Thursday, July 31, 2008

10 Records You Didn't Know Were Better Than Illmatic

Every time Nas releases a new record, every hip-hop critic and fan reminisces on the greatness of his debut record, Illmatic. Several people (and plenty of websites and magazines) I know have recklessly claimed Illmatic, without a doubt, to be the greatest hip-hop record of all time. Funny thing is, most of these people, while ostensibly being correct when comparing the record to other huge hip-hop albums of the time (ie. Ready To Die, The Chronic, Reasonable Doubt etc), seem to know little about the underground records that came out around the same time. It's hard not to blame them, as most of the records listed below are either out of print (some for over a decade) or simply ignored by everyone but the most attentive fan of hip-hop. Below you will find my personal list of 10 records that should have been bigger than Illmatic. Please note that i'm not trying to take anything away from Illmatic, it also happens to be one of my favorite hip-hop records, but I feel the record has commanded it's position due to the fact the critics love to praise an album by an artist who suffers from the curse that follows making such a great debut record. Not that Nas hasn't hopelessly tried to top Illmatic, in fact, he's done everything to try and get back the world's attention, including releasing singles with cross-over appeal, beefing with Jay-Z, releasing *gasp* a double album, claiming "Hip-Hop Is Dead", and trying to name his latest album Nigger, none of which have kept him in the public interest for more than a few weeks. Ok, sure, the man had twenty years to create his debut and only one to follow up on it. Any true visionary (as many claimed him when the record first dropped) would have been able to follow up the record with something at least halfway decent. Nas never did. I believe that the man picked some choice production from ace producers at the top of their game (Q-Tip, Large Professor, DJ Premier), put together his best rhymes from a lifetime, and basically blew his load too soon, resulting in a lifetime of trying to outdo his debut with a series of media-bating tactics and weak cross-over singles.

So I had two rules that I made up to try and keep this relevant.
1. The album had to be made within 3 years of Illmatic, which is mainly because anyone could name dozens of classic hip-hop records that were hugely influential and helped to define the genre more than Illmatic ever did (ie. It'll Take A Nation Of Millions, Paid In Full, Three Feet High and Rising, Criminal Minded, Straight Outta Compton are all better records than Illmatic and were hugely influential.

2. I tried to stick with records made around the same time that have slipped into more of a cult status or were just largely ignored. It would have been too easy just to rattle off huge records of the time (36 Chambers, The Chronic, Low End Theory etc.)

Without further ado, here are ten records better than Illmatic. Samples can found below each writeup. Right click to download them

MOBB DEEP "The Infamous" 1995
Mobb Deep dropped their second record, The Infamous, one year after Illmatic was released. It also features a guest rhyme by Nas himself, alongside Raekwon from the Wu Tang. The beats are gritty are minimal, while the rhymes are spun around dark tales of life in the criminal underground of NYC. Mobb Deep suffered a similar fate as Nas in that they were never able to top this record, and spent the rest of the career trying to get back to what the critics and fans so loved. Mobb Deep did, however, with their beats and rhymes, translate the dark side of street life far better than Nas did with Illmatic.

SHOWBIZ & AG "Runaway Slave" 1992
Showbiz and AG were an integral part of the DITC (Diggin' In The Crates) crew that also included Diamond D, Fat Joe, Lord Finesse and Big L, among others. Runaway Slave dropped in 1992 to little fanfare and soon faded to cult status. Showbiz and AG rhymed on the record and produced all but one of the tracks on the record. In comparison, Nas only performed the rhymes on Illmatic and brought in outside producers to supply the beats.

Just for the record, this is most likely my favorite hip-hop record of all time. Seek it out at all costs.

JERU THE DAMAJA "The Sun Rises In The East" 1994
Jeru was a prodigy of Gang Starr's DJ Premier, who also supplies the amazing beats for all of The Sun Rises In The East. Jeru was more of a teacher, kind of in the same way that KRS One became after the death of Scott La Rock. Rather than regurgitate life on the streets of New York, Jeru was more intent on preventing youth from making the same mistakes. In comparison, on Illmatic all that Nas rhymed about was how life was on the streets with no mention of how things could change or how to go about it.

