Q&A: Pixies on making the right mistake

After 23 years between LPs, Joey Santiago and David Lovering of Pixies check in to discuss the need for new material, the “Pixification” process, and making the right mistake.

The Unsemble

MP3 Premiere: The Unsemble’s “Waves”

The quintessential example of an album that can’t be assessed on hearing just one track, the self-titled debut from The Unsemble blurs the lines between soundtrack noir, new wave, musique concrète, chamber drone, experimental jazz, and rock with deceptive ease.

Black Moth Super Rainbow

Interview: Black Moth Super Rainbow on lyrical masks (on masks)

Black Moth Super Rainbow: Cobra JuicyBlack Moth Super Rainbow: Cobra Juicy (Rad Cult, 10/23/13)

“Hairspray Heart”

Black Moth Super Rainbow: “Hairspray Heart”

If the eccentric, lo-fi style of early Black Moth Super Rainbow releases seemed to destine principal member Tom Fec (AKA Tobacco) to permanent cult status, the last two BMSR albums have been marked by a dramatic shift toward production polish. And even though Fec has gone back to producing himself for latest album Cobra Juicy, the new material delves even further into pop than its 2009, Dave Fridmann-produced predecessor, Eating Us. The new album’s sound may surprise longtime fans who were drawn to Fec’s rough-hewn approach, but Fec himself is surprised that anyone took interest in his work in the first place.

“When I first started out making tapes in high school,” he explains, “I just knew that no one was going to like what I was doing. So I always made shit just for me. I never planned on doing shows; I never planned on doing anything. I was trying to make shit that no one else was making that I wanted to hear. [Third album] Dandelion Gum was the epitome of that, but that’s why the audience came to the table in the first place.”

Pig Destroyer

Interview: Pig Destroyer on channeling humanity’s dark side

Pig Destroyer: Book BurnerPig Destroyer: Book Burner (Relapse, 10/23/12)

“The Diplomat”

Pig Destroyer: “The Diplomat”

In a particularly furious burst of grindcore, Book BurnerPig Destroyer’s first album since 2007, opens with “Sis,” a densely compacted tune about a woman escaping from a mental institution. Fleeing the scene in her brother’s car, she “grins from ear to ear like a death’s head” as the volatile effects of refusing her medication overtake her mindFront-man/lyricist JR Hayes imagined the character as a broader exploration of “people manifesting their true self — even if it’s horrible.” 

“Sis” introduces the notions of escape and resilience that recur throughout Book Burner’s lyrical landscape. But the song also functions as a fitting analogy for the band’s entire body of work, which delves unflinchingly into realms of psychosis and sexually charged violence.


Interview: Battles in the club — remixes and the art of the B-side

This content appears in the July/August iPad edition of ALARM Magazine. Download it for free and keep reading!

Battles: Dross GlopBattles: Dross Glop (Warp, 4/17/12)

“Rolls Bayce (Hudson Mohawke Remix)”

If the appeal of a cover tune rests on an artist’s ability to emulate a preexisting song and bring new flavors to it at the same time, then the remix is something of an estranged relative. With remixes, the implicit goal is to stretch an existing piece of music as far as it can possibly go. Remixers are thus encouraged to let their musical personality eclipse the composer’s. They are essentially hired to take risks, to reconstitute, and to deconstruct — even altogether ignore — the mood, structure, and musical components with which they’ve been given to work.

The end results often qualify as works of art unto themselves, yet they also exist more or less as novelty items. Arguably, few remixes connect with more than a limited niche audience — even for fans of groups like Massive Attack and Depeche Mode — and the thought of a group of remixes working together within the larger framework of a full-length album remains an anomaly.

But that isn’t stopping experimental rock trio Battles from trying.

Fiona Apple

Review: Fiona Apple’s The Idler Wheel…

Fiona Apple: The Idler Wheel...Fiona Apple: The Idler Wheel… (Epic)

With a penchant for varying her production style at each stage of her career, Fiona Apple once again sets out for new sonic terrain on her fourth album, The Idler Wheel. A partial return to the acoustic-based instrumentation of her 1996 debut, Tidal, Apple’s new material nonetheless rarely revisits that album’s courtly brand of jazz pop. Instead, The Idler Wheel veers much closer to what Apple might sound like if she landed somewhere between modern experimental theater, the unabashed pomp of Broadway, and the bustle of a frontier saloon or Prohibition-era speakeasy.

The Invisible

Review: The Invisible’s Rispah

The Invisible: RispahThe Invisible: Rispah (Ninja Tune, 6/12/12)


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The sophomore album from London-based pop-rock trio The Invisible opens with thick, mournful swirls of keyboards intended as a send-off for guitarist/singer Dave Okumu’s deceased mother. Evoking a painful separation at the shore between life and the afterlife, the keyboards give rise to the contrasting buoyance of traditional Kenyan folk singing. Within seconds, Rispah (named after Okumu’s mom) announces itself as a work of rich ambiguity.


Review: Antigama’s Stop the Chaos EP

Antigama: Stop the Chaos EP

Antigama: Stop the Chaos EP (Selfmadegod, 5/22/12)

“The Law”

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This EP from progressive grindcore act Antigama ends with a familiar swooshing sound that usually precedes the beginning of a new track. Listeners are thus left with the impression that there’s more to come, and that Stop the Chaos might actually be a teaser for a longer offering. (A relatively restrained ambient soundscape, the EP’s final track also lines up nicely if you have music of another genre cued up to play after it on your playlist.) Still, though Antigama deftly plays the leave-them-wanting-more card, the Polish quartet packs no small measure of substance into Stop the Chaos’ 15-minute run time.


Review: Health’s Max Payne 3 soundtrack

Health: Max Payne 3: The Official Soundtrack

Health: Max Payne 3: The Official Soundtrack (Rockstar Games, 5/22/12)


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Ever adept at pulling beauty from the squall of its savage synth-rock attack, Los Angeles quartet Health makes for a fitting choice to score a video game. Conversely, the game Max Payne 3 contains enough violence, visual brilliance, and plot development to draw from different aspects of Health’s multifaceted sound.