Saturday, February 26, 2011

Biosphere - Substrata

Substrata most definitely falls under the category of 'ambient music'. However, my own experience with the album has left me with quite a different impression.

Whenever I listen to 'Soundtracks for the Blind' by Swans, I find myself being emotionally drained as the album progresses, like my soul is being slowly sucked out of me over the course of 140 minutes. By the end, I find myself quite emotionally exhausted and need to take a bit of a break before listening to something else. It's very much a credit to the album that it's able to elicit this kind of response in me, the tracks are simply capable of pressing emotional buttons that other artists cannot. I'm mentioning this because a similar thing occurs when I listen to Substrata.

This comparison between Swans and Biosphere is somewhat interesting, as, while Soundtracks for the Blind definitely strays into 'ambient' or 'quiet' territory from time to time, a lot of the album is quite loud. This doesn't happen in Substrata. Biosphere seem determined to keep their noise level firmly bounded from above and, as a result, climaxes or resolutions to the musical build-ups never occur; that's if the build-ups even exist. Maybe this is why I find myself slightly unsettled when I listen to this. We've gotten so used to bands like Explosions in the Sky and what not delivering us long-winded build-ups and explosive peaks that, when this structure is taken away from us, it sounds quite different and almost upsetting. By keeping its volume low, there's always a sinister feeling to the album, as if it wants to scream at you but knows it would be pointless to do so and, instead, keeps it anger brooding but partially hidden.

Of course, it takes more than just a quiet album to give off these feelings of unease (I could, after all, just play any album with the volume low). Where Substrata initially conjures its unsettling atmosphere is in its chord progression and use of samples. The chord progression, while firmly rooted in minor keys, is quite unique and, a lot of the time, does not exactly sound "nice"; nor should it. The samples, usually of various nature sounds and people talking, contrast each other nicely, with the nature sounds providing some relaxation whereas the voice samples complement the unsettling atmosphere of the music perfectly.

In this post, I've tried to explain why I find Substrata quite an emotionally involved album. I doubt I did it very well, but the point is that it affected me quite a lot. Even after 15+ plays I still find it an unnerving listen. While I will happily call this an 'ambient' album, all the signs are there after all (drone loops, quiet texture etc.), I find the idea somewhat ironic as the whole point of ambient is that it's not supposed to be too distracting. However, if I'm listening to music whilst doing work or something, I have a better chance of being able to focus on my work (and not the music) by putting on Merzbow than I do by putting on Substrata. I'm not kidding.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A very short review of the album 'Swans are Dead'

If this is what being dead is like, I want in.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


Here's some stuff from 2010 I enjoyed. You might like it too. You also might not, that's how things work.

Kayo Dot – Coyote
Genre: Avant-garde, darkwave
Kayo Dot's latest is arguably their best since their quite fantastic Choirs of the Eye. Kind of like The Cure, but with more trumpet.

Zond – s/t
Genre: Shoegaze
One of the best new Australian bands to emerge; also very good live.

Have a Nice Life – Time of Land (EP)
Genre: Shoegaze, post rock
It's no Deathconsciousness, but will certainly keeps fans happy until their next full-length.

Pseudorandom – Roots of Our Ancestors
Genre: Drone-doom
Available for free here.

Janelle Monae – The Archandroid

Genre: Pop
Yes. It's a pop album. Deal with it.

Sufjan Stevens – All Delighted People (EP)
Genre: Indie, singer-songwriter
I liked this better than Age of Adz, Djohariah in particular is great.

Zs – New Slaves
Genre: Jazz, avant-garde
For fans of John Zorn.

Swans – My Father Will Guide Me Up to the Sky
Genre: Industrial, dark, country?
Gira's still got it.

Agalloch – Marrow of the Spirit
Genre: Folk, black metal
Agalloch move further into 'pure' black metal territory, but still surprisingly accessible.

Planning for Burial – Leaving
Genre: Shoegaze
Leaving shows us that bedroom recording artists can make textured guitar as well as anyone else can.

Joanna Newsom – Have One one Me
Genre: Indie-folk, singer-songwriter
My favourite of the year, but that's just me.

