Saturday, July 30, 2005

sufjan stevens - illinois [album review]

[Asthmatic Kitty, 2005]

The second album in Sufjan Stevens’ mission to make an album for each state in America is every bit as beautiful as the first (Michigan). Here, the largely folk-orientated musician sets foot in louder terrain in an attempt to recreate Illinois in sound.

But this is not blind patriotism. It’s a sprawling twenty-two track foray into all the things associated with the state. From heartfelt tales of relatives with cancer or stripped down banjo ode’s to past heroes to the sheer bravado of other instrumental choir and string quartet-heavy tracks, beauty is always overarching. It all sets the scene for some metaphorical Illinois – a place simply joyful to navigate with this album as a map. The instrumentation is wide-ranging (and always meticulous) in order to mirror the business and diversity of such a place.

Although there is a lot of Christian imagery at work on Illinois (as with all Stevens’ work), it appeals so universally that even the strongest of atheists would not be discouraged. One might be put off by the bombast of many tracks, which can sound a little over the top. But it appeals so widely to the human condition and expresses an optimism that is simply unparalleled in music today, especially when the effect is so successfully. It’s really quite amazing, and certainly does not disappoint after 2003’s stunning Michigan.

-Richard MacFarlane

Thursday, July 28, 2005

you are a runner and i am my father's son

just got an email from someone disapointed to miss the mixtape connection gig that made its succesful debut a couple of weeks back. i was able to give her some good news in that it's going to be happening on the last friday of every month from now on. if anyone wants to use the comments feature to post requests of bands/genres that they would like to hear at the next gig, then go for it.

interpol are playing next week. i'll try get some photos from people who are lucky enough to go up to auckland/wellington and see them.

just read that howe geleb (the man behind giant sand, op, and the band of blacky rancette) is coming to new zealand in september. don't know much else other than he is playing three dates, so i presume that will be auckland/wellington/christchurch, but who knows. we should be so lucky...

next week i'll post quite a few articles. the blood brothers interview from last week will be in canta as well this coming wednesday. also, reviews of the coral - the invisible invasion and also sufjan stevens - illinois

oh yeah - i'm filling in for bill on human pleasure at hourly rates on monday night (1/8/05), 7-9pm on rdu. it's another indie show that focuses on the newer/unreleased side of things.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

playlist - 26/7/05

1. devendra banhart - heard you say [crippled crow]
2. hank - jimmy falls off own mountain [how to prosper in the coming bad years]
3. dungen - panda [ta det lugnt]
4. archers of loaf - toast [icky mettal]
5. portastatic - i wanna know girls [brights ideas]
6. frank black - dark end of the street [honeycomb]
7. wilco - pot kettle black [yankee hotel foxtrot]
8. brian jonestown massacre - free and easy [thank god for mental illness]
9. devendra banhart - mama wolf [cripple crow]
10. the skygreen leopards - mother the sun makes me cry [life and love in sparrow's meadow]
11. silver jews - punks in the beerlight [tanglewood numbers]
12. the decemberists - here i dreamt i was an architect [castaways and cutouts]
13. the jim yoshii pile-up - silver sparkler [picks us apart]
14. quasi - the sort of god [the sort of god]
15. the thermals - a stare like yours [fuckin' a]
16. the a frames - flies [black forest]
17. the blood brothers - i know where the canaries and crows go [burn, piano island, burn!]
18. oneida - lavender [the wedding]
19. the cloud room - blackout! [the cloud room]
20. ryan adams - life is beautiful [cold roses]
21. clap your hands say yeah! - over and over again (lost and found) [clap your hands say yeah!]
22. possum dixon - in her disco [star maps]
23. the oranges band - ride the nuclear wave [the world and everything in it]
24. the white stripes - red rain [get behind me satan]
25. sleater-kinney - wilderness [the woods]
26. you am i - trainspotting [sound is ever]
27. wolf parade - it's a curse [apologies to the queen mary]
28. modest mouse - doin' the cockroach [the lonesome crowded west]

Friday, July 22, 2005

batman begins [movie review/column]

Why Batman Begins is (quite possibly) the best Batman movie so far.

