Saturday, November 28, 2009
Raoul Duke posted "Trout Mask Replica" awhile ago (here) and now I give you one of my personal faves from the Cap, the twofer of "The Spotlight Kid" and "Clear Spot".
Mike Keane's occultism-preoccupied outfit was one of the most mercurial, distant acts in Factory's roster. Closer in spirit to Current 93, Coil or Zos Kia, nevertheless they show the relationships betwee those acts and groups like Biting Tongues, 23 Skidoo and The Pop Group.
"Although The Royal Family And The Poor formed in 1978 it took six years for an album to be released. By that time the band consisted of Liverpool's Mike Keane; an uncompromising talent who obviously benefitted from having Peter Hook on hand for production duties. The 1980 releases included here as bonuses are uncontrolled noise; rallying cries against politics set to industrial background which made Cabaret Voltaire's early material sound like easy listening. The album itself - entitled 'Temple Of The 13th Tribe' was of an altogether higher standard with Keane even verging towards melodies on 'Discipline' and 'Motherland'. Keane is in most impressive form on 'Voices', 'Moonfish Is Here' and 'Radio Egypt'; each one an outstanding cut of nightmarish, post-punk brilliance; building up slowly and irresistably to a sinister conclusion. Also worth a mention is the depressing love song 'I Love You (Restrained In A Moment)', 'Power Of Will' where the arrangement mirrors Hook's work with his New Order day job and the Department S-aping 'Dark And Light'. Keane's work might prove to be a little too insular and dark for some but there are rich rewards to be had for the persistent." - LL
Swans' own siren of despair transmits her implacable beauty through this powerful set.
"The rest of the album is a journey through myriad musical styles and human emotions. The title track evokes medieval Europe in its instrumentation, while the lyrics and twisted singing evoke intense despair, through imagery like "a velvet box of his disease" and "fishes eating up to my skull". "The Cage" is repetitive industrial dirge, all droning guitars and sparse percussion. "Sinner" is gentle folk guitars giving way to orchestral doom and gloom. "Not Noah's Ark" is a collage of guttural groans and ear-piercing screams, punctuated by a short, disturbing narrative at its end. Perhaps most telling is "Circles in Red Dirt", a spoken-word piece with a protagonist named "Michel" (French for, what else, "Michael"), a tale of an intimate relationship always tinged with knives and hues of red. Various noisy bits provide transition, giving the album a cohesive, if slightly schizophrenic feel.
Anhedoniac is an intensely personal work of art, the sort of album that serves as something of a diary of its creator. In fact, it's personal to the point of being awfully close to uncomfortable to listen to; the musical ideas are always original and often very well-done, but they invariably take a back seat (we're talking third row here) to the various manifestations of Jarboe's voice and lyrics. It's an incredibly difficult, yet largely fulfilling listen, the sort of album that's bound to leave its target audience exhausted and satisfied. If you're the type of listener who values human emotion over things like beats and melodies, Anhedoniac will be intensely rewarding. For anyone else, caveat emptor." - Mike Schiller
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
More Ayers for Mr. Antojao. Enjoy.
"In 1973, or thereabouts, Nico, Mike Oldfield, Mike Ratledge (from the Soft Machine), Michael Giles (ex-King Crimson), Geoff Richardson (from Caravan) and many others lined up to help Kevin Ayers with his final stab at greatness, THE CONFESSIONS OF DR DREAM, which was released in 1974.
Until that time, Ayers' solo albums had been a mixture of cheerful pop ditties, psychedelic experiments, and sultry ballads that particularly suited the artist's deep bass voice. But DR DREAM turned out to be a different kettle of fish.
The A-Side contains as perfect a sequence of songs as you can imagine. 'Day by Day', the funky opener (with superb backing vocals by Doris Troy and other soul singers), is followed by a brief (but philosophical!) acoustic mini-song, which leads straight into the album's rocking tour de force, "Didn't feel lonely till I thought of you", one of Kevin's all-time classics, with fiery lead guitar by Ollie Halsall. Poetic relief is then provided by a dreamy blues song with a terribly long title (typically Ayers) and with a crystalline guitar solo by Mike Oldfield. I'm not an Oldfield nut, but I guarantee all prog freaks that this superb solo alone warrants purchase of the album. The best is yet to come, though, for Ayers (almost) concludes the A-side with a souped-up version of his signature tune, "Why are we sleeping?", the original of which can be found on the Soft Machine's debut album. Utterly bombastic, by turns scary, furious and funny, this track contains a louche night club interlude (with sax provided by Lol Coxhill) and a grandiose church organ-driven climax. To reduce the horror, and send the listener to bed with a smile, Ayers has it all followed up with the brief but unforgettable "Ballbearing blues".