Deerhunter – Halycon Digest
Genre: Shoegaze
Not sure if it surpasses Microcastle, but I was certainly satisfied.

Alcest – Escailles De Lune
Genre: Shoegaze, black metal
There's a lot of shoegaze on this list...

Burzum – Belus
Genre: Black metal(ish)
A nice step up from the prison-era keyboard albums, but, then again, so are a lot of things.

Gay Vomit Sex – A Primer On Illegalism (EP)

Genre: Noise
Available for free here.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Almost-Perfect Albums

Thanks to the internet and, specifically, widely popular sites like Rate Your Music and Sputnik, people have been under the (somewhat misguided) impression that their opinions about music actually matter a little and, thus, should let others know of what they think of album X by artist Y. I am, of course, one of these people. My RYM account is here and, frankly speaking, I quite enjoy critically evaluating what I listen to and determining where it stands under the grand scheme of things.

Where I'm going with this is that most people and websites rate albums either out of 10 in whole numbers (Pitchfork are the obvious outliers), or out of 5 possible stars with half star increments. Simply speaking, there are, generally, 10 possible numerical values one may assign an album that indicates its quality. However, the absolute highest rating, whether it be 10/10 or a full 5 stars, is always approached with caution. People seem very hesitant to give an album the highest possible rating unless it quite literally is the second coming of Jesus and whose only flaw is that nothing so beautiful will ever be recorded again (Rate Your Music is particularly guilty of this with many users having rated thousands of albums, yet I can count with my hands how many have been designated 5 stars). I don't completely support this and am somewhat more liberal with my maximum rating, but, at the same time, I completely understand their hesitation. The jump from 4.5 to 5 or 9 to 10 is pretty big mental barrier, one that I, despite claiming to be more liberal than most, will always cross with caution.

So, I guess the point of this post, other than to finally update this site a little bit, is to pay tribute to some of those albums who didn't quite make the absolute top tier, but, any anxiety about rating too many things too highly aside, probably should be at the max (at the very least, they're high 4.5's).

Animal Collective - Feels

Why it works:
First of all, Feels is probably my favourite Animal Collective album, and considering my shameless devotion to this band, that already makes it pretty special. It features both the older and 'zanier' A.C screwing around with how a song should sound as well as the newer, more pensive and, perhaps, more serious A.C. It's also the only album of theirs where an acoustic guitar features quite prominently and, rather startlingly, fits in quite well.

Why it's not perfect:
You'd be hard pressed to find an Animal Collective fan who likes every single song they've released. The whole point the group is to try new things. As such, there are a few songs on here that don't sit with me as well as others. Not to say they're terrible or even bad, just not fantastic.

Atheist - Unquestionable Presence

Why it works:
Probably one of the most technically accomplished albums released (not that that's necessarily a good thing, Dream Theater still suck for example), Unquestionable Presence is an amazing fusion of death metal with Latin and jazz drum beats and rhythms. It also features some of the best bass lines I've heard, which is always welcome as the bass is an immensely underused instrument. This wouldn't mean anything if the music weren't any decent, but, thankfully, it is. Definitely one of those albums I'm always happy to crank out as I never get tired of it.

Why it's not perfect:
The tracks are a little 'samey'. Also, I simply don't seem to find it quite as good as Loveless or some of my other 5-star masterpieces.

Glenn Branca - The Ascension

Why it works:
The Ascension summarises quite nicely what I liked about underground music from the early 80's. It's noisy and abrasive at times, but behind all this there is a very solid structure with respect to what the song is actually doing. I think a pretty big reason I like this so much is that every track has an excellent build-up and climax, it's like Glenn Branca is rewarding me for not skipping half way through.

Why it's not perfect:
It simply isn't, only by a whisker though.

Have a Nice Life - Deathconsciousness

Why it works:
Because 2 guys with only a little money and shitty equipment went on to make the best album since 2007. Seriously, it's amazing.

Why it's not perfect:
I still think disc 1 isn't as good as disc 2. It's also probably longer than what it needed to be.

