Benjamin John Power, one half of British experimental/noise duo Fuck Buttons, and the creative force behind Blanck Mass, describes himself as a “young musician in thrall to Carl Sagan, Ennio Morricone and the infinity of nature, both universal and personal.” His self-titled debut as Blanck Mass reveals that, from name to cover art to music–swirling, ethereal, cinematic–this is one dude who is seriously in touch with his muse.
In their new video for the song “Deathbound,” produced for the Adult Swim Singles Program, Mastodon bring together two of my favorite things–muppets and metal. The result is full-on furry mayhem complete with crumbling castle walls, alien attacks and, as with all furry mayhem worth its weight in fuzz, a one-eyed monster.
“Deathbound” comes from the sessions for Mastodon’s 2009 lp, Crack the Skye, but the band is currently putting their metal stomp into a new album, The Hunter, which includes a song with the muppet-metal-video friendly title “The Octopus Has No Friends.”
Download the previously unreleased “Deathbound” for free at the Adult Swim Singles Program site here.
Back in 1977 Star Wars burst onto the scene and into the pop-culture musical zeitgeist with its iconic John Williams music. The movies made a ridiculous amount of money, and all of a sudden movie producers wanted a big orchestral score with grand themes. Fast forward three decades and along comes The Dark Knight. The music was dark, brooding and virtually themeless, but the movie made a ridiculous amount of money, and now a minimalist approach to music is in vogue, preferably one which sounds as close to The Dark Knight as possible without infringing any copyright laws.
This focus on mood over melody is not new in film. In this sense, composer Cliff Martinez was way ahead of the curve, pretty much perfecting this approach back in 2002 with the meditative space-age score of Solaris. The soundtrack has been re-issued in a remastered edition that preserves Martinez’s carefully programmed album presentation and somehow makes it sound even more pristine. It helps that the production was ideal (the score was orchestrated by Zappa collaborator Bruce Fowler and given a flawless recording at the Newman Sound Stage at Twentieth Century Fox), but it’s the concept and care of the composer that puts this above the rest.
In the film, a remake of the intimate Russian epic by Tarkovsky, a psychiatrist investigates a scientific expedition to the mysterious planet Solaris and discovers that it can probe the mind and make dreams come true. The music itself revolves and transforms as slowly as the titular planet, its atmosphere just as dream-like and probing. Steel drums are a significant part of the score, sounding like the synthetic heartbeat of the planet. Like Solaris, the score sounds alive, though not life as we know it.
And just as the planet grows more threatening, the score grows more dissonant, like the stark Ligeti music from 2001: A Space Odyssey but sleek and smoothed over. These cold moments of drone conjure up images of the infinite void, but there’s something deeper at work here, something to do with the subconscious.
The perfect ambient film score and a compelling listen, Martinez’s masterpiece is almost a decade old, and despite all the composers riding the new wave of ambience in film from The Dark Knight’s big splash, it’s the still ocean surface of Solaris that reigns supreme. Simply put: nobody has done it better.
Gillian Welch‘s playing has always been so skillfully precise and her storytelling so of another era that her music, heavily influenced by Appalachian folk, often comes off as more academic than emotional. So it’s nice to hear that on her latest, The Harrow & The Harvest, Welch uses her considerable talents to relate more personal stories. On the album, her first since 2003’s Soul Journey, she is once again joined by collaborator David Rawlings for a set of haunting, intimate Americana.
David Strackany, the creative force to be reckoned with that is Paleo, may have achieved national recognition for his Song Diary project–a project that involved writing and recording a song a day for a year–but with his latest album, Fruit of the Spirit, he seems as interested in deconstructing songs as constructing them. This urge is best realized in the unhinged emotion of the tracks “Poet (take 1)” and “Poet (take 2),” which feature clanging percussion and cracked-warble vocals at the forefront of a mix with levels often pushed into the red. Though these tracks are the most unsettled, and unsettling, of the album–somewhat resembling the drunken rants of a damaged soul–they provide the thread that ties the album together. The songs threaded together by these two “Poet(s)” are built with the same earnest, quirky creativity but with less clatter and more melody, making for some affecting indie-folk that falls somewhere between the lo-fi singer songwriters of the nineties (and today)–Simon Joyner, in particular, comes to mind–and the outsider pop of artists such as Daniel Johnston and Jad Fair. Ultimately, by indulging his more experimental impulses and mixing mildly eccentric pop structures with wildly emotive pop deconstructions, Paleo takes listeners on a challenging musical journey, but those willing to go along for the ride will likely be won over by the album’s oddball charm and open-wound honesty.
Paleo is on the road now in support of the album. Catch a show if you can…
06.23. Cottage House. Flagstaff, AZ
06.24. Yucca Tap Room. Tempe, AZ
06.25. The Old Boxing Gym. Tucson, AZ
06.28. Tin Can Alehouse. San Diego, CA
06.29. The Standard. Los Angeles , CA
07.03. Starry Plough. Berkeley, CA
07.05. Hotel Utah. San Francisco, CA
07.08. Cafe Coda. Chico, CA
07.09. Armadillo Music. Davis, CA
07.09. Sophia’s Thai Kitchen. Davis, CA
07.23. Backspace. Portland, OR
07.29. Fremont Abby. Seattle, WA
07.30. VAC. Boise, ID
07.31. Urban Lounge. Salt Lake City, UT
08.04. Hi-Dive. Denver, CO
08.05. Trident Cafe. Boulder, CO
08.06. Zodiac. Colorado Springs, CO
08.10. Lat 44. Sioux Falls, SD
08.12. High Noon Saloon. Madison, WI