NEKO CASE – Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (2006)

Review by: Eric Pember
Album assigned by: Jonathan Hopkins


I’m sorry, but I don’t really know how to handle this one. I think it sounds nice, and better than a lot of other alt-country I’ve heard (let’s not even get started on mainstream country), but I can’t exactly detail why I think that at this time. Part of me thinks that there’s a subliminal effect from really liking Neko Case’s contributions to the New Pornographers, but I also like what I’ve heard from Calexico (who apparently play on this album), so that’s likely not it.

Trying to compare this to another alt-countryish artist I like (Woven Hand) perhaps provides a hint at why I like this. Like Woven Hand, it tries for a distinct atmosphere, unlike seemingly a lot of country music, both mainstream and alternative. Also like Woven Hand, it is a bit samey-sounding, but ultimately most songs in every genre are samey-sounding if you don’t have much of an aptitude for it.

I’ll get back to this album at some point (along with the subsequent ones from her and albums from Calexico) and see if I can figure out why I like this where most alt-country music kinda doesn’t work for me. 
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FLOW DAN – Original Dan (2009)

Review by: Alex Alex
Album assigned by: Michael Strait

Yo! Fuck you! Review! Brought to you by Alex Alex who is cooler than T-Rex knows much about sex posted the photos of his ex all over the Internet I’ve hacked her fucking personal cabinet with my supercool botnet all hand-written in dot net (fucking smart) now all her pics are in the Darknet studied by the CCRU fuck you (mothefuckers) now listen to the review.

How do we deconstruct rap? For things like the prog the method is easy – take a typical Peter Hammill-esque melody, put the lyrics that describe the habits of Russian grey bears as well as the climate of the areas where the bears usually live, take care that the lyrics contain just enough exact quotations from some academical thesis, sing the thing in the typical Peter Hammill manner and you are guaranteed to entertain the more sophisticated part of the audience while not abandoning the less sophisticated part who will definitely like the nice melody as it’s nothing they have ever heard before.

No such luck with rap. I have to be serious with the review then.

Song 1. That’s the opening song. The purpose of the opening song is such: recording companies show the artists their place. For an artist to record an opening song for his/her album is the same as for an ordinary man to be raped then paid for the trauma by the decision of the court. I DONT GIVE A FUCK! I’M JUST ME! YOU! NEVER SEEN ME IN THE DUMP! Typical opening song, the only goal is to convince the buyers that this is indeed the record they are buying and not some out-of-order shit. Like, when they sell you a car they open the doors, they flash the lights, they turn on the radio whatever there is in the car they show you by making it to produce NOISE. Which usually has very little to do with the car itself. That’s what opening songs do. Should be ignored for any album in any review. Ignored then.

Song 2. That’s cool they sampled loading and then firing the gun. Oh my, that’s cool! Oh my, I should apply to our this here arts college so they teach me the same. Oh my! You see, it’s the music and at the same time it’s BOOM-reload-BOOM-reload-BOOM. Oh my, oh my they are natural born musicians! That’s like Fleurs du fucking Mal! Seriously cool, no way this here dumb policeman ever guess what I’m listening to on my headphones otherwise he would’ve quickly arrested me!

Song 3. Reggae! This artist he very much reminds me of those Jamaican guys in the “Airplane!” movie. In any case, the effect he produces on me is exactly the same: Americans find that part of the movie hilarious and the countless generations of this here translators try in vain to produce anything even remotely sensible out of those Jamaican dialogs. Ah! And he says “Flowdan” for the first time (I think) on the album. As a rapper he has to voice his own name at least once per an album. The rappers they are like pokemons in that respect.

Song 4. That one has to do something with Barack Obama! The lyrics are absolutely unintelligible (for me) and I’m inclined to think they are deliberately done in that way. I’ve seen the same done on TV once! At Nelson Mandela funerals! There was that crazy sign language interpreter at Mandela’s funerals (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StEFnh18zRk). Everybody back then said his translation did not make any sense. This song should make us, at least, start thinking otherwise. It’s happening all over the world, you see. In all areas. There is a hidden message in this song – same as the message in that interpreter’s translation. Same message. To the same addressee. Which is yet to appear.

