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A GRAPE DOPE, "MISSING DRAGONS"

Galaxia
Showcasing his repertoire on the keyboard, sampler and mixing console under the alias of A Grape Dope, Chicago-based drummer John Herndon (Tortoise, Isotope 217) presents six new varying tracks that make up his latest EP. No stranger to the producer's chair, in recent years Herndon has provided re-mixes for other artists, while also releasing a few of his own dub-influenced compositions via the Hefty Records Immediate Action series. "Action: Showered Us" leads off the disc with its infectious live samba school-styled rhythms and muted basslines that kick the track into high gear, complete with handclaps. From the Hip Hop collective Anitcon, Dose One lends his distinct, multi-layered vocals to the bouncy "Red Hat Attack" over busy programmed machine beats, staccato low-end and near dissonant organ drones. The compositional sounds and juxtaposition of car crashes and toddlers-in-the-park themes make for an odd yet very interesting track. The disc's biggest surprise and definite highlight is the soulful ballad "I'll Spread It" which features Herndon's emotional vocoder stylings along with some tender bass and chord progressions that lilt and sway just beautifully. The underlying purr of additional electronic elements round out the composition nicely. Herndon's interesting compositional style and shifting rhythms draw from several different influences, yet still come across as distinct in their own setting. The strong, at times angular compositions on Missing Dragons should dispel the myth that drummers are only capable of counting and hitting stuff. 

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The Eye: Video of the Day

Comets On Fire

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Review of the Day

Thomas Köner, "Daikan"
Mille Plateaux
After my first listen to this album at a low volume level, I was a little worried because there didn't seem to be much going on; but luckily, subsequent listens on a decent system revealed a great level of detail, much of it buried under immense low end. The focal point is the periodic repetition of a low-pass-filtered percussive sound, stretched out to such an extent that its booming decay lingers long enough to reveal the slow fluctuations of a vibrating membrane. This is accompanied by a harmonically rich, but somewhat muted, midrange drone that very slowly fades from complete silence to full volume and then back again to nothingness, bringing new layers of sound with each iteration. The tonal elements resemble Köner's more recent Unerforschtes Gebiet recording in their texture and evocation of abandoned places. Here they are softer. The percussion and gradual variations in amplitude lend a mysterious—and somewhat human—element to an otherwise uninhabited landscape. Midway through the piece, the drone descends rather conspicuously through four closely-spaced notes, in what is reminiscent of a threateningly futuristic movie soundtrack. After this big event, some quiet, almost mechanical, filtered noise emerges, along with repeated bass-rich volume swells that sound like more stretched out percussion, this time played backwards. The slight hissing and patient rise and fall in volume are like breathing; and the middle part of this recording is really quite beautiful, despite the abundance of low-end making it almost claustrophobic and morose. Shades of the descending melody are audible as the original sounds return, and the drum sound re-enters and grows more and more extended throughout the remainder of the piece. It finally ends with a sustained rumble. Even with the limited range of sound that Köner seems to have confined himself to, Daikan is quite stunning and is a fine addition to the Köner collection. 

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