Categories
Festival Coverage

MoogFest: A Look Back

 

 

 

This coming Thursday sees the arrival of the annual Thanksgiving holiday here in America. Like everyone else, I’ll be eating turkey among family. I’ll also be thinking about what I was thankful for this year, and perhaps the thing that pops up the most is live music. I’ve seen plenty of it this year, mostly great, and one of the highlights was the second annual MoogFest in Asheville, North Carolina.

Friday, October 28

Atlas Sound

My first stop at this year’s MoogFest was at The Orange Peel to catch Atlas Sound. With Deerhunter, Bradford Cox tends to mix sprawling psych-rock landscapes with gorgeous melodies. His solo project, Atlas Sound, follows a similar sound, but whereas Deerhunter can get very loud and very rocking, Atlas Sound songs tend to be quieter, more fragile affairs, usually absent of electric guitars. Sitting on a stool in the middle of the stage, Cox played and sang delicate melodies that he would then loop over one another. Songs would build from vocals and guitar to a great wall of sound. This was the third time I had seen Atlas Sound, and while I enjoy Cox’s solo performances, I’ve seen what he’s capable of with a band backing him (Atlanta band The Selmanaires backed him at one of those prior shows). While he certainly does a fine job on his own, the songs just sound better when he brings a band along. After catching a few songs, I decided to move along and head over to the Asheville Civic Center.

Tangerine Dream

I must make a confession: prior to MoogFest, I had not listened to one second of Tangerine Dream’s music. So when I first walked into the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium half-way through the band’s set, I was pleased to hear psychedelic, ambient soundscapes coming from the speakers. This went on for a couple songs. Then things just got….. weird. The music quickly devolved into cheesy, Mannheim-Steamroller-like synth-schlock. Guitarist Bernhard Beibl and saxophonist would play solos that sounded straight out of a 1970’s porn flick. While it was interesting to watch leader Edgar Froese experiment with all manner of Moog synthesizers, plus the fact that he looked like some sort of urban witchdoctor with his hat, scarf, glasses, and long white hair, I ultimately walked away disappointed, knowing what the band was capable of.

Moby

 

TV On The Radio

 

Brian Eno’s Illustrated Talk

Crystal Castles

Amon Tobin

77 Million Paintings

Active Child

M83

Neon Indian

Passion Pit

Ghostland Observatory

Gold Panda

 

Extra photos:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
New Album Review

M83 sends us back to space

M83 does one heck of a job with their latest double disc album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, which was released on Oct. 18.  Being their sixth studio album, and following behind such pivotal releases like Saturdays = Youth, M83 had a lot to live up to. Even though some have criticized the album for sounding different, I think it’s a beautiful new direction for the band.

Named after the Messier 83 galaxy, M83 continues delivering ambient tunes and goes back and forth between either solely instrumental or minimal lyrics with full-blown epic tracks on Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. There are a ton of space and dream references, which create a feeling of being outside of this planet while the listener zones out to it

Anthony Gonzalez, producer and main component of M83, described this two disc compilation as “brother and sister, with each track having a sibling on the other disc.”   I personally can’t quite figure out if he’s referring to the six instrumental tracks, but that’s how I choose to believe the two discs are paired off.  There’s also a few interesting plays with the way the tracks are arranged on the discs with titles, like tracks 10 and 11 being, “When Will You Come Home?” followed by “Soon, My Friend.”  

Going back to the main theme of this album, dreaming, the listener can either feel it with the synth and shoegaze sounds, or with the spacial lyrics.  Gonzalez said himself in an interview with Spin magazine that, “It’s mainly about dreams, how every one is different, how you dream differently when you’re a kid, a teenager, or an adult. I’m really proud of it. If you’re doing a very long album, all the songs need to be different and I think I’ve done that with this one.”  I agree that the album progresses perfectly, and one can get a sense of maturity as it continues.

Most of the lyrics on the album either refer to time, love, or space, like in “My Tears Are Becoming a Sea,” with the lyrics “I’m slowly drifting to you/ this star is a planet,” or in “Claudia Lewis,” saying “alone, twenty millions years from my place/ a slide on the starlight./ Watch out, a new planet right on my trail!/ The space, oh, oh it’s mine!”

They also chose to use instruments that they’ve previously never experimented with, like a saxophone jam on their first single and second track, “Midnight City.”  The use of the saxophone and other instruments, and the way in which M83 created this album, seems to be heavily influenced by a mixture of the synth-pop, as well as shoegaze, created in the 1980s.

Prior to this album, Gonzalez toured with Depeche Mode, who were huge throughout the ‘80s and still create music with the same darker electronic sounds.  The song “OK Pal” reminds me of Tears for Fears, who were also extremely popular in the ‘80s, because of the vocals and music.  You can get a sense of the shoegaze genre with the droning repeated lyrics accompanied by heavy instrumental emphasis in the songs “Another Wave from You” and “This Bright Flash.”

