28 February 2013

Appalache - 2012 - Fue

Quality: 4.25 out of 5
Trip-O-Meter: 4.5 out of 5

Another platter of reverb'ed ambiance from the primordial nighttime of the soul.  Fortunately, I haven't gotten tired of that sort of thing.  The faux-Deutsch Grammophone logo suggests something 'Sting orchestrating his old songs' pretentiousness, but the dreamcatcher in the background is a better portent of sounds to come.  There's a lot of cavernous, echos from electronic tones filling in the space on this release, but the glue that holds it all forever is some sparkling guitar (mostly electric).  This is the transcendental moment of the late night, delirious pow wow when all the ghosts come out.  In France, at least.

Let's talk about surf guitar for a minute.  As you may have noticed from my own recording I absolutely love a good, twangy surf guitar, but the eponymous genre can easily become a retro-fluff dead end.  This is far from surf music, but I'll be damned if we don't have some mighty fine surf guitar lurking around here.  "Dimensions of Truth" is Dick Dale once that wave has slammed him underwater, and the subsequent concussion leads him to a philosophical conversation with Dennis Wilson, Jimi Hendrix, and Chief Seattle.  And that's how I shall go about describing my favorite track here.  "R55R," "Somewhere to Disappear," and "Mortality" also tie the whole room together with splashes of the lost dreams of surf guitar. "F.A.1999" pulls back the veil of sound for an unplugged ceremony, while "Disillusioned Infinity" features a collaborator who I believe is there to super-saiyan the sounds into a fusioned powered ball of dark energy.

Let me reiterate: this is by no means a surf album.  This is the dark, yet relaxing sounds found deep inside the spirit quest.  Sort of a modern iteration of the better new age sounds.  I hear a lot of this kind of stuff, however.  The guitar is how this set got its hooks into me, and upon reviewing it I'm catching the final rumblings of a early 60's Fender Combo Amp turned up to 11.  Appalache have taken the sunny California yin and slammed it headfirst into the yang of dark ambiance.

Appalache - 2012 - Fue

06 February 2013

My Bloody Valentine - 2013 - mbv

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

Well, it's not exactly obscure, but I'd be remiss not to acknowledge this psychedelic supernova.  I downloaded this in full quality audio, but hit the play button with a bit of trepidation, half expecting a shoegazing bout of "Chinese Democracy."  Fortunately, I discovered an album that I'll have to break taboo on, and outright state that I like better than "Loveless."  I'm not trying to slam that classic at all - it's still a sublime blast of psychedelia echoing from the peak of the musical Mount Olympus.  "mbv," though, is a quantum distillation sent straight through the galactic core.  First off, the production is warm and fuzzy, with the walls of sound enveloping and warming your cerebral cortex.  I could never get through the CD copy of "Loveless" without acquiring a bit of a headache (although I never had this problem with my 180 gram vinyl copy).  I've read a few folks that wanted a bit more treble on this new release, but let's give Kevin Shields the benefit of the doubt - this slacker king has had 22 years to refine his production approach.  The guitars are thicker than ever before and the drums, both real and synthetic, take on a tribal thunk that guards the gates of the ethereal.  My first thoughts were that the songwriting wasn't as solid as "Loveless," but "mbv" moves past conventional rock motifs and is fully impressionistic rock.  Before we get in too deep, let me also express the glorious vibes of Colin O'Ciosoig, who remains at the top of his game with his trademark "falling down the stairs" skittering beats.

Many have already noticed that this album is best considered in thirds.  The first three tracks present themselves as the logical continuation of "Loveless."  "who sees you" dovetails from "only tomorrow," and may be the definitive ball of warbling sound from these aural psychonauts.  The band is lost in the wilderness of time in the middle third, but the results are nothing less than fascinating.  "is this and yes" strips down the sonic cathedral of the band to the core, exposing the divine glide of Belinda Butcher's vocals with the backdrop of only a light percussive pulse and an organ that takes the best from the explorations of Terry Riley.  I think the minimalist influences of Steve Reich and Riley may confound the uninitiated, but push "mbv" directly into the Om.  Meanwhile, "new you" is an enjoyable dead end wherein the band breaks down their essence into a reconstruction of the pop edge of Swing Out Sister or Everyone But the Girl.  On it's own, it would be a disappointment, but it heralds the shift into new territory, wherein the Valentines blow out the core of your mind on the final three tracks.  "in another way" sets up the electronic-fused journey of the future Valentines, while :nothing is" is a punk rock, full throttle take on Steve Reich's phase experiments.  I'm sure experiencing this tribal pounding live would count as a brainwashing.  The best is saved for last, though, on "wonder 2."  This strange drum and bass rupture takes the already monumental "Soon" from "Loveless" 1,000 years in the future.  Fusing drum and bass and rock has never worked particularly well, except maybe for Radiohead's "Idioteque" (and my soft spot for Bowie's "Little Wonder").  "wonder 2," though, pushes into the transcendental, presenting the guitar as a warped, cosmic whale seeking the whole of the universe.  It's instantly one of the band's best tracks ever.

We don't need to compare "mbv" with the band's peak - they are clearly still there.  Honestly, I tried my best to find fault with this album as best I could through the first few listens, trying to convince myself that Shields and crew couldn't possibly match their legend.  The power overwhelmed me, though, and I've kept spinning it in longer and longer loops, cranking the volume to come closer to a true nirvana of sound.  I'll keep Tame Impala in the role of the best straight up psychedelic band in action today, they're still mortal while the music on "mbv" comes to us from another dimension.  I think it's very groovy that age is slipping away as a prerequisite of rock n' roll - Neil Young, well into his 60's, managed some of his best last year on "Psychedelic Pill," and My Bloody Valentine has thrown down a masterpiece without missing a step from their heyday after 22 years.

Get your tunes here:
My Bloody Valentine - 2013 - mbv

Or have a sampling here:
My Bloody Valentine on YouTube