Saturday, August 25, 2012

Stars - Set Yourself On Fire

"Anyway... I've started to make a tape... in my head... for Laura. Full of stuff she likes. Full of stuff that make her happy. For the first time I can sort of see how that is done." - Rob, High Fidelity

In a rather unexpected turn of events, i have momentarily found some love in my normally bleak, vicious life. "o no," you might think to yrself, "does this mean he's gonna stop posting nasty noise & misanthropic black metal?" Not by a fucking long shot. For one, there's still plenty of emptiness and pointlessness to existence, even while in the throes of romance and two, this chick's cool, and likes all manner of harshness. Encourages it, even.

i'm somewhat embarrassed to admit that for all my years, and all my love interests, hardly ever have i ever stopped to consider another person's aesthetic, to step behind their eyelids for a moment and try to figure out what makes them tick. I've remained relatively distant and disaffected over the years, preserving my hide and soul at all costs. But i ended up making music with this girl (we play in a band called meta pinnacle), and over the months of writing and learning songs with this person, i ended up taking on some of her taste, by default, trying to make shit sound as best as possible.

We've covered 2 songs off of this record, so far: 'Your Ex-Lover Is Dead' and 'Sleep Tonight,' both of which i love. For some, to hear Set Yrself On Fire 7 years after the fact, one may be tempted to disregard it as another jaunty post-punk orchestral pop record that anybody vaguely familiar with Death Cab For Cutie or anything rubbing up against Broken Social Scene sounds like. Its dismissive, and indicative of some of the challenges facing us as a listening public, these days. There were times when you may only get one new album a month, or maybe once a week, tops, which means you'd have at least 7 days to assimilate the intricacies of song-writing craft etched on the grooves. SYOF's strength, like many or most things in life, lie in the details, like the gentle, drifting guitar on the tail end of the title track, or the string and horn arrangements on 'Your Ex-Lover Is Dead'. In a lot of ways, Stars' sound like DCFC or The Strokes being backed by The Lefte Banke. And the thing of it is, if you don't immediately discredit this record like some hipster prick and actually give it a bloody chance, you may realize that there are aspects of music with far more street cred, like the vocal interplay between Torquil Campbell and Amy Millan, which bring to mind the heavenly harmonies of My Bloody Valentine, or the dreamy delayed guitar that sounds just like epic post-rock. The arsenal of unusual instrumentation bring to mind old, good Belle & Sebastien, and the overall effect is of a multi-hued, many-textured mature record.

I had totally burned out on mid-'00s Indie Rock, one too many Postal Service listens possibly, but this girl has forced me to open my eyes, re-consider my position, and make me wonder what else i might be missing.  There's a shitload of good songs on this record, the production rocks, and there's enough interesting aspects to overlook the bullshit Julian Casablancas aping.

There's going to be a lot more, where this came from...

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Hungry Ghosts - Self Titled

so i have been wrestling in the real world with my involvement with music, what the fuck am i hoping to accomplish anyway, and why am i doing this? You write a blog, and all the links get taken down. You throw a show, the musicians are all amazing, but nobody shows up. This is not belly-aching, this is problem solving. What exactly am i trying to do?

The reason i started J's Heaven, in the first place, was to shed the light on maybe some older or more obscure musicks that there's no way to promote, otherwise. Most 'official publications' only want reviews of albums released that year, at best, and dusty slabs of inspiration from the past get swept under the rug, unless they get re-issued or somebody dies.

For me, it all boiled down to THE ALBUM, using the format of an album review as some pagan invocation to transmit flashing passion from my brain pan to yrs. You see, i have a curious mind. You might almost call it Faustian (lord knows it'll damn my soul, one of these days) and i seem to have no choice but to continue to unearth new gems. Most of the time, its doing research for my own music, listening with open ears and an open mind. So its all been very convoluted, with multiple motivations occurring simultaneously. Mostly, it is to take a sliver of my mind, my life, remove the setting and place it in the ether, for other travellers to stop and bask and rest for a moment. I take these mornings of French jazz and harsh noise, and i give them to you. There is magick happening, all around you. Inspiration, illumination... this music has been the soundtrack to my evolution. It has made me a happier person, even if i have had to walk down a hallway of daggers to get there.

Hungry Ghosts has been my favorite recent discovery of the month (although its more like last month, i've been out of town for a bit) so i basically just picked this one to start, before delving into some ambitious shit i've got in mind. Hungry Ghosts are from Australia, and it was primarily the work of one J. P. Shilo, who's gone on to do some pretty high profile collaborations and film soundtrack work. This is their debut LP, recorded with Rowland S. Howard (of The Birthday Party/Crime and the City Solution fame). Its an LP of evocative spectral noir, music for dark night of the soul. This is Doom Jazz if it were played out at the Moulin Rouge, there seems to be a Parisian hint to these desert landscapes, what with the accordion and fiddle and whatnot. They sound a lot like Earth, in their dense desert-y guitars and mournful cello, but mixed with Kiliminjaro Darkjazz Ensemble playing Debussy covers. This is post-rock, before it got pigeonholed into a cliche, mixing elements of jazz classical and movie scores into a colorful tapestry that will unravel behind yr eyes like a wormhole, like a depth charge.

And that's the thing: this is classic music. Timeless. It came out in 1999, but its new to me, and i'm pretty sure there's bound to be some folks out there that haven't heard this one yet. The instruments are gloriously, glowingly recorded by Howard. The guitars tremble like starving pilgrims, and the keyboards shiver like moonlight on a frosted windshield. The violins are weeping for the lost, but the accordion saws away like Nero. I am quite convinced that this music will make you a better person. To watch a rock band churning out psychedelic chamber music is awesome to behold, the way all the different instruments weave around one another, silken and sinuous. This band truly were at the peak of their powers! If you dig the Western melodrama of The Dirty Three, this one's up yr alley, or even good ol' psych rock like Bardo Pond. There is not one mis-placed note, and it just gets better with repeat listenings. This may become an old friend, a new favorite. It has for me. Let it be the soundtrack to yr late summer, wherever you are.

JP Shilo's been re-issuing some of the Hungry Ghosts stuff on Bandcamp, and has been releasing some new stuff as well, so i'd advocate supporting this extremely talented musician.