After I badgered him to, an old friend nominated me on Facebook to do this ‘7 Days 7 Songs’ thing. It’s quite simple:
- Post 1 song a day for 7 days, with a note about why (nostalgia, usually)
- Nominate someone else to do the same
- The whole sorry carousel goes round again, faster and faster, like at the end of ‘Strangers on a Train’
I’m doing it at the moment, and just in case you’re interested, here’s the list of hat I have so far, over on my blog. Maybe it will give you some useful insights, to keep in mind if and when you read my stuff here.
Hello readers. If you can tear yourself away from TOTS and Bon’s excellent review, I’m back with another collection of electronic soundscapes, and another dose of tortured stream-of-consciousness purple review prose, with a few references to video games thrown in.
Having tripped over and enjoyed Mr Hauschildt while listening to a Brainwashed podcast, I was pleased to see that Kranky were releasing a new album from him in September, so I grabbed it when it came out.
It’s a beautiful album of lush synths and arpeggiated tones. There’s definitely shout-outs to your German pioneers here, so if your copy of ‘Phaedra’ was getting a bit worn, this will do you just fine. The tracks generally fall into one of two forms, the einatmen-ausatmen sweeping forms, and the sequenced synth workouts.
The opener, ‘Eyelids Gently Dreaming’, doesn’t grab you immediately, but sidles its way in with a gently persuasive sequence of strings. But it’s just a palette-cleanser before the following ‘Arpeggiare’. This is much more of a melodic piece, and it lives up to its name, with overlapping sparkles and trills of sound, reminiscent of Cauty and Weston’s ‘Space’, and a tuneful line that is almost hummable. Don’t get used to that, though.
The title of ‘In Spite of Time’s Disguise’ is reflected in the way the organ stabs summon a clock movement, but a digital one. No swinging pendulums here. Xylophone trills herald a delicate reverbed tune, which comes and goes until all that’s left is the pulse of the clock and a gentle string wash. A personal highlight.
Title track ‘Where All Is Fled’ starts with melancholy piano, and in between distant almost-voices, it forms the bulk of this track. Definite soundtrack material, very pretty indeed, but I think a little out of place – although the artist put it here, so it belongs here.
The sounds on some tracks do seem to act as messengers and guides, leading you on to some secret location before leaving you to wonder how to get home. For example, arpeggiated phrases introduce ‘Vicinities’, then claves and wood percussion add a bit of a rainforest feel. Bass swells, and the phrases start to resolve themselves. A certain urgency builds, the phrases simplify, and having made their point the group disappears through the trees.
Or this – I’ve had my share of hospital needles, and been under the knife a few times, and I can say that if they could have piped ‘Anesthesia’ in while I was drifting away, it would have been a much more relaxing glide into oblivion. I might even have met some of the folks “out there”, as they were attracted to what I was listening to.
I was caught out by ‘The World Is Too Much with Us’, starting as it did with what I thought was just more synth sweeps. Then suddenly I was tripped by sinuous driving running appegiated synth rills, and a voice chanting through the atmosphere. This is definitely my favorite track on the album. The lines build and blend, growing to a smooth rounded hilltop, before scattering to the winds to spread their message.
There are some IMHO filler tracks. ‘Edgewater Prelude’ is a short plinky-plonky piece, but nice nonetheless. ‘A Reflecting Pool’ is a stroll through a vaulted hall, droplets of tone reverberating randomly. ‘Sundialed’ brings together the chatter of a cellphone, the swell of an LFO-driven phaser, and a simple bassline, then trips you up with sudden skipping offsteps to keep you on your toes.
Whether it’s actual birdsong or a some form of robotic simulation matters not in the alien forest of ‘Aequus’. It reminds me of the music used (created?) in the game Proteus. With the bass and clicking muffled beat, it wouldn’t be out of place on an FSOL album. We return to this location later on in ‘Lifelike’, only this time it’s nighttime. Hooting cries, insect violinists, and pond dwellers mix with a quite urgent rhythmic pulse, reflecting the rush of nocturnal life.
