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Monday, November 29, 2010

Dreams That Breathe Your Name

Channeling meaning and emotion through sound: picks by Music Curator Max Chavanne, founder and driving force at, transcend music genres, breaking down musical boundaries. Top/ The album cover of Queen Of The Meadow (Jetset Records, 2000) by enigmatic art rock band Elysian Fields depicts Ophelia, a character from Shakespeare's play Hamlet, singing before she drowns. Elysian Fields is a Brooklyn, New York based band founded in 1995 by co-composers Jennifer Charles (vocals, instruments) and Oren Bloedow (guitar). Their music has been sometimes described as "noir rock", due to its sultry, dark and mysterious inflections, be it sonically or lyrically. The band uses mainly acoustic instruments, predominantly guitar, piano, bass and drums, with the occasional appearance of eastern instruments, classical strings, and subtle electronics, the focal point being the voice of Charles in the forefront. Their music is lush and melancholy, with poetic and surreal lyrics. Author of The Dark Stuff, Nick Kent says of their music, "Maybe we have their out-of-the-mainstreamness to thank for a sound that is still unique -- as sensual as a sleepwalker's wet dream." Bottom/ In The Aeroplane Over The Sea (Merge, 1998) is the second studio album by American indie rock band Neutral Milk Hotel. Pitchfork Media's M. Christian McDermott gave the album an 8.7 out of 10, referring to Neutral Milk Hotel as "one psych-rock band making music that's just as catchy as it is frightening" and said that the album "does a credible job of blending Sgt. Pepper with early 90's lo-fi." Jason Ankeny of Allmusic wrote, "lo-fi yet lush, impenetrable yet wholly accessible, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is either the work of a genius or an utter crackpot, with the truth probably falling somewhere in between."

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Black Tie White Noise

Bottom/ Featuring Juno Reactor, Total Eclipse and The Infinity Project, Trip Through Sound (1997) unleashes an interstellar, urgent vibe. Some consider Blue Room Released to be one of the most important labels in the psychedelic trance genre. Top/ Cutting like a diamond: 100th Window (Virgin Records) is the fourth studio album from the Bristol-based trip-hop group Massive Attack. Of the band's original core trio, the album only features Robert Del Naja. Andrew Vowles departed shortly after the release of Mezzanine, and Grant Marshall refused to participate in the making of the record. Released in February 2003, 100th Window was written and produced by Del Naja and Neil Davidge, and features vocals from Horace Andy and Sinéad O'Connor (on tracks including "What Your Soul Sings"), as well as an imperceptible appearance by Damon Albarn. It is the first album by the band that made no use of samples, and contains none of the jazz or jazz fusion stylings of the band's earlier recordings. 100th Window received a generally positive, though somewhat muted critical reception, many arguing that whilst Massive Attack's previous three albums had all broken significant new ground for the group, 100th Window's dark, brooding sound was merely a continuation, although in some areas, less dark, of Mezzanine. The title of the album comes from the book The Hundredth Window: Protecting Your Privacy and Security in the Age of the Internet; this title is an allusion to the idea that one's security is compromised if even one window is left open.

Monday, November 15, 2010

I Am Your Shadow

Bottom/ Described by Dr. Dre as "the perfect epitome of anger expressed in music", "Bullet With Butterfly Wings" by The Smashing Pumpkins originally appeared on their album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (Virgin Records, 1995), from which it was the lead single. The Smashing Pumpkins are an American band that formed in Chicago, Illinois in 1988. Less overtly sharing the punk rock roots of many of their alt-rock contemporaries, the Pumpkins have a diverse, densely layered, and guitar-heavy sound, containing elements of gothic rock, heavy metal, dream pop, psychedelic rock, arena rock, shoegazer-style production and, in later recordings, electronica. Frontman Billy Corgan is the group's primary songwriter—his grand musical ambitions and cathartic lyrics have shaped the band's albums and songs, which have been described as "anguished, bruised reports from Billy Corgan's nightmare-land". Top/ Misery Is A Butterfly (4AD, 2004) is the sixth studio album by New York indie/shoegaze trio Blonde Redhead. Comprised of Kazu Makino and twin brothers Simone and Amedeo Pace, the band performs in multiple languages including English, Japanese, Italian, and French. Makino is noted for her high, eerie voice, which hovers over melodic guitar riffs and clockwork drum beats. The large span of time between Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons and Misery Is a Butterfly is attributed to Makino's recovery time after being trampled by a horse. Much of the visual and lyrical imagery of Misery Is a Butterfly is reflective of the accident.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Zing A Zing A Zing Boom

