Snap Sounds

Snap sounds: Groupshow


By Johnny Ray Huston



The Martyrdom of Groupshow


My favorite Jan Jelinek endeavor since 2005’s Kosmischer Pitch (~scape), which inspired this 200 GB "live" collaboration. It all grows wonderfully spooky with "Great Art Where You Least Expect It" and "Anyone Care for a Drink?" Yes, Groupshow has a way with a song title. The overall conceit’s as strong as Jelinek’s discovery of Ursula Bogner, though not as labored.

View the previous Snap Sound here.

Snap Sounds: Omar S


By Johnny Ray Huston



Fabric 45


"The music on this CD is fully 100 percent Analog — NO COMPUTER BULLSHIT PROGRAMS." With this liner note proclamation, Detroit’s Omar S makes a strong case that, here in the 21st century, analog is the new acoustic when it comes to authenticity. His contribution to the Fabric mix series is all-original, just like Ricardo Villalobos’. Would it be sacrilege to say that, save for a wack vocal two, it smokes the Villalobos? Motor City techno still rolls.

Omar S, “Psychotic Photosynthesis”

Snap Sounds: Red Fang


By Cheryl Eddy



Red Fang

(Sargent House)

The debut full-length from the Portland, Ore., ear-splitters is at least 80 percent familiar to ‘Fang fiends who own the band’s EPs. No matter: tracks like “Bird on Fire” and “Prehistoric Dog” are blistering rock ‘n’ metal jams that never get old.

Red Fang, “Prehistoric Dog”

Snap Sounds: BRWN BFLO


By Marke B.





“Fuck macarena, we sun dance on that ass.” Absolutely digging the breezy flow, witty U-turns, and stellar executive production by Big Dan on the Oakland rap quartet‘s new release (pronounced “brown buffalo” if you didn’t know). The Jay-Z-like undertow brings some lush instrumentation and vibrant, retro-feel samplescapes into the mix, but these Latin lowdowners aren’t afraid to screw around with some electro-wacky nintendo samples (“Big Sir”) and even some Swisher-tips to hyphy. Best of all, though they ride hard on Chicano culture props and a dash of welcome positivity and humor, the exhilaratingly versatile skills of Giant, Jacinto, Somos One, and Big Dan launch this one out of the identity-rap rut into the “that shit’s smokin'” stratosphere. The disc is plainly a labor of love; live they should be something else. The new album officially drops on 5/5 (Cinco de Mayo, natch) — details about this weekend’s big release party below.

BRWN BFLO, “The Reappearance” sampler

Album release party
Sat/2, 9pm, $8/$13
The Uptown
1928 Telegraph Ave

View the previous Snap Sound here

Snap sounds: Rubies


By Johnny Ray Huston



Explode from Center


The Norway-to-our-Bay connection is strong in this group, which bridges Bergen and San Francisco. No cosmic disco, though: Simone Rubi plays chanteuse over pop arrangements. The result never reaches the Cardigans’ sublimity, but it matches the warmth of Lois and Marine Girls.

Rubies, “I Feel Electric”

Rubies play Sunday, June 14 at The Independent

Snap Sounds: Camera Obscura


By Marke B.


Morrissey may have crapped out of his stint at the Paramount, Belle and Sebastian are probably off looking for 20 more band members — and whither the classic Bluebells, I ask you?

But at least on this overcast break from yesterday’s heatwave we have the 13-year-old and much overlooked Scottish popsters Camera Obscura — no, not this camera obscura, although the music has the same ethereal shimmer — to keep us melancholically sunny with their new, lushly orchestrated My Maudlin Career (4AD). Somehow the 11 slightly countrified gems on this release seem like the ones that got away from both Neko Case and Rough Trade …

Camera Obscura, “French Navy”

Bonus! Bluebells (Hey, I’m in the mood for jangly Scottish maudlin today)

The Bluebells, “I’m Falling” (much better sound quality here)

What do you know? The singers look quite a bit alike ….

View the previous Snap Sound here.

Snap Sounds: Dan Deacon


By Michelle Broder Van Dyke


Dan Deacon

Dan Deacon’s latest album forfeits one-man prowess for a more expansive sound — realized on tour by a 15-piece ensemble — that swaps electronic exclusivity for a tightly woven tapestry of bleeps, samples, and acoustic instruments like the guitar, glockenspiel and marimba. The resulting sound is less alienating-irritating than on previous releases.

