wears the trousers magazine

the knife in collaboration with mt. sims & planningtorock: tomorrow, in a year (2010)

The Knife in collaboration with Mt. Sims & Planningtorock
Tomorrow, In A Year ••••½
Rabid / Brille

Just as life was formed on Earth, music was born as an unordered swarm of sounds and rhythms. Starting out very primitive and simple, its development has been complex, long and difficult. As humansʼ cultural needs evolved, so too did music. Through abstract thinking, music took on new meanings and functions; it didnʼt stay just as a medium for worshipping and prayers, it became a source of salvation in itself. The peak of its vertical complexity came with the widespread adoption of polyphony in the Renaissance era. Since then, musicians have evolved contrapunctus-led, multilayered compositions into something simpler but still sophisticated. For many, the effort to achieve complexity with a minimalism that ensure clarity and diversity is today’s subconscious modus operandi, and just like evolution, its results still push the boundaries of creativity.

The origins of Tomorrow, In A Year lie with Hotel Pro Forma, a Danish performance group who wanted to celebrate the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin, inventor of the theory of evolution, with an opera unlike any other. Swedish duo The Knife were their first choice as collaborators, a pair whose analytical approach to music could fairly be likened to the way in which Darwin slowly and scrutinisingly worked on his theory. The tractable nature of Karin and Olof Dreijer’s music, which ranges from ’90s Europop to minimal techno and avant-garde electronica, has long hinted that they might one day shift their attention to something even more challenging and odd. And Tomorrow, In A Year is certainly both of those things.

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hk119 vs. bit-phalanx: fast & cheap mixes (2010)
February 3, 2010, 10:09 am
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HK119 vs. Bit-Phalanx
Fast & Cheap Mixes •••½
One Little Indian

The coherence of a remix album depends on a few important boxes being ticked, boxes that are very demanding to shade in simultaneously. The first hurdle is to preserve the charm of the original song and the elements that made it unique; the second, to contribute something of one’s own, something definitive that’s not only in harmony with the basic motive but also adds a new point of view. Moreover, the effort required to seamlessly juxtapose different genres seems rather Sisyphean. Like everything in art, it’s a tricky challenge. Indeed, retaining the originality, variety and magic of a whole album in alternative dress can be just as demanding as creating a brand new album from scratch.

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wears the trousers albums of the decade #25-1

part onepart twopart three

Here’s the fourth and final part of our albums of the decade countdown, 25 albums so fantastic they should have sold millions (and, lo, some of them did!)…

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Shannon Wright
Maps Of Tacit

[Touch & Go / Quarterstick, 2000]

Distilling everything that was good about her former band Crowsdell and her first album flightsafety, and stripping them of their twee chirpiness and indie-pop sensibilities, Shannon Wright created her finest, and darkest, work in Maps Of Tacit. A multilayered tour de force, the guitar is aggressive without being brash and the creepy, stirring piano swirls with all the innocence and foreboding of a decaying calliope; the overall effect is both intricate and cinematic. Together with some creative use of sampled sounds, dense poetic lyrics and Wright’s alternately silky and caustic vocals, it all adds up to a delightfully chilling labour of love.

Terry Mulcahy

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wears the trousers albums of the decade #50–26

part one | part two | part four

Here’s the third part of our albums of the decade countdown, running from #50–26.

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Queen Adreena
Drink Me

[Rough Trade, 2002]

Casting aside the disparaging comparisons to “Kate Bush on crack” bestowed upon her in the wake of Queen Adreena’s debut album Taxidermy, KatieJane Garside upped the ante with Drink Me, tearing whatever hinges that were still attached right off with a blisteringly manic grunge-metal fervour. Among her Wonderland’s re-energised malice, the softer moments found Garside’s raging voice shrunk mouse-high, whispering seductively as if through the keyhole, or chillingly into a void. Richly imaginative and manically enjoyable, Drink Me remains one of the decade’s most vigorous and visceral thrills, disturbing to the very last note.

Alan Pedder

read our interview with KatieJane

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sacred harp: sacred harp EP (2009)
December 16, 2009, 9:00 am
Filed under: EP, review | Tags: , , ,

Sacred Harp
Sacred Harp EP •••½
The Perfect Hoax

Sacred Harp is a closed universe somewhere behind ours, an isolated bulb of grey light that throws its sparks only within itself, a small underworld shrouded in a densely clad forest in the middle of nowhere. It’s a forgotten instrument that nobody can play, a voice of sorrow that whispers incomprehensible groans to this empty hidden nothingness. Sacred Harp is also a fairytale world combined with a nightmare, a gloomy fantasy whose sad, unsatisfied heroes can be heard to moan about their destiny. It’s a cry of fragile abandon imprisoned in darkness. More tangibly, Sacred Harp is a trio hailing from Northern Europe formed of Dutch singer Jessica Sligter (whom we already know through her solo project, Jæ) and Norwegian and Finnish musicians.

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free music friday: husky rescue
December 11, 2009, 8:04 am
Filed under: free music friday, mp3 | Tags: , ,

Husky Rescue
‘We Shall Burn Bright’

Finland in the early winter is a country of clouds, mild snow, darkness and chilly winds. The days last just a few hours and any inkling of fun is hidden inside of firmly sealed up houses. It was in one of these small, sauna-like homes, with permanently glowing artificial light and a wagon of hot coffee, that Helsinki’s finest export, Husky Rescue, completed their third album. Due for release on January 25, Ship Of Light arrives two years after the sweetly cheerful Ghost Is Not Real, a sonic companion to the city’s lighter months.

