Monday 29 September 2008

Heavy Soil is on holiday

There will be an interruption to normal service (or whatever it is that passes for 'normal' in these parts) for this week, as Heavy Soil takes what it indulgently terms a well-deserved break.

That's not to say that music-related blog posts won't appear ... But, y'know, let's just play it by ear, eh?

Saturday 27 September 2008

Heavy Soil Session: Dimensions

Well, I am pleased to present the results of the first Heavy Soil session.

A song by me called Dimensions: dimensions.mp3 (right-click and choose 'save file as' to download)

In true session style (and to curb any perfectionist tendencies) the whole thing was recorded and mixed today (though the song was already written) - and arranged to feature, yes, the cello.

I like to think that the rough edges and slightly hamfisted mix all just add to the charm. Right?

I warmly cherish the hope that, in time to come, I will record sessions featuring musicians other than myself.

If you are a musician and fancy the notion of recording a song in a day for Heavy Soil – and if you find yourself within reach of Oxford, UK – email me, won'tcha?

In case you're wondering ...

... what happened to this week's final song of the day: I'm recording it for you. Right now.

For you.

Thursday 25 September 2008

PJ Harvey's got her leather boots on

So ... Following on from Rebecca's masterful encapsulation of PJ Harvey, last week (hey, Rebecca's all about masterful encapsulations, don'tcha know?), Ms Harvey today takes her turn on song of the day.

Hell, Heavy Soil could fill a month of posts with PJH songs of the day.

This time, we encounter cello as part of an ensemble: a sextet. Which is, I promise you, every bit as spicy as it sounds.

Crack this one on at high volume and let the neighbours know that CHAMBER MUSIC ROCKS.

It's Waltonesque, percussive, textured, atmospheric ... It ain't melodic, I'll admit. But who want melody, these days?

Wednesday 24 September 2008

Tom Cora shreds that cello

Today: punk cello.

Tom Cora was an absolutely brilliant cellist who, sadly, died young. In today's song of the day, you get to hear him shredding every bit as well as any lead guitarist in his collaboration with The Ex:

Tom Cora and the Ex: State of Shock mp3 (right click and choose 'save as' to download) 

Notice how expertly he manipulates the tone of the instrument, within a single note going from buzzy, frictiony attack to harmonic – like a singer going from throaty chest voice to falsetto.

Modal melodies, trills and quarter-tone tuning one moment, chordal backing the next. Yes, that's a cello accompanying the verses. Anything a guitar can do, y'know ...

And keep with it for the closing solo, in which he goes mental. I like mental cello solos.

Thanks to Ricki (of Not Squares), who introduced me to the marvellous Mr Cora.

... And an aside: is that not a damn cool promo shot, up there?

Tuesday 23 September 2008

Nina Nastasia's paint-stripped cello

Think of the cello and – chances are – the sounds that first come to your mind's ear are sonourous, sweet-toned, full and vibrato-laden.

And, yep, the cello does all that rather well. People are always saying what a beautiful sound the instrument makes.

To my mind, that's to do with the fact that it has similar sonic characteristics and range to the human voice. Its tone is naturally pleasing to many people's ears.

... But – just like a human voice – it's an instrument that can just as effectively achieve unusual, less sweetly melifluous sounds.

Lots has been done with sweet, beautiful cello tones – and these have their place, undoubtedly – but it tends to be the more edgy, unexpected sounds (the cellistic equivalant of Kurt Cobain, Joanna Newsom or Scout Niblett's vocals) that particularly interest me, in modern cello music – as this week's Heavy Soil selections will doubtless illustrate.

Today's song, then, is Judy's In The Sandbox – from Nina Nastasia's superb album Dogs. (Download mp3 via Yousendit)

The cello here is desiccated. Brittle, rough. So much so that there's an element of fingernails-on-blackboard to the sound. The way the notes squeak and fluke between octaves.

Absolutely no vibrato, no sweetening. This is a paint-stripped cello tone. Fantastically appropriate for the song.

