Sunday, July 25, 2010

Zavoloka: Viter (4/5)

Year: 2007
Genre: Electronic Glitch Orchestration
Label: Kvitnu
TRT: 24:34

When this album came up in my listening queue, it had been some time since I'd acquired it, and I didn't remember anything about it or why I had picked it up in the first place. So when I imported it into my media player of choice, I was not pleased to see the pre-loaded tags associated with the album. The ubiquitous and criminally undescriptive: "New Age". I rolled me eyes and cleared the genre and re-tagged the album in the same manner I tag all my digital collection. The song titles did nothing to assuage my doubts, nothing but a variation on that well known pop culture phrase: “Breath In, Breath Out”.

In short, I was already pre-disposed to dismiss this album out of hand before hearing the first sound it contained. The tones of the brief first track seemed only to confirm my thoughts on the matter. But then I listened to the rest of the album, and completely changed my mind. Threw out every assumption I had so hastily made.

Kateryna Zavoloka is a Ukrainian musician, who is always looking for a way to push the boundaries of sound. On this release, she combines glitchy and experimental electronic beats with traditional Ukrainian folk instruments, such as the fiddle and violin, playing in a manner inspired by traditional folk songs from her home country.

The result is a very unique listen, reminiscent of Saltillo’s Ganglion, but darker and with more of the emphasis on the beats rather than the orchestrations, and with a less structured approach.

All in all, she’s created quite a satisfying little slice of digital pie...for a girl.

01 Inhale
02 Exhale
03 Inhale
04 Exhale
05 Inhale
06 Exhale
07 Inhale
08 Exhale
09 Inhale

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Tilly and the Wall: O (4.5/5)

Year: 2008
Genre: Indie Twee Pop(?)
Label: Team Love
TRT: 32:33

Tilly and the Wall is a rather unique band, in that their percussion section is mostly filled by a tap dancer instead of the usual drum kit. Initially, I thought that was a sort of neat gimmick, but a gimmick none-the-less. The fact that they were on Conor Obersts “Team Love” label didn’t help any either. As much as I’m a fan of Bright Eyes, “Team Love” has always struck me as the label that signs the bands the elder Oberst deemed “not good enough” for Saddle Creek, whether or not that’s actually the case. And since Conor was in a band with a couple of the members of T&tW back in the day, I had a sneaking suspicion that that was more why they were signed than the merit of the band itself.

Back in 2004, that may have been the case. Wild Like Children, while containing a few good tracks, is mostly a mediocre album, with little more going for it than the previously mentioned gimmick. But since then, that seems to have changed. I didn’t make any special effort to check out 2006’s Bottoms of Barrels, and the band had mostly slipped from my radar until sometime in 2009, when more on a whim than anything else, I decided to give O a listen.

What I heard there really took me by surprise. Instead of being hit-or-miss, sometimes ho-hum sometimes flashy, but always just a little out of their element, they were, to put it bluntly, kicking ass and taking names.

The music is extremely well written, and the tap dancing has been almost flawlessly integrated into their sound, transcending from being a novelty to hook people, to being essential to their sound. The lyrics are poignant and clever, without ever crossing into pretentious or arrogant. O exudes confidence and energy. But I think my favorite part, the part that really holds everything together, is the vocals. Whether brash and confrontational ( Pot Kettle Black, Too Excited) or subdued and contemplative (I Found You, Tall Tall Glass), the sincerity is unmistakable, and the delivery is flawless, holding everything together in exactly the right way.

This album is infectious, fun, and as I’ve already said…it just plain kicks ass.

01 Tall Tall Glass
02 Pot Kettle Black
03 Cacophony
04 I Found You
05 Alligator Skin
06 Chandelier Lake
07 Dust Me Off
08 Falling Without Knowing
09 Poor Man's Ice Cream
10 Bloodflower
11 Too Excited

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Natural Snow Buildings: Ghost Folks (4.5/5)

Year: 2003
Genre: Psychedelic Folk Drone
Label: Hinah
TRT: 58:53

It’s been a few months since I was first introduced to this collaboration, and even with a good deal of dedicated listening, I’m still not even close to scratching the surface of their discography. In the past couple years, they’ve released a staggering amount of material, not just in number of albums, but also in breadth of content. Most are two disc sets, with each disc containing 70+ minutes of aural stimulation. That in and of it’s self is quite overwhelming on paper, but then when one actually starts listening…

I’ve chosen this album to review because so far it’s been the easiest to digest, clocking in at a mere 50 some minutes. But even so, I’m pressed for words to describe it. Well, that’s not entirely true. I could say “they are creating music that is outside the realm of consciousness. Ok maybe not quite, but the stark beauty here is delayed quicksand that you don't even realize you're sinking into until you're up to your mouth and begin to suffocate until you realize it's not sand but cosmic awareness of immense satisfaction.” but that still doesn’t really come close to unpacking and really grasping their material.

One thing I did realize whilst listening to this album, is my love for spoken word parts that are buried in the mix, and just give you a sense of “otherness”, that perhaps something is going on just outside your perception that you probably should pay attention to, yet can’t quite delineate. It’s unsettling, but it also sucks you in, and helps you connect with the recordings on a deeper level than you might otherwise. I love that.

So here it is, your entry point to a vast amassing of music that will confuse and unsettle you, and that you may never quite “get”. But for me at least, that’s all the more incentive to open the door and take the first step down the abandoned corridor, where one day has just died, and another has just begun.

01 Nuclear Winter (Dispatches)
02 If I Can Find My Way Though the Darkness...
03 ... I Came Down Here
04 Sun
05 The Haunted Falls (Let Us Now Praise Harry Powell)
06 Fallen Lords We Riding Half Horses
07 With a Stolen Red Lipstick Bible on Her Side
08 They are Still Hanging Around
09 (...)
10 Guns & Rifles
11 Nuclear Winter

Cry about not being able to buy it here