Published on November 27th, 2015 | by Dave Scaddan0
The Feedback Society’s Week in Music
Some albums we’ve been discussing over drinks this week at The Feedback Society, like Boris, Black Moth Super Rainbow, Soulwax remixing Tame Impala and more.
Boris – Warpath
I’m all for some ambient experimentation, but the latest effort from one of the world’s loudest, noisiest bands just isn’t doing it for me. Droning bass and feedbacking guitars can be interesting, even soothing, but Warpath doesn’t really go anywhere with its scary, distant chunks of woofer rumble. This record is almost as bad as something like the Melvins album Prick, where the band just slapped together a random release of found sounds, feedback and silence, not even trying to make the album satisfying. Boris do openly admire Melvins — they named themselves after one of their songs. Can’t blame them either, Melvins rule, but Prick was almost universally considered a piece of crap, and Warpath should be too. When a Boris release uses all caps in the band name, you’re in for a doomy, eardrum-shattering dose of Japanese metal. When the name is in lowercase, as it is here, be prepared for a more minimal, atonal, drone-out. Both styles have their place, and more power to the band for finding ways to mutate, but this is one mutation I won’t be returning to.
Snakefinger – Live in Melbourne 1981
This concert was made available to the public this past week (limited vinyl or free download) after a Kickstarter goal was met to pay for the pressing. That should tell you that this is an album with a limited, but devoted appeal. Snakefinger, who passed away later in the eighties, was once a guitarist and collaborator for The Residents, and perhaps one of the only people to ever know their real identities. Before hearing this concert, I thought of Snakefinger as a jazzy guitar virtuoso, not as a singer/songwriter with a touring combo of his own. Now I see a whole new side I never knew existed: a punky, high-energy bandleader with as many musical styles as there are frets on the board, one whose band sounds like The Clash might with an advanced level of musical acumen. The guy played guitar for The Residents, so you know he’s going to sound weird, but he’s also a lot of fun. This show is buzzing with so much talent and energy that it doesn’t matter much that this is just a mic-in-the-same-room bootleg, not a fancy soundboard recording. Regardless of the audio, which is still decent, this concert is a real gem, a gift to old devotees and maybe even a door-opener for anyone who’s very late to the party.
Black Moth Super Rainbow – Seefu Lilac
It’s been a while. BMSR’s Cobra Juicy was three years back, and they were on an album-per-year pace not so long ago. Makes sense, really, since Tom Fec, a.k.a. Tobacco, has been out on his own with his somewhat harder, more hip hop influenced stuff. Now, back with the band he’s done eight records with, I’m hearing that same fragile, fractured quality that made me fall for them in the first place. Black Moth Super Rainbow, as goofy as their moniker may sound, have actually been the source of many great grooves over the last decade, crafting a sound that can be compared to many, but really sounds like no one else. I’ll give it a try, here: BMSR give the listener the same kind of mellow atmospherics as someone like Boards of Canada, but with a distorted oddness that casts a delightfully creepy, scary attitude over the whole dream. Yeah, I can live with that description.
Seefu Lilac is a little choppy, just nine fairly short tracks that don’t really constitute a cohesive album, but hey, they’re back making music together and they’re streaming it for free, almost like a “we’re still here” statement that whets the ears for more. Some of the tracks even sound like works-in-progress, but there isn’t a weak link in this chain-that’s-not-a-chain. BMSR, even one brief, disconnected, part-song at a time, is still BMSR. One lonely petal may not look as lovely as the whole rose, but pinched between the fingers, it can smell as sweet.
Tame Impala – Let It Happen (Soulwax Remix)
If and when I get around to writing a top 20 albums of 2015, Tame Impala’s Currents will be somewhere near the top of that list, but odd as it sounds, track one on that album, a song called Let it Happen, isn’t all that great. It’s a decent enough pop song, easily catchy and seductive enough to be a solid four minute track, but bandleader and producer Kevin Parker really over-indulges the technotronic engineering and stretches it out to around seven minutes with a lot of catch-and-release looping and swishy effects. The rest of the album is nothing less than a beautifully polished chain of audio pearls, so who really cares if that first track jumps the shark, right? I care way less now that the Soulwax crew have had their way with Parker’s forgettable flub.
Soulwax a.k.a. 2manydjs are nothing less than the absolute masters of mashup and remix, as exhibited often on their Radio Soulwax broadcast/podcast. In taking Let it Happen, the one turd from Currents, and transforming it into a perfectly tempered nine-minute disco/funk diamond, I think they’ve pulled off the track of the year. All the best hooks from the original are transmogrified into a stripped down banger of a track that grooves like it means business, not like it’s trying to decide which effects plugin to use next. And, as usual, Soulwax use the pitch-shifter like it’s the slide on some beautiful, synthesized trombone, tweaking sounds in the subtlest of ways to add a new layer of rhythm to the mix. If you have a digital copy of Currents that you listen to when you’re out and about, try replacing the first track with this even longer, but far superior remix — it’ll improve an already great album significantly, so let it happen.
Led Zeppelin – Orlando Sun
I found this live bootleg from 1971 on bandcamp — it’s been available digitally for $1 (or more) for two years, but I only listened to it all the way through quite recently. Find it here.
I think a good live album is the best way to dig more deeply into one of your favourite bands even after you’ve exhausted their studio catalogue to the point of full aural saturation. But to enjoy that band in the glory that refreshes your love for their sound, you need to find the right one. In the realm of live Zep, for me, “the right one” must involve several factors, all of which are met by this nearly two-hour set:
1) The drums must be loud in the mix so Bonham can be temporarily resurrected.
2) Jimmy must play just wildly enough to stay within himself — in some shows he’s pretty conservative, in many, he’s off the rails — I want him at that sweet spot in-between.
3) Plant has to rein it in even more — some of his live performances from the seventies are so pompous and arty that they get on my nerves — especially when he tries excessively to “use his voice as an instrument” when the rest of the band is jamming. A little between-song banter is great, but when it comes to Robert’s improvisational caterwauling, less is more.
4) Moby Dick probably doesn’t need to be over half an hour.
5) The setlist matters too. This show catches Zep right before IV was released, so the classic early numbers (Dazed & Confused, Heartbreaker and Whole Lotta Love) all have room to shine, plus Black Dog and Stairway are given the “from our next album, out in about three weeks” treatment.
Orlando Sun delivers on all these criteria, plus Jimmy gets the cello bow out in the middle of Dazed and really rips it up. If you don’t feel like going back to all the Zep albums you’ve worn out like a pair of tight denim trousers, but still want to hear one of the greatest rock combos ever, this will be a dollar well spent.