KAM "Neva Again" 1993
Kam was an affiliate with Ice Cube and the Lench Mob production team, who helmed most of the production on this all but lost West Coast classic. Kam takes the listener on a realistic trip through post-riots South Central LA and the effects it had on his neighborhood. Despite the funky nature of the production, the themes remain incredibly dark, and tend to stick in the listener's mind long after the album has finished. Particularly affecting is Kam's tackling of black stereotypes featured in the player below.

KMD "Black Bastards" 1992
After debuting in 1989 alongside hip-hop sensations 3rd Bass, KMD released a post-daisy age record entitled Mr. Hood. The record was filled with youthful positivity and hilarious rhymes, very typical for a hip-hop record at the dawn of the 90s (think De La Soul, Tribe Called Quest etc). Something changed in the group between their 1992 debut and their 1994 follow-up Black Bastards, which was never actually released due to the cover art and a dispute that ended the group's relationship with Elektra. Zev Love X (who would, years later, become MF Doom) was suddenly filled with an anger that fueled the darkness that shrouds Black Bastards. If you thought Nas almost naming his album Nigger was outrageous, 15 years ago naming your album Black Bastards and putting Little Samba in a noose on the cover was damn well unthinkable.

MAESTRO FRESH-WES "Naaah, Dis Kid Can't Be From Canada?!!" 1994
Maestro Fresh Wes should have fallen off of the planet after his hit 'Let Your Backbone Slide'. Instead he toiled in obscurity in the US, remained a hip-hop anomaly in his own country (wow! a real live Canadian MC!! Golly, I can't believe we have one!), but, thanks to low expectations, Maestro managed to sneak out one of the best hip-hop records of the era, not to mention the greatest rap record in Canadian history. You wouldn't know this because the album has remained out of print for a decade and saw little press outside of his native soil.

By 1992 Maestro had hooked up with the DITC crew, and managed to pull Showbiz in to produce a good chunk of "Nah, Dis Kid Can't Be From Canada," though Maestro did produce the rest. The combination of Maestro's dexterous flow (which I would rank up there with Nas'), the DITC's inventive and catchy production, and the ignorance of the mainstream media, resulted in one of the most underrated/overlooked hip-hop records of all time. Below is a the best track off the record, where Maestro raps confidently beside one of the all time greats, Percee P.

BIG L "Lifestylez Ov Da Poor And Dangerous" 1995
Big L's Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous suffered severely in the long, blinding shadow cast by Illmatic. Big L was raised in New York, and this entire record was devoted to the streets of Harlem where he grew up, much like Nas' many tributes to Queens that appear throughout Illmatic. The main difference between the two MCs was Big L's unflinchingly hardcore take on street life, whereas Nas took a softer, more reflective and nostalgic look on his upbringings. Most of this record is produced by various members of the DITC crew and boasts some of the best beats ever laid out by the group, which proved necessary when backing up Big L's witty and hyper lyrical flow. Sincerely, Big L was one of the greatest MC's to ever grace the mic, and the legacy left behind on Lifestylez is more than enough proof. Unfortunately, just before releasing his second record, The Big Picture, Big L was gunned down. The Big Picture was released to critical acclaim, proving that he was, unlike Nas, able to follow up on his astonishing debut record.

Diamond D was one of the founders of the DITC, and in 1992, after almost ten years of behind the scenes production, Diamond was able to release his first solo record, Stunts, Blunts and Hip-Hop. The record didn't sell well but caught the attention of his contemporaries, and he eventually went on to produce tracks on The Fugees' Score, Mos Def's Black On Both Sides, Tribe Called Quest's Low End Theory and Pharcyde's Labcabincalifornia, all of which are staples in any hip-hop diet. For his debut, though, the man did it all by getting behind the mic and producing every track on this underground classic. That's one better than Nas.

EPMD "Business Never Personal" 1992
EPMD's last record before disbanding for several years, also happens to be their best. The duo was able to improve and advance on their sound with every album, and the result of their fourth record is one of the best records of the genre. Just for the record, Nas' fourth record was the universally panned Nastradamus.

