ATOM™ – Liedgut and Winterreise – having 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
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.