Saturday, March 29, 2008

September Collective "All The Birds Were Anarchists" (Mosz, 2007)

Artist: September Collective
Album: "All The Birds Were Anarchists"
Release Date: 18 May, 2007
Genre: Glitch, IDM, Ambient-Techno, Indie-Electronic, Leftfield
Mood: Refined, Sparse, Amiable, Hypnotic
Reminds Of: To Rococo Rot, Mapstation, Barbara Mongestern
What People Think: BoomKat, Emusic
Definitely Worth Buying: BoomKat, Juno

1. Out Of Intention
2. Das Meer
3. Natura
4. Grundgerausch Der Wohnung
5. Light Writing
6. Pausenband
7. Primaten
8. Taking The Trouble
9. Our Cat
10. Essentially Unchanged
11. Substitute Original
12. Spates Light

One night not long ago, lying in bed and listening to the September Collective's mesmerizing new album All the Birds Were Anarchists, the image of a snowglobe filled with swirling flecks of gold leaf flashed into my mind, at which point my mental camera slowly zoomed out to reveal the orb sitting on a shiny black grand piano, surrounded by velvet curtains even blacker than the lacquer on the Steinway. It was only one of a thousand such images I've enjoyed while listening to All the Birds over and over and over these past few months. Should you listen to the disc-- and I urge you to-- you will doubtlessly have wildly different visions, but I promise you that you will see something. It simply is that kind of record. September Collective is the trio of Barbara Morgenstern, Stefan Schneider, and Paul Wirkus. If you know any of those names you'll have some idea of what to expect, as each artist's voice rings through true and clear. Morgenstern has recorded a number of releases, principally for Monika Enterprise and Leaf, featuring her pellucid voice and delicate arrangements of piano and synthesizer that convey a drifting pop sensibility, in the broadest possible sense. Stefan Schneider is best known as a member of To Rococo Rot and for his solo work as the ambient dub outfit Mapstation. And Paul Wirkus is an improvising laptop artist working with a library of chamber music samples and a small kit of analog synthesizers and effects. The group says that the project was born out of a shared 2002 tour in which each artist had solo billing. "After we played our sets we found it senseless to end up a concert just like this and we started to improvise in the end of our show," writes the group in its bio. "Although everyone of us works with loops and computers it worked out perfectly. So we continued after this tour and founded September Collective-- a project which is based on improvisation and trying out new things." Their nonchalant, even naïve approach to group dynamics is all over All the Birds, but they're no dabblers: The album offers an engrossing and profoundly confident mélange of styles and timbres. Two levels predominate: one an improvisational scrim of shirred textures and intermittent sequining via brilliant sonic details, and the other a more robust structure of composed melody and songcraft. The two run parallel throughout the disc, swapping places and playing games, both within individual songs and throughout the album's entire arc. The first track, "Out of Intention", opens with a whir of out-of-time loops: cardiac thuds, insect skitter, intermittent hi-hats, a dusky blue unfolding that might once have been a keyboard, or maybe a saxophone. A rudimentary bass line enters, shrugging its shoulders, and a delicate counterpoint blossoms in the piano's treble register. Far in the back, an unadorned drum machine keeps time-- with its MIDI cables apparently disconnected. (I love the way September Collective appropriates dance music's most basic tool to use pedestrian sounds in mercurial ways.) Against this nodding pulse, Morgenstern embroiders free, filigreed piano riffs that hang just this side of George Winston's property line before disappearing in the whir of Oval's hard drive. Beginning in the same shimmering approximation of key, "Das Meer" ("The Sea") muddles its loops into an arrhythmic whirlpool. An electronic sound like a bassoon, a higher muted reed line, and an almost imperceptible Rhodes fuse into an inseparable three-part structure that sounds uncannily like something from Talk Talk's Laughing Stock. Haphazardly brushed drums suggest that everything could fall apart at any second-- until that piano returns, almost certainly Morgenstern's, stitching everything lovingly back together. From chaos, pop-- and in a rush of hummingbird's wings and fingered stemware, it all dissolves back into ether again-- again, a whole lot like late period Talk Talk. And that's just the record's first 10 minutes. "Natura", opening with looped and fizzed piano reverb, finds the players staking out their spaces in a three-cornered room, with what sounds like Morgenstern drifting into a melodic right-hand reverie, Schneider laying down dub-inspired sub-bass and melodica, and Wirkus doing his damnedest to untether his colleagues' steadfast mooring, letting a loop of close-miked piano clatter go flapping into the red. The same trick appears three tracks later, on "Pausenband", suggesting a box of ghosts hell-bent on breaking the locks, while the clacking percussion of "Our Cat" leads seamlessly into "Essentially Unchanged", where it plays out-- yes, essentially unchanged-- beneath limpid keyboards. Such recycled loops and recurring themes, far from suggesting meager hard-drive holdings, help not only to bind the record tightly together, but also to weave it into your very consciousness. I suspect that's one of the main reasons All the Birds has become one of my preferred bedtime listens of late. It's not simply that the record's palette is generally subdued and, well, mellow; but when the body is at rest and the brain slipping into hypnagogic drift, that's precisely when September Collective's quiet anarchy reassembles itself into such improbable, impossibly beautiful forms. Sometimes, it's better when music doesn't make sense, but like the iconography of dreams, simply runs free, making its own haphazard associations as it goes.

(source: PitchforkMedia)

"Stitching everything lovingly back together..."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Bell Orchestre "Recording A Tape The Colour Of The Light" (Rough Trade, 2005)

Artist: Bell Orchestre
Album: "Recording A Tape The Colour Of The Light"
Release Date: November 8, 2005
Label: Rough Trade
Genre: Post-Rock, Indie-Rock, Instrumental, Experimental-Rock
Mood: Ethereal, Suffocating, Brooding, Autumnal
Reminds Of: Arcade Fire, Godspeed You!Black Emperor, Rachel's, The Books
What People Think: SplendidMagazine, DelusionsOfAdequacy, AllMusicGuide
Definitely Worth Buying: Amazon, BoomKat

1. Recording A Tunnel (The Horn Plays Underneath The Canal)
2. Les Lumieres, pt. 1
3. Les Lumieres, pt. 2
4. Throw It On A Fire
5. Recording A Tunnel (The Horn Plays Underneath The Canal) (Continued)
6. The Upwards March
7. The Bells Play The Band
8. Recording A Tape...(Typewriter Duet)
9. Nuove
10. Salvatore Amato
11. Recording A Tunnel (The Invisible Bells) (Frost)

Recording a Tape the Colour of the Light is everything instrumental post-rock should be and nothing it shouldn't: it sounds live but hardly loud and is brimming with sound but uncrowded. Renouncing formulaic bombast, Bell Orchestre dazzles by finesse, not force. Call it blank slate music-- oceans of negative space awaiting colonization-by-imagination. Bell Orchestre, led by the Arcade Fire's Richard Reed Parry, sparks memories of critically maligned early-decade instrumentalists Ghosts & Vodka and Telegraph Melts-- bands derided, in part, for their lack of distortion. Bell Orchestre is more frictional than the former, less NPR-arty than the latter, but its general drift is similar. From the stertorous, semi-electronic horn swells of prelude "Recording a Tunnel (the Horns Play Underneath the Canal)", the album worms into focus. Less like rain than a slowly gathering fog, "Les Lumieres Pt. 1" builds from a murmur to a klaxon. To follow its development is to watch bacteria conquer a petri dish: New threads twist off somewhat chaotically from the brass nucleus-- an awakening string trill here, a gingerly bell flourish there. On "Les Lumieres Pt. 2" the ecosystem hits full flower. Sultry, echoing horns chafe against skittish strings and fast, charging beats, a textural contrast reminiscent of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. (The bands, as Recording demonstrates, also share a penchant for ungainly titling.) But Bell Orchestre are on a much happier tip. Where Godspeed ride an abandoned train through a miserable wasteland, Bell Orchestre gallops across rich, rustic landscapes. Like Lumen or Explosions in the Sky, it's all a bit fantastical, but the band goes easy on the symbolistic dalliances. Bell Orchestre is all about freeing our neural pathways, not directing them. And hey, here's an idea: concision. Five of Recording's 11 tracks undershoot four minutes. Despite a couple of longer, jammier pieces the album is a still a breezy listen. That's because, unlike lost siblings Do Make Say Think, Bell Orchestre largely avoids ambient pussyfooting. Voluminosity and slenderness rarely cohabitate in instrumental post-rock, but here both are integral. Nuggets "Recording a Tunnel" and the chilly "The Bells Play the Band", which imagines Boards of Canada piped through ham radio, would become boundless gorges of nothingness in the hands of many similar bands; Bell Orchestre wisely consigns its most shapeless passages to short stopgaps and segues. Meanwhile, instrumentally verbose songs like "Throw It on a Fire" are kept asteer by bedrock percussion. Recording is designed to underwhelm. It rewards repeat listens and nurtures those lulled by its intoxicating spumes. Whether the album achieves its titular synesthesia is debatable, but Bell Orchestre tap into a wide, mesmerizing range of the spectrum.

