Archive for May, 2014

Infinite Means Infinite

Why the Idea of “Multiverses” Makes NO Sense at all

By Kent Manthie

All this talk about “multiverses” makes no sense at all. There is only ONE universe. And this universe is INFINITE. I think that the reason these desperate pseudo-scientists want to think that there are “hidden” dimensions that hide other universes is that the human mind is incapable of grasping the idea, the meaning, etc of “infinity”. For any of these silly “multiverse” proponents to even go beyond just sounding silly, with a lot of mumbo-jumbo, scientific jargon thrown in, that would have to reduce the definition of infinity. In other words, the universe that has been constantly expanding since its inception (the “big bang”) about 14 billion years ago, is all there is and, even as the matter within it is constantly expanding and, it has turned out, relatively recently, it is expanding a lot faster than was thought before. Anyway, expanding slowly or quickly, is irrelevant because the universe is INFINITE, and, as I already wrote, the human mind can barely fathom all the meanings & consequences of infinity. Sure, when I say to someone (well, someone who isn’t an idiot, I, of course, refer to anyone w/even a HS degree, but preferably enough knowledge-acquired autodidactically or through more schooling-both methods together are even better!) “What is “infinity?” or “What does ‘infinity’ mean?” one can, of course, give a cursory definition of infinity – the usual ones, like “never-ending” or “boundless, endless space with no beginning or end” and similar definitions. But when it comes to sitting oneself down, clearing one’s mind & then meditating, as it were, on what it means to be infinite, the consequences to that and what infinity is, outside of an academic sense, something boiled down to an easily definable answer, one can really blow one’s mind when you begin meditating on what infinity is – sure, in theory, or in an academic sense, one understands what infinity means, but that isn’t the same as trying to really wrap one’s head around what the infinite really is (and, just as importantly, what it isn’t)- for instance, we, as humans, are so used to certain circumstances and experiential ideas, like, to start with, “beginning and end” – now, beginnings and endings are very real and all around us – everyday people are born and everyday people die. But it’s not just people – there are cycles to all life – lower forms of animals, plants, microorganisms, not to mention the macro – planets, stars, etc. all start out somewhere and eventually come to an end. So, when one sits down and very deeply considers something (the universe) that has no real “beginning”-unless you count the big bang, but even before the “big bang”, when the universe was still locked up in an “infinitely” massive “shell” or whatever one calls it – all the things which were unlocked by this big bang, already existed; it’s just that it took this singularity (the big bang) to take place and – now, don’t forget, even 1 nanosecond after the big bang, everything that was released from it was already infinite – BAM: all the component parts of the universe was unleashed – wait, no, I don’t like that metaphor. The big bang was just a metamorphosis that, for some, unknown reason, at that particular moment, say 13.5-14 billion years ago, went from being infinitely dense to being infinitely,,,well, infinite and even after just one second had passed by (and remember, time, as we measure it today, is a totally man-made construct, which has no meaning except to us) the particles that eventually came together to form atoms which formed molecules and such (OK, so I’m simplifying a bit here, for the sake of time and simplicity), which resulted in giant clouds of plasma which, after some period, cooled into a gaseous substance which then cooled off more, the particles of which were able to form atoms -1st came the most simple of them all, hydrogen, then came helium, carbon, oxygen and so on and the more these atoms collided and stuck together, became the basis for more and more elements to form; once all the simple elements came together, they, in turn, collided with other elements to form newer, more complex elements which, went on in that way, until we had all the elements that we know of today, classified in the periodic table (and there are still new elements being discovered and ones that were discovered as recently as 100-200 years ago. One way to think about this is to think about colors – the 3 primary colors are red, blue and yellow. And from just those 3 colors, a large number of colors have been made – first came the secondary colors, such as green, orange, purple, etc. which were all made by interactions of the 3 primary colors, such as blue and yellow creating green, or red & yellow making orange and blue and red begetting purple. Then, with the secondary colors, you had an even wider selection of colors with which to mix and thus create more colors and those colors could mix with other colors and make newer and newer colors, ad infinitum. Anyway, so that is why this whole notion of “multiverses” (a word which doesn’t even make grammatical sense, since the word “universe” – is derived from “UNI” which equals ONE and verse, which derives from a sort of cosmos, or at a simpler level a “sea” – ONE “SEA” or “area” or whatever…You can’t, especially if the universe is infinite, get anything more – a “multiverse” makes no sense-grammatically or rationally. What these physicists/astronomers are trying to make sense of is why humans, here on earth, are, seemingly, the only form of life (or at least “intelligent” life in the universe) – but there is no proof of that. Now, of course, when one hears tales of UFOs landing in some out-of-the-way place, small town or rural area, etc or the silly stories of “alien abductions” which are, of course, either total lies, hoaxes or hallucinations – that isn’t what I’m talking about. The reason that all these UFO stories and the “alien abduction” nonsense makes no sense is that, if there are other human-like beings in the wide, INFINITE reaches of the universe, it would take at least 1000s of years, if not 1000s of centuries to get from there to here – and that’s just from a putative solar system not unlike ours, which happens to have at least one rock/iron-based planet which is just the correct distance from its host’s star/sun. It could even be that there is, in a practically unfathomably far distant galaxy, this sort of hospitable place where life may have evolved in a similar way to earth. They would have to have some sort of space program (and that’s even if the inhabitants there even had the presence of mind to have one and the idea of traveling out in the cosmos the way we earthlings have had) – and then, once they perfected their space program and were able to build some sort of super-long sustaining means of traveling, would take anywhere from 2000 to 200,000 years – and that’s if they were able to get their spacecraft to get up to incredibly fast speeds – when one talks about a distant star being, oh, say, 10,000 light years away – that means that light -which is, of course, the fastest traveling thing – 136,000 miles per second would take 10,000 years to get from there to here. And since nothing except light can travel at the “speed of light”, it would no doubt be nigh impossible for another race of humanoids from a far off star to reach us. Now these “multiverse” proselytizers would like to think that in the case that we are alone in this vast universe, well, all one has to do is, mathematically add in the idea of “multiverses” which are like simultaneous universes existing in different “dimensions”. Now that doesn’t sound like any kind of sound science I’ve ever heard of. Why is there even a need for extra-dimensional universes? That would negate the whole concept of “infinity” – and the sad thing is that, it seems like more and more so-called scientists – physicists, astronomers, etc, are actually warming up to the idea. I think this is a really silly idea. Why do you need this type of cosmology when you already have an infinite universe – it goes on and on forever – in fact, infinity is expanding – and far more rapidly than we thought. The simple way to explain infinity to someone who just can’t get their head around the concept is to say this:  if one had access to some grand, self-sustaining spaceship, which had an unlimited supply of fuel or ran on nuclear power and had enough fissile material to power this ship for thousands of generations, the ship would fly through this universe; leave the earth and reach very, very high speeds, a speed that would enable you to even leave the solar system in a relatively short time, you’d find you and your shipmates traveling, basically, forever, with no end in sight.  Infinity means that you would go on and on forever and never come to an “end point”.  So, with that, what is the point for having “multiverses”?  Surely, people like Carl Sagan had it right when he said that, in this vast, endless universe, the odds were highly in favor of there being out there – somewhere – a star system similar to this solar system and within such a system, surely there’d be planets with the same or similar parameters to enable life to develop and not just one or two, but, when, again, you try to grasp the concept of infinity, why couldn’t there be many?  The problem with us, on earth ever finding out the answer to that question is that these planets and any life – intelligent or otherwise – would be so far away:  at least millions, if not billions or trillions of light-years away which poses an impossible distance to cover.  It would take eons -and that’s when traveling at the speed of light and since nothing but light can go that fast, it’d be an even longer trip.  With the infinity of the universe, there just is no reason or logic for any “multiverses”:  that’s something that is going to be forever relegated to science fiction.

