Archive for January, 2009

EPHEL DUATH – Through My Dog’s Eyes (2009)

Posted in 2009 Music, Reviews on January 31, 2009 by monopolyphonic

Ephel Duath - Through My Dog's EyesConsidering how crushing a disappointment Ephel Duath’s previous album, Pain Necessary To Know proved to be, I approached Through My Dog’s Eyes with caution. Unbeknown to me, however, was the fact that even approaching this album at all was a colossal mistake.

Before I paint the ugly picture of how utterly shitty Through My Dog’s Eyes is, allow me to first map the career trajectory of Ephel Duath for you, the (presumably) uninitiated reader. Back in 2000, Ephel Duath released Phormula, a ho-hum black metal record whose single most defining attribute lay in the fact that it was written by a band from Italy (take that, True Frozen North!). However, in 2003, the band released The Painter’s Palette, a maddeningly weird hybrid of death metal and jazz. If you’re thinking it’s somehow along the lines of Cynic or Atheist, you’re mistaken. If ever there was an album that could give legitimacy to “crossover” as a genre, The Painter’s Palette was it. Davide Piovesan (a jazz drummer by trade) supplied a jazz framework for every song, and the band went absolutely apeshit in it. But not just any kind of apeshit. No, they went apeshit in style. Within the opening seconds of The Painter’s Palette’s first track (The Passage (Pearl Grey)), there’s a trumpet solo, hardcore screams galore and a jazzy bass breakdown. Needless to say, it was exhilarating, something that couldn’t be said for the band’s follow-up, Pain Necessary To Know .

Which brings me to this album: what in the hell were Earache thinking when they decided to release this? Through My Dog’s Eyes is a concept album about life, from the viewpoint of a dog. Alright, I’m gonna go ahead and give you a second to absorb that. waits Done? Okay. In case you were wondering, yes, it is unapologetically weird, but sadly, Ephel Duath don’t have the depth as a band anymore to pull it off (guitarist Davide Tiso is the only remaining member from the original lineup). Mr. Bungle could probably make something like this work. Ephel Duath can’t.

Musically, the album is a desultory mess of wah-wah hard rock bullshit tossed carelessly alongside stagnant, empty lounge muzak. For some reason, Ben Weinman (of The Dillinger Escape Plan) interjects his two cents into the final song of the album (Bark Loud), by wrapping up random sections of it in a layer of spastic electro-vomit. Wtih all due respect to Ben Weinman, he should’ve stayed the fuck home. As if Through My Dog’s Eyes needed any more help being both thoroughly incomprehensible and thoroughly unnecessary.

If you haven’t listened to The Painter’s Palette, please, go do so. And don’t come anywhere near this monstrosity. As for me, I’ve got an album to resell. And pronto.

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DÄLEK – Gutter Tactics (2009)

Posted in 2009 Music, Reviews on January 30, 2009 by monopolyphonic

Dälek - Gutter Tactics The last two Dälek albums, Absence and Abandoned Language, were both dense portraits that pulsated with dark grooves and a sobering political reality. Given this, Gutter Tactics begins much as one might expect it to; by sampling a sermon of Jeremiah Wright in the opening track, Blessed Are They Who Bash Your Children’s Head Against A Rock – a title which acts as a revelatory Beatitude for our times.

In interviews, Dälek continually have to assert that they do indeed play hip-hop, to a wide variety of people who somehow think they don’t. It’s true that they are a touch unorthodox in their approach, but they’re still hip-hop nonetheless. Their music is packed with deft rhymes, steady beats, some samples and a nigh unstoppable flow; that’s hip-hop to a tee. Still, I can forgive all the journalists who might balk at calling Dälek’s music hip-hop, as the band have no qualms whatsoever about pushing their songs into realms that hip-hop does not typically tread into.

On Gutter Tactics, one such genre-defiant song is Who Medgar Evers Was…; it soldiers forward like a powerful death machine, before slowing down, and down, and down, as if all the gears were failing at once. It’s frightening to listen to; it’s got a to it power that the genre hasn’t exhibited as strongly in over a decade; you’d have to go back to the heyday of Public Enemy to find something that’s equally as charged and ready to blow.

While my initial reaction is that Gutter Tactics may not be quite as volatile as Absence or Abandoned Language are, but it still packs one hell of a punch. If you’re looking to dive into a hip-hop album some serious edge to it, look no further.

ANIMAL COLLECTIVE – Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009)

Posted in 2009 Music, Reviews on January 29, 2009 by monopolyphonic

Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion I’ve had a few weeks to absorb Merriweather Post Pavilion now, and I’d like to respond to the biggest claim that everybody seems to be making about this album: namely, that Merriweather Post Pavilion is somehow Animal Collective’s “pop” album.

I disagree.

Now, it’s always tricky to talk genres when you’re talking about a band who’ve dedicated themselves existing beyond them (Animal Collective is one such band, but there are others – Ulver, Xiu Xiu and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, to name a few). But I think that if you’re going to make the argument that one Animal Collective album is their “pop” album, it would have to be Strawberry Jam. The arrangements on that album most closely resemble pop music: songs with the classic “verse/chorus” structure that gleefully make the most of simple, exuberant repetition. If you’re not quite sure what I am talking about listen to For Reverend Green or Winter Wonder Land and then compare them to, say, My Girl, and then tell me which is more “poppy” sounding.

Now, nothing that I mentioned above should serve as a distraction from the fact that Merriweather Post Pavilion is one of the strongest albums Animal Collective have ever released. It’s just that the reason I find it so compelling is different from why everyone else does. I don’t hear a pop album here. Merriweather Post Pavilion, to me, sounds like what would happen if we were to launch Animal Collective into space and have them record an album there. Each song inhabits a shimmering, blissed-out vastness; most people don’t talk about physical space when discussing what an album sounds like, but Merriweather Post Pavilion inhabits such a curiously fascinating aural cavern of half-submerged electronics and gorgeous harmonies that it’s hard to ignore. If you want a real treat, get a real nice pair of headphones, and turn the volume. Just don’t close your eyes. You might wake up on Mars.

In a way, I think labeling Merriweather Post Pavilion as the band’s pop album is more than erroneous – it cheapens what really makes the album so special. True, Animal Collective do sometimes sound more like one genre than others; Sung Tongs, for example, sounds kind of like a folk album (but only kind of). Merriweather Post Pavilion, however, has a sound all of its own.

ANTONY & THE JOHNSONS – The Crying Light (2009)

Posted in 2009 Music, Reviews on January 25, 2009 by monopolyphonic

Antony & The Johnsons - The Crying Light There’s a distinct difference between a singer with a voice that’s a bit rough around the edges and a singer that’s an acquired taste. Bob Dylan is rough around the edges. Tom Waits is an acquired taste. And of these two categories, Antony Hegarty squarely falls into the latter. His soft, vibrato-soaked warbling is just as likely to register as distinctively off-putting to some as it is beautifully transcendent to others.

There’s a distinct stylistic difference between The Crying Light and the band’s previous album, the Mercury-Prize-winning album I Am A Bird Now – namely, that I Am A Bird Now is a very soulful, sometimes jazzy (a la Fistfull of Love) collection of songs, while The Crying Light consists primarily of sweet and elegant chamber pop. It’s a joy to listen to, and will definitely be one of the best albums of 2009 (which, considering it’s only January, is saying a lot).