Lazer Sword “Blap to the Future Megamix”

Lazer Sword
Blap to the Future Megamix
(self-released; 2008)

In lieu of their first and proper debut EP on LA’s digital B.E.A.R label, San Francisco glitch-inators Lazer Sword have been kind enough to those that know better by whetting our appetites with a 48 minute mixtape chock full of crunchy, cut up remixes and edits that intermingle their signature dissonant space-synth and broken glitch-beat assault with top 40 rap acapellas. While this is far from an original concept, Lazer Sword prove their worth in space credits on this popular medium by sticking to their not-always-so-easy-to-dance-to style and showing both the glitch and hip hop world that they know their way around a wave file.

The tracks on this mixtape follow a linear path straight to bangerville, but the sounds never come across as boring or tired. There are too many screwed up layers and sudden changes in Lazer Sword’s production to allow loss of interest in where they’re taking you with every song; even if it always feels like you’re in a spaceship to planet hyphy. They treat each acapella with almost a hall of fame sort of reverence, allowing the raw vocals to propel and sometimes even carry their tweaked instrumentals. This respect is necessary for Blap to the Future‘s separation from the many other producers that use the electronic-music-with-rap-vocal format. Though it may help them to have popular vocal tracks to help nod your head along with their music it’s by no means a crutch. Instead of sounding like they giggle at each “nigga” or drug-peddling reference over their oscillating synths, you can rest assured knowing that Lazer Sword was nodding their heads to the original tracks before choosing to screw these songs into sweet oblivion.

In short, Lazer Sword is telling you to get ready. They have a lot of ideas, both new ones and revised standards, but if you think they’re going to let them all loose on a mixtape you’ll be happily mistaken. You can tell that Lazer Sword is only just warming up, and, if you’ll take my word, we’re soon to be all the more fortunate for the extra time they’ve taken in crafting their first solo release. In the meantime, enjoy the hell out of Blap to the Future by taking advantage of one of the mixtape’s best qualities; it’s free download available on Lazer Sword’s Myspace page. Peep impending glitch-hop game, son!

– Patric Fallon

www.myspace.com/lazersword

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By Any Means “Urban Urbane”


By Any Means
Urban Urbane
(self-released; 2008)

Ruda and DJ Smiff want to let as much of the world’s population possible know that they are black, can rap better than you, and could probably have sex with your girlfriend. While this kind of widespread communication is no easy feat, I’m sure a mass email threatening “lack of booty for a year” to those who don’t forward the message or the creation of a thirty second video on Youtube would’ve done the trick. By Any Means, the combined efforts of Ruda and DJ Smiff, decided to record a full length album called Urban Urbane instead. The album is armed with the same three points mentioned earlier and has about the same allure and lasting power as the chain email and Youtube video that were suggested in the beginning of this paragraph.

– Patric Fallon

P.S. Ruda and DJ Smiff just reminded me that they also want you to know they like to smoke weed.

www.myspace.com/bambyanymeans

railcars “cities vs. submarines”

railcars
cities vs. submarines
(Gold Robot Records, 2008)

The debut EP by railcars sounds like it could have been recorded in Jamie Stewart’s kitchen. Imagine Jamie Stewart’s kitchen! He’s both a brilliantly bonkers aesthete and a multi-media extravaganzist whose principal outfit, Xiu Xiu, is practically a genre unto itself. Anyway, I envision Jamie Stewart’s kitchen containing things like a neon green, clay stove and talking cookie jars he designed himself. (– Ed. note: It’s probably normal as hell.) Full disclosure: cities vs. submarines was actually recorded in said kitchen and includes all the smash and grab you’d think that might entail.

Employing drum boxes, effects pedals, sketchy noise and distorted vocalisms, cities vs. submarines is primarily a cover for Aria C. Jalali, who likes his letters lowercase and his song structures non-linear. His EP isn’t noise per se, but it was still recorded in Jamie Stewart’s frickin’ kitchen. Even the linoleum has stories! Jalali used to perform under his own name; the live edition of railcars incorporates various helps from assorted besties, but the general thrust belongs to Jalali. Besides the debt owed to Stewart/Xiu Xiu, railcars cops from other sonic semi-radicalists like the Spencer Krug Affair, my own sobriquet to cover Wolf Parade/Swan Lake/Sunset Rubdown/whatever other band he might be in. When he brings his A-game Krug produces music that can shut down your central nervous system. There isn’t anything as totally arresting as that on cities vs. submarines, but Jalali is at least reasonably good at burying his hooks. That may sound as no-good a tactic as burying the lead or as redundant as the term “freak-folk”, but there’s something to be said for subtlety and for the joy of repeated listening.