So – to sum up, just drop this whole “multiverse” idea.  It’s silly, it’s unnecessary and it, too, doesn’t grasp the concept of “infinity” – KM.

Advertisements

Splattered All Over!

Posted: May 30, 2014 in New Indie Music

Xiu Xiu

Angel Guts: Red Classroom

Polyvinyl Records, 2014

Review by Kent Manthie

The heartbeat of Los Angeles: Xiu Xiu are back with their latest full-length CD, Angel Guts: Red Classroom, a veritable delight of depravity and darkness.

Since 2002 Jamie Stewart, the brainchild and currently the only consistent member since the beginning, has been writing the songs and doing his best to make his music be more than just a cash cow, the way he’d envisioned being a “rock star” would be since he was a kid, playing air guitar to Abbey Road over and over again. It was some advice from his musician/record producer father, Michael Stewart, who, sadly, killed himself in 2002, but not before telling his son, who’d intimated to his dad that he wanted to be in a band in order to get “famous and make lots of money”. Aghast at hearing such a shallow reason for wanting to make music and be in a band, dad told son that making music must be more than a mere commercial venture; it must have a quality within that touches the listener, your output should be something that says something about you, that connects you with your audience. Vapid pop music comes and goes but it’s the artist who puts him or her self into the process. Jamie took that advice and Xiu Xiu is all the better for it.

Starting from San Jose, CA, Xiu Xiu is the result of Jamie’s desire to start a band and after several attempts that didn’t go far or from which he was extricated. A couple examples being Ten in the Swear Jar and The Indestructible Beat of Palo Alto, which was a nod to the groovy South African group, Indestructible Beat of Soweto. Finally in 2002, Stewart got together with Cory McCullough, Lauren Andrews and Yvonne Chen. Their first LP was Knife Play which was followed up by an EP called Chapel of the Chimes. They spent the next year or so constantly touring, building up a loyal fan base and, as Jamie hated San Jose, it was a great way to not just get away from San Jose, but to travel all over.

