Ford & Lopatin / Games

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Games (now “Ford & Lopatin” due to the litigious corporate mess the music industry has become) are an East Coast American electropop duo. A spinoff collaborative love affair, Games is comprised of vocalist Joel Ford, also recognized for his disco-infused NYC group Tigercity, and perhaps the better known of the two, Brooklyn producer Daniel Lopatin of the superb noise / ambient project Oneohtrix Point Never. Armed with a myriad of triumphant retro synth sounds, Games specialize in cheesy throw-back pop tunes that pay unabashed sonic and lyrical devotion to the very technology they craft with. Using laser noises, 8-bit sprinklings, 80’s style drum programming and passionate, sometimes downright sexy vocal work, they’re experts at pretending to be a band from 30 years prior pretending to be a band from now. It’s like a good actor doing a good job of playing a bad actor trying to be a good one, if you, ah, know what I’m saying. Just watch this – they illustrate the concept more clearly (http://youtu.be/YRRTc_3PGWE?t=31s).

It’s been a mo’ since Games have put out anything new so I’m not quite sure if they’re still active or not. Regardless, they’ve provided us with a hearty EP “That We Can Play” and an unreasonably catchy LP “Channel Pressure” that I often find myself singing in the shower ad nauseam.

Favourite track: Break Inside (http://youtu.be/mdyqQsXknGo)… When I fall I asleep I leave the TTTTVVVV onnnnn. Lines like that.

Jon Hopkins

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Jon Hopkins is a British producer, film scorer and frequent collaborator signed to boutique London label Just Music since the early 2000s. In a nutshell, he’s what you get when a musical prodigy becomes a computer whiz. Pianist by training, he reportedly excelled in competition, winning enough prize funding to purchase quality keyboards and pursue his budding interest in electronic music. Tip-toeing into the professional music scene, he was hired at age 17 as a keyboardist / sampler for Imogen Heap’s 1998 tour. He subsequently released his debut LP “Opalescent”, a pillow-soft blend of guitar, piano, and synths melded together into a warm potion of electro-acoustics. Hopkins’ work began turning heads, leading to his recruitment as a studio producer for Coldplay, album collaborator with Brian Eno, and film score writer of “Monsters” and Peter Jackson’s “The Lovely Bones”, to name a few.

I came to know Jon Hopkins’ music because of the overwhelming positive regard for his 2013 break-out LP “Immunity”. Being largely ignorant to the world around me, I’d never heard of this “Jon Hopkins” character, and decided to see what all the fuss was about. I can honestly say that, with perhaps the exception of Daft Punk’s “Discovery”, I’ve never been so profoundly impacted by the opening tracks of any EDM album. From the first moments of “Immunity” (particularly “Open Eye Signal”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=va4OyeQHbr8), a living, surging being crawls out of the speakers, clasps both hands around your throat and stares you right in the face. It’s an ornery beast, ruthless and incessant, with skull-crushing strength and and hypnotically repetitive brutality that carries you into a black sky and then drops you head first towards Earth. This onslaught lasts for the first half of the album, after which Hopkins kindly lets the fractures and bruises heal by serenading the listener with enough heavenly trance and ambiance that one might consider forgiveness for the beating.

All in all, Hopkins has a gigantic repertoire of excellent music, but I particularly recommend 2013’s “Immunity”, 2009’s “Insides” and his aforementioned debut “Opalescent”. You’ll find each album has a remarkable range of styles, motifs, and moods organized into an incredibly cohesive and coherent story. No stranger to remixes and reinterpretations, I’ve grown quite fond of his take on Nosaj Thing’s “Us” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75mFKI9gK-0), as well as his collaboration with Purity Ring frontwoman Megan James (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jgPYnss1wMc). The guy even conjured a wake-up song to gently pull your consciousness back into the mire of existence (free download at https://soundcloud.com/bbcradio1/jon-hopkins-alarm-call-for-rob-da-bank-free-download). Update: Hopkins’ new release “Asleep Versions” is an EP featuring minimalist reworks of 4 tracks from “Immunity”. It sounds exactly as it looks – a wispy apparition floating amongst the stars (try “Form By Firelight (with Raphaelle Standelle): http://youtu.be/kMZXeArxex0).

Favourite track: Collider (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2CXrvcsbMk)… The sonic equivalent of a comminuted facial fracture.

