Author Archives: matthewpetty
There I was in a double decker wingtube to Malaysia and I think to myself I should catch up with the Brainwashed podcast shouldn’t I? On it goes, and what do you know, John thingy’s guest for the episode is Jack Dangers, talking about his new album with my beloved Meat Beat Manifesto, ‘Impossible Star’.
Of course I buy it soon as, don’t I?
I’ve loved MBM since I visited a friend at college and she taped 99% for me, plus some other stuff including Nitzer Ebb (the Essex Front 242) and Front 242 (the Aarschot Nitzer Ebb). Don’t know what happened to her – I seem to recall she became a cop? Whatevs.
This is a solid MBM album, with many familiar textures and features, so I thought I’d present this review in the form of a matrix, so that readers can get directly to the bits they need. I’ve been working too hard.
bpm / duration
|Album Role /
n/a / 02:40
|swaying weird, looping movie||atmospheric opener
can’t think of one
|Vocals: Muffled speech samples Bass: none really Drums: none here either|
91 / 02:43
|meow meow meow ahhhh||here it is
Funny Feeling / Let’s Have Fun
|Vocals: Muffled speech samples
Drums: chugga chugga chugga
|We Are Surrounded
115 / 06:00
|juddering squelch, strums,
|step it up a notch
Mad Bomber / The Woods
|Vocals: Muffled speech samples,
Bass: In the background
Drums: “Being Boiled”
124 & 68 / 03:02
|pulses and tones||previous album refresher
|Vocals: Muffled speech samples
Bass: death rays
Drums: slow plod with skittering as is the style,
120 / 05:31
|touch of the acids||quirky sidestep
Bass: chattering up and down
106 / 03:54
|jazzy chords||title track, duh
‘Let’s Have Fun’ again? it is a fave of mine, but i’m not obsessed
|Vocals: Muffled speech samples,
Bass: In the background, relies more on the beefy drums
Drums: frantic snares
114 / 14:52
|the long one
|Vocals: Distant simian choir
Bass: tab of acid
Drums: sparse taps with crunchy rattle
73 / 05:16
|jazzy chords, crackly vinyle, floaty tones||jazzy one
Stuff off of ‘At The Center’
Bass: dubby straight
Drums: muffled simple loop
n/a / 02:59
bits of ‘Electric People’
Muffled speech samples
97 / 03:31
|reverb bleeps, echoey peeps, tweeks||we continue
can’t think of one
Bass: low enough not to care
Drums: crashing loop
122 / 04:40
|playing with his toys
sample from FSOL PNG?
it’s a test of course
Drums: Being Boiled’ again
n/a / 03:04
can’t think of one
|Vocals: nothing coherent
Bass: none just the rushes
140 / 05:42
|Vocals: Reverby exclamations
Bass: deep bubbles
Drums: 4/4 give it some more
More of the studio wizardry you’ve come to expect. The interview on the podcast made JD sound so cute and nerdy, he was just talking about what the ideas for the noises were.
I am electro, and I can dig the music, kids.
I wasn’t able to witness FC perform back in March (or indeed ever), because I live sevenpointfive thousand kilometres away, and that’s pushing it. But if they weren’t wearing cloaks, I would have been annoyed. I hope the bird heads made an appearance.
Flange Circus released this late last year, which is too long ago. This is a damned fine debut album, with a nice combination of sounds, Bon’s guitar and Pete’s bass forming a scaffolding for the wide range of weirdness produced by the band’s machines, and John’s keyboards joined by Adam on one track, and Anna on flute on another.
The first single ‘Great Divisions’ opens with processed voices calling across the void, followed by pulsing machine tones and a zap kick. Marching chanting robed figures approach, bringing sludgy bass and soaring guitar. A great opener, and a cool video to match.
Introductory guitar and drum rolls introduce a show, but who’s coming on stage? That’s right, it’s the eponymous star of ‘Fucko The Space Clown’. Will this be a celebration of said clown, or a warning? Is this one of those songs Mexican gangsters commission for themselves from mariachi bands? A sudden change of tone in the middle brings 808s and howling (always a good combination), then Fucko is on stage, weaving his magic(k), waving his white-gloved hands, before the curtain goes up revealing his plan, and it all comes together with the guitar and bass, and a climax of clattering drums, ending with a final howl.
(On a side note, I sincerely hope Fucko becomes FC’s mascot, like Eddie, Booji Boy, or Vic Rattlehead. I foresee a giant inflatable over a stadium one day.)
