Monday, December 29, 2008

DJ Deeon - Let Me Bang (2003)

Be careful because once you've heard this record, sometimes you just can't listen to anything else. Don't complain to me when it happens to you.

The title track here is a little more varied than usual for this mother-offending variation on Chicago house. We've got the usual four on the floor kick and the little hi-hats on the "and." But the verse drops into half-time which makes the "Bang it!" transition back into the beat all the more compelling. Wild-eyed thrusting is the only reasonable response. Also note the tastefulness of the sing-songy pre-chorus of "hit it from the back." That is how a children's song should be turned into an ode to debauchery.

Disclaimer: I know of a few big booty bitches and big titty bitches who read my blog, and I don't want you guys to get the wrong idea: I respect you as a person and a woman. However, let me bang.


Friday, December 26, 2008

Erkin Koray - 2 (1976)

If you like the harmonic minor scale and its modes as well as what I think is harmonic major (although I haven't gotten my guitar out to check), this is the album for you. Erkin Koray made several really great rock recordings,but this is definitely his most "Turkish" album. His fuzzed out guitar is certainly present, although it's often buried beneath Turkish instruments carrying the melody forward.

For today's musical discussion, let's think about cultural relativism. These harmonic minor modes are just as common to people living in Turkey as the major and minor scales are to us, so I'm not thinking that if a Turkish person hears that sharp seventh they go all Putumayo and are like "Oh how fun! How exotic!" However, some of these melodies sound fucking menacing to my ears. Like the first, uh, movement of Komsu Kizi for example. Are these intervals registering as menacing to people east of the Mediterranean, or is it my Western upbringing and exposure to things like terror alert levels that's all "Sharp seventh! Level orange! How much shampoo is three ounces?"

Or maybe it's because I've been listening to metal for a good chunk of my goddamn life, and that genre certainly uses the half step, whole step, half step agenda to a purposefully dark and aggressive effect. Have you guys read any of those books about music and your brain or maybe just some wikipedia articles? What's the score?


PS: A post or to ago I complained about not knowing about current music and feeling incapable of putting together a reasonable year end list.However, my friend Steve runs a real robber baron* of a techno etc. blog at, and they put together a list, with samples of the best singles of the year. This is where interesting things are happening in music, unfortunately it's not my area of expertise. It is Steve's. Go listen, especially to the DJ Bone track posted here. Fuck this rules.

*I mean this in the best way, of course.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Group Home - Livin' Proof (1995)

As if the fact that this record is produced by goddamn DJ Premier weren't enough, the fact that the first non-intro song starts off with a sample of Nasty Nas declaring that he excels, then prevails* should give you a pretty good idea about what is going on here.

Premier is the unquestionable star here. Lil' Dap and Melachi the Nutcracker are certainly capable tale-weavers as they rap of inner city life with both the emotion and the charisma that was so prevalent in the early 90s New York hip-hop scene. It's hard to focus on the lyrical delivery here, though, as Premier paints cold cold warm cold synesthesic beats onto your consciousness. We're not dealing with melodies here, but rather, a sparse, echoing percussive structure filled in with the perfect vibration at the perfect time. Trying to discuss this is like looking at a drawing of a hypercube on a computer monitor; there are dimensions here that human intuition cannot quite grasp, and the breast is swelled with wonder.

*Also, note the appalling rudeness of that Human Nature sample.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Trouble - Psalm 9 (1984)

This is posted for my main horse Dan, who loves this record a lot. Trouble is one of those bands that people have heard of, but aren't really listening to in the way that they should be. They might know something about them being Christian, or they might have hazy memories of Dave Grohl's metal ideas. Let me set this straight, the way you should be listening to Trouble is after falling headlong, with your body burst open and all of your intestines spilled out.

Trouble are clearly guys who really like Black Sabbath and Judas Priest. They also have a strong grasp on how to make blues scales sound like eternal damnation. The song-writing strategy appears to be have a mid-paced palm-mutey Judas Priest part, then self-flagellate with a plodding thunder punishment riff. Repeat eight times, then do a Cream cover. Although The Fall of Lucifer does have a cute little pop punk chorus.