(On a non-cellistic note: love that huge, warm, woofing bass drum sound, and the nicely-captured finger-noise on the bass guitar from around 2.30. And great use of silence after 'breath'.)

For a bonus point (yes, okay, 'Bonus to what?' you're asking): guess who was at the recording console for this song?

Monday 22 September 2008

Mountains, bloodclots, crashing waves and tuttis: Prokofiev

Hitherto, Heavy Soil has been reasonably resolute in its contemporaneousness. Oh yeh.

But, y'know, classical music can be heavy, too.

In proof of which, I present to you the first movement of Prokofiev's Symphony-Concerto in E minor (download via YouSendIt). Sometimes it's called Sinfonia Concertante. But that's a bit poncy, innit?

As you'll hear, it's a work for solo cello and a big ol' orchestra. I'd say that this stands at the apex of cello writing.

I'd also say that it'd be an absolute arse to play.

So ... please allow me to talk y'all through it.

Points of interest (/bloodclot-inducingly superb bits)

A fantastically confident orchestral opening sets out the first theme and prepares for the cello's entry. Prokofiev channels all the orchestra's might into that first solo cello note at 0.17. How to make one single instrument sound as powerful as an orchestra. Clever.

At around 1.00-1.20: what a wonderfully angular yet somehow natural climbing melody – with its vertiginous leaps and shifts.

One of the best uses of the flute in an orchestral passage (as opposed to, um, any other passage) starting at 1.45. Shiver-inducing.

Waves crashing on a dark, rocky shore from 2.15.

Hell, this is incredibly Russian-sounding music. Like Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky et al, Prokofiev is a master of orchestral colour. If you listen to much 19th-20th century Russian classical music, you will probably notice that it all sounds as though it could be a film score. This highly visual style of the Russian composers was actually called 'coloristic writing'. And was (still is) massively influential on the film composers of subsequent decades.

Fucking difficult cello lines from about 5.05 onward. This would be incredibly hard to play, take it from me. Han-Na Chang makes it sound a piece of piss, naturally. But that's hard stuff. Heavy stuff.

Get a load of that percussive cello attack going on in the semi-background at 5.38.

And notice how, throughout, themes are passed from instrument to instrument ... Call and response ... exploring and boldly juxtaposing radically different 'colours'. The sonorous resonance of the deep brass from 6.00 to 6.30 contrasting with the woodiness of the strings that's gone before.

Amazing running cello flights from 6.45 or so up to 7.30 ... another demonically difficult passage to play. Brilliant, brilliant writing.

At around 7.30, the way the sinuous, reedy, drawn out cello line is contrasted by the pizzicato (plucked) orchestra.

The fucking amazing orchestral tutti (= everyone playing at once, in a big, unified kind of way) at about 8.00, introduced fantastically by the horns, that swings us out of the shadow of a Caucasian mountain into a dazzlingly sunlit vista, before plunging us into the sudden icy drizzle of the returning second theme at 8.15. See what I mean about filmic?

... And then the beautifully unexpected resolving chord at the end – where you expect the music to sink, but instead it poignantly – brilliantly – rises.

The Grievous Pain Of Bisection

I'll close with this: do you realise how much pain it has caused me brutally to sever this brilliant work of three movements into just one for this post? This really is just the beginning.

Movement two is a tempestuous, tooth-rattlingly fast, jagged jigfit with occasional oases of almost drunkenly melancholic hiatus; and the final movement – a more stately, melodic affair, yet one replete with writhing key-changes and simmering with a fierce energy – bursts in its closing minutes into a fabulously virtuosic passage of breathlessly accelerating, manically sawing cello building to an almost impossibly torturous climax, and ending on what must actually be the highest cello note physically playable.

Hell, I'm out of breath just writing about it.

Week 5: Something A Little Different

In celebration of the fact that ... um ... there is a 5 in it, week 5 on Heavy Soil will be graced by something a little different: a theme.

