Lilacs

While many would agree that lilacs and champagne make great accompaniments to any romantic evening, many suitors and suitresses might hesitate to put on the sounds of Lilacs & Champagne during a first date, unless they were dining in a haunted outhouse floating in a polluted swamp. Or on a date with the guy from Peeping Tom.

In trying to formulate the perfect description of the Lilacs & Champagne sound, I realized my efforts were futile, as I came across a band bio that described it as a marriage between J Dilla and Nurse with Wound; presumably taking the form of Dilla through the smooth sampling it employs, and Nurse through the dark, unnerving soundscapes it creates.

But instead of turning to Shuggie Otis or the Jackson Five, L&C plunge into the depths of shabby thrift store record bins for their samples, armed with an MPC, and a leaf blower to expunge the many layers of dust. Library production music, stock sound effects, B Movie sound clips, noise, and forgotten records from the Middle East to Eastern Europe are weaved into eerie instrumental beats waiting in the shadows for the grimiest of freestylers to spit over. However, the vocal-heavy “Battling in the City,” which features the hazy hook: “I ain’t got time for breakin’ my mind/And doin’ battling in the city,” has to be my favorite. Take a listen, perhaps as you head to battle in the city today.

But also make sure to listen to the whole album from start to finish, as one isolated thread of this multicolored, aural tapestry does not do it justice. And after that, throw on their new album Danish and Blue, which apparently incorporates samples from 1970s Scandinavian erotica. Vidunderlige!


Your Best Bad Friends

Las Malas Amistades. This is the name that a band of Bogotan art-school students chose to make music under, that either means the “Bad Friends” or the “Bad Influences,” depending on who’s translating. I’ll accept either, as both make for excellent band names.

Apparently “active” since 1994, the experimental, cumbia-tinged folk group has released three records on various labels (including Psych-O-Path, who’s put out Dan Deacon among others), but has recently teamed with Damon Albarn’s UK-based Honest Jon’s Records for their latest 2012 release, Maleza. According to the group, Maleza means “unwanted weeds” or “undergrowth,” which they describe as the unsightly, inedible plants that sprout up instead of the fruitful, edible ones you intend to grow.  But most importantly, there’s beauty in these weeds too.

On one level, “unwanted weeds” is a funny title to give one’s latest collection of songs, as it implies that they’re the bastard children of a recording session gone awry.  But on another level,  the title is more telling of the record’s lyrical themes, which seem to dwell on doomed, painful relationships; the ones that both parties intended to turn out well, but instead failed miserably.  However, the music often feels light and hopeful, suggesting that strained, imperfect relationships can be beautiful and meaningful depending on what you take from them, just like an album recorded in an apartment with pawnshop acoustic guitars, beat up casios, melodicas and minimal percussion.

Here’s Maleza’s opener, and my personal favorite, “Apociliptica” or “The Apocalyptic.” Its sorrowful melodies and tender, finger-picked acoustic guitars make for a beautiful track with a sense of  heartbreak and loneliness you can feel, even without an understanding of the lyrics.


Fever

“Fever”… originally performed by Little Willie John, has been covered by Elvis, Ella, Beyonce, Madonna, The Jam, The Cramps and many many more.

“Fever” has been covered too many times.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s one of the my favorite songs, but after it’s been slowed-down, sped-up, funked-out, and freaked-around, enough is enough! At least I thought so, until I heard the Susan Cadogan version. Most importantly, I’d never heard a “Fever” cover that made me want to throw on a bikini. Not many things can get me in a bikini, but a 1976 reggae cover from Trojan Records does the trick.

On top of it all, spring is out today in Los Angeles! So in honor of the sunshine, FEVER!

For more like this: Trojan records has released an incredible amount of  box sets, with themes from creole to Beatles tribute.


The Big Sleep

Friends & Fauxs,

Whether he’s speaking about Cannibal Corpse or the Constitution, Henry Rollins often likes to remind his audiences that he’s “not an expert; just a fan.” I’d like to echo these words before I dive into my first post, and let you know that I consider myself nothing more than a music enthusiast bent on sharing and discussing some of my favorite cuts with you.

That being said, I’d like to wish you a happy Spring, and dedicate my first post to a song by Bubonic Plague. Not the Dutch black metal quartet we all love, but the all-female group from the City of Angels. Active from 2004-2007, the group self-released a series of albums primarily recorded on 8-tracks, giving their songs a more raw, menacing tone. I’m hesitant to try and label their music, as their frontwoman, Geneva  Gavin, vocally detests genres and labels, especially the often lazily-assigned term, “Lo-Fi.” She points out that labeling something as “Lo-Fi” is akin to dubbing a group a “CD” or “Pro Tools” band. I couldn’t agree more! But for the sake of provoking your interest, I’ll mention that the group’s sound blends elements of retro electro-funk, darkwave, goth and at times, tropicalia, sounding like it’s being played out of a muffled intercom speaker in an insane asylum.

The track “Sleep Room,” is certainly heavier than the many black metal blands (bands*) that their tongue-in-cheek band name mocks, and is also incredibly catchy. The title (and lyrical content) likely refers to the horrific brainwashing experiments conducted in Canada during the 1950s, known as MKULtra, where researchers subjected “troubled” patients to days of drug-induced comas, and used controversial medical techniques to erase existing memories and reprogram their psyches. Garvin sings with a sense of delusion and detachment that slightly mirrors the mental state of one of the experiments’ victims, which produces a very chilling effect.

Anyhow, low and behold the track below, which conveniently contains portions of the lyrics so that you can sing along! (no Mickey Mouse “bouncing ball” to guide you through each syllable, but good enough)


ACHTUNG

My first post comes to you as a warning: I have an unhealthy interest in the Germans and their music.

After I accidentally learned to speak some German, I somehow moved to Berlin for a whole year to “study” abroad. Though I’m not sure I learned anything about the government or how to correctly distinguish between der, die and das (the THREE ways to say they deemed necessary to express the word the), I did come home with a new stack of vinyl and a taste for dark electronic music. There will be plenty of time to post about the long nights spent inside of clubs staged in run-down power plants and doctors office punk shows, so for now I’ll leave you with this — a bizarre track from 2012 that sounds much better if you pretend that it was made before the wall fell.