In defense of Reptar: an album review of Body Faucet

Posted on by Celeste in Albums | Leave a comment


Something must have been in the water in 2012 – it was a year of magical events. Not only did Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson patch things up (to a collective sigh of relief from humanity, their faith in true love restored) but, even more importantly, two phenomenal albums were dropped in 2012; one to great acclaim, and one to not such great acclaim.

Django Django and Reptar both dropped their debut albums in 2012. Django Django’s self titled album was released in January to rave reviews – Reptar’s body faucet was dropped in May to less than rave reviews – to give a general idea, Django Django recived a 7.2 from Pitchfork. Reptar? A 3.0.

So why the 4.2 point difference in their marks? Reptar sampled too liberally from contemporaries – Animal Collective, Passion Pit, Vampire Weekend. They had too much enthusiasm and not enough focus. Boiled down to it, Reptar was deemed to be too much sugar for your diet without the necessary fiber to make it worth consumption – kind of like chewy granola bars.

And I don’t declaim the first two points – Reptar samples liberally from other artists on their album, yes, and their enthusiasm is nothing if not unbridled. But depending on how you spin it, couldn’t those also be points of praise?

From the moment the beat drops on Sebastian to the last meandering a capella chorus of City of Habits, Reptar has crafted themselves, what I would argue to be, an eclectic and adventurous first album filled with, true, sugary-sweet afro-beats and synth that unabashedly points to its audience and says, “you! Get up and dance!” but also with thoughtful lyrics and a detailed eye for rhythm and instrumentation that belies their reputation as nothing more than a good time live.

The foundation of the record rests on Water Runs, an unconventional ode to relationships, some newly beginning and others falling apart at the seams, Sebastian, a wink to the saint who became a gay icon, and office origami which tips its hat to themes of dreams, nightmares and creativity. Without these three staples the album might not hold up under the sugary sweet goodness of sweet sipping soda and houseboat babies. But these two fine spun confections are necessary counterparts to the more experimental and bizarre Natural Bridge. While some have argued that this album is a hodge-podge mess of dance beats and enthusiasm, I would argue it’s actually a very well balanced and organized creation that takes into consideration not only the recorded listening experience but also the live one. Not an easy task.

I began by comparing Reptar to Django Django not only because their albums dropped in the same year and I’ve had them both on repeat for the past two months, but also because I see parallels between the two albums. When I listen to Django Django I hear a modern twist on Simon and Garfunkel and the Beach Boys, with maybe even a wink to Daft Punk at the end of Waveforms. Both bands sample from their ancestors and contemporaries, but with enough of their own spin that I would argue that they’re both still “advancing their field.”

Does Reptar take itself too seriously? Absolutely not. Reptar is a silly band name. They put a lot of emphasis on having fun. Their live show might or might not have included a disco ball. Does that mean that they don’t take their craft seriously? Absolutely not.

Album Review: Dead Can Dance – Anastasis [2012, PIAS Recordings]

Posted on by Allison in Albums | Leave a comment

dead can dance

There are some bands, that despite being on my radar at the time, completely managed to pass me by. Dead Can Dance was one of those bands, who along with the Cocteau Twins managed to build the iconic, sepia-toned aesthetic of 4AD Records. The politics of record labels, domestic and foreign distribution rights, and other seemingly antiquated notions in this digital internet age, but are ultimately what shaped 4AD’s forage into the North American market through a distribution deal co-founder Ivo Watts-Russell inked with Warner Bros.

I was vaguely aware of this at the time, because of a program called mIRC (“Internet Relay Chat”)–a chat program that seems crude by today’s standard. It was there that I met many of the people I would trade mix tapes with…one in particular was cataloguing every aspect of 4AD, which is how I came to learn of Dead Can Dance. I would soon grow to love bands like the Red House Painters and Mojave 3, but mostly how cohesive their catalogue seemed to be. Little did I know Dead Can Dance would come to be categorized as “world music”.

Anastasis, DCD’s first release since 1996 definitely has elements of that, but I find it interesting to note that over the past few decades, it has attracted a mostly industrial/goth audience. Listening to their earlier material there is more of that feel to it–Anastasis is sadder, slower, and accompanied by a chamber orchestra. But it also manages to create what most good albums strive for: rich atmosphere.

There’s no question that the pace of this album is a plodding one–Perry carries the duty of most of the heavy lifting with the vocals, and the usual gongs, sitars, trumpets, sitars, and strings. In short, there’s no shortage of an audio sensory overload here with lots to keep you occupied.

