Category Archives: Album reviews
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.
Post Tangent is a charity compilation supporting CalAid, a group of volunteers collecting for the Calais refugee camps. The compilation seems to have been set up by some of the bands playing the ArcTangent festival in Bristol last month, so it’s essentially 32 tracks of post-, math-, noise-, glitch- and drone-rock.* BBO favourites Deerhoof are as full of beans as ever on ‘Kuma Kita’:
And the last track, the more contemplative ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,’ comes from the brilliantly named He Was Eaten By Owls (who were new to me but are well worth investigating):
I don’t know anything more about this compilation beyond what’s on Deerhoof’s facebook page, but it’s definitely worth buying – excellent music for a very good cause. The Bandcamp page is here and it’s £4 or more. You could always donate to CalAid too, here.
* do you like that hyphenated rock?
Kieran Mahon returns with a new EP, which continues with the cosmos theme of his album from earlier in the year, Radio Astronomy. There’s 4 tracks of beautifully droning soundscapes which really do convey a feeling of outer space.
‘Leonov’, named after the first cosmonaut to do a spacewalk, is the short opening ambient track. A steady drone floats in the background while over the top of this oscillator sweeps evoke the vastness of space, and just how insignificant we are in the grand scheme of things.
Track two, ‘The Men went to the Moon’, starts with samples from NASAs recently released archive of sounds, and if you shut your eyes (that’s it, squeeze them tightly closed) you can imagine the inertia of lifting up from the earth’s surface in a rocket, headed for the stars, then the strange calmness of orbiting the planet.
‘The Eagle Has Wings’ is another shorter track, building up from calming static to what sounds like a space choir, which sets us up nicely ‘16 Orbits per Day’, the ten minute long EP closer. It’s an epic drone worth the price of admission alone.
Space is the Place can be picked up from Bandcamp, where you can name your price. Do it.
Hailing from East Rome, Heroin in Tahiti are a duo that have produced one of the most rewarding albums of the year with Sun and Violence. And they’ve seemingly invented their own genre, best summed as sun-scorched psyche Radiophonica. That may need work, so let’s go with their own tag of Spaghetti Wasteland. Much better.
There’s so much of interest here, so much that demands your attention, I barely know where to start. One thing that stands out is the brilliant use of field recordings – muezzin wale with intensity, birdsong and call is warped and coils in on itself, radio voices plead and spook, fragments of chants loop and animated rants become cadences.
Tracks erupt with rumbling ritual intensity or build to sudden ends. Drones haze the room and crystallise into diamond facets. Rhythms mass into tribal funks or drip with erotica. Synths wobble, float, and score lines across your vision. Guitars trace fragments of full riffs. Organs appease. Put it this way: I love this so much I even forgave them the use of sitars at the end of the epic ‘Continuous Movement’.
If Goat dropped all the spirituality nonsense and some of the somewhat tiresome posturing, and went a bit more pleasingly ‘out there’, you’d be almost arrive at the place Heroin in Tahiti inhabit. It’s a strange, third-eye coagulating, claustrophobically intense place, located somewhere beyond the visible horizon in an exotic land. I wanna go.
This is a brilliant album. I’d strongly consider buying it if you know your shit. BUY.
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.
Klara Lewis’ debut release on the excellent resurrected Austrian label Editions Mego is made up of found sounds, processed and looped and washed through with pad and soft industrial ambiance. There is drone here, and noise, and clouds and rhythm. It came out in April 2014, but I only caught up with it over the last few months, and I’ve been enjoying it greatly.
I hesitate to use the term ambient. After all, “Brain One” himself made ambient music to be as “as ignorable as it is interesting”. This is anything but wallpaper music, although you could certainly use it like that (music as a resource or tool to be “used” – discuss).
As far as the “industrial” influence goes, there are metal things being banged here, but you’re not being showered with flakes of rust. You’re standing on a green hill overlooking a factory city, with the oppressive noise softened to melody by the distance, mixed with the stormy weather and tape noise. That said, it’s not all listening to surf wash up on the rocky shores. There is some rhythmic input as well. Percussion is rarely used, rather the deep throbs of the effected sounds act as pacemakers, and the sudden end of a sound can act as percussion.
‘Shine’ is a standout track. A bass throb, with the resonance turned up to give a high pitched distortion, and an echoing synth stab, before the heartbeat resolves. Then the breathing starts, along with a suggestion of a distant tolling bell. End of the shift in the factory, perhaps.
‘Muezzin’ had me looking at the clock. Living and working as I do in Abu Dhabi, the voice of the muezzin, calling the faithful to prayer via the subtle medium of roof-mounted tannoys on every minaret on every mosque on every block, is a regular and familiar sound. This is a sound with such meaning for some, that it could be used as a cheap shorthand to make a piece of music more “ethnic”. But here it is simply a sound that has been captured, and used as a looping foundational phrase, before the hovering machinery approaches to spray down the dust. As such, the heavy meaning it could be said to have is replaced by a purely musical and structural effect, and a beautiful one at that.
