Sound artist Marc Richter’s self-titled release as Black to Comm certainly earned a spot on my personal best-of list for 2014, and what I find most appealing about that album is the fact that weirdness and calm act in concert, which is a difficult feat to pull off if you’re occupying a sub-genre that excels at keeping things pretty much aurally-static. The track “Is Nowhere” stands out as probably the most typical of the eight; but even there, electric pulses intersperse, and what sounds like a person’s inability to play oboe ends things on an intriguingly off-key note. Keeping things interesting is more than just a cliché! Black To Comm lives to dull-ify fireworks and volcanic eruptions!
Fortunately, his musical appeal isn’t all that niche, because otherwise, Thrill Jockey wouldn’t have recently seen it fit to sign the Hamburg-based artist and order at least one new album scheduled for release…in “early 2019.” (His former home, Type Records, previously seemed like a natural fit; perhaps Thrill Jockey is trying to beef up their non-rock reputation? Ohhhhhh man, what have you crazy Chicagoans done!?)
We don’t know much info as of yet beyond the announcement of the signing, but if you (like me) can’t wait to hear the totally chill-yet-somehow-exciting fruits of this budding relationship, here’s a full-album throwback in the meantime:
You guys out there might be asking, “Ryan, what is up with your bizarre infatuation with Brother JT?,” to which I’d reply, “Hey, none of your business, you nosy person.” Of course, come to think of it, it actually and literally IS your business, because you’re here, reading this right now. Taking time out of your day to pay attention to me.
So I guess I owe you guys an explanation, and probably an apology.
Apology first: I’m sorry I upset you. Let’s move past it, if we can.
Now, the explanation: You saw the “Hey boppa re boppa” video, right, the other video from Tornado Juice (Thrill SUPERFLY Jockey)? All that acid-head stuff, all the trippin’ balls? You know Brother JT did a song once called “Sweatpants” and another one called “Muffintop” (among thousands of other things, give or take)? You know he’s from eastern PA, just like me? Do you know what comes out of eastern PA besides acid-head garage popsters and transcendent music writers and, like, crayons?
Nothing good, probably.
So when something worthwhile does come out of there, you take notice. Take “Zabriskie,” a NEW video, in which the good brother portrays Count Orlovsky (Russian émigré) in an Ouija-enhanced encounter with Diamona Lil (clairvoyance). Spoiler alert, he gets William Tell’d. But not quite. Figure that one out for yourself — which is surprisingly easy to do if you just WATCH THE VIDEO.
“Zabriskie,” also a prime Tornado Juice cut, is another slab of Bro JT’s patented blend of leery lysergic rock, fit to slime its way into your earholes like an unbusted, hot-dog-eating poltergeist.
In a world riddled and ruled by the stark raving average, we need the likes of Upper Wilds now more than ever. Straight ain’t cutting it, so we need to be thrown mismatched combinations to shake shit up. Where fact and imagination overlap, where the real meets the staged, where the scientific sorta hesitantly networks with the abstract at a mandatory-attendance work soirée; that’s where Upper Wilds live — and that’s where it’s at!
The sophomore album of fine friction-pop by Upper Wilds is out October 19 on Thrill Jockey, and the first sign of life from the album Mars can be heard below. “Perfect Eyesight” features Katie Eastburn (Young People, KATIEE) and is about William Bates, an ophthalmologist of questionable reputation who “instructed his patients to stare at the sun, thought glasses were a scam, and occasionally disappeared for years at a time with no memory.”
The trio — Dan Friel (guitar, vocals, ex-Parts and Labor), Zach Lehrhoff (bass, Ex Models), and Jeff Ottenbacher (thumper extraordinaire) — not only procured Eastman for Mars but can boast having the considerable vocal talents of Jason Binnick, Jeff Rosenstock, Aaron Siegel, and Mark Shue contributing as well. Embrace Upper Wilds’ adverse blend of the artistic and the unhinged and pre-order Mars here.
