Albums I Missed: 2010, part 2

Here’s another set of essential 2010 albums unfortunately left by the wayside.  Witness their excellence.

  • Mark Van Hoen – Where Is The Truth

Beauty.  Just, pure fragile beauty.  Floating like a spiderweb made of static, hung with fragments of shattered dreampop.  Van Hoen, who started out in Seefeel and ferried the shoegaze & idm Locust through the next decade, knows a thing or two about prismatic blissouts.  Being unfamiliar with his past solo work, I won’t remark on how this is a more personal statement or not; I will simply say that, as a *huge* fan of Seefeel, a longtime admirer of Locust (especially Truth Is Born of Arguments – an essential document), and an eternal seeker of alluring disintegration, this album hits the spot.

  • Solar Bears – She Was Coloured In

Being taken in by the line that their name is inspired by a certain Tarkovsky film and the fact that they employed old school synths in a more pop-friendly framework than Oneohtrix Point Never or Emeralds, I nevertheless held this one at arm’s length upon first listen.  The tones grabbed me, the melodies held me, the sheer variety kept my attention from wandering, but I was stopping short of truly absorbing it.  Second go-round, I realized it’s not made to dissect the individual tracks or feel around for a signature invention, something groundbreaking to hang its hat on.  This album is one to sit back (or walk or ride or whatever) and take in all at once.  Much like Teebs’ utopian fever dream Ardour, this 50 minute excursion is built carefully out of vignettes highlighting different facets of the sound until a wholly rounded picture is formed by the end.  I can hear Blade Runner and The Neverending Story and even the Terminator at times, but I can also sense the instructive warmth of Boards of Canada, fellow Scots with a penchant for playfully distracted, unpretentious psych explorations.  Where else would we find songs titled Head SupernovaPrimary Colours at the Back of my Mind, and Neon Colony?

  • Girls – Broken Dreams Club EP

Well this one snuck up on me.  I was never a fan of the debut LP, which swam in a torrent of praise in 2009.  Some songs caught my ear but the band simply didn’t hit those pleasure centers I need to truly enjoy an album.  Playing this lengthy EP on a blizzard bound morning while making pancakes turned out to be a shining revelation, and an arresting listen.  Moving beyond their Velvet Underground, jangly garage sound into the realm of earnest, intelligent, well written pop infused with more than a little  grit and gravitas, the band has officially released one of a literal handful of rock albums which I can admire, adore, and really sink my teeth into.  Biggest highlights are the title track, a stoned lament for the fractured state of our world today, and Caroline – a tune which steps out of any boundaries the band previously ruled, into pure psychedelic wanderlust.  It reveals itself slowly (at first echoing The Smashing Pumpkins‘ deep album cut Porcelina of the Vast Oceans), unwinding like a scarf caught on a fence, until it’s stretched to the point of abstraction and hanging in the air around you.  A cloud of a hazy rock dream, tugging upward.  A great way to end an album and point to an even brighter future for this duo.

Heaven and Earth Magic – Flying Lotus + Dr. Strangeloop

In my prior post sharing about Flying Lotus‘ recent appearance in Ann Arbor I mentioned the film Heaven and Earth Magic and shared a single image.  Now I’ve come to find, there are not only two video segments from the event shared online, but a good portion of the insightful and honestly funny interview with the guys afterward.  Basically the film is impossible to fully describe to the uninitiated.  So just catch a bit yourself.  This doesn’t convey the complete impact of the hourlong film and black-hole score in a dark theater, but it at least gives a glimpse to those who couldn’t make the show.  Here’s hoping, as Flylo himself hinted at, they release this piece in some form, so everyone can share in the magic.

Watching this now, I’m brought instantly back to the warm realization that Mr. Ellison is as personable, endearing and humble as imaginable in person.  That he has not only the chops but the charisma to be a star.  It’s exciting to witness this artist’s skyward trajectory.

Not only that, but Dr. Strangeloop proved a worthy foil and equally appealing force.  The man is quickly scaling my to-watch-for list.  The best part is that the show aftwards blew everything about this event to dust.  At least for a while.  It was a unique experience to take in two entirely different sides of an artist in one day.

Noonday Underground – Surface Noise

Noonday Underground is the sun drenched soulful electronic project from Simon Dine (formerly of Adventures in Stereo) which flies across the radar first appearing as a retro throwback, slowly revealing its entirely inventive and modern structure and intricate production detailing.  Submerged in everything 60’s-cool, from exotica to California pop and Motown swagger, Dine weaves evocative time-travel textures shot through by every technique at his disposal in a modern studio.  It’s a deliciously supple blend which has gone virtually unnoticed far too long.

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Stretching out on the wider canvas of this second LP, the album opens with orchestral pomp straight out of a climactic film score, doubling over into a breakbeat laden lounge simmer before sliding directly into first single Boy Like A Timebomb.  Slow-burn vocals by Daisey Martey (of Morcheeba) manage to steal the spotlight from the deep groove brass section and massive drum fills, evoking the passionate gravity of classic soul sirens and sultry Bristol trip hop birds alike.  While ostensibly Dine’s partner in crime throughout the band’s early career, she is joined by a menagerie of crooners on this outing; most notable is early supporter and famously soul-infatuated former front man of The Jam and The Style Council, the preeminent Paul Weller.  His turn on the emphatic I’ll Walk Right On is one of the unquestionable highlights on this platter, already stuffed to the gills with one gem after another.  While the smokey atmosphere, dubby bass and loose percussive nature begs comparisons to modern acts like DJ Shadow or Portishead, the surface feel itself is indebted to the exotic sheen of composer John Barry and his quintessentially cool film scores.  Every listen to this album transports me to a space where I’m suiting up in a peaked-lapel tuxedo and ordering a gin-vodka martini, shaken and served in a deep goblet with a thin slice of lemon peel, all the while zipping over the clouds in a chrome-accented private jet on the way to some hidden volcanic island.  Yes, it’s that evocative.  Turn it on, turn it up, and get to the runway – there’s plenty of room on this trip.

