The Fastidious Assassins
Thursday, 31 December 2009
1 Tim Hecker- An Imaginary Country
2 Mount Eerie- Winds Poem
3 HEALTH- Get Color
4 Oneida- Rated O
5 Bibio- Ambivalence Avenue
6 DOOM- Born Like This
7 Why?- Eskimo Snow
8 Cold Cave- Love Comes Close
9 Former Ghosts- Fleurs
10 Japandroids- Post Nothing
11 Q-Tip- Kamaal The Abstract
12 Cymbals Eat Guitars- Why There Are Mountains
13 Animal Collective- Merriweather Post Pavillion
14 Dirty Projectors- Bitte Orca
15 Tortoise- Beacons of Ancestorship
16 Fever Ray- Fever Ray
17 Emeralds- What Happened
18 Mos Def- The Ecstatic
19 Lightning Bolt- Earthly Delights
20 Raekwon- Only Built For Cuban Linx II
21 Bike For Three!- More Heart Than Brains
22 worriedaboutsatan- Arrivals
23 Shield Your Eyes- Shield 'Em
24 The XX- S/T
25 Flaming Lips- Embryonic
Memory Tapes- Seek Magic
Juan Maclean- The Future Will Come
The Field- Yesterday and Today
Kong- Snake Magnet
Zola Jesus- The Spoils
M.Ward- Hold Time
Clark- Totem's Flare
Whilst a good year of records, the year was lacking in some really strong debuts, and there have been some great singles- such as Lust for Life- Girls, from poor albums. But here are my top tracks of 2009:
Oranges- Shield Your Eyes
I Became A Prostitute- Twilight Sad
Life Magazine- Cold Cave
Red F- Dan Deacon
Collusus- Lightning Bolt
Cannibal Resource- Dirty Projectors
Ghost In The Room- Oneida
Pleasure Race- Pissed Jeans
Antibodies- Sky Larkin
The Mouth Of The Sky- Mount Eerie
Lust For Life- Girls
Die Slow- HEALTH
All The King's Men- Wild Beasts
Evil Dogs- worriedabousatan
Arming Eritrea- Future Of The Left
Six Feet (From My Baby)- Zola Jesus
Pieces- Dinosaur Jr
House of Flying Daggers- Raekwon
Poison Arrow- Sonic Youth
The Ego's Last Stand- Flaming Lips
Relentless Fours- Grammatics
Prepare Your Coffin- Tortoise
Wet Your Knives- Kong
Peeled Apples- Manic Street Preachers
Brothersport- Animal Collective
Ready, Able- Grizzly Bear
Lost Feeling- A Place To Bury Strangers
VCR- The XX
Young Hearts Spark Fire- Japandroids
Yessir Feat. Raekwon- DOOM
Supermagic- Mos Def
Everybody's Got To Learn Sometime- The Field
Pink Sabbath- Danananananaykroyd
Us and Now- Former Ghosts
Hazy Window- Bugskull
If I Had A Heart- Fever Ray
Dirty Sun- Part Chimp
100 Years Ago- Tim Hecker
I Say Fever- Ramona Falls
The year has also seen a pretty good range of movies at the cinema, with movies such as Up, A Serious Man, Where The Wild Things, Inglorious Bastards and Coraline, particularly exciting me this year, and DVD releases of Let The Right One In, Hunger, Synedoche New York and Waltz With Bashir also making 2009 a good year of cinema.
Wednesday, 25 November 2009
Clothes are boring.
“Clothes bore me. They are terrible things, cons, like vitamins, astrology, pizzas, skating rinks, pop music, heavyweight championship fights”- Charles Bukowski.
Charles Bukowski really had a point didn’t he? In our world of consumerist madness, if you don’t look slick and you don’t look like you could cosy up with Peter Jones the giant or Duncan Banatine on Dragons Den, then your life is ultimately going to be a fruitless, horrific, short and downright shitheap. If you don’t represent the ruggid, chiseled rogue that graces the front cover of soft-porn, soft-LADs mag GQ, then you’re not going to be successful in your life. Get a well-fitting pinstripe grey suit and get a bit of designer stubble then you’re set. Look at the way Piers Morgan smugly looks at us from his smugly written column in smug GQ, and look how smug he looks in his little smug suit. He’s successful, and he dresses likes a smug twat, so surely we should do the same? If we represent anything but this twat, we’re fucked. But as Bukowski said, this is all a con. Why should we care what clothes we wear? Surely the fact that we are clothed is enough? This illusion that clothing is important has been creating by these companies to sell their products, and to make a few feel important. I think the Communists had it right- uniformity. Imagine. Waking up every day, walking over to your wardrobe, and the only choice you would have to make would be- short sleeved or long sleeved shirt. It would be amazing! No one would be judged, no one out casted for not wearing the latest Armani suit, but instead on his or her inner beauty. No pressure, no fear.
