Catch-up on 2012, part 1

December 11, 2012

Yet again, I let this slip for a few months and face a reviewing mountain to climb. So, crampons and furry hat on  – and here we go….

Let’s begin with some stuff that brought a smile of deep recognition to my face. The Good Stuff.

More to follow in later posts….

CAN – The Lost Tapes Box Set – has to be first up, the motherlode, anticipated for the best part of two years in its current form, and present for three decades in legend.  Don’t really need to say much more… there’s a cracking double disc set waiting to break out of this, with the live excursions of interest but not crucial. There’s better live fare on offer on the three recent coloured vinyl bootlegs.

CAN – Monster Movie Live, Tago Mago Live, Future Days Live12″ vinyl bootlegs apparently limited to 500 copies each, and with minimal sleeve design. As mentioned above.

THE ORB feat. LEE ‘SCRATCH’ PERRY – The Orbserver in the Star HouseBeen waiting a while for this, was it worth it?  Much frothier/poppier than I’d anticipated, and there’s an Orb/Perry mix online which is more free-form and, well – Orb-like – than this. But to bop around the streets to, it’s fine.

CYCLOBE – Sulphur Tarot Garden Very lucky to get hold of this limited CD sold only at their first live outing in London earlier this year. It’s apparently due a wider release sometime in 2013. Anyone enraptured by their Wounded Galaxies Tap at the Window set NEEDS to get hold of this, it’s more in similar vein, with opening track Sulphur lurching in queazy waves vaguely reminiscent of The Woods Are Alive With The Smell of His Coming.

ADRIAN SHERWOOD – Survival And ResistanceJapanese edition with extra track. Sherwood goes a tad jazzy here, but there’s enough to satisfy longtime fans.

LAIBACH – Monumental Retro-Avant-Garde Live at the Tate Modern 14th April 2012a show that I’d love to have been at, and here’s a double cd commemorating the event. It’s Laibach, you know what you’re getting.

UNKNOWN ARTIST – Untitled 6 – Boomkat continue to distribute these limited edition (90 per issue) packages of cd and prints where the musicians/artists involved are kept secret. I’ve only heard one other of these releases in its entirety, but have listened to snippets from each on their website and the dominant aesthetic seems to be electro-accoustic ambience. This most recent release is no exception, with four tracks, all of 10.33 duration, the first of which opens to birdsong coupled with running water and other slight urban ambient intrusions – cups rattling on cafe tables etc…. The remaining three tracks build on this base, adding shifting tones, baby chuckles etc…  It’s all very restful, very evocative of an indeterminate urban leisure space.  No clue who the artist is though, so if anyone can shed any light on this, or the other releases, feel free to do so.

UNKNOWN ARTIST – Untitled 7 – again, Boomkat and the mystery artists – or mystery artist, since they confused me be asking if listeners had figured out who was involved yet. Tricky sods. Anyway, more electro-accoustic ambience, but this time evoking a non-specific location and with plucked strings, gentle organ tones, glitching and a faint Japanese (?) female voice providing additional layering across the four tracks. Have to say I prefer this to Untitled 6 (above).

And then there’s the utter clunker…..

MYRINEREST – Jhonn Uttered Babylon – I’ve fallen very out of love with Tibet’s recent incarnations of Current 93. This sidestep into another alias doesn’t do anything at all to re-engage me. This’ll be the last I buy.

 


February and March 2012 stuff

May 1, 2012

ATOM™ – Liedgut and Winterreisehaving tired of his Senor Coconut incarnation I’d given Atom a miss over the last few years, so these recent releases came as a bit of a revelation. His new publicity schtick (see his Wire cover story/interview) seems to delve into some kind of 19th century classical romantic revisionism, but you’d be extremely hard-pushed to realise this on what are two very contemporary slabs of exploratory electronica.

These first up this month simply because I can’t recommend them highly enough!

MOHN – Mohn – you remember that Wolfgang Voigt ‘Gas’ 4-cd box set Nah Und Fern that goes on forever, making you wonder why Voigt’s so hailed as a central pillar of ambient exploration? I feared this collaboration between Voigt and Jorg Burger might be along the same lines, but was persuaded by reviews that it actually gathers a head of rhythmic steam (that said, we’re still talking within an ambient context here, so think more of a drowsy techno dub).  Supposedly one of their more accomplished joint works, I can’t comment since I’ve not heard any of the others.  Sample Mohn here…

And this from an earlier Kompact various artists album

Damn fine.

And that’s the impressive electronica I’ve heard over these two months – here’s the ‘mid-range’….