The customary reaction to hearing SUMAC for the first time comes in two phases. The first is a slight trembling of stomach muscles coupled with a tingling in the extremities. The second is an involuntary mass wetting of the pants. Hey, I’m just stating the facts, people! Even if you’re a SUMAC vet and can compose yourself appropriately, there is never NOT an overwhelming urge by the body and mind to start some sort of convulsion or evacuation upon hearing the metallists’ trademark poundfest.
The trio of Aaron Turner (ISIS, Old Man Gloom, Mamiffer), Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists, Erosion) and Brian Cook (Russian Circles) will release the follow-up to the wonderful What One Becomes, entitled Love In Shadow on September 21 via Thrill Jockey.
Produced and mixed by Kurt Ballou (Converge) and inspired by their recent collaboration with Keiji Haino, Love In Shadow sees SUMAC locked in a four-part series of brain-frying orgiastic rushes culled from a new appreciation for improvised songwriting and the insignificance of life’s complexities and alienating motives when life’s intention becomes love.
“Since many of the surface level aspects of our being are often used as divisive tools to separate and alienate us from one another,” Turner explains, “the intent with Love In Shadow is to reveal that all humans desire and need to be loved and accepted for who they are, for just being.”
Love In Shadow can be pre-ordered on CD, DL and double LP here. Peep the tracklisting, the trio’s upcoming fall tour dates, and an in-studio album trailer below. Choose love, it does the body good.
Love In Shadow tracklisting:
01. The Task
02. Attis’ Blade
03. Arcing Silver
04. Ecstasy of Unbecoming
09.01.18 – Chicago, IL – Scorched Tundra X at The Empty Bottle #
09.02.18 – Rock Island, IL – Rock Island Brewing Company %
09.03.18 – Detroit, MI – El Club ^
09.04.18 – Toronto, ON – The Garrison ^
09.05.18 – Montréal, QC – Bar Le “Ritz” P.D.B. ^
09.06.18 – Allston, MA – Great Scott ^
09.07.18 – Brooklyn, NY – Saint Vitus ^
09.08.18 – Brooklyn, NY – National Sawdust ^
09.09.18 – Philadelphia, PA – PhilaMOCA ^
09.11.18 – Washington, DC – Rock & Roll Hotel ^
09.12.18 – Richmond, VA – Strange Matter ^
09.14.18 – Durham, NC – The Pinhook ^
09.15.18 – Atlanta, GA – The Earl ^
09.16.18 – Nashville, TN – The End ^
# Yakuza, In the Company of Serpents, Couch Slut
% John Mueller, Infernal Coil
^ Dalek, Infernal Coil
The hysterical pace of development in north Brooklyn led to chronic conditions for DIY art spaces like Glasslands and Death By Audio, where a fair amount of the zeitgeist that fueled said development was forged. But, absorbing the environs of Elsewhere on a damp May evening, the destruction of those haunts at least pangs with creativity.
Elsewhere is an immaculate new multi-story club complex located in the Bushwickian outer banks of Williamsburg. Combined with the similarly impressive Brooklyn Steel in Greenpoint, the complex cements the fact that Brooklyn has traded its punchy underdog industrial pioneering for genuine cultural power, fueled by money and an ever metastasizing narrative of “cool,” whatever is left of that concept.
At Elsewhere, the performance spaces are weightless, the sound system is enlightened, stage lights scare away so much as a speck of dust, and a 12-ounce can of Miller High Life will set you back $7. PBR isn’t even offered at the venue bar. Imagine.
In the spotless Green Room, Archer Prewitt and Doug McCombs, The Sea and Cake’s founding guitarist and new bassist (Eric Claridge left the band after the 2012 album Runner due to carpal tunnel syndrome) are lounging, lost in relaxed conversation. The room is appointed with moody colored lights and high ceilings. The furniture is crisp, unsullied by debauchery.
“This is my chair,” Doug bellows and points, unprompted, after standing up. He disappears from the room. The chair in question is one of those leather loungers that one expects to see cracked and ass-fitted in the accomplished dens of aged professionals — this one hasn’t a wrinkle.
