Posts tagged ‘reviews’

Loscil – Endless Falls (Kranky) 2LP

Loscil - Endless Falls

Loscil - Endless Falls

The Work of Vancouver’s Loscil – aka sometime Destroyer drummer Scott Morgan – is all about incremental development. This applies at the micro level and the macro level. Each individual track pivots around Morgan gradually introducing a series of slow, dreamy loops – mainly chord washes, sub-bass detonations, and percussive clicks…

Morgan’s career as Loscil, meanwhile, has seen him building a cult fan-base across the span of a decade. If you’ve followed the series of albums he’s released on Kranky during this time, you might be forgiven for thinking they all sound pretty much the same. But compare the murky dub-techno of Triple Point to the twinkling bliss-out of Plume and you’ll see that a real musical progression has occurred somewhere along the line.

Endless Falls is the latest Loscil album and the first to be released on vinyl. It takes up where the last two albums (First Narrows and the aforementioned Plume) left off – displaying an increased emphasis on juxtaposing Morgan’s processed loops with live instruments.

The subtle difference here, on tracks like “Lake Orchard”, is an almost neoclassical feel, reminiscent of Max Richter’s work. This similarity is reinforced by an overall melancholy feel and a spoken-word appearance by Destroyer’s Dan Bejar (on “The Making of Grief Point”).

Endless Fall‘s immediately feels like the most ambitious Loscil album to date and it might just be the best. You can – and should – buy it once it gets released on March 1st.

February 27, 2010 at 12:57 pm 3 comments

Fenn O’Berg – In Stereo (Editions Mego) 2LP

Fenn O'Berg - In Stereo

Fenn O'Berg - In Stereo

In Stereo is the long-awaited third album from the trio of Christian Fennesz, Jim O’Rourke and Peter “Pita” Rehberg. Like The Magic Sound of Fenn O’Berg (1999) and The Return of Fenn O’Berg (2002), this is an uncompromising work of hardcore digital electronica. However, whereas the trio’s first two albums compiled edited versions of live improvisations, In Stereo was created 100% studio-side.

This fact may suggest that the new album takes a more premeditated approach than its predecessors did but any hints of compositional rigour will not be immediately apparent to the casual listener. Initially, In Stereo sounds like just the kind of three-way laptop cluster-fuck you might expect – high on harsh, glitch-ridden textures and chaotic granular synthesis manoeuvres.

However, after repeated listens, you’ll find the album revealing a genuinely epic sense of drama. The mood throughout is darkly cinematic – murky soundscapes are shot-through with intense digital clarity. Fans of Black to Comm’s superb Alphabet 1968 are bound to find something to enjoy here.

Even at its most patently bonkers, In Stereo never descends into aimless fidgeting. Take “VI”, for instance (the tracks are named with Roman numerals but presented out of sequence). It begins as a barrage of sliced-up digital detritus, which purposefully gives way to a passage of tense contemplation. The results are absolutely phenomenal – attentive listeners may find themselves compelled to stand up and applaud.

In Stereo marks a great start to 2010 for Pita’s Editions Mego label. The vinyl seems to gone out of print before the arrival of its March 5th release date but you should be able to order a copy if you shop around. There will also be a slightly abridged CD version, which you can still pre-order from Mego.

February 25, 2010 at 8:16 pm 2 comments

Oneohtrix Point Never – Zones Without People (Arbor) LP

Oneohtrix Point Never - Zones Without People

Oneohtrix Point Never - Zones Without People

Daniel Lopatin aka Oneohtrix Point Never is another in the long line of vintage synthesizer-wielding cosmic voyagers to have launched skyward from the US avant rock underground in the last few years. The difference is, where most of these acts concentrate on reviving the sound of 1970s space rock, Lopatin focusses on synth music from the early 1980s.

Crucially, his music evokes that moment when digital technology started to enter the mix, brining a more clinical, alienated sound to synth-based music. It’s significant that the current homepage of Oneohtrix Point Never’s website features a prominent image of Roland’s 1982 digital/analogue hybrid synth, the Juno 60. Meanwhile, albums like Zones Without People immediately bring to mind the kind of slick soundtrack music Tangerine Dream were churning out during the ’80s.

Another crucial factor that marks Oneohtrix Point Never music out from the crowd is the fact that it is not fundamentally reliant on extended drones. Instead, Lopatin lets his arpeggiators do most of the work, painting airbrushed landscapes from precise, pointillistic little medlodies. Yes, drones are used – but sparingly, to provide impressionistic strokes of colour.