PS: Everyone has all of these best of 2008 lists, but I've only got two contenders: The New Lows 7" and the Fucked Up LP. Help me out dogs, comment with some recent music I should enjoy.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Skip James - The Complete Early Recordings

You might have a misconception that the blues is just a bunch of dorks knowing the pentatonic scale at each other. I know I held that misconception for quite awhile since my dad mostly just listened to lots of Eric Clapton, a prime pentatonic scale-knower. Fortunately, I dug deeper at some point, and Skip James was the first pre-electric blues that I heard. Definitely one of those goosebump moments, as these songs proceeded to fucking haunt my past, present and future.

There is something in these songs that I've discussed before on this blog, but in reference to black metal or hip-hop: a certain type of elitist melancholy that I can't quite put into words. Fortunately, a famous author has made a novel about this feeling. Unfortunately, I am illiterate so I don't know what this novel is called.

You guys are familiar with the 12-bar blues whether you know it or not. Just listen to any rock song from the 50s. That chord progression right there is it. These songs are structured in phrases of a certain number of bars rather than in verses and choruses - Jesus is a Mighty Good Leader is a great example, as the song is just the same phrase repeated with slight variations in lyrics. Get a feel for the phrases, and then pay attention to the flourishes that Skip throws in because the dude is fucking good at guitar. And he sounds like a ghost.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Elza Soares - Elza Carnaval & Samba (1969)

My life is pretty fucking cold and windy right now, and this is exactly the type of thing I need to listen to in order to shelter myself from reality. Vibrant vibrant vibrant. I mean just look at this album cover and imagine yourself in better place, such as heaven.

I'm on my way to see my friends Fireworks jam it out, so I'm not really going to say anything else. Except Bernard Purdie does a hilarious job of teaching the samba groove in this video.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Cecil Taylor - Jazz Advance (1956)

This fittingly starts off with a Thelonious composition. However, after stating the theme, Cecil turns into a complete monster. It's like you're watching a nice little porn, but then the hot chick clearly has a bulge. And you're kind of like "well that might be cool I'm open-minded." However, when the panties drop there's a shiny 12" meat mallet and she just starts clubbing a domesticated animal over the head with it. That's what this is like.

Anway, with Bemsha Swing all we've got is drums and piano, and the convention of improvising over a harmonic structure is basically thrown out the window. Instead, the theme is run through the insane gauntlet of Cecil Taylor's mind, and we're left with something approaching an improvised classical composition with a nice little swinging beat in the background. Dissonance in the form of seconds is ubiqitous in a way that, although quite different from Monk, is clearly from the same school of thought.

I don't really have much else to say because what Cecil Taylor is doing here is way above my head. This is some different level shit where infinite possibilities just open up. The mental prowess and control required to envision these ideas is enough to make you get really stoked and practice music all day. Or maybe just take your present back from the birthday party and go home because you'll never be this good.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Crematory - Wrath from the Unknown Demo (1991)

So there's a book out now about Swedish death metal that seems extremely rad. I've been reading about that on the internet today, so now readers of my internet get to read about it too.

All of this thinking about Swedish death metal got me thinking about Crematory, who put out one of the best demos from the scene. The thunderous mid-tempo parts, as well as the cymbal catches into downtuned tremolo-picked riffs are all present, but what defines this band's compositional style is the way that they work with phrases.

Each phrase might consist of a self-contained riff repeated four times or it might have an A/B ending structure or it might be more free-flowing (Wrath of the Unknown at ~2:25), which creates an interesting cyclic effect as the riff is repeated. When phrases of these differing varities are played over fast metal drumming, there is room for the rhythms created by the guitars to take on a life of their own independent of the typical rock back beat. The aforementioned riff in Wrath of the Unknown starts off as a cyclic little phrase, then is varied into a more conventional two-part phrase through a change in drumming accompanied with a substitution in the first part of the riff.

