More About Me
KILLED in CARS is a 'thank you' to the musicians who enrich my life, and a way to reach people curious about expression through sound.
This site has thrived as a destination for discussion and listening thanks to its disregard for the canon and its dedication to making esoteric genres accessible. I appreciate your readership, and I hope that you choose to participate!
PROMOS: I only accept physical promos, not downloads. If you believe your music fits my site, please send your tapes/CDs/vinyl to:
KILLED in CARS
2644 N 192nd Terrace Ct
Elkhorn, NE 68022
Posts tagged folk
Wooden Veil - Wooden Veil (Dekorder, 2009)
Starving Weirdos - Starving Weirdos (Atheists Are Gods, 2005)
Yellow Swans - Dreamed Yellow Swans (PACrec, 2005)
TwinSisterMoon - The Hollow Mountain (Ultra Hard Gel, 2009)
Scatter - Surprising Sing Stupendous Love (Pickled Egg, 2004)
Here is a quick post. Each of these multiple album posts turns into a “history of KiC” and I don’t want to humor that impulse too much. This is a collection of posts from the Blogger site that fit well together, and since that service deleted a lot of images (and the writing, in some cases, was embarrassing), I’m bringing back the album art, uploading one last time (click the album name), and summing these up a touch.
Each of these were finds from a period of exploring a broad range of styles that fit loosely under the folk/free folk/drone folk/avant folk headers. Where Scatter had many connections to older acts working with psych, 80’s avantgarde, free form music, it still connected enough in feel to fit with this group, two of which were more or less drone (Yellow Swans and Starving Weirdos). Indeed, pulling Yellow Swans into this mix might seem to be the biggest reach, which I would acknowledge. However, if you listen to the Starving Weirdos disc, you’ll see how someone who didn’t come to Yellow Swans via noise could nonetheless get into their work.
TwinSisterMoon is an even bigger straddler of the drone/folk divide, as those two styles are the two guises employed by TSM (and Natural Snow Buildings). My approach to the old site was to try to get people into one style by means of other related styles. I feel that TwinSisterMoon can acclimate the listener to drone, allowing Starving Weirdos to enchant with the noisier elements in their sound. Naturally, this culminates in the noise of Yellow Swans. The stylistic connections between Scatter and Wooden Veil’s “lost in the woods” folk might seem thinner, but they’re there. At the very least, if you like one, you’ll probably like the other.
Lakookala - Songs for ZeMean
Here’s a great debut! This record was a huge surprise for me in the fall of last year, and I’ve found myself putting it on a few times a week for the last 3 months. It’s a very short EP, clocking in under 13 minutes, but it’s a dozen minutes that I’m compelled to experience again and again.
Lakookala is a solo effort of drummer and vocalist Nicole Ranalli (Nico), who fronted Pittsburgh’s Medic Medic before relocating to LA. While Medic Medic was a fairly conventional band working in rock and punk idioms, Nico’s solo writing unites a range of dark and dramatic styles with exceptional vision. Other reviews of this record namedrop PJ Harvey and Corin Tucker, and I can hear the resemblance, but I’m hearing deeper and darker influences in this music. For me, it evokes that short-lived window in the early 80s when punk and pop influences collided in goth drama: post-punk and No Wave, those late Birthday Party EPs and early Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds albums, Suicide and Lydia Lunch. All of that music happened “before my time,” but I got really into it in the early ‘oughts, fascinated by that moment’s particular blend of melodic sensibility and reckless love of noise/texture.
The first moment of Songs for ZeMean dives headfirst into that vibe, with an obscene guitar stab played by Phil Anderson Blythe that sounds like it could have come from a Birthday Party album. Then Nico’s drums enter, keeping more of a tribal-meets-playful figure than a “normal” beat. Then the vocals: in most places, Nico employs at least 2 voices at a time, sometimes overdubbing herself and sometimes with backing vocals from Blythe. The song form of “Bad Timing” wastes no time with verses and choruses, progressing instead through melodic variations that build in intensity, finally abandoning lyrics altogether for the last 40 seconds with a primal vocal/drum workout bathed in reverb. In little more than two minutes, this song makes a bold impression.
