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Music Commentary

Music Commentary

Panda Bear's 'Tomboy'

April 15, 2011

Jess Harvell of Pitchfork:

[… ] despite Tomboy‘s shorter songs and more conventional structures– especially compared to the loose percussive jams of [Noah] Lennox’s 2007 solo breakthrough Person Pitch he’s still committed to pushing his music to strange places. And few of his chilled-to-the-point-of-entropy acolytes can match Lennox for warped hooks. Forget comparing his gorgeous voice to their mumbling. Unlike many chillwave and dream-pop artists (and Spacemen 3), Lennox is blessed with the ability to actually sing, and he knows enough about crafting harmonies to do more than vaguely nod in the direction of 60s pop. So Tomboy is a pretty singular mix of the eerie and the inviting.

I’m sold (not that it takes much to sell me a Panda Bear album).

Update: It’s two dollars cheaper on Amazon.com than iTunes.

Music Commentary, Original Art, Photography & Collage

Nascent music and art collaboration with couture jewelry and collage artist Lindsey Bucklew launches

April 9, 2011

Evident above is a select sample from Ms. Bucklew’s various permutations that will serve as the artwork for my upcoming music album, dubbed Pattern Play (for now). To hear a few samples, visit my Panda Sanchez RootMusic page.  Visit intermittently, as laptop indulgences in sound randomly breach the digital topsoil of my caffeinated right hemisphere.  To view more of Ms. Bucklew’s mellifluous craft and musings, visit her site.  To browse (and hopefully purchase) synecdoches from the growing catalog of her jewelry, go to her boutique online jewelry store, Klewism.  (Her jewelry has been featured in the Summer 2010 issue of Eco-Beautiful Weddings.)

Trust that no two pieces are the same (which occasionally court the “happy accident”).  Each work is pure in its uniqueness and singularity.  From my purview, it is a stream-of-conscious event, working from a subconscious, Jungian wellspring in the psyche.  One running thread, however, that I’m almost too chary to note is each piece’s transformation from raw “metallurgy” (materials) to something more sinewy, organic and seemingly animate.  The uncommon borne of the common, if you will.

Music Commentary

The Flaming Lips and Neon Indian releasing their collaborative EP (I never thought this day would come)

April 6, 2011

You could consult Marc Masters of online hipster factory Pitchfork on whether or not this EP is worth your time and money.  But in this instance, I would say, “skip it.”  We’re talking about The Lips and Neon Indian (working together).  Period.  For now, let’s just stick to the overture:

Outside of geographic proximity (Norman, Okla., and Denton, Texas, are only 150 miles apart), psychedelia is the only obvious link between the Flaming Lips and Alan Palomo’s project Neon Indian. The Lips often veer to the darker side of psych, especially recently (see their 2009 dread-filled opus Embryonic), while Palomo deals in a day-glo take on 1980’s pop. So when Wayne Coyne revealed that they were banging out a fast collaboration– as he put it, “that shit should be ready to go pretty quickly”– the first question that came to mind was whether the result would lean more toward sun or shadows.

Unfortunately, I’m having trouble locating this EP on iTunes or Amazon.  But you can (for now) hear (and see, I reckon) a collaborative track here.

Update: Thanks to the tidbits of a couple readers (namely Blue Mojo and Hello.Psyche), only 1,000 copies of this EP were made in colored vinyl, with only eight record stores carrying them throughout the US.  However, according to Hello.Psyche, you can hear the entirety of the EP here, via Consequence of Sound, who in turn repurposed it from YouTube user psychexfutureheart (this person is my hero).  If anybody else has any corrections or updates, let me know!

Music Commentary

Presenting 'James Blake', by, er, James Blake

March 21, 2011

Here is an engrossing interview with dubstep sensation James Blake, concerning the creative process behind his breakthrough, self-titled debut LP, hosted by Pitchfork’s Mark Pytlik.  The following is, of course, a synecdochical favorite:

Pitchfork: Which of your own compositions are you more likely to reject?

JB: The ones that don’t represent me. Let’s say you’re going to deliver a speech and you’ve got a few days to come up with something that totally represents you. You might finesse every single word and worry about every single nuance in that speech. When I’m writing a track, I feel like I have to produce something that totally represents me and, if it doesn’t, then it’s stopped immediately. There’s not even a second thought– I’ll close it and do something else.

Pitchfork: So it’s an emotional thing rather than an analytical thing?

JB: I studied music in school and I have the capacity to analyze it, but then you might stop connecting to the people that you’re making it for. People can smell dishonesty on you. On this album, I felt like I was being totally honest– so I don’t have anything to lose. It’s not like I’m thinking I’ve made a bold move into the mainstream and now I’m waiting to see what the criticism’s going to be; I’ve made something I’m really proud of and that is as uncompromising as any of the other things I’ve written. I’ve done everything I can to stick to my guns.