ERIC B. AND RAKIM "Don't Sweat The Technique" 1992

When Nas first dropped on to the scene with Main Source's Live At The BBQ, and soon followed with releasing Halftime as his first single, there was a lot of murmurs about Nas taking over the throne that Rakim had left after disbanding the duo. Listening to Don't Sweat The Technique, and then listening to the best lines off of Illmatic, it's quite easy to discern that the high praise was completely misplaced. Technique was the fourth and final record from Eric B and Rakim and served to solidify their status as hip-hop royalty. Rakim's hyper flow and ingenious wordplay, mixed with Eric B's intense and technically advanced production combined to help create a near unbeatable record. Sure, most critics will place Paid In Full above Technique, but pound for pound, Technique is stronger, swifter and refuses to sound as dated their debut.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Oneida "Preteen Weaponry" (2008)

You won't normally catch me posting a highly anticipated album before street date, but the lack of presence of this on the internet, and the fake circulating on soulseek has caused me to break the norm of uploading only hard to find, OOP albums. Preteen Weaponry is the first part in a planned triptych of albums all meant to be played in a row. Why they didn't just release them all at once, we can only speculate (ie. is the world ready for a triple album of this magnitude? Is their wallet ready?).

The three fifteen-minute-ish tracks here are mostly instrumental and, apparently, improvised, giving the record a live feel. All the hallmarks of Oneida are present, including catchy, repetitive synth lines, skittering, ever-shifting drumming and plenty of wah guitar freak-outs. Rather than pummel the listener over the head, like they did with the monolithic first disc of Each One Teach One, Oneida are much more keen on taking the listener on a trip to the outer realms of kraut, prog, rock and noise. The feeling of Preteen Weaponry is that it is merely the launching pad to what should be a meteoric trilogy.


Friday, July 25, 2008

Expressway Does Pitchforkfest: Day 2 & 3

I have always held a love/hate relationship with the Pitchfork website. Working in a record store, reading Pitchfork daily is a must if I want to keep up with the myriad of mediocre "indie" rock bands that the site champions. Almost instantly after Pitchfork has given out a "Best New Music", their is an instant influx of cusotmers rushing into the record store and demanding whatever hip album has been recommended. More than half the time the record hasn't even come out in Canada yet, which is particularly frustrating for record clerks across the globe, i'm sure. The site's ability to make or break a band with it's silly decimal rating (really, how many people actually read those overlong, pretentious reviews?) is incredibly annoying, particularly when a great band gets a mediocre "7.whatever" which most readers' eyes zip right past. The decimal point is king in this domain, and the score is all most readers give a shit about. Don't even get me started on their shit taste in modern hip hop. That being said, the site has brought groups that would have been overlooked much needed attention, though this seems to happen less and less now.

Bickering aside, the site now has enough pull to put on a a large-scale festival featuring dozens of bands across the indie spectrum. As I mentioned before, the ability to get Mission of Burma, Sebadoh and Public Enemy (none of whom are doing full scale tours) to play their best records is quite the feat and was also the the decisive factor in spending a week in Chicago, a city I had wanted to visit for a few years. Basically, Pitchfork gave me 3 great reasons to visit the city. I have to admit, Pitchfork know how to throw a festival. Located 20 minutes east of the Chicago downtown, Union Park boasted 3 stages, several beer stands ($4 for a cup of local brew!), a large merchant tent with over a dozen record dealers and craft booths, first aid stand with free sunscreen and earplugs, and dozens of local food suppliers. Not to mention the tickets were about $20 a day. Now if only Vancouver could get something like this together...

Now here is a brief, brief rundown of the acts that I caught on the last 2 days of the fest.

King Khan and the Shrines
I missed the King Khan show in Vancouver, as he was playing the night before we left. After his exhilarating (and funny!) set at Pitchfork, i'm sorry I missed it. Khan is a showman and worked the crowd into a frenzy with the greatest of ease.Complete with a a go-go dancer, full horn section and his awesome stage presence, King Khan and his Shrines delivered one of the best sets of the whole weekend. Can't wait for him to come back through.

Ghostface and Raekwon teamed up to deliver some of the best cuts of their solo records and early Wu albums. It was great to see Ghost in action after he bailed on the Wu-Tang show at last year's Bumbershoot fest.

Dinosaur Jr.

Dinosaur Jr., well, they were Dinosaur Jr., loud, catchy and rockin'. Not much else to say on that.

