Indie Weirdo Round Up: reviews of Animal Collective, Blitzen Trapper, Yamataka Eye, Sun City Girls, Disco Not Disco
Water Curses EP – Animal Collective (Domino)
The obfuscation is practically taunting on the title track to Water Curses, the new four-song EP from avant-indie kings Animal Collective. The song buried is one of the quartet’s most straightforward yet, a perfect sunny indie pop melody, sped to a gallop and refracted through a stained glass wall of sound. In the same way that rock music uses a backbeat to sell whatever else it’s going to sell, the Baltimore/Brooklyn cooperative employs winding, sweet melodies to put over gently obscure collages. Water Curses finds the band in full stride. Stereo-panned fireworks dance with xylophones ("Cobwebs") and distant field recordings chirp and swirl amid wistful organ thoughts ("Street Flash"). Like being trapped in CGI-rich DMT-world with the songs themselves just around the next corner, one must just appreciate the landscape.
EP3 – Blitzen Trapper (self-released)
Portland eclecto-folkers Blitzen Trapper hit with a tour EP for their latest cross-country jaunt. But this is no cast-off, the band refining their sound into something like an earthier Dr. Dog, shaping specific classic rock references and nice harmonies with slightly more modern energies. In six songs, none over three minutes, the band touches on late period Beatles stateliness ("Going Down"), CSN baroqueness ("Shoulder Full of You"), Neil Young North Country stomps ("Big Black Bird"), and Tom Petty jangles ("Preacher's Sister's Boy"). Their own touches include, on the latter, semi-garage organ stabs, and — on the haunting "Black Rock" — spidery acoustic guitars. They sound as if they come from a pleasant place.
Re… Remix? – Yamataka Eye (Commons)
Does an album of remixes of artists one has (mostly) never heard of, let alone heard, constitute an album of new material? Boredoms leader Yamataka Eye seems to nod a psychedelic yes, pulling enough of his own threads through the original sources that it’s hard to imagine them coming from anyone but him. Sitars in Eye’s "Magic Mushroom mix" of Zeebra’s "Smokin’ at the Lobby (Your Turn)" collapse into gentle bells, which connect to the "Micro Forest 2000 mix" of NXS’s "Sleeper" that one suspects sounds little like the original. Boredomsy touches show up frequently (squelched guitars on Gong’s "Master Builder," tribal drums on Wrench’s "Cosmic Hierarchy"). A fine companion piece to his main band’s Super Roots 9, a live Boredoms set with a choir, recently released domestically by Thrill Jockey.
You’re Never Alone With A Cigarette – Sun City Girls (Abduction)
Next time somebody tells you the '80s sucked musically, play him the Sun City Girls. With the untimely death of drummer Charles Goucher last year, though, the quarter-century old weirdo improv trio officially drew their project to a close — but not before producing one of the densest, most confusing, and mysteriously satisfying catalogues in recent experimental music. The latest release, the first volume in a proposed singles/outtakes series, concentrates on the sessions that produced 1990's Torch of the Mystics, widely regarded as the Girls’ first peak. Like much of their output, Cigarette is hit or miss, alternating between sub-menacing guitar noise ("Plaster Cupids Falling From the Ceiling") and Secret Museum of Mankind exhibits ("The Beauty of Benghazi"). When the band is on, like the distorted desert gallop of "Sev Acher," they are stunning. Sometimes, they just sound like a surf/garage outfit with a predilection for more interesting scales.
Disco Not Disco: Post Punk, Electro, and Leftfield Disco Classics, 1974-1986 – various artists (Strut Records)
Just like endless volumes of Nuggets might be devoted to groovy psychedelic fuzztones, or whole labels might devote themselves to old blues sides, there is probably an infinite source of four-on-the-floor variations floating about. Strut’s 14-track Disco Not Disco compilation hits key strategies that range from sultry cabaret (Vivien Goldman’s "Launderette") to Talking Heads like chanting (Gang of Four side project Shriekback’s "My Spine is a Bassline") to synthy talkbox bobbers (Material’s "Don’t Lose Control"). Given the genres’ resurgence into the relative (and probably soon to be actual) mainstream at the hands of LCD Soundsystem, it shouldn’t be surprising how contemporary post-punkers like Konk and Delta 5 sound. And it’s not. They sound like they could’ve been recorded last week.