Posts tagged ‘avant rock’

Post-Rocktoberfest 2011: Flying Saucer Attack

Flying Saucer Attack

Flying Saucer Attack

What, you might be forgiven for asking, did Flying Saucer Attack have to do with post-rock? After all, post-rock in the original sense tended to be rather rhythmically solid and occasionally somewhat glossy; with all sorts of influences from electronic dance music and hip-hop. Post-rock in the contemporary sense tends to be epic and demonstratively emotional; full of big crescendos and widescreen angst. Flying Saucer Attack, on the other hand, were always decidedly shy and retiring; existing in an introverted, funk-less, lo-tech fug of fuzz and mumble; My Bloody Valentine with all the lustiness and digital tricknology bled out.

Perhaps it’s just a matter of association. FSA will always be associated with the Bristol post-rock scene of the 90s, alongside the likes of Movietone, Crescent and Light. This brought them into contact with more typically UK post-rock-sounding acts like AMP and The Third Eye Foundation. And in fact, as FSA went on, they did start to take on board the technologically-enhanced rhythmic innovations of early post-rock per se. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, aren’t we?

First of all, it seems ridiculous to talk of Flying Saucer Attack as “they” when the whole thing was essentially the bedroom recording project of a pale-and-interesting record collector by the name of David Pearce. True, he had some helping hands – notably Rachel Brook of Movietone – but Flying Saucer Attack was clearly the realisation of Pearce’s very singular vision.

(The lo-fi, bedroom recording aspect is a large part of what sets Flying Saucer Attack apart from much early-to-mid-90s post-rock. One FSA’s slogans was “Home Taping is Reinventing Music”. In fact, though, there was quite a bit of crossover between the British version of lo-fi and UK post-rock – hear the early Hood material for evidence.)

Second, portraying Pearce as an intense and insular type only tells one side of the story. Did you read that bit in parentheses about FSA having slogans? When a musician starts using slogans, it tends to suggest s/he has some kind of overarching ambition; a slightly arrogant desire to impose a very specific worldview on the record-buying public; a special plan for this world. In fact, Pierce’s diffidence clearly masked an impish, mischievous personality as well as some satirical and deeply ideological intent. (In this regard, he had a lot in common with Ian Masters of Pale Saints/Spoonfed Hybrid infamy). All this is to say that Pearce in no way lacked post-rock’s artistic ambition or desire to disrupt and move ahead.

Flying Saucer Attack - Self-Titled

Flying Saucer Attack - Self-Titled

Pearce’s wiseacre sense of humour came through early on, when Flying Saucer Attack covered Suede’s “The Drowners” on their self-titled debut album. Listen closely and consider deeply and this incredibly sloppy, fuzzed-out take on a quintessential early Britpop anthem will tell you everything you need to know about FSA. Flying Saucer Attack also hinted at the more rhythmic nature of the band’s later work, via some pretty freaky percussive jams. Furthermore, it was a crystal clear statement of intent in terms of establishing Pearce’s credentials as an ahead-of-the-game rock scholar. Not one but two of the songs were named after kosmiche music/new age legends Popol Vuh – which was a pretty obscure reference for a British indie band to make at that time. (Pearce was also way ahead of the pack in embracing UK folk – he memorably described his music as “rural psychedelia” and FSA covered “Sally Free and Easy”.) If all that were not enough, the album featured what may be FSA’s best song, “My Dreaming Hill”.

Flying Saucer Attack - Further

Flying Saucer Attack - Further

So, Flying Saucer Attack encompasses pretty much anything you might want from Flying Saucer Attack. But to hear the band’s most coherent statement, you’re advised to grab Further. The “Outdoor Miner” CD single is also worth hunting down as it features a beautifully fragile rendering of the classic Wire tune, as well as another stone-cold FSA classic, “Everywhere Was Everything”. For some insight into FSA’s more rhythmically-focused later work the Chorus compilation (featuring the glorious “Feedback Song”) and New Lands album are both well worth hearing. Listen to the lot and you should get a fairly decent idea of what a richly rewarding and hard-to-pin-down phenomenon Flying Saucer Attack really was.

Anyone know what Pearce is up to these days?

