Storymap telling the story of the main Elephant Six artists.

The storymap follows the Elephant Six record label group that started an underground culture of psychedelic pop music whilst also producing cult albums and artists such as Neutral Milk Hotel and The Olivia Tremor Control.

The storymap can be found here: https://uploads.knightlab.com/storymapjs/49713807f94e81ace13df8932e44d0bb/elephant-six-recording-company/index.html

The story map moves through the midwest, through music towns such as Athens, Georgia and Ruston, Louisiana where these artists were piecing together a cult legacy which would see their pop music adored by hardcore fans across the world.

For those with interest in Elephant Six, keep up to date on Facebook with the current A Place We Have Been To documentary being made for the Elephant Six collective

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Elliott Smith’s Either/Or Turns 20

Elliott Smith’s most prominent achievement as a songwriter, 1997 album Either/Or turns 20 years old in 2017.

The album laid down instrumental foundations which he would follow, moving onto a major label, such as using full baroque instrumentation, warm double track guitars, and softer, Beatles-esque melodies. The album is considered a staple in American indie folk music, and Smith’s depression and anxiety echoed through his songwriting remains relatable to many, even today.

The album has been reissued by his old label Kill Rock Stars records, who have released an expanded edition of the album, featuring rarities, live tapes, and alternate takes of Smith classics with different lyrics.

Although fraught with personal problems at the time, including the abuse of anti-depressants and alcohol – leading to an intervention staged by his friends in Chicago, Elliott Smith had secured with Either/Or a move to a major label. Elliott’s career rise could in part be attributed to the use of his music in the Gus Van Sant film Good Will Hunting, for which Van Sant chose three songs to be featured in the film. Smith also made an appearance on Late Night with Conan O’Brien and eventually the Oscars, backed by an orchestra, both times playing Miss Misery, a song he had written specifically for Good Will Hunting

Elliott’s personal life and addiction to drugs worsened into the new millennium, with increasingly erratic behaviour was complete with paranoia, sleep deprivation, and fear of increased input from his label into his personal life. He would often go through periods where he would record almost an album full of tracks then something would happen in his personal life which made him hate the songs he’d recorded. He was also involved in a brawl in Los Angeles where the Flaming Lips (well chronicled friends of Smith’s) and Beck were performing. Assuming he was homeless, the police beat and arrested Smith and his then girlfriend, Chiba.

Smith eventually died in mysterious circumstances whereby he received two stab wounds to the chest. What made the situation even stranger was the fact that at the time of his death, he seemed to be recovering from his previous problems.

Elliott Smith’s legacy however remains in tact, and his music is still celebrated worldwide, with the memorial outside Solutions Audio in Los Angeles, California, constantly being restored by fans due to writing, graffiti and farewell messages left where he took the photo for the cover of his “Figure 8” album.

 

10 Artists from the 90’s to revisit projects

Following news of Slowdive announcing a new album, tour and a new single, we take a look at other artists who felt it was time to try again, and to perform under the names that gave them relative fame back in the 1990’s.

10. Dinosaur Jr.

“I’m waiting – please come by – I got the guts now – to meet your eyes”

After 1987’s You’re Living All Over Me, and their 1988 record Bug, Dinosaur Jr. had already laid the foundations for a new kind of unrestrained noise rock, eventually producing a steady stream of more melodic records into the 90’s. However J. Mascis and co. left the project after their 1997 release Hand It Over, after Mascis had been left as the sole original member of the band.

They finally returned in 2007 with a new record, Beyond which included the original lineup, with a sound that found a balance between their earlier, noisier records, and the tighter melodies of their 90’s output.

9. Oblivians

“SUNDAY YOU NEED LOVE – MONDAY BE ALONE!”

Oblivians produced an extremely consistent body of work in the 90’s, comprised of two extremely rough, energetic garage punk records (Soul Food & Popular Favorites, 1995 & 1996 respectively) loaded with dirty, anthemic tracks, and one album with a gospel-organ influenced garage record with eccentric organ-player and self proclaimed one man band, Mr. Quintron.