The most important difference between Lopatin and his peers, though  – the thing that makes his work truly worth hearing – is that he is not really interested in mere pastiche. The arpeggios may seem to stretch off into infinity but their continued existence is often called into question by the looming promise of chaos. Essentially, this is new age music with noise attitude – an approach that will be familiar to those of you who remember Coil’s “Red Birds Will Fly Out of the East & Destroy Paris in a Night”.

Zones Without People is part of the suitably conceptual Rifts trilogy – a sci-fi-themed epic that was recently compiled as a double CD on the No Fun label. The three original vinyl LPs seem to be out of print but Mark over at Expressway managed to hook this here blog up with a reasonably-priced copy of Zones, thus enabling all manner of inadvertent astral travelling. Heck the gorgeous “Zones Without People” itself would have been worth the price of admission alone.

Seriously, Lopatin is to be applauded, not only for rescuing a whole era of experimental rock/electronic music from critical neglect but for doing so with real imagination, where others would fall back on irony.

February 22, 2010 at 9:00 am 1 comment

Von Bingen – Von Bingen (Amen Absen) LP

Von Bingen - s/t

Von Bingen - s/t

The debut album from Vancouver quartet Von Bingen seems to have snuck below all but the hippest of radar. This is probably down to Amen Absen’s apparent decree that the LP should only be made available through the coolest of mail-order dealers. Take that record stores!

It’s a shame that the label seems so determined to prevent this album from being sullied by the record-buying public’s grubby fingerprints  because it really does have something very worthwhile to offer – something a lot of underground rock bands could learn a great deal from.

Von Bingen features three members of analogue synth orchestra BCVCO (including Joshua Stevenson aka Magneticring). Like BCVCO, Von Bingen relies heavily on the type of vintage keyboards favoured by that ever-growing army of increasingly indistinguishable avant rock drone-makers.

But “Eyeglasses of Kentucky”, this album’s opening track, makes it very clear that Von Bingen is more than just another gaggle of stoned knob-twiddlers. In fact, Von Bingen is a refreshingly strident and rhythmically solid album, from start to finish.

Here, where you might expect enervation and stasis, you get attitude and motivation. Not that this isn’t a cosmic space-rock voyage of downright German proportions, it’s just that it has enough punk rock attitude on board to make the journey satisfyingly dangerous.

If you’re cool enough, they might let you buy a copy from Mimaroglu Music Sales.

February 11, 2010 at 9:00 am 1 comment

Mount Eerie – Wind’s Poem (P.W. Elverum & Sun) 2LP

Mount Eerie - Wind's Poem

Mount Eerie - Wind's Poem

This album could be seen as being part of indie rock’s minor creative renaissance, which has been noted on this here blog and elsewhere. Truth be told though, Phil Elverum – aka The Microphones aka Mount Eerie – has been making startlingly original modifications to the indie rock template for years now. He just hasn’t received anything like the level of recognition he deserves.

So, while the current upsurge of indie creativity may not be responsible for the brilliance of Elverum’s latest album, it must have contributed to the unprecedented level of critical attention the album has received.

Wind’s Poem has certainly garnered a fair amount of critical adulation. What’s been overlooked in the rush to recognize Elverum’s singular vision is that this album is, to an extent, a collaboration with Nick Krgovich of No Kids. This is a shame because Nick is another indie visionary who deserves more respect and attention than he gets.

It’s easy to understand though. Wind’s Poem is a million miles away from No Kids’ breezy, R&B-inflected chamber pop. Influenced by Elverum’s avowed love of black metal, many of the album’s songs are smothered by pitch-black sheets of heavy guitar drone. Topped off with Eleverum and Krgovich’s fey vocals, the results are actually rather more like a self-consciously literate take on Tremolo/Loveless-era My Bloody Valentine than anything genuinely metallic.

But even the album’s quieter moments, like “My Heart is Not at Peace”, have a deeply disquieting undertow of low-end boom. Eleverum and Krgovich are both artists based in the Pacific North-West and Wind’s Poem really does sound like the organic voice of that region’s wooded wilds. This sense is reinforced by the album’s multiple Twin Peaks references – most obviously on “Between Two Mysteries”.

The rich complexity of the album’s words, music and production is carried right through to its packaging – two clear vinyl LPs housed inside a lavish, bronze-embossed gatefold sleeve. This is an album you need to own and you can buy it at Insound.

