Monday, December 31, 2007

10 albums from 2007 (#1)

1. Akron / Family, Love Is Real

The latest entry in the attempt to write the great American psychedelic folk roadtrip album, and one of the most successful I've ever heard. This album is the triumphant album of experimental folk-rock that acts like Califone, Wilco, and the Flaming Lips have been almost-making for a decade now (and that Camper Van Beethoven were almost-making 20 years ago), but it also breaks from that framework periodically, expanding into ecstatic mind-expanding jams -- jams that locate the choice middle ground between the sloppy, shambalic, "No Neck Blues Band" type and the more polished, technically-efficient, "Phish" type, and consequently are more effective than either. Mystical in orientation, singular in vision: at its best, it's like a backwoods Americana version of the Boredom's Vision Creation New Sun. Essential.

Listen: Akron / Family, "Ed Is A Portal"

Sunday, December 30, 2007

10 albums from 2007 (#2)

2. Fennesz / Ryuichi Sakamoto, Cendre

Ryuichi Sakamoto, perhaps best known for his film scores, has been quietly making a name for himself over the last five years or so as one of the traditional musicians best able to collaborate with laptop-types. His airy piano lines create a sense of nearly architectural spaciousness, allowing room for the textural subtlety of his collaborators to be heard: his albums with uber-minimalist Alva Noto provide forceful (and lovely) demonstrations of this. His earlier album with Fennesz, Santa Sala Cecilia, didn't work as successfully: it was an effective enough swarm of MSP noise, but there are a lot of those around, and from collaborators of this caliber, I had expected more. Cendre is precisely the album I wanted: ravishingly delicate playing from Sakamoto, kept rough-edged by the contribution of exotic, fine-grained silts and drones from Fennesz. A grand, beautiful, flawless record.

Listen: Fennesz / Ryuichi Sakamoto: "Cendre"

Friday, December 28, 2007

10 albums from 2007 (#3)

3. LCD Soundsystem, Sound of Silver

On my top ten list from two years ago, I praised the LCD Soundsystem debut as being deeply enjoyable but mostly devoid of anything resembling significant content. Perhaps the exception on that album was "Losing My Edge," a song that got simultaneously funnier and more sobering the more you were able to recognize the aging hipster's lamentations as your own. Sound of Silver takes this intersection between irony and melancholy its central emotional ground, and it inhabits it brilliantly, crafting songs that are wry, moving, melancholy, and still (relatively) dance-floor friendly. If there's ever been a better pop album about adulthood, it's not coming to mind.

Listen: LCD Soundsystem: "All My Friends"

Thursday, December 27, 2007

10 albums from 2007 (#4)

4. White Lichens, self-titled

A great pregnant thundercloud of a record. Each of the five drones collected here brood and surge and bristle, although spend enough time navigating their fields of electrical menace and you'll find nothing but mystic peacefulness at their center. A perfect soundtrack for some kind of as-yet-unrealized Tesla biopic. This disc represents a collaboration between Lichens (aka astral child Rob Lowe) and the heavy guitar duo White/Light: excellent acts in their own right, although neither has ever sounded better (and—full disclosure—I say this as one of the people who released the White/Light debut album a few years back).

Listen: White Lichens, "Belial"

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

10 albums from 2007 (#5)

5. Stars of The Lid, And Their Refinement of The Decline

It's true that each subsequent SoTL album grows softer and more edgeless, to the point where my associate D. Bauler can claim that they're now essentially making music for car commercials. But I'd be remiss in not including it in my list: it is two discs of grand, sad fanfare, in a year where grand, sad fanfare seemed all too appropriate. This is a music that makes failure into a kind of dignity, and that alone makes it a document of enormous value. Happy holidays.