In 2013 they released with Desperation, an album which focused much less on the lo-fi production of their older output, replacing it with uptempo garage pop in a celebration of all things garage rock.

8. Earth

“Bones are feeling sleazy – head spinning around – spend the night with Josef Goebbels – think I’m coming down”

Earth’s first full length, Earth 2: Special Low Frequency Version was an unreserved exploration into the world of drone, featuring winding minimalistic passages of fuzz-laden guitar. Earth then branched out into a more ambient, psychedelic approach to drone metal. On their third album, Pentastar: In the Style of Demons, they made the full transition into stoner rock, more conventional rock tracks, rather than experimental musings.

2005’s Hex, or Printing in the Infernal Method saw Earth take on post-rock but with a uniquely constructed spaghetti western atmosphere. 2008 took Earth to the peak of their modern popularity with The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull, creating an instantaneous and accessible route into drone metal.

7. American Football

We’re just two human beings – individually – with inherent interest in each other and how we relate…”

Possibly the most heavily discussed midwest-emo band, fronted by ex- Cap’n Jazz, Joan of Arc vocalist and guitarist Mike Kinsella. 1999’s American Football brought twinkling guitar arpeggios and bellowed introspective lyrics with heart-wrenching power. Perhaps made even more impressive by the incredible rhythm section and math rock tinged song structures.

American Football released another self titled album in 2016. However, reaction to the album was mixed. It appeared to the fans that their emotional intensity had been lost with age, and that they were just going through the motions. However the band still tours, and can pull crowds from all over the world, connecting with their inner angst and anxiety-ridden teenager selves again.

6. Polvo

“Laughing as the sea disappears – I could never drown in any water this clear”

Merge Records’ indie-math rockers Polvo blast onto the 90’s underground rock scene with Today’s Active Lifestyles in 1993. Blistering chords balanced through passages of intricate guitar noodling created a dissonant post-hardcore tinged sound, with the melodic craftsmanship of the track Tilebreaker warranting a single release, along with an appearance in the cult film Half-Cocked. They followed that record up with the Celebrate the New Dark Age EP and 1996’s hour-long tour de force Exploded Drawing, released on producer Steve Albini’s favoured Touch-and-Go records, turning delicate guitar techniques into catchy ditties.

Polvo eventually faded when they disbanded in 1997, but reconvened in 2008 after being invited to play festivals All Tomorrow’s Parties and Primavera Sound, leading to the release of In Prism in 2009, re-signing for Merge, and their last tour to date in 2010, featuring their final performance in 2011. Siberia came along in 2013. Original drummer for Polvo, Eddie Watkins died in 2016 at the age of 47.

5. My Bloody Valentine

Things that’ll make yourself cry – can be tied above the well – helplessly withering away, but I’ll never ever tell”

Known affectionately as “MBV” by their fans, My Bloody Valentine are a monolith in underground rock, and the outfit with arguably the most recognizable album in the cult alternative genre of shoegaze. My Bloody Valentine’s evolution from awkward psychobilly goth-rockers to the dreamlike noise of Loveless can be traced from the stream of EPs released from This Is Your Bloody Valentine to the soaring dream pop of their more revered works You Made Me Realise, Glider, and Tremolo. Even famed producer Brian Eno declared the track Soon a “new standard for pop” in an interview with Rolling Stone. The band retained their post-punk influences for the 1988 full length Isn’t Anything. However the transition to the blistering guitar-pop dreamscapes the band is known for came to fruition on their crowning achievement, Loveless, in 1991.

MBV mastermind Kevin Shields has since disclosed the events that lead to the near-bankruptcy of their label Creation Records, himself admitting that the album cost around £200 to £600 a day in the studio, however blaming the label’s financial situation on problems with distribution contracts, and other bands. The rest of the band grew tired over the perfectionism of Shields, and recording of the follow-up to Loveless ceased in 1997. The band however returned to complete much awaited m b v, released in early 2013, with the original lineup intact. The band have since undertaken a worldwide tour, and promised a new EP, and possibly new album.

