Posts tagged ‘MP3s’

Post-Rocktoberfest 2011: UK Post-Rock Vol. 8

UK Post-Rock Vol. 8

UK Post-Rock Vol. 8

Ultra-obscure bands! Little-known side projects! If volume seven was solid and familiar, this one is ragged and delightfully confounding. Click here to download UK Post-Rock Vol. 8 or click on the links in the track-list below to preview the individual songs. Like something you hear? Go buy the artist’s actual albums – preferably on vinyl!

1. ROC – “Cheryl”
Not really post-rock per se but ROC were highly illustrative of an experimental pop style that was very much contemporary with the original UKPR scene. This style has been fairly well represented in the UK Post-Rock compilation series, with tracks by the likes of Adventures in Stereo, Locust, Screeper and – of course – Experimental Pop Band.

2. Mark van Hoen – “Photophone Call”
Talking of Locust, here’s a track from a recent solo album by that band’s leader (and Seefeel founder) Mark Van Hoen. Where is the Truth was perhaps the tragically overlooked LP of 2010.

3. Matt Elliott – “The Mess We Made”
Also tragically overlooked, Third Eye Foundation mainstay Matt Elliott’s first solo album The Mess We Made is an absolute gem. Here’s the title track.

4. Foehn – “We Tear at Each Other’s Hearts”
Foehn was Debbie Parsons, who contributed heavily to The Third Eye Foundations scarifying Ghost album. Foehn’s work is less nerve-wracking but equally spooky.

5. Crescent – “Drift”
Like Matt Elliott and Foehn, Crescent were central to the Bristol post-rock/space rock scene. Band’s from that scene tended to be pretty downcast but Crescent took the biscuit. Exquisite miserablism!

6. Papa Sprain & Butterfly Child – “Lalena”
Wasn’t Butterfly Child’s high-watermark Ghetto Speak EP basically a Papa Sprain/BC collaboration? In any case, here they are together with a track created for a Donovan tribute CD put out by Vancouver’s Nettwerk Records (which also featured a collab between Brix Smith and her then beau Nigel Kennedy!) One rather suspects said CD could be found in just about any dollar bin around the Metro Vancouver area.

7. In Heaven – “Aquanova”
A slight dip in audio quality here caused by the fact that this band seem never to have made it to vinyl or CD. This is the title track from a cassette release. Very much in the post-A.R. Kane style of the artists discussed immediately above.

8. Bracken – “Evil Teeth”
Chris Adams from Hood with a magnificent mix of free jazz chaos and digital electronica… well.. chaos! Did this really come out on genre-defining “post-rap” label Anticon? And – if so – what does that say?

9. The Declining Winter – “Summer Turns to Hurt”
Another Hood spin-off, this time led by Chris’s brother Richard Adams. Also featuring this here blog’s good buddy Paul Elam aka Fieldhead.

10. Shiva Affect – “Cloud My Way”
Almost as obscure as In Heaven, these fellows at least managed to put out a CD (Yahweh), from which this song is taken. Think Bark Psychosis in space.

11. Navigator – “Dorothy Carter”
We’re getting into the UK-bands-inspired-by-US-post-rock zone here, which can be troublesome ground. This is a great tune, though.

12. State River Widening – “Amsterdam Green”
Likewise but even more so in every sense.

13. Ganger – “Cats, Dogs & Babies’ Jaws”
Surprising there weren’t more post-rock bands from Scotland. Of course, there’s that band. You know the one!

14. .O.Rang – “Little Sister”
Brilliant and ground-breaking as they were Talk Talk’s growing reputation as the great precursor to post-rock is somewhat overstated. This here blog would argue that Public Image Ltd., 23 Skidoo and Dif Juz were more indicative of what made early UK post-rock truly great and important. In any case, Talk Talk were, of course fantastic and it should be remembered that Lee Harris and Paul Webb went on to be .O.Rang, producing a sound that recalled the ethnological forgeries of Can (another great UKPR precursor).

Click here to download UK Post-Rock Vol. 8!

