Posts Tagged blanche blanche blanche

Zach Phillips: New Cartoons

Zach Phillips: New Cartoons

Zach Phillips' experimentation with melodic structure has taken form in several projects over the past few years, perhaps most notably in the controlled yet chaotic music of Blanche Blanche Blanche, whose final LP Hints to Pilgrims will be released next month on his label, OSR Tapes. Phillips recently put out a solo album titled New Cartoons that includes 22 tracks, most of which are under 1-minute in length. To attempt a succinct description of this record would reduce what is a complex synthesis of sweetness and dissonance; a totality guided primarily by a unique expressive mode. It might just be better to listen to it for yourself.

Stream Phillips' New Cartoons below. It can be purchased via Gnar Tapes.

OSR Tapes Announces New Releases

OSR Tapes Announces New Releases

Last week, Zach Phillips' OSR Tapes imprint announced a whole bunch of exciting new projects, which include: a 110-minute long Blanche Blanche Blanche tape called "Termite Music", an album from Phillip's and Quentin Moore's rock group Heat Wilson, and a tape of Phillips' solo work recorded on a Tascam 8-track and released by Portland, Oregon label Gnar Tapes. And then, there is Phillip's new band with Christina Schneider, CE Schneider Topical, who have shared a couple new home-brewed tracks and videos, one of which Phillips introduces on the label's Facebook page saying: "I know music is over & we're all asleep, major dust in every corner, but hear ye wasteland crawlers, check out this new radical thing we did." We second this advice. 

We really like this CE Schneider Topical song, "Growing Back (Mix 2)." The video was made by Christina Schneider. Watch and listen below. Head over to OSR Tapes for more info on upcoming releases. 

Label Profile: Wharf Cat Records

Label Profile: Wharf Cat Records

Wharf Cat is a Greenpoint-based label with a catalog spanning a wide array of independent music from, so far, two geographically far-flung locals: Brooklyn, NY and Tampa, Florida. Founded by Doug Warner, his brother Trip and visual artist Sam Falls in 2011, Wharf Cat is still navigating the uncertainties that come with both the practical upkeep of a label and the necessity of establishing a clear aesthetic vision. We spoke with Doug Warner about the company's origins, as well as some exciting upcoming releases and reissues they're planning. They were also kind enough to make a playlist for us featuring Boulders, Blanche Blanche Blanche, R-Hundro, and many other bands in the family. 

Ad Hoc: How did Wharf Cat start? 

Doug Warner: My brother Trip and I always wanted to start a label. We were obsessed with SST in the '80s, and used to walk through Strawberries looking for the Chromium Dioxide tapes with the SST logo. A few years ago, Trip and his friend Sam Falls were pretty obsessed with the Dads' Invisible Blouse 7-inch. Sam is a visual artist, and we decided to get in touch with the band in Tampa and see if they wanted to collaborate on a record where Sam would do the artwork. This project expanded into a series of 7-inches including Big French and Oldd News, both bands we were also listening to a bunch at the time. We were so happy with the resulting artifacts and the process of creating them that we decided to keep doing it. We also just made such good friends and continued to work with everyone.

Ad Hoc: How do you decide which artists are best for the label?

DW: This is a hard question! We don't stick to a particular genre of music and don't want to be pigeonholed at all. Our goal ultimately is to help get the artist the results on the recording that they want, and get the physical artifact to their specifications. In a few situations this has led some people to think of Wharf Cat as a place where bands can release music they might not be able to otherwise, and we consider that to be a huge compliment. This might mean it's a new band, and this is the first album where they record in a studio to 2-inch tape, or it might mean that it's a group that already has a following and wants to try something different. 

Starting as an art project with a visual artist means we are always focused on the details of the artifact. For instance, we put spines on our first three 7-inch and did a gatefold with wrap-around artwork on the Ancient Sky, "Castle"/"Allegory" 7-inch. Dads wanted to do a book for their LP, Brown on Brown, which was really fun. Cameron Worden from Dads is a genius and designed the coolest book. We printed it at a place that does pamphlets for golf courses and instruction manuals for expensive vacuum cleaners. Our partnership with Mike Kutchman and [Brooklyn's] Kutch 1 Studio gives us the ability to record a band in an environment that might be new to them and draw them out of their usual recording techniques. It also allows a band to focus on the music and let us take care of everything else. It might sound lazy to say we put out records by bands we love, but that is probably the most accurate description of why we work with different bands. We only work with our friends, but we are making new friends here and there.


Read More

Blanche Blanche Blanche: "Fisted"

Blanche Blanche Blanche:

The hyperactive, bizarro pop outfit Blanche Blanche Blanche have released a new single from their eighth record Breaking Mirrors, the first of their output to be recorded with a full band. “Fisted” takes off immediately with rapidly-paced guitar and drum work. Sarah Smith’s monotone gabble quickly switches to something more blasé, accompanied by dangerously fast chord changes. The track has a frantic, frenzied feel that builds until it unravels with a climactic exhale. 

Breaking Mirrors is available November 5 through Wharf Cat Records

Blanche Blanche Blanche: "Rich Man"

Blanche Blanche Blanche:

Just one week ago we posted about new material from Brattleboro, VT based Blanche Blanche Blanche and behold: here we are again with their new tune "Rich Man." It should be no surprise from fans of the band that BBB is prolific-- four albums in 2012 alone-- and "Rich Man" is taken from their first full length of the new year. "Rich Man' also keeps the off-kilter style that the band have honed so well, while trading in the fuzz and the cacophony for a more polished production. That doesn't make it any less manic or weird, though. Cheers to that.