Listen: Stars of The Lid, "That Finger On Your Temple Is The Barrel of My Raygun"

Monday, December 24, 2007

10 albums from 2007 (#6)

6. M.I.A., Kala

It may lack the revelatory force of her debut, and it doesn't exactly shine light on her famously slippery politics, but M.I.A.'s Arular follow-up contains enough head-scratching WTF moments to make it one of the year's most engagingly anarchic releases. A song about bird flu? A guest appearance by Timbaland? A guest appearance by a group of preadolescent aboriginal Australian rappers? Covers of the Pixies and the Modern Lovers? Sure, why not.

Listen: M.I.A., "Hussel"

Sunday, December 23, 2007

10 albums from 2007 (#7)

7. Rameses III, Honey Rose

Using a restrained and gentle palette (including steel guitar, banjo, hushed vocals, and what I'm pretty sure is a flute preset on a synthesizer), these British free-folkers produced a pastoral drone suite that became one of the discs I most frequently returned to over the course of the year. The five "themes" that comprise the album are built around a single, simple melodic motif, but it is elaborated on with such patience and confidence that the end result takes on a gravity that is both sombre and strangely lulling.

Listen: Rameses III, "Theme II

Saturday, December 22, 2007

10 albums from 2007 (#8)

8. Amy Winehouse, Back to Black

No one would claim that Amy Winehouse is a radical innovator, but her decision to dust off the girl-group / soul-diva song forms of the 60s and 70s is genius in its way. Call it homage or call it exploitation: either way, it turns out that a substantial amount of power still resides in those forms, and within the first thirty seconds or so of its opening track (the unavoidable "Rehab") this album has demonstrated that point swiftly, conclusively, and indelibly. The fact that the album maintains something close to that level of quality throughout its entire duration suggests that Winehouse may be a real talent to watch.

Listen: Amy Winehouse, "Rehab"

Friday, December 21, 2007

10 albums from 2007 (#9)

9. The Bird Names, Wooden Lake / Sexual Diner

Flat-out the oddest album I heard all year, which is saying something given the amount of odd music I listen to. Twinkly little bits of clockwork exotica, cartoon-falsetto sing-alongs, ramshackle pop structures, a Shimmy-Disc-esque drug haze pervading the lo-fi production: imagine the Residents importing some rubber-limbed anthropomorphic animals from an old-timey Max Fleischer short, and some self-replicating machine elves from one of Terence McKenna's DMT trips, and you're in the neighborhood. Refreshingly strange.

Listen: The Bird Names, "New Mexico"

Thursday, December 20, 2007

10 albums of 2007 #10

End of the year is approaching, and that means it's time for end-of-year lists... I'll start with my albums of the year, which I'll try to stretch out over ten posts to build suspense.

10. Various Artists, Untitled

The idea of a three-disc, sixty-artist noise compilation might call to mind the old Monty Python sketch "Crunchy Frog"—that's the one that features a sampler of sadistic chocolates, each more violently unpleasant than the last. And it's true that for each track on Untitled that works with subtlety and restraint (like, say, Jason Zeh's "Scant"), there's another one that brings the pain: full-bore mind flayers like Teeth Collection's "1 Untitled Track." But the low barrier to entry plus an insatiable zeal for networking have made the noise scene one of the most fertile and relevant musical subcultures of the last half-decade—a big compliation like this one represents the perfect snapshot of that scene's richness, stylistic diversity, and occasional unevenness. A perfect place for newcomers to jump in.

Listen: "Scant" by Jason Zeh

Listen: "1 Untitled Track" by Teeth Collection

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

"if we can land a man on the moon, surely i can win your heart" by beulah

As you might imagine, I've accumulated a lot of CDs over the years, enough that storing them has become something of a challenge. This problem is accentuated by the fact that probably 98% of my music listening these days is on the iPod, and so the actual CDs go mostly unused: their cases serve as room decor at best and extraneous wrapping at worst.