Straightforward bass and drums introduce ‘Strange Hairy Airport’, and they’re then joined by a very nice resonant flanging choir. More processed voices join them, then rock chords hold the the chorus to account for their actions. The drums start skipping, and the whole thing reminds me of Sabbath’s ‘Supertzar’.
‘Homunculus Gardens’ is a strange abstract twinkling interlude. These gardens. Are they where the homunculi are grown, or the council estate where they live? Scrapes of furniture being moved upstairs, distant gramophones, interference pulses like an electric discharge, echoing layered klaxon or car alarms. Not a great neighbourhood I guess. Arguing voices confirm this, and then some metallic clanging as the new buildings collapse (geddit?!).
After the wanderings of previous, ‘In The Pestilent Folds of Chub 909’ is a flip-back-to-the-present 4/4 bouncer, straight in with the techno kick and nice reverb snap clap. A flat choir is joined by found sounds from Berlin basements and Manchester squares, and a pure tone tune takes us up. Then it really gets going as the drums become almost tribal, with wriggling notes down into grinding bass, shimmering splashes, flattened by the one note choir. Someone hits jam jars filled with different amounts of coloured water. The colours are important. And boom, it’s over.
A gentle flute (played by guest Anna Billett) plays ‘Scarborough Fair’ on cliffs overlooking the village, in the intro to ‘Moloch By The Sea’. But drums like those used to keep slave rowers in time herald the approach of the ships to the peaceful settlement. Soaring chords as the ships beach, then the drums and chords compete until…?
The fate of the village is left unclear. Perhaps they were just traders.
With my lack of imagination, I find it hard to detach the name of a track from the sound (you don’t say), but I will resist suggesting ‘Dehibernation’ follows the stages of someone emerging from a long sleep. Buzz, tones, phase, flange, synth bass tones, drum fills – sounds like my kind of alarm clock. Sludgy guitars and bass are followed by synth chords and a line from a 1983 electro tune.
Flange Circus use drum machines, and in some cases it can sound a little stilted. Would they benefit from a live drummer? It would change the sound of the band, and perhaps it sounds how it sounds because that’s how it sounds. I don’t know what the live setup is.
Enough thinking, Petty, more listening.
Fitting in nicely with the current mood of Weird Folk Horror Britain, ‘Kwak’ is lovely stuff. The rook flies over the misty fields, with ghostly voices and phantom resonance trailing behind it.
‘Zerodom Heritage 2016’ is a reworking of FCs first demo release from 2013. Let’s revisit the original first.
A simple walking pace pulse bassline with a drilling resonance sliding in from the rear. A pause, silence, then the bass and wind over a bottle, with a jagged stuttering. All the factors combine before it ends on a fading car horn.
The original was an intriguing debut that left us all curious and wanting more. The new version features beefed up bass, the drums are given more space to twinkle, distant reverbed sweeps add texture, and a new middle eight organ sequence that takes it in a new and uneasy direction.
A sample collage interlude as the album approaches its end, ‘Mellow Birds, Mellow Beards’ combines voices processed to the extent they sound like a demented Speak’n’Spell™, and deep troubled klaxons.
A wash of atmosphere gives way to a Vangelis warped synth coming in sounding like old video game lightcycles, in ‘Gnu Fantasy’. Then we a treated to a heartbeat kick drum and chapel organ, and a nice solid no-wave bassline. Motorik synth and angry guitar grind gets you grooving, or at least twitching. It’s a toe tapper. The calm at the centre is followed by rambling tones, looping atmos, stuttering bass, receding as the album closes… and scene.
This debut album is a good progression from their first two EPs, and takes them in a good direction. I’m keen to hear more, and even keener to see them live someday. They have elements of BBO faves Teeth Of The Sea, German prog synths, pastoral folk, and Ghost Box Britweird. In the final track of the album, someone got to yell, “1, 2, 3, 4” – and isn’t that what it’s all about?
Get yourself enveloped.
Fresh(ish) harvest from BBO regulars Ghost Box, with a new partnership of Ed MacFarlane and Ed Gibson of Friendly Fires with Jon Brooks of The Advisory Circle. What should this aging fanboi expect from this new direction?
The template is set from the first seconds of the introductory title track. Distorted plucking, birdsong, needlescratch, and wavering flute. This is a Ghost Box album.
