November: In Review

Justin Spicer / November 30, 2011

Every month, the world is inundated with innumerable music choices across all genres and styles. SSG Music can’t begin to cover the disparate strands of noise that graces this vast planet, let alone our desks. “In Review” hopes to remedy this by showcasing a few gems and clunkers that we’ve missed as a given month has passed us by. Consider it our humble offering to you.

This month we catch up on offerings from Mike Patton, Oneohtrix Point Never, 200 Years (the new project from Ben Chasny and Elisa Ambrogio), and Steve Hauschildt, a new EP from Pinkunoizu, and the reissues of the first four studio albums from iconic experimental group, Throbbing Gristle


Tragedy & Geometry
Score: 8.5/10
Steve Hauschildt (MySpace)

Buried beneath the prolific solo output of fellow Emeralds members Mark McGuire and John Elliott, Steve Hauschildt exists in his own realm, willing to work tirelessly on a few ideas until completely satisfied. Such perseverance pays off with his Kranky debut, Tragedy & Geometry.

The album separates itself from the modern synth landscape by incorporating a heavy dose of catchy rhythms and pop sensibilities. Though Hauschildt doesn’t shy from taking a few galactic tangents into the expanding unknown, Tragedy & Geometry has enough familiarity to keep it grounded when needed.

Experiments blend effortlessly into more pop-oriented compositions, more often than not the two strands combining into one. Opener “Polyhymnia” encapsulates such a trajectory; an idea that Hauchildt may have allowed to flow for 10 minutes is pared down to 3 minutes, losing nothing while gaining everything catchy about synthesized music. “Peroxide” is the bridge between fans of M83 or Air’s expansive melodies and the droned-out bliss of DIY synth; the strangely homogenized ideas finally finding their way home to each other through the artful mind of Hauschildt. Yet expansive jams aren’t eschewed in favor of accessibility, as demonstrated by the 11 minute opus “Music for a Moire Pattern,” or the energetic, though spastic title track.

At the heart of Tragedy & Geometry is the truth that Emeralds fans (and fans of the members’ solo works) have long been on a collision course with discovering: these guys know pop. Tragedy & Geometry doesn’t betray the outer-spaced sounds of Hauschildt’s more adventurous work, it just re-imagines it for an audience of potential new ears as it is aimed to excited longtime listeners.


Score: 6.6/10
Mexican Summer
Oneohtrix Point Never

Daniel Lopatin was once master and commander of the synth movement. As Oneohtrix Point Never, he blazed a trail combining old influence with new ideas. Yet with Replica, the master has lost sight of what makes music like his stand out: imagination. Replica lives up to its billing, not only replicating the similar sounds of previous output, but replicating those who sought to replicate him.

Among certain circles, this is called the Weezer-cum-Jimmy Eat World-cum Weezer Effect (wherein the initial band represents a defined sound, goes away while a newer band borrows heavily from those memorable albums, only to have the original return and borrow from the band that borrowed from them). Replica has no trout mask; no special sound or next level idea to propel it out of the now-ordinary headspace in which it exists. When held up against Lopatin’s collaboration with Joel Ford earlier this year (Channel Pressure), it proves even less inspired.

The shine seems to be coming off of Lopatin, whether from exposure to the elements of copycats and coattail riders or not enough attention paid to pruning the excess in favor of focusing on what’s unique to OPN. Replica isn’t an awful album by any stretch, but when compared against the OPN catalog and the wealth of music inspired by Lopatin’s past oeuvres, it lacks staying power.

Score: 7.7/10
Full Time Hobby

It’s rare that an EP would require so much attention, but give due to Pinkunoizu. The European band with the Japanese name does a bit of globetrotting within the three tracks of PEEP. “Time is Like Melody” is a fine example of North American pop, largely inspired by lesser known 80s tangents—perhaps a strange hybrid of Godley & Cream, David & David, and the crop of studio musicians and producers who had their moment in the spotlight before returning behind the scenes. “Everything is Broken or Stolen” transports us to modern Europe, lumping Britain’s chill dance scene with classic German rhythm and abstract experimentation. The 8 minute track is as equally catchy as the opener despite its lengthy runtime. “Dairy Queen” wraps up PEEP’s travels with a Japanese-inspired composition, calling to mind the beauty of Yellow Magic Orchestra and the space-jazz influence of Toshinori Kondo. Have your passport stamped in anticipation of Pinkunoizu’s full-length debut and enjoy a bit of mini-culture delivered in easy-to-understand doses.