THE RESIDENTS – Night Train To Nowhere – book and cd – this is beautifully/lavishly produced, and now seemingly unavailable to anyone who didn’t pre-order it via the Residents website a couple of months ago. A shame really. The audio cd (and good luck trying to remove this from its sleeve without damaging the plastic) contains six ‘ghost stories’ unused in the main Talking Light project (though they easily could have been) atop an instrumental backdrop that stitches together fragments of rhythms and melodies from various tracks available elsewhere in the project – but rendered almost unrecognisable for the most part.  Dare I say it, I’m hoping that there’ll be a version of this released without the vocals at some point – The Rez in storytelling mode just doesn’t do it for me beyond a couple of listens, I’m afraid.

STRANGE ATTRACTOR – Anatomy Of A Tear Strange collaborators too – past efforts have seen Graham Lewis (Wire) and Blaine Reininger (Tuxedomoon) add their distinctive talents to the mix. Both are present here too, with Blaine’s ‘Ray Potato’ a melancholy paean to rootlessness reminiscent of his classic Night Air album. Gorgeous.

Elsewhere, the album (slickly produced though it is) isn’t as cohesive or strong as their last offering, ‘Mettle’ – but it’s worth investigation.

MUSLIMGAUZE – Dome Of The Rock – although I said that I wouldn’t, I can’t seem to stop myself from delving into the back catalogue via inexpensive forays onto eBay. Mostly I shrug my shoulders at the result, but here’s one that’s definitely a ‘keeper’. Slinky grooves with all of the dub stylings and none of the abrasive glitching and dropouts of his later work. Thumbs up.

NOTHING BUT NOISE – Not Bleeding Red – double edition (is there a single cd version, I wonder).  A cover sticker laughably states this work as “earning the (former Front 242) trio their place in the pantheon of European electronic pioneers”. A bold statement that might contain a grain of truth if this was released forty years ago, but whatever its merits, it’s certainly an exercise in retro Moog cool. Think of Tangerine Dream and Jean Michel Jarre as reference points. I’ve no idea what constitutes ‘pioneering’ electronic music these days, but it’s a long way from this – it’d be looking more in the direction of CoH, Alva Noto, Atom™, Machinefabriek, AGF, Cyclobe – or even Nurse With Wound or Ergo Phizmiz before I’d consider this a shot at the title. Slots nicely in with the retro synth wave of Emeralds, OneOhTrixPointNever etc… though.

SUSUMU YOKOTA – Dreamer – The few other Yokoto releases I’ve heard always seemed to be slightly behind the curve in terms of their use of ambient tropes, but here we move into more of a 21st century ‘world’ music arena. The opening track doesn’t bode well though, with skittering percussion hauled from 10-yr-old drum’n’bass in evidence – but it’s worth persevering  for the later tracks, all well produced and more rhythmically current than I’d anticipated. Variety groove.

GUISEPPE IELASI – Untitled, 2011 –  and – BELLOWS – Reelin’ – OK, I got reeled in by the unusual vacuum-sealed foil packaging and review references to Rhythm & Sound. As to the former, the sleeves are virtually impossible to open without in some way destroying them – I’d hate this aspect of the presentation, but I guess I’m probably supposed to. Although there’s a similar production palette to R&S on both releases, neither of them are rhythmic dub workouts, they’re more expansive and exploratory than that – the Ielasi work in particularly being of a more ambient jazz bent. Nice background listening, and I’ve drifted off into a pleasant nap of an evening with one or other of them playing. Wonder if that was the intent?

And the others……

MARK STEWART – The Politics Of Envy – this has been getting rave reviews all over the place, and it’s certainly his most accessible work to date – not to mention the timeliness of its forthright political sloganeering. But I miss the production ‘chaos’ of yore, and there’s probably only one track – Gang War featuring Lee Scratch Perry – that’s a stone classic I’ll be returning to again and again.  So here it is.

BLAINE L. REININGER & WILLIAM LEE SELF – The Hamburg Sessions – Blaine in pop/rock territory once again, but with a broader palette than on his own 80s/90s solo albums. You like Blaine rockin’ out, this is for you.

THE FUTUREPLACES IMPROMPTU ALL-STARS ORCHESTRA – Poststop – an aide memoire for a festival of Portuguese improv (FuturePlaces), bought solely on the strength of Blaine Reininger’s (Tuxedomoon) vocal involvement. Given a cursory listen once, then filed where it won’t be easily found.

ERGO PHIZMIZ – Music For Accountants – very limited edition only available on cassette. I’ll review it if/when I ever get my tape player out of storage.

SNAKEFARM – My Halo At Half-Light – Anna Domino DeLory’s been more active in recent years (hooray!), her Snakefarm incarnation typically dealing in reworkings from the American classic songbook. Her voice beguiles as ever, the instrumentation’s well produced and everything slots into place beautifully. And yet, there’s something missing here, and it might be the songcraft – there’s nothing particularly memorable on offer here.

