Reviews

antigravity-nov2016-reviews-music-chupa
Published  November 2016

antigravity-nov2016-reviews-music-chupaCHUPAME EL DEDO
S/T
(DISCREPANT)
From my first visit, Domino Sound Record Shack has consistently exposed me to some fantastically out-there contemporary interpretations of international folk traditions, and Chupame El Dedo’s self-titled album is the latest treasure in this relationship! Starting as a commissioned collaboration between Colombian experimental cumbia icons Eblis Álvarez of Meridian Brothers and Pedro Ojeda of Romperayo, Chupame deviated from their work as Los Pirañas and set out to meld grind and black metal with tropical rhythms like cumbia, salsa, and reggaeton. Chupame El Dedo—released on vinyl in July 2016—is an extreme, synth-mutated cacophony of metal and Caribbean music, inspiring dance, and perhaps terror (especially for Ojeda’s signature muffled vocals). More likely dance, though; even with such bold experimentalism, this record retains so much of its tropical rhythm’s delight.—Ben Miotke

 
antigravity-nov2016-reviews-music-clippingCLIPPING
SPLENDOR AND MISERY
(SUB POP)
Concept albums are often seen as bloated and pretentious. It’s albums like Splendor and Misery that prove this to be an unfair generalization. After only a short a capella intro, things reach a fevered intensity as Clipping MC Daveed Diggs (who recently played Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in the Broadway musical Hamilton) takes the role of a spacecraft’s computer, narrating a slave’s rebellion, his hacking of the ship’s security system, and his escape in the face of gunfire. Producers William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes are in top form once again, providing beats one can shake their ass to, while also tracing the entire aural palette, from cavernous depths to shrill, punctual blasts. The dense drone that accompanies the chorus of “Air ‘Em Out” builds tension while Diggs delivers a catchy and defiant hook. What would sound out of place if attempted by anyone else serves to give life to the tracks on Splendor and Misery, Clipping’s best and most compelling album yet. Even in the absence of anything resembling a melody, we find ourselves pulling for protagonist Cargo #2331 in his quest for liberation. —Corey Cruse

antigravity-nov2016-reviews-music-hexaHEXA
FACTORY PHOTOGRAPHS
(ROOM40)
HEXA is Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu partnered with Lawrence English; and Factory Photographs is the unofficial/ official soundtrack to David Lynch’s literal factory photographs, which were part of his 2015 Between Two Worlds exhibit at Brisbane’s Gallery Of Modern Art. HEXA’s soundtrack was commissioned by curator José Da Silva and is as close as you can get to looking at Lynch’s beautifully bleak photos of earth-scorching, smoke-stacking, gold-watch-rewarding factories across America, without looking at anything at all. With song titles like “There Never Was,” and “The Coldest Kiss,” you might think you know what you’re getting into, but this album is way more layered and heady than you might imagine. It’s surprising how listening to droning soundscapes can have such a therapeutic effect, but listening to nothing can open up everything if you sign yourself over to the experience. —Kelly McClure

antigravity-nov2016-reviews-music-hope-sandovalHOPE SANDOVAL &
THE WARM INVENTIONS
UNTIL THE HUNTER
(TENDRIL TALES)
When it’s a crisp, dark night and you’re feeling moody and unable to decide between listening to one of your favorite My Bloody Valentine or Mazzy Star albums, this should levitate out of your record rack and land in your lap. Until the Hunter is the third release by Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions—the smoggy, languid, but not-at-all overly precious project led by Sandoval (formerly of Mazzy Star) and Colm O’Coisog from My Bloody Valentine. A long time coming (their last release, Through the Devil Softly came out in 2009), this is a healing salve for ears that have been subjected to garbage music for way too long. I had to physically force myself to stop listening to it. The track “Let Me Get There,” which features Kurt Vile, is especially life-affirming. —Kelly McClure

antigravity-nov2016-reviews-music-planchettesPLANCHETTES
S/T
(GLUE MOON)
Playing raucous garage punk with an intensity rarely seen in these “fashion first” times, Planchettes deliver on both immediacy and catchiness. Each of the four tracks on this 7” piece are as fun as they are gut-punching. Opener “Shackle Me Not” is bare-boned rock at its finest, with a chorus as wordy as its name. The following track “La Fin Du Monde” is as apocalyptic as the title might suggest, at least on a small scale, with allusions to suicide and a four chord riff that serves as the intro and chorus refrain. “Pull Your Head,” accompanied by a motorik beat and plodding, hypnotic bass, brings to mind The Stooges’ “Down On the Street” and features lyrics that are squarely anti-police. It also happens to be my favorite song on the record. Finisher “Degenerate Sin” begins with a descending scale intro. This, coupled with self-loathing writ large and the vocal delivery of a crazed preacher, makes for a satisfyingly claustrophobic track—that is, until the surf rock-esque, fuzzed out solo gives it just enough sweetness. All in all, this 7” is a pretty sweet debut. —Corey Cruse

