Six Organs Of Admittance : Ascent

Ben Chasny was releasing music under the pseudonym Six Organs Of Admittance long before the kind of dusty psychedelia he generally practices became inescapably fashionable around a decade ago, and you can’t help but feel he’ll still be going strong after the hordes of acoustic guitar-wielding bandwagon-jumpers have run out of ways to make fret-buzz and finger-picked strings sound interesting; but casual fans often forget that Chasny is also an integral part of one of the best – and most criminally overlooked – jam bands of the internet age, Comets On Fire, who went on hiatus in 2008 with four blistering albums (two of them featuring Chasny) under their belt. Ascent – that’s album number thirteen folks, and the sixth for the esteemed Drag City label – is a two-fold treat for faithful fans: not only is it the first long-player under the Six Organs banner to feature a full, electric backing group, it just so happens that the group in question is comprised of Chasny’s Comets On Fire colleagues, meaning this is not just a departure from the usual acid-folk fare but also something of an unexpected reunion to boot. Of course, with their usual roles reversed and Ethan Miller playing sideman to Chasny’s bandleader, this is a very different kind of Comets album: lead single “Waswasa” (below) and “Even If You Knew” may find the pair (along with third guitarist Noel Von Harmonson) trading gnarled, needling hooks, but they are anchored by more traditional structures than the freewheeling freak-outs born of the band’s last trip to Tim Green’s Louder Studios six years ago. In fact, whilst the additional guitars (and rhythm section Ben Flashman and Utrillo Kushner) add Crazy Horse muscle to the likes of “Close To The Sky” and “One Thousand Birds”, there’s no mistaking the fact these are Six Organs – rather than Comets On Fire – songs. Whereas Comets’ jams always felt a little unhinged, Chasny’s are more restrained, more composed, and here – especially on the raga-like “They Called You Near” and bluesy slow-burner “Visions (From Io)” – the two compliment each other perfectly. If Comets most often came across as a group of perpetually spaced-out, plaid shirt-wearing day-trippers, Six Organs is the crumpled suit jacket and sunglasses Chasny can slip on to help him weather the comedown, but on the basis of this low-key reunion we can only hope this outstanding bunch of musicians decide to go shooting stars together again soon.

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Rick Ross : God Forgives I Don’t

Back in December I previewed my twelve most anticipated albums of 2012, which included Rick Ross’ fifth studio album God Forgives, I Don’t. Originally set for release last Christmas, the record was delayed to allow Rozay time to recuperate following a serious health scare, and now it’s finally here. Out next week (on my birthday, since you ask), its epic, cinematic scope shouldn’t come as any shock given Ross’ ruthless ambition and entrepreneurial prowess, but nonetheless it comes as a pleasant surprise to hear a mainstream rap album this fully realized. GFID shifts from soulful funk and smooth, jazzy orchestration to slick, beat-led pop and heavy, aggressive club bangers seamlessly, and with a supporting cast of guest MCs – pretty much the whole Maybach Music Group crew (Meek Mill, Stalley, Omarion, Wale), Drake, Ne-Yo, Dr. Dre, Jay-Z and a spectacularly on-form Andre 3000 – and producers (including Jake One, Cool & Dre, Pharrell, Cardiak and J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League) that could rightfully described as “stellar”, it’s a stunning listen that immediately stands out as one of the best major hip-hop releases since The Black Album. Listen to the Meek Mill-featuring “So Sophisticated” below, and be sure to cop that shit via MMG and Def Jam on July 31.

