« Pattern recognition | Main | I'm PopKomming »

Short cuts

The blogosphere keeps on kicking – courtesy crack new entrant Yancey Strickler, daunting listmaker Andy Kellman, and HTML returnee Woebot, just to name a few – and hence it's easy to feel like you're falling behind in the perpetual lane-shifting. Of course, this is no competition, but when you check your page hits and they seem about as optimistic as the US job numbers, it spurs you to dig in a little deeper. Or that's the theory. Thing is, life – work, friends, travel, sleep – keeps putting itself between my keyboard and me.

When confronted with the essential hobby-ness of the blog form, how does one find an original language – or, more properly, a unique voice that transcends the incessant interior blah-blah in the mind? Too much blogspeak – too much of my blogspeak – simply mimics the style-less unspoken monologue of consciousness (hence the overwhelming meta-ness of so much blogspeak, such as the words you're reading at the moment). The blogvoice, like the emailvoice, seems to require reconciling itself to a reduced language. Not necessarily a language of reduction, but a language that accepts the blogosphere's instantaneity and Odwalla-short shelf life; a language of reduced expectations – without compromising thought itself. But so many agents make their individual claims upon this thoughtspace: modernism's imperative to make it new; public discourse's admonitions to speak "naturally;" an accelerating world's demand for brevity. I'd settle for thumbnail sketches, but I've always bitten my nails to the quick.

And so we'll gloss. With a nod to the maestro Simon, certain recordings for which my enthusiasm bears sharing.

Mocky, Are & Be (Four)
After the brilliant single, "How Will I Know You," featuring Jamie Lidell, this isn't quite the masterpiece I was waiting for, but it's still a damn fine album. Mocky's vocals are charmingly rough, from his ragged delivery – sliding all over the beats as though they were banana peels and his rhythmic feet were shod in bowling shoes – to his smoky timbre. Highlights include the International Pony-like g-funk schaffel of "Take me Away" (complete with harp!) and the D'Angelo-spirited (kinda sorta) "Crack a Smile." Potential improvements: an expanded range of vocalists, a collaboration with Harco Pront.

Kelpe, Sea Inside Body (DC Recordings)
I've bigged this up in more than a few reviews, but it bears repeating: this is the best record that Boards of Canada and Plaid did not make this year. As much as I hate having to make reference to such totems, the similarity is undeniable – still, Kelpe makes the sound his own, inserting himself into the canon of progtronica in one fell swoop.

März, Wir Sind Hier (Karaoke Kalk)
Blogged about it a few weeks ago but I'll say it again. One of my favorite records of the season. Listened to it (along with its predecessor, Love Streams on a long, pitch-black drive up the coast of Chile, which turned out to be the perfect setting for singing along to lyrics like "If we go out we will jump in the river/ If we go out we will jump in the sea/ If we return we will live here forever/ If we return we will live by the sea." On paper it doesn't look profound, but at 150 km/h, singing any harmony that comes into your head above the whine of the motor, it's infinity compressed into a four-bar figure. There's even banjo-house ("Bieber & Enten (Plattler)"), glitch Americana ("Tropige Trauben"), and cotton candy Kinks ("The Pop Song"). Anyone want to supply a translation to the lyrics to "Oktober Im Park"?

Bruno Pronsato, Silver Cities (Orac)
Seattle's Steven Ford takes Vladislav Delay-style deconstructionist microhouse to an extreme, at times subtracting everything but the merest pulse and slathering musique concrete groans and atonal piano tinkles over the top. At times, looking for the downbeat is a needle-in-a-haystack proposition, but he's not afraid to kick til it (gently) hurts. A fine companion to the Hand on the Plow tracks.

Headset, Spacesettings (Plug Research)
The best thing PR has come up with in a while, with Dntel and Mannequin Lung's Allen Avenessian on production, additional tweaking from Daedelus, John Tejada, and Thomas Felhmann, and vocals from Beans, Subtitle, Shadow Huntaz and more. Minimalistic hip-hop with a digitalist bent, the occasional touch of Farben-style clickyclicky, and lots of errant noises to keep the short attention span rubbernecking. I'm surprised, frankly, that this hasn't gotten more press – but then, it's not hottt enough for overground cred and neither murky nor ol'skool enough for the backpackers, I suppose.

Misc., Crunch Time (Sender)
Hoo boy is that the right title for this album, which beats Alter Ego-style techno like a fisherman flailing a dead squid against the rocks, until everything is tender and oozing analog goo. Next to Jake Fairley's Touch Not the Cat, the rockingest techno record this year.

Gravenhurst, Flashlight Seasons and Black Holes in the Sand (Warp)
I'm not 100% decided on these; the Nick Drakeisms (and Elliot Smithisms, to a lesser degree) are occasionally a bit much, and the singer's voice, while lovely, is occasionally cloying, and his lyrics, likewise, a bit fey. But the songwriting is superb, the major-minor transitions always throw a prickle up the spine, and the harmonies are consistently captivating, little harmonic cuffs that lock you up and hold you spellbound. Another perfect selection for high beams and reflective stripes extending to the black horizon. They just need to check their affect a bit, and they'll make a superb album.

Swayzak, Loops from the Bergerie (K7)
I didn't think I cared for this initially, but the hooks on tunes like "Keep It Coming" and "Another Way" have barbs that dig in, hold on, and keep tugging you back. Feels more like a collection of singles than an album proper, if that means anything at all (and perhaps it shouldn't), but I'm sure someone like Michael Mayer could do something fierce with almost any of these tracks in a DJ set. Oddly, I'm not particularly feeling the schaffel track ("Speakeasy"), which feels a bit unfocused, sort of like a hodgepodge of current schaffel styles, from the squeaky flourish (trace back to Areal) to the overdriven guitar-like sounds (Fairley or T.Raumschmiere) to the vocals, which just kinda stew about in the midrange.

And because brevity giveth and brevity taketh away, that's a wrap for today, kids, so go forth and celebrate the arrival of spring or autumn, depending upon your particular relationship with the Equator. Looking back upon the above I realize that I've left you with a rather middle-of-the-road list of things, much subtle sentiment and little pop ecstatic, and nary a single amongst the bunch. There's a reason for the latter: perambulating once again, I'm far from vinyl (or at least the means to play it) and downloading on this connection is like snorting manjar through a straw. Stay tuned for a discussion of new faves including Ada's Blondie (Areal) and some discussion of Rio Baile Funk: Favela Booty Beats plus other funk carioca gems and pebbles. And, coming soon, no really it is, a hazy wrapup of SonarSound São Paulo. That's all our time for today.


Hi Philip
Found your review of my LP (in wire) the most intelligently written and charmingly complimentary of the lot. You said on your site that you have reviewed it more than once, but i have only read the wire one. I'd be interested to read more if there is other stuff?
Thanks a lot
Kel McKeown

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)