4. Pixies

“Stuck here out of gas – out here on the Gaza Strip – from driving in too fast – let’s ride a tire down the River Euphrates”

Frank Black’s late-80’s born surf-rock inspired alt rockers Pixies were quickly signed to record label 4AD, and after their 1987 EP Come On Pilgrim, they were met with almost universal critical success with the 1988 album Surfer Rosa, given album of the year by both Sounds and Melody Maker. Pixies returned the next year with their most iconic and acclaimed album to date, Doolittle, spawning jangly indie-pop hit Here Comes Your Man, and the more grandiose chamber-rock sound of Monkey Gone To Heaven, complete with Pixies’ typical obscure lyrical themes and wild, abrasive vocal performance. The band then went on to complete two more albums in 1990 and 1991, Bossanova, and Trompe Le Monde, until tensions caused a split within the group stemming from a feud between Frank Black and bassist Kim Deal, who was enjoying creative control over her other project, The Breeders. Frank Black infamously notified some of the band members via fax.

The band reformed in 2003, subsequently releasing the single Bam Thwok in 2004, and toured sporadically until 2013, when Kim Deal finally left the band. Pixies replaced Deal with bassist Kim Shattuck, and eventually after Shattuck, ex-A Perfect Circle and Zwan bassist Paz Lenchantin. Together recorded three EPs (simply named 1, 2 and 3) which were collected into a full length release Indie Cindy. The band released the album Head Carrier in September 2016.

3. The Afghan Whigs

“I think your story’s jive,” she said – there ain’t nothin’ wrong with me – if I use it to get me some sympathy… some ecstasy”

Formed in 1986, and one of the first bands to be signed to the famous Sub Pop record label, the Afghan Whigs created a smooth alternative rock sound as influenced by the emerging grunge scene as it was by Motown soul, fronted by the charismatic showman Greg Dulli. From Sub Pop they eventually signed on to Elektra records, a major label, after the release of Uptown Avondale, an EP with covers of soul hits. Their major label debut however came in 1993, Gentlemen, which contained their signature sleazy, hard rocking soul, backed by intensely personal lyrics about relationships. The influence of noir aesthetic and pulp fiction novels was felt in the Afghan Whigs’ 1996 album Black Love, which although critically sound, commercially struggled. The Whigs then fell into a dispute with Elekra, claiming neglect and dishonesty on the label’s part, this conflict lead Dulli to be treated for depression. Many of the songs on their 1998 album 1965 deal with the split from Elektra. Eventually, the band split in 2001.

The band reformed in 2006, releasing the tracks I’m a Soldier and Magazine, for a retrospective released in 2007. Then from 2011 to 2013 sporadically the Whigs would appear together for All Tomorrow’s Parties, Lollapalooza 2012, and even Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Resigning to Sub Pop, Do To The Beast, a full-length album came in 2014, which to fans sounded like a logical progression from their last record released 16 years before. It was announced that they would release another new album in 2017 with the title In Spades.

2. Refused

“It’s coming through the air – for all of us to hear – could it be the sounds of liberation – or just the image of detention?”

Swedish far-left political post-hardcore punk group Refused formed in 1991, and released a rough hardcore album This Just Might Be the Truth in 1994. They settled on a final lineup without a permanent bass player, and released another full length in 1997, Songs to Fan the Flames of Discontent, which further outlined their influences reaching from anti-commercialism and active political revolution while cultivating a larger following. In 1998 came their true breakthrough moment in The Shape of Punk to Come, which not only included jarring, angular post-hardcore songs, but also jazz, electronic interludes, and rough political manifestos resulting in a furious and expansive punk statement. Refused broke up not long after, citing depletion of creative energy and musical differences in the band, leading to strongly worded press releases from the band proclaiming that “Refused are dead – long live Refused“.

After secret shows in Sweden, rumours of Refused appearing on festival lineups, and a few festival appearances in early 2012, it was suspected that Refused may return and continue as a group. Refused were also given an award by the Swedish Minister of Trade for “Swedish music exports”, and although they accepted the award, used the platform to criticize the government in 2013. Eventually in 2015, they released their 4th studio album Freedom, which had Britney Spears-Christina Aguilera pop producer Shellback take on production for the first 8 tracks. The album was sold on a “pay what you want” basis.