With the hype that surrounds any blockbuster (or mainstream) movie these days, I’m sure I’m not the only overly skeptical viewer of my time. It has been ridiculous for a long time now, just how much money is poured into these films, that have long-ago become a total commodity. So it is to particular surprise that the latest of a myriad of blockbuster hit films, Batman Begins, is actually really fucking good.

To some extent, this confused me. Did I like it because I was a Batman fan through-and-through? Perhaps it was just a good, standalone film. Or did it just seem good because of just how atrocious the third and forth Batman films were?

Because these were truly abysmal. Batman Forever and Batman & Robin were undeniably shit. But a young Batman obsessive such as myself was never be able to admit this. “I mean, sure, they’re not great, but it’s Batman!”. The identity of the films alone was some redemption for how poor they really were. They had nothing else going for them. Because really – Jim Carrey as The Riddler? Arnold Scwacineger as Mr Freeze? These casting decisions are both unexplainable and unforgivable. But the low point of the later misappropriations of the Batman idea surely came when George Clooney was cast as Batman.

These reasons make it a little harder to objectively judge Batman Begins. Even though I’m pretty sure I repressed any memory of George Clooney in the lead role, the fact still lingers somewhat. With the other misfortunes of bad casting and ridiculous ventures into modernizing (and comodifying) the whole Batman thing alongside other successful but ultimately disposable blockbuster action flicks, any self-respecting Batman fan couldn’t help but feeling a little cheated by what it had become.

While this is probably not the leading reason for the success of Batman Begins, it definitely plays some part. Batman fans of my generation are a whole lot older (and more cynical) now, possibly due to the scarring misadventures that were the third and fourth sequels. More to the point, though, globalization and post-modernism and all that stuff probably play some part in it. Either way, our culture calls for something more real and relevant from our films, whether in the form of special effects or character development.

Batman Begins answered this call. The overall aesthetic is that of darkness and morbidity. It’s all golden sunsets juxtaposed with the seedy, dystopian, Gothic cityscapes of Gotham. Every advancement and appropriation on the older Batman films is a success. The sardonic and sinister eclecticism of Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns (the first two films) is disposed for a more serious and ominous atmosphere and setting.

And for once, the love story part of the film was actually bearable. Although Katie Holmes wasn’t the strongest of actors in the soppy bits, she worked pretty well as the do-good DAs assistant. Thanks to all the latest tabloid news (that even infiltrated more well-to-do publications like The Press or Sunday Star Times), all I could think about when she was on screen was Tom Cruise. And now the self-proclaimed virgin is pregnant!. That dirty little slut.

But anyway, Batman. The aforementioned cynicism that dominates many in my peer group was, for me at least, overwhelmed by this film. I was thoroughly exhilarated throughout – an odd feeling, considering my usual disdain for anything showing at the bigger, blockbuster driven cinemas like Hoyts and Readings. Such a big part of my childhood was evoked by such a well-made film. Casting big(ish) actors into the smaller parts of the film works well – just one example of how no corners were cut. The plot is reasonably elaborate, and although some have said it is a little clumsy in parts, the length exposition of how Batman came to be Batman is enthralling, as with the rest of the more action-orientated scenes in the movie.

There was something real about Batman Begins. While the other films delved somewhat into what it means to actually be Batman (e.g, how he still has to live an everyday life, etc), never before has such psychological depth been available to the viewer. Christian Bale plays (easily) the best Batman yet, in basically every area. Driven by conscience and inner-torment, he is truly human, despite the how fantastical the whole Batman idea is. And he’s such a hottie!

