Monday, July 31, 2006

Alexandre Orion - A no go

We finally made it up to Foley Gallery to see the Alexandre Orion exhibit, but it was not to be. After walking some 28 blocks in the heat, we were greeted with the picture above–a closed, and locked entrance. We'll try again next week. His stuff really is worth seeing.

Luckily though, we came across the Aperture Foundation gallery, which happened to be located in the same building. It was a happy accident. The current exhibit shows photography from William Christenberry. If you're in New York, get out and see both if you can. The building is located at 547 W 27th Street (bt. 10th and 11th).

Friday, July 28, 2006

Julien Neto - Le Fumeur De Ciel

Julien Neto
Le Fumeur De Ciel
Type Records

Right off the bat, less than ten albums into this blog, another album via Type Records shows up. It's with good reason. They happen to be putting out some fantastic stuff. Most of it skews to the minimalist aesthetic, and more electronic than not, though a few of their releases stray from this style–Sickoakes have more of a Explosions in the Sky or Godspeed! You Black Emperor feel, while Goldmund (see the previous Helios entry) is Keith Kenniff's somber, piano-driven project.

Julien Neto fits comfortably into their line-up. Le Fumeur De Ciel, which roughly translated means "the smoker of sky" or "the sky smoker" (don't hold me to that, my french isn't so hot), is a dark, often brooding electronic soundtrack. The album, awash in synths and strings, creates a dark, almost foreboding mood. It's perfect late-night listening. Most is ambient, and there's virtually no percussion to be found, except for "VI," where the aforementioned Kenniff lends a hand. The beat on "VI" sounds like something you might hear on a Blockhead or Four Tet album, and is a welcome addition as it gives the album a different flavor. It's a tune you could throw on at a cocktail party and virtually guarantee a few "hey, who is this?" queries thrown your way. A link to Type's mp3 preview of this song is included at the bottom.

Other standouts on Le Fumeur include the opener, fittingly title "I(One)," which right off the bat prepares you for what you can expect the rest of the way. Ominous synths set the mood, while blips and beeps push in and out creating a frenetic, percussive beat. Towards the end of the album is the track "III", which every time I hear it, I could swear I'm listening to one of the four William Basinski The Disentegration Loops albums.

Yes, another ambient, textured, no-lyric album gets mentioned here. As time goes on, you'll see that's not all I listen to. I just did a write up on The Futureheads and that's about as far from ambient as you can get. So don't fret. All in due time. However, and again, if you're into this kind of stuff, Le Fumeur De Ciel is worth picking up.

Check it out if you like: Max Richter, Loscil
Listen to a sample here: VI (featuring Keith Kenniff)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Pics - Brooklyn

I took these while roaming Brooklyn. Seeing as the purpose of MMP is to show more than just music, I figured I'd throw these up to get the other ball(s) rolling.

Nothing special here. However, I did enjoy how these turned out seeing as I decided to go old-school. These were shot with my old, trusty Pentax K1000, complete manual-style. In this age of digital-everything, where all you have to do is switch the camera to "auto" and it all but takes presses the shutter release for you, it's fun to remember what it was like to have to adjust everything to make sure you come away with a half-decent shot. These were taken with 400 speed B&W film and the standard SMC Pentax 50mm lens that originally came with the K1000. It's currently loaded with film, so hopefully I'll have some more to throw up soon.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Futureheads - News & Tributes

The Futureheads
News & Tributes
679 / Vagrant

It doesn't seem like that long ago that a number of bands were coming out that were all getting lumped into a category. All had angular guitar hooks and pop sensibilities of early to mid-eighties British post-punk/rock. Bloc Party and Franz Ferdinand are two that come to mind. There seemed to be unanimous critical praise for F. Ferdinand's first album. I think I was the only dissenting voice among my friends. I didn't hate the album by any means. However, I didn't really care for it. So much so that I gave it away. I really liked Bloc Party's album, and I also really liked The Futureheads' first. But, I never completely understood why The 'Heads got lumped in. I mean, I guess they sound somewhat similar, but I listened to that album over and over again and still didn't hear it.

Their second album, News & Tributes, came out not too long ago and I promptly picked it up. Again, I don't hear the common comparisons that are thrown out. After a few listens, the things I heard were shades of Men At Work (see Favours For Favours), and even some of my favorite early 90's bands like Jawbox and Q and Not U. Call me crazy, but I hear what I hear. The stutter-stop of Fallout, the simple bass line that gives way to chunky guitar on Back to the Sea had me remembering when I used to listen to For Your Own Special Sweetheart daily. This album seems to have more aggression (at times) than the last, and that's a good thing.

News & Tributes seems to mix it up a bit more than the last. Sure, each has it's ample amount of sing-along breaks and choruses, a tinge of doo-wop here and there, connections to their first album, not to mention what distinguishes their sound, at least in my mind, than the others they get lumped in with. But the tempos change much more on this album, and each song seems to have been approached individually, as opposed to looking at it from an album-in-its-entirety point of view. Which is good. I really enjoy the differentiation.

