Category: Artists


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.

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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.

Middle Class Rut

Holy crap it’s been a while since I’ve posted something. Go away for SFU’s first ever Reading Week (a full week!!!), and I come back to have school waiting to put me in a chokehold for schoolwork. Stuff like my current job, applications for future jobs, and school politics (read: election time) don’t exactly help the case either.

In any case, today’s post is about a (relatively) new band on the scene. It’s times like these that I wish that I listened to the radio more often (which if you care to look back is perhaps hypocritical to say on my part, given my views on radio today), as I only came across their first single in February. Their first album, No Name No Colour, dropped in early October of 2010, with the single (presumably) going mainstream not too long after, perhaps adding a bit more time for it to make its way across the border.

The band is a duo, consisting of vocalist/guitarist Zack Lopez and vocalist/drummer Sean Stockham. They’ve had a huge presence in Sacramento, having first being picked up by a local alternative rock radio station, KWOD 106.5, back in 2007. A music director for KWOD received a single of theirs, “New Low,” and had it played by another DJ later that day. The response was huge. It would later go on to become the stations #1 track for the year of 2008 (as decided by an online poll). Independent of all this, the BBC’s Zane Low picked up and played “Busy Bein’ Born” in 2008 as his Single of the Week. In 2009 he debuted another song of theirs, “I Guess You Could Say,” once again to much acclaim.

Their sound reminds me strongly of the alt rock scene in the 90’s, and has me draw the largest comparison to Jane’s Addiction, albeit a more down-tempo one. I gather that mostly from the sort of echo effect applied to most of the vocals throughout the album. Same goes for the chorus harmonies, something for which I am a big sucker for. Better still, both guys share the vocals somewhat equally when soloing, which is always a nice change from just a lead singer. I think you get a better sounding vocal harmony from two different voices as well, rather than from what you get by overlaying several tracks from one singer to get the same effect (here’s looking at you, Freddie Mercury).

The other comparison comes from the guitars, and has me drawing some to Filter and Rage Against the Machine. While the guitar isn’t quite as technical as Tom Morello’s playing, some of the songs carry that Rage-esque feel to it, that sort of heavy chord strumming like from “Bulls on Parade.” It just makes you want to jump all over the place. This comes most prevalently from an album track, “Thought I Was”, but also pops up on tracks like “Busy Bein’ Born” and the bluesy-feeling “I Guess You Could Say.” Could be why they’re so popular.

Of course, I can’t forget the first track that hooked me, “Brand New Low.” Simple, yet so insanely good. And catchy. One of those tunes where it just clicks, and all you can say is “Yeahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!” The whole album is good though, worthwhile to buy for sure. But first, take a listen for yourself. And for what I don’t post, browse around on youtube for the rest. Chances are if you like any of the songs below, you’ll love the album in its entirety.

Brand New Low (Official Video). Quite well done if you ask me.

Thought I Was

I Guess You Could Say

Jaga Jazzist

I swear, sometimes I wished I lived in the UK. Or anywhere in Europe for that matter, because it seems that best music (at least in my opinion, so as to avoid stepping on people’s shoes anywhere) is coming out of that continent. Don’t get me wrong, Canada and the US certainly CAN produce good artists from time to time, but that music seems to be consistently coming out from across the pond.

Take Jaga Jazzist for instance, a ten piece experimental jazz group coming out of Norway. But they aren’t just your run-of-the-mill big band group, no; instead they take a rather different approach to jazz, and, I’m just going to come out and say it, music in general. The cake is the musical talent in instruments (trumpets, trombone, electric guitar, bass, tuba, bass clarinets, Fender Rhodes [!!!], vibraphones, and a whole rack of electronics) and song writing (kick ass melodies and rhythms…!!!). The icing is that uber distinguishing sound. And how.