In retrospect, it’s not hard to see how Batman could mean a lot to a young boy. He’s heroic, he’s on both sides of the law,and those gadgets! And the cape! Wow. If this all sounds a little obsessive, well, you’re probably right. I’m sure there are a few others that might remember this: A particularly disappointing moment for any young Batman fan was on that cartoon show, hosted by Fiona Someone, where they gave away a Batmobile that you could actually get in and drive! My memories of this toy see it as unparalleled in terms of Batman merchandise. Whether it was actually that great or not, I’m not so sure – only that spoilt, undeserving kid who won the competition can answer that. He would’ve been either the most popular kid for having a Batmobile or would’ve received cruel torment for all the jealously created in owning such a prized possession. Yeah, I had all the Batman Returns Collector Cards, not to mention a surplus of Gotham Dollars, and plenty of the action figures (of course). Unfortunately, these figurines are now lost – hopefully in the hands of one of the next generation of Batman fans. As my brand new Batman Begins figure stands happily atop my bookcase, I can rest easy with the knowledge that young Batman fans everywhere need no longer be disappointed like I was with Batman’s over-comodification.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

sleater-kinney - the woods [album review]

[Sub Pop, 2005]

Ok, so Sleater-Kinney. They’re pretty big right now, and rightly so. The Woods is their first album on Sub Pop records, but their seventh in total. Now, this review is somewhat overdue, considering the buzz surrounding this album - a buzz, which on the whole, has been astoundingly positive. This reviewer certainly isn’t going to forsake objectivity for the sake of originality, though. It does make the album a little harder to discuss, but luckily The Woods is one of those albums that stands out so much that writing comes easily.

One might expect something a little derivative of their earlier albums. But within their style, Sleater-Kinney are pretty experimental – not groundbreakingly so, but just enough so that old fans of their earlier material (such as Dig Me Out or Call the Doctor, both of which’s sounds are recalled throughout The Woods) are kept happy, while newcomers to their style can also find enjoyment.

It’s produced by Dave Fridmann (known for various production work, most notably with The Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev), and this factor seems to be a common point of discussion in other reviews of The Woods. In particular, the working relationship of the band with Fridmann has had substantial discussion. Apparently working together pushed the band to the brink of breaking up, as Fridmann declared openly that he was not a fan of their work.

Getting back to the record itself, though, this element does, it seems, actually effect the sound of The Woods. Tension is a key aspect, which could be partially accredited to the aforementioned working relationship, but probably moreso to Sleater-Kinney’s ability to juxtapose emotion with raw, fuzzed-out and dense guitar sonics to sound anthemic, without being hackneyed. It recalls bands like Deep Purple and Jimi Hendrix in terms of it’s heaviness, which is similar to another recent release; The Hold Steady’s Seperation Sunday.

Thankfully, there is a lot of diversity present on this poltically-minded post-punk/indie rock record. Quieter, more melodic and heartfelt tracks like “Modern Girl” (a beautiful track, by the way - particularly in its contrast with the rest of the LP) are far removed from the classic rock indulgence in riffery exhibited by “The Fox” or “Wilderness”. Intensity, whether in terms of emotion or just raw instrumentation, is always high in importance, as are various other punk and post-punk sensibilities.

The Woods packs a huge punch. It’s a rollicking, flamboyant album that can retain a political and expressive seriousness whilst still rocking the fuck out with an ease that is rarely seen in indie rock these days.

