četvrtak, 15. studenoga 2012.

Talk Normal - Sunshine

Cut-and-paste korozivni noise-funk.
Igla vremena preskače, vokali se hvataju za strop, kuća izlazi na ulicu ali zaboravlja čizme pa se vraća. No tamo je sad nešto drugo. Prekasno je. Sunce sja.

Streaming ovdje

On vinyl that I can only describe as half red and half pink, this is a messy, scratchy take on New York cool by way of post punk. The usual influences are present, Sonic Youth, Wire, The Slits but there is a slew of less obvious ones; Laurie Anderson, Joan Armatrading, ESG. Yes, you heard, Joan Armatrading.
The music is distinctive jittery noise-funk, overlain by dual female vocals - it reminds me slightly of very early TV on the Radio, with the odd rhythms and scattershot nasal vocals. It isn’t, however, melodic. These are short, sharp, spiky blasts, often accompanied by bursts of noise, spoken word rants.
However if you need a bit of sweetener and sugar in your tea and there are great moments when something more tuneful emerges out of the chaos. What I call The Fall theory, blast people with something atonal for five minutes then introduce a bit of melody and it sounds like the best thing in the world. Therefore tracks like ‘Hot Water Burns’ are a tremendous relief but also sound brilliant and point towards a future for the group beyond the screechy skronk. There is a real soul to the vocal delivery too, recalling ESG.- www.normanrecords.com/

For the un-weary listener, Talk Normal may sound like a world unto themselves, albeit a rather small one, even in the supposedly anything-goes yet simultaneously conformist Brooklyn indie music scene. Just take a moment and you’ll realize there are few readily visible acts that are looking to no-wave New York or its many and varied stylistic adherents as a source of inspiration. And yet this observation may be trivial when considering why, on their second full-length effort Sunshine, guitarist Sarah Register and drummer Andrya Ambro are heard just keeping at it, with a minimum of alteration — as if there were any needed — from their debut Sugarland.
If anything, then, Sunshine perhaps reflects the sound of Talk Normal growing increasingly comfortable with themselves, their music, and the place they hold among their contemporaries, especially among the lucky few who get any type of exposure at all. Sure, there are minor gestures — snippets, teases — toward comprehensible pop sparsely spread throughout, yet it may all be incidental, a consequence of sorts from the improvement in production value. For the most part, Talk Normal fit into the cut-and-paste nature for which their musical arrangements have come to be known. And there’s no hiding the work within the music Register and Ambro are making: it’s difficult to distinguish between the tracks or even from those on Sugarland, a creative output that may find a kindred spirit in the rust-worn, corrosive textures of those materials that were oftentimes used in process art of the later 20th century. What has been produced must contend with how it has been produced, as it is, laid bare, even if the former more often overshadows the latter.
Sunshine accordingly stirs to life with a faint but growing drone of what sounds like crickets chirping, which only reaches its first blast of pedal-happy, wall-of-noise guitars after uneven fits and starts on “Lone General.” “XO” follows with an altogether otherworldly, indifferent, and un-human (or inhumane) drive, backed by mechanically consistent percussion, reminiscent of early Wire or the cold, primitive technology employed by Al Jourgensen in the mid 1980s with Ministry. Elsewhere, “Hot Water Burns” is the closest Register and Ambro come to maintaining a consistent melody, making it their own by stretching and distorting anything possibly recognizable as they go along. And the album closer “Baby Your Heart’s Too Big” is itself closed out by an outro that would put any hardcore shoegazer to shame while simultaneously reaching back to and evoking the pseudo-post-apocalyptic nihilism characteristic of the band’s foremost no-wave influences.
Sunshine is over much too fast, eight tracks clocking in at roughly 45 minutes. Or maybe it just feels like we haven’t been given enough time: Talk Normal invoke the bare and abstract, not the fully rendered or figured, and it feels like they are making not only the kind of music we never thought we’d be missing out on, but also the kind that would be hard to live without. - Art Ivan

