Thursday, 13 November 2008

Songs In The Key Of Brainlove #1


Hello and welcome, dear readers, to the first in a new series of columns I'm gonna be writing for Drowned In Sound, on the most weird and wonderful sounds that come into my ears. I got more columns than the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus was alleged to have. Believe!

So, there's a certain strand of mathy, crowded, syncopated, hi-speed avalanche-of-notes cross-genre stuff going around at the moment. This frenetic strand of music tickles the brain in mysterious ways, with the listener running to keep up behind coiling, looping polyrhythms, instinctively understanding the melodies before critical faculty can even get into gear, and generally being absorbed, surprised and outfoxed in an enjoyably adrenalizing way. Like the hyper-hyper breaks mashup of Glasgow's prodigious Germlin (example: his seminal collaboration with fellow Adaadat artist DJ Scotch Egg here), and the apoplectic, hysterical electronica of Kevin Blechdom, this accelerated ADHD-core functions as both a too-loud-too-fast aural overload and the most excitingly transgressive variant of melodic pop music you've ever heard.

Germlin has long rated Max Tundra (a.k.a. Ben Jacobs) as a powerful influence, and he's name checked the aforementioned Kevy B by track 2, so it's with Tundra's new record 'Parallax Error Beheads You' that we'll begin. Vacillating between Jackson 5-esque soulful pop music, bizarro Megadrive chiptunes, chopped-up vocoder glitchcore and countless other new sub-sub-sub-subgenres, Parallax Error is teeming with creativity. Setting out 6 years ago to make "the most original record ever", Jacobs has created a mind-bending synthesis of his madcap vision. This is truly next-level stuff, and not just in the shoot-'em'-up soundtrack sense.

Max Tundra - Will Get Fooled Again

The third Simon Bookish album 'Everything/Everything' sounds positively sedate after the brain chaos of Parallax Error, but offers it's own unique brand of mind-boggling sonic pointillism. You may have noticed it not exactly breaking down the door of the mainstream media, but for the keen-eyed music geeks among us, the steadily mounting critical applause has come from all the right places. In fact, Pitchfork are offering a free track here. Everything/Everything is a loosely woven concept album based around the themes of knowledge, science, media saturation, taxonomy, experience... and, by extension, all the stuff of modern life itself. Intelligent arrangements, whimsical humour, arch delivery, shards of autobiography and vivid poetry combine into a stunningly ambitious construction. One of the essential records of 2008.
MP3: Dumb Terminal

Simon Bookish photo by Lucy Jay for The Quietus

Marnie Stern manages to turn that most ubiquitous and often bluntest of all instruments, The Electric Guitar, into some kind of holy transmitter of all things ace. Following on where noteable but flawed bands like Deerhoof and Melt Banana tail off, her intimidatingly titled second album 'This Is It and I Am It and You Are It and So Is That and He Is It and She Is It and It Is It and That Is That' is a visceral and impassioned hi-NRG mathpop record. 'Prime' is a shrill battering ram of a song, tumbling into the almost classical shredding of 'Transformer' (video below). 'Ruler' is one of the most exciting and catchy songs of the year. I can't wait to see this shit live. All I can say is - <3.

Marnie Stern - Transformer

So-hot-right-now major label fledgling popstar FrankMusik might not be a natural fit next to these right-on pillars of the leftfield, being of an oddly schizophrenic musical disposition. You can hear A-ha's euphoric 80's teen heartache anthems stitched alongside bits of dancefloor-friendly 90's boyband schtick and Fischerspooner synth octaves. Right now, it's unclear whether FrankMusik wants to be Robbie Williams or Max Tundra - but with songs as creepily, efficiently catchy as 'Thee Little Words', who cares?

FrankMusik - Three Little Words

Thanks for listening.

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