Gang Gang Dance – 4ad Session

This video is old and I haven’t written a post about Gang Gang Dance in a while, but neither fact matters.  This is a freewheeling ode to getting high on your music.

I really can’t say more.  Watch the video.




Grackle – Desert Acid

Grackle was a complete mystery to me only a few weeks ago.  Named after a small black bird I see often around the neighborhood, the name dared me to indulge, inflaming my curiosity.  This turned out to be a far-more-than-worthy gamble, as William Burnett (aka Grackle) brings a shitload of personality, energy, and hardened swagger to a corner of the electronic music world often lacking in all of the above.

Ostensibly a moody space disco number, the title track evokes everything from laser-pocked 80’s sci-fi soundtracks to smokey funk bangers, its rhythm deftly negotiating an absolute stampede of bass, yet never once feels any older than Right Now.  It’s the score to nighttime escapades in the Grand Canyon on a clear night, possibly in some future dystopia where the desolate  home of the Roadrunner is the only solace from the onslaught of modern living.  The set-opening Musiccargo remix feels like a primal dance around and through a brush fire, a stomping, clattering frenzy let loose when the crisp air first hits and the wild starts to take over.  A 4/4 motorik pulse glides the momentum on rails straight into the main feature before you’re even aware of what’s happening.  Afterward, the sparkling skyward view beckons and we’re flat on our backs, feeling the draw of space and the sounds of satellites.  The Sombrero Galaxy version draws out the meditative (and frankly psychedelic) aspects of the track, riding through hot aquatic swells bathed in that surface-of-Venus skyline in Blade Runner.  Twinkling synth stabs illuminate romantically pleading horn waves, sending shivers up the spine while the martial lockstep percussion wanders off towards a hazy oasis.  We’re gently brought back to earth the the tune of splashing water and distant laughter.  Finally rounding up this drum-tight selection is an original titled We Are It, feeling like a mysteriously shrouded cousin of some of Gothenburg’s finest club crushers.  All buzzing seaside guitars and breathy vocals, snaking their way through wavering key lines and plinking drum taps, it’s 4am, long after the beach party died down.  So Grackle leaves us by the salvation of water, after all.  Starting out in the middle of the night in the middle of the desert (with possibly a satchel of peyote buttons) has been redefined into something not only desirable, but vital.  If you grew up in the same era as I did (reading this, you probably did) – expect to have all your deep pleasure centers massaged over these 23 minutes.  Take this trip and call me in the morning.

[grab this EP at boomkat, junodownload, or on 12″ from kompakt]

ROVO – Nuou

ROVO lay down incremental evolutions on the same sound, album after album, consistently for over a decade now.  With most bands, this would be a bad thing.  Fortunately, this particular sound is a jaw dropping transcendent bliss hurricane, perpetually bestowing its myriad gifts upon the listener, play after play.  Their latest full length proves the rule again.

Basically, take the spaced out sun worshipping tribal krautrock jams of latter day Boredoms, divide it by Miles Davis‘ brilliant, hard rocking Pangaea-era band, multiply the result with judicious electronic manipulation and add exquisite electric violin fireworks.  Now you’ve got a tiny kernel of an idea about how this sounds.

Already a favorite here at Optimistic Underground (see Pyramid and Mon posts), I won’t mince words reiterating how I feel about the band itself.  Instead, I’ll break down what makes this album particularly eargasmic.  For starters, the band seems to have discovered a more laconic sense of beauty and space; these five tracks radiate a confident, nearly relaxed sense of purpose and design.  No longer boiling directly into frenzied storms to get the point across, they craft this piece with a jeweler’s touch using gentler elements like hushed marimbas in album centerpiece Melodia, allowing the dueling percussionists to convey a soft-spoken interplay in leiu of the usual kung fu assault.  Of course, this wouldn’t be ROVO without those warp-speed eruptions, the moments when everything locks into place, time and space folding into some utopian extradimensional conveyance – these are simply delivered with a measure of of grace and patience befitting an outfit knocking out their eight consecutive masterpiece.

The thing with this music is, you simply have to hear it to believe it, much less know exactly what it’s like.  No amount of superlative descriptors in the world can prepare you for the absolutely addictive nature contained within.  Nothing can truly describe the hypnotic fever-dream euphoria.  Just listen, and get familiar.  You can thank me later.

And seriously, watch this psychedelic preview / live footage hybrid.

[get your hands on this god-level magnificence at hmv japan or]

Boredoms – Voaltz/Relerer

Boredoms are one of the greatest living bands on the planet. Here is an obscure, tangential testament to that unavoidable fact.

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White Rainbow – New Clouds

White Rainbow (née Adam Forkner) recently tore through the autumn skies to drop this bomb, blowing away expectations, surpassing anything I could have anticipated after the already-excellent 2007 LP Prism of Eternal Now.  Expanding on the warm, nebulous nature of his live jam constructions, New Clouds is an impossibly appropriate title for one of this year’s best records.


