Musical Diversions 2

by Luke Muehlhauser on June 19, 2010 in Music

Yes, it’s that time again where I pretend to be a music critic! Indulge me. Philosophy will still be there when I’m done.

Those who stopped listening to heavy metal shortly after Metallica’s Black Album (1991) may be surprised to hear that metal has, since about 2000, been one of the most reliable sources of innovative music. Perhaps this is because there appear to be more bands playing metal than any other mega-genre, or perhaps it’s because the extreme aesthetics of metal lead its artists to constantly push things forward in all directions. Whatever the reason, metal has now been fused with almost every genre of music ever devised – often foolishly, but often brilliantly. Moreover, metal keeps making new musical languages of its own.

Some highlights of creative metal from the past decade include OV by Orthrelm, Leviathan by Mastodon, Seepia by Portal, Black One by Sun O))), Et Fugit Intera Fugit Irreparabile Tempus by Spektr, and V01d by Hlidolf. But today let me talk about an album I discovered only recently: the third album by Darkspace, one of the original masters of ambient black metal. The synthesizers on III push the music from ‘ambient’ to ‘cosmic,’ the word I use to describe all music descended from Klaus Schulze’s monumental Irrlicht. Here, Darkspace have outdone themselves in scope and texture. If Irrlicht is a soundtrack for the splitting of the universe, Darkspace’s III is a soundtrack for the entire universe bursting into a trillion trillion shard-universes. Hyperbole aside, this is a highly enjoyable listen, hopefully even for those who can’t swallow the extremities of, say, Seepia.

Do you like Godspeed You Black Emperor? Do you like Ennio Morricone? Then you’ll love Kings of Time by Magyar Posse. There, that ought to prompt a few purchases! Or at least a few downloads…

The self-titled debut of Apparat Organ Quartet is, I suppose, Kraftwerk + Sigur Ros. This is the futuristic pop music you imagine might be playing in a shopping mall in a moon base 200 years from now. Catchy, head-boppin’, vocoder-heavy ice cream cake. In fact, it’s hard for me to think of a fan of indie music who wouldn’t enjoy this album – it has that kind of universal appeal.

Saint Dymphna by Gang Gang Dance is their most accessible release yet. Their tribal psychedelia (ala The Residents) has now morphed into a series of sophisticated dance ditties constructed from warped clichés of dub, grime, shoegaze, and dream pop. Several of the tracks exhibit a tendency to destabilize the entire sonic structure so that it sounds like it may fall apart at any moment, ala Autechre. The result hints at pop music and yet always sounds alien, like it was composed by a species on another planet and only happened by chance to have musically evolved toward something with similarities to human pop music forms.

Holy Fuck’s LP was a brilliant update to Neu’s propulsive formula, and now Latin continues the formula but pulls back the reins for a less aggressive, more anthemic and melodic sound (hear especially “Stay Lit”). Like Autechre’s recent Oversteps, which I reviewed last time, this is a good album by a good band but in a world of 10,000,000 artists writing in 10,000 genres I really only have time for the truly extraordinary. Latin is worth a listen, which is more than I can say for 99.9% of albums made, but then it’s time to move on.

Black Eyes’ Jacob Long teamed up with vocalist Daniel Martin-McCormick to form Mi Ami, who debuted with Watersports last year, a neurotic album of dub-jazz-funk-rock recalling the work of Mark Stewart. Each track is more properly described as a psychological episode rather than a “song.” It is not a revolutionary album but it contains more musical ideas than most albums.

Finally, I’ll mention one album I listened to a few times 5 years ago but revisited today: Chorochronos by Minas Borboudakis (Peter Sadlo conducting). “Chorochronos I” and especially “Chorochronos II” introduce a musical language for the cosmos quite apart from the Irrlicht tradition. Borboudakis was fascinated by the universe revealed to us by Einstein, Planck, Hawking, etc. and has captured it with a sound of epic expanses, shimmering pulsars, twinkling stars, cataclysmic supernovae, and crushing black holes. But this is music, not noise. “Evlogitaria” is a percussion piece that uses over a dozen types of percussive instruments, and since they all technically have a pitch of sorts, the result is a layered polyphony made entirely of percussion, which builds to a climax in about 10 minutes. If the Chorochronos (“spacetime”) pieces attempt to capture the cosmos, “Σ-Cassiopeia” is an attempt to capture the night sky in music, and is less successful. “Chorochronos II” is the real stunner on this disc, and should be much better known by fans of contemporary classical music.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Rhys Wilkins June 20, 2010 at 2:30 am

Between the Buried and Me’s 2007 album: Colors is definitely one of the most innovative, creative, eclectic, bizarre, and interesting metal albums I have ever heard.

I downloaded it the minute it got a ringing endorsement from Dream Theater’s front man.

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Bill Maher June 20, 2010 at 6:20 am

Rhys,

BTBAM reminds me of high school. :)

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Mike Caton June 20, 2010 at 10:42 am

Luke, I already would have voted for your blog for “best new(ish) atheist blog” even before I knew you were into metal. Now that I see you also have metal reviews and recommendations I have to change my vote to “perfect in all respects”. Thanks for the pointers and hope to see you back down in San Diego sometime. -Mike

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TK June 20, 2010 at 1:12 pm

There’s a lot of good stuff in black metal. Plenty of very dark, very evil music. Good to see a nod to Darkspace (although I think the title of “original masters of ambient black metal” technically goes to something like Burzum or Summoning).

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Rhys Wilkins June 20, 2010 at 3:09 pm

Anyone here a fan of doom/stoner metal such as Kyuss, Black Pyramid, Dozer, etc?

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Scott June 20, 2010 at 5:06 pm

Stoner Metal FTW! “Blues for the Red Sun” is one of my favorite albums ever. Atomic Bitchwax, Orange Goblin, Clutch, Monster Magnet, etc. I love the heavy, heavy deep end they get out of their instruments.

For exotic metal, I cannot recommend Meshuggah enough.

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Rhys Wilkins June 20, 2010 at 6:10 pm

Scott,

Yes, yes and yes! Blues for the Red Sun is one of the all time stoner classics for sure! The only other album that matches up to it is Black Pyramid’s 2009 self-titled imho.

Also Meshuggah are just amazing. I saw them live about 2 months ago, one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to. :)

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lukeprog June 20, 2010 at 6:46 pm

Lol, Mike. :)

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lukeprog June 20, 2010 at 7:21 pm

Rhys,

Blues for the Red Sun is very, very good.

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svenjamin June 20, 2010 at 9:27 pm

There we go, you can’t have an atheist blog without evil satan-worshipping music.

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Dave June 23, 2010 at 6:41 am

This may be a little out there for you, but if you’re looking for musical DIVERSIONS and you’re into Morricone, you should check out my Spaghetti Western Concept Rap album, called “Showdown at the BK Corral.” It’s basically a Spaghetti Western over 9 tracks – very influenced by Morricone. I’d love to hear what you think of it! You can download it for free at sunsetparkriders.com

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wissam January 11, 2011 at 12:21 pm

Illmatic (Album); by Nas (Rapper); Fucking classic shit!

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