What makes them most unique in my mind is the fact that they’re instrumental. I’m not sure what the deal is, but instrumental groups outside of traditional jazz and electronic music (read: club music?) are hard to come by in the grand scheme of things. My guess would be that when people listen to something, they want to be able to sing along to it? I mean, think about it, when was the last time you heard an instrumental track on the radio? If you listen to the radio anymore that is. Nevertheless, the answer is, “I sure the fuck can’t remember.” You’d think that maybe there could be some representation out there, but no. Russian Circles, Holy Fuck, among other bands…will they ever have their day in the spotlight? Not sure. Good to know that at least Jaga Jazzist is getting recognition over in Europe. Good show.

Citing the influences of Coltrane, Aphex Twin, and Squarepusher, to name a few, they have 5 LP’s to their name (with the same number of EP’s), with their first being released in 1996, Jaevla Jazzist Grete Stitz. Cue a 5 year break, and they followed up with A Livingroom Hush in 2001. In 2002, the BBC proclaimed the album to be “the best jazz album of 2002,” a claim which would give way to their rise to fame. 2003 results in The Stix, which is also the first album I had listened to by them. Now, up until this point, Jaga had been producing music with a bit of a drum and base / electronic feel to it (think Squarepusher). This would prove to be no more with their 2005 release of What We Must, which was a noted change in direction for the band. They dropped the electronic influence and went with more of a post rock/nu-jazz sound, although the lack of electronics certainly made them sound more traditional in nature. This would be their last album for 5 years, as part of the group took on a side project (well, for part of that time presumable, comparing release dates and whatnot. Obviously they took breaks, holidays, etc. as well), working with others bands and singer-songwriter Thomas Dybdahl, to release an album under the name of The National Bank. I checked out some of their stuff on Youtube, it’s like…Jaga Jazzist with lyrics. Pretty cool if you ask me. Anyways, cue another 5 year break from the band producing music under the Jaga name, and you’re in 2010, with their latest release, One-Armed Bandit. This album took yet another different direction, but I guess that’s what happens when you take a break for 5 years, going with more of a progressive rock influence.

Anyways, it’s all good stuff to check out. I’m hoping that I get to see them do a live set sometime, because how can seeing a ten piece band doing a gig NOT be epic in nature. Epic songs below.

Random aside: I recently learned that The Mars Volta cites Jaga Jazzist as one of their favourite bands. No surprise there if you’ve listened to some of the stuff they’ve put together. Considering my love for The Mars Volta, I cannot say that I’m surprised that I love Jaga as much as I do.

Animal Chin – A Livingroom Hush.

I mentioned their Squarepusher or, in general, their DnB influence. A great example of said influence. I’m also hella confused by the music video, but in a good way.

Day & Another Day (Live) – Originally from The Stix

Holy crap do I want to see them play live. Maybe you will too once you watch/listen to this. Also that tuba player is a beast.

Oslo Skyline (Live) – Originally from What We Must

Another live performance, pretty sure from the same gig as the previous one. And that tuba player is still a beast.

A Touch of Evil – One-Armed Bandit

Wasn’t really sure how to end the stream of vids, so here’s my favourite song off of their latest album. Enjoy.

Squarepusher

At first glance I thought he was really sweaty in this picture.  Had to look a bit closer to realize that it was just shadows.  Shame though, could have made a comment on how hard he works at making his music.

Today’s world of electronic music is largely dominated by the epic genres that are house, dubstep, and (to a lesser extent) drum and base. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but it is always nice to go out and explore the other reaches of electronic music. Yes you can throw Amon Tobin and Bonobo into that mix, but they float closer (more consistently anyways) to more chill electro than anything else. Squarepusher fits into none of the above. Well, OK, technically his specialization is drum and base and a subgenre of house music (acid house) but it sounds quite unique thanks to his influences of jazz and music concrète (think electroacoustic).

