Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Songs that Shouldn't Exist: "The Baby Song"

Flip Your Wig album cover
Today I revisited Hüsker Dü's album Flip Your Wig for the first time in a few years. I wouldn't say it's the Hüsker's best by any means, but it's still a phenomenal album. It features some of the most powerful and effective songs the group ever recorded.

It also features "The Baby Song", which is probably the most useless song that exists. It's 46 seconds of the finest liquid diarrhea pressed on wax. Let me break it down: somebody literally says "The Baby Song", then the remaining 45 seconds are two dudes just dicking around on a slide whistle and xylophone. It's the only song I've heard that's ever made me completely furious.

Listen to it:

I don't hate this track just because it's total garbage. I can tolerate much worse music. The reason I hate this so much is because it just doesn't belong anywhere near this album. A lot of the material on here is dead serious and emotionally engaging, and there's no preparation. The song immediately preceding this one is "Find Me", one of Bob Mould's darkest and most angst-y compositions. The song after it is "Flexible Flyer", a thought-provoking Grant Hart classic. My only guess is that "The Baby Song" is there for contrast. Like, I imagine that I'd appreciate air a lot more if I was forcefully drowned for 46 seconds between breaths. That's the only way it makes sense to me.

I can forgive Hüsker Dü though. For one, it's been over 25 years since this was recorded, and they say time heals all wounds. Also, I've read that Hüsker Dü had an unbelievable work ethic. Within about a year, they dropped three classic albums, including this one. I guess I just have to accept that they had reason for this.

"Makes No Sense At All" promo clip:

Supa Sortahuman X Shawn Kemp - Supasonic (Review)

At the beginning of the year, Lil Ugly Mane released Mista Thug Isolation, which remains as my favorite mixtape of 2012. I've yet to hear a better modern interpretation of DJ Screw-inspired Memphis Rap.  Since then, Ugly Mane's cleared his Bandcamp page and focused in on production work for other Raider Klan affiliates like Yung Simmie and EthelWulf. Lil Ugly Mane is blessed behind the boards, but I needed another official release from the mane himself.

So, you can probably imagine how excited I was when I saw this EP appear on his Bandcamp page about a week ago. You also can probably understand how I felt when I read the quote underneath it that said, "THIS IS NOT A 'LIL UGLY MANE' RELEASE".

However, there was still a lot to be excited about with this release for me. Last time Supa Sortahuman and Shawn Kemp (A.K.A. Lil Ugly Mane) joined forces, the result was "Radiation (Lung Pollution)", one of the best tracks from Mista Thug Isolation. The chemistry between  Supa and Ugly Mane is noticeable on there. It's even a little difficult to tell them apart sometimes. (Their voices are also pitched down like two octaves, which may contribute to that difficulty.)

This EP kicks off with "UFO'in", easily the closest thing to a "radio-friendly" song on here. I could see a lot of Mista Thug Isolation fans being turned away by this track. It's got a high BPM, and there's no pitch altering on Supa's voice. I'll admit that I was a little thrown off by it initially. The first time I heard the "I'm from another planet, ho" line, I cringed a little bit, not gonna lie. The song has really grown on me, though. As always, Shawn Kemp's production is top notch, and Supa does a great job of carrying it. It'd be interesting to hear this song in a club to see how people respond to it.

Things start to slow back down from there. "Go Away" is a solid return to familiar territory. It's a good transitional song between "UFO'in" and the first Lil Ugly Mane feature, "Blazin Up", where Lil Ugly Mane actually raps in a high-pitched voice. It's a funny idea, considering that Lil Ugly Mane basically spent an entire albums worth of material rapping with his voice pitched low, but it actually plays off really successfully here. Lil Ugly Mane has the tendency to challenge expectations and push boundaries. This is a good example of that.

The remainder of the EP continues to impress. "Ridin Through the Hood" is dark and atmospheric track with a heavy, heavy bass line. "Me & You" introduces the gem of a line, "Well, if life is a bitch, and Earth is nature's mother, then what is man other than a mother fucker?". Lil Ugly Mane comes in a capella and drops some of the best lines on the whole release.

"Fuck That Shit" is chock full of introspective thoughts regarding life, the world, and other general, weed-powered inquiries. Shawn Kemp's production sounds like the soundtrack to a horrible tragedy. It's a pretty bleak way to end the EP.

I wouldn't recommend this to anybody who holds lyrics above all else. Supa has some solid lines, but he talks about weed A LOT. With that said, if the idea of forward thinking, southern hip hop sounds at all appealing to you, I would say this is definitely worth checking out.

Verdict: 75%

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Right Noise Recommends #1: Discordance Axis - The Inalienable Dreamless

The DVD case cover for the CD release
When it comes to metal, I'm pretty much a slow and low kind of guy. I typically go for bands like Isis, Harvey Milk, or Melvins, but I try to keep an open mind about all types of music. The problem that I've had with albums like this in the past was that they seemed to be too focused on extremes. It's always about who can play the fastest, loudest, or most grotesque songs in the least amount of time. I understand the whole genre of grindcore was basically founded on these principles, but there's a way of following this model and still being enjoyable to listen to. If Napalm Death just constantly gurgled and squealed and played as fast as humanly possible back in 1986, they wouldn't have made anything close to the same impact.