Sam Prekop, chief songwriter for The Sea and Cake, wearing an inconspicuous jacket over a light hoodie and with fading sand-colored hair, enters the room. He immediately moves for the chair in question and plops down.
“No — get out of my chair,” Doug orders, kidding around and not, when he reappears moments later.
“Oh,” Prekop drawls quietly. “Sorry.”
He politely stands and Doug, cased in denim and displaying an ornately manicured Santa Claus beard, retakes his throne. The new bass player clearly is not plagued by any Jason Newsted-esque new-member alienations.
In another spotless backstage room in the shell of novelty that is Elsewhere, Prekop explains his cover photograph for his band’s 10th studio LP, Any Day.
“It said, ‘You should use me as an album cover.’ So it was a rare instance where I selected the image as the album cover before it was done. A weird signpost in a way, or a marker.”
The image suggests a certain against-stream dignity and beauty in obsolescence: a pile of would-be clutter is set amidst a context of control; spotless and effusive white walls contain a pile of, well, crap; an old tube television with faux-wood paneling sets the foundation for a rumpled cardboard box and errant mid-apartment-move items (a coffee mug, a dusty end-table); a bright orange thrift store couch runs out of the frame, stinging the rest of the palate with springlike frequencies, mid-flower. The stark and pristine framing levitates above diminutive sans serif lettering drowning in white space, an aesthetic as familiar to longtime fans as Prekop’s wispy coo.
“I was initially drawn to [the photo] probably based on — I love that orange next to that kind of weird… that kind of green can only exist on a blank TV from the 70s — that combination. In retrospect, somehow it gained a certain resonance,” he says. “There is a sort of weird fragile nostalgia quality to it. I think it is an odd portrait of The Sea and Cake, in a way.”
The band originated as its own mess of bright, spare parts in need of proper framing.
After leading the critically acclaimed Shrimp Boat in Chicago, Prekop was offered funding to develop a solo project. One-by-one, local bassist Eric Claridge, guitarist Archer Prewitt, and renowned drummer and producer John McEntire joined in the recording. The Sea and Cake’s self-titled debut was released in 1994 by the venerable Thrill Jockey Records. Other than the loss of Claridge, the lineup has otherwise been a constant, despite McEntire’s recent relocation to California and the birth of Prekop’s twins nearly a decade ago.
With so much personal history between the members after an improbable 24 years of recording and performing, what could possibly feel different for them this time around, with the release of a new album and a new tour?
“I never have a good answer for that,” Prekop says. “Everything and nothing.”
Around a decade ago, I lent a few of the band’s seminal albums to a friend, expecting thanks and some level of taste-validation in return for the benevolence.
“It’s all very… placid,” he said, handing back the cardboard sleeves for Oui and The Fawn along with Nassau’s plastic case.
Disappointed, I tried hedging him over to positivity. “Yeah, it’s very subtle, sure. But also pretty soulful and evocative, I think.”
He stared back. “Not subtle. Placid.”
Did I mention that part of this band’s appeal, as a college student, was the promise of enjoying the music well into middle age? The malnourished 21 year-old could definitely see himself chilling to Oui at 55. The original insight appears to be holding water.
Subtlety is lost on the disinterested. In the streaming era, the band’s discography must all simmer together for a new listener, into one “lovely” and “gentle” risotto. Even for a longtime fan listening to much of the post-One Bedroom discography, the familiarity and distinction of Prekop’s vocals can turn monotonous. One anticipates many of the chord progressions and bridge-to-chorus drum fills on first listen.
