RADVENT Day 24: Swans’ “Greed” / “Holy Money”

For the first 24 days of December, Radio in Opposition and guests will share with you one very special album, one day at a time. We call it RADVENT.

And so we come to the end of our RADVENT fun. Our final day finishes out with Thin Privilege‘s Paul McArthur. They have a new single, which you can check out here.

“Time Is Money (Bastard)” by Swans is probably the song that has played the single biggest part in taking me where I am today. Ostensibly a dance song (albeit an ugly and intensely monotonous one), it comprises a pounding 4/4 with a sample of a nailgun where the snare should be, barked vocals and not a hell of a lot else – a guitar squall here, a bass clank there. Gira’s narrator fantasises about dominating a hated authority figure through the medium of sexual violence, acknowledging his antagonist’s autonomy (“your body is private/your mind is sacred”) immediately suggesting various ways in which this autonomy can be broken down (“you should be violated/you should be raped”) and eventually building to a disturbing act of imaginary forced fellatio (“suck it/suck it/suck it” etc. etc.). Occasionally, tribalistic chanting disrupts the song’s relentless forward motion.

When I first heard “Time Is Money” as a 19 year old with inclinations towards nihilism, worsening mental health problems and zero employment prospects, its combination of sub-musical stomp and (almost repulsively) violent sentiment made me feel both uncomfortable and powerful. I would listen to all six-and-a-half perfectly formed minutes of it over and over again on the hour long walk to my call centre job, then again on the way back. Eventually I would get to my garbage-filled flat that I shared with a girlfriend I didn’t remotely care about and her yet-to-be-house-trained dog, where I would listen to it some more for good measure.

Eventually I got together enough money to buy my first Swans album, the 2-CD Cop/Young God/Greed/Holy Money compilation. Cop and Young God are both perfectly fine in their own right (“Your Property” is still a favourite), but the Greed/Holy Money portion spoke to me directly on a gut level. For the sake of convenience, I’ll refer to these albums as a single release – both were recorded at the same sessions, in any case.

The material that comprises this compilation represents a halfway house between the earlier primitivist sturm und drang of Filth, Young God etc. and the more nuanced songform of Children Of God, though still leaning a little closer to the former than the latter. Certainly monomaniacal repetition is already Gira’s calling card at this point, but its use is more insidious than punishing. Acoustic instruments make their first prominent appearance on a Swans record, as does Jarboe – primarily providing wordless moans and incantations, but also taking lead on “You Need Me” and “Blackmail” (a slightly less chilly version of which also appears on Children Of God). Jarboe’s role is less integral here than it would be on future releases, but it’s easy to see that her presence is at least partially responsible for the stylistic sea-change at play. All-in-all, the effect musically is somewhere between pulverising metallic slink-and-stab á la Thirlwell (“Money Is Flesh”, “A Screw”) and a kind of haunted industrial blues (“Nobody”, “A Hanging”).

Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart had introduced me to the idea of transgression in music over the preceding couple of years, but the lyrics on Greed/Holy Money took this idea in a different direction altogether. Where Stewart’s words seemed to hide some kind of moral core beneath the histrionics (or at least an understanding that things like child abuse are inherently bad), Gira presents his subject matter directly and bluntly, very rarely breaking into anything that could be described as emotionalism.

Gira sums up his lyrical approach best in RW Hessler’s Swans bio, out of date but presented as the definitive article on the Young God website: “I usually took my lyrical ideas from a lot of different sources – work (which uniformly felt like slavery at the time), to sex (which felt like an invasion of my privacy) to mass media (which felt like complete mind control -and still does)…”. Gira plays both doer (“Open your mouth/Here’s your money”) and done to (“I’m your stupid/helpless child”). Elsewhere he indulges in self-negation (“I mean nothing to myself/I’m nothing I’m nobody”) and conflates religion with auto-erotic asphyxiation (“I feel myself in you/I’ll hang for you”). All the while, the dollar sign emblazoned on the cover makes itself known as characters are bought and sold. On occasion, I felt like I detected a hint of gallows humour, a charge which Gira would doubtless have contested (an anecdote from David Yow of Scratch Acid/The Jesus Lizard in Roni Sarig’s 1998 book The Secret History Of Rock confirms my theory – look it up). Jarboe’s contributions steer the album into conflicted emotional territory; on “You Need Me”, she vacillates from all-enveloping inferiority (“I love you more than myself”) to passive aggressive statements of ownership (“I am your only friend”). Always the genderless, faceless “You” vs. the blank, empty “I”.

