Monster Rally – Psychic

by The Insomniac

From his Facebook:

“Monster Rally is the project of Ted Feighan who crafts tracks from his record collection, combining his interests in Hip-hop, Exotica, and Tropicalia.”

I didn’t know Tropicalia was a word but it conveys the feeling behind a lot of Feighan’s music very well. His works is an instrumental dreamscape of samples and effects creating some of the most unique atmospheres I’ve heard. I judge music by how well it can transport me to somewhere else and Monster Rally seems to do that effortlessly with each track, all of them able to stand on their own occupying some singular niche environment. Here’s some of my travel notes from his most recent 5-track release Psychic:

Same Dance: The beginning feels like you’re wandering aimlessly through a dreary mist. Chimes dance around you and vague mechanical parts move and churn in harmony. It’s as if you are inside some kind of hypnotic clock that comes to life and sings when no one is looking.

Swami: I’m now at some outdoor bonfire by the beach, maybe a luau. I also forgot I dropped acid an hour ago – the drums, flames, and ritual dancing are all starting to melt into some warped portrait of tropical bliss.

Quiet Harlem: Off the beach and back in the city, I find myself in some dark lounge underground accompanied by a big orchestral band channeling disembodied crooning howls to give direction to their ghostly medley of horns and monotonous piano.

Parachute: I’m waking up in what seems like an Incan village, it’s hot and bright. I’m surrounded by green. I start to wander to find an eternal tribal celebration going on by the waterfall in the distance.

Bus Ride: It’s time for a goodbye. There’s a feeling of longing, wishing it had lasted longer. I ride off into the sunset at the end of a film where the setting is an odd mix of “Jungle” and “Western”. Everything becomes ethereal in the final minute, I hear a crackle of fire, and finally drift off.

Enjoy your travels – and check out the rest of his work while you’re at it.

The Best of Bonnaroo 2015: #1 – Flying Lotus

By The Insomniac

Topping our list of best acts of Bonnaroo is none other than Steven Ellison, AKA Flying Lotus, who battled it out with other electronic acts to draw the late night crowd on Friday night going into the weekend.

Setting up in front of his massive projector screen and behind a second more opaque white screen as has been the setup of his live performances this year, Flylo took the stage armed with a creepy mask, maybe his shot at wacky headgear with EDM powerhouse Deadmau5 playing at the same time across the field. Before the music started and the lights on the screen in front and in back of him came to life, the only shapes you could make out were the glowing enlarged eyes on his mask and the Apple logo on his Mac as he readied the show.

This wasn’t certainly the loudest show we saw, and not even close to the biggest crowd, but the anticipation was like no other. As soon as his show started, he completely melted the already scorched crowd with his churning, mechanical, haunting beats. The screens gave birth to the most intricate light show I’ve ever seen with morphing shapes, human figures, snapshots of nature, and even a rotating skull. It was a sort of dream sequence set to the beat of his music, a truly vivid lucidity that felt almost unsettling as it seemed to engulf you with it’s presence. Compared with Bassnectar’s visuals which were merely highly contrasted, kaleidoscoping colors with no real shape at all, Flylo’s images were delicate and told a very slow story to the high paced percussion he is known for in the backbone of the meandering melancholy within his tracks. Going back and forth between crowd favorites like “Zodiac Shit”, new tracks from his recent LP You’re Dead!, and even stepping out from behind his laptop to rap for the crowd, every second had the audience captivated.

His music is maddening and penetrating in some sort of carnal way – a sound perfect for the psychotic and relentless neon wasteland Bonnaroo became by this point. At one point Lotus grabbed a totem from the crowd with a severed doll head attached to the top, and peered out into the crowd in utter disbelief. “What the fuck is this?” he asked, only to be hit with a roar of laughter and cheers – the type of response you’d expect from a mental patient who escaped from the asylum, what I consider to be an accurate description of the gorgeously devolved groupthink crowds at Bonnaroo embodied by this time of night. Smiling, he let the inanimate head “lipsync” to the song playing in the background, and, seemingly impressed with the head’s performance, began to kiss the totem in an Oscar-worthy display of lust. For me, this sums up the festival. The weirdest of the weird, contorting our bodies to primal drums and exhausting, mind-searing synth melodies, and losing ourselves completely, all while the dancing masked man on the platform above us makes out with his follower’s bloody war pike. Insanity. To say the least it was a hell of a show, and it wiped out any remaining doubt in coming back next year. Let’s see if we can top it next go-around.

Panda Bear – Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper

by The Insomniac

Top Tracks: Selfish Gene, Crosswords, Tropic of Cancer

It’s been about a month since Panda Bear released Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper, about the amount of time it takes to really sink into his explorative songwriting – this collection very obviously a bit more gloomy than his previous work. I decided the only way to truly write out my reaction to this album was do so track-by-track. This LP is very personal, very dark, and every bit as freaky as one would expect from Mr. Noah. Fans of his experimental electronica from Animal Collective and other past solo work will have a lot to look forward to here. Read below as you listen, and let us know what you think of the album.