They’ve also included two monologues: the track “Echoes of Mine,” which is a beautiful story in French of a woman walking through a forest and reverting back to her twenty-year-old self, ending with “I loved like I’d never loved.” The second, “Raconte-Moi une Histoire,” which means “tell me a story,” is of a child telling the listener about a frog that changes its life, which sounds peculiarly like a story of a drug experience.  This adds a whole other level to some of the lyrics and sounds of the album, but relating it to space is enough detail on that, and it’s interesting that they chose to do an English monologue with a French title, then the reverse.

In all, this album has to be a huge personal revelation for Gonzalez.  He said in an interview with music OMH, that Hurry Up, We’re Dreamingis “a reflection of my 30 years as a human being” and something he dedicated to himself.  Each listener can travel to the place where he was each time they put on this album, and float out to space with the beautiful lyrics and synth sounds.

 

Categories
DJ Highlights

Top Electronic Albums of 2008 (plus a rant if that’s your thing)

It’s that time again: at the beginning of the year, every year, everybody offers their opinions about the music/books/movies/events of the past year.  Personally, I love reading other people’s opinions about the best music of the past year.   However, I also think that it’s a fairly ridiculous practice.  Ultimately, it’s just an opinion, and nobody really cares about anybody else’s opinion anyway.  Even the biggest award show in music, the Grammy Awards, is full of shit, and pretty much everybody knows it.  So, in order to avoid putting together yet another meaningless top-10 list, I’m going to parody those stupid awards by giving you 10 top-1 lists.  Yes, the commentary you are about to read is satirical (I’m only putting this under the assumption that if I don’t, moronic fanboys will be upset that I trashed their favorite album of 2008), but the albums I’ve chosen are actually some of my favorites (except for whichever section of commentary offends you most – that one’s serious) of 2008.

Best album nobody put into their top-5/1o/20/25/50/100 list of 2008:  Radio Retaliation by Thievery Corporation – personally, I think that this was a great album.  The first half is a world-tour of incorporating the music of various cultures into an upbeat-downtempo format that Thievery Corporation is known for, and the second half is a bit more reminiscent of their previous work.  That sounds basically like they put out yet another album of the same shit you’ve heard before, and it is.  (Also, this album wins 2 more awards: best packaging and worst packaging for the cardboard sleeve and poster liner notes – it’s catchy and environmentally friendly, but you’ll never be able to actually use it to package the album once you open it).  Actually, I don’t think it was a great album.

Best “more-hipster-than-thou” album of 2008: Crystal Castles by Crystal Castles – another album I greatly enjoyed (if only we could have kept it in the studio for more than 48 hours), this award is somewhat pointless because everybody already knew that this was the hipster album of the year (Passion Pit’s Chunk of Change E.P. being a close second).  Which is oddly appropriate, seeing as how pointless this album was.  The best song on here was “Courtship Dating”, which is basically a dance song with repetitive lyrics (which are screamed, by the way) that don’t make a whole lot of sense, as if we’ve never heard that.

Best album put out by a band from Australia of 2008: In Silico by Pendulum – it seems like Australia puts out a good album about once a year.  Last year, we were blessed with the “albums” known as Attack Decay Sustain Release by Simian Mobile Disco and Guns Babes Lemonade by Muscles (and maybe a few others as well, but who knows).  This year, we in the US got Pendulum’s sophmore effort.  Is it just me, or are they actually trying to make music for video games?  The first time I heard them was when I heard their song (from their first album Hold Your Colour) on Dance Dance Revolution, and several songs here sound like extras you could buy for Rock Band or Guitar Hero (though none of them are good enough to be included, and you’d be better off saving the money anyway).  Sophmore slump much?

Best album of 2008 by a bald vegan in his 40s that has long lost all cultural relevance: Last Night by Moby – to be honest, I kind of feel like this album was like Play-lite(to the point where the title seems a bit unintentionally ironic), but it’s still a fun album overall with a few songs that actually approach being listenable.  I like to joke with a few of my friends who are also avid fans of electronic music that I enjoy listening to “American techno”.  And we (my friends and I) laugh about it because American techno (that is, good electronic music from this side of the Atlantic) doesn’t exist, and this CD proves it.