There are Swans albums I’ve spent more time with over the years (The Great Annihilator, Children Of God) and albums that have even more personal meaning (Soundtracks For The Blind); Greed/Holy Money holds the distinction of both kick-starting a lifelong love affair and revealing the aesthetic thread that runs through all of the art I love, helping me to understand myself and my own process in ways that would have been unthinkable beforehand.



RADVENT Day 23: Morne’s “Untold Wait”

For the first 24 days of December, Radio in Opposition and guests will share with you one very special album, one day at a time. We call it RADVENT.

Our RADVENT run is almost through, but today’s selection comes from Samuel, drummer of Brazil’s Subterror.

Morne, after having lyrically demolished all things, does not destroy itself, but also does not exasperate us in vain. Such a statement would be false if this band could not always bring a new and deep feeling to our lives, although through a negative perspective of the world. Just try listening to the track “Untold Wait” more than once.

Sonically, some people prefer to classify this as sludge or post-metal. Others insist it’s doom or crust. I prefer to just call it “Morne”, but it doesn’t matter. It’s hard to say specifically what Morne plays. Ultimately, the band can perfectly combine euphoria and despair, frustration and angst in depressive riffs and long tracks, making your day more bearable, or trying, at least.

Released in 2009, this is the first full length of this band from Boston (USA) which began their activities in 2005 with members that played with Disrupt, Grief, and Filth Of Mankind. Hope you all enjoy. This is a very special album/band to me. Really worthwhile…

“Long way, long wait/ the night becomes the death of the day
What I search for? Where I need to go? / I burn.”

RADVENT Day 22: The Icarus Line’s “Penance Soiree”

For the first 24 days of December, Radio in Opposition and guests will share with you one very special album, one day at a time. We call it RADVENT.

RADVENT 2014 is in the home stretch and today’s choice is from Chris Broyles, guitarist for Airs and owner of the tape label Bone Orchard.

Whenever I get asked about my favorite records, the answer fluctuates by the hour. Ask me twice in the same day and you’ll get different answers each time. When asking about which records are most important to me or most influential and I’ll struggle for a bit. Not because it’s difficult to pinpoint something so critical to my musical development, but because it’s seemingly impossible to narrow it down to one Icarus Line album. Every shred of recorded music by this band could constitute as the most important record to me. They’ve ALL had an equally major impact on my life. Unfortunately I can’t write about the entire discography for this, so I’ve decided to go with their second (and arguably most popular) full length, Penance Soiree.

In 2006, I was an angry kid who’d just gotten way into Nine Inch Nails. I remember downloading a bunch of video bootlegs from the then recent With Teeth tour (no Youtube yet, kids) and being in awe of this insane guitar player Trent had in the live band at the time. I immediately looked him up online and discovered he was an ex member of The Icarus Line. The only two records they had out at the time were Mono and Penance Soiree (Black Lives was stuck in development hell at the time) so I just downloaded them both and got to listening. A few days later, I was walking out of my local record store with a brand new CD copy of Penance Soiree, thankfully still in print at the time.

I guess I could go over every single episode of my life where this album has played a signigicant role but I’d be writing a novel about it. Penance Soiree completely changed how I approached playing guitar and writing music. It brought the concept of using screeching feedback and noise as songwriting tools into my world and, most importantly, exposed me to an endless amount of similarly amazing bands whom I’d all consider “my favorites” today.

