Friday, January 30, 2009

[Insert Poorly Conceived French Pun]

Le Pop/Les Filles -- les chansons de la nouvelle scène française
(Le Pop)
It's ladies night at the world's most accurately named label. And when they say pop, they mean it. These 16 songs bubble and roll with effortless charm, burnishing American and British college-radio fare with big smears of intercontinental sensuality.

Coralie Clément, one of two artists here who made a minor splash in the United States, contributes the hypnotic "So Long Babylone" which stacks ukulele and melodica on a rhythmic piano imitating a spare dub-reggae bass.

The other potentially familiar name is Mélanie Pain, who sang on both Nouvelle Vague albums. Her "Celle de Mes 20 Ans" does a keen impression of Harry Nilsson's "Everybody's Talkin'"* -- a move that recalls the ye-ye girl imitations of '60s rock, except Pain can sing circles around the best of that era of French pop.

The only pothole on this road is Austine's "Cupide et Stupide" -- perhaps because the lyric's so easily translated -- but more likely because the song feels so ordinary among the embarrassment of creativity surrounding it.

Françoiz Breut's mournful "2013" must be a three-hanky job for the French. It's still plenty funereal for the rest of us. There's a tipsy circus waltz from Loane ("Petit Bonheur"); brisk new wave from Poney Express ("Paris de Loin"); and the nature hymn "Si Tu Reviens J'annule Tout" by Jeanne Cherhal.

As a buffet of modern French pop, Les Filles is worth the investment. Whatever the boys are up to, the women set the bar high.

Reference material: If you like any of the music from the artist links above, then Le Pop has more where that came from. Get yourself a copy of Les Filles, it's as good a place as any to start exploring a label that The Typing Monkey has championed before.

*[Originally written and recorded by Fred Neil. -- ed.]

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Getting Instrumental, Part III


These final two reviews in this series essentially ignore the rules laid out by the title of the feature, but just a little bit.

The Astral Projections of Starlight
(Permanent Vacation)
In the 1990s this would have been alternately derided and embraced as boutique music -- that broadly defined electronic music that included other vaporous genres such as downtempo, chillout (shudder) and lounge. A programmed bass foundation, muted beats and swells of synth chords make good on the vaguely new-age/prog look of the cover art and album title. But the Fender Rhodes, occasional Euro-soul vocals and one-chord vamp guitar (heavy on the wah-wah pedal) gives Astral Projections just enough urban soul to make the rotation at a swanky clothing store. Contextually, pills and thrills from the night before hurls many club kids into the arms of this sort of come-down music. For the rest of us, the impression fades as quickly as the ink-stamp on our wrists. However, "Neeve" feels distinctly like a minimalist variation on The Rolling Stones' "Miss You." Weird, huh?

Reference materials: Both Woolfy and Projections serve in the Los Angeles soul-funk collective Orgone. So if the cosmic sounds of Astral Projections feels too scrubbed, Orgone is messier and more immediate.

(Melting Pot Music)
Two Canadians take the Beat Konducta/Donuts style of public audition/audio sketchbook to a logical hip-hop-will-eat-itself conclusion. The snake has eaten its tail, and said tail is delicous. But where Madlib, J Dilla (and Oh No, and so many others) have dipped deep into their record collections for source material, Astro and Nik T, the duo comprising Circle Research, mined the major hits of hip-hop's Golden Age. So instead of sending the heads scrambling to find out which obscure jazz break these men looped, they're letting nearly everybody play "name the sampled sample." Clipping Biz Markie's shocked declaration from "Just a Friend" to make the track "Oh Snap!" barely scratches the surface of how Who? works. Yes, these 36 mini-tracks are pieced together from some of the most recognizable rap hits of the late '80s and early '90s, but they didn't just grab the hooks or make a stunted mixtape. Call it micro-remixing.

Reference material: Circle Research might be too heady for dance-ready fans of Girl Talk's extended mash-ups. Anyone who gobbles up Madlib's Beat Konducta volumes, or MF DOOM's Special Herbs series will find much to ingest here.

Friday, January 23, 2009

More Monkey Love

We've made some changes to the "Monkey Love" section of The Typing Monkey. We bumped the following from the list of links:

Quiet Shoes -- Because we're not convinced that movie will ever see the dark of an auditorium.

