Tag Archives: Experimental Rock

With The Cosmic Range, Matthew “Doc” Dunn Envisions an Acid-Jazz Paradise

Cosmic Range

Last year, Matthew “Doc” Dunn released two complementary solo albums, Lightbourn and Some Horses Run, a mere five months apart, through his own Cosmic Range Records. The records are effectively identical twins—from their quaint sun-dappled cover photos, to their equally bewitching blends of wah-wah-slathered, late-’60s psychedelic soul and early-’70s country-rock groove. But flip over to the similarly scaled backcover portraits and you’ll be presented with a study in stark contrasts. On Lightbourn’s flipside, Dunn appears sporting a tan cowboy hat, short brown hair, and a tidy five o’clock shadow; on Some Horses Run, Dunn’s wearing the same cowboy hat, however, his hair has grown past his shoulders, and his beard isn’t too far behind. Continue reading

A Guide to the Experimental Guitar Fireworks of Li Jianhong

Li JIanhong

“I started playing guitar when I was in high school and had a band,” Chinese experimental musician Li Jianhong says in an email translated by his friend Miao Zhao. “We didn’t read music and had no clue about performance, since we were students in a fine art class. The experience was more like an escape from school and an outlet for our excessive hormones. I wanted to play like a guitar hero, but I hate practicing. My playing was horrible.”

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Audio Rebels In Rio: Peter Brötzmann’s Full Blast Trio Detail Exhilarating New Live LP

Full Blast

On a small street in Rio de Janeiro’s Botafogo neighborhood, an upper-middle-class beachfront community tucked up against scenic Guanabara Bay, sits a small but potent artistic institution known as Audio Rebel. The multi-use space has served many purposes since its doors opened in 2005; today, it’s not only a venue and recording space, but also a respected instrument store, complete with its own luthiery shop. For the members of Peter Brötzmann’s trio Full Blast, however, Audio Rebel carries a particular sort of significance, as the grand finale of the band’s exhausting, six-date romp through Brazil and Chile in 2016—one of their most powerful shows to date.  Continue reading

Hidden Gems: Alegría Rampante, “Se Nos Fue La Mano”

Hidden Gems, Alegria Rampante

In our new series Hidden Gems, writers share their favorite Bandcamp discoveries.

Eduardo Alegría is considered one of the architects of Puerto Rico’s contemporary indie music scene. As the frontman of the rock band Superaquello, he helped craft a unique sound—influenced in equal measure by ‘90s rock, Stereolab, shoegaze, the movida madrileña, and traditional Puerto Rican music—that prioritized urgency, complexity, and nuance. Their lyrics were full of intricate stories and quirky wordplay that critiqued a conservative and hypocritical society. Their work created a ripple effect, becoming a major influence for many young independent musicians on the island, including the much revered dream-pop band Balún. After Superaquello’s definitive dissolution in 2011, Alegría, who’s also an actor and performance artist in his own right, became a solo act. A self-professed workaholic, he was always going to craft a new record, but his process wasn’t exactly straightforward—first, he workshopped the concept as a performance art piece, converting that into a residency, and then forming a band that could further translate his ideas into sound. This took nearly five years, culminating in the creation of his new band, Alegría Rampante, and the debut album Se Nos Fue La Mano.

Se Nos Fue La Mano is a rock ‘n’ roll sci-fi epic. Our hero returns home, battle-scarred from a triumphant war on Mars—only to find that home slowly and painfully crumbling into the ground. A hand-picked array of world-class musicians from the local scene effortlessly mix their styles and influences to create a musical tapestry that seamlessly integrates Puerto Rican troubadour guitar music, Iberian pop, Elton John-style pianos, gospel choruses, vocal theatrics reminiscent of both George Michael and the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar, shoegaze, and powerful rock and roll. Narratively, the record is the ultimate reckoning, with Alegría crafting beautiful lyrics and intricate, end-of-the-world analogies to explain and process the moments of triumph and the painful realities of a queer artist’s life in a conservative and religious society. His storytelling is highly personal, but it is so successful and powerful because it touches on such universal truths—the burden of leaving a legacy, poverty, heartbreak, anger, disappointment, survival, and never-ending uncertainty. The album is a complex, untameable beast—a record that dares to convey, through bombastic rock, the harsh realities of being a queer Puerto Rican over the past decade.

-Amaya Garcia

Album of the Day: Body/Head, “The Switch”

Age, we are frequently told, makes one mellow—that it dampens the ceaseless, burning, desire that surges through you when you’re young. Aside from being ageist, it is also couldn’t be further from the truth. Take someone like Kim Gordon, for example. At 65, the ex-Sonic Youth member is making some of her most experimental music to date with Body/Head, her collaborative guitar-based project with Bill Nace.

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Album of the Day: Yamantaka//Sonic Titan, “Dirt”

When Yamantaka//Sonic Titan released their debut album YT//ST in 2011, the Canadian collective were praised for their self-described “Noh-Wave” songs, which brought together elements of prog-rock, stoner metal, Chinese opera, and Noh theatre. Their thunderous, genre-defying sounds drew on co-founders Alaska B and Ruby Kato Attwood’s Asian-Canadian diasporic perspectives, and the group’s live shows became must-attend performances, with members wearing face paint and elaborate handmade costumes. Since then, they’ve put out the Polaris Music Prize-nominated record UZU, made a drag rock opera, and soundtracked a video game called Severed. Continue reading

Album of the Day: EMA, “Exile in the Outer Ring”

It’s hard not to read Exile in the Outer Ring, the third unsettling record from experimental futurist Erika M. Anderson, who goes by EMA, within a political framework: it’s about an America that moves through suburban basements and conspiracy-theory message boards. But EMA began working on her album over three years ago and devotes it to something more cryptic and timeless: a place she calls the Outer Ring.

Occupied by 24-hour Walmarts and generic apartment complexes, the Outer Ring is EMA’s version of the metaphysical layer separating rural expanse from urban density, which she sketches with jagged feedback and gut punch-heavy beats across Exile’s 11 disorienting tracks. It’s a place she began exploring with her much-celebrated, defunct noise trio Gowns, and here she draws on thematic highlights from their sole album, Red State. On “Breathalyzer” and “Always Bleeds,” drones build and burn, anxious and spacious, to cacophony that feels like a rite of purification; on “Blood and Chalk,” the tender, melancholy lyrics and rhythmic repetition evoke Red State’s wrenching closer, “Cherylee.”

Since going solo in 2011, she’s also truly refined her own unique derivation of rock; Exile revels in power chords that add heft and grit to all the synths and feedback. Her confrontational refrain of “Tell me stories of famous men / I can’t see myself in them” on “Aryan Nation,” snarled over stadium-echo drums in between guitar solos, would be anthemic if it weren’t so disquieting. EMA excels at creating such unsettled, ambiguous spaces, and although the Outer Ring is not a comfortable place to be, she makes it impossible to turn away.

—Zoë Beery