Matmos Ganzfield EP (Review)

Ganzfield EP
Thrill Jockey Records

Amid various celebrations occurring this year, Thrill Jockey landed quite a signing as a twentieth anniversary present: Matmos, the name under which Baltimore-based electronica duo M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel record. Serendipitously enough, Matmos has been together for two decades too. For such an auspicious pairing, the label and musicians dispensed with exchanging china or porcelain gifts. Instead, they exchanged music: 2012 sees the releases of Matmos’s Ganzfield EP, a three track foretaste of their next LP, slated for release sometime in 2013.

Like the projected long form addition to Matmos’s catalog, the Ganzfield EP has psychic underpinnings – no, really.Schmidt and Daniel have been conducting parapsychological experiments based on the Ganzfield (total field) experiment. Their own variant features tests at Oxford University that included sensory deprivation and Daniel’s attempts to mind message concepts from the forthcoming album to (presumably) receptive volunteers.

Two of three of the EP’s cuts are artistic explorations of this telepathic premise. “Very Large Green Triangles” features chanting refrains that are intoned over instruments in rhythmic unison for the opening. This is then succeeded by big beats and deconstruction of the refrain’s material over shadowy references to the tune and a progressively morphing syncopation of its rhythm. The closing section brings the vocal chants front and center, but rhythmically displaces some of them, setting up a strenuously emphatic conclusion filled with drum punctuation and with the tune back in the strings.

For a break from Ganzfield experimentation, Matmos shares Rrose’s remix of extant track “You,” which plays with distressed samples over thrumming articulations in a techno style. Catchy as all get out:

The most ambitious cut on the EP is “Just Waves,” a near thirteen minute long sonic experiment in which there is a pileup of overlapping single note chants (disparate sounding voices this time: male and female). This morphs into a chorale of sustained voices that’s gradually haloed by organs and synthesizers. By the way, one of the guest vocalist is Dan Deacon, whose new album America we wrote about on 9/12.

Those waiting for a huge departure from this obsessive texture of sustained single note chants are likely to be let down That said, hang in there: there’s something sumptuous about the accumulation of stacked harmonies. It makes one glad for Matmos’s willingness to try out something new on its listeners. I didn’t even mind the attempts at telepathic communication (mind meld averted … I hope!).

Dan Friel: “Valedictorian” (SoundCloud)

Feeling a bit sluggish? The late summertime blues got you down? You won’t be after hearing the Dan Friel song “Valedictorian” via the SoundCloud embed below. It’s a triple espresso’s worth of instrumental indie pop pep.

Dan Friel’s Valedictorian/Exoskeleton EP is out via Thrill Jockey on October 16th as a 12″ vinyl release.

Alexander Tucker: Third Mouth (CD Review)

Alexander Tucker

Third Mouth

Thrill Jockey

Alexander Tucker’s career began rustically and experimentally, with reference points ranging everywhere from folk inspired alternate tunings for acoustic guitar to doom metal drones. For a while during the aughts, it seemed as if his output was inexorably drifting further and further away from the immediacy of conventional song format in favor of more extended and out there meditations. Over the past couple years, as evidenced in his 2011 release Dorwytch (Thrill Jockey), Tucker has been seeking a rapprochement between aspects of popular song and the psych-drone cum prog-folk aesthetic he’s cultivated.  He takes this approach on Third Mouth, his latest recording for Thrill Jockey, as well.

A particular way in has been an expansion of his use of vocal harmonies, including overdubbed vocals and the participation of vocalists Frances Morgan and Daniel O’Sullivan (the latter also plays a variety of instruments on the recording). And there are even two cuts that clock in at three minutes with memorable choruses. No one will mistake them for straightforward pop; the layered arrangements still hold true to Tucker’s penchant for sumptuous timbral complications. That said, there’s a beauty in the simplicity of their melodic construction, which proves to be a unifying thread and straightforward thrust in the midst of various textural peregrinations, however lovely sounding these may be.

