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.