Wednesday, December 21, 2016

MX-80 Sound - 'Big Hits and Hard Attack'

Ok, really, this is the real reason I started doing this blog again. I wanted to post this record, realizing I never did a few years back when I was heavy into these fellas.

Coming out of the oasis of Bloomington, IN (basically the ONLY good thing in Indiana, and a pretty strange place), this band is a combination of influences that I really don't like. I hear a lot of Captain Beefheart, whom I despise, and also maybe some Frank Zappa, who is ok but not my favorite, Velvet Underground, who I also hate, and an assortment of 70's radio rock. Somehow, all this ends up being awesome, and completely unlike anything else, no matter how many people say they 'sound just like Sonic Youth.'

This kind of music just doesn't happen anymore. Here you have some college dudes in the middle of nowhere, just making music and playing for their friends, without ANY real musical worldview. So out of touch with everything going on in '76 that they sound current in 2016. It's fitting that they were discovered by The Residents, who also put out the bulk of their material on their Ralph Records, after Island dropped the band.

Since I can't really relate their sound to anything else other than their influences (which really doesn't cut it), this might get a little detailed.

So, you've got scratchy, 'angular' guitar work that sounds half-improvised, but always inspired. It's also really never feels like the band is 'trying' to be weird, or experimental, they're just weirdos. You can tell there's a lot of early heavy metal influence in the guitar work as well. And yes, some parts sound strikingly similar to Sonic Youth drones, but more interesting, I would argue.

The bass player is ALWAYS busy, and actually has some of the 'lead' riffs while the guitar fucks around. Best, however, are the drums, which are SO FUCKING HEAVY. It sounds like an old jazz kit being played as hard and fast as possible. Like, I don't even really know, I was just smiling at this guy's playing the whole album, it's way funkier than you'd think for this type of music, and also REALLY idiosyncratic, maybe a little like Primus.

Primus is actually a good comparison, come to think of it. Except the vocals aren't super fucking annoying, and the songs don't feel as laborious.

Speaking of the vocalist, who sounds a little like Jesse Michaels from Operation Ivy, except crazy, he is VERY good at his limited style. He's not the best singer, but he doesn't just get the fuck out of the way like most noise-rock vocalists. If he's not conversationally joking about PCB's and kidnapping girls, he's honking on his out-of-tune saxophone.

I could just go on. I don't even know how many times I laughed at the bizarre jokes in the lyrics. Rich Stim has perfect comedic timing in the way that only the Dead Milkmen or The Frogs perfected.  When he does get serious, it's more creepy than anything, and makes the band seem sort of menacing, like their live shows must have been totally out of control.

Aaaaanyways, their second album, 'Out of the Tunnel,' and the third, 'Crowd Control,' are also very good. Their later stuff is spotty, but I'm glad they're still slightly active. Definitely my favorite band on Ralph Records, which is pretty insane considering their roster includes Tuxedomoon, Snakefinger, and of course The Residents.

NOTE: My version also includes their first EP, as 2 long tracks at the beginning of the album. It's good, but 'Hard Attack' is where it's at.

MX-80 Sound - 'Big Hits and Hard Attack'


1. Train to Loveland / You Turn Me On / SCP / Til Death Do Us Part
2. Myonga Von Bontee / Boy Trouble - Girl Trouble / Tidal Wave
3. Man on the Move
4. Kid Stuff
5. Fascination
6. Summer '77
7. PCB's
8. Crushed Ice
9. Tidal Wave
10. Theme from 'Checkmate'
11. Facts-Facts
12. You're Not Alone
13. Civilized / Demeyes
14. Afterbirth / Aftermath
15. Sad Girls (Bonus Track)


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Some shit I heard and didn't mind hearing in 2016

People who read this page probably know that it's a place to come for old, forgotten music. That's because I don't really keep up with modern shit or anything. Whatever. I dunno, I got bored though, so now I'm listening to new music again.

This isn't a 'best of 2016' because everything is subjective. It's not even 'my favorites of 2016' because some of these releases I haven't even heard all the way through. They're just things that caught my ear for one reason or another. People making art that reflects themselves instead of the shit going on around them. Sometimes I don't have the attention span for an album, or I'm not in the mood for a particular genre, but I'm trying to give props where it's due.

Bizarro Jerry's 2016 List:

King - "We Are King"

Throwback R&B by two sisters and their friend who write and produce all their own songs. Their debut album has a dreamy, almost 'hypnagogic' vibe that out-hazes Sade at times, which I found impressive.

