(Trashy Moped Recordings)
Pitchfork recently dubbed Ghostland Observatory's latest album "Daft Punk for frat boys." Which isn't quite right. It's really more like the Rapture for retards, although even that isn't really fair to the developmentally disabled (or the Rapture or Daft Punk or frat boys, for that matter). Because Ghostland Observatory are really just that bad—a watered-down, middling, cock-rocking pastiche of the most obvious electro and dance crossovers of the past half dozen years.
That the Austin duo can pull back-to-back nights at the Showbox, consecutive years at Sasquatch!, and a top-10 ranking on KEXP's charts just proves the hideous power of the bell curve and everything your mom ever told you about life not being fair. This is dance music for the mediocre hump—robot rock for the flyover states. You remember that commercial where the real, authentic cowboys can't believe you'd eat salsa that was made in NEW YORK CITY!? Well, this is like that: Why the hell would you eat Ghostland Observatory's mild Texan electroclash when you can just as easily get the real thing?
Ignoring the analog wank-off of "Opening Credits," the album proper begins with the cold pacemaker pulse of "Heavy Heart," and for not quite a minute, it sounds harmless enough, a chintzy grab at Simian Mobile Disco. But then, vocalist Aaron Behrens's wails and yelps and yowls—a deflated Zeppelin by way of At the Drive-In—arrive like crib death. What follows is 40 more minutes of GarageBand-quality electro rock and painfully practiced classic-rock yarling.
Another image: the famous Disco Demolition Night, July 12, 1979, at Comiskey Park in Chicago, only this time, instead of wearing "Disco Sucks!" T-shirts, all the mustachioed, mulleted meatheads are proudly sporting "Disco Rules!" apparel. That is the sound of Ghostland Observatory. ERIC GRANDY
Ghostland Observatory play Fri April 4 (all-ages) and Sat April 5 (21+) at the Showbox at the Market, 8 pm, both shows sold out.
It's pretty goddamn hard for the Breeders to do any wrong in my eyes—and it's not that I instantly loved any of their albums. Last Splash was one of the first rock records I ever bought, which led me to get Pod, then, years later, Title TK (with the couple of EPs and whatnot along the way). But each Breeders album, including this long-awaited return, is a slow-burner—evasive, noncommittal, and at first not quite satisfying, until, after repeat listens, I suddenly know all the lyrics and riffs and realize, fuck, I'm loving this! What is not to love?
Recorded by old Breeders buddy Steve Albini (All Wave, which I guess means all analog) over the last five years, Mountain Battles is more of that old glorious mess, that same raw deal. Kelly charms en español ("Regalame Esta Noche"), Kim is goofy auf Deutsch ("German Studies"), and both rekindle the Breeders' Dayton, Ohio, truck-stop, folk-rock roots ("Here No More"). "Walk It Off" is a better Pixies song than "Bam Thwok," sounding like Trompe le Monde as Kim sings: "The singer gets laid/and the drummer gets paid/I wait for Mercury to fall."
Slyly hooky, almost equal parts Splash's bright, melodic riffery and Title TK's atmospheric, spare postnarcotic slow drags (minus the latter's sleep-dep'd, drug-steeped jitters, plus a good 15 years of life's wearing-down). And just like the underrated TK, they stuck their poppiest joint dead last: the scratchy, sun-drunk Dinosaur Jr.–Jr. of "It's the Love." Hazy Venice days and blunted lethargy waft off the record like late- summer heat distortion, and even though it's only springtime, the coolest Kim in rock just saunters in, cooing, "Still the sun shines/it hits my shield and ignites... feel the light on my face." LARRY MIZELL JR.
Somewhere in the late '90s, I lost interest in Autechre. The openings into the duo's electronic worlds had become too small and hard for me to enter. There was no jouissance in their music—no joy, seduction, humanity, or narrative. Their soundscapes began and ended with the condition of difficultly. And any amount of difficulty that offers no rewards, solutions, development, climax, or narration seems stubborn and mean-spirited. Agreed, a listener should not be lazy, simple- minded, or completely reject difficulty, but give the listener something that will draw him/her in and enlarge the dimensions of his/her soul. Between 1995 and 2007, Autechre ignored this plea. Amazingly, their most recent release, Quaristice, is profoundly sensitive to the listener and the lover of innovative electronic music.
Quaristice is not an easy record. But in its most convoluted corners and passages there's always some shimmering pattern or effect that encourages further and deeper exploration. Many of the 20 tracks on the CD are short. And so if a track is to harsh, inhuman, or cold, it ends before your patience does. But what is gained on the one hand (a brief jarring work) is lost on the other (some of the most seductive, beautiful, enchanting tracks end too soon). One wants to hear much more of "paralel Suns" (3:03), "Theswere" (2:12), "Tankakern" (3:39), and the solar bliss, the jouissance, of "Altibzz" (2:52). The best track on Quaristice, however, "rale," a work of robot worship in the tradition of electrofunk, thankfully runs for nearly four minutes. In the end, what you get from Quaristice is a sense of the galactic. To listen to a track is to stand on a world barely warmed by two distant suns. CHARLES MUDEDE
Autechre play Mon April 7 at Neumo's, 8 pm, $15, 21+. With Massonix and Rob Hall.