Taylor Kaplan

YEAR IN MUSIC 2012: Digital scraps and analog curiosities

Hype Williams and the Internet wild

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arts@sfbg.com

YEAR IN MUSIC Are we being punked? Is this all some kind of stupid joke?

Upon first listen, the sound-world of Berlin-London duo Hype Williams (not the music-video director, mind you) is practically guaranteed to provoke a bewildered response. Incorporating half-baked hooks, brutishly cut-and-pasted samples, apathetic vocals, inept musicianship, crude effects, and grainy production into a gnarled, genreless mishmash, its approach gives off a superficial whiff of laziness and inconsequence.Read more »

Snap Sounds: Scott Walker

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SCOTT WALKER
BISH BOSCH
(4AD)

When pop crooner Scott Walker plunged into the abyss on 1995’s Tilt, he initiated one of the most radical transformations in the history of recorded music, rejecting the tuneful chamber pop of his '60s-’70s output for a pitch-black sludge of musique concrète, avant-classical, and industrial art-rock. Walker hasn't looked back since, doubling down with 2005’s The Drift, and now Bish Bosch: an album as erratic, scary, unhinged, darkly hilarious, and wildly imaginative as any in recent memory. Read more »

Snap Sounds: Brian Eno

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BRIAN ENO
LUX
(WARP)

The liner notes to Brian Eno’s Music for Airports (1978) act as a veritable Ambient Manifesto, outlining the philosophy of a genre he developed as an alternative to Muzak, and other background fluff. In the final sentence, he asserted, “Ambient Music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting.” By that count, Eno’s solo Warp debut, LUX, is his most successful foray into ambient territory in quite some time. Read more »

Haunted house

Emerging from the bedroom, Ariel Pink unifies a fragmented musical landscape
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arts@sfbg.com

MUSIC After a decade of tinkering on the fringes of lo-fi experimentalism, Ariel Pink has become synonymous with a distinctive production sensibility: submerging effortless, sun-drenched pop hooks in a queasy, viscous haze, like an impulsive, basement-dwelling Phil Spector for the 21st century.Read more »

Snap Sounds: Laetitia Sadier

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LAETITIA SADIER
SILENCIO
(DRAG CITY)

In her 20 years as the lead singer of Stereolab, Laetitia Sadier has dependably imparted a vital, earthy humanity to her band's sterile, mechanized productions.

In turn, on Silencio, her newest full-length, Sadier forgoes Stereolab's rigid aura, in favor of a warmer, airier sound, more relaxed in approach, and endearing in its lack of cohesion. Read more »

Criminal and beyond: Fiona Apple's evolution

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You could say Fiona Apple belongs to an endangered species. One of the heavyweights in a lineage of 1990s major-label iconoclasts, dedicated to the conceptual potential of the album format, (Bjork, Spiritualized, PJ Harvey, Nine Inch Nails) Apple has built a 15-year career on making approachable, yet arty, pop music with indie-label integrity, and an undercurrent of fringe appeal.

After making a big splash with the sultry music-video to her first hit single, “Criminal” (1996), she shrewdly abandoned any MTV-vixen ambitions, in favor of foregrounding her musical and lyrical ability, and her remarkably versatile, jazz-inflected vocal range; as a result, she’s one of the few artists of her generation to transition from stardom to cult status, and not the other way around. Read more »

Deltron 3030 is back

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After releasing their self-titled debut LP to cultish acclaim in 2000, Bay Area hip-hop supergroup Deltron 3030 mysteriously dropped off the radar for over a decade, resulting in borderline Chinese Democracy levels of superfan speculation. Now, with their follow-up, Deltron Event II, finished and slated for release this fall, the trio is going all out on their first North American tour since the project’s revival. Read more »

Skrillex vs Stevie Wonder at Outside Lands

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Surveying the rabid Skrillex crowd, I felt old for one of the first times in my life. Like, John McCain, “get off my lawn” old. Who the hell was this mall punk with a Miley Cyrus haircut, anyway? What, in God’s name, has he inflicted upon the music world? And why, oh why, did this hoard of tweens, bros, and “cool-dads” choose to undergo Skrillex’s sonic weedwacking, instead of running into the arms of living-legend Stevie Wonder? Read more »

Hey SF, RZA is coming

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The Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA, and his highly influential production sound, are much too easily taken for granted. You’ve got his Minnie-Ripperton-on-helium tape speeding methods, to which Kanye will forever be indebted; the filthy, resinous 36 Chambers aesthetic that’s informed everyone from MF Doom to Portishead; his prophetic, narrative skits that have irreversibly shaped the dynamics of the hip-hop album.

Even after 20 years in the biz, the Staten Island icon and famed kung-fu fetishist continues to shepherd the hip-hop form in bold, new directions. Expect RZA to reinforce his prestige when he takes the Mezzanine stage this Thursday, with a full live band in tow. Read more »

Inspired pairing: Woods and Peaking Lights at Great American Music Hall

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“Man, their songs just went on forever,” a fellow in a Velvet Underground shirt exclaimed with mild frustration, as electronic-dub outfit Peaking Lights closed their hour-long set. Similarly to Steve Reich, Neu!, or (ironically, in this case) the VU, the Madison, Wis. duo is quite polarizing in its fixation on extreme repetition. Some find it tedious; others are hypnotized and transported. However, there’s no denying that Peaking Lights’ appeal stems from their disregard for compromise.

Warming up the Great American Music Hall stage for Brooklyn lo-fi folk-rock ensemble Woods, Peaking Lights rounded out the first half of an unusually diverse and compelling double-bill. Whereas a one-two punch of rock bands can impart a distracting sense of competition and redundancy, the decision to pair an acoustic-electric band with an electronic duo was a shrewd one, giving the audience a duality of musical methods to chew on. Read more »