Each song of the day will be in keeping with aforesaid theme. What? You already guessed that part? Okay.

Week 5's theme will be: the cello.

Stay tuned for Monday's "song" of the day in just a moment ...

Rounding up: Week 4

You know the drill: vote for your favourite. Poll at the top right of the blog. G'wan. It'll be fun.

The previous week's winner
Amidst a hail of acclaim, the popular vote was won by Mr Ally Craig. Is Heavy Soil surprised? Heavy Soil is not surprised. And endorses, ratifies and amplifies the public's verdict.

So, The People and Heavy Soil agree: Ally Craig rocks. Celebrate: go buy his single. (I get 10 pounds every time I link to that page, you know.)

Friday 19 September 2008

Heavy Soil vs Insinuating Pricks – In Defence Of Amy Winehouse

I was disgusted, some days ago, to read a thread on Drowned In Sound about Amy Winehouse. The gist of a number of individuals' more or less eloquently phrased perspectives was: "Amy Winehouse deserves to die".

So ... Drowned in Sound in puerile, attention-seeking fatuousness shock. I admit: no great surprise. I'm sure this kind of hateful commentary is played out hundreds of times every day, all over the internet.

But it had me thinking about the horrendous borderline-mysogyny with which artists such as Amy Winehouse are regarded by certain men.

(Billicatons, for those not privileged by acquaintance, is a man. He has some understanding – albeit often shrinking, reluctant, latex-gloved – of the species.)

Amy Winehouse's Appearance

Would a male artist ever be berated to anything like this degree – and with this degree of bile – for his appearance? For 'letting himself go'? Obviously not. This is hardly new: double standards according to gender.

Winehouse is regarded with hatred on account of her appearance. "Ugly bitch"? Excuse me? Since when did this become ground for criticism?

I find Winehouse's drug-ravaged appearance extremely disturbing. I am repulsed by the sinewy arms, the sunken-eyed, snarling face. I acknowledge these reactions. I am repulsed similarly by photos of famine-starved children: it's a horrible, horrible sight. There's no disapprobation in my repulsion – but I'd be lying if I claimed not to find these things deeply unpleasant aesthetically. These are humans that are looking wrong. As humans are not meant to look.

But it is not Winehouse's responsibility to pander to my aesthetic sensibilities. I'd've thought this were obvious. She is under no obligation whatsoever to give a toss about her appearance on my account, on her fans' account ... and certainly not on the account of the asinine, poseurish majority-stakeholders of Drowned In Fucking Sound.

Okay, so far so obvious. I reserve nothing but contempt for those bestial, hate-filled wretches who make such criticisms. But my sentiment would, I suppose, by echoed by most "reasonable" people.

Slyly Insinuating Pricks

What I find in many ways worse than the open misogyny of the above is the covert, self-deluding misogyny of those who ground their hatred of Winehouse on other factors. Who attempt to advance rational arguments justifying their irrational loathing.

"I don't hate her because of what she does or who she is; I just hate her for her bland music."

Now hold on right there.

Did you say bland?

You smug, ridiculous, hypocritical little prick. Winehouse's music is by no rational criterion – and here I will take no objections – bland. Sure, relative to Mahler. But relative to Vengaboys? Relative to Jessica Simpson? Relative to Chris de Burgh? Relative to that godawful Adiemus shit?

By anyone's criterion of blandness (seriously, I challenge anyone to come up with one for which this is not true), you'd have to get through a hell of a lot before you reached Amy Winehouse.

You may find her music not to your taste. You may find her voice annoying. You may consider it overproduced, derivative, simplistic ... And I may disagree or concur to whatever degree on each point. But her music cannot attract hatred on grounds of blandness.

Any niggardly bastard who tries to construct a rational, musically-founded argument in support of virulent hatred deserves worse than contempt.

(I don't know what's worse than contempt, but that bastard deserves it.)


