Big Gigantic: A Place Behind the Moon

stars:
RIYL: Sound Tribe Sector 9, Pretty Lights, EOTO

This Colorado-based electronic duo has been honing their skills with heavy road work – including some touring with electronic rock masters and label mates Sound Tribe Sector 9 – and it shows here on their sophomore release. Saxophonist/synth man/producer Dominic Lalli and drummer Jeremy Salken bring their own organic skills to the electronic genre, and having real instruments involved always propels electronic-oriented music higher.

The album is a high-energy affair all the way, packed with slamming beats, psychedelic synths and big phat grooves that are guaranteed to get a dance party going. Tracks like “Sky High,” “Step Up,” “Shine” and “Cloud Nine” all crackle with a fresh sound that is often missing in electronic music that relies too heavily on drum machines. “Driftin” drops the tempo just a bit, which makes its tight groove stand out even more. “High and Rising” might be the top highlight with the way the track keeps ascending through a swirling succession of ecstatic peaks.

Lalli’s sax also adds a jazzy improv flavor throughout, especially on tunes like “Lucid Dreams,” “Breaking Point” and “Shine.” His synth skills are some of the best in the biz, mixing a variety of otherworldly sonic flavors to create unique soundscapes. Members of STS9 join in on the bonus title track for another highlight tune that recalls some of their seminal work like “Breathe” and their newer “Between 6th and 7th,” on which Lalli has collaborated with the band.

The electronic genre has seen a lot of new contenders in the past few years, which can make it hard to stand out when so many acts are following a similar vision. But A Place Behind the Moon shows that Big Gigantic are in it to win it. The duo’s combination of jazzy melodies with pulsating beats and dazzling electronic undertones creates one of the tastiest flavors the evolving genre has seen in recent times.
(1320 Records 2010)

Big Gigantic MySpace page (Contains link to download A Place Behind the Moon for free)

  

Me, Myself, and iPod 6/16/10: Rock chalk Jayhawk

esd ipod

Mark Olson – Little Bird of Freedom
As a longtime fan of the Jayhawks’ 1995 gem Tomorrow the Green Grass, I’ll do anything for Mark Olson, Gary Louris and Marc Perlman. The three are occasionally moonlighting as the Jayhawks – this after Louris personally told me when he was promoting his last solo album that the Jayhawks were done; thank goodness he was wrong – but this is from Olson’s upcoming solo album Many Colored Kite, due in late July.

The Silver Seas – Another Bad Night’s Sleep
Here’s the amazing thing about Chateau Revenge, the forthcoming sophomore effort from the Silver Seas: we’ve posted two great songs from the album for download (you can find the other one here), and we still haven’t touched my favorites from the album. Singer Daniel Tashian sounds a bit more like Rufus Wainwright on this one than his usual Jackson Browne baritone. It’s all good to me.

Hey Champ – Neverest
There are a lot of bands making valuable contributions to the new synth pop wave – the tricky part is finding them. For every band like Hey Champ, there are 20 shit bands who play vintage synthesizers and sneer a lot. That’s not synth pop; that’s just posing. These guys get it; their songs are based on songs, not attitude. And if you really want to get freaked out, check out the video for this song. Dolphin boobies!

Everything Everything – Schoolin’
Not to be confused with shit ’90s band Everything, who had that lame-ass song about seeing better days. This is a UK band that sounds like they’ve been spinning a lot of Neptunes productions. Funny that I keep comparing bands to other artists who haven’t sold any records, but the first person I thought of when I heard this was Kenna.

Crocodiles – Sleep Forever
I’m just going to assume that the band name came from the Echo & the Bunnymen song of the same name, because these guys have clearly heard a few Echo records. Big, jangly, quasi-psychedelic ’60s guitar rock song. Here’s hoping the full-length is just as good.

Olafur Arnalds – Tunglio (Moon)
Because even download columns need a come-down song. This string-kissed instrumental is heartbreakingly beautiful. Don’t be surprised if it winds up serving as the score to a “Grey’s Anatomy” montage in the fall.

  

Me, Myself, and iPod 6/9/10: They work in bars. Whether they are all on drugs remains unknown

esd ipod

Strange. I thought that the closer we got to summer, the more awesome mp3s I’d have for all y’all. Instead, it appears the opposite is happening. Like I said, strange.

The Chap – We Work in Bars
I’m not 100% sold on this London band, but there’s a spirit to the work that I find appealing. Definitely want to hear more before officially passing judgment.

The Mercury Program – Arrived/Departed
This made the cut for one reason: the delay-driven guitar line at the beginning of the song is a near note-for-note copy of the beginning to the song “Outside” by the late, great band Tribe. These guys obviously took it in a much different direction (an instrumental, moody jazzy direction, that is), and that’s cool.