It's on the B-side, however, that the nightmare really begins. Intertwined acoustic guitars, eerie sound effects, Michael Ratledge's fuzz organ and Nico's spooky vocals dominate the first section in a multi-movement suite that can be interpreted as a warning against the self-delusion of young lovers, the dangers involved in taking too many drugs, or both. The middle section of this suite is dominated by some delightfully jazzy electric piano, and the final riff is so dark, long drawn-out and menacing that it will haunt you for days. But once again, Kevin refuses to leave the listener with a curse, and he concludes the album with "Two goes into four", one of his loveliest acoustic ballads.
Anyone interested in the so-called Canterbury Scene, or in British psychedelic rock, will find this album invaluable. Everyone else will find it an excellent addition to their collection." - Fuxi
For Howard. Ayers and group in top form.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Opal was: David Roback (Rain Parade, Mazzy Star) and Kendra Smith (Dream Syndicate, has also recorded a couple of great solo albums).
"At once drowsy, psychedelic, entrancing, and possessed of a sinuous spark, Happy Nightmare Baby may have been Opal's only album but deserves more attention than merely being a blueprint for Roback's later work in Mazzy Star. For one thing, Opal was very much its own band, with Kendra Smith's particular lyrical visions of mystic power and universe-scaling dreams and nightmares its own entity. As is her singing, though she's got less of Hope Sandoval's wistful drift and more focused control — check out the brief "A Falling Star," where the comparatively stripped-down arrangement places her singing in the foreground, notably without much in the way of echo. Roback's playing certainly won't surprise anyone per se who backtracks to this group from albums like She Hangs Brightly, and the atmosphere of textured, moody power is evident right from the start with the wonderful early T. Rex tribute, "Rocket Machine." The compressed string swirl and steady stomp is pure Marc Bolan-via-Tony Visconti, though Smith avoids Bolan's style of warble for her own cool, something also quite evident on the slow-groove stomp of the great "She's a Diamond" and the concluding "Soul Giver." Meanwhile, other familiar elements Roback would later use are present aplenty — very Ray Manzarek-like organ lines on the mantra-chugs of "Magick Power" and "Siamese Trap," compressed acid rock solos and lots of reverb. The title track itself stands out a bit as being a bit more of a '60s Europop confection in a stripped-down 1968 setting — Roback's electric guitar adds some fire, but it's the slightly jazz-tinged rhythm and easy delivery from Smith that helps establish its own character. It's a release that stood out both in time and place (a 1987 release on SST Records, of all places!), but it stands up to future years and listens darn well." - Ned Raggett
Saturday, November 21, 2009
"Dougie Wardrop and Paul Davey, the Bush Chemists, serve up some Baba Root with this one. Dub so potent and organic, if you didn‘t know it was edited on a computer you would think it came from the genre‘s golden age. A practical tribute to all that is dubby, "Higher Heights" reaches for Mt. Zion and makes it, while "Oriental Style" recalls the best of Lee "Scratch" Perry and "Symphony Of Dub" contains faithful flourishes of Aswad‘s "Love/Dub Fire." - Daniel Siwek
Saturday, November 14, 2009
More from these Japanese psychprog dementors led by the larger than life Masaki Batoh.
"Conceived as a companion release to Snuffbox -- the two albums were released within a few weeks of each other and share some art -- Free Tibet is definitely much more the socially forceful flipside to that lovely album. The same core five-person lineup records here, but as photos and an impassioned essay from the liaison office of the Dalai Lama demonstrate, the goal is what's stated right in the title. Given Batoh's open inspiration, spiritually and musically, from that region, recording what amounts to both a celebration and call to action makes perfect sense. Certainly Ghost aren't interested in simply recording a tribute to Tibetan music -- while the opening track "We Insist" starts with various Tibetan wind instruments, the focus is on Batoh, who speaks rather than sings, his words distorted heavily, the effect almost that of a government official dictating one's fate. The same sense of beautiful serenity that so often pervades Ghost's work is more than clear here -- all it takes is a listen to the grand "Way of Shelkar" to show that, its blend of Batoh, guitars, keyboards, and other instruments achieving a wondrous calm. Other songs like "Lhasa Lhasa" and "Change the World" deliver the key message with the same sweet grace. The album climaxes with the mind-blowing title track, the longest thing the group has ever done at over half an hour long. Whether it was carefully planned or a jam session, it's a stunner, ranging from acoustic gentility to percussion craziness to nuclear-strength electric roars, sometimes switching from one section to another on a dime. There's one interesting link to Snuffbox in terms of music -- as on that album, Ghost here salute a musical forebear, in this case Tom Rapp. His Pearls Before Swine track "Images of April" gets a stripped-down, softly whispered cover here, both a worthy tribute to the original and a showcase for Batoh's own considerable work."- Ned Raggett
Formed by John Fahey acolyte and Throbbing Gristle enthusiast Glenn Jones in the early 90s, Cul De Sac specialize in a concoction of surf rock, musique concrete, ghost blues, eastern trance motifs and heavy psychedelia with prominent electronics. This is their first album, from 1992.