What did I say about this album wearing its influences on its (mylar?) sleeve? It had to happen. After the rains and the climbing chimes of synth open ‘Caduceus’, a distinctly familiar octave-jumping bass takes us back to the mid 70s. Very nice indeed. The final track on the album, ‘Centrifuge’, sums up what we’ve learned on our journey (if not tourney, no, not tourney). As the name suggests, it takes all the parts and spins them, but instead of separating them, it combines them into a final curtain closer.
As other reviewers have suggested, this album (indeed this kind of music) would be well accompanied by one of the new breed of procedurally-generated space exploration games. It’s certainly worth listening to while exploring your own space, inner or otherwise. Buy it where you can, or from iTunes if you have to.
The announcement of a new Teeth of the Sea release is always a seismic event round these parts. I think it’s fair to say they’re a band that unites all four of us in effervescent delight having fan-gushed over their previous albums (here, here and here). With the news of Highly Deadly Black Tarantula a collective ‘Ye Gods! YES!’ could be heard in Manchester, London and Abu Dhabi.
If ‘classic TOTS’ is now a permissible phrase, opener ‘All My Venom’ is such. It feels like a nod to classics (yes, I can use that) such as ‘Swear Blind The Alsatian’s Melting’ as trumpet, guitars, drones, and beats build and weave. What amounts to the single from the album, ‘Animal Manservant’, is even more venomous than its predecessor, with vocals akin to a catatonic fit, macerating beats and the lightest of stargazing melodies. If Perc were to collab (as the kids call it) with Keith Emerson I think this would be the mutated, but nonetheless lovable, offspring.
‘Field Punishment’ is the standout on this release. A chest thumping robotic funk, it’s EBM for an ageing rave generation and conjures images of TOTs bedecked in crisp white vests with legs spread in heroic übermensch stances (and a whole host of other Front 242 or Frontline Assembly imaginings). That’s probably not what they’re going for, but there’s no accounting for interpretation is there?
‘Have You Ever Held A Bird of Prey’ reveals the confidence of the band: four of its seven and half minutes are composed of a bare throb before it erupts into another dirty pulsating rhythm interspersed with keyhole surgery guitars. Please note: I give you those timings deliberately as the exploding of the upbeat section has caught me unawares on numerous occasions (twice involving hot coffee). It’s that moment in Jaws when the heads rolls out – you know it’s coming, but it doesn’t mean you won’t jump.
‘Phonogene’ continues the TOTs tradition of experimental tracks with human voices; this time it sounds like an answering machine having a bastard of a day. Final track ‘Love Theme for 1984’ finds the band in more melancholic and poignant mood: a beautiful evolving slab of kosmic Berlin School, with hints of Klaus Schulze and Edgar Froese, brought together by tremolo guitar and distant brass melodies. As a final track ‘Responder’ it ain’t, but expecting something similar is a tad unfair.
Indeed, whilst Highly Deadly Black Tarantula is no Master in its overriding impact, it’s still undoubtedly and by far and away one of the best things you’ll hear all year. And that’s something we can all agree on. BUY
Time for our annual celebration of the thinning of the veil and all that is, basically, a bit Goff. So happy All Hallow’s Eve, Samhain, Hop-tu-naa, Nos Galan Gaeaf, Blodmonath or Goth Xmas, to you all. Here’s some music to soundtrack the night, the phantasmagorical, and the darker arts.
First up, the magickal Wizards Tell Lies with nigh on forty minutes of darkly ethereal sonic mesmerism:
Second, we have eighty minutes of necronomiconal drone dedicated to, nay attempting to invoke, the Great Old One. (Eighty minutes, really? Yes, R’lyeh. I thank you. Here all week. Don’t eat the squid):
Next, with its refrain of ‘Through the trees, witches wander there’, ex-Stereolab member Morgane Lhote as Hologram Teen, evokes all sorts of pastoral horror and straight-to-VHS nasties on this top tune:
Celluloid horror flicks are referenced more directly in this mix by Ryan M Todd; one of six mixes he has done made up of soundtracks from the familiar and to the downright obscure. Brilliant stuff and ends on a real, umm, high! (And listen to the rest while your at it):
And here it comes…watch out…the traditional slab of dodgy Goff for your displeasure:
Have an evil one.
