Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Megafaun // Megafaun

Folk music is too often pinned to conservative types, but there’s a real musically progressive streak running through its veins. Before physical recording was made available, folk songs moved via word-of-mouth, with each composition left up to the performer’s interpretation. Thus, no two versions sound the same. Years and years of personal weathering keep folk songs moving forward while still rooted in the past.

Over the course of three albums and an EP, Megafaun have tapped into this overarching folk narrative. While so many bands and artists are content to play dress up with acoustic guitars and harmonicas, the North Carolina band understands that you can weave in modernity in a special way. Megafaun, their third album to date, is the culmination of years of this sort of exploration and the band’s most sprawling, dazzling statement yet.

Like past efforts, Megafaun stands simple acoustic songs alongside jazzier workouts and avant-garde experiments. Their ability to sound both classic and forward-thinking is their greatest attribute, and these various voices can largely be attributed to the communal nature of the trio. They seem to genuinely enjoy working together, taking it easy while still tackling some heavy questions. Opener “Real Slow” is almost a mission statement for the band itself, lazily intoning “Take your time/Everyone knows/If it starts too fast/It’s gonna end real slow.” The song’s Southern rock-isms could sound corny in anyone else’s hands, but Megafaun are nothing if not tasteful. They achieve a similar widescreen effect on “Get Right,” an insistent strummer that shows the band’s jammy roots are still strong. The noisy bedrock is a nice counterpoint, adding a bit of menace to the sunshine burning overhead.

Even the album’s more familiar moments still reach high. “State/Meant” and “Resurrection” employ a tried-and-true folk-rock chug, but they’re worn well by a band that’s unafraid of the big melody. On the folk-pop of “Second Friend,” swelling strings punctuate a simple love song just as it approaches headier lyrical territory. Megafaun accept their dual nature with a smile, observing that “any moment now/Our river will be changing course/We may not have the time to drift and glide/ Just like the day before.” It hits on a broader theme within Megafaun’s music: staying grounded, but not at the expense of looking for something new.

And that search leads to some of the album’s highest notes. First single “These Words” wraps found sounds and electronic textures into a complex melody, but at its heart lies a catchy tune that makes the best use of the band’s ever-present harmonies. “Isadora” turns “Auld Lang Syne” into a jazzy explosion at the album’s center, and “Scorned” places blues riffs next to blasted-out harmonicas that wail like devilish electric guitars. At every turn, Megafaun take these well-worn ideas and add fresh new ingredients.

The fact that Megafaun sounds so effortless is a testament to the band’s true sense of itself. They continually adapt, looking to the past for inspiration but without getting bogged down in the dusty history. It’s apparent they’re looking to construct a big tent for everyone to fit in, and unsurprisingly they’re succeeding wildly.

[via prefix]

Megafaun // These Words
Megafaun // State/Meant

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Episode 38: Strange World

[via louis reith]

It's a strange world outside, especially in the world of music. Lots of dark, mysterious musical paths being taken these days, so Episode 38 is packed to the brim with new cuts by Widowspeak, Barn Owl, Amen Dunes, Megafaun, and the War On Drugs. Filling in the cracks are some old WS favorites--connecting the dots through time.

Widowspeak // Puritan
Link Wray // Deuces Wild
The 13th Floor Elevators // Reverberation (Doubt)
Dead Moon // Walking On My Grave
Mulatu Astatke // Emnete
Damon // Don't You Feel Me
Barn Owl // Turiya
Amen Dunes // Baba Yaga
Megafaun // These Words
Harry Nilsson // Mother Nature's Son
The War On Drugs // I Was There

Total running time: 34:27


Episode 38: Strange World

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Watch: "Music From A Dry Cleaner"

Via This Is Colossal, "sound designer and composer" Diego Stocco creates music from everyday objects, found sounds, and a heft dose of imagination. His latest concoction? A rhythmic workout featuring machines and objects found at his local dry cleaner.

Diego Stocco - Music From A Dry Cleaner from Diego Stocco on Vimeo.