antigravity-nov2016-reviews-music-valerie-sassyfrasVALERIE SASSYFRAS
SASSQUAKE!
(SELF-RELEASED)
Sassquake! is a testimony of the sounds, sensations, and experiences that constitute beloved club circuit pop star Valerie Sassyfras. This album shows you Valerie, the playful, older woman who promotes pragmatic optimism and veneration for Johnny Donald—her departed love and musical collaborator—through catchy pop songs that draw from zydeco, country, and hip-hop. The recorded format obviously lacks Sassyfras’ endearing live presentation, but her experience as a performer shines through. Half of the songs demonstrate her mature, liberal politics, like sex positivity and matter-of- fact environmentalism (“Mighty Mississippi”). Other tracks celebrate Sassyfras’ history: her relationship with Louisiana, in-laws (“Bastard Snake”), and most importantly, her love for Johnny. Sassyfras has done wonderful work in adapting her passions into something fun and inclusive with Sassquake! —Ben Miotke

antigravity-nov2016-reviews-music-scenic-worldSCENIC WORLD
SYNTHS & SENSIBILITY
(SELF-RELEASED)
Scenic World can be compared with Sharks’ Teeth, both Louisiana-based bedroom pop acts expressing deep love for the synthesizer through historic tributes to the instrument. Scenic World’s effort seems finely focused on 1983 and, for what they embrace from that year, it’s amazingly endearing. 1983 was the year Cyndi Lauper jubilantly released “She’s So Unusual,” New Order moved their post-punk interiority toward the dancefloor with “Blue Monday,” and Pat Benatar rallied the pop crowd with “Love Is A Battlefield.” These futuristic, shamelessly hook-heavy influences are dutifully and giddily honored on Synths & Sensibility, placing the album at the boundary between cheesy and authentically appreciable. This ambiguity is resolved in dance tracks like “Sandy” that burst with decadent ‘80s worship, while slower, more contemporary indie songs like “Naive” attenuate that vintage glee. Overall, Synths is extremely accessible and a worthy interpretation of some of the best pop of the 1980s. —Ben Miotke

antigravity-nov2016-reviews-music-snail-mailSNAIL MAIL
HABIT
(SISTER POLYGON)
Snail Mail is the solo project of 17-year-old Lindsey Jordan of Baltimore, Maryland. Her sophomore EP is basically what most male 20-something college graduates have been trying to do since they began listening to Pavement or Broadcast: it’s bedroom pop, perfectly muffled by the transparency of your first crush, and the last dorm room cigarette. Jordan began writing these songs and producing EPs when she was 16; I wish I’d had this music when I was skipping class at my all-girl Catholic school to skate on the tennis courts behind the building. Habit was produced by G.J. Jaguar of PRIESTS and Jason Sauvage of Coup Sauvage & the Snips. Jordan has found a way to balance high school with driving out to D.C. for shows every weekend—a lot of which are strict with ID checks—and she expects to release a full-length album soon, joining in the long tradition of D.C. musicians emerging on to the scene at such a young age. I’ve listened to “Slug” countless times on night drives; lyrically it’s the most simplistic track on Habit, but instrumentally it seems to break an emotional barrier in Jordan. Listen to this EP if you want to feel like you’re at a 7/11 with your crush, kissing them after sipping a Slurpee on the first day of winter. —Gabby Steib

antigravity-nov2016-reviews-music-vince-staplesVINCE STAPLES
PRIMA DONNA
(DEF JAM)
Within the first minute of Vince Staples’ new EP Prima Donna, we hear him eerily singing “This Little Light of Mine,” followed by a gunshot, and then the unmistakable voice of Andre 3000. It’s doubtful that there will be as effective an opening to a rap release this year. Throughout the EP, Staples airs his grievances with fame and career, and how he doesn’t need rap music to survive—a shame, because Vince is a damn good rapper. With beats supplied by frequent collaborators No I.D and DJ Dahi, along with James Blake(!), Vince flexes many different flows effortlessly across seven bombastic tracks. The closest comparison is the above-stated Andre 3000, who was likewise uncomfortable with the spotlight. “Think I’m finna pull a Wavves on the Primavera stage,” Vince says on the title track, recalling that band’s infamous meltdown at the Barcelona festival in 2009. While Vince’s fears may be warranted, the way he channels them makes Prima Donna a must-listen for those who take their gangsta rap with a mix of humor and self consciousness. —Brandon Lattimore

antigravity-nov2016-reviews-music-street-sectsSTREET SECTS
END POSITION
(THE FLENSER)
Street Sects’ New Orleans show two years ago was woefully under-attended. They’ve since gained a near legendary reputation around the country for performances which, through the use of blinding venue-filling fog and light, are simultaneously sensory-depriving and overstimulating. After2014’s excellent pair of self-released Gentrification EPs, Street Sects have put out their debut full-length on The Flenser. Though the grindcore-paced drum machine freakouts are still present, tracks like “In Defense of Resentment” have more in common with a band like Cabaret Voltaire than Atari Teenage Riot. It’s easy to be skeptical when one is told that a band’s sound has “matured,” as it’s often a sign they’ve just become more accessible. In this case, production quality and songcraft have only improved. Vocalist Leo Ashline sounds possessed by either a higher or lower power throughout, at times evoking the hardcore vocals of Converge’s Jacob Bannon, and in other more vulnerable moments, Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart. Ashline and synth-mangling bandmate Shaun Ringsmuth create more listenable terror than nearly all bands more than twice their size, and they do it with startling precision. —Corey Cruse