Natural Snow Buildings - The Dance of the Moon and the Sun

Why it works:
Those who read my ramblings may remember that I mentioned this a few months back in one of my 'Album of the Week' posts. What's happened since then is that the seed this album planted has germinated and is now really starting to bud. It's just so deep and dense that I can't help but keep coming back to it, wanting to find out more, even months after I first got it. The Dance of the Moon and the Sun now sits, quite comfortably, as my most played album on and, considering the average track length isn't exactly short (6 and a half minutes or so), that's a hell of an achievement. I wish there were a way I could sum up 2 and a half hours of intricate music in a few sentences, but my ability with words only goes so far. Instead, I'll tell you to go listen to it, if you've got the time, of course.

Why it's not perfect:'s very long? Fuck it, I'm bumping this up to a 5.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Album of the Week: Sufjan Stevens - All Delighted People EP

With a new album around the corner, you might be put into the mindset that folk singer-songwriter Sufjan Steven's new EP is just a dumping ground for the filler not good enough for his LP. You may be right, I obviously haven't heard the new album yet, but I do know that the All Delighted People EP is actually quite fantastic. Simply put, it's a joy to listen to. The title track, the alternate version of the title track, the 17-minute closer Djohariah, they all are quite excellent and have definitely left me feeling pretty excited about what he has in store for us with The Age of Adz.

Oh, and did I mention that this EP is only $5 and it's over 60 minutes long? Hell you can even stream the whole thing for free. Check out his Bandcamp Page to purchase or listen to it, even if you're holding out for The Age of Adz, you won't regret it.

Runner-up AotW: Zeni Geva - Freedom Bondage


Facebook Notes - Lessons I've Learned from Facebook

This isn't particularly insightful nor interesting, but an update is an update.

It's been a while since I last wrote one of these 'note' things, predominantly because I had no idea how I was going to follow Oprah-themed slash fiction. I did consider doing some sort of male homosexual equivalent, but it would, essentially, just boil down to the same thing. Maybe one day though, I'm thinking Hagrid crossed with Treebeard from Lord of the Rings, thoughts?

So, instead I've decided to provide a general summary as to how I interpret humanity if my knowledge of it only came from what one finds on Facebook. I am aware that insulting Facebook and its users is somewhat akin to shooting clown-fish at a Finding Nemo convention (a simile that I refuse to explain), but hey, if everyone else gets to make fun of Facebook, why can't I? It certainly beats the alternative of coming up with actually thought-provoking social commentary, which is for linguistics majors and high-price whores (so, in other words, linguistics majors). So, to stop this already too-long introduction, here's what I've found.

1. Everyone classifies themselves as 'weird' or 'away from the normal' and instructs you to either deal with it and like them for who they are or to not waste their time.

Quite a few issues arise from this idea. First and foremost, if everyone's so bohemian and alternative, where the fuck are all the normal people? Of course I'm aware that the term 'normal' is a meaningless construct and is relative to the social situation and what not, but it still really shits me off when people join groups proclaiming, 'I'm wierd (weird is spelled wrong) deal with it or fuk off', but then go on and on about how fucking great Lady Gaga is and how funny The Other Guys looks because it's got Will Ferrel in it. Sorry to take away your martyr complex, but you are not a special snowflake hand-crafted from God's cavernous vagina. You are a white, middle to upper class spoiled brat whose only knowledge of suffering and hardship is when you exceed your monthly data allowance on your iPhone.

Another point I'd like to raise from this issue is that if we all were weird and unnaturally defensive about it, wouldn't society pretty much fall apart? I don't want to get all Sesame Street after-school special on everyone, but not much is going to happen unless we all learn to make a few compromises with each other (if only the leaders of Israel and Palestine were reading this).

One more thing just came to mind, what's the point of joining these kinds of groups if the only people that see what you've done are those of whom you call your friends? Don't get me wrong, the definition of the word friend changes quite dramatically from real life to Facebook, but there must be at least some trace amounts of mutual altruism there. So why are you displaying your exceedingly touchy nature for all to see? Oh, that's right, because of your irrational need to be noticed. I guess I can't really reason with you then, as you're clearly beyond a point of no return; let's move on.