  1. Sequential Circuits: Repetitive and wandering, a hymn of admission to life’s inevitable dread that follows any temporary satisfaction one may experience while alive. This awareness is present throughout the whole album, and is defined well by the title “Sequential Circuits”, if interpreted as his view of life as an episodic and doomed piece of an ever-churning, relentless circle of life and death, a circus you can never leave.
  2. Mr. Noah: This is when the full nightmare begins. Wimpering broken-legged dogs, growling synths, as if an automaton has gone haywire in its self-realization. A beat emerges from a churning faze. Every hook and verse repeats to drill into your head the self-reflective plight of this sad protagonist. This track was released on Panda Bear’s EP from late 2014, and it served as a good indicator of what was to come. Mr. Noah explores himself and his antics in a harsh tone, touching on past apathy and false inspiration that’s haunted him.
  3. Davy Jones’ Locker: This short instrumental interlude was mixed by Sonic Boom, who produced the LP with Lennox along with his last LP Tomboy in 2011. There are wavering, glimmering streaks, sounding as if they’re winding up faster and faster, like a machine is powering up, sending a communication to some far off place…
  4. Crosswords: This is a spectacular track. Panda Bear can repeat the same line a million times with a different warm, addicting, and echoing melody and it’ll still sound novel. Crosswords is a declaration of defiance against those equating him to his crippling fate, it’s a rare moment of positive outlook on himself on this bright and glimmering piece. But, is he trying too hard to convince himself? The one he might be trying to convince may be in the mirror. Fated or not, this song is “so good, damn it” to say the least.
  5. Butcher Baker Candlestick Maker: Here comes the broken legged dog again, the incarnate haunted theme of this album. Lennox lays a dreary landscape, it’s seems like a nightmare that doesn’t go away and honestly feels a bit uncomfortable. He is casting away memories, realizing how he has cast away those around him over time and blames himself… But is there really fault to be given? If it’s fate, is he off the hook?
  6. Boys Latin: An echoing horizon, a robotic jumbled progression repeats itself, something lifeless as if I’ve found myself inside a circuit board circa Tron. Panda Bear spends his time here worrying about life being too short to enjoy, realizing the only moments we do have here are spent dwelling on the past or looking forward to the future. The ominous deathly clouds in this song may be housing that primordial reaper fated to swoop in and end the game before this is realized by most.
  7. Come to Your Senses: An introduction of chaos that quiets down to a dreamscape where I find myself sprinting down an endless hallway of a haunted mansion. “Are you mad?” Lennox repeats endlessly. It’s a representation of the longing for a creation you once had, but now is gone forever. It makes you crazy. Panda doesn’t seem happy being just a medium, the slaved conduit, but not the source of creation. What’s behind it all? The only answer comes at the end, where it seems you find yourself at a beach with the sounds of looped seagull shrills invading your senses and delivering a direct view into your own madness… something raw and primal.
  8. Tropic of Cancer: Horns announce the song, there’s an army about to march, then a wind remininscent of “My Girls”. Half expecting the familiar quick tri-tone synth loop from that addicting Merriweather Post Pavilion single, I only get a soothing harp to accompany a contemplation of the death of Noah Lennox’s father. How easy it is to cling to denial, to bury those revelations, and how it only adds to the weight of the dark and visceral acceptance of life’s frailty. A few moments pass where it seems the soothing harp-laden melody might melt down into unstructured psychosis as Panda admits there’s no coming back from the Reaper, but he manages to keep his composure, only barely. The end of the track follows the futility of holding on to someone for no reason, but I can’t sum it up any better than Noah can:
  9. So it goes to show what all things know,

    Just one thing keep it live,

    Keep it live, dead or alive,

    These guys get to live on,

    And you give up on the upside,

    Give it up on the other side.

  10. Shadow of Colossus: Another one of Sonic Boom’s instrumentals, this one even shorter. We are back to that machine still powering on, is there something else there? Something alive and becoming aware?
  11. Lonely Wanderer: Enter a gorgeous but sad, wandering piano, working to build up small flames of longing only to get snuffed out by crushing deep synths. There is an atmosphere like walking through a timeless garden, with little entities flying around minding their own business, representing the memories Panda Bear muses about, constantly looking back. Is it worthwhile? Wasting time in this lost place, a place of loss and time wasted? Before you know, you are snuffed out for good by a dark deep mist.
  12. Principe Real: Finally the engine starts up again with a promising beam of light shining through those dark clouds. The ominous dog is back again, but this is Panda Bear’s triumphant escape. He is too busy flying through space in search of euphoria to escape that hopeless beaten dog in the forefront of his mind. For a moment there is sunlight over the grim.
  13. Selfish Gene: Hypnosis mastered. Clean repetitive synths wave back and forth as Noah unleashes the most addicting vocal melody of the album, laying out a lesson for all to rely less on the outside world for answers and purpose, but only to look inside. It’s a song of ego-loss, but it’s also a rallying call. Surrendering creative ingenuity to the inanimate and faceless bliss of fate is a flawed mindset. You are not your clothes, you are not the people you know, you are not a slave to destiny. Tyler Durden would agree. Others can cover up with superficiality all they want but they are in denial. But even Noah admits this outlook is hard to hold on to, and that we’re bound to slip up again.
  14. Acid Wash: All the skeletons, wounded animals, sneering ghouls, and demons have been awakened and march in unison to the direction of the grim, but it’s hard to tell if they are retreating or making their final assault on Noah’s mind. Or maybe they are taking their bow, because after all, it’s all a show in his head. Noah blurts out his last admission, “I’m Past”, in a spectacular fireworks display of glittering bliss. He may have lost but he lost laughing in its face.

Caribou – Dive

by The Insomniac

The second this song starts you’ll enter a trance. This comes off of Caribou’s much anticipated album Our Love, out this past October.

Dan Snaith stated he wanted to make a more personal, affectionate album this go around, and the new LP covers all aspects of this spectrum, from love to lust. “Dive” is lust.

The bass line will slow time and the ever-intensifying synth will overwhelm your senses, as if you’re locking your gaze on a super fox waiting for you on the other side of the club. It’s carnal, raw, and it’ll undress you with its eyes.