2011: Albums

Before we say goodbye, we thought we'd bring you our collective favorite albums of 2011.


Ash Borer: Ash Borer [Pesanta Urfolk]

MP3: Ash Borer: "Rest, You Are The Lightning"

Chillwave. It's been shoved down our throats over the past couple of years due to its ease of creation and distribution (thank you Ableton Live soft synths and plug-ins; thank you Soundcloud and the blogs that embed you!!), and a lot of it fucking sucks. This year saw some lazy remixes and underwhelming sophomore releases from the first batch of the genre's icons, and the honeymoon phase ended. Disappointment sets in as the blogosphere continues to herald "the next big thing" and humors publicists' requests for coverage-- maybe for the sake of traffic, maybe for the lack of a better voice. You feel a craving for something visceral. Something different.

Ash Borer enters the scene with an undeniably strong album that doesn't asked to be loved, appreciated, or even known at a time where being an artist seems to require having at least three social media outlets. The sheer weight of this headbanging LP is staggering, and its tension-building ambient moments are just as captivating as the chaotic ones. You don't have to be a diehard black metal fan to feel the impact of their bludgeoning drums, soaring guitars, and anguished screams; Ash Borer's raw power translates to any audience. Epic. --Ric Leichtung


Blues Control & Laraaji: FRKWYS Vol. 8 [RVNG Intl.]

MP3: Blues Control & Laraaji: "Awakening Day"

There've been a bunch of all-star collaborations this year-- Kanye and Jay-Z, James Blake and Bon Iver, Flaming Lips and Lightning Bolt-- that've doubled as a stroke of marketing genius and a fan's wet dream come true. There have also been a few lesser known meetings-of-the-mind orchestrated by RVNG Intl.-- Julianna Barwick and DNA founder Ikue Mori, Emeralds and soundtrack man Alan Howarth, the staggering five-way between Borden, Ferraro, Godin, Halo, and Lopatin-- that've been truly stunning. But the synergy between Blues Control and new age zitherist Laraaji trumps them all. Laraaji's been playing music for more than 30 years and is a seasoned improviser, taking on the role of the trio's leader and lifting the noise duo’s psychedelic scuzz to celestial heights. Few collaborations have tapped into something as special as this one. --Ric Leichtung


The Caretaker: An Empty Bliss Beyond This World [Self-Released]

MP3: The Caretaker: "Tiny Gradiations of Loss"

It was a busy year for Leyland Kirby and his peripatetic musical endeavors. Under his given name, Kirby released the beautifully meditative Eager to Tear Apart The Stars before delving into three volumes of electronic manipulations in the Intrigue & Stuff series. His release as The Caretaker, An Empty Bliss Beyond This World, landed the softest but burnt the brightest. Using a collection of run-down ballroom jazz 78s as his basic source material, Kirby continued his thematic study into the mind's inevitable fissures, the disconnects that frustrate the desire to cling to a perfect, complete memory.

Kirby's masterful manipulation and distortion of the 78s was so effective that they no longer seemed to belong to the past, or to the present.. An Empty Bliss resides in a kind of temporal limbo, reminding us that the opaque memories of a life -- what is salvaged and what is lost -- follow a most mysterious, inaccessible logic. It was a moment of exquisite calm, humility, and fragility amid the mad dash to omnipotence that is information super highway; it told us that no matter how imperfect, what we are left with is all that we have, and must be cherished. --Daniel Gottlieb


Death Grips: Exmilitary [Self-Released]

MP3: Death Grips: "Beware"

Death Grips are a mess, an anomaly that coheres through a set of intertwining delusional threads, mostly relating to personal obsessions and their limits.  As much the phrase "practice makes perfect" proves true for beatsmith Zach Hill, MC Ride does the same in his mantras, using repetition as a coping mechanism for his abyss. There's a reason a Charles Manson sample opens this album: he's taken delusion into another universe. Ride really believes he's the king. Tell yourself anything enough times and you're Ringo Starr, guy.

Still, by any standards, Exmilitary, has had little material success; the album was free. Exmilitary inverts tried gangster-rap narratives into critiques of consumerism, violence, and self-obsession that both frighten and inspire. It's an outré manifesto that one wants to simultaneously hold at a distance and make one’s own. Though maybe not referential enough to be considered conscious hip-hop, this is political by default-- at the fringe of all things we find alluring but perilous. --Dale W. Eisinger

Future Shuttle: Water's Edge [Intercoastal Artists / Holy Mountain]

MP3: Future Shuttle: "Fog Spelunk"

When Future Shuttle released their debut EP Water’s Edge in late August, they established themselves as an outfit that makes nu age music for body and spirit alike. Their blend of synth, flute, samplers, and beats elegantly intertwines the cosmic and the earthly. Through sounds that evoke flowing streams, bird and dolphin calls, and the vibrations of ancient rock formations, Jessa Farkas’ voice resonates with striking humanity. It is as commanding as it is sorrowful, bringing to mind both the mortal condition and our desire and power to transcend it. In “Rain Source,” Farkas repeats the mantra, "I became everything that I’ve ever encountered," as the relationship between humans and each element of their environment is emphasized. Similarly, as “spacey” as Future Shuttle’s music is, every component is crystal-clear, a voice within its vast landscape. --Samantha Cornwell


Holy Other: With U [Tri-Angle]

MP3: Holy Other: "Touch"