(source: PitchforkMedia)

“[Bell Orchestre] varies its cunningly sequenced, gratifyingly brief instrumental tracks with such old-fashioned amenities as textured melodies, pleasing dynamic shifts, and passages that, if they don't actually r-o-c-k, at least bound down the road in an excited manner.” [VILLAGE VOICE]

“Capacious, intimate and brimming with both whimsy and tension, Recording A Tape is what classical music might sound like from some advanced alien civilization.” [MAGNET, #70, p.86]

“A timely twinkle of apple crisp bells, hearth-warming handclaps and belly-rubbing brass.” [JUNKMEDIA]

“A simply devine collection of free-flowing pieces that range from voluptuous widescreen imaginary soundtracking to a cacophonous blend of instruments jammed in an arthouse basement…”

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Luomo "Paper Tigers" (Huume, 2006)

Artist: Luomo
Album:"Paper Tigers"
Release Date: October 24, 2006
Label: Huume
Genre: Microhouse, Minimal-Techno, Experimental-Techno
Mood: Trippy, Sexy, Lush, Detached
Reminds Of: Superpitcher, Vladislav Delay, Herbert
What People Think: DustedMagazine, AllMusicGuide
Definitely Worth Buying: CdUniverse, Amazon

1. Paper Tigers
2. Really Don't Mind
3. Let You Know
4. The Tease Is Over
5. Cowgirls
6. Good To Be With
7. Dirt Me
8. Wanna Tell
9. Make Believe

Finland's Sasu Ripatti is a man of many aliases-- Uusitalo, Vladislav Delay, Sistol-- but his best-known project is undoubtedly Luomo. With the 2000 debut of that alias Ripatti surprised the world-- or, at least, the world of techno-shut-ins and internet obsessives-- with the deeply resonant, unabashedly romantic Vocalcity. Until then, Ripatti's work had been marked by its drift, nuance, and noncommittal stance-- it was all haze and no solid edge. With Vocalcity, an album true to its name, Ripatti revealed a vision of deep house shot through with swoons and aloof, seductive female voices; for many fans of his previous, greyscale work, hearing Vocalcity was like seeing in color for the first time. Ripatti's next Luomo album, 2003's The Present Lover, was even more upfront; every song packed to the gills with shivering harmonics, breathy vocals, and digital goosebumps. At the time, bedroom producers were discovering not just rave but pop music, and vice versa-- when Kylie's Body Language emerged shortly thereafter, some critics alleged that the pop diva was taking after Luomo, whose star seemed on the rise. But somehow, nothing went the way it was supposed to. Caught up in contractual disputes, The Present Lover's U.S. release was delayed for months after its European release, and what should have been Luomo's big, splashy entrance onto the pop stage turned out to be a lukewarm wading-in. What's more, critics didn't fall all over The Present Lover the way they had Vocalcity. Who knows why-- maybe it was too poppy for their tastes, or maybe their enthusiasm flagged while they waited to be given the green light to write about the disc: American writers wishing not to alienate the album's publicists were forced to sit on the sidelines while the album came and went in Europe. Another three years on, and Ripatti's world has changed considerably. Force Inc., the label that first brought Luomo to fame, has gone under, and he no longer has ties with BMG, the major that fumbled The Present Lover. So far, so sobering. But the surprise twist to this workaday story is that Paper Tigers, Ripatti's new Luomo album, released without much fanfare a few weeks back, is a glorious, outsized triumph of a record. On the one hand, it remains true to the diehard Luomo sound-- indeed, it bears more than a passing resemblance to this year's surprising Uusitalo disc Tulenkantaja, which sounded more like Luomo than the more ambient Uusitalo project. The same tricks are in play-- brittle, overbright synths that shed pixel-dandruff with every riff; convoluted digital effects that treat sounds as though a great, robotic hand were scrunching them up into a ball like so much waste-paper; breathy vocals playing peekaboo across the soundfield, cooing and whispering, disappearing and turning up somewhere else when you turn your head to catch them in action. (Call it the "whack-a-mole" school of vocal processing.) And of course, there's that bassline: Listners waiting for Ripatti to do something new with his low end should stop holding their breaths, because once again, we're treated to that same dubby underpinning, bouncing like a Bungee cord that stretches by fifths. But Paper Tigers is also, in its own way, a total curveball. It's the most cohesive of any of Luomo's albums, by which I mean you can listen over and over again until you have no idea whether it's just beginning, or wrapping up, or pumping steadily through its middlemost densities. The hooks are less pronounced than on The Present Lover, but every track is very much its own song; Ripatti infuses traditional verse/chorus structures with his horizontal sense of sprawl until his tracks roll out like an endless, head-over-heels tumble. The whole record seems wrapped up with the very act of pop listening; the songs are at once hook-heavy and just out of reach. Hearing them feels a little like trying to rescue the memory of a melody that lingers on the tip of your tongue, a teasing wisp of a lick. The songs are as solid-- and as sticky-- as cotton candy. Rhythmically, Ripatti has never been better; in songs like the staggering "Wanna Tell" it sounds like he's trying to tell the story of a stop-start career in the stuttering advance of faltering house programming. And while for the most part the female voices Ripatti employs sound as they always have-- multitracked and harmonized six ways from Sunday-- they're more convoluted than ever, with one exception: "The Tease Is Over", whose simple, girlish vocals recall the Cardigans, of all people. "The Tease Is Over", of course, could well be the title of the album: Luomo is back, familiar and yet somehow freakier than ever.

(source: PitchforkMedia)

“Equivalent to watching a malfunctioning remote control vehicle bump repeatedly into one spot on a wall.”

Monday, March 24, 2008

Curtis Mayfield "There's No Place Like America Today" (Curtom, 1975)

Artist: Curtis Mayfield
Album: "There's No Place Like America Today"
Release Date: 1975
Label: Curtom
Genre: Psychedelic-Soul, Blaxploitation, Rhythm & Blues, Funk
Mood: Soothing, Earnest, Passionate, Warm, Plaintive
Reminds Of: The Impressions, Sam Cooke, Bobby Womack, Aretha Franklin
Definitely Worth Buying: CdUniverse, Amazon

1. Billy Jack
2. When Seasons Change
3. So In Love
4. Jesus
5. Blue Monday People
6. Hard Times
7. Love To The People

The title is intended in an ironic way, as illustrated not only by the cover -- a grim parody of late-'40s/early-'50s advertising imagery depicting white versus black social reality -- but the grim yet utterly catchy and haunting opening number, "Billy Jack." A song about gun violence that was years ahead of its time, it's scored to an incisive horn arrangement by Richard Tufo. "When Seasons Change" is a beautifully wrought account of the miseries of urban life that contains elements of both gospel and contemporary soul. The album's one big song, "So in Love," which made number 67 on the pop charts but was a Top Ten soul hit, is only the prettiest of a string of exquisite tracks on the album, including "Blue Monday People" and "Jesus" and the soaring finale, "Love to the People," broken up by the harder-edged "Hard Times." The album doesn't really have as clearly delineated a body of songs as Mayfield's earlier topical releases, but it's in the same league with his other work of the period and represents him near his prime as a composer.

(source: AllMusicGuide)

“A million music, a million sound/There's neutral thoughts/For the underground…”

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Jon Hassell "Vernal Equinox" (Lovely Music, 1977)

Artist: Jon Hassell
Album: "Vernal Equinox"
Release Date: 1977
Label: Lovely Music
Genre: Minimalism, World-Fusion, Experimental, Avant-Garde, New-Age
Mood: Sprawling, Sophisticated, Dreamy, Nocturnal
Reminds Of: Peter Gabriel, Brian Eno, Terry Riley
Definitely Worth Buying: InSound, CdUniverse

1. Toucan Ocean
2. Viva Shona
3. Hex
4. Blues Nile
5. Vernal Equinox
6. Caracas Night September 11, 1975

Trumpeter Jon Hassell was the originator and unrivalled master of the musical aesthetic he dubbed Fourth World -- in his own words, "a unified primitive/futuristic sound combining features of world ethnic styles with advanced electronic techniques."

