Author Archives: matthewpetty
…the world, the tide, the seasons, the wheel, the dial…
Change is a constant. Here we are with a selection of constantly changing releases to change your mind and your habits.
Fatima Al Qadiri is a NYC-based Kuwaiti visual artist and musician. ‘Brute‘ is an album that combines Mark Stewart-like police state recordings with trippy dubstep bits and ethnic flutes. A bit of politics, but cool nonetheless.
BBO’s review of Warning Light’s album XXXI described it as, variously, “just simply beautiful”, “airy propulsion”, “electro-motorisation”, and “sublime awe and cosmic wonder”. D Haddon’s latest EP, ‘Life/Death Suite EP‘ is made up of bits left over from his latest CD, which BBO will get to in due course.
The EP’s two tracks deal with such trivial issues as life and death. ‘Often Chance’ matches swirling strings with a deep pulse, then brings in stuttering back-and-forth percussion which sounds to me like the emerging Martians in Pal’s 1953 War of the Worlds. As the track expands, more elements combine until it turns into a literally entrancing wave. 10 minutes passed while I hardly noticed. ‘Dream Lovers Never Dream Alone‘ is a slower but nonetheless powerful piece, bringing to mind a triumphant funeral march through a village, to a meadow where the ceremony ends. Grab it.
I’ve always loved acid house, but I’ve never seen it as party music. I would listen to my TDK D90 cassettes marked “Dance I”, “Dance II” etc in my bedroom and on my bike, but I was never in a position to go out and shake it as was so often suggested by the music. A combination of age, personality, who knows what. Still, the squelch of a resonant 303 always gets me tingling.
To me, Posthuman embody that ‘headphone house’ aesthetic. Their forthcoming compilation ‘Back To Acid‘ is pretty straightforward. A silver box with knobs, a black box with orange buttons, and a white box with grey buttons – what else do you need? (rhetorical question, I know what you need. Indulge me). 12 tracks of caustic pleasure, from the robotic march of ‘Six Hundred’ to the delicious twang of ‘Beat Down’, via my favourite, the atmospheric throbber ‘Mezzotint’. I will be buying.
Baron Mordant is a name well known to those who dabble in the darker reaches of techno/electronics. Here as Phlekz, he’s released an EP of wondrously deep, dark and dubbed machine music. Shards of glitch and chiptune filtered through a hazy recollection. Rattling bass rhythms meld with rave whistles often mangled beyond bare recognition. Throughout, though, there’s a lightness of touch to the melancholic melodies that find their home in the background – glimpses of light on a dark but rewarding canvass.
Is hauntological Rave a nascent genre where half-remembered events that may not have happened are charted through drone and distanced rhythms? Dunno. But if it is then Body Boys, on the ever-reliable Opal Tapes, are ahead of the game. Over six carefully constructed pieces, Body Boys evoke the sound of a full-on club submerged in a heavy fog of recollection and half-formed memories of loved-up abandon. Spectres reach out of these memories to offer water and sweaty embraces, and ghostly DJs push at the levels but are barely heard through the veil of time. Marvellous stuff. Get it here.
Spring will spring, the grass will riz.
matthewpetty and angrybonbon
I don’t know if it’s age, new fatherhood, some deep psychic need for contemplation and peace, or a combination of them all, but I’ve been drawn to much more quiet and gentle music recently. Now that is not to say boring. You can be raucous, frenetic, and boring, and you can be gentle and quiet, and still capture and hold my attention.
That’s where Debs McCoy comes in. A musician and artist based in the UK NE covering many disciplines, her music is a mix of folk guitar, layered piano, trance-like rhythms, and her own voice, which weaves among the other elements in a quite haunting way.
Her album ‘Silent The Corner’ was released in 2013, but it’s taken me this long to get to write about it. The conditions had to be right (see above). It was released as a collection in two halves: one half acoustic folk with textural elements, one half more cinematic instrumental pieces.
I’m not a big vocals fan, as you may know. I tend to treat the voice in music I listen to as just another sound – I don’t tend to catch lyrics (again, this may be due to age). In addition, I have to admit I don’t have the vocabulary (musical or emotional) to describe this music. I will probably embarrass myself by referencing styles and techniques at odds with what Debs is doing, or revealing I could go my usual route of writing down what the instruments were and how they interlace. But that would not do this music justice (and I’m sure you’re sick of it anyway). So please bear with me as I wade into unfamiliar waters, trying to describe how the songs make me feel.
