Record Store Day, April 21st, is right around the corner! Celebrated every third Saturday in April, Record Store Day is an internationally-recognized holiday dedicated to recognizing the work of independent musicians, record labels and record stores. Commemorating the day with limited edition vinyl and CD releases, bands around the world also participate in Record Store Day with special performances, appearances and exhibitions. Here’s a list of some of this year’s Record Store Day’s much-anticipated releases:
A veritable sonic symphony, listening to Transverse Temporal Gyrus will be an experience to say the least. Compiled out of audio recorded during the band’s performance art stint at the Guggenheim Museum in 2010 of the same name, Transverse Temporal Gyrus juxtaposes this live footage with already pre-recorded tracks into a collage of sound. From feeding songs through a computer program that jumbled and combined disparate noises into one, what resulted from Transverse Temporal Gyrus was a unique sound collage broadcast from 36 separate speakers from the top of the Guggenheim ramp. Also coinciding with this Record Store Day release is the launch of website in which users can hear new combinations of Animal Collective songs through a simulation of the software used during the Guggenheim exhibition.
2. Devo, Live in Seattle 1981 - Booji Boy Records
In 1981, an anonymous dedicated “Devo-tee” (ba dum bum chuh) saw the band Devo live in concert in Seattle and recorded the entire show on a cassette tape. Years passed; the cassette went the way of the 8 Track (which is to say it became entirely technologically obsolete), and the music was never heard of again. That is, until a another Devo-obsessive and archivist, Michael Pilmer, found the cassette among a shoebox full of discarded tapes and transferred them to DAT. This recording comprises the whole of Devo’s 2012 Record Store Day release, Live in Seattle 1981. Wonderful, wacky and weird, much like Devo themselves, Live in Seattle 1981 is a great collector’s pick. Some music was made for headphones, others were made for energy domes- – this album, without a doubt, falls into the latter category.
Perennial “Pitchfork vs. StereoBear” favorite St. Vincent can, in my eyes, no do wrong. A goddess of epic portions, a chanteuse if there ever was one, Annie Clark is, to put it simply, a freaking talent machine. Fresh off her release of the magnificent LP Strange Mercy, KROKODIL finds St. Vincent doing what she does best- - juxtaposing the angelic with the forceful, the aggressive with the harmonious, the entire 7″ sounds like a Julie Andrews soundtrack on crack (note: this is awesome, not at all a bad thing). Pressed on clear red vinyl, KROKODIL is sure to be as slick and stylish as Ms. Clark herself.
4. The Flaming Lips, The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends – Warner Bros.
I think this is worth buying just on the basis of who’s guesting with The Flaming Lips on the album’s first track, “2012.” Featuring Biz Markie and you heard it, Ke$ha, the song begs the question, What exactly is Wayne Cohen smoking? I honestly have no clue. Well, whatever he’s on, a host of talented A-listers guesting on the album are riding the same high: The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends features also Bon Iver, Erykah Badu, Nick Cave and Yoko Ono, to name a few. This collection of songs could be a bomb or a masterpiece- – it’s certainly going to take more than a few listens to find out.
Part LP, part art exhibition, Domino Records and Ribbon Music’s multi-artist compilation Smugglers Way is a mixed-media feast for the senses. Comprised out of five rainbow-colored records and packaged as a “flexidisc zine,” Smugglers Way features the unreleased ear candy of some of the label’s heavyhitters, such as Cass McCombs, John Maus, Villagers and Dirty Projectors, as well as the visually stunning artworks and playful writings of the labels’ other bands and artists, which include Lower Dens, Laura Marling, Real Estate and Black Dice, to name a few. A treasure-trove of creative goodies, full of illustrations and photography, as well as short stories and poems, Smugglers Way is essentially like your high school literary magazine, only staffed by your favorite musicians, and 1,000 times more awesome (and considerably less emo).
Based in Seattle, THEESatisfaction is Stasia Irons and Catherine Harris-White. The duo writes, produces, and performs all their material, “funk-psychedelic feminista sci-fi epics with the warmth and depth of Black Jazz and Sunday morning soul, frosted with icy raps that evoke equal parts Elaine Brown, Ursula Rucker and Q-Tip.”*
THEESatisfaction. Where are they coming from? Where are they going to? If we’re straight on our priorities, you’ll be listening to their album while I tell you about some of the answers…
First principle: they’re positive energy. Black energy, black women leaping oceans and continents at a single bound. With positive strength of purpose.
Further, they’re black purity. Hear that in their intonation. Without trickery. They know the gimmicks, scorn to use ‘em. Rather, they’ll face you and relate what’s in their hearts, faithfully and incorruptibly.*
awE naturalE, the group’s debut, is hard to describe and even harder to categorize; it’s been floating between the pop, r&b, and electronic sections of the WOBC new shelf since it arrived a week or so ago. But no mind. This album is funky, cosmic, purposeful, other-worldzly, higher plane, cool. Whatever you do, don’t funk with this groove.
One of WOBC’s recent acquisitions, Nightlife is an eclectic addition that rubs up against the vault on all sides. The Saratoga Springs Duo is Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter, two high school friends with their hearts set on platonic bandmateship. Their main inspiration is the optical illusion from which they are named. They were those kids with anachronistic upbringings who grew up listening to Cocteau Twins, J Dilla, and David Bowie. And Nightlife certainly illuminates this time-twisted coming-of-age. Off of Barsuk Records, the EP features Sarah on keyboards, Josh on guitar, vocals from both, and a lot of production-level drum-kitty sirens and wisps. Twenty-seven minutes in heaven, for sure, this release feels like it’s ‘just a tasting’.