Wooden Ball drops March 5th on NNA Tapes. It's available for pre-order here.

Our Favorite Albums of 2012

We made you a mix of the top tracks of 2012, and asked some of our favorite artists to tell us which records they've had on rotation all year. Now, we bring you a list of the albums that really meant a lot to us. 

Aaron Dilloway: Modern Jester [Hanson]

This is a difficult choice to justify. Not because of quality-- this truly is the best noise release of the year-- but because our job here at Ad Hoc is to illuminate the underground, to represent the unrepresented. Putting Aaron Dilloway in a year-end list feels a lot like validating canonization, which can seem toxically counteractive to our whole project. Still, saying that great music can be worth less just because the person that made it is already huge is really stupid; that’s why you’re not seeing the new Flying Lotus album in every top 10. Modern Jester is on this list because it’s exceptional. Decades from now, it will stand out as the best noise album of this year, possibly this cluster of years, not to mention of Dilloway’s own career. And it always hits perfectly. “Look Over You Shoulder” is a careful study in restraint and construction, whereas “Eight Cut Scars (For Robert Turman)” is a cathartic assault from start to finish. There are tons of great samples, interesting interactions between loops, climaxes both expected and not. Dilloway even pays homage to one of the forgotten titans of early noise, Turman. But this all only matters if you let the music subsume you. It’s all any album ever demands. Perhaps this kind of concession is shoddy music criticism. Doesn’t matter. Give yourself over to it like a college sophomore at a Deadmau5 stadium show. --Michael Sugarman

Actress: R.I.P. [Honest Jon's Records]

Actress decided to start at the beginning. That meant going back to Detroit, but also back to the BBC Radiophonic workshop-- revisiting Theo Parrish, but also the very nature of electronic sound. This is half the reason R.I.P. endlessly frustrated you if you just wanted to dance. As a veritable hour straight of delayed gratification, a good chunk of the album is comprised of percussionless études, not unlike early electronic music from Brits like Derbyshire and Oram. When percussion does first show up, it serves primarily as a reminder of origin-- some bass drum, or some noise that sounds like a cymbal. It’s these static noises throughout R.I.P. that constantly remind us what a drum machine is-- just noise, filtered and ordered to sound like something recognizable. “Techno” only shows up in the album’s back third.  Speaking on his prior effort, Splazsh, Darren Cunningham noted that many of the songs started as deconstructions of personal favorites-- “Hubble” for example, is based on Prince’s “Erotic City”. For Cunningham, the sausage-making of dance music is just as vital as its hypnotizing qualities. His techno ends up simple, but never minimal, and that’s no mistake. 2012 saw a massive proliferation of minimal techno, a genre whose goal is using the barest sonic tools to entrance. Cunningham doesn’t want a mindless dancer, a twerking drone. He wants to get you in the headspace where you can be awestruck by the beauty of “Jardin” and still let your booty clap to “IWAAD”. --Michael Sugarman

Andy Stott: Luxury Problems [Modern Love]

Vocals are a funny thing. Sometimes when artists start incorporating them, it marks an effort to be more accessible. Something of an alternate approach is to introduce vocals as an atmospheric element, eschewing lyrical comprehensibility for a simple human texture. And then sometimes you’re just a club DJ who needs a good little sample for a hook. Luxury Problems sees Andy Stott using vocals for all these functions in a consummately backwards way. This album is very much a continuation of his EPs from last year, fracturing elements of dance music through some Eraserhead-industrial prism. He has this uncanny ability to just make shit strange. Yet, while his works from last year sometimes drifted into mechanistic detachment, Luxury Problems sees Stott giving his style a literal human voice. Like labelmates Demdike Stare, Stott creates an uncanny valley where a battle wages between the disembodied voice and the medium manipulating it. These are the luxury problems of the album’s title. We live in the most convenient world in history, with technologies to help us work and communicate but which persistently threaten to estrange and annihilate us. When the vocals on “Hatch the Plan” and “Leaving” really clutch the heart string, when you get that chill, these are the small victories that remind us who exactly is in control. --Michael Sugarman

Angel Olsen: Half Way Home [Bathetic]

In the first half of the 2000s, a group of artists grouped under the umbrella term “freak-folk” emerged. Some, like Joanna Newsom, were singular talents who collapsed a legacy of then-unfashionable artistic influences-- from the spooky ruminations of Tim Buckley to British trad-folk stalwarts like Fairport Convention-- into songs that promised a new American folk vernacular. Newsom and cohorts Devendra Banhart and Vetiver's Andy Cabic quickly established a canon of essential recordings, fostering the rediscovery of forgotten geniuses like Vashti Bunyan and Karen Dalton. Freak-folk burned brightly as it rose to prominence less than a decade ago, the final analog movement in underground music before the rise of music blogs and the Pitchfork generation's enshrinement in mainstream music culture. In the intervening ten years, the explosion of interest in electronics old and new combined with the subsuming of genre music into outré sonic practices has all but erased this fertile period from independent music history.

