Ryan H.: From Africa With Luv (pt. 3)


Note: This is the third installment of From Africa with Luv. I thought my days of writing reviews were done as I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Swaziland, Africa. But with decent internet connections in some of the bigger towns and an iPod full of 2011 albums I never got around to reviewing, the game pulled me back in. There is another reason I am writing with such regularity. Learning a new language is hard, adjusting, adapting and integrating into a new culture is hard, but listening to music and then writing about it…I get that. I can do that. So bear with me as I work out my anxieties through writing about music.

...and stay tuned for vol. IV!


Tim Hecker — Ravedeath, 1972  (Kranky, 2011)

For: William Basinski, Belong, Aidan Baker

Tim Hecker’s veteran status in the world of glacial-paced, ambient-drone has been bronzed by absolute classic records like Harmony in Ultraviolet, Radio Amor and Haunt Me, Haunt Me Do it Again. With the most badass album title and cover in an oeuvre full of badass album titles and covers, the Canadian tonal structuralist has added another notch to his belt of masterworks. Much like the choicest cuts off of Harmony in Ultraviolet, Ravedeath explores the razor thin edge between dissonance and harmony, serrated distortion and surging, minimalist drones. Much of Ravedeath, as the album cover depicts, is built around the deconstruction, and in many ways, destruction of the piano and church organ. Hecker displays a strange affinity for the instrument as chords are either plucked out of the ether and embedded waaay underneath the lunar pull of lapping guitar drones and waves of white noise or canvassed suite-long providing a sturdy foundation of minor chord progressions that Hecker, the tonal excavator he is, pulls apart and peeks inside the spaces between. Hecker’s recent move to Kranky makes a lot of sense, however this Mille Plateaux and Alien8 alumni of Candian weirdos and isolationists will probably be remembered as one of the most affable ambassadors from this frigid expanse to set up permanent embassy in popular music. An Imaginary Country, indeed.


Ponytail — Do Whatever You Want All The Time  (We Are Free, 2011)

For: Boredoms, Marnie Stern, Deerhoof

This needs to stop. I haven’t been able to put down Ponytail’s welcome explosion back into our consciousness since their brief 2010 hiatus. Rounded out to a four-piece, Do Whatever You Want All the Time is a brilliant coda to 2008’s equally brilliant major-chord riffing, Top Gun soaring, all-go-all-the-time saccharine rush of Ice Cream Spiritual. While showing some…I guess grown-ups call it "restraint," Do Whatever You Want is still the closest equivalent to being in a mock-kung-fu fight with 11 black-belt eight year olds, while blindfolded and partially deaf in the right ear. While the addition of a dedicated keyboardist has added some structural changes, some leavening flourishes in punchy drones and electronic blips-and-bloops, Dustin Wong’s spastic, technically jaw-dropping riffage and Molly Siegel’s improvised shrieks and cat-calls are still married to each other in that sort of cross-country roadtriping in a sunflower oil powered Winnebago type cosmic bliss. Siegel’s slip into Black Flag/Dag Nasty snarky, sing-speak in songs like “Honey Touches,” is as cute as a Crass patch on a three-year-old’s denim jacket. Just ironic enough to be adorable, but strangely badass and downright punk. Ponytail’s resurrection, all immortal and sunfeathered serpent-god, is a more-than-welcome return to life. By far one of the strongest albums of 2011/new decade.

Note from Crawf: This video... This. Video.


Richard Youngs — Amplifying Host  (Jagjaguwar, 2011)

For: Tim Buckley, Peg Simone, Simon Joyner

Admittedly I have no place writing a Richard Youngs review. Richard Youngs is a mysterious genius that I have tapped into a good 20 years too late. As Jagjaguwar is snatching up the publishing rights and re-releasing the discographies of some pretty seminal noise and out artists (Dead C, Jad Fair, Simon Joyner, Oneida), more and more music fans will be stumbling upon the career of an insanely prolific and frighteningly brilliant artist who you really should have been up on, like 20 years ago. So it goes, the world of recording artists is terrifyingly immense and Richard Youngs hasn’t stopped recording since the late 80s. Amplifying Host is as good as any introduction to Richard Youngs’ shape-shifting solo and collaborative discography. As a solo artist, Youngs has vacillated between the skeletal art-folk displayed on Amplifying Host and minimalist electro-acoustic albums with nary a year's gap between. Perhaps best known for his collaborative work, Youngs has recorded as part of a collective with Matthew Bower (of Skullflower cult-worship) and Neil Campbell, as well as being one of the few living people who can claim they have actually played live and recorded with the elusive savant Jandek. Amplifying Host shares a kinship with Jandek’s idiosyncratic tunings, time signatures and vocal lines uttered with Biblical magnitude. This backroads spectre, blowing like fog across dim headlights and glinting off the carcasses of burned-out Cadillacs with headless torsos in the trunk is not something to be taken lightly, in fact the Old Testament reverence and solemnity chokes much of the sunlight streaming through the grimy windows into Youngs’ psyche. But bursts of light come and when they do they come in welcome blasts of pure revelation. Just listen to the last minute-1/2 of “This is the Music” without getting chills.

Ryan H.

November 4th, 2011