2. Everyone seems to like 'The Big Bang Theory'.

The TV show obviously (I've got plenty of religious friends who take issue with the actual theory, but that's their problem). This confuses me. Don't get me wrong, the show can be alright at times and I have laughed at it once or twice (yes, believe it or not, I do occasionally laugh at things), but I cannot see how it's garnered such a devoted following. Is it because Sheldon has Aspergers? I'm sorry, I just don't see it. If you like well written sit-coms, why not just watch Seinfeld and Arrested Development? They're much, much better. Anyway, this is quite a petty grievance, so I'll keep going.

3. Hypocrisies

One particularly amusing aspect of Facebook life is the way in which people blatantly contradict themselves in terms of the groups they join, the status they post and the comments they make. At least, it would be funny if it wasn't kind of sad. Every time someone joins a group or makes a status update condemning an idea or behavioural tendency, you can be almost assured that there will be something in their history, either in the groups they've joined or older statuses that freely condone it (but, perhaps, in a slightly different context though this isn't always the case). I'm well aware that people change, but something tells me that one's personality doesn't completely shift in the space of a few weeks or months. What this means is that these opinions of support or condemnation are purely emotionally driven and fluctuate as wildly as Tim Allen's cocaine levels. If that is the case, why would you permanently join a group? This isn't the only form of hypocrisy though. My posting of a note, criticising Facebook is possibly one of the most hypocritical things I've done. One could, I suppose, argue that this all this contradiction isn't really that bad of a thing, and perhaps they're right, but that doesn't magically stop it from getting on my nerves. This brings me to my final lesson.

4. You're all boring

My God, I mean, seriously, what the hell? You people sometimes...
I suppose it makes me feel somewhat less bad about my rather simplistic (read: dull) existence outside of a Uni context, but surely some of you must occasionally do something that piques my interest, yes? Actually, I'm being a little unfair, this does happen, the only problem is that it's lost within a sea of crap. Frankly put, there is no reason to post a status update more than once every couple of days. If you do, you must either spend your days training sharks to ride motorcycles, or you are boring the crap out of the rest of us with your asinine garbage. We are not interested. This isn't just limited to status updates, some of the groups and 'likes' that people join are so pointless that they're not worth the energy required to move your finger and click your mouse button to join. What's that, fellow Facebook connoisseur, you like weekends? Holy shit, me too! We must be soul-mates or something...

Reflecting on this, I think there's one more thing that I'd like to add to my dissatisfactions with everyone's favourite social networking distraction, notes or opinions such as the one I have just completed making. What's the point of a note or message like this? To tell people that there are some people who use Facebook rather stupidly? Holy shit, really? Better stop the presses on that shocking headline. For every idiot, there's another person calling them out on it. What I want to know is who gave these people the moral high-ground so that they could be the sole judge of truth and decency? Actually, I know the answer to this one, it's their enormous God-complexes. Let's face the facts here, I'm nothing more than an extremely bitter homosexual who is pissed off at existence because I've never had anything more important to be pissed off at. My opinions should have no bearing whatsoever and this note is just as asinine and detrimental to society as an 'anti-Chris'-style update. The important thing to remember is that you're no better. But, if it's any consolation, I personally prefer the misanthropy to the stupidity, so at least you'll be making me happy.

I'll stop now, I have a prior appointment to vigorously masturbate to cartoon horses jerking off. If you've read this much, what on earth is wrong with you?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

How Oprah Got Her Groove Back, with apologies

Occasionally I post 'notes' on Facebook with the intention of horrifying as many people as possible. I figured putting them on here couldn't hurt (from an update perspective that is, I'm sure it's only going to isolate any readers of this blog further).

Anyhoo, here's some softcore fat lesbian porn.

Gayle approached the door tentatively, the two years of separation between her and what was beyond the threshold eating away at her fragile confidence. 'Two years,' she thought, 'hasn't seen me, hasn't seen anyone outside of her staff.'

Gayle tapped the door lightly; “Oprah?” she called out, “It's Gayle.”

