3 recent releases that i feel compelled to write about, having nothing to do with each other... - phil
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum: In Glorious Times
(The End Records)
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum's fourth studio release keeps the torch alive on theatrical rock while making their own road. Somehow the band manages to nod to Rock in Opposition (RIO), avant prog, and dark metal with the same set of movements. In fact one review refers to them as Metal In Opposition, and the official review quote from The End Records calls them Rock-against-Rock.
The music is incredibly well crafted complex and demanding rock, intelligent and expressive and letting go a lot of energy. It incorporates an extended orchestration that's generally pushed by guitar, but also includes found and built instruments, percussive devices, samples, drop-in recordings, some odd electronics (electric pancreas??), and some lovely acoustic instruments.
The two lead vocalists are active musicians outside of Sleepytime: Frykdahl is also heard in Faun Fabels, while violinist Carla Kihlstedt, beside her own 2 Foot Yard, is a prolific improviser in both the improv and avant rock scenes.Comparisons might be Present or Art Zoyd for the dark chamber rock element, Cop-Shoot-Cop for aggressive energy and percussive elements, Magma for the sense of drama and extended orchestrations, name your favorite dark metal band for that certain sensibility on the rockers, Gabriel era Genesis on-stage and in costume, and Art Bears for the irony and articulation.
Hideki, Kato: Hope & Despair
Curious compositional improvisations from Downtown New Yorker Kato Hideki, working with Zeena Parkins, John Zorn and a percussive and electronic ensemble, playing Hideki's compositions inspired by black & white photography. The title comes from photographer Robert Frank, which is written over the left page of the insert: "Black and white is the vision of hope and despair." Hideki explains: "Physically photos don't have time in terms of actual movement. But I feel good pictures have a sense of time, even though they don't move like films. While you are looking at the pictures, they have their own lives. I believe this is the beauty of photography."
Further inspiration came from the concept of time in music from Eastern cultures. Hideki used the form of Japanese Noh theater when developing "Hope & Despair". Noh has a specific structure consisting of Jo (introduction), Ha (break) and Kyu (fast): to start the action moves very slowly - it is said, "one step is a thousand miles." - followed by a sudden movement, completely out of context with the introduction, and last a sudden series of quick actions and the piece ends abruptly. Hideki explains: "I have been influenced by this culture, and so I abstractly imported this concept into my music. Indeed it is demanding for an audience to pay such close attention, to watch what is happening during every single second of the performance. But when you do so, you can actually feel the expansion of time. The more attention you pay, the greater the impression."
People Like Us / Ergo Phizmiz: Perpetuum Mobile
Fun, frequently bizarre, and sometimes serious plunderphonic-oriented release with a huge vocabulary of genre, rhythmic and erratic sample sources used in strange ways. "A Bastards Waltz" sounds like Ranaldo and The Loaf being weirder than even they themselves were...
"Perpetuum Mobile" is the result of a uniquely schizophrenic "open source" compositional process: the UK's finest collage composers (collage-posers?) Ergo Phizmiz and People Like Us (aka Vicki Bennett) uploaded files to a shared server, downloaded and processed each other's work, and flung the resulting fragments back at each other. The result is an interpenetrating audio-collage so intricate that neither party can recall who did what to whom.
So far, so avant-garde; but what makes this record different is that Ergo and Vicki then wrote and sang their own vocals on top of their Frankenstein creation. Here you will find slyly absurdist lyrics replete with monkeys, carousels, trousers, apple trees, tinkling bells, dogs, sausages, whiskey, and cannibalism. No matter how fraught with trauma, these ballads and ditties are sung with a straight face and mixed front and center, and the results feel like 1930s British music hall standards from an alternate universe: half Ivor Cutler, half George Formby."-Soleilmoon
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