SWANS – We Rose From Our Bed With The Sun In Our Head – double website-only limited edition of 1,000, part live and part accoustic versions of material from their upcoming album. Sold out almost instantly apparently, but now getting a digipack release via Gira’s label. And it’s worth the wider release, incredibly powerful stuff that makes me kick myself that I didn’t make it through to Glasgow for their last show, giving my ticket to someone else at the last minute purely because of a ridiculously early work start the following morning. Note to self in future: don’t do this again.

ROEDELIUS – Roedelius Plays Piano – yet another Bureau B reissue. Just how many Roedelius solo piano discs is too many? Not sure I’ve found the answer to that one yet.

THE THE – orginal soundtracks to Moon Bug and Tony – I didn’t know The The were still recording until I stumbled across his website and found these two soundtrack cds. Gorgeously book-packaged, but largely uninteresting instrumental workouts.

BURNT FRIEDMAN – Bokoboko – and this’ll be the last time I buy a Friedman release without hearing an online sample first. If you like the Secret Rhythms series of albums, dive in – if you’re tiring of them, this is more of the same.

CANDY McKENZIE – Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry presents Candy McKenzie – previously unreleased Black Ark work from the mid-70s, and although it’s obviously a Lee Perry production and there are some strong tracks, McKenzie’s vocal style overpowers on more than a few of the songs – you can kinda see why it was shelved. An interesting curio release all these years later though.

GEORGE FAITH – Super Eight – another rereleased 70s Perry production, an album better known under its UK title ‘To Be A Lover’. Sweet stuff.

NURSE WITH WOUND/BLIND CAVE SALAMANDER – Cabbalism – vinyl only release – and so, you guessed it, unheard until I can find someone to digitise it for me.

TELEVISION – The Blow Up – had to pick up this classic live set originally released on cassette label ROIR. Sounds every bit as good now as it did way back then.


December 2011 and January 2012 stuff

February 23, 2012

STATIC – Freedom From Noise  Berlin electronic experimentalist Hanno Leichtmann back with an album apparently born of improvisational collaborations and subsequently pieced together, but you’d never guess with a result that certainly creeps into the inventive everything-but-the-kitchen-sink avant-pop end of the German electronic scene. Probably the finest album of its kind I’ve heard in a long time – so here’s a quick flavour for you…

Definitely recommended.

RATS LIVE ON NO EVIL STAR – Rats Live On No Evil Starin a similar vein, (eclectic German electronic pop), but not scaling the same heights as Static, I just picked up this more obviously rock-oriented 2010 collaboration involving Tarwater’s Bernd Jestram.

What is it with Germans and palindromic band names anyway? The following few are all associated with To Rococo Rot.

WHITETREE – Cloudlanddie Brüder Lippok in collaboration with an Italian pianist on a disk released a couple of years ago, but which must have escaped my attention (I picked this up in Fnac in Paris when over there seeing Tuxedomoon perform their soundtrack to Pink Narcissus last September, and it’s taken me this long to get around to listening to it). Primarily piano studies embellished by electronic textures though it does ‘rock out’ on occasion, this should appeal to me – but sadly it veers towards being too relaxed, polite and syrupy for my taste. That said, if you frequent those kind of dinner parties or that kind of gallery opening, it might catch your ear.

ROBERT LIPPOK – Redsuperstructuresomething unsatisfying about this new solo release overly repetitive instrumental electronic glitch-rhythms and processed detritus that’s as well produced as you might expect, but overall the album lacks a sense of cohesion or purpose, diverse sketches thrown together.

ROBERT LIPPOK/DEBASHIS SINHA – Knuckleduster –  and the same could be said of this collaborative release, even emptier than Redsuperstructure.

SØLYST – Sølyst – the relationship to To Rococo Rot gets about as tenuous as possible with this album from former Kriedler drummer Thomas Klein (TRR Bassist Stefan Schneider was once also a member). When Boomkat reviewed this as “Tribal Dub Krautrock”, I thought that my ongoing and mostly fruitless search for innovative and enjoyable African/Euro-electronic interfaces might be pandered to here. Plenty of nice rhythms on display (as you’d expect from a drummer), but it’s a tad monotonous – unlike, for example, the constantly evolving patterns of Jaki Liebezeit. The accompanying electronic textures and dubs sit prettily above the rhythms rather than intergrating with or distrupting them, hauling them off into new directions. OK, it’s a partial success.

And speaking of Liebezeit….

CAN – Tago Mago, double cd edition I’m still hanging out for the soon-come boxed set of previously unrealeased early 1970s material culled from their immense taped archive of jams (which my spy in Mute Records tells me is an absolute belter) but for the moment this rerelease with a cracking bonus disc of unfamiliar (to me) live versions will do quite nicely thank you.