But! As soon as you settle into your rocking chair for an exploration of a grainy pastoral double-exposure landscape as ‘Black Rain’ starts with its chord washes and bass pulses, the extremely groovy rhythms and bassline kick in, and you’re on your feet. This track comes to you with fuel injection – toes tapping! Then vocals! Perhaps I missed something, but this is a departure from the expected – although expectations are subjective. A great synth phrase follows them up, and ghostly backing vocals keep us dreaming. There’s even a breakdown!? What’s happening? I’ll tell you what. It’s Pastoral Synthpop, in contrast to the paleofuture neon cityscapes usually associated with this style. Neon, but diffused through curling mist over a meadow.
After this cracking opener, waltzing bass wallows, pleading vocals, plucked scrapie guitar, flute trills and synth arpeggios make ‘Don’t Let Me Dream’ a sun-soaked drift down a very British river. Who’s up for a cruise? Then follow a couple of slowies, ‘A Simple Walk’, followed by ‘Daylight’, which starts mellow but gives it some oomph in the chorus. Arms-thrown-wide ecstatic dream chorus, brassy bass synths, naive little xylophone tinkles. This is another corker. Lovely drift-out chorus, one I could happily loop for hours like that one 6ths song about Hawaii.
It wouldn’t be a Ghost Box album with an ode to some bird or other, and ‘Sparrowhawk’ fits perfectly. Soaring, twinkling, watching, swooping, and climbing again with the hint of an acid tweak in its beak. A nice little interstitial, leading nicely into ‘Man and Machine’ and ‘Fluchtwege’. With titles like that, you’d best be channelling Ralf und Florian, or at least Jean-Michel. And they are – a bit.
The former starts a bit like an Oxygene hidden track, with a boppy shuffle/shuffly bop. The vocals bring it over the Channel and into the future / the bridge has some lyrics that are unusually optimistic about our relationship with the technium / and the chorus must be the machine itself, joyfully hooting its agreement with this sweet vision. A personal fave. ‘Fluchtwege’, with it’s arpeggios, chorus of soft voices and guitar licks, is a love song to textures. Rust, snow, dust, light, whispers, touch, the stars align. You half expect an erotic story set among the corn rigs. Echoing electronic textures, pulsing notes, minimal percussion combine in ‘Polymer Dawn’. Vocals blending in with just some phrases, layers build like rays of the sun edging into view.
Starting like a folk circle with picked guitar, tambourine and vibes, ‘First in an Innocent World’ turns into a waltzing electric ode to the new day. A swirling middle with hopeful yet triumphant chords, then simple phrases repeat and fade, as the album draws to a close.
Another classic Ghost Box album. The whole package – sound, imagery, voice, feelings. A couple of filler tracks don’t prevent this being a highlight of the year, and of the year to come. Should have been in the 2016 top thirty. Soz.
Warning Light’s new 2-track single is “dedicated to all my friends and acquaintances who for whatever reason are not with their friends/family/sweethearts for the holiday season.” I feel you.
It Looks Like Snow (08:29) – The musical equivalent of a still life of a lone house in a winter landscape, the snow muffling the swirling drone. Strings come in like low sun coming in through the window. Do you draw the curtains, or let it blind you?
Heading Home Songs (08:29) – The road reels out, with the lane so straight you seem not to be moving. The other voices in the car are smothered by your distraction. You want to get where you’re going. But once you get close, you enter the city, and energy picks up around you, as you finally arrive, with the same wind in your ears.
Beautiful sounds, and not a sleigh bell in sight. Pay what you want at Bandcamp.
“You are not alone, much love to you all.”
Much love to you too, D, and to everyone out there.
From the bulging BBO sac comes this nice little collection of distant noise and grinding ambient. This short abstract collection deserves a classic short matthewpetty stream-of-barely-conciousness™ review.
‘Fires in the field’ (04:01) wavering guitar washes drifting inland, dissolving into interference and eardrum buzz.
‘Sheltered’ (03:58) a rave taking place over the next hill, while the machines in the citadel who weren’t invited pump fluids into the patient on the gurney, the EEG giving the only sign of “life”.
‘While their backs are turned’ (08:41) at the riverside by the weir, we strip and clean our makeshift weapons. The pulse comes closer. Soon we must take a stand. But as they ascend over us, we realize they are not the enemy. They are leaving, and I think we’ll miss them.
‘Anabaptist’ (03:49) the runout groove contains a message? The bass shimmying along, making shapes with its hands, almost a buzzvoice. You could dance to it, if you were Gregor Samsa. Segue into…
‘Vow of dissolution’ (01:39) only two legs needed to dance now. The grind and the bass feel internal and persist and intensify until vow is promptly fulfilled.
‘Yielding light’ (02:31) chants and vocalisations deep in the warren. Stone surfaces channel it up to the observation deck where we meet for the first and last time, overlooking the fields where this began.
