Saturday, September 25, 2010

Mickey Mickey Rourke - Inner Gazing

It’s daunting to imagine exactly what informs Miller Rodriguez’s musical choices. Rodriguez, working as the increasingly popular and critically acclaimed act Mickey Mickey Rourke, releases whole albums at an undeniably impressive rate – but more importantly, each one is more diverse and distinct than the next. Where does he get the inspiration? How does he manage to make ambient drones sound somehow accessible and engaging? Are we as listeners capable of understanding his vision?

I don’t know if we’ll ever really understand Rodriguez, and I’m not entirely sure we’re even supposed to. As complex and epic as his sound really is, though – his latest offering, Inner Gazing, sheds at least some light on the subject. It hit the blog circuit shortly after his excellent previous work, MMR, and while it certainly reaffirmed any expectations regarding his sound - synths float and glisten, and dense arrangements unfold seamlessly (underscored by Rodriguez's earnest, emotive aesthetic) - but it also suggests a willingness to explore new territory. That is, Inner Gazing proves that he's trying new things; the result is incredible, really, and reveals more about the man behind the magic.

Perhaps the most telling difference inherent to Inner Gazing is its execution. On earlier albums, Rodriguez worked to balance his ambient leanings with conventional (and sometimes dark) instrumentation. That type of guitar and percussion work is noticeably absent on this album, however, but such a stylistic shift works really well. It allows Rodriguez , in other words, to make his latest group of songs soar to more impressive heights, leaving a trail of atmospheric beauty in their paths. I hesitate to say that it's his "pretty" record, but the temptation is there. Regardless, I absolutely love the ethereal quality of Inner Gazing's synth-heavy sound and commend the effort.

Mickey Mickey Rourke - "KOOPA" ft. Foxes in Fiction

Inner Gazing is also unique in its delivery - specifically, the album is largely a collaboration of sorts. From artists as diverse as Universe and Lester Brown, Rodriguez uses his friends to compelement his rich soundscapes. On "Gloomy Guts," for instance, Craft Spells turns a quintessentially MMR tune into a surprisingly fun dance number, and on "Glitter Blood," Raw Moans lends his signature vocals to add yet another layer to an already deep and delicate track; and album standout "Koopa," featuring Foxes in Fiction, is so moving that it almost hurts. The collaborations work for Rodriguez. The tracks could easily stand alone, of course, but it's impressive to see how they transform with such disparate influences.

In the end, I think it's safe to say that Inner Gazing is a complex and interesting record - an awesome collection from an already credible and prolific artist. I'm still left wondering how Rodriguez crafts such compelling songs - and more importantly, what he plans to do next - but I can see that with Inner Gazing he wanted to do something light and airy and beautiful; he wanted to take listeners on what feels at times like a spiritual journey (with old friends along for the trip). God bless him.

Download the album here.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

USF/Back to the Future the Ride

Fri Oct 1 - at Cairo Gallery in Seattle w/ Secret Colors
Sat Oct 2 (daytime) at The Chapel on Reed Campus in Portland w/ Ghost Animal
Sat Oct 2 (nighttime) - at Dunes in Portland w/ Ghost Animal & Hokus Majic
Sun Oct 3 - at Heco’s in Oakland
Mon Oct 4 - at Pehrspace in Los Angeles w/ Kevin Blechdom
Tue Oct 5 - at Origami Vinyl in Los Angeles
Wed Oct 6 - at UCI in Irvine
Thurs Oct 7 - at Pomona College in Pomona
Fri Oct 8 - at The Smell in Los Angeles w/ The Urxed (member of High Places)
Sat Oct 9 - at tba in Oakland (USF only)
Sun Oct 10 - at Hemlock in San Francisco (USF only)
Mon Oct 11 - at tba in Portland (USF only)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Slandercat - "Gauntlet"

Jeremy Hay's music - released under the guise of Slandercat - has created a slow but steady buzz in recent weeks. The well-deserved attention from music blogs came from the release of Hay's debut EP as Slandercat, a trippy and intense collection titled Blood of a Broom Tree. He calls it "alternative/indie electronic music...[with] vocals and samples and little squelchy sounds," which is true, in part - but there's a lot more going on here.

Gauntlet by slandercat

Take album standout "Gauntlet," for instance. It begins with synths that recall the chilling opening score from The Shining, and as the tone is set, the nearly 7-minute song unfolds in an expertly arranged assortment of disparate and striking sounds: there are icy pianos, gong crashes, cavernous vocals, produced flutes, hard-hitting beats, and unmistakable retro vibes thrown in for good measure.

It's an epic jam to say the least and a good example of what Blood of a Broom Tree offers. Hay is cool enough to offer the EP as a free download here, so take advantage of it now and enjoy the head trip that will surely follow.