Music Review: Weyes Blood - The Innocents

Weyes Blood
The Innocents

[Mexican Summer; 2014]

by Ben Roylance

Rating:

The gravitas, the seeming archaic ambiance of Weyes Blood’s new album does not originate in the (hypnotic, engaging, full) voice of Natalie Mering or some innate old-fashionedness, as one may be first inclined to guess. In an interview, Mering cites early music as an essential influence, mentioning in particular Bach’s ideal of the perfect fifth. Listening to The Innocents with this presence-of-history in mind, all doubts as to the “sincerity” of such old sounds fall into the realm of irrelevance.

And then the comparisons pour in. Something in her voice calls to mind Angel Olsen! That guitar line echoes a Joanna Newsom harp line! The harmonies and design of this or that track are reminiscent of Julia Holter! Cate Le Bon sings from the same deep cave! The piano melancholia and brief electronic distortions of “Some Winters” carry with them the aroma of Perfume Genius! And on and on. Fuck those comparisons. Sweep them aside. Context is important and history is magnetic from afar, but Weyes Blood knows this and sings past it all. Aside from that pull toward early music’s crystalline starkness, these are all just knee-jerk attempts at situating oneself against a really visionary work.

That awkward transition from verse to chorus in “Hang On” should never, never work, but the song is infinitely more compelling for that risk. Another risk: if a listener weren’t paying attention, she might miss the presence of the multitude of strange, often electronic artifacts swimming around the album’s rather earthy songs. “Land of Broken Dreams” hosts, quietly, behind its huge sweeps of regal melody, the drips, drops, taps, and bubbling-ups of a tidal id. These echoes might bring early dub experiments to mind were the song not so absolutely alien to that genre.

The Innocents is not at all without easy-to-recognize sources of inspiration, but the songs, you idiots, the songs! If you think you’ve heard songs more successful at melodrama and heavy mood than “Bad Magic” or more successful at the naked, perennial mode of “pure beauty” than “Requiem For Forgiveness,” I want you to forget them, because you are kidding yourself.

Would Bach be proud? Who cares? Heaven in music.

01. Land of Broken Dreams
02. Hang On
03. Some Winters
04. Summer
05. Requiem for Forgiveness
06. Ashes
07. Bad Magic
08. February Skies
09. Montrose
10. Bound to Earth Links: Weyes Blood - Mexican Summer http://j.mp/1CIXmiJ

Music Review: Plastikman - EX

Plastikman
EX

[Mute; 2014]

by pcface

Rating:

Richie Hawtin, a.k.a. Plastikman, on the subject of performing EX at the Guggenheim Museum, in an interview with Dancing Astronaut in 2014:

It allowed me to play in a context that was as far away from the dance floor as possible. I still could have beats but I didn’t need that.

Karlheinz Stockhausen in an interview with The Wire in 1995, upon being made to listen to Plastikman:

I know that he wants to have a special effect in dancing bars, or wherever it is, on the public who like to dream away with such repetitions, but he should be very careful, because the public will sell him out immediately for something else, if a new kind of musical drug is on the market. So he should be very careful and separate as soon as possible from the belief in this kind of public.

Jackson Pollock, on the subject of the Guggenheim Museum, in an interview with Selden Rodman in 1957:

As for Wright, he’s a great architect, I guess, but what a *%@#! That museum! We’ve had all this trouble in doing away with the frame — and now this. Paintings don’t need all this fooling around. The hell with museums! Put the paintings in a room and look at ‘em — isn’t that enough?

1. Hawtin’s attempt to excise his singular brand of austerely minimal techno from the dancefloor and then recontextualize it by performing it in, and therefore associating himself with, the cultural juggernaut of the 20th century that is the Guggenheim Museum — and, by doing so, attempting to make EX not just another Plastikman album, or even a Plastikman album, but instead an Important Piece of Culture devoid of any connection to the communal, nigh-anarchic chaos and physicality of the dancefloor — reflects, in the most unfortunate manner possible, not only the trajectory of Hawtin’s career, but also the bleak endgame that has been met with by dance music in the 21st century and fine art in the century preceding.

