Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Release of the Day: Billy Bao - Lagos Sessions

Conceptually staggering, Lagos Sessions, the newest opus from San Francisco provocateurs Billy Bao, is as massive as it is nuanced. Recorded in Lagos, Nigeria, home to the band’s vocalist and namesake, alongside a diverse cast of musicians, improvisers, and artists, Lagos Sessions presents the band at its most expansive and personal. Both digitally and physically, the new album is two LPs split into four sides, each lasting about fifteen minutes. At once monolithic and fractured, the four pieces capture the schizophrenic nature of being a displaced person trying to find something – anything – stable and comforting that, even if not a literal home, can at least have a home’s trappings.

Lagos Sessions is hard to even call an album. Oh, it’s certainly a record – two, in fact! But the term “album” makes it seem like a collection of songs, rather than a piece of auditory art. Where “album” is an appropriate signifier, and visual analog, for plenty of records, it doesn’t do justice to Lagos Sessions, which has more similarities in common with a megalithic painting than a series of laminated inserts in a binder.

It’s an exhilarating listen, sonically and thematically. Littered with field recordings, improvised jazz, noise, punk, and soul, Lagos Sessions is an exercise in amalgamation and collage. The frequent changes in tone, tempo, and texture are disorienting, at least at first, but eventually make themselves at home. For instance, side B begins with what most closely resembles a noise rock song before descending into a prolonged monologue on what it means to be Nigerian in 2015/2016. Abrasive sound makes way for education. Easy listening, this ain’t. Rewarding, necessary listening, this is.

Here's an example of the recording sessions. I couldn't find any of the music online other than this:

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Release of the Day: Breathing Problem - Bed of Sex, Pit of Tar

No intimacy is like another. One person’s demonstration of love is another’s pain. One person’s scream is another’s orgasm. “Love,” a nebulous, complicated proposition, as much a contract as an emotion, lacks a common denominator: there’s no key to making partnerships work. Definitions and examples go out the window. Because of this, love and intimacy are insular, unique, and above all private. Broken privacy is unnerving and often grotesque. There’s nothing quite as cringe-inducing as a public display of affection, and yet, though there’s a repulsive gag response to such an exhibit, isn’t there some sickening urge to partake?

Bed of Sex, Pit of Tar, the latest opus from Rusty Kelley and Emelia McKay's relentlessly curious, unabashedly fearless project Breathing Problem, is a meditation on intimacy and the great internal conflict between sex and violence. Though Breathing Problem has taken several forms, on this latest and most consistent iteration, it places Kelley and partner Emelia McKay’s relationship front and center, taking the ins and outs, the peaks and valleys, and the pleasures and pains of giving part of yourself to someone else, and makes the minutiae monstrous.

Where earlier Breathing Problem releases were power electronics-based, Bed of Sex, Pit of Tar appropriates darkwave, field recordings, and John Carpenter-esque synthscapes to more effectively render the material beautiful, while maintaining an uneasy, moody undercurrent. Emelia’s haunting vocal contributions are a welcome addition too, as they compliment the rich electronic textures of the album. It’s more realized, and frankly more listenable, than any earlier Breathing Problem release - it forgoes striking the listener down in repetitive waves of violence for a seductive bait and switch tactic. The product of a transparent, moving partnership, Bed of Sex, Pit of Tar is an actively rounded affair, diverse in sound and theme, the result of a duo ready and willing to explore both the ugly and beautiful qualities of its own duality.

Bed of Sex, Pit of Tar is out on Torn Light Records