There's a jolt at the start of Sugarland, the 2009 debut full-length by Brooklyn duo Talk Normal. Its boldly titled opener, "Hot Song", begins with a hard blast of test-tone drone, then adds a pounding metal-can beat. This attention-getting salvo feels like a statement of purpose, and indeed what follows is just as brash and urgent-- a muscular, locked-in brand of noise-rock that guitarist/bassist Sarah Register and drummer Andrya Ambro quickly turned into a signature.
Sunshine, the pair's follow-up to Sugarland, starts with less of a bang-- opener "Lone General" announces itself with a fizzle of feedback and a subdued drum roll. But once Register's chopping chords coax aggression from Ambro's percussion, and the pair trade war cries ("Fa-fa-fire now!," "Ch-ch-charge boys!"), it's clear Talk Normal's intensity hasn't subsided. If anything, Sunshine cranks things up a notch. Sugarland's peaks might have reached higher, but the churning, relentless Sunshine keeps me pinned to the edge of my seat longer.
That's especially impressive given that none of the album's nine songs are especially fast, loud, or climactic. Eschewing easy crescendos and flashy turns, Talk Normal build tension strictly from momentum. Register and Ambro persistently dole out rigorous beats, sheets of guitar, and woven singing until what began as a orderly march feels like headlong rush. Think of Sunshine as a post-punk workout: The point isn't how much sonic weight the pair can lift, but how many reps they can do. And quite often the hard work pays off in a kind of musical runner's high.
That workout feel extends into Sunshine's lyrics, which come off as cheers or chants, as if Register and Ambro are pushing each other to surpass personal bests. The words are often plain, sometimes even blank or banal. But there's a kinetic force to Talk Normal's call-and-response repetition that gives a weight beyond meaning. So when Register stutters, "hell no," during the title track, or Ambro scolds, "Chew your food 30 times/ Eat and die and pay on time," in "Hot Water Burns", their delivery makes you reconsider what those colloquialisms mean. It helps that the words rhyme with the sounds, filling in rhythms and dotting lines with staccato. Take "XO", which is all energy and motion, with blurts of "bye bye bye" and "love love love" catching fire with Ambro's inclining beat.
Inclines, weight, energy-- all these adjectives suggest that Sunshine can be exhausting. And it can, but in the way stretching muscles and sweating buckets helps clear your mind and rid you of toxins. Not every song holds an epiphany-- some are just easily enjoyable, like the slow-swinging "Bad Date" or the grunge-like "Shot This Time"-- but the potential's always there. On the album's standout, "Baby, Your Heart's Too Big", potential and actual fuse, simultaneously offering something to latch onto and look forward to. "Your heart's too big, his arms too long, your minds too bright, our pulse so strong," sings Register, nicely capturing the way Sunshine turns simple words and sounds into something larger. - Marc Masters

The lurching noise-pop of Brooklyn’s Talk Normal depends on juxtaposition. As soon as one particular set of motorized rhythms and a repeated guitar phrase feels comfortable, they jump tracks, grabbing onto the next weirdness on the horizon. One song will scream ahead on the classic no wave train, but once you’re comfortable to look out the window, flares of tribal tUnE-yArDs rhythm and measured vocals rush headlong back at you. On their sophomore LP, Sunshine, they keep to their twitchy aesthetic-hopping.
No matter how scattered things get, the unifying lo-fi hum of loud amps, frenetic rhythms, and enthusiastic vocal delivery lies at the center. Opening track “Lone General” fits closest to the no wave tag that has surrounded them since their debut, propulsive bass and drums loping along under waves of static noise and yowly vocals. “XO” follows, the tom rim insistence of much recent noise-pop this time anchoring the way for the explosions of vocals and feedback.
“Bad Date” floats calmly on simple guitar phrases until high-bent screams and a James Chance sax freakout bust up the calm. But when the storm ends, the beauty of their harmonies are all the more appealing. They’re not solely reliant upon musical abrasion to skew perception. When not no wave-ing it instrumentally, they’ll amp up the weird lyrically. Much of “Hot Water Burns” reads like a long list of non sequitur suggestions. Much of it sounds like ways to get by in a hectic world (there are lots of instructions on breathing), but lines like “thank your friends/ and your mom/ turn off fans/ go to prom” could lead anywhere. This ultimately connective power strengthens through Sunshine‘s weirdness, making feedback seem as human as thanking your mom. - Adam Kivel

