Monday, May 17, 2010

Harvey Milk-A Small Turn of Human Kindness (2010)

"Athens weirdcore trio Harvey Milk is a blessedly difficult band to “know.” They frustrate category, aesthetic response, and heavy music scene politics in estimable, admirable ways. On the heels of their feedback-saturated return to recording – first the somewhat tentative Special Wishes and then 2008’s Life . . . the Best Game in Town – they return with A Small Turn of Human Kindness, an album named after the very first track on their 1996 debut.

A seven-part dirge, this album continues to refine their mixture of heavy riffage, sheer noise, and unexpected detours into introspection and delicate, emotional instrumentalism. But there’s something about the long form here that brings these elements out really vividly, freshly, in ways that suggest new discoveries and new paths taken. They remain a very patient, un-showy group, happy to let the heaviest of heavy chords – you can hear the speaker cones straining, their detuned strings flapping – simply wash over the spare shapes that make up these compositions. But what gives this music greater power and urgency is vocalist Creston Spiers’ dark dreamings.

His rattling holler is like the croaky sound that Neurosis’ Scott Kelley has recently unearthed, crossed with the phrasing of Sonic Youth’s “Marilyn Moore.” The album’s themes of lovelorn despondency might seem about as innovative as dirt, but the music breathes inspiration into them. The slow moving notes of the opening “*” – big major motifs moving in vast space and amp resonance, flirting with the anthemic – form the basic materials that are layered and layered in patient pursuit of the line. As the music emerges to form a mid-tempo crawl in “I Just Want to Go Home,” the fuzz and decay left in the wake of each crashing punctuation, each howl, create their own context beyond “heavy” signification. Things don’t so much move forward as bloom darkly, as feedback floods the pulse or as a brief staccato pattern cups a descending line (“I Am Sick of All This Too”).

It’s compelling from the start, particularly insofar as they not only avoid genre clichés but also cheap drama. Instead, they play emotionally ambiguous stuff – shifting modes and dynamics, or rather simply smashing them together until the edges are indistinct – that makes room for tart harmony (“I Know This is No Place for You”), cheeseball ‘80s keyboards (“I Know This is All My Fault”), and even some pitch-bending Southern-fried riffs on the closing “I Did Not Call Out.” None of these elements stands out or calls attention to itself; they simply emerge organically as the basic materials (not just the motif of the opener but the “I” of the titles) are continually revisited and reworked.

Singular and absorbing, Spiers chronicles his – his character’s? – beaten but not broken hope for some buried treasure from the wreck of a relationship (“In the dead gray ashes there was grace” he sings in the end). And Harvey Milk once again shake the dust from labels and produce music that’s heavy by virtues of its convictions and emotional integrity. In their music it’s easy to hear the roots of feted bands like Baroness and Kylesa, but I’m increasingly likely to think of this music – with its dark stew of minimalism, repetition, and abjection – as the blues."- Dusted

I am in complete awe of this band, and for good reason. When reference points include the Melvins, ZZ Top, and Leonard Cohen, how can you not be intrigued? This album marks Harvey Milk's return to the off kilter lumbering heaviness of their first two albums (or three, depending on how you count 'em) and is stronger throughout than either "Special Wishes" and "Life..." both of which I enjoy thoroughly. This is a legitimate contender for album of the year. Get it.

The milk of human kindness

Thanks to Lucidmedia for the link

Faust-Faust is Last (2010)

"If Faust announce a last record after 40 years then it might be a good idea to open up the ears, especially when the cover art is one big reference to their first record. The x-rayed "fist" appears again, this time with the fingers slightly more opened. 40 years lie between the two records. 40 years of many different line ups, record companies, financial disasters, artistic failures and successes. Whatever can happen to a band has happened to Faust. In that sense they are not an unusual group of musicians. What is unusual is that each project, each record, each concert over the last 40 years has been different. On the very first record they made clear (on clear vinyl) that they were in it for destruction. "All you need is love" and "Satisfaction" symbolically were set fire to. That same fire you will hear on this new & last Faust record. The circle will be closed by more circular
music. A music that seems to come out of nowhere, sonic descriptions rather than songs. Timeless and not rooted in specific places and/or traditions. Maybe influenced by Cage's idea of chance, Dada, cut-ups, Sun Ra's free jazz organ playing and the second attempt after the German-American Monks to represent "a rock group as total artwork". faust in 1970 and in 2010 sound aggressive and 100 percent oriented towards the future. There is not a glimpse of nostalgia in "Faust is last". Turn up the volume and listen to this first, new and last Faust record very loud!" - Klangbad

Haven't had a chance to fully digest this yet but goddamn, what I've heard is on par with their entire career. It should be noted that is Hans Joachim Irmler's (founding guitarist) conception of Faust, and not Jean Herve Peron and Zappi Diermaier's (founding bassist & drummer) Faust that toured last year. This one seems to run the gamut stylistically, from grungy classic rock to the chilling noise passages we've all come to love over the years. Frankly, they still sound full of piss and vinegar and if that isn't reason enough to give this full attention, then I don't know what is. Highly recommended.


Saturday, May 8, 2010

Evan Kelley-Saund Arte Feinhal Projekt (2010)

Made using his own and another band's samples along with help on two songs, it encompasses melodic vocal drones, krautrock psychedelia, pounding rhythms and crushing experimental rock. I should also mention that it is open source audio and those looking for higher quality downloads should go HERE. The album begins with two relaxing drone pieces. "Calm Your Bones" in particular has a warm feeling with a gorgeous interplay that almost takes on the sound of an organ in some places. "Sirens Part II," my personal favorite, takes cues from the Neu/Harmonia/Cluster family in that it is swirling ambient music but always feels like it's constantly moving. Noises fly in and out over a hulking wall of sound. A beautiful, cosmic song to say the least. "Sirens (Urban Music For Guitar and Drums)" is a vicious, unrelenting beast that refuses to let it its hand off your throat. Each time I've heard it, I cannot shake the feeling of urban paranoia, but perhaps I shouldn't listen to it surrounded by filthy urban people. Throbbing rock gives way to chaotic noise freakout. Awesome. "Way of the World," the final track, starts heavy as hell. Noise creeps into the mix as the song progresses, keeping the cosmic quality found throughout the other songs. This gives way to a filthy, fuzz-laden industrial drum beat that pounds at your consciousness before coming full circle back into cosmic heaviness. It feels like an adventure that takes you farther out than the 24 minuets of total music. Highly highly highly recommended.

Calm your bones