Category Archives: album reviews
The Suicide of Western Culture trade in a similar sense of space, distance and expanse to Fuck Buttons and then mix it with the scuzz and distorted melodies of Dan Friel or Parts & Labor, and top it off with sprinkles of lower region body music and shards of the cinematic. They simultaneously infuse their tunes with a pumped groove and a ’hands in the air’ rave sensibility: for example, ‘Love Your Friends Hate Politicians’ has a beginning that emits ‘Charly’ before burying itself in catacomb beats. Huge and heavy breaks and bleeps are the order of the rhythm and there’s not a gimmicky sub-wobble in earshot, although crowd-pleasing drops are a plenty.
This is eminently clever stuff in that it traverses a line between something for the glitched abstraction set and those that want their electronic fixes more visceral and immediate. In some ways they remind of Beat Culture’s excellent Tokyo Dreamer through filtering a heritage of Orbital frugging into something very shiny and glisteningly now. At their best when they segue from darker to sunrise still-wired aesthetics, The Suicide of Western Culture have produced something remarkable in Hope Only Brings Pain. Get it here.
‘I Know The Name Of The Culprits’:
The talk of a ‘psyche explosion’ across various media outlets in recent months has been met here at BBO terraces with a degree of incredulity in that some (not all) of the bands being labelled as such lack that third-eye melting something that we would see as central to the genre. Luckily there are still tunes and bands out there that can eddy consciousness, trance your surroundings and give glimpses beyond the veil. This time the purveyors of sonic altered perception and inter-dimensional grooving come from Chile, which in itself speaks to the reach of the psyche.
On the face of it Föllakzoid are more of the same Spacemen/Shjips/Moon Duo repetition: their second outing, wondrously titled II, sounds at first lovingly familiar if not radically innovative. Yet dive deeper into their swirling depths and you begin to realise this is a quality album that tweaks and extends the ideas of their forbears.
Composed of five extended jams around minimal chords, II is truly an experience for the ears and soul. It wraps you up in its warm production, drives you forward with its subdued but energising motorik beats, and delivers you elsewhere with its swoops of electronic noise, muted vocals and (forever) delayed guitars.
This is one to be given time and a receptive headspace. Once opened out to the possibility, new insights and transformed knowledges will be yours. Highly recommended. Buy it here.
Il Sogno del Marinaio is Mike Watt, of Minutemen, fIREHOSE, and Stooges fame (and lots more besides), and two young gentlemen of Verona and Bologna, Stefano Pilia and Andrea Belfi. I can’t believe that Watt ever sleeps, given his proliferating collaborations, podcasts, and side-projects, but this is one of the most consistently exciting bands he’s put together for a while. Pilia and Belfi are very gifted musicians, and the whole thing gels as if they’ve been playing together forever (which they haven’t, it was recorded in two days).
What does it sound like? A mix, largely but not entirely instrumental; you could call some of it post-rock (both Tortoise-like and gloomier), like the eight minute opening track, ‘Zoom’. There are jazzier moments, like ‘Punkinhead Ahoy!’, and more experimental passages, like ‘Messed-Up Machine’. Since everything appears to be ‘prog’ these days, there might be some of that too. ‘Il Guardiano Del Faro’, one of the quieter pieces, is beautiful. Here’s ‘Partisan Song’:
And ‘Punkinhead Ahoy!’ because it cheers me up.
When Parts & Labor announced their retirement, an audible howl of anguish came forth from BBO terraces; gentle tears dripped from our cheeks and short-circuited the resistors and wires as we knelt in silence over our shrine to the Brooklyn noise popsters.
But dry your eyes mate. It became apparent not long after this despairing news that Dan Friel was going it alone and taking much of what made Parts & Labor so great with him; Total Folklore is the result.
Stripping away the vocal element of P&L, Friel delivers an album of top-notch electro-terror-pop best exemplified by the twelve-minute opener ‘Ulysses’: a stomping mini-epic with IEDs used for beats and rhythm. The P&L melodies are there throughout – particularly on hyper-speed ‘Valedictorian’ – but they seem somehow more delightfully excited than ever. It’s as if Friel’s machines and effects are so glad to be in use again they’ve gone all hyperactive and giddy. In fact, on ‘Scavengers’ they seem drunk on their own freedom as they stagger woozily over the machine gun pace.
There’s no real let up in the distorted and maxed out electronics; everything has that feeling of peaking in the red and there are moments on tracks such as ‘Thumper’ where no amount of turning the volume down will save your synapses.
Being a short album, Total Folklore doesn’t outstay its welcome, but a welcome return for all P&L fans it most certainly is. Buy it.
When a band decides to change direction one inevitably thinks ‘Jazz Odyssey’. When the curve ball of artistic diversion involves one of your favourite outfits the worry is doubled. Fortunately, given the avant-garde output of Gnod in the past, and the sheer quality of their oeuvre, those fears are reduced; you just know that whatever they turn their various talents to is going to be worth a listen. So when Gnod Presents… Dwellings & Druss was previewed a while back anxiety turned into a twitching joy at the possibility and potential.