Bromst still has endorphin-inducing tracks, like “Woof Woof,” a bouncy, buoyant opener that spazzes out with animal calls that loop backward as the rest of the song moves forward into catchy cacophony. Deacon has honed his skill at building suspense all the way up to a climactic finish, as in the standouts “Build Voice” and “Paddling Ghost,” which crescendo and then plummet like a roller coaster ride. I imagine the noisy culminating track “Get Older” as a scene in Fantasia 3.0, filmed shortly after the apocalypse, in which abstract butterflies and birds repetitiously stream through a realm of light and darkness before lightness finally wins out.

Dan Deacon gets a hand. Photo by Josh Sisk.

All of Deacon’s work possesses an inherent sense of humor, exemplified by the fold-up tent that is central to his current iconography. But Bromst taps some emotional depths, thanks to “Slow Horns/Run For Your Life,” with its moving staccato piano break, and “Snookered,” with its poignant lyric, “We’ve done this so many times before…but never quite like this.” Such new hints of maturity leave me anticipating the next act by this mad scientist of electronic noise.

With Future Islands, Teeth Mountain
Thurs/23, 9 p.m., $13
Great American Music Hall
859 O’Farrell, SF
(415) 885-0750

Deacon talks about Bromst, after the jump:

Snap Sounds: Telepathe


By Brandon Bussolini


Dance Mother

This debut album by a pair of self-styled producers finds Telepathe at a turning point some bands only reach several albums into a career: ditching trad-rock instruments for synths and sequencers, and turning an eager ear to mainstream pop for cues. A recent profile of the Brooklyn duo of Melissa Livaudis and Busy Gangnes (formerly of First Nation and Wikkid, respectively) portrays the band coming into their own by teaching themselves Logic, a software production program. Dance Mother fleshes out the bedroom MIDI sketches with typically precise production from TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek. It also plays up the retro-tinged futurism: indie rock’s an insular enough realm for a Mannie Fresh influence to be novel.

Dance Mother’s opening salvo of “So Fine” and “Chrome’s On It” crutches on indie’s high tolerance for mumbled lyrics. The melodies are potent stuff, though, and the songs’ productions, which might not have taken more than an hour to throw together, stand in contrast to the vogue for wet, overworked psych in the band’s home borough. There’s some unevenness to those two compositions, which are the album’s most accessible — it’s hard to decide if we should be frustrated or charmed by the way “Chrome’s On It” smooshes lovely, indistinct verses into a daffy breakdown. (Livaudis sings, with a kind of suburban carriage, “I can feel the real bang bang, I can do the real thing thing.”)

Telepathe, “So Fine”

By track three, Telepathe’s trying out both the Velvet Underground’s “Murder Mystery” sing-speak and the heavy romantic deconstruction of the Kim Gordon-led Sonic Youth Evol track “Shadow of a Doubt.” By track six, Livaudis and Gangnes are making a serious bid to be your new favorite band with the heart-tugging swoon “Can’t Stand It,” which marries the chiming samples of Seefeel and waifish contemporary doo-wop. It’s so measured that you take your emotional cues from the repeating floor tom-and-cymbal motif. This is one to put on the shelf next to Merriweather Post Pavilion for achievements without guitars.

More vids after the jump:

Snap Sounds: Two San Franciscos


By Marke B.

Two recent releases, both based on the Bay by Bay favorites. The first, “Young San Francisco” by SF’s Boy in Static, aka Alexander Chen and Kenji Ross, from their new album, Candy Cigarette (Fake Four Inc & Circle Into Square) is way too cute — check out their new “East Bay to Back Bay” XLR8R podcast mix for a great listen to some more new, slightly twee West Coast indie pop (loving “To the Sea” by Portland’s Mint Julep).

Boy in Static, “Young San Francisco”

The second recent track focusing on the Bay is by SF hip-hop stalwart Kero One, “Welcome to the Bay,” off his sophomore disc, Early Believers (Plug Label). I really wanted to like this one more — I’ve been a fan for a while, and Kero’s def got the chops, working with everyone from Talib Kweli to Mark Farina — but it seemed a tad too polished for me, despite the nice groove. Still, it’s a breezy listen for a steamy day. From what I’ve heard of Early Believers it’ll be a perfect summer BBQ collection.