October 10, 2011 at 9:00 am 3 comments

Secret Pyramid, Fieldhead, connect_icut & More Live in Vancouver on Sept 30th

Blim Sept 30th 2011

Blim Sept 30th 2011

Add it to your Last FM calendar!

Do whatever weird stuff it is that people do on Facebook!


And here are the full details…

Secret Pyramid, No Ufos, connect_icut, Fieldhead & Cloudface
Friday September 30th 2011 at 8pm
Blim, 115 East Pender St., Vancouver BC, Canada

Early show! Starts at 8pm and ends promptly at midnight.

– “Swirling washes, layers of howling feedback and cosmic buzz, soft whispers giving way to deep, dark ambiance. Creepy drones hover like grey mist, feedback swells echoing like flutes or distant birds, all building up to a gorgeous fuzz-drenched climax, beautifully whirling sound walls akin to the cryptic tones of Kevin Drumm’s ‘Imperial Horizon’, but less industrial. Secret Pyramid offers up something mystical, serene and ephemeral.” –

– connect_icut is an English artist living in Vancouver, also involved with Interim Lovers, The Bastion Mews and Not Me. connect_icut creates abstract, melodic, highly textured and expansive electronica. –

“Pretty dang successful… the lateral aktion is most nod-worthy” Byron Coley, The Wire

– Fieldhead (P. Elam, Vancouver, BC) delights in tape hiss, geography, bleak landscapes and decaying analogue loops.

“…paints atmosphere better than a whole ream of his electronica comtemporaries ever could, creating unhealthy amounts of awe with his string slices and distortion washes…” –

– Hypnotic synth driven scattering loveliness. -“

September 15, 2011 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

Dream Rock & Noise Pop in Videos: Slowdive – “When the Sun Hits”

Who knew there was a promo video for this? Who even knew it was a single? The final track from volume two.

August 30, 2011 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

Dream Rock & Noise Pop in Videos: Drop Nineteens – “Winona”

Another promo video recorded from 120 Minutes. Track 16 from volume two.

August 26, 2011 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

Dream Rock & Noise Pop in Videos: Swervedriver – “Rave Down”

The official promo video. Track 15 from volume two.

August 16, 2011 at 9:00 am 2 comments

Dream Rock & Noise Pop in Videos: Moose – “Suzanne”

The official video, as broadcast on MTV’s 120 Minutes show. Amazing to think there was a time when MTV had room in the schedule for stuff like this. But that was the 90s for you: cross-dressing shoegazers as far as the eye could see! Track 14 from volume two.

August 5, 2011 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

More A.R. Kane Videos

Well, it seems that people are quite interested in the subject of A.R. Kane videos, so here’s a reminder that – despite very well-founded claims to the contrary – there really was a video for “Baby Milk Snatcher”.

And here is the clip for “When You’re Sad” (Link supplied by Jon Dale – thanks Jon!)

July 30, 2011 at 9:00 am 3 comments

The Cure

It’s easy to write off The Cure as having contributed nothing to the world beyond a few novelty pop hits and the enduring tedium of mall-goth culture. Robert Smith and the boys would perhaps be more firmly ensconced in the pantheon of rock greats if they’d ever tried to produce a Kid A-style avant garde masterpiece. After all, even the Stones had a go, with Their Satanic Majesties Request!

Well, hang on their a second – none of this is entirely fair! First of all, 1984’s The Top could easily be said to represent an attempt at Sgt. Pepper-style  technicolour psychedelia. Regarded by some Cure fans to be the band’s only truly bad album, it was – in a very real sense – the Satanic Majesties of the 80s. Then there’s the much more highly regarded Pornography, on which sheer angst alone pushed the band to the brink of distraction. Or how about that much-loved stadium doom epic Disintegration?

We’re getting ahead of ourselves here, though. The thing is, no matter how strung-out, expressionistic or colourful The Cure’s music got, it was always firmly rooted in guitar-based pop. In fact, that’s exactly what made The Cure so great! Smith managed to produce immersive masterpieces of nightmarish angst and dreamlike beauty without ever deviating much from the instantaneous effectiveness of the three-minute pop song. Even when drenched in FX, these tunes were never cheaply impressionistic – they were always painfully vivid and often unforgettably catchy.