While he uses the moniker Squarepusher, the man (yes it’s just one…in the studio anyways) behind the music is known as Thomas Jenkinson. Born 1975, he’s been making music since 1994. While he doesn’t carry as much variety in instrumental talent as Bonobo’s Simon Green, there is one instrument he is wickedly superior with: the bass. While I’ve yet to see any of his live performances, his talent on bass is just phenomenal. From what I understand (although don’t quote me on this), what you hear in a track on bass (in terms of rhythm, that is. Of course you have to run the bass through many a machine to generate the sounds you hear) is, for the majority, at speed. While you might not currently be impressed, just listen to a few tracks, and you can be relatively safe to say that he played that riff at tempo. Although the skill doesn’t come from nowhere, he is a trained musician (could you guess at what instrument?). Anyways, see for yourself some of his live bass playing. From what I can tell he’s playing some form of custom built bass (because it seriously looks like it’s carrying 6 strings. Also don’t judge me for not guessing a name, I don’t know guitars very well at all hehe.) here. Sick shit though. Makes you wonder how the bass doesn’t just spontaneously burst into flames.

But yes, the guy has some serious skill. It’s not something you can dance to, but if you’re in the mood for some electro which is “off the beaten track,” then he’s the man for the job. Anyways, some studio tracks for you.

Come On My Selector

His single off of his “Big Loada” album. Apparently, this was what became the start of the “long” music video trend (at 7:22, while the song itself is only 3:27). It’s also a good example of his music concrète-inspired drum and bass.

Squarepusher Theme

The Slew

The Slew – 100%.  A percentage also known to represent the amount your face will be rocked when you finish listening to the album.

I’m back. Hopefully you all enjoyed the holiday break from whatever it is you’re doing. It’s 2011 now, and with a new year comes new music.

And today, I start the year off with The Slew. With regards to this group, all I can say is, “Holy shit!” I was introduced to these guys through a friend, who had a whole DVD (that’s right, not a CD, but 4.5 GB of 256+ music [looking at file size I’m inclined to say it’s all 320], of which I’m still sorting through). The name is probably warranted, because the sound they’ve generated is a total curveball from things I’ve heard out of the rock-hop genre, which is different from electro-rock. Well ok I can only actually recall one other example of rock-hop, and I’m not entirely convinced that it is a good example to begin with. But safe to say that it is more than likely different from anything you’ve ever heard. But yes, rock-hop. As the name suggests, it is a blend of both rock (in its purest form? None of this pop-rock or dance-rock crap) and hip-hop, but beat oriented hip-hop like from the 90’s, not…rap as it is today. It makes for a really cool sound, one I wouldn’t have figured would really work well together. Shows how much I know though, as The Slew really know how to make it work. I suppose, on a few tracks, I draw a comparison to DJ Shadow, but for the others, I’m at a loss for words to describe them.

A bass player in front of a mixing board?  Yeah, that’s rock-hop for you.  Also pretty damn sweet if I may say so myself.

The band itself comprises of a few different members of a few different backgrounds, both musically and internationally. In a nutshell cracked wide open, its Canadian DJ Kid Koala, American DJ Dynamite D, and Australia’s Chris Ross and Myles Heskett, of Wolfmother fame (the original Wolfmother, not of today’s incarnation). Anyways, I could make multiple attempts at failing to explain what these guys sound like, so I’ll just show you. But before that, a few more things. You can find a much better written article here in Wired (http://www.wired.com/underwire/2009/09/slew-turns-turntablism-to-11/). As well, you can download their entire album for free from Kid Koala’s website (http://kidkoala.com/ice-cream-news/theslew/). But if you’re down for a preview before downloading, here are a few tracks off their album, 100%.

Wrong Side of the Tracks

Robbin’ Banks

Battle of Heaven and Hell

Sonny Moore (aka Skrillex)

Sorry for the serious break from posts made in a while, midterm season started kicking ass and taking names. Apparently mine was one of them? It got to the point where by the time the fifth one rolled around I managed to totally disable/sleep through my various alarms. Woke up 3 minutes before a midterm was slated to start…shit that nightmares are made of. At least, typical student nightmares anyways. Showed up a few minutes late (and a few breaths short), but I made it.

Anyways, I’ve recently pointed in the direction of an artist who goes by the moniker of Skrillex. Before I get into that though, I’m going to mention that, as it happened, it turns out that it wasn’t the first time I had heard work done by the guy. Sonny Moore, his real name, did a stint as the singer of the band From First to Last over two albums and a tour. And he was only 16 when he first joined them. Now that’s just impressive.

