Amoeblog

Lush's 'Blind Spot' EP Is One of the Most Welcome Reunion Releases in Recent Memory

Posted by Billy Gil, April 20, 2016 04:54pm | Post a Comment

Lush in the '90s. Remember foam parties?


Reunions are a tricky prospect. For every Dinosaur Jr. that can miraculously pick up the pieces, overcome interband turmoil and release some of the best music of their careers, there’s a load of bands who succumb to that same ol’ conflict after wringing the festival circuit for all its worth.

Thankfully, Blind Spot, the new EP from reunited shoegazers Lush, follows the path set by Dino Jr. At just four songs, it cherry picks the best sounds of their three studio albums without feeling like too much of a rehash, leaning toward the sound of their earlier, stronger material. Sparse bits of keyboard and piano round out the band’s guitar-pedaled sound, adding a subtle new element that could easily expand things down the line.

On mid-tempo opener “Out of Control,” singer/guitarist Miki Berenyi’s voice still pairs uncannily with fellow singer/guitarist Emma Anderson. Jangly guitars casually spiral over the ebbing pulse provided by bassist Justin King and former Elastica drummer Justin Welch. The sound of it is reminiscent of Gala-era tune “Thoughtforms,” but it proves fertile ground to revisit.

“Lost Boy” reminds us of how unsettling and dramatic Lush’s songs could be, full of too-close, eerie melodies. But “Burnham Beeches” will likely be most people’s favorite, full of the kind of gleaming guitars found on classics like Split’s “Lit Up” or Lovelife highlight “Shake Baby Shake.” “Rosebud” is a slowly unfurling blanket of a ballad that coasts the EP to a stop.

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Album Picks: Veronica Falls, Björk, Zola Jesus

Posted by Billy Gil, October 12, 2011 12:29pm | Post a Comment
Veronica Falls – Veronica Falls
 
While listening to Irish Grimestep or whatever genre happens to be unfathomably cool at the moment is great and all, sometimes you need meat and potatoes. In my case, that would be C86, shoegaze, college rock and that sort of thing, and Slumberland Records keeps serving up bands like sloppy joes that fulfill this particular hunger. Their latest band is Veronica Falls, which, despite their late-‘90s CW Network show sounding name, are actually a great garage pop band in the vein of Slumberland alumn Crystal Stilts, Girls Names and Black Tambourine. “Right Side of My Brain’s” bouncy pop gets C86 so right that it could have been on the original tape that spawned that genre. “The Fountain” is delectable guitar goth pop that displays one of the band’s best and at first easily overlooked tricks — pristine harmonies. “Beachy Head” injects a welcome bit of surf-rock meanness to an otherwise well-mannered album. It’s pretty much candy all over.
 
Björk – Biophilia
 
With all the hubbub surrounding Björk’s latest album (corresponding iPad apps to songs, a street date delay and rejiggering of sound), it may be easy to dismiss the album beneath it all. That would be a shame, because Biophilia is as brilliant as anything in Björk’s catalog, but that brilliance is quieter and takes repeated listens to understand compared with some of her previous efforts. Whereas she tried to recreate the violently happy turns of Debut and Post in 2007’s Volta, here she’s back to forging new sonic territory, using newly invented instruments (such as the gameleste, which combines Indonesian gamelan instruments with the key-based celeste instrument) and employing iPad-made music and programmed beats. Of course, none of that matters if it doesn’t end up sounding great, and you probably don’t need to know any of that to enjoy the songs on Biophilia, but it helps to understand the otherworldly nature of a song like “Crystalline,” which relies on the strange gameleste to build atmosphere before breaking into a hyper-intense hardcore breakbeat section. That that song and “Cosmogony,” a musical cousin to Björk classics like “Isobel” and “Bachelorette” that builds beautifully before disintegrating into a sea of descending vocals, are the most accessible songs tells you more. At its core, Biophilia is a wildly strange, even disturbing album, from the dissonant and gibberish-laden “Dark Matter” to the blood-curdling electronic sounds and ghostly vocals of “Hollow.” Then there’s “Mutual Core,” in which Björk tosses her fans a bone (although one on which the meat is tough and sinewy) with more typically “Björk” musical movements and more overtly clubby beats. But there’s something new to uncover with each listen, despite a somewhat hollow-sounding veneer, such as unusual time signatures, haunting lyrics and hidden, loping melodies. Biophilia really sounds nothing like anything else Björk has done, or anything anyone else has done, for that matter, and will probably upset some fans and detractors alike. For its gutsiness alone, it’s great; and for its more inspired moments, it’s something no music fan should miss hearing.
 
