By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Mia Doi Todd | Gea | City Zen
Singer-composer Mia Doi Todd’s Gea makes time stand still, starting with a track called “River of Life/The Yes Song” that clocks in at 10 1/2 minutes. It’s an unusual way to begin an album, but a typically original way for this superbly idiosyncratic artist. Gea is the seventh in a series of shockingly intimate and musically intrepid works in which this gentle heroine of progressive music in L.A. has, with finely plucked acoustic guitar and alluring voice like cut crystal, brought the tone of private pleasures and pains to resonantly rich new territories. Todd’s oeuvre is that of a folksinger with a new kind of folk on her mind, albeit one who explores deeply intimate concerns in gently avant-garde musical settings. And Gea, she says, is a morning album; while these songs do feel achingly personal, the album has a parallel warm and inviting air, partly due to the fuzzy blanket of a droning harmonium alongside Todd’s precisely fingerpicked acoustic guitar, the discreet pitter-patter of Andres Renteria’s percussion, and the unobtrusively engaging horn-winds-strings settings provided by Miguel Atwood-Ferguson. Produced by Carlos Nino, Gea’s open-armed vibe owes heavily to this small family of sympathetic friends Todd surrounded herself with for its recording.
Lucky Dragons | Dream Island Laughing Language | Marriage Records
Lucky Dragons are a couple; transplanted Ivy Leaguer artists with matching alien-toddler haircuts who make rocks sing, who are, along with No Age, the serious ambassadors of L.A.’s pro-positivity scene. The duo’s shows are heaven-bent on inclusion. They play on the floor, eye to eye with the audience, and break down the formal barriers by making the audience the band — or perhaps, more accurately, the instruments themselves. Using complicated little boxes and wires, a laptop and some contact mics, Lucky Dragons’ audience forms a circuit of sorts, which changes pitch and sound depending on how many people hold hands or touch. Laughing Language (their 18th, if you’re counting) could be considered an afterthought given that the performance-based realization is the band’s locus. Does amplified rainstick translate onto record? Yes. It has all the clarity and meditation that Lucky Dragons’ spontaneity and group-huggy shows negate; translucent, soft hums get looped and doubled into steady banging; maximal chimes build into a wall of psychedelic glee; tribal clunk gives way to a wild lurching augmented by a recorder solo. The 22 tracks on the record display fantastically disparate damage: the processed tribalism of the Master Musicians of Jajouka; sour Ethiopian tonality; the insurgent disco of the boogie-down Bronx circa ’81; Arthur Russell’s space dub; Teutonic laptop minimalism; Tom Tom Club. “Later Hater” cribs Green Velvet’s classic “Percolator.” In Lucky Dragons there is much of what is missing in dance music (and the underground in general): concrete ideas and transgressive, progressive earnesty. Next level, indeed.
Madlib | Beat Konducta Vol. 5: Dil Cosby Suite | Stones Throw
Squander an hour of your life on MySpace trolling for underground hip-hop producers and within three clicks you’ll start striking wan white kids from Weehawken who by virtue of pawing a soul sample in Pro Tools think they’re the second coming of J Dilla, who has become the 2Pac for crate-diggers. Not like you’d have to worry about that with Madlib. He and the erstwhile Jay Dee were kindred spirits, Beat Konducta’s blunted helium-voiced L.A. id complementing to Dilla’s somber Lake Michigan soul. Competing types such as theirs become either fast friends or mortal enemies. Luckily, they were the latter, frequently collaborating and undeniably influencing the other during their formative years.
Beat Konducta Vol. 5: Dil Cosby Suite is Oxnard native Madlib’s tribute to his deceased friend. On its own merits, it’s an excellent instrumental hip-hop record, another worthy installment in an already stellar series. But in its greater context, every scratch, break and suffering soul sample feels fraught with profound loss and existential weariness. Song titles include “For My Mans (Prelude),” “The Mystery (Dilla’s Still Here),” “In Jah Hands (Dilla’s Lament),” “Infinity Sound (Never Ending)” and “The Main Inspiration (Coltrane of Beats).” If that’s the case and Dilla really was hip-hop’s Trane, then it’s not altogether unreasonable to deem the prolific, brilliant Madlib the genre’s answer to Miles Davis.
Health | Health//Disco | Lovepump United
As one of the astute young men of Health once said, “You can always make friends with the other kids in class, even if your favorite band is Slayer and theirs is Bell Biv Devoe.” Such a grand metaphor touches on how this L.A. noise-rock-pop-dance aggregate couldn’t be bothered differentiating between sounds that make you twitch and sounds that make you dance. Emanating from the scene that birthed similarly inclined noise/rock/in-between/nowhere nihilist-optimist squeal thumpers No Age, Health issue their diametrical oppositions on their own label, which also released their blissfully screechy self-titled full-length of 2008. That disc is a prime recent example of how the new noise/rock continuum can be plundered and pummeled to gloriously rocking and crowd-pleasing effect. But then, even better, a few months later the band issued Health//Disco, comprising rad remixes of a bunch of their stuff from refreshingly out-there remix nerds such as Crystal Castles, Acid Girls and Toxic Avenger. These mixes, for the most part, tromp over the original versions, to frequently frenzied, often chillingly beautiful and mostly ecstatic effect. Heh, heh, sure, you can “dance” to it. And, interestingly, such exploratory stuff gets weirder and weirder the more you listen to this absolutely contemporary sound.