Friday, November 30, 2007

Music Videos # 64

Battles - Tonto

With the hallucinating video for "Atlas" still in our mind, everyone's favourite math-rock band (i.e. Battles) release another breathtaking short-clip from this year's awesome album Mirrored, this time for song "Tonto". A collaboration with light artists UVA (United Visual Artists), the result looks so geometrically perfect that it totally suits their mutant approach to music, combining lighting games with the elaborated rhythmic sounds heard on the song. At the same time, the band keeps playing with self-absorbed precision on an abandoned field, while surrounded by this visual installment. And then the sun rises and it's early morning, but the magic keeps on happening. Beautiful.

MySpace page

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Eastern Promises

It really is amazing how David Cronenberg always manages to immerse us in a whole different reality with his movies, even when the physical elements that we see on screen are common everyday things. Being a fictional look at the russian mafia living in London, "Eastern Promises" is full of characters that exist inside an alternative notion of society, living by their own rules, in a world where only their own laws and rigid codes matter. Layer by layer and with an almost cirurgical precision, we're gradually immersed in this strangely realistic world, full of graphic violence and a threatening atmosphere, until there's no turning back and the catharsis finally happens. Strangely seductive.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Pinch - Underwater Dancehall

Released on the same day as Burial's monumental latest record, "Underwater Dancehall" by dubstep producer and DJ Rob Ellis (aka Pinch) runs the risk of being overshadowed by "Untrue", something which would be quite unfair. Being one of the most respected figures inside the dubstep community, his first full-length record is an ambitious conceptual double-album with a curious approach: the first part consists mostly of tracks with added guest vocalists, while the second half has the exact same tracks with the exact same order but excluding the voices. Funnily enough, this simple fact makes a huge difference in the final ambience, with the vocal-versions being much more open, thanks in part to the contributions of jamaican toasters and r&b vocalists. On the other hand, the instrumental half feels much darker and mechanical, living in special place of its own, a languid world almost closed to the outside. Either way, as a whole it's easy to identify Pinch's trademark technics as a producer, with a sparse collection of sounds used to obtain a narcotic atmoshere with maximum effects inside our brain. In fact, with an almost clinical precision, "Underwater Dancehall" is run by a self-restrained approach guaranteed to awe anyone that immerses in its sounds and analyses them. Using subterranean layered beats, a profound bass and a few haunted samples, each track then has an individual identity, with and without vocals, building an immense pallette of soundscapes and emotions. (8/10)

MySpace page (Tectonic Recordings)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Jay-Z - American Gangster

After the disappointment that was last year's "Kingdom Come" (the work of someone searching for his new space after so much success and not exactly finding it), "American Gangster" sees Jay-Z back to top form. It all started while watching the first drafts of "American Gangster" (the movie): apparently he got so inspired with the film that he felt the need to write a conceptual album about the life of Frank Lucas and so went on to record it in just a couple of weeks. Describing the rise and fall of an almost mythic figure, it includes essays about drugs, crime, dealers, religion, family, etc. It's widely known that these are the themes Jay-Z feels most confortable with and this fact really shows in his confident flow and the urgency of his speech, as if he's once again having fun and doing something not for the money or status but instead because he needs it, almost for his own survival. Instrumentally, the album doesn't feel so strident as "Kingdom Come", choosing direct and efficient beats, with part of the songs having a dry and tight approach while others use luxurious soul and funk samples. The final result has a larger-than-life atmosphere that makes sense: after all, this is a man who has already 10 number one albums in the U.S., a fact only tied by the Beatles. And with "American Gangster", the music once again feels more important than the legend. (8/10)

Jay-Z - Roc Boys (And The Winner Is) (video)

MySpace page

Friday, November 23, 2007

Music Videos # 63

Bloc Party - Flux

Electro synthesizers, high-energy retro beats, intense use of vocoders... Apparently, Bloc Party have gone insane and, in the meantime, dropped the serious thoughts, had fun and recorded one of their best songs yet, an infectious beast with an addictive chorus and a have-fun-now-like-there's-no-tomorrow attitude. As for the video, it's basically a very cool affair with low-budget visuals and a charming naïve approach, featuring good robots and evil monsters. And I always love anything that includes good robots and evil monsters.

MySpace page
Official Site

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Anton Corbijn has been directing videos for more than 20 years and his curriculum includes many reference works for the likes of Depeche Mode, Nirvana or U2. Having started his career as a photographer, he accompanied Joy Division on their rise to fame, so directing a biopic about Ian Curtis and his premature death seems like a logical next-step, as a full-length debut. In fact, one of the things that mostly impressed me in "Control", along with the electifying live performances, was the severe austerity felt in every scene, something that is Corbijn's trademark. All shot in a beautiful black & white, in the end only one thing matters, which is taking a close and almost poetic look at an enigmatic Ian Curtis (amazingly played by Sam Riley), his alienation and the imaginary that surrounds him, until hanging himself to death, at only 23 years old. And slowly but surely, the movie helps understand why a myth was born.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Deepchord presents Echospace - The Coldest Season

After years of limited-edition maxi-singles, "The Coldest Season" collects a series of previous vinyl-only cuts that Rob "Deepchord" Modell has been putting out and is the first high-profile release for label Echospace. Coming from Detroit, the city where techno was born, Deepchord music is actually much closer to what we've been hearing for more than a decade from Berlin label Basic Channel, in a sub-genre generally known as dub-techno. That is to say, here we mostly have minimal digressions based on a profound bass, dub effects, deep chords, muted echoes and a general narcotic ambience. Add an obsessive attention to details and an involving progression with strong hypnotic results and "The Coldest Season" stands for one of the best dub-techno excursions in quite some time. And finally, the main touch: recorded using only vintage-analog equipment, there's a strong and unique identity coming from the fact that its synths seem made of ice and wind. Just perfect for this coldest season (thus, the title doesn't lie). (8,5/10)