While certain production elements have calcified over time, such as embossed vocals and increasingly precise guitar takes, every Sea and Cake album carries its charms. Everybody (2007) presents an impeccably tight collection of stately pop rock, with the slow burning “Coconut” heaping wistful yearning upon the listener, narrator making peace with commitment, confessing, “You set me free.” Car Alarm draws out crashing rock (“Aerial,” “Car Alarm”), glittering electro-pop (“Weekend”), effusive jazzy rhythmics (“A Fuller Moon,” “New Schools”), and even a steel drum outro (“Mirrors”) for good measure. The surprising EP The Moonlight Butterfly offers one of the uncanny modular synthesizer compositions (“The Moonlight Butterfly”) that have come to dominate Prekop’s solo career, along with the small miracle of “Lyric,” another plaintive confessional that floats above a melancholy Eric Claridge bass groove, punctuated with decaying electronics before transforming into a spindly jam. Runner (2012) pares an M83-esque towering synth flirtation (“The Invitations”) with the achingly beautiful acoustic “Harbor Bridges.”
Should The Sea and Cake be punished for being so good and so consistent? If this were baseball, they’d be posting a damn 2.5 WAR, at least. But music is qualitative, undervalued, and in the end we want our rock & roll to channel dionysian impulses that are intrinsically unsustainable.
Shatter our neural pathways with bliss one day.
Haughtily cursing you the next.
No love lost.
“Occasionally,” Prekop says, “I feel apologetic that we’re still making records and someone might have to listen to them. But then again, it doesn’t really matter.”
Indeed, Any Day carries much of “the same.” It will be heard as antiquated, beautiful, or both. There are the quiet and catchy moments (“Into Rain,” “Too Strong”) that the band deals out with a flip of the wrist, eyes askance. But the title track calls out with something else, its easy groove lifted by Prekop’s light melodies, McEntire’s understated rhythm and Prewitt’s self-possessed riffs and accents that drop like dewdrops on the edge of a glassy pond. The song is all fresh and effortless and calls back to the band’s loose and transformational early catalogue.
The gift for melody was always present, but from 1994 to the mid-2000s, The Sea and Cake moved from dynamic and jammy discursions (The Sea and Cake, Nassau, The Biz) abruptly to programmed beats and synths (The Fawn), then to lush and ineffable bossa nova (Oui) and bright electro-pop (One Bedroom). The band flirted with aggression (“Escort”) and un-harshable mellow rumination (“The Leaf”), yet always returned to its ever-flowering gift for head-nodding pop and effusive romance. The classic “Parasol” and “There You Are” enter into slow trances that reward the patient. Call it Dreamcatcher Pop — this is some of the best nap music you’ll ever find (don’t miss Prekop’s genius self-titled solo album for the pinnacle of this transitory gift).
The loose naiveté of the early work kept a chair open at the table for evolution, and it’s the natural selfishness of a fan to want a return to the freshness, to once more harness those old feelings. We’re all addicts for novelty. Prekop understands the nature of the beast, but does not care to cater.
“There is a definite natural march to the life of any band,” he says. “When you’re starting, that’s a different kind of excitement compared to five years in. And I think, at this point, we reflect on our history more as a friendship and camaraderie than the music. We don’t like to dissect it too much. We’re sort of the antithesis of analysis.”
The Sea and Cake were never for “everyone.” If you were a stereotypical graphic designer in the 1990s and early 2000s, though, you were probably down. And those very graphic designers, solid dudes them all, filled The Hall at Evermore as twin disco balls flitted tiny spotlights across their greying hair while industrial electro pounded for a Trump-era rave called, Let Them Have Their Phones.
The band takes the stage to moderate applause and a few yelps, which quickly die away. Prekop is in no hurry to collect himself for the opening number and flashes a familiar wry grin as the public silence elongates. Notable for this patient crowd, the silence is not particularly awkward. Eventually, the steady beats, rumbling bass, and swelling (sequenced) synths of “Four Corners” (One Bedroom) fill the room.
Any Day’s insistent opener “Cover the Mountain” is surprisingly raw, softened edges from the long recording process obliterated by McIntire’s crashing percussion.