At this point, I've run out of room for more CD racks (plus I can't get to Ikea) and so I've been forced to begin the process of packing them up into boxes and putting them into storage. Choosing which go and which stay is something of a challenge, although I'm aided by the fact that since 2001 I've created a top-ten list of albums released that year (for the curious: 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006). This provided a sort of happy solution: there's not enough room to store everything I buy, but there's definitely enough room to store a measly ten a year... plus those are the ones I most want to have at the ready / on display anyway...

But it got me to thinking about those pre-2001 years... the Nineties (and beyond). In order to properly follow through with this project, I should, in theory, need to go back and figure out a list of the Best Nineties Albums.

So I've spent some time, over the last few weeks, looking over the shelves, and trying to make some preliminary list of 100 CDs. It's a decade with a lot of good music: including (for me) canonical college-soundtrack stuff (Nirvana's Nevermind, the Beastie Boys' Check Your Head; Beck's Odelay); landmark electronic / dance albums (DJ Shadow's Endtroducing, Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works, Portishead's Dummy, Tricky's Maxinquaye); a really strong selection of albums from labels like Matador (Pavement; Liz Phair; Yo La Tengo; Cat Power) and, later in the decade, Thrill Jockey (Tortoise; Oval; Town and Country). Then there's the rise of the Elephant 6 Collective, who released some albums that were pretty key for me back then (Olivia Tremor Control's Dusk at Cubist Castle, Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea). Today's track, "If We Can Land A Man On The Moon, Surely I Can Win Your Heart," is from the lesser-known Elephant 6 project Beulah, from their very fine album When Your Heartstrings Break (1999). It's perhaps the best song ever written on the topic of "selling out," a topic which as of today seems, in its way, very 90s.

I'm eager to receive additional suggestions for great 90s albums: feel free to use the comments field.

Friday, November 16, 2007

track of the week: " f/b (e) electric," by derek bailey

Anyone who comes to this blog for the music should already know Derek Bailey (1930-2005), famous for his idiosyncratic approach to free-improvisation guitar. Bailey spent his entire life relentlessly developing and re-inventing this approach, but ask someone to define Bailey's "signature style," and they're likely to describe something fragmented, discontinuous, flinty, and angular, like say, for instance, this track ("M9") from his representative 1975 album Improvisation.

But the Bailey catalog is forty-odd years of documentation of an especially rich creative process: consequently, it's also full of oddities, left turns, and intriguing digressions. One of the most compelling of these, for my money, is the 2000 album String Theory, a suite of experiments exploring the potential of guitar feedback. This track, "F/B (E) Electric," explores the dynamics of long sustained tones as finely as any drone I've heard, and would fit sublimely on a playlist of stark minimalist electronica.

Friday, November 9, 2007

"i," by so

Earlier this year, I suffered through a pretty difficult period of depression-influenced musical disinterest: I wasn't seeking out much new music, and I wasn't listening to much of the music I already owned. Fortunately, the pendulum appears to have swung back the other way, and I've been back to picking up new stuff, listening through lesser-heard old stuff, swapping mixes with folks, etc.

So, this has led me to dust off the old policy of posting some notable track here every week. As a discipline, I've rarely followed this for more than a few weeks at a time, but hope springs eternal.

This week we visit So, an under-rated 2003 collaboration between Oval's Markus Popp and an enigmatic woman known only as "Eri," who hails from Mito-City, Japan. Fans of Oval's glitch-based electronica know that noise contains its own dimensions of sensory delight, and the So collaborations reveal this even more markedly by grafting Popp's brightly-colored, coding-error aesthetic to something more traditionally lovely: a female voice engaged in song. We fret, sometimes, about the monsters that may emerge from a fusion of the human and the technological, but a track self-evidently jubliant as this one ("i") reveals that that fusion may be just as likely to yield forms of beauty. Remember Donna Haraway's claim in her "Cyborg Manifesto": there is a pleasure in the confusion of boundaries.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Yesterday I posted my "musical eclecticism" score—87/100, I'll remind you all—but, if the truth be told, technologies of the last ten years have made it easier than ever before to have a vast collection of music, and to enjoy the accompanying eclectic taste. (A partial list, roughly in the order of my experience with them: CD burners, file-sharing networks, the iPod and other MP3 players, MP3 blogs, MySpace, the iTunes music store,