Due to the ghostly vibes and his Tri Angle roster spot, Holy Other's work is mistakenly cast as something gothic, dark, or due to be canonized in wing-ding letters in some infinitely vacuous witch house manifesto. In reality, this past year found the veiled Manchester producer offering something far different from those suspected shock and horror tropes: the romantic hybrid house of With U. Holy Other's deep, disembodied vocals echo like distant memories as screwed orchestral swells and choral bass moans swallow them up. The atmosphere of yearning is palpable, whether for past love or new direction; the subdued lust of a simultaneously ravenous but tender one night stand looms over the hungry pleas of With U, especially in the meter- and momentum-shifting standout, "Touch." Holy Other's debut is a triumphant melding of R&B's emotion, bass culture's sensuality, and house's heartbeat, and the result is one of the year's most intimate albums. --Matt Sullivan


Iceage: New Brigade [Escho]

MP3: Iceage: "New Brigade"

It's been a hell of a year for Iceage. Their first full-length dropped in their native country of Denmark in January. By June, they had gotten What's Your Rupture on board for a US release, toured with Fucked up, captured the attention of an Odd Future-obsess press (remember them?), and basically taken the underground music world by storm-- all pretty much by accident. They put out one of the most talked-about records of this year, and although their high school status, their notoriously bloody shows, and the controversy surrounding the Nazi doodles surely played their parts, the album had the kind of energy that hadn't been heard in years. Iceage is the type of band that sparks obsession. They put their hometown of Copenhagen on the music map by coining a movement and rekindled faith in a genre that had been stagnating for a few years. Mostly, they brought punk back into our minds, at least for a little while. --Ric Leichtung


John Maus: We Must Become The Pitiless Censors of Ourselves [Ribbon]

MP3: John Maus: "Believer"

If 2010 was the year when the music elite deemed Ariel Pink worthy of their ever-loving embrace, then 2011 was the year when they extended a tender hand to his CalArts classmate and lo-fi co-"discoverer" John Maus. However, as a series of revealing interviews following the release of his remarkable We Must Become The Pitiless Censors of Ourselves made clear, Maus’ relationship with industry success was a complex and acrimonious one. Pitiless Censors was brimming with concepts and conjectures about modern political inertia, the sclerosis of advanced global capitalism, and the challenges they pose to the individual subject.

The album balanced and combined these influences accordingly: it's cerebral and conceptually driven, but also a revealing portrait of John’s personal and artistic struggle to break through these restrictive forces. Pitiless Censors thus gave us an image of Maus inhabiting a role not dissimilar to the lighthouse that appears on his album art: luminary but mysterious, vulnerable yet resolute, anxious to illuminate a place that lies just outside what it can reach. "This is where a human being finds himself"-- using the musical tools of the past, feeling ambivalent about the present, and longing for the possibilities of the future. In 2011, we welcomed back John Maus, the Believer. --Daniel Gottlieb


Julia Holter: Tragedy [Leaving]

MP3: Julia Holter: "Goddess Eyes"

Equal parts electronic pop and minimalist chamber music, Julia Holter’s Hippolytus-inspired debut puts both conservatory kids and bedroom producers to shame. Not too many artists manage to square the large and sprawling with the focused and minutely detailed, but this Los Angeles composer will channel just as much rigor into an extended drone as she will a loaded pause. Rather than belabor the plot details of Euripedes’ tormented love story, she abstracts it into a feeling of hovering doom.

The atmosphere is thick on Tragedy. Husky strings, white noise, harpsichords, fog horns, and crackling opera LPs cohere with mounting pressure, only to plateau until we forget that they are supposed to set the scene for a narrative event: a bit of dialogue or monologue set to words, such as in “The Falling Age” and “Celebration,” where her voice evokes Enya auditioning for a Madrigal choir, or single “Goddess Eyes,” where it’s clipped, vocoded, and maybe a little cold. Tragedy is the kind of record that makes you feel as though you’ve traveled far by the end-- through time, though space, though multiple musical languages and sounds that you never thought of as musical to begin with. Still, from start to curtain call, you can feel the clock ticking at every moment. --Emilie Friedlander


Julian Lynch: Terra [Underwater Peoples]

MP3: Julian Lynch: "Terra"

As life on Earth tends to move in circles, so has much of the music of 2011. Where many of this year’s releases are grounded in computer-driven loops and synth-based repetition, Julian Lynch’s Terra cycles through nylon, four-stringed guitar, meditative jazz clarinet, and hushed, tabla percussion. The Madison, Wisconsin-based ethnomusicologist refines the wide panorama of influences that was already present on his past releases, reaching into the past with smokey, prohibition-era falsetto croons and ‘50s music box piano symphonies while keeping it “modern” with his proggy guitar-synth. His third studio effort sounds more refined, more concise, and more three-dimensional than anything we've heard from him before. In another instance of coming full circle, Terra marks his return to Underwater Peoples, the home of his first non-CDr release, a split 7” with childhood friend Ducktails.. --Mary Katherine Youngblood


Jürgen Müller: Science of the Sea [Foxy Digitalis]

MP3: Jürgen Müller: "Sea Green"

