Posts Tagged ‘pitchfork’

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Luciferian Towers

September 24, 2017

“An end to foreign invasions. An end to borders. The total dismantling of the prison-industrial complex. Healthcare, housing, food and water acknowledged as an inalienable human right. The expert fuckers who broke this world never get to speak again.” Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s demands are firm, but, you know, fucking fair.

These demands come attached to a press release for the band’s new album, Luciferian Towers—a title that recalls the fiery horror that befell London’s Grenfell Tower and the gruesome class inequity that disaster exposed just weeks before the album was announced. Song titles include “Anthem for No State” and “Bosses Hang.” Fire courses through the “context” provided by the band in a press release: “We recorded it all in a burning motorboat.” “The wind is whistling through all 3,000 of its burning window-holes!” “The forest is burning and soon they’ll hunt us like wolves.” By the sound of it, post-rock’s most overtly political and unapologetically powerful band seems ready to toss the ravenous zombie corpse of neoliberalism on the pyre for good and all.

Seen in that infernal light, the sound of Luciferian Towers is the last thing you’d expect. The pulverizing, prophet-of-doom riffs that characterized Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! and Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress, the band’s previous two albums, are gone. So are the six-to-ten-minute stretches of drone—the anxious calm before those records’ storms. Ominous field recordings—a one-time Godspeed sonic standby, already pared down to a minimum on Allelujah! and eliminated entirely on Asunder—are again nowhere to be found. The album barely even hits minor-key territory until six tracks in, before resolving the melody into a more uplifting mode within a couple of minutes. If you’re looking for Lucifer, search elsewhere.

I reviewed Luciferian Towers, the new album by Godspeed You! Black Emperor, for Pitchfork.

Dean Hurley – Anthology Resource Vol. 1 △△

August 19, 2017

You don’t have to pay attention to Anthology Resource Vol. 1 △△. In fact, I’d go so far as to make that an order: Do notpay attention to Anthology Resource. This album of ambient music and soundscapes from the astonishing third season of “Twin Peaks,” by the show’s music and sound supervisor Dean Hurley, will frustrate focused attempts at listening. Passages feel overlong and repetitive, despite 11 of the collection’s 18 compositions clocking in at two minutes or less. Moments of beauty and terror burst out of the murk, only to dissipate with aggravating speed. Hurley’s airy electronic tones conjure up a sense of space so distinct you can practically see it, as titles like “Weighted Room / Choral Swarm,” “Tube Wind Dream,” “Interior Home by the Sea,” and “Forest / Interior” make clear. Yet the effect of sitting and listening intently to song after song is like looking through a window at these strange new worlds, only for someone to abruptly close the blinds on you over and over.

Here’s the thing, though: So what?

I reviewed the first of this season’s Twin Peaks soundtrack/score albums, Dean Hurley’s Anthology Resource Vol. 1 △△, for Pitchfork. It’s a roundabout way for me to talk about Transcendental Meditation, too.

Nine Inch Nails: Add Violence [EP]

July 26, 2017

The EP’s final track is both the strongest and strangest. “The Background World” appears to be a slinky electronic groove that might conclude a big-budget Hollywood thriller, serving the same function as Moby’s “Extreme Ways” in the Bourne movies, or Reznor and Ross’ cover of Bryan Ferry’s “Is Your Love Strong Enough?” with their frequent collaborator (and Reznor’s wife) Mariqueen Maandig in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Yet the lyrics are bluntly bereft of sequel-ready optimism: “There is no moving past/There is no better place/There is no future point in time/We will not get away.” Reznor’s detractors tend to mock this sort of sentiment, but in the year of our Lord 2017, who’s laughing now?

The song’s formal moments are even more intimidating. It repeats the same awkwardly edited instrumental snippet—a brief empty hiccup separating each iteration—over fifty times. Seven minutes and thirty-nine seconds of the song’s eleven minute, forty-four-second runtime are eaten up as the segment plays out over and over, each new version a degraded facsimile of the last, until only static remains of the original riff and rhythm. Like an image run through a Xerox machine until it’s no longer recognizable, this makes Reznor’s Hesitation Marks–era worry that he’s just “a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a” legitimate entity real and audible. Its audaciousness would make David Lynch himself proud. As Reznor promises additional work to come in the near future, it gives his listeners reason to hope, no matter how hopeless he himself becomes.