Recorded in 1976 at the York University Electronic Media Studios in Toronto, Ontario, Vernal Equinox is Jon Hassell's first recording as a solo artist and sets the stage for his then-emerging career as a trumpeter, composer and musical visionary. "Toucan Ocean" opens the album with two gently swaying chords and delicate layers of percussion that provide a cushion upon which Hassell unfurls long, winding melodic shapes. His trumpet is sent through echo and an envelope filter, producing a stereo auto-wah-wah effect. "Viva Shona" features accompaniment by mbira, subtle polyrhythmic layers of percussion, and the distant calling of birds. Again filtered through echo, Hassell's gliding trumpet lines sound remarkably vocal. "Hex" features a bubbling, filtered electric bass part with a denser web of percussion. From his horn, Hassell elicits moans and sighs that are at first unaffected and later filtered. "Blues Nile" is a long, blue moan. Hassell's breathy, multi-tracked trumpet lines call and respond to one another, weaving a web of deep calm over an ever-present drone. This track clearly points the way to his later work with Brian Eno, in particular, their "Charm Over Burundi Sky." On the title track, Hassell's "kirana" trumpet style is in full bloom as he dialogs with the percussion. Hassell's most elegant melodicism blossoms forth here, and his unaffected horn often sounds disarmingly flute-like. The influences of his study of raga with Pandit Pran Nath are clearly discernible in the curvaceous melodic lines and overall sense of meditative calm within harmonic stasis. Throughout the album, percussionists Naná Vasconcelos and David Rosenboom add subtle, supple grooves and colors. "Caracas Night September 11, 1975" is a beautiful field recording featuring Hassell's plaintive trumpet commentary, subtle percussion interjections, and the sound of caracas humming and buzzing in the background. The first several tracks of Vernal Equinox bear the imprint of '70s-period Miles Davis, in particular the quiet ambience of "He Loved Him Madly" and parallel passages from Agharta. The envelope filter on Hassell's horn similarly draws a reference to Davis' use of the wah-wah pedal from that time. Nonetheless, in 1976, Vernal Equinox was remarkably unique and ahead of its time, and sowed the seeds of Hassell's influential Fourth World aesthetic, which he would continue to develop and refine. Decades after its release, Vernal Equinox still provides an enchanting and entirely contemporary listening experience.


"From 1973 up until then I was totally immersed in playing raga on the trumpet. I wanted the physical dexterity to be able to come into a room and be able to do something that nobody else in the world could do. My aim was to make a music that was vertically integrated in such a way that at any cross-sectional moment you were not able to pick a single element out as being from a particular country or genre of music."

Friday, March 21, 2008

Rodan "Rusty" (Quarterstick Records, 1994)

Artist: Rodan
Album: "Rusty"
Release Date: April 1994
Label: Quarterstick Records
Genre: Math-Rock, Indie-Rock, Experimental-Rock, Post-Rock, Post-Hardcore
Mood: Cathartic, Self-Conscious, Somber, Gloomy
Reminds Of: June Of 44, Slint, The Sonora Pine, Sonic Youth
What People Think: AllMusicGuide
Definitely Worth Buying: Amazon, CdUniverse

1. Bible Silver Corner
2. Shiner
3. The Everyday World Of Bodies
4. Jungle Jim
5. Gauge
6. Tooth Fairy Retribution Manifesto

Everyone seems to know a great deal about Rachel's and the Shipping News, two of Jason Noble's most recent projects. Most seem to know about June of '44, Jeff Meuller's pre-Shipping News project. Many know whom Tara Jane O'Neil is, and that she's played with Retsin and the Sonora Pine. Hell, some even recognize Kevin Coultas' name from the time he put in with Come. But what most people don't realize is that all four of these talented people came together to form Rodan. Existing briefly - less than three years - Rodan managed to amass a small, devastating catalogue. The cream of their crop was Rusty, their only full-length album. A combination of all things good from the realms of hardcore, jazz, math-rock and the then-unnamed post-rock, Rusty is a six-song masterpiece that deserves the same respect as anything Slint, Shellac or Godspeed You Black Emperor! have ever released. And that is exactly the terrain Rodan used to excavate: noisy, scrappy post-punk stretched to its emotional and sonic limits; tremendously long arrangements that never relied on repetition and that beat every drop of meaning and worth out of their every second. And "beat" is the right word. Rusty is heavy. It is violent. Imagine if you will, the Dillinger Escape Plan melding with Slint. You may have noticed that I have dropped the S-word twice already, and I really should take a moment to address this. Yes, Slint and Rodan both hailed from Louisville, KY; yes, each band was made up of expert musicians; and yes, they both wrote lengthy, dynamic songs, but the similarities end there. Slint wrote sparse, jarring pieces that made use of space, subtlety and those wonderfully crushing volume shifts. Rodan, on the other hand, wrote busy, turgid, churning songs that rarely used volume as a dynamic because the music was almost always loud as fuck. Yet I still see the words "Slint" and "Rodan" used synonymously almost everywhere I look. And perhaps that's why I needed to write this, to remind people that Rodan was unique, and that Rusty has held up as well, if not better, than the other indie rock classics of the early '90s. It is nothing less than 43 minutes of painstakingly, lovingly, expertly assembled thunder: alarming as it shudders above you, soothing as it rolls in the distance. The album opens with the rich, chiming layers of "Bible Silver Corner", a guitars-and-bass instrumental that sees the members of Rodan work through several gorgeous, distinct movements, provoking tears with its beauty, paranoia with its dissonance, wonder with its whole. It never gets loud, forcing you to pay attention to every note and echo. Picture modern-day Fugazi playing a Rachel's composition in a candle-lit cathedral. Is the hair on the back of your neck standing up yet? If so, prepare for it to be singed off by the alarmingly harsh "Shiner". In two-and-a-half minutes, Rodan blasts through six alternating movements, each one an off-kilter, complex blow to the head. Fierce and visceral in all the places "Bible Silver Corner" was haunting and delicate, "Shiner" sets the stage for the poetic brutality that is the rest of the album: dual-guitar mangling, an other-worldly rhythm section and Jason Noble's bark-wail-whisper vocals. I wish I could describe his screaming of "Shoot me out the sky", but without being able to show the words ripping in half, italics will have to do. The final four songs are an unthinkable amalgam of the first two. "The Everyday World of Bodies", a twelve-minute exercise in tension, shifts seamlessly from punishing, percussive math-rock to quiet, albeit rough-hewn, mazes of plaintive tenderness. It's a constant juxtaposition that never grows tired, but it does run its course, and that's when the variations begin. Guitars begin fluttering and clashing in different ways, time signatures are hacked at and the crucial refrains - "everything changes", "come on, come on, come" and "I will be there" - are unveiled, expanding the song's revolving structure while exposing "Bodies" for what it is, a love song. And when those lovers' promises are finally unleashed in Noble's ragged bellow, they are as chilling as they are lovely. "Chilling" can also be used to describe Tara Jane O'neil's vocals, fully introduced in the early stages of "Jungle Jim". A lonely, disturbing groan, it's a perfect contrast to Noble's voice, and floats like a dense fog over the dissonant, spooky verses. But this is Rodan, so the quiet soon erupts into a scraping whirlwind. "Jungle Jim" does the quiet-loud dance, but avoids redundancy by changing tempo and tone. Every dynamic is used, so it's not just a matter of rising tension and release, it's a matter of true contrast. It's an unpredictable, frightening song, replete with a distant feedback and screaming outro that you shouldn't listen to if you're alone in your house. "Gauge" opens with a discordant, sludgy introduction that begins to take shape just as it ends, making way for a very clean, linear structure over which Noble and O'Neil layer cryptic words. "An anthem designed to take care of you", is how the song is described in the liner notes, and I tend to agree. "Gauge" is simpler and more melodic than most of the material on Rusty and there is a definite feeling that the song is an attempt to cope with loss. How better to accomplish healing than with passionate, abrasive art-rock? "Tooth Fairy Retribution Manifesto" begins with a battered music box and a considerably funky drumbeat, bringing to mind Noble's recent, excellent Permission project. The funk disappears and waves of distorted guitars crash through, loud but beautiful and soothing. A brief quietness ensues, making use of another unsettling vocal performance from O'Neil, and then come the riffs. A brisk, absolutely filthy groove drives the song forward. No blindsiding shifts, just a straight-ahead, ass-kicking track that ends explosively and unexpectedly. And sadly. Only one other person I know owns this album. I have still only read one review of it in my entire life, and that was when I was in tenth grade. If you don't own Rusty, you need to. Please buy it. Together we can teach people that the words "Slint" and "Rodan" do not represent the same things, that Rodan stood on their own, and that Rusty is indeed one of the finest independent albums ever released.