In 1979, German oceanographer Jürgen Müller built a music studio on his houseboat off the North Sea and slowly recorded an album inspired by the natural wonders that surrounded him. There were about 100 copies made, most of which were given away to his peers in the oceanic field; by some bizarre stroke of chance, one of them ended up in the hands of Brad Rose at Foxy Digitalis, who reportedly restored the album. The story is a library music collector's dream, and is unbelievable from the get-go, but Science's sophisticated palette is probably the most conclusive piece of evidence we have that Jürgen Müller and his project are the stuff of myth. Most exotica albums coming from "Jurgen's" time were awfully shallow listens, the cute wordplay and kitsch concepts constituting the core of their appeal. Science draws from the shimmering textures of the late, great Mort Garson and evokes the minimalist side of Raymond Scott. It's too damn good to be true. Its story is an integral part of the album, but its validity as a work of art doesn't hinge on fact-- it's in the beauty of the music, and the ideas lurking in its great depths that make this album more than a myth. --Ric Leichtung


Laurel Halo: Hour Logic [Hippos In Tanks]

MP3: Laurel Halo: "Aquifer"
One night at CMJ this year, I pushed forward to the front row of 285 Kent's attendees to catch Laurel Halo. As I walked away from the stage, the buzz in my headspace was killed with another concert-goer's groan-inducing synopsis: "Wow, she really killed it… for a girl." The blatant sexism of the analysis was a little stunning, but it seemed to fit in oddly well with a long line of bizarre preconceptions about this year's divisive ode to time-leaping-- and her best work yet-- Hour Logic. Halo's EP is the soundtrack to an imaginary silent sci-fi film where a cultural shift in information retrieval and consumption leaves significant effects on our brains' memory capacity and habits. It's a contemporary thesis on the possible aftermath of inhabiting a world like Far Side Virtual's for too long, drawn from futuristic bouts with electronic classics. Ultimately, that cerebral take is best left for the forum; Hour Logic's constant forward momentum is designed to be felt. The finer details of the painstakingly orchestrated domes and arcs of this symphony can be almost overwhelming, but the Detroit EMF veteran hasn't taken a left turn-- she's reached further for the future. --Matt Sullivan


Liturgy: Aesthethica [Thrill Jockey]

There’s no doubt that Brooklyn black metal outfit Liturgy pissed a lot of purists off this year when Hunter Hunt-Hendrix, their philosophizing Columbia grad of a frontman, published his infamous “Transcendental Black Metal” essay on the Internet. It renamed the “blast beat” the “burst beat,” boasted several black-and-white diagrams, and combined a band manifesto of sorts with a vision of the genre moving toward its ideal culmination in "the self-overcoming of Hyperborean black metal." (The implication being, of course, that Liturgy would be the band doing all the overcoming). At the end of the day, Altered Zones can only admire Hunt-Hendrix’s willingness to think deeply about what his own aesthetic choices mean, and will remember 2011 partly as the year when Aesthetica took the pummeling 16th notes, ecstatic death cries, and shifting guitar tremolos of black metal and showed us non-specialists just how powerful that language can be. It was also the year that the band lost perhaps its strongest music asset in virtuoso drummer and Guardian Alien mastermind Greg Fox; whatever you’d prefer to call his athletic and idiosyncratic pattering, it combined the thrill of total destruction with the joy of being alive. --Emilie Friedlander


Oneohtrix Point Never: Replica [Software]

MP3: Oneohtrix Point Never: "Replica"

For those of you keeping score at home, this is Dan Lopatin’s third appearance on an Altered Zones year-end best album list, the first two being for Games’ That We Can Play and Oneohtrix Point Never’s Returnal last year. November’s Replica reconfirmed Lopatin’s status as an ingenious samplist whose complex process doesn’t prevent him from creating music that’s both erudite and somehow nearly as accessible as the TV commercials that provided his source material. The songs shirk narrative and explicit meaning, opting instead for contrapuntal juxtapositions and textured sound collages. Lopatin's magnum opus. --Luke Carrell


Peaking Lights: 936 [Not Not Fun]

MP3: Peaking Lights: "Tiger Eyes (Laid Back)"

Peaking Lights had several key elements of their sound place for their 2009 album, Imaginary Falcons, but the duo’s ability to weave noise-pop together with a humid strain of dub lay buried under a heavy dusting of drone and hiss. The project had plenty of promise, but it needed to be coaxed out into the setting sun. 936, this year’s subtly addictive gem of an album, has been buffed to a faded neon sheen, run through the heaviest dubplates, and pumped through a V.F.W. hall public address system straight into our hearts. Scotch Taped beats snake through oil-slicked puddles of bass that feel perfectly primed to rumble the speakers of the average ‘78 Escort. Indra Dunis’ honeyed coo seems to languish forever in a pool of hushed purple light while Aaron Coyes’ homemade synths billow into every available audible nook left behind. In short, 936 is a sweaty beast of a record. --Andy French


Pete Swanson: Man With Potential [Type]

MP3: Pete Swanson: "Misery Beat"

I was wrong when I said the NYPD should play this on LRAD -- it belongs to Occupy. I mean, can you imagine the first hook, a full four minutes in, dropping as Zuccotti Park or Frank Ogawa Plaza faced eviction? Though Pete Seeger's endorsement was nice, did we expect much energy or inspiration from a 92-year-old, withering "This Little Light"? If the opener of Pete Swanson's Man With Potential, "Misery Beat," was meant for any catharsis at all, there's plenty of miserable subject matter to mine nowadays. Sure, it's named for the singular, but this entire release carries the imminent movement of massive crowds, exemplifying the power and potential of wordlessness. Perhaps the title points more to Swanson's autonomy, as he departed from the much-loved Yellow Swans duo three years ago.