-Richard MacFarlane

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

she's my rushmore, max - playlist 19/7/05

1. the blood brothers - ambulance vs ambulance [burn, piano island, burn!]
the blood brothers interview part 1
2. kyuss - asteroid [welcome to sky valley]
3. the peppermints - daughter [jesus christ]
4. neu! - negative land [neu!]
the blood brothers interview part 2
5. deerhoof - panda panda panda [apple o']
6. black flag - depression [damaged]
7. erase errata - ca viewing [at crystal palace]
8. british sea power - apologies to insect life [the decline of british seapower]
9. the aislers set - the red door [the last match]
10. okkervil river - for real [black sheep boy]
11. the mobius band - you're wrong [the loving sounds of static]
12. wilco - ashes of american flags [yankee hotel foxtrot]
13. fugazi - bed for the scraping [red medicine]
14. the new pornographers - sing me spanish techno [twin cinema]
15. super furry animals - blue fruit [golden retriever 7" single]
16. my morning jacket - mahgeetah [it still moves]
17. clap your hands say yeah! - over and over again (lots and found) [clap your hands say yeah!]
18. the arcade fire - this must be the place (naive melody) [power out 7" single]
19. six organs of admittance - hazy sf [v/a: golden apples of the sun]
20. mount eerie - no flashlight [no flashlight]
21. castanets - heaps of wheat [what kind of cure]
22. the double - idiocy [loose in the air]

Sunday, July 17, 2005

nova echo w/ the new originals // the phoenix foundation w/ thomas:parkes [live reviews]

a busy night of bands on saturday proved largely succesful. first stop was the dux, where the new originals were into the second half of their set. the local fanbase were at large and enjoying the danceable jangly indie pop of the christchurch four piece.

their sound itself was interesting. having only heard a couple of their tracks on rdu where the janglyness is exemplified by clear production, their live sound was quite different and a lot messier. while influences such as pavement might sound almost meticulously slack, the new originals sounded sludgey, in a similar way to dinosaur jr, particularly with the rhythm section. most of the time, this worked succesfully. at others, though, it sounded too messy - a lot of the jangly qualities were lost amidst a swamp of instrumentation, particulary by the over-active drumming. the keyboardist was pretty low in the mix - it would've been nicer if its sound was more prominent. lead singer tim moore cracked out the ole' theramin for the last song though, which was both novel and effective at crafting some nice melodies.

the energy was high throughout, which seemed to be the point of the set. it was all very danceable, so in a live setting, the loss of clarity was probably a good sacrifice.

a lot of the local fanbase seemed to drop off after the new originals set (prehaps to the phoenix foundation?). this was a shame, as nova echo were an extremely polished and also totally danceable young post-punk act.

the opening song was interesting - i was left asking whether it was an interpol cover or not. it wasn't, but the effect was the same. it was exactly like something off turn on the bright lights, which was just ok with me. as was what followed - jagged post-punk with great start/stop dynamics, taking pages from gang of four, the mint chicks, q and not u. the singer (pictured above) is the tallest man i've ever seen, and i thought it was fucking great that he could still spaz out as well as a singer of half his sature. it's hard to know how to describe them as being anything other than a post-punk band - they're pretty purist in that sense. it was all angular guitars and stunted basslines. they seemed to lack the intensity of other contemporary post-punkers, but it was hard to tell whether it was due to the empathy displayed by the audience or the band itself. it was probably both. either, it was a good show for any post-punk fan, but unfortunatley, the phoenix foundation beckoned - so we made our way to the jetset after only four or five songs.

i really wanted to stay for the rest of nova echo's set, but the phoenix foundation quickly made me forget any ideas like this. as has come to be expected, they were just terrific. they played pretty much every song from their two albums, traversing a wide and diverse variety while staying progressive. spectral and atmospheric tracks were matched with more uptempo rockers, to huge success.

the venue of the jetset left a lot to be desired, especially because of how fucking packed it was. the sound was really quiet - it's annoying when you can hear the people around you more than the band itself mid-way throuh a song. there was little room to move, and unfortunatly for me (who turned up late, and missed the support act, who were apprentley "ok"), it was impossible to get near enough to the front to take any photos. the six members were all having a great time, so the atmosphere of the jetset was actually pretty good (not to mention fun) for once. i think that their performance outdoors in the sun at the big day out earlier this year seemed to suit their sound a whole lot more than the jetset did.