It’s also strange to note that he’s only 22 now. I always find it refreshing to find that the big things going on involve people from our generation more and more frequently. Perhaps I’m still stuck in that mindset from when I was 10 and would see that everybody out there being famous and doing something was so much older than I was. I won’t delve much into FFTL (to be honest I’d call the post Skrillex but felt I had to mention FFTL at least a little bit so that didn’t sit right with me) as they’re not really a band I listen to anymore.

Anyways, as the lead singer of FFTL, he was with them for the recording and release of two albums (Dear Diary My Teen Angst Has A Body Count and Heroine) and a handful of supporting act tours. For those of you who were up at Whistler over a certain period of time (late 2006-ish I think?), they had people handing out cards for iTunes to download a given number of songs for free. “The Latest Plague” by FFTL from Heroine was one of those tracks which came with the download. From the stuff I’ve heard, it’s probably my favourite track from them, but that’s about as far as my interest went really. Listened to a handful of other songs but otherwise never really felt anything special towards them. During his last tour, however, Moore started to develop vocal fold nodules from singing for the band (masses of tissue that build up around the vocal chords, the effects of which basically stop you from being able to sing properly). He went in for surgery once to one removed, and actually developed a second nodule. While it doesn’t say this specifically (so don’t quote me on this), I think he left the band not long after surgery for the second instance. Well I mean, you’re singing for a band, and it turns out that it’s causing you harm? Shitty deal, but it’s got to stop somewhere. I suppose had he continued, he’d probably have done permanent damage anyways. If you listen to “The Latest Plague” below, you can probably see how that might come about.

Random music video, but meh. And to think this was largely what I was into way back in 2006. Oh how times have changed. Somewhat.

So presumably after taking a bit of a break, he started a few side projects of sorts, but then got into DJing in LA, which is where he became known as Skrillex. He’s relatively new to the scene in a ways, at least in terms of recognition. It hasn’t really been until now that he’s made some impact in the electro world. Having given a good listen to his stuff (I think one song in particular has made it into my 25 top played list). The music he does is largely death electro and dubstep, but it’s nothing marginal; well I mean, when you can tour with somebody like Nero, I think that says something about the quality of stuff he’s doing. They’re coming here actually, although I wish that I hadn’t been lazy about getting tickets as they are sold out. Sort of pissed with myself, would have been a good show to go to. To those of you who are reading this and are attending, I envy you. Immensely.

But where is he headed? Considering that he signed with Mau5trap records a little over two weeks ago, I’d say somewhere near straight up. If he continues doing what he’s doing, no doubt he’s going to be a big player in the electro scene. Oh yeah, and he’s also touring with Deadmau5 for his US tour…nbd. Anyways, here’s a few songs of his that are worth listening to.

My personal favourite.

Sorta dirty.

Now this is just downright filthy.

Blitzen Trapper

You don’t see too many sextets these days, especially ones outside of the jazz genre (and that’s looking at the larger combos. The only one I can think of at the moment is Jaga Jazzist, and they’re a 7 piece group). Yet here you have a band from Portland, Oregon who does oh so well with a large group. You would think that, with 6 people in a band, parts (and tempers?) might be stretched pretty thin. Not the case with these guys.

Could you tell that these guys are from Portland?

Blitzen Trapper has 4 albums under their belt, having released their 4th only a few months ago. While the year has yet to finish in order for it to be determined how well they did with their latest release (I’m also unaware of current album sales to use as a statistic for popularity), I CAN tell you what Rolling Stone Magazine thought of their 3rd album, Furr, released in 2008. The album was ranked, oh I don’t know, as the 13th best album of 2008. So you know, no big deal there. The title track did them one better; or should I say, nine? That’s right, the very same magazine song Furr itself was ranked the 4th greatest single of 2008. The album also warranted a 2 page feature in said magazine. Another worthy mention goes to the song Wild Mountain Nation, from the album of the same name, which earned #98 on the top 100 list for singles in 2007. And that album (along with their first one) was self released.