As modern men, this pressure is constantly upon us. Advertising makes us fear not being up-to-date with the latest fashion, we actually fear what the repercussions will be if we’re not smothered in the latest aftershave (bogwash) that has the name of some airhead, twat-of-a D-list celebrity (see Peter Andre’s Insania) plastered on it. These heartless, dark figures in advertising, in their ivory-tower offices make us fear the repercussions of not buying their product; we actually are scared of what could happen! The girl we like won’t talk to us, we won’t get that promotion we want, we won’t get our Job Seekers Allowance, and our Parole Officer won’t let us out for our daughters 5th birthday party, ALL because we didn’t buy that fucking fragrance. Insania, quite.
Ithaca Trio: “The drone collective. Rhythm is irrelevant”
You may have caught Ithaca Trio opening for Vessels a few weeks ago, as part of our first Small Ideas show of the University year; and if you did miss them, then you should be kicking yourself repeatedly in the shin till it snaps in two. Ithaca Trio is the brainchild of Mr Ollie Thurley, a young man I have known for a few years, who’s musical expertise always manages to astound me, and he produced perhaps the best EP of 2009 (my band’s Shirley Bassey EP)….*cough, cough*….anyways, Ithaca Trio is the latest venture for Mr Thurley and it is something that I advise you all have a listen of, and his worriedaboutsatan remix is well worth hearing. Coming at you like Tim Hecker sitting in dark room, shoving Steve Reich, Bach, and Wu Tang samples through a loop pedal; Ithaca Trio are a band well worth giving your time to. I spoke to Ollie about his Ithaca project:
Jonny: So, explain the inspiration behind Ithaca Trio? What made it come about? And is the name a homage to Mogwai?
Ollie: Haha, nice! Not many people spot the Mogwai reference, thank you! Basically the name is part Mogwai influence, and part Shotgun from Resident Evil. When I'm trying to be arty though, I tell people it's the mythical island from Homer's Odyssey. The trio came about because, basically I'm a closet jazz-nerd (just a listener though, I'm a terrible player). Also, I thought more people would listen if they thought they were listening to three jazz-trained musicians, rather than one music geek. What made it come about? Musical maliciousness. When I lived with Will, I put a load of my drones and ambient stuff on a CD - he absolutely hated it... so I decided to keep doing it, and bullied him into helping me live.
Jonny: Explain your extremely complicated gear set-up, and do you think tonnes of gear is important? Or does it just look cool?
Ollie: Tonnes of gear a good thing? No, to be honest, my set up is far too convoluted and unnecessary at the moment. I'm going to start cutting back live, and limiting myself whilst writing I think. Basically, I have two people's rigs for one person. The guitar half, is a parallel loop pedal system, routed through a DJ mixer. Essentially its Steve Reich's phase recordings meets Brian Eno's generative work... on a pedal board. Then the other half is a Laptop, and Roland sampler. The guitar (and whoever else is playing) gets routed into the Laptop, and into a bit of software called Penguin (shameless plug: you can get it from http://ithacatrio.wordpress.com) which does lots of super-fun glitchy things.
Jonny: Whats going on with the new album? A massive departure from the EP? What influenced the new recordings?
Ollie: We've got a mini-album (Tesla Verses The Night) coming out on Under the Spire Recordings early next year, which I'm really, really excited about. They've got some brilliant artists over there (Jasper TX, p jørgensen, Damian Valles...), so I'm genuinely honoured Chris likes and is releasing this next project.
After that, I'm not really sure to be perfectly honest. We've just started recording a new full-length album this week, its all up in the air currently. I think it's going to be pretty different from anything I've tried before, but how different I don't know yet. The first release was all slow manipulations of guitar. The second was acoustic-guitar based, and the mini-album is a really organic recording. The album is stepping out of the softness of a lot of the earlier works and getting a bit atonal. I think I'm listening to too much Animal Collective and Love Supreme-era Coltrane at the moment really.
Jonny: Whats the future for Ithaca? More shows? More production stuff for you Mr Thurley?