I do believe that the ability to randomly access a huge stockpile of cultural material, literally at the press of a button, has begun to yield a generation of listeners for whom strictly drawn genre lines hold no authority or appeal. Which maybe goes part of the way towards explaining the preponderance of unusual genre-crossing guest stars that have been cropping up in my listening this year.

A team-up like MIA and Timbaland (on "Come Around," from Kala) elicits a little bit of head-scratching, but they're basically operating at different points of a single genre continuum: it's exactly the same bit of insider patronage that inspired the Missy Elliot / Lady Sovereign pairup from last year. You need to make that genre continuum even broader to make sense of "Flashlight Fight," a Go! Team track featuring Chuck D (which functions downright beautifully and instantly reduces the distance between the two to nothing). But there's no genre large enough to legitimate the pedigree of "Poisenville Kids No Wins," which pairs apocalyptic Def Jux rapper/producer El-P and depressive indie-rocker Cat Power. But the muttishness of it works sublimely: although she's reduced to sample-status in the first half, she emerges as a Shirley-Bassey-level force around the piece's midpoint.

Listen: Poisenville Kids No Wins / Reprise [This Must Be Our Time] (edit)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

willfull obscurity

So I've been playing around with enough now that it's begun to serve up recommendations for me... But take a look at this list:

The near-total lack of signifying language here delights me, even as it reveals something about my lifelong pursuit of oddity.

It is also perhaps worth noting that I recently took something called the "Eclectic" quiz, which uses a script located here to take the top 20 artists in your profile, and then collect the top five "similar artists" of each of these 20. Combining any duplicates, the resulting number of unique artists is your quote-unquote "eclectic score." Since this post is obviously shaping up to be a brag, I don't hesitate to post my results here:


The script is kind enough to print out the full list of "similar artists" that pops up: the 87 related artists for my profile are:

!!!, Aaron Dilloway, Aen, Aki Tsuyuko, Animal Collective, Antony Milton, Avarus, Belle and Sebastian, Ben Reynolds, Birchville Cat Motel, Boards of Canada, Braspyreet, Broken Social Scene, Burning Star Core (2), Caribou, Cat Power (2), Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, DJ Danger Mouse, Daft Punk, DangerDoom, Dialing In, Diplo, Directing Hand, Double Leopards (2), Feist, Fonica, Four Tet, Fourcolor, Fursaxa, Go Home Productions, Hala Strana, Hot Chip, In The Country, Iron & Wine (2), Islaja, Joanna Newsom (2), Junior Boys, Keijo, LCD Soundsystem (2), Lady Sovereign, Lau Nau, Lenlow, M. Ward, M.I.A., M.I.A./Diplo, MF DOOM, Madlib, Manitoba, Massive Attack, MoHa!, Mouthus, Naph, Neutral Milk Hotel, Noah Opponent, Okkervil River, Paavoharju, Peter Wright, Phonophani, Pilchard, Quasimoto, Ratatat, Rilo Kiley, Röyksopp, SPUNK, Sack & Blumm, Sawako (2), Seht, Sogar, Spank Rock (2), Spoon, Sufjan Stevens (3), Svalastog, Taurpis Tula, Taylor Deupree, The Arcade Fire, The Dead C (2), The Decemberists (3), The Knife, The Rapture, The Shins, Thievery Corporation, Viktor Vaughn, Wolf Parade, Xiu Xiu, Zero 7, dj BC, of Montreal

Boldface means I never heard of them.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

full of pastoral dreams

Over the weekend, I went out to Chicago's newest good record store, Permanent Records, and picked up a bunch of stuff, including Honey Rose, the newest record by Rameses III.