100

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Devil-Sincere reaches 100 articles! For those inclined to other forms of social media, there is now a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/devilsincere) that updates in synchrony with this platform. To locate an article directly, enter the artist or band’s name into the search bar below. As always, thank you for reading.

Discussed thus far:

Active Child
Andrew Bird
The Antlers
Balam Acab
Beach House
Bear in Heaven
Ryan Beattie (Chet, Himalayan Bear)
Boards of Canada
The Books
Breakbot
Broken Social Scene
Burial
The Caretaker
Caribou / Manitoba
ceo
Chad Valley
Chaz Bundick (Toro y Moi, Les Sins)
Celestial Shore
Copeland
Converge
Craft Spells
Crystal Castles
Cursed
Death Grips
Dent May
Do Make Say Think
Dom
The Drums
Eluvium
Empire of the Sun
Fennesz
The Field
Foxes in Fiction
Gas
Gesaffelstein
Girls
Gold Panda
Holy Other
Hot Chip
How To Dress Well
Hundred Waters
I Break Horses
Ifan Dafydd
Jacques Greene
James Holden
Jon Hopkins
Julie Doiron
Keane
Kisses
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu
Land of Talk
Le Loup
Lee
Local Natives
Lone
Loney, Dear
M83
Memoryhouse
The Middle East
Mimicking Birds
Miniature Tigers
Minus The Bear
Miracle Fortress
Moderat
Monotonix
Mount Kimbie
Moving Units
Mr Twin Sister
Neon Indian
Nosaj Thing
The Notwist
Panda Bear
Pariah
PARTYNEXTDOOR
Patrick Watson
Phantogram
[Philip Seymour Hoffman (1967-2014)]
Pinback
Pure X
The Radio Dept.
Real Estate
The Ruby Suns
Ryan Hemsworth
Sepalcure
Sevendeaths
Small Black
Star Slinger
Stars of the Lid
Stephen McBean (Black Mountain, Pink Mountaintops, Jerk With A Bomb)
Suuns
The Tallest Man On Earth
Tame Impala
Teebs
This Will Destroy You
Tim Hecker
Tourist
Vacationer
Washed Out
We Draw A
Wild Nothing
Yuck

Converge

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Behold. Converge are a 4-piece hardcore punk band from Salem, Massachusetts. Reigning lords of the underground, they are the most important act in all counter-culture music, forming the backbone of modern hardcore and its DIY independence. With tenacious pursuit of creativity and advocacy, Converge have brick-by-brick constructed an empire against which all forms of aggressive music are measured. Their current line-up combines arguably the most talented and innovative musicians of the genre, giving rise to some of my very favourite songs ever made. A stalwart leviathan, Converge foreran the introduction of class and grace into punk music and are indeed one of the most influential acts in all independent music.

Founded originally as a cover band by vocalist / visual artist Jacob Bannon and guitarist Kurt Ballou, Converge spent the better part of the 90s developing their sound, touring extensively and discovering who they were artistically. Boasting a chaotic live performance, Converge quickly built a name as a powerhouse in the punk scene, packing out whatever venue they were hosted with emphatic audiences and expansive sound. Bannon is a wiry tornado of fire and conviction, literally throwing his entire body into what I consider to be the greatest voice of any hardcore vocalist. Pure gold to the core, Bannon is genuinely appreciative of his crowd, encouraging harmony amongst the more fanatical, sharing the mic with anyone who fights to the stage front, and smiling in marvel of the collective surge of his admirers. By their third LP, 1998’s “When Forever Comes Crashing”, Converge had amassed a cult following and were revered as genre-defining leaders.

After a multitude of rotating bassists and drummers, as well as the culling of the 2-guitar song structure, Bannon and Ballou decided to lock onto their current line-up, the final and true representation of what they hoped Converge would one day become. This essential administrative shift introduced metal juggernaut Nate Newton of Doomriders and Old Man Gloom on bass guitar, and drummer prodigy Ben Koller, since borrowed by a multitude of rock / hardcore groups and regarded as one of the most original, airtight percussionist in the scene. This was the sweet spot where creative minds, proficiency and drive assimilated beautifully into a single sonic force of nature.