Transcendent, overwhelming, hypnotic bliss.  Building layer upon layer of drones, stretched and echoed vocals, muted tribal percussion, and gorgeous synth swells, each track is a towering confection allowed room to naturally develop and breathe.  The four tracks comprise an hourlong running time, every moment feeling palpably open and inviting.  This album inspires and propels further listening, rather than demanding it.  Songs begin focused on a singular element, be it delayed acoustic guitar strums or rubbery hand drumming, and evolve with such grace and intuitive logic that final assembly is nearly imperceptible.  This music simply happens, while the conscious mind is busy absorbing the amorphous beauty like a pillow swallowing a blissful dreamer.  Informed by a wide range of greats, from Terry Riley to Can at their most euphoric, Forkner has finally broken through to a plane where his art exists on its own terms, immaterial of time or place.  This album raises hypnagogic exploration to new heights.

[pick this brand new album up at boomkat or amazon, or directly from kranky, a label fully deserving of your support]

Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport

Fuck Buttons released one of the most interesting and polarizing albums of 2008, one of several named on my end of the year list (which would undoubtedly have been published here if Optimistic Underground was running at the time) and a perennial physical overload to unwitting passengers in my car.  This October the English duo are set to blow faces off and disintegrate non-believers with the sonic asteroid they’ve named Tarot Sport.


Using the word epic to describe this music is beyond moot; it’s simply a given at this point.  Yet this fact does little to temper the unshakeable urge to invoke it – and feel it – on every listen.  This is the sort of thing epic was coined for.  Kicking off with the dancefloor earthquake of Surf Solar, expanded to 10 minutes from its early incarnation as a 7″ single, the album shouts its thesis from a mountaintop and gets moving at a breakneck clip.  With an insistent four on the floor beat and stocatto-spliced vocal clips there’s no wonder which of debut Street Horrrsing‘s tracks was the launch point for this sophomore triumph: shining, atmospheric, ass-shaking standout Bright Tomorrow.  Every track, though submerged in the same industrial crunch mana Fuck Buttons are known for, feels more breathable, open, dynamic and most of all catchy, than anything they’ve yet created.  Third track The Lisbon Maru gently (and subtly) conjures the pulsing power-surge key stabs from the debut’s stellar opening (and most popular) track Sweet Love For Planet Earth, swaddling the backbone in vacuumed reverb and what sounds like hundreds of damaged violins compressed into a small wind tunnel and dialing up the velocity throughout its run.

After this point the album transforms into pure, blissed out, pounding noisy nirvana.  Fourth track Olympians blasted its way to the top of my list, where it reigns with impunity, after only my first two listens.  Not content with merely teasing their dancefloor intentions or continuing to shy away from unabashed melody, this striking 10 minute centerpiece showcases everything Fuck Buttons do well and then some.  Finally delivering on the ambitious promise suggested all along, the moment is a revelation: a band fully coming into their own as artists and hitting an undeniably assured stride.  Nothing feels remotely tentative about the syncopated big beat drums beamed through the tonal cloud this song is born in, nor the manner in which every element seems to gather up, tightening into a coiled rhythmic outburst in anticipation of the mythical organ swells beginning three minutes in.  It’s a gorgeous night sky colored with soaring waves of heartrending resonance and shimmering supernovas, exploding out of the mix like galactic pop rocks – a transcendent meteor shower as close and tangible as the ‘play’ button.

Topping that monster would be difficult, if not impossible; the guys instead turn and unleash a funky blast of head clearing noise bop in a (relatively) concise 5 minutes, before diving into sonic rollercoaster Space Mountain (appropriately titled) with driving tribal percussion and twinkling keyboards ablaze.  A nearly-clean guitar tone drives the action, disintegrating in the atmosphere, enveloped in feedback, before giving way to the final push:  closer Flight of the Serpent and its destructive martial stomp.  Swooning UK post rock guitar moves over a clattering speed-march rhythm section, bursting with feedback at just the right moments and sharing the spotlight with a romantic organ pulse grown from Olympians‘ seed.  Feeling almost like a burly reprisal of that apex, the swarm of drone flies suddenly drop away at the halfway point, exposing the skeletal drum pattern and letting it hang, galloping along unadorned for several moments.  Thankfully, majestic crests of oceanic keyboard melody and shattering light beams of narcotic bliss return to guide the album to a satisfactorily dizzying end.

Watch this clip with the volume cranked to whet your appetite if my words haven’t already.

[and make sure to preorder the album at boomkat, norman records (vinyl!), or rough trade – or make your purchase at a local record shop when it drops on October 12]

Gang Gang Dance – Crystals

New Gang Gang Dance material.  It’s called Crystals, and it’s mighty promising.  This is an epic on the scale of their earlier God’s Money centerpiece, Egowar.  Which, as it happens, is my favorite track from these boundary destroying folks.

Yes, finalizing my last post reminded me of one of the best pre-release tracks I’ve heard in a long time.  Yes, I’m speaking of their new live favorite.  And yes, it’s beyond fucking incredible.  Hit play, turn on the “HQ” version if possible (for the sound quality) and leave a comment about what you think.  I have faith.