I'd been introduced to Rameses III from the fine track they contributed to the three-disc Gold Leaf Branches comp from Foxy Digitalis (2005), but that didn't really prepare me for the sheer loveliness of the this very fine short disc.

Give the second track, "Theme 2," a listen: it's mighty in its hush and drift. Rameses III are sometimes grouped in with the "free folk" crowd, but to my ear this music is less folk and more shoegazer: it's like My Bloody Valentine, if My Bloody Valentine wanted nothing more than to lull you into a warm, lovely sleep.

Honey Rose is available for purchase on Important Records.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

wake up wake up

Getting up in the morning can sometimes be a challenge. And this challenge is complicated by the difficulty of finding the right sound to wake up to. I don't like the harshness of alarms, and the radio's not really an option either: I can't stand waking up to commercials, and the commercial-free alternative provided by NPR is... well, that's really a whole separate rant, that I'll spare you for now.

Determined to wake to music, I picked up a CD-playing alarm clock a few years ago, which kicked off a whole investigation of which CDs are better to wake up to than others. Recently, I've really been enjoying waking up to albums by the duo Lullatone.

As the name implies, this track, "Wake Up Wake Up," (from 2004's Little Songs About Raindrops) is just about a perfect song to hear first thing in the morning. It is absolutely gentle in every way, but it won't put you back to sleep either: it has an electronic glitchiness about it that delicately stimulates your ear until you're ready to rise.

Lullatone's newest release, Pajama Pop Pour Vous (2006), goes it one better by beginning with "Good Morning Melody," which has all the same strengths as "Wake Up Wake Up" only with the addition of breathy vocals, sung in Japanese-inflected English, about getting up and starting your day. It is so cute it makes me just about want to die of pleasure: your mileage may vary.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

hot soft light

When I think of the Hold Steady, I think back to something music-journo Justin Farrar wrote about the rise of the band Comets on Fire: he calls them a bar band, in fact "the best bar-rock band ever known to man," but something about their acceptance as "in-the-vanguard, underground artists" doesn't sit well with him. His conclusion? It's because Comets on Fire are "all instruments and no storytelling." He, in fact, presents this as the very thing that relegates them to bar-rock status, arguing that bar-bands, by definition, lack storytellers.

I thought this was a pretty good axiom until I heard the Hold Steady album Separation Sunday, an album that rarely strives, sonically speaking, to provide anything more than old-fashioned bar rock, but which lyrically functions as a song cycle roughly on par with The Mountain Goats' All Hail West Texas ("fourteen songs about seven people, two houses, a motorcycle, and a locked treatment facility for adolescent boys"). The characters on Separation Sunday are born-again Christians or drug-addled burnouts or both, and although the title of the new album, Boys and Girls In America, reveals that the Hold Steady guys are taking aim at bigger themes, the general air of dead-endedness and clutching desperation still permeates.

For instance, this track, "Hot Soft Light," which basically describes the trajectory of every Hold Steady song ever written by rhyming "recreational" with "medical" and then with "tentacles" (later "manacles").

[Available at Amazon]

Monday, January 1, 2007

best of 2006: a top ten

10. Gnarls Barkley, St. Elsewhere
Flawed and occasionally indulgent, but St. Elsewhere earns major points for managing to be both a record that I heard or played at just about every party I was at this year and an album-length meditation on mental illness and the fragmentation of [black] identity. Improbable, but the unsettling lyrical content consistently fit perfectly into the alluring vibe generated by Cee-Lo's charismatic croon and Danger Mouse's warm grooves. The most obvious manifestation of this trick can be seen in the way they took a song explicitly about madness and disintegration ("Crazy") and got it to pass as the feel-good pop hit of the year, but the pattern is repeated everywhere on the album, from the inviting cover of the Violent Femmes' menacing "Gone Daddy Gone" to "Necromancing," an ode to necrophilia. Impressive, fascinating. On Downtown (and distributed by Atlantic).
Listen: "Who Cares?," by Gnarls Barkley

