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BADBADNOTGOOD

BBNG. If you’re asking about the pig mask, it apparently demonstrates how well they know each other; no need for eye contact while playing, they can all feel each other just like that.

So there’s been a little bit of a hiatus between my last post and this one, however, why not get back into it? But without further delay, onto the music!

I’ve been listening to BADBADNOTGOOD (BBNG) for about a year now. I first heard them on-the-ever so amazing Hype Machine, and was so enthralled that I had to get a hold of the album the song was attached to. The album in question is BBNG2, their second self-titled album, which, as far as it goes, blew me out of the water for what I was expecting to hear. Why I didn’t think to continue looking for their first album I don’t know, but I wish I had sooner, because it’s so very exciting to listen to as well.

I’ve had to ask myself why I love BADBADNOTGOOD and their sound so much, and for me it comes down to their interpretation of jazz and what you can do with it. Some argue that what they do isn’t inherently “jazz” per se but if you drill down deep enough every single band follows their own genre, thanks to individuality of style, among others things. But I digress: I love BBNG because of their sound; they place a jazz emphasis on hip-hop, or maybe its hip-hop influenced jazz. Whatever it is, it’s the progressive that sound they offer which really makes them stand out from the rest; it’s new, it’s fresh, and as a jazz fan who happens to listen to a lot of everything, hip hop included, it’s absolutely tantalizing to listen to.

Some things to note about BBNG: they are Canadian, hailing from Toronto. If you’re interested in reading more, I refer you to this piece done up in the this piece done up in NOW Toronto, but I’ll note a few things: as of now, the trio are all aged between 20-22, having released 2 albums so far (and based on a recent track release, seem set to release a third), and have a tour lined up in Europe this summer. Before that, however, they’re playing at the TD Vancouver Jazz Festival this year, running a free show (!!!) on Sunday. Considering that they’re “the first jazz band that’s had people moshing at shows,” it’s sure to be a hell of a set they’ll put on I’m sure. I know where I’m going to be tomorrow.

Did I mention you can get their stuff on their Bandcamp page?

But now, to sample the music:

Fall in Love – BBNG

It covers both bases of their spectrum; you get a jazz-ballad like intro that breaks down into a hip-hop groove. And that Prophet 08; I love the timbre. This track is why I wish I had sought out their first album sooner.

Earl (Feat. Leland Whitty) – BBNG2

The opening track on BBNG2, it was love at first sound for me. That funk, that sax, that filth on the keyboard, and that trace of hip hop. I’m a sucker for certain chord progressions, but I know it goes well beyond that.

Hedron – BBNG3

Released just 2 days ago, you can see the progression that’s occurred in terms of their sound. I’m heavily reminded of some earlier Jaga Jazzist, but they still make it their own with that hip hop feel. Just lovely.

It’s not often you listen to a song for the first time and it just totally grabs your attention and is all in your face about it. This is one of those songs. Enough to actually go and make a spontaneous post about it. Best I can describe it is as a cross between Mord Fustang and Wolfgang Gartner. Did I mention there’s a keyboard solo (I would hope that it’s improvised because that would make this track so much more badass)? In any case I definitely get a feel of some prior jazz influence in this artist. First I’ve heard of him, but I like where he’s headed.

As far as collaborations go, this is definitely not one I would expect to see. Then again, this isn’t the first time they’ve done it either so it shows what I know. It’s nothing complicated melodically, but there’s something quite beautiful in it’s simplicity. The subtle guitar and soft kick on the beat really leaves the emphasis on Yelawolf (and the chorus that Sheeran sings). It comes so close to spoken word (if you exclude Sheeran’s presence), and yet it’s so much more. Anyways, take a listen yourself.

Mord Fustang…it seems like everything he touches turns into gold.  Well I mean you could say that the track itself is already gold, but production values with Top 40 tracks are always…lacking.  So it’s always nice to see some producers give their take on such songs.  If you’re like me, you’ll find it hard to listen to the original the same again.

Bantum – New String

Oh gosh it’s been a while since I’ve posted. But I’m riding a post-midterm high and this song is definitely reinforcing the feeling, so here we go. Today’s track comes from an artist out of Ireland by the name of Bantum. I hadn’t heard of the guy before two days ago, but the sound is definitely one to note. To draw a comparison to existing sounds, I get the image of a non-dubstep version of Eskmo; lots of sampling/filters, no snare on the third. Some people say that would otherwise be known as Four Tet but I only have one track in my library and I’m pretty sure it’s mislabelled to no end.

No Youtube upload available, and I’m not about to play that copyright roulette game, so I’ll link you to where it showed up on Hype Machine:

http://hypem.com/item/1fhvr/Bantum+-+New+String+(feat.+Owensie)

You can download Bantum’s latest EP (which has New String on it) for free from their site on Bandcamp, http://bantum.bandcamp.com. New String is probably the better track on the album of four, but it makes me wonder what’s in store for an LP release. If it’s anything like New String, I’ll be more than stoked.