October 13, 2011 at 9:00 am 1 comment

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

Post-Rocktoberfest 2011: UK Post-Rock Vol. 7

UK Post-Rock Vol. 7

UK Post-Rock Vol. 7

This year’s Post-Rocktoberfest festivities will include three new mix CDs! UK Post-Rock Vol. 7, presented here, consists mostly of tracks by acts that have appeared on previous UK Post-Rock compilations. UK Post-Rock Vol. 8 will consist mostly of tracks by acts that have not appeared on previous volumes. US Post-Rock Vol. 1… well, you can work that one out for yourself.

On all of these compilations, some minor post-production has been carried out, in order to provide as close to a seamless listening experience as possible. In some cases, this might mean the tracks have been topped and tailed a bit but it’s all in the interests of a pleasurable overall listening experience. If you want to hear the songs as the artists intended, go buy the original albums. Actually, you should go buy all the original albums anyway because they’re all great!

Of course, finding legit copies of the original albums won’t always be that easy. This is only partly because a lot of UKPR classics are no longer in print. It’s also because this compilation collects some pretty rare tracks from compilations, Peel sessions etc.

Click here to download UK Post-Rock Vol. 7 or click on the links in the track-list below to hear the individual songs.

1. Papa Sprain – “I Got Stop”
Included because it’s their best song and it had somehow failed to appear on any of the previous volumes.

2. Butterfly Child – “We, the Inspired”
A rarity taken from one of those Volume compilations. Remember them?

3. Pram – “Dancing on a Star”
Birmingham post-rock! A surprising amount of post-rock came out of Birmingham.

4. Broadcast – “Pendulum”
Another case in point. Sad that so many of us only recently came to appreciate Broadcast, given the tragic death of Trish Keenan. They had so much more to teach us!

5. Laika – “If You Miss (Laika Virgin Mix)”
A remix of a track from Laika’s debut album (Silver Apples of the Moon). This was created for Kevin Martin’s Macro Dub Infection Vol. 1 compilation, which was released on Virgin Records – hence the punning title.

6. Moonshake – “Coming (Peel Session Version)”
A radio session take on a track from Moonshake’s debut EP, back when they were a borderline shoegaze act. On the officially-released version, Dave Callahan’s vocal borders on the ethereal (someone in the office even misremembered that Margaret Fiedler – later of Laika – sang this one). On the version presented here, Callahan really lets rip – as does the rest of the band, for that matter!

7. Insides – “Further Distractions”
A remix of a track from the classic Euphoria album. This is taken from a rare promo 12″.

8. Bark Psychosis – “Manman”
Like the Papa Sprain track, this is a stone-cold classic that really should have featured on an earlier compilation in this series.

9. Disco Inferno – “Lost in Fog”
From the It’s a Kids World EP. DI at their most intense and chaotic.

10. Flying Saucer Attack – “My Dreaming Hill”
Their finest moment?

11. Fridge – “Lost Time”
Weird that these folks have had so much more success in their solo careers than as a group. Here they are at their lovely, melodic best.

12. Seefeel – “When Face Was Face”
Turns out that Succour is a really great album. Actually, just about everything by Seefeel is pure gold.

13. Main – “Blown”
Traces of Main’s origins in the much-loved hypno-rock act Loop are evident on this track from the early EP Dry Stone Feed.

14. The Hair & Skin Trading Company – “Highbury”
Traces of The Hair & Skin Trading Company’s origin in the much-loved hypno-rock act Loop are not at all evident on this track from their final EP Crouch End.

Click here to download UK Post-Rock Vol. 7

October 8, 2011 at 9:00 am 3 comments

Post-Rocktoberfest 2011: Disco Inferno – The Five EPs, Song-by-Song

Disco Inferno

Disco Inferno

To celebrate the belated official release of Disco Inferno’s The Five EPs compilation – and to beat Neil Kulkarni to it – Bubblegum Cage III hereby presents a brief song-by-song analysis of five EPs by Disco Inferno. For some really detailed information on all of these songs (and more!), take a look at this Ian Crause interview on Crumbs in the Butter.

Before delving in, though, it might be worth giving a brief explanation of why this here blog considers such and obscure band to be such an important band. It has to do with sound and music.

