Friday, February 05, 2016

Moment's Greatest Hits 2

Another survey of recent faves.

Damon Che
The great Don Caballero drummer speaks in this essential Brad Cohan interview of "[learning] how to breathe behind the trap set over time." Quite an understatement, given that the style he developed in the early '90s and perfected on albums such as Don Caballero 2, What Burns Never Returns and American Don amounts to one of the most beautifully aerated percussive achievements I know. A true punishing caress. If you can watch this (dip in at, say, 3:20 for a quick taste) without weeping, inwardly or outwardly, at the raw poetry of each flail and bash, we have very different listening brains.

I only very recently gave Thee Speaking Canaries—the band in which Che plays guitar and sings—a close look, which seems like some kind of travesty. The '93 Songs for the Terrestrially Challenged album in particular is a triumph of muscular, offbeat indie rock. It has sort of this grandstanding classic-rock swagger about it (thanks to Nick for helping me spot the cover of Van Halen's "Girl Gone Bad" sandwiched into track 5), some incredibly tasty and eccentric riffing and the general sense of sprawling, indulgent abandon that makes the period of Don Cab I cite above so wonderful.

I highly recommend the tracks "Houses and Houses of Perfectness" and "Terrestrial/Famous No Space." Drumming in Damon Che's band must be a little like playing bass in Charles Mingus's (as Doug Watkins did here), but Noah Leger does a hell of a job of it on this record.

Also: shout-outs to Chunklet for their valuable work unearthing gems from the Che archive, e.g., Thee Speaking Canaries' Platter Base Must be Constructed of Moon Rock (on which Che plays all instruments) and Don Cab's Five Pairs of Crazy Pants. Wear 'Em (a sort of pre- and post-history of Don Cab's burly debut, For Respect).

This album continues to be an object of fascination and awe. Not to take anything away from the overall architecture of the songs and the LP, but the sheer amount of insanely cool moments on Ygg Huur is frankly obscene. (Let's start by talking about the crazed fanfare that breaks out around 5:20 into "Over Spirit.") Am also digging the new EP, Hyperion, which actually predates YH recording-wise, and I had a blast seeing them live at Saint Vitus last week.

Leonard Cohen
Cohen is a genius, and I hang on his every word. Been digging into a few of the '70s albums that I never knew as well as I wanted to. I've loved, and very often feared, Songs of Leonard Cohen and Songs From a Room for ages, but there's something about the period that follows (Songs of Love and Hate, New Skin for the Old Ceremony, Death of a Ladies' Man and Recent Songs) that's really speaking to me right now. The early stuff has that beautiful austerity, but during this phases, he's really letting it rip in an appealing way, getting as bawdy ("Don't Go Home With Your Hard-On"), mythic ("The Guests"), depressive ("Dress Rehearsal Rag"), ominous ("Avalanche"), sardonic ("Is This What You Wanted") or straight-up manic as he pleases. To exemplify that latter quality, let's focus for a second on the final minute or so of "Memories":

Bruce Springsteen
A younger and more populist singer-songwriter hero. I'm all in with The River, thanks in part to the recent reissue, and I can't wait to see Springsteen and Co. play it live on March 28. On paper, everything about this period of Springsteen seems contrived: the portraits of small-town love, heartbreak and socioeconomic struggle. But in execution, it's sublime. You don't even have to suspend your disbelief when listening to a master like this—you simply soak up the conviction and dramatic truth radiating from the songs.

Jon Theodore
Picking up on the Che thread from above, another one of the great drummers of our time narrates the story of his life and music in this extremely valuable Dean Delray podcast episode. I find the accounts of him joining the Mars Volta and Queens of the Stone Age—probably the two greatest Big Rock Bands of the past 20 or so years—to be particularly thrilling and inspiring. Bonus: This is probably the closest we'll get to a thorough examination of Theodore's incredible, hopefully not-defunct One Day as a Lion project with Zack de la Rocha.

Mastication of Brutality Uncontrolled
Yes, you read that right. In recent years, I've developed a serious soft spot for the lunatic sub-sub-genre of death metal known variously as "brutal" or "slam." You often find this stuff coming out of Europe and Asia, and labels such as Willowtip, New Standard Elite and Unique Leader are always reliable outlets for the freshest and sickest offerings. (The connoisseurs at Burning Ambulance, Isolation Grind and Invisible Oranges also help keep me in the loop.) Anyway, the below—the 2015 debut LP by Germany's MOBU—was just something I stumbled across on YouTube while browsing for new delights in this genre. Skip the first track and dive right into "Mother Earth Abortion."

I find the over-the-top, almost giddy quality of this music to be profoundly life-affirming. It wears its off-the-charts technicality lightly and practically begs you to scoff at how absurd it comes off by any normalized standard of what music ought to sound like. And yet, brutal death metal is an extremely narrow niche, with its own rules of production, technique, etc. As with any example of such a tightly defined style, the pleasure is in the details—here, it's those laser-gun guitar strobes and rapid-fire "He can't possibly be saying words" grunt/squeal/retch vocals. Turn off your brain and savor the splatter.

Earth, Wind and Fire
Respect to Maurice White. I need to get to know this wonderful music much better than I do.

P.S. I invite you to enjoy this recently launched craw website, expertly designed by my dear friend Drew.

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