In short, The Icarus Line were (and still are) waaaaaay better than Nine Inch Nails.

RADVENT Day 21: Totorro’s “Home Alone”

For the first 24 days of December, Radio in Opposition and guests will share with you one very special album, one day at a time. We call it RADVENT.

We’re nearing the end of a super exciting RADVENT and today’s choice comes from Kenny Eaton, guitarist of Maryland’s Time Columns, who are currently in the studio working on a new full-length.

As a “Math Rock” band nowadays, it’s so easy to get caught in the trap of focusing solely on rhythmic elements and odd time signatures while letting other equally, if not more important compositional elements like melody and harmony take a back seat. The first time I heard Totorro’s “Home Alone”, I was floored by how well the band manages to fit simple, concise and downright beautiful melodies into such rhythmically complex figures and relatively short (for post-rock) songs. The second track “Chevalier Bulltoe” is the one that got me hooked for good. You can hear allusions to American Football’s clean guitars and melodramatic chord changes, but there is an intensity and implied heaviness that can be compared to modern groups like Toe, Lite and Town Portal. Very rarely does this band step on the distortion, but when they do – it’s a moment. It’s also worth mentioning that the production quality of this release is superb – the soundscape has a clean, tight and polished feel that really suits the complexity and depth of the band’s instrumentation.

As a full-time producer/recording engineer, the last thing I want to do at the end of the day is to go home and listen to new music just because typically my ears are fried by that point and silence literally feels good. That said, I’ve been listening to this album almost every day after work for a couple months simply because it feels so fresh and clean. I give my highest praises to this album and this band. There’s something in here for everyone.

RADVENT Day 20: Grails’ “Black Tar Prophecies Vol. 4, 5, & 6”

For the first 24 days of December, Radio in Opposition and guests will share with you one very special album, one day at a time. We call it RADVENT.

Today’s selection for RADVENT comes from our good friend Shamus McGroggan, co-founder/producer of Tape Swap Radio.

There’s a certian brazenness that comes with being an instrumental band, let alone one that consistently tries to push the limits of its sound. Without lyrics or a vocal melody to focus the listener’s attention, each note from the guitar, each beat chosen by the drummer, is given that much more weight. A song lives or dies in the mind of the listener by these choices and these choices alone. This is not a task to be undertaken by a musician weak at heart. At least not one that wants to run the risk of being accused of art’s ultimate sin– being boring.

Grails has been called a lot of things–psychedelic, spaghetti western, cinematic, post-rock. I’d say a little of all of these are true. But boring? Not so much. The latest release from the Portland, Oregon four-piece is their second go around at assembling their catalogue’s rarities into a single package. The results range from terrifying to tender.

Black Tar Prophecies Vols. 4, 5 & 6 isn’t so much a cohesive album, as a stroll into a disjointed subconscious. There’s moments of uneasiness (“New Drug II”) followed immediately by quiet contemplation complete with pretty piano melodies (“A Mansion Has Many Rooms”). The album burns brightest with the first proper track, “Self-Hypnosis”, which sees the band latching onto a deep psychedelic groove and not letting go until they’ve properly exercised their demons.

It was “Self-Hypnosis” that served as my introduction to Grails and this album earlier this year. Anyone hearing this song shouldn’t expect the rest of the material on this album to sound exactly like it. Grails are not just a bunch of Floyd worshippers, but, then again, they aren’t afraid to explore a deeply-laid psych groove now and then either.

Whether or not this compilation is really the best place to begin with Grails’ music, I can’t say. It’s where I started, so it’s where I point other interested parties. I do know that the discordent elements of these tracks come togther in their own oddly palletable way and the resulting pastiche is worth your attention this winter. If nothing else. put on “Up All Night” and watch the snow fall sometime.

RADVENT Day 19: Pinhead Gunpowder’s “Goodbye Ellston Avenue”

For the first 24 days of December, Radio in Opposition and guests will share with you one very special album, one day at a time. We call it RADVENT.

