Fresh Tunes – Something Soft, Something Hard

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Close to the Glass
The Notwist

The-Notwist-Close-To-The-Glass-608x608Anyone can make electronic music. Every necessary bit of hardware or software, every bit of knowledge, every tip or trick or tutorial is available to everyone now- and for relatively little money. And with that ubiquity of knowledge and access to all the necessary tools comes a sort of over-saturation, “If everybody knows all the tricks, it’s no more magic” says Thomas Bangalter of Daft Punk. So the game has now become one of separation; of being absolutely and totally unique among thousands of new artists. The Notwist has fully realized this shift in the electronic music paradigm and has crafted something that genuinely separates them from other artists with their ninth and newest album.

During the first moments of Close to the Glass, one gets the impression that this could just be another head-nodding rip off of electro from the 90s; an arpeggiated synthesizer texture embellished with random rings and beeps and a skittering snare beat. But then the vocals enter. The voice is untreated: no vocoder, no auto-tune, calmly speaking about hideous signs and something about screaming. There’s some strange subtle terror waiting underneath these tracks, something unexpected or unnoticed, or combination of sounds that shouldn’t theoretically work together when discussed soberly.

And that really is the greatest strength of this album- its ability to defy expectation. “Kong,” the third song, for example, would almost seem completely out of place on this album were it not for its development into an absurd and oddly cohesive mash of orchestral layers, acoustic guitar, electronic glittering, and raucous bass. The marriage of these elements, electronic or otherwise, imbues Close to the Glass with the magic Thomas Bangalter feels is lacking in much of recent music. Anyone can make electronic music- but few can make it like this.

Guilty of Everything
Nothing

a3943802535_10There’s a hot, twisting frustration and rage in those who feel disconnected from or overwhelmed by reality. Everything moves too fast and too slow, there’s nobody to talk to, there isn’t enough time, there’s energy with nowhere to go. “I’m caught between a beggar’s teeth,” sings Domenic Palermo of the band Nothing. The newest album from the Philadelphia quartet seems- to us at least-to be exploration of that frustration with detachment from a world out of time with one’s own rhythm. From this exploration, Nothing has made something dark, loud, and beautiful.

The landscape of each track is very similar; the vocals are treated as a musical instrument fully engulfed by the haze of incredibly loud ambient guitars, bass, and drums. Instead of lyrics that are heard, Palermo’s singing is more of a texture that is felt. It draws one in, trying to decipher the already cryptic lyrics Nothing has buried under heavy, leaden sonic layers. But perhaps that’s the message itself, trying to make sense of something that would be easy were it just a bit different. The themes in Guilty of Everything, then, are embodied by the music itself, a masterful and nuanced act on Nothing’s part.

But despite whatever nuance one discovers in the way Nothing has orchestrated Guilty of Everything, it’s important to remember that this band is loud. The tender, ambient moments give way to hysterical paroxysms of dissonance and consonance. Nothing sounds like they are collectively exorcising whatever demons of the past that may still haunt them. Even in their liner notes the quote, “To all things we’ve ever hated. To all things we’ve ever loved. Thanks for making this possible,” punctuates pages of lyrics juxtaposed with black and white pictures of a prison shower, a junkie spiking his vein, and other-almost ominous- photographs recreating bleary-eyed memories and recollections. We still don’t know entirely what Nothing is trying to tell us, but we are entirely sure it is important.

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Shows of Note – The Boys of Summer

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With humble beginnings in the basement of one member and dive bars all over the world, The Ataris have eighteen years of experience under their belt and have definitely paid their dues as a punk rock band.

The+Ataris+_With five full-length studio albums under their belt, So Long, Astoria in 2003 was their first platinum album selling over a million copies. The album included “The Boys of Summer,” which was punk rock song even your mom liked.  More recently, the band has released Welcome the Night in 2007 and a two song release in 2010 which has fans dying for more. The two songs released in 2010 will be on The Ataris’ new album. The Ataris’ next album is set to be named “The Graveyard of the Atlantic,” but no official release date has been announced.  The two songs released in 2010 will be on The Ataris’ new album.

The Ataris’ “So Long, Astoria Reunion Tour will mark the first time in a decade the original Ataris line-up will be together. Like most bands, The Ataris have had their share of band members coming and going. The Ataris will perform the whole So Long, Astoria album from start to finish at every show and they claim this is the last time the founding members will perform together.

The Ataris will be coming to the northwest on March 11 at Hawthorne Theatre in Portland, March 12 at The Showbox in Seattle and March 13 at the Knitting Factory in Boise. The ‘Burg is giving away tickets to the Seattle show so be sure to tune-in to the All-Star Rock Show with Chuck Taylor tomorrow (02/24) between 3 and 6 p.m. for a chance to win!

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