Track 1, “there is ice; it is blue”, despite reminding me of that idiotic “Violet Hill” lyric about the white snow, is railcars’ strongest Sunset Rubdown credential. It’s got the choppy back beat, hand claps, and air-raid guitar that Krug put to such mad use on “Shut Up I Am Dreaming”. Next is “saints are waiting for me (outside my door)” which is essentially Jalali ‘luving the valley-oh!’. “concrete buildings” gallops off thinking it wants to be a Frog Eyes cut. “through the trees lay smokestacks” is an under a minute instrumenta-lude that inexplicably contains a lot of wolf-like yelping. cities vs. submarines ends with its best song “bohemia is without a sea”. If a song can safely be said to chortle, this one does. It’s so cheerful you can practically see the cookie jars dancing.

On cities vs. submarines Jalali hits and misses, but the hits are when you tear up the cheap, snaggy, loud carpeting and discover a pretty rad hardwood floor. To put it another way, it’s like with the best electronic music; how bells, whistles, bottles, and bedsteads on top of songs create diversions that only the impatient get lost on. You have to dig a little. You might be thinking I like cities vs. submarines more than I do; railcars has a ways to go. Then again, it’s only a ten-minute EP.

– Anthony Strain

www.myspace.com/railcarsmusic

Ian McGlynn “Tomorrow’s Re-Taken”

Ian McGlynn
Tomorrow’s Re-Taken
(Bailey Park Records, 2007)

Normally, I wouldn’t write a review for an album that I contributed the slightest sound or production idea to, but this time around is different for a few reasons. The first reason is that Tomorrow’s Re-Taken is a remix album composed primarily of source material from singer/songwriter Ian McGlynn’s debut album Tomorrow’s Taken. Reason number two is that the one remix I contributed to this ten song album was produced as Such, Broken Glass which is a moniker I no longer use. The last reason is that my remix was completed over three years ago. From the way the rest of these remixes sound, it’s safe to assume they were all written and finished years ago.

There are a few semi-interesting sounds for the casual listener here, but certainly nothing the seasoned music fan hasn’t heard before. The remixing styles range from 90’s-era, 100% Dance club music to ‘are you kidding me?!’ acid jazz to fake, 80’s post-punk with not a whole lot in between. This motley crew of genres wouldn’t sound so completely off the wall if Ian McGlynn’s most noted influences weren’t the likes of Coldplay, Ben Folds, and The Beatles. I’m sure he got a kick out of hearing his voice and instrumentation re-worked a whole album’s worth, but after the 9 minutes of preset drum and bass that works as the album’s centerpiece I’m quite ready to give Tomorrow… back.

Unless we’re talking about one artist re-writing the entirety of another artist’s record (which would be more of a cover album), a remix album is, by default, a mish-mash of many separate ideas. This common trait makes remix albums appeal to very distinct crowds; the die-hard fans, the remixers of the music, and the writer of the original music. Sadly, I doubt many people outside of those three groups will be looking for Tomorrow’s Re-Taken.

– Patric Fallon

www.myspace.com/ianmcglynn

Zach Zeller “From Here to There”

From Here to There
Zach Zeller
From Here to There
(Around Town Collective, 2008)

Don’t you just love structure and simplicity in music? Doesn’t the straightforwardness of a voice, a guitar, and maybe a drum or keyboard just allow you to lose yourself in the ideas and emotions the music is trying to convey? Isn’t it awesome when a singer/songwriter is so confident in what he/she has to offer you that they don’t have to shroud themselves in a veil of superfluous sounds and aimless production tricks? Well, whether or not you agree with my point of view, I know at least one person does. His name is Zach Zeller and he just released his third solo album. It’s called From Here to There and I think it’s wonderful.

Armed with standard, yet beautiful stories about friends, family, and faith, Zeller presents us with a record that conquers territory we’ve followed brilliant artists like Will Oldham, David Bazan, and Sam Beam into. He heads straight into the thick of his personal contemplations on “Bluejays” before sharing the tale of a girl headed nowhere on “A Faded Light”. Sounding like a young Johnny Cash, we’re sung a story about abuse from a drunken father on “Oh My Son” with the same quiet reflection we remember from the now deceased musical icon. Even when the music aims for the more inflated styles of The Wallflowers or Coldplay, Zeller skirts on the edge of going overboard before coming back to us with a warm, banjo-tinged ballad to his unborn child. This love of the basics is what draws me in so close to the songs on this album.