I reviewed the new Nine Inch Nails record for Pitchfork. Proud to be covering this band for this site in this way.

Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie – “Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie”

June 14, 2017

A good chorus can put a whole lot of questions to bed—about a song, about a band, about a reason to get up in the morning, you name it. Fleetwood Mac, whose catalog is so festooned with world-bestriding hits that they can do a best-of reunion tour and leave “Sara” and “Hold Me” off the setlist, know this better than just about any other band. Their colossal pop collaborations kept them together through years of intense interpersonal turmoil and full decades of cordial détente. Like, in the grand scheme of things, is it really that big a deal if you left your bass-player husband for the light guy if the result is “You Make Loving Fun”?

Which brings us to the curious case of Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie, a Fleetwood Mac album in all but name—and the conspicuous absence of the third member of the band’s songwriting trinity. Ending what seemed like a permanent departure from the band, keyboardist and vocalist McVie returned to the fold in 2014 for a massive tour. After it wrapped, she and guitarist/vocalist/production whiz Buckingham headed back to the studio together for the first time in well over a decade, with drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie joining them. As for Stevie Nicks, well: “What we do is go on the road, do a ton of shows and make lots of money. We have a lot of fun. Making a record isn’t all that much fun.”

Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie feels like a retort to Nicks’ statement. For McVie, the return to the band has been creatively invigorating as well as financially lucrative (Nicks herself gets that, facetiously describing McVie’s only other alternative to heading back to the studio: “‘Now I’m just gonna go back to London and sit in my castle for two years?’ She wanted to keep working”); Buckingham’s a born striver who kills time between tours by adding guitar texture to Nine Inch Nails records. Going on the road and making money is “what we do”? The pair’s collaboration feels like a “speak for yourself” in album form. To paraphrase a Rumours classic, they’ll make recording fun!

I reviewed the new album by bonafide pop-rock geniuses Lindsey Buckingham & Christine McVie for Pitchfork. It’s definitely fun, just not fundamental.

Slowdive: Slowdive

May 8, 2017

Nature metaphors come so readily to mind when listening to shoegaze—clouds, stars, skies, storms, oceans, whirlwinds, maelstroms—that it’s easy to believe that, like the weather it evokes, it just sort of happens. Invest in the right guitar pedals, put the right breathy spin on your vocals, and bam—instant Loveless, or close enough to fool a stoned and heartsick teenager. It’s as easy as walking out your front door and letting the spring air greet you.

For some bands that may well be all there is to it. But song by song, moment by moment, sometimes even note by note, Slowdive do it better. There’s nothing elaborate in the bassline for “Slomo,” the opening track of their first album in 22 years, given the thick bed of guitars it bounces on. Just seven notes, the sixth of which leaps unexpectedly up an octave instead of continuing the bassline’s descent. Or at the end of “Slomo,” when Rachel Goswell’s voice pulls off a similar trick, first when she takes over lead vocals from Neil Halstead, then when she starts singing them at the very top of her register. At the end of “Go Get It,” Halstead sings two different lyrics laid on top of one another simultaneously, like his conversation with Goswell is over and now he’s talking to himself.

In a genre beloved for its comfortable reliability, all it takes are these small but striking detours to remind us that this glorious noise is the work of human hands and the skill that move them. If there’s a story to Slowdive—the band’s return to active recording together after decades of slowly mounting critical and audience acclaim—beyond the human-interest angle of the return itself, the swerves in the songcraft tell it: This is an album as thoughtful as it is beautiful.

I reviewed Slowdive’s self-titled comeback album for Pitchfork, which awarded the record Best New Music.

