Posts tagged ‘reviews’
You may recall the enthusiasm this here blog expressed for Kelvox1’s Grazed Red when it emerged as a free download release last year. (You may also remember this here blog’s embarrassing inability to spell the band’s name correctly but we’ll just gloss over that.) That download disappeared from the Internet pretty quickly and a hard-copy release seemed to be on the cards. And just recently, Grazed Red re-emerged as an LP on New Jersey’s Aagoo Records.
Listening to this album as a free download, it was hard not to to be impressed by its sophistication – electronically-enhanced avant rock on a truly epic scale. Hearing Grazed Red again as a fancy-pants vinyl LP puts it into a different context; throwing into sharp relief the fact that it is, in many ways, a very primitive recording. Lo-fi murk abounds. The vocals, in particular, sound choked by the spores of practice-room mould and mildew. It’s the tension between Kelvox1’s clear artistic ambitions and the lo-fi insouciance of the way Grazed Red is delivered that makes it such a compelling, multi-dimensional listen.
This same tension is very much present on the latest album from Brooklyn’s Father Murphy, another recent Aagoo release (and while we’re at it, on the phenomenal new Woebot album too). Like the Kelvox1 album, Anyway, Your Children Will Deny It is a darkly enigmatic piece of work. There’s a slightly gothy, theatrical edge to this one, so comparisons with Swans, Virgin Prunes and Einsturzende Neubauten make sense.
However, this surprisingly normal-looking three-piece does a pretty good job of not sounding quite like anyone else. Even better, it’s occasionally hard to tell what instruments or electronics are being used to produce the sounds on Anyway… (although online evidence suggests a fairly simple guitar/keyboards/drums line-up).
Even, even betterer, this album is among the select breed of long-players that are actually short enough to play at 45RPM (Meat Puppets II and Sylvain Chauveau’s Singular Forms spring to mind as other great examples). The point is: these guys have artistic ambition to spare but they also know how to be concise.
Aagoo is a new name to the Bubblegum Cage III. But on this evidence, the label is doing extremely good work. Head over to its Web store immediately and buy these albums!
(Oh and Father Murphy is coming to Vancouver later this month but the show ‘s at the Biltmore, so fuck that.)
The shelf life of the humble USB stick as a format for audio/visual art seems limited at best but – for now, at least – it’s a pretty nifty way to package high-res content. The frame rates of these releases’ visual components are so high that the viewer might be forgiven for starting to feel like s/he could reach right into the screen. And the packaging is, in both cases, certainly remarkable.
Liquid Music is a collaboration between Touch head honcho Jon Wozencroft and Bubblegum Cage III hero Christian Fennesz. Wozencroft’s visuals consist mainly of digital video close-ups of rushing water, often with a “stripey” effect similar to what you might see were you sitting too close to a tube TV. Very evocative, actually.
It seems to be the same set of visuals Fennesz used at Seattle’s Decibel festival back in 2006. The audio portion, though, comes from a live set dating back as far 2001 and draws heavily on Fennesz’s never-bettered Endless Summer album. Basically, it sounds like a less noisy version of the great man’s Live in Japan album, which may seem a little redundant but who cares when the quality’s this high?
The packaging is another matter. The drive comes in an appallingly tacky black velveteen back with a lace drawstring. It looks like it should contain plastic unicorn models for an off-brand role-playing game. What were they thinking??? The drive itself is more appealing, being the general size and shape of a credit card, with a neat little section that folds out to plug into your computer.
In any case, if you’re a Fennesz fan, you’ll want to own this.
In terms of simple object value, though, it can’t hold a candle to Tim Wright’s 8 Switches. In typical Entr’acte style, this release comes in a vacuum-sealed plastic bag. The drive itself is an astonishingly elegant little brushed-metal number, with the relevant artist, title and label details engraved upon it. This thing is a seriously gorgeous piece of industrial design.
The A/V content is pretty bloody fantastic too. A mixture of op-art graphics and classic Mego/Raster-Noton-style digital electronica, similar to Theo Burt’s phenomenal Colour Projections DVD ROM (also on Entr’acte) but with the psychedelic head-fuck quotient turned waaaay up. Those of you who are prone to seizures might want to avoid this one. The rest of you need to buy it right now and get ready to pumpchaosintoyourmind.
To be fair, 8 Switches does have its share of sparse, contemplative moments. Still, the overall effect is quite brain-bending and the fact that it’s all delivered via an almost weightless little nugget of brushed metal is genuinely uncanny.
The new album from The Automatics Group is pretty upfront about its sample sources – each track is named according to the mainstream pop and house acts it borrows from (Swedish House Mafia, Deadmau5…) But anyone expecting a mash-up epic along the lines of Kid 606’s The Action Packed Mentallist Brings You the Fucking Jams is going to be severely disappointed.