With this context in mind, Angel Olsen's Half Way Home is a record of rare and awesome beauty. First, there is the voice-- untrained and unpredictable, plaintive one moment, soaring with aching beauty the next. Then the lyrics-- plainspoken but retaining an air of mystery, ever-threatening to crack with heartbreaking sincerity. Finally, the restrained arrangements helped along by Olsen's Bonnie “Prince” Billy tourmate Emmett Kelly: the judiciously employed pump organ, the just-right guitar sound, vocal melodies deep in the mix and the occasional, arresting intrusion of percussion. With her solo full-length debut, Olsen has crafted a record that celebrates enduring musical values like songcraft, raw talent and restraint. And it's all the more exceptional for being released into an underground music culture littered with perfunctory re-mixes, redundant live sessions, weekly “essential” mixes, commercial pop apologists, collector-baiting colored vinyl, and “curators” of all stripes penning breathless exhortations of the latest synth fart from a Brooklyn basement. In a word, Half Way Home is timeless. --Max Burke

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti: Mature Themes [4AD]

Everyone was worried that Ariel Pink would "sell out" or some shit when they heard he was going back into a fancy studio. Instead, he couldn't have gone down a weirder, darker, stranger path than he did with Mature Themes. He and the Haunted Graffiti wrapped up some of their strangest, deepest personal encounters in garish, schizophrenic, and often downright evil imagery. I've heard so many fans bring up the "anti-pop stardom" of Ariel Pink when discussing his stage presence, his demeanor, and his weirdo production choices, but what's beautiful here is the fearlessness: maybe everyone was expecting something dreamy, something sweet, but these beautiful melodies are almost always of pain, and we get the ecstatic discomfort of watching a madman at the peak of his powers just laughing. --Matt Sullivan

Black Dice: Mr. Impossible [Ribbon Music]

Punk’s not dead; it just sounds like Black Dice now. Polarizing since day one, and jet-engine loud up until at least two weeks ago, their music remains an ineffable inspiration to fifteen years of freaks and geeks. Like a one-band revolution, Black Dice kicks, punches, warps and wiggles its way through these confusing modern times; they created a genre and swept their own awards show, evolving, exploring, engaging, and side-stepping stagnation. And with critical kudos all around for their latest offering, Mr. Impossible—its lucidity matched by its icky, sticky funkiness— Black Dice once again blazes trails for any youngster looking to get weird with a wink and a smile. With many tracks powered by a booming and affected drum machine, Mr. Impossible recalls a fleeting but sought-after ground between Kraftwerk and Outkast while making very thoughtful pit stops around the world. Perhaps this is a more sonically digestible record for the band, but not even a solid rhythm section can mask Black Dice’s undeniable fingerprint, a dazzling array of sounds, voices, and melodies at once alien and attractive but never without a sense of humor or spirit. --Micah Welner

Blanche Blanche Blanche: Wink With Both Eyes [Night People]

The subject's a speculative mess, but sometimes I can't help but wonder what happened to the outsider artist. That first high school hotbox session with a copy of The Doldrums always felt like it was destined to be a fleeting memory. Once Pink's version of pop stardom turned strangely from parody to reality, it seemed rarer still. One of five albums they'll have released on four different labels in 2012, it is, to me, one of the best pop albums of the year. With quirky chord changes at breakneck speed and heavily chromatic melodies, the progressive muzak-punk song cycle's a lot to chew on. But despite the album's left turns, what's really at work here is the kind anthemic, inspired songwriting that could thrive in any context. --Matt Sullivan

DJ Rashad: TEKLIFE Vol. 1: Welcome to the Chi [Lit City Trax]

The running joke around the office is that, yeah, while a lot of really incredible records came out this year, all that is getting in the way of the real point: DJ Rashad actually put out the best album this year. It’s a joke, but only kind of: in a year where footwork was all over the place, Rashad and the rest of the Tek-Life crew were writing its State of the Union address. Rashad gave us Just a Taste of it last year, but Teklife Vol. 1: Welcome to the Chi is less of a footwork blueprint than a tight, distilled exploration of what that music can be. And what makes footwork-- especially in Rashad’s native Chicago-- so compelling is how psychedelic and crowd-focused it is, tailormade for deviants ready to headbang and grind to the hard pummel of snares and toms well past the witching hour. That last bit is the real point: Chi goes hard. It’s a constant throwdown from front to back, stuffed with trippy surprises, like the synth intro that makes the Morse Code-laden “Don’t Drop It” sound like a surprise, the dissonant chords that make Gil Scott-Heron’s ghost jump out of “On My Way” and, good god, the breakdown in the middle of “Twitter.” Chi is incredible, and if you remain skeptical, “We Trippy Mane” and “Kush Ain’t Loud” will make you a firm believer --Brad Stabler

Fatima Al Qadiri: Desert Strike [Fade to Mind]

Looking over this list, it seems like many of the albums that touched us the most in 2012 were the ones that wrestled with the paradoxes of the mediated life-- our struggle to connect with other people through the technologies that alienate us most, and to express who we are by speaking through musical languages that we ourselves did not create. Of all the intensely autobiographical releases we loved this year, few spoke more directly to this estrangement than Desert Strike, which revisits Fatima al Qadiri’s childhood experience of the Gulf War, playing video games with her sister in the basement of her home. The trauma gave rise to the first keyboard melody she ever wrote, but when she remembers it now, it’s through the languages of grime and video game music that she feels most comfortable speaking, even though the particular game in question-- the Sega Megadrive Game Desert Strike: Return To the Gulf-- meant experiencing her country’s destruction from an Iraqi perspective. The combination of nursery room music box sounds, gunfire, and ice-slick break-beats may sound like a recipe for discomfort, but the most disturbing thing about Desert Strike is that they actually quite sound good. --Emilie Friedlander

Gorgeous Children: Gorgeous Children [Self-Released]