At least no one can accuse them of going small or under-ambitious.

The album starts off with Children of the Sun, with a cinematic beginning and some great drumming–clocking in at over 7 minutes of Perry’s deep vocals and a whole lot of gongs and horns. It then moves into the Indian-tinged section with the plucky Anabasis and Agape, which took me back to my schoolyard days. The melody very much reminded me of the following chant:

In the land of Oz, where the ladies wear no bras
And the boys don’t care, they don’t wear no underwear

Amnesia is one of the stronger tracks off the album, reminiscent of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s Power of Love (I mean this in the best way possible), only carrying bone-crushing weight. The meaty middle portion of the album continues with the Middle-Eastern-y Gerard-voiced Kiko…but it’s really Opium that stands out to me as having the best arrangements off Anastasis. Strings and percussion play nicely together here. The album finishes with the Isle-influenced Return of the She-King that might appropriately score an epic Irish Springs commercial and All In Good Time. I think the important thing to note is that DCD has stayed committed to achieving a flavor with this work, and they have managed to do so, with some epic song-writing arrangement-wise.

In thinking about Dead Can Dance, Perry and Gerrard’s former relationship, trans-oceanic break-up, and 16 year hiatus, I’d be hard-pressed to think of any better build-up to tonight”s concert at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts (the Hummingbird to the rest of us). If you need any confirmation of the way their music will play out in a theatre’s acoustics, you need only look at the long string of sold out dates on this world tour.

Album Review: PNAU vs Elton John: Good Morning to the Night

Posted on by Ricky in Albums | Leave a comment

Where to even begin?

It all begins with PNAU, an Australian electropop band that first gained attention in 2007 with their self titled album PNAU. The track, which spawned a few catchy singles ( Wild Strawberries, Baby and With You Forever) caught the attention of one Sir Elton John. Elton John signed the group and quickly took them under his wing, offering the group his musical knowledge and bubble baths.

PNAU got a bit sidetracked in the late 00’s, as side project Empire of the Sun exploded onto the internet and made Nick Littlemore and Luke Steele stars for a brief moment in time.

With EOTS on hiatus, PNAU went back to the recording studio, probably did a ton of drugs and decided to reimagine Elton John’s records. The result is Good Morning to the Night, a mad scientist of an album that turns parts of Elton John’s 1970-1976 discography into a cohesive summer album that is perfect for backyard patio parties.

The album is only eight tracks long but features a host of an ideas. The title track incorporates eight Elton John tracks and transforms it into a rocking dance floor anthem and is definitely one of the highlights of this summer. The next track Sad is equally good, incorporating horns and other elements from five EJ tracks to turn it into once of those chilled but not too chilled tracks you want to play at sunset. The rest of the album twist and dives into the discography (most people say it was Elton John’s best work), each track sounding slightly different but all be it consistent with the PNAU’s dance party in the desert type of sound. Basically, it’s a great summer album and one worthy of your time.

Check it out.

Album Review: Krief – Hundred Thousand Pieces

Posted on by lauren in Albums, Everything | Leave a comment

The Dears have always been an operatic band. You can picture their songs at integral moments in cinema, or when picturing the soundtrack to your life, which according to Krief is a deliberate process (he has previously worked scoring films). Patrick Krief’s full length solo album is no different. It pulls on the heartstrings like no other; it swallows you whole as you get lost in the beauty and heartache he emotes so perfectly. There are moments where it feels like the guitar solos are singing the song, “gently weeping” as the Beatles so eloquently put it.

Every song on this album has what I can only describe as a large, theatrical sombre sound to it. The guitar packs as much emotional punch as the lyrics, as if it were a limb, an extension, like a musical instrument should be to a true musician. With lyrics like “when you left me broke and alone, here I am, lost in Japan”, it has the sadness of wandering through one of the largest cities, surrounded by people yet still feeling completely isolated and alone.

Krief stated in the bio on his website that during the writing of this album, “I was in the darkest place I had ever been in” and that he had to cease recording for several months. Citing the fear of growing older, and making a living out of a career where you are almost guaranteed to make little money (especially with technology and downloading today), it’s relatable on the easiest of levels. Most of us fear growing old, most of us fear being alone and we’d be lying if we said we didn’t think about finances and career choices at least once a day. So kick back, pick up Hundred Thousand Pieces and create your own Cameron Crowe film soundtrack to your life.