In the lead up to Hallowe’en, it seems apt to finally get round to reviewing this stunning EP/album by Ubre Blanca (out on the ever reliable Giallo Disco Records). If you don’t want to read any more of this review, then your take-home message is that this is a stonking slab of Goblin Carpentry with all the bravura dramatics and creeping atmospherics you could want, and then some. Go buy it.
‘The Sadist’ will be many people’s flagship tune from this release: sinister surveillance pervades the first half, replete with synth sweeps, power chord crashes and anxious drone builds, until it gives way to an upping of the tempo, as something intent on doing its hideous worst closes in on its prey. It’s ace. ‘The Quarry’ accentuates the VHS aesthetic with woozy pulses that succeed in scoring a sense of urgency across the skin and synapses, whilst Mellotrons tell of something supernatural in the air.
Some may baulk at the ominous glockenspiel-esque opening to ‘Fear of God’, but the sheer dramatism of the song as it erupts into life engenders a knowing smile and a desire for theatrical posturing. It’s a tune that reveals that Ubre Blanca know exactly what they are doing with The Sadist and are doing it with a knowing sense of origins and genre. ‘Saeta’ places Flamenco theatre and passion firmly in the horror soundscape and acts as brilliant prelude to the exquisite closing credits of ‘Invocation’ – all shards of ghostly choirs, tensed drums and grieving synths.
When The Sadist finishes it is difficult not to stand up, clap furiously and scream ‘Bravo! Bravo!’ in some cod posh accent befitting the realms of High Culture. Given that Ubre Blanca obviously found their inspiration in B-movie slashers and bucket-bin horror, you realise how far this release can take you. Problem is, you may never come back.
‘Fear of God’:
In early September 2015, both the founders of BBO and the two new writers convened in a secret location in Manchester to meet (for the first time on some cases) and discuss the purpose and direction the blog should take.
That done, we had a pint or two. Luckily, the Coiled Spring podcast was there to capture and document this first Both Bars On Extraordinary General Meeting. In the interview, we discuss the history of the blog, how the new writers were chosen, what kind of thing we review, and of course the key question – what is music? We also raise the issue of spats with artists and how to deal with a bulging mailbag. Have a listen below.
Technical note: this was recorded outside in a pub back yard, on a single Zoom, with the ventilation system running, planes going over, the odd siren and so on. We at BBO feel that this adds a drone/ambient/post-noise frisson.
Sisters Julia and Maria Reis play guitar, drums and keyboard between them – and that’s it, just them. They set up their own label, Cafetra Records, in Lisbon five years ago and this is their second album, released here on the peerless Upset the Rhythm label. And in a sense they remind me of No Age – the set-up is similarly simple, but can be so flexible and creative, and there’s a mix of songs demonstrating pace and power on the one hand, and reflection on the other.
Opener ‘Braco de Ferro’ has what I think is the best-sounding riff since ‘Teenage Kicks’, and the vocals are perfect though I have no idea what they’re singing about.
Then we’re straight into ‘Branca’, with its cracking drumming and driving pace:
The short album does have more light and shade; ‘Es Tu, Ja Sei’ fades in and out, distorted like a Lisbon version of the Shop Assistants, ‘Amendoa Amarga’ drifts from lively verse-chorus dynamics into ragged noise and back again.
When you get to the end you just want to play the whole thing again.
Parts & Labor were, and remain, the greatest noise-rock band of this century thus far. Don’t agree? Well you’re wrong.
For his second solo outing on Thrill Jockey, Dan Friel, front man of now defunct said band, has coordinated his machines to reflect, ruminate on and represent his experiences of the birth of his son. Arguably then, this is his answer to Raymond Scott’s Soothing Sounds for Baby, but Life is often anything but comforting – it’s an album akin to a sweet tasting pacifier wrapped in sandpaper.
