elcome to the Digital Meltd0wn Music Blog. The aim of this blog is to introduce the readers to music that is out of print, commercially unavailable, released under a creative commons license, or with approval by the featured artist. The majority of the music posted here would be considered underground. Don't let that fool you into thinking that the music featured here might be any less enjoyable than that of the mainstream artists you hear on the radio, as this couldn't be further from the truth.
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There's been an artist whose music I've been meaning to share but many factors have obstructed me. One being that the genre this project can be classified as is is not one that I have had adequate time to become intimate with.
Country music, a very broad label that constitutes many sub-genres, as it has been for the past few decades has deterred me to a great degree, but a few artists still strive to keep the old soul alive. Though there are many interpretations of what that soul is exactly, it seems rather obvious to me that a good deal of its roots lay in tales of misfortune and local folklore; hence we encounter the old dynamic that is suffering artists producing introspective and memorable works of art. This phenomena was embodied recently for me in John Stepp's solo work. Since it was an instrumental endeavor, a moment should be taken to explore his musical influences and background.
Raised primarily in West Virginia with very humble beginnings, John grew up listening to classic delta blues musicians like Charlie Patton and smooth country like Patsy Cline before moving up to harsher southern rock later in life. He had the benefit of his father's experience as a guitarist and dedicated all his waking hours to playing guitar during his younger years. John's initiation into the metal world started when he left home at an early age and joined Abdullah and Erase The Grey some time down the line.
Those experiences play out noticeably in his now abandoned solo work. The tracks have no particular order other than date of release so all we truly have to go on is the music for an interpretation of his intent. He describes his work as “songs for the forlorn patrons of the Freeway Motel” simply because he wrote most of them while staying in one.
Every song, aside from “Drowning,” is a somber journey with an uplifting accent. “Drowning” is the exception since it's an energetic stoner/southern rock song with Josh Adkins, former Abdullah member as well, playing drums and John doing everything else. There is also another small exception to this that comes in the form of the song titled “Says the Wind” which is something reminiscent of a classic western movie. The rest of the songs in this collection are acoustic guitar pieces that can be classified as country or folk music. Some other significant mentions would be the toy harmonica used in “Out of Reach” and “Ballad of the Wolf” being a, well, ballad. Personally, I recommend “Walked” and “Drowned” since they are my favorites.
Year of Release: 2009 Genre: Country/folk. Format: MP3 Bitrate: 320 kbps
3. Out of Reach
4. Says the Wind
6. Sweet and Lowdown
8. While Away
The more I discover new bands via the internet, the more I become aware of the fact that most music affectionados have a very Eurocentric view. This holds especially true in the metal world so it has become a mission of mine to spread word of bands that are off the radar. Today, I am exploring another project that is very dear to me named Qafas (meaning “cage” in Arabic). The one responsible is Learza, a musician from Bahrain, who has had his hand steeped in several one-man oriental black metal projects since 2004. He has taken a different approach with this one; the project is an experimentation with funeral doom as his medium. This holds especially true for Qafas' 2010 EP, “Al-Ahlaam,” which literally translates to “The Dreams.”
The motif of this release is reflected not only musically, but also by track order in conjunction with their names. Sorrow and dreariness coats this project which keeps it true to the spirit of doom metal; it is also a purely instrumental release with classical compositional elements that land it easily within the realm of despondent funeral doom. While it may be true that it lacks the undefinable “hard edge” that one expects from something that is associated with metal, the definition of “metal” has expanded to such a degree over the years that a project like this is able to fit comfortably within its ranks.
Since there is no lyrical theme to describe, I will go into some detail regarding the progression of this EP because much thought was put into it. First comes a nostalgic vision from the past in the first song with the sound of an old movie projector in the opening; it's a short and deeply wistful classical composition that faintly reminds me of Philip Glass' style. What follows it is something titled “The Reoccurring Trauma/Al-Sadma Al-Mutakerera” that treads more on the eerie funeral doom side via the presence of guitar (with Thamud's Mudamer playing backing lead guitar) and double bass/blast beats in the background. The twist with this song is that it starts out eerie but gradually progresses to a more light-hearted tone that lasts through-out it's closing.
