Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Dead Sea Sparrow marries ambient drones with melodic elements

December 7, 2011

Dead Sea Sparrow is not the kind of music I normally review here at Independent Clauses: the Hymns EP has very few formal pop ideas, depending more on ambient soundscapes, droning noises and ghostly vocals to evoke moods. It’s very abstract, especially opener “Hymn #3”; it barely has any distinctly “musical” sounds till 40 seconds into its 1:34 runtime. Even the more musical songs strike a primarily cold vein of the “expansive soundscape” body.

So why review it at a place that mostly requires a pop melody and energetic tempos? Because there are flashes throughout the 15 minutes of the EP that memorably marry heavy atmospheres with strikingly linear melodies: closer “Second Skin” places a plodding keyboard under a drone and a surprisingly straightforward vocal line, while the back half of the 1:15 “Pulpit” turns ghostly synths and falsetto into a celebratory moment. These sections are worth celebrating.

I have no idea where Dead Sea Sparrow will go from here, but I’m intrigued by the project. It’s outside of what I usually cover here, but there are still subtle melodic elements drawing this pop-lover in.

Diskjokke is electronic disco delight

June 22, 2010

I had never heard of Diskjokke before I was handed a copy of his 2010 release En Fin Tid, which drops today. Doing a little bit of Internet searching, I found that Joachim Dyrdahl (the man behind Diskjokke) has put out remixes and is planning to release remixes for some relevant names (Crystal Castles, Bloc Party, the xx, etc.). Remixes are some of my favorite things that electronic artists do, but I feel that sometimes content and quality control of solo albums creates a product that is a bit less accessible.

With En Fin Tid, I was afraid of getting such an album with the 9-minute-long opener “reset and begin.” I like my electronic music to be dancy, and this track is more ambient.  It’s a gentle introduction to an hour-long groovefest, though.  Diskjokke’s buildups are incredibly tight, and I don’t think I can compare his style to anything else out right now. That’s an incredibly good thing in today’s oversaturated electronic market. On “Big Flash,” a conga-sounding drum loop rides along with wobbly synths, giving the tune a jungle theme while still being very electronic. On “1987,” the listener gets bass grooves reminiscent of 80’s pop that are chopped up and manipulated.

I would say that En Fin Tid is an interesting release for this year. At first listen, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. But like all good electronic albums, it’s got depth that allows one to listen to it repeatedly.  The tracks slide in and out of each other while all being unique. Diskjokke has created a pretty cohesive album. Let’s see if he will give us more releases like this in the coming years.

Can I make this my soundtrack for my daily routine?

February 4, 2009

Imagine if funk/dub went ambient. Well, it just did. Loudspeaker Speaker Meets Clearly Human‘s Like 10 Feet Tall is a great addition to the ever-over-stuffed, ever-growing category of  instrumental music.  Loudspeaker Speaker Meets Clearly Human is a wordy name, and it’s not super-creative (it’s the stage names of Jason Falk (Clearly Human) and Chad Imes (Loudspeaker Speaker), but it tells the listener what they’re getting: the cohesive meeting of some musical minds. Basically, Falk plays percussion and Imes has his way with the rest of the sound of the album. That’s not to put Falk out of the limelight, however.

To explain how the two work together, the opener “Loudspeaker Speaker Meets Clearly Human” is a great starting point. Ghostly chime sounds open the album, while Clearly Human’s metallic drumming courts the pace of the chimes. The chimes then get wiped away and Loudspeaker Speaker moves in with some funky bass lines. After a bit of this, the chime sound weaves in and out periodically, which then paves the road for some guitar. Such introductions and removals of sound are methodical and calculated, but help to create a grand musical mosaic.

The album becomes pretty trance-like, and the shifts in tracks will be barely noticed by the average listener.   The second track “No Change” beings with a similar bass line, guitar, and chimes as heard on the opener.Then Loudspeaker Speaker slaps you awake with what sounds like the cross between a terrified scream and a tire squeal. It’s the suggestion that you’ve just walked into these guys’ haunted house of ambient funk.

“Like a Beat-Up El Camino Hittin’ Switches” and “Little Brother FM” are two of the most interesting tracks. With names like those, the instrumentals have a lot of catching up to do. “Little Brother FM” begins with a banging drum beat, that opens for a high-pitched guitar squeak fest. Then, at around a minute and thirty seconds, what sounds like a cello comes in from left field. The track at first suggests a possible interruption with some self-pleasuring guitar wankery, but it becomes clearer that Loudspeaker Speaker is obviously more concerned about creating cohesive tracks.  On “Like A Beat-Up El Camino Hittin Switches,” the drums hit hard sounding and eho-ey that get paired up with a mechanical bell sound.  The best way to imagine it is a clock tower traveling through space. The musical suprises and unique sounds never stop, but to describe them all would take days. It would be better for the reader if that time was spent zoning out to the great beats of Loudspeaker Speaker Meets Clearly Human.

Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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