A spoken phrase, a strummed guitar, a cello, even the “tape” noise adds to the atmosphere of opener ‘Propagate’. The song mentions sunshine, wind, leaves, and brings to mind walking in the stark low winter sun.The strummed guitar is joined by a tambourine in ‘Wendy’ giving a little Western tinge to the song.
‘Beauty, Majesty & Drama’ is something different, and one of my favourite tracks on the album. The instrumentation is the same, but the vocals are more dramatic as the name suggests. The lyrics deal with the artistic process, as a face is drawn and changed. The artist’s relationship with the subject is touched upon. The song is reworked with piano and cello later on the album, to great effect. It transforms into a more melancholic version of itself. Perhaps from the POV of the artist’s subject?
The title track blends close lyrics, simple synth textures and cello into an intimate lullaby, while single piano notes over guitar give ‘Ruben’ a Mountain Goats feel. The subject is lying about their identity, but the singer knows better.
Train rides always provide good backdrops for gentle thoughtful songs. ‘Recoil’ is no exception. This journey is one to a gathering of people, but the narrator still feels alone, trapped outside. This is a very personal song, clearly, and the simplicity of the voice and guitar bring us into her confidence. The voice is closer and gentler than ever, with an almost childlike feel to it, on ‘Sound Carrying Flowers’. The piano beneath sounds like it is taking the singer’s hand and gently guiding and encouraging them as they explore the music room.
The first of the second set of pieces, and definitely a soundtrack , ‘Insufferable’ would work over the final “climactic” scene to a grainy black and white film. Perhaps in the days after a heavy bereavement, as the character emerges back into life, bruised and sore, but somehow renewed, as the credits roll. The processed strings and piano are joined by a momentary harmonica – perhaps memories of the lost one.
Cello, electric piano, xylophone drops like rain in a simple cycling phrase, ‘Spring’ is perfect for sitting at a window with a steaming cup, waiting for the sun to break through a little. Cabin fever is at an end. ‘The Lake’ sounds like a deep family secret being revealed. Tentative piano, rumbling strings, cello, and a sense of realisation. The secret could be good or bad, or both. The excuses anchor the piece, while the repercussions ripple out, affecting many lives, in various ways. In the end, the teller is left alone on the shore.
The beautiful ‘For The Birds’ occupies the same English landscape as some tunes by BBO regulars The Advisory Circle. Trilling flutes, tinkling piano, slow pulsing bass. And finally, album closer ‘Begotten’ opens with a rotating piano line overlaid with xylophone, while the strings below provide an insistent tone. This ending sounds more like an urging or continuation, even as it closes.
Even if my feelings have not been clearly expressed here, it has had an impact on me. ‘Silent The Corner’ is a beautiful album. Buy it here. Buy Debs more recent improvised works here, especially The Therapy Sessions. Buy her box set as well.
HOX is a project from Graham Lewis (Klara‘s dad, Wire bassist) and longtime collaborator Andreas Karperyd, and guess what, surprise surprise, it’s on Editions Mego (a label which seems to have grabbed me recently). This album came out late 2015, and scraped into BBO’s Top Thirty of the Year with a brief mention, but now it deserves some more words.
Duke of York has a lot in common with Lewis’ earlier solo efforts, with some beefy updates and fresher sounds. Many tracks have a definite Wire feel, with Lewis’ buzzing bass and distinctive sonorous vocals. Others lean toward the He Said synthpop style. The first three tracks demonstrate this variation. Opener ‘Anthracite’ dives straight into the He Said/Mute/Ebb/Mode slow tech march territory, with a wry spoken commentary. Rocky guitars introduce my personal favourite ‘Javelin’, leading into a fast beat, driving staccato tune, distinctive Lewis vocals, and stuttering guitars. Then ‘Correct Co-ordinates’ is definitely Wire-y. No beat as such, semi-spoken lyric, mutating into an guitar and synth layered texture.
Tense stuttering synths crash into a driving beat and howling guitars in ‘It’s Too Much’, with the title being the only vocal. Direct and to the point. In a more mellow zone, flutey tones and plucked strings open ‘X In Circle’, then a crunchy groove leads into Lewis’ signature wordplay. Deep horns round off the mixture.