On Talk Normal's sophomore LP Sunshine, the Brooklyn duo unveil songs that sparkle with melody and dissonance. Jarring rhythms and feedback-drenched guitar tones lace Sunshine's nine surprisingly songful tunes - creating a sound informed by their predecessors (Cocteau Twins, Velvet Underground, Laurie Anderson & Creatures), but strikingly new.
After years of friendship, Sarah Register and Andrya Ambro's Talk Normal first emerged on the NYC music scene in 2007, initially releasing demos, cassettes and their Secret Cog vinyl EP. Following the 2009 release of their debut album Sugarland on Rare Book Room Records (recorded and mixed by Nicolas Vernhes), Talk Normal released a handful of 7"s (including a split 7" with Thurston Moore on Nathan Howdeshell from The Gossip's Fast Weapons Records) and shared the stage with the likes of Sonic Youth, Wire, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Zola Jesus.
In the three years since Sugarland, Talk Normal have refined their noisy vigor into the diverse batch of songs found on Sunshine. Tracks like "Bad Date", "Cover", and "Hurricane" carry almost a meditative emotional energy, where others like "Sunshine" and "Shot This Time" err on the side of explosive driving rock. Plus dance-y "XO", narrative noisers "Lone General" and "Baby, Your Heart's Too Big", and standout vocal harmonies on "Hot Water Burns". Produced by the band, Sunshine was recorded in 2011 by Christina Files at Vacation Island Studios in Brooklyn NY and Echo Canyon West in Hoboken NJ (Files also contributed to production). Allen Farmello mixed at The Snow Farm in Brooklyn NY. Written over the course of years, culminating in frequent jumps from studio to studio, and with the band going on two month-long tours mid-process (!) this album is laced with a sense of urgency and jubilation unique to the path it traveled into reality.
Unlike traditional noisy-rock, Talk Normal's Sunshine is steeped in melody, albeit unconventional melody. Sweet-sounding female vocals are present throughout, sometimes as sung lyrics and sometimes as instruments themselves. Ambro & Register's combined voices often volley back and forth, each providing equal contributions to vocals, lyrics, and instrumentation - meticulously orchestrating not only the arrangements, but also the tonality of each collected sound. As Pitchfork describes: "(their) vocals can handle both desperate screech and matter-of-fact detachment somewhere between Karen O and Kim Gordon". Combined with Register's flowing, nearly-drony riffs and Ambro's finely choreographed beats, the end result is a natural sonic cohesion. Maybe not the sunshine you're used to, but rays within which you'll want to bask. - www.joyfulnoiserecordings.com/

On their second album, Brooklyn’s Talk Normal don’t change things up much from their 2009 debut, but that’s just fine — it’s an approach that still has a lot to offer. Sarah Register and Andrya Ambro ply their guitar and drums in a strongly No Wave-inspired way, but with a less visceral, more head-driven feel. Driven by staccato drumming and jagged, humming guitar that borrows from the same Glenn Branca rulebook that Sonic Youth adapted, the deconstructed elements hang together in a charmingly ramshackle way.
The muscle of drums and guitar is strung together with the duo’s idiosyncratic vocals, alternately chanting, call-and-responding, and yelping in rhythm. There’s nobody else who sounds like Talk Normal; perhaps early-model Magik Markers is the closest. Some might point to Blonde Redhead for comparison, but Talk Normal have never been that rock-bandish: These songs have structure, certainly, but it’s almost off-handed. Even Live Skull were more traditionally rock ‘n’ roll than Talk Normal.
Which is all to say that these 43 minutes are quite welcome right about now, and refreshingly original in a year that’s had some good albums but needed this sort of shot in the arm. The balance of melody to unease is rarely this well maneuvered. The spiky, distorted vocals amidst the claustrophobic heaviness of “Shot This Time,” the near-children’s song of “Hot Water Burns” with its particularly intriguing criss-crossing vocal lines, the “classic” Talk Normal layers of intricate drums, singsong vocals and Branca-esque shots of guitar that mark the title track — it’s all strong stuff leavened with surprising moments of calm and secret bits of melody.
Oddly, the one disappointment is the last song, “Hurricane,” which probably seemed like a good idea at the time. Where even the slower songs on the album are bristling with energy and a sort of melodic don’t-fuck-with-me atmosphere, “Hurricane” just sits there. Echo’d, chanted vocals and a distantly pounding bass drum sit in a large warehouse of humming sounds, and while the feel gets slightly crowded by the end, the lackluster piece concludes the album on a strangely flat note. Just pretend the album’s last song is the grinding, enigmatic “Baby, Your Heart’s Too Big” and call it a day. A very good day. - Mason Jones