January 28, 2010 at 9:00 am 12 comments

Richard Youngs – Like a Neuron (Dekorder) LP

Richard Youngs - Like a Neuron

Richard Youngs - Like a Neuron

If he keeps releasing ’em, this here blog will keep reviewing ’em. 2009 was another busy year for Richard Youngs. He released not one but two excellent albums of new songs and found time to indulge in some rather more abstract projects, like this LP on Black to Comm‘s Dekorder label.

Abstract synth noodling is the order of the day here. To an extent, we’re in the realm of post-Tangerine Dream space music but Youngs is intent on exploring only the most asteroid-riven stellar regions. Instead of gliding smoothly through the cosmos, his keyboards bump and crash and grind – a glorious vision futuristic technical imperfection that would warm the cockles of Philip K Dick’s heart.

This sound will be familiar to fans of the UK avant rock under-under-underground that spawned Youngs. The noisy head-rush of Sunroof! and the broken techno of Astral Social Club are both evoked.

Throughout side one, tracks like “Runway” and “Descent” efficiently induce a sense of blissfully plunging into the existential void (think of the “inner space” sequence in 2001) . However, as side two progresses, the clashing rhythms and extreme stereo separation can start to grate a little – if you’re not in the mood, you may just find it irritating.

Overall though, another worthwhile release from Richard Youngs. It seems like the kind of thing that will sell out fairly quickly, so don’t hesitate: buy it from Scratch.

January 21, 2010 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

The Fall – Slippy Floor (Action Records) 7″

The Fall - Slippy Floor

The Fall - Slippy Floor

This new limited edition single  from The Fall is nominally a tie-in with the band’s recent tour. However, it seems more likely that it’s been issued to ensure that Mark E. Smith keeps up his record of releasing at least one record per year since 1978.

Slippy Floor is a step back from the relatively slick, digitally-constructed sound of 2008’s excellent Imperial Wax Solvent. It recalls the raw avant-garage style of other recent albums – such as  Country on the Click and Fall Heads Roll – but with a more ragged production style.

The lead track is pretty much Fall-by-numbers but enjoyable all the same. B-side “Hot Cake – Part 2” is like a more experimental variation on the same general themes, with extra layers of declamatory vocals and synth squiggles.

What the stripped-down production style of this 7″ highlights is that Smith is sounding slightly more lucid than he has for the last little while. The cut-and-paste approach of albums like Imperial Wax Solvent and Von Sudenfed‘s Tromatic Reflexxions seemed like a creative response to his apparent inability to actually sing a song from start to finish. He appears to have pulled himself together a bit this year.

So, there’s life in the grumpy old bastard yet! And – for fans – this single is certainly worth buying. Hopefully, you can get Action Records‘ slightly crappy ecommerce interface to work before it sells out.

December 17, 2009 at 9:07 pm 2 comments

Vladislav Delay – “Tummaa” (Leaf) 2LP

Vladislav Delay - Tummaa

Vladislav Delay - Tummaa

Finland’s Sasu Ripatti – aka Vladislav Delay – is the real deal: an electronic music artist with an instantly recognizable signature sound, who is also unafraid to do his thing in a wide range of forms and contexts. Aside from his solo abstract electronica work, Ripatti flirts with vocal house music and pop under the guide of Luomo, explores the limits of language in collaboration with his missus AGF and plays scrap-metal percussion in The Moritz Von Oswald Trio.

On Tummaa, that instantly recognizable signature sound is… erm… instantly recognizable – a fidgety but immersive pile-up of clattering noises and mellow synth chords. Here though, the sound is set into one of those wide-ranging contexts Ripatti loves to explore. Tummaa features conventional “live” instruments more prominently than any previous Vladislav Delay release – including electric and acoustic piano from Massive Attack string arranger Craig Armstrong.

At first, you might find yourself wondering why that new age jazz combo won’t shut up and let you listen to the new Vladislav Delay album. But it starts to make sense once you get used to Ripatti’s sparser-than-usual electronics making room for the smooth sounds (which wouldn’t be too out of place on the ECM label – some parts sound like Jan Garbarek has been replaced by a malfunctioning android). There’s an aesthetic contrast here that is inherently intriguing. More than that, Tummaa reminds us that Ripatti started out as a jazz/improv drummer and makes sense of the structure underlying previous Vladislav Delay releases.

Leave it to an artist from Finland to come up with the perfect soundtrack for these long late-autumn nights. The songs below should be enough to convince you to buy Tummaa from Insound.