One of the hallmarks of good songwriting, metal or otherwise, is knowing how to work with these different types of phrases in order to create a relevant and engaging work. The ear is very good at picking out cadences, and as such they present one of the most effective tools for creating suspense or resolving as expected.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Giorgio Moroder - From Here to Eternity (1977)

Some people might make up ideas about the relative value of art music and dance music, but Giorgio Moroder is here to show you that, in the future, all such distinctions melt away under the austere pump of his drum machine. Chunks of this album are mixed together as a long track, enabling you to pretend that you are at a cool sunglasses party with ladies, and that the thump of the bassdrum is blood flowing to your big boner.

The opening/title track is structured like a conventional pop song, but then the coolest thing is that the next two tracks are free-form disco bombardments of variations on a main theme from the first song. After a quick little upbeat boner-tickler which functions basically in the same way as a conventional bridge, the first song is brought back for a final jam out. Also, I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone is not only a showcase for clever wordplay and vocoder overuse, it is another great pop song based on a variation of that same theme that keeps popping up. This record is an example of having a vision, and fucking executing it. In the future.

EDIT: As Aesop, the highly knowledgable and well-respected driver of the Cosmic Hearse points out, Giorgio also did music for the movie Scarface.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Time - What Time is It? (1982)

This is basically a Prince album except Morris Day sings instead of the Purple One. You guys remember The Time from Purple Rain, especially The Bird. Well, What Time is It? features The Walk, which, although it doesn't have the memorable and brilliant squawk, does have a really nice minor chord progression and a skit about a woman with an ass so big that it is difficult to take her jeans off. What do you think about this skit, Steve? Ignore what Morris Day has to say at around ~3:30 and realize that this is the anatomy of a Prince groove. He just brings everything in and out, and you can pay attention to which parts are most important and which parts are just flair.

This really shows how to maximize an idea. Most of these songs are just based on one groove with lots of vocal tracks extra instrumentation for the chorus. Also, there are extended jam outs that are kept interesting by the liberal use of weird doubles on the hi-hat and really silly synth tones.

And there is another skit about a pre-internet SIF, reminding us that the world wide web is merely an enabler in these sorts of things.

Monday, November 24, 2008

UGK - The Southern Way (1988)

My great internet friend Mario, who has turned livejournal into a beautiful thing, clued me into this life-altering interview with Bun B of UGK. Now, it is my duty to spread it to you guys who like my blog.

I'm posting UGK's The Southern Way tape, which is discussed in detail in the interview. The music is the exact type of gritty Southern rap you would expect from a UGK casette released in the late 80s. Tell me Something Good is pretty much the archetype for this style of hip-hop. Please only listen to it with poor posture. If your posture is actually really good, then drink cough syrup until your posture is bad.

What I really want to talk about though is the way the internet has affected music consumption. Pimp C and Bun B had very limited access to hip-hop, as they grew up an hour and a half outside of Houston in Port Arthur. However, on the weekends dudes would drive to Houston to go to rap shows. They would bring a boombox in the car and tape Houston hip-hop radio and listen to it all week. See, that's that same impulse that makes me think that it's a good idea to scour Soulseek for weird-ass black metal demos, but the two worlds are so far apart in just about every other way. Shit, I used to listen to 106 JAMS for hours hoping to tape Busta Rhymes and Wu-Tang songs back in junior high, but now my brain is so oversaturated with gigabytes and gigabytes of goofy shit. All these torrent sites and p2p networks take some of the fun out of it, but the music is worth it.

Really, you will love this interview:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Etoile de Dakar - Volume 1: Absa Gueye

These are some raw recordings from 1979. Listen to that call & response, listen to that vocal tone. Fucking beautiful singing. Known mistake-maker Youssou N'Dour is at his absolute best here, his future mistakes nothing but an errant prion or two at this point. This is vocal control and expressiveness. Fuck that bullshit American Idol over-singing.

Songs are composed based upon the aforementioned call & response over layered rhythms. Chord progressions are largely static, but wind instrumentation provides dynamics. Here is a fun game to play: Listen to just about any song on this, and try to figure out exactly what the hand drum is doing. This is really hard to do, and it will help your brain fucking swell.

