Monday, May 22, 2006:

the mix part two

In my hurry to get the last post up, I completely forgot to introduce Mike and Jerimee (sorry for that, fellas! and thanks for your patience).

Mike Williams lives in Oxford, UK, and runs Dreamboat Records, home to The Rollercoaster Project (which you might have caught on Said the Gramophone some time back).

Jerimee Bloemeke is not a black-belt ninja; his skills are so advanced the universe is afraid to let his jacket flap open. He can kill birds, small mammals, and frail humans with the briefest of glances; healthy humans sometimes take a second and a half. He also reviews music, as at Kill All Artists and as below. For that, and for not giving me The Stare of Doom, I thank him.

Returning to the mix:
Morningbell -- I Found Jesus (Hiding Underneath the Bed)
Morningbell -- I Found Jesus (Hiding Underneath the Bed)
Mike Williams -- A promising title, but the overwrought arrangement and silly instrumentation (are those oboes!?) is distracting. I'm probably not the right audience for psychedelic prog-pop though.

Jerimee Bloemeke -- When I first saw this song on the mix I knew I would love it. For some reason, I like any song about Jesus, especially ones that do not take the whole idea of a martyr who dies on a cross too seriously, evidenced in this song’s title, where Jesus hides underneath a bed. And also by this amazing lyric, out of Jesus's mouth: If you’re tryin' to impress me, don't bother/ You think you're so great, well, I'd like to see you walk on water/ I invented that shit. The whole song is about a Jesus that is hiding from all his troubles and is tired of having to listen to the troubles of others.

The song starts with acoustic guitar strumming, and a wailing, double-tracked vocal. The instrumentation in this song is all over the place: trumpets, banjo, synthesizer, saxophone, piano, etc. This is great stuff. And I can't wait to get more of it from this band.

Is this prog-pop? Really? I'd always associated it with 1970s wankery: ten-minute song codas, flutes and acoustic guitar and songs about the Lord of the Rings, album covers showing vibrantly-colored woodlands and "mysterious" hooded figures and whatnot.
[Morningbell's official site]
[Morningbell Myspace account]

Maxwell Edison -- Cheap Airfare
Mike Williams -- Eek. If you're my age and British, you’ll have been subjected to the Charlatans. This track reminds me of them, but with the Hammond organ replaced by a Casio keyboard. These guys are session musicians and this is for a car advert, right?

iTunes tells me I've listened every track on this CD at least a dozen times, except this one, which I've got through twice. Awful.

Jerimee Bloemeke -- This track starts out with a quickened Radiohead piano beat, with a singer that sounds like Paul Rodgers. The piano is definitely the centerpiece of this band - their website says it all: "maxwell edison - the best gainesville piano rock." I can't find fault in that. And they follow the Radiohead comparison with some Johnny Greenwood-esque guitar soloing at 3:17.

I did like this song when I first put it on the mix. I still liked it after I sent the mix out. Sometime after that I began not to like it, and then I began to despise it. Your mileage may vary.
[Maxwell Edison's official site]
[Maxwell Edison's Myspace account]

Towers of Hanoi -- Torn Jeans
Mike Williams -- At first I thought this was ludicrous epic rock that sounds like a sincere version of the Darkness. Then I realised it sounds like an unhappy White Stripes. Not my cup of tea at all.

Jerimee Bloemeke -- The singer is a cross between P.J. Harvey, Alanis Morissette, and Signe Anderson. And the band is a cross between Death From Above 1979 and a less progressive Mars Volta.

Not a happy track, no, but I like it.
[Towers of Hanoi's official site]
[Towers of Hanoi's Myspace account]

Against Me! -- I Still Love You Julie
Mike Williams -- Post-Pistols punk has never really meant much in the UK. Sure, it has a scene, which is presumably vibrant, but that scene is relatively isolated. And sure, people profess to liking Minor Threat and Black Flag, but I'm not convinced anyone except actual punks actually do. For myself, my only knowledge of punk comes from a regrettable phase of playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater.

That notwithstanding, I love this song. Against Me! are apparently a punk band with, folk and blues influences. I just hear a band a punk band having a good time. This track is now on heavy rotation.

Jerimee Bloemeke -- Ah! The snare drum ruins this song - it just pops way too loudly and it takes away from everything else. Otherwise, the band is reminiscent of Wolf Parade, but with more yelling.

