18 August 2010

Glaze of Cathexis - 2010 - Underground Sound (first mix)

Here's the new set of Glaze of Cathexis recordings, which has been percolating since May 2009. It was originally going to be a sort of stoner metal thing, then a folk rock affair, and finally I just went straight for the marrow of my favorite 60's bands. 'Pala Ferry' has some elements of all three of those mindsets. This is a lot more guitar heavy than the last set. Every track here is anchored by guitar, and I just went to the Moog synth a few times to add some rubbery density. For once I had the opportunity to record some actual drums, so you get my spazzy drumming all over this album as well as a little bit of drumming from Gonzoriffic filmmaker Andrew Shearer. Hopefully you'll dig these psychedelic rock sounds. Here's some song notes for those of you who have the yen to listen:

Pala Ferry - At various times I was aiming for R.E.M., mid-period Byrds, and Dennis Wilson on this track. I think the Beatles 'Rain' was stuck in the back of my head as well. Lyrically, this is an invitation to join my cult, which doesn't actually exist. I always got that sort of vibe from the Millennium's Begin, which was my first post on this blog and is one of my absolute favorites.

Further Instructions - Here I'm commanding you to do abstract and impossible things. In my head it was going to be a fireside, smelly hippy folk rock chant, but then some Talking Heads style beats, Chuck Berry guitar riffs, and the goofier side of the Beach Boys backing vocals invaded my muse as well. This comes in second as I wanted to continue laying down the groundwork for my meaningless cult.

Launch - I'm not sure what this one's about lyrically, but I wanted to go for a Black Sabbath sort of riff heavy song. Some Cream found its way into the wah-wah'ed out lead guitar as well. Apparently my attention span ran out as the coda takes a sudden and strange turn into electronica.

Sign From Your Face - This is another one from my folk rock phase, and I was going for a Rubber Soul sort of vibe here. One with the Harrison parts being beamed in from the early 70's. My original vocal take tried to emulate Lennon and Dylan all at once, but it sounded ridiculous so I ended up dialing it back for this finished version.

Blues For A Red Planet - This is from a basement jam with Andrew Shearer on drums and myself on rhythm guitar. For the overdubs, I ran my Moog for a vacuum tube for the first time, and I kind of got off on it. I couldn't find my guitar slide for the lead guitar overdub and ended up using a plastic ear cleaner instead. The title is from an episode of Carl Sagan's Cosmos, which you should all watch right now.

Sometime With You - This song has been bouncing around in my head since my university days ten years ago, so I had to record it just to get it out of my damn head. Actually, the lyrics in my head were far dumber, but I was able to get away from those.

My Little Utopia - I wrote this sitting on a 50 meter cliff on a small Canadian island about seven years ago. I re-extrapolated the melody of the Dean Martin standard 'Melodies Are Made of This' for this track, but if Brian Wilson can get away with turning 'When You Wish Upon a Star' into 'Surfer Girl,' I might be safe.

City of the Domes - My buddy had just put a bunch of Iron Maiden onto my ipod, and I got the urge to write that kind of guitar riff and meld it with a tacky sci-fi reference. When it came time for the vocals, I found that I couldn't do a convincing metal growl, so I defaulted to glam Bowie instead. The electronic coda here has a little more relevance if you've spent some time with the strangely awesome film 'Logan's Run.'

Cliffs - I wrote this one back in 1999 on a bit of a bender in my college dorm room. I had recently been introduced to Syd Barrett's music at that time, so this is one of the Barrett-iest tracks I've come up with. I could never get quite happy with a recording of this, but it turned out that it needed those swinging Soft Machine-style drums.

Visions of the Unreality - This is another basement jam with Andrew and myself. My frequent collaborator Scott Atkinson crops up here with a bit of visionary poetry. It's actually the first time we've worked on music together while in the same room (or same country for that matter).

