Will Schube is currently wondering if Travis Scott has watched anything outside of Uncut Gems in the A24 production library.
Mega Bog ― Life, and Another
I’m calling for a Lounge Music renaissance. I don’t know when it started or how it started or what sort of people it attracted, but listening to Mega Bog’s new BRILLIANT album, Life, and Another, I want to sit in a dark room with a lot of smoke and a really fucking smoky glass of whiskey and bask in the way her songwriting inspires all of the tenets of bygone eras without being extremely cheesy. And that’s not to say that Mega Bog’s music isn’t original―she’s one of the most creative, dynamic, and unique songwriters in the world; she’s quite possibly my favorite artist making music right now―it’s just that Mega Bog (real name Erin Birgy) places signifiers in the most strategic ways, to call attention to listeners so that she can move them elsewhere.
The first single, “Weight of the Earth, on Paper” is built around cacophony, but the combination of a South American percussion groove, a 4/4 drum groove, a piano line that is at times coherent at times seemingly random, synth-based strings that swell like a broken foot, a guitar line that follows the piano, and some other stuff I can’t quite pinpoint, creates an atmosphere of such intensity that all you can do is focus on Birgy’s voice, which is so delightful, charming, and mysterious that all of the other parts become Best Supporting Actor terrain. And then there’s a choir of chanting voices that are equal parts revolutionary and terrifying. I am obsessed with this song. And it’s just one song. Miraculously there is an album―nay, AN ENTIRE DISCOGRAPHY―of this brilliance.
Eli Winter & Cameron Knowler ― Anticipation
Did you hear? Guitar music is in again. For some it never left but I’ve always been a fair weather fan when it comes to music that’s built around finger picking and sliding up and down the fretboard. Eli Winter and Cameron Knowler are just one of many groups/artists who have renewed my passion for the genre, thanks to their intricate blend of not-quite-improvised compositions that move with such smoothness while retaining a free-wheeling heart. Most of the album, Anticipation, was recorded in Houston over a nine-hour session before Winter returned to his home in Chicago, and the desperation of this time crunch infuses the record with an urgency to pack as many sprawling, thrilling ideas into a neat little package as possible.
“Strawberry Milk,” which for some reason grosses me out as a song title, is built around a mix of lightly strummed chords and a rapidly picked guitar line that weaves and bobs like a basketball team on a fast break. “And so I Did” makes me want to put on my cowboy boots and chase bandits. The track is slick and unabashedly indebted to a myth of the West that has long since been proven false but still carries historical and cultural weight. The “hook” that the duo play, which consists of a sweeping group of notes that take on a new characteristic thanks to the way either Knowler or Winter (I’m not sure which) slides the phrasing. Anticipation is an album packed with little moments that add up to an album evocative of a time and place that never existed. Like the orange hue that tints the desert cover art, everything on Anticipation is just different enough from what it seems.
Stephen Malkmus ― Ege Bamyasi
Experimentation from your favorite artists can suck if it’s not done well―if the artist falls in love with the conceptual heft of what they’re doing or if they’re just not very good at doing something outside of their wheelhouse. I’ve always liked Pavement — “Gold Soundz” is a perfect song, but I was never a devotee in the way so many in the generation before mine were. But for some reason, I’ve always been very partial to the later output of Stephen Malkmus’ career. I was never a Jicks guy, which I guess was for people that missed Pavement, but some of his weirder shit has always been really cool in my book. Groove Denied from 2019 is really good, and his newest record, CAN’s Ege Bamyasi, with Von Spar, has been in near constant rotation over here at Schube headquarters.
The record is pretty no frills. It’s just a really excellent cover of one of the best albums of all-time, and Malkmus lets his voice run ragged, doing his best to mimic the inimitable style of CAN frontman Damo Suzuki. As Malkmus says, “Top 10 ever. Maybe top 3. Just behind Elvis.” Spot on. The Cologne-based Von Spar play the role of backing band, and their seamless re-interpretation of the album is spectacular. The show was originally recorded at the 2012 Week-End Fest in Cologne, Germany but wasn’t released on streaming services until mid-March. And that, my friends, gives you an idea of how long it’s been since I started planning this edition of Noise Pollution. Sorry, Jeff.
Bobby Lee ― Origin Myths
Bobby Lee’s Origin Myths was also released in March of this year, but the record has stuck with me enough that it’s still worth talking about. There’s a lot of music that’s inspired by the desert, but not much that actually sounds like it. Origin Myths, which was released by the ever reliable, always excellent Tompkins Square, is everything good about the mythic west revival of music we’ve seen appear everywhere without any of the frilly bullshit. The music melts like it’s atop a diner griddle, stripping to its bare essentials not through simplicity but through repetition.
The opening track, “Four Skies Above,” sounds like The War On Drugs dosed with a particularly introspective hit of LSD, while the following track, “Broken Prayer Strick,” follows the momentum of its predecessor before expanding outwards into the unknown vastness of an alien landscape. The songs are open-ended with plenty of questions left unanswered, but the mystery remains unimportant in the face of the feelings Lee evokes. As a UK based instrumentalist interpreting a uniquely American subsect of guitar music, Lee had a wildly interesting approach to the genre, bringing the downtown cool of New York’s 60s scene with a wacked-out play on motorik beats translated exclusively to guitar. It’s the sort of record that reveals its perfection in the jagged edges that nearly gouge your eyes out along the way.
Dzang ― Glacial Erratic
Cleanliness is key. Crispness is essential. This is music you could eat off the floor if it fell to the ground. Dzang, the moniker of LA producer Adam Gunther, is all about precision and the fine, delicate line between deliberation and over-thinking is miniscule, but throughout Glacial Erratic, Gunther brilliantly creates works that are both meticulous but unendingly surprising. There’s a little bit of everything on the EP, which is surprising considering how nuanced the bass is, how snappy the percussion hits, and how perfectly the synths swell. We get mid-2000s dance music in the vein of Four Tet, extremely cool but hopelessly obsessed with the transportational powers of music.
The drums occasionally wipe off the same strain of cave dust as Burial, but there’s nothing derivative in Dzang’s music. It’s a blend of styles that look like puzzle pieces from different sets, but end up coalescing into something previously unseen. “Retreat” moves at a leisurely pace before being shot in the ass with a synth that’s equal parts g-funk and Detroit techno. There’s a bit of GusGus-inspired melodies thrown in for fun, the 4AD dance music with enough melodic intrigue for indie rock nerds to love. Essentially, Dzang has proved that there’s genius in the smallest moments, that every idea can hit really fucking hard if approached the right way.