Kero One, “Welcome to the Bay”

Something both of these songs have in common is a young Asian American perspective on the homebase. Kero’s is especially poignant, talking about why his parents came here at a time when “words like ‘chink’ were teachable.” Really feeling the latitude of historical perceptions coming forth in two distinct tunes.

View the previous Snap Sounds here.

Snap Sounds: Dawn of the Dead


By Johnny Ray Huston


Various artists
Unreleased Soundtrack Music from George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead
(Trunk, 2009)

I’ll put forth a declaration. Two of the biggest influences on neo-prog, contemporary post-rock, and 21st century cosmic disco — in other words, a lot of vital music today — are a pair of film directors: John Carpenter and Dario Argento.

Carpenter’s influence is as a musician. His thrifty yet supreme scores for Halloween (1978), Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), and others have been a major inspiration for a group such as Pittsburgh’s duo Zombi, whose new album Spirit Animal again is packed with ’70s horror keyboard sounds.

Trailer for Zombi: Dawn of the Dead (feel free to add to the comments!)

Argento’s influence is as a musical curator. And the Zombi reference extends to him, since the word zombi kicks off the full title of his Italian re-cut of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, a version that has its own auteur charms. Major among those charms is Argento’s monumental crate-digging. According to Jonny Trunk, he “added over sixty tracks to the score utilizing not only [Music] De Wolfe’s extensive library but also its subsidiary labels Rouge and Hudson.” In the process, long before reissue and archival mania, he brings viewers and listeners loony waltz music (“The Gonk”), dissonant orchestration (“Cosmogony Part 1”; “Sinistre”), dorkily polite cock-of-the-walk rock (“Cause I’m a Man,” by Peter Reno), scary transmissions from the outer space of early electronics (“Figment’s Park”), marching band mayhem (“Ragtime Razzamatazz”), Bernard Hermmann string tension (“Barrage”), and plaintive Lucio Battisti-like Italian prog instrumental interludes. Dude. No Goblin, though.

Snap Sounds: Don Cherry with Latif Khan


By Johnny Ray Huston


Don Cherry with Latif Khan

Don Cherry/Latif Khan

(Heavenly Sweetness, 2009)

Who cares about cherries in the snow — Cherry is in the air. I’m talking Don Cherry, whose spirit is casting new spells via mysterious vinyl reissues, renewed interest in Alejandro Jodorowsky’s 1973 Holy Mountain — check Matt Borruso’s new art show at [2nd floor projects] — and this proto-world music collabo, a reissue from 1982 taken from a one-day recording session in 1978, with tablas great Khan.

Don Cherry in Bombay

Snap Sounds: Junior Boys


Two quick takes on Junior Boys, who perform tomorrow with Max Tundra at Bimbo’s (Thu/16, 7 p.m., $18. Bimbo’s 365 Club, 1025 Columbus, SF.


Junior Boys

Begone Dull Care


Johnny Ray Huston:
The knives are out at least a little for the critics’ darling duo, and to be fair, this third full-length falters a bit in following the breakthrough of 2007’s So This is Goodbye. But "Work" might be Junior Boys’ best composition, and "Sneak a Picture" is simply sweet. A reward for those who care enough to dig: the title and lyrics braid through the life and work of Canadian animator Norman McLaren.

Junior Boys, “Work” live

Snap Sounds: Johan Agebjörn


By Johnny Ray Huston


Johan Agebjörn
featuring Lisa Barra

Paging Vangelis: the songwriter and studio whiz behind Sally Shapiro (and official Glass Candy remixer) goes new age, replete with the requisite peaceful, tranquil blurry cover art. I’m not as enthused about this as I am about the news that a new Shapiro album is due out this year. Loaded with music, Agebjörn’s site also links to the site for Diskokaine, a label which put out some early Shapiro songs. I say this because DIskokaine’s site has a great Atari- or Commodore-era look — and is annoying as hell.

Johan Agebjörn featuring Lisa Barra, “Unitas vitae” (Live in Linköping)

View the previous Snap Sound here.