Guardian Alien : See The World Given To A One Love Entity

Five years ago Thrill Jockey announced they had signed legendary Japanese psych troupe Boredoms (AKA THE BEST BAND IN THE WORLD EVER), but aside from a couple of instalments of their long-running Super Roots series the group still haven’t delivered a proper full-length follow-up to 2004’s Seadrum/ House Of Sun. This being the label’s twentieth anniversary I was half expecting that much-anticipated disc to come this year, but since that’s looking increasingly unlikely here’s one release that will definitely help fill the void. See The World Given To A One Love Entity is an epic, trancendental blow-out from Guardian Alien, the collective led by ex- Liturgy/ -Dan Deacon/ -Teeth Mountain drummer Greg Fox (whose name regular Foam Hands readers might remember from this post about a year ago), and its relentless, clattering rhythms and zoned-out drones bear more than a passing resemblance to Boredoms’ mind-expanding neo-tribal trips. Not that this should come as any great surprise: Fox was one of the 88 sticksmen that took part in the last spectacular Boadrum event, and here he does a pretty impressive job of recreating much of that noise almost singlehandedly, tirelessly hammering out roll after roll, fill after fill, like someone with at least twice as many limbs. Of course, Fox isn’t alone here; whilst GDFX saw him pulling on his DIY electronic production hat, Guardian Alien is very much a live band affair and See The World was recorded – in suitably OTT fashion – live to tape at Shea Stadium (Fox’s cousin runs the venue) with Alex Drewchin (synth), Bernard Gann (guitar), Eli Winograd (bass) and Turner Williams Jr on shahai baaja, a kind of electrified zither. With each player dropping in and out of the oceanic swell, the single forty minute-long piece divides itself into several “movements”, all of which can be sampled – in condensed form – in the “excerpt” below, but its length and pacing mean See The World is best experienced in one sitting. In fact, make sure you have this record cued up to play as the sparks start to fly on December 21: if the Mayans were right, it’ll make one hell of a soundtrack to the end of the world.

See The World Given To A One Love Entity is out now on Thrill Jockey

Passion Pit : Gossamer

Here’s my review of the new Passion Pit album Gossamer, taken from The Quietus:

I’m not cool. I used to be, I think, for a while, back when I worked in a record store, but that was by proxy and a long time ago, when those things still existed. But I’m no longer down with the kids. I haven’t listened to the radio intentionally in years; I get the majority of my recommendations from a small group of trusted websites and have no idea as to what constitutes ‘popular’ music nowadays. On the odd occasion that I do overhear snippets of chart music, however, I find myself surprised at how much of an influence comparatively niche genres like dubstep, drum & bass and ‘wonky’ electronica seem to have had recently on the mainstream; hyper-speed breakbeats, warped bass-lines, helium vocals and neon-lit synths pop up everywhere, be it as incidental music on Hollyoaks or soundtracking mobile phone adverts. On this basis – supported by the fact my wife has not only heard of them but actually owns and enjoys some of their music – I’m guessing Passion Pit are pretty popular, meaning you probably think they’re cool if you spend your Sundays in bed watching T4, or not if you’re, well, reading this.

It’s easy to see why Passion Pit might inspire an extreme reaction. Their warm, squidgy electro is basically genetically-engineered perfect pop, but unless you’re twelve years old the first thing that will hit you about second album Gossamer is its sentimentality. Opener (and lead single) ‘Take A Walk’ finds front-man Michael Angelakos weaving stories from his own family history into a post-financial crisis morality tale, and from there he goes on to intimately detail the “many messes” and bad decisions he’s made, and the friends and lovers he’s hurt as a result. It’s a sugar-coated, sanitised version of the brutally honest lyrical scab-picking that artists like Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst appear to have passed down to a new generation of Twilight fans, but whilst it’s sickly-sweet enough to make your gums bleed, such schmaltz should come as no surprise: this is, after all, a band whose debut EP, Chunk Of Change, was made up of songs recorded by Angelakos as a Valentine’s Day gift to his then-girlfriend, and whose first album, Manners, featured a children’s choir (yes, a choir of children) on massed backing vocals.

In the right measure, though, a little sentimentality is okay. Full disclosure: I actually quite enjoyed that initial EP and would probably have kept the album in my iTunes library if it wasn’t for those pesky kids. Fortunately Gossamer has enough going on musically to shift the focus away from the occasionally mawkish lyrics. Most songs are set to racing, danceable beats – fat basslines and cavernous snare hits enveloping stuttering, Timbaland-esque micro-rhythms – with see-sawing synths and Angelakos’ keening vocals combining to provide naggingly memorable hooks that rank, without fail, somewhere between ‘huge’ and ‘epic’. Even when the tempo drops, briefly, for gorgeous, gently pulsating R&B slow-jam ‘Constant Conversations’, the effect is less of an indie band trying to be sexy and soulful than of one defiantly punching above its weight in an effort to go large, trying to recreate the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel with fluorescent spray-paint.

