Decades / Failures – 002

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  • Artist: Decades / Failures
  • Genre: Post-punk
  • Released : 2014 on Dead Tank Records, self-released on Bandcamp

This review came about as a recommendation from Instagram user and fellow music fan lightningpaw, who suggested checking out Decades/Failures’s music. Thanks for the recommendation, lightningpaw!

Decades/Failures is Philadelphian Adam Juresko’s post-punk worthy moniker, and I suspect, a knowing nod to two of Joy Division‘s songs. Swathed in glacial synths, complete with distorted baritone and haughty gothic overtones, 002 manages to retain the philosophic introspection of Joy Division and Kraftwerk-aping early New Order, but suitably updated for the millenium with very pretty synths.

I (Never Wanted To) Believe cracks out the cavernous reverb, and the thudding drum machines and primitive synths recall the ceremonial sombreness of early New Order (Movement and Power, Corruption And Lies), while Gentle Forces ‘s industrial clackety sound is reminiscent of the eerie ascending elevator effect on Joy Division’s Insight. The song gradually gains momentum with the addition of ominous bells and fuzzy synths, but cuts off again with the same effect on the intro. Tell Me How is mired in Interpol-esque melancholia, complete with the same tidy rhythm, while the synths weave themselves around the bass like gossamer-thin spider silk.

As a whole, despite the obvious influences 002 is still a joy to listen to, especially for fans of  the primitive electronic sound that was prevalent in the late 70s to the early 80s.

Roy Orbison – In Dreams

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Artist: Roy Orbison
Released: 1963 on Monument Records
Genre: Rock

Dear beloved readers, do you remember how I mentioned liking musicians that possessed emotional bombast in their work? Roy Orbison suits this description to a T.

The first song that made me fall in love was I Can’t Stop Loving You – listen to it now, and the full force of it – three minutes of yearning and regret – simply hits you in the face. If you’re a young, waspish teen or twenty-something you would probably find Roy Orbison’s records among your parents’ dusty vinyl. However, I can guarantee you this: his work is timeless. Go and dig them out. Listen to them. Weep. Or just bask in wonder.

When people talk about Orbison, he is famous for several things: his tremulous, melodramatic three-octave voice, along with the slicked-back duck’s ass hairdo, cherry-red Gibson ES-355, Ray-Ban shades and dark suits. And “Oh, Pretty Woman”.

Every song on In Dreams is a carefully crafted gem. Swooping orchestral arrangements, closely miked female voices, the lightest touch of Spanish guitar…thankfully, it doesn’t tip over into overt sentiment or soppy territory.
On the self-titled song Orbison’s voice soars along with the strings with jubilant gusto at 2:17 , while Blue Bayou has the best female backing voices I’ve ever heard – warm, syrupy and very alluring. For the ones who gripe about Orbison being too depressing, Sunset is a toe-tapper with its swing-esque piano, with the strings and backing vocals exploding together in chorus. The production on the album is fantastic – the one I have is the Monument Record remaster. The sound is just the right loudness, and the glorious sound envelops you if you listen with external speakers.

I highly recommend this to Orbison beginners. Only The Lonely isn’t the best place to start in my opinion, because Orbison’s yearning starts getting dreary in the middle of the album from having too many songs on it.

Here’s a sample of one of my favourites, Blue Bayou!

Killing Joke – what’s THIS for…!

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‌• Artist: Killing Joke
• Released: 1979 on E.G Records
• Genre: Post-punk

Paul Ferguson’s drums take centre stage on their second album – which I am totally in love with, because they sound fucking massive. Think spatial, earthquake-inducing vibrations. And then combine that with some tight bass riffs. You can see where I’m going, don’t you?

Killing Joke stripped out the new-wavey synths from their self-titled debut, and came up with an album that was downright brutal. Industrial, dystopian, psychotic – that pretty much sums it up. Jaz Coleman adds to the psychotic element with his distorted shouty singing – if you watch any KJ videos he’s really intense. You don’t mess with Jaz.

Tension has an amazing drum beat (duh-duh-dum, duh-duh-dum) which manages to tattoo itself on my memory (and simply refuses to go away), and Follow The Leader resembles something that I heard vaguely on a post-punk mixtape, and actually dug it: skittery synth beats combined with that metallic drum sound. I need to dig that mix out someday.