I am liking this one a lot. Name your price from good ol’ Bandcamp.
From Sweden’s Fluere Tapes label comes UFO Över Lappland’s eponymous cassette release, released in June this year.
The site describes it as “Plasmatic space waves peak tubes push bellbottoms and hardcore tudes to raise freak flags for the estranged teens of callous peoples.” Not sure about the bell bottoms frankly – The Young Ones taught me well – but some hardcore tudes and plasmatic waves are always welcome chez BBO. Plus aren’t we all estranged teens deep down? Certainly the lurid strangled prose below belongs in a sixth-formers rough book (are those still a thing?)
Clocking in at ober 12 minutes, opener ‘Keep On Keepin’ On Space Truckin’ ‘ has few f*cks to give, and gives them very reluctantly. Once the drums start, there is no stopping. The guitars chime and grind together, the electronics hover behind it all. Truckin’ is definitely the word for this. But this truck, grubby as it is, has hyperspace capability, the kind that has you looking through the front viewscreens as a cosmic slitscan conduit swirls past. Can the the tachograph keep up?
Midway along the journey, perhaps at an orbital rest stop, we take a pause and refuel, stretch our legs in the zero-gee. Out of the stop, back onto the freeway slicked with interstellar rain, refreshed by coffee and space crisps or something, we take the last exit to the final infinite destination, as guitars drums and synths crunch.
Bubbling synths die away as the destination is reached, and the truck is reversed into the loading bay as logistics technicians wait to receive the load of galactic shades to protect the eyes of the local heads from the brutal indifference of the universe.
We made it.
Apparently the Krell weren’t wiped out in one night by their monsters from the Id. Some of them escaped and moved to Sweden, where they provided the intro to ‘Podzol’. Then throbbing ceremonial drums and bass underpin the guitar and thin flute-like synth.
As the ceremony progresses, the standing stones reverberate with the bass, and the drums drive the faithful forward to the altar, where they each receive a party favour. Then it kicks off, and the purpose of the meeting becomes clear. Guitar soars, electronics drool, the drums fade away, leaving just the grind to clean up the mess.
Power is switched on, and the machines awake, with a crescendo of electronics, and bass like bleeping machines harnessed for the experiment. Drums pound as power is diverted from the city’s urban monads to the portal generator.
It seems to have worked – something has been let through. But the lab staff all agree that ‘Nothing That Lives Has … Such Eyes’. The entity starts to try and communicate, responding with an electronic howl to the experimenter’s repetitive guitar phrase in a hoarse plea for an explanation. But talks break down, and the lab is destroyed as the misunderstood and frustrated Galaxy Being upturns tables, smashes delicate equipment and eventually emerges into the dawn, confronted by the massed ranks of the military.
In the ensuing standoff, we aren’t sure if anyone will survive. Luckily, the visitor can simply fade out of this dimension.
Sadly the cassette-only bonus track will have to be left to our collective imagination, as the cassette is sold out. Perhaps if we all think together, we can read the magnetic particles on the tape, like in the CIA’s Project Stargate in the 70’s.
Alternatively, buy the files off a willing vendor, which is what the CIA ended up doing most of the time anyway.
This one goes back to August last year, but I’m not apologising. I’ve done enough apologising, dammit. It’s another one of those albums with people singing on it, so as I did with Debs, I’ll attempt to dig down into the tundra and bring up some core samples of reactive emotion.
Processed chords, acoustic strumming, and resonant strings combine with the vocals on ‘The Test of Time’ to create an opener that wouldn’t be out of place on an Ian McCulloch solo project.
Kindness is a risk indeed, but the sampled voice on the short-but-sweet sketch ‘Angel Breakdown’ doesn’t decide whether to stick with it or not. The gentle atmospherics of this track convinced me to go for it, though.
Album standout ‘Stars’ has a bit of the Richard Hawleys about it. Again, simple guitar, simple rhythm, simple lyrics, and that background atmospheric stuff that just gets me right there.
I have to admit I thought there were some pitch-shifted vocals in ‘Maple Leaf ft Daisy Davies’. Then I remembered I’m a Dad now, and decided it was actually quite cute.
‘The Light’ compares a receding taillight (on a bike? motorbike?) to the inspiration that you’re seeking. Perhaps the person leaving is what you need? This song actually gets quite heavy on the strumming, with a subtly disconcerting coda.
A sampled TV or radio gives a cosy Sunday feeling to ‘And Live’, but the guitar and backing occupy a much larger space than your living room. Expand your horizons? Or at least go for a nice walk in the refreshing drizzle, made better by the thought of coming home to tea and this album again.