2. The career transition from underground techno hero to a titan of the EDM scene (read: marketing industry) is not, in and of itself, something to look down upon — one ought to congratulate musicians who have had their hard work pay off in a rise from obscurity to commercial success, or at the very least give them a fair go at it rather than offhandedly dismissing them as having “sold out,” the eternally favored epithet of the disenchanted fan. That transition does, however, mean that Hawtin no longer belongs to or depends on his former audience, but has instead fully set up camp in the realm of corporate-sponsored EDM events and now in one of the the most prominent institutions of Western high art. The coverage of the performance of EX at the Guggenheim quite effectively makes the point clear, if it weren’t already. He has indeed separated from the belief in “this kind of public.” Stockhausen was perhaps less out of touch than The Wire made him out to be.

3. Western art, and more specifically painting, was in the last century the subject of a rather curious nullification of the utopian/revolutionary/primal impulses that ignited movements like Neoplasticism, Dada, and Abstract Expressionism, respectively. The artists who purported to entirely overturn the establishment in the attempt to create true or truly important works were absorbed fully into the lineage of Western art, ultimately becoming just as much a part of the fossil record as the masters of representation that they sought to upstage and the cultural traditions that they rejected, their work either enshrined in museums or converted handily into commodities to be traded among dealers and collectors.

4. Art imitates life — and vice versa — and the death of rave has, by all accounts, followed the same trajectory, with the chronology of dance music leading from the communal, decentralized celebration of sensory experience that was the acid house phenomenon to a thriving business complex that deifies the DJ and capitalizes relentlessly on music that, while retooled and diluted for maximum pop appeal to the point of unrecognizability, nevertheless descends from the same musical lineage that birthed Plastikman in the early 90s. It is worth noting that Hawtin has not totally capitulated to the inexorable march of culture, in his productions if not in his DJ sets — the tunes here aren’t unlistenable, with expectedly impeccable production value put mostly in the service of retreading old ground — so maybe EX does belong in a museum, as far away from the dancefloor as possible. After all, dance music itself is now just as far gone.

01. EXposed
02. EXtend
03. EXpand
04. EXtrude
05. EXplore
06. EXpire
07. EXhale Links: Plastikman - Mute http://j.mp/1CIXm2c

Mix: Guest Mix: Lil $ega - [Untitled]

(MP3 DOWNLOAD) - (PODCAST)

Lil $ega boasts a dynasty as a single human being: editor-in-chief at Hi-Hi-Whoopee, mastermind behind djwwww, chief executive officer of Wasabi Tapes, etc. One day, I received a message from Lil $ega on Twitter (via @c_m0n5t3r…hmu), and it just contained a MediaFire (!!!!!!!!) link. Obviously I clicked on it expecting the best-looking viruses in the world, but outta my immediate disappointment came a flush of joy, as the containing .wav file was a mix for TMT! After uncontrollably peeing a lil bit in my pants, I clicked play and then (whoo)peed a lil bit more. Dare you play the same mix within your ears, skull, mind, body, whole?

Stream below, and subscribe to our podcast here.

+you– “desktop”
Nikolai Pogorvintuv - “The Imitation of the Flower Garden”
♥ djwwww - “f7”
Juk Juk - “Unwrap”
♥ djwwww - “f4”
Giant Claw - “Dark Web 002”
Bruce Smear - “Junktion”
john-pdf - “Feilong”
JIPPSI GOLD - “llnOQn4838127_0069q38458kgndfn88858_5872345”
♥ djwwww - “fuck you”
virussssssssssssssss – “smoke like fiyyya”
#HDBOYZ - “Super Glue”
felicita - “doves”
♥ Beyoncé – “Heaven” (ft. djwwww & N. Brennan)