Didn’t John Cage once say that, in the future, music would be made using machines that could record a sound – any sound – and play it back at any pitch, for any duration? (Seriously, if anyone can find the actual quote, it would be much appreciated!) Maybe, because – in one sense – this is a typically prescient Cage quote. Essentially, it predicts sampling. On the other hand, maybe not. It’s really quite anomalous because it references music in the conventional sense. Cage tended to feel that sounds should be allowed to be themselves, without interference from composers or musicians (hence his famous “silent piece”). This philosophy opened the world up to the musical potential of non-musical sound/noise (and also prefigured any number of “abstract” musical genres – from free improv to ambient).

This is where Disco Inferno come in – they applied Cage’s all-sounds-are-musical philosophy to the traditions of rock and pop music, often pushing themselves towards total abstraction but always pulling back at the last minute. They also made the connection between sound-as-music and the sampler as musical instrument per se. Rather than using clunky sampling keyboards to do this, they used MIDI pick-ups and drum pads to control their samplers, which allowed them to literally play sounds from their immediate environment – and turn them into pop songs! Applying a basically unlimited sound palette (favouring  emotionally-evocative environmental sounds and audio puns on song lyrics) to established pop/rock practices, forms and set-ups, they created an astonishingly vivid and visionary body of work that absolutely no other band has had the courage to follow up on.

Disco Inferno - Summer's Last Sound

Disco Inferno - Summer's Last Sound

Summer’s Last Sound (Cheree, 1992)

“Summer’s Last Sound”
So, Disco Inferno were quite possibly the most truly visionary artists in the history of western popular music. Which is not to say that they were best, necessarily because one can’t help feeling they never really hit what they were aiming at. This track was probably the closest they came. It remains their most heroic achievement and their best song.

Before this EP (hardly an EP, really, as it only has two tracks), Disco Inferno were a fairly undistinguished indie trio with pronounced Factory Records influences. Inspired by the sampledelic examples of Public Enemy and The Young Gods, they decided to pool their limited resources to buy the samplers and MIDI pick-ups that were the basis of their classic sound.

From a technical standpoint, this was a nightmare. Singer/guitarist Ian Crause apparently spent quite some time trying to record just the right bird sounds to use for the guitar/sampler parts on “Summer’s Last Sound”. His instrumental parts were created by capturing MIDI data from his guitar onto an Atari ST computer, which kept crashing in response to Crause’s Durruti Column-esque cascades of notes.

It was all worth it. “Summer’s Last Sound”, as previously noted, is Disco Inferno’s finest moment. But it’s also perhaps the quintessential DI moment. It’s the perfect encapsulation of the band’s incredibly vivid, almost unbearably bittersweet mixture of pastoral beauty and urban dread, where the two opposing elements become inextricably entwined, staggering along together, never quite collapsing into total chaos.

For a really detailed look into this song, some speculative transcriptions of the words and some recent input from Ian Crause himself take a look at this post on Sit Down Man, You’re a Bloody Tragedy.

“Love Stepping Out”
More of the bittersweet same on the B-side. Not quite as effective as “Summer’s Last Sound” (the sequenced acoustic guitar samples are maybe a little stiff) but pretty bloody beautiful all the same.

Disco Inferno - A Rock to Cling to

Disco Inferno - A Rock to Cling to

A Rock to Cling to (Rough Trade, 1993)

A Rock to Cling to”
There’s long been a bit of confusion about the track-list of this EP (again, more of a single, really). It begins with a short song with vocals and ends with a long instrumental track. Many sources have listed “A Rock to Cling to” as the latter, rather than the former but that’s incorrect (aside from anything, Crause clearly sings “I still need a rock to cling to” on the first song). Hopefully, the official release of The Five EPs will have cleared up this confusion once and for all.

In any case, “A Rock to Cling to” sounds like a partial step back to the early Disco Inferno sound and it lacks the vividness of the Summer’s Last Sound tracks. It is very beautiful though and makes genuinely haunting, very subtle use of the band’s samplers. The B-side, on the other hand…

“From the Devil to the Deep Blue Sky”
This one is almost like a show-reel for Disco Inferno’s unique rock-band-through-MIDI-into samplers set-up. It really is extraordinary – working wonderfully as a demonstration of the band’s techniques and as a piece of music. Still, without Ian Crause’s flat, bitter little voice cutting through the swirling cascades of sound, it really just tells one side of the story.

Disco Inferno - The Last Dance

Disco Inferno - The Last Dance

The Last Dance (Rough Trade, 1993)

“The Last Dance”
This is one of the more commercially viable tracks on the five EPs (alongside “It’s a Kids World”). Ian Crause was often photographed wearing a New Order T-shirt and that band’s influence is strongly felt here (DI even brought in New Order’s engineer to work on this EP). Lyrically, “The Last Dance” is even more of a statement of intent than “Summer’s Last Sound” – laying out Crause’s resolutely atheistic and forward-looking bruised romanticism in the clearest possible terms (“In the end it’s not the future but the past that will get us”). Musically, the track features some truly astonishing moments, like when the snare drum finally kicks in or when Crause’s guitar bursts into peels of echoplexed exultation. Bloody gorgeous, basically.

“D.I. Go Pop”
DI Go Pop the album represents DI at their most their most chaotic and “DI Go Pop” the song does the same. It really does sound like a discoteque on fire.

“The Long Dance”
Basically a longer and rather different mix of “The Last Dance”. Actually, it sounds like it might be a completely different vocal take. Those “moments” discussed above hit home a bit harder on the shorter version.

“Scattered Showers”
Sounds very much like a better-recorded version of the sound explored on DI Go Pop (the album). Guitars, samples, beauty, chaos. You know the score by now. Crause’s chiming Vini Reilly-esque guitar anchors it all, which sets the scene very nicely for the next EP…

Disco Inferno - Second Language

Disco Inferno - Second Language

Second Language (Rough Trade, 1994)

“Second Language”
This EP features some of Crause’s finest guitar playing and this song is perhaps the single best demonstration of his nimble and expressive style. The over-the-top tremolo moves at the song’s climax are bananas.

“The Atheist’s Burden”
Disco Inferno’s sense of humour has rarely been remarked upon but it’s there for anyone to hear – hell, the band’s deeply ironic name should be a dead giveaway. “The Atheist’s Burden” starts off as one of their goofiest numbers, with Crause using his guitars to play pan flute samples over a clod-hopping four-on-the-floor beat. But as he narrates a typical DI story of one man’s oscillations between cynicism and wonder, things start to get much deeper and end up really uncannily beautiful and touching.

“At the End of the Line”
A highpoint – the bit where a massively time-stretched Wilhelm scream kicks in is absolutely chilling. Really sounds like a person drinking in the beauty of the world, just as it all falls to pieces.

“A Little Something”
Booze seems to have played a major roll in every stage of the DI story. Hear, Crause sounds rueful but resigned on the mater” “If I get a little something/I can sleep”. He is, of course, accompanied by a cavalcade of clinking, slopping audio puns.

Disco Inferno - It's a Kid's World

Disco Inferno - It's a Kid's World

It’s a Kid’s World (Rough Trade, 1994)

“It’s a Kid’s World”
A rare example of Disco Inferno transparently sampling other people’s music – notably Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” and the “Dr. Who” theme. Lyrically, it’s a very apposite foreshadowing of the demonization of youth that has blighted British life over the last decade or so.

“A Night on the Tiles”
Booze again. The most chaotic DI moment since “DI Go Pop” (the song). Totally insane use of an Edith Piaf sample.

“Lost in Fog”
Fucking hell, what a way to end! A similar sci-fi narrative to “At the End of the Line” but with that track’s chiming musical clarity replaced by a dense… well, fog of sound. Towards the end, it sounds like Crause is using his guitar to destroy an upright piano. Which, in a sense, he probably is.


Like all Bubblegumcage III posts, this was typed in a hurry by a junior staff member, who then passed it on to an intern who pretended to to (but clearly did not) proofread it. After that, the post was passed on to this here blogs senior editorial team for approval, before being run by a team of extremely expensive lawyers. It was only at this point that someone saw fit to comment: “Didn’t you publish this exact post three years ago?” Oh, yeah.

Still, it’s interesting to see the changes that three years can make to a person’s opinions (and yes, yes it really is just one person, of course). “The Last Dance” better than “Summer’s Last Sound”? Really? Actually, in some cases, it’s interesting to see how little these opinions have changed. Look at the bits on “A Rock to Cling to” and “Scattered Showers” –  practically the same wording!

