Dude is a genius, not that I'm taking a bold stance by saying that. But I think Aphex Twin is capable of pretty much anything in terms of soundcraft, melody, rhythm, etc. I can imagine handing him a stack of complex musical thought experiments, produced by thinkers and musicologists around the world, like, say, "A planetoid is discovered to be hollow. What sort of percussive noise would it produce when struck by a storm of micro-meteorites?" or "All the cars on a highway, for no known reason, erupt in a sort of horn-song for the duration of the drive from one exit to the next, a distance of four miles. Edit the resulting horn-song into four compelling up-tempo hits." And then he comes back a month later both with music that matches the criteria and then some extra music that he just thought of on his own; he started from the thought experiments but then added other, stricter, weirder constraints as well. There is artistic ambition and restlessness and then there's what Aphex Twin does, which is a whole other game.
The Dodos played San Francisco not too long ago, in the middle of the fall--October, maybe. It was a small hometown show at The Chapel, a totally charming and pretty venue in the Mission. I'd never seen them play live before and I was hoping that their songs, which I love, would come through as strongly in person as they do on record. They did not disappoint. This was the most physical show I've seen in a long time. I think sometimes that good musicians are able to transmit to the listener (or watcher) the tactile pleasure of their virtuosity, the enjoyment that they take in playing their instruments and making music and doing it all so well. The Dodos definitely are able to do this--on record and even more so in person. Individ, their new record, exhibits this aspect of the band especially well. After Carrier came out last year, I had thought that maybe the band was done, particularly in light of comments that Meric Long had made. But when I saw them play, they looked happy, they were into it, and there was actual joy. Logan Kroeber spoke about how they'd been together so long and how lucky they were to play together. Individ is a totally companionable (and fun) record and one that makes you grateful for bands like the Dodos.
Death Grips released Fashion Week, an all-instrumental album, as a free download a week or two ago, and it is--as one would expect from them--pretty wild and thoroughly engaging. The instrumental part of Death Grips' music has always been (for me) the best part of what they do--I love MC Ride's vocals and all, but I find the kernel of their songs, twisted, hard, dark, serrated, to be what fascinates the most. Runway A and Runway H are pretty representative of the bleaker/harder parts of the album, and both are really really fun to listen to. This band has done some (debatably) dumb stuff and some great stuff, but it all contributes to a feeling (for me) that I'm listening to the audio equivalent of samizdat every time I listen to Death Grips. There aren't many acts or bands anymore that exude 'danger' in the same way that DG does, and I'd say that, overall, that's a bad thing--we need more like this.
Holidays are over and people's faces are starting to sag. But it's still winter! There's time for a second Christmas and, like, three more New Year's celebrations. Observe your holidays as many times as you'd like. No one will stop you. I for my part am still drinking quarts of egg nog on a daily basis. I try to project a real and fevered joy, and I think I succeed. Many of my most important declarations appropriate a melody from one or more carols. My mistletoe budget is big. My second Christmas tree for second Christmas occupies most of my bedroom and some of my bed.
Apropos of nothing, my friends became enamored with a diner in town called The Very Best, which meant that they dragged us down there every loose afternoon to talk, study, and read. It was unclear, even after I spent what amounted to whole days there, whether or not the diner’s name was intended as assurance for the customers, or more as a reflexive shot in the arm for the owners. The diner had a flat, sad façade, all faded glass and thick paint, and it sat between two vacant storefronts, one of which still had a ghostly marquee that read ‘Forever Appliances,’ that struck me then as subtly heartbreaking. To get to the diner, we had to descend from the school, down a flight of maroon stone steps, to High Street, the town’s main thoroughfare, and then walk five precarious blocks, in tight formation, to the long, forlorn shopping center that housed our little hotspot. On our way, we passed shuttered coffeeshops and luncheonettes, slick hairdesseries, a fenced-in tool and die, and several off-brand department stores, not to mention ambling packs of male and female street toughs, and flocks of pensive stoop-sitters. High Street, as we knew, was the definitive border between town and gown. When we finally arrived at the diner, and had installed ourselves in one of the high-backed wooden booths, we were usually all flush-cheeked, windblown, and hungry. This was the time for talking.