A love for music shines through on these recordings, making them instantly relatable.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Jacks - Vacant World (1968)

Jacks go ahead and just lay waste to their own songs on this record. If you listen to the first few seconds of any of these tracks, you might be fooled into thinking that this is a normal, laid-back bluesy psych record or that you are listening to something softly melodic. However, Jacks take the approach of putting together ostensibly normal songs, then damaging them as much as possible through frantic yelling, bizarre instrumentation, and, of course, fuzzed out brain-coating walls of noise. The tempo and somber vocals of the song Vacant World make what could have been an otherwise peaceful, ethereal journey through guys doing drugs into an ominous, foreboding experience that places the weight of the cosmos squarely on your chest. If you like Les Rallizes Denudes, you know what to do:

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Coroner - No More Color (1989)

Mistress of Deception and Tunnel of Pain are just so fun to play on guitar right now that I have to post this Coroner album. M of D has one of my go-to riffs when I am trying to impress dads with my guitar abilities. Also, when I was partying the other day, dudes liked my Coroner shirt. One love, dogs!

No More Color is Coroner's most focused album, and, when dealing with technical metal, focus is extremely important. Odd time signatures and mixed meter are used in as emphasis in a larger song structure:

1. The little hesitation before the last chorus on Die By My Hand.

2. Why it Hurts starting at ~1:09 is a perfect example of how to have a context for a weird time signature. That first frowny part leads into the dissonance brainpower part so so nicely.

The rhythmic pummelling of thrash relies on a keen ear to switch between stomping on the beat and syncopating, either within the same riff or by pairing riffs together. Also big shout-out to drummer "Marquis Marky" for knowing when to give riffs space and when to add in flair. This is one of the most important things that everyone who is stupid should learn.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Gordons - The Gordons (1981)

This right here is a really great iteration of post-punk from the great country of New Zealand and the really great record label Flying Nun. Angular, but not spastic, and really heavy. Super noisy in a really thick, aggressive way, not just washed out all gaze-style. Song structures are drawn out so that each motif can be properly damaged through improvised noise and dissonance.

Unlike pre-60's jazz in which dissonance is used in passing to lead into other chords, these riffs are diatonic and then dive into tritones and weird extended chords created by the ringing out of open strings. Groups like Husker Du used the open strings of the guitar to create nice little 9th and 13th chords, but here they are used in a much more mind-fucking, abrasive manner.

The triumph of this record is Coalminer's Song. You kind of feel that opening riff in your teeth. Just giving your teeth that good ol' in-out. Fuck I'm so pumped and I'm not even listening to it.

For fans of Sonic Youth, Joy Division, and jumping into an abandoned mine on Mars.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Guerilla Maab - Rise (1999)

Is this the best intentional misspelling in a group name ever, or what? I want to know what neurons nu-metals, hardcore rappers & Prince share that turns their keyboards into some sort of dyslexic teenage girl text message paradise

These songs are brutally honest and emotionally raw. Time to take a stand: Emotion in music has come to mean an angst-ridden whinefest about not having social skills, but this is about the struggle of maintaining a life-affirming attitude in face of an oppressive society, and between doing what is necessary to survive and doing what one believes is right. The anger and melancholy that permeate Z-Ro's solo album Look What You Did to Me are here, as is the expected bravado. It seems almost trite to talk about the contradictions inherent in this type of recording, but I must point out that these contradictions exist because the songs are about life, not about ideology or not knowing how to talk to girls.

Also included is dudes being high quoting TMNT and The Simpsons, then making prank phone calls as Pinky in search of The Brain.

EDIT: Hey look, the ANUS blog made basically the same post, except they are talking about AC/DC. Cool:

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Pointed Sticks - Part of the Noise

Here is a nice collection of stripped-down pop songs with guitars. Now, you might be thinking "Huh, I have listened to a lot of boring, insincere white people playing this type of music." I am sorry that had to happen to you, but that is not what The Pointed Sticks are about. They are about using the same chord progression for both the verse and the chorus of their songs. Any time you can effectively do that, you are winning.

I listened to What Do You Want me to Do? like 100 times in a row yesterday. I accidentally put the song on loop while I was doing my important things, and I was like, "Man dog, I've been listening to really good music this whole time!" There is a really great internal dialogue between the two phrases that make up the verse on this song. Also, listen to Man of the Crowd to try to understand what I'm talking about.