Snap Sounds: Stereo


By Johnny Ray Huston


Somewhere in the Night
(Minimal Wave 2008/ Carrere 1982)

“She’s gotta be there, as you walk in the dark
Number four, at your door, number four
You’re ost in the heaze, she’s gotta be there…
Somewhere in the night”

1980s duo Stereo‘s criss-cross sunglasses put Kanye’s Venetian shades to shame. Minimal Wave delivers once again with this synth jam gem. I’m on the lookout for another recent Minimal Wave release, a vinyl-only collection by Linear Movement. But Stereo — not to be confused with Kompakt figurehead Wolfgang Voigt’s early recording project of the same name — has surprising songwriting chops. My fave track might be “Nowhere in the Island,” which uses the echo vocal effect so beloved by circa-1983 new romantic acts to great effect. It includes saxophone and yet still has a potent air of melancholy. I wonder if these two French guys every rubbed pointy shoulders with Bernard Fevre of Black Devil Disco Club.

Stereo, “Somewhere in the Night”

Stereo, “No More”

Check out the previous Snap Sound here.

Snap Sounds: Lô Borges



By Johnny Ray Huston

Lô Borges
Lô Borges and Nuvem Cigana
(EMI Brasil)

It took me too long to realize all my favorite tracks on 1972’s classic Clube de Esquina are written by . The cover of Lô’s debut album is perfection, and I am completely in love with Nuvem Cigana‘s “A força do vento,” “Uma canção,” “Viver viver,” and O vento não me levou.”

What do you know about Lô? I’d love to read more perspectives about him and his music. He releases recordings at roughly the same pace as Scott Walker. That alone is enough to intrigue me in an era of talking loud and saying nothing, but the tunes are terrific and his voice has a true sweetness to it.

Lô Borges, Clube da Esquina, “Ao Vivo”

Snap Sounds: From A to Z


By Johnny Ray Huston


Actress Hazyville (Werk) Werk label head Daniel J. Cunningham charts a triangular electronic space beyond singular genres yet quite familiar. Dark loveliness gives way to boring repetition then returns, while focal points and sources remain just out of reach.


Anita Carter Songbird (Omni) This is singing. The daughter of Maybelle and sister of June (whose husband pitches in on one track) is faultless from the Joe Meek-like future scenario "2001" to the pop of "Hang a Little Sign" on through to the sublimely sad and gorgeous "Sweet Memories."


Various artists The Birth of Bossa (Él/Cherry Red) Weirdly, there are no Tom Jobim recordings here, but the influential "Chega da suade" gets two versions, including one by samba singer Elizeta Cardoso, whose down tempo emotionalism is showcased. Another odd gem from Él and Cherry Red.


Ella Washington He Called Me Baby (Soulscape) A name that evokes two legendary divas couldn’t have helped this Florida woman carve out her own rep. A shame, because she can sing her ass off — tearing it up in the verse, building momentum in the bridge, and ripping the roof off in the chorus. One highlight: "Sit Down and Cry," which even Irma Thomas might envy.


Wavves Wavves (Fat Possum) Wavves wishes they all could be California goths, on the beach, riding the surf, in the summer. The distortion is delicious, as are the guitar solos, the nyah-nyah lead vox and the falsetto harmonies that teeter between blissed out and freaked out.


Wicked Witch Chaos, 1978-86 (Em) The Em label outdoes itself by uncovering this slab of kinky gothic urban funk by one enigmatic leather-and-spike-clad Richard Simms. The 12-minute "Vera’s Back" is a contender for jam of the year.

Playlistism on YouTube after the jump:

Snap Sounds: Great Lake Swimmers — Lost Channels



Lost Channels

Great Lake Swimmers walks a fine line. When the group succeeds, it does do so by satisfyingly convincing me — as long as I’m in the mood — that its slow-paced and shy songs, which often pair thick reverb and a finger-picked guitar line, are cozy instead of cheesy. On GSW’s latest release, mastermind Tony Dekker records songs in the castles, churches, and community centers of the Thousand Islands of Lake Ontario. This site-specific approach could describe earlier recordings as well, if you replace church with silo, and make one other adjustment: Lost Channels is less stark, at least throughout the first half, and aims for a feeling of exhilaration. It succeeds some of the time.