Consisting of three tracks of throbbing industrial techno Dwellings & Druss is a fantastically transcendental listen and evidence that this isn’t Gnod’s first communion with transistors, samplers and machines. The low-end bass is all-consuming, the reverb chilling and the modulation dizzying. It’s akin to Basic Channel filtered through a turbine and then submerged and played out fifty fathoms down. It’s skull-shaking in its intensity, but obscurely calming and meditative despite or because of the clanks, whirls and pulses.
Gnod Presents… is out on vinyl in February on Trensmat records. But if you pre-order now you get the album for download replete with an extra track of improv techno wobbles and shimmers clocking in at a mighty 49:49. That’s called value that is.
I’ve always been fascinated trying to work out when the best time to listen to drone is. It’s hardly the sort of stuff you need on your morning commute to jolt the senses awake and enliven you to perpetuate capitalism. Perhaps the afternoon? Biorhythmic carbohydrate crash usually prevents this for me. So the evening seems ideal? Well possibly, unless you are gearing up for a ‘night out’ (remember them?)
After listening to and absorbing (for that’s what you do with this album) Oh/Ex/Oh’s Extant I realise that I’ve been focusing my fascination too much on the daily cycle. Instead, I should have been thinking longer time scales as it seems the new calendar year is the best time for drone. January, with its temperatures paralysing and its perennial sense of comedown is the time to listen to drone. This is electronic blues for the New Year; blues which manages to hint at a small change in the light and something brighter approaching.
Listened too closely these pieces are interspersed with distanced static or at least a half formed memory of what static might have sounded like. Sometimes these pieces take shape as the hum of some unidentified electrical equipment or the last life gasps of machines fly-tipped in rural lanes. At other times there’s glacial movement and enveloping warmth. There are barely distinguishable sounds drenched in, or perhaps even self-generating their own, reverb. There are spoken samples from film texts that I should know or at least I used to know but now don’t. There is the odd arpeggiator seemingly organised and run by a remote, even astral, hand.
All in all this is the soundtrack to an airborne journey across landscapes waiting for warmth, across beauty, majesty and utter desolation.
That’s my geography trip, what’s yours? Buy.
‘The Last Days’:
Bill Fay last released an album of new material in 1971. That was Time of the Last Persecution (we reviewed it and his first, eponymous, album here) and though Fay continued to write songs, he’s spent four decades doing other things since then. His albums were re-released in 1998, with a number of younger musicians starting to sing his praises (this album comes with a sticker of appreciative blurbs from Jeff Tweedy, Nick Cave and Jim O’Rourke). There’s been another album since, though it sounds more like a set of demos, and some other fragments have been released. But here we are in 2012 with a new album, of new material, and it’s something special.
Fay is now in his late sixties, and this album sounds like he may well have made peace with himself and the world – Time of the Last Persecution is a fairly troubled work, fearful for what was coming next – and while Fay isn’t a fan of modern life he does at least seem to have refound his conviction that there is still hope, still something beautiful in this world and in each other. Jesus gets a name-check, and there are gospel arrangements throughout these songs, but it’s not clear, or even really very important, whether this simply goes with the territory when you’re singing songs of redemption or is genuinely part of who Fay is. As he sings on the sweeping standout of the album, ‘Cosmic Concerto’, ‘As my old dad said, life is people’.
While this is a genuinely charming album, with some beautiful highlights (‘Cosmic Concerto’, ‘Be at Peace with Yourself’), the production and arrangements are less startling and imaginative than the first two albums, which still sound fresh in comparison. Fay’s new band of musicians do an excellent job, but are perhaps more reverential than those who contributed so much to the other records – this is a Bill Fay record, and the music is secondary to his (admittedly marvellous) voice. But this is a minor criticism and this is certainly worth waiting 40 years for. I hope he continues to write and sing, because we may not have another forty years.
And from ‘Later’:
Buy the album here or in decent record shops.
The Polyphonic Spree are back! It sounds like it’s been a trying few years for the Spree – not the cheapest band to run, obviously – and there hasn’t been a proper studio album since 2007′s The Fragile Army. But they’re touring – I saw them myself, performing the Rocky Horror soundtrack plus a set of their own songs on Halloween – and they’ve just announced that their Kickstarter project has reached its target, which means we’ll be getting a live album and DVD called You + Me, as well as the next studio album sometime in the spring of 2013. And they can tour. All of this is fantastic news, but there’s also the small matter of this new album, Holidaydream.
The Spree perform a Christmas show every year and it’s not the first time they’ve recorded Christmas songs – there’s a version of ‘Happy Xmas (Was is Over)’ on the ‘Two Thousand Places’ single. So this should be a perfect match even if they weren’t already the living embodiment of Xmassiness. But it could still be a bit mawkish, or cheesy… I mean, who can get away with a whole album of Christmas songs these days?