• Lil $ega: https://twitter.com/LIL_SEGA
• Hi-Hi-Whoopee: http://hihiwhoopee.tumblr.com
• djwwww: https://djwwww.bandcamp.com
• Wasabi Tapes: http://wasabitapes.tumblr.com http://j.mp/11FfqPr

Film Review: Fury (Dir. David Ayer)

Fury
Dir. David Ayer

[Sony Pictures; 2014]

by Alan Zilberman

Rating:

Whether they star John Wayne or Tom Hanks, countless films about World War II celebrate the moral courage of The Greatest Generation, a term coined by Tom Brokaw in his eponymous book. For a while, anyway, David Ayer’s Fury attempts to rewrite the idea of the good, noble American GI. His soldiers are cruel and uncivilized, and there is value in their savagery, not their courage. But Ayer abandons this idea toward the end of the film, and Fury resorts to the simplistic “no guts, no glory” heroics of countless war films that precede it. Maybe Ayer stared into the horrific maw of war, didn’t like what he saw, and decided that simpler theatrics are worth celebration instead.

It’s April 1945, and the German Army is nearly in the throes of defeat. They’re still fighting as hard as ever — Ayer and his characters go through great pains to tell us this — and so the action is at a fever pitch. Wardaddy (Brad Pitt) is a weary tank commander whose gunner just expired. The gunner’s replacement is Norman (Logan Lerman), a typist who has no real combat training. The other tank operators haze Norman until Wardaddy puts him through a real trial: in order to make Norman desensitized to death, he forces the young typist to murder an SS officer in cold blood. Norman begs for mercy, while the other Americans stand there without blinking an eye. Ayer says we’re no better than they are, and the only thing that matters is the willingness to kill. This is not the narrative Brokaw would want us to remember.

Fury is the name of the tank in Fury, and Ayer films it with nasty realism so you can practically smell the inner sanctum (as well as the grunts who populate it). There are two throwaway scenes in which Wardaddy discusses strategy with his captain (Jason Isaacs), yet Ayer prefers episodic violence over broader tactics. In terms of tank action, Ayer combines claustrophobia with the tank’s deliberate movement, and there’s suspense over whether the operators can line up the shot before they’re killed. The best sequence involves four Sherman tanks versus a German Tiger tank; the Americans are outgunned with the superior machine, so they act like pawns so that one of them can maybe get through. With clear battles lines and measured competence, the action feels all the more brutal.

There is another long sequence that offers an intriguing parallel with the Tiger showdown, even if there is no combat. Before Wardaddy ships out for his final mission, he takes Norman into a bombed out German apartment where two young women hide, and then forces them to make him breakfast. Ayer shoots the scene like it’s a nightmare of domesticity, with Wardaddy as the Father who knows best. Naturally, none of the soldiers are self-aware enough to realize they’re monsters: the German woman are coerced into obedience, both in the kitchen and bedroom, and the remaining tank crew is angry when they see they’re left out. Wardaddy sees Norman and himself as different from the other tankers, who lack an appreciation of the finer things. Ayer lets this dark role-playing satire play out, concluding that the pretense of manners is not enough to make ignoble, violent men into great men.

It’s to the credit of the actors that they do not apologize for their characters, even if Ayer himself lets them off the hook. Pitt and Lerman play tired archetypes — the weathered leader and the green soldier who comes into his own, respectively — yet they add dimension through non-verbal acting. Michael Peña and Jon Bernthal are competent with thankless roles (Bernthal plays a crude moron like he was born into it), so the only real surprise is from Shia LaBeouf, who plays his religious character as if he’s literally a conduit for God’s righteousness. Ayer and LaBeouf know it’s bullshit, of course, and they respect that the character does not.