Rather than cheekily re-contextualizing his source material The Automatics Group’s Theo Burt diffuses it into a Fourier-transformed mist of hiss and hum. The only recognizable element left over from contemporary dance-pop is the steady four-on-the-floor beat. But even this is reduced to a series of ornately minute clicks and pulses, which have more in common with late 90s glitch-techno. Indeed, the most obvious points of reference here are GAS and Basic Channel.
That doesn’t quite cover it, though. As the album title may suggest, this music avoids the deep-in-the-woods dankness of GAS or the skunky fug of Basic Channel, delivering a ravishing blue-skied clarity. This clarity is all the more remarkable given the claustrophobic, over-compressed sound of the music music Summer Mix samples. The whole album has a sense of presence unusual for a 2010s digital production and the dynamic range is startlingly wide by any standards.
All of which makes it easy to speculate about what The Automatics Group might be trying to say with this project. Perhaps this is an attempt to suggest a more open, unashamedly cerebral alternative to contemporary pop’s bullish insistence that you must party hard. But it would be frankly wrong to impose this here blog’s ideological agenda on such a simply, stunningly gorgeous record.
And in any case, the Group has provided a fairly detailed explanation of the rather extraordinary process used to create the album, which suggests that a formalistic focus on pure aesthetics is the goal here – certainly, no other agenda is stated or strongly implied. You can read it at the label’s website, where you can also purchase a copy of the CD, which comes vacuum-sealed within a beautifully-designed antistatic bag, as Entr’acte releases generally are.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
Theo Burt is one half of The Automatics Group, whose Auto 17 12″ is one of the most intriguing pieces of electronic formalism in recent memory. Burt’s multimedia piece Colour Projections is available as a DVD ROM that (like all Entr’acte releases) comes packaged in a vacuum-sealed foil bag. Apparently, a regular DVD couldn’t render the video portion of the piece with satisfactory clarity, so it had to be delivered as a high-definition Flash video, which requires a reasonably powerful computer to play perfectly.
Clearly, Theo and Entr’acte have gone to some trouble to make this release as exquisite as it can possibly be. And with good reason – Colour Projections is a work of sheer brilliance, which reaches levels of ornate digital minimalism that a heavy hitter like Ryoji Ikeda or Carsten Nicolai could be proud of.
The concept is simple enough – colourful geometric shapes that rotate, pulse and transform in sympathy with modulating sine wave tones. The results are absolutely spellbinding. The extremely vivid rendering gives the whole presentation an uncannily hyper-real feeling – at once deliberately flat and hypnotically three-dimensional. Experienced on a big screen, at high volume, this could be pretty mind-bending.
Flex your grey matter: buy Colour Projections from the Entr’acte website.
Chunks is the new album by Bubblegum Cage III’s favourite sampledelic hauntologist – the mighty Woebot aka Matthew Ingram. It’s also Woebot’s first album to appear on vinyl, which would make it a considerable cause for celebration even if it wasn’t up to his usual high standards.
In fact, Chunks not only clears the bar set by the ‘Bot’s previous releases, it vaults high into the cosmos, circles the moon a couple of times and comes crashing back down to earth with a resounding clang and stardust on its cheeks. Basically, it’s great.
This here blog has already given you a couple of previews from Chunks, via the videos for “Argos” and “Roger”. These are very much the album’s hits, being more hook-laden, hypnotic and percussive than anything Woebot has attempted previously. While the rest of the tracks are more in line with the fastidious sample collage of his earlier releases, these hits form the album’s conceptual core. On “Argos”, in particular, it’s easy to hear Matt working through some of the concerns he expressed when this here blog talked with him last June – the need to keep things visceral, the trade off between structure and repetition…
Certainly, this is a pretty visceral record by Woebot’s standards. Seventies rock riffs are much in evidence, as are rave-style sped-up vocals and deep sub-bass detonations. Also, whereas previous Woebot releases have been built entirely in the digital realm, analogue synthesizers make a few un-showy appearances on Chunks.
What really makes this album, though, is the attention to sonic detail. Matt seems to spend endless care and attention recording, editing and arranging samples, maintaining the highest possible levels of audio clarity and musical logic throughout the entire process. Once the finished tracks are cut to vinyl, the results are nothing short of gloriously vivid.
There’s a beguiling circularity at work here – the samples are sourced from Matt’s voluminous record collection before being guided through the digital night and back out onto vinyl, where they belong. And Chunks itself is definitely a record that belongs in your collection. Go buy it from Boomkat.