentic, perhaps, but this is produced better and is still honestly just as meaningful for me. Their last album, Indestructible, is remarkably close all the way through to the sound of this song - and all the better for it.

10. The Bouncing Souls, 'For All The Unheard'; for the final (or, um, semi-final) song, this is the closer to the Souls' last album, The Gold Record. Mostly from reading and commenting over at Zen and the Art of Face Punching, I've found that a lot of people who were big fans of the early Bouncing Souls just don't follow their later work, finding it too 'anthemic'. I guess you aren't going to like this long song, then; but to me the band have found the perfect balance between driving, melodic punk rock and a Springsteenesque sense of emotion. Okay, so they've moved some way from their happy hardcore days (in which I'd include my favourite, How I Spent My Summer Vacation) but there is just so much to discover in their newer records.

I just found now that I inexplicably didn't put a Bouncing Souls track on my first mixtape, but there was no way I could have done this mix without including a song of theirs. The message on this song, not just in the slow, anthemic guitars and Boss-like "whoahs" at the end, is pretty affecting and cutting. Like the Bad Religion couplet above, I couldn't leave it out:

"Troubled youth spills over into

troubled life and times

We walk alone with our troubled minds

This is for all the unheard

all the music left behind"

11. Slint, 'Good Morning, Captain': this is a song I couldn't very well leave off a mixtape concerned with tragedy. Blend77 describes it as "a chilling ending to one of the most unique albums you will ever hear". For me, the whole "I MISS YOU!!!" thing never gets old, and that's the truth. I got to see this performed live last year, and as sweet baby jaysus suggested, it probably was the show of a lifetime.

If you listen really closely to the version on the long-form mp3, you might just be able to hear the record needle dropping down and picking up. Just because, like the band say, "this recording is meant to be listened to on vinyl".

Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday Video: The Undertones, 'Teenage Kicks'

(click the picture below to see full size)

I don't think I need to do much introducing for this song; seminal pop-punk track, a piece of music that launched the Derry band's career in late 1970s UK and Ireland; and the culmination of an influence that began with the 1976 release of the Ramones' self-titled debut and the formation of the Sex Pistols.

It's also well-known as legendary BBC DJ John Peel's favourite song, hence the graffiti piece above (spotted on a Belfast flyover, from this blogger via Wikipedia). If, by some bizarre chance, it's not well known enough for you, here's a few links:

Teenage Kicks on Wikipedia

Guardian interview with John Peel, 2001 (1)

Guardian interview with John Peel, 2001 (2)

Watch out for the s/t album on the blog sometime soon, as well as perhaps something from the Listening In: The Undertones Radio Sessions 1978-1982 which I picked up second-hand recently.

As part of the series of very best Irish albums I started back on Paddy's Day. 'Teenage Kicks' isn't an album, but if it was it would have to be #1. Sorry, Loveless.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008 - Han Shan 寒山

Han Shan has a myspace!

"About Han Shan 寒山

Formed 1991 in Arroyo Grande, CA. Named after the Chinese Hermit Poet Hanshan. The band went through several singers until Chris Pontius joined. Chris once arrived at a show wearing a banana yellow leisure suit with matching shirt. Towards the end of the gig, he hurled himself into the drumkit. Chris is on the band's first recordings Reality Control Compilation 1. After the recording, Chris disappeared until resurfacing several years later with the Jack Ass crew. Cory stepped in for vocals for the Han Shan 7", as well as the last two gigs at Gilman St. and Santa Cruz. Members current whereabouts: Dave: Behead the Prophet, Tight Bros, Drunk Horse Chris: Jack Ass Corey: Dragon Rojo, Salem Lights Shawn: Astral 1999 - 2005

Influences - Void, Coltrane, noise........

Thanks to the following sources for converting the songs and speaking nicely about a 15 year old hardcore band:"

[actually, I only converted the songs from .ogg into mp3; the original rips and artwork was from an existing blog, Antithesis]

This myspace is the creation of the original drummer of the band, Shawn (Myspace - Shawn Yu) who left a comment on my original post a while back. In case you didn't get that the first time, above, that was the very first post on this blog, way back in last August:

Hardcore for Nerds: Han Shan - s/t 7"

Anyway, I think it's very cool that the band has a myspace now (surprisingly many old emo bands do, e.g. Indian Summer or Crownhate Ruin) and of course the 7" in itself is awesome. I cover it partially in my original post, but it's worth repeating that this record has an extraordinarily impressive abrasive, melodic hardcore/emo sound to it.

