Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Null - Ultimate Material III

And here we have the Yin to Rafael Toral's Yang. Or vice-versa. A roaring, squalling, relentless blast of noise. A bit like putting ones head into a wind tunnel on full power, except that it's not just wind coming through the tunnel, it's everything. Ferocious, yet still quite beautiful; and the monolith on the front is quite apt. These two pieces total almost 58 minutes.
The notes on the back say:
"All music composed and performed by Kazuyuki K. Null with guitar, percussion, ultrasonik and voice. No synthesizers of samplers were used on this disc." Which is quite impressive.

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Monday, 27 July 2009

Rafael Toral - Violence Of Discovery And Calm Of Acceptance

A splendid slab of drone from 2001, released on Touch Records. It's more than just drone, though: Rafael Toral has a great sense of space and texture, as well as the mastery of harmonics that makes the best drone music 'sing' to you. This is probably because the sound source for this album is guitar - the instrument that makes the best harmonic envelope - especially when you amp it up. Actually, this is very restrained, and verges on the ambient drone side of things, with little actual playing, although it comes to the fore with great effect on the closer 'Mixed States Encoded'. Elsewhere there is some great feedback manipulation on 'Maersk Line', and the album on the whole is suffused by warm fuzz: drifting and pulsing; at times suggesting Indian classical music, or Gamelan, with its ringing and throbbing.

Link removed at artist's request. Go to Rafael Toral's official site to check out all his work:

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Underworld - Mmm...Skyscraper b-sides

From the original 1993 ep. I never managed to track down mp3s of these two versions of Mmm...Skyscraper, I Love You, so I've ripped them from the 12". They are more straighforward hard-edged prog house than the sprawling a side (which I haven't bothered including), but they are both fantastic. Great dancefloor cuts with all the Underworld hallmarks - the rolling, driving basslines, syncopated synths and layered percussion. The Jam Scraper mix has a real epic feel, with great use of strings, slide guitar, and a restrained but building acid line which was a bit of a rarity for Underworld.

1. Mmm...Skyscraper Telegraph 6.11.92 (7'08")
2. Mmm...Skyscraper Jam Scraper (9'11")

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Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Rasputin's Stash - Rasputin's Stash

A total change of pace, here, but it's not always serious head music on the stereo at Stance-Out Towers. Sometimes I like it dirty, groovy, and also a bit silly. This 1971 release on the Cotillion label features a bunch of Chicago session musicians, and you can tell - some of the playing is terrific, with some super tight grooves being busted out. Also, there are some freaky psych-funk jams, with phased horns all over the place; and in between those, are some of the more typically syrupy songs that every funk album has. These just make the hard funk sound tighter, in my opinion. The album highlights for me are 'Mr Cool' and 'Dookey Shoe', about a couple of pimptastic dudes.
A great funk album - I can't believe it's not out on cd. And check out that irresistible cover: what exactly was in Rasputin's stash, I wonder? Whatever it is, that guy at the front isn't going to let you get anywhere near it.
Ripped from vinyl.


Psychick Warriors Ov Gaia - Maenad plus

Yes it's a cheesy name. PWOG were a Dutch collective operating at their peak in the early 90s. Text on the back of their records invited "those who wish to get the most out of their lives" to contact the Katharos Foundation, or De Tempel, which has the Psychick TV logo next to it. I'm not sure how much any of them had to do with the latter; maybe they were hoping for greater interrest and intrigue by virtue of association.
Whatever their personal politics or beliefs, they were creating some perfect music at this time. They were pretty good at ambience - there's some great stuff on the 'Ov Biospheres And Sacred Grooves' LP, and the Obsidian 12" was an encapsulation of the 'ambient techno' sound and concept. It's their dancefloor stuff that I keep going back to. This 12" in particular, although Exit 23 is pretty good. The influences of the Belgian Nu-Beat sound, that was popular in the mid 80s with bands like Front 242 is clear on this 12" - the shuffling beat that is instantly recognisable. But there was a lot more on top of that beat - PWOG were superb programmers of percussion, generally tending toward a tribal feel, most evident on 'Ov The Maenad', with its weird manic bagpipe effect. My favourite is the 'Beyond' version. Super deep, with trancey (circa 1992) synths, and great use of reverb to give this a driving feel. Awesome - perfectly encapsulating the feel of a dank club at 4am, with just a single laser and some dry ice.
Later on they managed to get Coil to do a remix for them - which not a lot of artists can boast - included here, as is their fabulous remix of Orbital's Lush - another minimal marathon, although I would be quite happy if it went on for another half an hour.
1. PWOG-Ov The Maenad
2. PWOG-The Beyond
3. PWOG-Kraak Rejammed (Coil remix)
4. Orbital-Lush 3-4 (Warrior Drift PWOG remix)

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Khan & Walker - Empire State Building

I am a big fan of the highly prolific and many-aliased Khan, (see earlier posting H.E.A.D.)and his collaborator on this album Dr. Walker (one half of AirLiquide). This album was from 1997: a pretty fruitful time from my own perspective, as I loved virtually everything that was coming out of this scene at the time. This is a typical example soundwise, although the execution can be pretty extreme: the first track is 25 minutes of deep, atmospheric pulsing. Some shuffling percussion emerges; an acid line weaves its way in and out of the mix, and some strange electronic sounds drift around the periphary of your hearing. In the middle there is a protracted breakdown that descends into spacious depths. This is pretty much the template for the whole album, which is a long suite in 3 parts. Parts 2 and 3 get slightly more lively, with a muted kick drum propelling them, and there is a remix at the end by M Flux, who rocks it up a bit with a nice low-key electro beat.
Deep, trippy and atmospheric.

