by: Paul McEldowney
Robust Worlds - Emotional Planet – (De Stijl)
It took me many times to listen to this album not because it is awful or unlistenable, but because navigating and running itunes 11 is a nightmarish experience inducing constant frustration and rage. To offset this nauseating experience is the music of Robust Worlds, drum machine 800% slowed down tube-amp whistlin folk deep-in-the-well minimal guitar jam. The thc-inspired atmospheres on this album are gorgeous and sublime. The album comes off as self-knowingly formulaic in a good way, and every song is a dream-baby-formula-dream soothing pre-linguistic and pre-critical experience.
Talibam! - Puff Up The Volume - (Critical Heights)
I remember the first time I saw this band live being blown away by their musicianship that I failed to recognize that they are a 'joke' band. Underneath an avant-jazz church organ rock lies the humor. The songs are funny, and feature titles like 'Zombie From Albequrque' (hence the Weird Al mention), and 'Occupy My Jimmy', and 'Jack In A Hotdog'. I mean I could have stopped by mentioning that their name is Talibam! and the album is called Puff Up The Volume. To be fair, at least they know they are a joke band unlike some other acts (ahem, John Cale). I am just realizing as I read the song titles that there seems to be two protagonists, Jimmy and Jack, so maybe that will help you conceptually and thematically understand what's going on while listening to this album.
Jonti - Sine & Moon - (Stones Throw)
I was pretty excited that this was not depressingly stale indie rock. To be fair, the art features nebula-like tie-die, the opening track features ukelele type sounds, and he just went on tour with Gotye. But as the tracks move along, I realize once again that I've been wrong about everything. This is down-tempo jazz-influenced instrumental hip-hop with moments of child-like folktronica naivite.
Natural Snow Buildings - Night Coercion Into The Compnay Of Witches - (Ba Da Bing)
There is nothing that warms the Irvine winters during the holidays like some Natural Snow Buildings. If you haven't listened to them before, they are of-this-world gritty and pretty french psych folk drone duo who entices even the strongest of wills into submission. Maybe you just finished listening to the new Swans album and thought it was too short. Well, over the span of three CDs and three hours of music, Natural Snow Buildings will keep you occupied this winter season. There's even a song that lasts for 58 minutes, but if you put every song on loop, then who's keeping track anyway. A definite stocking stuffer to be enjoyed by all.
Hundred Waters - Hundred Waters - (OWSLA)
Wow, this is pretty rad. It is layered, and undeniably ambient folk pop with a heavy electronic influence with super wispy and whimsical vocal work. There are no recycled melodies or progressions, and every sonic component to this album feels necessary and sincere. With the drum work and electronics, there's a Four Tet feel, but with the acoustic elements, you get a refreshing take on old freak folk tropes. At the same time, the whole album feels unrushed and unpretentious. It is totally down to earth, and sounds like a bag of seeds, as each sound unexpectedly sprouts as a lively surprise.
C.S. Yeah - Transitions - (De Stijl)
So the last thing I was expecting from experimental noise artist C.S. Yeah was straight-forward pop album, but I guess he's not the type of person that would say 'no' to the idea. Anyway, the album is anything but straightforward. While recalling some of half-broken production techniques and song structures of 90s lo-fi, there remains an experimental spirit that has dominated most of his previous work. It seems that with this album, Yeah is 'transition'-ing into newer or maybe familiar territories for him, yet still playing around with conventional pop. Every instrument sounds perfectly out-of-tune and out-of-key. There's even a stevie nicks cover on the album, how neat is that.
Ahleuchatistas - Heads Full Of Poison - (Cuneiform)
I've been listening to a lot more hip hop and rap lately than I have ever in my life, except for maybe when I was in 6th grade and Ja Rule and Ashanti shaped all my future romantic expectations. My favorite part about hip hop and rap is how playful and adventurous it is musically, and how it doesn't assume a position of arrogance. It's down to earth, and the sounds tend to be more interesting than the generic spew that comes from KROQ. The great thing about 'experimental' music is that more or less, there is a similar ethos. There is a lot of play, and even the conceptualizing aspect of experimental music is deeply about play. Ahleuchatistas are no exception to this rule, except their play is more aggressive, and less club friendly than their top 40 counterparts. Their newest is just very fun to listen to, and you can tell they're having fun. It is spastic drone-folk-punk that is on the side of the people really.
Chelsea Wolfe - Unknown Rooms: A Collection Of Acoustic Songs - (Sargent House)
Perhaps you are feeling too warm because of the winter. Maybe you think that there's nothing that will cool your fire-hot heart. Well you are in luck because Chelsea Wolfe's new collection of paced and patient all-black gothy doom-folk is ready to turn your heart into an icy hell to prepare for the 9th circle that awaits your arrival. If you are afraid of the underworld, you are in luck, because these songs are pure beauty.