Archive for avant-garde

Mark Mothersbaugh – “Muzik For Insomniaks” Review

Posted in album review, avant-garde, electronic, experimental, Mark Mothersbaugh with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 3, 2010 by GRAMPS Pantheon

My friend and I have an odd running joke of finding “Donkey Kong” vibes in music.  Somehow, we constantly encounter music that is similar in melody or overall atmosphere to the music in the Donkey Kong Country/Land games, normally a sound akin to that of the underwater or snowy mountain levels.  I’ve heard everything from black metal to trance conjure up this very precise ambience.  Now, I can add one more set of albums to this ongoing trend, Mark Mothersbaugh’s Muzik For Insomniaks.

Never played the Donkey Kong games, you say?  Well, don’t fret.  Muzik For Insomniaks’ infectious nature may latch onto you for a number of other reasons.  According to Mothersbaugh, its original purpose was to be music that you could do work around the house to.  If that was the only purpose of these albums, then he has succeeded.  A solely keyboard release, the two volumes are low-maintenance material, not demanding your full attention at all times to pick up on the melodies.  I’ve tested this out by doing household chores to these albums.  Lo and behold, the pairing is fantastic!  Dynamic enough to keep me from being bored but not so complex as to side track my natural thinking.

Though minimalist in terms of its repetitious nature and sole use of keyboards, the muzik is really quite addicting and the melodies are surprisingly complex and ever-changing.  The albums just drip with a whimsical child-like feel too.  This is what a creator of the children’s show Rugrats felt as well.  For, if you’ll recall, Mark Mothersbaugh did the music for that show.  These are the albums that got him that job.  If you don’t pick up on the Rugrats feel throughout Volume One, then first track “ugo” of Volume Two will no doubt give you instantaneous Rugrats theme song flashbacks.

I could see this album turning a lot of people off.  It’s really quite experimental in the overall lack of any verse-chorus song structure as well as the aforementioned constant repetition.  I urge you to give it a try though.  In the time that I’ve been listening to this album, I’ve found it perfect for going on a run, doing chores, childhood nostalgia, Rugrats nostalgia (I was/am a huge fan), thinking, driving a car at night, and allowing me to remember Donkey Kong games and other good 90s video game soundtracks.  Is there any reason not to give this a try?  Well, it is pretty rare.  Good luck finding it!

-Max

Naked City – “Torture Garden” Album Review

Posted in album review, avant-garde, Grindcore, Jazz, Naked City with tags , , , , , , , , on July 4, 2010 by GRAMPS Pantheon

Pleasure through pain is an experience oft connected with the BDSM fetish scene, with the term “algolagnia” specifically used to describe this sort of kink.  How fitting it is then, that Naked City’s Torture Garden, with its album art taken directly from a Japanese BDSM porno, tackles this specific perversion in both concept and sound.

Whoever thinks that jazz is limited to the “elevator music” played off dusty old 10”s has never heard Naked City’s destruction of not only jazz music, but the overall restrictions of a typical musical band: consistent song structures, verse or chorus patterns, and lyrics.  Perhaps a big “fuck you” to these musical standards or an ode to Naked City’s hardcore/grindcore influences, the songs on Torture Garden are incredibly spastic and sometimes contain three or more genres within one sub-minute grindcore track.  Notable pieces include “N.Y Flat Top Box,” a primarily country music song whose twang is interrupted by hiccups of blast beats, “Cairo Chop Shop,” an aptly-named romp that serves as a brief yet disturbing glimpse into the Egyptian underground, and “Kaoru,” with a musical box lullaby strangely evocative of the prologue from Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander.  This genre hopping style can be dizzying and definitely a turn-off for the casual listener.  But then again, when has avant-garde jazz/grindcore hybrids ever been aimed at the masses?

Most commonly labeled as “too loud” or generalized by the layman as “screamo,” extreme metal and grindcore somehow find a target audience that hears something compelling hidden behind the cacophonous sound.  Seemingly, Torture Garden is an experiment in this idea.  If we can derive enjoyment from this music that breaks most, if not all, musical standards and should prove a “painful” listening experience, then aren’t we algolagniacs?  Perhaps hidden within any adventurous music fan is this innate desire to test our limits.  What may initially be painful can turn into a pleasurable experience.

