Category Archives: ELECTRONICA

Visions – GRIMES – 2012

grimes-visions-608x608As each year passes by, I find my beliefs on art changing. While some months I will be convinced that a particular sort of aesthetic is what I love, and any other aesthetic or technique is worthless, some other months I will come up against something which completely changes my opinion. Tastes change and the way in which I look at art transforms. The way in which I perceive art changes the way in which I write about it.Some months I will judge something by a certain set of values, without looking at the social context or historical importance or immediate perception. I have written about an album within two days after first listening to it; sometimes after 5 years , music is inherently so strange a phenomenon that I struggle to put down two sentences that express what I really feel about it in the present. The only thing I am sure about is that the only yardstick for awesome art is survival (most people would point towards album sales and Pitchfork ratings as yardsticks and I wouldn’t directly refute this but would say that it is more subtle than that)

I have been a snob in my time and derided other people’s taste in music – mostly because my tastes were generally looked upon as strange and unpalatable by my peers-but that only served to make me enjoy music more, and after all one of the purposes of listening to music is to carve out an identity and create groups (and I guess that would explain (I am no sociologist) why teens are often the most passionate lovers of music – those are the years when you are trying to fit into groups and creating your own identity-it is somewhat like a facebook profile only much more subtle – a way of telling the world “this is my way of life” etc)

When I started writing all I wanted to do was tell the world about great music-after all the name of the blog is “That Doesnt Sound Right”- but it has ended up becoming an archive of sorts. The only concrete thing I have learnt about music is that it brings pleasure by association-just like your old room and posters-you remember the time when you were listening to the song in the past and it conjures up nostalgia and the smell of the food you ate and the jokes you made-it might not even be one specific memory-just a wash of images and words and colors.

The reason I wrote all that random rambling is because of this album by Grimes (though it is more in the nature of “stream of consciousness thoughts). Firstly I just heard this a few days ago – the reason I state this is because of my hesitation in writing about something that is new to me-so whatever I state about something new to me comes with the disclaimer above – tastes change. Secondly – just a few months back I would have told you that this stuff is terrible. Thirdly – I would probably be more charitable about the music if you asked me about it next year-the whole pleasure by association thnigy – because I am enjoying the electronica ditherings of Grimes in the lazy winter nights.

This music is not elevator music – but definitely qualifies as lounge music – ambient music for people who aren’t feeling particularly angry about something – in fact they are pretty well off and enjoying an expensive drink. Most of the album is pretty mediocre – the reason for it being so is because of the track “Oblivion” – which is much, much better and different from the rest of the music that surrounds it – it is in the same vein – sparse electronica with an ethereal voice – but it is disconcerting, immediately getting it banned from the exclusive lounge with the margaritas – the droning synths hint at something out of place – the intervals are deliberately uneven – and Grimes excites me with her roguish/impish vocals laid on top of one another – the pretty piano line emphasizing the madness and dreamy atmosphere, this track makes me come back to Grimes again and again. There is real talent here. The rest of the music is more straightforward in the vein of Portishead-gone-straight (amazing the number of times I refer that band) – sparse electronic dream pop with a fairy like female sliding on top of the lethargic beats.

I am not very enthusiastic about most of the music – I find it dull and uninspiring – no particularly offensive or bad – technically correct notes but not able to enthuse me like “Oblivion” which stands out – if I may say so – like a sore thumb.

-Baba T

Details – FROU FROU – 2002

In the primeval mush of information overload that is the Internet, it’s hard to find something truly unique and original. Consider that statement, and multiply the uncertainty by 10 when speaking of music. Because there are no more pockets of isolation left, any schmuck can post his band’s videos and music, and the latest generation of musicians has grown up more on half-assed guitar solos on YouTube than properly woodshedded fare. An older generation of musicians still remains, though; the people who grew up before Hotmail and Netscape are still around, and their pockets of development exist and manifest themselves in strange and sometimes beautiful ways.

 Now consider Imogen Heap (that’s not a stage name). She straddles these two distinct generations of musicians. Having come of age in the early 90’s, her early work just pipped the advent of the internet. Still, it’s the sort of modern electronica that translates very well on to YouTube. Frou Frou, her side project with, uh, some guy, almost seems pre-determined for internet fame. Short, innovative and trippy songs seem to make up the bulk of Details, Frou Frou’s first and so far only album. The bands YouTubeability is massively helped by the beautiful, soaring “Let Go”. But I’ll come back to that in a moment.

This album, for the uninitiated, is mostly very good electropop overlaid with some surprising arrangements (Indian flutes FTW) and Imogen Heap’s breathy, emotional, Matthew Bellamy-meets-Joanna-Newsom voice. For an artist who is so sonically experimentative, the lyrics are surprisingly confessional and straightforward. It doesn’t get more straightforward than “It’s Good To be In Love”. No bad thing, just that the more experimentative the artist, the more oblique the lyrics tend to be. Sometimes the directness is very powerful. “’Cause there’s beauty in the breakdown” has to be one of the most seductive lines I’ve heard in a long time. But it can get a little bit cloying at times, with “Hey There, Delilah” exceptions being hard to pull off. Still, I suppose there is value in straightforward expression when most smart people express themselves either ironically or with self-conscious understatement.

As a general rule, I found the more experimental tracks more intriguing. They lose none of the strong melodies that characterize Heap’s music, and append crazy sonic experiments for good measure. The high-pitched denouement to the chorus on “Must be Dreaming”, for instance, is gooseflesh raising. I would’ve liked a slightly more adventurous album, seeing how two avant-garde artists got together. There are many moments when there seems to be a conscious attempt to rein in too much arthousery. This tension produces mixed results, with “Psychobabble” being a lesson in strange and beautiful arrangements(cue the Bollywood string section), while “Must be Dreaming” ends up sounding odd overall despite that chorus. At the negative extreme, “It’s Good to be in Love” sounds too conservative, and boring.

