Jonathan Visger, from Ann Arbor, Michigan, is the experimental pop act known as Absofacto. I recently discovered his 2011 album, Sinking Islands, and have been playing it in heavy rotation since. His music combines pop sixties sensibilities with modern electronic in a mesh that plays to each genre’s best aspects. If Tycho went rock, this is probably what it would sound like.
Cover Art Credit: Aimee Brodeur
Stream on Spotify
1. Pyjama – Teengirl Fantasy ft. Panda Bear
2. Rainbow Road (Teen Daze remix) – Monster Rally
3. Journal of Ardency – Class Actress
4. Imaginist – Space Invadas
5. A Queens Story – Nas
6. Kimmi in the Rice Field (Balam Acab remix) – Twin Sister
7. The End (Extended Version) – Lemaitre
8. Changes – Twin Shadow
9. Raga Megh Malhar – Charanjit Singh
10. Altibzz – Autechre
11. Sympathy – Rare Bird
12. Lady Daydream – Twin Sister
13. Baby – Os Mutantes
14. I Was Made For Loving You – Hypnolove
15. Tranquilium – Tonto’s Expanding Head Band
16. Dive – Tycho
17. Love Theme – Ilaiyaraaja
Artist: Animal Collective
Album: Centipede Hz
Rating: 7.0 out of 10
Being an Animal Collective fan is frustrating sometimes. They’re the rare kind of group that gains popularity by defying audience expectations, but this failure to do so feels less like a creative independence sometimes and more like an intentional sabotage. Until their breakthrough 2009 release, Merriweather Post Pavilion, Animal Collective were an extremely polarizing act – either you “got it” or you didn’t. The straight forward, easily accessible melodies of Merriweather put a lot of that to rest, though, and this approach to songwriting surged the band in popularity. Despite this, Animal Collective aren’t an experimental group that turned into a psychedelic pop one, they’re an experimental group that happened to make a psychedelic pop record. Centipede Hz then is a return to form to the kind of music they made before, a blaring assault of sonic and electronic exploration that hides melodies underneath its layers and will definitely polarize people to the group again like their older records did before.
The problem with Centipede Hz isn’t the obvious shift in aesthetics, though, it’s the furious explosion of sound that makes the songs feel claustrophobic and packed. “Moonjock,” the album’s intro, has so much going on that it feels a typhoon of noise. This problem is alleviated somewhat by listening to the album on speakers where the tracks have more space to breathe, but on headphones this might initiate mild levels of panic attacks. Groupmember Deakin, who returns after taking a hiatus from the group, contributes the track “Wide Eyed” which is a nice respite from the chaos when it hits near the halfway point, but his parts are so prominent on the rest of the album that it’s frequently distracting.
Regardless, this album still has its fair share of great moments. “Today’s Supernatural,” the album’s first single, is classic Animal Collective, and “Rosie Oh” (one of two tracks written by Panda Bear) slinks through with an infectious groove. “Father Time” is another highlight that recalls the best moments of Avey Tare’s excellent 2009 solo release, Down There, but “New Town Burnout” (the other track written by Panda Bear), sounds too much like a track from his 2011 solo album, Tomboy (understandable as it was written right after that album was recorded). It’s still good, but a solo version that stripped away the excess of the group and kept things minimal would have worked better for it. “Pulleys” is a nice palate cleanser before the closer “Amanita” that uses the hectic atmosphere established by the rest of the album to good effect. “Honeycomb” and “Gotham,” two excellent tracks the group put out as a single a few months back, are completely absent from the album, and their replacement of other songs on this album like “Monkey Riches” or “Mercury Man” would have been better choices.
Despite everything though, Centipede Hz, like so many other Animal Collective albums, is not an album that can be easily digested on the first few listens. These songs take time to sink in, and maybe a lot of the criticisms leveled at it will change when the initial hype dies down. Regardless, Merriweather Post Pavilion wasn’t the best thing the group has ever done because they sacrificed their sound for the sake of accessibility, it was the best thing they’ve done because, for once, it didn’t sound like they were intentionally trying to subvert the power of their craft. No matter what they do, though, Animal Collective are still an incredibly unique band that exist purely in their own realm. They just don’t always have to work so hard to prove it to us.
Captain Murphy debuted a few weeks ago on Adult Swim’s music label, but little else is known about the gravelly voiced rapper. While a lot of people suspect that it might be beatmaker Flying Lotus on the mic based on his relationship with Adult Swim and his established affinity for naming himself after Adult Swim characters, the few tracks out now are all kinds of awesome. Hopefully we’ll hear more from this soon.