“Between the Fangs of Nightmares/Beyn Anyaab Al-Kawabes” is the culmination of the previous tracks and climax of this project. The combination of dejection and foreboding from the first two songs elope giving birth to this beautiful monstrosity. There is a clear influence of ambient black metal that creeps through the ominous tone of this baby with two guest musicians aiding the effect, Mudamer playing rhythm guitar this time and Demon ov Darkness from BlackSpell playing the first keyboard arrangement. The songs that follow, “Ijtima' Al-Shu'ra'/Gathering of Poets” and “Al-Ahlaam/The Dreams,” draw from the EP's initial classical melancholy marking our journey through Learza's dream world as complete.
Year of Release: 2010 Genre: Funeral Doom Metal. Format: MP3 Bitrate: 320 kbps
1. Mashhad Min Al-Maathi
2. Al Sadma Al Mutakerera
3. Beyn Anyaab Alkawabes
4. Ijtima' Al Shu'ra'
I’ve been meaning to post something from the UK band Mekons for a while now. They took the band's name from the Mekon, an evil, super-intelligent Venusian featured in the British 1950s-1960s comic Dan Dare. One cannot pick a Mekons album as representative of their sound because each record sounds different. Their 1985 classic Fear and Whiskey is proclaimed as their best album by many critics and fans. I don’t know if it is their best, but it is my favorite from the six I have heard. While that album has been reissued and is available for purchase, what is not in print is this 1989 CD that compiles the tracks from the LP plus bonus tracks from a string of EPs that followed. I’ve found a few snippets from other sources that I will quote to help you decide whether to grab it, and grab it you should.
The music is a mess of influences united on the bones of punk music. The Mekons always subscribed to the "anything goes" rules of Britain's "Class of '77," and Fear and Whiskey is their most famous example: this was the record where they started to assimilate country music. It was a radical move in mid-80s Britain, not least because of the right-wing politics that were associated with the style. Musicologists have labelled this the father of alt-country, that bastard offspring of indie rock and country/western-- though for as much as you hear it on "Darkness and Doubt" (complete with a John Wayne reference), or the cover of Hank Williams' hit "Lost Highway," country is just one of the styles jammed in here, along with English folk, Leeds punk, and whatever else was at hand. Anyone who expects scenic Americana will stop short at the second song, "Trouble Down South," a weird mini-drama that would bring a lesser album to its knees: Ken Lite narrates some kind of a military advance over a reggae-inflected drum machine and a wheezing accordion, while soprano Jaqui Callis struggles to hit her highest notes. As far as it fits here at all, it's to force the listener to accept that the Mekons are ready and willing to do whatever they want. -from a Pitchfork review by Chris Dahlen
"Being American was the coolest thing to be in the 20th century," said the Wales native. "It's problematic and contradictory, but at the height of the Reagan/Thatcher alliance, with market capitalism running rampage, and American imperialism having its second or third wave, there was a bunch of anarchist lefties in Leeds who were fascinated with Hank Williams and Bob Wills. "I can’t really explain it, but it really resonated with us," Langford continued. "I found country music to be a very powerful form of folk music. It was about drinking, cheating and stories that seemed to be about people’s actual lives. We thought punk rock would be like that. We thought punk could address reality in a political way. But when I heard Merle Haggard and Ernest Tubb, and hearing the simplicity of those songs? That was punk rock, and they were doing it a long time ago." -from an interview with Jon Langford in LA Times blog
Tom Greenhalgh, one of the primary creative forces in the Mekons, commented that as he listened to a great deal of country & western music in the early 1980's, "pretty soon the difference between the three chords of country and the three chords of punk became blurred." The album closes with a cover of Leon Payne's "Lost Highway".
The album's lyrics describe a dark scenario of a community struggling to retain its capacity for joy and humanity through a devastating war. Rock critic Robert Christgau described it as "sort of concept album about life during wartime". -from Wikipedia
You can find the liner notes here that tells who played what on each track.
Year of Release: 1989 Label: Rough Trade Catalog #: RTDCD 105 Genre: Cow-punk, Punk Rock, alt-country Media: CD Format: MP3 Bitrate: 320 kbps
Track List: Chivalry 04:03 Trouble Down South 04:15 Hard To Be Human Again 03:59 Darknes And Doubt 05:14 Psycho Cupid 02:52 (Dancebird On The Edge Of Time) Flitcraft 03:23 Country 02:54 Abernant 1984/85 02:21 Last Dance 03:12 Lost Highway 03:02 plus: (A Dancing Master Such As) Mr. Confess 06:02 Beaten And Broken 02:55 Chop That Child In Half 03:23 Hey! Susan 02:37 Garage D'Or 01:48 Slightly South Of The Border 03:42 Coal Hole 02:37 $1.000 Wedding 04:04 Rescue Mission 03:00