(source: StylusMagazine)

“Gorgeous, distinct movements, provoking tears with its beauty, paranoia with its dissonance, wonder with its whole…”

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Erase Errata "Nightlife" (Kill Rock Stars, 2006)

Artist: Erase Errata
Album: "Nightlife"
Release Date: July 25, 2006
Label: Kill Rock Stars
Genre: Experimental-Rock, Post-Punk, Indie-Rock, Riot-Grrrl
Mood: Aggresive, Cathartic, Whimsical, Visceral, Menacing
Reminds Of: Deerhoof, Chicks On Speed, Le Tigre
What People Think: DrownedInSound
Definitely Worth Buying: BuyOlympia, CdUniverse

1. Cruising
2. Hotel Suicide
3. Another Genius Idea From Our Government
4. Take You
5. Dust
6. Tax Dollar
7. Rider
8. Beacon
9. He Wants What's Mine
10. Giant Hans
11. Wasteland (In...A)
12. Night Life

Political pundits, when discussing the United States in relation to the rest of the world, like to frame things in a particular context. We are in a post-9/11 world, where American citizens hoard duct tape and look for suspicious crop dusters, where we are at war, the powers-that-be deliberately confused and conflated the reasons for this war, and the most prominent members of the fourth estate long avoided asking important questions. A few musicians have taken to asking some of these questions in their own work, with mixed results. Erase Errata-- frontwoman Jenny Hoyston in particular-- has never shied from topical issues, though a direct route from expression to meaning was rarely taken. But, as President Bush has said so many times, things change. Back in the day (2001, to be exact), Erase Errata were a four-piece quartet mixing and mashing together all sorts of skronk and skree to create a glorious racket reminiscent of a no-wave group going for the new-wave brass ring. Hoyston spit out imagistic lyrical fragments in a fashion that mirrored the fret work of both guitarist Sara Jaffe and bassist Ellie Erickson, while Bianca Sparta rumbled across her drumkit. They recorded two albums, they toured, they kicked ass. But they hit a speed bum when Jaffe decided to leave the group to attend graduate school. Hoyston took over on guitar, and while the group temporarily experimented with a new (male) singer, the remaining trio decided to go it alone, and spent two years trying to rediscover and, ultimately, redefine themselves. The result of that search is Nightlife, a focused and more powerful version of the group's scattershot aesthetic. While it's not a drastic departure from previous works, this album finds the group marshaling their powers to cut to the quick both musically and lyrically. Previously, Hoyston's voice was just another off-kilter instrument, joyously bounding about the racket her bandmates created. Her fragmented musics, while still audible, were often subsumed either by the ruckus, low production values, or megaphone static. Now, Hoyston's words are exacting and precise, and her voice is front and center. Eli Crews and especially Chris Woodhouse (a producer for the A-Frames) deserve credit for getting the new Erase Errata down on tape so successfully, working perfectly in tandem with Hoyston's lyrical approach. When she says “Yes, I really got away/ With murder, manslaughter/ All funded by my tax dollar,” or “They've got a law in the desert ...where everybody has a gun/ Everybody has a knife,” you hear what she's saying-- literally and metaphorically-- without question. Any advantages lost by Hoyston eschewing her trademark oblique phrasings are regained by the blunt impact of the words. In her most brilliantly simple moment, Hoyston gets monosyllabic on the lesbionic love song “Take You”. “I'm gonna take both of you/ To my secret cave,” she coos, subverting the clichéd caveman-dragging-girl image (and, by proxy, traditional gender roles) in multiple ways while the music behind her bangs and booms like rocks on logs. Even on more impressionistic songs like “Giant Hans” or “Cruising", Hoyston cuts to the quick. Hoyston's trumpet is also employed sparingly, but precisely-- it sets a mournful tone for the beginning of “Hotel Suicide”, and provides some recognizable bleats on “Another Genius Idea”. This less-is-more approach also applies to her work as a guitarist. While Jaffe played guitar in a showy fashion, Hoyston uses the instrument more often to accent the song with scrapes or brief squalls. Still, there are moments where she puts her foot on the monitor to shred, such as the Sabbath-like break in “Dust”. Nightlife, much more than the other Erase Errata records, is all about the rhythm section. If there's a guitar hero to be had on Nightlife, it's Erickson. Her off-kilter plucking and mangling, in tandem with Sparta's locked-down drumming, defines this album right from the beginning. It's to their credit that this mostly mournful or menacing-sounding album rises above its own morass. Sunshine and lollipops aren't in great supply when denouncing U.S. foreign policy or wiretapping programs, but the band's work on “Tax Dollar” and “Another Genius Idea” keeps the message from ossifying. Make no mistake, however-- there's a message to be had on this record, and it's hard to ignore. Erase Errata might not be as playful as they once were, but they're much better.

(source: PitchforkMedia)

"They've got a law in the desert / they've got a law to protect their children..."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Lesbians On Ecstasy "Lesbians On Ecstasy" (Alien8 Recordings, 2004)

Artist: Lesbians On Ecstasy
Album: "Lesbians On Ecstasy"
Release Date: October 24, 2004
Label: Alien8 Recordings
Genre: Queercore, Electroclash, Punk-Revival, Indie-Electronic, Riot-Grrrl
Mood: Irreverent, Fiery, Playful, Rousing
Reminds Of: Le Tigre, Kids On TV, Peaches, Chicks On Speed
What People Think: PopMatters
Definitely Worth Buying: CdUniverse, Amazon

1. Intro
2. Parachute Clubbing
3. Tell Me Does She Love The Bass
4. Pleasure Principal
5. Kunstant Kroving
6. Bitchsy
7. Closer To The Dark
8. Queens On Noise (Bring Da Bunny)
9. Revolt
10. Summer Love
11. Manipulation
12. Superdyke! (Live)

The Lezzies On X are a plunder music project, taking inspiration from the lesbian back catalogue by referencing folk artists and punk bands alike, re-writing lesbian history for the dance floor. They use the source material in a musical collage that crosses a wide spectrum of musical styles, all within the dance genre. One of their obsessions has been to develop their own way of playing dance music live, using an electronic drum kit, bass guitar and an array of synths. The insistence on such a strong technological presence in their music serves to highlight the absence of technology in the majority of lesbian music, which privileges acoustic sound as authentic lesbian expression. Lately, L.O.E. are keeping the same concept, but diving deeper into the lesbian vaults. The new recordings are focused on womyn's music from the 70s, in both content and style. They are using this as an opportunity to explore the idealism and optimism present in early feminist theory and music and examine the ways in which these themes have disintegrated today. The Lesbians on Ecstasy are making electronic music of the lesbian variety. It's K.d. Lang, but it's different somehow... Lesbo folk songs, rebel songs and beats for the modern lesbian. Straights and dudes love it too.

It sounds like the sort of high concept joke that's funny once -- maybe. Lesbians on Ecstasy, as their name suggests, take feminist rock classics from the past and retool them for the modern-day dance floor. But their album doesn't just take the Olivia Records catalog in toto and put a house beat behind it; Lesbians on Ecstasy is more clever and subversive than that. Rather than actually covering these songs, the quartet takes elements from them and twists them in sly, suggestive new directions: K.d. Lang's torchy classic "Constant Craving" turns into the ironic Laibach-style industrial stomp of "Kundstant Kroving," for example, and the Parachute Club's cheerleading "Rise Up" becomes the suggestively throbbing "Parachute Clubbing." The best of the lot is the creepy-sexy S/M take on Rough Trade's sexual politics primer "High School Confidential." Provocative on a level somewhere between, say, Le Tigre and Peaches, Lesbians on Ecstasy have created a noisy, gleefully sloppy brand of dance-punk with brains and humour.

(Source: AllMusicGuide)

In 2005, The Advocate magazine chose Lesbians On Ecstasy as their 'Number One Album Of The Year'.