That Song Sounds Like is a website that compares two or three 30 second samples to show intention or unintentional similarities. While some posts suggest that advertisers, who couldn’t clear the rights to the actual tracks themselves, intentionally ripped off an artist (like this one between Volkswagon and Beach House), and others suggest more devious means of plagiarism by the artists themselves – most are just basic proof that musicians only have a limited set of chord changes and song structures to work from. This inevitably leads to a lot of songs sounding the same., and That Song Sounds Like shows just how often this happens.
Twin Shadow’s “Run My Heart” and “Aquatic Ambiance” off the Donkey Kong Country soundtrack.
Possibly inventing House music before anyone else did, Charanjit Singh, an Indian studio musician, released this LP, Ten Ragas To A Disco Beat, in 1982. Hoping to translate traditional Raga music to modern sounds, the album’s use of repetitive beats, synth sounds, and futuristic melodies hit a perfect combination that make it sound so incredibly ahead of its time. Charanjit Singh’s work barely sold when it came out, though, and only a few copies of his music have survived the years. Despite this, Bombay Connection, a record label dedicated to finding old electronic Indian jams from the eighties, recently found the album and remastered it. Sounding even better than it did before, Ten Ragas To A Disco Beat can finally carve out its legacy as the pioneering work it was.
Here’s 5 videos for you to jam with – two recently new ones, one classic, and two that are lesser known.
1. Animal Collective – Today’s Supernatural
I’m not really a fan of Animal Collective’s visual work. As trippy and psychedelic as their music is, I never imagine it with such a heavy horror element that so many Animal Collective videos have. Thankfully, though, this video lacks all that usual dredge and keeps a largely pleasant tone. Off their upcoming album, Centipede HZ, “Today’s Supernatural” features dragon go cart races, weird face paint, and violently inclined disembodied arms.
2. Black Moth Super Rainbow – Windshield Smasher
After hitting their goal three times over with their recent Kickstarter, Black Moth Super Rainbow are having a pretty good year so far. “Windshield Smasher,” the first video and single from their upcoming album Cobra Juicy , has a lot of windshield smashing (obviously) and other shenanigans. After a couple, misled by their GPS, stumble into a alley of orange-skeleton masked thugs – their car is destroyed, their heads are shaved, and they are force fed birthday cake lovingly dissected by a chainsaw. Minus the vehicular destruction, though, a free haircut and some cake doesn’t sound all that bad even if it is forced on by a gang.
3. CLASSIC: Cibo Matto – Sugar Water
Cibo Matto’s track “Sugar Water” from their 1996 album Viva! La Women was a minor hit when it came out. The video, directed by Michel Gondry of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind fame, shot it in one continuous take. Dividing everything via a split-screen where one half of the video plays forward and the other plays in reverse, this one will give you a real head trip near the middle when everything comes together.
4. HOTT MT – Never Again (ft. Wayne Coyne)
HOTT MT, a relatively unknown band from L.A., showed up at Wayne Coyne’s doorstep earlier this year to record a track with him without announcing their intentions or knowing if he would even let them. Rather than turn them away, though, The Flaming Lips frontman housed the group, recorded the track, and shot a video for it (not a bad deal). Anyway, this is a surprisingly great track. Expect more from this band soon.
5. Ghosthustler – Parking Lot Nights
Ghosthustler, the former band of Neon Indian’s Alan Palomo, is extinct now, but their music still lives on like a thought in the wind(?). The video is pretty fun and features a lot of NES Power Glove punching and dancing inside televisions. So there’s that.
Album: 21 Box Set
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
To celebrate their 21st birthday, the 21 Box Set collects the (almost) complete history of Blur in a 21 disc set that features every studio album, every B-Side, and a huge mess of studio and live rarities. It’s a massive collection that may be daunting to digest for new or casual fans, but it’s an excellent collection of a band that’s never had a bad moment.
First forming in 1988 and originally calling themselves Seymour, the group didn’t take long to sign with Food Records (EMI eventually bought the label and turned into Parlophone) who put out their first album, Leisure, in 1991. Like a lot of the best bands that would eventually grow into something else, Blur’s first album with its new wave feel is good, but not great. The band’s first five albums in this box set have been remastered for the first time, and the new sheen the songs have make Leisure sound stronger than it ever was before. In comparison to the rest of the band’s catalog, though, it’s still their weakest release.
