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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Keep An Eye On The Sky

Frances the Mute (Gold Standard Laboratories, 2005) is the second studio album by progressive rock band The Mars Volta. Though not as commercially successful as De-loused in the Comatorium, it received considerable critical praise and is widely seen as their Magnum opus. The album displays a deep jazz influence while infusing Latin flavor into many songs, as well as utilizing many of the dub, ambient and electronica influences and techniques experimented with in De Facto and Omar Rodríguez-López's solo projects in order to create one cohesive composition divided into many tracks. The Mars Volta is an American rock band from El Paso, Texas, formed in 2001 and currently based out of Mexico. Founded by guitarist Omar Rodríguez-López and vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala, the band incorporates various influences including progressive rock, krautrock, jazz fusion, post-punk, hard rock, post-hardcore and Latin American music into their sound. They are known for their energetic and improvisational live shows, as well as their concept-based studio albums. The roots of The Mars Volta are found in the band At the Drive-In.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Ecstatic Static

Valerie is a self-claimed "retrofuturistic electro-disco" collective founded in 2007 in the Nantes area in France by David Grellier (a.k.a College) and friends The Outrunners, Minitel Rose, Anoraak, Maethelvin and Russ Chimes. The collective draws inspiration from vintage scores for film and TV series from the 1980s, such as the soundtrack album by the German band Tangerine Dream for the film Risky Business, starring Tom Cruise. Major releases include Secret Diary (Futur, 2008) and the Teenage Color EP (Believe Digital, 2008). Middle/ Released six years after Risotto, Puppy (One Little Indian, 2003) is the seventh studio album from the English electronic music group Fluke. The name of the album was inspired by Jeff Koons' fifty foot sculpture of a puppy that stands outside the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao. This album proved to be similar to the earlier Risotto tracks in tempo and mood, but with the introduction of some new ideas, such as the inclusion of a blues track, "Blue Sky" and the addition of a very dark techno orientated bonus track, "Pulse". Top/ I Love You (Downtown Records, 2009) is the debut album by the Philadelphia-based rapper and singer Amanda Blank. Billboard described the album as "guiltless fun, just like any proper quickie." "A Love Song" contains interpolations of LL Cool J's "I Need Love" and Santigold's "I'm a Lady". Amanda Mallory (a.k.a. Amanda Blank) is an American rapper and singer and member of the performance art band Sweatheart based in Philadelphia. She is also a collaborator with the rap group Spank Rock. Her songs have appeared in HBO's Life Support and CSI: NY Episode "Buzzkill."

Friday, February 12, 2010

Ballroom Blitz

Sawdust (Island, 2007) is a compilation of re-recorded B-sides, rarities, covers and remixes by the Las Vegas rock band The Killers. The Killers were inspired by B-sides collections such as Oasis' The Masterplan, The Smiths' Hatful of Hollow, Smashing Pumpkins' Pisces Iscariot and Nirvana's Incesticide. Part of the post-punk revival movement, The Killers draw influence from music styles of the 1980s and 1990s. The band's first two albums, Hot Fuss (2004) and Sam's Town (2006), have sold in excess of 12 million copies worldwide combined. Middle/ Destroy Rock & Roll is the first album by Scottish electronic musician Mylo, released in 2004 on the Breastfed Recordings label, which he co-owns. Destroy Rock & Roll was created on a second hand iMac, with "a few software thingys" in Mylo's own bedroom. Mylo has provided remixes for the likes of Scissor Sisters, Amy Winehouse, The Knife, and The Killers. The video that went with the single "Muscle Car" courted controversy as it featured American president George W. Bush shown involved in a drug-and-alcohol-fueled threesome with two prostitutes. Top/ I Created Disco (Sony Columbia, 2007) is the debut album from Scottish-born electronica musician Calvin Harris. The album contained uptempo electroclash songs that were influenced by music from the 1980s, including the singles "Acceptable in the 80s", a tribute to the style and culture of the decade, "Merrymaking at My Place" and "The Girls".

