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Retrospective: Sleater-Kinney – “Dig Me Out” (1997)

3 Jun

“Dig Me Out” by Sleater-Kinney

Sleater-Kinney’s music has a very manic edge to it. Verses and bridges are slow, terrorizing builds that explode into psychotic climaxes of choruses where screamed declarations and pounding drums are layered over driving guitar harmonies. 1997’s “Dig Me Out,” their third and most seminal album, personifies this mania more than any other record the iconic riot grrrl trio has put out. The savvy sophistication that is heard on later albums – the critically acclaimed “One Beat,” for example – isn’t there yet, but neither is the lumbering experimentalism that characterizes Sleater-Kinney’s earlier recordings. On “Dig Me Out,” the band is in control, but you get the feeling that it’s only because they want to be.

Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein’s vocals are interlocking parts that make up a sonic puzzle, one that can only really be described as discordant harmony. Listening to them together is an unnerving, if unparalleled experience that sets ablaze tracks like the angst ridden “All the Drama You’ve Been Craving” and the euphoric “Words and Guitar.”

But it is the more reserved tracks where “Dig Me Out” is at its most beautifully cathartic. “Dance Song ‘97” is a tribute to confused infatuation with a charmingly kitschy musical aesthetic and some of the most memorable guitar work in Sleater-Kinney’s entire discography, while the agonized “Jenny” is a heartrending narration that pulls no punches in its description of heartbreak and loss. Sleater-Kinney has, somehow, invented and engineered the impossible: the punk ballad. Poignancy meets disillusionment in a series of soft yet still very intense tracks that do the band more justice than a listener might expect after hearing 1996’s “Call the Doctor.”

“Dig Me Out,” more than any other Sleater-Kinney record, is a truly amazing album for its ability to exist on the edge, always close to tumbling over into sheer mania but holding it in – just barely.

Favourite Album of 2010: T-Polar – ‘Zero’

4 Feb

Zero coverT-Polar – ‘Zero’

(Acroplane Recordings)

2010 saw numerous releases for Belfast’s Gary Spence, otherwise known as T-Polar. An artist whose production abilities allow him to effortlessly skip through the vast range of electronic genres, dipping in and out of each as he pleases, but doing so like each one of them had been his staple output for many a year. The most exciting of those releases came in the form of a seven track EP entitled ‘Zero’, a melodic and diverse adventure into soulful electronica.

Zero comes from the globally celebrated net-label Acroplane Recordings and both the artist and label head confirm that this is easily their favourite release from the desk of Mr. Polar since the two started collaborating musically over 7 years ago.

The EP commences with its title track, a haunting piece of music with a beat structure that seemingly has a mind of its own and bass lines that move slowly but powerfully from bar to bar, bordering on the subversive.

Edited, twisted vocal samples that seem to come from another world are something of a signature for T-Polar and you can hear them interspersed throughout the whole of the EP. As you listen through you will feel the focus shift between various beat patterns including slower two-step and hip-hop like rhythms and faster break beats, the latter making an appearance in form of the track ‘Hot Butter Interlude’. My favourite track would have to be the delirious ‘Fontaine’, one that truly demonstrates the depth of T-Polar’s talents and his ability to layer his music so skilfully.

Having mentioned the diversity in sounds on this release I think it is important to point out how well all of these elements are tied together to create a series of tracks that compliment each other and build a very strong overall feeling. This EP is a pleasure to listen to and is almost hypnotic in places. Listen on a good set of headphones for an even closer experience…

Favourite Album of 2010: Tame Impala – ‘Innerspeaker’

2 Feb

"The tracks individually are little pop-fuzz rock gems..."

Tame Impala – ‘Innerspeaker’

(Modular Recordings)

Being a self-indulgent person with little to no music knowledge in a technical sense, I often find that my favourite albums are ones that stick with me because of our history and experiences together, rather than impressive musicianship.

For 2010 it was Australia’s psyc fuzz rock band Tame Impala’s debut ‘Innerspeaker’ that stole my heart and memories.

Our time together began in Autumn (around April) while I was visiting the old record store where I used to work, I instantly became mesmerised by Innerspeaker’s other-worldly landscape cover by Melbourne artist Leif Podhajsky.

I had listened to Tame Impala’s 2009 EP a little earlier, but didn’t really ‘get it,’ the drawling fuzzy guitar, stoner vocals and relaxed tempo didn’t capture my tiny generation Y attention span.

