Saturday, 31 October 2009

Shora - Malval

Another of my favourite albums from the 2000s, this is quite an exceptional blend of prog, metal and post rock: nothing else comes close to its laser-like focus, or naturally brilliant and comfortable blend of styles: even though it feels like one individual and coherent style.
At just over 33 minutes, and four tracks, it hovers between an EP and LP, but could quite easily have been the kind of musical suite that often comprised side one of an album in the early/mid 70s, such is the overall coherence and power. The sound palette is not too dissimilar, either: the standard rock band accompanied by odd touches of keyboard. There is no aimless meandering here, though, and no vague hippy sentiment: everything is tight, controlled and purposeful. Not a second is wasted. At times resembling a metal band interpreting the soundtracks of Goblin or John Carpenter - with martial drums and disciplined tightness displaying their proggy qualities, there are many moments of beauty. Despite being mostly instrumental, vocals are introduced in the final track to quite devastating and gorgeous effect, showing that a band with obvious mastery of heavy dynamics can indulge their lyrical side too, after a hazy drone-like intro, and heavy syncopated sequence.
Magnificent, and very highly recommended - if you like post rock you have to check this out, and this should be listened to as one piece, with full attention. Thanks to Ryan for giving me the promo of this way back when.


Friday, 30 October 2009

Terminal Cheesecake - Pearlesque Kings Of The Jewmost

Another slagheap of monolithic pounding industrial sludge dub, from 1992. Relentless bass, tons of reverb, drug references aplenty and some terrific samples - the usual excellent concoction. 'Satan Is Real' calls to mind Butthole Surfers, as does a lot of the album, which is of course a very good thing - with a blasting drum machine, and manic samples "I've got The craziest feeling all over my body" and "Satan!" hammering away at your senses, with some great grinding guitar that punctuates most of the album. 'Drug' is a superb psych-dub monster, smeared with delayed vocals and some space rock keyboards. It's all pretty great, really - there are some choice spoken word recordings from British TV news reports about various freakery, which only adds to the whole fucked up sense of abandon and joyous noise.
A shame that they can't reform for a few live shows, when there are so many unremarkable bands doing it these days.


Thursday, 29 October 2009

Eno Moebius Roedelius - After The Heat

One of my absolute favourite albums. This 1978 album combines all the best bits from the contemporary scene: glorious analogue synths, Eno's warped 70s avant pop, pastoral beauty and spacy weirdness. It mixes the usual instrumental sketches that Cluster were releasing around this time, with vocal tracks - including backward Eno vocals on the distinctly odd Tzima N'arki. There are brilliant compositions on here - Base & Apex is amazing - suffused with a luminous warmth as well as a kind of elegaic melancholy. This may have something to do with being engineered by Conny Plank at his own studio, but by this time all three artists were seasoned veterans with a large output behind them. Holger Czukay even adds bass to one track. In fact, I'm just looking at my cds - this was the second album by the trio - 1977 saw the release of the self-titled Cluster & Eno.
The result is totally assured, with deft embellishments where necessary using acoustic intruments; but it also has a perfect sense of space and pace, as if the compositions are allowed to build their own organic momentum, and gently roll on toward their conclusions. Nothing is rushed, there are no extra layers or instruments crammed in. Eno's vocals, and his obtuse lyrics, fit in perfectly somehow, and the result is an object of glowing beauty.
I have the old Sky LP of this, and the Japanese cd reissue I ripped this from has a different running order. The LP had all the vocal tracks on side B, and all the gentler piano led pieces on side A. I listened to side B a lot more, and I get the impression that the LP was supposed to gradually increase the psychedelic quotient, and fry your brain a bit after the gentle opening. The new running order makes it a more even listen.


Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Valet - False Face Society

Rather wonderful vinyl-only release from early this year, limited to 500. Valet is the project of Honey Owens, and it's a nice surprise to hear such music being created by a female, although there are obvious beacons within the ambient/space/drone scene such as Grouper and Pocahaunted.
This is a beautifully executed example of psychedelic, droning space rock: the 15 minute Angels Can't Stop is a gorgeous miasma of swirling organ and wispy sounds, underpinned by a distant and cavernous bass drum. A very blissful piece. Dealer vs. Ocean begins with some parping moog-type bass, and builds up layers of vocal chants, violins, organ and guitar/feedback until a dark mass is formed, throbbing in the shadows.
The last track is a cover of Boris' Rainbow, which is most un-Boris like. A light and gentle version, with reverbed and lovely vocals, some light percussion, and a couple of spacy psych-wah guitar lines weaving together this excellent interpretation.
Fantastic stuff, as are the two available albums Naked Acid and Blood Is Clean, both highly recommended, so buy one!