Throughout this edict for Type Records, Swanson ping-pongs pointed loops through fields of scuzz, his deliberate modulation stretching each interval to its limit as agressive, head-bobbing beats sneak in. And while you can almost read the formula adhered to, no two tracks carry identical temperament or momentum. Man With Potential is thoughtful on a long-term scale, speaking to anyone with a pulse and a modicum of collective sense. --Dale W. Eisinger --Dale W. Eisinger


Prince Rama: Trust Now [Paw Tracks]

MP3: Prince Rama: "Rest In Peace"

I think it's no secret that times are pretty tough for everyone nowadays, and Taraka and Nimai Larson of Prince Rama know this as well as anyone. Trust Now is their first album since founding member Michael Collins left the group and it slimmed to a duo. It's an airing of grievances, a mourning period, but also a survivor's statement of perseverance. We find a new Rama, re-energized and dressed for the battle arena. Shadow Temple's sophisticated drumming, swarming synths, and banshee-strength wails are more potent than ever on "Rest In Peace" and "Summer of Love," although the celestial prog of "Incarnation" and "Golden Silence" alludes to an age of enlightening surrender, a place where moments in time seem to lose their linearity. Trust Now is an important message of faith in an era where hope is dwindling and little seems trustworthy. --Matt Sullivan


Pure X: Pleasure [Acéphale]

MP3: Pure X: "Twisted Mirror"

Calling Pure X’s Pleasure a summer album wouldn’t be wrong. Lord knows it had a strong run as the soundtrack of choice for a host of sweaty activities over the course of the season, but as the album made so many return trips to headphones, ear canals and turntables, a new character emerged in the textures of those carefully interpreted songs: a tinge of darkness, equally honest and murky, that never really takes shape, but might be a bit sticky. Fellow Austinite Malcolm Elijah’s vids for "Surface" and "Easy" and the glamour shot of bondage cuffs on the album art display this theme, but avoid devolving into camp menace. This is holistic music, best enjoyed live and loud-- exactly like it was recorded. --Luke Carrell


Run DMT: Dreams [Culture Dealer]

MP3: Run DMT: "Dreaming"

Mike Collins has been an ambassador to all sounds weird and wonderful for a couple years, making the Run DMT moniker a mascot for the type of abstracted sound collages that have characterized the best of Baltimore's underground. Dreams is a series of fleeting, intergalactic visits that channel the spaced-out pondering of Bong Voyage, the classic '60s pop bounce of his Spruce Bringsteen split 7", and the spiritual awakenings of a deemster-fueled blast-off. Considering that it was recorded a few years ago, there's something of an old (but not that old) school charm to Dreams, recalling the excitement of exploring the vast unknown of the late aughts' blogosphere --the scene that Collins cut his teeth on-- for the very first time again. I am reminded of a time when I first heard Run, discovered Altered Zones, and ran away to Brooklyn to fashion dreams into reality. Needless to say, it's inspiring to hear Collins do the same with this labor of love, which almost didn't see the light of day. --Matt Sullivan


Tim Hecker: Ravedeath, 1972 [Kranky]

MP3: Tim Hecker: "Hatred of Music I"

From Tim Hecker’s interest in the sonic refuse of the digital age emerged one of the most enduring albums of 2011. "I became obsessed with digital garbage, like when the Kazakstan government cracks down on piracy and there's pictures of 10 million DVDs and CDRs being pushed by bulldozers." From the portmanteau of the record to the image of the piano drop to track names like “Studio Suicide” and “Analog Paralysis, 1978," Ravedeath, 1972 was consumed with the timelessness and transience of sound. Its twelve elegiac pieces shifted from moments of action to periods of stasis. Passages of ambient purity tussled with lurching movements of hazy noise; synthesisers from the studio dialogue with organ sub-bass recorded in an Icelandic church. It was a journey that slowed down time to the point of stopping it altogether. --Daniel Gottlieb

Words For The Road

In our year-and-a-half on the information highway, we had the good fortune of witnessing what was at once a very prolific time, a very confusing time, and a very exciting time in underground music. Instead of quoting ourselves, we combed through the 100 features and profiles we've published to bring you some reflections from the folks who inspire us.


Underwater Peoples' Evan Brody
I cite this moment when Sawyer and I were sitting outside our sophomore dorm room at college. We said to each other, "Man, we’re bored. We want to do something more exciting." --Interview with Jenn Pelly, May 2011


John Maus
I see politics and art as separate trajectories. There's a political dimension to music, to the extent that it would be a disruption of the regime of the sensible... but it certainly isn’t collective mobilization against the state in the name of radical equality. The protest lyric is a poor substitute for radical political thought or a new idea of politics.

AZ: Is that why you have protest lyrics in your music?