Best album of 2008  that proves Americans are uncultured: Mardulce by Bajofondo – pencil this band in under “artist/band with the most commonly mispronounced name” (next to Björk).  This is also the only band (on this list, or possibly anywhere) that features a member that plays the … bandoneon.  Now, I’m going to be honest with you: I don’t consider myself to be a stupid individual, but I don’t even know how to pronounce that instrument, let alone what it actually is.  Judging from the album, something that sounds like an accordion.  God damn, that doesn’t even need a punch line…

Best album of 2008 that relates drugs to electronic music: Fucked Up Friends by Tobacco – Not only is the artist’s name an addictive substance, but the album title is a suggestion for both how and with whom you should listen to the album (for the dumbfucks out there, you should listened to it while you’re fucked up with your friends).  Not only that, but the album itself, from the time you see it, is addictive.  It comes with a crazy cover that looks like a broadcast of Tobacco himself getting electrocuted, as viewed through a malfunctioning cheap TV built in the 70s.  Also on the packaging front, the tray for the CD itself isn’t the usual black, white, or clear – Tobacco or whoever packaged this aural version of herion opted for a very subtle hot pink instead.  The music itself sounds like something god-awful from the 80s, using only analog tape devices and synthesizers (along with the equivalent of a First Act talk box), that’s been cut one too many times with bleach and cement mix.  This album actually wins several other awards, such as: Best album of 2008 for which I’ll require rehab, Best album of 2008 for which I’ll require therapy, Best album of 2008 for which I’ll require medication, and Best album of 2008 for which I’ll be pleading temporary insanity.

Best Album of 2008 which could have and probably should have been made in the 80s: In Ghost Colours by Cut Copy – The best band whose name consists of actions you can take in Microsoft Word (even though they got things kind of backwards – if you cut, you don’t have anything to copy, so you should probably copy before cutting, but that’s getting a bit technical) released this tribute to yuppies and disco this year that’s been getting a lot of acclaim.  Frankly, I don’t see why this whole “80’s” thing has been a trend for the past couple of years – is our creativity as a culture really that bankrupt?  If this is all we had to go on, the answer would undoubtably be a most-emphatic “yes”.

Best Album of 2008 that used only screechy guitar riffs and various noises that sound like animals growling and snarling: LP3 by Ratatat – this is the sort of sound that Ratatat has been cultivating for their entire musical career, and even I have to admit that it’s really come into its own on their third crime against humani… err, album.  On the other hand, being the best in the world at creating “music” that consists of what sounds like a 5’5" hipster wearing Converses and girl pants savagely beating squirrels into his amplifier with a Fender Squire is a bit like … well, it’s not really like anything else, which is the only reason why Ratatat will win anything this year (assuming they’ll win anything, which is dicey to begin with).

Album with the Best Bullshit Story behind their sound on their one-sheet in 2008: Never Trust the Chinese by Mr. Meeble – Basically, the fabrication here is that this band was hired by a French cosmonaut to create this album for him or her to listen to while in space.  I wouldn’t really call this the best bullshit story in the sense that it was the most plausible or the most entertaining (although it’s up there for the latter), but it’s certainly the best bullshit story in terms of how ludicrously ridiculous it is.  A French Cosmonaut?  Do the French even have a space program?  According to the wikipedia category “French Astronauts”, there have been 9 French astronauts who are noteworthy.  This compares to 362 noteworthy “American Astronauts”.  Now, if we compare the populations of France and America relative to the number of noteworthy French and American astronauts there are on Wikipedia, we find that American astronauts are about 8.5 times more common than French astronauts.  Now, let me ask you something: how many astronauts do you know?  That’s what I thought; the answer’s a big fat zero isn’t it?  Now that means that you’re 8.5 less likely to come across a French Astronaut, thus proving that French Astronauts do not exist and making this story officially impossible.  Oh, and did I mention the offensive album title?  Seriously, I could go on and on about this thing.

Best album of 2008 that’s electronic but tries to bill itself as so-called “instrumental hip-hop”: Magic Monday by Michna – C’mon, this album was produced by a god damn trombone player for Christ’s sake.  I’ll be up-front about it; I don’t know anything about hip-hop, and even I know that nobody plays trombone in hip-hop.  Hell, people haven’t played trombone in popular music since at least the 50’s.  Even then, did anybody anywhere ever front a band as a trombone player?  I honestly have no idea, but my instincts tell me “probably not.  probably fucking not.”

So that’s it, my ten top-1 lists for 2008.  I hope that the swearing and what not didn’t offend people (I only do it because the FCC doesn’t want me to).  So, before I conclude this post, I’d just like to add a few honorable mentions of 2008 (for which I primarily didn’t have any jokes):

Brightwhitelight by Sounds from the Ground

Thought So… by Nightmares on Wax

Hercules and Love Affair by Hercules and Love Affair

Saturdays=Youth by M83

Apocalypso by the Presets

-Dischord

UPDATE: This blog took forever to get posted because it took me a long time to come up with the material I used for it.  That and Caid took forever approving this blog (something about providing links to the artists – it’s all really murky to be completely honest).