Whereas Husky Rescue’s biggest hit ‘Nightless Night’ was an innocent feast of sunny northern nights, ‘We Shall Burn Bright’ is even more slinky. Kilos of stirring energy are all around as a choir sings and surprisingly raw electronics resound. The song begins with a stunning rhythm as layers of glockenspiel waft the listener into an enchanting multidimensional chorus dominated by the angelic singing and whispers of frontwoman Reeta-Leena Korhola. The resoluteness of the song is intensified by the addition of more instruments, including bass, woodwinds and more percussion, with twitchy, nervous drums. On this evidence, with Ship Of Light, Husky Rescue are sailing back into the harbour on a stronger wind, loud and refreshing with abundant amounts of positivity. MP3 after the jump.

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free music friday: the golden filter

The Golden Filter

Visions of animals as owners of magical forces, independent of nature, are increasingly common in the aesthetics of contemporary musicians. References to our natural environment surprisingly enriches what often sounds otherwise artificial and plastic. Think Alison Goldfrapp dancing with wolves in ‘Strict Machine’ and riding her white horse, or Karin Dreijer Andersson of The Knife and Fever Ray with her primitive paganism elevated to a fine art: uneasy, misty, a little bit weird, but still accessible and understandable.

The same source of inspiration is apparent when listening to today’s freebie, the latest single from rising electro outfit The Golden Filter (as is almost tradition in the genre, they are a duo with a female lyricist and singer, Penelope Trappes from Australia, and male synth programmer, Stephen Hindman). The imagery of birds and foxes, wild rivers and dreamy bays, mixed with whispers and ritual sounding drums can do no wrong. Penelope plays the role of ascendant mysterious diva to a tee with her silky soprano rising to celestial highs when unconsciously invoking her mysterious ‘Thunderbird’. Catchy in its thematic simplicity, the shadows made by Stephen’s dark synths and Penelope’s opaque vocals lure us into an artificial ecstasy, a dreamy, agonic dance. The Golden Filter may be playing a hard game, but the promising ‘Thunderbird’ shows that they can be big winners. MP3 after the jump.

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ólöf arnalds: viđ og viđ (2009)
November 19, 2009, 10:38 am
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Ólöf Arnalds
Viđ Og Viđ [reissue] ••••
One Little Indian

When thinking about Icelandic culture, people tend to connect the results of artists’ creative work with the nature that surrounds them and idealise their art as something glacial and untouchable. Snow and ice are invariably associated with a strange purity mixed with slight naïvety, the grandiose geology often metamorphosed into high crescendos, and the long dark nights are always the attributed cause of their music’s melancholic undertones. The ever-active geysers, too, get a look in, typically taken to represent a restless creative energy and melting pot of ideas. Such simplicity of thinking somehow helps us to better understand their otherworldliness and the Icelandic ‘hobby’ of using unusual instruments combined with ancient sounding melodies. This is often followed by implying these assumptions to their small, family-like art scene, where everybody knows everybody, and liken them to elves due to their ‘cute’ language and pale appearance. Ólöf Arnalds, cousin of increasingly popular contemporary classical composer Ólafur Arnalds, defies these preconceptions. Her most noticeable modus operandi is ‘beauty in simplicity’, her songs apparently straightforward, hearty and stripped to the bone.

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mi & l’au: good morning jokers (2009)
November 4, 2009, 10:14 am
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Mi & L’au
Good Morning Jokers ••
Borne! / Acuarela

Imagine a stranger without a name entering a city in an unknown country during the night. Autumn is everywhere around; the fallen leaves smell wet and the wind is soft but threatening to get stronger and sharper. Packed in a thick coat, our stranger walks through streets illuminated by cold artificial light; the few people around are passing by silently and the city seems to be sleeping in a frozen dream. Hoping to see something familiar, the stranger enters a dimly lit bar. On a stage at the back of the room, sparks of soft light fall on a beautiful blonde woman whispering sweet words into a mic as an inconspicuous man picks away gently at an acoustic guitar beside her. They look so far away from this bar in their minds, somewhere in their own world, and the tones arising from them are just an echo of that odd faraway space. Both have closed eyes, standing silent and smart, synchronised by something unseen but heard in every second of their songs. The stranger sits down in the corner beneath a fug of smoke, and as nothing is changing and stays static, they dive deeper and deeper into the sofa and finally fall asleep. Like everyone else around them.

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hildur guðnadóttir: without sinking (2009)
July 3, 2009, 3:22 pm
Filed under: album, review | Tags: , , ,


Hildur Guðnadóttir
Without Sinking •••••

Hildur Guðnadóttir is a prolific, in-demand cellist who has enriched the music of fellow Icelanders Múm, Jóhann Jóhannsson and Valgeir Sigurðsson, guested on albums by the über-talented Nico Muhly, and gave a new dimension to Pan Sonic’s broken techno. Her second solo album Without Sinking is a work of divine oppression that, while classically-minded, isn’t meant for the elite. The sleeve depicts a gloomy scene of an abandoned pier with pillars that almost disappear into the grey with no division between sky and surface. There’s only black shadows of stones and mud, unclear allusions to dark visions. But while hopelessness and grief are fully defining of Guðnadóttir’s concept as she explores new dimensions of unease and what it means to search for spiritual relief, the title Without Sinking sets the listener free from drowning in dejection. 

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