Today’s RADVENT selection comes from JP Flexner, Philadelphia-based designer and illustrator, as well as drummer for Beach Slang and No Summer.

I was a pudgy, 15 year old, wannabe punk stoner living in Morton, IL when this record came out and it totally blew my mind. Timing wise, I had just started playing drums and had been getting really obsessed with comic books and any counter culture I could get my hands on so this record, inside and out, felt like it was made just for me. My best friend Blair and I must have poured over this record a million times while forming our own first band, The Accidents. Every listen offered something new; The basement floor drum rolls and break-neck ride and hihat work. The massive-yet-honest rhythm guitar tones mixed in with bright, soaring guitar leads. The perfectly anxious tempo of the bass. All of it led by Billie Joe Armstrong, just off the heels of Green Day blowing the F up. To this day I get a familiar rush of nostalgia when I hear the first chorus in “Once More Without Feeling”, possibly my favorite song on this record.

RADVENT Day 18: Fugazi’s “The Argument”

For the first 24 days of December, Radio in Opposition and guests will share with you one very special album, one day at a time. We call it RADVENT.

Almost halfway through RADVENT and today’s suggestion is from Jordan Miller, drummer for Maryland’s Time Columns, who are currently in the studio working on a new full-length.

I’ve been listening to this record since I was a kid and I still get excited every time I hear it. Fugazi was a game changer for me when I was young and finding myself musically. The first time I heard the record “13 Songs” in middle school I was blown away and it opened me up to a whole other side of music. I had grown up with classic rock and rock radio but Fugazi was something else entirely. They weren’t quite punk rock, weren’t quite progressive, but had a whole different edge that kept them out of the mainstream. I’d never heard a band use noise and guitars in that way before, blending rock songs with artfully restrained chaos. Still with all this going on the songs were honest, raw, often political and angry and best of all, they were local! These guys were from DC and they were making sounds like this and they ran their own record label? It was then that I realized that everything the general public told you about making it in music was bullshit. If what you’re making is genuine and good then you’ll find an audience and you don’t need to “climb the ladder”, you can just build your own ladder and climb that shit.

The Argument was Fugazi’s last record and understandably their most polished. Definitely one best listened to from front to back, blasting out of your stereo at full volume. Some of my favorite tracks are “Cashout”, “Full Disclosure”, “The Kill” and “Argument”. If you don’t know the band or the record then just go listen to the record.

RADVENT Day 17: Dysrhythmia’s “Psychic Maps”

For the first 24 days of December, Radio in Opposition and guests will share with you one very special album, one day at a time. We call it RADVENT.

Today’s selection comes from Gerald, bass player for Scottish Tech Metal band The Colour Pink Is Gay, who are currently working on a new album.

One of the most significant albums in my life in terms of broadening my sonic palette and opening up doors to wicked guitar and lead bass intricacies is Dysrhythmia’s 5th album ‘Psychic Maps’, released in 2009 via Relapse Records. I remember the first time listening to it through tinny iPod earbuds, thinking it sounded like an over indulgent instrumental prog trio with weird bits that didn’t gel. I gave the album another chance after a full year, clearing up old music folders and files. I returned to ‘Room Of Vertigo’ and sat through a decent pair of cranked monitors and realizing I had missed out on an absolute gem of an album.
All the components of ‘Psychic Maps’ compliment each other beautifully. Colin Marston’s bass playing taught me that metal bass didn’t have to be buried and low in the mix; it could be a rhythm and lead instrument simultaneously, cutting through the guitars and drums with gritty mids and soaring leads. The muscular bass has definitely shaped my philosophy on bass playing and the possibilities of what bass can do in a song. Guitarist Kevin Hufnagel weaves complex and eccentric patterns, working together with Colin’s bass to produce dark and heavy vibes. I love Kevin’s playing in all his works; from his own classical acoustic work, goth rock vibes in Vaura to immense riffing in Gorguts. However, I feel his eclectic style really shines in Dysrhythmia. It is loud and energetic, but it retains a delicate ear for melody and harmonies. Neither player have a straight forward style, giving the album diverse and unique sound. Dysrhythmia’s drummer Jeff Eber is no slouch on the kit. He hits hard, producing real dynamics and life to the songs. With fast intense playing, technical polyrhythms and groove in the pocket, Jeff matches Colin and Kevin’s dynamic furiosity. To top it all off, the mix is beautiful. Everything sounds natural and as it should, giving the album an organic feel that isn’t pummelling on the ear drums. The drums don’t sound fake or overly processed. It sounds like a bunch of guys, playing in a room and rocking your audio space. Marston’s ear for audio engineering always impresses and I always look forward to listening anything that crawls out the Menegroth. I can’t express how much this album ticks all my personal music boxes.