With the exception of a jumpy, chronic vaper hovering stage right, the full room of bought-in fans nod along, mirroring the minor movements of Prekop and Prewitt. Drummer John McIntyre shows, throughout the performance, why he became a force of gravity all his own in the 90s, via his additional work with Tortoise and as a respected Indie producer with his own Chicago studio (Soma). He demands attention, preening above the snare, chin up to the back of the room. He winces and snarls through perfect time, dominating the stage with dead set serial killer eyes and facial twitches, as a ring of sweat expands around his collar.
Meanwhile, Prewitt anchors center stage, keeping watch on his shifting, exotic chord patterns, altering them up and down the neck like a clinician. He ends a riff by throwing his head back in a rare moment of exuberance, but is otherwise as measured as his own delicate and embroidered guitar work. With rising applause after a final note, he nods in shy thanks.
The love from fans may not find expression in screaming, drug dancing, or tumbling flanks of drunk friends pushing their way to the front of the stage — this is not much of a “scene” — but this serene affection runs deep. Among these focused eyes and swaying bodies, there is no room for the casual follower. Kind appreciation is offered to the new songs, while the “oldies,” as Prekop calls them from the stage, elicit sighs and hard-earned affirmations. For those who have followed The Sea and Cake for two decades, these songs are vessels of memory. Immediate presence cracks them open for catharsis of the self-posessed.
Per the graphic designers, The Sea and Cake might be seen as pretentious and aloof. Perhaps they are, but backstage Prekop never sounds like someone who takes himself too seriously.
“I just think, if it feels right and positive to make a record it’d be a shame not to,” he says of the continuation of the band. “I’m quite certain that it doesn’t sound like much else.”
Appropriate to his longevity as a creator, with both The Sea and Cake and other projects, he offers a take-it-in-stride model for art making.
Do as much as you can.
Don’t be precious.
Your failures are venerable.
“People ask, ‘How do you make sense of being an artist as both a musician and a photographer’?
“It’s all work, and I’m trying to be as expressive as possible. So, it all counts. And one thing doesn’t necessarily have to make the other thing happen. I think all of the work is important at different times — on different levels.
“I’m hoping to recognize good stuff that’s happening. But, it’s sort of out of my control. I equate it to photography. It’s all already there, and you have to just find it… frame it.”
During times of great excess, self-indulgence and immorality, it is often the simplest things that satisfy the most. Luckily, the folks at Thrill Jockey know how to inflame that infinite listening joy by doing nothing more than releasing good music, time and time again. And inflame it they shall this August when the label issues a two-fer of that goodness from sound seers Glenn Jones and Alexander Tucker!
First up is a new record from old-time finger-picking virtuoso, Glenn Jones. Jones is a master at many things, guitar-speaking, but is unparalleled at the American Primitive style, pioneered by his friend and mentor John Fahey. As with his previous plates, The Giant Who Ate Himself and Other New Works for 6 & 12 String Guitar pays tribute to the AP style and to Fahey (the album’s title itself is a tribute) while showing Jones’ penchant for exploring new vistas in the 6- and 12-string guitar worlds.
The Giant Who Ate Himself and Other New Works for 6 & 12 String Guitar is available to pre-order on CD, DL, LP and limited “frog green” colored vinyl here and Don’t Look Away can be had on CD, DL, LP and limited “Coke bottle clear” colored LP here. Listen to Jones’ “The Sunken Amusement Park” studio recording (rare, for him) and Tucker’s first-rate album opener “Objects” below. Both releases are due August 24.
Glenn Jones The Giant Who Ate Himself and Other New Works for 6 & 12 String Guitar tracklisting:
01. The Giant Who Ate Himself
02. Everything Ends
03. The Last Passenger Pigeon
04. The Was and the Is
05. A Different Kind of Christmas Carol
06. River in the Sky
07. From Frederick to Fredericksburg
08. Even the Snout and the Tail
09. Elliot Audrey, Born Today
10. The Sunken Amusement Park
Alexander Tucker Don’t Look Away tracklisting:
02. Sisters and Me
03. Visiting Again
04. Boys Names
05. The Saddest Summer 2
06. Ghost on the Ledge
07. Gloops Void (Give It Up)
08. Behind the Shoulder
09. A to Z
11. Yesterday’s Honey
Watching someone who’s really, really talented do something that you’re intimately familiar with is kind of catch-22ish in nature. Like, think of an amateur basketball player watching Lebron James play in person. On the one hand, they’re probably in awe of and blown away by his supernatural abilities, but on the other hand they’re probably like, “damn… I suck at life.”