Bottom/ The Avalanche: Outtakes and Extras from the Illinois Album (Asthmatic Kitty, 2006) is an album by indie rock singer/songwriter Sufjan Stevens, consisting of outtakes and other recordings from the sessions for his 2005 concept album Illinois. The cover features a cartoon depiction of Stevens wearing a cape and costume held aloft by strings, a likely reference to the image of Superman he was forced to remove from the cover of Illinois. Top/ On the vinyl edition of the album Illinois, released on November 22, 2005, Superman's image is covered by a balloon sticker. The varied instrumentation and experimental songwriting on Illinois invoked comparisons to work by Neil Young and The Cure. Sufjan Stevens (born July 1, 1975) is an American singer-songwriter and musician born in Detroit, Michigan. Stevens has released albums of varying styles, from the electronica of Enjoy Your Rabbit and the lo-fi folk of Seven Swans to the symphonic instrumentation of Illinois and Christmas-themed Songs for Christmas. He is considered part of the folk revival in indie pop, but his influences are very broad. His music has been likened to electronica and aesthetically compared to the minimalism of Steve Reich. Stevens' music often has spiritual themes, and many songs (most notably on Seven Swans) draw inspiration from Bible tales. The Age of Adz (pronounced "odds") was released on October 12, 2010 by Asthmatic Kitty Records. It is Stevens' first song-based full length album in five years, since the release of Illinois in 2005. The album features a heavy use of electronics augmented by heavy orchestration, and takes inspiration from the apocalyptic artwork of schizophrenic artist Royal Robertson.

Friday, November 5, 2010

We Own The Night

II (Drag City, 2006) was the third album from Espers (presumably so called because it was their second album of original material). Espers is a psych folk band from Philadelphia that is part of the emerging indie folk scene. Their music is reminiscent of late-sixties British folk as well as many contemporary folk acts such as Six Organs of Admittance. Most of the band's members have also featured on recordings by a number of other folk artists such as Nick Castro and Vashti Bunyan and as a result have become an important part of the psych-folk revival. Their album of cover songs, The Weed Tree, released in 2005, featured the band's versions of songs by artists as diverse as Nico, The Durutti Column and Blue Öyster Cult. An esper refers to an individual capable of telepathy and other similar paranormal abilities. The term is derived from the abbreviation ESP for extrasensory perception.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Morning Light Forgives The Night

/ Neil Halstead is an English songwriter and musician. He was a founding member of shoegazer band Slowdive, and is currently the principal singer and songwriter in dream pop/country rock group Mojave 3, also playing guitar in the band. In 2001, 4AD Records released a solo album, Sleeping on Roads. Following his departure from 4AD, a second solo album, Oh! Mighty Engine was released by Brushfire Records on July 29, 2008. The term shoegazer was applied to bands that followed My Bloody Valentine's example of abrasive guitars and ethereal vocals. Middle/ Sumday (V2, 2003) is the third album by indie rock group Grandaddy from Modesto, California. Musically, the band features guitars in the indie rock style, keyboards reminiscent of Philip Glass's minimalist style and vocals in the key of Neil Young. The band's musical style (somewhat classifiable as indietronic) often combines experimental electronic sounds with elements of folk and high-energy rock. Lyrics generally focus on isolation in a high-tech world grafted onto rural America. Top/ Recorded in Brittany, London and Paris, French pop/folk band Cocoon's sophomore album Where The Oceans End (Sober and Gentle, 2010) tells the tale of a boy who meets Yum Yum, a thousand-year old whale believed to swallow people's nightmares and problems, only to regurgitate happiness. Previous releases by Cocoon include EPs I Hate Birds and From Panda Mountains, and the band's 2007 debut My Friends All Died in a Plane Crash.