Deerhunter: Microcastle / Weird Era Cont.

Deerhunter - Microcastle

Deerhunter‘s Microcastle, their latest opus and follow-up to 2006’s acclaimed Cryptograms, has been available on iTunes since August 19th, but finally came out in physical form (CD/LP) yesterday. After the drama that unfolded a couple months ago, not to mention that the album itself leaked back in May, it’s nice to see Microcastle officially arrive and begin to accrue its critical accolades. And sure, some of you are thinking “non-digital media is dead!”, but with this latest release fans can also get their hands on Weird Era Cont., a bonus full-length album of entirely new material. Sure, this leaked as well (see aforementioned “drama”), but now we can hear it in all of its fully mastered glory.

I was a latecomer to the Cryptograms party (it’s definitely grown on me quite a bit over the past year), but there’s no disputing that it was a major breakthrough for Deerhunter. If you pay any amount of attention to independent music, you absolutely could not escape them in 2006. They produced a fairly rabid following, earned plenty of critical support, and, of course, attracted a pocket of committed detractors. (What would the internet be without them?). But, I’d be glad to wager that even a number of them will be won over by this new record.

While the dark, distorted hypnotics of Cryptograms pushed, surged, and meandered down strange and rewarding paths, Microcastle takes pieces of its foundation and delves into new territory with something softer, brighter, and significantly poppier. Deerhunter remains a decidedly guitar-centered band, constructing their rich soundscapes with shoegazer waves of distortion, memorable chord progressions, and infectious hooks. The overwhelming fullness of sound on this record is extremely satisfying; on subsequent listens, you can easily find new layers of texture to immerse yourself in or simply let all of them wash over you in a transcendent haze. And somewhere in that haze lurk the distinct, ethereal vocals of Bradford Cox, which remain equally important in defining Deerhunter’s sound and direction and, like just about every aspect of this band, seem to improve with each release. As ultimately a product of his vision, Microcastle contains familiar, recurring themes — solitude, sadness, death, monotony, rejection. In the wrong hands, such themes lend themselves to cliché, but Cox approaches and executes them with a level of sincerity and mystery that propels them far beyond the banal.

Then, on top of that, you’ve got Weird Era Cont. It was tempting to assume that this would just end up being a disjointed collection of decent rejects. Surely, between the Flourescent Grey EP, short Deerhunter hiatus, Atlas Sound album, and the absurd amount of free music that’s been offered up on the Deerhunter/Atlas Sound blog, Deerhunter doesn’t have enough material to put out a second cohesive album in 2008? Yeah, they do. And it’s good. In fact, it’s really good. Not only is this work cohesive, but it also stands apart from the record it’s packaged with. Twisting psychdelic-rock pulses and fades underneath production murky enough to make Microcastle seem crisp and clear, its pop tendencies partially stifled with a muzzle of noise and passages of crescendoing ambience. I haven’t yet processed Weird Era Cont. fully, but it seems to be the flipside to Microcastle. Related, yet distinctly seperate ideas… as if the band came to a fork in the road of their creative development and decided to take both paths. At any rate, its otherworldly beauty certainly exceeds my expectations.

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Download: Deerhunter – Never Stops (from Microcastle)

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Download: Deerhunter – Nothing Ever Happened (from Microcastle)

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Download: Deerhunter – Vox Celeste (from Weird Era Cont.)

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Download: Deerhunter – VHS Dream (from Weird Era Cont.)
Buy: Order Microcastle / Weird Era Cont. from Kranky Records (U.S.), 4AD (U.K.), or Insound.

Animal Collective Overload

Photo by Cedric Buchet

A steady stream of tidbits regarding Animal Collective have hit the web over the past few days and, unsurprisingly, rabid fans already seem infatuated with an album that’s still three months out. First off, on Oct. 28th, Merriweather Post Pavilion will be unveiled at a NYC listening party. Though perhaps “unveiled” is the wrong word, because there are apparently already some promo copies floating around out there… and with people saying things like “I’ve listened to the album 10-15 times now and this is about how good I imagine it is possible for music to be” the hype is certainly in full effect.

Well, those of us who don’t live in NYC, were too late to RSVP, or haven’t been graced with a promo copy, are still fiending for a fix without much recourse other than the same live videos and mp3s we’ve nearly played out by now. That’s where Collected Animals user “Pavey Bare” comes in. Recorded under his band’s moniker, Blind Man’s Colour, he originally posted four covers of Merriweather Post Pavilion tracks to said forum and later to the band’s blog, but now they’ve made their way into the blogosphere. Judging by the fever pitch of anticipation surrounding this record, not to mention the fact that they are also just really good, they should spread like strawberry jam. (via)

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Download: Blind Man’s Colour – Taste

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Download: Blind Man’s Colour – Brother Sport

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Download: Blind Man’s Colour – In the Flowers

Head over to the Blind Man’s Colour blog to download their version of as-of-yet-unreleased track “Grace” as well. “Pavey Bare” also records some solo material under the name Chromatic Flights. You can download his debut EP for free at his label’s site.

And finally, the official (and decidedly divisive) album art for Merriweather Post Pavilion was revealed and supposedly confirmed. Brace yourself and take in the trippy/cheesy feast after the jump.

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The Very Best Mixtape

The Very Best - The Very Best Mixtape

Biggest October surprise? No, it’s definitely not Joe the Moron Plumber… the upcoming mixtape from The Very Best (Esau Mwamwaya & Radioclit), scheduled to come out November 1st, has been released a good two weeks early! And rest assured that it does not disappoint. Esau has already been described as “awesome”, “sincere”, “gloriously uplifting”, and “King Midas” — all are accurate and all are highly relevant to this collection of tracks. I’m still not really sure why they would choose to incur any kind of unsavory Lion King comparsion with that album art, but the music here makes up for anything that could be construed as a misstep.