Strings and strums on ‘You Have To Laugh’, with a gentle piano phrase, meander through this interstitial, leading into ‘My Shadow In The Maze’, which could be talking about a pastoral leafy labyrinth, or the dark twists and turns of trying to figure out how you feel. Then straight in with the atmospherics (they know how to get me), the guitar more distant than ever, ‘Rush To Wait’ is another compelling instrumental I could leave on loop.
Rain on the roof and processed piano accompanies the guitar on the album closer ‘Fool Man Runaway’. Guest vocals from Caoilfhionn Rose answer the lead vocals, and a tender piano phrase rounds it off.
Losing your shadow, now you’re seeing stars, then I talk to my best friend, and I finally made it out. A beautiful album, and they’ve had a few releases since it came out, so go and catch up, just at your own sweet pace.
BBO has featured Kieran Mahon’s work before, the cosmos-themed ‘Space Is The Place’ EP. This newest EP is three tracks of eyes-closed-warm-bath-of-sound ambient electronic texture that envelopes, guides and inspires.
The warm tone chord that opens ‘Mirrors’ is joined by arpeggiated phrases and resonate pulses. The chords intensify, becoming more triumphant, and introduce an echoing voice sample on the edge of intelligibility. Then all fades away, except for the opening chord.
‘Measured Motion’ has the scattered drops of sound and insistent bass, mutating into scintillating shower before a repeating synth phrase loops and wouldn’t seem out of place in eine Europaische café on a long train journey. I love this one.
A slow swell of phasing chords, looping mid bass tone phrases, and a periodic deep bass tone build up the layers of ‘Everything is Forever Running and Returning’, illustrating the point. Then a resonant distance appears with a processed voice, all the time with the simple drone acting like the strata or foundation for the whole piece. Then as the parts disseminate, a simple bass beat draws the EP to a close.
Mahon is prolific and generous. All his release are available on Bandcamp, and you can name your price. Go there and name something generous in return.
As a set of pieces to listen, think, distract, occupy and sooth, this EP is pretty great. Very effective, and one to return to. As Kieran says on the site,
It is highly recommended to be listened to with headphones.
I hope you enjoy it.
I did, and I did.
Arriving on my birthday this year, on the Blackest Ever Black label, this slab of rhythmic electroacousticity brings to mind the more atmospheric side of Plastikman, and the imaginary band from the comic strip Achewood, The Tenmen, if that’s valid. And if it’s not? Come at me.
All the pieces use a Reinheitsgebot of bass, percussion, single-note guitar and atmospherics. It’s a deceptively simple formula that manages to be very evocative of what this world seems to be headed headlong toward.
Opener ‘Coax’ kicks straight in with a throb and bark, swoon and twang. The bass manages to slide around enough to almost lessen the tension you feel is coming. Almost. ‘Dead Heat’ picks up the groove and walks down the straight road towards the horizon a little with it. Acoustic guitar tuning practice, a nice shimmy of percussion, and dog and child answering each other.
The animalistic cries return in ‘Hold Your Line’, but this time things are a little more urgent. Strings weave amongst the scuttle of drums and the beat of the bass, and the guitar line continues, in an attempt to hold the line against whatever is approaching. Will it succeed? Judging by the (only slightly) more upbeat ‘Front Running’ you might think it had. But then the strings and howls return, and the crunch of boots echo through the abandoned streets, marching back to the gunfire in the distance.
‘Dialling In, Falling Out’ brings the paranoia to the fore, as a regular expedition outside the bunker into the grey dusk turns into a stealthy cat-and-mouse game. Things seem much more calm on ‘Glassed’, and you might be forgiven for letting your guard down. The bass is at your side, and the guitar returns to an earlier refrain, along with the choir and strings.
Taps and scrapes herald a drone melody on ‘Cold Cain’, and I’m reminded of the days spent in the cellar with the Parsons under the cylinder, awaiting our fate. Then the guitar, more driven than the earlier student plucks, comes to encourage action.
Finally, ‘Stammer’ recapitulates all we’ve learned. If we remember our training, we will survive out there. The guitar is still urgent, the animals are back, the abstract drum gestures punctuate.
Apart from a few moments that could get you wiggling in a weaker moment, this album made this reviewer sit very still. It’s a fine line between an album being a “listener” and a “backgrounder”. Depending on your mood, this could function as both.
Not a party album. Grab the fancy vinyl now, or download from Bandcamp.