Pitchfork: Did you have to fight off pressure from producers or label types who wanted to have involvement in this record?

JB: Plenty, yeah. Not necessarily just from Universal, but from every direction. A year ago, there was a generally accepted proposition that the tracks that ended up on the album were demos, songs that needed to be taken to another level. They wanted to take them to the studios, scrub them up, maybe have a chorus switched around. Obviously, what’s going to come out of that is a really shit album– the worst albums are the ones where you can feel like someone’s tampered with it. But those tracks haven’t changed a lot since they were written. I didn’t even mix them down.

Blake’s comments are spot-on.  His thoughts on uncompromising honesty in lieu of mainstream expectations are especially resonant, if not liberating.

I have to admit, however, to being turned off by the dubstep-leaning album’s iTunes samples.  For instance, the first minute-long sample of Jame Blake‘s inaugural track, Unluck, features highly stylized vocals wrapped in a thin gauze of auto-tune-smelling plug-ins.  My mind’s immediate impulse to this particular suite of plug-ins akin to vocal tracking resembles an involuntary aesthetic upchuck.  Thus, I saved myself the price of digital admission ($9.99 on iTunes) for another, more magnanimous day.

Now, with blatant honesty also comes full disclosure.  That is, on behalf of your bespectacled narrator’s readers (all two of you).  I’ve been known to use a bloated sack of plug-ins throughout every aspect of my mixing duties in relation to my solo work (a.k.a., Panda Sanchez), even to the extent of not dutifully bussing my channel strip settings — the unpardonable sin.  I’m often in the moment and cannot be bothered with being a RAM-friendly, screen real estate neatnick.  My MacBook’s HDD hates me as much as I’d love a solid state drive.

In short, I can’t say shit.  Really, I can’t.

In fact, I’d say I’m often guilty of, as Blake puts it in the interview, “overcooking” the production — to the degree that it no longer represents me.

Pitch-correction and auto-tune are merely a pair of personal no-nos, you see.  And I’m not even a singer.

I sing, sure, but I’m not a singer.

I know what you Brooklynites are thinking: I need to give this album a fair spin, and not judge an album by its iTunes samples.  (Chalk me up to an unhip, bourgeois grouch.  I don’t mind).  After all, a music-creating cohort of mine swears by this album’s game-changing qualities, and I’d likely and theatrically fail at denying a profound respect for his opinion (and so would you).  So, why am I still here tinkering with this vaporous blog post about an album I haven’t even listened to yet, you ask?

(Crickets chirping)

(Wouldn’t it be freaky if tumbleweeds chirped too?)

PS:  If you ever happen to meet Blake in person, don’t compliment his vocals by using the adjective, “soulful.”  It will offend him.  Confused?  Suffice it to say that the vocals that erupt from his diaphragm have nothing to do with his appearance.  Still confused?  Just read the fucking interview, man.

Music Commentary, Original Art

Carson Ellis

March 15, 2011

Hilary Greenbaum of The New York Times Magazine’s brand-spanking new blog, The 6th Floor:

The Decemberists, the “hyperliterate folk-rock” band, released its newest album, “The King Is Dead,” in January. The band’s lead singer, Colin Meloy “is a tale spinner, singing character studies and parables,” Jon Pareles wrote in his review of the album for The Times […] The band’s music has a unique and haunting sound that is reflected beautifully in the design of its album covers, the majority of which were illustrated and hand-lettered by Meloy’s wife, Carson Ellis. More of Ellis’s work, including fine-art drawings and book covers, can be found on her Web site.

Check out Carson Ellis’ website.  It’s fairly embryonic, for now, but her unique style cannot be mistaken or under-appreciated.

Music Commentary

Cool interview with Alan Palomo

February 22, 2011

I couldn’t help but belatedly happen upon this Nerdtorious.com interview with electronic musician Alan Palomo of Neon Indian, whose barely LP length 30-minute album, Psychic Chasms, had toured throughout New York City, selling out shows (thank you scads of Brooklynites).

It’s a fun interview, particularly thanks to Palomo’s down-to-earth and chatty disposition.  Also refreshing is his unabashed openness about the process that brought this album from conception to inception.  What especially interested me was his recording protocol and introspective mindset.

It felt intimately familiar with my own creative tendencies (pacing motes into the floor of my bedroom in front of my laptop for hours at a time) — minus (of course) his unique talent and that nerd-drool-inducing Prophet 08 at his disposal.

