Posts tagged “download

Fugue | Review

My album, Fugue, reviewed by Matt Elliot.  See Matt’s blog here.

Download Fugue Here

After underground electronic artist Bear Like Mouse completed work on his debut album This Minus Okay, a sprawling, enticing and unique array of trip hop, acoustic guitar and dark metal, he immediately began working on material for the follow up, which would take his sound in an entirely new direction. While his debut was packed with highlights and took the listener on quite the emotional journey over its 70-minute length, there was always an underlying feeling that the artist himself was never quite perfectly content with the end product; in fact, the atmosphere created by those feelings of hopelessness and frustration may have actually added to the consistency of an album that could have otherwise felt overlong and scattered. Even as the debut was actually compiled of songs written over years of creative ups and downs, it was loaded with diverse new ideas, innovative methods to create sounds and memorable melodies, but lacked an overall sense of direction and flow.

Bear Like Mouse set out to refine his sound on Fugue, and he succeeds with flying colors. Whereas vocals and impressive layers of sound at times seemed forced and excessive on the first go round, his sophomore effort shows remarkable restraint and polish, resulting in an almost symphonic effect. He takes the best elements of his previous work and combines and expands on them here over nine tracks, content to let the complex electronic orchestration do the most of talking.

Fugue is the type of album that can accompany you on a long, peaceful car ride, can wake you up gently in the morning, or help your mind drift far off into the background. It can also make you think. This isn’t exactly “mood” music per se, it is too precise and delicate to be labeled as such, but it does boast an aura of calmness and confidence as it evolves. The completely instrumental opener “Nuclear” is gorgeous and patient, and when it builds into a gentle coda around the three minute mark, it doesn’t so much explode as it pulls the listener back in, comforting them almost as a promise of things to come.

There really isn’t a weak moment anywhere here nor does the album waver with its overall style, and the only time the mood seems to shift suddenly, it does so with dramatic and meaningful effect. Centerpiece “Dirge/M” is nine minutes of completely repetitive acoustic guitar and electronic piano instrumentation that builds so subtlely with its nuanced undertones- there’s elements of an electronic horn, a fluttering guitar noise, and a soaring, whispy bit of lifted distortion that beckons Godspeed You Black Emperor- that express the aftermath of a relationship that has died.

But the tone takes a sudden turn with the equally devastating but musically opposite “Saigon and On and On”, a spectacularly loud scream fest that hits the listener like a shot to the heart and ponders the meaning of life in not the fondest light. Synthesized drums and brooding electronic horn sounds combine as we hear high pitched lyrics such as “We are slaves/ We suffer the same”, “We suffer the sun/ To wait for a point” and the honest, most desperate line of all, “There’s got to be more.” Despite its authority and anger, pound for pound, this may be the saddest track in the entire Bear Like Mouse catalog, and that’s saying something for an artist that doesn’t exactly have a penchant for creating songs filled with sappy optimism.

Perhaps the album’s best stretch comes early on. The slowly building melancholy of “Of Bird and Bullet”, perhaps the most approachable and straightforward track here from a song structure standpoint, seems harmless enough until it explodes with screaming but spot on vocals through its massive crescendo and elevates itself to standout status. The tension is taken down a notch after that with “Capital B”, perhaps the most relaxing, beautiful song in the entire Bear Like Mouse catalog. This is the type of song that makes you want to sail into the sunset and just keep going, and it showcases an unusual time signature complete with electronic horns and an airy, atmospheric falsetto vocal through the chorus that is in perfect contrast with the nonchalant, almost spoken word vocal style of the verses.

There’s plenty of innovation here as well, including the impressive electronic synth loop towards the end of the steady “River”, and an electronic violin above a trip hop beat on the beautifully textured “Oslo Also”, the first genuinely optimistic Bear Like Mouse love song. Again, the vocals on both tracks are very subtle and almost unnoticeable, but provide melodic structure rather than interference with the music itself.