So, as it has been with the timing of a few of my other posts, I author this because I just happened to had recently seen them in concert. It is a little unfortunate that for a band that has just released their fourth album, they are playing at relatively small venues like the Rickshaw. Like actually, had you asked me two years ago what the smallest venue to play at (as a touring band) in Vancouver was, I would have told you the Commodore. But no, it gets smaller apparently. The Rickshaw. And it wasn’t even sold out. It’s too bad, because I really think they deserve more fame than what they have now. In any case, I was thoroughly impressed with the concert. There are some bands out there that only seem to do well in a studio setting; Blitzen Trapper is not one of them. Not surprisingly, music from Furr dominated the set, with songs from their second and fourth album thrown in there as well. The band leader ( and for good reason: lead vocals, rhythm guitar, keyboard, harmonica. Also did I mention he pretty much writes all the compositions for the band?) Eric Earley, played a few solo pieces. For the genre of music that it was, I was impressed. Obviously not like a ridiculously energized concert, just because that’s not what they do.

Perhaps it has something to do with their genre. I’m not really sure how to describe it, but the best description I can come up with would be folk rock. I can’t call it country at all, just because the song style isn’t there (read: lyrics are not about Texas or the singer’s Ford truck?). As well, the chord progression varies way too much to be anything close to that. Nowhere near the blues progression that accompanies pretty much every country song I’ve had the unfortunate luck to hear. At any rate, it’s not something you would be likely to hear on the radio. Perhaps you might hear it in their hometown, but not abroad. You would likely need specialty radio channels on satellite radio, and even then I couldn’t be 100% sure.

At any rate, if you’re into music that runs into the more alternative and folksy side of things, these guys might be the one for you. Here’s a few good songs, although for all intensive purposes I’m ignoring the first album (it…was not as good as the other ones). Enjoy!

From Wild Mountain Nation.

From Furr.

From Furr.

My favourite Blitzen Trapper song. From Furr.

Everyone else’s favourite Blitzen Trapper song, at least according to Rolling Stone. From Furr.

Couldn’t find a studio version uploaded, so here’s a live version. Still does the trick though. From Destroyer of the Void.

Deadmau5

Agent 5mith?

So, I’m not really sure what to say about this one that hasn’t already been said. As far as DJ’s go, he’s pretty freaking amazing. As far as Canadian DJ’s go? Well, I’m not really that up to speed (read: if I had to choose a gear, it would be “derailed”) on the Canadian DJ scene, so I’m not sure where he is, but he has to be near if not at the top. But this isn’t just a rehash of all the stuff he’s done. Yeah, Ghosts ‘n’ Stuff is still pretty sweet the umpteenth time over, but there’s more to this Mau5 than the radio let’s on.

As a bit of an aside, I was fortunate to see him when he came and played (FOR FREE) at the 2010 Olympics. Yes, I was one of those people who lined up super early to guarantee a spot in. It worked out that I was right there after a Closing Ceremony rehearsal. Of course, with the fact that it was free comes with the fact that it was only some 90-100 minutes in length. Also it was NOWHERE near loud enough. Not sure what happened there, but it was still good, at least if you were up front. I was closer to the back though, but still totally worth it. I didn’t get a chance to get tickets for the legit concert he pulled off in July at the Coliseum (although I can’t remember for the life of me why I didn’t end up going…), but I think it was somewhere in the 3+ hour range. Pretty intense stuff.

Mainly I make reference to his Soundcloud page he started up about 7 months ago. He’s been using it to release some personal, experimental, and in progress stuff that isn’t suitable for a record release. It’s some pretty cool stuff as well. We are all familiar with the progressive house music he does oh so amazingly well, but might you be aware that he has dabbled a tad in the realm of dubstep? Or should I say, dub5step??? I was surprised. And then I was amazed. It’s too bad that he hasn’t put together a full length track (that I’ve heard, anyways). But who knows, maybe this is some foresight into the future for the next album release? Here’s hoping.