If, regarding Han Shan, you haven't heard of the particular Chinese hermit referenced in the name, then you should probably (or rather, definitely) read this book. Blend from Zen and the Art of Face Punching will agree with me on this.

I haven't posted much music of this kind in the past while on the blog, although I know it is most of the appeal of Hardcore for Nerds for most of the people who read it. Recent posts on Future of the Left, Fight Like Apes or 21st Century Bites have been far more on the indie/punk side of things than the hardcore/emo tendency. Not that that is anything to really apologise about; bottom line, it's what I'm into on a day-to-day basis. When I'm going to gigs or buying records, my focus is naturally drawn away from mid 90's punk to other things a bit more contemporary. Maybe that wasn't so much the case half a year ago, but hey, everybody changes.

I do have some solid posts coming up on a more hardcore bent, mainly to do with vinyl - Grant Hart's 2541 EP, Fugazi's 7 Songs and Margin Walker - as well as possibly the greatest Irish punk album ever, The Undertones self-titled debut. And ex-Mclusky band, Shooting at Unarmed Men, have just released a totally punk rock triple album.

However, for something a little more obscurely HfN 'emo', I'm afraid I've run out of most of the stuff I personally have (i.e. discovered online!). There are still some good things I want to post up sometime, mostly short stuff like:

- Admiral & Fine Day 7"s (pre-Hoover)

- Saetia demo cassette (the best four songs of their discography, in my opinion)

- La Quiete s/t 7" (a 2006 release which is just astoundingly beautiful screamo - originally from Zen Face, but I hope to maybe get a real copy myself some time)

- Floodgate I Chose Danger 2x7" (another great emo find, laboriously converted from .ogg via Antithesis)

- Hated 'No More We Cry' 7" (excellent contemporaries of Moss Icon, from the Maryland area)

... and probably some other stuff, I don't want to be too limiting here.

And, of course, anything else generally hardcore/post-hardcore/para-hardcore that takes my fancy along the way (Blacktop Cadence, The Pupils, Sinaloa, Jawbreaker or Leatherface anyone?)

In the meantime, thanks to all the diverse blogs out there (those who I have been in contact with, and those which I haven't) who keep the music and the thought flowing.


- gabbagabbahey

comments, anyone?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Future of the Left, live @ The Village 13/04/2008 (now with full review + video)

I hate strongly dislike Budweiser

I had all day to write this up, but I postponed it until this evening (no fault of Budweiser), and was further delayed by the arrival of Noel Murray's A.V. Club Popless column, Wk. 15. This week it is the letter F, so I guess it's quite appropriate even if he is unlikely to have heard of either of the bands above.

As usual, taking a particular theme or issue to begin the column, this week it is the vague idea of 'transcendence' in music appreciation. The song used to illustrate (and discuss)?

Fugazi's Margin Walker (Dischord 35, yo!)

"I hope that Fugazi is still an essential part of every young punk's musical diet. From the band's rigorous DIY ethic to their belief that punk rock can contain subtlety and complexity, they're an inspiration"

Popless Week 15: Taking You Higher

And so, on to the show. Listening to that song above, I'm convinced that without Fugazi (and I'm a fan mainly of their earlier stuff), it's unlikely that you could have had Mclusky - that's the only time I hope to mention that band, by name at least, in this review - and by extension, Fight Like Apes. It's not exactly cast-iron musical logic, but bear with me.

There are a least a few fans of the m-named band on this blog, and it's likely that you will have been following the emergence of guitarist and lead singer Andy Falkous's new band, Future of the Left and their first album Curses. I have to say I remain not completely convinced (at least when compared to the to be left for another time contrasting group Shooting at Unarmed Men of bassist Jon Chapple) but I am, happy to say, far more than suitably impressed.

