“The President's Dead" is the first release by Okkervil River since 2005's masterful Black Sheep Boy project. Having spent most of 2005 touring and writing, the band and Jagjaguwar wanted to rush this single out before 2006 came to a close. Locked in the grooves of this limited-edition vinyl-only release is what might be Okkervil River's most accessible and most contentious song, "The President's Dead." A two-minute and forty-two second serving of alternative historical fiction camouflaged as a folk anthem tarted up as a pop single that never was, "The President's Dead" depicts with tenderness and empathy the shock felt by a sensitive young Republican upon hearing news of an assassination over the radio, its lyrics shifting sneakily from images of public horror to those of private tenderness as its music performs a similarly schizoid leap. Meanwhile, sequestered away on side 2, the lyric that bobs atop the loping, twangy pop of "The Room I'm Hiding In" depicts a paranoid flight from vastly more powerful pursuers determined to exact the most severe punishment and revenge.
Okkervil River's Black Sheep Boy Appendix is not just a companion piece to their critically-acclaimed 2005 release; it's also a condensed, alternate vision of that record's imagery and themes, with the ultimate intent to exhaust and destroy both. This ambitious mini-album rounds up and reworks the band's favorite unfinished songs (tracked for the Black Sheep Boy full-length) and then punctuates and bookends them in brand-new compositions; in the process, it shows songwriter Will Sheff and company both revisiting themes from their past and shooting off in some startling new directions. “Missing Children” entombs an unnerving fairy tale monologue in an arrangement that recalls The Marble Index or Tilt; its melody is reprised twenty minutes later in a frenetic and jangly rocker that might have been hatched from the side of Love's “A House is Not a Motel.” In between is everything else; suffocatingly lush string instrumentals, skittering found sounds, lean rockers, deafening epics, the rhythm section interrogating the lead singer, and “Black Sheep Boy #4,” which messily dispatches the Black Sheep Boy character in a lurid crime scene high on a plateau of hallucinatory, cinematic folk.
Black Sheep Boy is Okkervil River’s most ambitious and cinematic record yet, a love story and adult fable that evokes the mature songcraft of Leonard Cohen’s New Skin for the Old Ceremony, the sophistication of Scott Walker’s Scott 4, the shambling slow-motion bravado of Neil Young’s On the Beach, and the raw nerves and trick effects of Big Star’s Third/Sister Lovers. It also occasionally echoes Lou Reed’s Transformer in that it is actually the band’s most playful and confident record by far, delighting in linguistic games, scrapping all caution and reserve, reveling equally in sheer pop, lacerating rock and roll, and straight-up country weepers. The most fully-realized and wildly adventurous Okkervil River record yet also introduces into the modern folk bellwether’s traditional palette of mandolin, pump organ, steel guitar, Wurlitzer, strings and horns such previously foreign elements as children’s keyboards, digitally-manipulated field recordings, and dirty splatters of distorted guitar. The longing might be keener, but the fun is funner this time around, too; somebody has spiked the drinks, and there are at least two bullets in the Russian roulette chamber.
Most of the songs for Black Sheep Boy were written by Sheff after he’d moved out of his house to spend all of 2003 on the road, touring for Down the River of Golden Dreams and road-tripping around the country during off weeks. After rehearsing many of the new songs on the road during tours with Califone, John Vanderslice, Azure Ray, CocoRosie, and Clem Snide, the band retreated to an un-air-conditioned Austin, Texas tin roof shed to solidify the arrangements before going into the home studio of Brian Beattie (an ex-member of Austin legends Glass Eye as well as a producer for Daniel Johnston) who also recorded the band’s Jagjaguwar debut Don’t Fall in Love with Everyone You See.
This is the tinderbox to the fantastical fire that is Black Sheep Boy, the much anticipated full-length record by Okkervil River, coming out in April 2005. This CD-single, priced exceptionally low, will be in stores while Okkervil River tours the United States with the Decemberists in March and April. The first track, “For Real”, is from the full-length record. The second track, “The Next Four Months”, is previously unreleased. And the third track, “For the Enemy (Live)”, is a very special recorded glimpse of Okkervil River performing live.
