Tuesday, March 15, 2011

98 The Hard Way: EPs, Days 14 and 15

Melt-Banana: Dead Spex (HG Fact)
Another thing about chaos without context; in some instances it can work. In some instances it can work really well. Case in point: the longest song on this EP is 71 seconds long. The whole EP goes by in less than 5 minutes. And yet even after it's over it leaves its mark, maybe even better than some of M-B's other releases from this time. Somewhere between Agata's less-guitar-sounding-than-usual playing - half the time it seems like he's trying to replicate turntable scratching on his guitar and succeeding - Yako's as-unhinged-as-usual vocals, and the necessarily solid rhythm section that's necessary when you're courting 200 bpm at every turn it coalesces into as cohesive a statement as you'd expect from this incarnation of Melt-Banana. That statement may be 'We are the poster kids for leaving ADD untreated,' but it's a statement nonetheless. [7.4/10]

Braid / Burning Airlines: Split 7" (Polyvinyl)
The things that both bands do to their respective covers here are at once welcome yet slightly off. Braid, for instance, take the upbeat Naked Eyes version of "Always Something There to Remind Me" and slow it down enough so that it avoids being a flat out ballad but enough that it feels a bit...well, awkward. And yet at the same time that's a bit of its appeal, the drum patterns seeming to fumble along while perfectly keeping time, the synth lead being transferred to the bass, the fact that they're a good enough math-rock band to make straight 4/4 time feel alien and off-kilter. It's textbook Braid in that respect: finding the most awkward way to be normal, leaving me with mixed feeling while still coming away a bit in their favor. Burning Airlines fare better with Echo and the Bunnymen's "Back of Love," but while they retain a lot of the original's spirit they also smooth it over a bit. The vocals are robbed of their increasing urgency as the song progresses - one of the best things about the original - instead opting for a slightly more melodic variant of J. Robbins' usual vocals. It's a case where neither band lives up to the original, but they do enough to make it their own that i can't fault them too much, even if I'm less than likely to dig out these versions all that often. [7.6/10]

Arovane: i.o. (DIN)
I can't quite figure out how to approach this one. On one hand, this is decent enough, low key IDM that seems to have a nice understanding of how to give the mechanical, impersonal sounds at its core a bit of life. On the other hand, it sounds pretty much exactly like a somnambulent Autechre EP, without a hint of the personality that later Arovane material would develop. Looking at it from either angle, it's easy to see where the improvements are to be made. This is very, very definitely a first step and does very little to hide that fact...hell it almost sounds like the embodiment of your friend saying 'I've just made this song on my laptop, let me know what I can do to make it better.' In that light I have a lot more respect for it than I usually have for the blatantly derivative, but it still falls into that classification and the respect I have for it doesn't cloud over that fact. [6.9/10]
Three Mile Pilot: The House Is Loss (Paralogy)
Note: The link goes to the obsessively detailed Pukekos post with all the late peiod 3MP singles as ripped from vinyl as opposed to me ripping the songs from my copy of Songs From an Old Town We Once Knew. They're good quality rips, so enjoy.

 If "In This Town I Awaken" (from the split with Boilermaker) was the last step on the journey of 3MP, this 7" is the penultimate step, and it's surprisingly one of their better singles. It's got the sort of weirdly spiky, angular art pop edge of early Pinback tethered to the newfound instrumental expanse that was hinted at in the best moments of Another Desert, another Sea, which basically hints towards the direction that both halves of the band would go in after their disbandment. It also makes great use of what I call the "Paralyzed" guitar tone, the bright, bitingly cold tone that Andy Gill dialed in for Gang of Four's best moment, especially in contrast with the full-bodied distorted rhythm guitar in the chorus sections of "The House Is Loss." "The Silver Monkey Syndicate" is almost as good, though it feels a bit more like it belonged between Chief Assassin and Another Desert in terms of tone it still has more than a little of Pinback's spike to it, and that's always welcome far as I'm concerned. All in all though, it's nice to see that even in their final recordings (prior to their recent reformation of course) 3MP managed to remain the most consistent band of the 90s. Honestly, I have a hard time thinking of any other band from that decade that I can pull out any given release and have it satisfy me anywhere near as much as the average 3MP release can, and this one's no exception. [8.3/10]

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