Hot Hot Heat – Goddess on the Prairie
You have to feel a little bad for these guys. When people start making jokes about the ’00s, these guys will be near the top of the One Hit Wonder joke list, and the worst part is that even the members of the band don’t like that song and wish they had never recorded it. This song, from their new album Future Breeds, which came out this week, shows the band, well, pretty much where the world left them. Give them points for not suddenly pretending to be Franz Ferdinand.

Parlovr – Pen to the Paper
Is Montreal the new Brooklyn? Or was Montreal Montreal before Brooklyn became the destination of choice for musical immigrants? Either way, this song has a driving quality to it that brings out the New Order fan in me.

  

Sound Tribe Sector 9: Ad Explorata


RIYL: Disco Biscuits, Pretty Lights, EOTO

Ad Explorata is Sound Tribe Sector 9’s follow-up to 2008’s Peaceblaster, an album that delivered more of the live immediacy the band is known for. But the jamtronica stalwarts are also known for constantly pushing the boundaries with their sonic explorations, so it’s not shocking to hear the band shifting direction again. STS9’s continued experimentation with electronic technology has driven a few old-school fans away, for it was the band’s instrumental skills that set them apart as a pioneer in blending rock with electronica. But the band’s continually growing fan base knows that STS9 uses modern technology as just one more tool in their musical arsenal, without becoming slaves to it.

“Phoneme” opens the album with almost eight minutes of atmospheric vibe, serving as sort of an appetizer that sets a spacey tone before the giving way to “Heavy,” where trippy synths and hard-rocking percussion conjure some of the classic STS9 sound. “Looking Back on Earth” brings a cosmic vibe indeed, but with drummer Zach Velmer powering the tune’s deep groove with a heavy attack. The psychedelic synth work is definitely the star of this album, with bassist David Murphy and guitarist Hunter Brown often joining keyboardist David Phipps in the synth and sampling mayhem, as they increasingly have been onstage. But while Brown’s tasty fretwork is perhaps at too much of a shortage here, most of the songs are well-served and probably inspired by the synth-heavy formula. Longtime fan favorite “EHM” receives overdue studio treatment and the tune is a keeper. Inspired by author John Perkins’ best-selling “Confessions of an Economic Hitman,” the epic song about the folly of predatory capitalism opens with a spooky vibe that builds slowly but surely into a monster groove that epitomizes just how dynamic the band can be with multiple synths. Percussionist Jeffree Lerner adds some heady cowbell work (even though it too is from a synth) as the song explodes into an up-tempo jam.

“Atlas” is another major highlight, featuring Velmer at his dynamic best over a majestic sonic tapestry that feels like it could be the soundtrack for a Rebel Alliance assault against the Empire. “Re:Stereo” takes listeners on more of a down-tempo journey, while “Central” brings things back up into another spacey groove before “Lion” drops an intense rocker similar in vibe to “Atlas.” The new album isn’t going to win back that smaller demographic of old-school fans that drifted away when the band started using more synths and samples in the middle part of the past decade. But it’s another strong collection of sonic explorations demonstrating that STS9 is a band that will never be content to hit auto-pilot. (1320 Records 2009)

Sound Tribe Sector 9 MySpace page

  

Medeski, Martin and Wood: Radiolarians: The Evolutionary Set


RIYL: Fusion jazz, jambands, Bernie Worrell, Galactic

If you are sick of the state of the music business, if you need some new music that sounds truly new, if FM radio bores you to tears and even the blog-rock CDs showing up on every music site’s “best of” list lets you down because it all sounds like half-practiced, overproduced slacker junk played by snotty people you wouldn’t invite to parties at your place…please go and buy this box set. The culmination of the two-year Radiolarians project, The Evolutionary Set is the career pinnacle of MMW, jazz-rocking experimentalists who are neither jazz nor rock, but “avant-groove.” Kind of an thinking-fan’s instrumental Phish, this trio started with an idea in 2007: Write some proto-jams, briefly rehearse them, take them on tour, develop them live, and then record the finished project. It spawned three ridiculously tight, sometimes funky, sometimes rockin’, sometimes ambient-noodling numbers that sound like nothing you’ve heard. It doesn’t hurt that these guys not only have played together almost two decades, but that they’re exceptional players. The box set includes the three Radiolarians albums, a double-vinyl set, a DVD documentary, a remixes disc, and a live album. It’s intelligent jazz, it’s primitive rock. It’s funky stuff. It’s an updated 2009 version of the strangely beautiful Miles Davis period that included the records On The Corner and A Tribute to Jack Johnson. It’s everything indie music’s all about, and while the major labels and commercial radio won’t touch this stuff, you should. (Indirecto Records, 2009)

Medeski Martin and Wood MySpace page

  

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