With nonstop grit and antiheroes who veer from cowards to sadists, Fury dismantles one war cliché after another, at least until it celebrates them. The film’s long climax is a shift in the tank’s purpose: it becomes a turret, a pill box, a bunker, and ultimately a tomb. The climax unspools like a pale comparison to the work of Sam Peckinpah, a director who doggedly depicted combined ugliness with queasy thrills. Sadly, the final sequence of Fury is more like video game and less like historical revisionism, complete with manipulative music and shots that celebrate the glory of battle (Pitt is given a series of implausible hero poses that would make John Wayne blush). Ayer starts with an intriguing, nihilistic art film somehow ends with a guttural, righteous hoo-rah straight out Hollywood. By the time Ayer dwells on the tedious messianic imagery, Brokaw would have probably shed a single manly tear, and so The Greatest Generation lives on in the popular imagination. http://j.mp/11F5KV4

Kronos Quartet chosen as Big Ears Festival’s 2015 Artists-in-Residence, artists at slightly lower level of commitment to be announced soon

Big Ears and Kronos Quartet sitting in a tree, R-E-S-I-D-E-N-C-I-N-G. As suggested by that awkward re-imagining of a children’s taunt, Knoxville’s Big Ears Festival has chosen San Francisco modern classical outfit Kronos Quartet as their 2015 Artists-in-Residence. In accepting that position, the group follows in the footsteps of artists such as Steve Reich and Terry Riley. If those old farts can do it, surely Kronos Quartet can, too! (NOTE: We here at Tiny Mix Tapes greatly respect Steve Reich and Terry Riley.)

Other artists at somewhat lower levels of commitment will be announced on November 4, when the festival unveils its full line-up. Passes for the fest will available a scant few days afterwards, beginning November 7. Then as time marches on, the festival will actually occur on March 27-29. Then, further along the road we’ve all been set upon, our bones will turn to dust and our Earth will die. So, hey, go see Kronos Quartet and Big Ears Festival and everything else you wanna see while you’re still here and breathing.

• Big Ears: http://www.bigearsfestival.com
• Kronos Quartet: http://www.kronosquartet.org http://j.mp/11F5Mw8

Film Review: St. Vincent (Dir. Theodore Melfi)

St. Vincent
Dir. Theodore Melfi

[The Weinstein Company; 2014]

by Dustin Krcatovich

Rating:

I don’t need to tell you that there are few actors as universally beloved as Bill Murray. His presence in a film isn’t a guaranteed mark of overall quality, but it’s at least a guarantee that you’ll get to watch Bill Murray. This is usually enough. Sure, there are plenty of opportunities these days to see Murray shine in films that would succeed without his help, but it’s almost more fascinating to watch him carry a film that would fall flat without him: while plenty of people call What About Bob? and Groundhog Day “classics,” how good would they really be without Murray? Even just hearing him voice a hideous CGI Garfield is somehow comforting (though that, of course, is one of the few movies even he couldn’t salvage).

St. Vincent wouldn’t be as bad as all that without Murray, but his scenery-chewing makes the film’s flaws substantially less glaring. Murray turns the defeated boomer/Vietnam vet Vincent McKenna, seemingly written as a slightly sweetened New York version of Hank Chinaski, into something more like the logical endpoint for the characters he used to play in Stripes, Meatballs, and the like. Those “lovable loser” types were charming and cute when Murray was in his twenties and thirties; in real life, though, they’d be destined to live out their twilight as Vincent does here, ravaged by age, alcoholism, and one too many losses.

Break character. Okay, straight up: St. Vincent made me cry. It wasn’t like I was totally bawling, but it wasn’t the proverbial single tear either. The same thing happened when I saw Nebraska.

Resume character. The plot and construction are trite, but reasonably effective: single mother Maggie and her smartass wussy kid Oliver (Melissa McCarthy and Jaden Lieberher, respectively) move in next door to hard-luck Vincent, and their relationship starts on a bad note. Through a series of incidents, Vincent ends up babysitting Oliver after school. As Oliver warms to the prickly Vincent, he is exposed to a seedy world of fighting, gambling, drinking, and “ladies of the night,” but also discovers a basic decency underneath Vincent’s crotchety exterior. The push/pull between Vincent-the-asshole and Vincent-the-hurt-good-guy lends the film much of its dramatic tension; the results are predictable.