ALVA NOTO – Univrs – I love this guys production, and when he gets those glitch rhythms moving I used to be in heaven – I say used to, because this, although it contains all the ‘right’ elements, left me cold. Ploughing a furrow that’s now perhaps too familiar for me – the law of diminishing returns, also applicable to Burnt Friedman’s ‘Secret Rhythms’ series of cds.

ROEDELIUS & MORGAN FISHER – Neverthelessfrom 2005, yet another release that somehow passed me by, worryingly. Slow treated piano meanderings and electronic interventions.

Right, that really is enough German music for the moment.  I’ve also bought and listened to…

…oh ffs, we’ve just moved over the border into Austria…  (why does that sound familiar?).

FENNESZ – Seven Starsyou get what you pay for here, more ep than album length. First track Liminal features heavily processed accoustic guitar melodies, never quite teetering on the brink of vanishing completely beneath shifting walls of distortion as with some of his other work. But for me, that and last track Sevenstars are as good as it gets here –  drone work and scrapings on the other two tracks leave me cold.

FENNESZ/SAKAMOTO – Flumina if you like Sakamoto’s various collaborations with Alva Noto (and who wouldn’t?), this is worth investigating.

And also vaguely Austrian-associated (it’s on MEGO)….

TUJIKO NORIKO & TYME – Gyu– finally, after dribs and drabs of this collaboration being offered up on Tujiko Noriko’s website over the last few years, we have a cd containing all of these tracks, and several others. Another definite recommend for something that’s arguably the most ‘poppy’ she’s sounded, but it’s joyful stuff and unlikely to disappoint anyone who became entranced with her particular brand of song-based electronica through either Shojo Toshi or Make Me Hard. Anyone into Severed Heads should probably give this a listen.

Speaking of which…

SEVERED HEADS – Op (chOPped) – did you become bamboozled by the myriad different versions of Op released over the space of 4 or 5 years? I certainly did, but worry no more, for the entire collection is now available here for the princely sum of $5 or more. Bargain.

HACO – Forever And Ever – you never know quite what you’re going to get with Haco – minimalist sine wave drones, explorations of  minituarised ambient sounds, or both of these combined with quirky melodies. I favour the latter, and this is one of those.  There are a few obvious points of comparison between Haco and Tujiko Noriko, with a lazy (very) comparison being that former is the ‘prog’ version of the latter.

LEE SCRATCH PERRY – High Plains Drifter – On a completely different tip, Pressure Sounds ruffle around in Perry’s late 60s/early 70s underskirts, this time emerging with a bunch of material that all sounds so, so familiar that I’m not convinced that I haven’t already heard it all before on one or other of the myriad other compilations released over the years by Trojan etc…  Apparently though, I haven’t.

KATE BUSH – 50 Words For Snow – Never used to be a fan of Bush at all, but as her voice mellows with age and her songcraft becomes more engaging, she’s definitely got something going on.  There’s one horrendous mistep on this otherwise gorgeous fireside winter album of piano ballads – namely “Snowed In At Wheeler Street”, featuring appallingly histrionic vocal performances from herself and guest vocalist Elton John.  Uuurgh.  Come to think of it, the title track featuring the spoken voice of England’s alternate queen-in-waiting Stephen Fry is overlong and entirely forgettable too.

JAH WOBBLE/JULIE CAMPBELL – Psychic Life – a return to the sort of material Wobble was doing with Human Condition in the early/mid 80s, but sounds kinda empty these days and Campbell’s voice is a taste I’m unlikely to acquire.

TALKING HEADS – Chronology DVD – not watched yet, but any fan of  ‘the Heads’ has likely seen or heard all of this material before at some point. Worth having for a rainy day though.

And now two releases from Adrian Sherwood’s On-U Sound label, consistently entertaining over the years. Shame there hasn’t been as much 30th anniversary activity as promised, but On-U have always doggedly chosen their own path and their own pace.

Picked up these two CDs mail-order from the Reggae Records website in Tokyo, both for the extra tracks typically offered on Japanese releases, and because neither of these pop-reggae gems have been released outside of Japan.

DEEDER ZAMAN – Pride Of The Underdog – Japanese import On-U Sound

JEB LOY NICHOLS – Longtime Traveller – Japanese import On-U Sound

If you have to go for one of these, choose Jeb Loy Nichols – and here’s why…..


CHRIS WATSON – El Tren Fantasma – never quite subscribed to the huge acclaim heaped on Watson’s sonic collages, but this time the subject matter appealed, I’ve always been a sucker for the lolloping rhythms of slow-moving old trains on rickety tracks – you could fill a cd with that and keep me entertained for hours.