In any case, it seems that Bubblegum Cage III (albeit in its previous incarnation) really did beat Neil Kulkarni to it! Of course, his article will probably be a lot more thought through and well written than anything you’ll see around here. A link will be posted as soon as his thing goes online.

Edit: Here‘s the link to Neil Kulkarni’s excellent piece:

October 2, 2011 at 8:00 pm 3 comments

Oval & Mountains, Vancouver, October 2nd



The greatest thing to happen to Vancouver this year. If you live here and you don’t attend this show, you are a bad person.

Here are the details…

Oval & Mountains
October 2nd, show starts at 8pm prompt
The Western Front, 303 East 8th Avenue, Vancouver

Buy a ticket!

Add it to you Last FM calendar

And listen…

Oval – “Kreak”

Oval – “Ah!”

Oval – “Hey”

Oval – “Do While (Edit)”

Mountains – “Map Table”

Mountains – “Choral”

September 30, 2011 at 8:00 pm Leave a comment

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

Coming Soon to a Venue Near You (As Long as You Live in Vancouver)



Vancouver, BC, obviously. Not the one in Washington. If you live there, you probably have to drive into Portland when you want to see a show.

Aaaaanyway, the point is there are some very, very exciting shows happening in Vancouver over the next few months. The big news is that Oval is coming to town, with support from label-mates Mountains! Quite the Bubblegum Cage-friendly double bill (just as long as those Mountains fellas don’t play too much stuff from their rather disappointing new album – LEAVE THE ANALOGUE SYNTHESIZERS IN BROOKLYN! THEY ARE NOT WELCOME HERE!)

Ahem, anyway… Here’s a round-up of shows this here blog is excited about, for one reason or another…

Fieldhead, Thomas Jirku, Gunshae, Hong Kong Soap Operas
A superb line-up of local electronica artists, as part of TKG’s Panambient series. Wonder if there’ll be food at this one.
Saturday August 27th (in the afternoon)

At Blim

James Blake, Teengirl Fantasy
He’s supposed to be rubbish live, isn’t he? Mind you, he’s supposed to be rubbish full-stop and he clearly isn’t. Teengirl Fantasy are said to be very good too.
Sunday September 25th

At the stinky Commodore, unfortunately

Secret Pyramid, No Ufos, connect_icut, Fieldhead & Cloudface
A real friends-and-family affair this one. More details closer to the time.
Friday September 30th

At Blim

Oval, Mountains
This is the big one. Absolutely the most important musical event to happen in Vancouver all year. If you live here and you don’t go to this, you must have cloth ears and a heart of stone. No excuses!
Sunday October 2nd
At the Western Front

Gang Gang Dance
A phenomenal live band. Probably worth braving a shitty venue for.
Saturday October 15th
At this here blog’s least favourite venue on the planet Earth, unfortunately

Don’t get too excited – the tickets for this one are prohibitively expensive (and quite possibly sold out, at this stage).
Monday October 24th

At the PNE Forum

August 16, 2011 at 9:30 pm Leave a comment

Fennesz – Seven Stars (Touch) 10″

Fennesz - Seven Stars

Fennesz - Seven Stars

Blimey! A new Fennesz solo record, already!! Are you sure? Yes, it’s true: In the two-and-a-half years since the release of Black Sea, the great man has  managed to produce as many as four (4) new songs. You have to wonder: given the hell-for-leather work rate our boy Christian is clearly maintaining, has quality control gone out the window? Short answer: No! Long answer: Noooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Mind you, there aren’t any great surprises here. Or at least, there aren’t any great leaps into the unknown. In a sense, it is rather surprising that Fennesz has released something so immediately reminiscent of his great masterpiece Endless Summer. But while the melodic elements of Seven Stars are strikingly like those of Endless Summer, the overall sound is much more in line with his last couple of albums – moody and atmospheric, rather than noisy and colourful.

Even the appearance of Steven Hess (of On and not – as this here blog has previously claimed – Labradford) adding a steady drum beat to the title track isn’t that startling. The results actually recall another previous Fennesz release –  the Fennesz/Brandlmayr/Dafeldecker trio album ‘Till the Old World’s Blown Up & a New One is Created. Which is, of course, a very good thing indeed. For evidence, watch the (official?) video below, then go buy the 10″ at the Touch shop.

August 7, 2011 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

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

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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