As major labels continue to exist behind the times, artists and labels with little capital and lesser reputations are producing some of the most innovative, interesting, and inspiring music. Whether it’s creating a new niche in digital technology or looking to once obsolete formats, Agitated Atmosphere hopes to pull back the curtain on a wealth of sights and sound locally, regionally and globally.
No time to waste on my own ruminations. Turns out this time there are five strong musical opinions from Will Long (Mogador), David Welles (ONWE), H. Takahashi, Lazy Legs, and Boy HarsherMogador - Overflow Pool(Further Records; LP/DL)
Will Long ditches the Celer name for this go-round as Mogador, and though the airy vibrations of Celer find themselves blowing into this project, the mood and tenor are far different. With nothing more than “a Rhodes and a reel-to-reel delay,” there’s a great deal to intake despite the open silences. In fact, these non-experiments are becoming my favorite musical forays. Whether it’s the playful breaks of a Loren Connors, the atmospherics of Ottignon/Kirk or the interspliced foreplay of Long’s Rhodes, the granular sound of the reel-to-reel, and the slow fade out of music into nothingness, there’s organic content to something that has all-too-often become about how much technology and editorial sass someone can cram into their creations. That’s all well and good, but the reason I find myself returning to Long’s work – no matter the moniker – is that I feel like I’m eating a ripened piece of fruit grown in my own backyard. I enter its solitude, pluck it from my own tree as the breeze gently blows my hair, and I enjoy the smells, tastes and sounds that occur in that moment of solitude. It’s far from lonely nor is it a moment of peace (though both can happen when conditions mandate). Overflow Pool rewards patience, because of its meditative reflection. It requires isolation from everything else that will interfere with its message, but that doesn’t make it an experience for one. That’s never been Long’s modus operandi. But it does put you in a place and time, as all others seeking to capture a moment as it truly exists.
ONWE - The Peculiar Enlightenment of David Welles(Self-Released; DL)
For a brief moment, this was going to be a takedown. The self-important messaging about ONWE’s (and what a terrible spelling of ennui, by the way) musical vision is nauseating. But the actual messaging and musical wrapping makes The Peculiar Enlightenment of David Welles perhaps the most important millennial pop-rock document of 2016. In fact, it may be the musical embodiment of Generation X without the rock-rap violent bro attitude of Woodstock ’99 (though “jk bb” comes pretty damn close with its blistering classic rock guitar solo and propagation of boredom-as-action). The rest is a well-structured rock album, the sort no longer in production. Rock and roll has become big sponsors and bigger labels. All its protest and rebellion has been stripped away, neutering its central messaging and thus hastening the rock-and-roll-is-dead messaging that Dave Grohl and Keith Richards have somehow ignored. ONWE hasn’t, and through a healthy dose of lethal irony and real-world indecision, has somehow crafted a rock and roll record with none of the trademarks but all of the sass. It protests itself, rebels against the same long-winded self-importance that drips down the right side of ONWE’s Bandcamp page. Despite the smug packaging and pat-on-the-back idealism that initially causes a skeptical face, the heart-on-the-sleeve narratives contained within will wash it all away. All that’s missing is a limited run of 50 copies on 120 gram marbled vinyl for Record Store Day to tip the scales right back to this being garbage. But Welles, I am listening to what you have to say and I will accept your truthful confessional, so long as you stop being a whiny little bitch (your words, not mine) and wear these fantastic realizations like a badge of honor rather than a scarlet letter.
H. Takahashi - Body Trip(Constellation Tatsu; CS/DL)
How can one explain something as difficultly layered as Body Trip and yet, still hit its essence as a simplistic pop experiment that feels as good as soda bubbles tickling your nose on a blistering summer day? Hopefully that was good enough, because wrapping one’s head around the latest excursion from H. Takahashi proves to be as tricky as it was his last, Sea Meditation. Both capture the spirit of their title, so where Sea Meditation spoke to the vast tranquility of the ocean, with a world of turbulence and tumult underneath, Body Trip echoes and murmurs with the rhythms of the human body. The cardiovascular system pumping blood; the nervous system twitching and flicking in between synapses; the slow drip of an idea descending from mind to mouth to limbs. All of it lightheartedly captured by the endless imagination of Takahashi.
Lazy Legs - VISIONDEATH(Wild Patterns; CS/DL)
After a string of strong returns from some of shoegaze’s biggest acts (My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver, Lush) in as many years, the music genre is once again finding itself slowly (perhaps reluctantly) getting an edge of the spotlight once more. It’s likely you saw the title of Lazy Legs’ latest cassette and never expected VISIONDEATH to come close to this sort of guitar-driven sound. Well, let’s get over our preconceptions together, shall we? If any of the names I mentioned above pique your interest, you could do no worse than to drop $5 (or your country’s equivalent) on VISIONDEATH. A swirl of agitated guitars, dreamy melodies, and driven melodies cap out this adventurous, if faithful, take on shoegaze. But just as it is with any genre, sometimes it takes a good band creating a good album to remind us what can still be found in an a combination of guitars, bass and drums.
Boy Harsher - Yr Body is Nothing(DKA Records; LP/DL)
Yr Body is Nothing is an aesthetic pleasure, teasing all the sense with just a simple album cover and a stripped down brand of noir pop. Boy Harsher inhabit the mystic plane between the techno raves of recent Not Not Fun party albums and the darkwave of Marie Davidson. The underground and back alley sex appeal and the simplicity in which it dismisses that risen sexuality both add into a document of darkwave as both club intoxicant and realistic primer for another lonely night except on the dancefloor. Though Yr Body is Nothing has an airy, 80’s production quality, it doesn’t fall into that rabbit hole too often to make this feel aged before it even finds the right audience. That’s a skill not to ignore, considering the tightrope Boy Harsher are already walking with an album that exists in a desolate landscape. It’s so easy for these synth-heavy burners to quickly melt the wax and turn the wick to ash. But Yr Body is Nothing has je ne sais quoi despite the hallmarks of a sound well-entrenched in the darkest scenes.
As major labels continue to exist behind the times, artists and labels with little capital and lesser reputations are producing some of the most innovative, interesting, and inspiring music. Whether it’s creating a new niche in digital technology or looking to once obsolete formats, Agitated Atmosp…
Like me, you may be nervous about the prospect of a new Crystal Castles album after the departure of Alice Glass in October of 2014. Alice’s departure came with an excellent statement: “My art and my self-expression in any form has always been an attempt towards sincerity, honesty, and empathy for …