My favorite part of the Q&A has to be the following:

The whole album is just over 30 minutes, and the songs themselves are quite short. Was the brevity of it done on purpose or was that just how the songs came out?

I think that’s just how the songs came out. It’s about getting the point across and once you’ve done it, the song is over. And I think, creatively, it was coming out in these very brief spurts, so I think the fact that the album was that long was kind of perfect for what it was. It’s just a very immediately subversive experience, a production style that obviously evokes these very nostalgic qualities that you don’t find necessarily dictated in lyrics. It creates a narrative, just by the style of the music. And I feel like, once again tying into the film thing, I wanted to just have this very brief experience, it’s very fleeting and then—boom!—30 minutes, it’s over. And then you can put Animal Collective back on.

True, except what will likely happen is that you’ll listen to this “brief” and “fleeting” experience about a hundred times in a row, without sleep, nutrition or sex — then put Animal Collective back on (then see about having sex again).

Music Commentary

Arcade Fire wins coveted Album of the Year award at the Grammys

February 14, 2011

It’s not something I could have predicted, even in the context of my glowing review of The Suburbs upon its release, but I hope this does more to legitimize the “indie rock” scene than it does to commercialize it, which is where the Alternative Rock of the ’90s started to resemble smegma and radio started to devolve into a mainstream Neanderthal of regurgitated, overplayed hit singles.

I guess that’s what happens when Kurt Cobain blows his brains out.

Another part of me feels a bit acrimonious towards Arcade Fire’s recent feat.  If Win Butler and his crew couldn’t be more swellheaded and full of hot air.  I stand by Wayne Coyne on this one, Win Butler and Co. reek of pomposity, and anyone that behaves as such against The Flaming Lips during Montreal’s Parc Jean Dupreau in 2006 (a nigh Neon Bible-era show) has to be out of their minds, good music notwithstanding.

What could have been The Ampersand’s experience, you might ask?

A few of us at the Ampersand had the pleasure of seeing Win and the band on their Neon Bible tour back in May, 2007, in Montreal no less. And well, we do remember that Mr. Butler got particularly upset at one fan who must have been asking for a drum stick or something from the third or fourth row of the crowd, a fairly typical if banal irritant. Near the end of the gig, before finishing off the encore, an enraged Butler swooped to the back of the stage, grabbed a couple of sticks and hurled them into the crowd, yelling something like, “There you go. You got your sticks. Now would you stop holding up that goddam sign?” His voice, we vividly recall, dripped with sarcasm. The sign, presumably, was asking for drum sticks. But the whole thing seemed a little blown out of proportion, and now with Coyne’s comments coming to light, we have to wonder, do the crowned royalty of Canadian indie rock have an anger management problem? Are they really on such short fuses because of, you know, the over-commodification of their art? And if so, why take it out on the Flaming Lips?

My two cents?  I recently caught Arcade Fire at the Merriweather Post Pavilion, touring The Suburbs.  When an unfortunate technical difficulty temporarily befell the band’s performance (a drum machine fell out of sync, as I vaguely recall), Butler got very angry, to the extent of using the F-bomb in relation to the farce.  He then proceeded to play a Funeral song, introducing it with: “So here’s a song from our hit debut record.”

Don’t get me wrong, I am a conspicuous fan of their work.  Nowhere near as daring, fearless, experienced or as brilliant as The Flaming Lips, but they are phenomenal in their own right, despite being increasingly formulaic.  While The Lips’ freaky 2009 magnum opus, Embryonic, will forever surpass anything Butler and his Fire will ever be capable of (Album of the Year or not), I remain optimistic about the trail they are blazing — cutting a nice FUCK YOU-shaped swath through the corporate music industry.  I’m happy for indie music.  In fact, any quasi-indie album that beats out pop nonsense like “Lady Gaga, Eminem, Lady Antebellum and Kate Perry” is a positive thing in my creased book.

There is no ulterior Schadenfreude here.

Music Commentary

Radiohead's new album on the digital horizon

February 14, 2011

Via Pitchfork, the new full-length album, titled The King of Limbs, will officially be anointed before the feudal masses of fandom-cum-the thorny analysis of the noble elite (a.k.a., Pitchfork) come May 9.

Behold, the heavens shall part and the collector’s edition vinyl shall descend upon the Church of Kid A aglow in a gold-satin halo and an endless supply of manna (and caviar) … well, maybe not.

Impatient loyalists and serfs rejoice, however.  Those with the wherewithal to preorder Radiohead’s eight full-length are to be treated to a digital download of the so-far unveiled tracklist on Saturday, February 19.  Yeah, this Saturday.

