In the strange wake of music's digital rebirth, vinyl has experienced a modest boom in popularity, seen by many as a replacement for the awkward middleman that is the compact disc. INCHES reviews the output of L.A.'s healthy vinyl community (artists and labels, indie or other), believing that good music deserves much more than a handful of ones and zeros.
Artist: Sunn O)))
Title: Monoliths & Dimensions
Label: Southern Lord (Thai Town)
Format: 2LP on 180-gram vinyl, vellum dust jacket, heavy card stock gatefold, metallic gold tip-on inner panel, printed jacket sleeves, plus lyric book/poster, 6000 pressed
In a word: Hefty. You've seen the details of the physical release, now know what lies inside. On Sunn O)))'s latest LP, Monoliths & Dimensions, the ambient (etc.) metal legends build their magnum opus -- what's essentially a classically arranged piece of doom music where, as the liner notes strongly suggest, "maximum volume yields maximum results." With Hungarian death viking Attila Csihar on vocal duty throughout, these four songs -- one per side -- wrangle immense loads of talent to do their dark bidding.
"Aghartha" employs strings, horns, piano, more than one conch shell and, of course, big black guitars to deliver a guttural composition that wouldn't sound wrong scoring a resurgence of the plague. "Big Church" (download it below) sports four overqualified men on guitar -- Sunn O)))'s Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson, plus Oren Ambarchi and Earth's Dylan Carlson -- not to mention a Vienna women's choir.
"Hunting & Gathering (Cydonia)" features something called a "wolf log," along with horns that seem to portend the arrival of a barbarian ark cutting through fog as thick as boar's blood. "Alice" is slower and more viscous still, but manages to end M&D on an up note -- a springy major chord moment that allows light to creep back in to the listener's world. Something tells me that if Dante Alighieri were alive, or resurrected, today, this album would soundtrack his slog through those infernal rings.
Download: Sun O))) - "Big Church" [MP3]
Artist: The Langley Sisters
Title: "Queen Bee" / "Someday In The Past"
Label: Velvet Blue Music (Long Beach)
Format: 7-inch (+ download), 400 pressed
The Langley Sisters hail from England and count among their influences The Shirelles, The Shangri-Las, and the Andrews Sisters. But rather than use the harmonic girl-group triumvirate as a jump-off point for further ventures into the beyond (as, say, some of the ironically unaccompanied no-fi-ers like Dum Dum Girls or Best Coast do), these three actual siblings don't stray much from their roots. The "Queen Bee" lyric "drink his blood from a big brass cup" might fit philosophically with the last record reviewed, but otherwise, the Langleys offer up the exact opposite: music that's jaunty, feminine, light. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. B-side "Someday In The Past" is a delicate, folksy track sure to inspire a little introspection. Below, you'll find an exclusive off-record MP3 from the same Ed Harcourt-produced session that yielded the songs on the 7-inch.
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Artist: Flying Lotus / House Shoes
Title: Do-Over Vol. 1
Label: The Do-Over (Los Angeles)
Format: 10-inch, clear vinyl, printed sleeve, sticker sheet, 1000 pressed
Earlier this month, West Coast Sound hipped you to the limited deluxe vinyl series schemed up by the creators of sangria-soaked summertime party institution, The Do-Over. Well, it's here. Installment number one is guaranteed to soon slip in to the out-of-print annals of local vinyl lore, sporting as it does, an exclusive track from this city's hottest beatsmith, Flying Lotus (and the "design-your-own-sleeve" sticker pack doesn't hurt). His contribution, "Sangria Spin Cycles" is built around a Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! sample -- John C. Reilly extolling the virtues of "sweet berry wine" -- and features a chorus of blips, bleeps and bloops that dance in and out of time over a smacking groove. The track from Detroit's House Shoes, however, feels a bit fresher, hailing from the school of Dilla as it chops up a soul sample of a pained male voice singing the title -- "The Makings" -- while drums crash and choral notes hang in the air. It's an organic trip on the ground floor, as compared to FlyLo's interstellar exploits.
Artist: Russian Circles
Label: Sargent House (Echo Park)
Format: 2LP on clear vinyl, gatefold, 12-inch poster, 1000 pressed (2000 on black wax)
These Arms Are Snakes have called it quits, but mourn not -- those math-inclined hardcore mavens have left intact a bounty of bands in their family tree. Russian Circles hail from Chicago, and like their neighbors in Pelican, carve wordless compositions out of a mix of metal and Mogwai-like post-rock. Make no mistake: though brains come into it, brawn is the primary force at work here. On Geneva, the band mostly eschews subtlety in favor of metallic might ("Fathom"), chugging guitars ("Geneva"), and sludgy tones ("Melee"). The album's strongest tracks add something else to the mix -- "Hexed All" is a bit more contemplative, and "Malko" actually toys with some power pop -- but even when Russian Circles are just flexing, they cut a pretty impressive figure.
Download: Russian Circles - "Malko" [MP3]
Vacation Vinyl's Top Ten Best-Sellers: January 4 - 17
02. Ancestors - Graveyard Split 7-inch (Volcom)
03. Black Cobra - Chronomega (Southern Lord)
04. Vampire Weekend - "Cousins" 7-inch (XL)
05. Moon Duo - Love On The Sea (tour pressing)
06. Doomriders - Darkness Come Alive (Deathwish)
07. Broadcast & The Focus Group - Investigate Witchcults Of The Radio Age (Warp)
08. Girls - Album (Matador)
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10. Ovskum - Atto III (Obscure Origins)
[*previously featured in INCHES]
Vacation Vinyl is located at 4679 Hollywood Blvd., 90027 (323.666.2111).