Stuff like this makes me think of how fun it was to be a teenager and like scanning the classroom for THO. Then I remember teen angst, late onset puberty, and existential crises, and I feel good about my current life.

If you like Screeching Weasel and/or The Replacements, get this. This is what it sounds like to like music:


Note: I couldn't find a linkable copy of the actual album artwork, so you get this weird cover to The Pointed Sticks' LP Perfect Youth, which is contained within the walls of Part of the Noise.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Sun Ra - The Night of the Purple Moon (1970)

Who is the coolest guy? Sun Ra.

Sun Ra's recordings exist in an entirely different context than most music. For example, if I were to put you in a sensory deprivation tank and play random songs for you, you might be able to guess pretty accurately that some stupid art school band went to art school, or whether or not a hip-hop artist is deemed acceptable/unacceptable by people with a college education. However, a Sun Ra record would be a more difficult ostrich to wrangle, especially The Night of the Purple Moon.

This thing doesn't even fit in with Sun Ra's other work. This is not the overblown interstellar blast-off of Space is the Place or the exuberant, progressive big band sound of The Nubians of Plutonia. This is Ra jamming out on a Moog, evoking scenes of moon monsters vigorously performing important space rituals (Dance of the Living Image) and then, when their work is done, heading down to the Sea of Tranquility to chat and relax (Love in Outer Space). This is mood music in a way that no one ever means when they say "mood music."

These sounds capture my imagination in a way that few other recordings can, so sit back with a nice tall glass of asteroids and begin your moonship journey.

EDIT: Anonymous comments have been enabled. Some of you have told me that you're still rocking the tin foil hats and don't have a google account, so come on guys, sell me some penis pills.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Danzig - Danzig (1988)

Trick or treat, motherfuckers.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Graveyard Productions - The Havoc

If you're like me, you've probably wondered what it would sound like if Lord Aäkon Këëtrëh made a hip-hop record. This right here is the answer. These beats are are completely eerie as hell. Many are the horror movie soundtracks typical of DJ Paul and the Memphis horrorcore scene from the mid 90s, but some move to an entirely different level. Consider Lay it Down. This is not just ominous, dissonant intervals, but rather a collection of disparate elements that coalesce into a schizophrenic journey through hell. Truly bizarre in a way that is difficult to put into words.

Vocal delivery is strange and full of triplet rhythms, off-key sing-song parts, and multiple unblended tracks. Clearly, the thought process was "hey that was a good take but what can we do to make me sound more like a demon who is high."

Great for Halloween, so bum out neighborhood parents by playing this instead of one of those "spooky noises" cds.

PS: I found this record on Bottom of the Map.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Taake - Nattestid Ser Porten Vid (1999)

This album really pulls at the hopeful Romanticist inside me. When I was on tour with one of my old bands, we ended up camping in the woods of Pennsylvania. I put Taake and Ildjarn on my headphones, went for a stroll, and almost completely disassociated from my existence as a guy who has an account on Why I'm not currently a barbarian in the depths of Pennsylvania, I can't really say, but be thankful I'm here blogging instead.

Song structures are classically influenced in the vein of old Emperor. Motifs are established and varied through different permutations, thus creating, meeting & thwarting expectations. Put on Part VII, and enjoy the fine melody at 1:25. Almost every part in the whole song can be understood in the context of this part, either balancing the structure as a whole or building on the theme.

Melodies are composed in a contrapuntal style, with well-developed voice leading full of relevant motion. Credit Burzum for innovating and mastering this technique in the black metal idiom, but Taake, don't just imitate, they get it.

Drums on this record are ridiculous. I can't read the liner notes since they're, of course, in some weird-ass rune font, but wait it looks like Frostein Tundra Arctander is in fact credited with "batteri." Great. Tundra took a lot of cues from Hellhammer, and his parts are filled with tons of accent displacements and syncopated cymbal usage. And the important thing is that it's tasteful. Taake definitely isn't going for the ambient drumming approach of Darkthrone, but it's not like we're dealing with Dream Theater shirt-wearers either.

