The Thomas Top Five: 4/4/16
Our Editor-in-Chief listens to upwards of 50 albums per week, so why not let him share the five, presented alphabetically by artist, he thinks are the best for you to hear on this week’s installment of the Thomas Top Five?
Andrew W.K. – I GET WET
Favorite Tracks: “Party Hard,” “Ready to Die,” “ I Get Wet”
I’ve heard a lot of music in my time, folks, but to this day, I firmly believe I GET WET is one of the most unique, challenging, and simply baffling releases in music history. I live and bleed genre tags, but after innumerable hours spent mulling it over in my head (I choose to spend my free time in interesting ways), I still can’t succinctly distill this into any particular musical movement, which I personally cannot say for any other album I’ve encountered. Taking the tinny, mass-produced hollowness of the most recycled pop songs and applying it to the sounds of the authenticity-obsessed realm of heavy metal genre yields one of the most disconcerting and captivating listening experiences you’ll ever have, made all the more unbelievable by the doubled-down references to non-stop partying that puts the hedonism of any given hip hop artist to shame. I can’t necessarily speak to the technical craft of the songwriting, but Andrew W.K. makes painfully clear his talent at birthing an anthemic pop earworm. Is this a clever commentary on the paradigms of pop music and our relationship to it? Is this the manifesto of a tone-deaf frat boy? Is this, in hindsight, a clear marker of the downfall of Western music history? All that’s for certain is that this is music that should not exist, and it takes a mad genius to have the gall to attempt it.
The Gerogerigegege – TOKYO ANAL DYNAMITE
Favorite Tracks: N/A
A requisite album for anyone who’s even tangentially active online, those looking to push their boundaries would be remiss to not give TOKYO ANAL DYNAMITE a spin. A release that should be under “blistering” in the dictionary, The Gerogerigegege manage to cram 75 tracks into just under 35 minutes, making full use of the association their name carries with the Japanese onomatopoeia describing waste leaving you out both ends. Predating most grindcore releases (this was allegedly recorded three to four years before the release date) with their sheer intensity and rampant abuse of instruments, and featuring enough noise to put most genre participants to shame, The Gerogerigegege are some of the most manic miscreants ever allowed to record. What’s the most unbelievable, however, is that this entire album was recorded live! Christ Almighty, what must have this show been like? However, there’s something winking and mischievous beneath the surface, whether it be the surprise shock of seeing such bastions of rock history as the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” or The Doors’ “Light My Fire” listed as covers on the track list, or the fact that demented frontman Juntaro Yamanouchi announces the title of each microcosmal blast of aural abjection and counts many of them off with an earnest “1,2,3,4.” But as with any release in the vein, at a certain point, words fail entirely; check it out if you like having your ear canals treated like a punching bag.
Lone – GALAXY GARDEN
Genre: Hardcore Breaks, Acid House
Favorite Tracks: “New Colour,” “As a Child (with Machinedrum),” “Lying in the Reeds,” “Dream Girl / Sky Surfer”
This is hard to put a finger on, to be sure. Rhythmically rooted in jungle and its subset of footwork (as the cuts featuring Machinedrum hint to), GALAXY GARDEN offsets the familiar intensity of its percussion programming (“As a Child”) with vintage synths and an ecstatic gaze of wide-eyed futurism. This initially off-putting combination yields greater and greater returns, as it manages to sidestep the occasionally crippling nostalgia and hazy rose-tinted glasses of genres such as vaporwave while still possessing sonic reference points that bring to mind its more progressive electronic-oriented acts a la Giant Claw. Its more extreme loci end up balancing each other out into a release comfortably situated in the twilight zone between background ambient and club banger, a perfect example of the nebulous “purple sound” genre, still in its infancy, which deftly combines wonky wobbles with elements heavily influenced by video games. As with the best albums, the cover art perfectly captures a visual representation of the sounds contained within, a galactic starflight of rounded contours and intensely luminous surfaces.
Low – I COULD LIVE IN HOPE
Favorite Tracks: “Fear,” “Slide,” “Lazy,” “Lullaby,” “Drag”
With a name like “slowcore,” I think you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. The disheartened, often dangerously depressed cousin of the early 90s indie rock movement, Low vies with Red House Painters as the exemplary act from the subgenre, setting the template for many more years of melancholy to come. As the name would suggest, this is extremely subdued, slowly unravelling music, taking the listener gently by the hand and leading them into ever more introspective realms of self-doubt. The instrumentation is sparse and tends to favor repetition, but becomes overwhelming in terms of the scope of space that it constructs, relishing each and every cymbal kiss and ebbing chord change as Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker’s wraith-like vocals float somewhere above like a suicidal spectre. Artists today are far too prone to wearing their heart on their sleeve; sometimes less is more. Just listen to the first few notes of “Lullaby”; how is your day going to possibly pick itself up from the pit it throws it down? Also notable from a musical perspective for having the bass guitar do just as much work, if not more, than the guitar, Low would continue on to have a long and storied career, but would never again reach the highs (lows) of I COULD LIVE IN HOPE.
Stephan Micus – IMPLOSIONS
Genre: Avant-Folk, New Age
Favorite Tracks: “As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams,” “For M’schr and Djingis Khan”
It’s no secret that New Age music is the most obfuscated of grab-bags in terms of quality. Essentially boiling down to music that intentionally aims to be transportive or meditative, far too often any potential conscious-rendering is halted dead in its tracks by painfully artificial versions of instruments and styling considered vaguely “ethnic,” putting an unfortunate veil of Orientalist belief over the entire thing. However, missteps like the kind you’re no doubt accustomed to make releases like IMPLOSIONS all the more powerful; entirely unassuming, Micus’ composition is subtly sublime, with some pristine production highlighting even the most minor of inflections he employs. What’s the most impressive, however, is that Micus is the only performer present, making the tightly interwoven arrangements all the more staggering considering the tactful overdubbing necessary to give them wings. Containing artful arrangements making full use of the respective soothing tones of the sitar, zither, shakuhachi, sho, and rabab, IMPLOSIONS is less superficial name-dropping of foreign influences and more a seminal text of a globalized soundscape where distinct cultural styles can retain their idiosyncrasy whilst simultaneously integrating to create something beautiful.