JOHANN JOHANNSSON – Copenhagen Dreams – documentary soundtrack and film dvd.  Although a huge fan of his earlier albums (in particular the majestic four movements of Virðulegu Forsetar, which still occasionally rattle the ornaments on my shelves of a Sunday morning), I’ve found some of his later works tending too much towards a syrupy sentimentality for my taste. Haven’t watched this yet, but the accompanying cd, although not amongst his most memorable compositions, drifts along very pleasantly.

And last but by no means least…

OSTRICH VON NIPPLE – Contemplates The Cosmossaw this mentioned on chatroll at residents.com whilst hanging around waiting for some limited edition or other to be put up for sale on eBay (seemingly the Rez new preferred point of sale these days). Pan-fry some Phizmiz, stir in a healthy dollop of Residents, add a soupcon of Snakefinger and finish off with a zit of Zappa to emerge with something that’s not a million miles away from our classic mid-70s eyeball buddies. Highly enjoyable nonsense. Dunno why I went all culinary there, must be about dinnertime…..  Here’s a taster (groan…. I’m here all week, try the chicken etc….)

Laters….


June/July/August/September/October/November stuff

December 4, 2011

Bit of a hiatus over the last few months… oh jeez, where to start with the thumbnail reviews, could be a (relative) waste of an evening…. so in the interests of getting this over with and posted, some have ’em, some don’t.

AMON TOBIN – Isam – gorgeously packaged book format, and an artist I’d forgotten about over the last few years – on the strength of this release though, I might have to backtrack.  No review, but a trailer vid for the live set-up accompanying the album should whet the appetite.

onwards…..

BIOSPHERE – N-plants – an unfortunately serendipitous release in that it takes  Japan’s nuclear power plants as its focus – though conceived and recorded before the tragic events earlier this year (an ongoing tragedy, though it’s largely vanished from western news-ken). It’s an altogether more sprightly and rhythm-focussed work than other recent releases – perhaps a poignant irony there.

TAMIKREST – Toumastin – I’m told this is their strongest set to date. Differently recorded perhaps, but the rhythms remain the same.

And this track (a single, I think) and its video are utterly gorgeous….

A bumper Cluster-related few months, with the following all released/rereleased…..

ROEDELIUS – Piano Piano  & Like The Whispering Of The Wind – two solo piano discs, one new, the other from 1986.

ROEDELIUS – Wasser Im Wind– classic early work, very much after the fashion of my favourite of his many albums, Wenn Der Sudwind Weht – so big thumbs up from this listener.

There’s also been a spate of new Roedelius material over the last few months in duet collaboration with ‘thrusting’ younger electronic players.

ROEDELIUS/SCHNEIDER – stunden

and

QLUSTER – Fragen & Rufen

At the same time, another member of Cluster, MOEBIUS, ploughs a familiarly idiosyncratic techno furrow with Ding.

ALVA NOTO/BLIXA BARGELD – Mimikry – took me a while to get around to buying this, despite my liking for both protagonists. The two talents don’t quite gell – but it’s promising, and it’s hard not to raise a smile to this track in particular…

STEVE MASON & DENNIS BOVELL – Ghosts Outside – part of a film festival goodie bag, so it almost got binned unlistened-to. Which would have been a shame – I understand that this is a dub reworking of a solo album from an ex-Beta Band member (just how out of touch am I getting?). It’s sporadically engaging – though not enough to have me seek out the source material.

ON/OFF – Mark Stewart, Pop Group To Maffia DVD

BRIAN ENO & RICK HOLLAND – Drums Between The Bells – hardback double edition. The spoken poetic word is the new nu-jazz in Eno-world, it appears. This, and its subsequent follow-up EP are a bit… (and I’m conscious of using this word too much at the moment) underwhelming.

MUSLIMGAUZE – In Search Of The Abraham Mosque – single track that weaves its way through low-key beats and ambience, pausing occasionally for respite. Just when you think there can’t possibly be any more decent material left in the archives, a gem slips out. For me, this is one of them, whereas another recent release – MUSLIMGAUZE/THE ROOTSMAN – On-Line Jihad – is entirely forgettable.

TUXEDOMOON – Unearthed – cd & dvd. The completist in me rears its head again – all of the music and video on this is already available with the Crammed 30th Anniversary box set released a couple of years back. The only difference is the cover.

MACHINEFABRIEK – Sol Sketches  & Diorama Vintermusik – you know what to expect – the pick of these three for me is the Bandcamp download of Vintermusik, one of his 3″cdep releases from 2007, around the time of the mighty Laween track that I still love so much.

CYCLOBE – Wounded Galaxies Tap At The Window – finally got hold of the cd version, having had this on vinyl for nigh on a year, unable to play it. Worth the wait though, their most accomplished set to date – the legacy of Coil seems in safe hands.