but anyway, it's hard to complain with such a surplus of gigs in one weekend - now a rare happening in christchurch. let's hope it happens again soon.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

you look like david bowie, but you've nothing new to show me

i think it's safe to say that mixtape connection last night was a success. thanks to everyone who came and supported the night (there were lots of you!). it looks like it's going to become a regular thing down at capitol bar, possibly fortnightly but more probably monthly (which is what i'm most keen on). if anyone has any ideas or feedback about friday's gig then feel free to post some in the comments section.

unfortunatly i forgot to bring my camera along to the gig. which is a shame, really - it was such a good turnout and such a fun night that there would have been plenty of good photo opportunities. i'll definitley be taking photos at the phoenix foundation tonight though. i'll upload them sunday lunchtime. and then there's die! die! die! on sunday with house of dolls - more photos of that, too.

don't forget: blood brothers interview will be aired on tuesday night (19/7/05). also, we'll have special guest, mark(!) in the studio playing some of his interesting 7" collection.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

the protagonist suddenly realises what he must do in the middle of downtown traffic

uhh, yeah. so i'm a friggin idiot. i totally screwed up the dates for this blood brothers interview. it's actually this coming tuesday (the 19th) rather than the 12th as i (for some reason) thought. so that means it will air on this weeks show, the 19th. yay!

now, this weekend is pretty exciting. christchurch's drought of gigs of the past few months has suddenly ended. so there's mixtape connection on friday night, the phoenix foundation on saturday, and as well as this (on saturday), cool post-punky band nova echo (from auckland) play at the dux. and also, die! die! die! are playing another show at the dux (they support shihad on saturday, yippee...) on sunday for a small cover charge.

check this blog for photos from all of these gigs during the weekend and early next week.

and a short note of some bodacious indie tunes i've picked up in the last few days:
the concretes - lay our battle axe down (sweet swedish indie pop/twee)
mount eerie - no flashlight (omg hot hot, new microphones album! out in august)
the most serene republic - underwater cinematographer (new, beautiful band on arts & crafts, broken social scene's label)
wolf parade - apologies to the queen mary (ooerr)

p.s. thanks tim for a great show of classic cutz last night.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

the show must go on andonandon

1. bowie. be my wife. (low)
2. calling.
3. cure. lullaby. (disintegration)
4. devo. jocko homo. (q: are we not men? a: we are devo)
5. violent femmes. add it up. (s/t)
6. tears for fears. head over heels. (donnie darko)
7. ryan. anybody wanna take me home. (rocknroll)
8. gang of four. damaged goods. (entertainment)
9. magazine. shot by both sides. (real life)1978
10. stone roses. i wanna be adored. (s/t)
11. pixies. i bleed. (doolittle)
12. jesus and mary chain. cracking up. (munki)
13. velvet underground. sunday morning. (s/t)
14. robert and the devil blues. (king of the delta blues singers)
15. cream. crossroads. (wheels of fire) 1968
16. mazzy star. fade into you. (so tonight that I might see)
17. syd barrett.octopus. (wouldn't you miss me? best of)
18. TOKEN NEW SONG OF THE WEEK AND CLEVER TITLE FOLLOW ON. televisioon personalities.i know where syd barrett lives. (and don't the kids just love it)
19. dylan. subterranean homesick blues. (brining it all back home)
20. xtc. sense working overtime.
21. rolling stones. live with me.(let it bleed)
22. smiths. heaven knows i'mmiserable now.
23. neil young.cinnamon girl.
24. iggy and stooges. search and destroy. raw power.
25.echo and bunnymen.killingmoon.

thank you and goodnight
timmy dodgers
richard mf in spirit

Sunday, July 10, 2005

we're asleep when we should be dancing

just a friendly reminder that this friday (15/7/05) is the night of mixtape connection, a night of indie tunes at capitol bar. i'll be djing there, alongside benet aka mr. hitchcock (host of the mixtape sessions) and gretchen aka missy g (girlschool host). it starts at 10pm and it's free. if yr an rdunited member you even get a free mix cd! wow. you should probably come. especially if you like bands like...