Possibly the best black metal record in the last ten years.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Nara Leão - Nara (1964)

I was just looking at my Mediafire files, and you motherfuckers really downloaded the shit out of that Luiz Bonfá album. Is it because I was feeling particularly eloquent and charismatic when I wrote up that review? Are you guys just a bunch of closeted Brazil fetishists? They have websites about what you're into; I won't tell you but they are easy to find. Anyway, I'm going to pander to the proles and post up another bossa nova related record.

The songs on this album are short and to the point, which is entirely reasonable when arranging with melodies of this caliber. There is absolutely no need for extended verses or bridges, just bring voices in and out enough to keep things interesting. Maybe let a mournful trumpet solo ensure that everyone is just absolutely weeping.

This record has a pervasive somber mood, and not in some lame-ass, myspace-style self-pitying way. Like the best black metal bands, these songs touch a deep, existential melancholy. Maybe the lyrics are about "I love you/I'll stay true," but the music has enough inherent value to stand on its own, regardless of lyrical content.

The most important thing is track six, Luz Negra. Achingly, achingly beautiful. Descending chromatic motion just reaches into my tear ducts and drags the saltwater right on out, you know? Like drowning in the ocean on a moonless night.


Bonus check out those chompers. Also, clarinets:

Monday, October 20, 2008

Deep Wound - Almost Complete

In a strange turn of events, I really like a contemporary, hyped-up band, so a week ago I went to that 12 hour Fucked Up show. Moby played! Read about it on the internet! Point is, J Mascis from Dinosaur Jr & Deep Wound did some things there that inspired me to make this post.

Deep Wound play a sort of proto-grindcore where guitars are a speed-picked blur and the drums form a backdrop of pulsing noise. Rhythms are established by the changing of chords over ambient drumming, then, for the chorus, all instruments converge into a punishing counter-rhythm. Don't Need has a nice three step development, where the frenzy of the verse is slightly tempered by the pre-chorus, before the simultaneously frowny/fist-pumping break. Occasionally, a back beat is thrown in for the bridge, enabling further frowning.

Deep Wound is not special because they were teenagers trying to sound like Discharge nor because that guy had that song on the Kids soundtrack. Deep Wound is special because of their rhythmic intution.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Don Covay - Mercy! (1965)

Mercy, Mercy is my favorite song of the moment, so I'm posting this Don Covay record. This isn't one of those soul records with a hit single and 10 boring-ass songs of filler, but I mostly just want to talk about Mercy, Mercy. It also turns out that maybe half of the songs are just re-workings of Mercy, Mercy so that works out really well for me here. As they say, if it is a giraffe, then you should ride it.

One of my favorite things is when the verse of a song is way catchier than the chorus. Another of my favorite things is when a song flirts with both major and minor tonality. Let's take a look at this chord progression here: A/C#7/D/Dm

Wow what a great idea. That C#7 chord has an F in it, which isn't in an A major scale, but is the sixth in an A minor scale. Then, that F goes up a half step to F# for the D major chord which re-establishes the major tonality, then back to F again for the D minor chord. Quite an emotionally satisfying journey for just a few half-steps here and there. But really doggies, whenever you're playing a major IV chord, drop that third down a half-step and see how it makes you feel.

My third favorite thing is when a singer says their own name: "She said, 'Don, your baby's gonna leave you, her bag is packed up under the bed'" Here let me try: "My friends said, 'Todd you've got to update your blog, because we're addicted to the internet.'"

But ignore all of this theory talk for a second. Don Covay put together one of my favorite soul records. Really great guitar playing (Jimi Hendrix supposedly played on some of these songs) mixed high enough so that I can hear it and nerd out. Gritty, expressive vocals. Go for it:

Friday, October 10, 2008

Virunga - Feet on Fire (1991)

Virunga is the vehicle for Samba Mapangala's exuberant-ass vocals, but the really important part this record is the interplay between the two guitars. These breaks will make any student of counterpoint absolutely green with envy. See 3:15 and on in Sungura. Notice the slight variations on the melody that foreshadow the the shift at 4:18. Tasteful, subtle tricks that connect parts of a song are music's unsung heroes.