SUNS OF ARQA – Stranger Music – have I listened to this? I can’t remember. Which pretty much says it all really.

BEIRUT – The Rip Tide – back to familiar territory here, neither under or overwhelming.

ULRICH TROYER – Song For William –  a wee digi-dub gem from Austria of all places. Just when I thought I’d heard all the tricks this genre has to offer, Troyer adds a few unfamiliar ones. Deliciously wonky reggae.

THE RESIDENTS – Talking Light: Bimbo’s – not really been a fan of the Talking Light cycle/suite of albums/performances, bought primarily to keep my completist’s drouth at bay.

TARWATER – Inside The Ships – although there’s nothing really new here, this is their most mellifluous outing for a while.  Anyone reading this (hello???) know what the extra tracks are on the recent reissued cds?

ANDREW LILES – The Flesh Creeping Gonzoid & Other Imaginary Creatures: Volumes One to Six – A whopping great 6xcd box set as my introduction to the work of Andrew Liles, occasional NWW conspirator.

NATACHA ATLAS – Mounqaliba Rising – The Remixes – Ten years ago I’d probably have been all over this, and it’s a measure of how much my taste has moved on that I find most of the beats and treatments dated and pedestrian here. All this makes me want to do is bathe in the gorgeous accoustics and un-chopped/glitched voice of the album from which this lacklustre spin-off springs.

MAGAZINE – No Thyself – ‘return’ albums from reconstituted acts are most often pig-in-a-poke territory, you’re never sure what’ll be on offer – a leaden rehash of former glories or a brave strike into fresh territory.  Ultimately this is neither, but does enough to maintain hopes that, should they continue to work together, things will improve.

DAVE FORMULA/CHRISTINE HANSON – The Organ Of Corti – Serviceable kinda song-based jazz-lite, but a warning – the album’s final track is a throwaway embarrassment.

TOM WAITS – Bad As Me –  you know the guy, you know what to expect. And he doesn’t disappoint.

THE RESIDENTS – Coochie Brake/Lying Horse Rock – although hanging on to the Randy/Chuck/Bob conceit of the Talking Light series, this limited edition version of a work that’ll be given wider distribution early next year strikes out in new directions for the RZ – a new mythology to expand on, Spanish language used, a (mercifully to these ears)  retreat from recent song-based outings. First three tracks and Bitter Biter stick in the memory.

LEE ‘SCRATCH’ PERRY – The Return Of Pipecock Jackxson – finally, a cd reissue for what I think has been a great lost (i.e. only available via eBay etc… in its originala vinyl edition) Perry work, cobbled together during his last few months in his soon-to-be-torched Black Ark Studio. It’s brief, six tracks, but worth every penny. Shame they didn’t keep the original cover art, shabby though it was.

THE ORB – C Batter C – lovely book release (which arrived personalised to me, a pleasant surprise) containing a cd of remixes and a film (not watched yet).

DAVID LYNCH – Crazy Clown Time – It’s David Lynch. It should be great. Its not quite.

LITTLE AXE – If You Want Loyalty, Buy A Dog – Skip McDonald’s recent solo shows have been a revelation, but here he’s surrounded by a band and produced by Adrian Sherwood, taking his contemporary blues schtick into reggae-lite territory. It’s a mixed bag, and I’d love to see him solo again at some point.

WIRE – The Black Session – live artefact punted on their recent tour, caught at the Liquid Rooms in Edinburgh mid-November. Filed.

ON-U SOUND – King Size Dub – a mid-price On-U sound compilation, you know the territory.

Finally, as a sign-off, here’s a ridiculous earworm from Japan, Trippple Nippple’s – LSD single. Bow Wow Wow on amphetamines, in a good way…


May 2011 stuff

May 26, 2011

CHRONOMAD – Chronomad cdep – can’t recall how I first came across Chronomad, but it was quite likely whilst delving into the Notwist’s label catalogue a few years back. Reviewers seem to think that these days they operate in areas also familiar to Muslimgauze, Shackleton and Demdike Stare (see below). For this, the first of their three releases, a middle-Eastern influenced Pole might be as good a comparison point as any.

BELL, IRMLER, LIEBEZEIT, LIPPOK – Spielwiese 2 – limited album/cd on Klangbad. A live collaboration, and pretty much what you’d expect from the four talents on display. Nicely packaged but inessential listening that at times isn’t a million miles away from Liebezeit and Friedman’s Secret Rhythm albums – albeit more varied and rewarding than that flagging series has become.

MACHINEFABRIEK & STEPHEN VITIELLO – Birds In A Box – limited edition of 200. Swapping boxes of stuff (we can only guess what they contained) to bang, scrape and otherwise sonically manhandle, this is an exercise in textural listening, although the occasional wonky half-rhythm peeks through. One of these days I might lose my appetite for Machinefabriek releases, but I can’t see it happening yet.

