October 25, 2009

Late-October misc. round-up!

Well, I have been in heavy work-mode this month, and realize I haven't been thinking in “review” terms much. So I thought I would just post a few blurbs of things that I have been listening to or reading this month, but haven't felt motivated to write more than a sentence or two about.

Chris Ware's “ACME Novelty Library” - I was never much of a comic book fan, although I did my time as an anime geek in the mid '90s (when Pokemon hit the US I realized being an anime fan had “jumped the shark”, so to speak), and I grew up reading Tintin and Asterix. One comic I have been a long-time fan of, however, is Chris Ware's “ACME Novelty Library”, best known for the “Jimmy Corrigan – The Smartest Kid In The World” series, not to mention the blatant uncredited “inspiration” for Stewie from Family Guy. The comic has an incredible visual style suggestive of old-time newspapers and vintage early 20th century comic art, a slightly twisted sense of humor, and a heavy melancholic mood. I recently discovered that Ware had started a new series, and was self-publishing annual hard-cover issues of the “Novely Library”, including a collection of his new “Rusty Brown” series about the pathetic adult life of a comic book nerd in the '70s. The most recent issue was #19 released last Fall, so presumably a new installment is due anytime now. Strongly recommended even if you aren't a traditional comic book fan.

Early SKAM vinyl – Thanks to the magic of the interwebs, you can track down just about any “rare” release that anyone has ever made a big deal of or paid insane amounts for. Among IDM fans, the SKAM label's early releases are considered some of the most collectible and drool-worthy, with people paying hundreds of dollars on eBay for a Lego Feet 12” or one of the MASK compilations, at least back in the early '00s. I suspect the crazed demand has died down since the tracks have hit Youtube and other online sources, and for me it is fascinating to hear what the fuss was all about; some beautiful electronic abstractions and oldschool glitchy rhythms, an occasional diamond in the rough, and a lot of dated, somewhat-annoying experimentation aka “wankery”. Highlights for me are the early Gescom 12”s, marking Autechre's transition from “artificial intelligence tracks” to “insane/genius Wintermute computer-deity music”, and of course the early works of Boards of Canada and Bola.

Stars Of The Lid – I finally got to hear the epic 3LP “Refinement Of The Decline” and “Avec Laudanum” EP and was truly blown away. Deep, lush and organic, classical-sounding drones and memorable melodic passages all made with stringed-instruments and horns. Reminiscent of a more-soothing GY!BE. What made me laugh, though, was the somewhat inappropriate track titles. Do tracks like “That Finger on Your Temple Is the Barrel of My Raygun” or “December Hunting For Vegetarian F-ckface” suggest moody, minimal drone ambient pieces or rather something like quirky indie noise-pop songs to you? They sound like Smashing Pumpkins track titles to me...

Tom Heasley – has two new CDs out on his in-house Full Bleed Music label, one a collection of jazz trio recordings from '99, and the other a new set of live drone improvisations with Stuart Dempster and Eric Glick Reimann, some really great stuff! I actually wrote a review of it last week but found out the CD hasn't been officially released in stores yet, so I'm going to wait until next month to post it.

Labels I am digging – Contexterrior and Tuning Spork putting out great minimal stuff, taking the intricate Villalobos sound in a more dance-able direction. Balihu Records compilation on Rush Hour collects some great '90s-era disco-tinged house tracks by Daniel Wang and co, great Metro Area-style sound. Kompakt with a new Kaito album, a new Total collection, a great 12” by Coma with a smooth, minimal groove, and a new full-length by.. Gus Gus?? Remember the killer “Polyesterday”? Hyperdub 5 Year compilation generating a well-deserved buzz, bring on the King Midas Sound full-length!

Finally, here is a charming anime-style ad for Louis Vuitton, based on the psychedelic artwork of Takashi Murakami, which has made an appearance on Nobukazu Takemura's “Finale” CD cover as well as more recently at the SF MOMA. Music by Yellow Magic Orchestra!