It Means a Lot - Ironically, the lyrics pretty much mean nothing. I set out to rip off "Yur Blues," but got sidetracked by another period of obsession with the Doors, and then decided to top it all off with my Dylan vocal impression. I guess I was getting into that whole Dukes of Stratosphear 'be your favorite band' sort of vibe.

Centrifugal Bumble Puppy - A gold star for those of you who get the title reference. I set out to write a song of my surreal and false triumphs, with each line starting with "I" and then a different verb. Music wise, I wanted to do a 'dude' version of the dronier and harder rocking Stereolab tracks.

Taking the Time Out - This one kept popping up in my head as a crappy emo punk song, but I think I successfully guided it into 'Who' territory instead. If I ever make it onto a neo-Nuggets compilation, I could imagine this being the one.

Hope you dig this stuff. I'd love to hear your comments and impressions, even if you end up thinking that this is a steaming pile of poo.

Listen to me:
Glaze of Cathexis - 2010 - Underground Sound (256kbps mp3s)
Glaze of Cathexis - 2010 - Underground Sound (full quality wav)

07 August 2010

Vangelis - 1978 - Beaubourg

Quality: 4.25 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 5 out of 5

I've heard of this album being likened to Vangelis falling on the keys of his Yamaha CS-80 synthesizer while taking a nap. This is very abstract music and there may very well be some truth to that. But hey, if you're going to fall on a synthesizer, the mammoth, horribly expensive, and analog CS-80 is probably a good one to go for. Really, I feel like this is comparable to some of the stuff that Morton Subotnik has been hailed a genius for. Even with the avante-garde instinct at full throttle, hints of Vangelis' melodic instincts shine through. Beaubourg is far from a fan favorite, but I think it ranks as one of Vangelis' best outings.

This is basically one piece of music, split into two album sides. It's not really music to be listened to with a full attention span, nor does it serve as background music. This is simply music that has to be experienced. The esoteric is at center stage here as the music shifts from mood to mood without a comfortable reference point. Otherworldly synth tones attack your ears and evoke a truly alien landscape.

I'll easily admit that this is not for everyone. Much of Vangelis' 70's works aim for grandiose cosmic tones, but this is a different creature entirely. You have to shut off the logical centers of your mind and let the sounds take you where they will. This is late night music to prime your subconscious for the surreal. It's far from perfect, but it contains a visceral wallop that more conventional musics do not. This is what the music of the spheres sound like as they come crashing through Earth.

Buy Me:
Vangelis - 1978 - Beaubourg

05 August 2010

Vangelis - 1977 - Spiral

Quality: 4.75 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.75 out of 5

As far as I'm concerned, Spiral is Vangelis' masterpiece. Much of the prog and rock influences from his past couple albums are minimalized in favor of trance-like sequencing and a wide stage for the spacey synthesizers. It's a little more of a minimal approach, but it allows for Vangelis' melodies to shine through without coming across as cluttered and pompous as my least favorite parts of Heaven and Hell did.

The opening title track has a massive sound backed by a properly spiraling sequencer. This is more like the sound of opening up the gates to Heaven or Hell - your choice which. "Ballad" employs some early vocoding while the grooving "Dervish D" is a perfected form of the electronic groove that Vangelis was playing around with on much of Albedo 0.39. You may note that "To the Common Man" is awfully similar to Vangelis' later Oscar-winning "Chariots of Fire" theme. This more understated track is far superior, though. The album closes with a track somewhat similar in structure to "Spiral," but ends up sounding more like the Electric Light Parade at Disneyland and is the only mild misstep on the album.

Although he doesn't quite make it all the way, Vangelis comes within spitting distance of the rarified electronic air of Klaus Schultze on Spiral. Still, Vangelis' melodic gifts come across well and make this a must hear for fans of 70's electronica.