Want tribal drums via Nitzer Ebb with Kraftwerk jabs? Instrumental ‘White Space Conflict’ has you covered, while standout ‘Track and Field’ is a fun exercise in bait-and-switch. What starts out as a synth-driven instrumental on Mute records, suddenly transforms into a Warp-released pulsing workout, before veering back and combining the two.
‘Goodbye’ is a strangely naive song, clearly dedicated to a late beloved friend. Its simplicity and basic rhyming lyrics make it clear that this is a sincere and heartfelt tribute. Other than that, the tune is nice, there are some nice strings and boingy synths, with Lewis’ bass rumbling throughout.
To round off the album, ‘Frequency’ a very He Said sound. Simple bass and guitar with distant sounds, then the vocals appear very close in. The chorus is classic Lewis, with the whole managing to be soothing, tense, relaxed and paranoid all at once.
This album is a good collection of functional and interesting pieces. That sounds like faint praise, and it’s true that it’s hard to get too worked up about it, but in the area they’re working, Lewis and Karperyd deliver (and if you know me, you’ll know I’m not the kind to bandy the word “deliver” about). I will continue to be a fan of the Lewises if this is what I can expect. Buy it if you want.
I know it’s less than ideal for a reviewer to write about their own projects, but I’m not worried about subjectivity concerns in this case, because this new male-female two-piece is objectively amazing, and their debut is the most exciting thing to land in the satellite suburbs of Abu Dhabi since the British stopped shelling the place.
Before this initial release A&E were in development for nearly nine months, with my co-producer Cassie doing the bulk of the work. We’ve both invested a lot in their development, and as a result, we hope they realize the potential we know they have – in just one short month they have already accrued a devoted following.
I asked the band where they got the title for this album, and was told that it was a very personal, cerebral reason, but would say no more. I decided it would be best not to press them too hard on it.
Their output to date has been quite soft, with varying shades and textures. Despite the gentle, almost fluid consistency of what they produce, it can be quite jarring, and some of it needs a strong stomach to handle. I’m sure that as they mature, the consistency will become more stable, and the soft releases will make way for self-contained, firmer and more structural pieces, which are more palatable and easier to deal with.
A&E are prolific, with several releases per day, if you can believe that. A lot of it is shapeless filler to be honest, but that said, it’s reassuring that they are so regular. One way they keep their rate of production up is by continuing to work and produce through the night. It’s been quite hard for us to keep up with their pace, but it is worth it to discover what amazing new work they have produced. A couple of times I’ve been lucky enough to witness the very moment of creation of a new piece – a moment I would not wish to share with anyone.
Lyrically, A&E come from a much stranger place. On this debut they work not with recognizable words, but with what can only be described as primal emotional utterances. These can range from gentle whispers which wouldn’t be out of place on a Steve Hauschildt piece, to percussive grunts worthy of a darker, rhythmic Klara Lewis, ranging up to nerve-shattering William Bennett/Whitehouse-like shrieking, which brings to mind BBO’s 2015 #2 faves Ubre Blanca.
We expect A&E’s lyrics to become more literal and literate in the future. I’m sure there will be missteps and embarrassments, but I believe that all art must go through these phases and exploratory experiments before the artists can be sure they’ve done what they can.
I’m very proud to be associated with A&E. The members of the group, Arthur Elliott Petty and Edith Lenore Petty, have the looks, the talent, the potential, and the support to do great things. Watch this space.
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.
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.
Along with the lovely chaps here at Both Bars On, the Brainwashed Radio Podcast has been a fantastic source of new music for me. My tastes could be said to have calcified in recent years, but a lot of the plaque has been shaken loose by this podcast. While I was riding the Transbay from Oakland to San Francisco every day, it was a regular accompaniment, and now that I’m taking the E12 from Al Reef via Yas Island, it’s back in rotation.
The format is pretty straightforward. The excellent host Jon Whitney gives just enough information about each piece of music, with a little bit of chat, but never enough to make me switch off (and believe me, it doesn’t take much). He will churn out a bunch of episodes in quick succession, then go quiet for months. But the episodes are about an hour long, often have great replay value, and the archives are quite extensive, with over 300 episodes so far. Plenty to dig into.
Some of the artists that have appeared on the podcast are; Klara Lewis, Steve Hauschildt (new album coming soon – watch this space for review), Suicide, The Legendary Pink Dots, Broadcast, The Haxan Cloak, Factory Floor, the list goes on-‘n-on-‘n-on-‘n-on-‘n-on-‘n-on-‘n-on.
