This was my second time at D.C.ís Rock and Roll Hotel in the span of a month, this time to catch The Annuals. Technically the band goes without the ďthe,Ē but for the sake of reader-friendliness, Iíll be including the definite article. The show was on a Sunday night, which was curious given The Annualsí considerably more prominent stature than most of the indie acts the venue sees. I suppose the R&R isnít exactly the most prominent venue nestled in its H Street abode next to a dollar store that still advertises phone cards. Despite the drawback of low turnout and grudging reality of work for most the next day, The North Carolina indie band has a reputation for wild live shows and I wasnít about to miss out on the fun.
Ambient electronica, as the name implies, is a genre that demands scale over scope. Brian Eno?s gift to music has had a rather uneven history, mostly owing to the fact that it?s extremely difficult to get right without tottering into either instrumental overload or the dubious lure of world music. Furthermore, as technology advances with the times, the detail demanded during the analog days of electronica is often passed over in favor of letting the machines just do their thing.
The Rock and Roll Hotel is nestled on H Street in D.C., quite inconveniently placed more than a mile from the nearest metro.† The upstairs bar is a cozy little abode, with three amputated mannequins overhanging the bar.† Instead of heads, the mannequins sport cow skulls that leer over your drink like overbearing relatives.† There were winged Stratocasters on the ceiling and some kind of ridiculous anime show on Cartoon Network playing on the tube.† After a couple of drinks and a few minutes of pondering what the hell the deal is with girls and Blue Moon, I headed back downstairs for the show.
Andorra, the latest release from Ontario-based digital maestro Daniel Snaith, is about as good of an indie electronica release youíre likely to hear all year. Snaith has been playing under the name of Caribou since 2004 after the threat of a lawsuit from punk rocker Dick Manitoba forced him to change his previous title of the same name. Whatever Canada-inspired moniker he chooses to adopt, what hasnít changed is his ability to direct his own sonic landscapes into a diamond-honed product. Still in his late-20s, Snaith has demonstrated a powerful presence as a producer and digital musician. The music of Andorra ranks as not only some of his most intricate work, but also that which finds itself in good standing to make top-10 lists for 2007.
Luke Temple succeeds where most modern folk rockers go astray. He concentrates on formulating visual music rife with vivid imagery instead of wearing his heart on his sleeve through acoustic slush. This is the reason why so many folk rockers turn out dreck and ultimately join the ranks of achy douches who happen to wield a Dreadnaught instead of a Strat. The strongest asset of Templeís music is the dizzying gusto that comes out of the keyboards. The twittering organ harmonies skip, skitter, and bop to make Snowbeast less singer-songwriter fare and more along the lines of late Ď60s acid experimentation.
We Are The Night, the sixth studio album from English electronica giants, The Chemical Brothers, begins with a one-minute track that sounds like a terrestrial whale sniffing for a buried bone. The disc shows the duo loosening up, painting wide brushstrokes of sound over a soundscape that has plenty of room for bizarre creatures and wild tributaries. Electronica music is built on layering. Essentially, architects Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons are trying to build something living and breathing out of hundreds of individual sampling components. The question becomes, will the product be a beautiful butterfly out of the chrysalis, or something with nineteen legs, no eyes, and genitals for wings?
Maps is the pet project of Northampton electro-head James Chapman and We Can Create is his full-length debut. The disc is a mix of shoegaze and New Order, a digital aquarium in which synthetic swims with organic. The synthesizer roadways mix with Chapmanís breathy vocals and his continental drift of beats and rhythms create a distinctive world. Although Chapmanís sound is alluring, his execution is faulty and meandering. All too often, We Can Create lulls itself to sleep under the weight of its own production and an absence of true substance.
It Will Find You [stream]