With the likes of “I’ll Be Alright’ and ‘Hideaway’ trading as much on a general feeling of euphoria as on their Beach Boys harmonies or electro pyrotechnics, it’s tempting to view Passion Pit as the kind of group the Shins might have become had James Mercer – in some Sliding Doors-style alternative reality – hooked up with Rustie instead of Danger Mouse; an indie-rave stadium band in waiting. Certainly, their songs display the same emotive, anthemic quality as those of our own, widely beloved Coldplay, as well as the same wide-eyed naivety, but Angelakos and his companions’ open-armed invitations are more likely to get a reluctant hug in return than a knee in the bollocks. I guess whether you find them cool or not depends on your capacity for good will, but there’s enough positivity flying around here to win over a few haters. We may not always appreciate our pop stars telling us that “someday everything will be ok”, but to these ears Passion Pit make it sound pretty convincing.

Gossamer is out now on Columbia

TNGHT : Bugg’n

TNGHT

Two rising stars from the Lucky Me label – Scottish producer Hudson Mohawke and Montreal-based Lunice – recently got together to jam out some collaborative material and ended up playing one of the most talked-about sets at this year’s SXSW festival. They’ve now given the project a name – TNGHT – and have just dropped an EP via Lucky Me and Warp Records that uses the trippy, glitching R&B Timbaland was churning out at the turn of the century as a starting point before layering in dubstep- and grime-influenced electronics to create a heavy, hard-hitting new form of urban club music. Barely fifteen minutes long, the self-titled EP is a tantalising taste of what’s to come; here’s hoping we get more soon.

http://soundcloud.com/whomptexas/tnght-buggn

Purity Ring : Shrines

Looking at its current roster, the 4AD label is starting to resemble a cross between one of those strange, inbred cults that you hear about living in some back-woods mountain holler and a dysfunctional Sicilian mob clan. It would certainly make a good episode of Justified, or even The Sopranos: with young foot-soldiers SpaceGhostPurrp and Twin Shadow coming up under wild-card capo Ariel Pink, prodigal son Bon Iver tries in vain to legitimise the family business whilst bosses the National – whose wives St. Vincent and TuneYards diligently raise their stroppy, smart-mouthed kids Atlas Sound and Grimes – run operations with an iron fist on behalf of elderly Godfather Scott Walker. In this scenario, Purity Ring would be the youngest members of the brood, the cute grandchildren whose apparent innocence masks an acute awareness and prodigious talent; in reality, Megan James and Corin Roddick are right at the forefront of Montreal’s DIY electronic pop scene, and their deliciously dark full-length debut Shrines, out next week, is one of 2012’s most essential listens. Mining the same territory as one-time “next big things” Salem, the duo marry the crisp, whirring beats and cavernous bass of Southern hip hop and dubstep to day-glo synth riffs and “cloud-rap”‘s gauzey atmospherics, but whilst the imagery evoked by James’ lyrics – an unnerving mixture of earthy romanticism, gothic folk-tale and twisted body horror, conveyed in a delicate, sugar-sweet croon  – is pure “witch-house”, Roddick’s dense, dramatic production drags the album out of any such niche: in its own subtle way Shrines is a huge record, and one that manages to capture and rearrange into thrilling new shapes all that is good and exciting about contemporary pop. Chanelling Diplo and Soulja Boy as readily as Clams Casino and more obvious touchstones like the Cocteau Twins, many of the songs here would fit nicely into the current daytime mainstream radio playlist, but whilst “Ungirthed“‘s “Ears ringing, teeth clicking” chorus provides a genuinely irresistable earworm hook, it’s the darker lyrics that really dig their claws in. James is a curious character, juggling girlish innocence and frightening intensity and lines like “Crack open my sternum and pull/ My little ribs around you” (from “Fineshrine”, below) etch themselves onto your consciousness like a stalker’s note written in blood on your mirror; it’s like a psychiatrist’s analysis of a complex multiple personality disorder summed up in fifteen syllables. This is a new breed of pop song, one that is defiantly du jour but already sounds as timeless as it does alien. They maybe the babies of the 4AD bunch, but in what is turning out to be a banner year for full-length offerings from the label, here Purity Ring prove they can stand shoulder to shoulder with their elders. Welcome to the family.

