Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sometimes the Blues is Just a Passing Bird

For anyone who has ever been left wordless while trying to answer the painfully general question, “What type of music do you listen to?”, you may appreciate the challenge I face in trying to describe The Tallest Man on Earth, moniker of Swedish singer/songwriter Kristian Matasson. The artists that hold my attention don't do so because their music correspond to a specific "type" or genre; rather, they captivate me because they're just plain good. Hand me an album that’s solid gold from the first verse to final fade-out, and you have my full listening attention. Matasson is that type of musician – an artist in every sense of the word: captivating, universally relatable, and an innovator in a listening community that craves both newness and familiarity. I would recommend his LPs The Wild Hunt and Shallow Graves, and for those of us who have chewed through those, his most recent EP, Sometimes the Blues is Just a Passing Bird.

Due to the raw quality of his vocals and the deftness of his trademark acoustic picking, Tallest Man’s music is often likened to that of Bob Dylan, at times being called a “revival artist”. What makes his work successful in the face of this constant comparison would hold true for any musician: he is a master of development, growth, and reinvention. Sometimes the Blues is Just a Passing Bird preserves the most endearing qualities of TMOE’s work, while exploring new (and intriguing) stylistic choices.

“Tangle In This Trampled Wheat” opens the album with TMOE’s quintessential acoustic picking style, while the vocals build up to the raw cracks of the chorus, and the poignant cry: “I’m not leaving alone”. “Like The Wheel” takes a softer, subtler turn, developing into a lullaby-like musing: “Please let the kindness of forgetting set me free”. “The Dreamer” demonstrates a mix-up: opting for electric instead of traditional acoustic, the relaxed chords sit back on their heels, instead of pouring out in a rushed stream like his individually plucked notes.

Ultimately, these small choices show us a glimpse of the possibility of even better developments to come. For longtime fans, this EP will tide us over until we see or hear from Kristian next. For those who have never listened to his work before, these songs are a relaxed, accessible introduction to his work. Try them on for size. You may find that musical listening void you never knew you had, has suddenly been filled.

Details about EP release: http://deadoceans.com/blog/2010/09/surprise-new-ep-from-the-tallest-man-on-earth-available-for-download-today-on-itunes/

A selection of his earlier works, Secret Garden Series: http://vimeo.com/5099681

-Shana Rusonis, Class of 2012, Guest Contributor

Monday, September 27, 2010

Introducing...Indian Rebound

It's hard to separate a band from their creative predecessors these days. Only after working hard at a unique sound for years, touring for ages, and going through a good period of drudgery will the constant comparisons fall to the wayside. Which is why so many young bands start off sounding old and tired beyond their years... But when you find a set of young musicians that manage to wear their influences on their sleeves and still make it sound new and fresh, it's a rare find, and one that is worth noting.

Indian Rebound is one such band. Equal parts Apples in Stereo and Girls, this (very) young group successfully manages to blend early-90s indie riffage with late-00s nostalgically sunny reverb to make something that perhaps isn't new when broken down, but when synthesized sounds like something utterly original and surprisingly well-articulated.

With their new single "Sitges", Indian Rebound manages to rein in their lackadaisically summery vibe and temper it with a stop-start staccato melody line that would have been equally at home on a post-punk revival record from the likes of the Strokes or Franz Ferdinand. It’s a simply structured song that still manages to easily and naturally engage with something so aurally pleasing that it seems, on the band’s part, to have come from some instinctive source.

They pull off a similar feat on “Sunshine”, which draws on the most basic rock structures to create a song that drives its way into your head as easily as any of the numbers from the Ramones’ catalog. There’s no denying that they just have a natural knack for crafting melodies that just work.

The fact that this group is showcasing such a strong songwriting sensibility so early on bodes well for their future. At only 15 and 18 respectively, guitarist Ethan Levenson and drummer John Kallen manage to create music on par with many of the well-known rock duos of the past few years. Let’s hope they can capitalize on that potential and put out an EP or LP by the end of next year.

Check out Indian Rebound at myspace.com/indianrebound.

Juan Carlos

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Slightly Delayed Farewell to Summer...

... And worse, a farewell to weekly concerts in Rittenhouse Square.

For those who stayed in Philadelphia this summer, I sincerely hope you took advantage of the free entertainment across the city. My favorite concert at Rittenhouse this summer had to have been The Homophones. I wasn't familiar with their music at all—I had only heard of them once or twice. But 30 seconds into their first song,"Holiday in Your Head", I was a goner. (How could I not have been? Their stage props include massive amounts of balloons.)

Singer Jason Ferraro's voice echoes The National's Matt Berniger's baritone, but the Homophones manage to create music that's more whimsical than anything I've heard by The National. Ferraro's lyrics are clever, quotable and catchy all at once; his words deserve serious listen.

For those of you who missed out, I have great news. The Homophones are reportedly playing at Pi Lam on October 22 with Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Uh, yeah. You have no excuse to NOT check them out.

I'm linking you to their myspace and I urge you to listen to "Polish Thugz" and "Ona Judge".


Here's the site where you can purchase their LP.


Oh, and if strange music starts playing that doesn't sound at all like what I'm talking about... Scroll down through their comments and turn off the music that's linked to their page.

-Madi Mornhinweg

Monday, September 13, 2010

Large Hadron Collider and Sound

The scientists running the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) have started a project to allow them to "listen" to their data. For those who don't know, the Large Hadron Collider is a giant particle accelerator in Geneva. Its goal is to find unknown subatomic particles by smashing together beams of protons and observing how they decay. Particles decay into different particles at different energy levels. The particular particle that the scientists are trying to find is called the Higgs boson. This particle is so important because it is the only elementary particle in the Standard Model of particle physics that scientists have not been able to isolate so far. If we can isolate the Higgs boson, we can study its properties and learn about the universe in its very early form.

So how does sound play into this? LHC Sound is a collaboration of particle physicists, musicians, and artists that have come up with a new way of analyzing the collider's data. A calorimeter—device for measuring heat—in the ATLAS detector measures the energy of each collision. That energy, then, is converted into a pitch.

Dr Lily Asquith, a member of the team, explains the reasoning for this sonification in the LHC Sound Blog:
"Sound seems the perfect tool with which to represent the complexity of the data; our ears are superb at locating the source and location of sounds relative to one another, we can hear a vast range of frequencies and distinguish timbres (different instruments) before they have even played a full cycle. We also have an incredible ability to notice slight changes is pitch or tempo over time and to recognise patterns in sound after hearing them just once."
So while the project may very well prove to be helpful to the physicists themselves, it is more for the general public. While I made the enviable unfortunate choice to pursue a physics degree [Digression: Dear LHC Sound, can I please be a part of this?], the group makes the point that even those without years of physics study can understand a confusing experiment by making the data more accessible. This can go a long way toward making the experiment less of a mystery. Will it stop the paranoid crazies from thinking that the Large Hadron Collider will produce a black hole that will swallow all of us? Probably not. But it's a start.

If you're more interested, you can download simulations and the actual sounds at the LHC Sound Page.

-Prasanna Swaminathan