Monday, June 29, 2009

Icecross - Icecross (1973)

This album is a total blogger wet dream. Whoa, underappreciated, anti-religious, fuzzed out psych rock From Iceland! Download and archive away!

But honestly, this record has a pretty great proto-metal vibe, as well as riffs, and, fortunately, the one song about being a sad guy is followed up with a song making fun of Christianity, which somehow still exists 36 years later despite the best efforts of Icecross.

Weird almost fusionesque riffing starts off 1999. Flirting with several different modes leading into a choppy, undulating verse. Also note the drummer's exuberant over-playing: crashing like crazy and making more than ample use of his toms. Works out quite well for the herky-jerky vibe of the song, if you ask me. Similarly, Scared makes excellent use of a plodding riff made up of fourths, which gives a nicely pseudo-dissonant sound to lead into another segment with very strange rhythmic emphasis.

Fans of Flower Travellin Band, Black Sabbath and/or Mountain, point your internet here:

Monday, June 15, 2009

Celtic Frost - To Mega Therion (1985)

I wrote some music reviews for exciting current webzine Jettison Quarterly; click through for a rad interface, a really interesting Fischerspooner interview, and some of my inimitable writing. While you're at it, why not subscribe and have the next issue hand-emailed to your inbox, and also subscribe to my feed too because my numbers have been climbing recently and I'd like to keep it that way. Here's an outtake that just happens to be about one of my all time favorite albums:

There was a time when punk and metal were churning in a filthy, viscous primordial ooze with this lithe behemoth of a record lurking just beneath the surface. Celtic Frost took the chromatic, syncopated riffing of Discharge, dragged it down to the depths in their earlier incarnation as Hellhammer, and rose again with their own sliding power chord method that stands out immediately on all of their releases.

Melodies move through half-steps, syncopating emphasis in an intuition-defying rhythmic framework. Each phrase has its own conflicts and resolutions, as narratives are relentlessly pushed forward by a dizzying command of atonal melody and rhythmic intuition. Themes are created, then endlessly varied in the classical tradition. Sprawling song structures alternate between the near-ambient D-beat and the plodding Black Sabbath dirge, until all forces inevitably focus on a single theme as Tom G Warrior delivers his unparalleled primal prayers.

Slower tempos allow Celtic Frost to utilize longer phrases that move through chords like geologic eras. Planets collide and new forms of life evolve as each riff lives and dies on a scale that dwarfs individual human experience.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Prince - Dirty Mind (1980)

It's time for the best album from one of my musical heroes. I decided the other day that I'm going to get into hanging out with celebrities. I mean, my friends are cool, but there are probably way cooler people out there, such as Prince, Ben Affleck, and Heather Graham (bombers). So yeah, attention all celebrities, why don't you come over and listen to records.

Prince's absurdly prolific output from the early 80s is unbearably, appallingly consistently great - a real monsoon of musical creativity and weird-ass grooves. I don't even know what to say about this other than if you don't like it, come over and I'll gladly cut your ears off for you. Idiot.

Underneath the layers of synth tones and guitar embellishments, these songs embody a stark "less is more" philosophy. Notice that Uptown is based upon the same chord progression for the entire song, broken only briefly for a pre-chorus, and structuring changes are brought about by changing instrumentation. As in the construction of human language, a collection of basic rules gives rise to infinite variations in meaning through recursive groove structuring and adolescent incest fantasies.

I usually hate the lyrics to just about everything, but I truly envy the voracious, animalistic sexuality represented here. Prince wants to bang more than I've ever wanted anything in my life, and that is something that rules. Another cool thing about these lyrics is that they are very offensive to those with morals and values. Here is a funny video of Zappa and other whites on Crossfire discussing censorship in the 80s. Sister features prominently in the discussion, which is actually one of Prince's best choruses, home to one of the catchiest, non-diatonic notes of all time.

Also I back Prince singing in falsetto almost the whole time. Really good move; totally maxes out the androgyny.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach - Concerto for Flute, Strings & Continuo in D minor (1747)

Here's my boy CPEB, whose name I can never spell correctly - two 'p's at the end of "Philipp" and one 'm' in "Emanuel?" What was the ol' Johann Sebastian thinking?

Anyway, this is a great concerto for your mind. The introductory theme from Allegro is regularly trapped in my head, and Allegro di molto features some virtuoso playing that can't help but conjure up images of black stallions sprinting through snow-strewn forests, or something equally fast and full of implied conflict.

Counterpoint composition is not based upon the harmonic structuring typical of blues/jazz/rock music, but rather, is based upon independent voices and the relationship between the melodies that they create. I would like to understand how this relates to the scale-based models through which our brains interpret music, as, although compositions are often ostensibly in either minor or major, certain passages imply a variable tonic in a very interesting way. Let's see if I can nail an example. In Allegro, the piece starts out in minor, then the melody ascends through a variety of variations that all seem to imply a new tonic, before descending back into the original minor key for the next theme at 40 seconds. Someone give me a lot of money and I'll isolate specific 'riffs' and have people identify what key they are in. Then I will publish a paper in a peer-reviewed journal detailing the results.

Also interesting is how the strings and the continuo serve as timekeepers and keep the Allegro movement chugging along. Chug-a-lug, CPEB.

PS The new Beherit record, entitled Engram, is great.