Thursday, February 11, 2010

When The Machines Rock

Bottom/ Odyssey (EMI, 2005) by electroclash duo and performance troupe Fischerspooner includes guests David Byrne and Mirwais. Spiking extremely retro electropop tendencies (recalling Kraftwerk, early Depeche Mode, and Gary Numan) with a modern approach to programming, Fischerspooner produces a quirky, robotic, and strangely subdued kind of dance music. Middle/ Tubeway Army (1977–1979) was a London-based punk and new wave band led by Gary Numan. It was the first band of the post-punk era to have an electronic hit, with the single "Are 'Friends' Electric?" and its parent album, Replicas (Beggars Banquet), topping the UK Album Charts in mid 1979. Replicas was the first album of what Numan later termed the "machine" phase of his career, preceding The Pleasure Principle and Telekon, a collection linked by common themes of a dystopian science fiction future and transmutation of man/machine, coupled with an androgynous image and ground-breaking synthetic rock sound. Something of a concept album, Replicas was based on a book Numan hoped to complete someday, set in a not-too-distant future metropolis where Machmen (androids with cloned human skin) and other machines keep the general public cowed on orders from the Grey Men (shadowy officials). Whilst the album’s setting and lyrics were directly inspired by the science fiction of Philip K. Dick, particularly his seminal work Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the title was, surprisingly, not. Musically Numan’s chief influences were the as-yet commercially-unsuccessful Ultravox who pioneered the integration of synthesizers with conventional rock instruments; David Bowie’s Low, especially tracks like "Speed of Life" and "Breaking Glass", and general air of disaffection; and Kraftwerk’s The Man-Machine, in particular the long and wistful "Neon Lights". Replicas' fat synthesizer sound and occasionally nihilistic lyrics had a major impact on the industrial acts that came to prominence in the mid-nineties such as Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails. Top/ "Genetic Engineering" is a single from Dazzle Ships (Virgin, 1983), the fourth album by English synthpop group Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (often abbreviated to OMD). The album was the follow-up release to the band's hugely successful Architecture and Morality.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Wipeout Beat

Suicide (Red Star Records) is the influential first studio album by American No Wave band Suicide, released in 1977. It is often cited as one of the first synth pop albums, although it has a harsher, more industrial leaning than many well-known albums of the genre. The album is regarded a classic. One critic writes: "'Che', 'Ghost Rider'—these eerie, sturdy, proto-punk anthems rank among the most visionary, melodic experiments the rock realm has yet produced. Suicide is an American synthpunk musical duo, intermittently active since 1971 and composed of vocalist Alan Vega and Martin Rev on synthesizers and drum machines. Never widely popular amongst the general public, Suicide are highly influential: critic Wilson Neate writes that Suicide "would prove as influential as The Clash. Listening to their self-titled 1977 debut from the vantage point of late 2002, it's all so obvious: the synthpop, techno, and industrial dance with a reputation for their sounds of the '80s and '90s, and now the new New Wave of electroclash, all gesture back to that foundational album." Suicide emerged alongside the early punk scene in New York City with a reputation for their live shows; Vega stated "We started getting booed as soon as we came onstage. Just from the way we looked they started giving us hell already." Vega and Rev both dressed like arty street thugs, and Vega was notorious for brandishing a length of motorcycle drive chain onstage. This sort of audience confrontation was inspired by Vega's witnessing of a Stooges concert in the early '70s, which he later described as "great art". Suicide's albums and performances in the 1970s and early 1980s are regarded as some of the most influential recordings of their time and helped shape the direction of indie rock, industrial music and dance music. Among others, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Joy Division/New Order, Soft Cell, Nick Cave, Radiohead, Spiritualized, Ric Ocasek of The Cars, R.E.M. and The Kills have all listed Suicide as an influence. In September 2009, the group performed their debut LP live in its entirety as part of the All Tomorrow's Parties-curated Don't Look Back series. It will be played again in London in May 2010 when the band support The Stooges performances of Raw Power.