Like Ongiara (Nettwerk, 2007), Lost Channels opens buoyantly: “Palmistry” is an upbeat jangle-pop number that showcases Dekker’s hearty voice even as a full band nudges through the subtler spaces. “The Chorus in the Underground” is a cheery country sing-along with a background choir. The album’s two halves are divided by “Singer Castle Bells,” an interlude recorded at St. Brendan’s Church that is followed by the goose bump-inducing “Stealing Tomorrow.” On “River’s Edge,” pastoral poetics take over. “Now the wind picks up swiftly and suddenly and it is breathing as if from a mouth and the edges are lungs that are heaving,” Dekker sings, searching for spirituality in nature.

One can sense that the perimeters of the buildings where Great Lake Swimmers record have changed. Subsequently, the group’s sound has changed as well. Even though the experimentation on Lost Channels isn’t always successful, the band — and its promise — continues to evolve. (Michelle Broder Van Dyke)

with Kate Maki
Fri/3, 9 p.m., $12
Bottom of the Hill
1233 17th St, SF
(415) 621-4455

Snap Sounds: The Juan MacLean — ‘The Future Will Come’


By Brandon Bussolini


The Future Will Come

Whether or not you were up enough on your rock genealogies to make the connection between John MacLean, guitar scraper for synth-punks Six Finger Satellite, and The Juan MacLean, the latter unit’s 2005 debut Less Than Human (DFA) probably took you by surprise. Like LCD Soundsystem, TJM looked towards history to fashion its electro-futurism, but while LCD appealed to rock kids with nods to the Fall, Can, and Daft Punk, TJM’s necro fantasies tended towards marrying Chrome’s glimpse of future-shock with Cybotron’s sleek, muscular productions. On The Future Will Come, the results remain strangely successful, all the more remarkable given techno’s way of sloughing off its skin every two years.

The Juan Maclean, “One Day”

Last year’s Happy House EP displayed just enough refinement and innovation to make up for the group’s three year silence: the 12-minute main track is a mainline rush of looped house piano figures and Nancy Whang’s mantra-like vocals. Of course, it’s not as hard to eliminate the extraneous moments on an EP. Part of what makes this new full-length recording durable is that it moves confidently away from the digressive, instrumental style of the first album towards a minimal, vocal-heavy style that makes its point more effectively, in less time.

I had to make an exception, at first, for MacLean’s singing style. Less chanty and easily endured than on Less Than Human’s “Give Me Every Little Thing,” it remains stiff. With added Brian Eno-like modulations, it resolves less quickly than the album’s other pleasures. Whang’s increased presence in particular is welcome: it allows her monotone to reveal subtle emotional inflections. The assertive vocal cadences of the incredible “One Day” split the difference between disco and hi-NRG, for example, before the chorus melts them down into a strange, bliss-inducing alloy. It’s tempting to see The Juan MacLean as a kind of genre-supercollider: they work in a tradition too perverse to accurately be called either techno or rock or even fit under the umbrella of a catch-all like “electro.” More likely, and less common, TJM is making it up as they go along, which must be where some of that joy they’re singing about comes from.

Snap Sounds: The New Dawn — There’s a New Dawn


Hey, man (and woman). One of the recordings I’m most enjoying lately is There’s a New Dawn, by…(wait for it)…the New Dawn. It’s on Jackpot Records.


I’ll admit it, I don’t know a ton about the New Dawn, or this recording, other than that in vinyl form it has been known to fetch outrageously high prices from collectors. You could view the New Dawn as a precursor to the Wipers, though they seem overtly Christian today. This is a way-too-underknown but increasingly appreciated Northwest band.

Some things I like about There’s a New Dawn:

— amazing movie preview-like spoken intro about walking hand in hand and gazing out across the sea
— the raw, minimal, tough, electric-mosquito-on-the-attack guitar sound of “I See a Day”
— the vintage-Vietnam Era lyric “I see a day when life will mean much more/Than growing up to die”
— the pounding, surging rhythms of “It’s Time”
— the creepy yet seductive ballad “We’ll Fall in Love”
— the classic 1970s romantic Hallmark Card-style cover art

Viva the New Dawn, again. Read all about them in Ugly Things and here.