Vlasdislav Delay – “Musta Planeetta”

Vladislav Delay – “Toive”

November 30, 2009 at 9:00 am 1 comment

The Field – Yesterday & Today (Kompakt) 2LP + CD

The Field - Yesterday & Today

The Field - Yesterday & Today

The Kompakt label seems to have a limitless supply of nominally left-field but fundamentally lightweight electronic dance music. Over the years, the label has touched upon everything from house, techno and electro to ambient and even glam rock. The vast majority of its output exists in some rose-tinted hinterland between fluffy and downright irritating. Sometimes, it’s hard to believe that Kompakt was founded by Wolfgang Voigt – he of the monumental Gas project.

In many ways Axel Wilner – aka The Field – is a very typical Kompakt artist. His epic minimal techno constructions gush cascades of sugar-water samples over bouncy, up-tempo tech-house grooves. The tunes on his much-loved debut album From Here We Go Sublime are exceptionally formulaic – each track modulating insistently between two equally heady chords until pop-ambient nirvana is achieved.

So, what marks The Field out from the Kompakt pack? Why is Wilner so much more critically acclaimed, so much more popular and – frankly – so much better than most of his peers? In a word: intensity. If Wilner was not so utterly dedicated to his aesthetic and mission, his tracks would fall flat, like so many here-today-gone-tomorrow Kompakt 12″s. Instead, the effects of his music are positively ecstatic – a cynicism-destroying flood of good vibes.

Wilner doesn’t depart much from the standard Field formula on Yesterday & Today but he does renew his commitment to flirting with disaster. Each of this album’s minor innovations could have resulted in utter calamity. Instead they’ve resulted in one of 2009’s most consistently satisfying long-players.

Doing a full vocals-and-all cover of The Korgis’ soft-pop chestnut “Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime” is objectively a terrible idea. But Wilner’s realisation is utterly ingenious – as intense as anything he’s done but in a new slow-burning tempo. Elsewhere, he brings in (shudder) live musicians – including John Stanier, drummer with Warp-signed avant rockers Battles. On tracks like the predictably epic but surprisingly mid-tempo closer “Sequenced”, Stanier confounds expectations (or prejudices, at least), managing to build up a level of organic momentum that Tony Allen himself would be proud of.

To top it all off, Yesterday & Today come housed in a lovely matte gatefold sleeve, which includes the vinyl and CD versions of the album. You can have it all when you buy it from Insound.

November 26, 2009 at 9:00 am 5 comments

Black to Comm – Alphabet 1968 (Type) LP

Black to Comm - Alphabet 1968

Black to Comm - Alphabet 1968

Black to Comm is the brainchild of one Marc Richter – not to be confused with eclecticist composer Max Richter. This Richter is also the fellow behind Hamburg’s excellent Dekorder label, which  has put out releases by a number of very notable experimental/electronic artists including Stephan Mathieu and Xela – aka Type label boss John Twells. Alphabet 1968 sees Twells returning the favour, releasing Richter’s latest opus on vinyl and CD.

Suspicions that this is just another fly-by-night experimental music release should be put aside. Alphabet 1968 has already garnered praise from prominent music critics not normally known for an interest in digital electronica – notably, Mark K-Punk and Sasha Frere-Jones.

This is understandable as  Alphabet 1968 is an instantly captivating album, which gives the immediate impression of being more dramatically structured than the vast majority of abstract electronica. Richter is clearly a master of creating sonic dioramas in which sample loops revolve slowly, casting strange reflections off each other.

The nine sonic miniatures and single long-form piece on this album form an extremely satisfying whole. Nothing feels randomly patched together or purposeless – everything arrives at a certain time and behaves a certain way for a very specific reason.

Overall, the mood this fastidious approach  creates is rather menacing. But Alphabet 1968 is not a generically “dark” piece of work. There’s no excess of murky reverb or low-end sludge to cheapen the mood here. The sound is rich, full and crystal clear. And tracks like “Traum GmbH” are hardly lacking in simple melodic or harmonic beauty.

While this album is very much in a world of its own, comparisons are still reasonably easy to make. The single long piece is an obvious tribute to Wolfgang Voigt’s Gas project, right down to the title – “Forst”. Elsewhere, the creaking loops of Colleen and the hauntological juxtapositions of The Focus Group are conjured.

Type Records puts out a lot of decent stuff but this is something else altogether. Like As Good as Gone by Nudge, Alphabet 1968 is an unassuming record that – in it’s own quiet way – has the makings of a future classic. You are strongly advised to be an early adopter and buy it at Insound.

November 22, 2009 at 5:00 pm 4 comments

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