Okkervil River’s Down the River of Golden Dreams takes the band’s hallmarks—lush, eclectic orchestration that evokes chamber pop and soul, lapel-gripping emotional urgency, and the lyrical, direct songwriting of frontman Will Sheff—and expands and elevates them in service of a stunningly ambitious set of new songs. If last year’s Don’t Fall in Love with Everyone You See was the middle of the darkest night of the year, Down the River of Golden Dreams is the earliest light of a morning that could either bring the first breeze of spring or a battalion of tornadoes. On it the band stretches their wings. They shake off the fear and trepidation of the last record and try to look life in the face, emboldened by distorted blasts of Wurlitzer, guttural stabs of Hammond organ, urbane strings and jaunty horns that could be the work of a shitfaced Canadian Brass. Down the River of Golden Dreams combines with Okkervil’s trademark melancholy a sense of drama and play at which the last album only hinted. It oozes the band’s signature string-destroying folk-rock attack and umbilical chamber-pop swoon, but it also echoes the venomous cabaret of Jacques Brel, the off-kilter swagger of the Faces and Bob Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde, and the dusky balladry of Nick Cave. In addition, it displays a new confidence in frontman Will Sheff, whose concise, literary lyrics and emotionally direct delivery are rapidly distinguishing him as one of rock music’s best new songwriters. Critical raves from the likes of Rolling Stone, MOJO, Alternative Press, and No Depression variously compared the band to Neutral Milk Hotel, Wilco, Bright Eyes, Tindersticks and Will Oldham. This, their third full-length album, was recorded in San Francisco, California, in early 2003—at John Vanderslice’s Tiny Telephone studio—with engineer Scott Solter (The Mountain Goats, John Vanderslice, the Court and Spark, Tarentel) at the board.
With grackles in their hair and tragedies in their boots, this Austin, Texas-based group (by way of New Hampshire) has taken a shot at tradition and injected it with new passion and virility. Uniting the strains of moody chamber pop contemporaries like Tindersticks, Arab Strap, and Bright Eyes with the ragged emotional vulnerability of classic folk singers like Leadbelly and Dock Boggs, Okkervil River plays music that is both lush and organic, beautiful and unsettling. Don't Fall In Love With Everyone You See, Okkervil River's second full-length record and first for Jagjaguwar, is the follow-up to their 1999 self-released debut Stars Too Small To Use. The Austin Chronicle duly called this first record "a remarkable mix of frenetic stringwork and smart, narrative lyrics...the songs [are] a constant challenge to the senses and sensibilities of the attentive." Continuing on the same path, the new record gilds principal songwriter Will Robinson Sheff's literate and wrenching songs with such instruments as string and horn sections, pedal steel, mandolin, Hammond organ and mellotron. It also features a duet with outsider rock legend Daniel Johnston. Supported by some of Austin's best musicians and produced by Brian Beattie, it is no surprise that Don't Fall In Love With Everyone You See is an accomplished musical work. What makes this album truly singular, however, is that, lyrically, it is so good it makes your head hurt. The good kind of hurt. It reads like no other record we have ever come across, a very contemporary, reflexive masterpiece owing a lot in tone to the very best of the Russian and Southern Gothic literary traditions.
A List of the Burning Mountains is the latest studio album by Brooklyn psych/noise/kraut godfathers Oneida. It was recorded at the Ocropolis, the band’s longtime studio, and is a powerful, sweeping gesture that evokes the storied history of that space and Oneida’s dedication to a diehard independent music and art community.
Burning Mountains is less a traditional album than a tiny sip from an endlessly roiling sea. Oneida is known for long-form improvisatory performances and collaborations; this release serves as a concentrated blast from a wholly unique band known for 12-hour live, improvised performances and multi-day recording sessions.
Absolute II is the final piece in Oneida’s Thank Your Parents triptych of releases, begun in 2008 with Preteen Weaponry and followed by 2009’s acclaimed triple disc Rated O. With this release, the Brooklyn group concludes a challenging and profound long-term project. The Thank Your Parents triptych, totaling around 200 minutes, is intended to be listened to as a whole or in its component parts. Absolute II stands on its own, in addition to serving as a chapter in an immense whole.
