Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Issue 3

In these last few weeks London has become a cold bitter wasteland. Winds whip in from the north and my tiny flat assumes the all the life preserving qualities of a carpeted Frigidaire. Only the hot air kickout of my computer fan provides warmth and so I keep working, huddled close to the screen, bringing you the newest issue of Sleephouse.

To listen, simply download the audio file of the show (by clicking the image below) or use the flash player in the sidebar. This show can also be subscribed to as a podcast by copying the address of the RSS link in the sidebar into the podcast receiver of your choice. It’s all so simple…

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(44MB, 48 mins. MP3 file)

Here’s this week’s artist info:

1. Broken Social Scene: 7/4 (Shoreline) (Arts & Crafts/City Slang)

The chugging guitars, lolloping brass and pummelling crash cymbals of ‘7/4 (Shoreline)’ signal the return of one of the most unlikely success stories in recent years: An eleven strong Toronto collective that conquered the world. Or at least should have.

You Forgot It In People made a huge splash in indie world, but it passed by the "Great Unwashed" unnoticed. No crass car commercials hammered the songs down our throats, no stick thin socialites feigned interest while Broken Social Scene headlined The Bait Shop, and no political leaders waltzed their way to victory with ‘I’m Still Your Fag’ as their campaign song. And, actually, now that I think about it, thank heaven for that, we’ll keep this band for ourselves.

Their new album is out now in North America, but it gets a Europe-wide release in January on City Slang. It’s simply titled Broken Social Scene, but it’s anything but simple. An album more densely packed with ideas you’ll be hard pressed to find.

Broken Social Scene have an extensive Europe, North America and Australia tour lined up. Be warned though: tickets will be as rare as rockinghorse shit.

2. Caribou: Hello Hammerheads (Domino/Leaf)

Musical boffins don’t come better qualified than Dan Snaith of Caribou, a man whose 2005 has not only included a lawsuit-hastened change of name and the release of a career-peaking album, but also the completion of a PhD in some kind of head-scratching Mathematics.

Recognising that it’s still a tad early in the calendar for the best of year lists, I’ve been searching for an excuse to feature Caribou’s excellent Milk Of Human Kindness album on Sleephouse for a while now. Thankfully that excuse is conveniently provided by the release of a DVD collection of animations used by Caribou in his live show.

It’s entitled Marino and it was released at the beginning of November by Domino or Leaf - depending on which side of the pond you live. It not only includes videos for almost every song from Snaith's two most recent records, but also comes with an EP’s worth of material left over from the Milk of Human Kindness sessions. And with Snaith’s sound growing to encompass everything from electronica, folk, shoegazing and krautrock, your home entertainment system will never be better utilised. This DVD is the reason you installed surround sound.

Sample Caribou's music with free mp3s from the Leaf Label

3. Cobra Killer & Kapajkos: Heavy Rotation (Monika)

On any normal record Berlin duo Cobra Killer would meet you head-on with an explosion of sample heavy metal box electro. But this is no ordinary record. This is genius.

Aided by hitherto unknown mandolin wranglers Kapajkos, Cobra Killer have plundered their back catalogue and reconfigured an album’s worth of songs as coked-up, blood-sucking Romanian folk tunes. Or something. Weird folk music is bloody everywhere right now, but unlike the majority of recent beardy snoozefests, this record is so fresh it wriggles. And hopefully you will too, as woozy malevolent melodies dance magnificently around these two girls’ thoroughly modern lyrics.

For my money Das Mandolinenorchester is by far the best work these two have ever produced, and it's an inspired record that craves your attention. Or one rather gets the feeling that these two girls might turn nasty.

Grab your German dictionary and head over to Monika Records for more information on Das Mandolinenorchester. [Photo by Gill May]

4. Grizzly Bear: Fix It (Rumraket)

Can you be part of a local scene if you never leave your bedroom? It’s a question that those who wish to overemphasise Grizzly Bear’s Brooklyn roots really should ask themselves. Judging from the back story, and, indeed, the actual sound of this record, their debut could have been produced anywhere, provided of course that there was access to a home recording setup and the odd inspirational bong lying around.