Atlas Sound
Bradford Cox took the solo route for his set rather than employing musicians to help back him up, who probably would have livened up his sound a bit. Atlas Sound played later in the day to a drunken crowd just looking to get down (yours truly included). Most of the set seemed to comprise of newer material, which he played with what looked to be just his sampler and guitar. The sound was completely lost in the open air and probably would have translated a little better in a more intimate environment.

Fuck Buttons
Fuck Buttons pretty much just played most of their debut record in one long continuous jam. This would have been fine if their were some more improvisation involved, but they pretty much played the songs exactly how they appear on the record. Though they did play a new track that actually bridged the wide gap between dance music and harsh electronics. The future seems bright from these forward thinking Brits.

Times New Viking
One of the more anticipated sets for me, TNV absolutely ripped through most of their catalogue in their brief set. Surprisingly, the band's lo-fi, fuzzed out translated pretty well in the open air festival setting. I still, however, prefer that sound to be contained in a small club.

Only stuck around for about half of Boris' set as the material of their newest record leave me feeling a little ill. There is something about the unintentional cheesy stage presence of this band (that double headless guitar and the drummers incessant, white gloved hand clapping for example) that had me scrambling for cover. I much preferred this band when they were a simply a Melvins cover band.

This was the third time I had seen Health and by far the best. They played a number of newer songs that were similar to their older material but with far more energy, if that's believable. Don't miss 'em the next time they come through (they've played Van City about 5 times now).

I did catch a few other groups that I didn't take photos of, including No Age, Spiritualized, High Places, Jay Reatard, Icy Demons and Animal Collective. Jay Reatard and No Age were the only notables out of those. Anyways, if the Pitchforkfest doesn't get watered down next year, I would recommend heading down to Chicago for a week, taking in the city's many sites and peeping the Pforkfest.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Expressway Does Pitchforkfest: Day 1 "Don't Look Back"

The first day of the Pitchforkfest in Chicago was also the day I had anticipated the most. The other two days had some decent bands on the bill, but the first day, with three of my favorite bands playing their best records in full, was one of the reasons I made the long hike up to Chicago. Here, you won't read about the amazing architecture, deep dish pizza or the humid weather of Chicago (feel free to ask me about them in person though). Nope, these next few posts are all about the music. Here we go, Day 1 of Pitchforkfest 2008.

Mission of Burma blazed through VS like re-born post-punks with a vengeance, which I suppose they are. Their set was probably also the loudest of the entire fest, but I suppose it didn't help that I was mere feet away from the stage. Great start to the fest.

As I've made it clear here before, Bubble and Scrape is my favorite record in the Sebadoh catalog, and to see the band play it in it's entirety was one of the main reasons I had to make the trek to Chicago. I caught Sebadoh on their original line-up reunion tour two years ago here in Vancouver and it was pretty fantastic, though they barely touched Bubble and Scrape. This show obviously more than made up for that. I managed to squeeze my way through the thickening crowd and got a front row "seat" for the action. They did not disappoint. In fact, the only complaint that I have was that they had to switch their instruments on almost every song so as to play the album properly, which made the 45 minute record over an hour. That aside, the band played through the record flawlessly and made my inner 17 year-old incredibly happy.

The Bomb Squad began their set as soon as the last chord to Flood (the final track on Bubble and Scrape) had been struck. They played a booming set of dubstep and dub to warm up the crowd for the headliners of the night, Public Enemy. This was my first live experience with PE (I had seen Sebadoh and Mission of Burma before) and was not sure what the live performance would be like. Hip-hop is usually a disaster live, so I kept my expectations low. They managed to blow them right out of the water. Chuck D, sounding as great as he did in '88, was backed up by a DJ, bass, guitar, drums, Professor Griff, the S1W's and, of course, Flavor Flav, which, when combined together brought the potent content of Nation to full fruition. Flavor had a few missteps though, including a plug for his new sitcom, which garnered some booing from the crowd. Flavor actually handled it well by telling the crowd that they should be happy for him instead of booing him like a "bunch of ghosts." Later, after the encores, Flavor refused to leave the stage and jumped up on the drum kit for a half-assed solo. The lights were being shut off, the band was leaving the stage and the crowd was exiting, and Flavor was trying to give away his t-shirt. Anything for the spotlight.