That’s kind of how I feel whenever I watch Marisa Anderson play guitar. Like, 90% of me is drawn to emotion through her sheer ability and the spirit with which she plays, but the other 10% of me just wants to go off myself with the realization that I’ll probably never be more than average at anything I do.
And that’s some heavy shit to shoulder.
Even still, I always get excited when I have the chance to see her play. I mean, I may have my cynical and (mildly) depressive tendencies (as we all do), but I’m not that much of a fucking misanthrope.
So it brings me plenty of joy to know that I’ll be having plenty of chances to go watch her up-close and in-person this summer, as Marisa has just announced a boatload of headlining North American tour dates. She’ll be kicking things off tomorrow (May 19) at Denver’s Ogden Theatre, and then playing a (very) healthy dose of West Coast shows before wrapping things up on the other side of the U.S. around the middle of July (not including a tour finale at Oregon’s Pickathon Festival August 3-5).
Godspeed You! Black Emperor will be tagging along with her for the majority of the tour (see full dates and venue locations below), but she’ll also be sharing the limelight with Joan Shelley and Sarah Louise for a few of the West Coast shows.
Announcement of the tour comes ahead of the release of Cloud Corner, which is Marisa’s debut LP on Thrill Jockey (out June 15). You can preorder the record right here and check out all the dates and locations below. Just don’t get too down on yourself when you’re standing there in the crowd this summer, moping in your own banality, okay?
Marisa Anderson tour dates:
05.19.18 – Denver, CO – Ogden Theatre *
05.21.18 – Phoenix, AZ – The Van Buren *
05.22.18 – San Diego, CA – The Observatory North Park *
05.23.18 – Los Angeles, CA – The Wiltern *
05.24.18 – Santa Ana, CA – The Observatory *
05.25.18 – Pioneertown, CA – Pappy & Harriet’s *
05.26.18 – North Folk, CA – Bandit Town *
05.28.18 – Santa Cruz, CA – Rio Theatre *
05.29.18 – Oakland, CA – Fox Theatre *
06.02.18 – Garden City, ID – Visual Arts Collective *
06.03.18 – Seattle, WA – The Neptune Theatre *
06.04.18 4 – Vancouver, BC – Vogue Theatre *
06.05.18 – Victoria, BC – Capitol Ballroom *
06.09.18 – Marquette, WI – Marquette Waterfront Festival
06.19.18 – Seattle, WA – Fremont Abbey Art Center ^
06.21.18 – Portland, OR – Mississippi Studios ^*
06.25.18 – Minneapolis, MN – 7th Street Entry w/ Circuit des Yeux
06.27.18 – Chicago, IL – Constellation #
06.28.18 – Cleveland, OH – Happy Dog #
06.29.18 – Detroit, MI – Trinosophes #
06.30.18 – Toronto, ON – Tranzac #
07.01.18 – Montreal, QC – Casa Del Popolo #
07.02.18 – Greenfield, MA – The Root Cellar
07.03.18 – Cambridge, MA – Atwood w/ Glenn Jones
07.05.18 – Philadelphia, PA – PhilaMOCA
07.08.18 – Brooklyn, NY – Union Pool w/ Tara Jane O’Neil
07.10.18 – Washington, DC – Songbyrd
07.11.18 – Raleigh, NC – Neptunes
07.12.18 – Athens, GA – Flicker Theatre
07.13.18 – Nashville, TN – Fond Object
07.14.18 – St. Louis, MO – FOAM
07.16.18 – Denver, CO – Lost Lake*
08.03.18 – 08.05.18 – Happy Valley, OR – Pickathon Festival
* Godspeed You! Black Emperor
^ Joan Shelley
# Sarah Louise
Alhough Any Day seems like an apt opportunity for a bit of a retrospective, that might be tempting fate too much. The Sea and Cake, like their label, have endured a lot of years, and it’s a wonder that they haven’t gone nuts trying to change with them. While there has been subtle variation, their music has stayed more or less the same through all of it. Maybe the fact that each member has projects separate from the group has helped its balmy sound remain intact. It would be both a hoot and a tribute to parody their sound at this point, but they remain what gets called a “well-kept secret” (always found this a generally off notion). Perhaps they are, to be crass, second-tier adult contempo alt. Somebody Wilco might bring on tour to be chattered over. The jazz aspect is creamy light (is there coffee in there or what?), the synths are unobtrusive little helper sprites providing a bubblebath effervescence, and Prekop’s vocals are all air puft sighs and coos. Theirs is a pillowy, pillowy sound, and album to album, it just kinda gets re-fluffed.