The idea there is that sums up the impetus, lyrically, of all genuine art. It's an explosion. It's a Molotov cocktail in the fuckin' police station. It's rights for that which can have no rights, to the extent that it anticipates a world to come-- not this world. --Interview with Emilie Friedlander & Ric Leichtung, July 2011

[Photo by Megan Mack]
James Ferraro
All of these things operating in synchronicity: like ringtones, flat-screens, theater, cuisine, fashion, sushi. I don’t want to call it “virtual reality,” so I call it Far Side Virtual. If you really want to understand Far Side, first off, listen to [Claude] Debussy, and secondly, go into a frozen yogurt shop. Afterwards, go into an Apple store and just fool around, hang out in there. Afterwards, go to Starbucks and get a gift card. They have a book there on the history of Starbucks-- buy this book and go home.  If you do all these things you’ll understand what Far Side Virtual is-- because people kind of live in it already. --Interview with Emilie Friedlander, November 2011

[photo by Aurora Halal]
FORMA's George Bennett
I remember during the [Harald] Grosskopf panel at Unsound Festival, Laurel Halo said something interesting about grappling with a world that is completely and totally inundated with technology. There's something about dealing with period technology that makes us feel more human or more relatable. Something about getting the whole machine purring feels very cosmic and brings technology back in harmony with art. --Interview with Daniel Gottlieb, June 2011

Harald Grosskopf
The problem with the first Moogs was that they were so out of tune. You didn’t just have the up and down key; you had octave scaling, which was controllable, and if it wasn’t exactly there, it sounded horrible. It was so unstable that after ten minutes, it was out again. So I would record for ten minutes, and then I would start the second sequencer, and after five minutes there would be this horrible scratch. I had to do every piece over and over again. And we had to use a light bulb to keep it warm. It was miserable. It was the Middle Ages.

AZ: It’s funny that there are indie bands coming up now that would kill to use the equipment that was frustrating to you back then.

I like the idea of it as well, but there are too many problems! --Interview with Blondes, Emilie Friedlander, & Ric Leichtung, May 2011


High Wolf
People like to ask me where I live, and sometimes I give different answers. There is a new 7” coming on Baselic records, and the label guy asked me what city I was from. I was with a friend, and we were talking, and he said I should say I was from Djakarta. So I did, and then it was on many websites. On the High Wolf MySpace, it says that I am based in Brazil. Many times people think I’m from Los Angeles. When you hide something from people, they really want to know it. --Interview with Samantha Cornwell, March 2011


Iceage's Elias Rønnenfelt
I hate Twitter. It has nothing to do with being in a band. And it has nothing to do with being a person either. Because the way so many people spend so much of their time giving each other useless information, talking shit, it’s just depressing. It’s not a way people should communicate. --Interview with Ric Leichtung, June 2011

[Photo by Patti Miller]
Leaving Records' Matthew McQueen (Matthewdavid)
Nowadays, all someone needs to start a label is some confidence and wi-fi. Back in the early days of punk and experimental tape culture, accessibility was through obscure, small-scale media like zines, weirdo label subscription series, and shows. We utilize the internet everyday, but we feel it is important to practice a certain distance from technology; one of our main goals is to retain a human quality in our aesthetic. --Interview with Samantha Cornwell, November 2010

Cleaners From Venus' Martin Newell
I’m very flattered that people like my old stuff so much but really, it was me and Lol [Elliott, from Cleaners] in the kitchen! We were broke but inspired and enjoyed listening to it. But I think the biggest pleasure we got out of it at the time was that I used to make homemade beer, and Lol used to make these candles, 'cause he didn’t have enough money to pay his electricity bill. So I used to swap some of the beer for some dope that someone else used to grow, and we would make our own music on cassettes that Lol stole. And I thought one night-- stoned, drunk, listening to music by candlelight--, "We’ve thoroughly enjoyed ourselves tonight, and it’s cost nothing!" That was sort of the epitome of anarchy for me: generating our own everything. It was fantastic. --Interview with Richard MacFarlane, June 2010


Rear House/Woodsist
“Rear House is by no means a mansion on the French Riviera,” [Woods drummer Jarvis Tarveniere] admits, sitting at his desk with a Tecate in hand. He likens the scene at Rear House-- which has hosted sessions with Woods, Real Estate, Meneguar, Ganglians, and The Beets, among others-- to "a poor man's Exile on Main Street." The studio, he says, actualizes home recording, making use of the house's entire physical space. Jarvis loops a fifty-foot cord down to the ground floor, where the living room and kitchen function as a live room. During a typical recording session, Jarvis remains in his makeshift control room, listening through headphones and running the sound from reel-to-reel to computer. "The guitar amp is in the kitchen, the drums are in the living room, and the bass player's making dinner," Jarvis says, adding that overdubs usually happen in Morby's room upstairs. "I would say that's the downside to recording here: singing in someone's bedroom." But the bands don't seem to mind. --Jenn Pelly, "Inside Woodsist's Rear House Studios," February 2011

Speculator's Nick Ray
After getting a sense of his musical tastes, I finally asked [Speculator's Nick Ray] what kind of music he played (I hate to assume genres these days). "Pop," he replied, then let a beat pass before explaining. “But not in the popular music sense. ‘Pop’ is no longer defined by what’s actually popular; it’s defined by a structure. You know, melodies, guitars, catchy hooks.” --Marissa A. Ross, December 2010

Puro Instinct's Piper Kaplan
AZ: Recently you’ve toured and collaborated with Ariel Pink. How has that been?

