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Nocturne of Exploded Crystal Chandelier by Sun Airway

30 Mar

Yes, for happy withdrawal

Does anyone remember that tiny 2009 album Merriweather Post something? Yeah, well 300 plus listens after that album which remains untouched in my mind as the greatest achievement in modern music. The dark nature AC often employ perfectly reflects my life, but isn’t always comforting. And if you combine the exhaustion from over-listening to AC with a need to relax without letting my mind melt into Baths or Toro y Moi. Enter Sun Airway, an overproduced, rangy, and sometimes meaningful band whose work recalls Panda Bear on You Can Count on Me (Noah’s mix) and Tanlines’s Reinfo. I can’t say Sun Airway is doing something new, but I can say they are doing something well. And luckily that something is the sort of chamber harmony synth-electro nonsense I can’t say no to.

What Nocturne of Exploded Crystal Chandelier does well, it does within the confines of a track. This is good for listening pleasure as tracks like Waiting on You and American West which stand strongly alongside this ‘genre’s’ best. Waiting on You stands as the magnum opus from the album and it’s ‘reach for my hands;
they’re seldom so open and reckless with hope’ and ‘forget about the past—it’s all wet and rusted’ are, combined a sort of working thesis. Mostly though, the lyrics are a bit overwrought such as ‘every word my lips suggest, that’s between my lips and the American West’. The album doesn’t seem to cohesive, but the music itself is a euphoric dizzy rinse that when combined with the odd lyric shouldn’t be passed over.

Ultimately you can’t hide the mistakes on Nocturne of Exploded Crystal Chandelier. Sun Airway are still building. At the time of writing they have no Wikipedia page, and no distinct sound to get them out of the shadow of AC. But the shadow of AC is getting lighter and lighter as we wait for something new, so maybe taking a few steps back to Feels era is what we need. Or maybe when we’re all beat up and feel like ‘trying not to die is so taxing’, we can ‘bury our limbs underneath all these hands until we see those days again’, or we can just listen to a little Sun Airway while we wait for MPP and life to sound good again.

Riceboy Sleeps by Jonsi and Alex

27 Feb

YES, goodnight listening schema

By no means is Jonsi and Alex a necessary project for Sigur Ros leadman and his boyfriend, but that’s half of what takes Riceboy Sleeps directly from music to emotion. The other half is genius. The idea that Jonsi and Alex didn’t care about what people thought when they recorded this melodic drone record puts Jonsi somewhere great artists all yearn to be. A stage in which personal emotion can be translated globally. Nothing about this album tries to do anything or go anywhere. It doesn’t have a destination or a reason. It meanders, latches hold of a moment and explains it forgoing the traditional song structures, brands, and preconceptions bands subconsciously uphold. Riceboy Sleeps is nothing short of emotion translated and spilling out from the heart on the sleeve all over the front of your shirt.

I’ve blogged before about Christmas Day and the inescapable unhappiness that washes over me. It is at these times I hug my music and nothing closer than this album which, the Christmas before the blog I spent listening to Jonsi and Alex instead of sleeping. It is as if all of the materialism swimming around in the back of your head during gift-exchange, all of the possible disappointments are gone and in it’s place isn’t perfection, but an embraceable moment that will explore with you, not tell you what it is. And so it is fitting that Happiness the nine minute opening track comes with no explanation for why it isn’t happy. The track is never about Jonsi and Alex telling you what Happiness is, rather it is Jonsi and Alex asking you what happiness is, yearning with its strings, letting you lead until a parade of instruments changes slowly enough into happiness that you barely realize you’ve found something before Atlas Song’s childhood clinking and boy-choir sounds fill the space. This Satori-like roving is what makes Riceboy so special.

The highlights of the album are tough to pin down, and with an hour and seven minutes divided into just nine tracks, no track is without imperfections but neither is there a track without transcendent points that hit emotions on the head in a way lyrics sometimes can’t. Boy 1904 is a predecessor to Julianna Barwick who herself just scored a best new music while channeling Gregorian music albeit with none of the kitschy qualities, mostly removed by couching it between more modern sounds. The theme of innocence is prevalent both in the oft-employed choir and the distance from the politics of it’s musical references. No where do Jonsi and Alex impose their emotions or ideas about emotions onto their tracks, instead they propose childhood. It culminates with Danell and the Sea, employing repetition more lightly than the dark I Know You Are But What Am I? of Mogwai, and concludes with the imaginative Howl complete with noises similar to oaks creaking in the wind before falling away with a gentle Sleeping Giant. None of the songs will leave you depressed without a predisposition for sadness, and the ability to intensify any emotion makes Riceboy Sleeps an all-purpose album.

Pitchfork complained of Riceboy Sleeps occupying a liminal space between active listening and soundscape but that’s the accidental inventiveness that put this album in a place other albums don’t and can’t go. Sometimes the noises disturb it’s created state, but mostly they situate the listening conscious in a novel state impossible without Jonsi and Alex’s contribution to music.

Reviews Philosophy

21 Feb

The new review system* i’d like to put up in a separate place in this blog I will attempt to illustrate here. The underlying philosophies are all I can encapsulate and of course as this is more forum than publication let this be open to all revisions. The key is that it has something for everyone in its two parts. At once it is an instant recommendation system* encapsulated by a simple YES or NO followed by a one line to one word additive stressing wit with clarity not necessary. An example would be MGMT’s Congratulations as ‘NO, and why?’. Then beneath the hook, would be an in-depth explanation as to why it doesn’t merit a listen (for me because the formula of ingenious hooks combined with philosophical lyrics was a formula sustainable for at least one more album and their new sound hasn’t caught up to their old direction). For a YES album (or book, or film, I think this system works for all media) the review would focus on exactly what works from the concept to the emotions, from the lyrics to the music, from the approach to the product. Sharing good art is the goal here. Evaluating pieces qualitatively and not quantitatively is a challenge no one wants to undertake. Pitchfork often hides behind a number and then writes glowing reviews of 6s or scathing reviews of 7s. This system will be impossible to equivocate within the P4k system, meaning you cannot envision a number cut off for the YES or NO. YESes are not figurative 8s or above but instead albums that have changed something about you. This isn’t about ‘good’ music, it’s about worthwhile music which brings me to the second part.

In this system, like the rest of the blog we ought to focus on discussion rather than argument. If someone were to post a ‘YES, glory’ hook for Congratulations my job wouldn’t be to directly respond to their review, but rather to write my review in the same way with an understanding of the previous post to prevent rehash. This means more ground is covered as opposed to the same ground with different opinions. The second idea is to focus on more obscure albums. Of course we know that Arcade Fire and Animal Collective are doing something special, but who are Cloud Cult and what do they mean? Who are God is an Astronaut? Lastly the albums you choose to review, you should have pretty good mastery of them. I know music tastes will change slowly over time, but after four or five sifts you are usually left with something close to your final opinion. And hopefully that product allows us a new dimension not on other sites. Reviewing not as a way to hegemonize our opinion but as a way to share new music and connect within the dusty cellar oft overlooked art. Because somewhere there I think lies what all of this is all about.

All ideas marked with * and probably most or not all of the other ideas belong to Derek.