Andy Stott - "Too Many Voices"

Genre-less electronic music with bits and pieces from a lot of unlikely sources (i.e. 80's New Romantic music, Memphis rap, outsider house) that I like a LOT. I'm really excited to see what this dude does next.

Yves Tumor - "Serpent Music"

Further proof that music is transcending genres. Faded R&B mixed with industrial, lo-fi, field recordings, vaporwave-ish looped samples, religious records and creepy beats.

Zomby - "Ultra"

Stoned-out, insular dance music with elements from trap rap, 90's rave, dubstep, and ambient techno. I feel like I should hate this, but it's so tossed-off and weird that I don't. Just seems like this dude has fun with what he does.

Demdike Stare - "Wonderland"

I've learned to appreciate music that I might initially write off as 'boring' under the right circumstances. Normally I'm not too into the kind of ambient creep-fests these two guys usually cook up, but they're perfect for late-night driving. I think I'm finally sold on them with this release, though, as it's a lot more musical and beat-driven. Still creepy, but in a car-thumping, menacing kind of way.

Nicolas Jaar - "Sirens"

I have no idea what this dude is on about, but I got major feels off this. He seems very angry. His music is...strange. More shapeshifting, genre-bending weirdness that encompasses Suicide-esque synth punk, IDM and ambient, and somehow has a lot of chaotic jazz drumming and saxophone, too.

Immune - "Breathless"

Kind of like if you took the vaporwave recording aesthetic and applied it to 90's dance music. I guess a lot of these are slowed-down remixes of old dance tracks, but whatever. It's got a rainy-day kinda vibe, and I fall asleep to it a lot.

Spark Master Tape - "Silhouette of a Sunkken City"

Spark's experimental take on mainstream rap continues, and gets even darker. This came out after a 2-year hiatus where nothing was heard from him at all. I still think he's Kai Skywalker.

2 8 1 4 - "Rain Temple"

This is like the soundtrack for some 90's made-for-TV tech-thriller film, and I love it.

callasoiled - "Vapor Reflection"
callasoiled - "音響効果芸術集"

I don't know a whole lot about this Japanese producer. I don't even know if I correctly typed his or her name, because sometimes it's stylized as 'Calla Soiled,' sometimes as 'calla soiled' and sometimes like I have it. I do know that the music they make is super-luxurious, maximalist electronica that seems (to me) very modern, but also very natural. Even with trap drumkits and dubstep wobble bass popping up here and there, callasoiled's best tunes feel like a forest broken down into mathematical components, then turned into music. Last year's 'Lucoq' is the best release I've heard, but they've put out like, 5 things this year that are all pretty good.

Babyfather - "BBF Hosted by DJ Escrow"

I am apparently just as baffled by Dean Blunt's music as everybody else. I dunno, this kinda seems like he just freestyled really badly over some songs he had that sort of resembled rap music, but taking into account his public persona, it seems that wouldn't be the case, and that this is a carefully planned release. I don't know. Parts of it are obnoxious, but then it gets very disorienting and weird. It's interesting, at the very least.

Moe and ghosts X 空間現代 - "Rap Phenomenon"

Okay, it's headache-inducing math rock with female, Japanese rapping on top. It's insane. This could have only come from Japan.

Vektor - "Terminal Redux"

I've heard about 4 songs, and they were all good. Vektor has consistently been solid, and this might be their best release yet.

Deftones - "Gore"

Every time the Deftones put out a new record, it ends up being my second favorite, after "White Pony." This time, for real, this is my second favorite Deftones record. Okay, maybe third, because I have a soft spot for 'Adrenaline,' but SERIOUSLY, this is a good Deftones record. Any minor complaints I had about "Diamond Eyes" and "Koi No Yokan" (namely over-production, auto-tuned vocals, and a few kinda samey songs) are resolved here.

Floating Points - "Kuiper" EP

Like, some weird combination of film noir instruments and ambient electronica? I don't really know. It's got a movie-feel to it, and it's pretty dark and dreamy. I dig it, along with the full-length they put out last year.

Esperanza Spalding - "Emily's D+Evolution"

Why aren't more people talking about this?? Really, REALLY cool jazz-fusion from a young bassist/singer. Like, for one thing, how many female singer/songwriter/bassists are there? And how many of them sound like Prince's weirder moments and play like fucking Jaco Pastorius?

Joao Donato - "Donato Eletrico"

I just stumbled across this album, and it's just super chilled-out Latin jazz that could've come from any era, if it weren't for random moments of record scratching and other strangeness. It's just very unassuming and enjoyable.