Something about hip-hop duo Gorgeous Children’s eponymous debut slams the gut with satisfaction. Listening from start to finish is what I imagine it feels like to be two hits short of an overdose, straying slowly but surely from the best high you’ve ever had to a nebulous reality that’s as dark around the edges as it is at the core. Face Vega is a force to be reckoned with, albeit one you might find pensively eying the scene from the darkest corner of the party, his arm around a stranger and his throat drenched in syrup from the tip of his tongue to the very depths of his insides. His drawl is at once lazy and articulate; his motives often vulgar, with an echoing bitterness for anything unfuckable: “You dirty motherfuckers/Jealous of the butter/Ya’ll should aim that banger at your brain/Let it stutter.” Gila’s production is dismal but strangely saccharine, with an unfaltering uniformity that ultimately, when coupled with Vega's unabating lewdness and intemperate bravado, really resonates -- either because we’re all sullen enough to relate on some level, or simply because it's a wholly engrossing work of hip-hop. --Emily Onofrio

Grimes: Visions [4AD / Arbutus]

Love it or hate it, there were few artists this year who made a larger impact than Grimes. Despite not even having a Tumblr (at least not until the other day), the post-Internet poster girl was assigned the role of the archetype for a myriad of microgenres-- #seapunk, chillwave, Tumblr-wave-- and other Information Age whims that came in and out of 2012’s spotlight. Grimes thrives on the power of her intuition, tapping into what's been on the tip the collective tongue. And the most charming part of it all is that it seems like she's barely even trying. --Ric Leichtung

Hank Wood And The Hammerheads: Go Home [Toxic State Records]

I was working in the venue the first time that I saw Hank Wood & The Hammerheads and it was the greatest fucking nightmare I ever had: I was the enemy covered in sweat, dodging firecrackers, not-so-successfully evading punches, absorbing bizarre rumors, and jumping around like a happy madman about it. As much as I love hardcore, the decades have left it generally unrecognizable from what I thought it was, as adherent to doctrine as the very institutions it was supposed to make a mockery of. But the Hammerheads knew no authority and everyone was their target, even their own community (publicly killing chickens is a really good way to piss off vegans).
In the end, that audacity may have been what did them in. Hank Wood & The Hammerheads, quite unfortunately, have already played their last show (here, I dodged punches and firecrackers as an ecstatic attendant), but at least we have Go Home as a document, and one of the best punk LPs that came out this year. In fact, using the term punk is silly given these guys' willingness to flirt with classic rock and psych. Go Home is simply a great rock record for a revolution, for reclaiming what's yours-- whether it's your personal space, or your personal rights in the presence of a bunch of god damn cops. --Matt Sullivan

Holly Herndon: Movement [RVNG Intl.]

It’s been a good year for Holly Herndon. She began a PhD program in music composition at Stanford and pretty much exploded onto the scene with her debut full-length, Movement, which was the culmination of a master’s program at Mill’s College. Prior to that, Herndon had spent some time in the Berlin club scene; her stated aim with Movement was to synthesize her twin loves of the EDM she encountered in Germany and the experimental music she studied in school. Still, Movement is not really a dance record. The single, “Fade,” is the only track with a consistent, defined beat, and most of the others waver between minimal techno and sounds that push beyond the bounds of what we commonly understand to be music. Like the Borg in Star Trek, it exists in the gray area between natural and the synthetic, human and machine; it takes the most sensual parts of us (most prominently, the breath) and distorts and deconstructs it until it's something completely new. Movement demands concentration and can be a difficult record to process, but sensually and intellectually, it cuts deep. --Emily Wheeler

Holy Other: Held [Tri Angle]

Holy Other's debut full-length Held arrived without a single accompanying video, a move that might seem somewhat odd in a world where daily audio-visual overload is practically a given. Still, it made perfect sense: all you need to do is put it on, and the images are all there. Though this might seem a little too obvious regarding this sort of bedroom-induced loner beat music, more than anything else put out in 2012, the young Mancunian’s music is made to be visualized. Following 2011’s massively acclaimed EP With U, it may be justified to speak of refinement and consolidation rather than a genuine step ahead.

But there’s so much that sets Holy Other apart from the whole bunch of more or less elusive producers who populate the post-Untrue electronic music landscape. Despite his staggering attention to detail, what truly goes beyond the omnipresent ghostly textures and fractured beats is his honest curiosity and his liberal approach to sequencing. The densely packed arrangements on album standouts like “Love Some1” or the title track absorb you at first listen, but the magic happens when Holy Other loosens and dequantizes them, allowing them to breathe. Mood-wise, I'd say that Held is probably the apotheosis of the curious and somewhat clichéd subgenre of "nightbus music": on my end, it certainly soundtracked countless early morning trips on Berlin’s public transport, reflecting on the events of the past night while surreptitiously studying my fellow travelers’ faces for similar feelings of post-euphoric dread, despair, or regret. The world of Held might not be one of unclouded joy, but it is comforting nonetheless. Wearily heading back home, the distraught sighs of closer “Nothing Here” always felt like a relief, even if fueled by resignation. --Henning Lahmann

How To Dress Well: Total Loss [Acephale/Weird World]

Listening to the first How To Dress Well album, 2010's Love Remains, it was impossible to miss that, despite the swathes of tape-hiss it was wrapped in, Tom Krell had a distinctive and powerful voice, one that a trip to a proper studio would take to the next level. Total Loss is the result of just such a treatment, and like it's predecessor, it's heavily tied to themes of grief and loss. The emotional centerpiece of Total Loss, and the hinge on which the album swings, is standout “& It Was U,” a track that wears its '90s r&b influences unabashedly, from the finger snaps and the new jack swing beat to the optimistic tone, which owes a lot to Janet Jackson's 1997 classic “Together Again.” Like Jackson's song, it's all about trucking through an overwhelming experience of loss (in this case, the break-up of a relationship), and finding that redemption is not just possible, but inevitable. As Krell said in an interview with Dazed Digital earlier this year, “the album's about developing a relationship with loss which is spiritually enriching rather than devastating.” Total Loss is in many ways an antidote to 2012's predominant culture of disengagement, and although HTDW is sometimes saddled with the revivalism stamp, the album is staunchly against re-appropriation for the sake of it. It's a sparse listen at times, which also makes it a difficult one, yet it's an album unafraid to embody the emotional fragmentation of its era. --Tim Gentles

Julia Holter: Ekstasis [RVNG Intl.]