Most of the album continues to avoid verse/chorus repetition, composed instead of evolving riffs or sustained textural ideas over which vocal melodies can emerge organically. The exception is the 2nd track, “Mother Biiiirds,” whose piano/guitar-driven blues reminds me of early Siouxsie and the Banshees. “Bad Timing” is my favorite track, but the lead track on the B-side, “Without You,” is a close second. It features a sparse but capable arrangement, carried by drums and voice for its first half, and supplemented with a forceful piano riff in the 2nd half. Occasional distorted mellotron and synth lines are scattered on the album as the perfect ambient punctuation, but it’s remarkable how forceful these songs come across with so little orchestration.
I’m not the best fellow to ask about lyrics, as I find myself so focused on other aspects of music that I rarely even catch the words. Briefly, though, these lyrics focus thematically on “relationship issues,” and are conceived thoughtfully enough to satisfy me. Nico, one might suspect from the lyric sheet, has been wronged a few times: a dangerous prospect for future suitors if she can turn their routines into music like this.
Regarding formats: this album is available from the usual e-music outlets, but while there might still be some available, I want to mention the availability of a small run of 300 copies of the album on 10” pink vinyl. Like the music, the packaging is a very personal affair, with a hand-screened jacket and handwritten copy for the liner notes and lyrics. I took a picture of the vinyl package to run with the review instead of using a stock image, because it’s a really well-done record. Check the Lakookala Bandcamp page for any remaining copies.
I only wish this record was much longer than five songs in 13 minutes. Many folks have been putting out debut EPs in the last decade, but I really like to jump headfirst into full lengths. But to the extent that these shorter records function as “teasers” while artists start gigging and touring, this one has obviously succeeded, as I’m incredibly curious to hear what comes next.
Alastair Galbraith’s albums are about as consistently un-ambitious as he has been consistently indifferent about ambition, specifically in terms of musicianship. Responding in an interview, Galbraith mentioned that, “To me, my musical career is not as important as my life itself, and that was something I’ve found very difficult about touring. I am always ‘Alastair Galbraith: The Musician,’ and it’s hard to feel like you’re still a painter, or a person who likes walking around picking up driftwood or whatever else you may be.” Somewhat like driftwood one finds on a rainy beach, Galbraith’s work has the feel of something molded by aimlessness and wandering. Happening upon one of his album’s for the first time feels as though one is among a lucky few who’ve touched it, that it could have been collecting dust in a record store for twenty years, waiting to be handled by you and you alone.
Raised in Dunedin, New Zealand, Galbraith formed his first band—The Rip—with his high school buddy Robbie Muir after seeing The Clean play in the early eighties. Without the kind of global communications infrastructure we’ve enjoyed with things going digital, New Zealand might as well have been at the end of the world. Much of the influence musicians were toying with at the time was up to two years out of vogue by the time they’d get to touring. That compounded with what could have been an inferiority complex among the New Zealanders and/or a superiority complex among Londoners, manifested a sense of necessary self-sufficiency in the minds of many coming out of the scene; in some ways, there was nowhere to go but home—one of the key ingredients to a potentially excellent milieu. Interviewed by the Guardian a year ago, Martin Phillips (of Flying Nun Record’s The Chills) commented that, “From our perspective it was, ‘We are those of you brave enough to jump on rickety little boats and head off into the darkened seas to set up brave new colonies because we didn’t want to be part of this class system. But we are still part of you.’ The British perspective felt like, ‘They have the nerve to say they’re part of our ongoing history when they ran out on us at a crucial time.’ And they’ve given New Zealanders minimum publicity ever since.”
Following a number of line-up changes and two EP’s produced through the late eighties, The Rip eventually disbanded, and by 1987, Galbraith was producing his own records. Influenced by Peter Jefferies (of This Kind of Punishment), who had advised Galbraith early on that, “recording in a professional studio and paying a lot of money was a very bad idea,” Galbraith perfected the 4-track aesthetic, mixing Velvet Underground elements via his cello work with bagpipe drone gleaned from his Scottish ancestry, and injecting it with his preternatural lyrical poise.