He’s one of my best friends, and it was totally effortless. I think artistically we are the same.  It’s like "skillful non-skill." The greatest advice that he’s given me was, “Whatever it is that you’re doing, don’t figure it out.” --Interview with Samantha Cornwell, January 2011

Pure X's Nate Grace
Most people are conned by TRICKS, and I mean that in a few ways. They are duped by VANITY into believing that HUGE, VIRTUOSO, MASTURBATORY displays of skill (and technique) are powerful, and thereby meaningful. Kids see a 30-stair 360 flip and are all, "Ohhhh my godddd." Fucking guitar jammer #9743 rips some alien surfer shit and moms around the globe wet themselves. The White House moron machine spews out Hollywood fairy tales and the masses scream for more. I'll take one beautifully timed carve on a fucking driveway. One three-line poem that lays it out clean and with conviction. A single-note guitar drone with some GODDAMN REAL FEELING. One decent, compassionate ACTION in REAL, FUCKING LIFE to a whole VIRTUAL WORLD of TALKING TALKING TALKING. --Interview with Michael P. McGregor, June 2011

[photo by Coley Brown]
Prince Rama's Taraka Larson
The core concept of now age is we're living in “ghost-modernism.” It's not really like post-modernism; it's beyond that now. It's gotten to a point where the past is just recapitulating itself through kitsch and nostalgia. Every new gesture is just an imprint of an old gesture. We're haunted by so many other past styles and tastes in so many ways. I'm interested in the creation of a new relationship to time, where it's not being recapitulated, but instead looking into the present moment and really seeking out music, materials, structures, people, fashion, and whatever is within this lens of the present. --Interview with Ric Leichtung, November 2011

[photo by Robert Khoury]
Sun Araw
I've always had a powerful sense of the space-- physiological, emotional, spiritual-- invoked by music. I've always used music that way in my life, using it to create, augment, and enrich experiences. I don't think of myself as a songwriter at all, because what I'm after is some distillation of that effect, creating environments with certain properties and relationships. So often those moments in music that have powerful effects on me are fleeting-- like an outro, or a couple bars right before the second chorus. I'm interested in evoking those spaces so that I can stay a while. --Interview with Michael C. Powell, September 2011

NNA Tapes' Matt Mayer & Toby Aronson
Matt: With harsh noise in general we both noticed a shift in the mid '00s. Like Toby mentioned, a lot of the dudes doing the harder noise started doing ambient, which seems like a total 180 shift. It created a lot of interesting results, where the noise influence would rub off on the ambient and vice versa, creating this cool hybrid. And now where we are in 2011, it's all become smeared together.

Toby: When our friends went to the [Voice of the] Valley Festival in West Virginia, they were saying how almost 75 to 80 percent of the music wasn't noise, but it was the noise community. --Interview with Keith Rankin, October 2011

EMA
I feel like the pendulum has to swing back at some point. I’ve always really liked lyrics, and I’ve always really liked vocal stuff, and playing a lot and going to noise shows, I’ve felt in some ways unwelcome. There’s this unwritten rule saying, "You can’t use lyrics that people will understand." I thought there were supposed to be no rules. [Noise] turns into the most codified, regimented form of music, which is not what it should be at all. When Gowns first started off, some people didn’t know how to take us. They were like, "This band might be cool if they didn’t sing." I wonder if it's something about the idea of masculine, abstract sound experiments, and not allowing a range of emotions to come through. For a lot of people who are doing experimental music, at some point it becomes like, "I built this Max patch that does this." It's about the experiment, and the set of parameters. You’re supposed to be tuning out everything but your ears. --Interview with Samantha Cornwell, June 2011


Emeralds' Mark McGuire
We have always somewhat embodied our surroundings and our heritage in our sound. In Ohio, there’s a huge middle class, and a lot of people work their whole lives... there’s always a feeling of struggling, and the feeling that Cleveland's like the joke of the world... We're not a cultural mecca; it's not where all the big stuff's happening. There’s definitely a lot of people out of work, and there’s poverty: it makes people, it's a tough city. But people from Cleveland are proud that they’re from there... It's this kind of tense, dark, and industrial place that has a lot of hidden beauty and a lot to offer, and that comes across in our music. --Interview with Ric Leichtung, February 2011


[Photo by David Black]
Oneohtrix Point Never's Dan Lopatin
I got an e-mail once after I was like, "Holy shit, I'm going on my first tour!" I put it on Facebook or something, and Dominick Fernow wrote to me saying, "Congratulations." He had just joined Cold Cave, things were happening for him, and he was like, "Best of luck to you, thank you for having the courage to succeed." It occurred to me that for so many people, it's very hard to feel okay with success, because success is not cool. It supposedly tarnishes your thing; it ruins little pockets of scenes and the self-importance that comes from thinking you're the only people in your town that are doing something. That's what stops a lot of really talented people from sharing their music and turning it into a career. --Interview with Emilie Friedlander, November 2011

Genesis P-Orridge
It’s been a while since we’ve been this excited. Obviously we’ve been grieving for Lady Jaye for the past three years. All things considered, we’ve been pretty productive and efficient, despite that. There’s this huge influx of energy and it’s coming from the grassroots; it’s coming from young people coming in. We’re kind of being taught at the moment by new people to reevaluate everything. Not just throw things away because we've already done them, but reassess and rebuild and extend whatever’s working. It’s a really interesting time. We’re buzzing, yeah. It’s a hotspot… And yes, we are going to get motorbikes. --Interview with Luke Carrell January 2011

Label Profile: Escho

[Nis Sigurdsson in his room with Escho graffiti, 2005; photo by Boris Schøiler]

By Ric Leichtung

MP3: Iceage: "The Hole"

MP3: Eric Copeland: "Krankendudel"

