Posts tagged: experimental

of Montreal – Micro University

By , October 2, 2012 10:00 am

Because of Montreal never does anything half-assed, Kevin Barnes and company will be releasing a voluminous rarities compilation on October 23, entitled Daughter of Cloud (sixteen originals and an out-of-left-field Buffalo Springfield cover), just a few months after releasing one of 2012′s weirdest albums. “Micro University” is one of the confirmed tracks, and reminds me a bit of the band’s emphasis on funk on Skeletal Lamping along with the more straightforward pop inflections of Satanic Panic in the Attic.

of Montreal – “Micro University”

Animal Collective – Rosie Oh

By , August 30, 2012 10:00 am

Psychedelia/freak-folk flagbearers/nutjobs Animal Collective have already started streaming the follow-up to 2009′s critically-acclaimed Merriweather Post Pavilion, and the buzz across the Interwebs is (predictably) stellar. It’s more of a return to the band’s earlier, stranger sounds (see: Strawberry Jam, Feels), with just a bit of the pop sheen that MPP appropriated so well in evidence. I’m not as high on it as most (full/embarrassing disclosure: not a huge early AnCo fan), but a few songs have caught my ear. “Rosie Oh” is Animal Collective doing their own, blissfully unaware, thing, all Wonka-esque sound effects and a bubbling psychedelic background that reminds me a bit of new of Montreal, complete with a necessarily strong, off-kilter hook. Centipede Hz is set to be released on Domino on September 4.

Animal Collective – “Rosie Oh”

The Antlers – Crest

By , July 31, 2012 10:00 am

The Antlers’ transformation from critically-adored-band-that-I-didn’t-really-care-for on 2009′s Hospice to critically-adored-band-that-I-really-like-a-lot on last year’s expansive Burst Apart has been a joy to watch. This latest release, off their new EP Undersea, continues Peter Silberman and company’s ascent as masters of atmospherics, creating a swirling bit of psychedelia that mixes ambient, jazz, electronic and rock to great effect. It’s delicate yet quite substantial, lingering with you long after the mournful sax fades away and that undersea sensation tapers off. If you liked “Crest,” check out the rest of the four-song EP, particularly the stately “Drift Dive.”

The Antlers – “Crest”

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Release date July 24, 2012.

Dirty Projectors – Impregnable Question

By , July 17, 2012 10:00 am

I’ve never been a particularly huge fan of Brooklyn-based indie weirdos Dirty Projectors, even after 2009′s critically acclaimed Bitte Orca brought David Longstreth’s group out of relative obscurity. Their newest release (and sixth studio album) Swing Lo Magellan pars down some of their more frustrating tendencies and, as a result, is probably my favorite record from them. It’s faint praise, as I feel that the group still has a tendency to let their more out-of-left-field impulses dominate their music to an unhealthy degree, leaving things unfocused and inconsistent. “Impregnable Question,” however, is simply gorgeous, a folky, retro ballad that is lovely in its simplicity – it almost sounds like something Peter Bjorn & John would release.

Dirty Projectors – “Impregnable Question”

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Release date July 10, 2012.

Liars – No.1 Against the Rush

By , July 2, 2012 10:00 am

Liars latest album continues the band’s tradition of absolutely destroying whatever expectations you might have had for their follow-up to 2010′s Sisterworld, switching things up into a dark, heavily electronic miasma of Radiohead-esque Kid A soundscapes and the mellowest vocal performance I’ve ever heard from frontman Angus Andrews. It is (predictably) unlike anything they’ve done before, and, at least for me, is one of the most satisfying albums they’ve ever put out. I like the controlled tone of Andrews’ voice, and the soft, brooding melodies they weave here are quietly devastating. WIXIW was released June 5th on Mute Records.

 Liars – “No.1 Against the Rush”

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Release date June 5, 2012.

Maps & Atlases – Remote and Dark Years

By , April 10, 2012 10:00 am

Indie rock group Maps & Atlases will be releasing their second proper LP, Beware and Be Grateful next Tuesday (April 17th). The successor to 2010′s critically acclaimed Perch Patchwork, the album shows the band continuing their shift to a more pop-oriented sound, while still retaining the math-rock edge that had many music geeks salivating over the band’s potential. It’s evident in the highly accessible yet inventive “Remote and Dark Years,” where feverish drum work highlights an ever-shifting chorus; while still a band working towards an effective hook, their ability to really play their instruments helps them stand out in the indie crowd.

Maps & Atlases – “Remote and Dark Years”

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Release date April 17, 2012.

of Montreal – Paralytic Stalks

By , February 8, 2012 10:00 am

of Montreal – Paralytic Stalks

Polyvinyl 2012

Rating: 7/10

It was sometime around the third or fourth extended coda, amidst buzzsaw guitar riffs, cheesy sci-fi space effects, the jarring tonal shifts and the occasional burst of fire alarm noise, that I resigned myself to a particular fact: Kevin Barnes is never going to change. Or, to put it another way – he’s always going to change, usually with a middle finger aimed in the general direction of his last record. And really, there’s no incentive for him to rein himself in: ever since The Sunlandic Twins of Montreal has become a one-man show, and certainly no one is holding their breath waiting for Polyvinyl to edit their biggest draw. So it is that we get an album like Paralytic Stalks, one that is as sprawling, egomaniacal and batshit insane as any Barnes has put down.  This lack of an editor is what leads to a song like the divisive “Exorcismic Breeding Knife,” a song so obviously anti-commercial and contrary to what of Montreal have built their sound on that it’s less an actual song and more a referendum on just how far Barnes can go nowadays before people bat an eye. Chances are this one won’t be on an Outback commercial anytime soon.