After 2002, when the touring stopped, Yvonne Chen left the band and Cory McCullough stopped touring with the band and instead focused on producing the next two albums. But then tragedy struck around that time as well: Jamie’s father, Michael, committed suicide. This was a real loss to Jamie, who was grateful to have had a father so hip, one that was as supportive and even guiding. In an article I read by Jamie, on the Huffington Post site, he wrote that his dad had come to one of their shows, one that didn’t have much of an audience, but he was there and afterward he told Jamie that it was a good show. This meant a lot to Jamie. Unfortunately, about a month later, Michael Stewart was dead.

As a way to cope with this loss as well as other issues going on in his life at the time, Xiu Xiu came out with 2003’s A Promise, Jamie having written all the songs.

Since then Xiu Xiu has put out a lot of music – many EPs, 7”’s & full-length CDs. They’ve also gone through several personnel changes. In 2003 Lauren Andrews left the band to focus on academic pursuits; by 2004 Caralee McElroy. With her addition, Xiu Xiu did a lot of touring throughout 2004 besides releasing Xiu Xiu’s third LP, Fabulous Muscles as well as a couple of split 7” releases: one with This Song is a Mess But So am I and one with Bunkbed. In 2005, they did four more split 7” collaborations. Besides the 12 full-length CDs, they’ve put out a LOT of split 7”s.

Anyway, as for this, their latest release, Angel Guts, Xiu Xiu sounds spectacular, fresh and quite different from their peers. Each song on here is a good cut. I’m not going to deconstruct each one, but for the interested, I want to mention a few tracks that stand out on t”Stupid in the Dark”, “Lawrence Liquors”, “Black Dick” and “Cinthya’s Unisex” are great examples of the dark, sometimes ominous, always stylish and slick, staccato beats that make up Angel Guts: Red Classroom.

For this latest incarnation, Xiu Xiu is made up of Stewart, Angela Seo with help from Ches Smith. For some reason, I have this vague feeling of having written a review for their 2012 album, Always. I checked and it’s nowhere to be found here, on Independent Review, but I may have written a review for Reviewer – the publication and website for whom I used to write on a regular basis. So this is definitely not the first that I’ve heard of Xiu Xiu. But, after listening to Angel Guts: Red Classroom I was really astonished at just how good they are. I must’ve received Always, which came out in 2012, during a time when I was being inundated, almost daily, with new music, constantly trying to keep up, which may be why I don’t remember what Always sounded like. One thing though, that I can count on is that, since Xiu Xiu is currently signed to Polyvinyl Records, based in Chicago, I had confidence that it would be a quality album, since I’ve received a lot of music from Polyvinyl over the past 9 years and just about everything I’ve reviewed I’ve liked. I’ve even been turned on to a few bands serendipitously, since I (starting when I was writing, full-time, for Reviewer) just happened to grab a couple CDs that happened to be of bands that were on Polyvinyl – one of those was I Do Perceive, the late-2004 release by Owen (Mike Kinsella), which, after having written the review, I continued to listen to it a lot: I really liked it. Joan of Arc is another band that I was turned on to, again, by sheer luck, having grabbed Boo! Human out of a box of CDs that had been sent in for review. Now they are one of my favorite bands and I have all their albums and all Owen releases as well. That’s why, when Polyvinyl sent me this new Xiu Xiu CD, I was happy to have it, even before I listened to it and I was not disappointed; quite the opposite in fact. Check out their website: http://www.xiuxiu.org or have a look at http://www.allmusic.com to hear some of their songs. Happy listening!! –KM.

xiu xiu coverJamie and Angela of Xiu Xiu

Deathly the Dog

Talking to the TV

Self-Released EP, 2014

Review by Kent Manthie

This, the third self-released EP from Johnson City, Tennessee’s Deathly the Dog, Talking to the TV is, for me, a showcase of their increasing evolution into an indie punk band for the 21st century and I know the term “punk” has been, in the past -recent past, included, overused and almost turned into a laughable cliché, but with DTD, I’m not just blowing hot air or a lot of hype.

Talking to the TV has a lot of things going for it – the first track, “Flies” has a sound and a feel that harkens back to the Stooges at their best (Funhouse). In fact, with each track, one can hear bits and pieces of what must be influences; besides the aforementioned “Flies”, “Jawbone”, the second tune, starts off with a Sonic Youth-esque riff, that morphs into a song all their own. The other comparison I might bring up is Black Flag, which I can’t help but hear glimpses of, further into “Jawbone” Not that that is all they do. No, they take those little nuggets of influences and build a sound of their own around that starting point. On “Parasite”, the third track, they slow it down a tad, but with a gritty, nonchalantness. To round it out, “Your Crooked Face” closes out this EP, which, too, has just a little bit of a Henry Rollins-style enunciated vocals, which is not all there is, though. “Your Crooked Face” is the longest of the four tunes on here, at 4:22 and in doing so, I believe the Bowmans created their piece de resistance of the album.