There’s so many great tracks on this mixtape, including all those linked in my previous post, but “Dinosaur on the Ark” featuring Ben Brewer, the “Boyz” remix with Akon & M.I.A. (and a segment with Esau on autotune!?), and The Very Best/The Ruby Suns‘ collaborative reworking of The Beatles’ “Birthday” are all additional notables.

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Download: The Very Best – Dinosaur on the Ark (Feat. Ben Brewer)

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Download: The Very Best – Boyz (Feat. Akon & M.I.A.)

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Download: The Very Best – Birthday (Feat. The Ruby Suns)

You can download The Very Best Mixtape HERE. Check the full tracklist and credits (from the release notes) after the jump. (via)

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Coconot: Cosa Astral

Coconot

Well before Pablo Díaz-Reixa (a.k.a. El Guincho) released his solo debut, Alegranza, and was propelled into the international scene, he formed the band Coconot with Cristian Subirà and Jens Neumaier. In 2005 they released their first album, Novo Tropicalismo Errado, which took krautrock-influenced sounds with lo-fi punk sensibilites, and cloaked them in the rhythms of Latin America, the Caribbean and Spain. And now, as El Guincho prepares for his expansive upcoming tour, Coconot is readying their sophomore release, Cosa Astral.

On their latest effort, Coconot delve much further into swirling tropicalismo-psychedelics, often conjuring up the kinds of sounds that dominated Alegranza. Album opener “Conservad el Rayo”, with its relentless steel drums, Animal Collective-recalling melodies and chants (see Feels, “Brother Sport”), and earnestly joyous vocals, is one of the more obvious examples. And though this aesthetic carries much of the record, Coconot allow their rock edge to cut through the sunny psych-pop on a few tracks. The centerpiece of Cosa Astral, “Tao”, features a surging interplay of keyboard and guitar hooks, while “Polen Muchacha!” is an equally ethereal jam with guitar work reminiscent of The Forms. Fans of El Guincho and AC pay attention: this album should be up near the top of your wishlists.

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Download: Coconot – Conservad el Rayo
Buy: Cosa Astral will be available to order over at BCore Disc on Oct. 15.

You can also stream another excellent track, “Verbena de los Delfines”, at PlayGround Magazine. Peep the full tracklist and album art for Cosa Astral after the jump.

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Animal Collective: Merriweather Post Pavillion

Animal Collective

Well, after a couple days of rampant speculation, we’re a little bit closer to an official confirmation that the new Animal Collective project hinted at on their website will in fact be a new album [Update: “It’s official”]. Cryptic updates have so far yielded video clips of some kind of incoherent demon-trout, an equally ominous tracklist unveiling, and the ghostly pic posted above. I’m betting that the reanimated corpse of a rabbit will reveal the cover art. Either way, look for Merriweather Post Pavillion on January 20, 2009. For now, watch Grrrnd Zero‘s excellent live footage of “Brother Sport” and try to imagine just how sweet the studio recording will sound (Click here for full widescreen).

Check out the tracklist for Merriweather Post Pavillion after the jump (with some additional links).

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The Very Best: Esau Mwamwaya

Esau Mwamwaya

There’s been plenty of hype to go around in 2008, but easily one of the most exciting and anticipated projects is the collaboration between Esau Mwamwaya and producers/faithful-proponents Radioclit, now recording together under the name The Very Best. Esau, a Malawi-via-London artist with a penchant for pop music rooted in the sounds of his home continent, has already traveled quite a path over his 33 years. Born into a particularly repressive period in Malawian history, in which self-appointed “king for life” Hastings Banda imposed rigid restrictions on music, art, and broader culture, Esau still managed to be very active in the music scene of the small African nation as a vocalist and drummer for a number of bands. In 1999, he moved to London with the ambition to simply start a new life, worked a few different jobs and eventually opened a used furniture store which is where he apparently met Etienne Tron of Radioclit completely by chance.

And the rest is certainly far from history; The Very Best have not yet released an official album, EP, single, or mixtape, though Esau has already been featured on Gorilla vs. Bear, Stereogum, Pitchfork, and has even graced the cover of Fader (peep the Fader article for a more detailed account of Esau’s past and present). What they have done, so far, is continually shore up interest by bombarding the internet with a myriad of tracks (some originals, some reworked covers and remixes). Virtually all of them have been great, and just recently The Very Best announced that the pre-album mixtape drops on November 1st, with the official record to follow in early 2009 (by the way, that as-of-yet-untitled debut will feature Vampire Weekend, The Ruby Suns, Santogold, ex-Bonde do Rolê vocalist Marina Vello, and others). They also posted three high-quality (320kbps) mp3s for free download on their myspace. “Kamphopo”, a reworked/improved version of Architecture in Helsinki‘s “Heart It Races”, returns the original to its roots by brilliantly transforming it into a glorious afropop anthem, while “Tengazako” finds Esau seizing the beat from M.I.A.‘s “Paper Planes” and working similar magic. The third track, “Get It Up”, was originally produced by Radioclit for the Santogold/Diplo Top Ranking mixtape, but here it’s remixed for their boy with typical results. And for a little added bonus, I’m also posting The Very Best’s take on Vampire Weekend’s “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” which completely blows the original out of the water (and I really like the original).

Those who are following Esau Mwamwaya closely have probably heard all of these before, but also probably don’t have nice, high quality rips on their hard drives. And for those who haven’t been following him closely, it’s never a bad time to start.

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Download: The Very Best – Kamphopo

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Download: The Very Best – Tengazako

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Download: The Very Best – Get It Up (Feat. M.I.A. & Santogold)

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Download: The Very Best – Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa