Graham Reznick : Robophasia

The music of Graham Reznick is hard to pin down. As you listen to his electro-funk grooves you feel as if you’re hearing something strangely familiar one second, then the next it’s as if you’re getting transmissions from some alternate universe where 1980s electro pop is being translated by artificial intelligence. Reznick isn’t settling for some sort of retro trip. He seems to be digging deep into his own 80s musical childhood trauma and searching for sounds and feels that scored a neon youth where the lights flickered and waned more than they were brightly lit.

Mourning in America.

Graham Reznick released his excellent debut Glass Angles with Death Waltz Originals earlier this year. That album, a sort of “through the looking glass” noir-ish musical tale of nighttime Los Angeles was a brooding, psychedelic electronic record filled with kaleidoscopic soundscapes that were like musical Rorschach paintings. The more you listened to the songs the stranger and darker they seemed, morphing into some other state of mind. At the time of its release there were rumors that Reznick had yet another album ready to go, but this time with Burning Witches Records. Graham had a track on the BWR Record Store Day compilation called “Faking Point” which echoed the sonic delights found on Glass Angles, but there was something darker and more synthetic about it.

Well we’re nearly to July and Reznick and Burning Witches are making good on those album promises. Robophasia shows another side to Reznick’s musical proclivities. This album seems simpler at first, yet with each listen it gets more complicated and dense. Reznick’s engineering and mixing prowess come into full effect here, giving the ears and brains a workout of sorts. It’s alien and intoxicating in the best way possible.

The first thing that makes itself known on this record is rhythm. Even with Angles, Graham Reznick showed a tendency to create these heady rhythmic, groove-inflected tracks. Robotic beats that sound as if they’re being transmitted from 1983. At first listen you may not hear it, but there’s a precision in those beats. There’s a purpose with every snare hit and bass kick. Take opening track “Robophasia”, it sounds as if Harold Faltmeyer had his way with a Rockwell track. Wonky synths sound as if they’re humming the melody as robotic voices belch and groan along. It’s alien, but intoxicating. “Unsoled” is an electric piano-driven track. It almost has a pop feel to it; very much on the cusp of opening credit scene material here. Reznick knows how to create mood and he does that to great effect here. It’s no surprise sound design is Reznick’s day job. “Atomatics” is where we step into some other dimension. Full-on A.I. electro freakout. Do yourself a favor and listen to this with headphones on. You will feel like you’re tripping, no psychedelics needed.

I can remember staying up late at night when I was a little kid and watching MTV in the summer. Late at night was when you’d see the good stuff, and that’s when I first saw Herbie Hancock’s “Rock It” video. That song and video kind of freaked me out, but in a good way. I don’t know whether Reznick was affected by that record as well(consciously or subconsciously), but I get that Future Shock vibe with this album. Odd electronic records that towed the line between arty, experimental, and pop like Future Shock, Tom Tom Club, Somebody’s Watching Me and even early hip hop all permeate this album. Wonky beats and vocodered, robotic vocals give this album a feeling of some strange cyberpunk tale put to music.

“The Score” echoes darker electro funk, while “Quotient” moves along with a heavy groove and is reminiscent of some of those Tandy Deskmate experiments on Ben Zimmerman’s The Baltika Years.  “YKWYA” is lighter fare, almost coming off as breezy in comparison to what came before it. I can imagine some dark and glowing arcade perched in the middle of a mall as I hear this song. “Rope” is groovy and mysterious, while “Mysterious Fire” is a delicacy of precise sonics and sound construction. “Mr. Sidewalk” closes Robophasia with a bit of that neon noir vibe we heard from Reznick earlier this year, but with a touch of robotic vocalizing for good measure.

Robophasia feels like the stranger, smarter brother to Glass Angles. It sounds deceptively simple on first listen, but each time you hit play on it there’s something new revealed. Something just around the corner you weren’t expecting but are delighted to see. Graham Reznick is proving to be one of the musical highlights of 2018. He showed his talent for constructing intricately-woven music with Glass Angles, and weaving them together for an exhilarating musical narrative. Robophasia continues that trend, even moving to another level.

8.6 out of 10

 

Vi Res : Vi Res

It seems as if Michael Figucio is on a roll. His musical project known as Vi Res released the excellent Cold Century onto the world less than a month ago, and now he’s dropped yet another full-length LP. After the darkly lit Century(with moments of light throughout), the self-titled Vi Res takes a turn into deep space. It’s yet another impressive release from the prolific Figucio and Vi Res.

As the album cover would imply, it seems there’s a battle raging somewhere at the end of the galaxy, with explosions and glowing horizons. If this was a long lost Hollywood production, Vi Res would be the perfect score for that film. Hard-driving synths, electronic rhythms, and just the right amount of 80s optimism(especially in “Fallout”) to push you to root for the underdog. It feels like a score for the ultimate dystopian tale, like if Year Zero had been heavily influenced by 80s Tangerine Dream.

