The Musicorium

Sharing some music.

Metal Dip, Extended

Posted by David on December 7, 2009

So I’ve been totally getting into this stuff, and wanted to share a couple more songs from other albums that have been on quite heavy rotation in the last couple of days:

Baroness, while similar in genre to Mastodon, was apparently formed out of the members of a ‘punk/metal’ band, and the punky origins show through in their vocals, and maybe the guitar as well. They have a very cool sound, and I’ve been loving this:

I’ve also been listening to Mastodon’s 2009 album, Crack the Skye, a lot, and I’m probably at least as excited about it as Leviathan. My favourite (“The Last Baron”) appears to be too long for Youtube to handle, but this one is great too:


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A Dip into Metal

Posted by David on December 3, 2009

Metal is a meta-genre toward which I have always had mixed reactions. Some of it seems puerile and unimaginative; some of it is original and deliberately, even obtusely, complex. Some of its characteristic sounds strike me as quite inedible (e.g. some chord progressions, many vocals); others have the character of pure auditory candy (e.g. crunchy distortion), and others I’m not quite sure what to think about (e.g. machine-gun kick drums). Some of it seems simple and talentless, and some of it seems to be among the most technically demanding music ever conceived. The whole genre is suffused with this inexhaustible love for lavish imagery and album concepts, with some branches straying regularly into unbelievable levels of campiness (e.g., the Christmas-obsessed Trans-Siberian Orchestra, or the entire Lord of the Rings-themed Blind Guardian album) — but there is something uniquely endearing about this penchant for visual and thematic hyper-indulgence as well.

I’m sure a lot of this variation in my opinions can be attributed to the variation among the many styles of metal, which are numerous enough that I have not begun to be able to differentiate them. I’m also sure that, as with almost everything people get into, a great deal of the enjoyment is to be found in relatively minor nuances of contrast between artists and songs — nuances that are only detectable to someone who’s already intimately familiar with the genre, for whom it no longer sounds like a wall of alien noise. This suspicion has motivated me on a couple of attempts to listen to and get familiar with metal, with varying success. While not deliberately trekking at present, I’ve recently come across the following couple of albums quite at random, and despite persistent patches of ambivalence have also liked a lot of things about them:

Mastodon – Leviathan:

Wikipedia tells me that Mastodon is a heavy metal band and that their genres are ‘progressive metal’ and ‘sludge metal’. My copy of the album, for what it’s worth, has them tagged as ‘Progressive Deathcore’. Leviathan seems to have a strong Moby Dick theme (one song is, indeed, titled “I Am Ahab”). As general concepts for albums go, the names of giant beasts and mythical creatures totally do it for me without me, you know, having to feel silly about it. (I mean, check this shit out — in fact, all of their albums appear to have similarly gorgeous, evocative art by one Paul Romano.) On top of plenty of quality, aggressive gnarliness, there is lots of interesting variation and progression on the album, as well as some cool harmonies of a sort I’d love to hear more of (see the awesomely thunderous ending of the song below:)

Gojira – The Way of All Flesh

Gojira is a ‘progressive death metal band’ whose genres apparently include death metal, thrash metal, progressive metal and groove metal. There are lots of awesomely chunky guitar riffs, complex rhythms, and insanely rapid drumming throughout. According, again, to Wikipedia, “Gojira uses its lyrics to spread its spiritual beliefs and concerns for the environment”. Huh! Well, I’ll have to take your word for it, Wikipedia. I think I had assumed the screamed inaudibility of many metal lyrics to be a sort of deliberate act of mercy before, but I will try to actually pay attention.

I’m particularly enamoured of this one:

Onward on the project of expanding musical tastes! Onward!

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Jazzanova – In Between

Posted by David on November 10, 2009

Jazzanova_-_In_Between-frontThe more I listen to this album, the more impressed I am with it. It is some sort of hybrid creature of jazzy, r&b, downtempo and electronic dance influences, and it positively oozes with cool. It’s low-key but not at all boring or repetitive — deep bass hits and continually interesting percussion keep it groovily moving along. Synths, rappers, crooning soul singers and vocal samples keep trading places at center stage. The melodies strike me as sort of strange (maybe… austere?), in a very interesting way — perhaps because my exposure to r&b, soul and the like is minimal. The whole thing is very solid, with a couple of total standout tracks. Below: first, one that is probably most representative of the whole style, and second, one of said standout tracks.

There is another album of these guys’ that I also adore, and a new one that I’m digesting, but I’m so enthused that I have to do posts on individual albums.

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Holy Fuck

Posted by David on October 31, 2009

Holy Fuck LPHoly Fuck is a pleasantly unique electronic band from Toronto. Their shtick, apparently, is to play every last thing live instead of letting pre-programmed tracks do the work during shows. That’s pretty cool, and probably makes for a great show. I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing them yet, so this is largely immaterial to me — synthesizers sound like synthesizers regardless of when you record yourself playing them — except that their drumming is clearly done on a real live drum set, by a talented drummer, and so is wonderfully without the staleness that afflicts most drum machines. The drums provide a perfect backbone to some intense and lively music.