Oneida has delivered a monster named Rated O which happens to be the crowning achievement of their storied creative lives. By producing this colossus they have also created the necessity of its destruction -- which within the confines of this tremendous accomplishment -- they do so handily and with utter fluency. Perhaps Rated O represents the encyclopedic representation of ONEIDA MUSIC, ONEIDA CREATIVITY and ONEIDA INSATIABILITY. As the leviathan rises from the murky depths to endow the idle watch with illusion, disillusionment and mortal terror -- thus Oneida leaves a hieroglyphic spume upon the glassy surface of what is KNOWN and UNKNOWN. The music contained within the covers of Rated O must be seen as a gifted wilderness that when traversed will grant the traveler both a fractured mirror and a demolished and worried pathway deeper into the abyss. This album is an attempt to contain the entirety of Oneida and thus it points the way to infinite rebirth and boundless creativity. It is a finite map and the suggestion of unknown worlds. We finally have in our hands the album that Oneida has often gestured towards. Ladies and gentlemen, this is one of the greatest triple albums ever recorded.
Oneida has been releasing genre-defying music since 1997. They have nine full-length albums (one as double album, and now one as triple album) and various EPs and singles to their name. The list of great musicians and artists that Oneida have performed or collaborated with is far too extensive to briefly summarize here. They are critical darlings, they have become ambassadors for Jagjaguwar, and they are paying it forward with a label of their own called Brah Records (distributed by Jagjaguwar). For the reductivist in you, consider Oneida the bastard offspring of a Can/Suicide marriage, a band who is not afraid to pluck, tap, bend, synth or crash their way to the various extremes of rock, pop, folk and the avant-garde, and who brilliantly do so without alienating the respective fans of any of these so-called "genres".
"Preteen Weaponry" is part one of the "Thank Your Parents" triptych of Oneida releases. Oneida members past, present and future all contributed to this project. It reminds Oneida of what a live performance might sound like. It contains captured improvisational moments married with craft. You can consider it an introduction to their forthcoming triple album "Rated O", which is part two of the fore-mentioned triptych (to be released by Jagjaguwar in early 2009).
No band has been so praised for such a wide range of music over the last ten years than Brooklyn’s Oneida. Nobody has come close to matching their output of dazzlingly creative, uncategorizable music. Psychedelia, minimalism, maximalism, one-step, infinitewave, blah blah blah blah…it’s all there, all the time; and Happy New Year, the band’s ten billionth album, is Oneida’s zenith. Simultaneously the most eclectic and most coherent album they have yet released, Happy New Year flows flawlessly from a traditional hymn of grim beauty (“Distress”) through hypnotic rounds, thunderous kraut grooves, severe ballads, and other, indescribable music. Phil Manley of Trans Am and the Fucking Champs and experimental pianist Emily Manzo return for encores of their guest appearances on 2005’s The Wedding; they are joined by Shahin Motia of Ex Models, Brad Truax of Home, and frequent Oneida collaborator Barry London.
Oneida came up with the idea for The Wedding in early 2001, and immediately began building the largest music box on the east coast of the United States. Built of plywood, salvaged marine pilings, industrial motor parts and over seventy saw blades, the hand-cranked behemoth was assembled in the warehouse loading dock that’s also home to the Vale of Tears, Oneida’s own recording studio. By hammering nails and spikes into the cylindrical pilings at carefully mapped intervals, and rotating the pilings through thickets of variably-tensioned saw blades, Oneida created and recorded unearthly tones and melodies; these were subsequently used as the basis for a series of melancholy, yearning songs that now see the light of day as The Wedding.
After working for several years to complete the songs, the band added a number of complex, lush string arrangements. Brian Coughlin, leader of the NYC new music group Fireworks Ensemble, contributed his arranging talents and assembled a group of string players whom he felt were capable of understanding the unusual demands of the songs at hand. “Other than my version of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring for Fireworks, no arranging task has pushed my skills and talents to such extremes as the music of Oneida,” according to Coughlin. “The emotional complexity of the music is unmatched -- except maybe by the steel-drum version of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ I arranged for an amusement park,” he laughs.
Other guests at The Wedding include Phil Manley of Trans Am, Adam Davison of Company (who also appeared on Oneida’s recent EP Nice/Splittin’ Peaches), Brad Truax of Home, and avant-garde piano wizard Emily Manzo.
