Just ahead of 10 AM on Saturday mornings, Manhattan’s Lower East Side feels like alien terrain. The streets are almost solemn; the morning maintenance workers are stirring, sweeping out cigarette filters and scattered trash from the sidewalks into dust bins. In general, the neighborhood south of East Houston Street is quiet, if only temporarily. Pinning it against my usual LES experiences, it’s as if this can’t possibly be the same corner of New York City that I know. On weekend mornings in the spring, it’s a different planet than the one it will be in the twelve hours that follow — went walking around last week out there when I’m usually in front of coffee and my laptop at home. It was like being in a new city altogether. The albums I’ve been checking out on the way to work seem a fitting backdrop for thinking about the ever-alternating face of Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
Brian Lindgren’s crackling debut full-length under the Mux Mool moniker is flush with classic video game sounds. I’m not a person who regularly indulges in electronic music that’s so indebted to said sounds, partially because of memories that date back to my only slightly shorter self as a 5th grader. When I’d head over to a friend’s house and watch him play Legend of Zelda for hours on end (“Buy something, will ya?”), I’d wait for my turn, and when I got it, I was killed nearly instantly because I was/am terrible at video games. All of that said, Lindgren’s work on Skulltaste isn’t my bag, but at points, it’s solid electro hip hop, filtered through IDM and a framework of carefully chopped drum breaks. The title track is catchy, albeit heavy on the whole arcade thing. Its micro-sized chirps patter atop beats that are relatively minor alongside the brawny base of “Dandelion” or the deep, icy grime claps of “Death 9000″. Skulltaste reminds me of Eliot Lipp’s electro/hip hop blends and is probably a little too sparkly for a Daedelus reference, but sometimes the beats rumble in just as unpredictable a fashion. My favorite by far is “Get Better John” — listen to that one here, and get his FREE Viking Funeral EP at Ghostly International. Also, check out what Alex Koplin has to say — a DJ, writer, and artist who helped design Viking Funeral‘s cover art.
Mixed by Canadian producer/DJ Scott “Deadbeat” Monteith, Radio Rothko spans a little more than an hour’s worth of immersive, heavily atmospheric dub techno and dubstep. Although I didn’t have the opportunity to spend more time thinking and writing about this mix, I’ve grown pretty close to it recently via headphones as I’ve also been familiarizing myself with the new Scuba album for an assessment at PopMatters. Between the hollow pulses on Radio Rothko — a hazy, cohesive, and steadily thumping set that covers work from dub techno pioneers Mark Ernestus and Moritz von Oswald (under various guises) as well as those operating within dubstep circles like 2562 — tape hiss pads wafer-thin, ghostly forms that take shape as reverberating minor chords, then dissolve. The segment that finds Pendle Coven’s “Eixgen” nudging a new one from Monteith ripples with energy and color. Read what the host had to say to Halcyon, where you can listen to and buy the album.
In March of 1969, MGM issued the third full-length album from The Velvet Underground. The NYC band’s eponymous LP is my favorite — a much quieter outing compared to 1967’s White Light, White Heat, but not without its abrasive moments, The Velvet Underground’s tracklist runs from ruminative pop to shambolic, manic experiments. John Cale’s replacement at the time, Doug Yule, lends featherweight vocals to lulling, Lou Reed-penned opener “Candy Says,” a hushed gem about a transgender actress and friend of Andy Warhol named Candy Darling. In Joe Harvard’s contribution to the 33 1/3 series (in the form of The Velvet Underground and Nico),the producer/writer contends that John Cale’s “contribution to the sound of The Velvet Underground…was arguably greater than that of any other member,” and while that’s true, I’m prone to agree with what guitarist Sterling Morrison told Victor Bockris about the post-Cale Velvets for his Uptight: “Cale’s departure allowed Lou Reed’s sensitive, meaningful side to hold sway. Why do you think ‘Pale Blue Eyes’ happened on the third album, with Cale out of there?” The VU’s debut is among the most distinctive records of the era, hands-down, but the self-titled album is an all-time favorite of mine. Listen to “Candy Says” here, and try to ignore that it’s YouTube.