"Soundscapes that inspire a riot for the mind's eye."- Simon Reynolds
"Their sound exists at a nexus where kraut rock, American primitive guitar, Gong-style UK drug-space, Stockhausen, and the experimental wing of the avant-garage all meet w/ a splat." -Byron Coley
La china de Bairoa
Friday, November 13, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Rothko started as a three bass group playing low frequency hymns to meditation and solemnity (albums with that lineup forthcoming). In this album the lineup changed, with leader Mark Beazley adding Caroline Ross (of Delicate AWOL, another awesome group you should check out) and adding a more diverse instrumental palette, but still keeping that nebulous, melancholic sound. Just two basses on this one though. For shame!
"Rothko are one of those bands that whenever I play their albums I wonder why I don't play them more often. They have a very specific, very unique sound - probably coming from the fact that they have two bassists, and now on their fifth full-length they have honed this sound into a quiet perfection. We all had a real soft spot for the incredible collaboration with vocalist Caroline Ross a few years back, and this is the band's next step and takes their sound into deeper and darker places. There's something almost religious about the band's take on music - there are hints of post rock in there, hints of modern classical, hints of classic soundtrack music, but it feels like the London-based band are playing the whole thing in a church, with all the sounds reverberating and swirling into a reverential haze. It's like a more melancholy, more muted Godspeed You! Black Emperor, without the hint of post-rock cliché, or at times even like Southern Lord's slow rockers Earth without the metallic subtext - this is cinematic and evocative music in the best possible way. Okay so the band might not be doing anything particularly new, especially in regards to their already bumper catalogue of quality releases, but what they have done here is hone their sound and keep it gloriously economic. There's little fat or filler on offer here, just forty minutes of low-slung, bass heavy instrumental goodness - and what more can we ask than that? Fans of Deaf Center should also take a closer look here, Rothko share a similar taste for the dark and the surreal, and frame it in a beautiful mist of graceful, measured restraint. Quite hauntingly beautiful... recommended!" - Boomkat
George Russell was a composer, arranger, bandleader, pianist and author ("The Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization") of considerable renown and influence in the world of jazz. While less known than Gil Evans, his work was much more diverse and challenging. Proof of that is this composition, in which jazz and other musical elements mingle with electronics to create a work of tremendous power and beauty.
"Composer, theorist, arranger, and pianist George Russell debuted his 14-part master composition "Electronic Sonata for Souls Loved By Nature" on April 28, 1969, at a concert in Norway. The ambitious, elaborate work blended bebop, free, Asian, and blues elements, as well as electronic effects, and mixed live performance with tape and vocal segments. It was a testimony to the prowess of trumpeter Manfred Schoof, tenor saxophonist Jan Garbarek, guitarist Terje Rypdal, bassist Red Mitchell, and drummer Jon Christensen that they weren't overwhelmed by the sheer weight of the experience. The digital mastering enables listeners to fully hear the disparate styles converging, and understand just how advanced Russell's concepts were, particularly for the time. The composition ranks alongside Ornette Coleman's "Free Jazz" as one of jazz's finest, most adventurous pieces." - Ron Wynn
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Ryan Moore is a Canadian expatriate living in the Netherlands, part-time Legendary Pink Dots and Tear Garden member, and total dub-obsessed fanatic who indulges in it in his project Twilight Circus, which has released quite a few albums and collaborations with Jamaican and English deejays and singers over the years. This is one of his heaviest offerings. The legendary Sly Dunbar plays drums on a few selections.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Monday, November 2, 2009
For Popu. Mick Karn of Japan meets Peter Murphy of Bauhaus in this skeletal, haunted song collection.
"Peter Murphy of Bauhaus, Mick Karn of Japan and Paul Vincent Lawford came together to produce one record as Dali's Car in 1984 called The Waking Hour. Simultaneously haunting and charming, they stir up the bittersweet melodies of a broken down carnival caravan. Karn's unmistakable, tense bass pops contribute a clammy chill to Murphy's staidly playful words and regal groaning voice. Their songs are without vaults or embellishments, but maintain the elegant dignity of harmonious repetition, never straying far from hues near gray." - Marc Kate