Song 5. Oh! Mine is only JLPT N4 with a very low score, so no way I can understand this. Shall review again in twenty years or so. Anything Japanese is cool. Why? Because Japanese. Japan is cool. It used to be not that cool some time ago, with that Hiroshima thing, very uncool, but then suddenly everything illuminated and is now cool. That’s the same as with human life, one day my life will be cool, too. And the meaningless noise and the pitiful sobs I now emit they will all turn into the new Japanese language and you will have to study for years to understand the magnificence of it.

Song 6. This is a noticeable song. It begins with a very loud LOOK! Now I understand how my grandfather felt when I bought a new laptop for him to learn about the new things. Back in those days, I came and I said LOOK! And then, I remember, I was closing the notebook lid and my grandfather kept staring into the void.

Song 9. This song has violins or something like in the orchestra they have. Strings! We here also have that – we here have some rappers doing shows with the symphonic orchestra. That way capitalism tells you to finally forget about anything not related to the process of buying tickets and finding your seats. This song is also has ‘Remix’ in its title, never knew what that word means, must be some Jamaican slang word.

Yo! I’m running out of inspiration. This album has some nice Jamaican quotations! Sometimes it has some industrial tunes and the cool Japanese words as if the artist listens to Death in June! Yo! It’s full of a cool Jamaican reggae it ain’t no Bob Dylan with his motherfucking Maggie. Though to me all songs they sound like one. Big one! I wish I was black I would’ve been looking like SATAN!!!! SATAN!!!!

Oh, finally I can do that

SATAN!!!!! SATAN!!!!! SATAN!!!!! SATAN!!!!! SATAN!!!!! SATAN!!!!! SATAN!!!!! SATAN!!!!!

BENT KNEE – Shiny Eyed Babies (2014)

Review by: Charly Saenz
Album assigned by: Avery Campbell

I was a little perplexed on first listen of this album, which genre is it? Were they drunk? Did they call a surrogate band in some tracks to meet deadlines? But well, this is the very nature of the band. They are an art rock band.

It’s way nice that an artist can touch upon many genres, only, I think if they can really integrate them into a solid final product. Whether no frills metal (“Way Too Long”) or more elaborate affairs (“Dry”) they do their business well. They can do more commercial stuff, almost in the Coldplay field (“In God We Trust”). 

They can present unexpected twists within the same songs, which is fresh, but also a little tiring on repeated listens. “I’m Still Here” gets into Kate Bush territory, and they do it quite well, a really beautiful song.

In fact the second part of the album is a more subtle affair, Celtic touches and violins in “Sunshine” (and some crazy guitar in the crescendo just to assert the power). Some .. industrial? Rock traces in the second part of “Skin”, to finish it off with a soft piano, once more.

A good album overall it suffers from the CD era trauma: too long; a little trimming would work wonders. Or just make up your playlist, that’s The Modern World that I’ve learnt about!

JOHN DUNCAN – Pleasure Escape (1985)

Review by: Jonathan Moss
Album assigned by: Tristan Peterson


It was a cold day and Billy set off to his work at the graveyard. He had been working there for several years now, and, contrary to what pop-psychology would tell you, it had had no ill effect on him. He still was of a generally cheery inclination, had a small group of close friends and a larger group of trustworthy associates. He was happy with his job, the graveyard had a stereotypically gothic beauty and it gave him time to think. The cold weather on this particular day was annoying him somewhat, and obviously like any job it was still for the most part tedious, he wasn’t feeling particularly negative. This, of course, was about to change. 

He stumbled across a man, how shall we put it, having relations with a corpse. 

“What the hell are you doing?”, screamed Billy, who was vaguely aware of such goings on but generally preferred not to think about them, let alone be confronted by them. 

“Goddamnit! I was almost finished” shouted the necrophiliac. 

“Oh well” he said, removing himself and getting dressed, “I suppose I can always do this another time” 

“Hey man, I’m a libertarian” replied Billy, “I don’t care what you do, just do it in another graveyard” 

“Fair enough” replied the necrophiliac “I guess I do owe you an explanation. My name is John Duncan and I’m a field recorder and experimental artist. I was defiling this corpse sexually to make a comment on nihilism in modern society, probably”

“Ah”, thought Billy. So he was one of those crazy avant-gardists. Billy had heard about these fellows, doing obscene and immoral activities to prove a point about the decadence of society, maybe. Poor John Duncan probably didn’t even enjoy screwing that corpse, he was doing it out of some higher calling, in his own way he was a God. Of course, Billy wasn’t sure why John couldn’t have made his point in writing, as people like Schopenhauer, Comte de Lautreamont, Thomas Ligotti, and of course, Marquis De Sade had.