There is definitely an Indian music influence there, with a number of songs referencing Classical Indian raga melodies and Bollywood inspired strings. It’s this combination of Boards of Canada and Baazigar, which makes for the most compelling moments on this album, such as the amazing, amazing “Let Go”. Also, sample the amazing middle section of “Shh”, and tell me it doesn’t make you want to trip.

Anyway, in summing up, this is a good album, but it falls in the same way Blackfield did. It’s the slightly underwhelming result of two very creative people coming together and making the whole checks and balances thing work all too well. This sounds somewhat right.

- El Bajista

Pink + Green – VENETIAN SNARES – 2007

If you were to start an Indie band tomorrow, what would you name it? Too bad you can’t name it Venetian Snares, ‘cause that fantastic-for-an-indie-band name has already been taken. By a junglist.  Venetian Snares makes me think of gentle beats, myriad-contradictions-of-love type lyrics and jangling guitars played by bearded and bespectacled blokes.

Start with that impression, and your expectations are sure to get a kick in the nuts. Know what you are up for, though, and you are in for quite a ride.

This is-even at its most mellow moments- a profoundly disconcerting collection of sounds the first time you listen to it. What the hell is happening? Breakbeats everywhere! Vocoded voices. Schizophrenic basslines. God knows what else. But if you listen carefully, there is some definite structure going on here, with ‘main riff’ and ‘chorus’ sections clearly discernible, with some rhythms easily accessible as well. Since people repetitive patterns attractive and listenable, I’ll put this down to Mr.Venetian Snares’ desire to be loved by the general public.

This is a profoundly disconcerting collection of sounds the first time you listen to it

Even on the longer tracks, such as ‘Nutimik’, there are shifts in dynamic. Ha! And you thought electronic was uni-dimensional.  And what is this? An attempt at harmony!! ‘Husikam Rave Dojo’ introduces you to a Stevie Wonder-on-acid keyboard riff that leads into an absolute hammering of break beats and Amen breaks, with the occasional vocal part thrown in. You know what it sounds like? Hunter S. Thompson, high as a kite, listening to Britney Spears records. Yes.

The poetically named ‘Sporto Fucking Sellout Cocksuckerface’ is clearly something aimed at a mainstream audience, with its 6 minute running time punctuated by silence, a looped newsreading, frequent DJ style manipulation of the record and sheer inconsiderateness towards the aural health of the listener. Its gloriously anarchic.

This is clearly not music to be danced too. It’s not music to be marveled at. It’s not music to be heard for its harmonies and melodies or rhythms.  No, as the guy on ‘Husikam Rave Dojo’ so pithily puts it, this is music to get ****ed up to. There isn’t much more to say, because there isn’t much more I can say. I’m not a regular listener of jungle/breakbeat/drum-n-bass. In fact, it could be argued that I’m not a listener of that stuff at all.

What do you think he's on?

Either ways, for the non-junglist/rave party type person, try some Venetian Snares to reorient your perspective of how far crazy people have stretched the ambit of what ‘music’ is, and gotten away with it. Try. This sounds right.

- El Bajista



Tales of the Inexpressible – SHPONGLE – 2001

D’you know why Shpongle were such a big, warm and pleasant surprise to me? I’ve been trying to put my finger on it for months and failed everytime. But now, I have an answer. It’s ’cause they mix the analog and the digital in a way that sounds like they can actually play all the instruments. There are genuine riffs going on here. Or really catchy world-music rhythms. Or swoopy basslines.

That’s the first reason. Now I’m discovering my second reason. It’s the amount they can take a single theme and develop it and morph it to its best possible place. Its a journey, listening to more and more layers pile-up and diminish and Shpongle treat the basic theme-be it a ground bassline or a percussion rhythm-like putty. Sample the first track “Dorset Perception”. It epitomises what I love about Shpongle and just described.

So that’s a good start. But does the rest of the album live up to this great start?

What was that you were sniffing in the bathroom again, Mr.Shpongle?

Fortunately, yes. It’s a mind expanding thing to listen to, this music. Partly because you’re expected to be trippin’ anyway when you listen to it, and partly ’cause its so ­diverse. Portuguese lyrics, Indian flutes, Spanish guitar, jazzy bass and what not……Actually, its mostly mind-expanding because you’re expected to be trippin’ (*snide smile*) you BRAINS out.  Lemme quote some of the lyrics from the excellent “A new way to say hooray”:

This is what you see.

‘The walls, such they be, are crawling with geometric hallucinations.
Very brightly coloured, very iridescent. Deep sheens and very highly reflective surfaces
everything is machine-like and polished and throbbing with energy but that is not what immediately arrests my attention.’

Uh. Right. What was that you were sniffing at in the bathroom again, Mr.Shpongle?

Jokes aside, all rockists (myself included) should listen and draw from this stuff. I do think us rock fans have become too closeted and incestuous in our influences. Dang, here is some fresh fodder for you to chew on!!! This being electronic however, the primary emphasis is on the beats. And they vary from frenetic to stomping and actually kind of natural and headbangy sounding, like on “Room 23”. But the little shits can still surprise me again and again. The mad as Megan Fox “My Head Feels Like A Frisbee” is aptly named, because of the totally unexpected transition from the Michael Jackson-pop-stomp of the first half to the Samba-Waltz loveliness of the middle and ending sections.

Ok, enough gushing. This sounds right.

-El Bajista

More SHPONGLE reviews HERE.




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