Blur unfortunately came out at a time when grunge was first exploding into the world, and a series of terrible management decisions that put the group into debt and Leisure’s lack of success almost destroyed the band completely. Reinventing themselves with their second album, Modern Life is Rubbish, though – Blur broke free of their slump and heralded in a new European movement, Britpop. Britpop, popularized because of its intentional contrast to the dreary pulse of grunge, is a style of music defined by its uptempo beats, use of horns, and catchy hooks. Modern Life is Rubbish then is the first album that made Blur important and insanely popular, and with tracks like “Miss America” that looked at American culture sarcastically – the group established itself as a very pro-national act.
Park Life, the band’s third album, is considered their best release by many critics for its cultural relevance and commercial success alone. With Parklife, Blur established that they didn’t just start the Britpop movement, they controlled it too. (Oasis? Meh.) It’s the tightest thing they ever put out thematically and sonically, and there’s not a wasted song on it. It’s the seminal album of the Britpop movement, and the one that Blur will most likely be defined by for future generations. Classic tracks include “Girls and Boys,” “End of a Century,” “Magic America,” and “Parklife.”
The Great Escape, the band’s next album, is anything but what the title suggests, as the band returned to the same formula they established so well already on the two albums previous. This album has some of the best songs Blur has ever written and a lot of my personal favorites (I can’t sing “Country House” without excitedly shouting the lyrics), but the public was losing interest in Britpop at the time of its release, and the album has largely been written off by critics and fans alike over the years because of it. It is because of this, though, that makes their next album so exciting to hear even now.
Simply titled Blur, the band’s fifth album is a complete reinvention of their sound. Looking beyond their draining European influences, Blur adapted the sounds of American indie rock and brought in electronic distortions, raw instrumentation, and lo-fi psychedelia to their music (this was mainly due to guitarist Graham Coxon, who had a huge interest in the scene). Maybe it was because of this that “Song 2” became such a huge hit in America and in other international places who had largely ignored the band until then. Regardless, the songs were darker, but the anthemic pop hooks were still there, and sound would be their first shift to art rock territory that would define their sixth album, 13.
13 is the most experimental album the band has ever done, but it’s also the most rewarding. I tried to avoid making a lazy Beatles comparison in this review, but 13 is like a “Day in the Life” multiplied 13 times. Guitarist Graham Coxon, with his heavy art rock influences, and Damon Albarn, with his pop ones, feel totally in unison here. Each song hits its own heavy hook before drifting into weird sonic territory mixed into dense layers of production, but the songs are experimental enough without ever being pretentious (cough cough, “Revolution 9”). Musically, this is the best work the group has ever done, and an album that gets better and better with each listen.
It is because 13 was such a largely collaborative effort that their seventh album, Think Tank, is so jarring in comparison. Graham Coxon left the band after recording only one song (“Battery in Your Leg”) after months of fighting with Damon finally broke the group apart. Gorillaz, Damon’s other band that saw its first release in 2001, combined a large pool of international influences into its music, and its this influence that carries over into Think Tank. Coming from a once very national band that was now playing without a very influential member, Think Tank feels less like a Blur release, and more like a Damon one. That’s not a bad thing, though, as this album is one of my personal favorites (minus “Crazy Beat” which I always skip), but I’m often in conflict with myself over whether or not I should actually consider this a proper release by the group. (I have lame debates like this in my head. Be cool about it, dude.)
The rarities and other B-Sides that fill out the extras in this box set are hit or miss on their quality, and a large number of them will probably only be appreciated by hardcore fans (which is a shame because Blur has some of the best b-sides ever put out by a band). This set also includes the excellent 2009 single, “Fool’s Day,” and their most recent 2012 single, “Under the Westway,” which feature all members of the group including Graham Coxon. While more skeptical or casual fans might want to check out some of the individual special editions of each album like Parklife or their self-titled release instead of buying the whole set, the 21 Box Set is still an absolutely essential purchase for regular or hardcore fans of the group.
Perfecting Sound Forever
by Greg Milner
A book for audiophiles, “Perfecting Sound Forever” details the history of sound recording from the earliest days of Thomas Edison to the loudness wars today. This might be as nerdy as books about music go, but this is a must-read for anyone curious about the recording process. No book you read will be more illuminating on it. And hey, even Jack White thinks it’s cool.
How the Wired Generation Revolutionized Music
by Greg Kot
“Ripped” chronicles the technological revolution of the last ten years and the changing effects it had on the distribution and consumption of music. A lot of the information in this book is stuff I already knew (’cause like, I totally lived it bro) and might be known to anyone else who went through it as well, but having it laid out so clearly really puts things in perspective.
This is Your Brain on Music
by Daniel J. Levitin
This one is for anyone curious about the neurological process that happens in your brain when you listen to music. It’s an interesting read, but I’m not a science-minded person so nothing from it was particularly enlightening. If you’re a right-sided thinker, though, you’ll love this book.