Let’s do a little run-through, shall we? ’16 Years’, kicks it off, quite a teenage outcry. Kindof like the ‘It’s my birthday and I’ve been socialized into thinking that I must partake in a performative existential reflection to build a narrative upon which I can grow, even though I’m still at the point where I want to be regarded as older rather than younger’. Sarah is spot on here, definitely like a nice teenage car ride with the moon-roof down radio-flipping. Definitely lots of feelings. Next we have ‘Don’t Move’ the album’s successful single from last October. Sarah’s soliloquy is over, Josh comes in, and they partake in a sort of dialogue. There’s a nice clanking in the back over and over reflecting nicely off the otherwise rather alarming words. “I’m not your drinking problem”, “I’m not your paranoia”, “I know that you’re still alive”, la la la, all the meaning is driven right out of these lyrics, its still head-boppy and the track you want to put on right when you come home.
Next comes “Turning Into Stone”, another all-star, building on more clanks and synthy drop-downs, Josh’s turn. We get some powerful chilling harmonies, “it’s a new day, and I’ve got new ways, of turning into stone.” A little more electro-inspired, track 3 still maintains the sort of somber tone within an upbeat sound. Tracks 4-6 bring a few new bends in the roads; whispers, little scats, onomatopoeia, and a platter of emotional spectra. It maintains that youthful urgency, and a perhaps naïve but relatable look toward the past, but the security of a future. Some nice mix-ups, track 5, the title track, slows it down to for the acoustic guitar-fretting to play a big role and interact with some cloudy background. It’s a nice moment of fulfillment, like the ones at the end of a night when you’re thoroughly exhausted and pleased, just genuflecting on hours of satisfying new adventures. Overall, the album strings together a lot of different twists and perspectives of the events we call life into is a big giant sigh of “These Are Days”.
Last week, beloved avant-pop wierdos Dirty Projectors released a new track, “Gun Has No Trigger”, via Soundcloud. This is the first single from the band’s forthcoming full-length record Swing Lo Magellan, due out July 10th on Domino Records. The last time we heard from the band was late 2010, when they released Mount Wittenberg Orca, a 7-track collaboration EP with Bjork. Wittenberg came on the heels of 2009′s acclaimed Bitte Orca, a groovy and wildly successful album that bestowed indie royalty on the previously obscure band of Yale dropouts.
Guitarist/vocalist/producer/jack-of-all-trades Dave Longstreth spearheaded the Dirty Projectors project while he was a college freshman in 2002, and has taken the lead in composing and producing all of the band’s releases since. What is perhaps most distinct about the Dirty Projectors’ music as a whole is that it has constantly evolved, both in concept and sound. From the lo-fi field samples of The Graceful Fallen Mango and the operatic drama of The Getty Address, to the Black Flag-inspired Rise Above and the R&B-infused Bitte Orca, the band is in a continuous state of flux that is still apparent on “Gun Has No Trigger”.
An unusual project: a feature film adaptation of the Haruki Murakami novel of the same name. Dealing with sixties alienation, societal hypocrisy, sexuality, growing up, depression, and free (?) love, Tran Anh Hung’s film, released in 2010, is noticeably more subdued than one might expect. It focuses on the story of Toru, his life as a student in sixties Tokyo, his emotional turmoil of losing a friend to suicide, being adrift in the world, and his relationship with two different women, the melancholic Naoko, and the confident Midori.
The soundtrack is equally restrained (and surprisingly, has no Beatles’ references or anything), being equal parts staid, quietly dramatic, understated, with some songs by the ‘krautrock’ late-60s band CAN, providing an interesting contrast to the string heavy, acoustical pieces by Jonny Greenwood. Ah yes, Greenwood, multi-talented musician, composer, member of Radiohead, composer for such movies as Bodysong and There Will be Blood… But, the real gems of this album are not the orchestral pieces, but the guitar pieces. They are quite elegant in composition and tone. Melancholic and meditative, they vanish as quickly as they appeared. This would not be such a problem if the orchestral pieces were not so pallid. At best, they are ethereal and pretty (Watashi wo Toru Toko wa Watashi Dake wo Totte Ne), but mostly they are so unassuming that they gradually just drift off into nothingness. This may have been the point. Occasionally, there is a burst of energy, such as on the track Naoko ga Shinda, a Penderecki-esque piece with tense, dissonant voices under a solo violin.
Quartertone Bloom is a stunner though, with the greatest thematic resolution and cosmic yearning that is prevalent throughout the album. It is a culmination of themes that could exist as a stand-lone concert piece (if it was longer). The ending is particularly gorgeous, reminiscent of Poulenc, Dukas, and Messiaen. The sense of ecstatic, sublime, romanticism bursts forth but is absent everywhere else on the soundtrack. That is the greatest weakness of the album. Despite its attempts at musically portraying un-fulfillment, anxiety, love, sensuality, and melancholy, it ultimately falls short. How appropriate, given the story’s tone of young ennui.
The Archive Sounds: Oberlin and Activism in the 1980s engages critically with found sound from the largely neglected collection of old radio shows, news reports, and station IDs that make up the WOBC audio archive. The project highlights the peculiarity of an archive created and cared for haphazardly over three decades by various DJs and station staff. The Archive Sounds weaves interviews, speeches, and recordings of public events together to present an imagined, curated, narrative of Oberlin activism in the late 1980s.
With this project, I’m not looking to create an objective historical account of activism in Oberlin. Rather, I hope to present my version of the story as the archive might tell it. The program covers several themes including labor and union organizing, race, racism and gender in the city of Oberlin and within the institution of the College, and the struggle for divestment from South Africa. In addition, the program draws on various audio ephemera played on WOBC in the 1980s and 90s in order to situate the social and political content within the more general context of WOBC programming during that time.