Grizzly Bear started out as the bedroom project of Edward Droste and was partly realised during an impressively misanthropic-sounding 15 month domestic shut-in. By the time his friend Christopher Bear (apparently no relation to The Animal Collective’s Panda Bear) added guitars and vocals Horn of Plenty was complete. It’s a quietly rewarding debut of cracked folk and hushed indie pop and on this evidence future Grizzly Bear releases promise much.

Horn of Plenty is being re-released by Efterklang’s Rumraket record label here in Europe and comes backed with a stunning remix album, which you’ll find out more about if you read on….

5. Grizzly Bear: Don’t Ask [Final Fantasy Remix] (Rumraket)

That the Horn of Plenty remix album improves on the original version is—although perhaps slightly unfair to Grizzly Bear—not really all that surprising when one takes a quick glance down the list of contributors. Ariel Pink, Safety Scissors, Simon Bookish, Dntel, Hisham Bharoocha and Rusty Santos, Castanets and The Soft Pink Truth are just a few names that bend and twist Grizzly Bear’s original material into magnificently different starry shapes. And although some songs make repeat appearances and the range of interpretations is diverse, the remixes hold together to form an album that easily holds its own as a complete long player.

Final Fantasy is one Owen Pallett, a man who gains instant cache in the grave digging community for arranging strings for every undertaker’s favourite indie rockers The Arcade Fire. Owen’s violin traps Grizzly Bear’s ‘Don’t Ask’ in its wintry clutches, and transports it to a windy plateau of sorrow. I wouldn’t recommend listening to this song on the radio while shaving with a cutthroat razor in the bath, just in case its mournful tone gets the better of you, but I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s a quite sublime piece of aching beauty nonetheless.

‘Don’t Ask’ is a more than good enough reason for moving your mouse over to this link and investigating how you can get your hands on the whole goddam Horn of Plenty/Remix package.

6. Dreamies: Program Ten [Excerpt] (Wilmington Studios)

In 1972, Bill Holt, inspired by the Beach Boys and The Beatles ‘Revolution #9’, decided to quit his corporate job with 3M and retreat to his basement with a guitar, a moog, and a reel-to-reel tape machine. When he emerged a year later, he was on the verge of bankruptcy but his album, Dreamies, was complete. Eventually released in 1973, the album made little impact, but its cult status has grown every day since.

At once both of and ahead of its time, Dreamies is an incredibly interesting sonic document, an pean to the kind of '60s ideals that only became a reality for the average person during the 1970s. It’s basically two 25-minute aural collages that weave together droning acoustic guitar phrases and bubbling moog blasts with news reel snippets and amazingly melodic West Coast harmonies. This is musique concrete as played by the Byrds or ‘70s folk opportunists America.

The album is now available on CD or the more authentic choice of vinyl (just get up off the beanbag and turn the bloody thing over!). Hopefully the time is right for Bill Holt to gain the mass recognition he so rightfully deserves.

Bill Holt currently runs a website that produces strange little chunks of political satire and ambient weirdness—it’s like The Daily Show on very subtle acid and it very definitely merits your attention.

7. Michael Johnson: The Natives Going Under (Must Delicious)

At the beginning of the year, Amanda Petrusich wrote an article for Paste Magazine that attempted to sum up a movement in American music that has gained real precedence in recent years. She spoke of “a handful of pioneering musicians… catering mostly to the twenty-something/T-shirt-and-Pumas set, but playing a new, weird kind of Americana, punctuated by twittering Moog synths and prickly classical guitar, harp strums and free-jazz sax wails."

Among the bands sited by Petrusich as part of this New Weird America movement are The Animal Collective, Devendra Banhart, Joanna Newsom, Sufjan Stevens and Holopaw. And while most of these bands are pretty well known by now, she also reserved high praise for someone less well known: one Michael Johnson.

