Ekstasis contains many many ideas. Classical orchestrated electronics. Bits of saxophone. Haunting melodies. Warm vocals, emotional and icy. The background atmosphere of ambient/field recordings. Quiet drones, bursts of joy. The album feels accomplished, but despite all these aspects I point out, you won’t get lost in its construction, no. You will, very likely, get lost in its enveloping beauty.almostaghost
Tag Archive for 'Los Angeles'
Ultraísta is a band formed by Radiohead’s producer, Nigel Godrich, partnering with Joey Waronker, Beck & Thom Yorke’s drummer. They “discovered” a singer named Laura Bettinson and this is their first album. The music is based around Waronker’s groovy krautrock-type beats, the steady repetitive rhythm. On top, Godrich washes it all with keyboards and effects, and Bettinson voice drifts in and out of it all.
There is a slight feeling that the music/atmosphere takes precedent over the songs, but I think that will reverse as they grow together. This is not just a Godrich sound experiment.
I was looking over my list here, and I realized there are not a lot of bands on it, both up to this point and what’s to come. This year was highlighted by solo artists and projects with one main leader. Ultraísta is one of the few that is a real band/collaboration. Godrich may overwhelm due to his name as a legendary producer, but this isn’t going anywhere without what Waronker and Bettinson mix in.almostaghost
Like last week, my week was again highlighted by a concert. This time I went to see Lykke Li (and Best Coast). I’ve seen Lykke before, in a small venue, but I found this bigger outdoor theatre performance to be much more memorable. I think it fit her unique stage presence. Part of that was having a 2nd album of songs–she just kept playing more and more songs that I liked and I kept thinking, “oh yea I forgot about this song!” It was great to hear the new stuff live; sometimes I just listen to the albums so much and sometimes I get a little nitpicky critical in thinking about them. But then to hear them live makes me step back–yes these are great songs.
(Best Coast was fine; all their songs sound the same.)- almostaghost
So I’ve been enjoying the new Lykke Li album, which led me of course to poke around YouTube one night watching some of her videos. Turns out, she has a number of videos, performing acoustic in the street! How cool! My one minor criticism of the new record is it feels slightly overproduced, and I really like hearing her songs stripped down like this. Obviously, these are all from her first album, instead of her new album since that just came out. But let’s look:
Here’s Lykke and her band singing “Little Bit” on the street in Stockholm. Pure busking! A guy in the window shouts to be quiet or he’ll call the police. A car drives by. The same guy is converted and throws them money at the end.
This one’s incredible. Lykke Li sings, dances, plays the trumpet, and rattles chains while Bon Iver (!) jam on the edge of a fountain. I am not sure why Lykke Li was hanging out with Bon Iver, but they should more. Also apparently Lykke Li plays the trumpet.
Another one outdoors here, it’s “Dance Dance Dance” again, but this time with El Perro Del Mar as her backup. (Kazoo this time, not a trumpet.)
This “I’m Good, I’m Gone” is not out in public, but it is acoustic and apparently outdoors, so close enough.
This one here might be my favorite, and it features Robyn on the chorus! But I can’t embed it, so you have to click over.
And since I don’t like to leave you without music, here’s Beck’s remix of her new single “Get Some”:almostaghost
#17. Record Club – Oar
Beck’s superb and on-going Record Club project is my next choice for this countdown. Beck organizes a handful of fellow musicians and friends, and in one day, they cover an entire album. The tracks are recorded as videos, and then released on Beck.com weekly. He tackled Skip Spence’s Oar for the third project, which is an unbelievably good record. It is a sometimes strange mix of folk and jazz, but with the emotion of one man singing the blues. Skip Spence was an obscure genius, a lesser-known Syd Barrett-type who also went mad. His story is fascinating, but better saved for another post. Beck has been a long-time fan of Spence’s, and has covered him a couple of times prior to this as well.
The first couple of Record Clubs were a fairly random bunch of musicians. This time, the third project, Beck surrounded himself with a band, Wilco, who already have their own chemistry. This brought an added dimension to the proceedings, and the ability to go almost anywhere musically. Further, the other musicians (Feist, Jamie Lidell, Brian LeBarton, James Gadson) are all supremely-talented collaborators, who can easily fit in with whatever is going on. With Beck overseeing everything, this Record Club was set up to succeed.
And succeed they do. They all jump into Oar with unbridled enthusiasm and creativity, relishing the brilliant songs. They handle the project in two sections, basically. Eight of the tracks were done with all the musicians, and the remaining were done as a killer funk band of Beck, Lidell, Gadson and LeBarton (i.e., without Wilco). These two set-ups really complement each other, and make for a very well-rounded album.
The tracks with Wilco and Feist for the most part play the songs straight. Beck sings lead on “Little Hands” and “Diana,” sticking quite close to Spence’s original vocals. Wilco fills out the music in subtle and playful ways, like those lead guitar licks on “Diana.” Feist gets to sing the staggering “Weighted Down,” which was a perfect decision. I don’t think Beck or Jeff Tweedy would have been quite right for the song, neither’s voice has the necessary heft for it. Feist, however, brings it. Similarly, the band starts Spence’s slow and spooky “War In Peace” slow and spooky, but then drop a crazy guitar solo by Nels Cline. They never overdo anything, which is a perfect skill to have when doing an album in a day. For example, on “All Come To Meet Her,” they strip the song all the way down, and the entire group sings it acapella.
Meanwhile, the funk band lets loose with more abandon on the remaining songs. While the Wilco tracks are beautiful and tasty, after Wilco left (or before they got there, not sure), the other guys jammed. Jamie Lidell has a high soul falsetto, James Gadson is a legendary funk drummer on all the classics, Beck and Lebarton are groovy dudes. They must have realised, what else are we going to do here? “Books Of Moses” and “Cripple Creek” are the answer.
As you can see, this Record Club was up for anything-acappella barbershop, ’70s funk, acoustic guitars, rock, Ace Of Base (yep), whatever. That they were doing it from a template of Skip Spence’s songs is pretty inspiring. The project both stands on its own, and brings new light into the sometimes shady corners of Spence’s genius. If you’re not following Beck’s Record Clubs, you’re missing out. (It’s on hiatus at the moment though, I’ll certainly post when it returns.)
You can watch/listen to all of the songs on beck.com by clicking here.
Record Club: Record Club – “Grey / Afro”