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…
RATS LIVE ON NO EVIL STAR – Rats Live On No Evil Star – in 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 – Cloudland – die 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 – Redsuperstructure – something 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 – Nevertheless – from 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 Stars – you 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 Cosmos – saw 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….)