Coyote Kisses – Acid Wolfpack

It just occurred to me that I don’t post singles that often.  It also occurred to me that I simply just don’t post that often, although that’s beside the point of this post.

Not to much to say about these guys, other than they have a unique sound in electro I haven’t really heard before.  Keyboards generally don’t take center stage with electro (at least as far as I’m aware of), if they take the stage at all, so something like this is refreshing to listen to.  Makes me wonder if they take a key-tar to town with a live set.  Enjoy!

Fenech-Soler

Fenech-Soler

I admit, I still buy CDs.  There, I said it.  I’m not big into vinyl (never owned a record player, and the whole lack of portability really kills the appeal of buying one).  I remember when I used iTunes regularly to buy music, but that was way back in the days of their DRM protected AAC’s they used to sell.  Then when they switched to DRM-free, they asked me to pay even more to unlock it.  I wasn’t very impressed.  But digital copies just don’t compare to actually holding the album in your hand.  Turning the pages of the album leaflet, adoring the art that artists (usually) so painstakingly whittle down from a collection of many, to give an extra sense of meaning to the album.

All that being said, record stores, in  a fashion similar to but not exactly like movie rental stores, are becoming a thing of the past thanks to the digital revolution.  Not so much that they are closing their doors, but in that their selection is becoming increasingly limited.  It sounds kind of old fashioned, but that was how I used to discover new music, wandering around these record stores and using their machines which would scan a bar code on the CD you show it, and would play you through the entire album.  Nowadays, if you don’t listen to Top 40, or if you don’t live near one of the colossal record stores like the HMV or Virgin megastores, then chances are you’re pretty much screwed in terms of selection.  Which is reason number whatever why I love the internet.

If you go back ten years ago, your selection was limited to what the record store stocked.  Which was almost always limited by the release rights record companies had to release music in a certain geographical area.  Basically, unless you were Top 40 and a huge sensation, chances are you weren’t going to be seen internationally.  At least, that’s how it seemed in North America; access to European content was more like the flow of water running through a crack in the wall: small, to say the least.  Couldn’t say how American content made it’s way over to Europe, maybe they had better success, I couldn’t say.

The point of all of this?  If it wasn’t for the internet allowing you to circumvent effectively all limitations that were previously held by record companies to distribute music, I wouldn’t have found this band, Fenech-Soler (among others, but this is the latest) (technically Muse would have been the first for me, but I’ve already written about them).  I had seen the name floating around on Hype Machine for a while but never really looked into it.  As it would happen, I had actually listened to them on two separate occasions without realizing it, once through an “Indie-Electro Playlist” I stumbled upon in November, and another via a remix of one of their tracks by Alex Metric about a year ago (who, thanks to poor song tags, I had thought at the time had originally crafted the song).

Their music is definitely some form of electro-rock/pop, and I guess that makes it a guilty pleasure of mine, given I generally am not a fan of pop music.  Guiltiest of them all is one of their singles, “Lies.”  A disco beat (with actual drums, from the sounds of it at least( and some well placed keyboard chord jamming just make this an absolutely amazing track.  Very summery I suppose, and as one of the highest rated comments for the video says, “is unbelievably underrated.”

Battlefields is another good track.  I’m not gonna lie, it’s definitely a track to dance to.  May or may not have done so on some occasions.

That track I heard through that playlist I mentioned was this next one, Contender.  While I can’t find a studio track uploaded on Youtube, I found a live session they did for a blog.  In case you had any doubts about lead singer Ben Duffy’s vocals, and maybe perhaps if they were heavily processed, this should prove you wrong.

Maybe we’ll be lucky that they’ll come out and do a North American tour.  I know I’d see them.  And to finish this off, the Alex Metric remix of Lies.  Man that guy is awesome.

At first I was like, “Damn!”  But then I was like, “DAYUMMMMM.”

Bare Noize, doing their thing pushing the envelope on dubstep.

A Pretty Lights Mashup

Every time I come back to get started on working on a post something else comes along and distracts the crap out of me…maybe this is why microblogging is so popular. A short one for ya. Just found this track, currently have it on repeat. It’s an awesome down-tempo mash-up by Pretty Lights, taking Radiohead, Nirvana, and Nine Inch Nails, mashing it together, and putting his own twist on it. It’s different, but I think that’s part of the appeal. Also, it’s Pretty Lights…so, no argument there in my books.