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Friday, 17 July 2009

Loop - A Gilded Eternity

This was to be Loop's final album, released in 1990. It's a shame they didn't continue: the crap production that plagued a lot of otherwise excellent 80s indie was no longer an issue (not that Loop ever suffered too badly in this sense, but I would love to hear their catalogue remastered), and more importantly, they were still improving and evolving. This album still had the reverb-drenched vocals; the simplistic wailing wah guitar solos, and the same pummelling minimalism. It wouldn't be Loop otherwise, but there were more interesting arrangements: the great guitar interplay and drum pattern on 'Afterglow', for example, or the brutish bass riff that introduces 'The Nail Will Burn' were signs that the heavy guitar riff wasn't the be-all and end-all of the Loop sound. The experimental 'Blood' and 'Shot With A Diamond' pre-empt the sonic territory that post-Loop spin-off bands Main and Hair And Skin Trading Company would map out.
This also features more traditional Loop sounds - the rocking riff from 'Breathe Into Me' is almost Eddie Clarke-era Motorhead, and the superbly spaced epic 'Be Here Now', with it's loping, head-nodding groove, is probably the best track on the album.


Saturday, 11 July 2009

Two Lone Swordsmen - The Fifth Mission

This 1996 double album was a serious statement of intent from Andrew Weatherall and Keth Tenniswood. Forging a unique sound from oddball synth noises and some monged rhythm loops (the amazing 'Beacon Block'), this provided a wealth of listening pleasure for me when it came out. Veering from beautifully downbeat tracks like the sublime 'A Slow Drive West' to more intense, almost techno tracks like the cd only 'Backstairs Rattlers', via spannered electro and house, this is a classic collection.
It was also something of a surprise: Weatherall had been one of my favourite DJs for a few years - his Sabresonic club under the arches at London Bridge still remains one of my favourite clubbing experiences - and I was expecting something a bit more banging. Instead I got something that is far more enduring.

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Ruins Of Beverast - Unlock The Shrine

My metal posting for this month is one of the best black metal albums I've heard. Epic, yet consistently excellent throughout, this has all the necessary components in place - great production - from drum sound to guitar distortion; consummate evocation of atmosphere; judicious use of samples (film speech snippets/choral). That they also have natural mastery of phrasing and dynamics doesn't hurt, but the most important things are the great songs, great riffs, and superb vocals.
This was released in Germany, 2004.


Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Labradford - Labradford

This was Labradford's third album, from 1996. Released on Kranky, who are still releasing some excellent music after all these years. This is a blend of ambience, post rock, shoegaze, drone - everything in that realm, really. What sets it apart, for me, is it's fuzzy beauty, combined with a sense of mild glacial desolation, or fragility. I'm not sure - we are in the realms of pure subjectivity here. The combination of almost whispered vocals; vintage synths and guitars under swathes of reverb and tremelo - marvellous stuff. The songs with vocals are framed by more experimental ambient tracks that serve to enhance their understated beauty.

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Faust - So Far

From 1972, this is by far my favourite Faust album. Quite different to the more famous 'Faust Tapes', this has no tape cut-ups and weird juxtaposition, instead going for relatively conventional song structure, and a fairly normal sound palette for 1972. This doesn't seem to restrict their creative tendencies at all, and the resulting tracks are a heady mish mash of pastoral folk, crazed ramblings, hazy psychedelia and wild oddball grooves. The title track is a brilliant space stomp groove: a loping rhythm section chunters along with horn stabs, over an undulating landscape of sublimely trippy textures and effects.
Varied, inventive, and often quite beautiful, there is still a healthy dose of weirdness, and I find this a really enjoyable listen.


Monday, 6 July 2009

Freeform - Elastic Speakers

Back to 1995 again. This is the debut album from Simon Pyke in his Freeform alias, and it's a terrific slice of classic 'IDM' electronica. An abstract, futuristic atmosphere is created with a selection of brilliant synth sounds, nicely edited and syncopated. Possibly a little too cold to be described as funky, but there are some great rhythms on this masterful album.

Download from Megaupload

Drome - Dromed

Along with Nonplace Urban Field, Drome was another of Burnt Friedman's early aliases. This excellent album was released on Kiff SM in 1995 to little fanfare. It's a downtempo affair: electronica with elements of trip hop, jazz and dub, as well as some nice vocals - heard to great effect on the superb opener 'Moon On My Screen'. Friedman's trademark sound (which I love) of processed live intruments swirling and morphing into one another is already in evidence, creating a slightly disorienting effect, a bit like mushrooms. Highly recommended are more recent albums Secret Rhythms 2 (with Jaki Liebezeit - vol3 is out, but I haven't heard it yet), and the electronic soul album First Night Forever. Support this man - he is a genius!


Thursday, 2 July 2009

Burning Star Core - Amelia

A 10" from 2003. Burning Star Core is C. Spencer Yeh's cosmic noise alias. Actually, he records under many names, and they are probably all cosmic noise - I just haven't heard them. This has three tracks: 'Homing Pigeon' is the least 'musical', I suppose - full of disconcerting scratching and chirruping sounds, before a light drone appears in the distance. The other two tracks are beautiful, otherworldy synth tracks: overdriven and delayed, and just perfect.
Thanks to Jon for introducing me to BSC a few years back.

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Akufen - Psychometry vol 3

I wasn't always convinced by all of Akufen's work. I found a lot of it clever or impressive, but it didn't move me. This EP totally hits the spot, however. He uses radio noise, severely chopped samples and assorted other elements to create his loops; and on this 12" these loops glide most pleasingly over the beats, usually as triplets, creating a nice swinging groove. Great editing skills are displayed, especially on my favourite track - B2 - which has some great backwards sounds. Unfortunately it is a total bitch to mix, as the beats are all over the place, but it's a superb track.