Buy Me:
Vangelis - 1977 - Spiral

Vangelis - 1976 - Albedo 0.39

Quality: 4.25 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.25 out of 5

After his journey through Heaven and Hell, Vangelis saw it fit to launch himself into space. I think it suits him a lot better. This sounds an awful lot like the music that Tangerine Dream would make in the mid to late 80's (as well a Vangelis himself), but the funky, clunky analog sounds and 70's production makes this sound far better. The live drums that show up here and there help a lot too. Let's face it, music of this sort walks a fine line between 'awesome' and 'cheesy,' and the digital sheen of the 80's sent these sounds careening over the edge into a new age abyss. But we're looking at Albedo 0.39 for now, and it's the real deal. As far as the orchestral synthesized sub-genre goes, this is space music at its best.

For you Carl Sagan junkies, "Pulstar" and "Alpha" were a few of the tracks that were used in the phenomenal score for Cosmos. There might be some more here as well, but those two were distinctly burned into my head. "Pulstar" features some brains piercing synth stabs while "Alpha" is a perfect crescendo. The other major tracks here are "Main Sequence," which sound like a band of robots playing fusion, and the two part "Nucleogenesis," which most recalls "Heaven and Hell Part 1," except that it's rocked up and sounds far superior to my ears (was this one in Cosmos as well?). There are some enjoyable shorter pieces as well. "Freefall" has a touch of world percussion added to fine effect, and the star chart recitation on the closing title track is fun as well. I think most of my trance music listening is at least in part my trying to recapture the vibe of sitting in a planetarium at age 8, and this one does a fine job of doing that.

Yeah, this music is on the cusp of 'new age,' but I think that term usually applies to failed space or spiritual music. This album definitely gets the space dynamic correct. Vangelis certainly beat both 80's Tangerine Dream and his future self at their own game ten years before the fact.

Buy Me:
Vangelis - 1976 - Albedo 0.39

Vangelis - 1975 - Heaven and Hell

Quality: 3.25 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 3.75 out of 5

The way I see it, Vangelis has had four major periods in his career. There's of course his mostly awesome stint with the psychedelic rockin' Aphrodite's Child, his insane experimental/prog period of the early 70's, his 'golden artistic period' of the mid 70's and the new age drivel period he's been often stuck in since about 1979 (there are things like the Blade Runner soundtrack which definitely get a pass). This album is often seen as the start of his most artistically valid period, but to tell the truth I'm not that enamoured with Heaven and Hell. The are some touches of synth and melodic genius sprinkled throughout this record, but Vangelis was going for an orchestral prog vibe that tends to turn me off. If you're into that sort of thing, expect to add another point to the 'quality' meter.

This appears to be a side-long track sort of affair, but I think it would have been a much better for the big 'Heaven and Hell' suites to be split up, or at least given names. It hard for me to conceptualize what's here and separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. "Heaven and Hell Part One' starts of well, but the choral vocals get pretty silly a few minutes in and it veers a little too far towards the orchestral prog vibe for my taste. That said the last few minutes of the 15 minute long suite is the music used for the theme to Carl Sagan's Cosmos, and that stands out as one of my favorite pieces of music in general. It's just too bad that I either have to fast forward or listen to pompous choruses and synth themes bellowing into my ear. "So Long Ago, So Clear to Me" doesn't appeal to me at all. Word on the street is that Jon Anderson of Yes and Vangelis were an inspired pairing, but it seems like the most hellish thing here in my view. "Heaven and Hell Part Two" fairs a little better with it's ambient vibe, but there are still a few sections where I see happy elves dancing in the shire or Lord of the Rings pomp instead of the more tripped out soundscapes that I look for in the best 70's electronic records. Like part one, the final section is the spaciest and the best.

I suppose I'm being a little harsh with this album, but it's often held up as Vangelis' masterpiece whereas I prefer pretty much all of his other 70's albums over this one. Still, there are some spots of really great music to be found here, and if you dig Jon Anderson, then you'll have a nice treat under your pillow instead of the turd I found.

Buy Me:
Vangelis - 1975 - Heaven and Hell