Shrines is out July 23 on 4AD, and can be previewed in full over at NPR

Danny Brown and Araabmuzik : Molly Ringwald

Track artwork

Behold a match made in hip-hop heaven: the first official collaboration between fire-breathing Detroit MC Danny Brown and Araabmuzik, who has gone from producing trance- and dubstep-flavoured tracks for the likes of Busta Rhymes to playing 3am sets at European festivals in little over a year. “Molly Ringwald” is part of Adidas and Yours Truly’s “Songs From Scratch” series, and will be released next month on the Love Letters Ink imprint with “Daily Routine” – a new track from unfairly-talented youngster Joey Bada$$ – on the flipside.

Mungolian Jetset : Toccata

Track artwork

Norwegian DJ/ producer duo Mungolian Jetset are set to release their fourth album Mungodelics on August 21 via the Smalltown Supersound label. Like 2009’s We Gave It All Away… Now We’re Taking It Back, the record is a mixture of original material and remixes/ reinterpretations by the pair of tracks by their friends and collaborators, and “Toccata” sees them reworking label-mates Jaga Jazzist into an elegant, epic cosmic disco jam.

Rudi Zygadlo : Melpomene

A Foam Hands first today: a video! That’s right, at the bottom of this post is a little box that show you a series of moving pictures, directed by Nick Rutter, accompanying a lovely piece of music by  Glaswegian producer Rudi Zygadlo. Named after the Greek muse of singing, “Melpomene” finds Zygadlo doing his best James Blake/ emo-choirboy impression over a dramatic wash of sequencer glitches and digitally-edited piano and accordion. The single is out now on Planet Mu, and precedes a new album, Tragicomedies, to be released in September.

Deep Time

It isn’t always easy putting your finger on exactly what it is that makes a song special, but sometimes it’s better not to over-think it. Deep Time sound a little bit like a lot of bands, but not a lot like anyone; there are faint echoes of post-punk outfits like the Slits and Delta 5, as well as any number of female indie vocalists (Polly Harvey, Feist, Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier) in the Austin, Texas duo’s prickly, minimalist pop but any actual similarities are tenuous at best. In fact, they don’t even sound that much like their old selves any more: in the year and a bit since Jennifer Moore and Adam Jones released their debut LP as YellowFever – a name they were forced to relinquish following legal threats from some other group that got there first – a small but hugely significant shift towards a slightly darker style of song-writing has pushed Deep Time up a couple of notches into a  little league of their own. Whereas their debut took those previously mentioned elements and wrapped them up with a twee-pop bow, here the pair have subtly factored in their more out-there influences, to quite stunning effect. Jones is a big free jazz fan, and his drumming – as musical as it is rhythmic, incorporating chimes, blocks and bells as readily as toms and cymbals – adds as much character as Moore’s choppy, trebly guitar or droning organs, especially on slower, more spacious tracks like “Sgt. Sierra”; vocalist Moore, meanwhile, favours Phillip Glass and Fred Frith, and it’s their disregard for structural and harmonic convention (respectively) that colour the likes of “Clouds” and “Bermuda Triangle” (below), elevating these songs above the scores of average indie bands who think throwing in some tricky time signatures somehow makes their music “avant-garde”. With Deep Time, the overriding impression is that it’s the other way around, that their natural instinct is to start weird and try to corral their sound towards accessibility; excellent as they are, the relatively linear likes of “Coleman” and “Homebody”, with their shuffling, vaguely motorik beats, or the swinging, bluesy “Marathon” are almost tame in comparison to “Gilligan” (Portishead as covered by Young Marble Giants) or the scratchy, nervy closer “Horse”. But this isn’t just music for brainiacs; you don’t need to be au fait with Ella Fitzgerald or Bjork to appreciate Moore’s phrasing, the gaps between syllables that create surprise punch lines (“I’m leaving home and I want you to know/ I’m leaving home and I want you to no…tice”), or the “ooh”s and “ah”s and other vocal tics she uses as punctuation, just as those less than familiar with Max Roach and Jaki Liebezeit can still enjoy Jones’ expressive percussion. But like I said a couple hundred words ago, sometimes it’s better not to over-think it; there’s something here in this wonderful, unassuming record for everyone to enjoy, and I urge you to give it a little bit of your time.

Deep Time is out now on Hardly Art Records