In classic NIN fashion, Trent Reznor has shocked fans once again. As the new album, Hesitation Marks, is about to be released, the band released two more songs to BBC Radio One with a very mixed reception. “Everything”, which was released just about a week ago, resembles the popular rock hits of the 90′s, while “Find My Way” is comparable to Reznor’s side project, How To Destroy Angels. I honestly have no clue how these songs will fit together, even knowing the other two tracks released are extremely different as well. I can see this album being extremely polarizing, much like their double LP, The Fragile. Nonetheless, we won’t know until it’s out, but for now be sure to compare the tracks below and enjoy!
Lot’s happened in 2010. Vampire Weekend’s Contra debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, Jay Reatard died at 29, Pavement reunited for a tour, and Arcade Fire shocked the world with the Album Of The Year at the notorious Grammy’s. That was three years ago, and time has flown quickly. 2010 was also the last year No Age released an LP, titled Everything In Between. It’s still one of my favourites to this day, and has stood the test of time. I was absolutely ecstatic when I heard there would be a follow-up earlier this year, but a sudden spark of guilt took over. It seemed impossible for No Age to go for a hat trick with the amazing Nouns, followed by Everything In Between, and now leading up with An Object. The expectations are extremely high for this DIY-experimental punk duo, but they’ve been known for clutching up.
The entire lead up to this release was very promising. The duo wanted to get extremely close to the records heart, and did so by literally making every album by hand. The packaging, at least was made by the band itself, and the only separation between label and band was the actual pressing of the vinyl records. It shows on the music, as a lot of these tracks are stripped and toned down to represent the experimental side of the band. While always forward thinking on past albums, An Object shows a different side of the band. They use noise to lead tracks, like on the slow-cooker closer “Commerce, Comment, Commence”. The album as a whole is off in a way different direction than what I expected. Even the duration is shorter than Nouns, which clocks in at 30 minutes (An Object is 29 minutes).
From the get-go, “No Ground” doesn’t act much differently than any No Age album, and feels less abrasive until the sudden bass riff that rips apart the track in traditional fashion. It’s a very promising sign for the rest of the album. Following that is the album’s best track, “I Won’t Be Your Generator”, which resembles a Rockabilly riff that shifts into a post-punk influenced track. One of the best and most melodic tracks No Age has released to date. The only track that really sounds like older No Age is the next track, “C’mon Stimmung”, which as a whole is super solid. Lot’s of noise, lot’s of aggression, and would fit in nicely with Nouns. That being said, it doesn’t fit the sound scheme of An Object, and sticks out like a sore thumb against the stripped down and close to heart tracks that are found throughout the album. Oddly enough, it’s even the album’s only single. That just proves how out of the box the band is.
It’s difficult to figure out No Age’s intentions through their music, because of their cryptic sound. It’s not diverse, and even experimentation is hard to hear because they never stray away from their usual aggressive playing style. If I wasn’t told that this album would be different from their others, I wouldn’t have caught on in the first few listens. There’s still the smashing punk rock drum beats and mixture of noise and melody, but it’s more behind the scenes. “Running From A-Go Go” has a straightforward post-punk beat, but the melody and hooks are used in such an abstract way that it took intense listening to appreciate the song. Even the cello riff isn’t as catchy as I expected, but No Age are heading in a different direction. They’re expressing their anti-conformity view points through noise in protest. It’s the real reason behind the complexity of the tracks.
Now calling these songs ‘complex’ might dilute the term. What I intend behind to say is that this album isn’t as appealing as past albums, but still fills that No Age niche. I’ll be the first to admit that I was disappointed with what I heard at first. These tracks felt rushed and uninspired besides the first three, and No Age seemed to have hit a wall. As my listening and commitment to the band won me over and I listened more, the meaning behind An Object came to light. This album isn’t “An Object”, but a piece of art. To most, art means ‘self-expression’, and by that meaning, it is impossible to objectify art without knowing the true meaning. An Object is not like other No Age albums. It is a topic of discussion, a hidden gem in their discography in the future, an album that will be forgotten like many others. For now though, it’s filling the whole that No Age fans will appreciate the most, and I can live with that.
There’s always been a twist with progressive music. Whether metal, jazz, rock, or electronic, the term applies to any one of these genres. The word ‘progressive’ is defined by, “Happening or developing gradually or in stages; proceeding step by step.” I literally Googled the word and found the definition, and that’s what came up. It fits like a puzzle piece perfectly into the concept of music, describing the electronic musician, Jon Hopkins goal with his newest album Immunity.
The English producer has already created a name for himself with a Mercury Prize nomination with singer-songwriter King Creosote in 2011 for Diamond Mine. What’s so interesting about Jon Hopkins is his connections to extremely renown artists, but he’s been able to fly under the radar for the past few years. Already working with Brian Eno, Coldplay, and Imogen Heap, Hopkins has been hiding up until the release of Immunity. His mixture of progressive-electronic and dance music is an art form that blends pretentious listeners with douche-bags. With the opening of “We Disappear”, the semi-soft drum loop resembles a take on a Burial beat, but with more of a traditional dance melody. The synthetic atmosphere glides and takes afloat while the loops jolts along with a steady piano riff. In Jon Hopkins fashion, the track only begins to grow before it reaches a tipping point and spills the structure into a mixing pot of noise.