I quite like Amy Winehouse, actually. Her music is never going to be special to me, to make me consider things in a new light. I do not love any of her songs, and I do not often listen to her albums.

But, sometimes, I put on her music and think: Yes. This is good. She has a good voice. She sings interestingly, about unusual things. The songs are very well produced, and the fusion of retro stylings and ultra-contemporary lyrical references is genuinely challenging and innovative in a mainstream pop context.

I for one would be hugely sorry if she were to die.

But, then again, were she the blandest of the bland, I reckon I'd still be sorry.

Here's her site, then. Listen to some of it. Bland? Deserving of death?

Thursday 18 September 2008

Joining a Fan Club With Jellyfish

Aw. Bless. Don't they just look so 90s?

The Vinyl District: TVD's Daily Wax | Jellyfish "Spilt Milk"

In my blog-perusals, I chanced upon the Vinyl District's tribute to Jellyfish – which brought a small twitch of glee to Heavy Soil's withered heart. Seldom does one chance upon a fellow Jellyfish-admirer.

So. Jellyfish – especially as incarnated in their (superior) second album, Spilt Milk, is a band about which very little is minimal or understated. As today's song demonstrates eloquently enough ...

It's a glossily-produced, genre-skipping, surrealistically satirical ... well, I can think of no other noun than romp.

Pretty funny lyrics, too.

Wednesday 17 September 2008

Rebecca on PJ Harvey

"She's just fucking there.
She grew up in Devon."

At the bar with Regina Spektor

Regina Spektor is pretty good with her metaphors.

Here's a non-album track called Bartender – download mp3 via yousendit. It's certainly not my favourite of her songs – but I offer it up to those who may already own the albums.

(You don't own the albums? Get thee to thy chosen musical emporium!)

What to notice about this song? Apart from the nice metaphor, and the characteristically witty and beautifully performed 'trick-trick-trick-trick-trickle' passages ... I'd say the way that she takes a simple descending piano chord sequence and wallops a great big dischord into the middle of it.

... And yet, by the end of the song, you're utterly used to it. Clever.

Tuesday 16 September 2008

Distinctively enormous (vocals): Shannon Wright

The two things I find particularly interesting about Shannon Wright (artist site, are her capacity for vocal yowling (in a good way: she has an extremely powerful voice) and her fusion of classical motifs and rock instrumentation.

In the latter respect, there is something a little Muse-like – though considerably lower on the bombast scale.

As for her voice ... It's enormously distinctive. Distinctively enormous. An incredibly full, forceful alto, with a characteristic waver – almost like a tape warble – to it.

It features a key-shifting, vaguely Chopin-esque arpeggic piano, punchy drumming and aforementioned vocal yowling.

Here's a video of a live show, too – for a taste of her guitary antics. Rock.

Monday 15 September 2008

If the Beach Boys had sung about rape and abortion ... Amanda Palmer

Well, this is a curious one. As you may indeed already have gathered.

It starts off normal enough: brittle, percussive piano. But pay attention to the lyrics and you'll soon observe – shall we say? – a certain disjunction between musical style and subject-matter.

Listen for yourself, Heavy Soil readers. What think'st? Beautifully-poised wit or a controversy too far? Comment away, my pretties.

Whatever you may think of the lyrics, though, you must surely applaud the fine pop production of Mr Ben Folds. He has compressed the ass off this one – and all to the good. Full of nice details.

Anyhow, Amanda Palmer released her album – Who Killed Amanda Palmer? – today. I shall be reviewing it not too long hence. Here's the official site – though, be warned: international delivery P&P is exorbitant.

... Oh, and, yes: it's that Oasis.

As ever, may I disclaim: the mp3 hereabovelinked is for, as they say, evaluative purposes only. You like it, you buy it. Um. Please.

Rounding up: week 3

So, need I say more?

Oh, alright, just a bit more then: please vote for your favourite. Poll at the top right of the page. Clicky-click, votey-vote.