The Cure - Seventeen Seconds

The Cure - Seventeen Seconds

On the band’s second album, Seventeen Seconds, they managed to infuse the skeletal new wave of early singles like “Boys Don’t Cry” with a genuinely spooky ambiance, without actually changing anything terribly obvious. Later albums were heavier on the flanged basslines, delay drenched guitars and soundscapey synths but they never quite surpassed the magnificent nocturnal focus of Seventeen Seconds.

The Cure – “Play for Today”

The Cure – “In Your House”

Seventeen Seconds was the first in a loose trilogy of albums that defined The Cure’s artistic zenith. Glenn Ponda has already written a brilliant post about these albums but this here blog can’t help adding its two cents.

The Cure - Faith

The Cure - Faith

Faith, the trilogy’s second album might be the most “complete” album in The Cure’s discography. It marks a transitional period between the bare-bones early material and the fleshed-out later albums. It’s also arguably the band’s most genuinely bleak and effectively gothy record.

The Cure – “All Cats Are Grey”

The Cure – “The Drowning Man”

The Cure - Pornography

The Cure - Pornography

Which brings us back to Pornography, very commonly considered to be the great Cure album. It certainly has the greatest claim to being an attempted avant garde classic – the band’s proto-dreampop formula really does strain under the shear weight of angst and self-loathing unleashed on Pornography. The album’s closing title track is mixed in such a way that everything seems to be in utterly the wrong place. A mood of alienation and impending oblivion looms large throughout.

The Cure – “One Hundred Years”

The Cure – “Siamese Twins”

Presumably, the self-destructively drug-drenched horror of Pornography couldn’t be sustained without serious damage to the band’s mental health and commercial prospects. For the rest of the 80s, The Cure’s albums became less one-dimensionally bleak – mixing widescreen goth rock with jaunty novelty tunes and all points in between. In the process, the band became a massive hit with teenage outsiders, both downcast and quirky (and both!) So, while Smith and co. may not have enjoyed quite the critical reputation they deserved, they did end up playing to stadium’s full of truly devoted fans, to whom they meant the world.

The high-point of this period was 1989’s Disintegration. Overlong and overwrought, Disintegration probably doesn’t quite deserve the reputation it has but it is, somehow, The Cure in excelsus. Currently available in a rather deluxe 2LP edition, it’s as good a place to start as any.

July 23, 2011 at 9:00 am 35 comments

Dream Rock & Noise Pop in Videos: My Bloody Valentine – “Don’t Ask Why”

A fan video featuring Scarlett Johansson being goofy. Track thirteen from volume two.

July 21, 2011 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

Recent Listening Round-Up

The massed editorial staff of this here blog hasn’t had time to come up with any proper reviews recently, so here’s a round-up of what’s been on the office turntable over the last couple of months.

Belong – Common Era
A superb development of the submerged pop style Belong has hinted at in the past. Some fans are claiming this album isn’t “drone” enough and that the band should do more stuff like October Language. They are wrong: October Language was a pointless exercise in brazen Fennesz copyism; Common Era is something quite unlike anything else.

James Blake - James Blake

James Blake - James Blake

James Blake – James Blake
The backlash is unwarranted. James Blake is a genuinely impressive collection of sometimes shockingly sparse post-dubstep productions. Sure, Blake’s sad-sack vocals are sometimes a bit much (“I Never Learned to Share”) but – for the most part – the inventiveness of his production style outweighs the slightly forced emotionalism.

Burial – Street Halo
Signs of progress here, albeit slow progress. Still, Burial is the kind of artist who moves at his own pace. And even if this was just more of the same, that wouldn’t make it any less beautiful. Streets ahead of even the best of the rest of the post-dubstep crowd (see above).

Kate Bush – Director’s Cut
Hmmm… Kate has re-recorded songs from her two weakest albums (The Sensual World and Red Shoes) and turned the bass up really high to make sure the new recordings sound nice and “analogue”. Why one of the great pioneers of creative digital pop production should feel the need to do this is a bit of a mystery. Also, one might question whether the problem with those albums was actually to do with the production or whether the songwriting was, in fact, a bit sub-par. To be fair though, a good deal of the material here is vastly improved by the new, more understated arrangements, especially “This Woman’s Work”.

Lawrence English – Kiri No Oto
Lovely vinyl reissue of English’s CD from a couple of years ago. Oceanic digital textures.