It's easy to fixate on Julia Holter's classical training and intellect and just leave it at classical/indie crossover sensation, but I find that rather boring and actually, quite false. Bedroom musicians are in a strange state of affairs at the end of 2012, measured by their potential for being harvested by bigger and better organizations so that they can "break out" or "develop" in some way measurable by ticket or album sales. But Holter's story is the most encouraging, the most inspiring, and the one that makes us realize that, the original point was supposed to be that great talent comes from strange places and doesn't need funding or a larger audience to grow more ambitious. Though Tragedy also had our heart strings plucked, Ekstasis is her magnum opus, proving that the meteoric ascent of DIY heroes and heroines can actually be for a greater good. Her arrangements are more ambitious, her melodies clearer, and her compositional forms have grown more accessible while remaining just as epic. Holter is the rare breed of composer that's able to stay in her own creative comfort zone while casting her net wider. --Matt Sullivan

Laurel Halo: Quarantine [Hyperdub]

Laurel Halo's Hyperdub debut Quarantine has been surprisingly maligned in some quarters this year for Halo's untreated, often discordant vocals. A sharp left-turn from 2011's largely instrumental Hour Logic, Quarantine is certainly bracing in its intimacy, forcing the listener into contact with a profoundly corporeal sense of isolation and longing. It is this sense of embodiment though-- reflected in track titles like “Carcass,” “Airsick” and “Tumor”-- that has made Quarantine one of the most interesting responses thus far to the challenges of relating in our current, post-internet, technological and cultural universe. It enacts the push and pull between intimacy and distance in our virtual communications, shuttling between heartbreak, desire, and the yearning for connection, on the one hand, and our inevitable slip into disembodiment and fractiousness, on the other. On “Years," which is built around pretty, if slightly alien, analog synth arpeggios, Halo's words are startling not just for their raw timbre, but for their dueling impulses of reaching out for connection (“making eye contact”) and severing those ties (“I will never see you again”). Quarantine can be painfully up-close, and with something almost nauseating about the constant proximity of Halo's unadorned voice, the album hints at the kinds of gaps and miscommunications that can always arise in the presence (or absence) of another. --Tim Gentles

Lil Ugly Mane: Mista Thug Isolation [Self-Released]
The world Lil' Ugly Mane paints for us on Mista Thug Isolation sounds like it was conceived long ago in the fearful hearts of a million suburban parents who threw their kids' Wu-Tang CDs out the car window: murder is power, evil is president, the world is on fire, and the Mane is all smiles. The internet hip-hop community, hot in the pursuit of that elusive crossroads between "authentic" and "swag," probably had a seizure from the pure fantasy of it all, but this guy had the guts to tie together art forms whose inner circles had been friends all along. It's equal parts DIY noise, fantasy novella, hardcore hip-hop, and horror flick, opening the door for crossover conceptualists the whole cloud over. --Matt Suliivan

Mount Eerie: Clear Moon / Ocean Roar [P. W. Elverum & Sun]
Mount Eerie's two full-lenghs this year, Clear Moon and Ocean Roar, explore Phil Elverum’s relationship with his hometown of Anacortes, Washington. Clear Moon is brighter and clearer-sounding, built from overlapping guitar lines, sparse drums and the occasional horn bleat, whereas Ocean Roar is denser and more challenging, with flashes of organ sounds, metal, and drone. Lyrically, both albums are slow and meditative. “I Walked Home Beholding” off Ocean Roar describes Elverum’s walk home from his studio, which he built himself in an old Catholic church: “The lights in the park / The moving trees / The silent corners… The whole town had been abandoned except for me." Elverum’s lyrics are at once plainspoken and inscrutable, but against the music, they add up to a very tactile portrait of Anacortes: the palpable mist, the smell of the trees, the roar of the ocean. Both Clear Moon and Ocean Roar seem just out of reach. You strain to hear Elverum’s whispered voice on Clear Moon, and it’s hard to make him out over all the din on Ocean Roar. The songs on both albums feel at once peaceful and anxious, like you are standing in a wonderful oasis that has the ability to devour you whole in the blink of an eye.  --Emily Wheeler

Parquet Courts: Light Up Gold [What's Your Rupture?]

Parquet Courts' Light Up Gold was the year's little punk record that could. First released in August via frontman Andrew Savage's Dull Tools Bandcamp, the album found its way around the Internet slowly but surely via word of mouth. In an age where albums fall off the radar faster than they can be blogged about, Light Up Gold has done the opposite, even getting a much deserved reissue via What's Your Rupture? coming in January. From the first chords of the album, you can hear why it has so many vocal  proponents: filled with spare arrangements, vivid imagery, and production that eschews garage fuzz in favor of sonic clarity, Light Up Gold filled an ever-widening void in the landscape of old school guitar rock.
While Savage's past project, Fergus & Geronimo, was a grab-bag of R&B, pop, and more, Light Up Gold is laser-focused even with its 15-track run time. Like the Modern Lovers before them, Parquet Courts place supreme emphasis on vocal delivery, building songs around twisting narratives and philosophical conceits. Burner anthem "Stoned and Starving" may be an ode to the munchies, but its Wire-like economy of sound and Krautrock repetition is anything but lazy. At the heart of the album, "Light Up Gold II” is an existential quest for the unattainable seen through a punk lens: "Light up gold was the color of something I was looking for," muses Savage. It was also the sound of a record we desperately needed to hear. --Nathan Reese

Shintaro Sakamoto: How To Live with a Phantom [Other Music Recording Co.]

