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[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
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 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Tod Dockstader
Aerial #1
Sub Rosa

Rating: 7/10 ?

June 14, 2005
Aerial is an ode to old short-wave radios. In a previous present now long past, people would flock to the mysterious noise-box and wait for their ears to be tickled by that night's short story reading, news broadcast or local sports call. For this work Tod Dockstader, an eminent figure in the development of musique concrete, spent many a night playing the radio in search of those strange moments in which stations would override each other and enter into a state of communion, where neither would be what they were before.

A distinct aura of eccentric Englishness and old school analogue distinguish the project; it is something familiar and cozy, where valves glow orange inside bakelite radio sets as you explore the airwaves for the odd and the unexpected. At the core, these works are overtly static atmospheres with a busy interior life. There is an ill-omened aura drifting about the swooning electronic howls, indicating violence or psychological disorientation and disfigurement. Behind distressed drones and frequency modulations that billow and multiply within, the tumbling arpeggios and scratchy harmonics blossom and oxidize in graceful slow motion, with faint striations of disturbed sine waves, suggestive of something ancient and barnacle-encrusted.

As stated, the work is essentially static, but Dockstader's lightness of touch prevents it from becoming monolithic; there is a wealth of slowly evolving detail to be enjoyed. Each composition gravitates towards structures, which balance intellectual stringency against melodic approachability with weightless aplomb. "Myst", in particular, conjures luminous open spaces out of shivering fragments and fraught periods of stasis. Its distant melody and cracked patina of nostalgia play like a blurry memory just out of grasp. Another of the most curious sequences on the record, "Harbor", runs electronic squeals and muffled voices that could have unspooled from a discarded Radiophonic Workshop reel over what sounds like the beat action of an industrial washing machine. A similar technique is summoned on "Swell", where various electronic and sampled effects are randomly hurled into its churning cement mixer backbeat.

As pieces successively harvest feedback squalls and metallic shrieks, falling away into coiled near-silence before rising and unwinding for a crashing finale, Aerial proves itself quite adept at maintaining a level of heightened stasis and exploring overtones and dynamics. Dockstader's meticulous care for the music's structure and infusion of enigmatic process and evasive event make for suggestive expression, secure forms lightly dusted with strangeness, clean lines fringed with an air of mystery. As an unbound stream of similar yet different forms, these alien radio signals thereby escape from the dim realms of musique concrete and await the ear of drone and ambient aficionados alike. More than an academic exercise, this effort is able to strike a personal note, what with unrecognizable kernels of sound opening up each piece to the listener's own bank of songs, images or memories.

Reviewed by Max Schaefer
Nocturnal qualms and eyes that brim like lamps betoken slender sketches, poetry and short stories strewn alongside piano playing, a fiddling of knobs and murmured dialogue with a medley of electronic gizmo\'s. A twenty-one year old person lodged within the University of Victoria, Max harvests organic sounds on a sullen sampler, watching water unwind like two broad lengths of ribbon and nursing a book below the canopy of a cheery-tree. Max believes that the world is made present by people\'s presence in it and that art is one such way in which a distinctive disclosure might be crafted.

See other reviews by Max Schaefer



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