Having recorded Piramida in a ghost town, its perhaps unsurprising that one of the tracks on Efterklang‘s fourth album was entitled “The Ghost.” A droning composition with bells, brass, and an echoing percussive background, it’s reminiscent of some of the more ambient work of groups like Underworld and Radiohead, which is to say that it’s unique and beautiful.
With super-group Atoms for Peace dropping its debut album yesterday, it’s fitting to stop and take a look at the LP’s excellent artwork.
Designed by longtime Radiohead collaborator Stanley Donwood, it shows Los Angeles suffering meteoric doom. And as part of the promotion for the record, XL Recordings commissioned one crazy GIF-iti piece by artist INSA over its Los Angeles office.
“Judge, Jury, and Executioner”
You know the story by now: A few years ago, Radiohead front-man Thom Yorke started a band to help him perform songs from his 2006 solo effort, The Eraser, live. One thing led to another, and now he’s made the band into a full-fledged project that includes longtime producer/visionary Nigel Godrich and Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, as well as Joey Waronker and percussionist Mauro Refosco. Needless to say, there’s been a lot of buzz surrounding this one.
Last month ALARM presented its 50 favorite albums of 2012, an eclectic, rock-heavy selection of discs that were in steady rotation in our downtown-Chicago premises. Now, to give some love to tunes that were left out, we have our 50 (+5) favorite songs of last year — singles, B-sides, EP standouts, soundtrack cuts, and more.
Efterklang can hear dead people, or so it seems. Perhaps that’s why the Danish post-rock ensemble visited Pyramiden — a ghost town on the Arctic Norwegian island of Spitsbergen — to create its new album of similar name.
At the abandoned Russian settlement, its members wandered a landscape of streams and mountains, recording the sounds of seabirds, footfall, and rushing wind. In the studio, they added the ethereal vocals of a choir and the chime-like peals of a glass-bottle collection. Whether or not these sounds are messages from another realm, they summon haunting melodies and shiver-inducing rhythms. It makes perfect sense, considering that “efterklang” means remembrance and reverberation.
After a hiatus that saw front-man Kele Okereke testing the solo waters of R&B-inflected electronics, London indie outfit Bloc Party has returned leaner, meaner, and more dynamic than ever. Some studio banter between tunes is a dead giveaway that Four is a more documentary approach than the boys have taken previously. Rawer sounds and a live recording environment make this the closest to representing the band at its naked best.
“The Marvelous Dream”[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Damon_Albarn_The_Marvelous_Dream.mp3|titles=Damon Albarn: “The Marvelous Dream”]
Brit-rock fans may have been more excited to learn that a Damon Albarn-fronted Blur has become an active prospect again, but fans of music in general should be more thrilled to know that he’s been up to a lot more than that. Albarn, as a solo artist and a collaborative one at that, has stirred up some amazing music by delving into Malian blues, scoring the Chinese opera Monkey: Journey to the West, and continuing his hip-hop cartoon group Gorillaz. Now he’s created the soundtrack to an opera based on the life of 16th Century astrologer/mystic John Dee — and it’s beautifully accessible.
Kid Koala: “Main Title Theme”[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/01-Main-Title-Theme-Open-your-book.mp3|titles=Kid Koala: “Main Title Theme”]
Kid Koala, born Eric San, is a Chinese-Canadian DJ who garnered recognition for distinctive styles of scratch turntablism and comical samples after his Ninja Tune debut Carpel Tunnel Syndrome in 2000. Since that time, the turntablist has toured extensively with huge names such as Björk, Beastie Boys, and Radiohead, composed several original film scores, and collaborated on numerous musical projects, including his own Deltron 3030 and The Slew.
San also has quite a knack for illustration, which he employed for his 2003 album, Nufonia Must Fall, a 352-page romantic tragedy about a love-struck robot paired with a short, jazzy soundtrack. His new release, Space Cadet (out tomorrow), is his second graphic-novel/soundtrack pairing, and it sets aside the eccentric scratching and samples to revisit San’s classical piano training. Inspired by the birth of San’s daughter, Space Cadet is a 132-page graphic narrative and dulcet soundtrack that chronicles a young girl’s adventures through outer space with her robot guardian.
Here, ALARM speaks with San about his newest multimedia journey.
When and how did you develop your turntable techniques?
I try to develop it everyday! I do it by practicing and listening to as many different styles of music as I can. Turntables are chameleon-like. The challenge for me is to see if I can learn to play them tastefully in whatever style is required.
In this technological age, with so many DJs transitioning from analog to digital mixing, why have you stuck primarily with vinyl turntables?
I like the sound of vinyl crackle and record burn.
Can you explain your thought process when choosing sounds to mix into tracks?
I usually have a melody or a story in my mind when I record. I try to bend sound into the melody that I hear in my head. I have a record cutter in my studio, so I will record a single guitar note or keyboard tone and cut it to a custom record. Once it’s on the turntable, I can bend it into all the other notes of the scale.
What do you mean when you describe your search for inspiration as “audio-voyeurism”? How did your inspirations differ between past albums and Space Cadet?
I think whenever you listen to a recording, you are hearing a part of someone’s life. I like to imagine the life story around the whole recording and what compelled people to make such recordings. Space Cadet was completely inspired by the birth of my daughter. Most of it was recorded before while she was an infant. Each piece on the Space Cadet score is a kind of turntable lullaby for her.
Every Thursday, Pop Addict presents infectious tunes from contemporary musicians across indie rock, pop, folk, electronica, and more.
My Brightest Diamond: “Reaching Through to the Other Side”[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/my_brightest_diamond_-_all_things_will_unwind_-_reaching_through_to_the_other_side.mp3|titles=My Brightest Diamond: “Reaching Through to the Other Side”]
Detroit-based singer/songwriter Shara Worden has long made a career as an indie-pop mercenary. Over the past decade or so, she has lent her talents to Sufjan Stevens’ Illinoisemakers, collaborated with The Decemberists, covered Radiohead for an OK Computer tribute album, appeared on numerous compilations (including her excellent cut on Dark Was the Night), and contributed to the chamber ensemble yMusic (which also includes Bon Iver, Antony & the Johnsons, the New York Philharmonic, and Rufus Wainwright).
Clearly, Worden has no problem keeping busy. But even in the midst of her many endeavors, Worden has found time for her indie-pop pet project, My Brightest Diamond, without ever skimping on musical quality or integrity.
Such is the case on All Things Will Unwind, My Brightest Diamond’s third effort on Asthmatic Kitty, as Worden’s talents are as focused and as strong as ever. Indeed, the most engaging aspect of My Brightest Diamond is undoubtedly Worden’s voice. With such grace and skill in tow, it’s no wonder that so many acts enlist Worden as a hired hand. Her voice is so pure, so strong yet delicate, so confident and dynamic, that there is no denying the presence of an immense talent. Swaying between sweet, soft-edged crooning (“She Does Not Brave the War”) to full-on, forceful belt-outs (the latter half of “Be Brave”), Worden knows exactly what she’s doing. The songs swell and sway, kept adrift — and often take flight — thanks to Worden’s cosmic vocal work.