Dead Meadow-s/t

May 17, 2013

Dead Meadow

s/t (Tolotta 2000)

http://www72.zippyshare.com/v/65741584/file.html

In theory, I should probably love everything Dead Meadow ever recorded. They alternate between chugging anthems that crib all the right notes from the best hard rock albums of the 70s and elongated ballads that borrow from the right loners of the 60s. However, the obstacles to a deep appreciation of what they play is the fact that it sometimes feels a bit too much like an homage instead of original and forceful statement of purpose. That’s just a mere quibble since most of my favorites of the past few decades have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar more than once. All of their albums are guilty of this vice, but their debut captures them at an embryonic moment when all the edges were still jagged and the connections between influences not quite so obvious. They’re still feeling their way towards an identity and it kind of captures them at a place where there was a wide-eyed sense of wonder and they kind of let it all hang out. I also have fond memories of this album because it really stuck out like a sore thumb in the rock and roll landscape as the band didn’t really have a niche as the deservedly short-lived era of stoner rock was petering out and indie-rock was kind of in a woeful state in the year 2000. They were kind of a square peg that kind of sounded like an emasculated Black Sabbath with a fondness for the sounds of Nuggets and Spacemen 3. That was enough for me then and it still is thirteen years later.

This all sounds like half-hearted praise, but I really do dig Dead Meadow and their later albums have grown on me in recent years even though I still haven’t quite reconciled myself with the nasal whine of Jason Simon who is the nephew of David Simon, the brilliant mind behind The Wire and Treme. Yes, it’s pointless trivia, but I always thought it was a neat little factoid. His voice doesn’t ruin the whole enchilada like that John Garcia’s repellent snarl in Kyuss, but it sometimes mars the impact of his guitar playing which often matches the bruising, rugged heights of the idols they so eagerly ape. The opener “Sleepy Silver Door” is a perfect example of this conundrum as the band offers a perfect introduction to their bread and butter. Simon’s riff overtakes the song and kind of falls somewhere between a clumsy, yet forceful combo of Tommy Iommi of Black Sabbath and Tony McPhee of the Groundhogs. It’s that good, but could be so great if the vocals matched the majesty of what his fingers hath wrought. It’s a bit of hyperbole, but it comes within spitting distance of it.

“Dragonfly” is another perfect slice of why Dead Meadow is capable of raising the bar beyond talented tribute as they carve out some unforseen landscape that taps into taps into the same well water the Verve were drinking on A Storm in Heaven. Like that classic album, it’s arena rock re-imagined for the small stage as they pen an anthem that kind of spills over the edge to the point that it kind of feels like it lasts forever. It’s kind of epic even though it only lasts four minutes. It kind of reminds me of the masculine counterpoint to Bardo Pond’s “Be a Fish” off of their Amanita album. Yes, it’s an overly esoteric reference, but listen to the two songs back to back and see if you jive with what I’m selling.

What makes Dead Meadow’s debut stand as their finest moment is that they kind of tried to encapsulate all that they loved into one single album and the end result is a flawed, but enigmatic mess that somehow captures the essence of all I love about the early 90s and mid 70s in a variety of styles: pseudo-shoegaze meltdowns, bluesy posturing and thudding riffs that I can hang my hat upon in times of jubilation. It ain’t perfect, but it beats the pants off of the majority of rock albums of the 2000s.

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.

Various Artists(Compiled by David Toop)

Ocean of Sound (Virgin UK 1996)

links are down, but will be reposted tomorrow.

Although it sometimes spends too much time sniffing its own arse, The Wire, a British magazine, has helped turn me on to new horizons during the thirteen years I have read its pontifications. Yes, I could do without its testimonials to grime and its ill-fated interludes with post-rock, but no current magazine delves into the nitty gritty of oddball musics like they do. Although he doesn’t seem to write for them anymore, David Toop’s meanderings on music warped my mind in new directions. To be honest, I read them now and find less to love, but his articles and book Ocean of Sound provided the context for why I found whirrs, buzzes and drones to be such a wonderland. In 1996, Toop wrote a book entitled Ocean of Sound which attempted to trace the history of ambient music as well as the motivations behind those who devoted themselves to its creation. He touched on Satie, Terry Riley, Eno and Aphex Twin and how supposed background music became an artform. I still kind of dig this book, but years have hardened me and I no longer have the same bright-eyed and bushy-tailed look as I read the words. However, this book really gave my musical loves a sense of place. It connected dots and made sense of things that my young mind didn’t grasp until then.

A double cd was released in conjunction with book and I’ll be damned if there isn’t a better compendium of music to correlate with the book’s explorations of the ability of music to create an atmosphere. Now the book and compilation do not limit themselves to mellow bubbles and chirps since Peter Brotzmann and Ornette Coleman play a role as well as My Bloody Valentine and Jon Hassell. I love the diversity of this collection because its field recordings of howler monkeys and rain songs just melt into the more austere terrain of Harold Budd. At heart, it is just an excellent mix tape devoted to the power of sound by a man who put all of his love into each selection.