Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Stones Throw Records - Droppin' Pants

Stones Throw Records is making everybody's day by dropping their Pants! James Pants, to be specific, made a ton of beats back from 2004 to 2008, and has made this treasure trove available for a free and for a limited time I'm sure.

Cop it now, before the internet breaks!


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Roberts & Lord - Eponymous

It's not often that a message on a social network from one independent musician to another turns into a fully realized project, but that's exactly what happen when Simon Lord (formerly of Simian) reached out to Rafter Roberts (of Rafter and Bunky). Their overseas collaboration happened by the two mailing tracks back and forth to one another, combining two radically different styles. Roberts complex arrangements, low-fi recording sensibility (The backing music was recorded on a 4-track tape machine at Roberts' San Diego studio) is firmly juxtaposed with Lord's clean, digitally-recorded vocals, which gives the record of since of urgency that one experiences when wild experiments yield something unusually beautiful. This is the background to the release, "Eponymous" by Roberts & Lord, released on Asthmatic Kitty Records.

The record starts off with "mosquito," a track with heavy, crunchy, lo-fi beats. Until the vocals kick in, the song sounds like it be a hip-hop track. When the vocals do kick-in it evolves into a shimmering pop track. The next song, "wild berries" starts off with big, bombastic, fuzzed out drums with melodic vocal, which will be a signature sound for the record.

While crunchy, low-fi rhythms juxtaposed against melodic vocals is a common element of the record, the duo traverses into much more nuanced terrain. "Bottom of the bottle" combines melancholy, harmonized vocals and oddly syncopated rhythms while remaining sunny and at points even uplifting, while "windmill" is a garage rock-sounding workout. "Oblique" is a catchy almost sugary pop song, with crunchy beats and beautiful harmony that is interrupted by stabby synths. "Knots" and "menuhin" have an almost Beach Boys quality, mixing a kind of do-wop with 808 toms. "Purple doves" is a Latin-tinged song, that could be mistaken for Animal Collective.

Further into the record, we find a deeper sound. "We rise, we fall" sounds Eno-like but with far more funky elements. "Interior demon" lays down an 808 kick-drum, with a blues riff and Lord's smooth falsetto vocal. Going even deeper into and ambient direction, "sperm" is an instrumental, crunchy electro beat with ethereal vocals overlaid, that is slowed down (almost screwed and choped), having a coral quality that makes it feel almost like sacred music. Wrapping up the record is "the same love." This song has an almost instantly recognizable feel. Imagine the "I'd like to teach the world to sing..." Coke commercial from the 70's, with swirling psychedelic vocals and crunchy beats. At it's core, it a song that the Beatles could have written.

This debut effort by Roberts & Lord is a unique exploration of sounds that you normally don't hear on the same record, much less the same track. The end result of this experimentation is a unlikely concoction that is one of my favorite undergound pop records of the year.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dive and Lie Wrecked: 09-16-11 - Peter Hook and The Light

Peter Hook & The Light Live at the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles - Photo Andrew Youssef/OC Weekly

"Dive and Lie Wrecked" is a new feature of Architects and Heroes, focusing on reviews of live performances. Its name comes from the amazing release by Dave Aju by the same name on Context, which you can find here.

It's easy to throw around terms like "classic record" or "influenced a generation," but there's little dispute that Joy Division's record "Unknown Pleasures" created the template for what would we would now term Post-Punk. It's with this as a backdrop that I responded with skepticism when I heard that Joy Division/New Order bass player Peter Hook was going to tour with a new band and perform Unknown Pleasures.

Perhaps it's my demographic. As someone comfortably ensconced in Generation X, I have a soft spot in my heart for all things I grew up with. I keep my pop culture as close to me as the Doc Martins that are still a part of the wardrobe, but what happens when your memories start to be reinterpreted? Being the rabid Joy Division/New Order fan that I am, and generally optimistic about shows like this, I decided I would give this reincarnated version of Joy Division a chance.

The iconic record cover for the Joy Division record "Unknown Pleasures" design by Peter Saville

The day of the show, Peter Hook did an in-store appearance at Ameoba Records in Hollywood, signing copies of the record "Unknown Pleasures: Live In Australia." It gave me an opportunity to road-test the record before I went to see them live that evening. After listening to the first few tracks, my anxiety about what to expect from this remake began to melt away. Now, I won't say it stood up to the original. That record influenced everything that came after it, but this was a very good interpretation of the original. I guess there's something to be said about the reinterpretation of a record made by a founding member of the band that originally produced the record! After the relief of that experience, I was more excited (did I mention the rabid fan bit?) to see Peter Hook and the Light perform Unknown Pleasures.

The show was opened by the always-impeccable sound selector DJ Paul V, whose set was the perfect companion to an epic night. The opening band, El Ten Eleven, played a set of instrumental tracks that sounded like Ratatat (if they didn't use electronics). But, in all fairness, I along with the rest of the crowd could only halfway listen to them. When you have something of this magnitude about to happen, there's very little patience for anyone else's band.

When the band finally came on stage, the sold-out crowd at the El Rey theater exploded. Warming the crowd up, the band started with "No Love Lost" "Leaders of Men" and "Glass," before launching into the entire record. Once they did, they ripped though a set that included guest vocalist Moby on "Insight," "New Dawn Fades" and "Transmission," which worked incredibly well. I would go so far as to say that the whole experience would have been better had he done vocals for the entire set, but that's simply my opinion.

The band executed the Joy Division record flawlessly, and perhaps with a bit more exuberance and slick production than Ian Curtis might have ever thought possible for such a seemingly dark record, but at the end of the day this live experience was exactly what it should have been. A recreation of an epic record that was released 32 years ago by an artist who still knows how to put on an amazing show.

"No Love Lost"
"Leaders of Men"
"Day of the Lords"
"Insight" with Moby
"New Dawn Fades" with Moby
"She's Lost Control"
"I Remember Nothing"
"Dead Souls"
"Transmission" with Moby
"Love Will Tear Us Apart"

Monday, September 19, 2011

Throwback Monday - 09-219-11 - "Was Dog A Doughnut" - Cat Stevens

Cat Stevens is not a name that people associate with electronic music, however it is widely believe that he is responsible for producing one of the first Electro tracks. His 1977 track. Was Dog A Doughnut, has many elements that are the foundation of the genre, and that still present in Electro today.

(Thanks to Mixmaster Morris for unearthing this and posting to Facebook.)