Oneida’s Secret Wars is a Pacific summerjam. It’s got Balinese gongs, Hawaiian ukuleles, red wine, injuries, glee, and a song called “Wild Horses” that's written by Oneida. It’s also got a lot of good advice. With their new full-length record, Brooklyn sons Oneida simply start where they left off with Each One Teach One, their highly acclaimed and soon to be classic double CD and LP that came out last year. (Jon Pareles of the New York Times dubbed it a top ten pick and Mojo called it an essential underground record.) But these purveyors of righteous noise and indignation never stopped in the first place. Almost immediately after wrapping up Each One Teach One, they collaborated with the Liars on a split EP while touring both Europe and the United States. In the meantime, they also created Secret Wars. Their trademark iterated and psych-tinged noise attack is still fully intact, both nervous and subdued at the same time - like what happens when you give meditative children trained in the ways of yoga an excessive amount of caffeine. If there are any new wrinkles to be discovered, it is perhaps that, even more so than on Each One Teach One (Oneida’s Tago Mago), Oneida seem to be mining the same fertile ground as Kraut-rock visionaries Can, effortlessly shedding the constraints of pop forms and structures while still remaining soulful and spiritually centered all along. Like spazzing out in the Lotus position. The album was recorded and mixed by Oneida at the Travel Agency and with Nicolas Vernhes (who recorded the most recent albums by Black Dice, Ted Leo, Fischerspooner, amongst others) at the Rare Book Room.
This is the double CD version of Oneida's already legendary double LP Each One Teach One, the first truly heavy psychedelic rock record of the new millennium, originally limited to 500 vinyl copies packaged in individually hand-screened packaging (released by Version City).
Oneida, responsible for the unstoppable rock opus Anthem of the Moon, have dropped on the Earth nine extended, blown out new songs that reach far beyond the fairly concise bursts of noise and melody found on previous records. On the two CDs that form the CD version of Each One Teach One, Oneida are given the chance to stretch their rock to their breaking point and beyond, offering up enormous, dripping wet slabs of extended, linear noise mayhem, hollowed out hulls where ghosts of America sing songs that few will ever hear, and longer takes on the sort of speed-fueled manic garage grot that's graced the band's songbook from the start.
Recorded at Tarquin Studios and outdoors in the Stones (the band's personal retreat, located near the New Hampshire border), the ten songs on Each One Teach One find Oneida at the peak of their all-out-rock phase, sounding more like their incomparable live shows than any of their previous records.
Put the first CD on and lie down on your floor with your eyes closed. Have a friend around to put in the second disc when it is time and to guide you on the trip it'll take you on. Headphones or loudspeakers recommended for playback. Discover the miracles of your Third Eye with Each One Teach One.
ANTHEM OF THE MOON -- recorded in the stones by Oneida. Mixing and additional recording by Peter Katis at Tarquin Studios.There's an awful lot of "psychedelic" music around these days, mostly of the gentle, sprightly, cosmic nature. It has seemed to Oneida for the past couple years that the world has forgotten a huge part of the critical essence of the psychedelic experience: anxiety, dislocation, alienation and half-formed terror. With ANTHEM OF THE MOON, they're out to remind the world why psychedelia matters.Over the course of thirteen months, Oneida made repeated journeys to an array of Colonial-era ruins in the woods of western New England, where they had set up a small mobile recording unit in the midst of the stones. They recorded each of these trips, ending up with a massive trove of tape reels, from which the bulk of this album was distilled. Sounds of the stones and the night woods saturate the recorded music (including the ghostly screech of a barred owl on "Almagest"), literally and emotionally; the naked, anxious exhaustion, ecstasy, and paranoia that the listener hears are the real thing.ANTHEM OF THE MOON is a literal and figurative field recording -- of voices: animal and human, real and imagined, whimpers, moans, screams and incantations. Their trip is no fucking picnic in the meadow -- it's a journey into the stones.