Nis Bysted, Nis Sigurdsson, Anders Jørgen Mogensen, and Andreas Hauer-Jensen have been quietly releasing albums and promoting shows in their hometown of Copenhagen since 2005. Escho, the label they founded together, takes its name from a made-up word that Bysted spraypainted on Sigurdsson's wall six years ago, essentially slang for "ultra," "extra," or "super" (examples: "I was escho mad." Or, "it was escho not cool when you puked all over my limited edition 88 Boadrum poncho.") The imprint began putting out records by Scandinavian bands that were popular exclusively in their native lands (my favorite unpronounceables include Gæoudji Sygnok and Düreforsög), but has since found international acclaim with releases from Iceage and Black Dice's Eric Copeland (both of which were Zoned In), and even earned a nod in Artforum's "Best of 2010" feature last year. During a brief stint in Denmark's capital back in June, while covering Iceage's DANISH PUNK FUCK YOU showcase at the Distortion Fest, I sat down with Anders Jørgen Mogensen for a chat. The label had just hosted a DIY pop-up show in an alleyway for "Sleepy" Doug Shaw of Gang Gang Dance's solo project, Highlife, and we spoke about throwing shows, the Copenhagen scene, and Escho's beginnings.

AZ: Tell me about how Escho began.

Anders: We were all musicians and in a strange phase creatively. There were so many of our friends who had recorded records that they couldn't put out. We were big fans of Gang Gang Dance, and we couldn't get any venues to put them on, so we just started a venue ourselves. After booking shows, one of our friends-- T.S. Høeg, who was a jazz musician, in his fifties-- said, "I got some money from the state to do a record. You can just have the record, use the funding I got, and put money into the company." He was actually part of the first punk generation of the late '70s.

We didn't have any distribution or anything. We rode around on our bikes, asking record shops if they wanted to sell our things. And they said "Yes," because even though it was only six years ago, things were different for record labels. That was the first time for us; it was very different then. [Then] a lot of small record companies started surfacing and people started putting out a lot of music, but people weren’t buying records anymore. With the Iceage seven-inches, we went around to stores and just gave them away.

Continue Reading

Tags: escho, iceage, eric copeland, audio, features, label profiles

Posted by alteredzones on 09/09/2011 at 2:17 p.m..

Iceage took their brand of DANISH PUNK FUCK YOU on the road this summer, sharing stages with the likes of Fucked Up and Cult of Youth. Their homemade video for "You're Blessed" gives a taste of life on tour with the band, featuring footage of our favorite Danes on stage, throwing stuff into a river, clutching barb wire, and possibly trespassing. --Ric Leichtung, Altered Zones

Grab Iceage's zoned in New Brigade from What's Your Rupture in the US, and Escho or Tambourhinoceros in Europe

--Previously

MP3: Iceage: "New Brigade"

Tags: iceage, video, audio

Posted by alteredzones on 08/30/2011 at 12:22 p.m..

Iceage Play WFMU

Vicious punk rockers Iceage stopped by Brian Turner's Show on WFMU to play a live set of highlights from their critically acclaimed debut LP New Brigade, victimizing the masses through the radio waves. Among New favorites were older cover songs, including a scorching rendition of "Count Me In" by fellow Danes Sexdrome, paying tribute to their native Copenhagen scene. You can stream the whole performance over at WFMU's blog, and download the mp3s for yourself from FMA. Try not to get too bloody while you do. --Matt Sullivan, Altered Zones

MP3: Iceage: "Count Me In (Sexdrome Cover Live at WFMU)"

MP3: Iceage: "You're Blessed (Live at WFMU)"

Pick up New Brigade from What's Your Rupture or Dais Records in the US, and Escho or Tambourhinoceros in Europe

Tags: iceage, audio

Posted by alteredzones on 06/30/2011 at 5:17 p.m..

Stream Iceage's New Brigade

As Odd Future begins to exhaust the press over repetitive cross-promotional stunts (see yesterday's Fuck Father's Day video and today's latest development on the Earl saga), the spotlight shifts towards Danish post-punk quartet Iceage. Between the highly heralded US debut at Stereogum and Sacred Bones' Northside show last week in New York, and the bloody pictures that got press to pay attention in the first place, the band seems fated to provoke a sensational reaction. They also made one of the better punk albums in recent memory, but if you didn't take my word for it a few months back when it was zoned in, you can listen for yourself and stream the band's debut full-length at Spinner. --Ric Leichtung, Altered Zones

Stream Iceage's New Brigade

Pick up New Brigade from Dais Records or What's Your Rupture in the US, and Escho or Tambourhinoceros in Europe

--Previously

MP3: Iceage: "New Brigade"

Tags: iceage, news, audio

Posted by alteredzones on 06/20/2011 at 2:32 p.m..