These guys are pissed off. I saw one of them several years ago, strumming an acoustic guitar on UF campus and singing/screaming himself hoarse about worker exploitation. I don't know anyone who can rock an acoustic guitar that hard. Maybe Rev. Frost.
[Against Me!'s site]

Big Oil -- Pot of Gold
Mike Williams -- This alt.rock dirge threatens to be interesting, but then the lyrics start. "Come on over here and let me hold you near, let me kiss you all over your face / It's been so long since you've been so near, this is such a lovely place." Jesus wept. It's impossible to take this song seriously after that. Maybe that's what Big Oil wanted.

Jerimee Bloemeke -- The singer's voice ruins it for me: sounds like someone I heard on the radio in the mid-'90s.

This is another one I used to like (I have a knack for listening to songs without listening to the lyrics, and Mike is right; the lyrics are god-awful. To think I used to mock that Lenny Kravitz song about the butterfly up in the sky....)
[Big Oil's official site]

MC Intellekt -- More Than Meets the Ear
Mike Williams -- The first of the two hip hop tracks tracks on the CD doesn't do much for me. If you use strings you risk sounding like either Puff Daddy or a horrorcore act. The whiny patois which starts around 1:30 is difficult on the ear. They also make the mistake of talking about themselves and their abilities. I've never understood the popularity of meta-wank in hip hop.

Maybe I'm just out of the hip hop loop. I used to listen to a lot of hip hop. I remember vividly the innocent joy of ejecting a finished Jim O'Rourke CD and replacing it with Dr Octagon's Dr Octagonecologyst. But I am an idiot and a terrible person, so I followed fashions towards beardy to the exclusion of a lot of other genres, not least hip hop. It’s only recently that I've begun to rehabilitate myself.

Jerimee Bloemeke -- The production and beat on this song is great, but the rapper reminds me of Eminem. And dare I say: Ludacris. ...shudder.... And that chorus? Why?

Intellekt gives a lot of concerts in town, and he's got fairly literate stream-of-conscious rhymes with a sense of humor. But that chorus--I'm puzzled too; it's like watching a David Lynch film. I don't get it, and I'm more than a bit disturbed by it, but I can't look away.

Also, "meta-wank" is my new favorite musical descriptor.
[MC Intellekt's official site]

This was the worst part of the mix, I think--lots of tracks here I wouldn't pick again. The next (and last) part is better.

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Lest I seem completely negative about Maxwell Edison:

Members from Morningbell and Maxwell Edison unite sometimes into a Voltron bit of audio experimentation: the two Atria from Morningbell join with Colin from Maxwell Edison into Pluscuamperfecto. When I saw them in October 2005 they explained beforehand that they were going to play one song in their set, and that they would improvise it all and change instruments whenever they felt like it. And they did.

Fortunately they were all good, and all good at whatever instrument they chose. I tried to keep track of who went where but after they'd changed four or five times I realized I couldn't remember where they'd all started. The Atria in the green and white cap, who played guitar and bass left-handed, was just pounding the snot out of the keyboard once he got on it, then later he was on the drumset and decided he was going to bang out a hard-rocking rhythm without using the sticks. So he drummed it all by hand, his hands a blur, his head bobbing.

The negotiations between them all were interesting to watch--one of them would change the rhythm or the harmony somehow, sending the song off in a new direction; sometimes it got ignored because the other two didn't want to go there, but usually someone would change their bit to a better accompaniment. A couple of times two of them were headed in different directions, causing some discord; they'd snap back to a common point and lead out again (sometimes again in different directions) but then by the third time each of them would have made some slight change that resolved the tension. It was fascinating to watch the changing roles, the song forming and reforming constantly, new challenges presented and negotiated. Usually it was all worked out with no more than a glance, sometimes with no more than the briefest nod or furrowed brow. A very interesting experience.

I still don't like it, but what I say about the MC Intellekt track is idiotic. Same goes for Against Me!, which I still like.

I like Minor Threat and Black Flag. So there.

That Intellekt track is ... something else.

Johnny, I haven't heard Minor Threat in about 14 years. All I can remember is that one song that goes "We're just ... a Minor Threat. We're just ..." etc.

I don't have many punk discs, but some of the ones I have are brutal. In a good way, natch.

i still listen to the "jesus" song, and sadly, i have yet to find another song by Morningbell that equals it.

(and just to nitpick, i wrote for 'We Love 1997' just once: a small elliott smith piece many months ago)

Ah, my mistake, Jerimee.

I don't know why they chose the songs they did for their sites--they're not their best ones, I think.

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