Break character. With Nebraska, it was likely because it made me think about the inevitability of losing my dad; with St. Vincent, it is probably because I’ve already lost my grandpa, whose parallels with Murray’s character here (war veteran, alcoholic, grump with a scabbed-over heart of gold) are substantial. It’s a dirty cinematic trick to play the universal anxiety of losing parents/grandparents for sniffles, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work.

Resume character. Is that really a problem, though? Most of Murray’s most beloved films are traditional three-act, happy ending affairs; it is the subtlety of his performance and his bittersweet/tragicomic gaze that make such movies worth watching, not their construction. St. Vincent is unlikely to go on many “Bill Murray Top Five” lists, but it’s still a chance to watch a master at work. I say get it where you can, while you can.

Break character. Yeah, St. Vincent isn’t actually very good, but it doesn’t matter. I mean, take off the rose-colored glasses, and It’s a Wonderful Life is treacle, too… a lot of “classics” are. St. Vincent is not destined for classic status, and it’s a damn sight from even being as good a film as Nebraska, but fuck it. Sometimes, you just want a movie to make you cry and miss your grandpa. If you have a problem with that, you’re the worst kind of callous asshole and are officially not invited to my birthday party. http://j.mp/11F5LZd

Alex Calder (ex-Makeout Videotape) announces new solo album Strange Dreams, streams first single

Once upon a time, Edmonton native Alex Calder had a little something going on with Mac DeMarco: Makeout Videotape. Not an actual make-out videotape; the duo played under that name between 2008 and 2011, leaving
a string of charming lo-fi songs behind, but enjoying a rather limited impact. I don’t need to tell you what happened to Mac DeMarco, whose career rocketed in the past couple of years, a time Alex Calder took to set his drum kit aside and polish his songwriting chops, preparing Strange Dreams, his first solo LP.

This is actually Calder’s sophomore album, following last year’s EP Time. Just like what happened with Mac DeMarco’s solo music, which took Makeout Videotape’s promise toward a more classic pop route, Calder’s compositions refine the psych aspects of the duo’s songs. As you can hear in “Strange Dreams,” the album’s first single, there’s a lysergic shade to Calder’s warped take on indie pop; enough to link it to Deerhunter/Atlas Sound/Lotus Plaza, eminent practitioners of said style. And it’s not just the orphic imagery, so ingrained in Bradford Cox’s work, that these two have in common; Calder’s voice bears an uncanny resemblance to Cox’s. And that’s a great thing, if you ask me, meaning we will not be deprived of hazy garage psychedelia while Cox sorts out Deerhunter’s creative future, a process last year’s spotty Monomania hinted at.

Further softening the lo-fi remnants still audible in Time, “Strange Dreams” hooks you with delightful melodies, a dozy vibe and a rhythmic vivacity telling of its creator’s percussion-playing roots. You can stream it below. Strange Dreams is out on January 20 via Captured Tracks.

Strange Dreams tracklisting:

01. Retract
02. Strange Dreams
03. Out of My Head
04. Memory Resolve
05. The Morning
06. Marcel
07. Lola
08. No Device
09. Life Purpose (feat. Caitlin Loney)
10. Mid Life Holiday
11. Someone

• Alex Calder: https://www.facebook.com/AlexCaldermusic
• Captured Tracks: http://capturedtracks.com http://j.mp/11EK9Mo

♫ Listen: DJ Clap - TOTAL MIX

Phoenix based DJ Clap (a.k.a. John Luke) delivers a new short TOTAL MIX that contains the entirety of last year’s LP Best Night Ever and EP Bliss. At first, the whacked out, crazy high BPM madness seems to be maniacally moving forward, but Clap’s clean mixing and attention to detail harness the energy of the hyper juke, delivering us something that is palletable but still out of control.

TOTAL MIX takes a dance genre and appropriates it to be something that is almost meditative. Yes, juke is always connected to dance and the body, but the mix provides something that acknowledges that the mind is part of the body; they are not separate entities. Check out TMT’s review of Best Night Ever here, but juke (like all dance music) is best appreciated in its original habitat: the mix.