Report: Iceage-Curated DANISH PUNK FUCK YOU Showcase at Copenhagen's Distortion Fest

[Sexdrome; all photos by Oda Egjar Starheim]

By Ric Leichtung

MP3: Iceage: "White Rune"

MP3: Sexdrome: "On a Bust"

Once a year, the Distortion Festival takes over the clean, wide streets and sidewalks of Copenhagen. Over a five-day period, the city is home to hundreds of official festival parties and DIY raves; the activity moves from one neighborhood to the another with each passing day, though it leaves no corner, alley, or storefront untouched. It's a true spectacle, unlike any I have ever seen. I found myself wandering around in a lush garden, watching a hundred Danes vogue-ing to "Better Off Alone", then venturing into a eight-foot alley housing the skinniest dance party I've ever attended (to Darude's "Sandstorm"). The fest is hosting some really stellar American acts this year-- Laurel Halo, Abe Vigoda, Lucky Dragons, and Gang Gang Dance, to name a few-- but it's really a showcase of Denmark's vibrant musical culture. Thus, it was only fitting that the organizers pay credence to overnight post-punk sensation Iceage by giving the band’s own zine-label hybrid, Dogmeat, free curatorial reign over a night of mayhem at Stengade, one of the biggest, dingiest dives around the Nørrebro district.

Dogmeat's "DANISH PUNK FUCK YOU" showcase was the black sheep of a fest that consisted almost entirely of trance, house, and minimal techno raves. But with tickets punk-priced at the insanely cheap price of 30 Danish kroner ($5), this incongruence didn't stop the Dogmeat stage from completely selling out. Interestingly, many of the bands at the Dogmeat show had received almost zero blog coverage up to this point, and successfully eschewed any sense of obligatory online presence via MySpace, Bandcamp, or SoundCloud. Most shocking, however, were the strong live performances from locals Lower, Torchlight, and White Nigger, who were playing their first or second shows ever.

Continue Reading

Tags: iceage, sexdrome, lower, lr / puce mary, blodvite, arv and miljo, audio, features

Posted by alteredzones on 06/03/2011 at 5:35 p.m..

Zoned In: Iceage: New Brigade

By Ric Leichtung

MP3: Iceage: "New Brigade"

MP3: Iceage: "Collapse"

With their brutally addictive punk rock, Iceage have waged a war of aggression if I've ever heard one. The Copenhagen four-piece are a bizarre sensation in their home country, and have been referred to as "teenage bullies full of anger and anxiety," according to a headline from a major Danish newspaper. Looking at the gruesome photos on their blog of young fans, referred to as "victims," and with gashes on their foreheads and blood-stained teeth in the wake of a typical Iceage show, you'd be surprised if they weren't the poster children for a violent cult of youth.

But it would be tragic to reduce Iceage to a bunch of maladjusted teens with guitars. Resident hardcore specialist Noel Gardner at The Quietus is calling New Brigade "one of the best punk records in years," and you can hear it. Iceage speak to a variety of the genre's fans. Visceral, dissonant tracks like "White Rune," "Rotting Heights," and "New Brigade" arrest diehard hardcore kids with the band's chaotic and nihilistic side, while "Eyes" and "Total Drench" woo armchair punks on the prowl for something new. Even casual listeners can be carressed into submission with the melodic yet abrasive pop heard in "Collapse," "Broken Bone," and "You're Blessed." The songs on New Brigade are played with the same high-octane energy that's heard on earlier albums from modern punk leaders Fucked Up and No Age, and like them, Iceage have the makings of greatness.

Pick up New Brigade from Dais Records in the US, and Escho or Tambourhinoceros in Europe

Tags: iceage, audio, zoned in

Posted by alteredzones on 03/10/2011 at 4 p.m..

Iceage: "New Brigade"

In the first month of AZ's lifespan, International Tapes introduced Iceage in one of the first guest posts, before the blog was inducted into the chosen few. So we couldn't be happier that the Danish punk teens finally came out with their first full length, New Brigade, last month. But yesterday we were overjoyed when we found out that The Quietus' Noel Gardner just interviewed them. It's becoming more and more clear that the onslaught of aggression and unrest of "New Brigade," cannot be ignored. Iceage will invade your punk playlist. --Ric Leichtung, Altered Zones

MP3: Iceage: "New Brigade"

New Brigade is out now on Escho and Tambourhinoceros in Europe, with a pressing by Dais Records shipping as soon as next week.

--Previously

MP3: Iceage: "The Hole"

Tags: iceage, audio

Posted by alteredzones on 03/03/2011 at 3 p.m..

Guest Post: International Tapes

International Tapes says:
I'm beginning to grow tired of SP-404s with layers of Juno-60s and Yamaha DX7s. Don't get me wrong: chill is a good vibe. But Iceage are not chill.

These young guns from Copenhagen, aged 16-18, produce jagged, visceral post-punk vignettes. Angular, high frequency delayed guitars cut deep through the skin, causing your vital organs to spill rhythmically from your chest. Their aesthetic kinship with Danish pioneers Sort Sol, whose guitarist Peter Schneidermann actually recorded their latest 7", directs a raw sensibility and refreshingly minimal use of effects-- wielded with purpose, free from all sonic fecal fantasy filler. Iceage, along with their equally young and abrasive contemporaries TV Ghost, give me hope for a breed of emerging musicians seeking refuge in chaotic nihilistic anthems, rather than the next Corona Lite.

MP3: Iceage: "The Hole"

Iceage 7" is sold out on Escho

Tags: audio, iceage, guest posts

Posted by alteredzones on 07/23/2010 at 9 a.m..

Most Liked All Time
Contributors
International Tapes Transparent
Visitation Rites 20 Jazz Funk Greats
Don't Die Wondering Friendship Bracelet
Get Off the Coast Gorilla vs Bear
Raven Sings the Blues Rose Quartz
The Decibel Tolls Weekly Tape Deck
Yours Truly
Features
Latest Mix
Zoned In
Out There
Send me your track
Contact Us