Ollie: I'm planning the standard Rock and Roll package I think; drug-addiction, decent to obscure madness, hiatus, royalty lawsuits, comeback tour, greatest hits album... Seriously though? Well, we're supporting Library Tapes on January 30th which is exciting. Forest of Sound have secured the St. Margaret of Antioch Church, Leeds which is an awesome building and sadly really underused for gigs. After that? Just working on the next album and hopefully a few special studio/live collaborations and some more remixes. Unfortunately, I'm not really organized enough to plan that far ahead after that, so we'll see what turns up.
Jonny: If you could work with any musician who would it be and why?
Ollie: Hmm... not sure? PartWildHorsesManeOnBothSides, because they're fucking incredible, Seb Rochford from Polar Bear, or Madlib. Seb has awesome hair, but probably Madlib. The guy apparently owns four tonnes of vinyl and blends Hip-Hop sensibility with everything from 80's prog-rock to 60's modal-jazz, but I wonder what he would do with ambient music. He has so many collaborations/alter-ego's I'm sure he could handle a little drone project. Madaca? Ithalib? Okay, maybe not.
Jonny: Cheddar or Brie?
Ollie: Cheddar, but it has to be a really mature one. I'm a sucker for Cathedral City...
Jonny: Chequered or spotted trousers?
Jonny: North or South?
Ollie: South. You dirty northerners...
Jonny: Sandwiches or baguettes?
Ollie: Vive la baguette!
Jonny: Juice or Squash?
Jonny: Raekwon or GZA?
Ollie: Liquid Swords is one of my favorite Wu side-projects, but mate... it's all about RZA & Meth!
Jonny: Playing Live or being in the Studio?
Ollie: Erm, studio I think. There is a lot more time and choice in the studio. I can get more people involved, more processing, more tender love and affection, that sort of stuff. I just feel a lot more comfortable writing and trying new things out in the studio than doing it live - I get more chance to spread out when nobody is listening. Plus, in the studio, I can choose what I let people hear after I'm done - at the moment, for every minute of Ithaca Trio stuff available online, I've got four minutes sat on my hard-drive that nobody else gets to hear.
Jonny: Omelettes or scrambled eggs?
Ollie: I make a mean omelette.
Jonny: Thank you.
Ollie: Thank you, Small Ideas!
Rolo Tomassi: Sheffield’s finest. If they like it or not…
Sheffield has a rich musical past, ranging from Tony Christie to Human League, Def Leppard (you can’t deny the brilliance of a one-armed drummer), up to Pulp and today with 65daysofstatic, and most recently Rolo Tomassi. Rolo are not only one of the most exciting prospects kicking and screaming their way out of Sheffield, but the UK as a whole. So with the saucy, discordant genius of Hysterics, a mission statement of a band willing to challenge themselves and keep us mere listeners forever guessing what’s around the corner; what is next for Rolo? I spoke to keyboard player, James from Rolo Tomassi, recently about what its like starting out in Sheffield, and how the next album is shaping up.
Jonny: What was it like being a new band in Sheffield? Was there much of a scene when you were starting out, or did you have to work hard to get noticed? Also, are there any particular venues in Sheffield you like/liked playing?
James: When we formed our band, Sheffield has a really healthy DIY scene. Maybe its just nostalgia but shows seemed to be better locally back then. There were venues like the Cricketers which always had a really cool atmosphere but because of music licensing laws that particular place had to shut.
We actually didn't spend too much time playing Sheffield regularly when we started out. It was a conscious decision to play out of town as much as possible which I believe in the long run totally worked in our favor. Although its a big place, everyone involved with music in Sheffield seems knows each other so in terms of meeting new people who could help us out in seemed a little redundant to keep playing the same places over and over.
Jonny: How has been working with a label like Holy Roar, who seem to have a lot of like-minded bands on their roster?
James: At the moment, we're actually on Hassle Records but in the past we put out our self-titled EP and a 7" with Holy Roar. Working with them was fantastic though. We met Alex and Ellen just before or maybe just as they were setting up the label in really good circumstances. We played a show in the living room of their old house in Birmingham. it was an amazing night and really got our relationship off on the right foot.
Being involved with the label since/during its inception and seeing how much its grown has been an absolute pleasure. We're proud to be counted among their roster considering some of the amazing artists they've put out and continue to put out.
Jonny: How is the new album going? Are you consciously pursuing a new direction, or do you feel its a natural progression of the band? Also, how was Diplo influenced/affected recordings? How was it been working with him?
James: The new album is currently being mixed and the recording process went really well. We were all really happy with the songs we had going into the studio and at this current stage we're really happy with how they've come out. I think in terms of how it sounds, its a natural progression from Hysterics, our first album. A years worth of touring the first album definitely gave us a good idea of what we wanted to change about the songs, knowing that we'll be touring this release hard as well.