If you, like I did, really like the way the songs just take on this loud, uncompromising take, you might be sad that it ends after only those four songs. But there’s always Horsefly, their previous, six-song EP, which came out early this year, in February, to be exact, which shows that DTD are hard at work, putting out more stuff quicker. They’ve also released another EP, Worm Eats Brain as well as two CD-singles: “Spider Bites” and “Broken Mind”

The songs are taut and straight-to-the-point. The music is loud, in-your-face and, reminiscent of the best of high-strung garage bands. The duo is the same here as on their previous work, Horsefly: it’s Samuel Bowman on vocals, guitar, bass, mixing as well as the guy that did the artwork; the other half is what must be his brother (cousin?) Silas Bowman, who does a bang-up job on the drums.

There are only 4 songs on Talking to the TV but they all really stand out – each has a deftly defined curvature that a true aficionado can appreciate.

If you really want to have a longer set of tunes to listen to from Deathly the Dog, I’d suggest getting a hold of all three EPs, which will constitute about an album’s worth of material. You can get to these as well as the singles, by going to http://deathlythedog.bandcamp.com/, where you can download them all – a deal at twice the price! (Seriously). If you’d like to get in touch with them or just read stuff about them, check out their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/DeathlyTheDog.

All their stuff is a real pleasure to hear, considering all the overwrought, too clever-by-half pop bands and emo dudes out there. Hope you love what you hear… -KM.

deathly the dog talking to the tv cover

Butterfield

The Truth You Think I Stole

Self-Released, 2014

Review by Kent Manthie

The latest album by Butterfield, The Truth You Think I Stole is a melange of tunes dealing with love, angst, self-immolation, metaphorically speaking, after a bittersweet battle for truth and clarity.

Written by singer/songwriter Michael Butterfield, this album is the result of an opportunity to reunite with former bandmates.

Originally from Richmond, Virginia, Butterfield is now based in the San Francisco Bay Area, not only the best place on earth, but a very good place to be for a musician and or artist. So many like-minded souls around and lots more freedom of expression and freedom to be yourself. Tolerant, iconoclastic, one-of-a-kind – these things all describe not only the area itself, but the styles of music, writing, poetry, art and even the people themselves.

This album, The Truth You Think I Stole has also given Butterfield a chance to reunite with his friends and bandmates. On The Truth You Think I Stole, Michael, himself, plays guitar and bass as well as doing vocal duties. Kyle Crosby plays keyboards and Jeffrey Schaeffer plays drums. They play quite well together; tight; the album’s moody and tuneful harmonization is something that had to be done by people who had something invested in the outcome – I’m not talking about financial gains here, but the sense of accomplishing a great album that grabs you by the shirt, shakes you a little and shouts at you: “HEY, You have to hear this!”

As described, you’d think I was talking about a deep, hard, maybe metal or aggro style, based on anger, power, right-wing tendencies and a front of faux suffering as in so much of what is called “nu-metal”. Nothing could be further from the truth, however. Michael has written a handful of soulful, enchanting and straight-ahead rock tunes. They’re neither black metal, “Cannibal Corpse” style aggression nor is it a neo-folk album with intricate ballads of what was to be and what never was, etc. No, this is music that I refuse to put into a box, although, the overall genre is “rock”.

It’s not the fast, pent-up emotion rock or electronica-dance music that all the kids are listening to these days. Butterfield really strikes some great, catchy chords that resonate long after the album is over. Over the first listen, one gets the general sense of where Butterfield is going, you start absorbing the music as well as the lyrics. As with many new bands, that are seemingly playing new kinds of stuff (which is really not the case, it’s just that Michael has taken a style that is not unique but he’s put his own individual stamp on it). As a matter of fact, as I listen to The Truth You Think I Stole, the vibe that I’ve started to pick up is a more acoustic, less bombastic version of Alice in Chains (before Layne Staley died), when they had gotten over the idea that they were going to be a metal band right as metal was on its way down the toilet. OK, so it’s not as dark and despondent as, say, Dirt was – but the two acoustic EPs that AIC did, Jar of Flies and Sap are surely analogs to the attitude on The Truth You Think I Stole.