Out Hud, The Rapture, LCD Soundsystem (plus other DFA artists), !!!, Mu, The Human League, The Soft Pink Truth, Death from Above 1979, The Cure, Blondie, Talking Heads, Joy Division, Devo, New Order, Felix da Housecat, The Go! Team, Vitalic, Interpol, Kraftwerk, Chicks on Speed, Pet Shop Boys, The Cars, Arthur Russell, Ellen Allien, Junior Boys, The Smiths, Luke Vibert and so fourth.

i mean, really - where else are you gonna here music like this in christchurch? ah - well actually, there is "after work" on friday nights at mainstreet. wammo puts on a fine display of indie goodness, so definitley check that out. it's on every friday from 5pm-9pm.

(also, check this site for photos from the gig on saturday, and furthermore, for photos of the phoenix foundation gig on saturday at the jetset. i just got a digital camera, you see.)

Friday, July 08, 2005

pink tarantulas

as previously posted on guitar media, the blood brothers are coming to new zealand. but not christchurch - oh no. no, they play auckland and wellington, of course. just as interpol and micah p. hinson are also doing in the near future. so yeah. pretty much a total bummer.

now, the main news is, i'm going to be interviewing the blood brothers, and playing this interview on guitar media this week (12/7/05). also, watch out for some sort of article about them on this blog, and also in a real life publication of some sort. ooh!

pip (rdu drive show host): "they sound like they want me to feel sick"

i think they sound fucking badass. i really like them. maybe liking "difficult" music (or music that is nausea inducing) is something i do on purpose, just because the possibility of lots of other people liking the said band is slimmer than yr more easy going indie pop band.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

playlist 5/7/05 - let's take this bike off some sweet jumps

1. wilderness - marginal over [wilderness]
2. scout niblett - miss my lion [sweet heat fever]
3. vetiver - been so long [between ep]
4. the skygreen leopards - belle of the woodsmans autumn ball [life & love in sparrows meadow]
5. sparrow - i wouldn't mind [the early years]
6. the organ - brother [grab that gun]
7. the arcade fire - cold wind [six feet under - everything ends soundtrack]
8. love as laughter - in amber [laughter's fifth]
9. dressy bessy - electrified [electrified]
10. oneida - lavender [the wedding]
11. death from above 1979 - if we don't make it we'll fake it [heads up ep]
12. the paper chase - said the spider to fly [god bless yr black heart]
13. kinski - hiding drugs in the temple [alpine static]
14. the mae shi - vampire beats [heartbeeps ep]
15. islands - abominable snow [download, from ex-unicorns members]
16. engineers - let's just see [engineers]
17. clap your hands say yeah! - in this home on ice [clap your hands say yeah!]
18. okkervil river - for real [black sheep boy]
19. the german art students - on the spot [name droppers]
20. the hives - diabolic scheme [tyrannosaurus hives]
21. the new pornographers - twin cinema [twin cinema]
22. smog - i'm new here [a river ain't much to love]
23. wolf parade - it's a curse [sons and daughters of hungry ghosts ep]
24. the fall - rebellious jukebox [live at the witch trials]
25. broken social scene - shorelines [windsurfing nation]

Monday, July 04, 2005

this week on guitar media...

just a short note to let you know about some of the new stuff i'll be playing on this tuesdays show (5/7/05). not sure what tim has up his sleeve(s), but in my time away i've found some very new and very unreleased tracks, which, coincedentally, are also very good.

