Friday, September 24, 2010

The Body- All the Waters of the Earth Shall Turn to Blood

Some doom metal is called such for merely clinical reasons, i.e. its unsettlingly slow tempos, seismically heavy guitar tone, and dark lyrical themes. Other doom metal genuinely sounds like the end of the world.

Providence, Rhode Island doom/sludge cultists The Body occupy prime real estate in that latter category. In an age where virtually every event has musical accompaniment, if the world does decide to end in 2012 (spoiler alert: not betting on it), I wouldn't be surprised if somebody licensed The Body's newest LP All the Waters of the Earth Shall Turn to Blood as its official soundtrack.

The seven minute choral introduction to album opener “A Body” is like a rapturous, heavenly light, bathing us one last time before the band, a punishing duo of guitar and drums, opens the earth to swallow us whole for the remaining two-and-half minutes of the track. This song sets the stage for the rest of the record, coupling destructive, anti-social, truly doom-laden metal with unusual, atmospheric and unsettling sonic partners.

Third track “Empty Hearth,” for example, chops up actual doomsday cult chanting (from this collection, for those who just can't get enough doomsday cults) into a glitchy, inhuman counterpoint to the duo's industrial crunch that, once you get past the chanting's creepiness factor, is actually kinda catchy.

The chorus from “A Body” return multiple times, to near-transcendent effect, first on more straight-ahead doom song “Even the Saints Knew Their Hour of Failure and Loss” and again on the jaw-dropping closer “Lathspell I Name You.” Elsewhere, on “Song of Sarin, the Brave,” a straight-outta-Jonestown fanatic (or possibly William S. Burroughs or somebody, who knows) rants about pain and suffering over the band's mood-setting metallic creep, bowing out from time to time to let them storm back into the foreground.

That isn't to say that this record is great simply because of its non-metal aspects. Yes, the way those parts are integrated elevates the record, and they're certainly excellent additions that create a compelling listening experience, but the true praise goes to the band themselves. This LP would be nothing without the excellent principle performers, as well as their sense of aesthetic and considerable curatorial skills. The expressive vocal howls and heavy yet diverse guitar work lend body to The Body, and the outstanding, creative drum work propels this apocalyptic, nihilistic obelisk of an album to sludgy, outsider doom metal genius.

All the Waters of the Earth Shall Turn to Blood is similar in many ways to last year's surprise metal masterpiece, Liturgy's black metal/shoegaze bar-raiser Renihilation (which if you check back to my year-end list for 2009, you'll notice that I tragically slept on, waiting until Zmaj's year-in-retrospect kicked me in the ass enough that I went and got it) in its transcendent, almost religious quality, rendering classic-quality metal alongside atmospheric touchstones that combine to create a wholly new experience in their respective genres. Also like that album, All the Waters of the Earth Shall Turn to Blood is a strong contender for album of the year, and barring a rush of genius in the next three months (i.e. Orphan or the new Pig Destroyer record) it should rank heavily on many metal year-end lists.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

HaASL Radio Show 9/18/10

  1. Animal Collective- “Leaf House”

  2. Lower Dens- “Blue & Silver”

  3. Pill Wonder- “Wishing Whale”

  4. Why?- “These Few Presidents”

  5. Small Black- “Weird Machines”

  6. Growing- “Green Flag”

  7. Light Pollution- “Good Feelings”

  8. Dan Deacon- “Paddling Ghost”

  9. Tickley Feather- “Sorry Party”

  10. Cloudland Canyon- “Mothlight pt. 2”

  11. M83- “Run into Flowers”

  12. Guards- “Long Time”

  13. Joanna Newsom- “ '81”

  14. Beach Fossils- “Youth”

  15. tUnE-yArDs- “Lions”

  16. Thee Oh Sees- “Ghost in the Trees”

  17. Gauntlet Hair- “I Was Thinking...”

  18. The Tallest Man on Earth- “Walk the Line”

  19. We Like Cats- “Meow Hear Me Roar”

  20. Waskerly Way- “Cat Alert”

  21. Reading Rainbow- “Wasting Time”

  22. Toro y Moi- “Blessa”

  23. Cornelius- “Drop”

  24. Neutral Milk Hotel- “Song Against Sex”

  25. Weed Diamond- “I Can't Understand You, Girl Bear”

  26. Ólöf Arnalds- “Englar Og Dárar”

  27. Gang Gang Dance- “Nomad for Love (Cannibal)”

  28. oOoOO- “Mumbai”

  29. Eternal Summers- “Pure Affection”

  30. Beach House- “D.A.R.L.I.N.G.”

Agathocles- Peel Sessions 1997

John Peel kinda ruled. He basically served as the main media force in promotion of grindcore as a fledgling genre*, giving Napalm Death, Carcass, S.O.B., Extreme Noise Terror, Bolt Thrower and myriad others radio support that, let's face it, wasn't going to come from anywhere else any time soon. For many of these groups, their Peel Sessions serve as a priceless artifact of a level of energy and ferocity soon forgone for other goals (most of the above-mentioned grinders' next stop was by-and-large something akin to death metal, although the exact definition of that term varied by group) and by some not matched on other studio releases.

Enter Agathocles. After 25 years, it hardly even seems fair to bother with an introduction. For almost the whole of that time period, they've been faithfully producing socially and politically targeted grindcore LPs, splits and 7”s with varying degrees of punk, death metal and experimentation mixed among them, characteristically recorded in varying degrees of low fidelity.