Now let's talk about the best example: Jaffar. Here is a peek into what I'm thinking starting at at 4:02. Hey this is a rad little riff, but I'm really focusing on the lower counterpoint. Oh shit, it all just dropped into a fucking perfect groove, but now this next variation is even more perfect fuck they just returned to the original I've never been so happy to be listening to anything in my entire life. So, in order to demonstrate their hugely swollen and powerful brains, dudes somehow made the first riff approximately ten million times more interesting than when it first showed up as that lower counterpoint.

I'm only one chapter into my counterpoint book, so I can't really offer too much explanation of exactly what's going on other than to say that the interplay between these two guitar players is like a dolphin riding a unicorn: beautiful and majestic in every imaginable way.

I'm going to be in New York for a second, so no updates until I'm back at the end of the week.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Incantation - Onward to Golgotha (1992)

This is my favorite death metal album.

Let's talk about melody in death metal for a second here, and not in the Dark Tranquility toolbox sense that somehow became popular amongst swoopy haircuts. Because, as percussive and heavy as Incantation is, the main thrust of these songs is the melody. Sure things are a bit chromatic and the tonal center might float around a bit, but, if you listen closely, you should be able to hum every riff on this record.

Take intro to the first song. Do you hear that shit? That intro has one of my favorite tricks. Dudes lead off with the second part of the two part riff which creates a really cool, almost polyrhythmic effect, since the strong beats are in a flux for a second.

At the best moments on this record, crushing primal riffs evoke images of planets colliding and primordial ooze coalescing into a Cambrian explosion. See Christening the Afterbirth at ~2:05-2:50. Holy shit. I think the lyrics are mostly about hating Jesus, but it works better for me if I just think about boiling seas getting hit by meteors and the formation of amino acids.

Tempos flow from hyper tremolo-picking to funeral dirges completely organically; this is not a beatdown happy meathead mosh record. Incantation mastered offsetting the melody and rhythm of a speed-picked melodic passage with a mid-paced counterpoint. See Deliverance of Horrific Prophecies from ~1:21-1:40. The melody is established during the 4/4 speed-picking part, then recontextualized so satisfyingly into the pummeling 6/4 mid-paced section. Genius!

At Central Illinois Metalfest a few months ago, Incantation played this album start to finish. I'm completely proud to say that I too played that show. In conclusion, I played a show with Incantation when they played Onward to Golgotha in its entirety.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Luiz Bonfá - Introspection (1972)

So if someone were to tell me that an album is "absolutely breath-taking," I would pretty much be thinking, "Whatever, giant dork." However, I am the giant dork right now. This thing is absolutely breath-taking.

Luiz Bonfá, on solo guitar, seriously cannot stop playing beautiful and inspiring melodies. I hope to someday understand the chord voicings that he's accompanying himself with, because the flow from jagged to smooth to ethereal to almost creepy is so perfectly controlled, it makes my head spin. Everything is so fucking cohesive, too. Bonfá creates tension and releases it as gracefully as I've ever heard; these songs take you all over the place, and you don't even realize it. You're not even paying attention to what you're listening to, because you think fairies are kissing your eardrums and it is a new experience for you.

Writing about this is inspiring me to go work on my fingerstyle playing, so c-ya

Friday, October 3, 2008

Moby Grape - Moby Grape (1967)

What the fuck going on here, I'm doing this.

We're starting this off with a record that I really enjoy recommending, because people always love it.

Moby Grape's self-titled debut from 1967 is a fucking shining example of melody and songcraft. The hooks on this thing are so perfect - Grape mastered the quick build-up into a nice rhythmic vocal break. Take notes on Come in the Morning and Hey Grandma. Also, consider the call and response arrangements of Omaha and Fall On You. I love songs that are written like this. Super catchy next level hooks, but song structures with much more flow and subtlety than the arena rock "man this chorus has got to be huge" agenda that's become the standard for pop music today.

There's also a steady flow of busy but tasteful lead guitar riffing. But hey, unlike many other records by white dudes from this time period, this is not a manual on how to be really boring at playing the blues. This is a manual on how to turn my brain into a pleasure factory.