Porcupine Tree

The members of Porcupine Tree, from left to right: Colin Edwin (Double/Bass)), Steven Wilson (Guitar, Vocals, Songwriter), Gavin Harrison (Drums, Percussion), Richard Barbieri (Synth, Keyboard)

Alrighty, now that summer is here (not that you’d know it looking at the weather these past few weeks) and school is out, I can finally get back to writing.  Although the idea that not being in school meaning I would have more free time has largely been disproved at this point.  It has been way too long since I’ve written a post. Good to be back. If you’re looking for a short read, you might be disappointed…hard to stay short if you’re covering a band with as rich a history as these guys.

I restart this by going back to visit my favourite rock genre; progressive rock. And who better to best represent it than my other favourite band out there, Porcupine Tree. Between these guys and Muse, I don’t even know what to say. I tried to pick a favourite, I really did, but it didn’t seem fair by any means. In any case, these guys originate (or guy, if we want to be accurate, as you’ll see further in) from Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, in England. Yet another town I know relatively little about, and sure as hell couldn’t point it out on a map. Not that that really matters in this case.

It’s hard to figure out where to even begin with these guys, considering the immense history behind them. They definitely aren’t new by any means, having formed in 1987, although the conditions surrounding the formation were somewhat less serious than their current ambitions. The original motive behind the band’s formation was for it to be a hoax, put together by future frontman Steven Wilson and Malcolm Stocks (couldn’t tell you who Stocks is, other than he was a bit player in the group’s original productions). They actually invented band members and quite the backstory for the band, including how they met at a UK rock festival in the 70’s and some details surrounding multiple trips into and out of prison. The idea was merely that, an idea, until Wilson saved up enough money and purchased equipment so he could record material under the guise of his fictional band so that there would be proof that the band actually existed. He produced an 80 minute cassette, titled “Tarquin’s Seaweed Farm,” and sent it out to a few people he thought would be interested in hearing it. One of them was a writer for a UK based underground-ish magazine, Encylopaedia Psychedelica (about psychedelic rock, to no surprise), by the name of Richard Allen, a man who would give a mostly positive review of the music, and with that, set in motion the beginnings of a real incarnation of the band.

During that time Stocks moved on to other activities (it was a mutual thing, nothing nasty went down), making Porcupine Tree a solo project. Wilson’s first album, On the Sunday of Life, released under the newly founded Delerium label (founded in part by Allen) in 1991, was a compilation of the best of his previous work from two cassettes Wilson had previously put out. Wilson’s second album, Up the Downstair (1993), had tracks which featured Richard Barbieri and Colin Edwin which, if you note from above, would soon become permanent band members. Their third albim, The Sky Moves Sideways (1995) would mark the point at which the band became a live unit, and added Chris Maitland on drums. It would prove to be their biggest step forward yet, winning the hearts of progressive rock fans across the board. In fact, the album was so well received that the group was called (by one unknown writer) “The Pink Floyd of the nineties.” However, this album would fail to fill the band’s appetite for a full-on band recording, due to the half solo-project nature of Sky. As such, 1996 would see the release of Signify, which featred the first serious iteration of Porcupine Tree. Signify would be the last album to be released on Delerium, marking what the band would call “The end of the Delerium years,” as they felt the label did not have the necessary resources to take them further than they already were.

Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree during a performance.  I don’t touch on this in the article, but these guys are really wicked to see live.  I haven’t myself, but the concert footage is something else.  Definitely on the forefront of my bucket list of acts to see live.

Now, I’m personally not too much of a fan of their seriously earlier work (probably because there’s too much psychedelic rock influence involved in their song production, and that’s not exactly a favourite when it comes the genres), but I don’t think I’d be very objective to leave it out. So here’s my first track to listen, my favourite of the album (possibly because it is more formally structured, the least ambient sounding on the album, and not 16 minutes in length), “Moon Touches Your Shoulder” from The Sky Moves Sideways. It’s a nice ballad-sounding piece (I think) which builds over time, culminating with a typical 90’s guitar solo (I find it hard to describe, but if you know what I’m talking about, then kudos, you probably know more than I do haha) and a kind of ad-libitum-ish piano solo.

Moon Touches Your Shoulder (The Sky Moves Sideways)

Stupid Dream would be their fifth studio album, their first on the Snapper/K-Scope label, and was released in 1999. Citing influences ranging from The Beach Boys (specifically Pet Sounds) to Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, this would also mark the band’s foray into being more “song-oriented,” which I can only assume meant shying away from the more experimental/psychedelic soundscapes they had previously been involved with. I guess my tastes aren’t so experimental either, as this would be the first album in a series (chronologically speaking in terms of release date, not the first time I heard it) that I would consider to be, overall, quite good. Notable songs include Even Less (very 90’s-esque), Pure Narcotic (interesting because it was recorded without drums), and Slave Called Shiver (a solid prog rock song, something which I think would prove to be influential for their future material). There’s also some significant flute contribution throughout the album, the contributor of which I know not. This would be followed quite quickly by another release, Lightbulb Sun, in 2000. Not to say that there was anything wrong with Lightbulb Sun, but I just never really go into it. Nothing really “jumped out at me,” as it were. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good album, but I think it pales for me in comparison to Stupid Dream.