Goldfrapp: Silver Eye

March 30, 2017

It takes Alison Goldfrapp more than a full verse into Silver Eye’s leadoff track “Anymore” before she utters a single word with more than one syllable: “You’re what I want. You’re what I need. Give me your love. Make me a freak.” Reductive? Considering her and collaborator Will Gregory—whose past lyrics would gussy up their earthy emotions and desires in hazy surrealism like, “Wolf lady sucks my brain” and, “Now take me dancing at the disco where you buy your Winnebago”—you might be tempted to think so. Prior to “Anymore,” Goldfrapp hid their most verbally explicit expression of lust (“Put your dirty angel face between my legs and knicker lace”) in an elaborate fantasy about a tryst with a traveling carny titled, appropriately enough, “Twist.”

But the direct approach suits this new album, the group’s first since 2013’s Tales of Us. Ever since the pair swapped the John Barry ambience of their debut album Felt Mountain for the electro-glam of its successor Black Cherry, they’ve staked their identity on being able to assume new identities at will. Wanna double down on that sexy “Spirit in the Sky” shimmer? There’s Supernature. Wanna go pastoral? Check out Seventh Tree. Wanna trade Gary Numan and Marc Bolan for the Pointer Sisters and circa-“Jump” Van Halen? Head for Head First. By contrast, Silver Eye is a synthesis—a combination of all the things the group has done well. “Become the one you know you are,” commands a key track, and they’re teaching by example. Who needs many syllables to express something so fundamental?

I reviewed Goldfrapp’s new album Silver Eye for Pitchfork.

Nine Inch Nails: ‘The Fragile (2017 Definitive Edition)’ / ‘The Fragile: Deviations 1’

January 11, 2017

The Fragile arrived a stylistic turning point, emerging at the point where the “alternative” sobriquet fell out of fashion and “indie” achieved dominance. Today, though, reservations about the lyrics’ outré confessionality and the music’s jam-packed, everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink gigantism seem positively quaint. (Don’t care for titanically hyper-produced albums stuffed with uncomfortably intimate and self-mythologizing lyrics about your emotional world falling apart? Tell it to Lemonade.) The Fragile may lack the tightness of Nine Inch Nails’ other highlights: the concise fury of Broken, the inexorable depressive logic of The Downward Spiral, the late-career professionalism of Hesitation Marks. But it takes the emotional distress that gives it its title and transmutes it into something colossal, defiant, and resilient. Listen to it at your strongest or your weakest (and I’ve certainly done both) and it will offer you a sonic signature commensurate with the power of what you feel inside.

I reviewed Nine Inch Nails’ The Fragile, one of my favorite albums of all time, plus its recent instrumental revamp The Fragile: Deviations 1, for Pitchfork.

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Music Time: Underworld – Barbara Barbara, we face a shining future

March 15, 2016

Let’s talk about love—with Underworld, you kind of have to. Though still best known for shouting “lager, lager, lager” in their epochal 1996 hit “Born Slippy.NUXX,” the long-running dance duo, consisting of singer-lyricist-multi-instrumentalist Karl Hyde and producer Rick Smith, have quietly but persistently placed matters of the heart at the center of their best songs. Their breakthrough single “Cowgirl” pledged “I wanna give you everything,” robotically chanting the final word like a mantra for emphasis. “Jumbo,” the buoyant highlight of 1999’s Beaucoup Fish, took a (literally) sweeter approach, with singer Karl Hyde purring “I need sugar” when “I get thoughts about you.” And despite the involvement of a series of guest producers whose work never quite gelled, UW’s last studio album Barking was held together by a chain of out-and-out love songs, from its singles “Scribble” to its tremulous closing ballad “Louisiana” (“When you touch me, planets in sweet collision”). Regardless of their reputation for turning late-night urban-hedonism anthems into festival-filling crowdpleasers, Underworld remain romantics at heart.

Nowhere is this more apparent than on Barbara Barbara, we face a shining future—perhaps because Smith and Hyde’s own creative romance needed rekindling.

Today I made my Pitchfork debut by reviewing Underworld’s excellent new album Barbara Barbara, we face a shining future.

Yr Own 5-10-15-20

January 27, 2013

Pitchfork has a feature called 5-10-15-20 where they interview musicians about the music that was important to them at five-year intervals throughout their lives. On his personal tumblr editor-in-chief Mark Richardson asked people to create their own. You can find mine at my music tumblr, Cool Practice. A fantastic voyage from Lipps Inc. to A$AP Rocky.