Going through some of the songs on here – they’re all quite good and it’s incredibly hard to pick out one or two that stand out more so than others, but one that does stay with you for a while is the last cut, “Tomorrow”, obviously because it’s the closing song, but it’s really emotional and has a plaintive, jarring sensibility to it that, when the album’s done, stays with you for a while, making you think “Wow. This is unbelievably professional” (i.e., not something that you’d expect from a DIY production) The production value has a great sheen to it, one that makes you think of quality studio work, a close eye on engineering, mixing and produced by Butterfield to his own standards of quality. He knew what he wanted and how to go about getting the result. And the result is a fabulous record that is somewhat underwhelming in terms of the lack of hype, marketing or (thank gawd) radio play (the death-knell of indie verity and sincerity).

Some other songs worth mentioning are “Treason”, “Tied & Bound” and “Not the One”. Another thing about The Truth You Think I Stole is that if you wish, you can pick out a song here and there, that inspires you at the moment and just listen to it apart from the album as a whole, something that other albums aren’t meant for – there are many seamless, “concept” albums, etc. that are just meant to be played in one sitting, all at once and if you happen to play just one song from it, you take it out of the context of the record as a whole. Not so, with The Truth You Think I Stole. That doesn’t make it any less worthy or great as a whole itself. It’s just as rewarding to listen to this album in its entirety. But that is something that’s up to the individual listener; I don’t mean, for a minute, to suggest that there should be any “singles” released apart from this CD. No, no, no. I only meant that if you have a hankering to hear “Revelation” or “Tomorrow” by itself, it would not be like reading a paragraph straight out of a treatise on existentialism or a novel where every detail counts. No, it’d be more like opening a volume of poetry and picking out one of your favorite poems in there and reading it. In the latter case, it’s not necessary to go through the whole volume of collected poems (whether by Rimbaud, Keats or Lawrence Ferlinghetti) to enjoy one poem that stands tall by itself, isolated from the rest.

Does that make sense? I really hope it does. It should, if you’ve been in the throes of musical addiction for quite some time.

By the bye, The Truth You Think I Stole is a wonderful album and it came to me as a surprise, not having heard of Butterfield before. And, honestly, I looked and looked around the internet to find something – anything – that would give me more substance to add to this, to find out more about the man and his music and what makes him tick. But, in the absence of that, I had to just go with what I felt inside, from listening to this album of self-awareness, reflection, hopefulness and ever-changing moods. -KM.

Butterfield cover

Brave New Whirligig

Posted: May 12, 2014 in New Indie Music

Kishi Bashi

Lighght

Joyful Noise Records, 2014

Review by Kent Manthie

The brand new Kishi Bashi album, Lighght, is to be released May 13, 2014 on Joyful Noise Records. The title Lighght, is a one-word poem by Aram Saroyan.

Kishi Bashi is the pseudonym of singer, multi-instrumentalist, and songwriter Kaoru Ishibashi that he adopted when he started on his solo career. Lighght is his second full-length CD and his third, overall, release, the EP, Room for Dream.

Born in Seattle, Washington, Ishibashi grew up in Norfolk, Virginia due to his parents being professors at Old Dominion University.

After graduating from Matthew Fontaine Maury High School, in 1994, Ishibashi studied classical music, eventually becoming an accomplished violinist.

Foregoing the kind of career in the classical music sphere or one in academia, Ishibashi decided to pursue what he had come to realize what his creativity mixed with his virtuosity foreshadowed: avant-garde artistry in the vein of music. When I first heard Kishi Bashi, I soon found the music sounding a lot like Athens, GA-based of Montreal. Imagine my surprise then, while doing a bit of research for this review, I learned that Ishibashi had been working as a touring member with of Montreal.

He has also done other feats such as recording with and touring internationally as a violinist with diverse artists such as Regina Spektor, Sondre Lerche, and most recently, of Montreal.

Ishibashi also founded New York synth-rock band Jupiter One. It was in 2011 that Ishibashi started performing as a solo artist, doing opening gigs for Alexi Murdoch, Sondre Lerche and (surprise) of Montreal, whom he supported on the 2012 spring tour. Shortly thereafter, Ishibashi joined the touring troupe of Kevin Barnes circus-like of Montreal.

Kishi Bashi’s first EP, Room For Dream, came out in May 2011 on Aerobic International. Room For Dream features four songs, including a duet with Kevin Barnes and can only be purchased from downloading platforms such as iTunes or Bandcamp. He has often been compared to Andrew Bird and Owen Pallett.

Kishi Bashi’s first full-length record, 151a, was released by Joyful Noise Recordings on April 10, 2a’ is in Japanese), which carries a meaning012 after receiving partial funding through Kickstarter. The title, 151a, refers to a Japanese-language idiom which, transliterated, has a meaning close to “once in a lifetime”.