Nevertheless I thought I’d give Tame Impala another chance, bought ‘Innerspeaker’ and rediscovered the art of appreciating an ‘album’.

The tracks individually are little pop-fuzz rock gems that could be mistaken as lost tracks from an undiscovered 60s psyc-rock band with Lennon-like vocals.

As a complete package however, Innerspeaker reminds you of what an ‘album’ is supposed to sound like, and how an album is meant to make you feel. Tame Impala main-man Kevin Parker takes the listener on a journey where you find yourself sitting by a dusty turntable, air hazy with pot, immersed with the feeling of carelessness.

This album was also the soundtrack to me meeting my partner, our first night together on a tiny broken mattress on the floor of a friend’s kitchen, our awkward text message courting and our nervous dates. Their discovery of my copy of ‘Innerspeaker’ on the bookshelf gave us something to bond over and introduced me to a whole new world of psychedelic music, which has improved my attention span immensely.

Listening to this album is like feeling high, without the greening out (and in my case the occasional vomit) or attack of the munchies. So basically that’s probably why it’s my pick from 2010.

Favourite Album of 2010: John Legend and The Root’s – ‘Wake Up!’

2 Feb

"...‘Wake Up’ is a talent infused social, political and most importantly, musical awakening!"

John Legend & The Roots – ‘Wake Up!’

(Good Music/Sony)

To any of my fellow soul lovers out there let me first and foremost congratulate you on your good taste, bravo I say, bravo!  So, that’s the pleasantries out of the way now let’s get down to the funky music!  Early last year, John Legend & The Roots were left alone in a recording studio, some months later the product of their mutual love was born and delivered straight onto our shelves. They named it ‘Wake Up!’ This 12 tracked masterpiece is John and Root’s take on various tracks from the 60’s and 70’s, all with underlying themes of political activism and awareness… BUT that’s just a bonus.  For us, the most dominant theme, the one that’s really worth writing home (or indeed, a review) about, is one of undisputed talent!

John Legend’s expressive soulful vocal range is normally show cased with just the backup of a piano, now it takes on the jazzy funk sound that is The Root’s and still inspires a spine tingle…or six. The Root’s, although renowned simply as a live hip-hop band take this opportunity to explore the outer reaches off their sound and leave us with an explosive blend of rap, jazz and funk!

All twelve tracks covered were originally written by noted soul musicians such as Marvin Gaye, Nina Simone and Donny Hathaway. Their purpose was to question the then highly questionable American status quo. Some got the credit they deserved, other’s didn’t. John and Root’s combine their talents and revitalize each and every one these tracks, giving the platform they should have had the first time around.

‘Wake Up’ is a talent infused social, political and most importantly, musical awakening! So, as ‘Ronseal’ would say “It does exactly what it say’s on the tin!” Enjoy!

Favourite Album of 2010: Adebisi Shank – ‘This Is the Second Album Of A Band Named Adebisi Shank’

1 Feb

"...a futuristic Japanese computer game sent back in time and presented in audio format."

Adebisi Shank – ‘This Is The Second Album…’

(Big Scary Monsters Records)

And so here we are, with level 2 from the Wexfordian ragamuffins.  For those of you poor unfortunates still unfamiliar with the trio we at The Quilted Generation are here to help.  It’s quite simple really, they are comprised of a drummer, a bassist, a guitarist and a shit load of effects thrown in for good measure.

Technically an instrumental outfit, voice overs aside, Adebisi Shanks style of play is like a hi-fidelity attack on the ears. Best described as a futuristic Japanese computer game sent back in time and presented in audio format.

For those of you who are familiar with these guys and enjoyed their first album then this, their highly anticipated second, is indeed an advance on that. Certainly in musical progression and production; a level 2 if you will. Adebisi Shank are at their aural best when gathering momentum and tension, continually building on it until reaching what can only be described as a juggernaut of rhythm. With the steadfast beats and off-beats of the drums and the intensified Primus-esque bass, they relentlessly march on, led by the ‘which way is North’ guitar playing and effects alike.

Although much the same as their debut album in terms of their uncompromising approach in style and energy, there is a sense that the group are attempting to reach a wider audience. No more so is this evident than on fifth track ‘(-_-)’ which sees the band employing a more laidback tactic. Clearly geared toward the radio friendly masses, it may come as a breath of fresh air to some listeners or a misleading introduction to others.  Nevertheless, it is fantastic stuff.  More please.