Those devotees of Tucker’s earlier work who may be fearful that this modification of his approach inherently means an adieu to freeform experimentation needn’t worry. Third Mouth also contains several longish compositions, and “Amon Hen,” an aphoristic piece of Waits/Partch inspired experimentation, too. “Glass Axe” has a pastoral cast while “Rh” indulges a more psych-drone ambience. And while both of these can also be said to be led by the vocals, in the former taking on the presence of a bona fide hook while in the latter being framed as an almost chant like refrain, the instrumental touches – glorious chords in alternate tunings, spacey reverberation, long held drones, and flashes of dissonance nicking each piece with slight distressing around the edges – remind one of the totality of Tucker’s sonic journey.

Wooden Shjips: “Lazy Bones” (Video)

Wooden Shjips
Thrill Jockey

San Franscisco’s Wooden Shjips has released a video for their song “Lazy Bones.” It features an array of post-psych tropes presented in a fast paced and inexorably fluctuating kaleidoscope. It’s a dizzying sensory overload that’s analogous to much of the music on their latest album, West (out now via Thrill Jockey).

Glenn Jones featured on Weekend Edition (CD Review)

Glenn Jones
The Wanting
Thrill Jockey

This past Saturday, guitarist Glenn Jones was on NPR’s Weekend Edition promoting his new album The Wanting (out on Thrill Jockey). The upshot of the Jones piece was that he had “stepped out of John Fahey’s shadow.” It’s true that Jones collaborated with Fahey, and is a fellow traveler to Robbie Basho, Jack Rose, Stephen Basho-Junghans and other “American Primitive” acoustic folk string-slingers. But once you hear him, you’ll likely think that his shadow itself looms plenty large.

The Wanting is Jones’s solo debut on Thrill Jockey, although we certainly expect from this relationship than a single release. A point of nostalgia for me: it was recorded in an intimate space: a fourth floor apartment in Allston; a Boston suburb that was my stomping grounds in grad school. While I didn’t hear Jones during my time there, I did get to hear many a stimulating solo guitar set at Beantown coffeehouses and bars. But nostalgic connections or not, the musicality and versatility brought to bear on The Wanting is undeniable. Jones plays all of the instruments himself: acoustic steel string guitar, six-string, 10-string and bottleneck, and 5-string open-back banjo. The tunes are originals, but they contain soulful resonances and folk-inflected affinities that make them seem timeless and, quite quickly, fondly familiar.

Check out the video clip and MP3 below: it will likely make you want The Wanting. Better yet, catch Jones live on his upcoming tour (dates follow).

Glenn Jones – Of Its Own Kind (edit) by thrilljockey

Tour Dates:

Oct 14 Boston, MA Villa Victoria
Oct 16 Chicago, IL The Hideout
Oct 17 Iowa City, IA The Mill
Oct 18 Dubuque, IA Monk’s
Oct 19 Bloomington, IN Russian Recording
Oct 20 Lexington, KY Collexion
Oct 21 Louisville, KY TBA
Oct 22 Knoxville, TN The Pilot Light
Oct 23 Asheville, NC Harvest Records
Oct 24 West Columbia, SC Conundrum Music Hall
Oct 25 Atlanta, GA TBA
Oct 26 Atlanta, GA Grocery On Home
Oct 27 Chapel Hill, NC The Nightlight
Oct 28 Takoma Park, MD Potts-Dupre Schoolhouse
Nov 1 Brooklyn, NY Zebulon
Nov 3 Easthampton, MA Flywheel
Nov 5 State College, PA Schlow Centre Region Library

Wooden Shjips: “Black Smoke Rise” (Video)

Directed by Miko Revereza

Wooden Shjips’ West is the band’s latest release for Thrill Jockey.

    Wooden Shjips on Tour

Sat Nov 5 Chicago, IL – Empty Bottle*
Sun Nov 6 Detroit, MI – Magic Stick Lounge*
Mon Nov 7 Toronto, ON – Horseshoe Tavern*
Tue Nov 8 Montreal, QC – La Sala Rossa*
Wed Nov 9 Cambridge, MA – TT The Bear’s*
Thu Nov 10 Brooklyn, NY – Music Hall*
Fri Nov 11 Philadelphia, PA – Kung Fu Necktie
Sat Nov 12 Raleigh, NC – Kings Barcade*
* w/ Birds of Avalon