‘Psychic Maps’ contains labyrinth-like technical songs that blow my mind. The weird off the wall ideas, heavy drum and bass, dissonant spazzy guitars has taught me that songs can mental, angry, violent, beautiful, weird, disgusting, frightening and catchy as hell. It takes you on a roller-coaster of emotions, leaving you with a sense of awe and the reality that a record can actually do these things to you.


RADVENT Day 16: Eluvium’s “Talk Amongst the Trees”

For the first 24 days of December, Radio in Opposition and guests will share with you one very special album, one day at a time. We call it RADVENT.

Today’s RADVENT entry comes from Justin Snow, host of the awesome (seriously, it’s fantastic) podcast, Anti-Gravity Bunny. Dude loves drone, atmosphere, mood, and all those things that are missing in your life, so definitely get on it. In the meantime, check out his selection.

I have a lot of “favorite” artists, but Eluvium (Matthew Cooper) is higher up on the list than most. This record was the first of his that I heard. A friend in college played the opening track, “New Animals From The Air,” on his radio show one day while I was sitting in with him, and it was the most glorious thing I had ever heard. The blurred reversed loops and somber bittersweet melodies are simply overwhelming. I credit *Talk Amongst The Trees* as my official gateway to ambient music, which eventually lead to my obsession with drone and creating Anti-Gravity Bunny. “New Animals From The Air” remains one of my all time favorite songs. Cooper is able to make the most profound and beautifully textured music with such a refined pallete. His music truly resonates with me and I’d be much worse off without it.

RADVENT Day 15: Sorcier Des Glaces’ “Ritual of the End”

For the first 24 days of December, Radio in Opposition and guests will share with you one very special album, one day at a time. We call it RADVENT.

It’s day fifteen of RADVENT already! Today’s submission is from Evan of HIVELORDS and Sadgiqacea. HIVELORDS’ “Cavern Apothecary” dropped last year and is absolutely killer, so do yourself a fatty and check it.

My favorite thing about bands who are good songwriters is that there are “payoffs” naturally built into the material, some of which are predictable, and some of which come as surprises. Both can be awesome. Bands like this are usually “a cut above” in general and have a clever essence about their music. Every note and every part serves a purpose, and the songs are streamlined journeys that seem to unfold at the whim of the listener.

Sorcier Des Glaces from Canada embodies all the characteristics I just described. I was fond of them before, having heard both versions of the “Snowland” release, but their new record “Ritual of the End” which was released earlier in 2014 has me helplessly devouring their new music.

This band’s sense of melody is irresistible. Mystical, angular-sounding chords juxtaposed with reverb-drenched leads, played over impossibly tight and well-accented blastbeats are all clear evidence that they are masters of their craft. The result is nothing short of epic. In the grand scheme of music, it’s the melodic parts that make the dissonant ones that much more effective, but make no mistake, there is nothing “happy” “post-y” or “false” sounding on this album. The melodies are minor-keyed masterpieces that present themselves as wind chills and icicles, aiding in the glacial conquest of Sorcier Des Glaces.

Their icy atmosphere and clear production really make this album shine. Is it getting cold in here, or is it just me? This new favorite of mine is a must-listen for all fans of the genre.