Category Archives: Beatific sadness

Cass: Wist, Doom and L.A. via Baltimore

Safe to say I like Cass McCombs significantly more than anyone else I know. Not counting shadowy internet personalities, ‘course. I’ve had a Cass post somewhere in me for the last six months+, so it’s a bit odd/unsettling to just sit down and try and puke one out w/o a clear “thesis” or whatever. But I guess sometimes (okay, most times) that’s gonna be the only way to get something (ANYTHING) from digital ink to digital scroll.

Immediate heresy out of the way: I’m gonna focus mostly on A, Cass’s debut full-length, here, with probably a cursory stab at deflating Dropping the Writ, his latest, and almost completely fly by Prefection, the sandwiched LP. This is partly for sanity’s sake (I clearly need to feed my will bite-sized morsels) and also partly because the chinked-armor, basement looseness of A serves as the better contrast to the morning-sun-in-L.A., Devendra-as-the-Eagles milquetoast-ness of Dropping the Writ. Stay with me here (I’ll try the same).

Almost all of A drags. The drums are loping and aggressively drowsy; you could probably count the number of times the hi-hat gets hit on one hand. The sonic stew is essentially standard issue: guitars (clean electric, acoustic), bass, acoustic piano, keys, drums. It’s not like dude is e-bowing an electric violin or some shit. Even the stand-out elements – drone-y/buzzy keyboard, the super left-panned distorted electric guitar ripping on “Gee, It’s Good to Be Back Home” – are subtle-at-best.

Cass’ voice itself is a slightly off-kilter indie wheeze – it does well to be perma-brushed with reverb. Still, it’s affecting, and adds equally to the understated task at hand, wherein all these unremarkable things (standard instrumentation, dirge-y pace, post 90’s indie dude vox, general folk-rock) create an ENCOMPASSING sense of sincere emotion and doom.

There’s something in the repetition of A. There’s a paranoia and a DRONE to it – even when there are moments of swinging or lilting or gentleness, it’s almost MENACING. Even a determinedly passing look at the lyrics/themes (and believe me, I more determined to pass ’em by than anyone) seem to paint an anguish, a desperateness: “I went to the hospital / they put me in a bed / I may soon be gone / To pluck on our hearts”; “You ain’t gonna pin it on me / I don’t wanna hear your sermon / You spit like hypodermics”; heck, the entirety of “Meet Me Here At Dawn.”

Sure, from a distance there’s a teetering on WISTFULNESS or, like, indie MOR or somethin’, but this isn’t a fuckin’ soundtrack to yr post-work camomile, believe. These tunes (and YES, there are FER REAL TUNES on here) are enveloping and patient and HARROWING.

At this point, I’d almost rather not delve into Writ – a second installment perhaps. As way of a preface, just know: there is a dynamic shift more than anything else. There’s twinkle and vocal swells and some occasional (and occasionally welcome) sweetness, but what there AIN’T is MENACE. A minor, odd gripe I suppose, but there it is.

I Went to the Hospital [mp3]
Meet Me Here at Dawn [mp3]

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Filed under Beatific sadness, Posted by Doorknobs, rock/roll

Regret is beatific.

And “Someone Great” is great. This might be my record of the year, which is an annoying, critic-y way of saying that I hold it lovingly to my chest and will probably treasure it for years. The song has a gorgeous, sighing rhythm, stemming from the gossamer layer of white noise that pulses quietly in the foreground. Gently insistent, it lulls you with its drowsy rhythm and frustrates your efforts to clearly hear the song all at once — the proceedings, as a result, seem both distorted and somewhat remote. “The Dream of Evan and Chan” played a similar, bewitching trick on your senses, as it seems to emerge from nothingness and dematerialize into the ether. Murphy sketches the acute pain and dazed bemusement immediately following an incomprehensible loss in fine, vivid strokes:

I wake up and the phone is ringing

Surprised, as its early

And that should be a perfect morning

Then, something’s a problem

To tell the truth, I saw it coming

The way you were breathing

But nothing can prepare you for it;

The voice on the other end …

Then he trails off pensively, and you’re left with a burbling keyboard riff while you ponder everything else the narrator might be thinking. The song doesn’t raise goosebumps because it doesn’t contain any epiphanies, just a wistful, clear-eyed sigh of regret.

Rawws

Rick Ross has nothing to do with this post.

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Filed under Beatific sadness, Posted by Tyco, Stream

Is you is, or is you ain’t: Dubstep


Cubicle music is night music

I know dubstep is supposed to be, like, DARK and MENACING, but my fave tune of the moment in this microest of microgenres is a one-off comp cut that almost…flutters. “Unite,” from the anonymous dubstepper-of-the-moment Burial, is featured on Soul Jazz’s seemingly must-have Box of Dub comp. He’s already stood out from the Skreams, Loefahs, etc of the world because:

A) No one knows who he is (obv)
B) In his (admittedly limited) discography, the production BROODS way more than it POUNDS.

The lack of reliance on sub-bass stretches the limit (and definition, even) of the genre, new as it may be. Now, I know basically fuck-all about most of the recently popular UK electronic music waves (drum n’ bass, 2step, garage, etc) but there’s something in the subtle melody and light touch of “Unite” that makes me think Mr. Faceless doesn’t have as much of a fingers-in-ears attitude toward the recent past as the rest of the trailblazing d-step pack.

“Unite” sounds almost LILTING in a way that most other current ‘steppers would never touch. First of all: it fades in. There’s no rush, no throbbing, no urgency. There’s no off-setting percussive syncopation, it’s a carefully constructed shuffle. And man, the melody. A heavily reverb’d female vocal sample of “oohs” and “yeahs” with a dumbdumb simple repeating two chord piano part. It almost sounds like melodic Aphex Twin or something. I mean, IDM! The horror!

It’s the DUB that plants “Unite” (tenuously enough) in with the dubstep crowd. There’s reverb on everything, basically – all the little sonic elements bouncing off of each other until the coming-up-for-a-breath moment halfway in.

Final (but noteworthy) point here, RE: the bass. Most dubstep focuses on sub-bass THROB and syncopation, but the bass on “Unite” is that rare d-step breed: a bassLINE. It’s downright BOUNCY! I mean, not to beat the WTF-horse into submission, but…WTF, right?? It flits around and shit! It’s playful!

Anycase: the goods.

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Filed under Beatific sadness, dubstep, Posted by Doorknobs