9. The Rapture, Pieces of the People We Love
Aside from "45:33," there wasn't a new LCD Soundsystem release last year, but this indie-dance release by the Rapture served as a decent stopgap, as long as you were willing to substitute Luke Jenner's sleazy charisma for James Murphy's subcultural wit. Pieces essentially updates the ideas of the disco-inflected post-punk era for an audience weaned on 80s power-pop: something like Loose Joints reinterpreted by Ric Ocasek. No claims to high significance, but definitely the most fun album I heard all year. On UMVD (aka Universal Music and Video Distribution)
Listen: "Whoo! Alright—Yeah...Uh Huh," by the Rapture

8. Keiran Hebden and Steve Reid, The Exchange Session, Vol. 1
Many, many talented people have attempted to integrate free jazz and electronic music, with outcomes that have ranged from the blandly respectable to the utterly dreadful. This disc, made up of three improvisations between sample-manipulator Keiran Hebden and longtime jazz drummer Steve Reid, avoids these fates, managing to at least partially scale the peaks that characterize the best of ecstatic '60s jazz. Hebden's body of solo work (as Four Tet) is impressive, but he seems especially freed up here by being able to hand off the rhythm duties to Reid; this allows him to stretch out and focus on the role that would normally fulfilled by an especially "free" saxophonist, namely, providing squall and color and noise. The album isn't perfect—there are moments when the pieces lose their way—but this disc provides the most substantial piece of evidence to date that these two branches of music can be successfully wed. On Domino.
Listen: "Soul Oscillations," by Kieran Hebden and Steve Reid

7. Keith Rowe and Toshimaru Nakamura, Between
One game you can play, if you're a music geek, is trying to determine the point where "free improvisation" became officially detached from anything resembling jazz. A related game is trying to determine the point where one bifurcated tendril of free improvisation again crossed the territorial lines of genre to become avant-garde electronica, renouncing even the tools of jazz in favor of rewired mixers, detuned radios, dismantled guitars, and repurposed iPods. Keith Rowe and Toshimaru Nakamura are among the most interesting practicioners of this branch, producing stark fields of abstract electronic texture that defy easy categorization but which compel forcefully on their own terms. The two CDs comprising Between resemble not music so much as they resemble the sounds you might hear if you could tap into onboard recordings made by an interplanetary probe as it descended through a toxic, static-riddled atmosphere. On Erstwhile.
Listen: "13630 kHz," by Keith Rowe + Toshimaru Nakamura

6. Vampire Can't, Key Cutter
This disc represents three sorts of noisy music fused into an improbably well-oiled hybrid: free-jazz drumming from the ever-astonishing Chris Corsano, abrasive scuzz-rock guitar from Bill Nace, and circuit-bent squee from Jessica Rylan and her homemade machines. The on-paper incompatibility of these modes would seem to dictate that these tracks explode on the launching pad, and it's true that fully half of the songs on the disc last for under two minutes, but the fearsome blazing singularity that they attain in their short and furious lifespans is like something that came straight from the mind of God. On Load.
Listen: "War Lips," by Vampire Can't

5. Girl Talk, Night Ripper
Momus once described mash-ups (here) as "Everything that ever sold a record, all on one plate," and I think he meant it pejoratively, whereas I see it as something of a grail to strive for. We haven't quite gotten there yet, but this album from Gregg Gillis might represent the most successful attempt yet. Night Ripper jettisons the conceptual rigor that undergirds other notable mash-up albums (say, the Kleptones' Night at the Hip-Hopera, or DJ Food's Raiding the 20th Century), replacing it instead with an understanding that increased density equals increased enjoyment. Highest pleasures-per-second count of any album this year. On Illegal Art.
Listen: "Hold Up," by Girl Talk