Support act/bill sharers Fight Like Apes, of whom I've written quite often about on the blog, played another excellent hometown show. Some of the new material is really growing on me, and the prospect of a full album becomes quite exciting. Their mid-set cover of 'Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues' was ferocious as usual, with the set opened with the sonically aweing synths of 'You Are the Hat' (incorrectly labelled in the previous post*) and bookended with both 'Jake Summers' and 'Battlestations' of the 7" below, the latter with extra screaming.

Here's a good post on another blog about the first gig I saw by Fight Like Apes, in Whelan's last November. It also deals specifically with some of the Mcluksy comparisons.

*the explanation for which is partially my own misrecollection - 'Can Head' is the "fish and chips, fish and chips, CHIPS!" song from the second EP and 'You Are The Hat' is the correct, "now, fight like apes!" song from the first - due perhaps to their not terribly illuminative titles, and also on account of the fact that the labels on my double EP (limited to 200 worldwide!) are reversed, meaning that when I looked over to see what the third song was, I picked the wrong one.

Now, here's the band you should really want to hear about -

(An old poster, obviously - from

Future of the Left - guitarist Andrew Falkous, bassist Kelson Mathias and drummer Jack Egglestone - took to the stage with a blistering opening trio of the first three songs from Curses, 'The Lord Hates a Coward' - violent and schizophrenic - Beastie Boys-channelling 'Plague of Onces', and proper groovey, catchy noise-punk 'Fingers Become Thumbs'. There was a fourth song I didn't recognise from the album (although I haven't listened to it all that much), but it was especially noisy and fast; in reality, it was the first really blistering onslaught from the band.

Next, Falkous switched from guitar to keyboard ("an instrument played by Rick Wakeman in the seventies") for the next track from the album, 'Manchasm'. A simple, nearly tinny melody played over waves of aggression and anarchy - this is a lot of what Future of the Left is about, the nearest you are going to get to a signature sound, if you will. Abrasive post-punk, in an hyperactive, speeding fashion and with an overbearing sense of doom twisted up in the mind-warping lyrics. It's interesting to compare it with the sound of Fight Like Apes, with both operating from similar stylistic source material, yet taking diverging attitudes to melody. Future of the Left don't do soundscapes, and they don't do - to a greater extent - pop sensibilities. Maybe it's just the dominance of aggressive masculine vocals rather than, uh, aggressive feminine vocals, but they seem far more wrapped up in heaviness as well.

But that's beside the point. I was there not just to see Fight Like Apes for the fourth time live, but to see what Future of the Left sound like outside of headphones and computer speakers. And so the show went on. The next few songs utilised the keyboard, before switching back to guitar (excessively low-slung, too, with a strap augmented by what looked like shoelaces - mr. x indeed). I have to say, as the songs continued, my attention started to drift. Possibly because I wasn't quite close enough to the front to get into the crush (although it wasn't in general a particularly physical gig, with an exception to be mentioned below) which is usually a good way to get focused on a band. Yet the gig replicated, in parts, my overall feeling towards the album, which is occasional admiration and even engrossment tempered with distance and the slight boredom of repetition.

Future of the Left have some cracking songs, and even those that don't strike an immediate, distortion-saturated chord are still packed with plenty of energy and visceral feeling. This isn't a disappointment, just a lack of conviction in my part; this band doesn't work in the same way as its predecessor - and there is no real reason why it should - and I don't think I understand it yet. And it is a pretty exacting standard I'm subjecting them too admittedly. But for the moment, all I can do is enjoy the big guitars, or at least their oblique replacement.

After that quite impressive, energetic set, the band retired for an encore (this was specifically explained to us). It was terrific, by far the best part of the show and of the whole night. Don't ask me what the song was, although I'm sure someone could tell me, because that's not important; what's important is describing the performance of it.

I'm not sure I kind describe that either, except that it came to me in three moments of realisation. First of all, was the realisation that this song was actually really good, a kind of mundane realisation I suppose, but regarding the criticism above, an important one; that this band have some moments, and longer than that, when they're totally on fire. Second, there came the further realisation, slightly less mundane, that this song in fact sounded really awesome; like my attempted description of the fourth song above, blisteringly fast and noisy. So hyperkinetic and anarchic that it seemed like what, hypothetically, seeing the original band - not to be mentioned - live could have been. And thirdly, this encore being one of those intense, drawn-out jams that often occur, as I saw Falco crack a smile at something (the first time he had done in the whole gig), seeing it was the bassist climbing over the barrier off the stage, the dawning realisation that this song was going transcendental.