Fetishists of Japanese music and PSF obsessives could find everything they've ever wanted in the story of Shintaro Sakamoto. Though not much more than a blip on the Western radar, Sakamoto's been active for more than two decades and developed a rabid cult following with J-psych band Yura Yura Teikoku. It took more than 15 years for them to come to North America, and even longer for material to be released stateside. It’s no wonder that when Other Music chose to branch out as a label, they made their first release Shintaro’s debut solo album. How To Live with a Phantom’s folk pop perfection is easily identifiable. Its elements come sharp, crisp, yet bare; "Something's Different"’s swaddling flute conjures the finer moments of the heyday of ‘60s lounge and exotica, and the panned organ stabs and Brian May-guitar swells of "Gleam of Hope" show intense attention to songwriting and recording. Had it not been recorded in this decade, How to Live with a Phantom could have been the year's best reissue. --Ric Leichtung


Stream new Blanche Blanche Blanche 7"

Stream new Blanche Blanche Blanche 7

Blanche Blanche Blanche are a strange breed, and one that's almost impossible to put a finger on: after releasing several demented albums last year-- including the gem Wink with Both Eyes-- BBB have released a new single of blown-out drone pop, complete with a pounding breakbeat, guitars pushed far into distortion, and Sarah Smith's signature monotone.

"Scam" b/w "Press Dumps" is out now on Berlin-based label Adagio 830. You can check the video for "Press Dumps" below.

Our Favorite Songs of 2012

Our Favorite Songs of 2012

These are (most) of our favorite tunes of 2012, offered lovingly in downloadable form. Thank you for reading and hanging out with us this year, and we look forward to Round 2 in 2013.

Actress: "The Lord's Graffiti"
ahnnu: "lit"
Altered Boys: "Reality Check"
Amen Dunes: "Ethio Song"
Andy Stott: "Numb"
Angel Haze: "New York"
Arca: "Fortune"
Baauer: "Harlem Shake"
Blanche Blanche Blanche: "She's Adopted"
Blues Control: "Iron Pigs"
Burial: "Ashtray Wasp"
Dean Blunt & Inga Copeland: "The Narcissist"
DIIV: "How Long Have You Known"
DJ Rashad: "Kush Ain't Loud"
Evian Christ: "Fuck It None of Y'all Don't Rap"
Future Shuttle: "Astro Curio"
Gorgeous Children: "Splash Dem"
Harry Taussig: "Fate Only Knows Twice"
Holly Herndon: "Fade"
Holy Other: "Love Some1"
Huerco S.: "No Jack"
Imperial Topaz: "In the Waves"
Inner Tube: "MR"
Iron Galaxy: "Attention Seeker"
Itasca: "Marcy Rain"
Jam City: "Her"
Julia Holter: "Marienbad"
King Felix: "SPRING 01"
Kuedo: "Work, Live & Sleep in Collapsing Space"
Kuhrye-oo: "Give In (For the Fame)"
Laurel Halo: "Light and Space"
Le1f: "Wut"
Lil Ugly Mane: "Bitch I'm Lugubrious"
LOL Boys: "Changes"
Mac DeMarco: "Baby's Wearing Blue Jeans"
Merchandise: "Become What You Are"
Mo Kolours: "Mini Culcha"
Motion Sickness of Time Travel: "The Dream"
Mount Eerie: "Ocean Roar"
Mykki Blanco & The Mutant Angels: "Join My Militia"
Ohbliv: "ReadMyEyes"
Outer Limitz: "I Kontact"
Para One: "Wake Me Up"
Parquet Courts: "Borrowed Time"
Prince Rama: "So Destroyed"
Pure Bathing Culture: "Gainesviile"
Scott and Charlene's Wedding: "Gammy Leg"
Shintaro Sakamoto: "Gleam of Hope"
Shoxx: "Sludge Seed"
Slava: "I've Got Feelings Too"
SpaceGhostPurrp: "Suck a Dick 2012"
Splash: "Ever Before"
Sun Araw and the Congos: "Happy Song"
TOPS: "Go Away"
Traxman: "Footworkin' On Air"
Tyvek: "Wayne County Roads"
US Girls: "Jack"
Vatican Shadow: "Cairo is a Haunted City"
Warthog: "Control"
Zebra Katz: "Imma Read"

Blanche Blanche Blanche: "24 Hours To Midnight"

Blanche Blanche Blanche:

The more hyperactive, odd-numbered tendencies of outsider pop duo Blanche Blanche Blanche have this strange ability of making people ask "what planet are these two from?". Zach Philips and Sarah Smith's off-kilter humor, shocking turns of song development, and intimately engineered sonic sheen elude comparisons to much else, but their best songs are firmly rooted in the occasionally banal and always essential art of human contact.

On their recently released LP for La Station Radar, Papas Proof, the same inimitable style channels a universal sense of relation, particularly on the measured clockwork cycles of album closer "24 Hours To Midnight". A patient bass drum pulse carries on through intertwining synth figurations until Sarah's assured, but emotionally naked vocal is absorbed by a kind of quiet pain that even good friends can't understand.