Tanzwuth Recordings, the Cardiff-based label which appears to be the home of one prolific artist with various pseudonyms, has released a new longplayer from Diebenkorn. Magnox is a collection of ten tracks which float around in the area of noodly electronics, simple phrasing and chord sequences, glitchy beats, and weird processed vocal snatches.
Opener Class of 83 sets the stage with a simple piano phrase, before opening up the drums and drifting on until the school bell rings. Mini-highlight Whistling Trees repeats the formula minus the drums, with a hint of the Vangelises about it (not a negative thing at all). Headshake also has some 70’s Greek touches, which are joined by some vocoding.
My favourite Rural Idyll could do with being about four (or fourteen) minutes longer, but in its short length it channels both Orbital and BBO faves Advisory Circle. Similarly, Metrotech could be stretched into a good early Goldfrapp tune.
The title track (another highlight) brings the drums to the fore, before the swirling noise and forceful distorted synths make their point very clearly. Detektor and 4 O’Clock also apply the drum technique, the latter with a nice chord sequence which could really be extended.
The party starts on I Really Don’t Know. Squiggles lead into a playful break to get your toes tapping, backed with an almost mournful flute. It gets a bit fruity up in there, breaks it down, then the bass is left to keep you busy while the atmosphere builds, morphs and fades – a bit of a missed bass drop op.
Final 10-minute corker Infoscan brings all these ideas together, starting with meaty drums, throbbing bass, swirling atmospherics, then bringing in the synth chords and arpeggios, before letting the throb find closure.
A nice collection, with some good ideas worth exploring and extending. Check it out, it’s great for driving the Sheikh Khalifa Highway on cruise control in your white Corolla.
The four tracks on Overexposed EP, Flange Circus’ second self-produced release, each have a distinct sound of their own, but they are all definitely in the groove of electrically driven post-nu-kraut-psych-orbit-rock shot through with (dare I say it?) Northern Humour. I say orbit, because this Mancunian quartet are definitely grounded, not whirling completely into space.
Teaser tune and EP opener ‘Fabric Lughole Systems’ starts out with a driving warped synth line, before the reverb-soaked electronic melody takes control for the rest of the ride. This is a chase scene through some rain-soaked streets, taking side roads, then crossing against traffic. A pause for breath – have you shaken off your pursuers? Not now you’ve gone down a dead end. A resonant acidic pulse sweeps in as your pursuers approach, closer, there’s no escape… or is there?
Echoes of a warehouse with a strange machine at the center introduce ‘FAT CRAB’, before crunchy windswept Hawkwind guitar takes control. This is joined by mellotron-like organ, synth sweeps, and a single processed vocal stating the subject and the purpose of the piece. A live set would use this as a form of chant, perhaps. Even a signature dance move? The second half brings the one-chord driving guitar and organ, returning to the main theme, before wigging out in a whirlwind of electric sparks, ending on an almost church-like note.
‘Leopard Skin In Miniature’ starts out as what sounds like a straight rock song, backed with strings and whirring overhead noises, and distant paranoid phrasing from vocalist Pete, before some sinister Russian speech stops things in their tracks. Arpeggiated bleeps lead back into the main theme, and as the track resolves, the walls of sound move away, leaving you alone in the dark, with the electric fireflies.
I love me a phased intro, and ‘Disko Bay’ does not disappoint. The slow burn back-and-forth synths build, then step back for an electronic tapped phrase overlaid with violins, before all is brought down for the slow guitar notes and a beautiful piano resolution. A great EP-closer, and even better set-closer.
In this release, Flange Circus have taken the ideas and ideals of their debut Ekranoplan EP, and a couple of layering techniques from the spinoff drone duo Zirkus, pushed the rock harder in places, brought forth the psych, kept the humour, twiddled the knobs a bit more, added very welcome vocal touches, and come up with a tight, atmospheric and thoroughly good EP. Nice one. Buy it here.
FULL DISCLOSURE: Flange Circus contains two members of Both Bars On, in the great tradition of music journalists being in bands.Their previous release was reviewed by the then only other member. Now they’ve got me on board (the other new fella couldn’t do it because he’s in the band as well), so I drew the short straw this time. Except it’s a long curvy (yet angular) straw, which leads to places known and unknown, and I genuinely enjoyed the ride.