[the Japanese release (with 2 bonus cuts) can be found at amazon for a better price than used original copies, while norman records supposedly has a standard priced copy in stock, and eil will let you request the next available unit.  yeah, it’s a bit hard to track down]

Adventure Time – Dreams of Water Themes

Dreams of Water Themes is the stupendous result of a collaboration between Daedelus and Frosty, who christened themselves Adventure Time and cooked up a nautical stew of jazzy undercurrents, waves of turntablism, sampledelia swells, and clipped vocal crests, cut through with a crackling, frothy breeze.

adventuretimedreams

Check the end of this post for the full album stream.

It’s a unique project in the canon of modern beats, with the title and artwork indicating the type of hefty thematic glue unifying this far-flung enterprise – in other words, it’s one of the more cohesive electronic/hip-hop releases floating around. Fans of Daedelus’ opus Denies the Day’s Demise are in for a real treat; this LP hews closer to that record’s heights than any project he’s been involved in before or since. Loosely roiling keys, dizzy horns, vaguely mideastern strings and incisive, impeccably placed spoken samples drive the narrative thrust, while the constantly evolving yet self-referencing palate keeps two feet planted firmly on the deck through the half-hour-plus of churning beat seas.

There’s a certain whiff of Since I Left You rising off the whole affair, though it’s more respectful nod than straight homage or borrowed nostalgia; the pair acknowledge their forebears in the turntables-set-sail department without constantly reminding us of that towering landmark. Adventure Time created an ambitious – but consciously playful – musical journey which begs to take listeners out on a freewheeling voyage through the high seas of rhythm exploration.

[spotify https://play.spotify.com/album/45uDj7nLn5vusHupk8ZUxQ]

[snag a digital copy at 7digital or get the cd at amazon with its attendant cool packaging]

Z-Rock Hawaii

Holy Shit.

z-rockhawaii

Mindflaying collaboration between Ween and Boredoms.  If you’re even passingly familiar with either band, you’ve probably jumped out of your seat already.  It’s no gargantuan achievement; just an exciting smash up of the two groups’ extreme sensibilities, satisfying anyone remotely interested in such a project.  Scatalogical, free-associative lyricism pollinates a gritty crushing tribal punk garden, runaway train hyperactivity collides with relaxed stoner funk, and bone crunching guitar and drums fight it out under warped extraterrestrial sunny skies.

Picture a Venn diagram with Dean and Gene Ween in one circle, and Yamantaka Eye and company in the other.  The overlap, and then some, is what this album sounds like.  Turn this up loud and pay no heed to your exploding brain.

[get your paws on this via amazon or search in vain for a copy at your local record store!]

Bill Fay

Bill Fay is a criminally forgotten singer-songwriter musician with a handful of releases under his own name, all orbiting within the few years before and after 1970, when his eponymous debut LP was released.  Obscured by the curtains of history, I’m drawing them back to reveal a vital force in pop songcraft.

Bill Fay - Bill Fay (1971)

Wondrously baroque orchestral arrangements embrace his Dylan-echoing lyrics, conveyed via endearingly imperfect vocals.  The instrumentation dances a fine line between the majestic pop of early Scott Walker and the near-cheese overblown nature of Burt Bacharach, yet feels all the more appealing for this uneasy blend.  The near-awkward earnesty of his approach grows by leaps and bounds upon repeated plays, buffeting apprehension, giving way to an elated comfort with the style.  There’s an nigh-indefinable attraction built in to this album which manages to defy any and all possibly-unfavorable comparisons to the exalted greats like Bob Dylan, Nick Drake, or Donovan.  (I’d toss in Harry Nilsson‘s tenuous sound connection to this album because of my personal affinity and the fact that his Nilsson Schmilsson album entered my mind upon first listen).  Fay simply exists in his own musical ecosystem, relating to but standing outside the historical idioms and standardized notions of his more famous peers.  This certainly isn’t a perfect cup of tea for everyone, but those of us struck by the sounds of any artist I’ve mentioned here should spare the necessary time to take the whole record in.

Note: The final track, one of two bonus cuts, has an added poignancy and heft for fans of the film OLDBOY.  I won’t give anything away, other than to urge a close listen, and possibly a cracked grin upon the first few seconds.

[although reissued this decade, it’s semi-difficult to obtain.  thankfully amazon has a selection of new and used copies, and it’s available digitally as well]

Omar Khorshid melted my face.

Omar Khorshid And His Guitar conjure pure six string wizardry. This sound is perversely incredible. It’s unconscionable. The deep well of feeling I’m overcome with while hearing this – how much I must have been missing out on all these years! The change starts now. Prepare cochlea for imminent eargasm.

Rhythms From The Orient took me by complete surprise. A certain nice young fellow at Everything’s Exploding shared a raft of information about Khorshid which led my ears to this utterly sublime alchemy. It’s Dick Dale-ian surf guitar rumble meets mooged-out spacey atmosphere over a floor pounding belly dance groove. In fact, it’s everything that statement conjures and then some – hammering accordion and hand drums electrify several moments, and a sense of joyous abandon colors the entire project. It honestly sounds as if it were as fun to make as it is to listen to.  Which of course, is a blast.

omar-khorshid-4-cc3b3pia

I’ve looked around for legit copies of this album in any form and this place seems to be the only source. If you can help it would be greatly appreciated!