The album begins with a 47-second introduction, entitled, “Debut – Impromptu”, which goes right into “Philosophize In It! Chemicalize With It”. After that, one of my favorites, “The Ballad of Mr. Steak” follows. These three songs were the ones that really had me feeling a familiar feeling – I was hearing of Montreal-style songs, which isn’t a typical thing, knowing how innovative and inventive Kevin Barnes & Co. are. Another cut which really amazed me was “Once Upon a Lucid Dream (in Afrikaans)”, which has both that of Montreal groove as well as this happy, carefree summertime vibe, circa 1975-76, but with a more modern, 21st Century sound. Then there’s “Hahaha Pt.1” and “Hahaha Pt. 2” which are cloud-hopping, psychedelic, kaleidoscopic trips. “Pt.1” is a bit on the bubbly, danceable side, whereas, “Pt.2”, grooves down, with a bumpin’ beat and sky-blue smiley-faces, but deeper and slowed down a tad.

The finale, “In Fantasia”, a seven-minute ballad-esque dream-like romp through fantasyland. Maybe “ballad-esque”is the wrong word to use, but it is slowed down, it isn’t melancholy or sad, just a chill-out ending for a really strong album that has overtones of outer-space, clowns, neon lights, kitty-cats and moonbeams.

Don’t get me wrong – Kishi Bashi is not some derivative of of Montreal; some kind of influence is there, but Ishibashi has his own imprimatur on this and it’s a delicious, tasty snack, with a fun-filled center! -KM.

Kishi Bashi Lighght cover

The Fucked Up Beat

Investigates Strange Weather Patterns and the UFO Cults of Cold War Nevada

2014

Review by Kent Manthie

Besides having a really cool album title, this latest release from NYC experimental, cut-up/sample/found sounds outfit, The Fucked Up Beat, that really goes the distance in layering their works in unique and fantastic ways. The last album I reviewed by TFUB was their 2012 album, Apparatus for Controlling the Mechanism of Floating Vessels, another long, strange album title, with little meaning, apart from its sci-fi influenced peri- or post-apocalyptic, nightmarish, haunting pieces, sort of collaged together, with instances of sampled bits of old, film noir-ish soundscapes. That one was a more moody, more distant album made more freaky because you just don’t know what it all means – and that is really the root of a lot of fears: unknown, unexplainable, odd occurrences, sonically painted, not by edgy, harsh, industrial, aggro or razor-blade, machine noise, but soft, mood music that is hard to figure out, aesthetically.

This new one, Investigates Strange Weather Patterns and the UFO Cults of Cold War Nevada, also wanders in that vein of sedated music that seems to be sampled bits of 1930s-1940s swing music, voodoo jazz – as in the wild horn riffs that sound as if they came straight out of some obscure noir-horror flick from the 50s that was not available to the masses due to the bizarre nature of its subject(s) and film content (usually foreign stuff, from Spain, France, Germany or Italy) and so, not made widely available until the dawn of home video and with the advent of DVDs, the internet and the ease with which one can access rare creepy stuff of this sort. But not always…

Investigates Strange Weather Patterns… also features music samples from the aforementioned time frame, most likely the 40s and into the 50s (I recall hearing a Theremin underlying “Flatwoods Hypnagogia/Ghost Dance South Dakota” with a New Orleans-style jazz crunge jangling underneath, complete with vocals, all on a loop that repeats the same verse, or phrase, whatever, that ends up sounding like a chant, with the repetitiveness, which isn’t done with the music behind it, thus making a real interesting scene.

Each song is a kind of “hybrid” or two-parter, from the way the songs are labeled – e.g., the first cut is “Subterranean Homesick Oil Fields/Bordertown Medium”, the previously mentioned “Flatwoods Hypnagogia/Ghost Dance South Dakota” as well as one entitled “Port Sinister/Anarchitecture” and “UFO Archigrams/Hinterland Techtonics” [I know “tectonics” is misspelled, with the “h”, but I assume that’s a purposely done device to give it added meaning(??)…] and so on. There are a couple non-divided song titles, or however you’d describe the previous song titles, “Los Alamos! Los Alamos! We’ll Return Again! When the Broken Hearts Have Lost Their Relevance” & “Does Capitalism Isolate You?”.

One of my favorites is #5, “The Thousand Dreams of Stellavista/Yesterday is a Million Years” – the first minute is that 1940s groovy jazz complete with a scratchy sound as if it’s a vinyl record with scratches, playing on an old mono player, then it suddenly goes into this more modern ambient-sound, with a backbeat, not speeding up or anything, it’s sort of like awakening from a bizarre dream to the present and your stereo is on, playing something from the 1990s experimental, techno realm.

Then there’s “Port Sinister/Anarchitecture”, which is some wigged-out space music, that has more swing-type music that sounds like a film score from that time period.

As you can maybe tell, it’s kind of difficult to really pin a label on The Fucked Up Beat. Perhaps their name speaks for itself. But, not in a negative way; rather it’s a way of pointing out the unusual, not-easily identifiable music they engage in. “Dubstep” might be a jumping off point for the gang, but then again, I wouldn’t compare it to any other Dubstep artists. But, as per the strangeness and dreamlike attachment it exudes, it’s as close as one can get in finding a term to use.