Gang Gang Dance - Eye Contact

Gang Gang Dance - Eye Contact

Gang Gang Dance – Eye Contact
These Brooklynites have come a long way since their free-noise beginnings. Eye Contact is pretty much their pop move – sounding, at times, like an utterly demented Black Eyed Peas attempting world music. In a good way, obviously.

Hype Williams – One Nation
How does this duo’s stoned amalgam of lo-fi 80s and 90s references manage to sound so irritating and so seductive all at once? There’s some kind of evil genius at work here but Hype Williams is giving few clues as to what the true nature of that genius may be. There isn’t even a tracklist!

In Serpents & Seas – Notes from the Quiet Household
Notes from the Disquiet Household, more like it! Finely calibrated, Nurse with Wound-style spookiness from this duo featuring the always-excellent Esperik Glare. Available by donation from the relevant Bandcamp page.

Kellarissa – Moon of Neptune
Phenomenal second solo album from Destroyer’s current keyboard player. Exceptionally classy minimal synth pop that will appeal to fans of Nico and Zola Jesus.
Kellarissa – “Undock”

Mountains – Air Museum and Koen Holtkamp – Gravity/Bees
Over the last few years, Brooklyn’s Mountains duo has produced a stream of consistently satisfying albums in the post-Fennesz/Greg Davis mold. Air Museum represents a fairly decisive move into the analogue realm. Sometimes the results sound like old Mountains tracks played entirely on vintage synths, sometimes they sound like Sonic Boom’s Experimental Audio Research project and sometimes they sound like crap. Not a bad album, as such but certainly a dispiritingly unimaginative one. Mountains man Koen Holtkamp’s latest solo effort is similar but a bit rawer and ultimately a great deal more satisfying. When Holtkamp’s guitar manages to drown out the droning synths, it gets seriously awesome.

My Bloody Valentine - Lost Tracks & Rare Cuts

My Bloody Valentine - Lost Tracks & Rare Cuts

My Bloody Valentine – Lost Tracks & Rare Cuts
Basically, the famous Unreleased & Rarities bootleg cut to vinyl. Featuring “Kevin Song” and “Bilinda Song”, now retitled “Just Like Us” and “The Time of Day” (by whom, it’s hard to say). Pretty much essential for all serious MBV fans.
My Bloody Valentine – “Just Like Us” aka “Kevin Song”

BJ Nilsen & Stilluppsteypa – Space Finale
The analogue underground could learn a great deal from this record. This audibly-digital electronica epic goes further out into the cosmos than most contemporary drone rockers could ever dream of.

Max Richter – Infra
Possibly his best yet, perhaps because it’s his most polarized. An extremely effective juxtaposition of gorgeously melodic strings and tense, dissonant electronics.

Secret Pyramid – The Silent March
If you like Flying Saucer Attack and Lovesliescrushing then you need to know about Vancouver’s Secret Pyramid. This expansively beautiful cassette release should be available for download from his blog once the tape sells out.

Shackleton – Fireworks
More darker-than-dark dubstep from the deep down depths. Shackleton’s Fabric mix suggested an artist treading water. This double 12″ represents a fearless recommencing of his sub-aquatic explorations.

Tape - Revelationes

Tape - Revelationes

Tape – Revelationes
Absolutely bloody wonderful new album from the Swedish post-rock/electronica trio. These boys have got the tunes, they’ve got the textures and they’ve even got really nice cover art.
Tape – “Companions”

Moritz von Oswald Trio – Horizontal Structures and  Vladislav Delay Quartet – Vladislav Delay Quartet
The latest album from the Basic Channel/Rhythm & Sound man’s cyber-jazz trio is a great deal warmer and more human than you might expect. At times it sounds like a “live band” take on the early Rhythm & Sound material – a perception reinforced by the presence of regular R&S vocalist Paul St. Hilaire on guitar. The debut album by the quartet led by MVOT percussionist Vladislav Delay, on the other hand, is as dark and alienating a record as you could hope to hear. Any time things threaten to get a little nice, Pan Sonic’s Mika Vainio blasts the whole thing to hell by unleashing a storm of harsh, metallic drones.

July 14, 2011 at 9:00 am 2 comments

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