Before this year, Paradis had already released 4 classic songs, and now, in gearing up for their LP (which will presumably come out sometime next year), they released Garde Le Pour Toi (in June) and they've just released Sur Une Chanson En Français--both are incredible and continue their perfect run. Garde Le Pour Toi, though, might be the best statement of Paradis' aesthetic yet--it's at once melancholic and downbeat and kinetic and neon-bright, somehow. It's that division of labor between the sweet, sorry vocals and the blazing hot synths and percussion. This is one of my favorite songs released in 2014--not just for the craft of it, the willingness to push the music into ever more frantically active modes, but also for the band's dedication to making conistent stylistic collateral to accompany their songs (with their videos, their artwork, photos, etc.)--I get the feeling that Simon Mény and Pierre Rousseau are communicating a complete sort of 'world' with what they do, one that's like a futurist noir, a place of alleys, fog, smoke, midnight, spilled drinks, and despairing glances.
Pas/Cal produced more highly catchy songs than bands that were around for twice as long, and there is a high degree of, I don't know, stickiness to their songs as well. All I have to do is think of the title of "We Made Our Way, We Amtrakked," and the song will play in my head, beginning to end, as though I had a whole quadrant/lobe devoted to its preservation. This band could write some tunes! And Casimer Pascal has such a beautiful voice, all sighing ephemerality. Dear Sir, the title track of the band's last EP, is a little more muscular than what they'd done before, but it's a nice showcase for their vibe-work, they way they can keep something sinister and upbeat at the same time. Wake Up Wake Up Wake Up is a tiny song, so short, but totally enchanting, quiet, rising, an exhortation by the bedside. Handbag Memoirs is one of my favorite songs of theirs, and it has to be one of the best about the kind of ex post facto jealousy one might feel when thinking about a significant other's past (where they were and what they did before they met you). And Last Christmas is a pretty and generous reworking of the awesome Wham song, which is a stone-cold classic, but Pas/Cal stretch it out, have fun with it. Casimer is still making music--not with Pas/Cal, but with his nephew Casimir as Casimer and Casimir.
You could potentially imagine a song like Fault Lines if you were given instructions to place yourself within the general sonic overlap between early Junior Boys and solo Thom Yorke--though it's important to note that you'd still be surprised by this song, by how it opens up and expands partway through. Look, Beacon is here to entertain, to divert, to connect. And they succeed. Good December music, this deserves an audience of merry-makers.
We're remaking War and Peace--not the movie, but the book. Set right now. The war is the one with ISIS. The peace is that which comes with making correct and advantageous purchases of high-end electronics. Not a lot of philosophy this time around. More in the vein of so-called g-chat realism, i.e. real as fuck. This will be crowd-sourced. Contribute text through our shared docs. Contribute to the production of the book (and, God willing, the eventual movie) through our Kickstarter. The peace will be amped up. The war will be discussed. This is an important book that deserves to be adapted for and put into the hands of a new generation. Help us make a new War and Peace for everyone.
There was a famous day at the beach. They decided to go to Venice Beach because, when they woke up, they woke up drenched in sweat. "It's so hot," she said. "I know," he said. They got dressed, prepared their swimming accoutrements, packed some folding chairs, and drove out. When they arrived, it was hotter, somehow, than it had been in the city. Metal seemed to be melting. The sea gulls looked tired and sad. They ate two slices of pizza from a place on the boardwalk, then walked around to check things out. They passed the dudes in the muscle-making enclosure. She decided it was time to swim. "Let's bath here," she said, using an idiom from her native language. They set down their chairs and got in the water. She marveled at the waves and the clarity of the ocean. They both dove under the breakers and went out as far as they could. The strap of her swimsuit fell off her shoulder at one point, and he thought about telling her, but he just looked away instead. Then looked right back at her.