In the words of Napoleon Dynamite: “Lucky!”

The good news for us Radiohead fans (that should be everyone on earth, right?  I mean, seriously) is that “pre-orders are currently being accepted at Thekingoflimbs.com.”

Currently?

You mean … as in now?  Why am I still here writing this blog post?  Why are you still here reading this pointless question?

Music Commentary

Frontwoman Trish Keenan of Broadcast Passed Away This Morning

January 14, 2011

Via Pitchfork:

It is with great sadness we announce that Trish Keenan from Broadcast passed away at 9am this morning in hospital. She died from complications with pneumonia after battling the illness for two weeks in intensive care. Our thoughts go out to James, Martin, her friends and her family and we request that the public respect their wishes for privacy at this time. This is an untimely tragic loss and we will miss Trish dearly – a unique voice, an extraordinary talent and a beautiful human being. Rest in Peace.

Her albums have proved to be oft-visited Brit-psychedelic electronic pop pleasures of mine during countless morning commutes to work since I was first introduced to her music in 2006.

I highly encourage readers to explore two personal favorites of mine: Tender Buttons and Haha Sound.  Tender Buttons, in fact, served as an analgesic throughout a profound and viscous psychological malaise in the summer of 2007, merely due to its understated, bitcrushed beauty and the becalming resignation of her velvety, deadpan voice.

Her art and her unique talent will severely be missed.

Music Commentary

Pinkerton

November 9, 2010

Ian Cohen of Pitchfork:

Pinkerton was poorly received by critics upon release and considered a flop after peaking at #19. Cuomo probably didn’t care about the critics, but he took the public indifference very personally, soon retreating from view. But the cult that adored and passionately identified with Pinkerton became hard to ignore by the turn of the century, with the commercial breakthrough of confessional emo seen as its ultimate vindication. The record that killed Weezer’s career ended up saving it. It’s a nice story, and one that’s integral and damn near necessary to protect Pinkerton‘s legend: a popular misconception is that a Rolling Stone readers’ poll named it the worst album of 1996 (it was actually third behind Bush and DJ Spooky) […].

Times have changed, and tastes have refined.

Music Commentary, Uncategorized

D.A.W.-friendly tech threesome:

May 27, 2010

PLUS

PLUS

EQUALS

Digital audio synergy.  Recently appropriated these items over the course of about two years (plebian, low-income patience).  But I am hoping that this D.A.W.-coddling triumvirate will improve the quality of my recordings, notwithstanding what remains to be honed in the context of Logic Pro’s software mixer.  For the Duet, I’m mainly paying for Apogee’s now-legendary audio-to-digital converters, but in a more affordable casing with limited connectivity, hence the Duet-only breakout box pictured above, which bypasses the tangled wiring inevitable with the breakout cables that Apogee packs in the box (these are notorious for being unreliable).  The multi-function knob is antithetically minimalistic and rather unsettling, particularly coming from the Alesis MultiMix 8 FireWire mixer-cum-audio/interface I traded in at Guitar Center (which is probably the worst place to go to for “expert advice” on equipment), but it’s also liberating, specifically because I rarely use physical mixer knobs for levels when I cook up homegrown recordings.

I will sorely miss the Alesis, particularly for its tank-like black-metal contruction and its magnanimous connectivity (for the three hundred USD that I initially paid for it, it was a reliable courier of my oddball ideas).  But the Duet is fast becoming my good friend.  I look forward to taking good advantage of the preamps to clarify the unprocessed audio files that start off any given spell of inspiration, as well as the balanced XLR inputs for vocals via the AKG Perception condenser mic — who knows, this may be a slight bane to the skavinger’s vocal cords as he’s not a natural singer. 

I plan to report more on whether or not this more mobilized studio will fare better than my G5-cum-Alesis Multimix of yore.  

When all is said and done in geek-mode, it’s always best not to lose sight of composition, feeling and emotion–capturing those moments where inspiration is most sincere, unpretentious and breathtaking.  It’s best not to get palsied out on gadget porn, and over-distend your means of living from G.A.S. (gear acquisition syndrome).  If it sounds like I’m preaching to myself, I am.  Slivers of life where art flows sans workweek-thrombosis are fain to occur after my first few sips of coffee under the Saturday sun, lying around in my sweats in a cozy apartment, stubbly-faced, bespectacled, as always–ears cupped inside oversized headphones (repeating the same segment of a track over and over and over and over and over, until my girlfriend taps me on the shoulder to remind me that there’s life outside my bedroom window and that human beings require adequate amounts of food, sleep and water to potentially live a full life).

Sorry, I love my longwinded parantheticals.  My high school English teacher didn’t so much.