When I think of electronic music, I think ’90s, or ’80s at the earliest. I definitely don’t think of the 1960s, yet there was a group back then that made shockingly futuristic music for its time – The Silver Apples. They were around from 1967 to 1969 (and again in the 1990s), performing a kind of psychedelia using an oscillator to produce pulsing electronic sounds. They also remind me a bit of Krautrock groups like Can.
Category Archives: progressive rock
When you hear something perfect, you want it to last forever. It doesn’t work that way. The most beautiful things in life are ephemeral. Levitation was a perfect example. It was formed Terry Bickers, the emotionally fragile but brilliant guitarist from House of Love. Levitation didn’t last long, but during its brief existence, the band created some incredible music.
Mysterious and powerful, their music was a combination of Madchester, psych and progressive rock. From all acounts, and a few Youtube vids, they had a hell of a live show. I wish I could’ve been there in person.
I discovered Levitation in a box of mixtapes and other cassettes a friend passed along as he made the move to the compact disk and decided to free up some space.
Coterie was the first to grab my attention. It completely captivated me. My friend had recorded it on one side of a cassette, with House of Love’s Babe Rainbow on the other side (another very good album). I remember thinking as I played it on my Walkman for the third or fourth time, “This blows Dark Side of the Moon out of the water!” I’ve backed off a little bit since then — I will always love Pink Floyd, and DSOTM is a classic — but Coterie and Need for Not are also classics in my book. And they all the more powerful because they were hidden from me for so long.
Interesting that I instantly thought of Coterie as a classic album, because it isn’t exactly a proper album. It contains songs from the band’s first EP, plus some live songs and B sides. Yet in my mind it almost comes across as a concept album, very coherent.
Need for Not took a little longer to get my attention, but when it did, it was like being struck by lightning. I suddenly couldn’t get enough of it. Because it’s fully a studio album it is at the same time less intimate but more intense than Coterie. It feels a lot more like a rock ‘n’ roll album. Both albums are out of print but affordable used CDs can be found via private sellers on Amazon and sometimes turn up in used CD stores as well. Definitely worth purchasing.
I love every song on the Need for Not, but I think “Pieces of Mary” really demonstrates Levitation’s sound. It just keeps rising and rising, like an out of body experience.
Levitation released another album, Meanwhile Gardens, after Bickers left. There’s another version of the album with some of Bickers’ work on it. The official version was only released in Australia and is a collectors item that I coveted for years. I finally got hold of an mp3 version from a hardcore Levitation fan and frankly was glad I didn’t pay top dollar for the physical copy. It has a few bright spots — a couple of good psych-prog songs and some experiments with ambient — but isn’t in the same league as Need for Not or Coterie. The magic was there for a time, then it went away.
Terry Bickers later made up with Guy Chadwick and rejoined the House of Love. The other members of Levitation went on to form a band called Dark Star. Haven’t heard them yet, but I’ve read enough good reviews to make me curious. I will at some point.
Other post-Levitation projects include:
Dragons, featuring drummer Dave Francolini.
Mikrokosmos, solo project of guitarist Christian (Bic) Hayes who was tour guitarist for Pet Shop Boys for a while.
Milk and Honey Band, featuyring Levitation keyboard player Robert White.
Bassist Laurence O’Keefe has toured with Martina Topley-Bird
In addition to recording and touring with House of Love, Bickers formed a group with Caroline Tree called Cradle.
Here is a song from the unreleased version of Meanwhile Gardens featuring Terry Bickers. Gives you an idea what could’ve been if things had held together for a bit longer:
There is a nice long thread about Levitation in the Spiritualized forum. It’s informative and makes a nice read. I got some of my info from the thread.
It would be so clever to have a “Ten from Ten” list of favorite albums from 2010. Unfortunately, I can only come up with a top five list. I’m sure there were at least five more killer albums that would’ve rounded out my top 10. I just didn’t find them.
I never want to say that any year was a “bad year” for music. If you don’t have enough good music to listen to, it usually means you didn’t look hard enough. I didn’t buy as much new music in 2010 as I usually do, for a number of reasons: I was broke, very busy at work, and I still wasn’t finished with 2009 (which was an unusually good year for music, in my opinion. Just to name a few: Phoenix, Daniel Knox and Grizzly Bear put out some great albums that took a while to absorb fully).
