Sunday, September 6, 2009

Iron Lung

Iron Lung is the team of Jon and Spencer. Two really nice guys that started Reno but have since moved to Seattle. They've been in a ton of other bands. I first saw them in Pittsburgh probably in 2001. They had just released this 7" on 625 Thrashcore. For only two people, they create a fierce wall of sound. Jon uses anywhere from 4 to 6 stacks of amplifiers- I believed all Matamps the last time I saw them. Spencer crushes the kit with ferocity and precision. It truly an amazing performance. The lyrics are witty and the between-song banter is often hilarious. They even released a limited edition (100) live cassette called "The Iron Lung Comedy Half Hour" [which I am lucky enough to own- I'll try to rip and upload eventually]. They have a ton of splits, 7", comp tracks, and a few full lengths. Check them out if you can!

Demonstration in Pressure and Volume (2001)
This is Iron Lung's first 7". They had released a demo, a split 7" and a few comp tracks before this. Its a blazing record. Arc Lamp is about the best 30 seconds ever!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Jóhann Jóhannsson

Jóhann Jóhannsson is an Icelandic composer who creates some of the most beautiful music in the world. His projects have ranged from electronic improvisation to full orchestra recordings. He has collaborated with artists including Sigur Ros, Mum, and others. A good friend introduced me to Jóhannsson's work about 5 or 6 years ago.

Englabörn (2002)
This was Jóhannsson's first solo album; his other work included the band Apparat Organ Quartet who consisted of 4 vintage refurbished synthesizers and drums. Englaborn is scored for
string quartet, keyboards (piano, harmonium, organ), glockenspiel, electronics, and percussion. It was originally created as a score for a play by Hávar Sigurjónsson. This album consists of many shorter tracks, creating swells and ebbs of sound.

Virðulegu Forsetar (2004)
This albums is devastatingly beautiful and powerful. From the opening chord, it grips and pulls you with a slow but immense draw. The album was recorded in the
Hallgrímskirkja Church in Reykjavik. (photos of this church from my my trip to Iceland)This album only has four tracks and is much slower and gradual than Englaborn. There was a CD/DVD release of the album where the DVD was audio only- providing the music in 5.1 digital surround sound. I have never had the opportunity to listen to the DVD in a proper environment, but I believe it would be pretty amazing.

IBM 1401- A user's manual (2006)
This album's theme is centered around the first computer brought to Iceland- the IBM 1401. Johannsson uses original recordings made on this computer that his father created. Additionally there are audio instructions for the computer laced between the music. Much less heavy, this album is more whimsical and light. This is the first part of Johannsson's planned trilogy on technology and iconic American brands. Johannsson just release the second part of the trilogy, Fordlandia, in November of 2008. I haven't heard this album yet, but greatly anticipate it.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Turing Machine

I don't remember where I first heard this band. Probably from the rotation at the radio station or from a friend. I totally forgot about this album until yesterday. I pulled it off the shelves and really enjoyed remembering this. This is a great mix of post rock, math rock, and of course great instrumentation. The rhythms are great- time changes, syncopation, and great melodies. They released a second album about 4 years after this one, but I have never heard it. I'll have to check it out.

A New Machine for Living (2000)
This album was released on the Jade Tree label. A turing machine is an abstract device that simulates computer logic and is used to explore the limits of computation. As archaic as their name suggests, the band pushes the limits of rhythm and dynamics to produce something altogether original. This can be difficult when most "math rock" bands utilize finger tapping, chaotic drumming, and time changes as stock within the genre.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Trans Am

I first heard of Trans Am back in 1997/1998. I had just discovered Sunny Day Real Estate and my world was changed. A friend suggested that if I like SDRE, I should check out Trans Am.

So I did...

And to this day I still do not see any connection between SDRE and Trans Am. But I am thankful for that recommendation.

Most Trans Am albums have some amazing songs- driving bass, pounding drums, and a rhythmic hypnotic pulse that is great. Their instrumentation changes. It typically involves drums, synthesizers, bass, with guitars, electric percussion, and samples filling the void. For as many great songs on a Trans Am album, there are usually as many filler songs. Maybe I just don't appreciate the noise/electronic/sample ridden songs as much as others, but it is the harder songs that brought me to appreciate Trans Am in the first place. I saw them once at CMU probably back in 2000. It was a great show. So here are a bunch of albums that I have from them. They have a couple newer albums; TA- an album with an 80's glam cover, and an album where Trans Am combines with The F-ing Champs. Both of these albums I listed to while I was a DJ at WPTS, but never really got too psyched (in all honestly I never listened to each album in its entirety).

Trans Am (1996)
This was their first full length release on the Thrill Jockey label (as all of their following releases are). It has their drum/bass pulses with some righteous lead melodies reminiscent of 70's rock.

The Surveillance (1998)
This was actually the first Trans Am album I heard. There are some great tracks on this album. I believe it may be a concept album, but I never really got the concept...

Futureworld (1999)
This album has some fantastic songs- super driving, rhythmic, and with the addition of vocoder/synth vocals. This may be my favorite Trans Am album... "No future here in the future"

Red Line (2000)
This is a pretty diverse album. A mix of loud rhythms and soft quiet ambient instrumentals. I haven't listened to this album in a while, but thought I would put it up with the rest of my records.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Thee Speaking Canaries

Thee Speaking Canaries initially started in Pittsburgh; Damon Che of Don Caballero decided to change things up and play guitar and sing, rather than punish the drums. It also features Noah Leger on drums (he also played with Hurl, Milemarker, and Taking Pictures) and Karl Hendricks (of the Karl Hendricks Trio). This lineup existed from about 1991-1995. The band was on hiatus for a while and Che relocated to Chicago. They reformed in 2004, however only Che remains of the original lineup. The new lineup includes Adam Crane and Eugene Doyle (who plays guitar in Don Cab, but drums for TSC).

Songs for the Terrestrially Challenged (1995)
This is the second album released by the band. Two versions of this album were released on different labels. There was a hi-fi and a lo-fi version. The lo-fi is more rare and some believe to be the superior version. It was only limited to 500 copies and the liner notes were hand written with polaroids pasted inside. This is a rip of the hi-fi version. Where Don Cab can be described as prog-rock-metal-jazz, Thee Speaking Canaries is more of a 80's heavy metal-indie rock-van halen-esque sound. Che has some great songwriting. His ability to play the drums and guitar well is rather sickening. I guess it gives him a reason to throw cymbal stands at people (I'm looking at you Juice). Nevertheless; this is a great album and I'll always be on the lookout for the lo-fi version in the used bins...