Autechre - "Elseq 1-5"

Okay, I've only heard a small fraction of this because I haven't been in an Autechre mood, but I love these dudes, and what I've heard is classic Autechre. In some ways, it's even noisier than they usually go for. Less chaotic and alien than something like "Confield," but definitely more experimental than their early albums.

18+ - "Fore"

What the hell is this? I'm not even sure if I like it. It might be super pretentious. Or it might just be some drug addicted, idiosyncratic weirdos. I guess it's R&B?? It's a guy and girl half-rapping/half-singing over these really strange some outsider couple version of Bones or something?

Nu Guinea - "The Tony Allen Experiments"

Cool jazz-funk with a lot of African vibes that reminds me of Bill Laswell's classic recordings. Nothing new, but not bad at all.

Burial - "Young Death / Nightmarket"

It took me a lot of listens to get into Burial. I still think his debut is better than "Untrue," which kind of bores me honestly. This...kind of bored me too...but it's just neat this reclusive dude is still putting tunes out, and it's cool to be able to get excited about new releases again.

Ho99o9 - "The Dope Dealerz / Double Barrel"

This is what the teens are doing now, and it's fucking terrifying. Like OFWG if they were actually as 'punk' as they think they are. These dudes do rap songs, and then they pick up instruments and do punk songs. Sometimes it crosses over, but not usually. These two tracks represent their two sides perfectly, much better than their previous EPs.
Melt Yourself Down - "Last Evenings on Earth"

Afro-post-punk wildness. EXCELLENT sax playing, complex rhythms, and a lot of anger. Sometimes the vocals are a little annoying, but these folks have a cool sound.

Yello - "Toy"

I didn't even realize these two weirdos were still doing shit...they must be in their 60s or 70s now. You remember 'Oh Yeah' from 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off' of course, but the rest of their classic output was more like the Residents Lite. I haven't heard this full album, but it sounds just as yuppie-ish, lush, and goofy as they always did.

I dunno, there's other stuff, but I don't wanna start doing the 'music journalist' thing and write about albums I'm not familiar with. This is stuff I've been ACTUALLY listening to.

Singers and Players - 'War of Words'

I've also been listening to a lot of Jamaican music. All the way from ska and rocksteady to the dub and roots reggae of the 70's. Of course, I wouldn't post something here unless it were a little out of the ordinary. Lots of dub has strange qualities...I mean, it IS a genre founded on getting high and doing the craziest mixes you can think of to pre-recorded tracks. It just sounds like pure fun. This album, however, is not fun at all.

Initially I saw this described as 'gothic reggae,' and I guess that's not far off the mark. It's got a very skeletal, sterile dub sound. The echo and reverb is all harsh and digital, and for some reason there's also a lot of super-distorted guitar, which is atypical of dub. The lyrics are all performed in creepy whispers, or a really deep, smoked-out toasting voice.

Everything, down to the black and white cover photo, conjures up a deeply depressive vibe, something also atypical of dub. While it's normally bass-heavy and minimal, this is heavy in different ways.

If you're looking to get into reggae, but want to start with the furthest possible point from Bob Marley, this is probably a good bet.

Singers and Players - 'War of Words' - 1982

1. Devious Woman
2. Quante Jubila
3. Sit and Wonder
4. Fit to Survive
5. Reaching the Bad Man
6. World of Dispensation
7. '91 Vibration


Terje Rypdal - 'Descendre'

Going to try summarizing what I've been listening to for the past 2 years...until I get bored anyways. Winter always gets me in a jazz mood, especially ECM stuff. This label specializes in clinically-produced, note-perfect jazz that a lot of people find too sterile. That's true if you stick with stuff like Pat Metheny and Oregon, but a lot of the Scandinavian artists featured on the label are pretty innovative.

Terje Rypdal is a Norwegian jazz-fusion guitarist with several albums out on ECM. The double-LP 'Odyssey' is maybe his best work, but I think this one from 1979 distills that album's best ideas into a one-album set, without any 20-minute ambient soundscapes. Despite that, it's still very dreamy. Although Rypdal developed his style in a totally different time, his playing is very shoegazey.

According to the information I can find, most of his recorded material is at least partially improvised, which is pretty impressive considering how focused the mood here is. Well, it's not just here...most of his work has a late-night, creepy vibe, that would be taken to extremes by dark-jazz groups like Bohren and Der Club of Gore in the 2000's.

Good stuff to zone out to. I'd recommend it even if you're not a jazz fan, because this reminds me a lot of post-rock, which makes sense because a lot of the best post-rock seems to come from Scandinavia as well.

Terje Rypdal - 'Descendre' - 1979

1. Avskjed
2. Circles
3. Descendre
4. Innseiling
5. Men of Mystery
6. Speil