This session, as Peel's almost always do, finds the band riding an energy and songwriting peak. Two years prior, the group had released what I consider their career statement in terms of LPs, the diverse, 44-song lo-fi grind opus Razor Sharp Daggers. Thus, many of the cuts come from that record, along with 1997's Thanks for Your Hostility, whose “Be Your Own God” offers the highlight performance from Peel Sessions 1997.

While Peel's Sessions were all exclusive performances for radio, they were less live performances than exclusive demos, since the bands took most of a full day to record them. For that reason, this album offers the best-recorded performance we've ever heard from Agathocles. Coupled with the fact that these songs were performed and largely written during a portion of the band's most creative period, it makes this record perfect for everyone from the die-hard completist Agathocles acolyte, the sometimes Agatho-fan who feels like there's always been something missing in their understanding of the group, and the newcomer who's always been too daunted by the pages-long discography to even know where to start.

What truly makes this album, beyond even the prowess and cult status of the band, is Peel himself. His banter opens and closes the album, and though both are brief, it lends a certain magical, 25th-hour quality to the record that says, “This is a moment in time. This will never happen again, so enjoy it.” Peel's sheer enthusiasm for grindcore, coupled with his refined, British radio voice, give an authenticity to radio broadcasting that seems unable to be matched anywhere, in any country today. Take, for instance, the professional, NPR-announcer way in which he introduces the band on the album's first track.

“And uh, finally tonight we have a session for you from AGATH-ocles, as they must be called, rather than Aga-THO-cles. Brief pieces, by and large. This is --”

And instantly, the Belgians finish Peel's sentence, spewing forth the beginning of Razor Sharp Daggers' “A Start at Least” with characteristic vitriol and in blissfully uncharacteristic fidelity. That instant when the refined form of Peel's announcing voice and the pure form of grindcore meet rockets the listen forward, and Peel lets the band carry that momentum from there. Carry it they do, offering a tight, rewarding set whose recording and mix leaves the requisite grit and riverbed-muddy distortion intact, but ensure that nothing ever cuts out or gets buried, and that the drums are mic'd well enough to actually be discernible, instead of being the wall of kick drum and flailing cymbals some of their recordings are reduced to. The band is a ball of energy throughout the set, and even the rare moment where they actually slow down a bit, the 4:10 “Kill Your Fucking Idols,” the pacing and volatility of the other songs is maintained admirably.

Neither credentials from the Agathocles or John Peel fanclubs are required to enjoy this offering, but filling out applications for one or both by your first couple listens wouldn't be unusual, either. In either case, Agathocles' Peel Sessions 1997 is best taken as an artifact, a passport to a time before Peel's tragic passing in 2004 and a time when Agathocles were still receiving recognition as a grindcore band, rather than the record-churning, LP/7”/split machine many genre lifers have reduced them to.

*[Ed.: Not to mention countless other amazing groups of disparate genres, the names of which I can't even begin to enumerate here; the show's raw guest list includes every letter of the alphabet, plus numerals, most entries in double digits.]

Monday, September 13, 2010

Hipness Through the Static: HaASL Radio Show

So, I've been terrible with posting since school started, but do have a bunch of mostly finished entries that should be up in the coming weeks when I have either a weeknight or weekend that I'm not doing work or engaging in debauchery.

However, this semester I picked up a practicum with my school's radio station, applicable as credits since I'm a communications major, and landed one of six coveted "underground" slots (hours from midnight to 2 AM reserved for specialty shows, in which the DJ(s) responsible can play whatever they please, assuming it's clean and within format.) My proposed format was an indie rock show, and since my first broadcast was this past Saturday, I'll be posting tracklistings and trying to link free mp3s/streams/videos when available so people can grab any new stuff that they like. I've got class in five minutes, so I'll keep this brief. Here's last week's tracklist, and don't forget to listen on Saturdays midnight-2 AM Eastern standard time.

  1. of Montreal- “Suffer for Fashion”

  2. Tame Impala- “Solitude is Bliss

  3. Memoryhouse- “To the Lighthouse”

  4. Guided by Voices- “Kicker of Elves”

  5. Tennis- “Baltimore

  6. Real Estate- “Beach Comber”

  7. Cloud Nothings- “Can't Stay Awake”

  8. Thao With the Get Down Stay Down- “Bag of Hammers”

  9. The Morning Benders- “Cold War (Nice Clean Fight)”

  10. Neon Indian- “Deadbeat Summer

  11. Xiu Xiu- “Gray Death”

  12. Galaxie 500- “Strange”

  13. Josephine Foster- “Stone's Throw from Heaven”

  14. Black Moth Super Rainbow- “I Think it is Beautiful That You Are 256 Colors Too”

  15. Memory Tapes- “Bicycle

  16. Wet Wings- “Whisper Always”

  17. Los Campesinos!- “Heart Swells/Pacific Daylight Time”

  18. Devendra Banhart- “Aperpareplane (Early Recording)”

  19. BARR- “The Song is the Single”

  20. Twin Shadow- “Slow”

  21. Ice Cream Shout- “Tattooed Tears

  22. SLEEP ∞ OVER- “Outer Limits”

  23. Best Coast- “When I'm with You

  24. French Kicks- “Abandon”

  25. Wild Nothing- “Chinatown

  26. Hotel Lights- “Norina”

  27. Candy Claws- “Silent Time of Earth

  28. Sunset Rubdown- “Idiot Heart”