Data Junkie -- No, you don't understand. The Typing Monkey LOVES Data Junkie, but no new stuff there since October. If he starts posting art again, he'll be back in our loving arms post haste.

Resonance -- It's still too soon to talk about this. But it's been a year and this is part of the healing process.

[Take a moment ... compose yourselves.]

Now let us draw your attention to some new sites in the "Monkey Love" section:

Monster Brains -- We already hyped this site as part of the Halloween spaz attack. And every week there's more to feast on there. Medieval etchings, Renaissance paintings, 18th century pen and ink, and modern renditions of all the horrible things that lurk under the bed at night.

The Ace Doubles (and Singles): Images Library -- There will be a lengthier discussion of this site because it deserves lengthier discussion.

More "Getting Instrumental" and other music reviews coming.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

And Many More ...

Hey you. Guess what? It's our birthday today.

Yes. One year ago today Typing Monkey Industries (a subsidiary of Typing Monkey Int'l) launched this blog, and it's been nothing but free balloons and kitten hugs ever since.

As print publications fall down the rabbit hole of progress, and a growing demographic eagerly anticipates the day The Wall Street Journal begins posting editorials via Twitter, The Typing Monkey soldiers on in an already unfashionable information delivery system of the Web 2.0 era. Hurrah!

December and January have been slow newsdays. So we solemnly vow, on this, the first anniversary of The Typing Monkey, to bring more fresh content to this creepy little rest stop on the information superhighway. And coffee too. We'll have coffee. Maybe.

To celebrate we present the best thing that the Web has ever provided to humanity. Once this video was posted to YouTube, the civilized world reached its technological zenith. So relax and stop trying so hard, it's all downhill from here.

[Courtesy Slackmaster2000]


And, at no extra charge, we've decided to include a link to an informative article from Metal Inquisition, a site that's been around as long as The Typing Monkey, but has managed to post 400-plus items of high quality.

Please enjoy Metal Inquisition's primer on screamo-crunk.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Getting Instrumental, Part II


(Audio Dregs)

Amateur Dramatics
(Audio Dregs)
Music aimed at children too often makes the mistake of aiming low. Underestimate a toddler's ability to grasp the esoteric pull of say, The Monkees over The Doodlebops, and you run the risk of raising a gibbering idiot.

While it's not clear who the intended audience for these two new-ish Audio Dregs recordings is, bet on the kindergarten set giving these discs two enthusiastic thumbs up. Also, please know that's meant as an endorsement from The Typing Monkey as well.

Dim Dim wins the duel with his ceaselessly bright, playful tunes. Jerry Dimmer, the Belgian musician behind the moniker, builds his songs around programmed drums and synthesized instruments -- including some fairly deep bass -- then lets weird vocal samples, melodic percussion and the odd guitar line strum run rings around the affair.

With any luck, some smart teacher or savvy babysitter is tiring out the kids by hosting playtime dance-a-thons with this stuff.

Minotaur Shock (aka David Edwards) stretches some of the cuts on Amateur Dramatics a tetch too long. Drawing from a broad emotional range and using the occasional vocalist
("This Plane is Going to Fall"), Edwards creates songs that alternate between nimble psychedelic pop and introspective digital oddities.

Various dance-music rhythms abound, but never long enough to really box Mr. Edwards' tunes into a specific genre. Shouldn't instrumental music work that way all the time? And what music isn't dance music? Wait. Why are we questioning our own critical position?

Enough. Here's one possible use for Amateur: Dig up a broadcast of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker. Look for something aired on PBS for a reasonably faithful presentation. Start at Act II, or perhaps the end of Act I with "Waltz of the Snowflakes." Hit "mute" on the TV, crank up Amateur on the "random" setting, and enjoy a bit of cross-pollination.

Yes, Christmas was last year. We said this is one possible use. Make your own fun.

Reference materials: Dim Dim should be filed alongside Gershon Kingsley, Jean-Jacques Perrey and Looney Tunes. And if you really need to pinpoint Minotaur Shock's contemporaries, White Williams and Realistic come to mind.