1. Swans

“We’re not alone: all our thoughts are numbered – malignant and cold, animal and hungry – but I will contain all that ever was or will be.”

Although this list may not be in any particular order, not many artists who return to an old project have had the same success story as Swans. Known as one of the single most diverse purveyors of dark music, the first iteration of Swans which ran from 1981, through to 1997, saw the band, fronted by eccentric multi-instrumentalist Michael Gira, work through several genres and lineups. Originating as part of the New York no-wave scene, the rough, primal post-punk sound epitomized on 1981’s Filth, the group grew into gothic post-punk on Children of God in 1987, dark neofolk leanings on The Burning World and White Light From the Mouth of Infinity in 1989 and 1991. However many fans still argue that the artistic peak of Swans’ first run was the two records they made before their breakup, the gothic, industrial alternative rock of The Great Annihilator in 1995, and the sprawling two-plus hour long Soundtracks For the Blind, which incorporated sounds from every previous pursuit of Swans while also foreshadowing the return of Swans with drone and ambient recordings, with most of the tracks taking on post-rock compositions, moving the project even further left-field than it already was. Gira had already decided that Soundtracks would be Swans’ last album in 1996, as he left to pursue other projects.

Swans announced their return, which happened in 2010 with My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky, equal parts dark folk and post-rock, the latter serving as a platform Swans would build upon. However, this almost felt like a warm-up record compared to 2012’s The Seer which drew upon the unsettling and sprawling nature of Swans’ farewell record, Soundtracks For the Blind. Swans grew from strength to strength and released To Be Kind in 2014 which saw Gira’s yelping, howling refrains over throbbing experimental rock complete with wild unrestrained guitars and pumping industrial bass lines. In 2016 the band released what would become their final album as the 2010s incarnation of Swans, The Glowing Man, including three epic 20+ minute suites, acting as a fitting end to a long and varied career. Although Swans continue to tour, it is uncertain when Gira will retire the project.

New Sound of Ceres album close to completion

According to the band’s Facebook, dream pop supergroup Sound of Ceres are nearing the end of recording a new full-length album.

The band, consisting of members from Elephant Six-associated indie pop group The Apples in Stereo, shoegaze band Candy Claws, and New York surf-poppers The Drums released an album in 2016, Nostalgia For Infinity.

In another post the band claimed that they were playing back their unreleased material somewhere in Iceland, and released a short sound bite.

We’re way out here… Our unreleased record sees the dawn of light in Reykjavik, Iceland. Adding a new sunbeam of sound with the addition of Alex Somers. See you soon…”

A Brief History of Shoegaze explored in landmark artists

The most vital points in the history of shoegaze have been charted in a timeline showing it’s evolution from the initial influences, all the way through to its current purveyors.

A Brief History of (1)

The time line shows the landmark artists and influential records which influenced and created shoegaze, also following the genre’s supposed death, and the resurgence of the genre in the new millennium. It is useful to remind ourselves of how the genre has evolved over the decades, as we look forward in 2017 to great new ideas from artists celebrating its resurgence such as Planning For Burial, Kairon; IRSE!, and pinkshinyultrablast, or even the long awaited return of classic shoegaze outfit Slowdive.

Stars of the Lid’s Adam Wiltzie Pays Tribute to Sparklehorse on twitter

Adam Wiltzie of ambient drone projects Stars of the Lid and A Winged Victory for the Sullen paid tribute to the passing of Mark Linkous 7 years ago on twitter.

Linkous, who performed under the name Sparklehorse, released a string of lonely, existential indie rock albums, and collaborations with electronic musician Fennesz before he committed suicide in 2010. Wiltzie was once a sound engineer for Sparklehorse, and gave out the tribute on twitter along with a link to Sparklehorse’s 1995 album Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot on Spotify.

“Missing this guy today, 7 years ago Sparklehorse’s Mark Linkous left earth. Time to put on his VivaDixie masterpiece”.