Monday, 19 October 2009

Tank - Upwards At 66°N

Tank is a one man band from Brest in Brittany, France. Christophe Mevel is his name, and these are a collection of 1998 four track recordings released on English space/psych-rock indie Earworm in 1999. Mr Mevel is obviously influenced by Krautrock, especially Neu, although he goes for the more rocking, motorik end of the Kraut spectrum, eschewing the more ambient/meandering/collage type efforts. Considering these are 4 track recordings, the sound is excellent. The spacy jams generally consist of a propulsive bass line; vintage keys shimmering; Faust-y thrashing guitars; swooping moogs and plenty of backwards loops. A combination of drum machines and live drums are used. A tried and tested formula, it's hard to go wrong if put together with any competence, but Christophe Mevel has a great knack for combining these simple elements in a highly pleasing way, with the ability to get quite beautiful if the urge so takes him. The result is a highly pleasurable listen if you are into all things space rock.


Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Biosphere - Shenzhou

I'm going to post some of my favourite albums of the decade in the coming months. I've already posted some: Sinoia Caves & Kopernik, for example.
This 2002 album by celebrated ambient artist Geir Jenssen is a thing of beauty. Constructed primarily from loops of music by Debussy, many sampled from vinyl, this has a real otherworldly feel. The organic woodwind and orchestral parts repeat away, seemingly trapped in some kind of time capsule, competing against the gentle synth backings and cavernous bass rumblings.
Some of these loops were recorded from vinyl, and this only adds to the curious co-mingling of eras - heard to great effect on 'Ancient Campfires'.
This album serves many of the commonly accepted uses for ambient - going to sleep to, putting on in the background etc, as it is soothing and beautiful. But it is just as captivating as any prog album with a million notes. Well, maybe you have to like repetition and minimalism for that to be true, but this album will still serve you as a gorgeous backdrop.

nb. I should have added that Geir Jenssen has recorded quite a few excellent albums as Biosphere, well worth buying: I especially recommend Dropsonde and Patashnik. Not only that, but he has climbed Himalayan peak Cho Oyu without bottled oxygen, which is pretty cool.


Sunday, 11 October 2009

Simply Saucer - Cyborgs Revisited

Fantastic psych fuzz punk from Canada, recorded in 1974/75. Completely out of step with prog and FM pop, and seemingly every other prevailing sound throughout their short career, this band sank into obscurity. A shame, because they had a tremendous sound - one that bordered on deranged: a pummelling rhythm section, psych-surf guitars, and wild use of "recently purchased 'audio generators' and theremin" to quote the liner notes. Add a great vocalist, in the wasted-Lou-Reed style, and a great formula was achieved: and there are cool tunes to match the distorted sonic overload sequences.
As well as the original 9 session tracks are two excellent sides of a 1978 single, and a load of live/demo tracks that don't really add much.


G.E.N. - Rolleiflex Weltron Time Square

More trippy deep-space electronica from two of my favourite German artists, Khan and Walker, recording as Global Electronic Network. Released in 1994 on Mille Plateaux, and recorded in New York presumably just after Khan had relocated there: I don't know if the title 'Time Square' is intentional or not, as it's pretty apt. I have this on vinyl, and one half is a really nice picture disc with the classic Rolleiflex camera on it; unfortunately the 'Weltron' disc had to make do with a picture of the classic 8 track radio on the label, with coloured vinyl.
Time Square opens the cd, with an epic 15 minute hypnotic track, with great phased ambience swirling around in the background while a host of heavily reverbed analogue synths propel the track, whilst acidic flourishes and weird samples drift in and out. I can imagine these two hunched over their machines, bobbing up and down, twiddling knobs. The same goes for Time Square pt III, which is basically a spacy hypnotic club track; driven by restrained 303 bass and with just enough strange samples panning around to make this successful head music. The two Weltron pieces are short and abstract, where the analogue machines are put through their paces to extract weird and wobbling noises: probably the least diverting pieces.
The two Rolleiflex pieces take up 35 minutes of this album, and show Khan and Walker's creativity to the greatest effect. They are also the most outright trippy tracks on here. Rolleiflex part IV-VIII comes first, fading in the kind of classic Air Liquide/H.E.A.D beat - a shuffling and gentle 808 breakbeat, with bleeping and pulsing acid noises reverberating around, building up a real head-nodding groove. This fades out into some more disturbing and distorted territory, before a pulsing and ominous synth comes in, with what sounds like an acidified warthog trying to sniff your brains through your ear. These sounds hark back to classic German 70s electronica, and are glorious, and very cosmic. The 20 minute Rolleiflex I begins with an off-kilter beat, with some very odd metallic sounds scraping the brain cavity, as the FX units are tweaked. A gentle 303 bass takes over as the beats retreat, and high pitched bleeps usher in a raga like passage, before bubbling and syncopated acid lines come in to finish the track in suitable fashion.
A terrific album of trippy analogue electronica.