Papas Proof is out now on La Station Radar, and you can check videos for two other tracks from the record, "The Game" and "The North Cave," after the jump.

Read More

Our Favorite Albums of 2012.5

Black Dice: Mr. Impossible [Ribbon Music]

Maybe Black Dice went soft. Sonically, Mr. Impossible is certainly the cleanest of all the band’s feature-length raunch-fests. But “The Jacker”-- which sees Eric Copeland repurposing a sample from the masterful Waco Taco Combo’s “Land of Foot”-- reminds us that Black Dice has always progressed via distillation. Bjorn Copeland may finally sound like a guitarist in a rock band, but he’s still playing over the lurching, disjointed beats that the Dice unveiled on Repo via Broken Ear Record. Songs like “Carnitas” may groove as smooth as velvet, but earlier burp samples were mucking up the vibes on “Spy Vs. Spy.” See, Black Dice is the band that brought moshes to a Chinese Buffet and a Bushwick Deli earlier this year. If you fear that Mr. Impossible is their dad rock album, just remember that this was the soundtrack to some kid getting decked and seeing a case of cold cuts as he went down. --Michael Sugarman

Blanche Blanche Blanche: Wink With Both Eyes [Night People]

Wink With Both Eyes is one of five albums that this Brattleboro, VT duo have released on four different labels in the first half of this year alone. What makes us really impressed by the team of keyboard player/singer Zach Phillips and guitarist/singer Sarah Smith, however, is less the sheer number of one-to-three-minute song-sketches they seem to have cooking than the number of ideas they manage to sneak inside each one. If prog rock was sort of a rock ‘n’ roll incarnation of the Mozart “too many notes” cliché, then Blanche Blanche Blanche shows us what prog might sound like if it aspired to a similarly herculean greatness using the kind of musical palette you can hustle up for a few bucks at a garage sale. Burpy synths, cheap recording equipment, call-and-response vocals, and an almost childlike lyrical candor add up to what is not only an endlessly vertiginous listen, but one that feels grounded in the very real scenario of two human beings struggling against the constraints of matter, space, and time to express themselves. --Emilie Friedlander

Blues Control: Valley Tangents [Drag City]

Since the dawn of the ‘70s, a musician’s decampment to the countryside has often resulted in the stripping back of excesses. When Blues Control landed in the Pennsylvania countryside as refugees from Brooklyn, partners in life and jams Russ Waterhouse and Lea Cho didn’t replace their electric guitars and keyboards with kazoos and banjos. But something did happen on the way to the farm. Valley Tangents, the duo’s fourth proper long-player and Drag City debut, floats among the little fluffy clouds that a move off the grid of cool can bring. The album finds Blues Control stretched out and relaxed, their seamless blend of new age atmospheres, prog-rock kinetics, and noise tinkering at its most enveloping. --Jeff Conklin

DIIV: Oshin [Captured Tracks]

If you're one of those dorks who insists on comparing DIIV to other indie rock bands with cooperative lead guitarists…there's the door. Living in Brooklyn, where these guys are from, I hear this kind of commentary all the time, and, apart from being a really tired know-it-all's attempt at being hip, it really just smacks of "my inner child is dead." Oshin may fool people with its accessibility, but Zachary Cole Smith and Andrew Bailey's twin guitar crooning, Devin Perez's melodically precise bass plucking, and Colby Hewitt's beautifully bastardized motorik form a subtly unique brew of indie rock's romantic golden age and psych rock's wandering spirituality. Anyone can sing along to it, but only the truly attuned can see colors from it. Oshin's one of the few records of the year that accurately captures that rapturous, painful, and ecstatic feeling of young love-- with any creature, or any idea-- in a way that's simple, sophisticated, and powerful for all ages. --Matt Sullivan

DJ Rashad: Teklife Vol. 1: Welcome to the Chi [Lit City Trax]

2012 has been a big year for juke; it seems like just about everyone is getting behind the genre. Actually, that's not true, not everyone, but like last year's minor explosion of Danish punk, Chicago's footwork scene is growing beyond its geographically defined coordinates thanks to the self-publishing phenomenon that is the Internet (<3!!). But the rise isn't just due to DJs springing for paid Soundcloud accounts so they can spread their ecstatic creations far and wide on the web.

There's a yearning for something raw, real, and untouched, and DJ Rashad has emerged as the breath of fresh air amidst a series of WTF events surrounding electronic music this year-- the eye-and-ear-raping dubstep cereal commercial, the New York Times-highlighted and offensively lucrative EDM festival circuit, Skrillex's three-Grammy sweep, and Pitchfork's provocative Best New Track write-up on Avicii by founder Ryan Schreiber, who had last picked up the pen two years beforehand to bestow Ariel Pink's "Round and Round" the same status.

And while Rashad doesn't have a single that matches the mass appeal of what these villainized producers make, there's tracks from Welcome To The Chi-- like the undeniably technical "Kush Ain't Loud", the soulful "Feelin", and the violently funny "Shoot Me"-- that make you just want to take off the gloves and go for the fucking jugular. --Ric Leichtung

Girlseeker: 1-800-Greed [Underwater Peoples, New Images, Big Love, Insula Music, Release The Bats, Denim Hologram, Silver Ghosts, KRAAK, Music City, and 4:2 : 2v2.]

