Archive for the ‘Antennas to Heaven’ Category

Antennas to Heaven: Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Your biweekly submersion into new and experimental music.

With the conclusion of the exceptional New History for Modern Warfare albums, Colin Stetson has turned to fellow session musician Sarah Neufeld for his next endeavor. Neufold’s most notable work includes her role as the main violinist in Arcade Fire as well as various projects in which she and Stetson played together.

On debut release Never were the way she was, the duo bring their respective instruments to introduce what Constellation Records calls the “metaphorical narrative of the life of a girl who ages slow as mountains; excited, exalted, and ultimately exiled in her search for a world that resembles her experience.”

The idea of the concept album isn’t exactly out of reach for the two when you consider Stetson’s ability to conjure the image of a lumbering behemoth on “To see more light” and Neufold’s harrowing and emotive solo work on tracks like “Hero Brother”. “The sun roars into view” is our first taste from the duo and begins with the polyrhythmic interplay of both instruments. Stetson, once based in the deep timbres of sax, now portrays a delicate sound – a frailty not otherwise present in his previous work. Together, the two form an incredibly moving combination that’s equal parts catharsis and soul destroying beauty.

Never were the way she was is out on April 28 through Constellation Records.

Antennas to Heaven: Zs

Monday, February 9th, 2015

Your biweekly submersion into new and experimental music.

For those who haven’t heard the work of noise/jazz artists, Zs know this: they are unclassifiable, with jazz being a term that barely scratches the surface. There are saxophones, drums and guitars, but what they make of these instruments is entirely void of the pre-conceived ideas of conventional use.

On their latest album, Xe, don’t expect any bending of the knee towards a more straight forward sound. Things are still ugly and jarred but this is a much more free flowing album than the band’s earlier work, in particular the moments of rigid stoicism across New Slaves.

“Corps” begins with muted metallic guitar loops that work like enchanted hypnosis when layered atop the unhinged sax. Drums slowly encroach and the whole affair morphs into a wave of mutated free jazz that gently lulls the listener despite the underlining menace of its sounds.

Xe worth listening to if only for the snippets of interesting sounds these musicians manage to coax from their instruments and comfortably wedge together into one album of staggering weirdness.

Xe is out now on through Northern Spy Records.

Antennas to Heaven: Viet Cong

Monday, January 26th, 2015

Your biweekly submersion into new and experimental music.

Rising from the ashes of defunct Canadian band Women, Viet Cong have emerged reconfigured, pushing their earlier, jagged post-punk towards hazier pop spectrums on their self-titled release, with sculpted melodies penetrating the seemingly impenetrable grit of the instruments.

“March of Progress” lingers on echoed drums and non-effacing drone for its first three minutes before cutting out to a charmingly oriental arrangement of eastern instruments that dive bomb into a slew of caterwauling guitars and a gorgeous vocal melody, like the finest moments of a Deerhunter record.

The gloriously jaunty “Bunker Buster” leads with an adrenaline-fuelled one-two-response guitar riff, reshaping throughout but never losing the incredible potency of its initial appeal. At times, Viet Cong sound like the perfect rock band, teasing and prodding before unleashing torrents of wailing noise and emphatic vocals, of which the album is littered with — namely “Continental Shelf”, the best bet for anyone craving a Pixies pre-reunion kick. A roaring debut from an excellent new band.

Viet Cong is out now through Jagjaguwar.

Antennas to Heaven: Richard Dawson

Monday, January 12th, 2015

Your biweekly submersion into new and experimental music.

Like a deranged performer in a carnival of freaks, Richard Dawson is the sort of man Jeff Magnum could become if he promptly joined a peyote cult and live the rest of his days in the desert.

Dawson and his crazier than hell style of weird new aged delta blues guitar is ugly yet alluringly hypnotic. The same is true for his voice — throttled in haphazard fashion, careening between a wail and straight-spoken bluntness.

“The Vile Stuff” condenses all these odd sounding narratives into a chanting stomp of chugging blues. At sixteen minutes it’s an exhausting listen but humbling in the way it holds the ear. If you like your singer-songwritersa little less Connor Oberst and a little more Charles Manson with talent, then Dawson will gladly beat you over the head.

Richard Dawson’s Nothing Important is out now on Weird World Record Co.

Antennas to Heaven: Grouper

Monday, November 17th, 2014

Your weekly submersion into new and experimental music.

Despite the less than cheerful vibes surrounding the recording of Liz Harris’s latest offering, it’s hard not to gleefully welcome the outcome of her experiences, having allowed Harris’ emotions to filter into such naked vocals and gorgeously unadorned piano ballads.

This context is of course rampant speculation, but with tear-streaked gems like ‘Lighthouse’ and ‘Clearing’, it’s obvious Harris isn’t exactly declaring her unbridled lust for life.

The sounds here are lived in, forever captured in the moment of recording. Crickets chirp in the background and thunder bellows from outside as Harris’ voice flirts between a whisper and a hush with delicate subtlety.

To borrow a well-worn phrase — it’s as if Harris is playing in the same room; a private show for the listener who’s more likely a fly on the wall or a peeping tom watching in on something distinctly private and bracingly raw.