The guitar riffs are also totally headbang-worthy, which left me thinking that Killing Joke actually also lean towards heavy metal as well. A quick Last.fm inquiry on the artist page, and I single out a comment from a user, that half- confirms my suspicion: “anybody, pls, kill all the idiots and faggots who label the last KJ album as ‘post-punk’. I’ve finally found another band to quell my moshing instincts.

Here’s Tension. Enjoy!

Pity Sex – Feast Of Love

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  • Artist: Pity Sex
  • Released: 2013 on Run For Cover Records
  • Genre: Shoegaze

If you like fuzzy, distorted guitar music with a melancholy edge under 4 minutes long, you’re in for a treat. This album is chock full of dirty fuzzy riffs, with the exception of Hollow Body, which is a beautiful, poignant song on acoustic guitar. Throw in a female voice, courtesy of Britty Drake, and you get additional aural pleasure. I am very tempted to name-drop Bilinda Butcher here, but Feast Of Love does not strictly adhere to the Loveless format. Hmm, I shan’t!

The album revs up with album opener Wind-Up, played thrillingly fast…and the inner beast in me revels at the heaviness. But it’s not all brutal speed though – the music slows down on Sedated (fitting name right there, huh) – oh wait, I spoke way too soon: the drums kick off again in the middle of the song, and off they go on a whirl!

On overall, the debut from the Michigan-based band is pleasant enough for me – they’ve just released their third album White Hot Moon. I might go nose around that a bit. Please excuse me!

You can stream Feast Of Love here if you’re interested:

https://runforcoverrecords.bandcamp.com/album/feast-of-love

 

 

 

t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者 – アンタラ通信

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  • Artist: t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者
  • Released: 2015, self-released and on Dream Catalogue
  • Genre: Vaporwave, Ambient

I was listening to アンタラ通信 while reading Simon Reynolds’ book, Retromania (mostly about the music industry’s rampant recycling of past music, and a peek into sub-genres that I vaguely knew, and never knew). The album’s pretty long, about over an hour I think – and IEMs don’t give the album justice.

I was reading a chapter dedicated to the hauntology music subgenre, which could only be described as ghostly apparitions of music that continue to lurk in the present world, even after they’re gone in reality. Cue library music dating from the 60s to the 70s, and those reedy, weird faux-futuristic synth sounds that were so prevalent in the 80s. I think that’s why David Bowie’s Sense Of Doubt holds a special place in my heart. The entire second half of “Heroes” sound exactly like a pre-imagined dystopian future. It also reminds of the low-frequency hum of the TV where I would lie awake on the bed, straining to hear what on earth my mum was watching at 2 in the morning.

Which brings us back to アンタラ通信 (does it mean Android Signals??). Much of the appeal of vaporwave lies in the fleeting feelings and real/fake memories subconsciously provoked by such muzak, as a result of ingrained music patterns, chords and sounds delivered by 90s’ television and radio. Ad jingles. Your bleeping midi music from a Gameboy Color handheld. That awful Barbie song by Aqua (I’ll probably itch to listen to it later). Chintzy shopping mall music. All of them seep and congeal into a thick stew in our minds that gets skewed over time, retaining only the slighest semblance in our memories. Vaporwave brought that all back in a torrential rush. When I listen to 東京, 2089  I instantly get lost in reverie upon hearing the chiming piano melody, and muse over how a bloody piano bit gets me all misty-eyed for nothing. The opening track, 愛の多くの顔  is a glittering, shifting 8-minute phantom – for some reason it reminds me of those huge, empty buildings that always stay vacant no matter how bustling the economy is. Listening to it on headphones is awesome – the ambience practically envelopes my ears in shiny mist. It feels disorientating and familiar at once, like a out-of-body experience. I should try lucid dreaming to this track. 

I’m sorry for rambling so much instead of reviewing this album properly, but for some reason it feels right to do this way instead.

Here’s an exclusive 80s luxury aesthetics piece:

 

MONEY – Suicide Songs

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  • Artist: MONEY
  • Released: 2016 on Bella Union Records
  • Genre: Indie Rock

There’s only so much music you can listen to without getting nauseated, or feeling cynical. So when albums like Suicide Songs come and sweep you off your feet, you feel this inner glow radiate in your heart. Halleh-fucking-lujah, man.

