Posts Tagged Good Willsmith

Our Favorite Albums of 2014

Our Favorite Albums of 2014

This list will appear in this month's edition of the AdHoc zine. Preorder Issue 3 or subscribe.


Actress: Ghettoville [Werkdisks]

When I interviewed Actress for The FADER this year, he described Ghettoville to me as a concept album about being homeless but having a laptop with musical software on it. He even suggested that he made the album in the hopes of imparting a piece of life advice to his listeners: “If there is one sort of profound moral, it’s just to consider other people a bit more. If you’re doing alright, and you’ve got a decent job and you get paid, and you’ve got a home to go to, and you’ve got friends that you can chill out with and have a drink with and be warm or whatever, then that’s amazing. But the stark reality is that there's people out there who just don’t have that.” I was surprised. How could an album as abstract and even willfully difficult as Actress’ fourth full-length have a "meaning," let alone a moral? As I began to spend more time with with the record, though, the London producer’s words began to make sense; in fact, I think they illuminated all the cryptic doomsday proclamations that preceded the record’s arrival (you know, that stuff he wrote about Ghettoville being Actress’ last record, “R.I.P Music 2014," etc.). Ghettoville, in all it’s sketch-like, crooked, sputtering, weirdly clipped, off-rhythm goodness, felt like a bombed-out incarnation of dance music itself, battered and emaciated but determined to keep trucking along.

In the same interview I mentioned above, Actress also called the album his attempt to “crash the market,” which I think is a pretty bad-ass ambition to have when you are seemingly poised on the end of verge of a mainstream breakthrough. If Ghettoville is partly a conceptual reckoning with the failures of capitalist society to look after its denizens, and partly a musical reckoning with the intersection of capitalism and music, then it’s pretty admirable for its political intentions alone. That said, there’s also some pretty striking moments of beauty herein, such as the damaged but unwaveringly soulful vocal loop on “Don’t.” Within the context of the record’s conflicted relationship to pop, it feels pretty political too, but also touchingly reassuring: “Don’t stop the music.” --Emilie Friedlander


Andy Stott: Faith in Strangers [Modern Love]

Manchester producer Andy Stott has experimented with various shades of techno over the past decade, but his 2014 record Faith in Strangers breaks away from any single style in lieu of a unified melancholic feel. Stott’s latest has a cinematic quality that makes it difficult to just idly listen to; instead, it's best to enter into and experience viscerally these songs, which are ordered in such a way that you get the sense of having traveled through space, time, memory to get from start to finish. The slow build of opener, “Time Away,” sets the chilly mood that colors the entirety of the album, like on the very next track, “Violence,” which sustains and heightens this tone with its heavy, almost trap-ish industrial beat. This, along with the similar-sounding title track are the climactic moments that stand out amidst the more loosely structured, atmospheric unfolding of Faith in Strangers. The ethereal vocals from Alison Skidmore counterbalance the dark strangeness of the grinding loops and beats that Stott layers together. Soft vocals and machine noise combine especially powerfully on the final track, “Missing,” a simple but haunting piano arrangement that evokes both delicateness and danger, that in filmic language might amount to a shot of a lone person walking through a city at night. --Beth Tolmach


Arca: Xen [Mute]

Xen seemed underwhelming at first because of how counterintuitive it feels to the ongoing narrative behind Arca's ascent. Last year, the producer born Alejandro Ghersi pulled no punches. This was the guy who gave the unwieldy "Hold My Liquor" off Yeezus it's haunting pulse, and sent the now-ubiquitous FKA Twigs to her career-starting launchpad on EP2. &&&&&, etc. You probably know all this already. Which made Xen messing with the program all the more disarming. On this album, Arca's ever-propulsive momentum from last year now moves in start-stops, melodies traded for drop outs and half-awake chords-- the sonic results being an awkward balance between classical, trip-hop, and faded skeletons of flamenco from his childhood.