His handle of sound is like a professional athlete scoring a simple goal. It’s only until we try out shooting or catching for the first time do we give credit to those who make a living off of it. These eight tracks aren’t overly complicated, but creating and meshing the ideas together is the talent. Most all of them carry bass-heavy undertones with a diversity of changes that happen so subtly, it’s hard to pick up on one listen. Think post-rock, but add in electronic affects and a dance atmosphere. That’s not even close to what Immunity is, but it gets the idea across that this is a completely different electronic album compared to others released this year. It resembles The Haxan Cloak’s Excavation in terms of song to song growth. The only track that takes away from this comparison is the beautifully destructive, “Abandoned Window”.
If Hopkins’ time with Imogen Heap taught him anything, it’s that simple means subtle. This track contains strictly piano chords and a slight ambient atmosphere in the background. That’s all it takes to create water works, and it’s nailed here on “Abandoned Window”. The lead into “Form By Firelight” carries the same simplicity, but transforms into a chaotic mess of crashing sounds. Distortion, thumbing bass clicks, clean and crisp keys, all these intense and emotional sounds from different genres blend to create a monstrosity of emotion. It’s overwhelming, and a lot to take in. Hopkins’ pulls on your heart a little and it’s just enough to open up the gate to confronting your emotions. Sad, happy, angry, he will humble you and take you for a journey of outlook.
Maybe I’m looking too deeply past the sounds? Immunity could possibly just be a great progressive-dance album, but it’s the situation you’re in while listening. I also know that Hopkins’ has had a habit of creating lasting impressions. Diamond Mine slipped past a lot of listeners back in 2011, but made it’s way to the Mercury Prize the same year. Immunity proved yet again how the English producer can manipulate emotions with music, letting us use it as a separation from our mediocre and eventful lives, because at the end of the day we all deal with the same problems. Possibly different magnitudes of the problem, but the root behind the feelings is the emotion. Hopkins knows that better than anyone.
Stream the full album here:
To close off the festival, we encountered the hottest of the three days. It was like a blast of constant heat over and over again for the daylight hours. Nonetheless, we were able to catch some great morning shows and watch the wonderful main stage performances as well.
We first watched a workshop with the likes of Del Barber, Black Prairie, Martha Dunn, and Jason Burnstick. They went through a round robin phrase of discussing their inspiration from the songs of the flat-lands in Canada. A variety of instruments were used, like Jason Burnstick’s tabletop guitar, and Del Barbers innovative guitar playing.
An artist that stood out and I discovered this weekend was the graceful Mo Kenny. She recently won the SOCAN songwriting award for the track, “Sucker”, and although the song came at a bad place at her life, it was hard to tell she’s ever had a sad moment with her performance. Besides the depressing themes behind her music, she only had smiles whenever a song came to a close. Closing on a cover of Bowie’s “Five Years” proved to me how hard she has worked to get to this position. It’s the brilliance and honesty she portrays that sets her ahead of other performers of the day.
After, I went to go to Aidan Knight’s full set performance. Although I’ve already seen him on multiple occasions during the festival, it was this one show that I was waiting to see. Playing with the full band, Aidan Knight (the band) absolutely rocked the short time slot they were given. After a long sound-check, the band rolled on with “Dream Team”, followed by “A Mirror”, and “Singer-Songwriter”. The length of these tracks extended way past their album times, and Aidan was only able to fit in five songs into his hour slot. He closed the set by getting the audience to sing for “Jasper”, which was an obvious favourite, and then got the audience to stand for a personal favourite, “Knitting Something Nice For You”. That track was extremely dynamic compared to the somber version off his debut, Versicolour.
During the main stage performances, two of the performances to me were worth mentioning. The first was from the Irish celtic-folk rock band, The Waterboys. Playing a huge influence on bands/musicians like U2, R.E.M., Eddie Vedder, and The Decemberists, the experience of watching these guys live was brilliant. They were the only group to receive such an applause that they were allowed an encore. “We’re not a folk band, but a rock band. We’re going to play you some rock tunes”, shouted the man behind the group, Mike Scott. It was a grand time of fiddling and rock all into one cohesive dance routine.
Following the set filled with fusion and indie folk by DeVotchKa, the Dixie Chicks leader took to the stage. Natalie Maines was one of the centerpieces to this year’s folk festival, and she blew all expectations out of the water. It was brilliant to see her with a full band killing it on stage, supporting her new album Mother. She claims it’s rock, not country, but the throwbacks to the Dixie Chicks days with “Not Ready To Make Nice” proves the heart of her is with the band. It was a great way to close off the weekend, and the traditional ‘under the sea’ lanterns set the stage for closure. This weekend showed how a festival can come together and create a wonderful and peaceful atmosphere with great music. That’s the beauty of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival.