Another interesting step they took was to release this album with 15 different, unique covers that all refer to one of the songs on the album. Why there is a 15th cover when there are only 14 is something I’m not totally sure of.

Anyway, I think this is a very well-done melange of audio-collage work, or a good way of doing “audio cut-ups”, as in the Burroughs/Gysin fashion. To get a free copy, go to http://thefuckedupbeat.bandcamp.com/album/investigates-strange-weather-patterns-and-the-ufo-cults-of-cold-war-nevada-12 to download this interesting recording. Hope you enjoy!! -KM.

fucked up beat cover 3fucked up beat cover 2fucked up beat cover 4

I’m Glowing!

Posted: May 7, 2014 in New Indie Music

Matthew Conley

Imaginary Places

Self-Released, 2014

Review by Kent Manthie

Originally from West Virginia, Matthew Conley grew up in this lonely neck of the country with very limited exposure to a variety of music that, in his later life, would turn out to be a good thing. With little to no influences shaping his musical outlook he would end up being an iconoclast who created his own flavor of sound.

Before venturing into the musical arena, Conley had gone to school to study photography and after graduating, did some time working in commercial photography, which helped him cut his teeth on the ins and outs of the biz. Eventually, however, he branched out on his own, with a desire to dabble in the artistic field and to eliminate the barriers to his creativity.

After striking out on his own, he acquired a Macintosh computer in order to edit his photographs and as a way of organizing his business. With his Mac came an early version of music production software, called Garageband. This nice extra, combined with his 10 or so years of musical knowledge, via the guitar, eventually pushed him in the direction of the music world. At first, he’d use this somewhat primitive, yet very workable home studio kit to create his own compositions, which he did, in his spare time. He was still working at photography at the time, which took up the majority of his time; he’d travel all over the world, doing various shoots during the next several years.

Inevitably, it seems, he found himself stuck with a decision to make: was it going to be a life of photography or would he get into the musical creation full time? Soon enough, he realized he had slowly turned from the visual arts to the sonic and from there he took off on a new road. His one Mac and his acoustic guitar were soon augmented with MIDI controllers, various microphones, a hodgepodge of ethnic instruments, things he’d discovered in his journeys as a photographer. Then he got himself a turntable and built up a modest record collection. Many hours of practice and trial and error as well as refining his sounds led him to gradually build up his own, unique sound.

About a year ago, in April, 2013, he came out with his first release – a five song EP called Help Yourself. The tracks were put together with a mish-mash of sources such as old vinyl records, “found sounds” as well as his own creativity unleashed on synthesizers of his own – some custom made and some ready-made. He put a lot of effort into not just the music but even the CD cover and the 12” vinyl copies of Help Yourself. He screen printed the artwork onto the covers for the CD & vinyl jackets by hand on recycled chipboard. Each individual copy got its own hand-written number.

Having, one can assume, enough of small town West Virginia provincial life, he’s been quite the world traveler since, having spent much time in India, including the city of Goa. He currently makes his home in the now-thriving desert oasis metropolis of Dubai; home to huge, shiny skyscrapers, modern amenities, hip clubs and lots of oil-rich billionaires. Dubai’s been in the spotlight of late, becoming known for the beauty that all those petrodollars have supplied to build this dreamscape up in a relatively short timespan.

Anyway, his latest, full-length CD is entitled Imaginary Places and it is an apt title. The instrumental, electronica is otherworldly. Something that living in these gorgeous, exotic areas have shaped and molded. The album starts out with the title track, then moves to “Elysian” and “Oort Cloud”, taking one through a mind-bending journey through time and space. Each tune seems to just seamlessly wander into the next, with a panoply of mostly synthesizers that lay down a smooth, silky wonderland that goes from “Imaginary Places” to the depths of space, to the quiet, spiritual paths, unknown to most and even to the microcosm of deep inside oneself. The final cut, “Hyperspaced” is a blast back to the farthest reaches of the cosmos and by the time you get to the end of it, you’re surprised that the trip was so smooth, without turbulence and immaculate.

The best way to really enjoy the full effect of Imaginary Places would be with a good pair of headphones, so you can really absorb the full effect of the very well-done production which shows what a dedicated person who is really dead set on it, can accomplish, with a built-up home-studio that’s grown and grown over the years to include the means to perfect the sonic landscape of the album. -KM

imaginary places coverMatthew Conley photo 3

American Football

American Football [Deluxe Edition]

Polyvinyl Records, 2014

Review by Kent Manthie

After the stillborn The One Upstairs imploded, resulting in only a 7” release of three songs (available on CD now too), Mike Kinsella and One Upstairs drummer Steve Lamos and the former guitar player for The Geese, Steve Holmes got together and formed American Football. The first thing they did was put out an eponymous EP, sans bass and then they did their great full-length debut CD, also eponymous in name, in 1999. The CD was originally a nine-song album, full of great indie rock, “math rock”; they’ve also been labeled as “emo”, although, maybe it’s just that I don’t like the connotation of being known as “emo”, but I would’ve never even thought of them as “emo”. Whatever one calls it, American Football is a terrific album.

