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.

Woodenspoon-Souff Souff ep

August 27, 2008

Woodenspoon

Souff Souff 12′ (Warp 1996)

http://www.mediafire.com/?l0emjfz3mvi

If you’ve read this blog since its beginning, you may know that i am somewhat obsessed with Seefeel and all of its related side projects. Well, scratch the last few Scala records from that statement and then it will be true. I chickened out of buying this ep when it came out in the hopes that there would be an eventual album, but it never came to be.

Woodenspoon was one of Marc Clifford’s projects after the dissolution of Seefeel. He also released an ep and Lp for Warp as Disjecta. Disjecta wasn’t too far removed from the direction Seefeel took on their last two albums, but Woodenspoon provided Clifford an outlet to explore drill and bass, dub and occasionally something approximating dancehall shoegaze. Now, I don’t expect Capleton or the many Ranks to come knocking on his door, but this ep definitely tries something new. It doesn’t always work, but it is interesting to hear him shake loose from his influences. In this day and age, I have lost all interest in any of the drill and bass of the late 90s and its masturbatory usage of rhythm. Just because you can pack so many beats into a minute doesn’t make it it more enjoyable. However, Clifford does incorporate some ethereal drones straight out of Quique to accompany the spasms of beats and it works here. It doesn’t make me want to reevaluate that era, but it is a nice twist on the dub/shoegaze/electronic tomfoolery he perfected with Seefeel.

Overall, it isn’t going to floor you, but any fan of Seefeel should check this ep out since it is interesting to hear their musical inspirations translated into a different arena. Good, but not great.

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.

Aphex Twin

Donkey Rhubarb ep (Warp/Sire 1995)

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

Man, I still am amenable to spending a couple hours listening to Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Every buzz and drone sings to my weary soul. Love it just as much as the day I picked it up from a godforsaken Western PA chain store on the day of its release. Now, I like most of his ouvre, but everything he released after this ep makes me wish he expanded on the themes and ideas located here. Donkey Rhubarbs is the most concise summary of all that was good about Richard D. James before he began giggling in his tank and posing for the Wire with pantyhose over his noggin.

Each of the four tracks represent four sides of Aphex Twin. The last two tracks are perfect summations of his rapidfire take on idm, Detroit techno and acid while the openers explore terrain that was sadly abandoned.

“Pancake Lizard” starts the ep in dramatic fashion. It actually redeems trip-hop as a genre instead of the 99-pound weakling it truly was. Outside of Portishead and possiblly Tricky’s debut, name me one worthwhile trip-hop album. Slowed down hip-hop beats, limp drones and diva rejects abounded in this misguided genre. However, Aphex Twin treats the genre like a soundtrack as he melds the slow-motion drama of Selected Ambient Works and grafts it to a simple, but effective beat that ultimately wields all of the tension trip-hop lacked.

However, “Icct Hedral” is the one that really hurts. Why couldn’t he have explored the world of George Crumb, Philip Glass, Steve Reich and Lalo Schifrin as he does here. This collaboration with Glass is breathtaking and frustrating because he never really delved into classical music in such a way ever again. From the forboding chorus and thick bass to the delicate idm tinkling replicated by a string section, this track shows a side of Richard D. James that could’ve been groundbreaking. Before anyone complains, he did use strings and incorporate elements of classical music into his music, but this track is a grandiose moment that points to what should have been. Instead, his attention span got the better of him and jokey drill and bass was the next step.

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.

M83

Run Into Flowers(Remixed by Jackson and his Computer Band)

http://www.divshare.com/download/3121627-cc6

It is uncommon to find a track that oozes sensuality. I don’t mean sleaze or cheap thrills, but the pulsating, fuzzy kind of sensuality where each drugged beat pulsates and recreates the awkward moments before a first kiss. This track somehow takes the Kompakt label’s narcotic beats and melds it to the amniotic sac of the best shoegaze and ambient circa early 90s and the result is a track which I have listened to incessantly. This songs cries out for a genre that hasn’t yet been fully explored and I hope some warped soul starts specializing in shoegaze via Kompakt by was of Basic Channel.

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.