Be sure to check out his Vimeo page for more videos that chronicle is unique muse.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Bleached // You Take Time

I featured "Think of You" by Bleached on a recent podcast, but it's that single's B-side that's really caught my ear. Bleached is the new project for sisters Jennifer and Jessie Clavin, formerly of LA skuzz-punks Mika Miko. And whereas "Think of You" is keeping with their former band's brand of straight-ahead ferocity, "You Take Time" is a golden, muscular pop-rock jam that's equal parts Ramones and Big Star. Grab it below, and check out the video for "Think of You" as well.

Bleached // You Take Time

You can also snag a physical copy of the 7" at Art Fag Records.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Watch: "Turiya"

Right on cue, a video for Barn Owl's standout track, "Turiya," taken from their exceptional new album Lost In The Glare. Directed by John Davis.

Barn Owl - Turiya from Thrill Jockey Records on Vimeo.

[via thrill jockey records]

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Barn Owl // Lost In The Glare

“Our music is kind of visual to me,” admits Evan Caminiti, one-half of San Francisco psych-rockers Barn Owl. It’s a bit of an understatement, especially considering the largeness of the music the band makes. That’s due in part to the visual associations wrapped up in Barn Owl’s instrumental epics—desolate deserts, extreme isolation, and “the powerful feeling of fog creeping along the horizon,” as fellow Barn Owl Jon Porras describes the effect the Bay Area climes have on their sounds. Since meeting in college in 2006, Caminiti and Porras have found kindred spirits in one another, uniting their love of John Fahey’s American primitivism with doom metal and minimal classical. Lost In The Glare marks the first time the two guitarists have worked with drummer Jacob Felix Heule, resulting in a heady mixture of head-in-the-clouds radiance and the more earthly power of a good solid groove.

Last year, Barn Owl invited Heule on a lengthy tour where most of the record’s compositions were tried out. As a result, Lost In The Glare feels both live and lived-in. Though it’s obvious most of the songs are largely improvised, the structures seem deliberate and carefully considered. “Turiya” shows the immediate positive effect of having a drummer like Heule in the group. He keeps a glacial pace plodding along while Caminiti and Porras turn their crunchy drone inside-out. Too many like-minded acts will chase that drone to the point of tedium. Barn Owl use it as a jumping off point before weaving in more concrete ideas.

Musically, there’s no shortage of blues and Indian riffs, but Caminiti and Porras are less interested in ripping off gnarly guitar solos than conjuring an atmosphere with dark waves of feedback. Album-closer (and emotional highpoint) “Devotion II” boasts skillful interlocking guitar lines before exploding in the coda on the back of huge chords and Heule’s pounding drums. This enormity is well-deserved: they pace the album masterfully, contrasting the harder cuts with acoustic explorations like “Temple of the Winds” and “Light Echoes.” The differing moods add up to something that’s experiential and focused. Records like this are often heralded as “sounding like a soundtrack,” but that’s a disservice here. Through their careful sonic work, Barn Owl create their own stories and mythology that can easily stand on their own.

While working on Lost In The Glare, the duo experienced the lunar eclipse that accompanied the winter solstice last December. It was a once-in-a-generation event, captured on the record as “The Darkest Night Since 1683.” The song’s crushing blackness is certainly fitting, but it’s also a testament to Barn Owl’s source of inspiration. Nature runs through the band’s very being, from their own moniker to song titles and album art. It’s also at the heart of their music—wrangling the fleeting messiness of improvisation into something cohesive and constructive. Those are some immense issues to tackle, but they’re attempting to bring this bigness down to a human level. There’s real beauty in that.

[via prefix]

Barn Owl // Pale Star
Barn Owl // Turiya

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Watch: "Born Alone"

Wilco is back. Early hints prove The Whole Love is a return to form for the Chicago outfit after several years of unfocused work. Today Wilco released a video for the album's bittersweet second single "Born Alone," featuring a treasure trove of photography flickering to the accompanying folk rock workout. And for those music nerds out there, be sure to read lead singer Jeff Tweedy's interview for The Atlantic, wherein he dives deep into the music theory and lyrical structure behind the song.

The Whole Love is out September 27 via Wilco's own dBpm Records.