Antennas to Heaven: Chord

Monday, November 10th, 2014

Your weekly submersion into new and experimental music.

For the sake of brevity, let’s boil down the overarching theme of “power ambient” group Chord’s aptly titled Progression into a simple exploration of sounds bound by three single-chord compositions. Continued explanation would only serve to further confuse, so let’s just say Chord are aiming for the sort of art/music/avant-garde movement that artists like William Basinski have explored in the past, taking an idea and using it to explore different expanses of sound.

This is the sort of music that may test the patience of its listeners, but to those who enjoy enveloping themselves in sound and giving a large portion of time to actually sitting down and taking those sounds in, Progression can prove a hugely rewarding experience.

The drolly-titled first track ‘E Maj9 9 (descent)’ is all serene hues of incandescent pianos and slow release drones, speckled with the throb of violin. It’s a slow burner for sure, but if ever there was means for music as mediation, or in light of incoming exams like music to calm the soul, this is it.

That being said, there’s enough variety here to elevate things beyond simple background music. On ‘Gm 11 (pelagic)’ rapid-fire tremolo riffs inform the surrounding ambience as the simple repeating motif underlays the rising tension between rumbling buzz saw drone and elegiac piano in a humble matrimony of blissful duplicity.

Antennas to Heaven: Tinariwen

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

Your weekly submersion into new and experimental music.

Tinariwen play the same brand of scorched earth blues rock that Neil Young and Jimi Hendrix etched their name into throughout the 60s & 70s. This time around though imagine effigies of downtrodden blues emanating not from the high plains of America or the Delta bluesmen of the south, but instead the bone-dry regions of the Sahara desert, an area not unfamiliar with the turmoil of political crisis.

As to be expected Tinariwen sing the language of their country and thankfully so, as these soulful gems would lose something in the English tongue. The unfamiliar vocals take on an interpretive form, combined with the ensemble of guitars a real sense of age in the dust-covered music of their Sahara surrounds.

‘Chaghaybou’ is a barnstorming swirl of sunburnt blues with a consistently driven pulse, a mood enhanced by the exotic delivery of its vocalist and an introduction to the blues of a different origin, one no less compelling than its western counterparts.

Antennas to Heaven: Dorval & Devereaux

Monday, October 27th, 2014

Your weekly submersion into new and experimental music.

It seems to be the year of the collaboration in experimental music circles with stellar releases from Scott Walker + Sunn O))), Battle Trance, Jenny Hval & Susanna as well as drumming collective Man Forever. Heading towards the end of the year, another interesting partnership rears head: the self-titled debut from Dorval & Devereaux courtesy of Moon Glyph Records.

The sounds on display here all exist as if conjured from some dream-like stasis. Electronic waves are omnipresent, floating languidly over the top of the barest of percussive rhythms accompanied by hover craft vocals. It’s sort of shoe gaze but kind of new wave, an osmotic combination of the most ambient elements from both genres that invites escapism and a sense of wide-eyed wonder. ‘Heavy Hands’ flirts with joyous melody but never ventures into full blown euphoria, retaining a touch of menace through spooky synth and electronics. Boards of Canada played this game too; Dorval & Devereaux just do it in a different context.

Antennas to Heaven: Steve Palmer

Sunday, October 19th, 2014

Your weekly submersion into new and experimental music.

Steve Palmer isn’t the first musician to invoke the spirit of the late and great John Fahey (see faithful troubadours Jack Rose and William Tyler), but his ability to mold rural guitar stylings with a sunny and psychedelic disposition sets him apart from simply being a modern interpretation of his idol.

‘Cassini’ begins with a cascading wash of crystal clear delay as it dances amongst a strict rhythmic drum beat, later flourished by the sun soaked crunch of chords and multiple layers of wah and country tinged guitar. Palmer doesn’t just abide mountainous terrain and downtrodden blues but also the free spirited landscape of the coastline.

Apart from a Fahey cover at the end of the album, his most obvious referential nods comes in the stripped down mediations of ‘Six Dollar Sunglasses’ and ‘Banjo Burner,’ where Palmer uses both his acoustic and electric guitars to negotiate calming pathways adorned by tastefully placed interceptions of ambient background textures.

Antennas to Heaven: Katie Gately

Monday, October 13th, 2014

Your weekly submersion into new and experimental music.

For precisely thirteen minutes and forty-eight seconds, ‘Pipes’ — the one and only song on this limited release cassette — opens fire and doesn’t withhold until the its final second, a surprising entrapment considering the intangible nature of the music.

Deep vibrational hums, layered over snapshots of Katie Gately’s, voice are soon betrayed when the heavenly gospel becomes less spiritual and more hellishly psychotic, as the beats begin to skitter and fragment into a cacophony of different noises you could spend hours trying to single out.

For all its wayward directions there’s always something to admire in the craziness of ‘Pipes’: the deranged chanted build ups that ecstatically heighten senses of unease, only to calm with dreamy synth and a flatbed of velvet-soft vocals. This is undeniably complex music, procured with the deftest of hands.