About a month ago, Polyvinyl Records announced the impending release of a “deluxe” edition of American Football that includes 10 extra songs. There’s a couple live cuts, from a show at the Blind Pig, in Champaign, IL, as well as some alternative versions of some of the original songs that were tagged as “Boombox Practice Session” as well as three untitled songs (“Untitled #1”, “Untitled #2” and “Untitled #3”) and to round out the album, there are some 4-track demos and the finale is another live tune from the Blind Pig, “The 7s”.

If you haven’t heard American Football before, I would highly recommend it. It may now be 15 years old, but it is not dated or hackneyed. Like the other Kinsella projects (both Mike and Tim), all their music is in a kind of timeless vacuum that doesn’t grow old and the variety of styles they go through make their output exciting and always something to look forward to.

It’s great that I get a chance to review this album, as I wasn’t writing reviews back in 1999. 15 years later, American Football still stands up as a great album. It isn’t dated or “out of style”. I still listen to it a lot and it’s a really great work. It has this semi-melancholy overtone overall without being depressing or full of faux-angst. The music is light and airy, in ambiance, but well-constructed, breezy and a pleasure to hear. The lyrics are of a somewhat personal, introspective sort, talking about relationships, reflection, self-awareness, regrets, past pleasures and the like.

After the original nine songs from American Football‘s 1999 album, this re-release features 10 extra tracks – some of them live cuts from The Blind Pig in Champaign, IL, three untitled songs parenthetically described as “Boombox Practice Session – 1998” as well as a version of “Stay Home” which is also among the “Boombox Practice Session” tunes. There’s also a couple 4-track “album prep” versions of songs, including, “Never Meant”, “But the Regrets are Killing Me” “I’ll See You When We’re Both Not So Emotional”. The new “Deluxe Edition” ends with a song called “The 7s”, which is another live cut from a performance at the aforementioned Blind Pig in Champaign.

A couple years before American Football was originally released, ¾ of the band tried working as The One Up Downstairs, which never really got off the ground, or at least, didn’t get past the recording of a 3-song 7” that’s been released on CD as well. The songs on The One Up Downstairs 7” are not unlike what American Football would be.

All members have had other musical connections, Mike Kinsella being one of the most noted – he was one of the members of the legendary Cap’n Jazz with his brother Tim, Victor Villarreal, Sam Zurick and Davey von Bohlen. Cap’n Jazz fell apart but was later put together again but this time as Joan of Arc and minus Von Bohlen, who went on to form The Promise Ring. Besides Joan of Arc, there has been myriad other projects that various once and future members of JOA were part of, including the very groovy Friend/Enemy, whose album 10 Songs is a pleasure to listen to – my favorite being “Teeny Comealong”, then there was Make Believe, who’ve put out 3 CDs, Love of Everything and the band Euphone, which Tim Kinsella has been a part of. So there’s this little axis of Chicago/Champaign based bands/side bands, etc. The most prolific of them all has been Joan of Arc, who’ve released a large catalog of albums. The one good thing about so many different names featuring similar people is that they don’t all sound like one band in different guises. They’ve done their best to branch out and make each individual project sound unique apropos of Joan of Arc. Also, Mike Kinsella’s been releasing albums under the name Owen since the early 2000s. Owen is a kind of one-man-band, showcasing Mike’s work – his lyrics, his music – he really is quite a good guitarist and a good drummer.

So, if you are a big fan of this scene I’m talking about, or if you’d like to get turned on to something new (to you) because you’re burned out from the typical radio-heavy rotation junk, etc, then check this album out and you can branch out and find out all the other connections related to the Kinsellas and their wonderful, avant-garde, abstract worded music. Even if you already have the original American Football, you’ll be happy with this new edition, with the 10 extras on it – all the live stuff, the practice sessions and “The 7’s” – the last track that I mentioned – it’s a 7:26 live cut that isn’t on the original album and is an instrumental work – not an improv jam, but what sounds like a tight, scored, precise song, recorded in 1997 in Champaign, IL. Yes, all the live Blind Pig cuts are from 1997, two years before the album came out; the practice sessions stem from 1998 as the 4-track “album prep” songs are right before the recording, in 1999. “The 7s” is a nice, instrumental interlude, a nice way to end the album. It was recorded quite well; as far as the live-ness goes, the music stands out and doesn’t sound tinny or far away. Then, at the end of the song, you hear Mike say “Thank you, we’re called American Football” and that’s it. So, I hope this new version of a 15-year old cult-classic in music both elates fans as well as finds some new ears to turn on. -KM.American Football