It's been cited over and over in reviews how fully in control of Xen Ghersi seems to be, and yet the opposite is true. The album sounds like how it was recorded (over the course of six months, mostly improv), unfolding in fits of introspection and spastic release, reflective of the mental state of both the tunesmith and the androgynous alter-ego it's named after. That kind of approach left Xen feeling confused, with little to grab onto as its tunes evaporated one after the other. But if the listener held on, the record deepened and gelled in a powerful way that none of his efforts have done before. It's still just as much of a labyrinth to get through as it was the day it was released, but Xen is all the wiser for letting listeners draw the map to get through it for themselves. Everyone you talk to about it is going to have a different favorite part. --Brad Stabler

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Good Willsmith: "What I am is a living, breathing example of how"

Good Willsmith:

Good Willsmith’s The Honeymoon Workbook was one of our favorites of this year when we took stock in June. Now, months later, the Chicago-based trio-- Natalie Chami and Hausu Mountain's Doug Kaplan and Maxwell Allison (Mukqs)-- returns to make year-end list writing just that much more stressful. We’d be mad if The Aquarium Guru Shares The Secret Tactic didn’t deliver-- and also promise enlightenment! What type of enlightenment? "What I am is a living, breathing example of how" provides a possible answer. All gentle whorls and whirlpools of sound, the piece retraces its meandering steps with slight variations. Drones linger blissfully, consolation for the disappointing realization that there may be no tactic dictated to us at the end of the tape. And for those of us more pragmatically-minded, take heed to the liner notes: “Keep breathing. Avoid mirrors.” Never heard better advice.

TAGSTST is out now on Baked Tapes.

 

Stream Goldrush Companion Cassette Featuring Mount Eerie, Guerilla Toss, Good Willsmith

Stream Goldrush Companion Cassette Featuring Mount Eerie, Guerilla Toss, Good Willsmith

With Denver's Goldrush Festival coming up this weekend, it was high time for curator and Planted Tapes labelhead Crawford Phileo to spill the audio for his annual companion cassette. The tape features new music from just about every act playing the fest (no Eric Copeland or Wolf Eyes, sadly) and will eat up a good chunk of your afternoon. The compilation and Goldrush zine come free with weekend pass presales, and can also be ordered through Planted Tapes if you, for some reason, are not in Colorado this weekend. 

Gummy Bears and Portishead: An Intimate Look At Good Willsmith

Gummy Bears and Portishead: An Intimate Look At Good Willsmith

I lived in Portland, Oregon for three months at the beginning of 2013, and my world felt totally crazy. I was ending old relationships, meeting new people, adjusting to this very temporary Portland lifestyle that involved living in a house in the woods and writing about meth busts at my day job. It was all really isolating-- get up, go to work, try not to cry on the phone while talking to the Portland police, go home-- so to cheer myself up I would go to Little Axe, a small and selective record store, and look for the Good Willsmith tape that my friends had dropped off when they played there the previous summer.

When I returned to Chicago three months later, I related this story to Good Willsmith member Doug Kaplan, as he held up the last copy of the tape, Is the Food Your Family Eats Slowly, that he had in his possession.

“Hold on,” he said, walking into the next room. When he came back moments later, he handed me the tape. “I’ve discussed it with my associates and we’ve decided to give this to you.” It seemed like it was an important tape to me, he said, and his bandmates Max Allison and Natalie Chami had agreed I should have it. 

It is an important tape to me, and Good Willsmith is an important band. I’ve seen Good Willsmith play in basements in Chicago, at bars, on the lakefront at Northwestern University, at the Silent Barn in New York City, with Zomes, Greg Fox, Negativland, Horse Lords, Bitchin’ Bajas. When The Honeymoon Workbook got reviewed on Pitchfork, my younger brother called me and asked if that was the group that had left their gear in our New Jersey basement while they stayed in New York. I have brought them countless bags of Twizzlers and Sour Patch Kids before their shows, heard their sets evolve over the past few years, watched them sketch out plans for future sets, sat off to the side as they were interviewed for a podcast, manned their merch table. 

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Our Favorite Albums of 2014.5

Actress: Ghettoville [Werkdiscs]

When I interviewed Actress for The FADER this year, he described Ghettoville to me as a concept album about being homeless but having a laptop with musical software on it. He even suggested that he made the album in the hopes of imparting a piece of life advice to his listeners: “If there is one sort of profound moral, it’s just to consider other people a bit more. If you’re doing alright, and you’ve got a decent job and you get paid, and you’ve got a home to go to, and you’ve got friends that you can chill out with and have a drink with and be warm or whatever, then that’s amazing. But the stark reality is that there's people out there who just don’t have that.” I was surprised. How could an album as abstract and even willfully difficult as Actress’ fourth full-length have a "meaning," let alone a moral? As I began to spend more time with with the record, though, the London producer’s words began to make sense; in fact, I think they illuminated all the cryptic doomsday proclamations that preceded the record’s arrival (you know, that stuff he wrote about Ghettoville being Actress’ last record, “R.I.P Music 2014," etc.). Ghettoville, in all it’s sketch-like, crooked, sputtering, weirdly clipped, off-rhythm goodness, felt like a bombed-out incarnation of dance music itself, battered and emaciated but determined to keep trucking along.

