Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Circle - Katapult

Terrific 2007 album by the prolific and inspired Finnish lunatics. Circle have probably put out more excellent music in the last decade than any other band. Their forte is riff-heavy cosmic jamming, often in brain twisting time signatures: the album Prospekt is a good example of this, and I would have uploaded that one if I'd realised that it's currently unavailable. Also, they do space epics (Arkades)...basically, it's hard to go wrong with a Circle album. What I like about this one is that it has a great deal of vocals on it. Vocalist and band mainstay Jussi Lehtisalo has a kind of deranged, sometimes operatic, growling, dramatic delivery, that is at once awesome and hilarious. On this album it is generally smothered in reverb. Opener 'Saturnus Reality' gives a good idea of what is to come as it goes straight for the jugular, but 'Understanding New Age' has some amazing delivery (possibly not all by Jussi Lehtisalo , it's hard to tell). The music is hard to describe, veering from buzzing thrashing walls of guitars (I'm sure I read that this album was their homage to black metal influences). Often the guitars are chugging - the band refer to themselves as NWOFHM - New Wave Of Finnish Heavy Metal, but everything is always refracted through a hazy fog, and there are certainly no harsh edges anywhere. Instrumental 'Tree On The Higher Mountain' evokes a pastoral folky fug, and 'Four Points Of The Compass' is driven along with Kraut type synths. 'Fish Reflection' follows with what could almost be a Saxon riff, undermined by some abstract gentle guitar plucking, and some of the craziest vocals you could wish to hear, and is a work of inspired genius.
Underneath all the derangement, though, there is a lot of beautiful music, which is probably what makes this such a hugely enjoyable and inspiring listen.


Tuesday, 22 December 2009

El-P - Fantastic Damage

This is one of my all time favourite albums. It's about as heavy and psychedelic as hip hop can get without imploding, and is definitely not one for hip-hop conservatives, seeing as very little of the instrumentation is made from soul/funk samples, but instead is created by El-p with synths, samples and drum machines. It's the arrangements and mix that make this so excellent, and such a head trip. The opening line sets the scene: a distorted synth, with a slightly chipmunked voice reciting some cheesy but somehow ominous lines of poetry. The remainder of this track is pretty sparse, martial distorted beats and scratches allow the lyrical manifesto to be promulgated with little audio interference, and it's only as it fades into 'Squeegee Man Shooting' that the musical blueprint for the rest of the album is revealed - a tapestry of wah-scratching that peaks almost into a 303 line halfway through; piano arpeggios; driving bass; searing phased synth drones - all backing a relentless stream of vocal which is often cut up, overlaid and delayed. It's definitely a heady and intense mix, one that doesn't let up. The listeners brain is equally divided between the rapping and the music, and the weird pitched-down vocal echoes that weave around the mix fall halfway between the two, making fora disorientating but hugely satisfying listen. This is taken to extremes on what is probably my favourite track, the very weird and fabulous 'Dead Disnee', which is a real brain odyssey. The density of this music means these tracks still blow me away many many listens down the line; the apocalyptic, claustrophobic vibe, and exhilarating swarms of noise and clusters of words that drift in and out of my conscious hearing...makes my sentence construction deteriorate.
An awesome album.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Richard Thomas - Soggy Martyrs

Rather odd and wonderful offering from 1999 on the excellent Leaf Label. Richard Thomas has definitely got a good grasp of the terms 'weird' and 'wrong', but he keeps it pretty low key on this album; unless you turn it up loud, I suppose. This is like Blue Jam sublimated into purely musical form. Over an often fairly down to earth premise - a shuffling drum beat, say, a whole load of queasily played horns lurch around in a monged fashion over lots of processed samples and unsettling noises. The attention to detail is terrific, but the profound weirdness of it all could easily pass you by, as the general sound is often one that approaches a kind of easy listening - trumpets parp, guitars are strummed, drums are drummed; on 'Manicougan 5', for example - but they are played like a band whose members are on different planets, so to speak. It took me a while to get a handle on this album, and then it suddenly all became clear: what an unhinged master Richard Thomas is. Some of it certainly reminds me of Mike & Rich - Expert Knob Twiddlers, but these tracks are far more freeform in structure, and fade in and out of a hazy, muddy ambience. With extra jazz noodling.


