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Githead, "Art Pop"

Githead's debut Headgit EP and subsequent full length Profile brought angular post-punk at a time when, quite frankly, everyone else was doing it. That Wire frontman Colin Newman served as its voice and postmodern lyricist did surprisingly little to differentiate it from the fresher crop of youngbloods. Both releases had their respective moments of memorable majesty, such as the subdued tech-house of "To Have And To Hold" and the slogan expropriating screed "Option Paralysis," though neither produced the anticipated excellence of a collaboration between Newman, his wife Malka Spigel, and Robin "Scanner" Rimbaud.  With Art Pop, their latest for the Swim ~ imprint, the trio (now a quartet) finally delivers, taking their sound to a level that demands attention from indie rock dweebs and PBR-guzzling hipsters alike.

 

Swim ~

From the opening guitar chug of "On Your Own," an immediate wind of change breezes through, and continues to do so as a jangly pop groove with Newman's unique pipes keeps things in perspective.  As expected, Newman's lyrics are still as bizarre as ever, with choruses about overloaded email inboxes seeming just a bit too heavy handed, though his rediscovered sense of delivery excuses him of such habitual excesses.  As he did so successfully with Wire in the '80s, Newman consummates the sordid wedding of accessible music and theory-laden message, from the complex spittle-flecked diatribe of "Drive By" to "These Days," a deceptively simple lament of numbness.  

Spiegel and drummer Max Franken's rhythm section not only keeps everything in order, but also creates elaborate, brilliant grooves that are impossible to ignore. On "Space Life," Spiegel's bass line bursts through the guitar fuzz with a insatiable vitality, while Franken methodically accents every snare.  Even the tracks where Newman takes a backseat still shine, though for entirely different reasons.  "Lifeloops" detours from the rock n roll for a plucked guitar ballad awash in dreamy synth, with a coolly monotonous Spigel taking on the vocal duties throughout, as does the vocoded "Jet Ear Game," with lyrics cut-up and reassembled from media reviews of Profile.

The material here is anything but homogenous, ranging from the gravely pastoral and somber "Live In Your Head" to the slow and sleazy psych-funk of "Drop," though it all comes together in nearly perfect unison.  Of course Wire fanatics and those who have continuously followed Newman’s solo career will enjoy Art Pop, but additionally it has the potential to reach entirely new audiences as previously mentioned.  Finally, Githead has made good on its promise with this essential release.

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Jessica Bailiff

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Review of the Day

Kontakt der Jünglinge, "n"
Die Stadt
The fourth CD release from Asmus Tietchens and Thomas Köner's collaborative project Kontakt der Jünglinge, n is the duo's strongest work to date. Like their other releases, the disc is drone-heavy, consisting of one 40+ minute live improvisation, dominated by huge bell tones and what sound like recordings of rushing wind, delayed, looped and exploded along a slow evolution. While previous efforts warranted descriptors like "barren" and "bleak," based on their preference for more acute, concr?te-associated sounds or sparse assembly, n is the first Kontakt der Jünglinge release to which these words apply in a comprehensive way. Tietchens and Köner work together in seamless fashion, arranging sounds that define the boundaries of spaces rather than concentrating on details or events within. The piece succeeds in avoiding the more recognizable or associative sounds that appeared on earlier releases while creating a rich, more easily inhabitable sound-world, in this case something like a vacuous region of deep space. The title, a break from the linear titles of the first three collaborations (1, 0, -1), also suggests that this fourth disc deals with sounds of a more elemental nature or offers a purification of the ideas posited by its predecessors. Just words, yes, but very few things can fill a room like this.

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