The previous week's winner
Week two's contest was hotly contested, and resulted in a dramatic (indulge me, please) three-way tie between Deerhoof's Milk Man, Dresden Dolls' Girl Anachronism and Thomas Truax's Prove it to my Daughter.

Heavy Soil's song of the week? Tricky. The lamppost-swinging ebullience of Rebecca's Deerhoof review is compelling ... but, in the end, Heavy Soil bestows the mantle upon Dresden Dolls.

Friday 12 September 2008

Get violent with Rose Kemp. Ooh. Cheap.

Heavy Soil is making a quick post before Heavy Soil goes on the razz.

Leaving you with a good (genuinely unsettling) video for a good song. Violence, by Rose Kemp (website,  <--- Um, but, seriously, Rose old gal, get your website looked at. It's migraine-inducingly badly designed. All that small, badly-formated text. Agh!

Good things
Proper big heavyness, preceded by quietness. So, er, that'd be contrast once again, I guess.
And a chorus without singing. Woo.
A female vocalist who sings with body (no, not her body. Body.)

Slightly less good things
Possibly outstays its welcome just a tad? An outro too far?
Lyrically a little glib?

What think'st thou, o reader?

Thursday 11 September 2008

Three shots to the head: Okkervil River

I still haven't worked out what I think of Okkervil River. I think they're very good musicians, with an interesting sound – and good vocals ...

... but I find their songs sometimes lack shape and contrast (that word again). I'd like more musical variety within each song.

In any case, many people like them, even if Heavy Soil has yet to come out with a ringing endorsement. And they released their new album, The Stand Ins, yesterday. Awesome artwork (embroidered!) depicted above. At the time of writing, you can stream full tracks from said album on their website.

Today's song, however, is older:

The President's Dead (this mp3 is hosted on their record label site)

This song is all about what happens at 1 minute 54s, really. Listen to it and you will see why.

Wednesday 10 September 2008

Ally Craig Will Make You Cool

Ally Craig is by far the best unsigned artist I can think of.

When I first saw him playing live, my reaction was exclamation-mark-punctuated silence:


He is very, very good. The kind of very, very good that is normally associated with slightly tiresome, anally-retentive, practise-noon-and-night musicians who actually turn out to play extremely boring music. Ally Craig does not do this. His superb technique is complemented by formidable musicianship and creativity.

His music is shard-punctured, mosh-defyingly time-signature-shifting, antiphonal. It is full of Pixies-like contrasts, and musical wit – but also poignancy. You care about what he's singing.

Indeed, it is music that ticks just about every box on my personal favourite-musical-elements checklist.

Signed copies of my personal favourite-musical-elements checklist are now commercially available at all good record stores.

The review, then

He has just released a double-A-side consisting of the songs Angular Spirals and Get What You Pays For. Because I'm a smug, preordering kind of chap, I also received a free bonus track in the (singularly contorted) shape of Pilot Inspektor. (For those less smugly preordering than myself, the extra track is still available, for a measly 50p extra).

These are all excellent, intelligently-written songs. And they are performed fantastically by Ally and his fellow musicians (Stephen Gilchrist of Stuffy/The Fuses ( and Pete Wareham and Ruth Goller of Acoustic Ladyland (

So – what do we have? I've already written about the bonus song, Pilot Inspektor (you know it'll be worth the extra 50p) with its witty subversiveness, wrongfooting rhythms and guitars that alternate between mechanistic regimentation and squalling release.

Angular Spirals (you know it'll be worth the extra 50p) features Ally's vocals more prominently, with the kind of sinuous, high-pitched phrases the song's title anticipates. He has a fine, versatile, nuanced voice: veering from exposed falsetto to full-voiced semi-screams. Just like the arrangements and the guitar style, it is like nothing else I have heard.

This is followed by pacey, motif-led Get What You Pays For – characterised not only by Ally's usual tightly percussive guitar, but also (in revelatory fashion) inspired saxophone work from Pete Wareham: flights of exotic birds circling above and around a grim cityscape.