Booty shaking dance hits that maintain a politically infused edge...

Monday, March 17, 2008

Wolf Eyes "Human Animal" (Sub Pop, 2006)

Artist: Wolf Eyes
Album: "Human Animal"
Release Date: September 26, 2006
Label: Sub Pop
Genre: Noise, Experimental, Industrial
Mood: Paranoid, Bleak, Ominous, Trippy
Reminds Of: Melt Banana, Hair Police, Nurse With Wound
What People Think: PitchforkMedia, AllMusicGuide, DustedMagazine
Definitely Worth Buying: Amazon, CdUniverse

1. A Million Years
2. Lake Of Roaches
3. Rationed Rot
4. Human Animal
5. Rusted Manage
6. Leper War
7. The Driller
8. Noise Not Music

Two years and millions of cases of Coors Light later, Wolf Eyes return to Sub Pop for another go at making a cohesive studio album. The band's new Sub Pop album, Human Animal, marks many casual fans' first exposure to Mike Connelly's contributions. In a move that prompted many to dub the group Hair Eyes or Wolf Police, the Wolf guys acquired Connelly from his Hair Police death after electronics ace Aaron Dilloway moved to Nepal with his girlfriend.Connelly spends the duration of the album ensuring that he is part of a triumvirate, not merely ducking under the spastic heroics of Young and Olson. He lends the slow-crawl, horror movie intensity and sense of suspense he exemplified on Hair Police's excellent knife-'em-up Constantly Terrified. His awareness of space and ability to sketch warped aural underworlds complement Olson and Young's face-melting percussive-corroded sonic attacks. As a result, Human Animal has more of the same creative muscle-flexing as Burned Mind, but is a distinctly different animal – one that does not show its teeth immediately.Whereas Burned Mind would lead you down a darkened path just to hit you in the face with a Louisville Slugger like "Stabbed in the Face," Human Animal chooses to build on the mood and charge at the right time. The disc starts with "A Million Years," which maintains the same stalker-esque pulse of Burned Mind, but the threat seems more real and lingering. It is as if Michael Meyers is in the building, but no one knows where. When Connelly's piercing, tortured scream appears at the end of the corridor and Olson's reed wails to emphasize the confrontation, the mood is set."Rationed Riot," the disc's third tune, finds the destruction unit delving in dense atmospherics, while Nate Young rattles off killer beat poetry about sewage rats and generally horrific degradation. It is another tone-setting menace guiding the band through frightening netherworld swamps. The unstable mood seems to be steadily building to some sort of eerie sonic murder.It is not until the title-track that the band melds their slasher-flick sludge with Burned Mind's sheer brutality. Their subtlety pays off on "Human Animal," and their offensive proves more effective; the "song" is a direct kick to the gut. "Rusted Manage" is a prickly ball-of-hate, complete with lots of hideous screeches and a drum machine pulsation akin to the rapid fire of an M-16. The tune is so devastatingly claustrophobic it feels as if Young is trapped in a studio box with spiders and leeches attacking from all sides. The album ends with a cover of No Fucker's classic "Noise Not Music," a sonic statement from the band. The song melds the Wolf guys' classic B-movie soundscapes with power violence hardcore. Connelly's screams punctuate Olson's manic old man vocals."Noise Not Music" is a prime example of the band's aesthetic of "Fuck art, let's have fun." However, it is also a reminder that, although highly advanced from early pioneers like The New Blockaders and Merzbow, the noise "genre" still has quite a ways to go. Human Animal is arguably one of the best sonic statements in the entirety of the "noise" sub-genre, yet it is still not canonized, classic material. As many repeat listens as this album and many others in the vast Wolf Eyes catalog warrant, the band still has not made an album that transcends its niche market or serves as an undeniable classic from the critic's vantage, like Slayer's Reign in Blood. Human Animal is, however, as close to perfect as a noise album can be, and one gets the feeling that the Wolf dudes are going to keep chipping away until they create their Reign in Blood.


“Human Animal comes off as a less directly brutal assault than its predecessor. It sounds a hell of a lot better cranked to ten, though, its contours more explicit, the sounds sharpened to a steely point.” [STYLUS MAGAZINE]

“For Human Animal, Wolf Eyes have stepped back from pure violence, bringing in some of the old cinematic features while retaining pieces of the vicious nature that has served them well.” [NEUMU.NET]

“A near-perfect balance of industrial threat, hardcore power and black comedy. [UNCUT, Oct 2006, p.134]

“This is a punishing record that manages to be both incredibly dense and yet highly listenable.” [DELUSIONS OF ADEQUACY]

At the same time you contort, squirm and surge toward the non-music, your spirit somehow gets the message…

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Ghost "In Stormy Nights" (Drag City, 2007)

Artist: Ghost
Album: "In Stormy Nights"
Release Date: 23 January, 2007
Label: Drag City
Genre: Experimental, Avant-Garde, Drone, Psych-Folk, Neo-Psychedelia
Mood: Hypnotic, Druggy, Indulgent, Literate
Reminds Of: Damon & Naomi, Sweet & Honey, Pearls Before Swine
What People Think:
StylusMagazine, SputnikMusic, PitchforkMedia
Definitely Worth Buying: Boomkat, Amazon

1. Motherly Bluster
2. Hemicyclic Anthelion
3. Water Door Yellow Gate
4. Gareki No Toshi
5. Caledonia
6. Grisaille

Japan's Ghost has always been a truly enigmatic kind of rock band. From the beginning, they've only recorded when they felt it was necessary, and only when they had something utterly new to say. In other words, there isn't a set Ghost sound. They turn themselves inside out on each recording, and no two sound the same. In Stormy Nights is no exception. It is as different from 2004's Hypnotic Underworld as it was from 1999's Snuffbox Immanence and its completely separate companion album released on the same day. Ghost can play everything from strange mystical folk music -- notice the gorgeous Celtic-Asian flavor of "Motherly Bluster" that opens this set -- to flipped out, spaced out psychedelic rock; give a listen to the cover of "Caledonia" by freak noise rockers Cromagnon, and get your head ripped open. The centerpiece of this set is the completely genre exploding "Hemicyclic Anthelion," clocking in at over 28 minutes. This cut was taken from numerous live performances and edited together by Ghost's spiritual leader and guitarist Masaki Batoh, who has spearheaded Ghost's direction since 1984. It is a series of sonic universes showcasing all the elements of Ghost's sound from folk to noise to free improv, feedback drone, and psych terrorism, and never loses its momentum despite its utter self-indulgence. Merzbow, John Zorn, the Holy River Family Band and Derek Bailey would all be proud. The sheer staccato piano, guitar, synth and drum workout that follows it in "Water Door Yellow Gate" is, conversely, a tautly scored song, where the riff is monotonous, played as a simple set of chords carved from the lower eight keys of the piano. With numerous layered typmpanis washing out middling noise textures and roiling, razored electric guitars played by Michio Kurihara haunting the background, a chorus of backing vocals underscore Batoh's voice like an opera choir in a horror film while a constantly throbbing and pulsing bassline by Takuyuki Moriya wrenches up the tension. Conversely "Gareki No Toshi" is the piece's mirror image. No less a formalist construct, its shouted -- not sung -- vocals are relegated to the background and are distorted, almost buried under waves of seductive synth wash (courtesy of Kazuo Ogino), guitar feedback, bashed drums (Junzo Tateiwa) and a syntactical cadence that inverts the entire sequence in another key. It's remarkable how seamlessly the two pieces fit. The album closes with the gentle medieval sounding folk that is "Grisalle." A crystal clear acoustic guitar played by Batoh and his voice in its lower register is supported by Taishi Takizawa's flutes, Kurihara, and sonic atmospheres courtesy of the rest of the band with beautiful muted tympani pacing the verse; it's as gorgeous a psychedelic folk ballad as one is likely to hear and sends the entire thing out on a cracked, spacious wail as Kurihara's guitar and Ogino's analog synth carry it out. The rest of the band checks in -- especially that deep contrabass of Moriya's -- to make sure the thing stays on the earth. In Stormy Nights is another step. It walks out further than before, and yet, its melodic sensibilities, harmonic invention, and sonic exploration are utterly accessible to any listener willing to approach it with an open mind. Since Ghost has no set sound, there can be no "best" Ghost recording; they all appeal differently. This one is no exception, but it is a work of absolute beauty, chaos, seductive darkness and cosmic light.

