Alva Noto is a recording alias of Carsten Nicolai, one of the founders of the excellent experimental electronic label Raster-Noton: a label that embraced the aesthetic of clicks-and-cuts but forged its own distinct identity which was expressed in both the music and visual design. Obviously minimalism is an important factor in compositional terms, but the sounds on this album also include lush and epic soundscapes, as well as churning waves of noise. 'Xerrox Soma' has a bed of ambient Eno-esque synths, over which string-like drones swell and recede, amd some processed noise crackles like electricity. It creates a sense of massive space, and is rather beautiful, too. This fades into 'Xerrox Meta Phaser', which sounds like you are descending into the depths of some gigantic generator building, with throbbing humming and metallic drones building to a noisetastic peak. The album is laden with glorious string drones - on 'Xerrox Monophaser 1' sounding very much like Cliff Martinez's amazing soundtrack to Solaris. These are adorned by crusts of static, or they throb in unison with distant, booming noises; drones, or airy ambience. Although occasionally bordering on harsh, it is a mostly lovely combination - a marriage of abstract, experimental electronica with lush classical ambient.
I love Bardo Pond - a fuzz/drone/psych/space ensemble, heavy on the bongtastic distortion and wasted atmospherics. Their particular formula is a lush, sludgy, hedonistic sounding one that especially appeals to me. Isobel Sollenberger's drawled vocals aren't too dissimilar to Kim Gordon's, and perfectly fit the super-loose, bluesy psych-fuzz riffs. First track, the 11 minute 'Walking Stick Man' sets the tone in wonderful fashion: a swaying groove churns along, with perfectly damaged vocals, and a wall of glorious fuzz, helped along by Sabbathy harmonica: it's a woozy worshipful hymn to the power of distortion and the guitar. Actually, the whole album is. 'This Time, So Fucked' steps it up a notch, with some wailing wah fighting off feedback. There is a bit of variation - the disembodied and detached 'Datura' is on the verge of descending into shaking-eyed psychosis, and is following by the chugging and thunderous rock out of 'Again', before the 9+ minute 'Crawl Away' returns to the meandering, head nodding fuzz waves. If you like this, check out 'Peri' and 'Amanita', although all their albums I've heard are pretty good.
Tricky's 3rd album from 1998 saw him retain his unique production style, but removed a lot of the lushness and melody that were apparent on the first two albums, especially on Maxinquaye. This upset a few people, and a lot of critics complained that it was too dark, uncommercial etc. Whilst this isn't quite the joy to listen to that the first albums are, it's still brilliant, just a bit more intense - the miasma of wobbly guitars, sax parps and assorted weird samples that throb along under the beats of 'Singin' The Blues' is a perfect example. This is definitely music of the bong - Tricky's smoke addled, rasping vocals just about intelligible; layers of relentless, weird-noir loops; loping beats. There is a tangible sense of both claustrophobia, and paranoia - Martina Topley-Bird's vocal contributions sound vaguely distressed and strung out. All that may sound slightly negative, but each song has a hypnotic and enthralling wall of sound effect, almost alchemically conjured out of the sounds and samples. Strange, offbeat rhythms and patterns work their way into solid grooves by way of repetition. 'Carriage For Two' has an amazing backing track that, except for a tolling bell and some weird guitar, almost defies analysis - it's almost like an organic being pulsating in a dark room. Last track 'Record Companies' is a glorious psychedelic swamp beast. I thought Tricky has lost the plot with 'BlowBack', which I pretty much hated instantly, but 'Knowle West Boy' was a return to form, with some really excellent stuff on it, and is well worth checking out. Also, if you've never heard 'Maxinquaye', do yourself a favour and buy a copy.
2003 solo album by one third of Volcano The Bear. This more of a psychedelic world-folk brew than VTB, and has less of the derangement of that band. That is not to say that this album does not contain it's fair share of weirdness; just that crazed vocals are more restrained, for example on the excellent French-Arabic sounding 'Farewell My Porcupine' they are just part of the backing rather than the main focus of the track. Most of the songs on here are lovely sketch/compositions based around piano, fiddle, guitar and other acoustic instruments, and embellished with found sounds, drones and odd vocals. There is a dusty aura of otherness, that suggests lost archive folk of some corner of Europe that doesn't actually exist - perfectly encapsulated in the music and title of 'Baltic Chunks Of Antiquity'. This album is imbued with a skewed charm, and just enough oddness to keep it interesting without interfering too much with the music. Volcano The Bear were another band I saw at the sadly missed venue Spitz, and they were very entertaining indeed. Check them out if they play near you - they toured less than a year ago.
Deadbeat is Scott Monteith's electronic dub project, and this 2005 release perfectly encapsulates the gorgeous blend of surging bass, sweet melody, and shimmering ambience that is his trademark sound. Right from the beginning 'Slow Rot From Rhetoric' has a wispy, delayed weave of electronic sounds that builds up to the introduction of a gloriously monstrous bass throb, upon which a sweet, simple melody is introduced on a panned electric piano type keyboard, before the gently rocking rhythm sweeps the track away. The effect is head-nodding, blissful and spacious; yet the manipulation of reverb and delay, and various other knob twiddlery keeps the ears on their toes, so to speak, and keeps things interesting like the best dub should. 'Port Au Prince' introduces some spacy female vocals, some more glitch, and some chopped acoustic guitar samples. A faster, dancehall-styled beat gives the track a more propulsive edge, as it does on 'Texas Tea', but neither track really enters clubbable territory. The multi layered glittering, pointillistic bed of ambient sound that cocoons every track reaches a dense climax on the final, virtually beatless closer 'Habitat For Heavy Hearts', as cavernous and slightly mournful stabs fade into silence.