antigravity-nov2016-reviews-music-tyler-keithTYLER KEITH AND THE APOSTLES
DO IT FOR JOHNNY!
(SELF-RELEASE)
Tyler Keith has been in the weeds of the mid-South, garage rocking since the mid-90s when The Neckbones burned through the scene like a spark on a fuse. Keith broke out on his own with tongue-in- cheek, hell-raising songs about outlaws and outcasts in the early 2000s group Preacher’s Kids, and continues to do so with The Apostles—made up of former Preacher Kid Van Thompson and the E-Meters’ Max Hipp and Beau Bourgeois. The group’s new album is as solid as ever, showing off a razor-sharp wit and flippant attitude, with full throttle barn burners balanced by hangover-like introspective songs. The title track “Do It For Johnny!” is a paean to S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, about trying to do good and get by in a society that tells you you’re bad. On songs like “Can’t Do It Again,” Keith slows it down to an unsettled melancholy, singing “Stumbling through Memphis with a bottle of wine / Trying to make somebody laugh at my jokes…what’s the point of trying again?” Do It For Johnny! shows Keith and company are still blowing out eardrums and PA systems, hopefully for a long time to come. You can try before you buy on the group’s bandcamp page. —Andrew Mullins, III

antigravity-nov2016-reviews-music-elliottsmithVARIOUS ARTISTS
SAY YES! A TRIBUTE
TO ELLIOTT SMITH
(AMERICAN LAUNDROMAT)
It’s hard to believe that it’s already been 13 years since the passing of one the most prolific musicians of our time. In his short life, Elliott Smith garnered critical acclaim and cult status through his intimate and brazenly honest approach to songwriting. Say Yes! is a tribute collection of fan favorites, as interpreted by a high-caliber cast of characters. Tanya Donelly’s “Between the Bars” and Amanda Palmer’s “Pictures of Me” don’t falter much from the original versions, while J. Mascis rips a nearly unrecognizable “Waltz #2,” and Tomo Nakayama’s “Miss Misery” is so cozy that I melt with nostalgia every time I hear it. Front to back, there is no shortage of highlights on this album, but my absolute favorites here are Lou Barlow’s “Division Day” and Juliana Hatfield’s poignant “Needle in the Hay.” It’s difficult to summarize an entire body of work in 15 songs, but this list really is the best effort you can hope for—certainly a welcome addition to any Elliott Smith collection. —Kevin Comarda

antigravity-nov2016-reviews-book-northern-dandyZACH BARTLETT
NORTHERN DANDY: VAGUELY
EROTIC HUMOR AND VERSE
(SAPIOSEXUAL PRESS)
Northern Dandy is a tease. It’s filled with vignettes plucked from the stage and settled on the page: capricious and sardonic poetry, and choose-your- own-misadventure stories about bawdy failures. Every option Bartlett presents to the reader are meant to be scintillating, but rarely lead to anything but disaster: a butler whose swagger is dependent upon an affair with the duchess realizes she’s screwing another servant; a Roman legionnaire can’t quite figure out how to be the dashing masculine hero to a dirty peasant girl. Bartlett overturns the conceit of the genre, eschewing historical details and character motivation in an attempt to divorce the reader from any sense of immersive role-playing. Most of his material throws back to bawdy sex farces and cabaret acts, and was originally performed as part of the stage show Esoterotica, that production’s pace and timing evident on the page here. Northern Dandy is filled with puns, allusions, and indulges itself in deconstructing fantasy. You know: good clean fun. —Andrew Mullins, III

antigravity-nov2016-reviews-book-kyle-bravoKYLE BRAVO
FOREVER AND EVERYTHING:
AUTOBIO COMICS
(SELF-PUBLISHED)
As the man behind Making Stuff And Doing Things—a perennial classic of punk house literature first published in 2005—it’s cool to see Kyle Bravo still at it. Making Stuff told me it was fine to not wash my socks, that I could just leave them out in the sun and the U.V. rays would kill all the bad bacteria. Older now, I realize this is shitty advice. In similar fashion, Bravo has also grown up. Forever And Everything is mostly about the author’s experience of being a new dad and trying to find the time to make art. The series of comic vignettes have very simple illustrations with titles like “Funny Mommy” and “Storytime at the Library.” I don’t have a child and the idea of being responsible for one is terrifying; but the author seems into it, sharing the joys and frustrations of parenthood. The cover is screen-printed by the author and hand-bound with string. Nice touches to this self-published comic. —Andru Okun

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