Electrelane-Axes

May 18, 2010

Electrelane

Axes(Too Pure 2005)

http://www.divshare.com/download/11404916-2af.rar

Recorded in one take, Axes is one of those rare albums that sounds intricately crafted and obsessively planned, yet captures the wild-eyed abandon of a band willing to shred the map and forge new directions on the fly. Yes, it’s a contradictory statement, but Axes is a cooly composed, yet ragged recording that lets its frayed edges come to the forefront. It’s like a seamless, yet unlikely bridge between krautrock, prog, post-punk, Factory Records and Steve Reich’s Music for 18 musicians filtered through an accessible indie-rock aesthetic. Nothing else in Electrelane’s discography dips its toes into this territory and it is a bit of an anomaly when you step back and view their output as a whole. To their infinite credit, Axes is probably a fucking anomaly when compared to the last decade of music as a whole. Who else digested such overutilized ingredients and spit out a fresh recipe worthy of their idols? Electrelane did and I am reminded of their unheralded genius each time I place Axes on my turntable.

If you slapped me silly and demanded that I sum up Axes in a solitary word, I would have to choose “brooding” as its modifier since each instrument sounds like it’s being played in a bizarro version of the Cure’s “In a Forest” or New Order’s Movement minus the drummer who plays you like a snake charmer with repetitive, but deceptively complex percussion that suckers you into the abyss. Although its predecessor, The Power Out, played with many of the same themes explored here, there was a catharsis and release experienced during each triumphant chorus. Sentiments and feelings are bottled up tight on Axes as the band keeps emoting to a bare minimum as they explore what can be done with repetition, pop and punk when kept out of sun for days on end. I wouldn’t call Axes a depressing album, but it’s the first album I tend to reach for when dusk creeps over the horizon and you can smell the rain about to fall at any moment. It’s the aural equivalent of those moments before the shit hits the fan. It captures that jumbled rush of anticipation, regret and melancholy as you process those seconds before things are irrevocably changed forever, . Let’s cap this gusher and embrace the simple aesthetic of the album and say that it is an epic that never forgets the majesty to be found in simplicity.


Destroyer

Streethawk: A Seduction (Misra 2001)

http://www.mediafire.com/?0tbqat1m0d9

Before I begin, I am very sorry for disappearing for such a long vacation. Shit has hit the proverbial fan and blogs seem inconsequential. However, it stinks less than last week, so here I am.

Before he lost himself in a lyrical labyrinth of his own creation, Dan Bejar, otherwise knows as Destroyer, was one of the most witty, dense lyricists of the 90s. The cryptic lyrics and Bowie nods were plentiful, but they worked despite themselves, Streethawk: A Seduction is the first album where he really shed his indie-rock cocoon and became some wordy bastard child of Hunky Dory. Later albums became more verbose and complex, but Streethawk is the one where his knack for penning a catchy, but bizarro tune melded perfectly with a love of Bowie. Yes, subsequent efforts like This Night and Rubies pinched from different Bowie albums and were equally dense, but this one has an almost Dylan-esque ramble to it. By no means are any of Destroyer’s albums on par with the highlights of both of these legends, but Streethawk hints that Bejar could be a bizarro version if he cut the fat from his sometimes pretentious songs.  However,  even his most bloated songs break my fragile ticker when he aims for the bullseye and hits it perfectly.

I have always had a romantic fascination with Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo, so Destroyer’s “Virgin with a Memory” always floors me with its opening line of ” Was it the movie or the making of Fitzcarraldo where someone learned to love again.”  Al;though it is only an intro, it is a perfect image to conjure for a song about someone coming to grips with the weight of an actual passion. It may be overwrought to compare Herzog’s torture of sailing a riverboat up the Amazon, but somehow it is a fitting analogy for an emotionally stunted soul struggling to feel emotions that are dangerous, but electric. It is a song that celebrates youth and its infinte possibilies where all is new and raw.

Sometimes his lyrics sound better in song  than when read, but they are always interesting even when it winds up as a pile of well-crafted nonsense.  His discography is spotted with flaws, but somehow I keep listening to his albums because his flaws are infinitely more interesting than most musician’s successes.

Matt Suggs-Amigo Row

October 3, 2008

Matt Suggs

Amigo Row (Merge 2003)

http://www.mediafire.com/?tmym3nmd9lc

It warms my cockles when readers send word that they truly loved something I posted. However, I was unprepared for the onslaught of three emails asking for the followup to Matt Suggs’ first album. Yes, three requests seems lonely to the likes of you, but I assure that they arrived in a fast and furious fashion that made me sweat a drop or two. I agree with all three of you. Matt Suggs’ solo album suggest what Stephen Malkmus actually wanted to achieve after he broke from Pavement. These are well-written, literate, moody ablums that keep one foot in the ironic 90s while poring through 60s psych in a way that somehow maintains the personal voice of the artist. I did love the odd arc taken by Malkmus on his Pig Lib album, but Suggs appropriations seem so natural and unforced instead of a decision to mine the past while sucking the teat of the profitable legacy.

Anyhow, Amigo Row is a close second if this anonymous lout had to choose between the two. There was a joy to be free of his previous band that lacks here. However, this one meanders in some more progressive directions. It’s a looser album due to the fact that he has used up his punchiest tunes of the debut and now must feel his way around to discover the next plateau. Fir the most part, it is successful. If the debut has suckered you into its humble grasp, then this is a wholly satisfying way to dig deeper into an artist who successfully broke free from his paper-thin shackles.

Matt Suggs

Golden Days Before They End (Merge 2000)

http://www.mediafire.com/?zy8b1bbiqvb

Matt Suggs comprised one half of Butterglory, a 90s indie-rock band that aimed for a comfy niche occupied by Pavement, twee and the Kinks. I always liked the band and their live shows were always appealing, but so were many other bands of their ilk. I know it sounds like a cliche, but their early singles were infectious in a way that their full-lengths were not. They were a good, but not great band that never rose beyond their influences.

I cannot really think of many 90s indie-rock artists that successfully managed to emerge from their fey, ironic cocoon, but Matt Suggs is the first that comes to mind. I ignored this album upon its release since I expected more of the same. However, Matt Suggs somehow channelled the spirit of the Davies brothers and recorded a thoroughly original take on the Kinks’ Something Else album. It lacks the bite and satire of this classic, but Suggs somehow found his voice and made one of the most unsung albums of the decade. Maybe I overrate it because it was so unexpected, but Golden Days Before They End kind of symbolizes a mid-life crisis for indie-rock to me. The old influences no longer held as much weight and Suggs responded with a gem that puts his love of country, Kinks, and melancholy tear jerkers on display. It’s an honest to goodness singer-singwriter album that tells a diverse array of sappy, sad tales while mixing in enough toe-tappers to keep things out of bi-polar territory. There is nothing about the album that leaps in your lap, but it is one of those albums that mimics an old friend and warm memory. It reassures me and I listen to it more than most album on my shelves. It’s a reminder of the moment when you realize that there is more than the music than the genre you embraced as a teen or young adult and discover that classic rock wasn’t quite the boogeyman you expected.