In 1995 Galbraith released his third LP, entitled Talisman. The album was produced after a year of living about an hour south of Dunedin near a small fishing village called Taeiri’s Mouth. Not totally secluded, Galbraith apparently used the Taeiri River gorge to his advantage, canoeing downstream every day to his friends’ house to play and record. One can see how that kind of lifestyle came to influence the music, not just on this album but all of his works: the specifically kiwi ethos of a 4-track in one hand and a canoe paddle in the other.
The album has the dynamism of a mountainous landscape, where ridges fall to valleys and crumple into gulleys that fold into lakes that rise again to mountains: a cyclical sense of change that’s not unlike a fugue. It’s fast paced and constantly changing—only a few of the tracks are longer than a minute and a half. Beginning with one of Galbraith’s signature sounds, mingling backward looped guitars with his double-tracked vocals thrumming a lullaby, we’re led to the caustic chant of Yuhahi, a Cherokee recitation to frighten storms. From there we’re led back to Galbraith’s superb, lyrically tuned pop-sensibility with Carlos, and just as we’re about to get comfortable, switches gears again with the metalloid drone of Xtra 1, prefacing the incantarory Black Flame, a turbulently contoured anthem colored black with snare splashes. This oscillating pattern in the first four or five tracks continues as the modal direction through the rest of the album, repeating itself as necessary. Liquid loops transform into combustible reveries as breezy lyrics segue into earthy drones, articulated with unintelligible spoken word. It achieves what a series of charcoal sketches can that oil masterpieces cannot.
Talisman is a good start if you haven’t heard Galbraith before, but only because it comes at the middle (of the beginning) of his project. As I wrote above, Galbraith’s work is incredibly consistent, so if you like Talisman, definitely check out his other albums—he’s coming out with a new one just about every three seconds.
Various Artists - Sacred Guitar & Violin Music of the Modern Aztecs (Folkways, 1977)
I came across such a release online accidentally. I cannot say I had heard, or even heard of, any “Aztec music” before; bumping into such a release did nothing but interest me enormously. As a result, I strip-searched Google’s results to see if I could find a rip of the LP. I was successful. Mere seconds before pressing play, questions ran through my head, falling over one another: “What will this even sound like? The Aztecs lives centuries ago, will it be a form of tribal music? Will I like this?”
The answers, respectively: it sounds like nothing I have ever imagined. It is a form of native American music but I would never have imagined it sound like this. Yes, you will, because it is absolutely incredible.
Throughout the entire thirty-nine minutes of the record, I was smiling ever so slightly - I am not exaggerating when I claim that this is the most joyous, ecstatic-sounding recording ever released in the history of mankind. The twangs of the chords played on the guitar (not sounding unlike a ukulele on the first track), constantly accompanied by the blissful squeaking of the violins and the crowd of children and adults that can be heard talking to one another in the background (and what sounds like chickens at one point, unless I’m mistaken), create such a unique atmosphere. It slowly carries you into an excruciatingly optimistic daydream. Not a care in the world whatsoever. Each track repeats one melody continuously throughout… but if I am looking for some drone music that makes me feel more joyous than normal, what release do I choose? Do I even need to answer that myself after raving about this record constantly?
The phrase that came to mind upon first hearing Sacred Guitar & Violin Music of the Modern Aztecs was “15th century buskers, happy as ever, playing repetitive (yet thoroughly enjoyable) melodies in the crowded streets of Tenochtitlan”. Not many records can conjure such a detailed image in one’s mind. On the same note, not many records can sound both continual and transcendent simultaneously. I recommend this more than any other release that I own, as I would easily consider it to be one of my favourite releases of all-time.
The brand new Livonia Underground mix is finished! This mix focuses heavily on newly released or soon to be released material from the whole Livonia crew. Avant pop, folk, hip hop, electronic, noise, experimental- there’s something for everyone.
Stream/free download here: http://soundcloud.com/singleleaf/livonia-underground-002-new
I see this song as a very important turning-point in my musical development. Released towards the end of my time romping around as The Toad Disco, it was the first song I released to employ the more folk-oriented acoustic guitar multi-tracking technique that is featured so heavily on Pretty Lies. This was actually written around the same time as some of the earlier Pretty Lies tunes back in 2008, but that was before I even knew what the album (still a work in progress) was going to sound like recorded.