The beauty of MONEY‘s music comes from Jamie Lee’s voice – but his voice isn’t as perfect like Jeff Buckley’s or Thom Yorke’s. Sometimes his voice wavers and cracks, but it’s laden with emotion – when he sings, he means every word. When he’s feeling the pain, all fucked up at 3 am in the morning from drink, half-sobbing to himself, you feel it all the more. Couple this with the sweeping orchestral arrangements, and you get transcendental church hymns of the human condition. The album’s opus, Night Came opens with some reverb guitar and Lee’s soaring falsetto, with a lonely bagpipe – ebbing and flowing slowly, it gradually builds into a monster of an ending. It is depressing, but there’s an optimism underneath the gloom too. In some ways it reminds me of the bleak grandeur of Suede’s Dog Man Star, where Brett Anderson similarly exorcised his personal demons with the use of a sprawling orchestra on Still Life.

Thankfully, Suicide Songs doesn’t tip into corny territory, as is the case with orchestra backings – the addition of acoustic guitars also add a sense of intimacy to the album. On You Look Like A Sad Painting On Both Sides Of The Sky, the lyrics “Outside the world is crucified, you must find something to be sacrificed to/To your love/Or to your lie” also add to the biblical presence of the song.

On the whole, the album is pretty good – unless you find music like this depressing. I don’t, though. And what do you know? Jamie Lee is a Felt fan. Oh boy.

As always, here’s a sample – You Look Like A Sad Painting On Both Sides Of The Sky below for your enjoyment!

 

Penguin Cafe Orchestra – Music From The Penguin Cafe

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  • Artist: Penguin Cafe Orchestra
  • Released: 1976 on Obscure Records
  • Genre: Instrumental Folk, Contemporary Classical

Look at the cover…it’s kinda cute, eh? Some guy with an enormous bird mask, possibly a magpie headpiece, is regaling a large emperor penguin with some tasty bits of gossip, I presume. We’re going to politely ignore the fact that the guy’s pubes are a wee bit visible.

However, we’re not going to ignore the fact that this was released under Brian Eno‘s experimental record label, which was also painstakingly exclusive – there are only 10 records released under Obscure. Music From The Penguin Cafe is titled number 7 on Obscure’s catalogue list.

Music From The Penguin Cafe has a child-like wonder. The cheekiness of the music is a joy to listen to. As a listener, you find yourself getting sucked into a playful experimentation – but along the way the record is underscored by sorrow and poignance.

Penguin Cafe Single reminds me of reading an Alexander McCall Smith novel. The opening has a kitschy feel, almost like a vintage BBC children’s show opening theme. Playful keyboards provide the syncopated rhythm to the melodramatic violins, until it gets to the middle of the song – where the strings start stuttering and a ghostly, wide-eyed wonder, created by bells (something akin to Pink Floyd‘s creepy psychedelia on Bike) hangs over the song. Then the bass starts up, the violins realize there’s nothing to be afraid of, and the song is on its feet once more – like a kid running gleefully across the grass, with chocolate-smeared fingers. Giles Farnaby’s Dream is a dizzy dance around the apple tree, the galloping rhythm provided by the folk-esque guitar and supplemented with that Olde English Folk Feel by the harpischord and violin-fiddling.

The Sound Of Someone You Love is heartfelt poignance, duly delivered with some gorgeous folk guitar. I can’t help but feel myself melt into a gooey mess when the violins come together with the double bass.

Let me post a link before I start weeping: here’s Penguin Cafe Single!

 

 

 

 

YYVVESS – ART HISTORY

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  • Artist: YYVVESS
  • Released: 2016 on DMT Records
  • Genre: Electronic, vaporwave

Released on DMT Records, the second album from YYVVESS sees him mixing electronic music with the history of ancient civilization. Scratching your head already? Yeah, I was doing that two months ago. That’s what made me wanna write about this album though.

Why history, out of every possible subject? Why not Greek philosophy? Or applied chemistry? Admittedly, I have yet to see EDM mixed with Plato, but the optimist in me imagines it as a really awesome mash-up. One can hope.

The thematic concept isn’t new to the vaporwave genre- Pyravid’s Googleplex Bionetwork was one of the first few vaporwave albums where the often lambasted “aesthetics” took a backseat. Pyravid, armed with Microsoft samples, synths and beats, transported the listener to an unexpected vision of vaporwave – a Microsoft-enmeshed living, breathing jungle utopia in 16 tracks. Mother Nature in perfect harmony with technology.