And then came “Jane Doe”. A perfect storm of talent, writing, production and packaging, “Jane Doe” has been rightfully garnered with universal acclaim and steadfast adoration. I distinctly remember my first experience of Converge via Much Music’s “Loud” program. 12 years old, I was equal parts afraid, intrigued and amazed at the sole dual-single of the album, “Concubine / Fault and Fracture”. Music videos being largely whatever the videographers want them to be, the first half of the film is a classic cheesy and grotesque horroresque vignette not exactly within the realm of Converge’s esthetic. However, the latter portion cut to Converge in the glory of live performance – 4 dudes wailing on their instruments, demanding undivided attention and emphatically making their message known. Some time that year my brother worked up the courage to purchase a copy of “Jane Doe”. Keeping it hidden from site like some sacrilegious scripture, it might as well have been, considering how we poured ourselves over it with absolute zeal and repetition, soaking in every nuance of sound, lyric and visual design.

To this day I am in awe of “Jane Doe”. A flawless masterpiece, it is a relentless fury of raw emotion, technical performance and innovative production. I’ve played it straight through start to finish countless times, necessitating the purchase of 3 CD copies during my teen years due to physical wear. Written in the wake of a dissolved relationship, “Jane Doe” is an open book relaying a demise of love. From the opening statements of “Concubine”, “Dear, I’ll say gold just to keep the pasts at bay,” to closing epic eponymous farewell, “Run on, girl, run on,” the journey is saturated with ire, pain, loneliness and desperation. Spanning spastic barrages of indecipherable noise and beats, teeth-gritting low-chugging riffs, lightning fast fret work and drum fills, gang vocals and a spectrum of intermediate tempos / moods largely absent from punk, “Jane Doe” offers a bit of just about everything. The cover art has since become an icon for punk and a beacon for pursuing caliber in counter-culture. It is, quite simply, the single greatest artistic accomplishment of all hardcore.

The next revelation was in follow-up LP “You Fail Me”, an album that was at once a natural extension of “Jane Doe”, and in a way, its antithesis. With a highly-refined, cleaned-up esthetic and a compressive, almost suffocative effect on Bannon’s vocals, it made for an entirely different experience. After a few listens, it became clear that one thing remained, as always, remarkably consistent: the quality of Converge’s songwriting. With riffs in 5/4 time, apocalyptic tone and shredding, punishing drums patterns, it was once again a masterpiece. Hailed by a multitude of critics as metal album of the year, “You Fail Me” was the perfect confirmation that Converge had hit their stride.

Since then, Converge have maintained their momentum like a charging rhinoceros, releasing acclaimed LPs “No Heroes”, “Axe to Fall” and their most recent, “All We Love We Leave Behind”. Each featuring 13-17 songs of heart-felt brilliance, there’s been hardly a misstep in the last 15 years.

Outside the band, each member lives a busy life devoted to their other passions. Bannon is co-owner and -operator of the now-gigantic Deathwish Inc. (http://www.deathwishinc.com/), a record label and distribution company that has seen the release of hundreds of albums, hosted music festivals and even sponsored MMA athletes. In addition, Bannon is a celebrated visual artist, acting as the principal visionary for Converge and the vast majority of his Deathwish roster’s merchandise, album jackets and website design. You can peer into his life a bit closer with a recent gorgeous mini-documentary entitled “Rungs in a Ladder”: http://youtu.be/C4r2wlMSLJ0. Regularly featured in galleries around USA, his work can be purchased at his website (http://www.jacobbannon.com/) and Converge’s Estore (http://www.kingsroadmerch.com/converge/). Together with his wife, they also run a stylish boutique shop called “Diamonds & Rust” out of Beverly, Massachusetts (http://diamondsandrustshop.com/). Ballou, a biomedical engineer by training, was a quick study with recording and production techniques during the making of early Converge records. He subsequently founded GodCity Studios in 1998 and has put out a hoard of records for close to a hundred bands (many signed to Deathwish), as well as most of Converge’s releases. Newton and Koller keep busy with their aforementioned bands, recording and touring constantly.

Favourite Tracks:
Jane Doe – Fault and Fracture (http://youtu.be/CMPvknyczCE)
You Fail Me – Drop Out (http://youtu.be/5hcUxV7BmSc)
No Heroes – Heartache (http://youtu.be/GdzYnIxNZnQ)
Axe To Fall – Axe To Fall (http://youtu.be/CS6rCAGGpEI)
All We Love We Leave Behind – Predatory Glow (http://youtu.be/1fBgZtSAz70)