This is a reissue of Oneida's landmark second full-length, which was first issued on the now defunct Turnbuckle label. It was with this record's original release that this motley crew of spinmeisters first made a name for themselves. Just when everyone had thought that there was yet another band in the world with the sole intention of devoting itself to the indulgent pursuit of the endless permutations of "noise exploration", we got instead a "slippery" masterpiece that, according to Mojo (for which this record garnered Rock Album of the Month honors), melded "rock'n'roll, garage punk and New Wave [with] Hammond organ arpeggios [bumping] into parping jazz trumpets and MC5-inspired riffs, while a discordant Suicide-spooked backdrop keeps the paranoia levels up." Hopefully, you get the picture and understand why we deemed it necessary to reintroduce this to the masses, with the added bonus of a previously unreleased track to boot. Finally, Oneida offers this explanation:Back in the winter of 1998 when Oneida couldn't find anyone trustworthy to supply us with psychedelics we made some of our own. Using Fat Bobby's childhood chemistry kit and a vintage recipe found in a community library, we made a small batch of mind moonshine to get us through the long session of what was to become ENEMY HOGS. Beginning in the dark days of the cold winter of 1998, we proceeded to lay down thirty hours of seamless brain-boiling freak-out in the tradition of who-the-fuck knows. In those days we ate, slept and lived in Studio Tropical. One morning we awoke to PCRZ weeping over an indoor bonfire of the tapes. After we barely escaped with our lives and the rest of our crystal, we asked Crazee what moved him to destroy what we had begun to call our "mind garden." "The weeds," he said, "The weeds."What I think he was trying to say was that our vision had become compromised in a cloud of paranoia. We were letting the demons outside the hallowed walls of Tropical dictate the sounds that were reaching the tape. So we began again in earnest and with double doses of the mind moonshine. The results you now have in your hands. We were able to save one complete "song" from the destroyed tapes and include it here for the first time. The track is called "O.D.B." and we wrote it after Old Dirty Bastard from the Wu Tang Clan got shot in 1998.
We will concede this to the latte-sipping coffee table theorists of the world. When it comes to the small slice of pop culture called American rock music over the last three decades, a profound shift did occur when the National Minimum Drinking Age Act was signed into law on July 17, 1984 by Ronald Reagan. The rock farm leaguesãtraditional rock and roll venuesãtook a big hit in the nose, and ever since rock music has been less "substance-tial."
Well, thank God for Oneida.
With their third full-length record COME ON EVERYBODY LET'S ROCK (their first full-length record for Jagjaguwar), Oneida conjure up the spirit of a forgotten past -- from the heaviosity of Deep Purple and Blue Cheer to the hooks of Humble Pie and Foghat to the attitude and dirty swagger of early Alice Cooper Band. The Brooklyn rock band also lives up to the tale of the tape, hands down being the best live band in New York City at this very moment. So infamous are their live performances that even overseas the British press makes it their business to hail Oneida as purveyors of the burgeoning New York City "Loft Party" scene (the new rock farm league?). Best of all, Oneida are smart and are as rooted in the present as they are informed by the past. Consider for instance their take on the global economy as poignantly expressed in "Doin Business in Japan":
When I do business I do it in Japan / I am signing contracts that I don't understand /But it don't matter when the deal is done / I'm getting higher than the rising sun
Stand clear of the mirror and get away from mom and dad's robitussin. This is the great rock record by Oneida we all have been waiting for.
According to Oneida:Oneida -- called a whole lot of names -- "the organic Kraftwerk", "bastard prodigal sons of Afrika Bambaataa," "Brooklyn's electro nightmares unleashed" ...and it's all true. Claims of jazz refuted here. Oneida is all rock, all beat, all the time. This record is our nametag.Break your door, steal the shutters, dear landlord: there's a price on your head and Oneida's new STEEL ROD EP is embedded six inches into the back of your skull. All you old men, handing out religious brochures and telling the youth that they've lost to the devil, take a look into your own asshole. We think you just might find our new CD, the god you've lost and a nice little piece of pipe. Give or take five screaming cuts about new identities, new visions and civil war -- Oneida's Steel Rod lays down another testament to bein' free like we want it to be. Remember Watson and Crick? Well, we think that Nobel Prize needs to be recalled and delivered to the real innovators of genetics: us. Ever wonder what an "XXY" baby looks like? Listen up. I think you'll hear its fragile egg shell mind crying out on track one.Some say our "Steel Rod" is discriminate. Not so -- we smash it all up -- but ask questions later. The board rooms are still talking about the event described above. Suits and casual Friday types keep Oneida in the minutes these days. This Steel Rod we keep talking about -- look at it as our scale of justice. Eyes wide open, next stop "Tennessee." The Union presence is keeping the good people down, disguised as police. But we're not heartless. We shed a tear on this track... for the dead men in blue, piled up in our wake. Climb onto our "Hell Train" headed for the promised land. Paranoia, beer, and trucker's speed fueling the next binge on the devil's consciousness. We think it's all damn sinister. That there's an end coming. It'll get your ass. Listen up. It's knocking on your door. It won't stop here.