Perhaps one of the more interesting aspects of Fugue, and of Bear Like Mouse’s music in general, is the mystery behind the origin of some of these musical sounds. Penultimate track “Cleary and Crux” serves as the calm before the storm, with an addictive rolling percussion track, a repetitive clanking sound created from wires, cowbells and a drum stick above lifted vocals that seem just out of reach, kind of like how a song sounds in your brain right after you wake up from a musical dream. And it is all just a set up for the closer and highlight track, the 16 minute epic “Rue St. Anne.”

Beginning with an industrial grind and heavy percussion, this evolves into a call-to-arms masterpiece, with electric guitar swirling beneath massive, epileptic drum track change ups. This is the sort of song I imagine playing in my head before going into the deciding battle of a war, or before making a life or death decision, or some kind of a monumental, life-changing and ultimately serious event. In its final half, the considerable intensity surrenders into distorted shoegaze and eerie choral and violin notes that leave some uncertainty as to the outcome of the battle. And more relevently and poignantly, what exactly was the battle for in the first place? Perhaps only Bear Like Mouse himself knows for sure, but I’ll happily keep listening to figure it out for myself, even if I never do.



The Weeknd | House of Balloons

One of my gripes with contemporary rock and roll is that it’s gotten too safe.  Rock songs are more often about being sad and remembering-when, less about the stuff that made it edgy in the first place.  Enigmatic Montrealian, Abel Tesfaye, has poured enough dirty, sinful rock and roll into his mixtape, “House of Balloons” than were in all the liner notes of every metal album that came out last year.  And the dude is a Canadian R&B singer.  Who’s apparently nice!

Building on Beach House, Siouxsie and the Banshees, etc., tracks by pouring glacial amounts of reverb into them and punctuating them with slow jams beats from an 808, The Weeknd has created dreary, dark, and despondent songs, are juxtaposed against his R&B falsetto.  The songs are focused on four main things:  drug abuse, strippers, doing it; and the remorse therefrom.  I’m by no means endorsing these things, but the allure is he’s going where one shouldn’t go.  “You bring the drugs, baby, I can bring my pain.” The inherent vocal swagger of Tesfaye is belied by what are actually sad, remorseful lyrics.  “Just say that you love me, only for tonight, even though you don’t love me.

The buzz engine has already been running in fifth gear after The Weeknd.  Pitchfork is all up in The Weeknd’s guts, fellow Canadian, Drake, has been pimping the mixtape out, and both Twitter and Tumblr have been screaming about this album. (His Tumblr is actually really bitchin, you should follow it.) At the end of the day, it’s well earned notereity because what The Weeknd is inadvertently (or advertently) doing is re-legitimizing and overly saccharine, constantly xeroxed, and compositionally paltry R&B genre.  Dude is about to blow up big, so dig in while you can.

Download The Weeknd’s “House of Balloons” mixtape FREE from their website.

Radiohead | Nude (Bear Like Mouse Remix)

I’ve been on a big enough myself-kick lately, I figured I might as well slap the thigh and ride the wave in.  When Radiohead put out In Rainbows, I was always really impressed with the model by which they distributed [download, pay what you want (I paid $0.95 because I was pretty broke at the time)].  They further impressed me when it came time to marketing their singles.  Their video for my favorite track off of the album, All I Need, was a poignant-to-the-point-of-harrowing focus on child labor.  As for Nude, they broke up the song into its core components and sold each track on iTunes for $0.99 a pop.  Download them all and do with them what you please.  They didn’t destroy the integrity of the song and, in fact, structured it in such a way that it was easy to remix.  Now what do you have?  Thousands and thousands of musicians paying $5.00 for individual tracks to one song who get to fully embrace Radiohead in an artistically intimate way, and then turn right back around and promote the everloving shit out of the single.  Totes brill!

So back to me.

I took a pretty minimalist approach to this remix.  The band, Holy Fuck, was the most doted-on remixer of this particular single and they did a lot of really cool stuff that structurally altered the song (as one might expect from them).  I didn’t want to do that though.  I really wanted to pare it back, crank up the reverb, and try to exploit the blues-y-ness of the track as well as create a gauzy track of those gorgeous ethereal vocals, which only makes brief appearance in the original track.  It’s a much more luscious and saturated version of the song.  I also ditched the drum track and did my own thing.