When Michael Gira announced that he was reactivating Swans (not a reunion, remember?) it came as a bit of a surprise; albeit one that garnered some excitement. The album that followed showed that the band had fleshed out the folk trappings of Gira’s Angels of Light project; instilling some of Swans heaviness onto the Angels’ southern twang. Some people liked it, some didn’t, but it was still an announcement that Swans were indeed back. Now, two years on, we have a second release from the ‘reactivated’ Swans: a double CD that clocks in at two hours. Straight off the bat it’s worth pointing out that this reviewer believes that this could have been pruned somewhat, but we’ll come to that in a bit. The sound that Swans had mustered back on 2010’s My Father
Continue reading Swans – The Seer [...]
There is just something that doesn’t quite make it when it comes to the band Beak>; whether it’s because they seem to be trying too hard to emulate the motorik rock that came from Germany in the ’70s, or because they attempt to go for a ritualistic sound that falls short of ritual, there’s just something that they can’t manage to pull off.
The band comprise of members Billy Fuller, Matt Williams, and of course, Geoff Barrow of Portishead fame. The sound they make has obvious Krautrock references, especially on the track “Liar,” where they do an amazing impersonation of Damo Suzuki-era Can; but there are post-Kraut influences too, most notably in the post-punk that came along in the late ’70s, which also had its roots in the experimental German music that preceded it. The results
Continue reading Beak> – >> [...]
The turn of the century saw an explosion of underground musical activity over in the states( especially in New York, and Brooklyn in particular) The bands that were part of this supernova also seemed to defy expectations by shape shifting at a rapid rate (think Black Dice, Animal Collective, Gang Gang Dance), and it was almost impossible to predict what an outfit’s next album or EP would sound like. The only thing certain is that it would be daring and that it would have journalists throw terms such as ‘cutting edge’ around with reckless abandon. It was an exciting time for underground music with new, young bands delivering gold standard work.
These bands have matured now and are, one can say, old hands and part of the avant-establishment. Some have become almost pop, such as Animal Collective,
Continue reading Liars – WIXIW [...]
After the, quite frankly, cheesy and banal efforts from Tortoise on their previous album It’s All Around You, it was understandable if one found themselves without their hopes raised for Beacons Of Ancestorship, released in 2009. However, it comes as a relief to report that this is a vast improvement on the album beforehand; and is also a work that sees the band branching out into new territory without the tendency to repeatedly fall back on familiar tropes like they did on Standards from 2001.
They open confidently with “High Class Slim Floatin’ In,” all La Düsseldorf-esque motorik drums and fuzzy guitar riffs. The Krautrock references don’t end there as the synth melodies resemble Harmonia. In fact it appears that Tortoise had dragged out all the analogue electronic gear in their possession for
Continue reading Tortoise re-release series, part 6 – Beacons Of Ancestorship (revisited) [...]
Tortoise’s fifth album, It’s All Around You from 2004, tells the listener from the outset that they are in for no surprises whatsoever. On previous albums; and especially with the proceeding Standards, Tortoise showed that they were a band who could take off into several directions. Unfortunately with It’s All Around You they made it absolutely clear that they chose the most tedious and uninspiring one.
The album cover is a dead giveaway as well, recalling the awful Athena poster look of the artwork on albums by bands such as Weather Report. The music also resembles the smug Jazz Fusion of Weather Report. Cloying guitar melodies nuzzle up with an over-familiar use of the vibraphone in what is just more of the same; again and again.
This album was released in 2004,
Continue reading Tortoise re-release series, part 5 – It’s All Around You [...]
The way Tortoise opens Standards, their fourth album, suggest that they want to have some fun with the listener’s possible preconceptions. The buzz and hum of a guitar amp makes way for a bombastic passage of music wholly unlike what Tortoise are known for. It could be that they’re poking fun at their own reputation for subdued, restrained compositions. Or indeed it could be a wider swipe at the whole ‘post rock’ genre in general; a term that makes the band bristle.
This anthemic opening sequence of “Seneca” sounds more like MC5 or The Stooges; a large dose of psychedelics mixed in with garage rock fuzz. However, it is a false start; which cements the notion that it’s purposefully tongue in check. Once the drums kick in we’re back in more familiar territory,
Continue reading Tortoise re-release series, part 4 – Standards [...]
When TNT came out, some of the band members mentioned whilst interviewed that using Pro Tools had given them too many options, and that they had feared at one point that the album would lack direction. Lacking direction would be a harsh criticism for TNT, however it could definitely be said that it’s a sprawling album, and can become aimless and like something akin to sonic wallpaper from time to time.
By now listeners knew what to expect from Tortoise, and indeed the opening track “TNT” delivered their trademark sound. Relatively upbeat, pretty serious and muso, it opens with jazzy drum frills which give way to a guitar riff straight from the band’s workbook. Dubby effects and muted horn riffs come into play in what is essentially a pared-down Jazz Fusion for the 90s. The
Continue reading Tortoise re-release series, part 3 – TNT [...]
By the time the second Tortoise album appeared on the scene, there seemed to be an inordinate amount of time dedicated to the discussion as to whether they were in the spirit of Prog, or Krautrock.
This debate seems a little perplexing now, especially when one remembers that Tortoise started operations in the early to mid 90s. However, it’s important to remember that the year Millions Now Living Will Never Die was released, 1996, was just a year after Julian Cope released the Krautrocksampler book; and it had become de rigueur for rock albums with a leftfield bent to be compared to the radical music that hailed from Germany during the late 60s and early 70s.
It seemed that much underground and forward thinking ‘rock’ at this time was being examined under
Continue reading Tortoise re-release series, part 2 – Millions Now Living Will Never Die [...]
The arrival of Tortoise brought along a discussion surrounding the widespread use of a new genre term that described a supposedly emerging musical genre. The term was ‘post-rock’ and, at the time, seemed to be the focus for as much debate as the band were themselves.
Supposedly coined by music journalist Simon Reynolds, the term appeared to be much maligned at the time. Deemed as po-faced, as was much of the music which fell under the banner, it shared space in the musical room of shame alongside IDM (intelligent dance music); surely the most irritating of all genre titles.
Reynolds first used this term when reviewing the Bark Psychosis album Hex for The Wire; and indeed post-rock was initially attributed to the British underground as a way of categorizing bands such as Stereolab, Pram, Laika, Moonshake, and
Continue reading Tortoise re-release series, part 1 – Tortoise [...]