Each Tuesday, FADER editor Matthew Schnipper highlights an underappreciated release he thinks we need to know about. Starting this week and lasting through the end of 2010, he’ll be highlighting music exclusively from 2010. This week it’s Lower Dens' Twin Hand Movement CD and Ramadanman's "Work Them" 12-inch (it's actually the B-side but whatever) along with the continuation of a list of digital-only tracks. Read Schnipper’s thoughts after the jump.
Lower Dens, Twin Hand Movement
A couple of years ago I got Jana Hunter to open for Rasputina. My old boss Peter manages Rasputina and was looking for suggestions for apt tour support. We ran through a laundry list of names, both pie in the sky and way too obscure and Jana Hunter finally fit both stylistically and logistically. An extended member of the Devendra Banhart long hair and wide eyes new folk crew (they released a split album in 2005), Hunter was weird enough to be an appropriate foil to a cello trio obsessed with Civil War-era artifacts but easily likable enough as be inaccessible to devoted fans impatiently watching an opener. Her solo songs are more about texture than directness in composition, and while that left her unique in folk it also left her sounding too listless outside of that world. And then she started Lower Dens, who in a million years would never get a spot opening for Rasputina. Which is fine because they are a rock band. Except for when they aren’t. But it’s nice when they are.
Rock and folk are strange cousins. It’s not as if Hunter were a former all star athlete now taken to photography in lengthy retirement’s meandering time, trying to trade off prior ubiquitous popularity while refuting the public’s assumed lack of artistic authenticity; the only change she made was acoustic to electric. Instead it's like she traded one moon for another, both foreign, celestial bodies whose powers I could never understand but am happy to howl at. Rock ’n’ roll I came late too, had to reshape my mind to understand it as not a endless picket fence of the same riffs, nice to look at if not particularly unique. And, sure, much rock is that, affable if not inviting, but let to lope, guitar music is great. Behold: there is more to it than Hendrix and Nirvana! Someone call punk rock teenage me and give him a UFO record and tell him it’s cool to drink a little whiskey when someone’s parents are out of town.
Lower Dens have a more somber type of electric swagger, but the ambient force and active play are there. “Tea Lights” uses brushes on the drums, droopy toms and about a full minute of foreboding quietude before the sweetest solo I’ve ever heard. Screwed and chopped Smashing Pumpkins? That terrible crack in Kurt Cobain’s voice as reinterpreted 15 years later on a maroon guitar? Drums played to a click track because it turns out I’m tapping my foot? Tea lights in the sand she sings, but it just sounds like Tea lights insane. Neither makes sense. The next song is called “A Dog’s Dick.”
My friend told me Lower Dens sound like Cass McCombs. I never thought about that and its true. But Cass McCombs just sounds like his catharsis, both ends of it, the beginning pain part and the later I feel better part. But Lower Dens feels less selfish, more universal. McCombs’ pain can encompass your pain if you let it and that can go deep, deep into a serious place (I once played his “You Saved My Life” on FADER’s East Village Radio show and was asked never to play it again, too much true bummer), but Lower Dens is music both for pick up trucks. Everyone has use for hauling. And if you don’t, well you can listen to it while you watch that Brett Farve Wrangler Jeans commercial where he drives around in one. Put it on mute, let it roll past the commercial, make some shitty pasta while the Jets lose, listen to “Holy Water” and at least you’ll be letting some kind of momentum into your life.
Ramadanman, "Work Them" 12-inch
I counted, and there are 74 separate sounds in Ramadanman’s “Work Them.” Just kidding, there are actually 313. Just kidding, I didn’t count! Because I don’t have keyboard skills good enough to make the infinity symbol. What kind of music is this? What kind of buildings does Zaha Hadid make? Impossibly big ones with sideways spires? Fucked up ones that somehow sparkle? Ones that don’t actually exist? There is so much adventure in this song, so many movements, and so many drums. Parts of the song are jungle, parts house, parts a really fun explosion with whatever the UK dance equivalent of Fat Man Scoop yelling cut up and a looped dude going “Ah!” for percussion. This song is seven minutes long.
This was a fruitful year for dance music, especially out of the UK. And by fruitful I mean producers kept producing but the rest of the world outside of dubstepforum.com mellowed to whatever combo of really harsh and really cut up snare was thrown at them. Artists like Actress, Mount Kimbie, James Blake, Jamie XX made more “mainstream” moves (our publication included), and in the UK Magnetic Man and Katy B got, like, insane popular. Grime is super popular there, and Tinchy Strider who was the dude who did a guest verse on a Gang Gang Dance song a couple years back now is a number one star. That’s cool! But sometimes you just wanna listen to some shit that sounds fucked up. “Work Them,” what is that dude doing? Where did he get all those drums? Why are they all on the same song? How is this one song? The amount of plot organization he needed to make this work is astonishing. But ultimately, thankfully, “Work Them” is just as heavy as a song as an idea. Mount Kimbie is metafiction, “Work Them” is some straight forward first person traditional novel styles just totally murdering it because of all of the detail about the house the narrator lives in, the realness of the dialog, the serious and thorough use of traditional storytelling tropes without a need for fancifulness. Zaha Hadid, lots of times her buildings don’t get built. That’s ok. But when they do, they still have roofs and doors and windows and real spaces. Demolishing a framework while using that framework is what’s exciting. This is dance music; you can dance to it.
ASSORTED YOUTUBE AND MP3 ONLY JAMS
Miracles Club, “A New Love”
This needs a 12-inch release and we heard it might be coming soon on Mexican Summer? Honestly this is what we thought chillwave was supposed to be. Honestly! Insane jam for your house. I guess the club too but I don’t know where you party.
The Two Bears, “Church (Dub)”
Like when you are in a movie and you triumph but it’s sad and the last scene is you on a plane flying home to deal with whatever future bed you have made for yourself in the past.