But all snarking aside, the band is one solid musical identity in a realm of many, and it’s hard to blame them for sticking to a formula of precision tenderness that has never stopped working. They are an expertly mixed poultice for our skin, thick or thin, for a harsh world that doesn’t let up until it does. Then there’s that silence. Perhaps that’s where the intrigue lies with this music. It seems to be preoccupied with the quiet interval vs. the extended idyll. It prizes the rudderless reflection that comes over one when calm arrives like a muted electric shock, utterly unexpected. This ambiguous transitional wellness is hemmed by both uncertainty and raw sensory rush, both of which come through The Sea and Cake’s songs. They’re meditative, but not too deeply, as McEntire’s lively, often metronomic drumming reminds us we’ve got shit to do. Another curious aspect is Prekop’s out-of-context conversational lyrics. They frustrate their own reams of opaque ambiguity with emotings, however noncommittal. The effect is something like a less overtly cynical, breezier version of Radiohead’s “Fitter, Happier” automaton.
These curious elements have held together, but approaching Any Day, this reviewer has to reckon with falling off after 2007’s , Everybody. They were already getting slicker and poppier two albums back from then, but there was an ennui setting in with that feel. It wasn’t necessarily a return to those moodier, noisier first three albums that was longed for, but there was an underlying coasting sensation to the songs, and they began to melt together a bit. Upon now revisiting these last five albums, this feels less true. With signature consistency comes the potential of a sort of oversaturation. A very similar thing happened with Stereolab’s output shift, where they turned down their raucous krautrock buzz and put a crisp, synth-swarmed brightness in its place (perhaps new producer John McEntire had a hand in this, as he approached S&C’s initial dramatic stylistic shift, The Fawn). Time has shown both phases of each band to be equally valid, where this listener’s recurring moodiness absent mindedly laid down preference as discernment. They didn’t lose their edge. Doesn’t seem they were ever all that preoccupied with being “edgy” to begin with. They just gradually moved through approaches as it suited them, while fans checked in and reacted with wherever they were at when they left off.
While not-to-be-underestimated bassist Eric Claridge is no longer in the picture, Nick Macri (Euphone, C-Clamp) fills in nicely on album #11. And there is, as promised, a lot less synthetic texture. The sound is closer to that of the transitional Oui-to-One Bedroom phase. That is, save the somewhat stultifying “Starling” — the two opening tracks and “Day Moon” split the rock-chamber pop difference much more satisfyingly than this song, which is reminiscent of skippable tracks from the last four. The musicianship is unimpeachable, of course, but “Starling” feels rote and its pseudo-anthemic chorus melodically banal (lovely little intro, though). Luckily, the song is surrounded by winning examples of the band at their most irresistibly, toe-tappingly lush. Previewing the closer and title track was definitely putting their best feet forward. These songs fill you with a warm, golden sensation akin to that of “Transparent” or “Props of Upper Class.” It was nice to hear one thing that I’d always enjoyed come back: the resident instrumental. “Paper Window” may be no “A Man Who Never Sees a Pretty Girl That He Doesn’t Love Her a Little” (incidentally it’s actually somewhat stylistically closer to Oui’s “You Beautiful Bastard”), but it provides a lovely little “Albatross”-style interlude that exudes a similar sense of delicate stillness.
