Interview: The Magnetic Fields drops an emotional bathysphere

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[Photo by Matthew Williams taken at Hotel Americano, New York.]

The Magnetic Fields: Love at the Bottom of the SeaThe Magnetic Fields: Love at the Bottom of the Sea (Merge, 3/6/12)

“Andrew in Drag”

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Stephin Merritt must have sonar. Whether helming The Magnetic Fields or penning songs for films and musicals, he finds depth in even the shallowest of topics and creates meaning by exploring meaninglessness. The title of his new, self-produced album, Love at the Bottom of the Sea, hints at this process as it summons daydreams about mermaids, pirates, and amorous octopi.


Concert Photos: Battles @ The Vic (Chicago, IL)

Descending once again upon the Windy City, Battles brought its three live members — drummer John Stanier, multi-instrumentalist Ian Williams, guitarist/bassist Dave Konopka — and a couple of digital friends. The trio was flanked by two tall projection screens, which allowed them to jam alongside video recordings of Gloss Drop guest vocalists Gary Numan, Kazu Makino, and Yamantaka Eye. As usual, the stage floor was packed with pedals, controllers, laptops, synths, and all other manner of loop-friendly gadgetry. Photographer Wallo Villacorta captured these images of the explosive performance at The Vic.



Battles: Experimental Rockers Rally After a Shake-Up

During the recording of Battles‘ new album, integral multi-instrumentalist Tyondai Braxton left the group to pursue solo endeavors. The remaining three members had to adapt quickly, producing a stunning sophomore album in just four months.


Concert Photos: Battles @ Lincoln Hall (Chicago, IL)

With its first release since former loop maestro / singer Tyondai Braxton left the band last year, experimental-rock band Battles is pounding the pavement, touring its new material from Gloss Drop, out June 7 via Warp. Guest vocalists on the record include Yamantaka Eye (Boredoms), Matias Aguayo, Gary Numan, and Kazu Makino (Blonde Redhead), and for this tour, the group found an interesting way to bring them along (see below). These shots, from photographer Wallo Villacorta, are from the band’s recent stop in Chicago at Lincoln Hall. 


100 Unheralded Albums from 2010

Among the thousands of under-appreciated or under-publicized albums that were released in 2010, hundreds became our favorites and were presented in ALARM and on Of those, we pared down to 100 outstanding releases, leaving no genre unexplored in our list of this year’s overlooked gems.

Morrow vs. Hajduch

Morrow vs. Hajduch: PVT’s Church With No Magic

Scott Morrow is ALARM’s music editor. Patrick Hajduch is a very important lawyer. Each week they debate the merits of a different album.

PVT: Church With No Magic

PVT: Church With No Magic (Warp, 8/10/10)

PVT: “Light Up Bright Fires”
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[Stream all of Church With No Magic on PVT’s website.]

Morrow: Formerly known as Pivot, Australia’s PVT was formed as an improvisational quintet in the late 1990s before transitioning to an electro-rock trio.  The group maintained a number of experimental, freeform elements, but it focused on synth grooves and a mixture of live and digital beats.

Its new album, Church With No Magic, is its most composed yet, seemingly dropping the improv parts while delivering some major pop melodies and vocal hooks.

Hajduch: Most of this album sounds huge and energetic, and surprisingly unique for how boldly the band wears its influences on its sleeve.  The echoed vocals of the title track, in particular, sound exactly like Suicide without coming off as mimicry.  (The best example of Suicide worship, by the way, is The Cars‘ “Shoo Be Doo,” which is terrifying and unexpected.)