Down in the pit, surrounded by people, the bassist was hurling out a deep, bottomless riff that sounded really like something off the first Ramones record - you know, the sped-up, wall-of-sound tentacled monster that ran under all the dark pop songs, and propelled America - not the UK - into punk history. Meanwhile, a whole lot of stuff was happening up on stage - I barely noticed at first - as Falkous had stopped playing any instrument and was assisting the roadie in rotating the drummer's kit 180 degrees while he continued playing in situ.

Officially, that becomes the most awesome thing I've seen all year. I know it's only mid-April, but that's over a third of the way through the year, so I reckon that stands as a pretty formidable statement.

Two 7"s to be posted sometime soon (Manchasm and Small Bodies, Small Bones).

but in the meantime, here's the video for 'Manchasm':

Saturday, April 12, 2008

just a quick clue... (Vinyl Photography: Dan Deacon's Spiderman of the Rings)

...for a future post on Hardcore for Nerds. Actually, the sticker is unrelated to the LP, so make that two clues, for two posts.

If anyone wants to take a guess, comments are below!

(answers are in the second-last comment)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Fight Like Apes - 'Jake Summers'

Wow, I haven't seen this band live for three-and-a-half months. That's a long time in politics (enough to, say, effectively get rid of of a taoiseach) but in showbiz, I dunno? Fight Like Apes, recently back from SXSW, came by my college for a free gig in the student bar yesterday evening. Characterless as the venue was, and as homogenuous and dull as the student audience were, they put on a pretty good show. (I'm being partially ironic there) A set which was almost I'd say 50% new material, with a cracking version of obligatory Mclusky cover 'Lightsaber Cocksucking Blues', and excellent performances of 'Jake Summers' and 'Lend Me Your Face'.

On the way out I picked up the 7" single for 'Jake Summers' from the merch stand. Aside from the Si Schroeder mentioned in the previous post, this is the first Irish 7" I've owned. It was released last year as part of the How Am I Supposed To Kill You If You Have All The Guns? EP, followed by the even more awkardly named David Carradine Is A Bounty Hunter Whose Robotic Arms Hates Your Crotch, with both collected on the vinyl double EP limited to 200 copies. So there's no new songs on this, just a nice addition to the collection.

'Jake Summers' is a bouncy Mclusky-ish pop song and the first track on my 2007 mixtape. A gentle intro descending into jerky synths and frantic vocals, a hyperactive (and very Mclusky-ish) chorus backed with the beautiful simulacra of an organ line, and a requisite 3-and-a-half minute playing time. The more aggressive 'Lend Me Your Face' got the video and the radio play, but 'Jake Summers' really stands out as the better pop song the more you hear it. The b-side, 'Battlestations', is the last song on the first side of the EP, and along with the atmospheric instrumental preceding it, 'You Are The Hat', was the opener to their previous live shows. Also heavily synthy, with an epic (but constrained) melody, interspersed with a Planet of the Apes sample and erupting into screaming, bloody screaming:

"I don't feel playing this song again

You know the sample sounds like shit

and I don't want to hear it again..."

R.I.P. Charlton 'Cold Dead Hands' Heston:

Fight Like Apes - 'Jake Summers' b/w 'Battlestations'

Cool For Cats Records miaow04, 2007

(The rip's a little quiet, so you might need to turn the volume up a bit)

Fight Like Apes at Road Records.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

21st Century Bites: A Mix



Side 1 - 20:24

1. Suicide - Televised Executions

2. Si Schroeder - Brailowsky (schroedersound remix)

3. Battles - Tonto (The Field Remix)

Side 2 - 33:28

4. Q and not U - Soft Pyramids

5. Dan Deacon - Wham City

6. Grails - Silk Rd

7. For Carnation - Moonbeams

21st Century Bites - download as two tracks ('21-1' and '21-2')

21st Century Bites - download as individual tracks (1-7)


The idea for this mix came when I was watching the film Manhunter on TV a couple of nights ago, and decided I wanted to listen to some cool 80's electro pop. Since Betamax Format haven't released their EP yet, the nearest (and yes, not very near at all) thing I had to hand was Suicide's 2002 album, American Supreme. Anyway, the first track on that, 'Televised Executions', was the genesis for this selection.