Thankfully the Spree are – and I mean this in the best sense of the word – freaks. Their world isn’t like ours, and it’s full of strange and wonderful things. As a result this isn’t an ordinary Christmas album. Alongside the jolly songs (‘Working Elf’s Theme’, whistling and all) and the straight but rather sad readings of the standards (‘Winter Wonderland’ and ‘Chestnuts roasting…’, all flute and harp), we get a few strange little tracks (‘Silent Night’ and ‘Holidaydream’ itself), and the Spree full-on, not just on Lennon’s ‘Happy Xmas’ but also the marvellous ‘Silver Bells’, assisted by The School of Seven Bells. Benjamin Curtis was of course the drummer for Tripping Daisy before he formed Secret Machines and then Seven Bells, and so this is him catching up with his ex-bandmates… and even if it’s a cover, ‘Silver Bells’ (in its full version, with the reprise) is the best Spree song we’ve had for a long time.
The Spree have an advent calendar of videos from this album. I think this, the reprise of ‘Silver Bells’, is the best one that you can see right now. If you’re still not in the seasonal mood by the 2 minute mark, go away and don’t come back until the 27th or so.
But this – ‘Carol of the Drum (Little Drummer Boy)’ – is also great. Why can’t all videos be this good, eh?
For all the videos in the ’13 Days of Polyphonic Xmas’ series, go here. Band page here. The record is available from all good stores, like this, and some that don’t pay as much tax as they might. And this is Volume 1, so let’s hope there’s one every year…
So what’s the point in reviewing an album that’s been released for ages and has lauded critical praise from some of the best-taste blogs and writers out there? Well, it’s because we love it so much that we still feel the need to shower it with more superlatives and because we don’t really (or often) give a monkey’s scrotum that we’re late and not first to review (if the latter ever happens here it’s due to sheer luck rather than intention, but we’ve stated this before).
What makes us keep coming back to Goat’s World Music again and again is, in part, due to its nigh on perfect mix of mystery and pop, recognizable flow and esoteric depth. Simply put, it just warrants further investigation with every listen. It’s a beguiling heady brew of influences and antecedents filtered through a fug of psychedelic and funked miasma that reaffirms its appeal again and again.
With wah-wahs screaming and bongos bashing World Music is a seething singular global vision shot through with Arabic lilts, West Coast fractals, folkish interludes and Disco-funk dynamics. Amounting to a transnational psyche agenda for the weird underground, it hybridizes the global peculiar without ever losing its (third) eye and (second) sight on the here and now. With each outing it gives out more and more sweaty abandon and joy.
We bloody love it and one of us was lucky to see them live. JKneale writes:
Goat at the Lexington – appearing as the exotic filling in a Gnod/Teeth Of The Sea psyche sandwich – felt not so much like an event and more like a happening. They have a perfect grasp of stagecraft, so that when they appeared out of the darkness – all but the bongo player wearing masks and extraordinary outfits – it didn’t feel like a daft stunt. The singer-dancers whirled around on the tiny stage while the man on the bongos stared fixedly into the crowd; the other musicians shifted from genre to genre with supernatural facility. The place was packed, the usual faces complemented by non-scene types come to see what the fuss was about. People danced, as I’d hoped they would, and there were delighted grins everywhere you looked. Madchester with extra magick.
A gig to remember, a sublime mix of the perfectly pop and the deeply strange – come back soon, Goat.
Buy World Music here.
‘Run To Your Mama (Pinkunoizu Remix)’:
‘Goatlord Live’ (very flashing images contained herein):
‘Let It Bleed’:
Back with another stunning set of horrorscapes, Umberto has produced an exuberantly blood-soaked and synth-splattered follow up to the nothing-short-of-genius ‘Prophecy of the Black Widow’.
Opening with sounds seemingly innocent, ‘Night Has A Thousand Screams’ soon gives way to sonics sinister and menacing, as some villainous beat is succeeded by swathes of fearful analogue noise. The simulated sirens of the arriving authorities whilst announced with bravado ultimately seem powerless and futile as the blood spurts with abandon across ‘The Puzzle’. On ‘The Investigation’ there’s a purposeful intent and propulsion, but a palpable menace still lurks in the shadows.
As the album moves on a series of crime scenes are investigated with different degree of forensic intensity: there seems to be something swirling with macabre fascination in the waters of ‘The Pool’; in ‘The Dance Studio’ sounds drip and pool; as a space of curious rejuvenation and relaxation ‘The Waterbed’ will be forever lacerated; and the ‘The Locker Room’ holds out further gruesome secrets. ‘Paralyzed’ doesn’t hold out any hope of solution as an ominous air swirls around the stalking arpeggiator. ‘End Credits’ mirrors the titles and tells of the whole grisly affair beginning again and again.