The Middle Ear is a music news, music views and music reviews blog project by Rónan McGrath of Bollokscraft Records.

Sunday, March 9, 2014
Liars - Mess

The enigmatic neo-nowavers return to rocking out - only now they’ve got ahold of a nice set of analog synth tools and want people to dance more at their shows. Right here are some of the best Liars jamz in a good few years. Cram Liars, Drum’s Not Dead and WIXIW together and you’ve got something like Mess. I’ll probably go and see them next time they’re in Vancouver now. Five bags, two sodas.

Liars - Mess

The enigmatic neo-nowavers return to rocking out - only now they’ve got ahold of a nice set of analog synth tools and want people to dance more at their shows. Right here are some of the best Liars jamz in a good few years. Cram Liars, Drum’s Not Dead and WIXIW together and you’ve got something like Mess. I’ll probably go and see them next time they’re in Vancouver now. Five bags, two sodas.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

SOLD OUT: Please give/sell me this Helical Scans by Various Artists

Brain Tea at 12:22 and a bit of Shrine Flu - the confusion & love to Sam Hillmer. This is one of the best.

Monday, February 24, 2014
Brett Naucke - ‘Luau’

On this pre-release single for Seeds, the upcoming SP034 (April), Brett Naucke loads the sonic space with a stereo-dynamic post-breakbeat tribal arp zone-out of electronic percussion that pairs well with slow-built exotic drones and vocals. In some ways this one creates atmosphere that would be easily at home on any number of PS2 shooters or sci-fi action films after the millennium. 

Pairing short-attack bombast of skittering industrial rhythms with reverb drenched harmonics of middle-space, ‘Luau’ definitely has momentum and mood. However, falling just short of 4 minutes I found that the track fails to reach the hauntingly hypnotic tribal-industrial quality it appears to have attempted (Cut Hands, anyone?). Really, the way everything wraps up here seems to suggest that this track probably relies heavily on the continuity of its album for full impact. I imagine it’s hard to always get it right in having to choose the pre-release for this kind of music which is not amenable to ‘single’ expression.


EDIT:

Really, I am always interested in checking out new material from John Elliott's Editions Mego imprint Spectrum Spools. Weirdly, I keep delving into SP025,026,027,etc. despite the fact that I repeatedly find myself only vaguely affected by most of what I hear. I don't mean to make this label project sound worthless or over-hyped in the slightest - I definitely think that Elliott has really been doing a fantastic job giving exposure to the expansive and elusive American experimental underground. I suppose that I mostly just take on Spectrum Spools material simply for that 'intriguing elusiveness' rather than expecting regular glimpses of brilliance… a love of aesthetics over content? In any case, I'm not saying it sucks - I'm saying I like it but I'm not always sure why.

Brett Naucke - ‘Luau’

On this pre-release single for Seeds, the upcoming SP034 (April), Brett Naucke loads the sonic space with a stereo-dynamic post-breakbeat tribal arp zone-out of electronic percussion that pairs well with slow-built exotic drones and vocals. In some ways this one creates atmosphere that would be easily at home on any number of PS2 shooters or sci-fi action films after the millennium.

Pairing short-attack bombast of skittering industrial rhythms with reverb drenched harmonics of middle-space, ‘Luau’ definitely has momentum and mood. However, falling just short of 4 minutes I found that the track fails to reach the hauntingly hypnotic tribal-industrial quality it appears to have attempted (Cut Hands, anyone?). Really, the way everything wraps up here seems to suggest that this track probably relies heavily on the continuity of its album for full impact. I imagine it’s hard to always get it right in having to choose the pre-release for this kind of music which is not amenable to ‘single’ expression.


EDIT:

Really, I am always interested in checking out new material from John Elliott's Editions Mego imprint Spectrum Spools. Weirdly, I keep delving into SP025,026,027,etc. despite the fact that I repeatedly find myself only vaguely affected by most of what I hear. I don't mean to make this label project sound worthless or over-hyped in the slightest - I definitely think that Elliott has really been doing a fantastic job giving exposure to the expansive and elusive American experimental underground. I suppose that I mostly just take on Spectrum Spools material simply for that 'intriguing elusiveness' rather than expecting regular glimpses of brilliance… a love of aesthetics over content? In any case, I'm not saying it sucks - I'm saying I like it but I'm not always sure why.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Digital Anthropology by Cult Cosmos

Lately I’ve definitely giving excessive airtime to instrumental sampler based jams. Chalk this one up too.

Friday, February 21, 2014
TYCHO - ‘Spectre’

Herein Tycho is hitting reliable markers - the rhythm & bass are just the right ‘even’ kind of rock/dance-understated and the synths stay hazy without getting high-centred on chillwave cliché - I feel like this track glides like early Washed Out, but still stands in it’s own slow zone. Throughout ‘Spectre’ guitar plucks shimmer and ripple around on a distant bed of reverb with all the neu-age prettiness Mark McGuire has ever had. In this way I can’t help but remember how Emeralds tried to get into this kind of composition (albeit with darker intent) and got the broad critical slap-down for it - too much loser and not enough America? 