Another personal fave, ‘Untilted’, is definitely percussive. Competing pulses of sonar, the closest thing to a drum on the album, a scraping as if you were brushing your teeth in time with unheard marching feet. The sonars allow you to home in on a single bass note, and a single repeated spoken phrase, and the track ends.
‘Altered’ is a 12 minute walk down a tiled corridor, carrying a Geiger counter to measure the effects of some disaster on the final residents of this abandoned tower block. Construction sounds (or the opposite) echo down stairwells, snatches of gentle music leak under doors as you pass. The hum of the building services shows that things still work here. It’s not oppressive, you know you’re welcome, you see and hear the residents as they watch you walk by. But when you complete your pass, you’ll be glad to drive back to the lab with your findings. You just don’t know if anyone will believe you.
It’s strange to think that a stark, almost cold album like this could simultaneously be warm and almost comforting, but somehow Klara Lewis has achieved it. A great album and a great debut. Buy it here.
I heard ‘Untilted’ originally on the Brainwashed Radio Podcast Edition, which (along with BBO itself) has become a reliable source of new and fresh vibes for me over the last few years, vibes which have done a pretty good job of acoustic lithotripsy on my calcified tastes, and for that I thank them. I’d also like to thank the BBO boys for the opportunity to write for them. I hope I can contribute.
Fourteen consistently excellent songs in thirty minutes… when you get to the end of Sauna Youth’s second LP you just have to play it again. For a band with such a clear idea of what they want to do and such a deliberately DIY approach to doing it, Sauna Youth are full of smart ideas. Short sharp post-punk pop songs, propelled by insistent no wave guitars. Spoken word pieces. More expansive songs like ‘Creeper’, which here seems positively epic at three minutes and forty three seconds. And the sonic oddity ‘End Loop’ (which is a loop but comes at the start of the record. How very Sauna Youth).
Here are two of the livelier tracks, because I love them so much. First off, ‘Transmitters’. Mind the dinosaurs.
And then ‘Abstract Notions’, which might well be the best 99 second song ever recorded. Why would you need a hundred seconds for a song? This is perfect.
I saw Sauna Youth once, supporting their Upset The Rhythm labelmates No Age. One of the best gigs I’ve ever been to. And of course Sauna Youth are also Monotony, on different instruments but equally amazing. You can tell I’m a fan, can’t you?
Buy this now here!
So because we are always on the pop pulse, I missed the news that the great Fanfarlo have shut up shop. I hate it when bands we have loved (since 2008!) fold, but at least you can hope that each member will go on to produce interesting new music. That’s certainly the case with Cathy Lucas’s new project Orlando, who share this cassette/download release with Tomaga. RAM Tapes (or The Association for the Re-Alignment of Magnetic Dust to give them their full title) re-use old tapes for that essential crackle and pop experience, and the theme is suitably 80s: video game soundtracks, kerbside frogs, ghost mazes, etc. It’s too sophisticated – at least to these cloth ears – to be just more chiptune landfill but it’s extremely playful all the same. The Orlando side is closer to Cornelius in terms of its invention and charm; the Tomaga side is a little more spacious, dubby, dronish. As an album it’s a pretty irresistible combination.
Orlando’s opening track brings you the croaks of a telepathic amphibian, a bit of bossa nova and a steely science-fictional theme, all in 3 minutes and 25 seconds.
While Tomaga’s ‘Giant Bitmap’ made me wonder whether Pacman ever got the cold sweats while cruising those haunted midnight mazes…
Highly recommended. Of course the tapes sold out long ago but the download is available from Bandcamp here. We look forward to the next RAM Tapes release.
This review is written in a hurry. It’s written with a strong desire to say something about something magnificent. To say something now…right now. And it’s written, partially, to rebuke others.
I’ve read some mixed reviews of the new Godspeed! Some say it’s a bit ‘meh’, some say it’s treading water.
Well fuck them. Fuck the naysayers. It’s incredible.
Listen, Godspeed!, alongside Mogwai, for all intents and purposes, invented this epic orchestral dark/light post-rock stuff. And if they’re repeating or playing to a formula then, frankly, I couldn’t give a gnat’s scrotum. They’ve earned the right to do so. It’s one that they crafted. It’s one that they helped create. So, let them show all the wannabes how it’s done. And Christ’s soupy beard they do on Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress.
It drones. It explodes. It soars. It’s angular. It’s melodic. It groans with noise and harmony. It’s guttural and majestic.
Put it this way, by the time ‘Piss Crowns Are Trebled’ erupted I was practically in tears, shot through with yearning, loss, transcendence, anger and so much more besides. I very-much- really shouted ‘Fuck yes!’ at its climax. I was left in post-coital auditory stupor. I waited five minutes and went again.
Fucking yes. Buy it.