Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Minor Forest - So Jesus Was at the Last Supper. . .

So Jesus Was at the Last Supper. . .

This song is from a true forgotten masterpiece, A Minor Forest's Flemish Altruism. Sometimes I let myself fantasize that the world of independent rock bands will rediscover and want to imitate this band and its brilliant balance of visceral punk energy stripped of adolescent rage crossed with sly composition stripped of chamber/prog pretense. And that I'll still be going to shows when that happens.

As much as anything, I love that A Minor Forest rocks lean. Their songs aren't simple and they certainly aren't concise, but every element steps in and makes its statement without flailing sonic excess or unnecessary instrumental duplication. I picked this track less because it's one of my favorites on the album -- I love it, but there are ones I love more -- than because it's such a nice illustration of this leanness, despite running for an almost totally linear fourteen minutes.

It opens with a syncopated 4/4 drum beat soon joined by a dead-simple 3/4 guitar arpeggio and then eventually a teutonic slow bass line. None of the parts would be particularly exciting in isolation, but together they make a lattice* as tight as the math rock analog to the parts of a James Brown tune -- that's a pretty loose comparison, but feel me on the syncopated simple-part combo, if you would.

Another great AMF feature is the drummer (I'm pretty sure it's the drummer) screaming starting at 2:38 while the guitar remains undistorted. Hello? How come no one else ever does that move? Why does it have to be that if one dude is rocking out at 11, all distortion pedals must be on?

Other great features are all the other parts and how much they rock. So about that '90s indie post-punk math-metal revival. . .

*It is hearby acknowledged that I used the metaphor of a lattice earlier in this blog. I think it works well for music I like, so whatever. I'm surely the only person who noticed of the four people who actually read these posts.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Circles - "Away With the Tide"

Away With the Tide

My friend Nick Millevoi plays guitar in a lot of different contexts.  Most of it falls in the umbrella of free jazz, or at least of free-thinking jazz moves applied to music in other genres.  He used to be the leader of a band called Cirles, though, which at its most exciting moments played what I like of think of as free rock.*  Free rock, in my lose conception, isn't rock dudes totally shredding with lots of dissonance and improvisation (as in Nick's excellent current band, Many Arms) -- that's more like rock fusion.  Free rock has songs, and songs that would make sense as rock songs of one subgenre of rock or another, but that are being muddied, confused, and ripped apart by the musicians' rendering.

On "Away With the Tide," the plaintive melody and it's slight variation with double-Nick harmony repeat with only a quick break for the duration of the song, ceding the foreground to the two drummers, rumbling faster and slower, like Sunny Murray more than any other classic free jazz drummer (maybe. . . someone correct me if there's a closer comparison).  Despite his formidable ax abilities, Nick approaches his instrument only for accompanying arpeggiation, speeding and slowing, but never varying from his chord progression.   The entrance halfway through of Dan Blacksberg on trombone brings only brilliant coloration of the harmonies, but no wailing.  We're left humming along with the vocals -- and four years after I first heard it I'm still happy every time this song gets stuck in my head -- and marveling at how much better a piece of music this is for lacking the bland drumming of the radio country rock that could accompany that melody.

Alas, after many line-up changes since this recording, Circles has been inactive for a while now. Perhaps we'll find out in the comments section below whether they're "broken up." 

*Yeah, I know, Nick.  Many Arms has songs.  And Storm & Stress, who I think of as the height of free rock, just barely did. Maybe I still need to work on this theory.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tiala - コトバのナカ


This raw burst of energy is the first track of two on a CD-R that I got when I lived in Japan in 2004. The band is called Tiala, and I saw them at one of a string of shows that I went to with an Australian guy named Jordan who somehow knew and loved the band Neil Perry, which band I hadn't imagined anyone knew outside of New Jersey. Judging from the shows that Jordan took me to, '90s American screamo was blowing up in Japan in the mid-aughts, but I remember thinking Tiala was the best of what I heard. In fact I remember thinking they were better live than most of the equivalent stuff I heard in New Brunswick basements during my time there ('98-'03). Maybe it was just hearing it in such a different context.

Either way, I remember this band destroying a packed room of well-mannered Japanese. This track suggests why. Also I'm pretty sure the freak out part in the last few seconds of the song was the sort of thing they did a lot more of live. This isn't a particularly groundbreaking piece of work, but I'm psyched every time I re-find this disc in a pile and put it on again. Since there's approximately zero chance that anyone in the United States of America would ever hear it, I figure it's worth sharing.