One of the main reasons that this is such a masterpiece is because it doesn't stick to a formula. It takes the genre down so much unexplored territory, that I've seen people debate whether this is even grindcore at all. I personally wouldn't go that far, but it definitely separates itself from most.

It's one of the rare releases of this type where casual listeners of the genre can still pick out specific, noteworthy tracks. The band's most popular song, "Jigsaw" (below), surpasses it's reputation. "Pattern Blue" (also below) and "A Leaden Stride to Nowhere" both destroy, as well.

Unfortunately, this album can be kind of pricey. I lucked out and found this CD for $2 at a local record store that didn't even know what they had, but I usually see this for like $20-$40. You can still purchase it digitally or listen to it on spotify if you so choose. I'm not sure this is worth the $30-ish or so, considering the 17 tracks on this album only take about 23 minutes to listen to, but then again, it's 23 of the best minutes that grindcore has to offer. Just find a way to listen to it.


"Pattern Blue":

Saturday, July 28, 2012

This Cover (Einstürzende Neubauten - Haus Der Lüge)

Greatest cover of all time?

I recently picked up Haus Der Lüge by Einstürzende Neubauten on CD (pictured above). It's pretty spectacular.

Renaissance Sound - Renaissance Sound (Review)

It's the greatest feeling when something awesome just comes out of nowhere. As much as I like the internet, nothing is hidden from view anymore. What was once obscure or rare is now effortlessly obtainable. Another unfortunate side effect is that, due to the ease of going from one extreme to another in an instant, a person can become perpetually unimpressed. I'm man enough to admit that I hear so much terrible and amazing music on a daily basis, that I've become hard to please, cynical even. I often look for associations with other bands or certain producers that I've come to trust before I even listen to a single song. If I find music I love, I'd probably already had a decent idea what it was going to sound like before I'd even listened to it. It's a method that continues to provide me with great music, but a lot of the surprise and satisfaction is compromised.

A few months ago, a friend of mine sent me this EP over Facebook. I didn't find a whole lot about the band's background. I was able to determine that the bass player, Steve Marek, and the Vibraphonist, Jacob Boulay, are both ex-members of the now defunct Math-rock/Emo-inspired band Loose Lips Sink Ships and that they're from DeKalb, IL, but that's about as far as I got. Basically, my point is that great, obscure music is still being made. That's not to say that this release falls under the "it's pretty cool for something I'd never heard of" category. Honestly, this is the best new release I've heard in a while. Even better, it's probably some of the best free (!) music I've heard in years.

Renaissance Sound is drums, bass, vibraphone and violin. The musical aesthetic of this EP can be somewhat difficult to describe (for me anyway) and is probably just best experienced. It's tempting for me to draw Tortoise comparisons, but Renaissance Sound really have developed their own niche in (mostly) instrumental music. I remember reading an interview with the Dirty Three where one of members claimed that the band's method to creating music involved pulling themselves away rather than complementing each other (I'm paraphrasing from memory), and I think something along the same lines can be said about Renaissance Sound. Each instrument is playing something interesting enough to listen to independently, but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts (EX: Voltron). If one element is removed, it doesn't function properly

Opening track "Don't Eat My Dwarves" introduces itself with a glorious bass riff that just kills, quite simply. It's not as insanely technical as, say, Squarepusher, but it feels good. Bassist Steve Marek deserves some recognition for his contribution to this EP. His riffs have both style and grace: He can steal the show at times, but his key strength is the ability to hold back and let others play off of his foundation. The same exact compliment can be given to Matt Judson, the group's percussionist. Nothing ever feels forced or robotic from either musician.

The most beautiful thing about this first track is the sheer amount of enthusiasm that emanates from it. It sounds like everybody is genuinely excited, and it's infectious. The track builds and decrescendos with complete control. It's pure magic. After a few unexpected twists and turns, the song explodes into a distorted finale that left me with a pretty stupid grin on my face the first time I heard it.

The second track, aptly titled "Derek's Journey", starts out with an eastern sounding string intro that reminds me of Macha. It's not something I would have expected after "Don't Eat My Dwarves", but it doesn't sound out of place in context either. This is also the only song out of the four with vocals. Once again, it's unexpected, but the vocals are more of a compliment to the music than anything.

The final two tracks are more reminiscent of "Don't Eat My Dwarves" than "Derek's Journey". "Streets Without Lights" is a nice showcase of the abilities of violinist Derek Gray. The song starts off slow then steadily builds, eventually leading to a sparse, yet beautiful climax. The final track is "Swirlswind", which is more vibraphone-heavy than the previous tracks. It's a fitting enough way to end, but I just wish there was more.

That's pretty much my only major complaint with this EP: I wish it was longer. As far as I can tell, these are the only four songs that this band has put out. Thankfully, they haven't gotten old to me at all. I've had this thing on heavy rotation since I first heard it, and if anything, it's just gotten better. I just hope there's more on the way.

Verdict: 92%