Tomorrow I will hopefully have a brief rundown of the next two days. And, if all goes as planned, next week will be my guide to Chicago record shops. Ya'll check back now, ya hear?

*All photos, as usual, are courtesy of my own damn self*

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Goslings-Grandeur of Hair (2006) aRCHIVE

Front Cover
Back Cover


OK, kids, had to sneak in one more upload before I make my way down to the windy city for a week. Listening to the Sun Araw CD incessantly for a week, then comparing them to The Goslings (also here), got me thinking about their masterwork, Grandeur of Hair. I managed to nab this from the aRCHIVE site after reading several rave reviews across the net. I picked up several other of The Goslings releases over the next few months, but none came even close to pure fucked-up, over-the-topness of Grandeur. For the uninitiated, The Goslings are husband and wife team from Florida, and they have a rotating cast of drummers. She sings, they both play guitar. To keep this brief, the sound captured here (Grandeur was mastered by James Plotkin) is an incredibly fuzzed-out version of early Earth but much more melodic. Boris' sludgy doom releases, Absolutego and Flood come pretty close to the sound of this album as well. This is some raw shit. Burn it to CD and play this fucker LOUD. It is the only way to listen to it. Your computer speakers WILL NOT do it justice. This is highly recommended stuff here, folks.

I will hopefully have a few updates while i'm in Chicago, so ya'll check back now, ya hear?


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sun Araw-"The Phynx" CDR (2008) Edition of 155

Front Cover
Sun Araw is the solo project of one Cameron Stallones, who is also a member of the Long Beach quintet, Magic Lantern. For those not in the know, Magic Lantern are riding the crest on the current wave of Californian psychedelic space-explorers. Sun Araw, on the other hand, is a more meandering beast, dwelling in a foggy delta and attacking only when the time is right.

The opener, Fog Wheels, is a 15 minute slow, shamanic tromp through that foggy delta, accompanied by chimes, vocals reverbed out of distinction, and the continuous drone of keyboards and guitars, eventually all of which ends in up in a cycling whorl of phased out drone that ends abruptly. Second track, Harken Sunshine, starts off as an overdriven blues riff before settling into a twangy hop-a-long via the warped vision of Spacemen 3/Loop, and is easily the most formal track on the disc. Hive Burner is the beast finally rearing it's ugly head. Ominous bass plucking coupled with random, searing guitar assaults inevitably pick up speed in the last few minutes, paralyzing the listener into sheer fear. The Phynx, the final 15+ minute jam is a slight continuation of the terror but with a nice, buzz-drone comedown. Fans of the buzzed-out side of The Goslings will definitely find themselves at home here. The Phynx is one of my favorite releases so far this year and a serious contender for the top 10. Also, if anyone is innarested, I actually have a few copies for sale. Not Not Fun is officially out of copies. Good news though, NNF will be issuing a full length on vinyl later this year.


Monday, July 7, 2008

Shearing Pinx Homecoming Event @ Pub 340

This past Sunday's Shearing Pinx homecoming BBQ bash had a last minute venue change to Pub 340, which made the all day fest a 19+ event. Apparently, over 160 kids under 19 years old had RSVP'd the event. I feel incredibly sorry for all the kids that couldn't come out because our city has a problem with accommodating all ages events. Not sure what the exact details of why the venue was moved, but it appears to be another case of the No Fun City police throwing their archaic laws in the face of those who just want to have a good time.

I grew up in Aldergrove and attended many, many "coffee house" events there and in Langley where I was exposed to a wide variety of music and surrounded by people of all ages. These weekly events shaped my adolescent mind and pretty much turned me on to punk rock, which was the only outlet for such music in a small town like Aldergrove. It saddens me a bit when I think of all the great bands in this city that kids under 19 only know about through their older siblings or myspace, which is usually about as far removed from the essence of a band as you can get. I'm not sure what can be done about the situation but, clearly, something needs to change.

Anyways, enough with the ranting. I managed to catch almost every single band (sorry Ora) and even snapped a few pics, all in between consuming too many beers and putting my groove on the floor. Pub 340 never got all that full, but there was a good rotation of familiar faces through the afternoon and night. The event seemed to go off without incident and a good time was had by many. Let's hope that we can keep banding together to create events like this.

