Thursday, June 26, 2014

Review: The Caustic Window LP- Aphex Twin

When news of the Kickstarter campaign for a test pressing of Aphex Twin aka Richard D. James' 1994 unreleased Caustic Window hit the web, the population internet lost their collective minds. And, thankfully, the test pressing was ripped to a digital format and available for streaming, because the general population would not have been able to afford its hefty price tag. The reason this was unreleased for 20 years is still mystery, but in my eyes, it's not for lack of quality.

If sent for a test pressing in '94, this would have been most likely recorded around the time of ...I Care Because You Do, and it has some of its dark ambient flavor, along with traits of Selected Ambient Works Volume II. This is an ambient album at heart, though is a little more rhythmic than some other offerings, though for the most part, this doesn't throw off the ambient, hypnotic atmosphere.I said for the most part because the tracks 'Mumbly' and 'Phlaps' take me out of the mood a little, and may draw a little too much attention to truly be ambient tracks that fit with the album. They're both great tracks by themselves, but may not work within the confines of Caustic Window.  The tracks sound simple at first, but deeper listening into the layers of each track reveal an absurd amount of complexity. I try to imagine how manipulating an analog synthesizer can result in some of the sounds heard on this album, but I wouldn't even be able to guess.

All in all, I have no idea why this was not released, because this is a great collection of music. And with more test pressings being auctioned on eBay, we might see some more unreleased Aphex Twin in the future. And since he really hasn't released anything besides bonus tracks to Analord in 5 years, I'll take what I can get. After 20 years of sitting on a shelf, it's amazing how well this album holds up and how fresh it sounds. Electronic music by any other artist in the 1990s would sound so ancient if released today, but Richard James' work was so ahead of the time, others are still trying to catch up. Hopefully we'll hear some new material soon. Rumor has it that James has a minimum of half a dozen albums worth of material waiting to see the light of day. And I'll be right there when it's released.

Out of a total of five stars, I give this:

Check in later for my thoughts on the new Phish album, Fuego, as well as Bassnectar's Noise vs. Beauty, and Heaven & Earth, the latest Yes project.

"Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use."

Friday, June 20, 2014

May/June Mini Reviews

So, after another long and drawn out break from writing, I thought I'd share some of my opinions on some albums that were released in my absence. I wouldn't bore you with a full analysis of some of these albums (mainly because they've been out for some time as of this writing). I just thought I'd share some overall impressions I got of the projects and the artists releasing them. For the mini reviews, I decided to look at Spanish Gold's South of Nowhere, Wiz Khalifa's 28 Grams, Jack White's Lazaretto, and Death Grips' latest effort, Ni**as on the Moon.

Spanish Gold: South of Nowhere

Patrick Hallahan's side project away from My Morning Jacket delivered for me in a pretty big way. I guess to the describe the sound, it would have to be a Southwest cross between the Black Keys (minus the overproduction) and the poppier side of the Allman Brothers. If you're looking for a new blues rock record, and The Black Keys are disappointing you like they have been to me, check this out. The drumming and guitar work are pretty interesting, and the lyrical content is a little bit more inspired than your typical blues rock fare. This increases my already palpable anticipation for the new My Morning Jacket record even more, with the possibility of some more band cooperation.

Wiz Khalifa: 28 Grams

I was way too hard on Cyhi the Prynce. The more I listen to it, the more wordplay is revealed. I still believe the mixtape is uneven, but there's evidence that a large amount of care went into each song. The same cannot be said for Wiz Khalifa's new mixtape. For me, Wiz has been on a steady downward spiral for a while. When I was introduced to him as many were with 'Black And Yellow', he was hardly a rap genius, but was catchy enough. When I looked through his back catalog, I found even that was a rapid drop off in quality from his previous work (look for Show and Prove for a view of his potential if he actually cared). You can only rap without rhyming about weed and having money for so long before I get tired of it. And when you filter that through a Future like autotune, that time decreases rapidly. I also can't understand why this project had to be so long. If you're only saying the same thing, you don't have to say it for almost an hour and a half. The laurels Wiz has been resting on are disappearing fast. 

Jack White: Lazaretto

I have never really been a gigantic fan of Jack White's output, but I can appreciate what he tries to accomplish. Trying to infuse old school blues and country into an garage rock setting is a noble pursuit. He pulls it off for the most part on his second solo effort. All the Jack White weirdness is definitely present on this album, and jumps genres almost as much and as seamlessly as Beck. I guess my one complaint is that is not nearly as heavy or riff laden as I would like, but this is not a White Stripes or Dead Weather release. I can appreciate that Jack White is expanding his sound and branching out in many different directions.
Death Grips: Ni**as on the Moon
Death Grips have always been aggressive and abrasive, with interesting production and barking vocals. Imagine my surprise when I listened to this album for the first time. I can't say I hated the album, but with its more laid back sound (laid back for Death Grips is still like hip hop death metal) and droning vocal style, I can say I wouldn't be calling this my favorite Death Grips album anytime soon. The production is also a little bit repetitive in spots (If I heard the phrase 'Up My Sleeves' one more time, I was going to lose it). Half the time though, I feel like Death Grips is just playing a cruel joke on the listener, and I can appreciate their desire to have creative freedom, but I preferred their more aggressive output, and the second disc of the powers that b album is probably going to get a little less anticipation from me.

So, I guess those are just some of my opinions on some of the recent releases. Check back in soon for my look at the long lost Aphex Twin album, Caustic Window.

"Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use."