Now, I must confess that I have found myself thinking that maybe this album goes on a little long. At 16 songs, including a remix of Decent Days and Nights, I think maybe it could have been cut shorter without hurting the overall presentation. The songs aren't long by any means–the album has a run-time of 52 minutes. I just feel like, had they cut it off at 12 songs (+/- 1), this would have been more succinct, and the remaining songs could have been included on singles. But that's being incredibly nitpicky. All in all, it's a great album.

Check it out if you like: Bloc Party, Jawbox, Q and Not U

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Beirut - Gulag Orkestar

Gulag Orkestar
Ba Da Bing

Alright. Here's the deal. If you're one of the two people on earth who hasn't heard about this album, then, well, you probably wouldn't be reading this. Already i'm off to a shaky start. So let's assume you're in the majority. Let's assume you've read the countless blogs and indie record sites that have truckloads of praise that are still being heaped on this little album. At the same time, let's also say you're a cynic like me and just don't buy into the hype machine. If that's the case, don't read any further; it will only pain you.

I remember reading one little blip about this album on a record store's website. Then a blog entry. Then another and another. It was time to buy. I had heard the buzz. "Hey, dude from Neutral Milk Hotel is on it." I had read the story of Zach Condon who hails from New Mexico but now lives in Brooklyn (big up!). I had read how he was merely 19 and had become intrigued by Balkan and gypsy music while travelling around Europe. It sounded like too much. It sounded too concocted. And then I heard the album.

I'm not going to lie. I was immediately overwhelmed by this album, was immediately captivated. My joy has since tempered a little–I'm not running off at the lip telling my friends that this will be the
Funeral (The Arcade Fire) of this year, which was a bit premature on my part. But Gulag Orkestar still remains in the "Best of 2006" list that I'm making in my head. What makes this album so good is that it's probably going to sound unlike anything else you have in your collection, or anything else you buy this year. The list of instruments used is dizzying, the melodies strange.

If you're looking for an intro to Beirut, if you're looking to dip your toes in the water before diving in head-first, I'd suggest checking out
Postcards From Italy or Mount Wroclai (Idle Days). The album is full of great tracks, but these are good to start with. I'd love to describe the music in more detail, but the truth is, I'm not that well acquainted with this style. I didn't grow up in Eastern Europe. I don't have a lot of music from that geographic area laying around the apartment. Most of what I have is devoid of trumpet, ukele, and accordian. What I do think I have a knack for is knowing a solid album when I hear it. Gulag Orkestar is just such an album.

Check it out if you like: (um) Neutral Milk Hotel
Listen to a sample here: "Postcards From Italy"

Friday, July 07, 2006

Helios - Eingya


Type Records

So I've already mentioned that I have a penchant for the instrumental. Maybe it's because I always listen to music while working and it makes for good zoning out while pushing pixels around on a screen. Whatever the reason, I'm down with instrumental.

Sometimes I'll come across stuff in a record store, examine it, then run home to study up. Other times, I stumble across it by pure (happy) accident, which was the case with Helios. Helios is the work of Keith Kenniff, who also puts out music under the Goldmund moniker. If you give Helios a shot, and dig it, you'd probably be happy with a Goldmund album in your collection.

To sum it up in one word, this album is beautiful. Maybe I'm skewed because of my first listen. I bought this album the night before leaving to go out of town on business for a week. I had a 6am train, which means I was up at 4:30. To say I was tired would be an understatement; I was a full-on zombie. The train down, NYP to WAS, was gloomy. Foggy morning, gray, graffiti walls, overcast, bleak. This, combined with my exhaustion, set the perfect stage for Eingya.

The first track, Bless This Morning Year, got things off to an appropriate start. Scant piano keys bounce along, while a distant, electronic beat keeps time. This gives way to a clean, acoustic guitar, and finally opens up with the percussion now pushed to the front. I kept thinking I was hearing some lost Boards of Canada track. That is in no way saying that Helios is BOC-lite. Keep in mind, this was only the first track, and things change up nicely throughout the album, all while maintaining a uniform, cohesive mood.

What follows is ten more tracks of well composed, thoughtfully engineered tracks that one might think of as dark, nearly orchestral pieces. If you're an independent filmmaker and looking for soundtrack music, this would be a good place to start. I've already preached the merits of this album to a number of my friends and won't go on gushing here. Suffice it to say, I was well impressed and can't see how you could go wrong with this album. That is, if you're into this sort of thing.

Check it out if you like: Boards of Canada, Ulrich Schnauss, The Album Leaf
Listen to a sample here: "Bless This Morning Year"

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Figure on wall

Saw this piece on a wall in Brooklyn. It's hard to tell from the photo, but it's near life-size, and it's actually applied to the wall, not painted. I'm not sure what it was–maybe brown package paper. The pink was very vibrant and the exaggerated form made us stop and stare. I wish there had been more, like a series of figures lining the building.