What *better* way to celebrate the arrival of Spring than with a little doom metal? If you like the following, check out allthatisheavy.com – no, they’re not paying me to plug them, they didn’t even ask me. The site really is that awesome, and their newsletter is a great way to keep up with all the latest and greatest.
Ahh, Sleep. The James Brown of doom. One of my favorite things about Sleep is their idiosyncrasy: while MTV and Rolling Stone were giving the world the hard sell on Seattle grunge, Sleep was doing something *completely* different and off-the-charts (literally), taking 70s proto-metal and twisting it into their own piquant brand of fuzzed-out mayhem.
Old school cool from Sweden. Messiah Marcolin, the vocalist, is one of my favorite singers.
This band’s from Sardinia, of all places. They seem to revel in obscurity – it’s hard/impossible to find t-shirts, CDs or (legal) digital downloads. Sell out, guys! You’ve got at least one eager customer waiting in line.
Don’t let the “u” in their name fool you – these guys are from Cali. Thus particular tune – all of Saviours’ music, actually – manages to be raw and fuzzy and epic and transcendent all at the same time.
These guys are from, drumroll, please… Northampton, Massachusetts! Hey, that’s where I live! I wear my Black Pyramid t-shirt with pride. Let me know if you ever want to hang out and slay some orcs, guys!
I cannot get enough of this band – and I have what a friend of mine called “new song hard-on” for this particular tune, which was recorded in… drumroll, please… Northampton, Massachusetts! Guys? Can we hang out? Slay some orcs? Guys?
For a little bit there, in the late 90s and early 00s, I really thought dance music was going to take off, going to transcend its XTC-popping, glowstick-swinging roots. And of course that happened, but in (for me, anyway) the worst way possible. Now *everyone* listens to dance music – and that’s great! But I feel like most of what comes out today is just screechy, slurry noise that passes off as “hip”, or else it’s Top 40 high fructose corn syrup.
Of course, a few brave souls are still making great electronic music in the right-now (Boards of Canada!), but it’s hard not to get cynical. It seems like the loud and vulgar always crowds out the understated and beautiful. But nothing, nothing can detract from the joy and wonder of the late 90s and early 00s.
Take Private (2002), one of my all-time favorite albums, by speedometer., the stage name of Jun Takayama. Private is, as far as Yours Truly is concerned, a masterpiece of dance/electronica. Therefore it’s all the more heartbreaking that it’s so utterly obscure. I can’t even recall how I came across Private; I think I heard one of the tracks on soma.fm while lettering Rex Mundi at 3 in the morning, and I took a chance on the full album. The chance paid off, in droves.
What can I say about speedometer.’s sound? Sure, it’s downtempo, chill out, space jazz, whatever – but none of those descriptors even come close to capturing the beauty of the music. So here’s Nightboat from Alaska, the first track from the album. I love the mysterious, shimmering timbre of the melody, the skittery jazz percussion, the rubbery Angelo Badalamenti bass, and the saxophone.
Private Roots, the second track, is my favorite, and the fact that it only has 15 views on YouTube is a sickening crime. Yoshie Nakano, the vocalist on this piece, deserves like ten Grammys. Downtempo dance tends to feature a lot of soulful, jazzy female vocals, but the vocalists don’t always have the chops. Well, Nakano has chops. You can’t fake passion and intensity like hers.
The entire album is perfect, one of the rare cases where you can listen from beginning to end without skipping a track. It’s available on iTunes, wedged in somewhere between the Justin Bieber remixes feat. Nelly and singles from The Voice™. If you happen to be lucky enough to live near a small record store that specializes in electronica/dance, they might have it, too, but I dunno. Like I said, this album never got the attention it deserved.
I somehow hunted down speedometer.’s earlier album, …Or Not, and there are a few fleeting moments of brilliance in it that are fully realized in Private. Checking speedometer’s Web site, I can see he released a bunch of albums after Private, but I have no way of knowing how to get them in a way that financially compensates Jun Takayama. Which is sad, but at least he’s still making music. That, by itself, makes me happy.
Okay. I’m going to go listen to Slayer now.