-Max

Sigh – ‘Scenes From Hell’ Review

Posted in album review, avant-garde, black metal with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 4, 2010 by GRAMPS Pantheon

With each album, Sigh has consistently shown their listeners that they will never be pigeonholed into a specific genre.  While the origins of their music are rooted in black metal, orchestral, jazz, and avant-garde influences are also present.  Imaginary Sonicscape was a bizarre trip through a psychedelic atmosphere.  Gallows Gallery, the band’s foray into melodic metal, proved that they could retain a high level of musicianship and varied influences while creating songs that were instantly catchy and accessible.  With 2007’s Hangman’s Hymn, Sigh incorporated a large amount of orchestral influences, resulting in a highly symphonic and intriguing listen.  However, for the first time, Sigh overdid it.  The tracks themselves were fantastic, but long orchestral breaks made the album a chore to listen to.

Enter Scenes from Hell.  For the first time, Sigh does not completely reinvent themselves.  Rather, they have taken the winning formula from Hangman’s Hymn and stripped the filler from it, resulting in a cohesive and wildly enjoyable album.  The orchestral influences are back and more prevalent than ever, but the band has truly perfected their incorporation into the song structure.  Unlike other symphonic bands, who simply write metal songs and layer violins and trumpets over the riffs, Sigh make the orchestral atmosphere an integral part of the music.  Saxophone solos follow guitar solos, loud trumpets punctuate heavy passages, and violins and keys mingle with distorted riffs and blast beats.  Never have classical instruments sounded so normal in metal.

Don’t worry, Sigh have not lost their avant-garde side.  ‘Normal’ does not mean that you have heard this before.  ‘Prelude to the Oracle’ opens the album with a thrash riff, quickly bombarding the listener with a chorus of trumpets.  Songs run the gamut from intense blackened thrash to slow, doomy dirges, such as the exceptional ‘Funeral’ songs in the center of the album.  Of course, Mirai’s trademark howls and keys are backed up by Shinichi’s furious guitar shredding, but Scenes from Hell also boasts the addition of saxophonist and vocalist Dr. Mikannibal.  Her deep growls and solos, especially on ‘Musica in Tempora Belli’ add a new dimension to Sigh’s music.

Despite excellent song structures, insanely catchy melodies, and a new level of orchestration and experimentation, Scenes from Hell is not Sigh’s best album.  It remains a blast to listen to after repeated listens, unlike its predecessor, Hangman’s Hymn.  However, the production is strangely muddy – the bass is inaudible, more or less, and the guitars occasionally sound as if they were recorded underwater.  Considering Sigh’s popularity and the quality of the production on previous albums (Gallows Gallery notwithstanding), this is bizarre.  And, while it’s great to hear the band perfect the style that they dabbled in on the previous album, it is somewhat disappointing.  In today’s metal scene, with two-bit metalcore acts and ‘bedroom black metal’, it is always refreshing to find bands like Ulver and Sigh who constantly reinvent themselves and progress.

Even with poor production and a lack of progression, this is certainly one of the best albums of 2010 thus far.   Sigh’s brilliant combination of blackened metal with symphonic elements is one of the best that has been recorded, and is not to be missed.  While no one can predict what Mirai and crew will come up with next, it is fair to say that, considering their track record thus far, it will certainly be another monumental landmark in the evolution of black metal.

Adam

Master’s Hammer – “Mantras” review

Posted in album review, avant-garde, black metal, experimental, Master's Hammer, metal reviews, progressive black metal, progressive metal with tags , , , , , , , on April 2, 2010 by GRAMPS Pantheon

When the news of a new Master’s Hammer album broke last year, I was more than a little excited.  Their 1991 classic Ritual had already turned me into a Master’s Hammer fanboy, so the prospect of a new masterpiece had me eagerly looking forward to Mantras.  Being that their catalogue is ripe with innovation and experimentation, it comes as no surprise that Mantras continues in this genre-defying fashion.

“Typograf” starts the album off strongly with explosive energy, a simple yet brutal riff, and atmospheric guitar solos.  The next few songs follow in a similar fashion, including simple (and dare I say, predictable) guitar riffs combined with a dash of guitar or keyboard oddity.  If I had to pick a low point in the album, it would be these few songs.  Moments of glory shine through when they break from their traditional old-era riffs and throw something odd into the mix.