On with the shows...

i/i kicked off the event (got there just in time for their last song), which makes sense when I found out that the electric violinist in the band, Anju, had arranged the whole day. The jam I did catch was very similar to the blazing post-rock of their set at Music Waste. Can't wait for that Broadway to Boundary 7".

Kellarissa followed with a set of her slowly layered keyboard-pop. I caught Kellarissa several months back when she opened for Samara Lubelski, and I must say that her confidence and mastery of her equipment (she samples her vocals several times during a song and builds up thick, harmonious layers that she sings along with) has increased ten-fold. Obviously people are paying attention, Kellarissa has her Mint Records debut in September.

Pink Noise played a decent set of their post-riot grrl tunage which also included a Shearing Pinx cover! Their set started off a little sloppy but got progressively tighter as they went a long. I hadn't seen 'em before but I wouldn't mind seeing 'em again.

Stamina Mantis played their set in the old smoking room of Pub 340, which turned out to be one of the loudest sets of the night due to the incredibly small space that they were crammed into. This was actually my first time seeing the duo, and I was quite impressed. The duo is comprised of bass and drums but do not fit into any of the blues-informed or Lightning Bolt rip-offs that most bass and drum duos end up in. Instead, it was a mix between tightly wound punk rock and improvisational noise jams. Pretty good shit.

Empty Love played a great late afternoon set of ever-shifting drone that was as captivating as his set at Music Waste. The only thing missing was the Dream Machine, which must have been nixed due to the brightness of Pub 340 in the afternoon. Note to all drone-heads: Empty Love will be curating a Fake Jazz offshoot entitled Fake Sleep, and will be consisting of local drone artists. The first one will be on the 15th of July and features Magneticring and Ian Gregory James, who is also one half of Blouse. Unfortunately, my trip to Chicago coincides with this event so I will have to miss this one. You, on the other hand, have no excuse.

Modern Creatures, who get better every damn time I see them. They used to have a very Siouxsie and the Banshees-style vibe about them, but, now that the keyboards are gone, and they're a two bass assualt, Modern Creatures has morphed into a completely different beast. They have a much more punk-rock feel to them while still maintaining their dark appeal. A local favorite!

Taxes, whom I caught for the first time at the Sweatshop two weeks ago, played a magnificent set of their unique brand of post-hardcore (think Drive Like Jehu on speed). Singer Sean Orr was a maniac behind the mic, pouncing all over the stage and commanding the attention of the entire audience. Despite Sean's mesmerizing on-stage persona, I found the real force of the band was the drummer, who lead the assault with his incredibly driving and technical drumming, and was very reminiscent of the lead drumming of Don Caballero's Damon Che. This band is a real force and I hope they can squeeze out a proper release sometime soon.

Certain Breeds mesmerized me once again with a short set of gothic and hypnotic new wave. I simply can't say enough good things about these guys. Go see 'em soon.

Nu Sensae destroyed Pub 340 once again. The duo is soon to be on tour with Terror Bird (an offshoot of Modern Creatures) across the North American west coast.

Blouse (hey, where's the myspace page?) played an unannounced set that seemed to catch most of the crowd off guard. Despite a few false starts and a quibble with the soundguy, Blouse sounded awesome in Pub 340, whose sound system is quite superior to the ER's. Never noticed it much the first time around but occasionally Josh's vocals reminded me a lot of the slave-driving vocal style of Michael Gira in his early Swans days. The man on the left in the above pic will be playing solo drones at the inaugural Fake Sleep. Peep it.

V. Vecker wildly swung his guitar between several amps placed on the floor of Pub 340 and created a dense whirlwind of disorienting feedback. After several intense minutes, Justin from Mutators jumped on the drums and the two (the both of them are one half of Sex Negatives) put together a fantastic improv'd set.

Shearing Pinx ripped through a two-part set, the first half centering around their odd time-signatured post-punk songs and the second half consisting of freewheeling improv. Great to have 'em back.

My camera was accidentally taken home by my ladyfriend, so I don't have any photos of the last two bands.

