A Journal Of The Dark Arts
The EP format is much appreciated in today’s busy listening climate; short, sweet and to the point. They also mark interesting transitory periods in an artist’s career, and can be more exploratory than the more definitive ‘album statements’.
In this edition, we will be listening to recent releases from The Pixies, Mordant Music/eMMplekz, and Lorn.
Critics are never happy.
Fans of college/indie rock wept and mourned the passing of the beloved Boston quartet for nearly 2 decades, placing them in the pantheon of indie rock for their role in bringing punk, grunge and noisy guitar-centric rock ‘n roll to the masses.
Their 2004 reunion was met like The Rapture, but you couldn’t help but wonder if it was merely a nostalgia trip, a cash cow like Johnny Rotten‘s sexploitation, even if we were stoked to see 4 of our favorite musicians grace the stage, and an opportunity to hear songs we adored live. We couldn’t help but wonder if it would last, or if it would fizzle like a Television reunion.
Wonder of wonders, The Pixies reunion actually stuck, with the band playing increasingly higher profile gigs like Lollapalooza, Coachella, and The Newport Jazz Festival. Finally, the news we had all been waiting for: The Pixies were releasing their first new material in over 2 decades.
EP1 was self-released on the band’s website on September 2, 2013. This came hot on the heels of the news that bassist Kim Deal had left the band. That could have ended the dream right then and there, but the band soldiered on, recruiting Kim Shattuck from the ends for low-end support.
When Pitchfork reviewer Jayson Greene notoriously gave the EP an unprecedented 1.0, it seemed somewhere between ingratitude and character assassination. “There is no Pixies in this Pixies,” he claimed, lacking “the tension between preschool giddiness and grad-school sophistication, between finger-painting pop and Bunuel-quoting lyrics; no intimations of terror.” (good writing though).
This analysis suggests that this reviewer has never picked up an instrument in his life, claiming “this music wasn’t just written or recorded without any regard to the quality of The Pixies recorded legacy, it was done so without regard to songwriting quality at all.”
Not so. These are songs, man. 4 songs breeze by in 15:23, a fertile bounty of shivering lead guitar, memorable hooks, and surreal nightmarish lyrics. His comparison to Weezer‘s Green Album is accurate on ‘Another Toe In The Ocean’, but Power Pop is in this year, right? Alex Chilton has also been upgraded to sacrificial demigod.
A few observations:
The Pixies are off to a good start. There are plans to self-release a number of EPs, with a list of 23 unreleased songs. The band must have, after all these years, figured out how to be in a room together. They are writing, and that is a good sign.
Every musician, or artist of any kind, must strike a balance between where they have been and what they already know, and what they are trying to say. To repeat one’s self is artistic death. Every song is its own self-contained universe, with its own logic and laws.
These are good songs. I would put them on a mixtape.
Mordant Music/eMMplekz – Nothing Here Of Any Value (Mordant Music, mm064)
This split between the good Baron Mordant and one of Nick Edward‘s, aka Ekoplekz, many musical monikers, sounds like Space Invaders descending on post-war Berlin, with the Time Lords interceding at the last possible second. It is noteworthy for being both exploratory and dancefloor friendly at the same time.
Mordant Music‘s side is a traditional dance track, smoothly integrating the many facets of bass music. ‘Nothing Here Of Any Value’ is like a sailboat on Simon Reynold‘s hardcore continuum, combining drum ‘n bass syncopation, with ritualistic bass synths and slurred spectral voices spinning around yr head like a tape-loop seance. This is a journey down the River Styx, seeing answers from the oracle, and getting cryptic responses from a ticker tape feed.
‘No Show (Live In Whitechapel 2012)’ is a 20-minute long exodus of Tibetan horns, garbage bin techno, swarming radiophonic synths and concrete poetry. Baron Mordant splices John Lydon piss and Genesis P-orridge vinegar, reading a litany for pop-culture that sounds like it could be a Diary for the (virtual) Plague Years. The archive has curved hollow fangs; the rabbit hole is full of thorns and sparking circuitry. How far are you willing to go?
Emmplekz here is Nick Edwards joined by Baron Mordant and Vindicatrix. Nick Edwards has been putting the human hand back into electronic music, placing the emphasis back on performer and performance, as an antidote to traditional dance music that has only ever seen the inside of a Mother Board. I’m sure that there have been noteworthy releases from classic genres like drum ‘n bass, IDM and house and i’m just not as aware of them, but it seems to me that the majority of electronic releases that have been making a splash, like Factory Floor’s recent excellent debut, have involved some amalgamation of Human and Machine, in what i’ve been calling cyborg theory – the seamless integration of technology to enhance our humanity. It just goes to show, there’s no substitute for soul.
This release, still available as a 12″, is both internal and external. Put on yr cans and go inward, or hang garbage bags on yr walls and put it through yr PA. DJs, free yr minds, and yr body will follow.
get it at boomkat.
Debris is the first release from American producer Lorn since last year’s Ask The Dust (reviewed here). For that record, Lorn locked himself in the tower for months, furiously editing and refining. Debris is Ask The Dust’s antithesis, made in a blast furnace of inspiration and creativity.
To accomplish this, Lorn “built kits and textures from field recordings, blending them with synths and guitars, ran them back and forth through tape, burned them through analog valves, played them inside themselves… Really i wanted them to physically sound like they were picked out of some wreckage. Some lost caravan in the desert with a crew of zero.”
Debris could be instrumental hip-hop for the SF fantasy Hardware.
The heart of this EP is summed up in this quip from Ninja Tune: “There’s even a drop that reminds you of the time pre EDM, when drops were about genuine drama, and not tooth-jarring ADD-addled sugar rushes.”
It was such a bummer when dubstep was co-opted by bro culture, stealing its cyberpunk lightning, and making it yet again impossible to make aggressive, noctural electronic music and be taken seriously (something that the Techno Industrialists are also working to correct). Lorn is reclaiming heavy instrumental hip-hop, reminding us of the wonders dubstep and glitch-hop had to offer. He is turning back the clock, so that we may begin again.
The beats on Debris are tighty and crunchy as corroded clockwork. The 4 tracks stick around 95 – 100 bpm (i think), complete sublime headnodding perfection. The synths, many and varied, are all 8-bit day-glo, UK Wonky taken to Sector Z. Its got that classic anthemic feel peculiar to old skool hip-hop, particularly on ‘One The Ice’. that also reminds us of the Jamaican roots of early Dubstep.
‘Bury Your Brother’ is my personal favorite, with its insanely heavy jungle drumming and Dracula jazz organ. It has an organic feel, executed with technological lockstep precision, perfect for yr next all night ritual.
Debris will get you excited about the future, and the present, of Electronic Music. Its insane, the staggering amount of quality material that has come out on Ninja Tune over the years.
For those that indulge, roll a spliff, find a desolate warehouse district, put on Debris, and watch the sunrise.
For fans of: Kraddy, Glitch Mob, eDit, Flying Lotus, DJ Shadow
vinyl @ Amazon:Debris