"Let us, then, be up and doing, With a heart for any fate; Still achieving, still pursuing, Learn to labor and to wait" -Longfellow

Friday, June 17, 2011

Ceremonious Transfiguration: Some Belated Ruminations on Mexicans with Guns' "Ceremony"

Released May 10, 2011 on Stones Throw

San Antonio native Ernest Gonzales (aka Mexicans With Guns) weaves together soundscapes using his electronics in an expert way to create computerish music that sounds warm and lush and living.  Drawing on the vast sonic and cultural diversity of his hometown, Gonzales is on to something truly special.  He has previously released a fair-sized body of work, but Ceremony is his first LP and his most unique, fully realized effort to date.  The album itself, cohesive and unified in its subject matter and textures, can be looked at as an actual ceremony...

This Ceremony is that of the next becoming, the return of Quetzalcoatl in his star-craft of angry compassion and bomb-blast; returning to a darkened inner landscape of nervous want. Organic and vibrating with jungle romance, the album has colder more metallic moods as well... Moments where the human 'element' involved transcends nature without re-arriving to tell us if that's a good thing.  Aptly named songs "Jaguar" and "Deities" are replete with hazy images of nervous animals, scratching and pacing, worshiping their own slowed and distorted breath, waiting to live. But there is a sense of holiness felt as well, the truth of the mosaic of atoms that comprises everything is liberating and represents deepest equality and purest freedom from worry.

"El Sol y La Luna" is a track that focuses on the split personality of reality, the dual natures dealt with extensively here: the abandon of some final party and the relief of a ravaged nature freed from its tormentors. It begins with what sounds like a curious animal calling and testing the rumbling hush and breaks into the back and forth of a hurried pulse. You can, and are most definitely supposed to, party like it's 12/21/2012 to this album, but you can also use it, more contemplatively, to see further into the archetype-guarded psyche of reality.  Truly human voices show up at times to celebrate life's gifts ("Me Gusto"), lament damnation while twisting words at a shrugged-at salvation ("Highway to Hell" and "You Got Me Fucked Up") and to bring some sense of our temporal moment to the album. Everything else is abstraction- now dense, now airy -searching oblivion and loss for an already understood meaning that we keep on forgetting.

"Death and Rebirth", as the title suggests, begins by transporting the listener to a wasted plain licked barren by some nameless calamity. The aura of holiness which somehow attends this entire album, becomes shattered and chaotic here. There are hopeful textures, but these feel like superstition and delusional nostalgia; the longing for an Aztlan that never existed any more than some transcendental Jerusalem.

In "El Moreno", the track that closes Ceremony (and probably its most ceremonial sounding), we seem to hear broken church organs droning beneath a new kind of mass; both overtaken by some foreshadowed melodies and an ever blossoming static.

In today's music world there are a shitload of folks making electro-house-fusion-chillwave-witchy-whatever mush... but there are a few, like Gonzales, who loudly make the argument that electronic music can be as genuine and rewarding as any other type of music.  Bottom line: Ceremony is a gem that deserves your attention.  Download the standout track "Death and Rebirth" below, BUY THE ALBUM because it is an experience that these few clumsy words cannot capture and go see Mexicans with Guns live as soon as you get the chance... you will be glad you did.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Review: Cults "Cults"

Realeased June 7, 2011 on Columbia Records

Blogosphere conquering indie-popsters Cults have managed to concoct a debut album that lives up to expectations as much as it sets them. Sounding like a Phil Spector girl group with post-modern skittishness and updated to account for grunge and the avant-indie movement, this duo makes music to make you nostalgic for tomorrow. Crisper versions of the tracks that started it all, "Go Outside" and "Most Wanted", are dark and sweet standouts- but this is really a tight and beautiful album with little to no fluff jobs. Also excellent are the creepy bumper “Walk at Night”, the joyously restless “Oh My God” and the haunting love song “Abducted”. The album is thematically and musically focused on light and dark spaces, on the conflict between fullness and emptiness, on tension and release, on freedom and that which seeks to restrain freedom. These dichotomies make some weird type of sense for a band from San Diego transplanted to New York. Eerie dimness and refreshing shine, sloth-inducing heat and frisky cold, moments of flighty glee and opportunities for more serious contemplation- it is, impressively, all here on this album of pop songs. Cults is a whimsically satisfying listen that promises to keep you swaying all through the summer and, due to its darker romantic and more frantic elements, to remain a favorite as times get chillier... 
whenever that is.

Stream the album, purchase the album and check them out HERE

Friday, June 3, 2011

Los Destellos "ConstelaciĆ³n"

A song that moves the way a river moves at the midpoint of a moonless night in the jungle.  No words to confuse the holy message of the current, no egoic gang-banging of rhythm into polished form... deep, slow, natural- like droplets of sap that take a week to run down a tree's trunk.  Oh yeah... and when you- half brave, half spirit drunk -climb that tree to cuddle the sky, you're alone with the stars and can make from them anything you can imagine.

Awesome History of Los Destellos from Super Sonido

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Willie Nelson "Uncloudy Day"

There’s a Willie Nelson song called “Uncloudy Day” (it's actually a gospel cover, but for me- it belongs to Willie). I don’t know which album it originally came off of, but I learned it through my parents heroically worn cassette tape of Willie Nelson’s Greatest Hits (And Some That Will Be). That cassette had a nondescript off-whiteness to its opaque shell, hiding away those simple yet mesmerizing innards other tapes would flaunt to the high hills. I kinda imagine it was the same color as the walls of some shithole trailer where Kris Kristofferson and Willie would down Lonestars and cocaine bumps late into the thickly humid and ambling night- beneath the threat of another grisly sunrise. It was colored mighty like the tape I learned to love “City of New Orleans” with- that rambling song of near-religious love and fascination, the eyes of ‘the dream’ and the warmly weathered hand of reality, the preoccupation and forgetting about it because 'fuck it'. 

“Uncloudy Day” (being itself an underhanded reference to life-long ailing) doesn’t need to become muddled or attempt esoteric complexity for our purposes. It is a song about the other side of the mountain. It is a song about the good kind of passing through- no more drifting- it’s a song about a temporal home. In the bleary no-bullshit-early-morning it is a song about Heaven. To really believe the song, I guess you gotta fancy yourself back to boyhood- past your hang ups and past trying to write it out or ride it out. It takes a level of idealism and jackassed intensity, a level of beer bubbles leftover in the brain, a certain mystical number of old memories wafting towards awareness. It’s sorta akin to the mental technique one might use to truly appreciate the petting of a dog. I’m not talking about being stuck in the past, but bringing the green and free expanse of childhood’s unspoiled earnestness in to the present moment.