Zola Jesus – Conatus
 
For those who were expecting Zola Jesus aka Nika Roza Danilova turn around from last year’s winning Stridulum II with an album of glossy pop, think again. Sure, Conatus is her most accessible statement yet, but the album is still teaming with the experimental electronic music and ethereal vocals on which she built her name, only with slightly more of an emphasis on the electro balladry she exhibited so well on Stridulum’s “Night” and “Lightstick.” “Hikikomori” begins with throbbing synths and Danilovato’s yearning vocals intoning “blisters on my hands,” underpinned by subtle strings. On this track and several others on Conatus, you can hear the effort Danilova has put into carefully considering the album’s every movement, building songs gradually and deliberately, pulling at the heartstrings but always from afar, sometimes coming through clearly, sometimes unintelligible in a vocal styling reminiscent of Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser. Her best songs manage to do it all at once, such as in the soaring “Seekir,” in which she aims for the gut (“Is there nothing left of the mess we made?” she asks in a moment that clears the sonic din to cut through) as well as the dance floor, although the result, with intertwining, ghostly backup vocals, is too complex to simply label a dance song. You sometimes long for more moments like that on Conatus (the epic choral build of “Lick The Palm Of The Burning Handshake” being another), but its balancing act of restraint and putting it all out there makes for intriguing listening that will keep fans happy and pull in plenty of new ones.
 

Sweet Sweet Music

Posted by Mike Battaglia, April 16, 2007 12:43am | Post a Comment
    At Amoeba SF's electronica section, we've usually got at least four or five titles each month that we're extremely hyped on. Here's our current batch:



    First we've got Gui Boratto's Chromophobia on Kompakt. Boratto's Brazilian heritage gives him an edge when making his brand of tech-house, and that's an ear for rhythm. Straddling between minimal and electrohouse, Chromophobia avoids any LP pitfalls by working equally on a dancefloor as on headphones, it's got enough oomph to sound fantastic on a large sound system, but intricate enough that you notice small details while listening at home. I love his way with melody, particularly the swooping tones of "Terminal" and the bleep counterpoint in "Gate 7"; it gets quite emotional. The rhythms are key, though, and it's clear from the first track on that Boratto has a good grasp of syncopation and funk. Between the Hug and Field albums and now this, Kompakt are on a bit of a roll, again!



    Next up is We Are Together by Japanese producer Kuniyuki Takahashi, released on Mule Musiq. This is an album that is a unanimous vote amongst the electronica staff - everybody loves it (well, at least four of us). It's jazzy house music only in the loosest sense of the phrase, managing to perfectly walk the tightrope between noodly and stiff. The thing I like best about this album is its sense of space, the production on every track sounds so expansive and widescreen as to conjure up images of the music's physicality. In that sense it reminds me of the Burial album where there's a very conscious sense of three-dimensional space - it's a real "smokers delight". Check Kuni's MySpace page to hear more of this excellence.




    The Black Dog's earliest works are Modern Electronic Music 101; their innovations created a new genre of music (the odiously-named Intelligent Dance Music or IDM) and opened the doors for others to make funky, body-moving yet cerebral tracks. The music bleeps like techno but rocks sampled breaks that up the funk factor by a power of 100, and large, rolling basslines that were an unmistakable influence on early Jungle (and influenced by the UK Breakbeat Hardcore that preceded it).
    The Black Dog of 2007 is a solo act for the most part, but back in the early 90's it was a trio. Ken Downie was joined by Ed Handley and Andy Turner for what is considered TBD's best material. There was dissent, though, and Handley & Turner eventually broke off to form Plaid, one of my personal favorite electronic artists ever and a mainstay of Warp Records' roster.
    Book of Dogma
is the release that longtime TBD fans have been waiting for - it collects all of their essential early EP's, remastered no less, in one place. Most tracks have never appeared on CD, and many of these records are worth upwards of $200 on vinyl, peaking in the EBay heyday of the late 90's at $300-$400 APIECE, so you can see how momentous this occasion is. This collection is as essential as it gets, so buy it.



Finally, we have The Greatest Hits of G.A.M.M., with G.A.M.M. being the superb Swedish label dedicated to reinterpreting and mashing up Soul, Funk, Disco, Reggae, Brazilian, Hip Hop and last but not nearly least, Jazz. G.A.M.M. is loosely affiliated with Stockholm's Raw Fusion label, and includes many nujazz artists moonlighting under fake names including Spiritual South, Panoptikon, Freddie Cruger and Todd Terje (though I won't tell you what their aliases are!). The music is frequently incredible and usually surefire dancefloor material - kicking off with Red Astaire's smash hit "Follow Me", which takes an obscure D'Angelo vocal off a Method Man & Redman track and rocks a sick, jazzy vibe lick underneath it for maximum effect. Other standouts include Beatfanatic's funky reggae rework of Beyonce's "Crazy In Love" and Tangoterje's subtle samba edit of MJ's "Can't Help It" - probably the best tune on a compilation where deciding which one is best is a very difficult prospect. Undoubtedly due to unofficial status, this will come and go quickly so get on it!