Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Icelandic Soundscapes: Ghostigital.


When I'd gone on holiday in Reykjavík, Iceland during Christmas of 2007, one of the aspects of Icelandic culture I was really looking forward to learning more about was the face of popular music up there in that beautiful northern island. After fantastically helpful trips to record stores such as the legendary 12 Tónar on Skolavor∂ustíg (the incredible employees actually sat me down on a comfy leather sofa and brought me a latté with a stack of CDs and a CD Walkman), I was hooked on what I heard. I ended up buying a nice stack of music that day (and a couple of other days after that), and frankly the music has always proved to be immensely interesting, challenging, fun, and inspirational in the time that has passed since that magical Arctic Christmas – meeting my wife while I was there was also pretty freaking great as well, come to think of it.

12 Tónar

I bring this up because I've had cause to go through my entire music library as I was packing my shit up in San Francisco for my move Down Under, and I had a chance to sift through my Iceland treasures (who have always lived in a separate shelf from my more standard selections), and I thought it would be fun over the next few days to highlight some of the more esoteric and atmospheric (and downright strange) music the kindly folk at 12 Tónar had shared with me on that cold and exciting afternoon over three years ago. I will never forget that shop; I think I still need to send them a nice letter one of these days, truth be told.

FIRST UP: Ghostigital. Their 2006 album In Cod We Trust leapt out at me for two reasons. One – I'd always wondered what Björk's right-hand man in Sugarcubes, Einar Örn Benediktsson, was up to. Second – The music was such an odd and ferociously in-your-face maelstrom of electronica, metal, hip-hop, jazz, cabaret, spoken word poetry, and ... well, frankly quite unclassifiable is how I'd describe it. Teaming up with one DJ/producer extraordinaire Curver, who performed with one of my favourite Icelandic confectionaries, Sometime, Örn has created a bewitchingly original and challenging piece of work with In Cod We Trust. Featuring guest appearances from such guests as Mark E. Smith, Mugison (who will be covered later), New York rapper Sensational, Steve Beresford, and Dalek, this album goes fucking everywhere, man. I can't begin to recommend it enough. From the everything-including-the-kitchen-sink jumbled chaos of "Sense of Reason," through to the alarmingly bizarre aggression of "Crackers," and to the distorted hip-hop paean to the Northern Lights entitled, strangely enough, "Northern Lights," this album, like I said, is quite a challenging listen. But it's rewarding! And there's a shitload of fun to be had once you get used to Örn's vocals, which I will lovingly compare to a psychotic Muppet. I always had him pegged as the more entertaining voice in Sugarcubes. Now: some music!

"Northern Lights"


Röyksopp Remixes Depeche Mode.

On the 7th of June (the 6th in the UK), Depeche Mode will be releasing a remix album, Remixes 2: 81-11, chockfull of, you guessed it, remixes by such modern synth masters as M83, Röyksopp, UNKLE, members of Miike Snow, AND (get this) former DM stalwarts Vince Clarke and Alan Wilder. Should be a fun time! I'm down. Pitchfork has just released Röyksopp's contribution, a pretty awesome version of "Puppets," off of Depeche Mode's 1981 debut album Speak & Spell. Here's the link to listen to it. Funny, isn't it, how "Puppets," arguably the darkest song on that album of tinkling and rather light-weight pop ditties is here transformed into a nice and pretty piece of confectionary. I don't mean that in a bad way – it's really quite charming. Longtime (ha!) readers of this site will know that these two artists are among SDU's absolute favourites, as well.

Here's Dave and his Basildon boys performing "Puppets" for a German TV show way, way back in the day for comparison. Cheers, friends!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Album Review: Cut Copy. "Zonoscope"

©2011 Modular Recordings

One knows, as soon as Cut Copy's third full-length album Zonoscope begins with opening track "Need You Now" and its delightfully delicate marriage of crystalline synths and dreamy guitars, that this Melbourne band's trajectory is true. 

On the 27th January this year, when Cut Copy first released "Need You Now," I'd written:
"Dan Whitford's vocals are as emotive as ever, and the rhythms put forward by Tim Hoey and Mitchell Scott, while tinged with a delicacy and deliberation that bring to mind the best of '80s New Wave, still contain a contemporary edge guaranteed to get asses out there on that fucking dance floor." 
Well! Now that the album's been out for a couple of months, and Cut Copy is poised to return home for their homecoming Australian tour in a week's time, I feel the need to squawk a bit from my little box and declare just how fucking awesome Zonoscope is. A great rollicking song that's perfect for driving can be found in the wonderful "Take Me Over." "Alisa" brings together '60s harmonies with a surf-rock sensibility. The rather surreal "Blink and You'll Miss A Revolution," one of the album's denser tracks, brings to mind some of the house epics that were popular on dance floors back in the early '90s and positively soars at moments. And then there's the experimental "Pharoahs & Pyramids," that's abuzz with cool sound effects, vocal distortions, and a nice bass-y synth line that bumbles merrily along its way. 