 Pining for some fresh No Wave/post-punk derived sounds that don’t radiate as if their makers have spent too much time in front of stereos perfecting borrowed moves? Then please head directly to the work of New York’s Talk Normal. The duo’s new one is called Sunshine, and it’s a stunning offering from one of the current scene’s most singular units.
In a musical landscape where it can often seem that the boundaries have all been effectively pushed, the New York City duo Talk Normal can sure do an effective job at sounding unsettling. NYC bands used to be particularly good at doing this, like back in the days when Sonic Youth were barely a glimmer in any upstanding young record execs’ eye and they offered their wares in dank, small clubs with a drummer named Bob Bert. There were experimental but also more than a little bit threatening in this period, as evidenced by “Death Valley ‘69” and its accompanying video directed by filmmaker/photographer and general provocateur Richard Kern.
There were other bands specializing in this sort of dark atmosphere, but Sonic Youth are especially relevant to Talk Normal due to the existence of a 2001 split 7-inch with Thurston Moore on the Fast Weapons label and the use of artwork from Kim Gordon on their “Lone General”/”Hurricane” short-player that also came out last year on M’lady’s Records. But the duo of drummer Andrya Ambro and guitarist Sarah Register create a sound that’s in no way derivative of the Youth’s early work.

Instead, it seems very much a case of shared influences. One of SY’s primary formative inspirations was the groups of the No Wave scene such as Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, Mars, DNA etc, and that’s also a big part of where Talk Normal’s sound derives. But if a large factor in their music, it’s also clear they aren’t seeking to define themselves as some sort of calculated retro-No Wave trip. Talk Normal have been much too wild and ambitious over the course of their still small discography to be saddled with the bag of mere copyists.
But I also don’t think it’s accurate to say they sound contemporary, mainly because I haven’t run across another current act that sounds like them. A big part of their appeal is how they are so distinctly out-of-time. This is partially due to the highly structured but very unique nature of the songs, but it also pertains to the instrumentation and even more the production sound.
While their five-song Secret Cog EP from ’09 featured bass (on one track courtesy of Richard Hoffman from noise-rock bruisers Sightings) and even piano on its closing track, the main thrust of Talk Normal became apparent rather quickly; insistent yet shifting rhythmic patterns and passages of guitar that ranged from spiky, crystalline shards to waves of grumbling distortion.
And they weren’t heavy in the more traditional mode of noise-rock as they were urgent and extreme; Secret Cog was a fascinating debut and one that immediately displayed their lack of predictability, for its opener “Grinnin’ in your Face” featured a connection to the Delta bluesman Son House. I emphasize connection rather than inspiration for as a very loose and disruptive cover it’s appealingly unclear to me just how much they actually drew from House. They could’ve been struck by any number of subsequent sources.
The uniqueness of Talk Normal’s progression continued with the issue of their full-length Sugarland, also from ’09 and also featuring another expectations defying entry, this time a take on Roxy Music’s “In Every Dream Home a Heartache.” The use of bass was back on a couple racks (again via Hoffman), but it was still totally Ambro’s and Register’s show. And the lineage of No Wave was still apparent, but the heft of the music’s motion also recalled the more confrontational aspects of the UK-post-punk shebang as corralled in part through early Rough Trade. Sugarland fell right into the lap of No New York fans, but it also provided good strokes to lovers of Wanna Buy a Bridge? and the work of The Pop Group.
Secret Cog and Sugarland arrived so close together that it’s not a great leap to assume they came from the same fresh burst of creativity. And while there have been signs of life from Talk Normal since ’09 (the abovementioned 7-inches, a limited split cassette with Lower Dens, half of a single shared with duo Christy & Emily) they have taken their time producing a follow-up full-length, and now that it’s appeared the patience shows. Sunshine is their best effort yet.
The nine-song LP opens with “Lone General,” and while the music remains as ominous as ever, the songwriting has gotten even better. Bass also figures in the track (this time played by scene vet Christina Riles, though Hoffman still has a hand in the song’s composition), but again, the really distinguishing factors are the instruments that belong to Ambro and Register. And not just the drums and the guitar; their shared vocal duties have become one of Talk Normal’s most distinctive and winning qualities.
