Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Post-rock debuts

February 20, 2013

lightsandmotion

Debuts are funny things. The cult of genius that critics are sometimes guilty of proliferating puts a lot of stock in the opening salvo of a career; whole careers (even masterful ones) can be defined by the first release. So it’s with trepidation that I heap praise on any debut: there’s a lot at stake for the artist. Still, it feels disingenuous to not convey how impressed I am at Lights and Motion‘s Reanimation.

The origin story of is that of a 24-year-old, self-taught musician working long hours alone to craft an album of sweeping, cinematic post-rock. The album leans toward the “start small, end huge” trope of post-rock, but there are some songs that just hang out in the “start small, stay small” zone (“Requiem”). Guitar, piano and atmospheric synths carry the day, as they often work together to create the big crescendos. Strings also play a large role in the construction of the tunes. It is, above all else, beautiful music: there are no Tortoise-style jaunts into gritty landscapes or Isis-style dissonant roars. If you’re looking for some gorgeous post-rock, Reanimation is in your corner. As Lights and Motion continues his career, I look forward to seeing him expand his sonic palette into some more adventurous waters. But as a debut, it’s an assured and deeply enjoyable listen.

bluskreen1

The debut of Bluskreen happened in 1996, but it’s just being unearthed now. After finding a brown paper bag full of tapes, Tony Ianutti was able to salvage four albums’ worth of glitchy, minimalist post-rock/soundscapes created on fully analog equipment. The unnamed songs on the four volumes of XLIIS90 – The Cassette Archives range from immersive to downright oddball, but they present a very recognizable prefiguring of Bluskreen’s later, more melodic work.

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I’m particularly fond of the openers of each volume, as they cover a lot of the ground that the rest of albums tread. The opener of Volume 1 pairs a highly rhythmic backdrop with a slow-moving, mysterious keyboard line to create an intriguing tension that’s reminiscent of a good video game soundtrack. Volume 2 kicks off with a modified spoken-word clip and a murky melodic motif that set a noir-ish, trip-hop feel. It’s one of the most memorable tracks in the collection.

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The high-pitched, Postal Service-esque beat that opens Volume 3 sets a very different tone than the first two. Though maintaining the heavily rhythmic beats, the tune is much more optimistic than the previous contributions. The profoundly eerie synth sweeps that open Volume 4 give way to some strange sonic and melodic experimenting, which shows yet another side of Bluskreen.

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Bluskreen’s XLIIS90 volumes are a treasure trove of downtempo, minimalist post-rock/soundscapes. I’ve loved all of Bluskreen’s work thus far, and so it’s fascinating to hear the very beginnings of the project. Highly recommended.

Bluskreen makes beautiful, complicated downtempo music

January 11, 2010

Bluskreen’s Mockup is exactly what I like to see from a sophomore album: an album that builds off the established sound of the first release without abandoning the trademarks that made the debut so good.  The sounds in Mockup expand on the cinematic downtempo techno of debut Selections by incorporating a lot more analog sounds into the songwriting mix this time.

Tony Lannutti certainly gave himself space to work; Mockup compiles over an hour of music on seventeen tracks. The fact that every minute of these songs is instrumental is the greatest strength and worst weakness of the album. Its chosen genre (cinematic downtempo, also known as the music that accompanies technological thrillers of the movie or tv persuasion) makes it easy for those without long attention spans to file this in “background music” and forget it. That would be doing themselves a disservice, as the melodicism and fine-tuned construction of this album make it a treasure trove of beautiful moments.

Since pop songwriting structure is abandoned, Lannutti is free to experiment with melodies, rhythms and buildups at his own pace. There is no governing structure to any Bluskreen song except the one that Lannutti decides upon; this means that every song is a surprise. Songs take abrupt turns, unexpected instruments appear, and subtle moods are tracked and morphed. Centerpiece “The Horse’s Mouth” is seven minutes of charging synths accompanied by gentle blips and snare-heavy percussion. It leads into “Lightning Bug,” which is based out of a melodic wash of synths. The tension-filled “Immunity” is built on a fragment of a guitar line. The remorseful “In Due Time” features found sound and a percussion instrument that sounds like a vibraphone.

This album is over an hour long, and it hides gold in every track. There is not a clunker on this album, and that’s really difficult to say about any album with seventeen tracks, much less an instrumental one. Even more impressive is that the album doesn’t feel repetitive at all. Different sounds, rhythms, tempos and moods populate each one, making the album a long, satisfying journey. It’s a journey that needs to be focused on and listened to as a piece of art, and not as background music. But for those willing to pour some tea, sit back, and listen intently, there’s an exciting hour and change waiting for you in Bluskreen’s Mockup.

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