Acoustic/solo performance of the last track from the excellent new lp, “Farm,” by Dinosaur Jr.


goatWell, to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of accordian music. And if you asked me what you’d get on a record that combines accordian and drum, I probably would have guessed “not much.”

But, then again, make a list of the stuff that’s in a great Rauschenberg piece and ask me what you’d get out of all that and I’d probably same the same. And of course be proven wrong.

Like Rauschenberg, Goat of Arms put diverse things together to create uniquely wonderful works of art. And their sort-of-new (2008) cd, “Social Bracelets,” can be obtained from the Weirdo Records website.

yesterdayLet’s face it. Techno has, both as a great strength and also something of a weakness, the fact that it is a “singles-oriented enterprise.” By which I mean not just that its standard format is the single track as opposed to the full-length lp, but also that the job of a great techno track is to pull you in right away. Instant gratification. Listening to techno, I’m tempted to say, is kind of like staring into the sun, in that it temporarily blinds you to everything else.

I guess that intensity is what’s needed to keep the momentum going on the dancefloor. But, what it all too often also means for me is that there’s a certain element of disposability there too. A lot of times I’ll listen to the same song on repeat for days, only to toss it away forever once the novelty wears off.

None of that applies, however, to The Field‘s new album, “Yesterday and Today.” This lp picks up right where its predecessor, 2007’s excellent “From Here We Go Sublime,” left off, using layered electronics and samples to form mesmerizing patterns that unfold over six tracks spanning 60 minutes. Listening to this album is like watching a school of fish, as individual components surface, shimmer, then resubmerge.

Indeed, despite all the electronics, Axel Willner’s work always sounds surprisingly organic to me, a feeling that is underscored on this new album by the “real drumming” of John Stanier of Battles and, even more interesting in my view, Helmet, as Helmet was another group who consistently delivered more than what first met the eye.

So while “Yesterday and Today” does pull you in right away, its many “subtleties a spectrograph would miss” begin to reveal themselves only after repeated listening. The sum is an enduring classic, which you can stream from the Kompakt Records webpage.

dirtyprojectorsThey say you can’t judge a book by its cover. But with the Dirty Projectors’ new “Bitte Orca” (ok, not a book but a record, but anyway), maybe you can.

On the front, there’s the lovely portrait of Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian. And who could deny that their wonderful vocal performances are a big part of what makes the songs on “Bitte Orca” so immediately compelling?

And then, on the back, there’s David Longstreth, face to face with none other than Friedrich Nietzsche. Well, I know what I’d say if I was face to face with Nietzsche, but what’s Longstreth’s message? And what about the title, Bitte Orca, what is that supposed to mean? And what do we make of the first “single,” “Stillness is the Move,” presenting us with a series of top-40 platitudes?  And how about the other lyrics, such as “You represent/saying ‘I’m real’/but is that what you meant?” from “No Intention?”

Those, I’d say, are the two sides that make “Bitte Orca” so brilliant. Sounds great, right from the start. But it’ll take years of scholarship to unpack it all.

syThis spring, n+1 magazine sponsored a panel discussion on the 1990s. Around the same time, I started hearing songs from Pearl Jam’s first album on the radio again. And now we have Sonic Youth‘s new lp, “The Eternal,” which sounds to me like a sequel to 1992’s “Dirty.” If you don’t hear it too, play “Poison Arrow.” And then go back to “Sugar Kane.”

Some would say these things go in cycles. But I side with the artists, and say these things never change. “I’ve been around the world a million times, and all you men are slime ….”  “All the money’s gone … but it was never here ….”  Death and taxes, but especially death. You know, The Eternal.

But, I also side with that other 20th century philospher, Mike Damone, who asked rhetorically, “what about the tunes?” “Antenna,” “Thunderclap for Bobby Pyn,” “Walkin Blue,” “Malibu Gas Station.” Those are great songs — powerful compositions — and already some of my all-time favorites.

Reviews reviews

dc376The Magik Markers’ “Balf Quarry” is an album that, slowly but surely, has become one of my favorites this spring. Yeah, I liked it the first time, but I also have to say that my appreciation for it has grown progressively deeper as I’ve listened to it repeatedly over the past month or so since it’s come out on Drag City.

The Magik Markers’ last lp, “Boss” from 2007, was released on Ecstatic Peace records, so comparisons to Sonic Youth are inevitable. And along those lines I must admit that I do hear echoes of EVOL-era SY throughout “Balf Quarry.” More than that for me, though, X’s best work comes to mind when listening to this new album, though the similarities come not so much through the musical style but through the major themes: like X’s best work, most of the songs on “Balf Quarry” seem to be about America even when they are not specifically about America (though about half of them do deal specifically with America).

And on the most amazing track, titled “7/23” and posted on the band’s Myspace page, Elisa Ambrogio and Peter Nolan prove themselves true poets. Add that one to your reading list.