Thursday, April 14, 2011

Tension isn't always a bad thing

I had to double-check, but Western Vinyl is one of the labels I've mentioned most here on Ear To The Sound. I don't do it intentionally, but I sometimes play favourites with labels because - if they build their roster right - there's usually some sort of overlap or common appeal to the artists they release (which is not to say their roster is cookie-cutter identical). So it is with this Austin label - I've written about or mentioned Ola Podrida, Secret Cities (who also have a great new album out right now), Sleep Whale and Botany in the past and now, thanks to their deft decision-making, South Bronx duo Wires Under Tension have been added to their line-up and my playlists.

Like Russian Circles, Wires Under Tension are another one of those duos who manage to make way more music than two people should be capable of producing. And like Russian Circles, multi-instrumentalist Christopher Tignor and drummer Theo Metz convey a great deal of emotion and ideas in their lyric-less tunes. Metz is the muscle of the outfit - he pounds the hell out of the drums on "Position and Hold" and "A List of Things to Light on Fire." But that doesn't mean he's all brawn and no brains; the proof is in the intricacy and fluidity of his drumming on "Irreversible Machines" and "Mnemonics in Motion."

As you'd expect from a band with the moniker Tignor and Metz chose, listening to Light Science can feel like your heart is in a vise grip sometimes - there's an urgency to much of the material and it can be unrelenting. After it ends though, you're left with the same breathless exhilaration that accompanies an activity like bungee jumping or a riding a big roller coaster. Light Science is the best kind of intense.

This isn't an official video for "Electricity Turns Them On," but it's still my favourite track on the record:

If you like it, Western Vinyl has it available as a free download here, and if you want to see an actual video, check out "Mnemonics In Motion," which admittedly is also a great track.

Check out their website and Western Vinyl artist page.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Matthew Maaskant should be Matthew Maas-can

Okay - time to get back on the horse here before bambino #2 totally derails things and I stop listening to new music and spend all my time singing 'rock-a-by-baby' (which, when you consider the lyrics, is a pretty creepy song).

Matthew Maaskant's Believe It Or Not, This Is The Place is a quiet, restrained album that has made its way into my head and heart since it arrived March 28th at the station. This isn't an album that hits you over the head with its greatness, or holds up a sign that says 'NOTICE ME,' but insistently burrows into the folds of your thoughts and takes up residence.

Opener "Katie Cruel," with its piercing viola notes creates a feeling of unease that is softened by Maaskant's gentle vocals - a sonic balance that he deftly achieves throughout the record. And when he intones "here I am where I must be," the sentiment can be taken as an artistic statement that this truly is "the place" the album's title alludes to.

Blending strings, electronic elements and more with his 'folk' (and I use the term loosely - this isn't Bruce Cockburn we're talking about here), Maaskant's sound is unique, but strangely familiar - and because of his experience as a recordist/producer, that sound is also exceptionally well captured. Take standout track "Fall To Pieces" (video below) with the layered vocals of Amai Kuda serving as a ghostly intro to Maaskant's own weightless voice. The vocals are tethered to the song only by the upright bass - it's the only thing that has a solidity to its sound. The attention to detail Maaskant clearly put into the recording pays dividends in rewarding the attention of listeners, both on this song and throughout Believe It Or Not, This Is The Place.

Check out Matthew's website and Bandcamp page, where you can purchase the CD or download the mp3s.

Thanks for reading, now start listening...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Just grab these...

I'm behind on writing actual posts (believe me, there's some great new music I want to write about, it's just a matter of finding time. Too busy preparing for bambino #2), but I thought I'd do a quick one about a few artists I LOVE that really don't need a lot of introduction or background. Chances are you've heard of them, and, if your tastes are in line with mine, you probably love them like I do. And they've got free stuff for you to grab and listen to!!

First up - The Sea & Cake have a new record due out in May called The Moonlight Butterfly and the first track is available courtesy of the folks at Thrill Jockey. It's called "Up On The North Shore" and, as expected from these masters of their craft, it's another in a long line of exceptional tunes. To give you an idea of how much I love this band, my son is named Archer.

The second track you need to grab comes courtesy of RCRDLBL and it's a remix of my man Will Holland. Most folks know him as Quantic, the moniker under which he has been plumbing electronica, latin rhythms and more over the years. Most recently he moved to Columbia and formed the Combo Barbaro to play with him - their latest is the Caliventura Remixes EP on Tru Thoughts (another phenomenal label). The Daedelus remix of "Undelivered Letter" is a keeper so check it out and pick up the EP if you like what you hear.

Thanks for reading, now start listening...