Saturday, July 21, 2012

Songs about fish

Monterey Babe Aquarium - Monterey Babe Aquarium
Weird Forest #73

Also known as the "Blue Eye Tang," the Twospot Bristletooth grows to roughly eight inches in length and is recommended for aquariums 100 gallons or larger. In the wild, the fish eats unicellular algae and other detritus, but in the aquarium, it can subsist on algae-based diets.

Monterey Babe Aquarium’s "Twospot Bristletooth" is recommended for rooms 100 square feet or larger. The song is heavily layered and expansive and billowy. On Monterey Babe Aquarium's self-titled cassette, the songs' foundations are these painfully simple synthesizer melodies—melodies the California trio is supremely confident will be winners! because they are infinitely repeated throughout. Blanketed around these melodies is something akin to sonic chaos—a peculiar, lo-fi, celestial din, like a disc was cut out of the black-and-starlight-pricked canvas of the interstellar void and then the disc was played on an old crank phonograph and then the sounds were captured for this track.

On "Aquamarines," the chaos/din/noise is stuffed into every nook and cranny in the melody and electronic drum beat and during the conclusion, the chaos/din/noise begins to bulge and swell, and overwhelms the song's other parts. You will hear this and certainly not think of fish. You will not think of anything.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Flecks of poignancy

Weyes Blood & the Dark Juices - The Outside Room
Not Not Fun Records

"Romneydale" is destined to play over the closing credits to a movie, very likely one about small towns and the people who left and the people who never left and limestone quarries and cars that have trunks that open with a gentle kick. Natalie Mering's gorgeous voice jostles with strummed guitar and bits of aural trash. Between the cracks of her downheartedness has settled plumes of poignancy; she's like a widow delivering a eulogy. "Oh, pictures of Romneydale," the Philadelphia native laments. "Still surge through my brain.” Then: "Well, I'm over there / I gotta way to get home / Again, I'm so fine / When I get both ends in Romneydale."

After hearing tracks like "Lost in Dreams" and "Candyboy," I began to consider the line of thought behind the production. Mering's glorious singing voice is smudged over with all sorts of ugliness. Is it because she is too embarrassed to fully showcase her vocal gift or does she believe that all the monstrousness will merely enhance her voice's honeyed beauty? The effect is startling, yet left me yearning to hear Mering lullabying in a quiet room, no instrumentation or electronic babble to blemish her sent-from-Heaven’s-choir-loft voice.

Electronic jam sessions

Design - Hangin'
Silk #28

On Hangin', each bar in every song seems to introduce a new melody or a new sound or a new theme, and they all scurry away before they can take up permanent residence inside your head. These are songs with many different moving parts, songs with so much noodling and experimenting and testing of new ideas (like one track that incorporates a sound that evokes the image of a tiny, warped mouth harp being played by one of the Chipmunks) that they feel like electronic jam sessions more than structured compositions.

My two favorites: "Midnighters," which features grooves designed for the dance floor—if that dance floor was located on the dark side of the moon; and "Stolen Car," which has this eerie bump-bump-bump that reminds me of an exposed, throbbing alien brain in a 1950s science fiction flick.

Friday, July 6, 2012

So it’s like music/not-music

Mudboy - Eno Trouble/Midiwards/Happy Birthday Song
Goaty Tapes

"Eno Trouble/Midiwards" has wheezing and winter winds and witchy whirling in the background and in the foreground there's plinking melodies like something from an 8-bit video game. But not from when you're battling a grotesque, knuckle-dragging boss or from when you've achieved a sword-thrusting victory, but from when you're just puttering around, collecting hearts and keys and coins, and your little sister is watching and is like, "This is it? This is the game? This is so boring."

But it was the "Happy Birthday Song" that really buttered my toast. While listening, there was a point when I began to wonder if this song occupies the space where music exists and where music doesn't exist. So it's like music/not-music; if you were completely unaware of the entire concept of music and heard this song, you would come away with an idea of what music is, but at the same time, have zero idea what music is. The song's pulse and throb also got me to thinking about those ancient, black-and-white science videos of blood trickling and rushing through capillaries. YouTube it.

Three-legged races

The Charts/Besties - split tape
Eggy #32

I like the disparity between Portland, Ore.'s the Charts and Besties. This split tape is like two kids tied together for a three-legged race, each one wanting to stumble down his own path and go at his own pace. Besties do songs that feature variations of what's essentially the same epileptic, nervy, piercing guitar melody, as well as these moments that feel like exclamation points within the song, where the snare drum, bass, and a guitar chord all thunder in unison. It's like a railroad spike is being pounded into your earthy skull, one hammer-stroke at a time.

Compared with Besties, the Charts feature less forced falsetto, less vocals that sound like they're coming from the bottom of a deep sinkhole, less vocals that call to mind guttural incantations from a long-dead cave ritual. They offer pleasant sentiments like "We got a good thing going" and "Yes I hope you will / Yes I hope you might / Try a million times and finally get it right." And there's a song that evokes '50s high school dances lullabies, that could pass for "Earth Angel"—if "Earth Angel" was done by a band on the Nuggets compilations and was playing on the stereo of a Camaro that crashed through the wall of the high school gymnasium and the speakers on the car's stereo system were damaged, leaving the song to sound all prickly and subterranean.