There were some 2010 albums that I really do enjoy, however, albums that I’m sure I’ll be listening to for many years to come. It’s hard to rank them, really, but I’ll take a shot:
1. Beach House – Teen Dream
This one has probably spent more time on my stereo (and laptop, etc.) than any other album. Aptly named, it really does sound like a dream. In the past, Beach House mined shoegazer very well, capturing the atmosphere of bands like Slowdive. However, the songs I heard from them in the past didn’t really hold up that well for me in terms of melody and lyrical content. Style over substance in other words. This album definitely has both. The reverb is toned down so you can really hear Victoria LeGrand’s lovely voice. “Zebra” and “Norway” are excellent examples of indie pop. “Lover of Mine” is the best song of all, one of those songs that really tugs at the heartstrings. Every song on the album is solid. Modern dream pop.
My only complaint is the videos. I got the deluxe CD package with a video disk, and I’m just not feeling those at all. Silly, dumb, ugly, even painful to look at. All they do is detract from what is an otherwise blissful music experience.
Check this out if you haven’t heard them (avoid the official video if you know what’s good for you):
2. The Black Keys – Brothers
This was one of those impulse buys at Waterloo Records. I had a stack of CDs in my hands and a certain amount I wanted to spend and they started playing songs from Brothers. “She’s Long Gone” and “Sinister Kid” hooked me completely. Had to put something back, ask the guys at the counter what it was and buy it. I played the hell out of it for weeks and I can always go back to it and still enjoy it. I was already a big fan of Attack & Release. Their music is a perfect mix of blues and indie punk. Blues, with energy and punch. The guitars just sound so rank and nasty. Damn good songwriting too.
3. Legendary Pink Dots – Seconds Late for the Brighton Line
These guys just continue to amaze me. There was a time last year when I was afraid they might be able to call it a day. Niels Van Hoorn (woodwinds) and Martin de Kleer (guitar) quit the band. Then Edward Ka Spel’s mother got sick and their planned North American tour got put on hold. But past member Erik Drost returned to play guitar and the Dots put on an amazing live show in Austin back in November. The latest album turned out to be a grower for me, but it certainly has been growing in my esteem. “Russian Roulette” and “Hauptbahnhof” are classic Dots songs, as is “God and Machines” (the last being one of the best live songs from their show.
4. Crocodiles – Sleep Forever
I like this album better and better every time I play it. At only 35 minutes, it’s short and sweet. It satisfies and there’s no annoying filler to skip over. There is a unifying theme – death – and the songwriting is solid. “Mirrors,” “Stoned to Death” and “All My Hate and My Hexes Are For You” are my favorites. I get a little bit of a Stone Roses vibe from some of the songs, particularly “All My Hate…” in that the tunes sound so sweet, yet the lyrics are so mean and cutting. I love juxtapositions like that.
Big thanks to Mark Whitby of Dandelion Radio for turning me onto these guys from San Diego. He played their cover of Deee Lite’s “Groove is in the Heart” and I was immediately hooked. Based on comments in YouTube and 0n sites like Rate Your Music, they seem to have a dedicated group of haters as well as a nice cult following. The big gripe seems to be that they sound too much like Jesus and Mary Chain. I hear an influence, definitely, but I don’t think the criticism holds water. In fact — and this ought to piss off the haters — I got out my copy of Automatic to refresh my memory and frankly I like Sleep Forever more. Also I don’t like Psychocandy. So there.
I’m having a hell of a time deciding which song to embed, but “Stoned to Death” ought to do…
5. Vampire Weekend – Contra
Very enjoyable album, already mentioned on this blog. I love the way they’ve brought world music influences into the realm of indie pop/rock. I get a big Paul Simon vibe off the album, especially “White Sky” (which is in no way a put down – Graceland is a hell of an album). “Cousins,” and “Holiday” are really catchy songs.