Make no mistake – this is nothing new for Barnes. Sure, he has been talking up 20th century minimalism in interviews – Penderecki, Ives, Schoenberg – but those are just convenient touchstones for an increasingly out-there experimentalism that has been a recurring theme in late-period of Montreal: Hissing Fauna’s “The Past is a Grotesque Animal;” “You Do Mutilate” off of 2010’s False Priest; the scattershot framework of Skeletal Lamping. The difference between those songs and “Exorcismic Breeding Knife,” though, is the latter’s utter lack of purpose. It’s simply there, a seven-and-a-half minute-long burst of atonality and spoken word nightmares, which creates quite the atmosphere but begs the question: why? It’s cold and it’s clinical, all feelings Barnes was probably going for, but in the context of Paralytic Stalks, an album predicated on Barnes being more heart-on-his-sleeve than he’s ever been before, it’s worse than pointless.

It’s a shame, because, for much of Paralytic Stalk’s first half and even for most of the more unhinged second act, Kevin Barnes strikes a near-perfect balance between pop mastery and a delightful sort of weird. This, of course, has a lot to do with Barnes’ famously acerbic lyrics, which take a turn for the better here despite his propensity for using language only an English professor could love.  He hasn’t sounded this engaged since Hissing Fauna, nor have his vocals ever sounded quite so strained. That’s the good thing about Paralytic Stalks  – even when you can’t really understand what Barnes is saying, between the deranged yelps and those easily understood tidbits (“It’s fucking sad / that we need a tragedy / to gain a fresh perspective in our lives” goes one stomach-punch of an opening), you can generally get the feeling that this is coming from a dark and deeply personal place. Nothing is ever going to stop Barnes from naming a song “Malefic Dowery” or writing lyrics like “naturally I want to help you invoke the architect of salutary memes / our heads are pregnant with divine mechanics but, oh, how we’re tyrannized / by tentacles of their ferine stupidity.” But occasionally a gem will pop up like “once more I turn to my crotch for counsel,” or Barnes will descend back down to the tongue of humans for a moment and speak with touching frankness (“I spend my waking hours haunting my life / I made the one I love start crying tonight” goes the weeping refrain from “Spiteful Intervention”). It’s a reminder that of Montreal is, first and foremost, a vehicle for Barnes to express his innermost grievances and joys, and given the embarrassingly bare-bones style and narcissist bent, you have to admire just how plainly he lays all his cards out on the table.

Where Paralytic Stalks really shines, however, is through its hooks. The sequence from “Spiteful Intervention” through “Ye, Renew the Plaintiff” is Barnes’ strongest since Hissing Fauna, and it’s blissfully unaware of the existential baggage it has to carry. “We Will Commit Wolf Murder” and “Malefic Dowery” are probably two of the most “traditional” of Montreal songs here; the former a catchy pop-rock number with a muscular bass line and an out-of-left-field vamp in the outro, while the latter calls to mind the sweeter melodies of the Elephant 6 days and one of the more pleasantly lush productions on the record. “Ye, Renew the Plaintiff,” meanwhile, might be the best track here, not only for its surprisingly jagged guitar solo and propulsive chorus but also for the way it perfectly bridges Paralytic Stalk’s quite disparate halves. “I can think of nothing but getting my revenge / make those fuckers pay,” Barnes screams, and that’s where the guitar really goes off, spiraling up into a glorious distortion before abruptly tailing off into the song’s second half, where things rapidly go from angry to weird. Here, though, it’s all according to plan: the way the song builds itself back up and around a driving piano beat and discordant saxophone; increasingly random bits of noise splicing in here and there, but eventually coming to rest right where they should; a major-key payoff musically and emotionally.

Things get less and less coherent as Barnes builds on this deconstruction of a pop song through “Wintered Debts” and the aforementioned “Exorcismic Breeding Knife,” to the point where Barnes has squandered any goodwill and murdered the record’s momentum by the time “Authentic Pyrrhic Remission” rolls around. It’s a shame, because if any song could point to what Barnes can accomplish as an avant-garde musician, it’s this one. The first half of the song is an old-school of Montreal classic in its own right, all sticky-sweet melodies and swinging hooks, yet when the expected shift comes to a blistering array of electronics and a downtempo move to horror-film strings, it flows logically rather than bashing the listener over the head with dissonance. The way Barnes slowly tones down the fuzz, segueing into the lovely wisp of a piano ballad that closes out the last two minutes, is a striking example of restraint from a man not usually blessed with that particular faculty. This is minimalism with a purpose, one that enhances the song and, with its gradual descent, provides a sort of comedown from the rest of the album as well.  “Our illumination is complete,” Barnes sings at the close, and it’s an overdramatic statement for a typically overdramatic guy, but it’s also one with a bit of hope for the future. Paralytic Stalks is most assuredly not the type of record that is going to get of Montreal a mainstream breakthrough a la The Sunlandic Twins, but for those of us who have been frustrated with his inconsistency and general unwillingness to stay in any one place, it just might be the twinkling of a light at the end of the tunnel.

of Montreal – “Malefic Dowery”

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Release date February 7, 2012.

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