I’m finding their first, self-titled album a bit murkier and less engaging — I can imagine loving to see these songs put together from scratch at a show, but as just a stream of audio I don’t find them consistently interesting. Conversely, their second one, LP, is snappier and catchier and I’ve enjoyed it quite a bit. Behold, a couple of the best songs from the latter:

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José González

Posted by David on October 29, 2009

José GonzálezJosé González is a Swedish singer-songwriter who makes guy-singing-while-playing-a-guitar music. I thought I’d tired of this particular genre a little while ago, having overdosed a bit on Iron & Wine and Nick Drake and others, but this guy unexpectedly quite got to me. There’s more of a driving, energetic quality to his tunes, rather than being predictably folksy-countryish. He has a cool voice which gives it all a sort of airy, wise tone. I was particularly drawn in by his style when I heard his cover of Massive Attack’s already excellent “Teardrop”. He stays playing pretty much the same simple melody the entire time, but the way the one interval is played gets more and more intense in sound as it progresses — a little like “Boléro”, I guess. Well, just listen to it, and feel free to enjoy the trippy music video while you’re at it. And another good one is “Killing for Love” (embedding disabled on both, apologies).

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Ukulele Force

Posted by David on October 24, 2009

Ukulele ForceIf ever something belonged to the ‘novelty’ tag, this is probably it.

Behold the inexplicable Ukulele Force Star Wars Best Covers, a compilation of various Japanese musicians playing music from Star Wars with, for the most part, ukuleles. Recorders also feature heavily. It is really so great — starting right off the bat with the 20th Century Fox opening, with brass switched out for enthusiastically strummed ukes. It’s always fun to hear music that is so very familiar getting reinterpreted and played on (thoroughly) strange instruments. Unfortunately, though perhaps unsurprisingly, the Youtubes do not seem to have any of the music from this album. All I can find is a live performance of the Imperial March, which is not one of the standout tracks, but it’ll have to do.

Truly, I have not felt such affection for a piece of Star Wars tribute music since the unfathomably epic disco medley by Meco.

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The Acorn – Glory Hope Mountain

Posted by David on October 22, 2009

Glory Hope MountainGlory Hope Mountain is an album by Canadian indie folk rock band The Acorn. I like it a lot, but, as these things sometimes go, I’m not quite sure how to talk about it. So here are some words I’d use to describe the moods tapped into by the songs: thoughtful, intrepid, peaceful, wistful. There is lovely harmonized singing, folksy drumming, a bit of slide guitar; some tracks are slow and pensive and some are upbeat and rockish. They also have a couple of pretty cool music videos, one of which is right under this text right here:

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A couple of wicked Justice remixes

Posted by David on October 20, 2009

These guys!

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Kaki King, and some revelations about David’s attention span

Posted by David on October 18, 2009

Dreaming of RevengeKaki King’s first album, Everybody Loves You (2003), is just her playing solo on an acoustic guitar. Her songs have great, compelling melodies, are pleasantly varied, and she quite nimbly blends into her playing all manner of slaps, beats and harmonics. Much of the time, I could easily lose interest when casually listening to one person play one instrument over a whole album, but she has the skill, and her compositions have the quality, to totally pull it off, and so Everybody Loves You impresses me plenty.

But her two most recent studio albums (Until We Felt Red of 2006 and Dreaming of Revenge from 2008) are dearer to me, and are what really drives me to post about her. In them she branches out from her solo guitar in the best possible way, bringing in drums, bass, electricity, strings, and her own characteristically soft, simple, almost childlike vocals. The new layers complement and build on the style of the lovely, progressive guitar tunes of the first album, rather than replacing that style with cookie-cutter pop music or what have you. I’ve found the results endlessly listenable. Supposedly, the new sound has been called “post-rock” — a rather nebulous label that I’ve heretofore seen applied mostly to extremely lengthy and repetitive, usually instrumental, occasionally pretty boring music*. Some of her stuff, conversely, is close to what I’d like to imagine “post-rock” would sound like: not too bound by genre clichés of instrumentation and pacing, not always plastered with a star singer’s vocals (many of the new songs are still instrumental) — and still engaging, punchy, listenable… But some of it is just rock (e.g. “Pull Me Out Alive“), and that’s ok too.

From album #1.

From the 2008 album.

Ok, one more, from the 2006 album. Sadly, no non-live version on all of mighty YouTube.

*Sorry, I mean, I find it boring. Some of it. I have not listened to all of the post-rock. I don’t really know what the term means and I claim no authority. I just got this foreboding sense of pretension about the whole business. And then I tried really hard to like Explosions in the Sky, and it still really bored the crap out of me, and then, you know, my prejudices were fully formed. But I totally like some stuff by GY!BE and I think Mogwai might be pretty cool and I still haven’t listened to much and yeah. This Is Not a Blog of Judgement.

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Posted by David on October 15, 2009

SoulhackForss (a.k.a. Eric Wahlforss of Sweden) is one of the coolest electronic musicians I’ve heard in a while. I don’t even know exactly where to categorize him. The songs on his album, Soulhack, range from slow, groovy acid jazz to crashing big beats, with bits that approach drum and bass. Each song is lavishly layered with complex little tweaks and twitches and samples and fills, most strikingly in “Flickermood,” which is basically just one bar of funky beat being deliciously stretched out, abused and twisted in every which way for three minutes. He also expertly conjures up atmosphere, running the gamut from sinister to playful to other-worldly. Not only is the production rewardingly complex and interesting, but the songs themselves are just extremely catchy. He hosts the entire album and a number of remixes for listening and download on his site — although it looks like the ‘download’ link gets you an uncompressed .aiff file, so maybe you have to ‘buy’ to get an MP3, if large files bother you. Regardless, give him a listen.

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