I may be forgetting something I liked from 2010 and I’m sure I failed to discover a lot of good music. I’d like to see some other people’s top 5 lists and check them out. It might put me behind schedule for my best of 2011 list, but I’ll worry about that when the time comes
It’s a common complaint from musicians: “I don’t do goth/post-rock/folk/trip hop/indie/prog (or whatever). You can’t pigeonhole me!”
Same thing with fans. I’ve read a ton of forum threads complaining about genre names. “What the hell does post-rock mean? Aren’t bands still playing rock? Why isn’t it called post-rap? Post-rock isn’t a real genre.” And various other quibbles from people who hate seeing their favorite musicians get pigeonholed, or resent seeing musicians they don’t like surf their way into undeserved recognition atop some made up fad.
I totally get it. I’m the king of “you can’t pigeonhole me.” I’m 100 percent eclectic in musical taste. Politically, neither fish nor fowl.
I do think there’s a nasty tendency in some circles (*cough* Pitchfork) to use labels in order to dismiss a band or collection of bands. Like, “Oh yeah, we figured out what these guys are. Just another example of X. If anyone still cares about X, this is part of that whole X knockoff crowd. That scene is so quaint isn’t it? Moving right along…”
Just look at this list of genres: http://rateyourmusic.com/rgenre/
Drumfunk, Sqweee, Glitch-hop, Witch House and Turbo-folk are just a few of many genre names that make me scratch my head. Are these really real? Is somebody pulling our legs?
Who comes up with this stuff anyway? It used to be DJs and music journalists, but now I guess it’s mostly bloggers with a lot more hits than I get. Somehow the names catch on, silly or not. Shoegaze is one I use a lot that sounds pretty ridiculous (whatever you want to call it, I like it). It was originally a put-down for bands playing noise-drenched stuff who tended to stand on the stage and look down at their shoes, but now it’s so common that bands will claim the term.
Classifying music into groups will always be a messy business. There are some musicians (usually my favorites) who defy classification. There are musicians who get lumped into a group who sound nothing like their supposed peers.
Television’s Marquee Moon (1977) came from one of the original CBGBs bands, often touted as one of the first punk bands or even “proto-punk.” Yet to me its style has a lot in common with Magazine’s Real Life (1978), which came out just a year later and is considered one of the first postpunk albums. Can you really go from proto- to post- in just one year?
World music is a really messy genre. It can sound like anything, and isn’t everything part of the world? And speaking of the world, now everything has gone global. You have millions of musicians, talented and otherwise, making tunes on laptops and releasing them on the Internet. Anyone can be influenced by anyone. It was hard enough to classify things in the blues-R&B-rock continuum, especially when jazz and classical kept rearing their ugly heads. Now throw in influences from every country in the world and classifying anything becomes virtually impossible.
Yet we have to try. Why? Because if we don’t, we can’t find music we like, and we can’t talk about it.
I understand the principle of “it’s all music.” But don’t you think the average Chuck Berry fan would be a bit put off if you played a Godspeed You Black Emperor album said, “Here’s some of that music stuff you claim to like”? And suppose he had an open mind and even kind of liked it, but just never heard GYBE before and asked, “what is this?” Sorry, but I’m going to have to say post-rock, because he might then find and enjoy Sigur Ros. Post-rock is a clear case of “you gotta call it something.” Would you consider a Chuck Berry song rock? Definitely. Would you consider a Godspeed You Black Emperor song rock? Not too sure… Thus, post-rock.
I agree that genre names often suck, but they can be useful, even some “hairline distinctions.” For example, dark ambient. It bleeds into regular ambient (another term people argue over), as well as industrial (ditto). But there are certain groups that people who say they like dark ambient tend to like. I like to give and get recommendations. How am I supposed to do that if I can’t pick a genre name? If I just ask for “music” recommendations, I could get anything from Beethoven to the Ramones. I like both of those, but they’re not going to help me find Coil, Lustmord or Voice of Eye.
A genre name might be a stupid word, but once it catches on and people start hanging ideas on it, what can you do? You’re pretty much stuck with it.
Still, I can’t help but wonder what will happen if people are still listening to this stuff hundreds of years from now? Are we going to get names like tenth wave Electro-acoustic-neo-post-psych-prog? Hell, that name probably exists already.