Put it all together

Dear reader, I cannot endorse Mr Craig too highly. This is a single to buy now. Now, I tell you. While you can still say you were a fan before he got big.

To aid you in this noble end: a handy link to the Ally Craig online store.

Plaintive ballad meets Kung Fu Fighting: Ben Folds

Elated by the news of Ben Folds Five's imminent (albeit likely temporary) reunion, Heavy Soil drapes the song of the day mantle upon one of Mr Folds' many fine ditties:

Now, this is an old, old BFF song – that Ben Folds subsequently recorded as a solo artist in studio finery for his 2004 EP Super D. The whole EP is a mere four English pounds on iTunes, so – if you like it – don't just mp3-and-run, will ya?

What to expect? Minimal, stop-start piano and Folds' vocals at their plaintive best (Jesus, he has a good voice).

Then, 1.07: has a ride cymbal hit ever been better placed? Nice drum entry.

So, now you're about halfway through. You think you have the measure of the track, right?

Wrong. So very, very wrong.

Bring on the 80s disco stabs, tremolo octave strings and time-signature-related capriciousness.

What a B-side.

Tuesday 9 September 2008

From Brutal Assaults to Bathetic Handclaps: Ally Craig

I am an enormous admirer of contrasts in music. Often, my favourite songs are those that splice together wildly disparate sections or musical features.

Ally Craig understands contrast. From brutal guitar assault to sudden, precipitous silence; from all-out drum battery to bathetic handclaps. He understands contrast well enough to be witty with it.

Pilot Inspektor is the first half of Ally Craig's recently released double-A-side. You can listen to it on, or download the mp3 free from his MySpace page. If there is one song of the day you download this week, make it Mr Craig's.

Things to listen out for
  • Teeter-inducing silences
  • Phrases that go on one beat longer than you expect
  • Them witty handclaps
  • A very clever mimickry of Beck-like production techniques in the guitars
  • The contrast between the extreme rhythmicism of the verses and the Greenwoodian guitar squalling and wailing of the tremolo-picked solo section
  • The lyrics

This post marks the start of Ally Craig season here on Heavy Soil … For we'll be reviewing the single as a whole (on sale here) very soon.

Monday 8 September 2008

Fucked-up, poker-faced Sinead O'Connor: Ultralash

A while ago, I reviewed an album called Foamy Lather by Ultralash. You can read the full review on my MOG page.

Today's song is World of Suck (download directly from Ultralash's website) taken from said album – a genuinely fascinating, unsettling and original work. And here's what I said about it:
There's no representative track on this album – no neat encapsulation of the Ultralash sound. But I think 'World Of Suck' illustrates what I (perhaps pretentiously) think of as the band's noncommittal modernism.

Again, carried by a weighty beat (heavily distorted – bit-crushed – kit), it's a poker-faced 'Nothing Compares 2 U' (Sinead O'Connor's version) for the 00s – its lyrics juxtaposing sugary romantic platitudes with intense chauvinism:

"You're cute
Nice rack
Not fat
What's that?
You're fine
I can really talk to you."

It's a brilliantly unsettling song: by turns comical and dark, impenetrably delivered. Again, I'm reminded of PJ Harvey – in spirit and fearlessness more than in sound.

Rounding up: week 2

As before, please vote for your favourite of the above: the poll is at the top right of the blog. You've until next weekend ...

Saturday 6 September 2008

Fingernails on strings ... Steve Albini engineering Edith Frost

Today: production.

Listen to Edith Frost's 'True' (download via YouSendIt) through headphones. Good ones. It is a fantastic listening experience: an immersive mix.

Listen to the warmth and weight of the double bass, the closeness, detail and texture of the acoustic guitar in your right ear (you can hear her fingernails on the strings), distant, gentle cymbal splashes.

Now, who might have been responsible for such nuanced, intelligent, acoustically faithful reproduction?

Mr Steve Albini, of course.