The crowd was pretty thin after Shearing Pinx and only the faithful few stuck around for The Sorrow and the Pity and Twin Crystals. The Sorrow and the Pity are a duo of sax and drums that is similar to the punkish side of Naked City. They weren't bad but I just wasn't in the mood for them after almost 9 hours of music and drinking. Twin Crystals were well worth staying up for and provided the most dance-able music of the night (I apologize to anyone whose toes I may have stepped on). I guess it makes sense for the boys to be opening up for Girl Talk at the Commodore, which should be one of the bigger dance parties of the summer. I'm glad that they're are playing a gig at the Commodore but part of me also feels them slipping away into *gasp* mainstream credibility.

Hey, Vancouver, let's do this again sometime soon, eh?

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Aja Rose + Gabriel Saloman-self released CDR (Edition of 50)



Recently I was lucky enough to nab a copy of the first (?) release between Aja Rose and Gabriel Saloman, which was limited to 50 copies. For those not in the know, Gabriel Saloman was one half of Yellow Swans, who, earlier this year, called it quits. Rumor has it that Gabriel will actually be moving to Vancouver (at least for awhile) to be with one Aja Rose. Aja is a member of of the local experimental group In Flux as well as the associated Her Jazz Noise Collective, which are both based out of our lovely city. The release here is a collaboration between the two lovers and one of the more exciting experimental releases I have come across all year. Some of the tracks resemble some of the more recent Yellow Swans releases, so there is a beautiful blend of feedbacking guitars and fuzzy drone which all coalesce into peaking waves of bliss.

A few of the other tracks (there are 5 in total) feature tinkering music boxes, humming trumpet, tape manipulation, thumb piano and heavily effected vocals, among other unidentifiable instruments. The result is not as mismatched as one may think, in fact, especially with Aja's dreamy vocal effects, a few of these tracks come off like dreamy Pocahaunted or Grouper tracks. Fans of those last two bands, Yellow Swans and any other bliss-drone groups will find themselves quite happy here. Now let's hope that these 2 start playing some shows here...

The package is pretty amazing, featuring a thin black card sleeve with some silky fabric sewed to the innards. A few copies remain here.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Weekend Review

The ER was relatively quiet for a Saturday night, but that didn't stop the new project of one Josh Rose (aka Sick Buildings and head of local noise label, Rundownsun) and his partner in crime, Ian. The duo, named Blouse, rocked two synths and Josh helmed the vocals, which, when the occasion arose, were taken right into the audience's faces, literally. Josh barked heavily distorted vocals (think Whitehouse) while Ian's synth oscillated intensely, creating an intense/tense atmosphere that the faithful few could not look away from. The duo worked best when both were rockin' the Rolands and pulling out some cross-oscillating "rhythms" that had all the noise kids in the room nodding their heads like entranced zombies. My sincere feeling is that, with a few more shows under their belt, Blouse will become an unstoppable juggernaut in the Vancouver music scene.

Certain Breeds followed Blouse with a great set of their post-punk/goth-tinged rock, and, once again, they were fuckin' awesome (see my Music Waste review). The band played a much more up-tempo set than their slower, pulsing set at Music Waste, and had the quickly growing crowd dancing away. Never noticed it the first time around (too drunk?) but they had a few rockers that came off like a track off a recent Oneida album. Anyone else pick this vibe up? Nonetheless, Certain Breeds is shaping up to be one of my favorite bands in this city.

The Dozell Brothers came all the way from El Paso, Texas to play both Pub 340 and the ER in the same night. After the 340 gig, The Dozell Bros set up their minimal gear quickly and surprised the crowd (no one seemed to know a damn thing about them) with a short energetic set of bent circuit dance beats. Pretty similar to Crystal Castles but less erratic and much bouncier. In fact, the band had such a bouncy vibe that the singer was pogo-ing with the crowd the entire time. They were entertaining but not necessarily my thing. Though, that being said, I did pick up a tape of theirs that had a 3D cover that came equipped with 3D glasses. Zoinks!

Mutators were exceptional as usual, which is most likely due to the massive US tour that they had finished up just a few weeks ago. I think that more bands in this city could learn a thing or two from these folks (and these folks) by setting up their own tour and playing their heart out every night. Some may break up over such an exhaustive endeavor, but any band standing after months on the road can only benefit from the constant playing. The being said, Mutators have gotten far more rhythmically advanced while still maintaining their harsh edge, which is always a recipe for a sweaty display of human pinball! A fine finish to a fine night.