I have this feeling that YYVVESS’s ART HISTORY might have attempted to be an aural history textbook, but unfortunately the album just hangs in mid-air halfway through. ART HISTORY has its merits though – Human Head, one of my favourite tracks, has pretty synths resembling Indonesian gamelans against a syncopated beat, and Bronze Vessel sees the introduction of exotic elements (jungle bird calls, elephants). The tracks after Stone Cist Tomb are rather forgettable, probably because they sound the same after a while. And it’s not the song length – the album duration hovers around 30 minutes.

Still, not all’s lost – I’m still hitting the repeat button on Human Head! Here’s a sample!

 

Jens Lekman – I Know What Love Isn’t

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  • Artist: Jens Lekman
  • Released: 2012 on Secretly Canadian Records
  • Genre: Indie Pop

Long story short – I forgot to take my music player to work today, and this was the only album I had on my phone. Good to make back-up plans in advance, no? It also turned out that I hadn’t listened to it yet, which is a major no-no because I like listening to familiar, well-worn albums to warm myself up. Was my Thursday morning going to be ruined?

Fuck no. Part of me stubbornly hangs on to sunny optimism, so I shrug.

I tentatively start playing it…and my niggling grouse instantly vanishes. The fairy-esque piano intro of Every Little Hair Knows Your Name makes everything right again. My Thursday morning isn’t ruined after all.

I am immediately enchanted by Erica America; by the gorgeous layers of lovingly plucked Spanish guitar lines, sprightly piano, swooning female vocal and Jens Lekman’s introspective voice intertwining seamlessly with each other. This is music meant for lazy Sunday mornings, where you wait for a cuppa at the swanky coffee shop, battering away at your iPad in the queue.  Jens Lekman sings about love, girls and seemingly random things that hint at much more beneath the surface. It also reminds me strongly of Craft Spells’s second album, but with a more expansive feel. By the time I get to the last song, also confusingly titled Every Little Hair Knows Your Name, the album loops back to Erica America, and I eventually get the chorus stuck in my head. “How natural it actually sounds!” I think, and listen to it some more.

This album managed to surprise me – the minimalist design led me to think that it was a possible electronic project…but they say you can’t judge a book by its cover. Seems like it’s the same with records. Oh well.

Here’s that pleasant earworm I was talking about just now: Erica America!

 

 

 

Gang Of Four – Entertainment!

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  • Artist: Gang Of Four
  • Released: 1979 on EMI Music
  • Genre: Post-punk, dance punk

Getting their namesake from a notorious group of influential Chinese Communist Party members, who were later imprisoned for treachery, Gang Of Four belonged to a cavalry of politically-minded English post-punk bands who mixed ideology with their music (think The Pop Group and Scritti Politti). However, while The Pop Group scared some music fans off, either by way of Mark Stewart’s banshee voice or their free-form fiery jazz-influenced music, Gang Of Four made their music enjoyable for all of us by plying their jagged guitar riffs with a dance sensibility. We can’t quote Kant or Nietzsche, or deliver confounding Marxist speeches as well as these guys, but we can fucking bring the house down if we dance. Maybe a government in the process as well. All in a day’s work, eh?

If you’ve heard Franz Ferdinand’s sexy machine riffs or Rage Against The Machine’s politically-infused lyrics, then you can probably see Gang Of Four’s shadow right there. It’s not difficult to see why Entertainment! is a post-punk favourite. Kurt Cobain listed it as one of his top 50 favourite albums in his personal journal. Pitchfork (rolls eyes) listed it as the eighth best album of the 70s’.

The punk is definitely there. All angry, occasionally fuzzed-up guitar, but it doesn’t degenerate into a testosterone-charged mess. The sound is sleek and tight in the way post-punk sounds like.The funk influence makes itself felt by its rumbling bass lines. You can’t miss em’. There’s a ton of them smexy beats on Not Great Men, and on Damaged Goods where the sexual dilemma of the 2010’s manifests itself 40 years earlier (“Sometimes I’m thinking that I love you/But it’s only lust”). The controversial one, Anthrax, has a deliciously fuzzed-up intro which also resembles Franz Ferdinand’s The Fallen (or should it be the other way round?). Why is it controversial? The rather cynical lyrics, that’s why. (“Love’ll get you like a case of anthrax/ And that’s something I don’t want to catch”).

Here’s a boombox-worthy sample: At Home He’s A Tourist below.

 

 

 

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