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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » 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.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » 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!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

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
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Porn Sword Tobacco
Explains Freedom
City Centre Offices

Rating: 7.5/10 ?


January 2, 2006
It's pretty easy to get tagged as "cinematic" by the rock press; just run a synthesizer, mellotron, or even a carefully recorded delayed guitar alongside waterfall-sized percussive splashes and a strongarming melody - i.e. mine some patch of the Sigur Rós/Radiohead big-budget art-rock spectrum - and you're branded as a jumping-off point for Super 8 screenings in the mind's eye. And as is often the case when a title's too easily earned, the descriptor's become all but worthless as a means of describing an album.

I'm going to call Explains Freedom cinematic anyway, though, because it is. Henrik Jonsson, the ex-turntablist who operates as Porn Sword Tobacco, seems to have spent a lot of time studying up on Brian Eno's Music for Films; like that compilation, Jonsson's debut album stacks short (usually two to three minutes long), seemingly unrelated vignettes atop one another. While the pieces vary greatly in function, effect, form, and style, each rests somewhere within the ambient electronic continuum, and like Eno's incidental music, all of Jonsson's compositions demand that the listener make conceptual associations while still accepting the songs as ends unto themselves.

As with the greatest soundtracks, Explains Freedom's aesthetics readily generate visual images. "White Sneakers" suggests a music box, chiming deliberately at a wavering pitch that approximates childhood scenes observed through the gauze of memory, while "Praying with Benny" hearkens the natural world, giving an impression of vibrancy and growth with its Harold Budd lushness. And unlike so many instrumental artists who attempt to be deemed motion picture-friendly by painting blankness, Porn Sword Tobacco's songs cling to specificity. Jonsson doesn't shy away from ambiguity by any means, but he's more careful and subtle with his moods than your typical ebow totin', laptop clickin' soundscaper. It's impossible to ignore the sense of inertia in "Carl Zeiss Driving to Work," for instance, even as melancholy piano plinks create ripples in the song's computer-age Autobahn.

Jonsson impresses with his breadth as well. He sets up tiny, efficient systems ("Thank You!") and troubling expanses ("Dina Upptäckter Ritar Kartan"); he works with purpose ("Soft Airgun & Electric") and hesitance ("Old Booze and New Friends"). Each song captures more than a new tone - it presents a new mode of being, or at least a mode different from the one before it. As a start-to-finish listen Explains Freedom is, understandably, a bit too much to chew; if the songs are given a chance to find and fit into their proper places, though, it becomes a noteworthy collection.

Reviewed by Phillip Buchan
A one-time music director at WUOG in Athens, Phillip is into college radio, literature, writing, buying records, going to shows, talking to friends, learning -- pretty much the same stuff that all of us priveledged, (pseudo?)intellectual Americans are into.

See other reviews by Phillip Buchan

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