(source: AllMusicGuide)

"The intense grandeur... is still quite a shock". [UNCUT, Feb 2007, p.73]

"Through its overarching range, it ably balances silence with noise, restraint with reckless abandon". [Cokemachineglow]

"An ecstatic, angry, gorgeously mournful manifesto". [SPIN, Jan 2007, p.89]

"On In Stormy Nights, Ghost does what they do best--compress decades of psychedelic and avant-garde music into a modern melange that will please fans from the folk end of the spectrum to the harshest of noiseniks". [UNDER THE RADAR, #16, p.99]

"Ghost are soundtracking a fresh, modern hell". [MOJO, Mar 2007, p.99]

Everything is clutched in the smog that daily covers our head, arithmetic balances fasten the extremes and all goes around that abyss…

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Pierre Bensusan "Intuite" (Favored Nations, 2001)

Artist: Pierre Bensusan
Album: "Intuite"
Release Date: February 11, 2001
Label: Favored Nations
Genre: Chamber-Jazz, Instrumental, World-Fusion, Neo-Classical
Mood: Reflective, Sweet, Warm, Refined
Reminds Of: Al Di Meola, Pat Metheny
What People Think: BridgeGuitarReviews
Definitely Worth Buying: Amazon, CdUniverse

1. Kadourimbou
2. The Welsh Arrow
3. So Long Michael
4. Intuite
5. Bouree Voltige
6. Le Jardin d' Adonis
7. La Hora Espanola
8. L' Alchimiste
9. Agadiramadan
10. En Route From Scarborough
11. Silent Passenger

For his first all-solo, all-instrumental, all-acoustic album, French fingerstyle guitar virtuoso Pierre Bensusan found himself signed to Favored Nations, a label owned by rock & roll stunt guitarist Steve Vai. It may not be an obvious pairing, but Vai has long been a fan of Bensusan's elegant and pancultural approach to the guitar, and with Intuite he offers Bensusan a warm, resonant ambience in which to stretch out. As you might expect, the compositions refer to any number of guitar traditions -- "Kadourimdou" nods to the blues before veering off into samba rhythms and a wholly unique combination of folk and jazz inflections; "En Route From Scarborough" (dedicated to fellow fingerstyle guitar hero John Renbourn) inverts the melody to "Scarborough Fair" and explores a whole new world of variations on that familiar theme; the sweet and melancholy "So Long Michael" (dedicated to the late Michael Hedges) comes from no single tradition in particular, but is a gentle soul cry inspired by the untimely death of a genius. Like most of Bensusan's work, this album can function as background music, but it would be a shame not to pay attention to the wit of his ideas and the grace of his playing.


"Pierre Bensusan is the most creative energy in the world of steel string guitar by far." William Piburn (Fingerstyle Guitar Magazine-USA)

"Intuite stands as the finest, most artistic and passionate example of anything composed and recorded on the instrument. I am amazed at every phrase, every turn, every nuance. But then again, consider the source! I couldn't mean that more..." John Schroeter/Fingerstyle Guitar Mag. (USA)

Distinctions: AFIM Award for Best Acoustic Instrumental Album (USA) - Guitar Album of the Year ROOTS (UK) - Album of the Week JOURNAL DE MONTREAL (Canada) - Best Albums GUITARIST MAGAZINE (UK) - Ein wahres Juwel OWL AM SONNTAG (Germany) - Bravo!!! TRAD MAG (France)

Abstract fingerprints under the brushes of Claude Monet...

Friday, March 14, 2008

Converge "Jane Doe" (Equal Vision, 2001)

Artist: Converge
Album: "Jane Doe"
Release Date: September 4, 2001
Label: Equal Vision
Genre: Metalcore, Post-Hardcore, Hardcore-Punk
Mood: Nihilistic, Menacing, Hostile, Malevolent
Reminds Of: Cave In, New Idea Society, Canephora
What People Think: AllMusicGuide, SputnikMusic, LambGoat
Definitely Worth Buying: Play, CdUniverse

1. Concubine
2. Fault And Fracture
3. Distance And Meaning
4. Hell To Pay
5. Homewrecker
6. The Broken Vow
7. Bitter And Then Some
8. Heaven In Her Arms
9. Phoenix In Flight
10. Phoenix In Flames
11. Thaw
12. Jane Doe

The Pitchfork Global Positioning System Satellite tells me that most of you are in the northern hemisphere. As such, it's summer, and you need a good metal album. Jane Doe wasn't released this year, but sometimes you've got to pay dues when they're owed. And Converge might not exactly be heavy metal, either. They got their start in their hometown of Boston in the early nineties, playing covers of their favorite punk and hardcore songs. The blistering fusion unit they've evolved into has been called many things-- hardcore metal, math metal, metalcore-- but they could be ultra-core for all I care. Let's ignore the niceties. Converge is a smart, aggressive, brutal quintet, and Jane Doe will kick your ass repeatedly until it leaves its long imprint in your flabby buttflesh.The album opens in a throttling surge of bass and drums courtesy of "Concubine." If you're not familiar with this kind of music you might be blown back by the apocalyptic screech of frontman Jacob Bannon's vocals. It's clear with each gritty blast that the guy is screaming out his lungs for you. Naturally, you can't follow a single word but the vox bleed into the furious guitars and it's all acidic corrosion. With the emphasis lately on Fennesz and the pixilated laptop set, it's easy to forget that there's whole realms of sound to be found in the lethal decay of metal guitar's radioactive isotopes. In less than a minute-and-a-half, this song churns from a murderously fast-paced midsection to a slow stomp and back to a breakneck pace."Fault and Fracture" picks up seamlessly where the last left off. Once again, the instruments lose their origins, blending in sonic onslaught. Ben Koller's harsh yet amazingly nuanced drumming ties it all together, and the one standout are these hilarious metal trills that peal out from the guitar. Until you reach "Distance and Meaning," it's not clear where the hardcore influence lies. The band slows the pace just enough so you can understand Bannon snarling, "That's where they die, that's where they suicide," amongst the lines wrought by the wiry rhythm. Jane Doe weaves different weights of heavy music together like this, careful to keep the listener interested.As the album moves on, you realize that Converge aren't just showing off their impressive stylistic range; they're telling a story. "Homewrecker" reaches an awesome peak as Bannon's "No love! No hope!" chorus transmutes to a howl so searing that even veteran scenehounds will be looking for a pit to flail around in. But it's during the tug-of-war vocal trades on "The Broken Vow" that the tale solidifies, one of missed phone calls, old bridges being burned, and lost love. The narrative builds up again and climaxes with "Phoenix in Flight," which begins as a mournful dirge but soon sweeps up through a series of blazing guitar lines that make the elegy even more powerful. You get the sense that the mysterious female mentioned in the lyrics reaches apotheosis with "Phoenix in Flames," an absolute cataclysm of noise that sounds like contact mics were stuffed in a bass drum and tossed down the side of a mountain.At the end you think back, scratch your head and wonder what the hell it was you listened to. Ultimately, Converge resists easy taxonomy; they're not going to play into that guy's game of "Who's Metal?" As it is, the artwork is strangely concerned with women. A series of faces arise out of stippled dots, all black-ringed eyes and pouty lips vamping from behind the cover of lyric text printed across the page. Is the message that this woman is just like any other, now that she's lost to him? The archetype is unsettling, but no more so than applauding as success the picture of a woman removing her burqa in a country still overrun by thugs and warlords. At least anonymity won't curse Converge for long with an album like this so full of intelligence, skill and intensity that it's simply masterful. Otherwise, I don't know what to call it. That's probably a good thing.

(source: PitchforkMedia)

The final picture of the puzzle is placed and the picture is complete...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Aube "Cardiac Strain" (Alien8 Recordings, 1997)

Artist: Aube
Album: "Cardiac Strain"
Release Date: February 1st, 1997
Label: Alien8 Recordings
Genre: Avant-Garde, Experimental, Noise, Abstract
Mood: Uncompromising, Harsh, Intense, Volatile
Reminds Of: Government Alpha, Bastard Noise, Merzbow
What People Think: RYM
Definitely Worth Buying: Alien8Recordings

1. Steal Up
2. Infatuation
3. Cardiotonica
4. Angina Cordis
5. Core-Strain
6. Vent

Akifumi Nakajima's Aube project has amassed a lengthy discography, most entries realizing the maximum capacity for audio variation from a minimum of sampled input (in many cases, a single sound source). Influenced by space rock and musique concrète, Nakajima began recording in 1980 but released nothing until a decade later, when he produced music for an art installation given by a group of friends. Since the installation involved water, he decided to use appropriately watery sounds for the music. Nakajima's first Aube release came in 1991, when the Japanese noise label Vanilla released his cassette LP Hydrophobia. Quite a few more water-related recordings followed, and Nakajima soon began branching out by using varied sources such as field recordings, the hum from fluorescent lamps, human voices, brain waves, heartbeats, even pages being ripped from a Bible. He has recorded for Staalplaat, Manifold, Charnel Music, Pure, Iris Light and the Grand Rapids-based upstart Elsie & Jack Records. Nakajima also operates a cassette-only label named G.R.O.S.S. that has released several albums of Aube material. In 1999 the album Evocation was added and a year later Aube closely released, Richochentrance and Blood Brain Barrier, respectively.

