Friday, 29 January 2010

Ausgang - Electric Arc

Another space rock one man band, this was released on the Foundry label in 1999. Similar in many ways to Tank, this consists of spacy instrumental jams and grooves, with a heavier sound, something akin to Tank meets Appliance. Bass and drums groove away, with some nice fuzz guitar lines rocking out, and a thick smear of psychedelia spread over the top. Moogy sputterings, warm organ drones, and lots of tape manipulation comprise most of the cosmic layer, heard to good effect on the 14 minute epic 'Projectile Crockery'. Tapes of various horns are sped up and slowed down manually, and generally messed around with; while the warmly distorted bass and guitars groove away, before it breaks down into a chaotic synthy sci fi soundscape. 'Speak To Me' adds a bit of radio noise to the mix, and there are some more ambient or Krautrock experimental passages, but the albums never strays too far from the template of cheerful freakout, and is great fun.


Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Lee Perry - Produced & Directed By The Upsetter

This is probably my favourite Lee Perry compilation. Although Arkology was really thorough, and has some stupendous music on it (notably Junior Murvin's 'Tedious', which has the incredible dubbed out section that isn't on the current cd), it was just a bit overwhelmingly large. What makes this one so good is the strength of the individual songs as much as Perry's studio wizardry. The production varies from the economical and punchy, to the spacious and weird, as you would expect, but every song is excellent, with some superb horn arrangements and vocal harmonies. The vocalists on here range from well known acts like Junior Murvin and The Heptones, to more obscure names like Winstone Heywood and King Burnett. I can't help thinking of the fantastic film Rockers when I listen to these lesser known artists - they knew they had a great song, probably had to fight to get it recorded, and made bugger all money out of it. The lyrical subjects runs the gamut, from relationship traumas, to problems with the police, to politics, and serve up a brilliant snapshot of Jamaica in the mid 70s. Of course, there is a dub for every song, but I think the great element of Perry's genius demonstrated on this disc is his ability to complement the vocal versions with perfect backing tracks.
Also, this one is worth downloading for the utterly amazing 'Guide Line' by George Faith. Apparently this was from an album which he recorded in 1978, just before Lee Perry lost the plot in a big way and burned down the studio. Most of this album was never released, which is a terrible shame.


Sunday, 24 January 2010

Geinoh Yamashirogumi - Akira OST

Fabulous soundtrack from what is still one of the best anime films ever, in my opinion. It's scary to think that this came out in 1988. From the opening peal of thunder on 'Kaneda' this is spine tingling stuff, as a chorus of beautifully musical drums and wooden percussion introduces some brilliantly arranged choral work. It's pretty unique and breathtaking, and one of my favourite tracks ever. The themes are reprised with variations on the epic last track 'Requiem', which adds some serial/minimal keyboards, and even more layers of awesome choral lines. The whole album is a brilliant exploration of what can be done with tuned woody percussion, bells, drums and voices, with some additional sampling and sequencing - the almost techno explosion of rhythm that is 'The Battle Against The Clowns', with voices chopped in, and tiny beacons of melody. There are also the more traditionally synthy sounds on 'Winds Over Neo Tokyo', and the whole album blends these styles in a perfect balance, and the result is a unified suite of almost modern classical composition.
I always thought Geinoh Yamashirogumi was a person, but it's a musical collective. So I'm off to search the web for some more of their output, and I think another viewing of Akira is in order.
There is a shorter Akira soundtrack; this one is the 9 track, 56 minute one.


Friday, 22 January 2010

Nodern - Nodern

A rather obscure electronica album from 2005 on the Sub Rosa label. It's a shame there seems to be no follow up releases, as this is brilliant, and Nodern clearly has some real talent. This music would definitely be at home on the Rephlex label - it has the same stuttering weird beats and synths as classic Aphex material, and both the beats and the melodies are classy. Their is also a trippy and disturbing element to a lot of this, too - 'The Coal Mine Worker' is a freaky slice of genius, with cut up whisper snippets above mysterious curdling synth drones. 'Letter Puncture Pnx Pass' rocks along with some classic electro sounds and great melodies over a swinging shuffling beat. 'The National Republic Of Hairlip' has more well programmed chopped up speech over springy beats, and builds up a sense of uneasy menace with some brooding, dark synths. Like the best parts of this album, it inhabits a strange place, where the sounds from other realities seem to be leaking in. The tunes are generally melancholic, and this makes a nice combination with the messed up beats and weirdbeard cut up and time-stretched oddments.
I hope this isn't going to be the last Nodern record ever.


Sunday, 17 January 2010

Current 93 - I Have a Special Plan for This World

Released in 2000 on Durtro. This is a single 22 minute track, consisting of David Tibet speaking words by American author Thomas Ligotti, with a minimal industrial/ambient musical backing. The words are remarkably dark, intense and apocalyptic; and David Tibet's voice is perfect for them - hinting at a kind of staring-eyed derangement. The speech is delivered in segments, as if they are being played on a portable tape player, with the sound of the play button being pressed. In between, there are weird granulated speech sounds, and a chilling tomb-like drone throbs all the way through.
Bleak and unsettling - one to listen to on your own, in the dark.


Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Bill Wells et al - Pick Up Sticks

Collaborative effort of four artists coming from two distinct (-ish) backgrounds - Scot Bill Wells and prolific trombonist Annie Whitehead from a predominantly jazz background, and the Germans Barbara Morgenstern and Stefan Schneider (also in To Rococo Rot) from electronica. Of course, the boundaries of what these artists produce are not anywhere nearly so clearly defined, but the resulting mini album (just over 20 minutes) seems to be balanced perfectly in the middle. It's a set of 8 sketches that combine horns, both natural and processed, with electronica and the more laid back and glacial end of the post rock spectrum. There are often similarities with To Rococo Rot's excellent debut Veiculo, but the brass definitely adds a lot to the mix. These would perfectly soundtrack a drama of the more sombre type, although there are low glowing embers of warmth and tenderness throughout, as well as moments of stark beauty. In fact 'Three Line Prayer Pt 2' is magnificent, and a real favourite of mine.
A really nice downbeat little gem. Released on Leaf, 2004.


Sunday, 10 January 2010

Roy Harper - Stormcock

This is undoubtedly Roy Harper's masterpice. From 1971, it's ostensibly a one-man-and -his-guitar singer/songwriter album, and begins that way. Harper's beautiful, querulous voice, always betraying his roots in the north west of England, accompanied by his own acoustic (well, two tracks of acoustic). The four tracks on this album, though, are epic in every sense - in length, scope, and arrangement. Roy Harper often double-tracked his vocals, a technique that seemed to suit his voice particularly well, usually with a perfectly rich envelope of reverb, and on the first track 'Hors d'Ouvres' he is backed up halfway through by an otherworldly chorus of his own multi-tracked vocals, and electric organ. This was recorded at Abbey Road, and has that beautiful ringing clarity so redolent of that time and place, like on The Pretty Things' Parachute, or Pink Floyd's Atom Heart Mother. 'The Same Old Rock' follows, Jimmy Page adding some glorious acoustic lead work. This is an amazing track, switching between yearning and sombre moods as the different sections move along, until Harper is backed again by his own space-choir, brilliantly arranged to spine-tingling and psychedelic effect. 'One Man Rock And Roll Band' has a touch of eastern-raga-blues, with some light phaser(?) type effects on the vocals, and strangely flowing vocal phrasing. The Final track 'Me And My Woman' is an amazing track, beginning with a more traditionally English Folky tune, and some of the most haunting and gorgeous backing vocal arrangements, and some fabulous orchestra, arranged by David Bedford. This ranges from doomy strings, to plaintive clarinet, to Atom Heart Mother-style brass, all the time melding perfectly to Harper's long and winding song structure. It is a truly brilliant way to end this masterpiece of an album.


Buy it
Also highly recommended is Flat Baroque And Berserk.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Burnt Friedman & Jaki Liebezeit - Secret Rhythms 2

Second installment in an ongoing (and hopefully endless) series of collaborations between sound designer/genius Burnt Friedman and Can drummer Jaki Liebezeit. Although this would probably be classified as electronica, there are other musicians on this disc - notably reed player Hayden Chisholm, who I recognise from a number of other Friedman records - and the sound is definitely one of a band, although it's very hard to categorise the exact sound. It's a mellow and spacy blend of electronica, jazz and post rock. The instrumentalists provide backing, and, presumably, sound sources for Friedman to manipulate - there is always a shimmering haze of morphing and drifting ambience behind the picked acoustic guitar, reeds, vibes, and Jaki Liebezeit's springy drums. The temptation is always to describe this awesome drummer as metronomic, as he so often was in Can, but many of the tracks on this disc are in strange time signatures, and he plays around the beat, often adding an accent on unexpected drum hits.
David Sylvian sings on 'The Librarian' (also on the Nine Horses album), and this is probably the most traditional track - a sung song. The following track 'Mikrokasper' shows the other end of the spectrum - very electronic, delicate and beautiful, it sounds like it was created almost entirely in post production from samples. The next track, 'Niedrige Decken', perfectly sums up the rest of the album. Pattering along in 9/8 time, after an introduction by sombre and elegant clarinet, which continues throughout; melodica, and a mesh of intricate samples and picked guitar harmonics. For me these tracks conjure up images of sun-blasted landscapes, with an unreal blue sky, and powerful heat haze distorting the edges of visible reality. Strangely laid back and intense at the same time.
Volume 1 is also great, volume 3 is amazing, and volume 4 is due out this year. Also highly recommended is any release by Burnt Friedman & The Nu Dub Players, and 'First Night Forever', just by Burnt Friedman. This last one features a selection of excellent vocals, creating a weird kind of acid fried electronic soul. Check out all these releases at, and support the artist!