BUT – nothing on this great blue Earth could have prepared me for the joyous awesome power of the closing track, "Sun God." Holy crap, it's ... shit, it's just fucking amazing. Fifteen minutes and five seconds of just pure, incredible, and game-changing pop, "Sun God" WILL stop you in your tracks and cause you to say to yourself, "Wait – what? What the hell was that?" And then you'll play it a second time and let its lush brilliance wash over you again. A hypnotic piece of ever-shifting musical ideas, "Sun God" as a whole is made up of several distinct genres, constantly evolving and becoming something else as it charges along on a crazy, wonderful ride. Hyperbole on the part of this blogger? I doubt it. When I listen to it, I can't help but wonder if the boys have been listening to a lot of Kraut Rock; there's a distinct Tangerine Dream feel to the whole affair, with some Can-style percussions thrown in here and there and was that a ghost of Kraftwerk I heard in there at 9:19? Check out the cowbells that kick in at the three-minute mark! Oh, I just love this track; it's worth the price of admission alone. Here – listen to it yourself and see.

 Cut Copy - Sun God by modularpeople 

And here's the video for the first single, "Need You Now."

Cheers, friends, and have a great day!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Happy Birthday, Tim Curry!

On this day, 19 April 1946, one Tim Curry entered the world. We here at Second Drawer Up HQ would like to take this moment to salute a brilliant actor, singer, and performer – holy crap, his breakout turn as Dr Frankenfurter in the 1975 classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show still gives us the willies. Fucking brilliant. Here, for your enjoyment, is Curry and gang (featuring a young Susan Surandon!) performing "Sweet Transvestite!"

Aaaaaand ... for all you Tim Curry fans out there, here's a video clip featuring Tim Curry's top 135 film quotes!

So, happy birthday, Tim. Cheers from all of us at SDU!

Monday, 18 April 2011

Video Disturbeo: Nurse With Wound.

Nurse With Wound, the brainchild of Londoner Steven Stapleton, has, in its 30+ year long existence, released an astonishingly prodigious amount of music – over forty long-players so far, and still counting. Stapleton isn't one to shuffle off and rest on his laurels ... He not only writes, performs, and releases his own music; he also designs the dust covers himself under the nom d'artiste Babs Santini!

I don't even know how to begin describing Nurse With Wound's music to you, if you haven't heard them before. I like to liken the sound of NWW to what a madman might hear back in the dark days of Victorian asylums – huge, dimly-lit and crumbling institutions with dark corners and shifting shadows, piercing shrieks emanating from locked doors, mysterious colourless liquids running in rivulets down the mouldy wallpaper, and heavyset orderlies tying one to a chair, preparing a massive syringe with a "medicine" unknown. Equal parts loopy drones, sampled and distorted dialogues from long-forgotten horror flicks, industrial soundscapes, demented cabaret, and fucked-up mish-mashes of disturbing sound effects – all bound together with a humourous sensibility, mind you – are just a smidgeon of the NWW "sound". Want to check out some Nurse With Wound? For starters, you couldn't go wrong with 2009's compilation "album" Paranoia In HiFi. Essentially, it's a one hour-eighteen minute, single-track mixing together of several previously released NWW tracks. Look it up, download it, whatever – it's an amazing ride.

Here, from 2008's limited edition vinyl-only EP The Bacteria Magnet, is a great track called "The Bottom Feeder." The video from it, taken from two short Jiri Barta films (The Last Theft and The Club of the Laid Off), makes me want to scratch myself – there's something about creepy marionettes doing creepy shit that makes me incredibly uncomfortable. You can watch some clips from Barta's weird puppet-flicks here. Eesh. There's something about that little girl putting back together a smashed watermelon that really, really gives me the heebie-jeebies. Enjoy!

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Depeche Mode On Rock Band 3?

You bet your sweet ass! From
"Three classic Depeche Mode songs are coming soon as downloadable content for Rock Band 3. 'Personal Jesus,' 'Never Let Me Down Again,' and 'Policy of Truth' will be released on March 8th as DLC (downloadable content) on XBox 360, Wii, and Playstation 3. 'Personal Jesus' will include Pro Guitar and Pro Bass parts."
So get cracking! If you visit the Rock Band website, you can watch a trailer clip featuring each of the three songs (check out the bleached-blonde avatar of Dave Gahan sporting the kitty-cat T-shirt!). Having played Rock Band a few times in the past, I'm particularly thrilled about the possibilities of "Personal Jesus" on the game. Imagine, cranking out that grungy guitar intro. Those drums would be a bit on the challenging side as well, don't you think? Though I wonder if one would get extra credit points for bellowing out the occasional "Yeah!" in between verses whilst spinning the microphone stand and pretending to be playing in front of thousands of fans at a stadium. 

Seeing as I cannot embed the trailer video mentioned above, I thought I'd share with you kids the next best thing involving Depeche Mode and a video game. From 2006, when The Sims 2 came out, here is Dave, Martin, and Andy performing "Suffer Well" from their 2005 album Playing the Angel. Of course, as in all things Sims, it's sung in that peculiar tongue known as "Simlish." Very silly, but very cool as well. Cheers – and while you're at it, how about stating in the comment section a Depeche Mode song you'd like to see feature in Rock Band at a later date?