Besides “Fallout”, the tracks are titled as numbers, each one a door into some undisclosed mysterious musical realm. “One” pulsates like Zombi and Froese’s Le Parc. It definitely feels like a proper entry point into the world of Vi Res. “Two” continues that late 70s/early 80s sci fi vibe, with a little more emphasis on dread. A hard-driving rhythm steps in to move the track along nicely. The aforementioned “Fallout” rings with an 80s hopeful optimism. Those familiar with Le Matos’ Chronicles of the Wasteland will find much to love here.

It’s not all 80s-inspired synth. “Three” has an almost industrial lean to it, with early NIN echoing throughout, while “Seven” steps in with an electro/disco beat. “Ten” starts out as pure pop and turns into an almost laser gun drone that dissipates into the ether. “Four” is the epic piece here. At over 14 minutes it’s a slow drip of crackling synth and anticipation that feels like a menacing walk into some great unknown. A theme for desolation.

Vi Res is yet another stellar release from Michael Figucio. He captures moods and vibes with precision. Where Cold Century lived within a cold, dark musical space, Vi Res sounds like a score to some long lost Carpenter-inspired post-apocalyptic film. Escape From New York, but on some forgotten planet. Desolation and exploration blend well here to give us a real sci fi musical journey.

Lock in with Vi Res.

7.7 out of 10

Deafheaven Shares “Canary Yellow”

I’m perfectly happy with a new Deafheaven album coming out. I’m thrilled with a name like Ordinary Corrupt Human Love. I’m also pretty good with Deafheaven’s sound becoming more and more melodic; melancholy even. George Clarke continues to shred his vocals with conviction, which only adds to the storm of guitars, cymbals, and breakneck speed that swirls in the melodrama that unfolds within Deafheaven’s epic tracks.

Today is a good day, for there is yet another new track released from Deafheaven’s upcoming Ordinary Corrupt Human Love. It’s called “Canary Yellow” and you can listen to it below.

The song is another scorched earth exercise in heaviness as meditation. “Canary Yellow” seems to push more away from the speed and thrash metal of New Bermuda and work itself closer to more of a “post-rock on Adderall” euphoria. It’s becoming their own thing and it’s quite beautiful. Quiet opening breaks into pummeling with minor key melodic runs. 3/4 the way thru the song almost goes into a Janes Addiction Ritual De Lo Habitual vibe; bluesier guitar runs, groove-inflected drums, and even gang vocals.

It’s nearly goddamn inspiring.

Ordinary Corrupt Human Love drops July 13th via Anti-. Preorder it here.

 

Sleep’s “Leagues Beneath”

As if our 4/20 surprise wasn’t enough, Sleep have continued to put a big, dumb smile on my face into June with another track courtesy of the Adult Swim singles series. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the mammoth, and woolly, “Leagues Beneath”.

Truth be told, Sleep’s first Adult Swim single series track “The Clarity” was the first thing I ever bought from the California band. I can remember hearing the song back in 2014 and then buying up a copy of the 10 inch single as soon as it was offered up. That song showed that the band could continue to sludge through Sabbathian riffs as if hatched from eggs laid by the doom metal pioneers themselves, while still sounding modern and “of the times”, as it were. I listened to that single often that summer, and then quickly found an indica-colored copy of Dopesmoker to frighten my family with for years to come(the family wasn’t that scared of it…the boy and I used to have Beyblade battles whilst jamming out to the hour-long ode to the Weedians.)

As far as how “Leagues Beneath” sounds? Well, it’s the proto-Sleep track: trudging rhythms, churning riffage, and chanted vocals that are part grunt and Gregorian chant.

It’s classic Sleep, man.

Matt Pike lays on some serious noodling within this 16-minute chugging metal epic. Towards the end things get ethereal; doom heavy is replaced with a mellow, floating in space vibe. Somewhere between Sabbath’s “Planet Caravan” and Pink Floyd’s “Echoes”. This part gets me excited, because I’d love to hear Sleep delve into some more dreamy, spaced-out soundscapes.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Weedian riffage and Vibranium-heavy tunes as much as the next guy that doesn’t get high but digs Sleep’s trip, but adding in those quieter moments would only make Pike, Cisneros, and Roeder that much more dynamic(and really, what does a stoner love more than heavy riffage? Spacey vibes. And Doritos.)

Okay, so get out there and enjoy your Friday, people. I’m continuing to work hard to bring you the quality reads. Me and my army of monkeys will keep offering up music and life musings as long as you’re reading. Hell, even if you’re not reading I’ll still be here.