4. Mrtyu!, Blood Tantra and With Throats As Fine As Needles, s/t
I know that putting "ties" on year-end lists is kind of a cop-out, but these two discs complement one another so well that by year's end it was difficult not to think of them as a unit. They showcase two opposing sides of dronemaster Antony Milton's technique: on Blood Tantra, he submerges the listener into the cauldron of Metal's deep distortion and roar, whereas on Throats Fine As Needles he and his cadre of NZ experimentalists (Campbell Kneale, James Kirk, and Richard Francis) work with quietude and stillness, their palette built largely out of cheap electronics humming softly in subterranean darkness. Look beyond the differences in surface turbulence, though, and both discs reveal themselves as similar investigations, exploring stasis, modulation, tension and release. On 20 Buck Spin and Digitalis, respectively.
Listen: "The Worldy Skein," by Mrtyu!

3. Mountains, Sewn
For the past five years, Brooklyn's Apestaartje label has released a cool twenty discs of pastoral drone, organic noise, and sound art. I own about half of them and there's not a dud in the bunch. Mountains is an Apestaartje "supergroup" of sorts, representing a collaboration between two one-man acts, Anderegg and Aero, who have each recorded albums of abstract electronica which are individually superlative. Together, though, they seem to reinforce one another's strengths, and this album--a combination of pretty acoustic passages and warm electronic texture--is as fine as anything the label's ever put out.
Listen: "Sheets," by Mountains

2. Ghosting, Why Not Be Utterly Changed Into Fire?
The single track that comprises this album spends a half hour exploring the title question, using distorted guitars and squealing machines to conjure a circle of angelic flame around the listener, threatening to consume but also promising to transfigure. This could certainly be described as a noise album—it spends a lot of its time channeling a storm of white-hot needles through the open spaces of your skull, and the experience is undeniably harrowing—but remember that the goal here is transcendence and the methods suddenly invert, seeming magical instead of menacing. No MP3 of this one, as the disc's only track is single-minded in a way that fundamentally resists excerpting. On Jyrk.

1. Sunn O))) / Boris, Altar

Before I say anything, I should acknowledge that a fictional version of this album (accurate down to the participation of Dylan "Earth" Carlson) appeared in the 2005 April Fool's Day edition of the Aquarius Records newsletter, in which the album consists of a single E chord, with each band contributing a single note.

Pretty funny. And there's truth to the fact that this record could have been made with about that much investment of effort: since both Boris and Sunn O))) have rabid fan-bases, both acts could have come together and operated more-or-less on autopilot, piled up by-the-numbers guitar drone, and they probably would still have made bank (it's not for nothing that the title of the fictional parody album is Reserve Not Yet Met). So the fact that the end product isn't content to rest on its laurels is all the more amazing.

There are the requisite "heavy" pieces here: the opener ("Etna") and the closer ("Blood Swamp") are pretty much what you'd expect the collaboration to produce, which is not to say that they're not accomplished pieces of monolithic roar. But the album's real achievement is in the way that the intervening tracks diverge from comfort zones and expectations, and produce four tracks of genre-defying occultist weirdness: "NLT" is a gong-and-bass soundscape, "The Sinking Belle" is a Metal-inflected ballad (with vocals by singer-songwriter Jesse Sykes), "Akuma No Kuma" is an electronic anthem full of messed-up vocoder'd vocals and bombastic horns (maybe the soundtrack to a Conan movie set in Kirby-esque deep space), and "Fried Eagle Mind" is a trance-inducing bit of opiated ambience and static. The bonus disc, featuring Dylan Carlson wrangling daemonic Telecaster all over it, is just plain icing on the cake. This is the only album I bought this year on the day it was released (also the only one I bought at Metal Haven) and the only album I was eagerly anticipating that did not disappoint me (hello, Joanna Newsom and Lady Sovereign).

Listen: "Akuma No Kuma," by Sunn O))) and Boris