Wednesday, 9 December 2009

White Dot Techno 1

Here are a few banging techno tunes, mostly from the mid/late 90s. These have come from a variety of sources, and the bit rate is variable - in one case as low as 128kbps. I thought about this after I'd compiled it, but really, it's banging techno, not Steely Dan. I have changed the album artist for all tracks to 'White Dot Techno 1' (there are more selections coming), so you can find them in itunes - some of the volume levels may need adjusting for consistency.
1-Aphrohead-In The Dark We Live (Dave Clarke's 313 Mix) Bush
2-Gaetano Parisio-19.99 A1 Drumcode
3-Grain-Untitled (4th EP A1) FatCat
4-Henrik B-Recollections A1 Drumcode
5-James Ruskin-Dilemma Tresor
6-Joey Beltram-Ballpark Tresor
7-Oliver Ho-Fusion Meta
8-Speedy J-Electric Deluxe Plus 8
9-Secret Cinema-Cartoon Clip no label

Later comps will be slightly different, but this one is heads down car chase/crash music, especially the Secret Cinema track, which is a beast.


Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Populous - Quipo

This is one of my favourite electronica albums of the last decade. Released on Morr Music in 2002, and produced by Italian Andrea Mangia, this shows all the hallmarks of a debut album - it is rich with melodic ideas and expression, and no amount of attention to detail is spared. In fact, luscious opener 'Bottom 01' is cut off in its prime at two and a half minutes, when such a gorgeous conflation of melodic bass, sweeping synths, glitchy mesh and morphing arpeggios should ideally play out for about 6 minutes, and probably would on a 3rd or 4th album, when the life's-worth of musical ideas have been used up. I would recommend this to fans of Boards Of Canada, as it obviously inhabits the same sphere - the pace is hip-hop, and it is heavy on the melodic synths. The beats here are somewhat lighter, and skip along more. There is more dynamics created by fading the volume up and down and panning; and there is a more delicate filigree of scrunches and glitches that help move the phrases along. I would say that the best of this album matches the best of BOC: the melodies are often exquisitely turned, and the whole sound is so perfectly at one, it glows with the obviously huge amount of love and effort that went into producing it. Summed up perfectly on the awesome 3rd track 'Flu', which is truly glorious. I actually bought this on cd as well as vinyl, to protect my LP from wear and tear.


Sunday, 6 December 2009

Korea Soundblaster - Korea Soundblaster

From 2003, this album is a wild blast of completely acid-drenched mayhem. It's a full-on, saturated melting pot of metal riffs, deranged warbling vocal samples, bombastic organ, stumbling drums, outrageous dub echo and distorted noise. Not to mention the OTT moog-style burblings, atonal guitar leads, screams, bleeps and unidentified scary noises. All this is mashed together with little regard for niceties such as song structure or pleasing melodies, but it's such good fun to listen to that these absences are irrelevant. The songs tend to fade into each other, making this one long, crazed assault on your senses.
Thanks to Dimitri for this one.


Friday, 4 December 2009

Delia Gonzalez & Gavin Russom - The Days Of Mars

Another one of my favourite albums of the decade, and another blissful blast of analogue synthery. Released in 2005 on DFA, there is nothing punky or funky about this disc. It clearly harks back to the 70s peak of soaring, pulsing and oscillating synths, and contains 4 long tracks, all over 11 minutes. There is also a definite 80s feel to this music - not in the crappy synth pop sense, but in the excellent-John-Carpenter-soundtrack sense: the arrangements are a bit more spare; the sounds are slightly less cosmic (only slightly!), slightly harder, and there is a faint sense of menace, of imminent technological danger. There is also none of the stratospheric guitar work from the 70s - it's all synth, and there is also the same authentic sense of techno-about-to-happen: especially in the pumping bass arpeggios of 'Relevee'. You can bet that if this was out in 1981, the Electrifying Mojo would have been playing it on his radio show. The rather lovely cover knowingly represents this wilful embrace of the past, with (presumably?) Delia and Gavin in period dress, juxtaposed with the somewhat sci-fi title.
All this is secondary, though, to the glowing beauty of these four tracks.