While Akifumi Nakajima of Aube not only creates a rather diverse selection of noise works (generally he gravitates more toward ambient than full-blast harsh noise), he also uses some very unique sound sources. This release, as the name implies, is created solely from the human heartbeat, although one wouldn't guess it at first. Distinct heartbeat sounds are heard, but much of the album distorts and twists these sounds beyond recognition. Cardiac Strain is among his noisiest albums. A typical track starts off barely audible until Nakajima either shocks the listener with an ear-shattering burst of rhythmic noise, or until the track eases into things and culminates in a point of pure chaos. Either way, this is a great album, considered by many to be one of his best.

(source: AllMusicGuide)

“If you’re getting a message about the heart being the devil’s organ, or the pit of hell, your brain is ready to endure this album, it’s red flooded sleeve and all.” Carl Wilson, Hour Magazine.

“The six tracks are so creatively processed that it is a shame that those in the electro-acoustic ivory tower will never hear it.” Chris Twomey, Exclaim.

All composed, Mixed, Recorded And Designed By Akifumi Nakajima At Studio MECCA, Kyoto Japan November 1996 – January 1997.

Limited Edition 666.

A guided tour to the human circulatory system…

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Nymphomatriarch "Nymphomatriarch" (Hymen Records, 2003)

Artist: Nymphomatriarch
Album: "Nymphomatriarch"
Release Date: May 2003
Label: Hymen Records
Genre: IDM, Breakcore, Glitch
Mood: Energetic, Trippy, Complex, Volatile
Reminds Of: Venetian Snares, Hecate, Kid606, Doormouse
What People Think: Cokemachineglow, PitchforkMedia
Definitely Worth Buying: InSound, Indietective

1. Input
2. Blood On The Rope
3. Amaurophilia
4. Hymen Tramp Choir
5. Pervs
6. Outlet

The creative process that resulted in Nymphomatriarch is unavoidably eye-catching – Venetian Snares and Hecate had sex, recorded it, and made an album. It’s easy to be skeptical about the artistic necessity of projects like this, at least in terms of their presentation on a public scale. However, the premise in this case is far too juicy to be written off without being given a chance. As jaded as our popular culture has made us, Nymphomatriarch leaves Reign In Blood-era Slayer sounding tame and innocent, and that alone merits at least one listen. Hecate is Rachael Kozak, who first began composing dark electronic music in the mid-’90s and has adhered to a die-hard DIY attitude ever since. She has released music on Zod, Praxis, and primarily her own Zhark Records, which she founded in 1996. Last year saw the release of Hecate’s first full-length, The Magick of Female Ejaculation which displayed her penchant for creepy atmospherics and pounding, heavily distorted breaks. The obscenely prolific Venetian Snares, a.k.a. Aaron Funk, has put forth far too many releases at far too alarming a rate for any but the truly obsessed to keep track of, on labels such as Planet-Mu, Hymen and Isolate. In the last year or two he has grown into an international superstar on the post-jungle/breakcore scene (not exactly selling out arenas yet, but give him time). His superhuman release schedule has drawn him a good deal of attention, but his reputation owes most of its weight to his creative touch with faster-than-jungle jungle breaks, as well as his obsessively detailed and exceptionally dynamic compositional style. The premise of Nymphomatriarch is hard to ignore. The question is whether or not it can hold up beyond mere voyeuristic novelty, and intellectually speaking there is definitely some interesting material lurking beneath the Triple-X camp exterior. Unlike pornography, which objectifies people (read: women) and dulls the sexual imagination, the music on Nymphomatriarch does just the opposite. Sex is transformed and glorified through the imagination (that this is a collaborative effort is especially important to this point), and the end result is a sound world that stands on its own and yet is not alienated from its source. There are no images, thus no bodies to objectify. The track title “Amaurophelia” seems to play on this – the word can’t be found in Webster’s, but it probably refers to blindness as a mode of erotic fantasy. Perhaps it is a bit of inside information regarding one of the music’s creators, but the word applies at least as much to the listener. Musically, Nymphomatriarch is six tracks and a delightful 35 minutes. Though not much attention seems to have been paid to song structure, most of the music on Nymphomatriarch points towards a very clear sense of purpose. All the sounds are crafted to fall within a well-articulated and coherent sonic vision, and the sheer number of different sounds used is impressive to say the least. The album opens with the short, ambient “Input”, wittily associating hardware cable connections and sexual penetration: it is a new-age synth tone with a slimy underbelly, chasing its tail around delay effects through empty space. The sense of unnerving isolation on “Input” establishes a relentless eeriness that underpins the entire album. The percussive possibilities of sex are surprisingly vast. “Blood on the Rope” bristles with trademark Venetian Snares beats – awesomely fast, delightfully syncopated, hard, crisp, and programmed in 10/8 time. Only in this case the hits sound less like Amen snares than bare skin smacking against skin. Providing sonic (and erotic) juxtaposition to the staccato percussion assault, breathy vocalizations dart out of the empty spaces, their tonal characteristics heavily emphasized, while a dirty bass tone oozes slowly along the bottom following no fixed pattern. The production is quite subtle in many cases, creating a surrealist dream world that is drastically alien, yet never totally unrecognizable. Like “Blood on the Rope”, “Amaurophilia” and “Pervs” reflect Venetian Snares’ compulsive efforts to work outside of 4/4 time. “Amaurophilia” resonates with the sound of bodily fluids, sticky flesh and natural lubrication, a dubby bassline and a beat that sounds like Top 40 R&B in 14/8. All the beats ring of violence, but “Pervs” is especially sadistic. A brief early pause in the rhythmic onslaught is punctuated by a mumbling male voice asking, “Am I torturing you?” The question gets no answer before the pummeling beat breaks loose again, interspersed this time not with breathy ‘Oh’s’ but startled grunts and groans that walk a line between pleasure and pain. The beat drops out for some time and the album’s only real dialogue appears in the mix. The male voice returns, asking, “Does that hurt?” This time a female voice replies, “Yes.” The fine line is very apparent, taboo is ruthlessly taunted – the male voice asks, “Are you having a hard time with that?” to which the female voice answers with a “No” that devolves into thick laughter before the final, most hair-raisingly brutal percussion assault elicits cries of truly alarming pain. A sense of retaliatory cultural violence is essential to the breakcore scene, but the violence present on Nymphomatriarch is of a far more personal sort, the vulnerable humanity of its object amplified by the unshakable control and mechanical precision of the syncopated beats and sub-bass resonances. This is no conceptual violence – whereas much breakcore applies distortion to the drums (and everything else for that matter) to convey its sense of hostile abandon, it is vastly more unnerving to know that the beats rattling your speakers this time around are made from actual recorded collisions of flesh. “Hymen Tramp Choir,” stretching out at the heart of the album, is 14 minutes of haunting beatless ambience. It is certainly a surprising inclusion, in that it comprises nearly half the music on Nymphomatriarch, and if you are the sort of listener who wants the product to be focused, honed, and refined, with all unnecessary baggage left on the hard drive, you’ll probably find this particular selection a little off-putting. However, it would be my guess that no one who knowingly purchases this album is easily put off by anything. In exchange for a bit of patience, “Hymen Tramp Choir” vividly conjures a shadowy demon’s lair filled with unearthly gurgles and a mournful distant cry that may be a victim or may be the beast itself. Unfortunately, patience wears thin on repeated listening – my strongest criticism is that the album would feel less like a document, albeit a highly involved one, and more like a fully realized work of art if this sort of extended, absorbing ambience had been woven into the beat-driven tracks rather than left as one huge slab lying in their midst. For fans of Hecate or Venetian Snares, Nymphomatriarch is not to be missed. The first few listens are guaranteed to enthrall, especially for those who are beginning to want a change of pace from distortion, distortion, and more distortion. Beyond the shock value of those first few listens, there are indeed more rewards to be had here – though the compositional structures themselves seem to have gotten short shrift, the source material makes for some of the most surreal listening of recent memory on a purely sonic level, and the beats are hot enough to stop you in your tracks the moment they kick in. If, on the other hand, you are entirely new to the world of post-jungle speed breaks and are unfamiliar with both Hecate and Venetian Snares, Nymphomatriarch would make for the most bizarre introduction imaginable to the world of two already bizarre musicians. But who knows, that might be fun too.