Off-axis opener ‘Lullaby (For Wolf) is the perfect woozy disjunctive for the mayhem ahead. ‘Cirrus’ at first listen is anything but little fluffy clouds with its sharpened bullet beats. Yet floating through it is the sugary, most airy, of melodies. And this is where Mr Friel has always excelled – simple lead lines that are equal parts uplifting and melancholic. One wonders what he’d achieve if he went all-out Pop. I’m convinced Chart domination would be guaranteed. Of course it ain’t gonna happen, but it’s an intriguing proposition.
‘Lungs’ wheezes and pants its way into your chest cavity, before upping the rattling noise and breaths per minute. ‘Sleep Deprivation’ is wonky synthesised mosquito whines. ‘Life (Pt. 1)’ sees our maestro place melody at centre stage once again and results in an overwhelming sadness for the demise of Parts & Labor. On ‘Bender’ that curious Celtic lilt to Friel’s work returns.
Friel’s makes his machines perform the most brilliant arcade crunchstep; this is 8-bit stomping beyond any hipstered discovery of SID chip aesthetics. And once again he’s triumphed.
Life is out on Friday 16th of October. Buy it here
The first hurdle with this new EP by XAM, (AKA Matthew Benn, bassist in the the acclaimed Hookworms), is not a musical problem. It’s how to actually pronounce the name. Zam? Sham? Exam? X A M?
I’m none the wiser.
Anyway, pronunciation issues aside, this three track EP (clocking in at over 40 minutes) has plenty on offer for fans of kosmische, krautrock and skewed electronica.
It all kicks off with Werk and Play, underpinned by a pervasive motoric propelled beat and a simple arpeggiated synth progression that gets gradually more and more hypnotic during the length of the 8 and a half minutes you’re alone with this track.
Coke Float has much more urgency to it than the opening track. Again, the motorik beat is in attendance, but this track has a grittier feel than the opener, chirping and bubbling effects breaking through in the background behind the synth foundation.
Side two sees EP highlight Lifer – it’s 22 minutes in duration, and if you know me then you’ll also know I appreciate a long song. It’s all glorious drone for the first four or so minutes before a bright, coiling synth line comes into view. It’s a track that rewards you if you immerse yourself in it, headphones on. Eschewing the beats of the tracks from side one, here you can glide gently on glittering analogue noises. But Lifer isn’t content just to drift, oh no, there is real progression in this track, especially so when it gets into the last few minutes where the the drone takes a slightly darker turn, and subtle explosion noises and electronic pulses take over.
Tone Systems is available for digital download or on Vinyl (if there are any left…) from Bandcamp.
I’ve been so far from here. It’s good to feel you again.
It’s been a long long time.
We reviewed the wonderful Fresh Snow back here. On hearing their new album one track stood apart from the title alone – ‘Don’t Fuck a Gift Horse in the Mouth’. On realising that the dulcet tones were those of Damian Abraham from Fucked Up the whole thing jumped to a new level of delight. A perfect motorik wig out with Abraham screaming “It melts away” and other angered insights. Astonishing. Last track on the excellent new album Won. Available here:
I think it fair to say we’re a little tired of post-rock as a genre (and even more so the ‘just because you know all the notes you don’t have to fucking play them’ sibling, math-rock) However, some bands know how to tweak the buttons of epic pleasure and Caspian are such. A propelled arp to start, a perfectly realised long build, a clattering heavy ending…sometimes you have to ask ‘what’s not to like?’ From their new album, Dust and Disquiet. Available here:
Despite having self-professed limited keyboard skills, Casiomtb has produced something with a beautiful simplicity on The Devil Take Your Stereo. Taking one old keyboard, playing one note at a time and chucking a load of effects at it might displease the musical purists, but such an approach is more than welcome round these parts. It’s an album of evolving and intriguing drones and oddly percussive refrains, with space to think and feel, and aids a drift away into the deep. It’s ace. Available here.
Another artist we’ve championed before in our completely regular Sack of Streams feature is Hanetration. Back with a new release entitled Waldsterben, he’s taken something of a departure in style as rhythms and beats are brought to the fore and the cerebral drone to the back. Innovation is here by the bucket load and the EP provides an atmosphere that is both captivating and pleasingly difficult to locate. Available here, for free!
Right. I’m off to extract the marrow from your backbone.