Well, Billy didn’t actually think that, he didn’t know who any of those people were. He did however contemplate calling the police, but decided to be true to his word and let John Duncan go, where he would record a film soundtrack, or something.

НОМ (NOM) – Во имя разума (1996)

Review by: Roland Bruynesteyn
Album assigned by: Alex Alex

“Интеркосмос” – After a gushing wind we get a Peter Gunn inspired vamp, then we get some synthetic vibes and some synthesizer notes. Then a robotic voice, presumably in Russian. Not really singing, but it sounds like he’s recounting his days’ events, with a strong, warning, undertone. The Peter Gunn theme ties it together nicely. Some guitar is added, with some chord based jamming and an almost Gilmourian tone. When the Peter Gunn theme stops it becomes quieter, with some (acoustic?) guitar and some kind of synthesized flute. A female joins in some kind of dialogue, some panic, some bees being slaughtered, song over. Not bad!
 
I think “Баллада О Межпланетной Любви” starts close to the 5.30 mark, nicely acoustic before the band joins in. This song is a strange mix of the Nirvana esthetic (loud and quiet passages) with some Metallica-style Cossack singing. The instrumental passages are nice, but meander a bit. Guitar solo is good, but the music during the solo sounds a bit sluggish.
 
Presumably, “Предупреждение Посланца Вселенского Разума” starts around 11.55 with some drunk yelling and a glass breaking. A synthesizer loop, innocent of course, but also a bit simple. The drums join in and some rap style singing, again strongy urging you to do something, or so it seems. Other voices join in, sounding somewhat processed (or it’s just the local dialect and tone of voice in Alex Alex’ hometown). The repetitive melodies recall some Krautrock. The synthesizer figure returns, with some jazzy drumming, the calling voice and a guitar being dismembered. A hint of Talking Heads in an aggressive mood, perhaps.
 
At 15.50 “Лягва” starts with dialogue again. This could very well be a storytelling concept album, a la The Wall. Some frantic drumming and some call and response “singing”. The song, and especially the guitar work, sound strangely new wavish, apart from the drumming. The title is repeated over and over again.
 
Around 18.54 some more dialogue, as a prelude to “Студенческая Межзвездная”. Start is almost rednecky ZZ Top, but the singing definitely is not, sounding more like a (good) Clash song off London calling.
 
21.45, new song, “Любовь Инженера” starts with a simple bass figure. Rather like the Talking Heads again (think Naive Melody), apart from the mock Gothic singing. Sounds like a real organ, nice!
 
Around 26.30 “Jurassic Park” starts, Western lettering for a change. The song DOES indeed sound like it could appear in a weird Western.
 
27.36 “Укрблюз”, a modest epic, with some real saxophone playing around the 31 minute mark (or 2,5 minute mark, actually).
 
“Чрезвычайное Происшествие” starts around 32.10. Totally different voice, Miss Piggy, not very pleasing to the ears. Other people start protesting as well, by the sound of it. Very annoying piece of theatrical music that does not work for me AT ALL.
 
Around 35.50 “Марш Косморазведчиков” starts, and it better be a 12 minute epic, or I will have completely misconstrued the different song lengths. Another ZZ Top style riff to start with. Not original, but it works. Singing again new wavish, and during the singing parts the music is dramatically different as well. The ZZ Top riff does return a few times however.
 
Around 39.25 the song seems to finish, so I consider the rest a hidden bonus track. Acoustic guitars with some cymbal heavy drumming, sounding turning into a sitar sometimes. The serious singing, intoning a warning again, sort of detracts from the quiet parts of the music. Electric guitars join in, closely following the bass lines. Next verse, some background vocals are added, yelling the same lyrics. It sounds a bit more balanced. Third verse they disappear again, but a guitar replaces the backing vocals. Final guitar figure is repeated ad infinitum, when it slows down a bit.
 
What to make of it? I could not get used to the low vocals, that sounded too much like a solo Gregorian chanter for my taste. Not understanding the lyrics does not help either. The music however is quite varied, played professionally and somehow strangely appealing. The artists I compared it with in my mind (Clash, Krautrock, Nirvana, Metallica, Talking Heads, ZZ Top) are all a lot older, so originality is not really a factor here, apart from the singing (that fails to my ears).
 
But then I think giving a very weird voice to the classics nicely summarizes Alex Alex’ life (or at least the role he plays in this group)!