In the same interview I mentioned above, Actress also called the album his attempt to “crash the market,” which I think is a pretty bad-ass ambition to have when you are seemingly poised on the end of verge of a mainstream breakthrough. If Ghettoville is partly a conceptual reckoning with the failures of capitalist society to look after its denizens, and partly a musical reckoning with the intersection of capitalism and music, then it’s pretty admirable for its political intentions alone. That said, there’s also some pretty striking moments of beauty herein, such as the damaged but unwaveringly soulful vocal loop on “Don’t.” Within the context of the record’s conflicted relationship to pop, it feels pretty political too, but also touchingly reassuring: “Don’t stop the music.” --Emilie Friedlander

The Body & Thou: Released From Love [Vinyl Rites]

After two stellar albums in 2013, The Body kicked off 2014 with two stellar-- albeit very different-- collaborative releases. I Shall Die Here pits the band against The Haxan Cloak, resulting in some soul-crushing, bass-heavy music that emphasizes The Body's previously-displayed industrial tendencies. But Released From Love, their collaboration with Louisiana doom heroes Thou, is even better, highlighting The Body's ability to fuse tried-and-true doom metal with noise, southern rock, and contemplative folk (see: an awesome Vic Chestnutt cover), staying sad and complex and brutally loud all the while. Throughout the record's four tracks, Bryan Funck, Thou's singer, provides a sinister-but-human foil to Chip King's otherworldly screams, and the two rhythm sections work together to create dirge-like backing tracks that are dense but not overly so. In other words, The Body and Thou teaming up sounds like one amazing, impossibly heavy band and not two acts jamming on top of one another. That such disparate The Body collaborations, recorded around the same time, can work so well is a testament to Chip King and Lee Butler's skills as musicians and their sound's mutability. And Released From Love is a testament too to just how fucking awesome and underappreciated (at least up north) Thou is. Like The Body, Thou is a brutal metal band steeped in many other styles, a group intent on breaking generic ground and forging new modes of expression. --Joe Bucciero

Container: Adhesive [Mute]

As Ren Schofield gets his elbows deeper in a Unit 731-style vivisection of noise music, we learn that chaos is his modus operandi as Container. The objectives are simple: fuck up sound, make it fun. In a nutshell, Adhesive is his most fucked up and fun yet. If typical dance music production is akin to painting a wall in layers-- prime with a sample, lay down the drums for the first coat, thicken with bass and pads-- Schofield's method is more like tossing paint into an oscillating fan. Each of the four tracks on Adhesive is bound by a groove, but the elements that really make your ass shake are triggered in enrapturing succession, inducing the old 23 skidoo. Sure, Container's everything-in-the-red timbres get you amped, and it's his keen sense of rational thought-dismantling disorder that keeps you jacked. Adhesive stands as the singular heavy music release of the year so far because it short-circuits the thinking part of your brain where so much experimental music thrives, instead firing neurons in whichever cluster of grey matter makes you feel like you just punched a cop in front of a cheering crowd. --Mike Sugarman

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Good Willsmith Announce Debut LP, Share Track

Good Willsmith Announce Debut LP, Share Track

Good Willsmith exist at the crossroads of minimal and maximal. For further proof, you need look no further than the Chicago-based trio's Bandcamp. The group's pieces, which they accurately sum up as long-form structured improvisations, are simultaneously sparse and thunderous. Good Willsmith's catalogue consists of several tapes released through the band's own Hausu Mountain label. The tape artwork parallels its content: futurist collage gives way to sonic bricolage, using synths, looping hardware, and miscellaneous media to construct elaborate and compelling pieces.

Now the group-- Max Allison, Natalie Chami, and Doug Kaplan-- have announced their first proper LP, The Honeymoon Workbook, to be released at the end of March. Album sampler, "& my body to breath / now ~ shower put on all black," was recorded live in a single session. The track exemplifies the band's fine tuned abilities to manipulate and layer various sounds and textures, resulting in a performance that's as entrancing as it is paralyzing. At the beginning of the ten minute track, a piece of sampled dialogue provides what could easily be the band's mantra: "relax now, as we've put together several interesting sounds just for you to experience."

The Honeymoon Workbook is out March 25 via Umor Rex Records