Fitness is the solo work of Adam Moerder (of Mr. Dream), and Thighs on Vinyl is the first song he’s released. There’s no way to explain this song–it doesn’t sound like much else, there are no easy comparisons, and no way to offer any kind of hypothesis on how these sounds were produced (or even imagined). Thighs on Vinyl is complex and fucking weird and truly, truly surprising, one of those songs where you would never guess, after listening to the first thirty seconds, the turns it ends up taking by the end. It’s a haunted little synth jam in the beginning, then it shifts so utterly sideways. I will honestly say that my jaw dropped the first time I heard this, because it’s rare to hear a song that hides its secrets so successfully.
I like what happens when people sidestep or move on from their bands. Sometimes the results are what you’d expect (viz. Thom Yorke’s solo work as evidence of his endless love for contemporary electronic music) and sometimes it’s something absolutely enlightening (Panda Bear’s post-Young Prayer solo output). Scott Reitherman, formerly of Throw Me the Statue, is releasing his debut album as Pillar Point. I always liked Throw Me the Statue, though I can’t say I actively listened to their music a whole lot–there were some songs on a mix CD, and I recall hearing “Hi-Fi Goons” (which I loved) pretty often on the radio.
Pillar Point is a very controlled effort, not in the sense where it seems like Reitherman is being cautious or restraining himself or anything, but the songwriting seems careful and deliberate–you get the impression that he’d been thinking about these songs for a long time. What it reminds me of most, especially for that sense of an artist enjoying himself and taking pleasure in new freedom, is Chris Richards’ post-Q & Not U solo album as Ris Paul Ric, Purple Blaze (recorded in collaboration with Tim Hecker). Diamond Mine is a good representation of what’s happening on this album: it’s playful and exuberant, and it is almost perniciously catchy. Pillar Point is the kind of record that is interesting both for what it is and for what it represents as a step towards something new. You can listen to the whole thing over at Hype Machine.
“As one of the three judges in Tartarus, it is my immense pleasure to preside over this ceremony today. I want to extend eternal gratitude–there is no other kind of gratitude here–to all who have gathered to witness this unveiling. Many of you know the circumstances that have brought us here, to this event. Some of you, the newest initiates, preoccupied as you are with your own endless suffering, are ignorant of that which compels us together here now. One soul among us has toiled long and hard at an impossible task. And no, I’m not talking about you, Tantalus (pause for laughter). I’m talking about Sisyphus and his rock. You’ve heard the stories. Guy rolls his rock up this hill and it falls right back down. Does it again. He curses. Octosyllabic profanities that he himself has fashioned and which when uttered burst into bright phonemes on the ceiling of hell. He sweats. Quite a lot, actually. But he perseveres. And now that we’ve entered a new epoch here, it is time for a new boulder. This old thing here–which I understand he has named Merope, after his wife, though that is what he names all his rocks–is worn down and battered, no longer fit for this purpose. May I present a new boulder for a new day to you, Sisyphus. I hope that its rough surface, its crags and sharp outcroppings, cut your hands and bring you pain each day until the end of this time.”
Sometimes, often actually, I think that I dreamed the existence of this band. Feathers. Not the band from Australia. This was the one from Vermont. The one that sprang from Devendra Banhart’s arm tattoos and facial hair. In the woods. On an autumn afternoon. Without ceremony. A spotted owl was the only witness to the parthenogenesis, and he was not surprised.
Feathers existed, I think. Some of the members have gone on to form 100 bands with names like Happy Birthday (maybe) and King Tuff (sure). They were ahead of their time. Artisans of the song. All their melodies: organic. All their instruments: handmade. All their voices: powered by air (not fission-generated steam, like some singers).
This is such a pretty song.
The Yellow Dress is the funniest band I’ve seen live in a long time, but this is mostly due to the efforts of the lead singer, Dan Weiss, who is brutally self-deprecating, playful, and totally weird when he’s talking on stage. The Yellow Dress were a lucky discovery for me (what is the succinct term for that? serendipity?): I saw them once at a party in San Francisco and was intrigued, and then again at a full concert I was invited to later in the winter…what I’m saying is that it was all great chance that I heard them in the first place, and I’m happy that I did.
Their music is fiercely energetic and very carefully crafted. I think Dan Weiss is also a prose writer of some sort in his day job, and that is immediately evident when you hear his lyrics. There is a Decemberists/Mountain Goats vibe, no doubt, but the Yellow Dress is their own thing, adjacent to both those bands, but a little more morbid, a little more precious. The Yellow Dress just released their new album, Faint Music//Ordinary Light, and it’s good winter music: bleak in tone but spirited, overcast, a little fucked up.
One Ajax of honor, one Ajax of shame. Both transfixed: by sword and rock(/lightning), respectively. Ajaxes who lived through war, drama, loss, and the whimsical manifestations of impatient gods. “That might be a tree, friend, or it might be a lustful dryad, either way, keep your guard up.” Did they even know between themselves who was the greater and who the lesser? Would I know if I met the greater version of myself? Why was there was no Ajax the Middling, Ajax the Mediocre, Ajax the OK? The Ajax who would’ve drawn circles with his sword in the sand near the ships.