While the dubstep tracks made up his first four releases (appropriately titled “dub5tepthingie”),  he’s released some other tracks since then. For example, he’s released two extremely different versions of a song titled “Sleeping Pills,” one of which sounds like something Trent Reznor would put out. Like, eerily similar. No production credits, so I can’t say for sure if he collaborated on it at all. But crazy stuff there. Heading off the Soundcloud page, he’s done some work with an up and coming (or maybe he’s already arrived, he’s just that good) DJ by the name of Wolfgang Gartner.  Interesting that they both get equal credit for the songs they released. It sounds very Justice-ish, but definitely different enough to make it distinguishable. And still totally awesome.

And finally, the craziest thing I’ve found on his Soundcloud page thus far. As it turns out, the Ghosts ‘n’ Stuff he put on “For Lack of a Better Name” was certainly not the first incarnation. No surprise there, but he actually had a fully working/produced track of what he has called “old ghosts” [sic]. And I gotta say, it’s a pretty sweet deal. Perhaps not as produced as it should be for a single release (which makes sense as to why it never was publicly made available for purchase). It’s a song all its own, only roughly (well, a bit more than roughly, but you get the idea) following the chord progression of the released version.

You can go to his site here for most of these tracks. Although I do have a few tracks here, one of them which I made myself (well, in a manner of speaking…I wish I could produce music that well). One remix, one mashup, and the one aforementioned “edited” track.

Ah, Cut Copy and Deadmau5…of the mashups I’ve heard, this is probably my favourite, if not for the fact that it is just rap lyrics over the instrumental. That’s too easy. Redlight works in not only Cut Copy’s vocals for Hearts on Fire, but other melodious aspects as well.

Since remixes are an entirely different category than mashups…here’s a remix by Dirty Disco Youth. There are way too many remixes of this song floating around. This would also happen to be the best of what I’ve heard. It’s in good taste, and there are some out there that taste bitter after the first few seconds.

Finally, is a track that I put some EXTREMELY MINOR edits. To the point where I’m not even going to call it an edit. As I mentioned earlier, I was disappointed by how there was no full length (by which I mean anything less than 3 minutes in the electro world) of any dub5step production of his. So I thought, “Hey, two of these sound pretty similar, I can put them together for a full length track.” So I worked out the beat per second (by looking at waveform on Audacity), and cut and pasted the two together. Then in an attempt to make it flow, I trimmed the ending of the first song down a bit, forming a little bit of a drop when the second song kicks in. I’m debating making it 4 beats, but idk, I like the 8 beat break (if you can call it that) before the drop. It works for me. But yeah, I don’t take credit for any portion of the song. It’s a mix of dub5stepthingie 3 and 4, so I call it dub5stepthingie (3+4=7 Mix). Hopefully you like it.

Deadmau5 – dub5tepthingie (3+4=7 Mix)

**Update: In line with his dub5step, turns out Deadmau5 did a collab with SOFI (short for Some Other Female Interest) on a new track that he dropped yesterday.   I was only made aware of the video now.  Pretty sweet deal if you ask me.

People in Planes

I’m trying desperately hard to figure out when I first heard these guys.  I’m not 100%, but I think it stems from my Limewire days, back when 128 kbps for music was considered top notch.  Probably in the same way I was with Muse, I downloaded a track by accident.  Anywho that track wound up being “If You Talk Too Much (My Head Will Explode).”  And like with so many other bands, I was hooked immediately.

They hail from Wales…Cardiff, to be exact (although their hometown is Porthcawl).  And no, I couldn’t locate either city on the map without googling it first.  They’ve been around for some 12 years, although not under the same band name.  Their first incarnation came as “Robots in the Sky,” started in 1998.  The band line-up then was Gareth Jones (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Pete Roberts (lead guitar, backing vocals), Kris Blight (bass), and John Maloney (drums, percussion).  Upon releasing an EP, which caught EMI’s attention, they renamed themselves Tetra Splendour, the English translation of a Spanish jazz quartet, “Quatro Esplendido.”  They did alright after relocating to the US upon being signed, releasing 3 singles and finally an album, with one of the singles granting them a dedicated headlining tour.  They even did well enough to have played the Reading Festival in 2002.  After the tour, they would later go on to record new material.  However, this material would be interrupted due to the management change which swept through EMI.  As a result, many previous record deals with the label would be voided; Tetra Splendour would be a victim of such change.