IN THE NURSERY – Blind Sound – all the trademark tropes in place (vaguely martial rhythms, strident horns etc..), and as with all their releases this couldn’t be the work of anyone else (except perhaps Laibach). Meh.

BARRY ADAMSON – Therapist – DVD film & CD – Adamson has been peerless as a composer of soundtracks to imaginary films. Now he’s produced, written, directed, edited and composed the soundtrack for his own – the resultant short film certainly giving the lie to the auteur theory to which Adamson somewhat foolishly subscribes (going by the interview extra on the dvd). Very few are able to effectively deliver in all of these roles let alone adopt them simultaneously, and the developmental value of perspective and critical input is obvious. I’d like to be encouraging, but the result is a mess of diabolical scripting, meaninglessly stylised shots and fashionably eyewatering over-editing that might most charitably be described as an impoverished iteration of the cinema du look. Most aspirant filmmakers end up burying their first fumbled efforts deep in a storage box (I know I did) if they hang on to them at all.  There’s a huge and potentially valuable learning curve for Adamson here, no doubt, but why inflict the (embarrassing) results on the paying public? On the other hand, the soundtrack……

MERCURY REV – Deserter’s Songs Instrumental – bought as a ‘tour-only’ exclusive at their recent rockin’ Queen’s Hall show, only to discover that it’s on general release soon anyway.  Ach weel – not listened to this yet, assuming it to be -erm- the album without vocals.

LEE ‘SCRATCH’ PERRY – The Return Of Sound System Scratch   &  Rise Againthe former a companion volume to last year’s selection of disco plates, the latter his most recent US market aimed outing. Some longtime Perry afficionados don’t seem to have time for much of Perry’s recent output (Sherwood-produced efforts aside), but there’re always at least three or four pop reggae gems on each release, and this is no exception. Still can’t get enough of the old groaner in this house.

ROEDELIUS – Momenti Felici – missed this the first time round, another Bureau B rerelease. It’s a cracker too, one of his ‘grand piano’albums, this with ethereal vocal and woodwind accompaniment. Roedelius’ back catalogue = the gift that keeps on giving. Stunning.

13 & GOD – Own Your Ghost – been waiting a while for this second collaboration between members of Anticon and the Notwist, with only a recent download of a two-year-old Japanese live cd to stave off my pangs. Top stuff.

DEMDIKE STARE – SymbiosisTryptych – bought after hearing a track on a compilation someone sent me that sounded not unakin to a looser, jazzy Rhythm & Sound track. Apparently they’re an influence, but these albums reveal an altogether darker and more varied palette.

MUSLIMGAUZE – Beirut Transister – caught up with a good few older releases over the past year or two and along the way acquired the habit of picking up new additions – but the barrel is well and truly being scraped here. Enthusiasm exhausted.

JOHANN JOHANNSSON – The Miner’s Hymns – when I heard that Johannsson was collaborating with a miners’ brass band to perform at Durham Cathedral last summer, I damn near drove down to witness the performances, such was the strength of the spell that Virðulegu Forsetar (also a work for brass and organ, recorded in a cathedral in Reykjavik) weaved over me.  I’m almost sorry, listening to this, that I made the penny-pinching decision to stay away. Where Virðulegu Forsetar’s four rumbling, slowly developing suites vibrated ornaments off the mantelpiece whilst providing an encompassing Sunday-morning wake-up listen chez ayeball, there’re different dynamics on display here, a powerfully cavernous sadness to this music that precludes any such casual listening.


April stuff

May 7, 2011

Antye Greie/AGF/Craig Armstrong – Orlando – really enjoyed seeing Orlando in performance at the Traverse Theatre in September last year, and Antye’s earlier performance in a small room at the university a few months before that, so was looking forward to this soundtrack making its way onto CD. Given the Orlando show’s stunning visuals it’s a shame there’s not an accompanying DVD, but this’ll do nicely.

BURNT FRIEDMAN & JAKI LIEBEZEIT – Secret Rhythms 4OK, I’m tiring of the relative lack of variety across this occasional series now, this is probably the last I’ll buy.

TIED & TICKLED TRIO/BILLY HART – La Place Demon – too JAZZ for me I’m afraid. An almost immediate sell-on.

BRIAN ENO 1971-1977 The Man Who Fell To Earth DVD – Almost three hours of hagiographic (deservedly imho) documentary following Eno’s extraordinarily fertile period from Roxy Music to Before And After Science. Predominantly talking-head material, a broad and knowledgeable range of interviewees have been assembled, including bassists Percy Jones and Brian Turrington (of The Winkies, oddly a tad reminiscent of John Lydon in vocal inflections and mannerisms).

