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new music: Post War Years, free Live 360 Session EP

Only weeks after my post about British indie rockers, Post War Years’, newest music video (seen here), the band has offered up a free four-song EP of their Live 360 Session. The song for the video, ‘All Eyes’, is on the EP as well as three other new tracks that don’t disappoint. ‘All Eyes’ is probably the most well-rounded of the beasts, but the opening track, ‘Galapagos’, although instrumental, might be my favorite. At just about two and a half minutes long, the track showcases the group’s penchant for ever-evolving uses of electronic-based percussionistic beats. Its name, ‘Galapagos’, does it justice, as one loop of glass percussion – literally a bottleneck effect – is slightly mutated and propagated to create a sonic jungle from a sole, bottlenecked lineage. Add some synthesizer siren calls and you’ve got one trance-inducing island you won’t mind adapting to. The following tracks bring the listener back to more conventionally composed songs with airy vocals that harmonize with metallic bass lines and guitar riffs before ‘All Eyes’ brings the EP to a close. Get a free download of the EP here at the bands site and listen for yourself…trust me, you’ll have it on loop for days.

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Death From Above 1979: a look back (and hopefully forward, too)

Down the rabbit hole I fell after the Housse de Racket concert. It started with the likeness, vague and superficial; Housse de Racket is a non-American two-man band that makes rock music dance, and Death From Above 1979 is a non-American two-man band that make rock music dance. Mustaches have or do adorn three of the four total musicians. That’s really about where the similarities end. To be more precise, the former is French and the latter is Canadian, the former is up and coming, the latter has been defunct for about five years.

Whereas HdR have potential and plenty in front of them, DFA79 hit an awesome peak with their only LP, You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine, an album that – after about seven years of listening to it – still rocks my face. Fans of MTV comedy show Human Giant starring Aziz Ansari, Rob Huebel, and Paul Scheer, may know that the theme song is DFA79’s song “Romantic Rights” off of the album. You’re a Woman had everything condensed in a little 35-minute package. They carved out sharp, catchy riffs on a bass, and pounding, danceable beats on a drum set. Songs were never boring or drawn out, they raced and were gone before becoming stale, always leaving you coming back for more. Lyrics were blunt and in-your-face with the minimal range of sex to family – from picking up chicks and the act of intercourse, to mom getting a new boyfriend, to being a good uncle and childhood nostalgia  – that somehow offered depth where subtlety was not. It’s an album that I can honestly listen to three times back to back without being bored. If anything, the second play is necessary just to get a grip on the transient, ravenous thrash that just flew by you.

But here’s where the hole has led me – scouring those five years of what I thought was silence, when in actuality one half of the duo released a solo effort and the other teamed up with Al-P to form MSTRKRFT. Who knew?

Well, I almost wish I hadn’t come across ex-drummer and vocalist Sebastien Grainger’s solo effort. His signature vigor in simultaneously drumming and singing sweaty and frenetic are nowhere to be found. For shame. Other half, Jesse Keeler’s, two albums under MSTRKRFT are much more respectable, although following the all-too-beaten path of Daft Punk’s style. Even his successes in electronic-dance failed to resemble his most vitalizing and breakneck rocking. His put down his sweet-ass Rickerbacher bass (that he plays like a guitar) for good in constructing entirely synth and drum machine tunes. Or at least I thought he put it down for good.

After a  surprise inclusion on the SXSW and Coachella 2011 lineups, the band issued a cryptic statement on their website that would lead us to believe that it was no one-off reunion for shits and giggles…perhaps they’ve realized that together, even if they had their disputes, they were a prolific force to be reckoned with. They also played a festival in Brazil in December and, according to their facebook and twitter, they had been playing shows across their native Canada beforehand. Since their site has been renewed for 2012, hopefully it won’t be long before they grace our ears with new releases and US touring so a new audience can see their intimate and gripping live set. I know I’ll be listening to You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine until then, and I suggest you do the same.