There's the same creaky, slightly countrified, as-if-recorded-in-a-barn quality that characterises Albini's outstanding work with Nina Nastasia ( Some people who've listened to Pixies and Nirvana's In Utero accuse Albini of having a signature sound.

These people are deeply misguided. If they'd only listen to Edith Frost and Nina Nastasia, eh?

Albini is a legend.

Edith Frost (website, ain't so bad, either. But she didn't reply to the email I once sent her. Tsk. Especially now that she's commented rather fascinatingly on this very blog post. Check out the comments for her words on the recording sessions for the album ...

A note
If anyone in a position to do so objects to my linking to this Edith Frost mp3, I cordially invite them to let me know and ask me to remove it. The mp3 is provided as a means by which people unfamiliar with Edith Frost's music may acquaint themselves therewith. If you like it, please go buy your own copy of the song.

Friday 5 September 2008

Indie fans: lazy, stingy, selfish and mean-spirited

Indie music fans "have low self-esteem and are not very hard-working, kind or generous. However, they are creative."

That's according to a study that investigated personality traits common to devotees of various music genres.

Indie kids seem to've come out pretty badly - whereas metallers ("Very creative and at ease with themselves, but not very outgoing or hard-working"), lovers of the Blues ("High self-esteem, creative, outgoing and at ease with themselves") and Country & Western fans ("Very hard-working and outgoing") come out rather better.

Next week: scientists conclusively demonstrate that bears have a propensity to excrete in forested areas.

A Heath Robinson Nick Cave: Thomas Truax

Like a Heath Robinson Nick Cave, Thomas Truax doesn't so much sing as intone – to the backdrop of an array of self-invented mechanical contraptions that click, whirr, thump and twang.

In general I'm not so much of a fan of invention and sound-experimentation for its own sake –being more of a song-orientated kind of chap – but Thomas Truax is genuinely innovative and (in his arrangements and performances, at least) eccentric.

This is someone, you feel, for whom the marketability of 'quirky' characteristics is not a consideration.

He's properly into that shit.

Cogwheel Dogs supported him in his Oxford show, last night, and he seemed an extremely pleasant fellow. Rather louche, too, I thought: he has a good look.

Have a gander at this video for Prove it to my Daughter, today's (er, that is, Thursday's. Heavy Soil is a little behind) song of the day:

... and, for an idea of his live shows (he and his machines make all the sounds: no backing musicians):

If you like what you see/hear, you may care to download an mp3 or two from his site. There are a couple of freebies – though these are perhaps not his strongest songs.

Wednesday 3 September 2008

How triangulation ought to be: Dresden Dolls

With Amanda Palmer's solo album (produced, intriguingly, by Ben Folds) due out on 16 September (fear not, Heavy Soiler: it will be reviewed), it seems apt to turn our ears in the direction of her band, the splendid Dresden Dolls – "Brechtian Punk Cabaret", in their own words.

Girl Anachronism is the band's best song:

Breakneck and untidy as (um) an untidy broken neck, Palmer's piano and vocals are offset by Brian Viglione's tight, tight drumming. This is how triangulation ought to be.

Nice video. Palmer and Viglione carry through their contrasting musical styles in the personae they adopt in the band's press/PR: he, inscrutable, almost inhumanly shorn of fallibility; she wildly oscillating between emotional extremes, by turns aggressive and vulnerable.

Oh, and, for the benefit of Ida Maria and her PR agents: here is a band that have got the sexual ambiguity angle pretty much bang-on (no pun intended).

Jam With Bits In: Deerhoof

Today, Billicatons is delighted to hand over the e-megaphone to a guest-blogger – whose evocative, ebulliently metaphorical words on Deerhoof demand to be reproduced verbatim (save for a bit of formating and the odd paragraph return here and there to maximise your blogreading pleasure).

So – ladies and gentlemen – I give you Rebecca on 'Milk Man' (watch the live youtube video, which I am sadly unable to embed). I challenge anyone to point me to a more intriguing, persuasive description than this. It's a longer post than usual. But worth every word ...