The Solitude of Prime Numbers
Score: 7.9/10
Mike Patton

Is Mike Patton more gimmick than genius? At one point, perhaps the argument could have been made for the former, but with The Solitude of Prime Numbers, we come to realize that it is indeed the latter—or more aptly, that the two (as far as Patton is concerned) are intertwined.

The tracks are indeed placed at prime number intervals (2, 3, 7, 11, 13—on up to 53) but this minor inconvenience (likely not to be so thanks to digital technology). The larger inconvenience will be to those still believing Patton to be nothing but a byproduct of Faith No More and Mr. Bungle. Patton’s interests have lately inhabited the complication compositions of obscure Italian composers, hence the influence behind The Solitude of Prime Numbers. Much like the Ipecac catalog, which prides itself on risky modern interpretations of musical influence, Patton’s latest classically inspired piece is a breath of fresh air. That isn’t to say that the tense strings, spartan piano, and elegant orchestrations don’t begin to blend into a mush of sameness, but at 33 minutes in length, it’s a minor complaint when surrounded by an authentically classical homage packed with the same chills and thrills of modern horror and suspense. Patton packs a lot of solitude into his Italian noir, without the headache of math (beyond track sequence) to ruin the fun.


The Second Annual Report
D.o.A: The Third & Final Report of Throbbing Gristle
20 Jazz Funk Greats
Heathen Earth
Score: 9.5/10
Industrial Records
Throbbing Gristle

We stand 35 years removed from the debut of Throbbing Gristle to the public at-large. Of course, to infer a lasting introduction was produced would be to ignore 35 years worth of history. Throbbing Gristle were a whispered-about band; a foursome so tangled into the idea of art as expression that their releases often found audience. However, the audience they did find turned out to push the envelope well into the new century while the pop world ignorantly turned a deaf ear.

Industrial Records, now witnessing the revival of avant garde on a larger stage (thanks internet!) has reissued the band’s first four albums, loaded with outtakes, live cuts, and general tomfoolery. To cover it all would be an undertaking, so to steer our dear adventurous music listener in the direction of these four albums would be of a better service. As one might infer from the band’s name and their record label name, the music herein is a precursor to industrial, though free from heavy black eyeliner and self-loathing. In its place are the sounds of industry; hard, cold, vacant rhythms and found sounds reverberating across vast warehouse walls. A music as lonely and secluded as it was three decades ago retaining its singular vision to ostracize and therefore, be inclusive to a certain sect. And in that perforation, we find each other detached and yet attached. It’s all very poetic and ignorant and we’re better off sounding pompous and ill-informed because of it. In that empty, soulless void we are given the soul of Throbbing Gristle’s blend of ebon art and humor.


200 Years
Score: 8/10
Drag City
200 Years

Ben Chasny warned me what he and Elisa Ambrogio were working on in the cold, early mornings of Seattle was unlike anything either had done. Chasny (of Six Organs of Admittance fame, not to mention various other projects and collaborations) and Ambrogio (Magik Markers) are known for loud, often brutal live performances, and though Chasny’s folk leanings have found themselves within his various albums, 200 Years is a different animal.

The album, taking its name from the duo’s 200 Years moniker, is such a surprise due to Ambrogio’s 180 degree turn. An aggressive, loud, in-your-face writer and performer, Ambrogio is a gentle soul throughout 200 Years. Her vocals are soothing, and though the lyrics often times press against some of the harsher Magik Markers truisms, Chasny’s fragile guitar melodies smooth them over.

200 Years is meditative, yet cunning. The album’s ten tracks fall like dominoes, each rolling into the next with quick strikes. Before you notice, the ride is over just as it was beginning. It sticks under your thumb, gnawing away at your flesh until the next listen. And there will be many, many listens—either out of shock to Ambrogio’s ‘soft’ side or simply because 200 Years is that affecting.

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