In any case, Tycho rides this groove with confidence and even manages to keep things interesting by throwing a loop with the slick 65daysofstatic-style  breakdown/drum breakout that only just toes the edge of corniness (mercifully). Surely this track will nestle nicely among other glowing morning electronic hits together making another pleasing buddy for Baths' Cerulean out of Awake (March). I just bought a some shades and a fast boat - see you at Primavera 2015?

TYCHO - ‘Spectre’

Herein Tycho is hitting reliable markers - the rhythm & bass are just the right ‘even’ kind of rock/dance-understated and the synths stay hazy without getting high-centred on chillwave cliché - I feel like this track glides like early Washed Out, but still stands in it’s own slow zone. Throughout ‘Spectre’ guitar plucks shimmer and ripple around on a distant bed of reverb with all the neu-age prettiness Mark McGuire has ever had. In this way I can’t help but remember how Emeralds tried to get into this kind of composition (albeit with darker intent) and got the broad critical slap-down for it - too much loser and not enough America?

In any case, Tycho rides this groove with confidence and even manages to keep things interesting by throwing a loop with the slick 65daysofstatic-style breakdown/drum breakout that only just toes the edge of corniness (mercifully). Surely this track will nestle nicely among other glowing morning electronic hits together making another pleasing buddy for Baths' Cerulean out of Awake (March). I just bought a some shades and a fast boat - see you at Primavera 2015?

Thee Oh Sees - ‘Penetrating Eye’

You know I well love John Dwyer's kicks right now so it's safe to assume that I'm going into new jams from Thee Oh Sees with a keen ear. This new one rips in every way that I loved about most of Floating Coffin and even gets loose with the swampy analog synth layers that peered out on top-track ‘Nightcrawler.’ Maybe the forthcoming record is going to blow this thing open and land us with the best move Black Moth Super Rainbow never made? We should be so lucky.

'Penetrating Eye' was probably a good pre-release single choice for these guys as it comes heavy and direct: it stomps, its sloppy but keeps its attitude together, and it feels shorter than 3:21 - a fine mix of qualities to my ear. This is by no means one of the more monolithic rippers from Thee Oh Sees, but today I definitely feel good about the prospects for Drop (April album). Fingers crossed on nabbing a coloured vinyl copy from Castle Face in the next few weeks … still kicking myself for sleeping on the gory limited edition of Floating Coffin (best album cover of 2013?).

Thee Oh Sees - ‘Penetrating Eye’

You know I well love John Dwyer's kicks right now so it's safe to assume that I'm going into new jams from Thee Oh Sees with a keen ear. This new one rips in every way that I loved about most of Floating Coffin and even gets loose with the swampy analog synth layers that peered out on top-track ‘Nightcrawler.’ Maybe the forthcoming record is going to blow this thing open and land us with the best move Black Moth Super Rainbow never made? We should be so lucky.

'Penetrating Eye' was probably a good pre-release single choice for these guys as it comes heavy and direct: it stomps, its sloppy but keeps its attitude together, and it feels shorter than 3:21 - a fine mix of qualities to my ear. This is by no means one of the more monolithic rippers from Thee Oh Sees, but today I definitely feel good about the prospects for Drop (April album). Fingers crossed on nabbing a coloured vinyl copy from Castle Face in the next few weeks … still kicking myself for sleeping on the gory limited edition of Floating Coffin (best album cover of 2013?).

Thursday, February 20, 2014
Thee Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra - Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light Over Everything
I have been a fan of GYBE+ work for years now so don’t get me wrong - I fucking love Efrim Menuck's weird singing and I especially love it when he wiles out and fucks around ('There is a Light'). Considering my penchant for their 'desperation' sound I figured that my first impression of Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light Over Everything would be very fucking affirmative. No such luck, I guess.

If this record was the product of strong & intriguing inspiration (a premise that I have serious fucking reservations about) I really struggled to discern the details on the first few listens. The composition here stands out to me as the first time TSMZ has really begun to fucking phone it in with regard to the interplay between strings, the Menuck’s ‘drawn’ sounding blown out guitar distortion and post-rock beats à la Sigur Rós (‘Austerity Blues’). Mostly this record chugs along at a standard pace that once felt fucking exciting and desperate (Kollaps Tradixionales) but now just feels creatively strained. It just seems like the group has really begun to rehash old sound.

Thankfully things wind up feeling rewarding and refreshing enough during the home-stretch of the album with ‘What We Loved Was Not Enough’ - leaning on the nicely established agonized poli-folk historically set out so well by other Constellation stalwarts (see Vic Chestnutt). This track and the spooky jazz minimalism of the closer ‘Rains Thru..’ alone make the fucking album redeemable.

All of this makes for a record that feels like the weakest among a fine batch of potent fucking pieces (possibly excluding fucking 13 Blues for 13 Moons). I don’t really want to be shitting on this record, but perhaps I am supposed to be fucking off or something. No way to end this cleverly - check out fucking Witxes.

(EDITED FEB 21)

Thee Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra - Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light Over Everything

I have been a fan of GYBE+ work for years now so don’t get me wrong - I fucking love Efrim Menuck's weird singing and I especially love it when he wiles out and fucks around ('There is a Light'). Considering my penchant for their 'desperation' sound I figured that my first impression of Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light Over Everything would be very fucking affirmative. No such luck, I guess.