We've all been there. Sometimes it's a case of too much of a good thing. Most meals: if it slides down a treat, and I think nothing of it - then that's a good thing right? Like the best actors are the ones you don't notice.

Well yes, but, it's probably not all that much fun, is it? That food slid down, and I hardly needed to chew it. What was the point in that?

Then there're those times we feel our body taken over. Too much of a good thing? Too much of a bad thing? Who knows. Who cares? Only the offended digestive system – gurgling and spluttering like nobody's business. (And yet somehow makes itself everybody's business. Yes, I am in that interview room. It is silent; but for the unforgiving belly. And, you know, somehow I don't care. In fact: do your worst, abdomen. Make some noise. Make me pay. It's worth it. The food was that good.

I'm talking here of course (isn't it obvious?) about Deerhoof.

Atonal, phrase-flitting. A genreless pool of several generations' worth of jazz ... no – punk ... no – rock ... no – dammit, I don't know what the hell to call it! But it tastes to me like they've only gone and flippin' well taken the best, fruitful jammery - without allowing any of the good spontaneous bits to get lost.

It's like someone somewhere must have notated all their improvised key jumping and time signature twisting, for us to then have the pleasure of listening back to the band's own re-interpretations of this. All is preserved, and packed in to this perfectly formed vessel. Unsettlingly different.

You think I'm milking these alimentary metaphors? You'd be right. That's only so I can seamlessly sway your attention to the subject of 'Milk Man' – the first track of the album that shares its title. Listening to the opening, you'd be fogiven for thinking you'd stumbled across footage of some forgotten 1970s psychedelic festival. Then crunches in the distortion to drag us back to the present – not so much kept in check by, but rather, finding itself the subject matter of, a ramshackled, dissipated drum attack.

Live, they are a bit shambolic, with drummer Greg Saunier apparently doing his best 'to forget he's a drummer.' Meanwhile, Satomi Matsuzaki's voice paints by join-the-dot numbers in ghostly gouache over a dirty Pollock.

There is not a damn thing I don't like about this band.

I'm talking about the spring in my step as I power walk to work listening to them ... A spring that sometimes flirts with dance: swing around those lamp posts in the trumpet solo. I dare you.

Deerhoof remind me to celebrate life. And they do so by having fun with their own damn good music. And in honour of this: I am going to have some jam on toast. Good bread. Good, compact jam. With bits in.

Monday 1 September 2008

A reminder of brilliance

Today, my friends: moshing. But moshing with a turding great splinter in your foot.

Nirvana. Specifically, the song You Know You're Right. This was recorded during Nirvana's last ever session. That knowledge = the splinter, right?

The lyrics are fairly direct and uncompromising. Not a great deal of analysis needed there, I feel.

Things to love about this song
  • The fact that the song proper kicks off with this cheesy, palm-muted, faux-jaunty intro
  • The lack of pissing around with a lengthy build-up: a Pixies-esque cut to the chase
  • The modal, oriental-sounding melody of the chorus
  • Cobain's sodding fantastic vocals at around the 2-minute mark
  • The repeating 'You know you're right', which continues that bit longer than you think it possibly could
Read the tabloid-friendly soap-opera of a story of the song (after Cobain's suicide) on wikipedia.

Song of the week #1

After much head-searching and soul-scratching, Heavy Soil is pleased to anoint Mirah's Cold Cold Water as its first song of the week (read the original post).

An Accident by Shearwater was in the running – but ultimately the boldness and scale of Cold Cold Water distinguished it.

The 'popular' vote
Well, a veritable flurry of voting activity resulted in the dramatic statistical picture you may observe in the top right.

Okay, it was Heavy Soil's first poll – so perhaps unrealistic to expect an enormous turnout. Sardonicism has no place here.

So joint winners of the popular vote were, yes, Cold Cold Water and An Accident.

You fellows have good taste, just as I thought.

Related articles