Zach Zeller displays true ambition with his dedication to musical simplicity and could-be-your-life storytelling. Whether or not his guitar and banjo style appeals to you is almost irrelevant. It’s Zeller’s voice and the words he chooses to share with us that are the true epicenter of From Here to There, a marvelous solo album that couldn’t force itself to be more true and welcoming.

www.myspace.com/zachzellermusic

Up Mine, Sunshine “S/T”

Up Mine, Sunshine (not album cover)
Up Mine, Sunshine
S/T
(self released, 2008)

First, I should be clear about something. Since I am a musician and very involved in the music business/scene/whatever, I have a lot of friends interested in being reviewed on this website. Reviewing a friend’s music is difficult for obvious reasons, but when you’ve been involved in releasing that friend’s music those difficulties are amplified. Things get even trickier when the music has changed into something different than when you were previously involved. All these factors have come into play in my review of Up Mine, Sunshine’s debut, self-titled album; a weird amalgamation of psychedlic electronica weaved in and out of vocal samples and carried down Jodorowsky’s Holy Mountain on the back of cutting bass lines and hard hitting beats.

Let me quickly brief you. The Up Mine, Sunshine I once knew was a writer of bass driven post-funk, pop that wouldn’t be the least bit out of place in Factory Records’ catalog. The Talking Heads meets New Order music that was once solely composed by Matthew Beck is now a Panda Bear meets the soundtrack of Zelda styled collaboration of Matthew and his wife Ashley. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to love and enjoy in this new Up Mine, Sunshine, but you’ll have to pardon my reeling. I’m still getting used to my dad having shaved his mustache.

Okay… Let’s move on. This album is great! There are so many layers in every track that work together to put you in a blissful trance. Each song is propelled by bongos, shakers, and tambourines while arpeggiating synths dance around the polyrhythms of bass and drums, textured field recordings, and beautiful female vocal harmonies. On occasion the layers go a bit over board and reach the precipice of ADD-ridden repetition, but that usually signals the climax or end of a song. While some of the music on the album leans towards the movement of the dance floor, even delving into the pop-sensibilities I used to know on “I Love What I Love” and “Away From My Little Bones!!!”, this isn’t club ready music. These songs are what you play while waking up in the morning to get you pumped. This is an album you enjoy with your headphones on your head and your pipe in your hand. This music deserves attention that matches the delicate and loving care that went into making it.

Even though I’m positive Up Mine Sunshine’s self-titled album can be enjoyed by many people far and wide, I’d like to think that it’s pressing of a mere 60 copies is a sign that this is music meant for friends. Friends that are interested in what you’re doing with your spare time. Friends that care enough to listen to your album on repeat from start to finish without skipping a beat. Friends that loved what you once were, but are even more excited about what you’ve become.

www.myspace.com/upminesunshine

fpodbpod “Demos”

fpodbpod (not album cover)
fpodbpod
Demos
(self released, 2006-08)

After listening to the compiled CD of 14 songs that were recorded over a three year span under the name fpodbpod, most anyone would come to the conclusion that this is the music of an unmistakably wacky musician. After listening to this CD multiple times a day for weeks, I have concluded that singer/songwriter Sean Olmstead is a wonderfully talented, musical genius. Nearly every song on fpodbpod’s demo invokes the spirit of late, great music without sounding the slightest bit derivative or contrived. Such sincerity and ingenuity is rarely heard from artists who can be primarily compared to household names like The Beatles, Marc Bolan, or David Bowie.

Though many would just peg him as an indie, psych-rock revivalist like Devendra Banhart, I think there is more truth and personality to be heard from the music of fpodbpod. Most lyrics are either too odd to understand or just plain indiscernible, but the words come second to their delivery and the beautiful music their wrapped in. As sole writer, performer, recorder, and producer (save the song “Cold Wind”), Olmstead has given us the near equivalent of his most personal thoughts and emotions in this music. Songs like “Bad Baby” and “Hey, Nate” show his more fun loving, extroverted and strange side while other tracks such as “Without Prior Warning” and “Overfed” display his subtler, discreet side. The ability for him to shine with such versatility is credit to his skill as a songwriter and self-producer. I couldn’t be more enthralled and drawn in by a group of demo recordings.

www.myspace.com/fpodbpod