The '21st Century' part of the title is a reference to the fact that all these songs were released within the last 8 years, with the earliest being the For Carnation in the year 2000. Musically, it's not that these artists necessarily sound very 'modern', and indeed most of them have their origins - whether in earlier releases or in previous groups - in the preceding century.

Broadly speaking, these songs are 'electro' in at least some sense, moving towards more usual post-rock with Grails and the For Carnation, although there is plenty that is unusual about those two groups. The first side is the more wholly electronic, with far more rock tropes in the sound of Q and not U and Grails. If you're looking for punk, it's either nowhere or everywhere...

(A technical note: I decided to try out the long mp3 form of josephlovesit's playlists, one for each side. If I do say so myself, I think it works very well for the first side in particular. Nothing special was done to them, except for a few sections of silence between tracks being removed - no cross-fading or whatever it is you are supposed to be actually able to do with Audacity. Both formats are available for download above, although if you want both be aware that the zip files - and the folder in them - have the same name.)

21-1/Side 1

Suicide's 'Televised Executions' from American Supreme starts off with a combination of thin drum sounds which are characteristic of Suicide's sound right from 1977, and hip-hop scratching, which isn't. On top of this, of course, are funky, repetitive keyboard lines and echoey rockabilly vocals. This is a fantastic album, not just for the consistency with which it matches the original 'no-wave' Suicide, but also for the incorporation of contemporary sounds (well, contemporary in 2002 - you should hear their 90s album; a little dated!). What I said when I first posted this album still stands, that "if you've ever wanted to hear hip-hop played like weird 70s electronica, this is very possibly the album for you".

An instantaneous moment of relief, Si Schroeder's 'Brailowsky' remix comes from a limited-edition 2006 7" of the same name, with paper sleeves and original artwork. Si Schroeder, as his Myspace describes him, is "a six foot hairy male who makes 'music'" from Dublin in Ireland. Previously, he was one half of a Sonic Youth/MBV style noise band, so you can kind of guess where he's coming from in this piece and in his idiosyncratic electronica in general. 'Brailwosky' is instrumental, although other songs have lyrics, all with a soothing, ethereal and above all beautiful quality of sound. Road Records say of his full-length album, Coping Mechanisms, "hats off to mr schroeder for doing something very new and inventive with laid back electronica. really really superb stuff". 'Brailowsky' (a reference to a 20th century French pianist) has a lot of the same, characteristic melodies and flourishes follow on into that album; a really nice song. I met him in person once - I should say that he is a relative of a friend - and he seems like a very nice guy too.

While 'Brailowsky' is very calming, I think it has a hard enough edge to stand up to the intensity of the preceding song and the following, The Field remix of Battles' Tonto, from the Tonto+ EP. The original song is an epic, expansive and at times very intricate and complex post-rock/math-rock tune, full of space and balance - something which is largely abandoned here, as the heavy remix track layers on the intense rhythms and compresses everything into a tight, claustrophobic sequence of sounds. I don't know anything at all about The Field, except that I think their style can be classified as house - correct me if I'm wrong - yet I find this remix immensely and almostly unreservedly enjoyable. The vinyl EP of Tonto+ has the album version followed by this remix on the first side, and the Four Tet remix of 'Tonto' and a further remix of 'Leyendecker' on the other, neither of which do much for me. This version of 'Tonto' - and if you aren't familiar with the original, you owe it to yourself to watch the video here - is a revelatory take on the Battles' track, and a celebratory one of musical intensity in a way - techno, house, whatever - that is quintessentially electronic.