Listening to 1-800-Greed, the debut full-length from Copenhagen mystery trio Girlseeker, feels kind of like sitting in a really glossy-looking mixology bar at 3 am, fighting the creeping realization that you’re being stared down by that dapper-looking figure in dark sunglasses at the other end of the room. The fact that you cannot see his eyes gives him a frightening power over the situation, as though his ability to see straight through you were somehow magnified by your inability to detect any emotion at all behind the mask. With its ominous, baritone vocals, endlessly ticking drum machines, schmaltzy piano chords, and screaming guitar solo caricatures, 1-800-Greed would seem to reduce the entirety of Western pop music to a tumbledown edifice of its own glamorous and theatrical surface details. There is a sort of giddy dementedness to Girlseeker’s melodic arrangements, and when you factor in the references to champagne and emotional dungeons, it’s as though the band were holding up a mirror to everything that we do not want to see about ourselves, and laughing all the way home from the strip joint. --Emilie Friedlander

Julia Holter: Ekstasis [RVNG Intl.]

Tragedy, the first full-length from pop experimentalist Julia Holter, was so full of ideas that it made us feel overwhelmingly small next to it. With Ekstasis, it would seem that 2012 is once again the year of Julia Holter. Lyrically and structurally, she builds on same intelligence of her debut, carefully assembling words of love over deep, picturesque atmospheres ("A fountain ices over / A story over"). But Holter's lulling vocals feel closer to us now as they pierce through the coils of traditional instrumentation and shady synths. The meaning behind the album's title-- to be or stand outside oneself-- feels particularly apt here, marking Ekstasis as her strongest work to date and one of one of the most inspiring records of the year thus far. --Tonje Thilesen

Keith Fullerton Whitman: Generators [Editions Mego]

The bearded American synth dynamo known as Keith Fullerton Whitman is having a banner year. It's difficult to single out one of his various 2012 releases, but Generators, two divergent live performances of the same composition, stands out for its cleanliness and consistency. KFW moves beyond simple noise mass with both "Generators," and as he builds up the modal heft by exploiting pitch difference through rhythm, there is a feeling of absolute purpose here. As much as the theoretical aspect of his work turns one on, it's also a deep listen--spiraling, bouncing, engaging. --Dale W. Eisinger

Laurel Halo: Quarantine [Hyperdub]

Have you ever sat down to compose a Tweet, or update a status, only to find that the urge to digitally share is not a road to others, but a pathway back to yourself? Laurel Halo's phenomenal Quarantine manages to capture the strange uneasiness of this experience. Much digital ink has been dedicated to technology and alienation, but Halo surpasses the clichés by giving us a deeply honest portrayal of the struggle between human beings and the often misguided undertakings of their digital doppelgangers. The sounds vary between tense, instrumental spaces and the humanist, octave-shifting wonder that is Laurel's voice. On "Tumor", arguably the record's bleakest moment, Halo deals with obsessive infatuation, describing the object of her obsession as her "target." On closer and lead single "Light + Space", she sings of the failures of language ("words are just words"), and an acceptance of the isolation she has spent the space of the album describing. It is a melancholy outpouring, but there is something hopeful and cathartic in its curiosity and vulnerability. As hard it is to visit the dark places that Halo is summoning us to, Quarantine is one of the truest, most soulful reflections of our times this writer has ever heard. --Samantha Cornwell

Pallbearer: Sorrow and Extinction [Profound Lore]

This Little Rock metal quartet surged out the flood gate with a sweeping Profound Lore debut. Pallbearer's mine for inspiration here happens to be a low point-- and a desolate one at that, considering singer Brett Campbell's arcane poetics. But rather then default to a black-white/bleak pallet, Sorrow and Extinction sounds as blue tonally as it does in mood. The album's five songs resolve at peaks that are built from the ground up, falling somewhere between Candlemass and Cave In. It's an inspirational record for Grand Canyon riff-riggers everywhere, as well as any depressive just trying to get over a hump. A massive, patient, and calming debut. --Dale W. Eisinger

Peaking Lights: Lucifer [Mexican Summer/Weird World]

Arriving on the heels of a slew of diverse and often completely unexpected mixtapes, Lucifer is not only a concentrated budding of what made last year’s 936 such an absorbing listen, but a personal testament to the benefits of an expanded perspective. That wasn’t a drug reference, but why fight it? This is extremely sober and deliberate drug music. Aaron and Indra's scaled-backed and pared-down interpretation of California psychedelia and Jamaican dub doesn't rely on an abundance of sounds or stacks of effects to create opportunities for deep listening; instead, they allow a few carefully tailored melodic elements and well-defined rhythms to do the heavy lifting/grooving. This clear-eyed and level-headed delivery lends itself to a dialog on parenthood that’s celebratory, not sentimental, and explorations of an atavistic cosmic spirituality that brings more substance than incense. --Luke Carrell

Traxman: The Mind of Da Traxman [Planet Mu]

Da Mind of Traxman is sure to go down as a historical record. Before it dropped, buzz had already been building around the burgeoning Chicago footwork scene for years, prompting, among other archival attempts, a mini-documentary from NPR and the quintessential Bangs & Works compilations from Planet Mu. But even though the style was fully formed and interest was fad-high, no one had stretched the sound outside of its dance battle roots quite like Cornelius Ferguson (aka Traxman) did this year. Just as people were getting comfortable with their understanding of footwork as a seemingly insular, futuristic dance movement, Ferguson challenged that entire image with a timeless, three-dimensional take on a scene he helped birth, tying disparate strands of acid bass, jazz fusion, Purple Rain, and so much more into his warm and worldy palette. Da Mind of Traxman is his most most expressive, soulful statement to date. --Matt Sullivan

Read More