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.