Familiar to some as Holopaw’s drummer, Johnson is actually much more important to the Florida neo-folksmiths than this simple album credit suggests. Holopaw have always stood out for the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach they take when constructing their music, and Nonsense Goes Mudslide, Michael Johnson first solo effort, proves just how much influence Johnson has on this aspect of the group’s work.

Nonsense Goes Mudslide is a quite astonishing record. A veritable overflowing junkshop of sound, the album twitters with laptop beats, acoustic guitars, vintage moogs, sampled brass and sun kissed vocals. If New Weird America is becoming the Main Street of independent music then Michael Johnson’s Nonsense Goes Mudslide is a Thanksgiving Day parade turning back on itself and tripping over each other when the marchers get comically lost in a back alley.

And if that doesn’t convince you that it’s worth checking out, perhaps this wonderfully sweet note from Michael himself will melt your icy heart:

“Nonsense Goes Mudslide, my first record, has been received well critically, but received not at all consumerly. If you want to buy a copy, it's available direct from Must!Delicious at $10 ppd, I believe. Drop a note so I don't feel too bad about bankrupting him. It's also available at Tonevendor and Insound. If you downloaded it, you owe me a beer.”

8. Indian Jewelry: Lost My Sight (Girlgang)

Most people give MySpace a pretty bad rap, but if it wasn’t for this vanity-driven hall of mirrors I would never have been able to plunge my head into the wailing noise washing machine that is Indian Jewelry’s ‘Lost My Sight’, a choice find from some psyched-out LA mentalists cast from the same mould as Sun City Girls, Boredoms and Suicide.

I have to confess I know very little about this band aside from the fact that this track comes from the album, Health and Wellbeing, released this spring, and it’s very much worth checking out if you’re interested in where the margins of modern American music lie right now.

9. AIDS Wolf: We Multiply (Lovepump United)

Fans of raw throats, vicious hardcore and patently silly band names will think Christmas has come early when they discover AIDS Wolf. Actually, it hasn’t--the album, The Lovvers LP, is not out until January. So I guess technically for them Christmas has actually been delayed. But what are you gonna do? Everyone just cross your fingers and hope that Goblin Cock album keeps you going past the Winter Solstice.

Seriously though, Aids Wolf are far more than the previous pithy paragraph suggests. Don’t ask me how—I thought I’d heard enough noise to last me a lifetime—but they’ve successfully managed to breath fresh excitement into a genre I have penchant for calling Spazzcore.

True, ‘We Multiply’ might kick your ass and leave you cold the first, second, or even third time around but something like a coherent structure will reveal itself after significantly prolonged exposure. And blow me if it isn’t an addictive little bugger—I have an unhealthy tendency to keep this song on repeat for hours, which is probably why my brain is mush and writing this is such hard going.

Key members of AIDS Wolf are also responsible for the Montréal based Seripop. Which is very cool—and unless you wanna have your hipster status revoked, you’ll wanna check it out. Thankfully it is explained by a good friend of Sleephouse here. Phew, I though I’d lost it there for a second. Nope--still cool.


Please remain cool until Sleephouse returns in around two week’s time (I promise).

Xo daddio.


Blogger fierce panda!! said...

great job again, merek!!u've played quite of few artists there that are new to my ears, really glad i heard them!
keep up the great work, can't wait till the next show :)
panda power!!

2:28 AM  
Anonymous Seth said...


Another killer show.
Can't wait for the next one.
Also, thank you for the link.
And, don't listen to fierce panda...
she flirts with all the cool podcasters. ;-)
i mean don't listen to
her compliments...her show is brilliant, so don't stop listening to that!

9:59 AM  
Anonymous jasmine said...

Another stellar job, Merek - terrific music picks, the Caribou in particular. Yours is a "Best of 2005" mix truly worth anticipating - can't wait until Episode 4!

3:29 PM  
Anonymous Lara said...

Your podcast is one of the very best I have heard. Thank you for providing me with music while I work. -Lara

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