With Parker Paul's debut full-length Lemon-Lime Room, many wondered if the piano man wouldn't be consigned to the awkward yet prestigious league of musicians' musicians--that cadre of the pop intelligentsia which includes the Harry Nilssons, Randy Newmans, Todd Rundgrens and Ron Sexsmiths of the world. Each one is recognized for their superior songwriting talent, yet the cash register has never rung for any of them with quite the same frequency as would naturally be suggested by the multitude of airy plaudits they have each garnered. With the unleashing of the second full-length record Wingfoot--the album that no one expected to hear for another five years--Parker Paul has made it clear to the world that he is not a man to sit on his hands.
You should have no illusions. The future for Parker Paul is still unclear. But he is resolute on one thing: not relying on critical acclaim, on ivory towers alone, to spread the word. The masses will come or Parker Paul will fade permanently into obscurity. Lingering in and out of the public's eye, clutching tightly to the consolation prize of being deemed "canonical", will not suffice.
The formula remains the same. Parker Paul writes songs about people whose lives have a real lived-in quality to them. They are not overly beatific, worn-down or damaged as the subjects of most realist songwriters today are. And when Parker Paul's lyricism provides sage advice to the listener, it is accidental, not intentional. Parker Paul is never pedantic. For him, stating the obvious comes natural: "The people who tell lies / About their crappy childhoods / Probably had crappy childhoods."
To really fill out his songs of love, laughter and devotion, Parker Paul enlisted a full band of crack musicians who, performing together, sound like a New Orleans cosmic brothel jazz band. Members include Dan Sullivan (Nad Navillus), Emma Niblett (Scout Niblett), Adam Busch (Manishevitz), Fred Lonberg-Holm (Peter Brotzmann Tentent, John Zorn and Light Box Orchestra), and Jeb Bishop (Vandermark 5 and The Flying Luttenbachers).
Wingfoot was produced by the Schwartz Brothers (Michael Krassner & Busch), and various arrangements were made by Lonberg-Holm.
Parker Paul is, first and foremost, an entertainer. He is then both a piano player and a story teller. He comes to your town in his little blue Pacer and gets on stage and makes you feel really good for the evening. In the spirit of the classic vaudevillean performers of yore, Parker Paul fuses his lucid sense of humor and uninhibited vision as a story teller to convey absurd truths of life -- especially those truths that profound sadness can inspire and those that, being acutely sentimental, can make you laugh out loud. From nonsense springs wisdom.On the spectrum of modern songwriters of refined yet wily wit, Parker Paul fits somewhere between Randy Newman and Shel Silverstein, Harry Nilsson and Loudon Wainwright III. He never succumbs to silliness yet can still whip a zinger with the best of them. At his best he makes you understand the deepest of longings.He is just a man and his piano. And LEMON-LIME ROOM, his debut record, is recorded live with zero overdubs. But don't let the piano fool you. Parker Paul is a rock and roll veteran. He has experienced the world of rock in a few of its guises -- as pivotal member of the now defunct Virginia rock groups the Curious Digit and the Fledglings and through a short stint as keyboardist with Royal Trux.
Constant Future is the career-defining statement from Brooklyn-based noise-pop trio Parts & Labor. The album’s 12 tracks deliver the bare essentials that made them sui generis totems of modern art-punk: synthesized keyboard riffs distorted into oblivion, percussion pummeled hypnotically, crackling drones that haunt and soothe, fearless melodies hollered skyward. Their last release, 2008’s acclaimed Receivers, saw Parts & Labor blasting off in all directions and creating collage art from hundreds of fan-curated samples. But fifth album Constant Future finds them crashing back to earth, focusing pointedly on what they do best: unique, electronic landscapes melded with buzzing, anthemic hooks. Parts & Labor have distilled the lessons and experiences of nearly 10 years as a band into a catchy, blown-out masterwork.
Brooklyn noisepunk outfit Parts & Labor has dramatically altered their wall-of-sound: Their fourth album, Receivers, finds P&L focusing on open spaces, longer movements, expansive arrangements and loftier goals. On eight epic tracks, Receivers showcases the band's catchiest and darkest moods to date, reveling in a growing dynamic sensibility only hinted at in their previous work. Though they've maintained their love affair with glitchy oscillations and anthemic vocals, they are now utilizing the full possibilities of a band that was once a scrappy punk trio, and now a mature art-rock quartet. It's is a heady mix of psych, noise, and pop influenced by the arty minimalism of Wire, the surreal pop of early Eno, and even the spaced out psychedelia of Dark Side-era Pink Floyd.