Housse de Racket live at 9:30 Club

With a friend this past Sunday night, I saw a show at the 9:30 Club in DC. I would have posted something sooner, but I had to catch up with Mad Men, Frozen Planet, Eastbound and Down, and now, Champions League football. Gotta have priorities. Anyway, the gig was French duo Housse de Racket from the prolific dance-pop label, Kitsune. It was the band’s first North American tour promoting their recent release, Alesia. Just coming up from SXSW, the two were pumped and excited to connect with a new audience, and although I hadn’t heard much about them before the show besides watching a few youtube videos, they were enthusiastic enough to really get the crowd on their side. I must say, I was not convinced by their videos. Too poppy and too many power chords for me, but I was interested in the electronic dance side of their game and telling myself that ‘any live music is good music’. Ultimately, I know that that sentiment is not true, but I am glad I gave them a second chance because they certainly grew on me and the live show does indeed suit them. Not the most complex music, they made up for any frailties with passion and banter, capitalizing on their French accents to play with the crowd. HdR offer great catchy tunes to dance to, and had it been a Saturday night rather than Sunday, the whole place would have been bumpin’. The singer did acknowledge that fact, though, and did his best to encourage people to forget that they have to work tomorrow (if they’re lucky). Having listened more thoroughly, the duo have definitely progressed their sound with huge strides. I would venture to guess that in one more album these guys who’ve played in sessions with other French pop icons, Phoenix and Air, will be able to attract buzz without having seen their fun live show. Top songs for me: ‘Alesia’, ‘Chateau‘, and ‘Roman‘.

Film Review: The Wind Journeys (Los Viajes del Viento)

Los Viajes del Viento (The Wind Journeys) (2009)

Rather than get your fix of Colombian culture from Hollywood spectacles like Colombiana, look no further than The Wind Journeys for an authentic and contemporary cinematic depiction of a nation. No, it doesn’t show the increasingly modernized cityscapes of Bogotá or Medellin, but it does reach back to the diverse heritage and tradition of the developing country. The film hosts a great static cinematography of the pantheon of panoramic Colombian vistas – mountains, plains, rivers, desert – all accompanied by a furious wind that blows through the country, carrying tradition with it.

The Wind Journeys takes the viewer on a sonic journey of traditional Colombian music – from the country-folk stylings of Merengue and Vallenato to more indigenous wind and percussion-based sounds of the Wayuú and other Highland peoples. The lonesome journey of a once-famed travelling accordionist begins with a death, that of elderly protagonist’s wife, and also climaxed with the loss of another, his Master Guerra. However, the ways of his cursed accordion refused to die. A playboy in his prime, the elderly protagonist, Ignacio, has countless bastard children throughout the land, posing the question whether his young companion, Fermin, is one of them. Yes or no, Ignacio refuses to teach Fermin how to play any instruments, refuses to pass on his way of life that has left him to endure pain and strife. He blames this strife on the cursed accordion he wields, but his struggles are that of all mankind, his ‘Devil’s Accordian’ merely a scapegoat.

The boy’s rite of passage and the man’s rite of death evoke Homer’s Odyssey and Achebe’s Things Fall Apart – parallel epics unfold across primordial lands, the dual wayfarers encountering mythic trials for their feats to overcome. Of all the legendary feats, though, I didn’t care for the accordion-off. I know that ‘realistic’ isn’t what director, Guerra, was aiming for in this mythic tale, but this drawn out scene came off as juvenile. Perhaps in the mother tongue it was more appropriate, but I feel subtlety and sophistication were lost in translation.

After Fermin’s baptism, Ignacio’s fears were substantiated. Even without trying to teach the younger generation, some things are still imparted, as if by way of the very breeze we share. By the end, he decides that since sheltering the past to protect the present is futile, you might as well impart the things that you know and love to neutralize the inescapable woes of the world. The final scene leaves us with a Lost in Translation moment, with a message being transmitted, the content of which remaining unbeknownst to the audience forever. I will not bother to guess here. It seems to me, though, that the words have no weight, the very act itself is enough to be of consequence.

Do yourself a favor and put it on your queue instead of Colombiana.

 

new music: Post War Years, ‘All Eyes’

This single and accompanying video by struggling (in the best sense of the word) Londoners, Post War Years, somehow slipped under my radar when it was released in November. It’s a slight departure from the tunes they’ve been putting out the past couple of years. Typically energetic, the boys have slowed down the pace from danceable speed-freak to a methodical sway. The acid-induced video is captivatingly creepy…just the way I like ’em. About two-thirds the way into the song (and video) they reveal the trick up their sleeve, and that’s what I like about the band. They have progressed nicely in the short span of their existence, and they have a knack for incorporating new, smart sounds to each of their songs. Although I would say a track of theirs called ‘Black Morning’, is still their best song yet, if you give it a listen, it’s comprised of a completely different set of sounds from this new single – and I’m willing to bet there’s more where that came from. Keep an eye out for these brits, they’ll be big in no time.