Be sure to check up for full interviews with Aidan Knight, and Whitehorse
I love jazz. The energy of the artists collaborating is mesmerizing. It’s arguably the most complex form of music, and surprisingly had the most of controversy when the music was still popular. Many big name musicians died at a young age (John Coltrane at 40, Eric Dolphy at 36, and Albert Ayler at 34), and drugs were passed around like no tomorrow. Everyone had cocaine, heroin, or anything to ease the pain of touring and missing payments. Jazz life seemed like a good life to an outsider, but the business was cutthroat and had no remorse. It’s an overlooked form of music today, and that’s partially because of it’s decline in the late 60′s, early 70′s, but the growing popularity of youth culture helped put a stake in the genre for good.
After the death of jazz, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Where did it all go?”. It’s only logical to think that music doesn’t suddenly die for good. If there were huge groups of fans, they couldn’t all leave at the same time. My guess is that jazz helped progress the hip hop movement of the 80′s, which chronologically helped shape today’s popular music. I find it very interesting to see how a super complex form of popular music transform into the simplicity of today’s top hits. Oddly enough, jazz is making a slight comeback. That’s even saying a lot, but with the recent trend of vintage-everything on the rise, the genre has risen to the highest point since it’s decline in popularity.
The jazz hip-hop trio of BadBadNotGood are on the rise, and definitely do not fit in the category of “Underground”, but I had to bring them up. Hailing from Toronto, Ontario, the group has had the likes of Tyler, The Creator reach out to them for a collaboration. Their jazz sound and hip-hop persona has become a trademark to their unique upbringing. The talented members of Chester, Matt, and Alex have created a cool atmosphere that can only be marked by their live performances. Luckily enough, I was able to see them perform on multiple occasions and it oddly reminds me of the DIY hardcore punk scenes of the 1980′s LA core. With this weird mixture of music and culture, how can anyone pass up on it. BBNG are a unique group.
Another reason why I bring them up is because they’re set to release the third album, titled BBNG3, which is a followup to their wonderful BBNG, and BBNG2. The albums have diverse covers of songs by musicians like Odd Future, Kanye West, Nas, and even James Blake. Others like to label them as “Instrumental Hip-Hop”, but I know they have a post-bob sound to them. Their playing style is aggressive, but also very credible. Their soloing style is crisp, and the members like to blend their solos into one another, creating a noise effect that has a punk style. Their appeal spreads from intense jazz snobs to street cred wannabees, but that’s what makes BadBadNotGood the band that stands out among many up and comers. Although still relatively small, I can’t help but see them as household names in a deadly business.
Tracks like, “Flashing Lights”, and “CMYK” prove to me why these guys are continuing to grow. The music is very creative and fresh even if it isn’t originals. The aspect of turnings these songs into jazz pieces is cringe worthy, but the personality behind the band makes it enjoyable and cool. The group itself has a fresh vibe that is unteachable. They’re a real savior to a genre that I would hate to see pass away. Jazz will always be on the back burner to mainstream and indie music today, but BadBadNotGood is turning jazz into an indie genre. They’re taking all the pretentiousness and arrogance out of the genre and making it interesting and cool to everyone. Gone is the hierarchy and conceitedness of the stereotype and in is the cool and fresh version. Thank goodness BadBadNotGood is leading the way of reinventing jazz. I wouldn’t want anyone else with this much responsibility.
A wicked video to give you an idea of their live performances:
BBNG x Tyler, The Creator
My favorite by the group:
You may have already seen this track in a past post, but the beautiful track “Connected” by Mezo has just received a complete makeover by electronic artist, Micro. This remix distributed by Dank on his label Funky Element Records , is extremely kick-ass and is steadily climbing the Beatport charts. The track begins as a regular house jam that forms into a very complex arrangement. The Deadmau5 sound is prominent, but he gets creative and only expands as the song progresses.
Mezo’s original is used very wisely throughout the song, and the killer vocals and steady beat are prime examples of the artistic merit in this track. I can’t get enough of the blips of silence that add to the effect of a drop. It only fires me up for what’s about to happen. The production is prime quality, and Dj Micro (Caffeine, DeCaf) puts his best foot forward to keep listeners on their toes. The song creates a 3D effect in my head. It expands and compresses to build the rise and fall of energy. At just over 6 minutes, the song does build a lot, but it’s the falling action that grabbed my attention.
When the song separates itself for another build up, I wonder how much more it has in store to still be energetic and entertaining. About halfway through, Micro pulls a rabbit out of a hat and adds a few twists and turns that would make anybody go wild. A little dubstep frills and bass drops are a great change to keep it fresh. Finally, the track ends with a straightforward, clean ending of 4/4 bass hits and the main rhythm repeats itself to it’s final stop. Loving what I hear, and just another great remix of Mezo’s “Connected”.
Be sure to check out the track below and let us know what you think!