• DJ Clap: https://soundcloud.com/djclap http://j.mp/11E9dDn

Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson to score upcoming Stephen Hawking biopic

Of all the amazing twists and turns in the narrative of popular music I never would have guessed that astrophysicist and archetypical geek/genius Steven Hawking would be trending so heavily in music news, well, ever. Lo and behold, this week alone we’ve been hit with the news that Hawking has a vocal performance in Pink Floyd’s long awaited next and possibly final album and now Icelandic experimental composer Jóhann Jóhannsson has drawn himself into the vortex of the Stephen Hawking hype machine.

The early warning signs are clear in retrospect, with Hawking’s previous collaboration with Orbital and Jóhannsson’s passion for the hardcore geek stuff like his 2006 album/ode to the IBM 1401. Now Jóhannsson is applying his considerable, minimalist skills to soundtrack the forthcoming biopic on Stephen Hawking called The Theory of Everything.

The soundtrack is described as being “derived from very simple elements that are announced in the first frames of the film - a four-note piano ostinato which then slowly expands into more complex forms and appears and re-appears evolved, deconstructed and re-assembled in various
renderings throughout the film,” and any auteurs of Jóhannsson’s work will know that all this points to being pretty far-out yet awesome.

The soundtrack will be released on November 4 via Back Lot Music and the film will be hitting screens around the same time. Get pumped by boning up on all the other pop-cultural moments in the sun that Hawking has enjoyed here, and watching the trailer below:

The Theory of Everything: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack tracklist:

01. Cambridge, 1963
02. Rowing
03. Domestic Pressures
04. Chalkboard
05. Cavendish Lab
06. Collapsing Inwards
07. A Game of Croquet
08. The Origins of Time
09. Viva Voce
10. The Wedding
11. The Dreams that Stuff Is Made Of
12. A Spacetime Singularity
13. The Stairs
14. A Normal Family
15. Forces of Attraction
16. Rowing - Alternative Version
17. Camping
18. Coma
19. The Spelling Board
20. The Voice Box
21. A Brief History of Time
22. Daisy, Daisy
23. A Model of the Universe
24. The Theory of Everything
25. London, 1988
26. Epilogue
27. The Whirling Ways of Stars That Pass

• Jóhann Jóhannsson: http://johannjohannsson.com
• Back Lot Music: https://www.facebook.com/BackLotMusic http://j.mp/1CwErYq

Premiere: Nekophiliac - “ahaha”

Unleashed by Post-Life International this past Wednesday, one of Pittsburgh’s premiere producers, Nekophiliac, conjured up a handful of sonic incantations, and entitled ‘em, don’t bother me, i’m crying:

Yesterday, I’m trollin’ that Twitter game (via @c_m0n5t3r …hmu), and saw a pal of mine in talks with Nekophiliac about a new video for his track “ahaha,” listed as coming soon. After a few back-and-forths with Julie Mallis (“ahaha” video creator) I received a link and was mesmerized at what came forth. Made using her 2D works of art, “ahaha” gets to a level of sure maximalism, stripping down samples of sound and samples of visuals, and shoving it all into a package of sheer joy. The video is entirely an “ahaha” moment.

This year at the Cassette Store Day swap meet, I played a track off Nekophiliac’s R O M A N C E, and Dirty Tapes CEO (a.k.a. Daniel Christopher) was in amazement of who I was playing. So I gave a good name drop. Also stoked just in general that Neko is going in on releases this year, considering this is his second, and normally, people take a minute or two. Prophecy is in high demand, don’t bother me, i’m crying becomes a mantra, and “ahaha” will shock the AWW out of you, streaming below:

• Nekophiliac: http://nekophiliac.bandcamp.com
• Post-Life: http://postlife-international.com http://j.mp/1Cwl69z

Tiny Mix Tapes is an online music and film magazine with news, reviews, features, and hot replica watches.