If this record was the product of strong & intriguing inspiration (a premise that I have serious fucking reservations about) I really struggled to discern the details on the first few listens. The composition here stands out to me as the first time TSMZ has really begun to fucking phone it in with regard to the interplay between strings, the Menuck’s ‘drawn’ sounding blown out guitar distortion and post-rock beats à la Sigur Rós (‘Austerity Blues’). Mostly this record chugs along at a standard pace that once felt fucking exciting and desperate (Kollaps Tradixionales) but now just feels creatively strained. It just seems like the group has really begun to rehash old sound.

Thankfully things wind up feeling rewarding and refreshing enough during the home-stretch of the album with ‘What We Loved Was Not Enough’ - leaning on the nicely established agonized poli-folk historically set out so well by other Constellation stalwarts (see Vic Chestnutt). This track and the spooky jazz minimalism of the closer ‘Rains Thru..’ alone make the fucking album redeemable.

All of this makes for a record that feels like the weakest among a fine batch of potent fucking pieces (possibly excluding fucking 13 Blues for 13 Moons). I don’t really want to be shitting on this record, but perhaps I am supposed to be fucking off or something. No way to end this cleverly - check out fucking Witxes.

(EDITED FEB 21)

Monday, February 10, 2014
Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks – ‘Little Fang’

The creative pairing of Dave Portner (Avey Tare) & Angel Deradoorian (formerly of Dirty Projectors circa Rise Above-Bitte Orca) is definitely a curiosity on paper. Hearing raw live clips of the pair (backed up by Jeremy Hyman, ex-Ponytail) playing reworked versions of Portner’s murky solo tracks from his 2010 effort Down There showcased a distillation of the funky bounce that has recently dominated Portner’s song-writing (see Centipede Hz). My feeling is that ‘Little Fang’ is the product of the Portner’s continued effort to move away from the tracked/reliable framework of samplers and sequencers and to return to the more organic structure of traditional musicianship (to use the term rather loosely). So what we get is the familiar AnCo vibes tending to move steadily away from the easy-grooves of ‘Summertime Clothes’ or ‘Lucky 1’ while trying to retain the fundamentally relatable hooks and bass lines that have allowed the Collective to cross over.

So Deradoorian keeps things together on the low end with a bass-y synth line that funks and bops around in peaceful head-nodding fashion while Portner conjures up swirling guitar shimmers and trembles set to his best effort to balance spastic ‘freak folk’ vocal feels with the more listener friendly approach of… Julian Casablancas? Some kind of dance-rock zone effort is definitely playing out in ‘Little Fang.’ The track rests nicely around the 3-minute mark into a twinkly hypno-refrain, but it doesn’t evolve like so many other a-list AnCo gear-shifts have before (Purple Bottle, Chores) and ends promptly with pop-appeal preserved over prog. Hyman’s role is forgettable/could have been sampler generated – but how else are you supposed to drum for Avey Tare without feeling like you’re just imitating Noah Lennox? Deradoorian seems to be singing throughout, but her vocal chops are pretty deeply squashed in the mix.

Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks – ‘Little Fang’

The creative pairing of Dave Portner (Avey Tare) & Angel Deradoorian (formerly of Dirty Projectors circa Rise Above-Bitte Orca) is definitely a curiosity on paper. Hearing raw live clips of the pair (backed up by Jeremy Hyman, ex-Ponytail) playing reworked versions of Portner’s murky solo tracks from his 2010 effort Down There showcased a distillation of the funky bounce that has recently dominated Portner’s song-writing (see Centipede Hz). My feeling is that ‘Little Fang’ is the product of the Portner’s continued effort to move away from the tracked/reliable framework of samplers and sequencers and to return to the more organic structure of traditional musicianship (to use the term rather loosely). So what we get is the familiar AnCo vibes tending to move steadily away from the easy-grooves of ‘Summertime Clothes’ or ‘Lucky 1’ while trying to retain the fundamentally relatable hooks and bass lines that have allowed the Collective to cross over.

So Deradoorian keeps things together on the low end with a bass-y synth line that funks and bops around in peaceful head-nodding fashion while Portner conjures up swirling guitar shimmers and trembles set to his best effort to balance spastic ‘freak folk’ vocal feels with the more listener friendly approach of… Julian Casablancas? Some kind of dance-rock zone effort is definitely playing out in ‘Little Fang.’ The track rests nicely around the 3-minute mark into a twinkly hypno-refrain, but it doesn’t evolve like so many other a-list AnCo gear-shifts have before (Purple Bottle, Chores) and ends promptly with pop-appeal preserved over prog. Hyman’s role is forgettable/could have been sampler generated – but how else are you supposed to drum for Avey Tare without feeling like you’re just imitating Noah Lennox? Deradoorian seems to be singing throughout, but her vocal chops are pretty deeply squashed in the mix.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Stranger - ‘Providence or Fate’ (from Watching Dead Empires in Decay - Mordern Love, 2013)

(That crackle…)

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