"…anal and oral sex, straightforward copulation, and 'microphone insertion.'"

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Apparat Organ Quartet "Apparat Organ Quartet" (12 Tonar, 2002)

Artist: Apparat Organ Quartet
Album: "Apparat Organ Quartet"
Release Date: 2002
Label: 12 Tonar
Genre: Indie-Electronic, Post-Rock, Synth-Pop, Ambient-Pop
Mood: Spacey, Ambitious, Whimsical, Theatrical
Reminds Of: Kraftwerk, Stereolab, The Hafler Trio
What People Think: Boomkat
Definitely Worth Buying: Amazon, Boomkat

1. Romantika
2. Stereo Rock & Roll
3. The Anguish Of Space-Time
4. Cruise Control
5. Ondula Nova
6. Global Capital
7. Seremonia
8. Charlie Tango #2
9. Sofdu Litla Vel

Apparat Organ Quartet is a part of a closely knit collection of musicians working in Reykjavik. Often involved with the activities of the TMT Entertainment label and Kitchen Motors (Apparat member Johann Johannsson is a founding member of Kitchen Motors). This extremely active and vibrant scene includes members of Sigur Ros, Mum, Kanada, Trabant, Borko, Big Band Brutal and others. Some of these bands share members and frequently collaborate on other music and art projects. Apparat Organ Quartet is basically a band that consists of 4 men, operating ancient, highly customized electric music machines, including various cheap home organs, Farfisas and Russian synthesizers, with the help of a trusty old drum set. All of it's members are well known in the Icelandic music community for their previous work. Hordur Bragason, is a former associate of Austrian artist Hermann Nitsch. Johann Johannsson is considered one of Iceland's best producers, having worked with Marc Almond, Jonsi (the singer from Sigur Ros), The Hafler Trio, Barry Adamson, Pan Sonic, Stilliuppsteypa and mum. Ulfur Eldjarn is no stranger to the Icelandic music community as he is a member of great local band KANADA. Finally, there's Musikvatur, who has also collaborated with mum and enjoys sawing home organs in half and jumping into harbors. Together they play rhapsodic, austere, mechanical, mysterious and strangely beautiful elektro-pop elegies, inspired by Steve Reich, Glam Rock, Mahler, 70's horror soundtracks and Karlheinz Stockhausen. Apparat Organ Quartet has performed live at numerous places around Europe (often on tours arranged by the Icelandic art organization Kitchen Motors, among others, mum). They've also played at prestigious festivals such as the Holland Festival and the infamous Roskilde Festival in Denmark and are considered one of Iceland's most promising live acts today. Apparat Organ Quartet describe their music as machine rock and roll. Other people have described it as a mixture of Kraftwerk, Trans Am, Stereolab, mum, Iron Maiden and Italian horror film soundtracks!!!

"Apparat Organ Quartet has grown into a phenomenal force, playing soul-stringly portentous mechanical music, equal parts progressive rock and horror film soundtrack, remincent of older acts like Kraftwerk and Goblin and meticulous as Sigu Tose but who sound nothing like it."
Neil Strauss - New York Times

"A pulsing electronic drone.. .... hints of Kraftwerk, Wagner, Sigur Ros's and terrifying prog rock bands from the dark ages"
Ian Watson - NME

"An otherworldly fusion of Spiritualised and Static and very full stage"

"A highlight of the cd... Terry Reilly meets Stereolab"
The Wire

"Now this you have to like... ....deadpan Icelanders playing like a clockwork replica of the Glitter Band intoning the vocodered slogan "Stereo Rock & Roll" like a catechism"
The Guardian


Vocodered slogan: "Machine Rock 'n' Roll" ! ! !

Friday, March 7, 2008

Cex "Oops, I Did It Again!" (Tigerbeat6, 2001)

Artist: Cex
Album: "Oops, I Did It Again"
Release Date: October 12, 2001
Label: Tigerbeat6
Genre: IDM, Experimental-Techno, Ambient-Techno, Glitch
Mood: Hunorous, Aggressive, Messy, Harsh
Reminds Of: Kid606, Boards Of Canada, Aphex Twin, Autechre
What People Think: AllMusicGuide
Definitely Worth Buying: Amazon

1. (You're Off) The Food Chain
2. Eleven Million Dollars Worth Of Bearer Bonds
3. Destination: Sexy
4. First For Wounds
5. I Said It Knowing Full Well I Had No Intention Of Doing It
6. Texas Menstruates
7. It's All About Guilt
8. Flex On Cex, Eh
9. I Don't Think You Do Sin, Julia
10. Florida (Is Shaped Like A Big Droopy Dick For A Reason)
11. OD'd On First Base
12. Keep Pretending
13. Not Trying
14. After #4 Matrix Sndtrk. Rob D 'Clubbed To Death'

Cex is an interesting guy. Not only does he never play any of his recorded material live (from what I've read, in any case), he also freestyles, plays mic stands like they were trombones, and really gets the crowd to participate. Which is why, after buying his CD Oops, I Did It Again!, I was so surprised. You see, it's not the iMac driven hip-hop he was busting loose onstage. No, it's... it's completely different! There's hardly a trace of hip-hop, besides some of the beats he uses; it's mostly skittish electronics with warm guitar sounds and drones overtop. And is that a good thing? Hell yeah. The album starts and ends on a melancholy note. From the a cappella tape recording of Cex (also known as Rjyan Kidwell) singing to the home recorded message left by a girl right before graduation; it's pretty poignant. Again, the first track, "(You're) Off the Food Chain" is about as organic and sad as they come, with Cex singing "Tar baby I know you look at me/I look at you/I think you're pretty, and tar baby/I know you're on a pedestal/up high in the garden, and I'm down in the mud below." About halfway through he stops singing, and a guitar comes in. He soon begins to manipulate his voice, sampling bits and pieces of what he's just sung. It's amazing. The last track, on the other hand, is simply depressing. On a tape recorder a girl says, "I don't know if you can hear me, because I'm talking in a headset and my voice is kind of morphed because of it. [...] I just figured this would be a really lame way of telling you I like you, in person or on the phone or something, but telling you on tape, which is probably worse than all of that put together." This continues for maybe a minute, and it really sums up the album well. What's in the middle of the album, between those two songs, fluctuates between funny, happy, depressing, and a whole bunch of other emotions that I can't really think of or put into words right at the moment. The song "I Said it Knowing Full Well I Had No Intention of Doing It" combines washes of ambient texture and guitar figures to create something that's really beautiful. I'd go as far as to say it's my favourite song on the album (either that or "(You're) Off the Food Chain"), and it functions well as a more relaxed break from all of the electro-beats. Next is "Texas Menstruates," which is as funky as "I Said it..." was somber. Another noteworthy item within Oops, I Did it Again! is Cex's bizarre sense of humour. Not only do the liner notes depict Rjyan brutally killing a woman and disposing of the evidence (yeah, I know!). No, there's also a skit (wherein Cex assumes both of the voices of a mother and daughter arguing about "the naked man cooking eggs in the kitchen"), and song titles ("Flex on Cex," "Florida (Is Shaped Like a Big Droopy Dick for a Reason)", the album title). It doesn't get much better than that. So, I guess you'd say I really dig this, even though I was misled with his awesome live performance. When I saw him during his tour with the Dismemberment Plan, in London, Ontario, he got a pretty cold response from the crowd. Frankly, that surprised me. His show was so energetic and fun that I'm surprised more people didn't get up. Then again, when it was a club filled with kids there to see Death Cab for Cutie, I guess it's not all that surprising that they didn't completely fall for a skinny white guy freestyling about Sweden, riding bikes, Chess, and Osama bin Laden. Nonetheless, this record is triple-t hottt, and I highly recommend it.


"The naked man cooking eggs in the kitchen..."