Working with Diplo and Ariel, the engineer for the album, was a great experience. In the past we've always recorded really close to home so after initially getting over the novelty of being the other side of the world, we settled into a good pattern of work and built up a good working relationship with the people we were working with. I think that being from a different 'scene' or whatever you want to call it, Diplo brings a fresh set of ears to what we're doing. He's worked with a lot of different artists who would maybe usually require different production techniques than we would have used on us being a rock band.
Jonny: What tunes are your favourites to drop in a DJ set?
Jame: Like I Love You - Justin Timberlake
I Drink The Wine - Murder City Devils
Heather Im Dry - Dolby Anol
Tired of Sex - Weezer
Amongst many others!
Jonny: Do you think the changing dynamic of the music industry is challenging you as a band? Or do you think it has made things easier?
James: Recently I've been trying not to think about 'the industry' because everything is pretty fucked at the moment with illegal downloads, poor tickets sales to shows and a lot of labels just hemorrhaging money and going under BUT I think that the current climate just makes a band like us work harder. Thats not to say we wouldn't work hard at what we do otherwise. The sad truth is that if we don't stay constantly active and stay in peoples faces that we could easily fall in amongst the many cracks that are appearing. I think a lot of bands really struggle to write a second album and get it out quickly so they can carry on touring but I think we've managed to do that so we won't be disappearing anytime soon.
In a world where X-Factor and Britains Got “Talent” are watched with religious fervour and Piers Morgan’s opinion on music counts for something, its massively refreshing to hear a band who clearly don’t give a fuck what anyone thinks, and instead are happy to mix with like minded bands, and operate without the fat cats of the major labels who think Lady GaGa is revolutionising music and the return of Robbie Williams is something to be excited by. And they are from Sheffield. Bonus.
Friday, 20 November 2009
Tim Hecker- An Imaginary Country
Fuck Buttons piss me off. This may seem like a bizarre way to start a review of the latest album of perhaps the greatest figure in the sometimes-confusing world of ambient drone; but let me proceed. Ever fucker has jumped on the bandwagon throwing all kinds of superlatives at Fuck Buttons, usually some hyperbolic rubbish about “sonic landscapes” or some awful prose like that. Don’t get me wrong, I like nothing more than two figures hunched over a plethora of laptops, samplers, assembled FX units, making loud noises, but to hark Fuck Buttons as the Second Coming of Noise, is massively OTT. That’s not to say if you like Fuck Buttons, you won’t like Imaginary Country, because YOU WILL, that’s that point- throw away your copy of Tarot Sport and get your sweaty mits on a copy of Imaginary Country.
Right, long introduction out the way, lets get down to business. Tim Hecker has been for the last 5-6 years creating the most invigorating drone that you will hear, wrapping hisses and fuzzy noise into intriguing interludes of music, but never before has Hecker producing something so beautiful. Imaginary Country is an album designed for travel- the way the sounds float and flutter and pan from one side of your conciousness to another, it evokes the rhythm but also sparseness and loneliness of travel. The album is divided into tracks but it may as well be one piece of music, as each track flows into one another, which gives it this chilling fluidity which completely encapsulates you as the listener, and induces an image of this An Imaginary Country, which is truly chilling.
If you want a noisey, fuzzy album that is easily digestible and easily disposable, go and buy a copy of Tarot Sport. If you want an album to spend time with, and to learn something new about after every listen, then fuck Fuck Buttons, and enter Hecker’s world. Remember: keep your receipt for Tarot Sport….you’ll be needing it…..
If you like Tim Hecker, try : William Basinski, Growing, Belong, Stars of the Lid
Saturday, 24 October 2009
I would hate people to think I am in love with Bradford Cox....well I think I am. Fastidious Assassins' album of the year Microcastle by Deerhunter was a beautiful record of 50's surf/garage pop but with beautiful sonic textures, masterminded by Mr Cox. And FA's album of 2009 could well be another of Mr Cox's masterpieces.
Logos is a beautiful record. It is in essence a very simple, almost natural record, made of mostly acoustic instrumentation but with hauntingly beautiful vocals from Cox and especially Lætitia Sadier on "Quick Canal". "Walkabout" features Noah Lennox from Animal Collective and is a joyously upbeat pop song, that is perhaps my favourite song of the year, and showcases Cox's knack for penning bloody good pop songs. Logos is a testament to the brilliance of Mr Cox and is a fantastic progression from last years "Let the Blind...", which was a shuddering, bleak record, and on Logos Cox has honed this into something beautiful and cohesive.