new/unreleased stuff from:
- broken social scene (from fourthcoming windsurfing nation)
- new pornographers (from fourthcoming twin cinema)
- islands (unreleased, new material from members of the unicorns (yeah!!!))
- wilderness (hot new indie rock from their self-titled jagjaguar lp)
- clap your hands say yeah! (so hot right now omg)
- vetiver (from brand new ep, reaaaly nice freak-folk)
- blonde redhead (from new ep secret society of butterflies)
- the arcade fire (new track from six feet under s/t)
- dressy bessy (super new girl-indie rock from lp electrified)

other not so new, but still good stuff from:
- kinski
- sparrow
- elf power
- olivia tremor control
- the diskettes

Sunday, July 03, 2005

sighting the sound

here's some good news for fans of the bats. it's just a cut & paste from an email:


The Bats are pleased to announce signing to Magic Marker in the USA, Little Teddy in Germany and Egg Records in Scotland for a September release of their new album, "The Bats at the National Grid".

"With more and more people using iPods and the like, digital sales for music through internet distributers like iTunes has gone through the roof in the USA and Europe. Magic Marker and Little Teddy will concentrate on this medium for "The Bats at the National Grid" as well as manufacture and distribute both in CD and vinyl format in the Northern Hemisphere. It's a great way to get your music around the planet and it's also favourable in giving a good return to us as recording artists". Paul Kean from The Bats.

Meanwhile, at home in New Zealand,
- "The Bats at the National Grid" will be independantly distributed via select record stores and on line through Smoke CD's while back catalogue will be distributed by Flying Nun.

- "1000's of Tiny Luminous Spheres", The Bats compilation of greatest almost hits from their previous releases is onto it's 3rd repressing through Flying Nun.

- Dale Cotton from Auidioworkshop in Auckland has applied his mastering magic to the final mixes that were recorded at John Kelcher's National Grid studio in Christchurch.

- Overdubbing and mixing was completed at the home studio of Paul Kean and Kaye Woodward (the same place where the 1982 Flying Nun recording sessions of The Chills, Stones, Mainly Spaniards and Tall Dwarfs took place).

- A pre-release version of Horizon from the album distributed to Bnet stations reached number one on RDU and 2 on BFM.

as a lead up to the release ....
The Bats play songs from the new album at
* Radiant Records Friday 29th July
* Harbour Light in Lyttelton Sat 30th July
* Donna Dimente Oamaru studio gig Fri 5th August
* Sammy's Dunedin 6th August.
(North Island dates TBC)

Friday, July 01, 2005

house of dolls - house of dolls ep [review]


A husband and wife duo from England that play dancepunk! – how hot is that? The premise for House of Dolls is definitely appealing, and luckily, their music can dodge many of the pretensions associated with the hipper-than-thou genre.

This is one very dark CD-R, despite the case’s bright yellow diagonal stripes. Pulsating warm jets of synthesizers clash with angular guitar stabs on the opening track “Beach Flowers” to allude to more electronic moments of The Rapture. Other areas on the EP (namely “Acrobats”) recall Joy Division and early New Order, whose first two albums are probably the most useful comparison to make in terms of the emotions explored, and the dark synths used. There is no strained optimism here, though – just pure style, which mainly comes about through simplicity. The EP’s effortlessness is its virtue. Even if the singers muffled drawl itself sounds pretentious and overly fashionable, it comes across purely as irony. Maybe it’s just my transference of the idea of the presence of some biting wit. Maybe it’s the repetition - something that I associate with the tedium of post-punk. Either way, monotony has worked well for countless genres in the past, and here it’s again, very successful.

Mood takes precedence over intensity and sincerity. The EP carries an overall atmosphere of starkness and sparsity through threadbare instrumentation. Through this, it inhabits some cool scene in some cool, laidback and trendily seedy underground bar in some equally hip film. House of Dolls are pretty much totally void of dynamics. I think it’s terrific, really. Hip kids creating something that recalls what people like me (too young to know) would perceive as the British clubs that showcased Factory records early output. This is obviously a recurrent trend in indie music at the moment, but House of Dolls bring a uniquely electronic dance sound to the revival, that in the end, is almost a breath of fresh air.