21-2/Side 2

To bring this mix back to the - perhaps unlikely – haven of Dischord Records, this is the opening track of Q and Not U’s second album, Different Damage. ‘Soft Pyramids’ begins with a wonderful spoken word intro, “S-O-F/T-P-Y/R-A-M/I-D-S E-V-A/P-O-R/A-T-E in day-light”, and for that alone it is a quintessentially math-rock song. As Mr. Mammoth wrote last year, “q and not u disbanded two years ago, ending a seven year stint as one of the more relevant and original bands to emerge from the d.c. punk scene. though the term "dance-punk" is one often associated with q and not u, the unfortunate connotations and limitations of that genre really can't explain the band's rather unique post-hardcore sound”. Like him, the frantic, punky No Kill Beep Beep is my favourite of their albums, but given time, what Different Damage reveals in its subtlety and complexity more than matches up with the quality of their debut. With the band’s re-emergence as a three-piece (following the departure of the bassist on No Kill Beep Beep) on their sophomore release, “a more sober (yet just as disparaging) look at America”,

“the first two songs on Different Damage set the album's tone, the divide between ferocity and reflection - "soft pyramids" is almost tender, a sweet singalong that is starkly contrasted with its neighbor, the vitriolic "so many calls," a jittery and sneering attack on our broken healthcare system”

('yo, you remember how good q and not u was?')

Lyrically, I think this song has something to do with the ephemeral and supeficial nature of modern human civilization - appropriate for the mixtape then! Most of Q and not U's lyrics are very interesting, but also very distracting to try and understand. This tends to be the case with these kind of math-rock bands, like the current Foals. Really, it's just a reflection of complexity and cerebral twistiness in both words and music.

Trickling gently into the next song, it is Dan Deacon's utter masterpiece, 'Wham City', "the all-encompassing complexity of the perfect creation" which stretches to nigh on twelve minutes of sonically and emotionally confounding composition. It's awesome live; you can see the lyric sheet here. Listening to this song again reminds me that a Dan Deacon live show is not just a musical experience, but a deeply emotional one as well. It's strange, perhaps, because Deacon's songs are based so much on electronic - albeit analog - instrumentation, something I don't immediately associate so much with feeling. However, the flourishes, the slow build-ups and sustained, drawn-out electronic riffs on 'Wham City' are sincerely affecting. The incessant drumbeats only add an underlay of urgency to the epic soundscapes of emotion and ambition present on what is possibly this man's, or anybody else's like him, finest work.

Next up is the rhythmic, exotic post-rock of Grails on 'Silk Rd'. Grails are possibly the least electro of the artists here, although 'samples' and 'tapes' are listed on their liner notes. Instead, they bring a range of Eastern influences to pretty usual, guitar-based post-rock. GY!BE seems like both a good and a bad comparison: Grails play similarly rich, textured compositions in which, usually, a good deal more happens; but that which does happen is still quite subtle. The title 'Silk Rd' conveys the sense of a journey, and this is an especially propulsive song. Yes, it gets quite heavy at times, but in a melodic, cymbal-bashing kind of way and not with epic, labyrinthine guitar riffs. The sound, as josephlovesit notes, is largely clear and undistorted, allowing the strange and exotic sounds to come through. Blend77 says on Zen and the Art of Face Punching, where I was first hipped to this album, that

"The eastern feel of these songs is not hokey in anyway and goes a long way to legitimizing these songs as mantras for spiritual understanding. Yeah, that sounded like some new-age shit. Grails are not new-age. They are incredible-age."

Finally, turn your speakers up for one of the quietest albums I know of, released by musicians known for their work in ultra-quiet rock and in a genre known for the exact same thing. This is the For Carnation, Brian McMahan from Slint's later group, and the closing song from their self-titled album, 'Moonbeams'. This is the first time I have posted this up on the blog, although the first three tracks of the album were up previously (and will not be upped again - just go to the Touch and Go website for samples). As far as I know, this was released in 2000, so it just slips into the 21st century mix. The electronics are restrained to a shimmering, elliptical ambience which trails the sparse guitar and drums, and occasional, carefully placed keyboard bloops. The sensation of darkness pervades this record, as a thematic of each song and as a backdrop for slowly unfolding post-rock structures. Gentle and delicate, yet masking a hard core of brooding, neurotic intensity. Powerful stuff.