TGIF, folks.

Vi Res : Cold Century

Michael Figucio’s musical project Vi Res dabbles in the darker, colder realms of heavy synth music. When I listen to something like Lost Score or Silent Collective I get the feeling of watching some deeply abused VHS tape I rented for a Friday night viewing. Seedy scenes of city streets and midnight clubs, black leather and neon lights. Those first few releases captured the feel of those single synth scores that ingrained themselves into my brain as an 80s kid watching things far beyond my maturity level. Stuff like Maniac, Ms. 45, The Keep, and Escape From New York made as much an impact on me with their scores as they did with their B-movie exploitation and neo-futuristic shock. Figucio locked into those vibes and brought them back with his releases.

Since 2016, Vi Res has dropped a couple collections of music, as well as several singles(and were featured on the excellent SNDTRK compilation.) Vi Res just released a new album called Cold Century, and Figucio’s knack for mood building continues with this excellent new release.

There is as palpable mood shift when you first hit play on Cold Century. The darkness usually associated with a Vi Res release is decidedly lit with neo-futuristic tones as “Intro To Cold Century” opens the album. The bubbly, analog moods are more reminiscent of Vangelis and Jean Michel-Jarre than Slasher Film Festival Strategy and John Carpenter. It hits you in the face like a chilly ocean breeze. Title track “Cold Century” continues the Blade Runner vibes to stunning effect. Figucio has set out to create something bolder in scope here and these two opening tracks are proof of that. “Love Theme(From Cold Century)” wavers and pulsates like the best love themes do.

Despite the grander scope and neo-futuristic themes there is still a low key vibe here. The main synths used are the Yamaha CS-80, Juno 60, and the DX-7, which if you know much about classic synths are kind of the holy grails of classic early 80s sounds. Figucio’s deft touch proves immeasurable in world building with these masterful machines.

But all is not steeped in cold light and phosphorescent glow on Cold Century. “Sub Zero” emanates with sickly waves of dread in the best ways possible, while “Intermission Music” sounds like what would’ve happened if Devo had gotten into scoring science fiction films in the early 80s. Ghostly synth wavers like a theremin over a synthetic motorik beat. There are also two tracks included here that were recent single releases. “Staple” and “Pulse” are both epic tracks that capture desolation perfectly within their dark corridors. “Pulse” toils and turns with droning perfection while “Staple” ends the record on a melancholy note, revisiting those Jarre vibes as we’re sent off into the cold, dark night to fend for ourselves.

Cold Century is the best Vi Res album yet. It feels to be the strongest narrative-wise and concept-wise, as well as being emotionally engaging. It instantly grabs you and doesn’t let go until the journey ends. Darkness and light engage with each other here, giving us more of a dawn or dusk kind of record. It’s either a beautiful beginning or ending. Either way, it’s beautiful nonetheless.

8. 2 out of 10

Grab a copy here, both digitally or on limited edition cassette. 

Oneohtrix Point Never : Age Of

Daniel Lopatin’s musical worlds are labyrinthine to say the least. A Oneohtrix Point Never record is like some vast, crystalline museum where you bask in the beauty of art, ancient objects, and philosophies that you don’t quite understand but they entrance you nonetheless. Lopatin curates walks through his psyche with each successive record; each one becomes clearer yet harder to define.

On 2015s Garden Of Delete, Lopatin took OPN into its most accessible direction yet, attempting an alien melding of both metal and pop music. Of course, coming from Daniel Lopatin accessible is a relative term. There was also a teenage alien blogger name Ezra. No matter how upfront and accessible Daniel Lopatin wants to take his music, there’s always going to be an element of the bizarre or ethereal.

I thank him for that.

After last year’s excellent Good Time S/T, along with Lopatin’s recent MYRIAD multimedia show in Brooklyn, I was pleasantly surprised to hear a couple months ago that OPN had a new record coming out. That record, Age Of, is here and it’s yet another confounding and brilliant album. It is OPNs most accessible and alien work yet.

“Age Of” opens the album with harpsichord. A baroque, melancholy instrument, it actually feels right at home on an OPN album. You get the feeling of being trapped in a bubble, floating in space as time melts in front of you like a Dali painting. Soon enough the melody pitch shifts and sways as if its being pulled apart at the seams. It’s exquisite, gorgeous, and mildly frightening all at once. “Babylon” has Lopatin’s autotuned vocals singing with an almost country sway. This is probably the most pop-centric Oneohtrix has ever sounded. Of course, the song ends abruptly as if the alien overlords pulled the plug.

