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.

Savath and Savalas

Folk Songs for Trains, Trees and Honey (Hefty 2000)

http://www.mediafire.com/?ohmo4zj9cqt

I wonder what history will decide when people reappraise the years when the inane terms, post-rock and electronica, were deemed to be relevant. Now, I am no saint since I used these regretful words in my own freelance career, but years have passed and this time seems like a big, fucking blank with few winners. I guess I still listen to Tortoise’s Millions Now Living and the Pan American album along with the Labradords, Prams among others, but neither term says much to me now I’ve heard most sections of the time line that preceded the late 90s.

There was a lot of lumpy prog, flaccid beats and ambient incontinence among the lesser lights. However, there is one album that has sparked a pang of regret about my hardened and revised opinion. Savath and Savalas debut, Folk Songs for Trains, Trees and Honey borrowed and mortgaged the house against these sad sack claims and the end result is something that I can still wholeheartedly endorse today.

The main character behind Savath and Savalas is Scott Herren, who later recorded as Prefuse 73 for the Warp label. He was a bit of a musical sponge and it ill-served him later in his career as he careened between hip-hop, tropicalia, dub, folk and electronic music like a pinball and the results never quite matched the inspiration that was obvious in each attempt.

Folk Songs is different to me because it is remains minimal and only attempts to evoke the slightly funk, sort of ambient and kind of adventurous vibe prevalent during this time. However, there is no “kinda” about it because it is kind of an effortlessly cool album that fits whatever mood matches yours. It is sensual, lazy, funky, psychedelic and intricate and serves as the Rorshach test to your current state of mind. Nothing jumps out and nothing needs to do so. It somehow shifts to meet what I am feeling at the moment and I always liked that about Folk Songs. Sometimes, you need a utilitarian album that never disappoints and this remains firmly rooted in my nightime pile.

Disjecta

Looking For Snags (Warp 1996)

http://www.mediafire.com/?dunbuni9mdi

After Seefeel’s demise, the rest went off to capitalize on the electronica train under the guises of Scala and Locust. Both of these offshoots had many worthwhile moments, but they lacked the cohesive vision and dedication to repetition that drove Seefeel’s marriage of shoegaze, dub and drone. Although Daren Seymour influenced their sound, Mark Clifford was in the drivers seat for much of Seefeel’s work. This is readily apparent in his work as Disjecta. After Seefeel’s demise, he remained with the Warp label and recorded a couple eps as well as this full length effort. All of them seem like the logical extension of their swansong Succour as the soothing sounds of Quique continue to be replaced by more beat-driven material. By no means is Disjecta danceable, but Clifford assimilates the sounds of hip-hop, Autechre and the unfortunately named IDM movement into his psychedelic drones. Actually, I prefer this to Succour and I love that album quite a bit. He recently resurfaced to release an ep that is pretty damn great. It eliminates the beats and explores a Cluster vibe heretofore unseen in his work. Personally, I wish every member of this band could regain their footing, but years have passed and the rest have not delivered anything of note in years.

Seefeel – Succour

June 18, 2008

Seefeel

Succour (Warp 1995)

http://www.divshare.com/download/4018764-2c6

Man, talk about a progression from light to dark. Seefeel’s Succour is their grand finale and it is so different from the 4ad/electronic/shoegaze puppy pile of the earliest eps and the hypnotic roundabout of Quique. However, the Starethrough ep posted here last week hints at the dark, pounding lonesome soundscapes they explore here. It is no surprise that later solo efforts and side projects were released on the Touch label since this is a heavy slice of brooding drones with sad robotic loops to keep it company.

In some ways, this is my least favorite Seefeel album, but there is an argument to be made that it is a misunderstood album. I believe my disappointments were rooted in their refusal to provide a swirling soundtrack for the next bong hit. I loved their earlier albums and I felt somewhat let down by the grim, depressing music they released as a farewell. Even Sarah Peacock’s coos and sighs are manipulated to sound like cries from a well instead of a sensual mantra. In fact, much of this could have been released on an early 80s industrial/electronic comp and no one would blink an eye.

I am still conflicted about Succour, but two tracks stand as some of the most sublime moments the band ever recorded. “Rupt” may be one of my favorite songs ever released on Warp as it improves on the formula of the Starethrough ep with dubby bass, endless looping of Peacock’s nonsensical chants and a slow-motion, rumbling drone that rumbles upwards and downwards. “Ruby-Ha” somehow predicts the genius of Boards of Canada’s debut as it lays a foundation of chimes and puttering beats that really embodies all I loved about this band.

Moonshake

First ep (Creation records 1991)

http://www.mediafire.com/?5ytg0bnvtym

I picked this up at 3rd St. Jazz and Rock in Philadelphia as a curious high schooler and this ep really blew open my synapses. God, I miss that store. I can’t imagine a better playground for a teenage music junkie as it offered easy access to many of the artists I love today.

Moonshake was formed from a dubious well. Dave Callahan was the most “recognizable” figure inthe band, but his previous project The Wolfhounds, were responsible for a bunch of mediocre C86 era music that was promising, but ultimately disappointing. Salvation came in the form of Margaret Fiedler and John Frenett who pushed the envelope by adding elements of dub while taking the lethargic shoegaze scene to louder territories explored only by My Bloody Valentine and the Telescopes. Their usage of samples and electronic loops made the ep even more trailblazing in comparison with contemporaries hailed by the NME and Melody Maker.

It isn’t surprising that Fiedler and Frenett went on to form Laika as the seeds of their love of oddball dubby electronic pop songs were apparent on some of these tracks. However, I always loved how this ep was recorded because it would suddenly jump from calm to chaos as the guitars would shift into full-on noise on a few occasions. I loved how they jumped from mellow and ethereal to nasty and belligerent in a split-second. Their follow-up, Big Good Angel amplified the dub and electronic musings over the psychedelic road, but it somehow worked better. They left to form Laika, but Moonshake were still pretty good, but missed Fiedler’s vocals.

Seefeel

Starethrough Ep

http://www.mediafire.com/?xxzvo92v9xy

It isn;t hard to find someone who believes that My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless was one of the most forward-thinking, seminal releases of the 90s. However, I believe Seefeel belongs in that same conversation because they sort of took it to the next level that Keven Shields always promised, but hid away behind a supply of Twinkies. Seefeel spliced dub, shoegaze, psych, dub and idm into a hypnotic swirl that no one has really nailed since. Yes, Quique is a perfect album and the one most fans point to as the pinnacle of their short lifespan, but the Starethrough ep may be their most focused statement. It represents a way station between their focus of treated guitars and a shoegazing exterior to the altogether different, but inferior idm/dub excursions that marred Succour, their finale on Rephlex.

They keep in relative simple here. Sarah Peacock’s cooing is sampled and used as a mind-numbing mantra that oozes a cold sexuality as the simple loops of chiming keys, strings and beats echo over and over again. It delivers on the ethereal promises that 4ad failed to deliver during these years and pointed a finger towards the endless musical possibilities that rock could offer when merged with newfangled technology.

It still sounds fresh today and will blow your boo-boo loose under the right circumstances.