“No Gayle,” that familiar voice replied, “it's not going to happen.” Gayle predicted this would occur and was prepared for it.

“Don't be like that, O. Come on, we've known each other for over half our lives, doesn't that count for anything?”

“I...I just can't Gayle; not now, not ever.”

“Dammit Oprah, it's been far too long, now you let me into that room or I'll force myself in. I don't care what's happened to you, I just want to hang out and chat like old times.”

Silence followed. Gayle was unsure how to proceed, but, even if it was only an act, she needed to be the assertive one or else O would never get better.

She entered the room. Their time spent apart had prepared Gayle for what she thought she would see, but still she couldn't have expected this. There, lying on a King-size bed, was Oprah, now over 210 – no, 220 – pounds. She had given up the show that made her a star years ago to try and finally conquer her eating problems. Clearly, it was a battle she did not win.

“Oh Oprah, Oprah honey.” Gayle whispered upon seeing her best friend in tears, “It doesn't matter how you look, you're still the same amazing person.”

“No!” Oprah cried, “It's not the same! How can I be the same person when I've become a hideous beast? I can't look in the mirror, I detest myself.”

Gayle knew it would come to this, she was prepared to do anything to help her friend. She approached the bedside, looking Oprah directly in her tear-enlargened eyes.

“Oprah Gall Winfrey, you are the most beautiful human being I know.”

Gayle thrust her tongue into Oprah's mouth, massaging every nook and cranny of her mouth. Oprah put up surprisingly little resistance, and returned her kiss soon enough. The moistness of each others mouths fuelling the other, making them all the more energetic. Gayle began massaging O under her shirt, there were so many layers of skin and fat, 'all the more to explore' she thought. Skilfully, Gayle unhooked Oprah's bra and began working her nipple, her breasts were so much bigger now. Oprah finally broke free of the kiss and was moaning uncontrollably.

“Holy shit Gayle...” was all that she could say, the ecstasy of her friends touch paralysing her speech. Gayle removed Oprah's top and buried her face in O's chest. Each skin fold, each cellulite ridden lump, each fatty corpuscle, it was all there to be explored – no, worshipped. Gayle didn't expect to get so excited by Oprah's body, but now that it was in front of her, she found it impossible to control herself. Eagerly, she bit, licked, sucked every piece of flesh that she could find, and there was certainly no shortage of it. All Oprah could do during this time was lie there and bathe in pleasure. She hadn't climaxed in almost 2 and a half years, but juices long absent were flowing freely.

Gayle moved on to the lower part of O's body, expertly pulling down her pants and underwear. She was met with more pubic hair than she had ever seen, male or female. Obviously Oprah hadn't payed much attention to this part of her body for quite some time. It was also abundantly clear that Oprah had not bathed in quite a few days at least, with an unidentifiable smell consuming her. This did not phase Gayle in the slightest; instead, 'the musk of O', she thought to herself, 'it's gorgeous.' Without hesitation, she dived into the fetid pubic forest head first. After searching through various skin folds and fatty over-hangings, she found the holy grail; eagerly, she gave it the attention of which it had lacked for so long. Gayle had expected things to be a bit drier down there, but the sudden onslaught of sexuality must have unleashed a previously untapped water supply within Oprah as it was just as moist, if not more, than her own.

Oprah was at breaking point. She tried arching her back, but found herself unable to lift her sizable figure. But it didn't matter, for the first time in many years, she was attaining a joy thought long dead.

“Oh Gayle...please...Ga-Gay-GAAAYYLE.”

But, of course, this was not the end. Over the next few hours, the two best friends continued to explore each other. Gayle found Oprah's new body to be utterly incredible; every lump, fold, dimple, it all amazed her, and Oprah, for the first time in her life, was beginning to see Gayle as not only beautiful person, but as a beautiful body.

“Thank you so much Gayle. I'm not a beast, I'm a woman.”

“A foxy woman at that.”

The two would reunite on a regular basis until, eventually, Oprah re-emerged in the public eye, where she showed to the world that, yes, she was large, but also a satisfied woman.