Published on June 17th, 2014 | by Dave Scaddan1
The Feedback Society’s Week in Music
Dave Scaddan steps in to tell you about the albums we’ve been listening to this week at The Feedback Society. Jack White, Boris, and more.
Boris – Noise
Firstly, this album title is something of a misnomer. Coming from Boris, a Japanese trio who’ve mastered the artistry of drone and sludge, ‘Noise’ suggests that this record will sound something like their fuzz-fuelled work with Merzbow or their epic ear-blasting ‘Amplifier Worship.’ It doesn’t. ‘Noise’ is actually Boris‘ most song-and-melody structured record, which makes for a bold left turn and a disappointing shattering of expectation. Some of these numbers sound downright poppy, others sound like a Japanese approximation of 90s alt-rock. When guitarist Wata makes one of her rare lead vocal contributions on ‘Heavy Rain,’ it’s an album standout that fans of this band will likely find reason to return to. As an LP though, ‘Noise’ finds Boris straying from their strengths in an attempt to create a different kind of atmosphere. This is a band that releases plenty of material and has never been afraid to experiment, but bands that name themselves after Melvins songs are bound to wrinkle foreheads when they sound more like Smashing Pumpkins.
Jack White – Lazaretto
Without Meg, without The Raconteurs, without The Dead Weather, Jack White still retains the signature sound that made all his past projects stand out. On his second “truly solo” record, JW plays the piano more, gets through songs with fewer (and simpler) lyrics, and squeezes a little more of his favourite old-timey influences into the mix. But ‘Lazaretto’ is lacking those three or four really catchy, iconic songs that every Jack White project has always boasted. ‘High Ball Stepper’ (the album’s single) comes closest to filling this role, but there’s really no cohesive thread tying all of this music together. If this record had been touted as a compilation of B-sides packaged together for the first time, nothing about its sound or progression would be surprising. Jack’s less-than-amazing songs are still solid, but this is not an especially fun or thrilling record, suggesting that maybe Jack White is like this generation’s Roger Waters, capable of gripping the helm of a creative crew, but seeming more rudderless when left entirely to his own devices.
Death Grips – Niggas on the Moon
First, let’s mollify the hype that comes from hearing that this half-album from Death Grips features Bjork vocals on every track. You can hear her, but only in very quick-coo samples that might as well be Nana Mouskouri half the time. Once one gets over the fact that she’s not actually trading Gatling gun rap lines with Stefan Burnett, it’s time to sit back and revel in the unhinged glory. This might be one of the most original-sounding bands to emerge this decade, evolving the elements of hip-hop while destroying them at the same time. Death Grips’ mission is to assault the listener with abrasive, unexpected, noisy sounds that still retain an undeniable musicality, and here, for eight more tracks, the assault continues. Drummer Zach Hill keeps everything on edge with snappy, rapid beats and time changes, much like he did when he played drums for Hella. The production sounds like the great grandchild of Public Enemy’s Bomb Squad, driven by a desire to show people who don’t think hip-hop is music just how far from “music” it can really get. When ‘Jenny Death,’ the second half of this album titled ‘The Powers That B’ is released, we’ll be dealing with an album that will demand an opinion from everyone who hears it, and everyone will have one too.
The Soft Pink Truth – Why Do the Heathen Rage?
As a side project for Matmos‘ Drew Daniel, The Soft Pink Truth has never shied from gimmickry. Still, an entire album featuring house music cover versions of classic black metal songs takes gimmickry to a whole new level. I guess if there’s room for a genre of music called ‘witch house’ — a style that combines occult themes and trance incantation with electronic dance music — then this isn’t such a far cry from some of the darker electronica out there. Some of this crossbreeding, obviously, is quite funny, especially when combined with a familiarity with the original versions by bands like Darkthrone, Venom and Mayhem, but these hybrids of style aren’t always the hideous monsters one might expect. If you’ve ever wanted to dance like Kid ‘n’ Play to Enslaved or Celtic Frost, this might be as close as you get to living out the fantasy.
As many past projects like this have proved, there’s not always much separation between musical styles that seem too disparate in delivery to have much in common. A cover that winks at us before we even hear it by taking a song from a heavily stylized genre (say, industrial) and presenting it in a seemingly opposed genre (say, country) still works sometimes (see Cash, Johnny: Hurt) because it strips the original down to its essential nature, then builds it back up again in a new milieu, and that’s exactly what’s happening here. Daniel has taken a series of black metal heavies that he’s either known well or learned well, and reformulated them with a total understanding of their composition and no respect for their style.
Haunted Hearts – Initiation
This is the coming together of Dee Dee Penny from Dum Dum Girls and Brandon Welchez of Crocodiles. Anyone interested in either band should dig into this; it won’t disappoint. Neither member of the duo seems to be stretching his or her style too much to accommodate the other, so the result is a record that never strains, just rolls effortlessly through its various post-punk leanings with dreamy guy-girl vocals overtop. If Hope Sandoval had guested on Jesus and Mary Chain songs on any other album but ‘Stoned and Dethroned,’ it would likely have sounded a lot like ‘Initiation.’ And even Crocodiles haven’t resurrected the finest hours of Echo and the Bunnymen as fully as Penny and Welchez do on ‘House of Lords,’ which is a great track to start with if you want to wet your beak in one track before diving right in.