Thursday, 8 October 2009

Evolution Control Committee - The Whipped Cream Mixes

Classic mash up action, in which ECC concatenate Herb Alpert and Public Enemy to fantastic effect. Masterfully edited, this inspired combination works like a dream - the key changes/bridges etc in Alpert's E-Z horn jaunts perfectly matching the phrasing of the rapping. Public Enemy should sound a bit silly after this treatment, but the mis-match is such a triumph that they actually sound cool.
Ripped from 7", this is pretty short, so I've included the WAVs and mp3s created by itunes in one folder (36mb), so you can do what you want with them.


Wednesday, 7 October 2009

C/Sphere & Mark Gage - Microset Morning

An excellent EP of trippy, far-out techno from 1993. Released on the excellent Telepathic label run by Fred Gianelli. I was going to rip and post Gianelli's own Fox Hunt, which is amazing, but this chap has already posted it on his brilliant blog.
Back to Microset Morning: I have always regarded this as a Mark Gage release. The man responsible for the awesome techno classic Gravitational Arc Of 10. It was only when I came to post this that I realised that it was by C/Sphere, aka Coleman Horn. However, the label states "Produced and edited in Vapourspace by Mark Gage", and this has his signature sounds all over it. Sci-fi bleeps and blips swoop around the mix, while a modulated mid range synth churns out weirdly un-syncopated arpeggios. The bassline is one of those bubbling, clustered, lumpy affairs that doesn't particularly accent the beat. It's similar to a lot of Robert Hood basslines, although in this case it builds up and peaks to quite euphoric and mind altering effect. In addition, the beats are relatively gentle, and this made it a post-club mixing favourite; although it can be quite a challenge if your brain is not all there. Basically there are three fairly similar versions of the same track. It definitely sounds like the machines were left to run, and a bit of editing was done later. The 11 minute 'Drift Com' has the greatest degree of arrangement, and has extra spangly noises to spin your brain out just that little bit more, but they are all great. In addition there is a short, beatless abstract oddity which is fairly nice.
nb #1 - I saw Mark Gage live at the Ministry back in the 90s - he was excellent.
nb #2 - Mr C introduced me to this record, when he was doing a show on Kiss back in the 90s. Many people may think of him as the clown out of The Shamen, but he was an excellent DJ. I'm sure I still have the tape somewhere - it was a great mix. And his label was superb.


Saturday, 3 October 2009

This Heat - Made Available

Compiled from two 1977 Peel sessions, this album shows the full spectrum of This Heat's sound. Most of the second session is comprised of the Kraut-ish tape and improv experiments, which are quiet, tense and faintly disturbing. This session does include a manic version of 'Makeshift Swahili', which would re-surface on their 1980 masterwork 'Deceit'. This version is even more intense, with Charles Hayward sounding particularly mental.
The first session is more substantial, and shows how ahead of their time This Heat really were, completely foreshadowing the whole post/math-rock movement with their weirdly angular riffs, and extended instrumental passages. These are shown to best effect on opener 'Horizontal Hold', and 'Rimp Ramp Romp', which harks back to the heaviness of mid 70s King Crimson without the tightness and control: the sense of impending chaos is what gives the music its impact. For me the highlights are the two vocal tracks. 'Not Waving' is a haunting and bleak song: eerie drones and loops build a backdrop for a strangely affecting song about what seems to be some kind of vaguely existential crisis, punctuated by a lovely repeating woodwind motif. 'The Fall Of Saigon' is a truly brilliant track: sawing guitar drones and industrial percussion introduce another songs with nebulous subject matter. Sung in the two-part harmony that would become something of a trademark sound, the vocal part of this song is one of the most beautiful sequences that This Heat created, but a squalling atonal guitar lead clenches the second half of the track in its grip.


Circle Jerks - Group Sex

A ridiculously fun way to spend 15 minutes of your life. This 1980 debut is a short blast of snotty attitude, delivered at a speed addled frenetic pace. The crazy drumming threatens to explode out of control at any moment, and Keith Morris' vocal delivery is brilliant. I'm not much of a punk/hardcore fan, but the combination of catchy songs and a great sound keep me listening to this 20 years after I first heard it.