#MONM Month of New Music day one: Lullabye Arkestra’s Ampgrave

First off, a note: I’m going to have to be realistic about this Month of New Music thing. I won’t have time for elaborate posts about every album I listen to, so some of these will be quick blurbs. Others might ramble a bit longer (like this one). I’m not one for live-tweeting, so I won’t be getting huge use out of the #monm tag on Twitter, but I will be using it whenever I have one of these new blog entries. And, I’m totally open to suggestions – I haven’t planned in the slightest which albums I’ll be listening to over the next month. As a fallback, I have probably dozens of CDs (unclaimed from Fast Forward over the last three years) and records (from two years of Inner Sleeve’s annual all-you-can-carry sale) that I haven’t gotten around to listening to. But if there’s something you think I simply must check out, feel free to comment, or tweet, or use whatever web 2.0 tools it takes to vigorously shake me out of musical complacency.

Now, onto the first album: Lullabye Arkestra’s Ampgrave, from Constellation Records in 2006. I picked it up at one of Hot Wax’s “We’re calling it a three-day sale but it’ll last a few weeks” sales this summer, where it quickly got packed away when I moved into a new apartment. I bought it based strictly on the Constellation logo, and, as it had a few members of Do Make Say Think on the disc, figured I knew what I was getting into.

Turns out, not so much. The first few minutes so fit the formula I was expecting, with some woozy keyboards and mildly discordant strings suiting the band’s somnambulist name, but it doesn’t take long for the album to ditch the typical Constellation slow-burn for straight-up bombast. Fuzzed-out bass and pummelling drums quickly lead into furious shouts and a doom-drenched breakdown with Do Make-style instrumental swells in place of the guitar.

It takes a few tracks to figure out that the opener is actually the anomaly, and the closest the album gets to a grandiose post-rock statement. The rest of the album is more a blend of lo-fi Stax soul and Death From Above-style bass-and-drum fury (should’ve guessed, considering the main duo behind Lullabye has also guested on Fucked Up tracks). The Hammond-heavy rock waltzes and scuzzed-up stompers wouldn’t sound out of place on a Vice Records comp (and it turns out the band released its follow-up to Ampgrave on Vice), but there’s also enough ambition in the arrangements to justify the Constellation pedigree. Any album that can bridge from a Spiritualized-lite bit of soulful introspection (“Come Out, Come Out”) into the pure punk-rock thrash of the minute-and-a-half-long “Nation of Two” has to be on to something. You can still see the seams where the Arkestra has stitched its thrash, punk, soul and post-rock influences, but that roughness just helps highlight Ampgrave’s ambition.

Sample track: “Y’Make Me Shake”

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