IC has the great privilege of premiering Electrician‘s “I Felt the Breeze” today. We’ve been covering Electrician since 2011, although it feels like I’ve known about his work forever. Neil Campau’s lo-fi tunes have both an electronic and an acoustic idiom: this track falls squarely into the latter. [Editor’s note: Electrician is now known as Neil Campau.]
Campau’s gentle strums carry his wavering, earnest voice; he counterpoints his delicate lead delivery with a low, strong, confident “la” section in the chorus. It’s not every day that you hear “las” with this much seriousness and gravity, but there you are. Those secondary vocals fit with the lonely, forlorn, minor-key mood in an intriguing, satisfying way.
The overall result is an impassioned tune that reads like the best of (minor-key) lo-fi bedroom work: a tune that balances fragility and confidence, uses tape hiss for mood instead of a crutch, and leaves a lasting impression. It’s a free download, so if you’re into it you can keep it forever.
1. “Great White Shark” – Hollands. Maximalist indie-rock/pop music with groove, noise, melodic clarity, effusive enthusiasm, strings, harp, and just about everything else you can ask for. If the Flaming Lips hadn’t got so paranoid after At War with the Mystics…
2. “Coyote Choir” – Pepa Knight. Still batting 1.000, Pepa Knight brings his exuberant, India-inspired indie-pop to more mellow environs. It’s still amazing. I’m totally on that Pepa Knight train, y’all. (Hopefully it’s The Darjeeling Limited.)
3. “Peaks of Yew” – Mattson 2. I love adventurous instrumental music, and Mattson 2 cover a wide range of sonic territory in this 10-minute track. We’ve got some surf-rock sounds, some post-rock meandering, some poppy melodies, some ambient synths, and a whole lot of ideas. I’m big on this.
4. “Firing Squad” – Jordan Klassen. Sometimes a pop-rock song comes along that just works perfectly. Vaguely dancy, chipper, fun, and not too aggressive (while still allowing listeners to sing it loudly), “Firing Squad” is just excellent.
5. “Droplet” – Tessera Skies. There’s a tough juggling act going on in this breathtaking indie-pop tune: flowing instruments, flailing percussion, cooing vocals, and an urgent sense of energy. It’s like if Jonsi’s work got cluttered up with parts and then organized neatly.
6. “Available Light” – David Corley. If Alexi Murdoch, Tom Waits, and Joseph Arthur all got together and jammed, it might sound something like this gruff yet accessible, vaguely alt-country track.
7. “Blue Eyed Girl” – Sam Joole. I’d like to make a joke about blue-eyed soul here, but it’s actually closer to Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” than that. Lots of laidback guitars, good vibes, but not Jack Johnson twee, if you know what I mean.
8. “By the Canal” – Elephant Micah. I’m a big fan of people who aren’t afraid to let an acoustic guitar and voice splay out wherever they want and however long they want. Here, EM acts as an upbeat Jason Molina, putting the focus on his voice instead of the spartan-yet-interesting arrangements. Totally stoked for this new album.
9. “If It Does” – Robin Bacior. In this loose, smooth, walking-speed singer-songwriter tune with maximum atmosphere, shades of early ’00s Coldplay appear. That’s a compliment, people.
10. “Storm” – Dear Criminals. Not that often do I hear trip-hop, even in an updated melodic form. Way to go, DC–you pick up that torch that Portishead put down.
11. “You Open to the Idea” – Angelo De Augustine. Beautiful, delicate, wispy, earnest whisper-folk. They don’t make ’em like this very often anymore.
12. “Billowing Clouds” – Electrician. The mournful, affected spoken word over melancholy, trumpet-like synths makes me think of an electro version of the isolated, desolate Get Lonely by The Mountain Goats.
13. “Blue Chicago Moon (demo)” – Songs: Ohia. Until Jason Molina, I’ve never had a personal connection to the art of a troubled artist who died too early–Elliott Smith was gone before I knew of his work. Now with unreleased demos coming out consistently after Mr. Molina’s death, I feel the sadness of his passing over and over. Each new track is a reminder that there was work still to be made; it also feels like a new song from him, even though it’s objectively not.
Is this how a legacy gets made in the digital era? How long will we keep releasing new Molina songs, to remind us that he was there, and now he is not? (Please keep releasing them.) Will the new songs push people back to “The Lioness”? Will we keep these candles burning to light our own rooms, or will we bring them to other people? “Endless, endless, endless / endless depression,” Molina sings here. Is it truly endless? Are you still depressed? Does your permanent recording of the phrase make it truly “unchanging darkness”? “Try to beat it,” he intones, finally. Try to beat it, indeed. Keep trying until you can’t anymore. And then let your work stand forever. I guess this is how I mourn.
Things are still a mess, here and elsewhere, but I’m starting to get back on my game. Here’s a video from Electrician about their new IndieGoGo campaign. I am not afraid to say that this is pretty much what all crowdfunding videos should be.
1. “Walrus Meat” – The Parmesans. Nothing like a fun-lovin’ bluegrass tune whose only lyrics are the title. Bonus points for the surprise halfway through and for recording to cassette.
2. “Heard It All Before” – The Switch. This garage-rockin’ trio has audible and physical connections to The Vaccines. Check that awesome bass work.
3. “Knot in My Heart” – The Zolas. This song sounds like every hip indie-pop song I’ve ever heard, but I can’t stop listening to it. Or should that be, “so I can’t…”? RECURSIVE LOOP
4. “Heart of a Lion (Purple Sneakers Remix)” – The Griswolds. The Strokes-ian rocker gets a spaced-out, airy, dubby remix.
5. “Ready for the Weekend” – Icona Pop. Easily the most aggressive and club-oriented offering by the Swedish electro-pop duo yet. This one will enthrall some and alienate others; haven’t figured out which camp I’m in yet.
6. “Pique” – Menomena. Horns!
7. “All Is Lost In The Light” – Electrician. Gentle, contemplative, quiet songwriting reminiscent of The Eels’ down moments.
It is disappointing to me that we live in a time rife with protests, yet produce a distressingly low level of protest songs per capita. (If there were sabermetrics for music…) Thankfully, Michael Glader’s “Corporate Corruption” is very definitely a protest tune. But old-school Dylan fans are in for a surprise: This here rabble-rouser is a slinky, trippy contraption with whirring organ and rattling percussion. Take that, helplessness blues.
School of Roccupy is doing its very best to add protest songs to the world, however. The group’s motto is “Uniting Artists, Community, and the Occupy Movement,” and it accomplishes that by hooking up students with artists (Kate Nash and Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. so far) to write and record a song in a single day. It started in Britain, and the founders are using crowdfunding site IndieGoGo to raise money to bring the project to NYC, LA and Denver this month. If you want to read more or contribute, do so here.
While “Our Bellies Might Explode” is not an explicit protest song, songwriter Neil Campau notes that the project consists of “Electro folksongs about social war and relationships.” The description is thoroughly apt, as “Bellies” is a folky number about a relationship featuring some light distortion on the guitar and anguished vocals. If you’re into songwriters who wring amazing sounds (conventional or otherwise) out of a voice, Electrician’s in your corner.
Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.