As they were then unsigned, they moved back to Wales, picked up a keyboardist by the name of Ian Russell, and changed their name once again, this time to the current one of “People in Planes.”  It’s things like this that make me appreciate just how significant events can be.  Say EMI never had their management sweep; Tetra Splendour would never have moved back to Wales and picked up Russell the keyboardist, who I think makes up a good part of Plane’s distinguishing sound.  However, they don’t really seem to be that well known on this side of the Atlantic, but who am I to speculate on potential changes in timelines?  Anyways, they would release a self titled album in 2005, containing previously unreleased Tetra Splendour material (marked by the lack of keys present in those songs), and newly recorded material with all 5 members playing.  Fun fact: they band contributed to the OST of John Tucker Must Die, released in 2006, and actually had a cameo in the film.  I never saw the movie myself, but I’m thinking it might be worth watching just to see People in Planes in it.

In 2008, they released a second album, Beyond the Horizon.  They of moved in a different direction with their sound, which I enjoy because it is not only really easy to make similar sounding stuff to what you’ve done before (and ride off the success of it…here’s looking at you Top 40), but it keeps things interesting as well.  It’s a diverse sounding album as well; I was interested to learn that they actually worked with four different producers while recording different tracks.  Fun fact for this album: Raine Maida, front man for Our Lady Peace (a favourite band of mine), was one of those producers.  It also turns out that of the 4 producers, Raine was their favourite to work with, even going as far as giving him a special thanks in the album booklet.  I was pretty stoked to see that they were playing one single from the album, Last Man Standing, on the radio earlier this year.  Good to know things seem to be going well for them.

Word is they are currently making a third album…one I anticipate most eagerly.  I’m a big fan of the first album in general, while I am slightly more selective about the second album (by which I mean maybe 1 or 2 tracks), so I am interested to see what they do with the third one..  Anyways, below are some notable tracks.

The first single off of the album.  Video was actually directed by Joaquin Phoenix.  In the album version of the song, they added a solo at 2:14 in the video before going to the bridge.  For the single, I guess they didn’t originally include it?   But that wouldn’t be the first time album versions of singles are recorded, not at all.  Anyways, if I had to guess, I’m pretty sure this is one of the previously unreleased Tetra Splendour tracks.  Currently trying to track down that album.  But man, I love this song.  It’s what got me into the band.

I’m a huge fan of this balladish sounding piece.  It has such a smooth and natural build from the start to the release, and the slightly haunting piano is just so intoxicating.

Another piece with a piano opening.  Albeit quite different from Fire.  The song is not one of my top favourites, but it is still a good listen at the very least.  I’m a fan of the resolution from a minor to major key at the end of the song.  It just brings everything together so perfectly.

Apparently when I try to host this on WordPress it just shows up as a white square, so unfortunately it remains a link until I can sort things out.  But please don’t skip this song, it is actually the shit right here.  In fact, I’m going to go out and say that if you listen to any of the songs posted in this article, listen to this one. The riff at the start of the song certainly makes it a memorable one.  In that sense, I guess it’s also a hook.  But once again, they use that minimalistic approach for the opening of songs.  Clean guitar piercing the silence.  This would have to be my favourite song off the album.

A bonus of sorts.  A song from their Tetra Splendour days.  I will be honest I just actually stumbled upon this today, but I do enjoy it.  Some people made a comparison to Radiohead with the album, and thus tend to label them “uncreative”. They said the same thing about Muse’s first album as well, and let’s see where they are right now?  Anyways, from “the good old days.”  Of 2002.  Ha.