Am I going overboard on this article? Probably. Same perhaps with the song linkage. But you know, never too much of a good thing, right? So here’s the previously mentioned Even Less, Pure Narcotic, and Slave Called Shiver from Stupid Dream.

Even Less

Pure Narcotic

Slave Called Shiver

Following the slate of touring the band did after Lightbulb Sun (including being the supporting act for Dream Theatre on one of their major tours), they joined up with Lava/Atlantic Records for their first international record deal. It would also result in the band’s first line-up change (for unrelated reasons), seeing the departure of Maitland on drums and having him replaced with Gavin Harrison, a long-time acquaintance of the band, and a better drummer in my opinion. I mean, Maitland was good, but Harrison is fucking amazing. And it was at this point that I think Porcupine Tree really transitioned into a more purely progressive rock group (albeit with some metal influences, a la Dream Theatre). 2002 saw the release of In Absentia, the first album I would ever hear by the group, and the one that made me fall in love with them oh so much. I could go into significant detail regarding how excellent this album is, but you’re better off just listening to it yourself in my opinion. 2005’s Deadwing would mark their 7th studio album, and would also be another great album, although I believe In Absentia to edge it out for the win. More prog rock goodness nonetheless, and that’s why I keep coming back.

In trying to decide what songs to post, I run into a real difficulty not posting both albums in their entirety. While I can never truly capture the wonder that is both of these albums, I can at least attempt to, and I hope I’m at least somewhat successful in this attempt. Songs are Blackest Eyes, Trains, Deadwing, and Mellotron Scratch.

Blackest Eyes (In Absentia)

Trains (In Abesntia)

Deadwing (Deadwing)

Mellotron Scratch (Deadwing)

Cue yet another label switch, as following the release of Deadwing, the band would join Roadrunner Records in the UK. Album #8 would be Fear of a Blank Planet, consisting of only 6 tracks, but still managing a run time of 50:52, and featuring a lengthy (slightly short of 19 minutes) but very captivating song by the name of “Anesthetize.” They would continue to delve into progressive rock, but this album featured more of a metal presence than previous ones if you ask me. Not that there’s anything wrong with that /Seinfeld. But seriously, they pull it off so well, and in a fashion that far exceeds Dream Theatre’s. Not to knock them, but Porcupine Tree has something that Dream Theatre lacks. As to what that might be is anyone’s guess, but I’m thinking it’s the right blend of metal and prog for my taste. The album title track, Fear of a Blank Planet, is also another noteworthy song from the album.

2009 saw their 9th album, with the release of The Incident. The album plays not so much like several individual tracks, but as one continuous song. The transitions are actually quite well done if you ask me, and the album even includes some full circle elements. They’re telling a freaking story, and it’s this kind of conceptual stuff that blows me away. Albums like this are not just something to listen to and be done with. The album is an experience, a journey you go through by listening to it; it’s quite the amazing song cycle. If you get a chance, listen to the entire thing, because the individual tracks don’t do it justice. People have sewn together compilations (in parts of course) so you can get as full an experience as possible of a full album playthrough.

Fear of a Blank Planet (Fear of a Blank Planet)

Way Out of Here (Fear of a Blank Planet)

The Blind House (The Incident)

Drawing The Line (The Incident)

So hopefully this is a (probably thorough) overview of the progression of their sound over the years. Not too much in the way of exciting things have happened, I mean, hell, they’ve had one member change in the 19 odd years of performing. Looking at where progressive rock fits in the music spectrum, the way the music industry lies as far as radio promotion goes sort of leaves it out in the cold. Not quite metal, not quite pop-rock (well, nowhere near pop-rock if you ask me), and not quite mainstream enough for your typical rock radio station to play it. Of course, this is in addition to the overall lack of radio friendly singles. When you consider the track average is 6:19 in length, compared to the average of the other stuff you hear on the radio (can’t say I know what that average is, but I’m guessing the range is 3-5 minutes), you can see why they probably don’t get any radio play over.  Only two songs that I know of that go over 6 minutes that I’ve heard on the radio come from classic rock, and that’s been Free Bird and Stairway to Heaven. It’s unfortunate, because these guys deserve way more recognition than they get, at least over here. Having said that, I do applaud them for not bowing down to conformity and making a radio edit. Then again, their songs vary so much within that you really can’t cut a portion of a song without compromising it, and for that I applaud them.

But yes, that is Porcupine Tree. To think that I was also going to go on about Wilson’s recent solo project in this post as well. Ha. That’s definitely an album worthy of its own post. I’ll leave that for future occasions.

P.S. Broke 2000 words. Which is a lot. Holy fuck.

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