Luckily, beginning with “Bodhi,” Master’s Hammer begins to fully explore these experimental tendencies that were only hinted at in the prior tracks.  The songs are not as heavy, with many arguably not even being metal, let alone black metal.  However, I embrace their heavy usage of diverse keyboard sounds, nearly danceable beats, and odd song structures because it’s simply a joy to listen!  The songs all continue in this fashion, except for a cover of their old song “Jáma Pekel.”  However, even this track isn’t spared from the album’s weirdness due to its incredibly funky keyboard solo near the end.

Mantras has been a very difficult album for me.  When I first heard the samples offered on their website, I was ready for a new classic.  Does this album reach that status?  The stumbling in a few songs early-on does not help its case. However, it contains so many eccentricities and new sounds that my perception of the album is constantly changing. Who knows?  Perhaps the future will be kind to this unique piece of work. -Max

Between the Buried and Me – “The Great Misdirect” review

Posted in album review, avant-garde, between the buried and me, metal reviews, metalcore, prog reviews, progressive metal, progressive rock with tags , , , , , , , on March 18, 2010 by GRAMPS Pantheon

With their magnum opus, Colors, Between the Buried and Me stretched the already distorted limits of progressive music. This included the insertion of many conflicting musical genres into one continuous album. The Great Misdirect picks up where Colors left off, but takes the sporadic passages and streamlines them into a transcending record. The band’s eclectic style makes the transitions seem very cohesive. The Great Misdirect is a transcendent experience, the majority of the album examining the mind and our own human perception.

Although not extremely technical, “Mirrors” opens the album by creating a preparatory listening experience. The listener is able to relate to their own existence through the calming mood created.  “Obfuscation” relays the overall theme of the album with these lyrics; “As humans we could never be content with knowing all, yet we can’t be content with the fact that our brains will never know.” Throughout the entire album, the band exhibits a knack for creating haunting vibes of mind control (“Disease, Injury, Madness”), questions of existence, and even UFOs (“Fossil Genera- A Feed from Cloud Mountain”).

Musically, the greatest evolution can be heard through Blake Richardson, the drummer. Prior to recording, Blake had been collaborating and working with Dream Theater virtuoso Mike Portnoy. That being said, Blake stays true to the heavy side of BTBAM by pounding out barrages of brutal drumming. Picking up from where he left off in Colors, bassist Dan Briggs plays with an enormous amount of talent and emotion, and should be considered one of the premier young bassists on today’s scene. Tommy Rogers is not the exclusive vocalist on the album. Guitarist Paul Waggoner’s takes the lead on vocals for “Desert of Song,” which is the low point of the album in my opinion. The 18-minute closing epic, “Swim to the Moon,” features Chuck Johnson, light tech and merch coordinator for the band.

Overall, Between the Buried and Me continue to exemplify the progressive label by adapting with each album and constantly reworking their personal goals as musicians. The Great Misdirect is a chilling, magnificent representation of what the band is capable of doing musically and lyrically. Though everyone may not approve of the eclectic shifts present in the latest albums from the band, BTBAM brings something new to the table with each release. One can only hope they continue down the road paved by Colors and The Great Misdirect.Matt Karow

Aaron’s Album of the Year/Beer Article

Posted in avant-garde, beer article, black metal, Fen, maudlin of the Well, progressive rock with tags , , , , on January 4, 2010 by GRAMPS Pantheon

Today, I present you with two more articles.  First up is Aaron/Brother Bartholomew (of Prog Promulgation fame) giving us an explanation of his favorite album of 2009.  Also, Mr. JJ Garsombke provides a nice little editorial on one of his most prized brews.  Somewhat unrelated to music, though interesting nonetheless!

-Max

Bart’s Album of the Year/Beer Article

Prog Promulgation/A Necessary Listening Experience

Posted in avant-garde, black metal, Diabolical Masquerade, King Crimson, le orme, Necessary Listening Experience, prog promulgation, progressive rock with tags , , , , on January 3, 2010 by GRAMPS Pantheon

Here we have two articles.  The first, written by sirs Adam and Aaron, is an editorial glorifying progressive rock by explicating the beauty of two classic albums (one well-known and the other obscure).  The second article is a short analysis of a metal album that I consider to be a “necessary” musical experience.  Enjoy my friends.

-Max

Prog Promulgation/A Necessary Listening Experience