Fans of Laurie Anderson will recognize the connection between the duo’s moniker and the last track on side one of Home of the Brave. Talk Normal doesn’t sound like Laurie though, at least not in any explicit way. But in a manner similar to what’s been detailed above regarding Sonic Youth, there is a palpable connection in spirit between Talk Normal and Anderson, and much of it relates to the pair’s vocal sensibility.
As singers, Ambro and Register have proven they can scream and belt it out, but they aren’t really best assessed as screamers or belters. Neither do they fall into the sort of “pretty” mode that’s so common with female vocalists. Instead they alternate sometimes throaty, often half-spoken richness with edgy chanting and moments where their voices intertwine not so much in harmony but in dialogue. “XO” displays these elements to strong effect and really drives home that Talk Normal and Anderson are solid if subtle spiritual kin.
But the instrumentation of “XO” is also superb. Talk Normal are a truly legitimate extension of one of No Wave’s and edgy early post-punk’s best attributes, that being a minimal yet dynamic rhythmic sensibility. Sunshine’s second track opens with a basic and emphatic pulse that establishes a lithe tension that’s periodically released with wonderfully (and thankfully) non-contrived bursts of guitar, drums, and again those nicely atypical vocals.
“Bad Date” takes a vaguely popish structure and turns it on its head, integrating some expertly calibrated amplifier squall and saxophone skronk courtesy of Vanessa Roworth, while a cyclical guitar pattern builds in intensity and the drums deliver a beat of unwavering simplicity. When the maracas enter the fray it becomes crystal clear that Talk Normal is on top of a game that hardly anybody else has the ability to play, much less master.
If the title track throws down guitar textures that will remind some of mid-‘80s Sonic Youth, the delivery is still markedly different. For one thing Talk Normal’s duo conception resists the more muscular aspects of the full band dynamic and furthermore the pair’s songwriting, while at its core pop oriented, is also wildly non-traditional. In fact, the way Sunshine’s music deftly rises and falls, instruments dropping out and then rushing back in, is subtly remindful of Wire.
“Hot Water Burns” opens with a chant that seems readymade for the playground of the world’s greatest art school. From there the song moves into Sunshine’s deepest examination of Ambro and Register as vocalists. One of Talk Normal’s unique attributes is how their voices often sound intriguingly distant, but on “Hot Water Burns” they are quite extroverted, possessing an erudite swagger and with no loss of positive effect. What’s more the music that accompanies them doesn’t suffer, being full of unusual twists and turns.
From there “Shot This Time” stretches out a bit, riding a rhythmic bedrock that quickly becomes infectious as the duo uses it to execute sweet tangents of all sorts. And “Cover” takes a poppy vocal idea (complete with a “sha-la-la” for emphasis) and throws in some waves of keyboard ambience that are strikingly successful in their simplicity. From there “Baby, Your Hearts too Big” expands to nearly six minutes in length and retains its power the whole way, a feat that’s partially attributable to the stuttering and captivating drumming of Ambro.
And closer “Hurricane” seals the deal for this LP (limited in vinyl form to 500 hand-numbered copies) and for Talk Normal as a group, the song also spreading out to five and a half minutes in duration, finding shrewd catchiness meeting minimalism halfway and to excellent result. As strong as Sunshine is however, it doesn’t feel like they’ve hit their qualitative ceiling. If Talk Normal undergoes a big spurt in creative growth they just might tear the roof of the sucker. - Joseph Neff

Sugarland (2009)

Streaming ovdje

Having already self-released demos and an EP last year, Talk Normal get around to releasing their full-length debut via Rare Book Room Records. This duo restrict their sonic repertoire to a collision of distorted bass, drums and vocals, recalling the more extreme output of New York's no-wave scene, or more recently the harsher, early output of Magik Markers. Even when the band slow things down, they retain a spiny, sinister edge, as most memorably upheld during the witchy 'In Every Dream Home A Heartache', which takes three-and-a-half minutes of organ-driven illbience before kicking in with a furious blast of shrapnel-spewing drums. - boomkat




Double A-sided treasure from one of the finest duos around, TALK NORMAL's first new material in quite some time, and boy is it something to behold. A tantalizing window into what lies ahead for them, truly. Sleeve art by KIM GORDON! A TRUE STUNNER.

 Streaming ovdje

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