Any day now, the bottom’s just gonna drop out. Humanity and overwhelm go hand in hand. It’s tough to just breathe sometimes. The relentless blessing/curse dichotomy of consciousness needs stabilizers to work out just what sentiment is sensible for operations ostensibly simple to Sisyphean. In this space, The Sea and Cake continue to be champions for the weary and resolute alike, being both the soothing reassurance of beauty and the wistful resolve that the most dogged absolute is the very impermanence of everything. It’s a deceptively tricky feat and one that they continue to thrive on.
Unlike that famous Russian guy who wrote War and Peace, I prefer things be simple and easy to understand rather than shrouded beneath a veil of ambiguity and intellectual redundancy. Take Brendon Anderegg’s forthcoming solo album, for instance: that sucker is due out this coming June on Thrill Jockey and thus has aptly been given the title, erm…June.
Like, how easy was that? No superfluous hidden meanings, no hopeless equivocations, no artsy existential enigmas (who likes art, anyway?), and no bullshit. Just the straight-up facts, and I can dig that.
Anderegg (who of course is one-half of the experimental noise group Mountains), limited his sonic arsenal for the new record in a conscious effort to “depart from his previous approach to creating music.” And the results, apparently, were pretty delicious in terms of elemental progression and spatial ambiance:
“June [is] a shimmering expanse of synthesizer-fed structure and tone [that produces] a singular sonic landscape with varied emotional triggers, from melancholy to playful,” Anderegg waxes. “The music is a complex network of layers…combining to create a congruous whole.”
You can find out exactly what a “shimmering expanse of synthesizer-fed structure” means on June 15, when whole album comes shimmering out into the world. In the meantime, pre-order it from Thrill Jockey right here and check out an old Mountains track to help get you into that requisite “contemplative listening” mood.
Brother John Terlesky, the “Ornette Coleman of Easton, Pennsylvania,” is back with Tornado Juice on Thrill Jockey. Or is he? After spending an entire afternoon watching episodes of Trippin’ Balls with Brother JT [Editor’s Note: I don’t think this website exists, Ryan?] episodes, I can’t even tell if I’m here or not, let alone if Brother JT is, or whether there’s really a new album or even a thing called a “Thrill Jockey” or whatever. Is that me on the TV?
There’s this video for “Baked Alaska,” though, and I guess it’ll have to do as proof of the existence of something, I guess, but hell, it’s a deep and dirty dive into the exact pool of incomprehensibility I’m already swimming around in. JT is cracked out. Who is Flip Jitney? Is this basically a commercial for Tornado Juice? The album keeps floating in the background. Is “Baked Alaska” a euphemism? I kind of want some “Baked Alaska” right now.
I guess the real question is whether or not you’re a serious person or a cartoon man who thinks “Hullabalooza” is still the funniest word in the dictionary you made up.
I’m the cartoon, and this is my MK Ultra.
OH BROTHER JT, I’M SO SORRY! IT WAS ME WHO STOLE THE BABY JESUS FROM THE NATIVITY SCENE IN FRONT OF THE BETHLEHEM PUBLIC LIBRARY. IT WAS ME, BROTHER JT! [sobbing] IT WAS MEEE-EEE-EEE…
That actually feels pretty good to admit finally.
But it’s a total lie.
That feels good to admit, too.
As does this: “Baked Alaska” is the “stop worrying about everything so much” rock tonic you need to dissolve the ramrod you got jammed up your serious-hole. Take it from me, a dude who went to high school with one of The Original Sins’ touring guitarists’ kids.1 That’s some goddamn street cred right there.
1. The Original Sins were Terlesky’s first breakout band.