Mapmaker is the second Jagjaguwar/Brah album from Brooklyn noisepunks Parts & Labor. Expanding on the soaring melodies and cracked electronics of 2006's Stay Afraid, P&L explores a wider array of berserk, malfunctioning instruments and intricate, pummeling rhythms. These 12 political/personal anthems about ambition and distraction boast bigger choruses, denser drones and shinier hooks.
Adding new textures to Parts & Labor's searing pop-squall, the album features guest spots from flautist/megaphonist/vocalist Natalja Kent (of The Good Good) and guitarist Joe Kremer (of labelmates Pterodactyl). Opening surge "Fractured Skies" features a horn section (led by P&L's BJ Warshaw on sax) billowing up through the kaleidoscopic fuzz of electronics. Track 10 is a distorted-toy-keyboard take on the classic Minutemen antiwar spiel "King Of The Hill."
Parts & Labor cite the following bands as influences and are totally cool with you name-checking them: Hüsker Dü, Sonic Youth, Boredoms, Minutemen, Neutral Milk Hotel and Amps For Christ. Parts & Labor spent 2006 touring extensively around Europe and North America, playing shows with Clinic, Black Dice, Islands, Sonic Boom, I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness, Wilderness, Man Man, Spank Rock, An Albatross, Oneida, Year Future, Hidden Cameras, Charalambides, Wooden Wand, Matt & Kim, Kyp Malone and Oakley Hall; and they can't wait to do it again.
Mapmaker was recorded and mixed by The Brothers (Oxford Collapse, !!!, Measles Mumps Rubella, Pterodactyl) at the Brothers Studio in Brooklyn, NY. Additional vocals and electronics were recorded by Parts & Labor in a windowless bedroom. In between their Jag full-lengths, P&L recorded an all-electronics EP for esteemed experimental electronic label Broklyn Beats. Warshaw and Friel also run their own record label, Cardboard Records, which has recently put out music from Gowns, Big Bear, Pterodactyl and Aa.
Brooklyn trio Parts & Labor combines tumultuous noise with enormous, triumphant melodies on their latest album, Stay Afraid. Malfunctioning electronics howl in agony, drums rupture like fireworks, battle cries are belted through a monolithic layer of distorted bass and guitar. P&L revel in day-glo noise, charred drones, punk velocity and phoenix-like hooks—a unique blast influenced by the clamor of Husker Du, the bluster of Boredoms and the homemade spirituals of Neutral Milk Hotel.
Patrick Phelan’s third full-length recording is called Cost. To Phelan, it is an understatement. For him, every opportunity explored is another opportunity forgone. More so than on previous Phelan records, Cost places an emphasis on the guttural. His voice and words take center stage. He is much less guarded on Cost than on previous records. There is no lack of desperation in these new songs, yet a hopeful tone is maintained throughout. Balance is the key. Emotion is the lock. And simplicity is the door. Like a finely-tuned architect, Phelan places all of his songs in their proper space, not letting them get crowded with unnecessary words or sounds. He also steers Cost from tipping too far in the “minimalist” direction, thanks in part to a bevy of guitar solos and to the abundance of true rock moments that occur throughout the record. It has been four years since Phelan’s second full-length record Parlor came out (released on Jagjaguwar, as was his debut Songs of…). And during this sabbatical from the frontlines of musical performance, Phelan has devoted his time to the pursuits of cooking — spending time in Italy recently doing just that — and studying local and global human rights. If one’s life energies are zero sum, these recent personal endeavors of Phelan have come at the cost of promoting and performing his recordings. The good news for his fans: the release of Cost coincides with the shift of Phelan’s focus back to both recorded and live music, confirmed by his recent formation of a new live band. Bryan Hoffa, who the record is dedicated to, returns as engineer and co-producer. The record was recorded in several stages, creating an interesting challenge for Phelan who often had to work with “one takes” as the foundation of his pieces. A celebrated cast of players provided support and, bringing their influences to the table, made things a lot easier for Phelan. Greta Brinkman, former bass player for Moby, and Ian Whelan provided splendid bass arrangements. Justin Bailey’s electric guitar arrangements are placed beautifully along-side Phelan’s finger-picked acoustic guitar. And Camper Van Beethoven’s Jonathan Segel offers a haunting violin on two tracks. Phelan’s music — acclaimed critically for its elegant simplicity and earnestness of expression — flourishes on this latest release, building on both old and new influences and contributions.