Regardless of how accessible Lopatin wants to take OPNs sound, he will always carry with him the early sounds of Oneohtrix. Those ambient landscapes of Betrayed In The Octagon, Drawn and Quartered, and Returnal, and thank Christ for that. As much as I love seeing artists I admire progress and evolve, I don’t want the weirdest of them to stop being weird. I live for moments like “Manifold”, “Warning”, and the ghostly “We’ll Take It”. These spots where Lopatin reveals the darkest and most honest recesses of his musical world. And really, there isn’t a more perfect OPN song title than “Last Known Image of a Song”, is there? I can almost see a tattered Polaroid lying on a console in some space station. Nothing showing but light with shards of darkness poking thru. It’s an obliquely exquisite track to end this odyssey. It’s a mix of Eric Dolphy, David Cronenberg, and Philip Glass.

Elsewhere, “Toys 2” is a “proof of concept” for Lopatin’s agent showing how he would score a Pixar film, using this as an imagined score for a sequel to the Robin Williams’ movie Toys. “Black Snow” was the lead single, another pop-leaning track with Lopatin singing, along with backing vocals by Anohni. It’s bizarre video set the stage for what we had in store with Age Of.

This is the most collaborative OPN album to date, with guest musicians like the aforementioned Anohni, along with James Blake helping out on production and mixing. There is a bit more of a sheen here. It’s less busy than previous albums, which gives the songs room to breathe a bit. I think with Daniel Lopatin producing and writing on various projects it gave him a view of what collaboration can be. The results here are telling.

Age Of sees Oneohtrix Point Never ever evolving, but not losing those eccentric qualities and vast musical soundscapes that separated Daniel Lopatin from the rest of the electronic music world. This is a sparse and tight record that encapsulates all the greatness of OPN, while continuing the forward motion Daniel Lopatin began with 2010s Returnal. Age Of is an exquisite oddity that shines bizarre and beautiful.

8.4 out of 10

Deadly Avenger : I Am Godzilla, You Are Japan

I can remember when I was little there was nothing more powerful to me than watching classic horror movies. The Universal “Monster” movies would often play late at night on Friday evenings and I’d sit locked in both excitement and fear. Something about those old movies captured my imagination far more than newer horror(of course that would change when I became a teenager.) The Japanese “Kaiju” movies were also films that fascinated me as a kid growing up in the Midwest, but for different reasons. First, they mostly played in the daytime on Saturday or Sunday afternoons. There was less fear involved and more just wonder and amazement at the destruction. Of course, you knew that Godzilla was just some guy in a suit walking around a miniature set of Tokyo, and the strings were very apparent as they swung Mothra to and fro but that didn’t matter. You could suspend reality and imagine these nuclear-powered beasts destroying the great Metropolis of Japan and returning to the ocean for a nice long 100-year nap.

Deadly Avenger would like you to suspend reality for the time it takes you to burn thru his newest album, the menacing and heavy I Am Godzilla, You Are Japan. Coming off the great and 80s-inspired Everyday Is Kill from 2017, Damon Baxter sets phasers to destroy and wallops us with monstrous beats and menacing synth. It’s a tour-de-force built on the old adage “go big or go home”. Well, Deadly Avenger is going nowhere, folks.

“Destroyer of Planets” leaves no room for interpretation. It’s steely strut and ten ton synth riffing feels like the earth cracking open and the sky falling. Electro doom with conviction. “Kill All Kaiju” keeps it up with an almost Year Zero-era NIN vibe. Baxter, along with Pete Diggins, are going for maximum impact and fun(with tongues firmly planted in cheeks.)

There’s still moments of subtle reflection, like “Skit_Fate of Ishiro”, “Skit_Cult of Cobra”, and “Skit_Ishiro’s Dream”. These are quieter moments that allow us to catch our breath in-between running for our lives as the album wreaks havoc on our psyche.

“Bones” feels like something off of The Neon Demon S/T. It builds and teases beautifully. “Dorothy’s Fortress” is absolute dance floor ecstasy. Fortified groove and moments of sweaty melancholy. Just when you think all the sonic destruction might have passed, “Invincible Preying Mantis” appears from the wreckage to blow your mind once more. “The Death of Ishiro” ends this journey into 808 and synth destruction on a surprisingly subtle one. There’s a melancholy lean to this piece. It’s a moment of reflection on the psychic destruction that came before it. Part Disasterpeace and part Walter Rizzati.

Damon Baxter has been working hard at it making music for other people so long that he’s finally stopping to make some music for himself. Making music to help punch up film trailers and TV shows has given Baxter the ability to hit the mark every time with laser precision, and that shows on IAGYAJ. He, along with musical cohort Pete Diggins, set their sights on making a record that doesn’t leave room for interpretation. This is a collection of songs that need to be played loud and often. Deadly Avenger’s I Am Godzilla, You Are Japan is one hell of a fun listen. No strings or giant suits required.

7.8 out of 10

Buy IAGYAJ right here.