Official Site

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Burial - Untrue

No one knows for sure who he really is, but Burial is undoubtedly dubstep's most prestigious agent. And in a slow year for dubstep full-length records, "Untrue" is destined to mark 2007. His first album, out in 2006, was considered one of the year's best by many people (including myself) and naturally expectations were high, but after hearing "Untrue", it's hard to imagine anyone feeling disappointed.
It's fair to say that his sound is strongly identifiable. Suggesting post-apocalyptic urban landscapes where there's not a living soul to be seen, it's late night and there's only empty, dark and abandoned spaces, "Burial" was dubstep's milestone and marked its entry into adulthood. With "Untrue", we're once again taken to the following days (or nights) after the apocalypse, a scary and at the same time beautiful place, but there are also other aspects that make it more eclectic. For once, besides the fact that the beats are sharper and the synths are more emotive, the use of echoed soul voices, already one of his trademarks, is much stronger, with some titles seeming, for the first time, drafts of actual songs, even if these are blurred voices heard through a lot of static. The claustrophobic and imponent atmosphere is again present, but there are also lighter elements heard, though not in a conforting way, but instead inserted with a lot of grain, as if these were nostalgic notes of a time before the apocalypse, reminding us of something that no longer exists. There's also a very subtle narrative line throughout the whole record, making "Untrue" a conceptual work with strong visual suggestions, building a poetic universe to which we can't help but be immersed in, only to be blinded by its unique and powerful light. Coming from a place of its own and whispering the future in our ears, is "Untrue" an act of obsession? Sublime, enigmatic and moving as few other things, here's a fascinating record by one of the most fascinating musicians of today. (9,5/10)

Myspace page

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Britney Spears - Blackout

Well, what do you know? Throughout the reported mess and chaos that her life (and herself) are supposed to be at the moment, she's managed to put out the best moment in her career yet. You can argue that it's all thanks to the producers (and Danja, Bloodshy and Avant, Sean Garrett, The Neptunes, etc, did make a wonderful job creating the most groundbreaking beats, addictive synth-lines and sick vocal harmonies for this album) and that her presence sounds almost anonymous (on the other hand, I personally like the cool effect of that). But then again, at least you have to give her credit for making herself surrounded by the right people at the right moment. And then, who can complain when you have stellar numbers like "Gimme More" (yes, the single), "Piece Of Me", "Get Naked (I Got A Plan)", "Radar" or, most of all, the sick dubstep rhythms of "Freakshow" and the Moroder-infected-pop-hallucination that is "Heaven On Earth". (8,5/10)

Britney Spears - Gimme More (video)

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Apparat - Walls

Coming from Berlin, Sascha Ring (aka Apparat) is already a veteran in today's electronic music scene. Although most people only had contact with his work after last year's collaboration with Ellen Allien (the excellent Orchestra Of Bubbles album), the fact is that, behind his own label Shitkatapult (co-founded together with T. Raumschmiere) or with previous solo albums, he has enough work to have a name for himself. "Walls", his new album, is another addition and could be considered something like a quiet revolution. Why? Because even if it's not so in-your-face as most high-profile records of today, it does have a lot of those subtle elements that are also important to innovation. If, at first listen, nothing really original seems to happen (besides the mesmerizing beauty of its sounds), don't be surprised. "Walls" is full of those contemplative atmospheres that mix so well with whatever-you're-doing and it can be easy to get distracted. But pay a bit more attention and you'll find out that, without much notice, Apparat has invented a language of his own, an unique mix between edgy electronics and dreamy-pop landscapes. Adding surprising sounds that are more associated with indie-pop and rock than with electronics, and covering candid songs with distinct elements like shoegazing reverb, glitch-electronics, involving guitars and keyboards, blurry echoes, dramatic strings and free percussive structures, "Walls" subtly ends up being one of the warmest and most eclectic electronic records to come out in quite a while. (7,5/10)

Myspace page
Official Site

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Music Videos # 62

Panda Bear - Comfy In Nautica

"Strawberry Jam", the new Animal Collective album, has been a bit of a disappointment to me. A lot of nice textures and innovative sound structures, but where are the good songs? Slightly suffocated beneath all the experimentation... So it's back to Noah Lennox's solo project as Panda Bear and his wonderful Person Pitch album, one of this year's best records. This time, there's a new video for "Comfy In Nautica" and what could be seen as only random images of a skater, has a new meaning added by the fact that most of the scenes are shot with the camera pointed directly towards the sun. This simple fact turns the video into a beautiful showcase on different forms of light-capturing and couldn't be a better match to the song's own luminosity.

Myspace page

Roisin Murphy - Overpowered

After a decade fronting Moloko and a first solo-album recorded two years ago with Mathew Herbert, Roisin Murphy is still able to surprise us with another twist. "Overpowered", her new album, is a long take from the exquisite sounds of 2005's "Ruby Blue", being basically a collection of very accessible electro-disco-pop songs. Inviting many well-known dance producers like Richard X, Groove Armada's Andy Cato, Jimmy Douglass, Seiji (Bugz in the Attic), Ill Factor, and Parrot & Dean, everything is really well-crafted, elegant and professionally done, I guess with the aim to create a classic pop album. The only problem is the fact that sometimes everything sounds too calculated, lacking an extra spark that could take "Overpowered" to riskier places where no one had been before, something we know that Roisin is very capable of. Without that, everything runs a bit too smoothly, but we're still left with some immaculately-produced songs, her always-incredible voice (and an equally-incredible accompanying new visual) and the fact that her song-writing has never sounded better. For now, it's more than enough. (7/10)

Roisin Murphy - Let Me Know (video)

MySpace page
Official Site