There are only a couple of brief snippets of the man himself in interview (probably not commissioned for this project), and sadly nothing at all from Bowie, Fripp, Ferry, Cale, Nico, Manzanera, Bryars etc.. or even anyone from Island Records. Was the documentarian being kept at arms length, I wonder? A shame if so. Plus points for persuading Roedelius to shed some light on the Harmonia/Cluster collaborations, though there’s little those already familiar with the circumstances surrounding these works won’t already know.

So, no great visual shakes, but there is sympathetic use of (unrelated) archive material to accompany the brief representative snippets of tracks being discussed.

Overall it’s a decent job and certainly worth a look, even for already committed and knowledgeable fans. Be warned though – the box misleadingly claims that the disc ‘contains many extra features’ – but there’s only one sliver of video of marginal interest (imho) in which Lloyd Watson discusses the shortlived 801 project, and text biographies of the contributors. Boo!

SEUN KUTI & EGYPT 80 – From Africa With Fury: Rise – Afrobeat set with a more spacious sound than his previous album – but it’s mostly too rhythmically fast for me, preferring the groove prowl of his dad. Enjoyable live show at the Usher Hall early in the month though, and I was amused to discover that I’d been bopping away oblivious to being a few feet away from the album’s producer, Brian Eno.

Hmmm  – bit of an Eno-dominated month this month.  I also bought the second edition of the 77 Million Paintings software. I haven’t figured it out yet, but surely there’s a way to set this up as a screensaver rather than a piece of software that has to be fired up and quit. Anyone?

Related, I chanced on the Lumen London website here, with some beautiful – and uncomfortably expensive – limited screenprints of grabs from Eno’s 77 million paintings work. Still plenty left, but the prices will have to drop a couple of hundred quid before I’d be tempted.


March listening

April 7, 2011

A relatively quiet month, but some lovely things…

MORITZ VON OSWALD TRIO – Horizontal Structures – never been a jazz fan, but when musicians I’ve loved for prior work turn in this direction (Rhythm & Sound, Tied & Tickled Trio), I can’t help but be curious. The last MVOT disc concluded with one cracking dub-oriented track (Pattern 4), and with the thought that last tracks on albums sometimes point in the direction of  next albums, I had high hopes for this. Horizontal Structures meanders along perfectly pleasantly, but oh how I wish….

KREIDLER – Tank – a continuation of the Afro-oriented  rhythmic electronica of their last release, Mosaik 2014, there’s even a track here (Saal) that, in parts, wouldn’t sound out of place on Talking Heads ‘Remain In Light’ masterpiece. As the days draw out and I’m out and about more often, this is a constant on the nano – brisk walking pace music.

NICOLAS JAAR – Space Is Only Noise – labouring under ‘promising first album’ critiques, including one that perplexingly locates it as a ‘slow house’ album, this is beautifully produced minimalist songsmithery with adventurous electro-accoustic instrumentation. Ideal late-night listening.

ERGO PHIZMIZ – Things To Do And Make –  a relatively recent CD release, but confusingly identically titled to a 2009 Mp3 release that features some of the same tracks. I can’t find any reference to this online (even the discography on his blog doesn’t mention the original release), and haven’t had time to do a direct version comparison – and wouldn’t bother even if I had. There’s always room for a bit more Phizmiz in this house.

There’s also always space for more from Machinefabriek, so here’re two collaborative newies from Mr. Z, the latter housed in a lovely thick card/book sleeve.  PETER BRODERICK & MACHINEFABRIEK – Mort Aux Vaches and GARETH DAVIS & MACHINEFABRIEK – Grower. You pretty much know what you’re going to get with Machinefabriek releases, but there are always little surprises in store.  Thumbs up for both of these.

STRANGE ATTRACTOR – 3 x free mp3s – sampler for their new album, downloadable here and includes a beautifully melancholy track ‘Ray Potato’ with Blaine Reininger on vocals and violin.

DRUMS OFF CHAOS & JENS-UWE BEYER – Drums Off Chaos – Jaki Liebezeit’s live percussion group, oft heard of but not previously heard (by these ears).

AFRICAN HEAD CHARGE – Voodoo Of The Godsent – plenty of good things in store during this 30th anniversary year of On-U Sound, and here’s the first – a new AHC album. And it doesn’t disappoint, although I’m still of a mind that it’ll be hard to top Visions of a Psychedelic Africa.  Can’t get enough of that ping-pong percussion though. Next up, the Tackhead/Mark Stewart & The Maffia/Adrian Sherwood/On-U Sound System show at Cabaret Voltaire mid-April. It’s been a long time since I experienced On-U in full effect – I plan to dance myself to exhaustion.


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