= Rumbles =
= February 2006 =
Having finally completed the last Rumbles I thought I might get a few weeks grace before the next pile of CD’s reached that point where only frantic evenings in front of a gently smoking keyboard can reduce it to a manageable level. How wrong I was, the last couple of weeks have brought an avalanche of Rumble-worthy music into my living room, so without further waffle let’s get stuck in….
To gently ease us in Tom Brosseau offers a compilation of his songs “Empty Houses Are Lonely” on which Tom explores life and relationships in a gentle folk (ish) style, that ends up sounding like Jeff Buckley without the manic energy of that performers work. Every song is a gem and they are all lifted by a beautiful vocal performance, the high vibrato voice pulling out every nuance within the song, reminding me of Josephine foster in it’s delivery, especially on the gorgeous“Heart Of Mine”. (www.fat-cat.co.uk ).
Also on Fat-cat comes “Snow On Moss On Stone” the second album from Mauri Heikkinen, who records under the name of Drowsy.Opening with the lively acoustic romp of “Bakery” ,the album quickly moves into mellower territory with gentle ballad “Hues” which sounds like Nick Drake in its breathless vocal style and lyrical content. Elsewhere the vocals have a style all of their own especially on the brief but startling “Treehouse” the I.S.B inspired “Off You Go All Authors” or “Bed Of Pyre And Wood” a truly beautiful song.This is a strong and varied album throughout, worthy of repeated plays and an album which you will grow to love.
Treading a similar path are the acoustic duo The Big Huge whose latest collection “A Woven Page Of Silver Light” is a far too brief romp through traditional style folk awash with accordion (courtesy of Michael Lambright), dulcimer, ukulele, and some fine guitar playing, all topped off with Drew Nelsons deep and resonant vocals. Highlights include the instrumental “Wrapped In The Cloth Of Heaven” the near perfect folk of “The Ballad Of North Haywood” where every element of the song is blended exquisitely, or the gentle falling rain of “A Subtle Tune” the albums most haunting moment. ( www.secreteye.org ). Also on Secret Eye and far more challenging to the ears are Directing Hand whose album “Bells For Augustin Lesage” (French artist 1876-1954) opens with a three and a half minute drone before expanding into some free-form and, at times, very harsh experimental music full of gongs, saxophone, and a whole host of other sounds, making it all sound like a percussion orchestra duelling with a flock of geese. Not that this is a bad thing as the music has a vitality and vibrancy that allows it to sparkle, slowly evolving back into an uplifting drone, sounding like an ancient Buddhist ritual that is best heard at high volume (or possibly high altitude). This mix of drone and free improvisation sets the pattern for the rest of the album until we get to “Hangman” where we are treated to some ethereal vocals that move the song into slightly more melodic space, a breath of fresh air in an unreal world. Final track “Lowlands” takes it cue from Quintessence or I.S.B, a beautiful and slowly moving song that is part chant, part drone and closes the album in a dreamy and mystical style, the percussion adding a wonderful counterpoint to the rest of the song. The first time you hear this remarkable album you will either love it or hate, I hope you love it, I know I do.
Music of a much gentler texture is to be found on the home produced CD-R by Absent Without Leave, who mix the gentle dynamics of Galaxie 500 with some fairly minimalist, but well chosen rhythms, to create a fine collection of warm melodic songs/instrumentals, the occasional foray into more ambient realms only adding to the relaxed feel of the disc. Fifth track “Just Like Then” adds some very electronic percussion, taking the piece into a spacier direction, the drifting keyboards adding to feeling of weightlessness. (email@example.com).
More home produced spaciness is provided by We Have Heaven whose “We Love Fragile” is a collection of edited instrumental jams that have a hypnotic Steve Reich/Phillip Glass quality to them, as they slowly change and mutate creating a gentle and inviting ocean of sound. The opening track (none of them are named) sums it up perfectly, the guitars intertwining with themselves allowing new patterns to emerge from the old in an ever changing spiral of notes. On other tracks, violin and drums join the party adding to the sound without interrupting the laid-back minimalism of it, creating an album that will soothe and relax you without resorting to new age tedium. (www.easysubculture.8m.com)
Originally released in 1980 “implosion” by Australian band (mainly the work of Steve Maxwell Von Braund) Cybotron is an album so cloaked in Kraut-rock vibes that it is no wonder that it vanished without trace at the time. Now Aztec Music (www.aztecmusic.net ) have re-issued it with six extra tracks, making it an essential purchase for synth-heads everywhere especially if you enjoy such bands as Kraftwerk, Neu, Can , or Tangerine dream, all of whom can be heard within the sounds of this classic album. Also on-board for the ride are engineer Gil Matthews and bassist Mark Jones who’s powerful and excellent rhythm section adds a live feel to the pulsing electronics. The album opens in fine style with the epic “Eureka” full of sequencers that dance above some deep electronic bass, as the drums roll and tumble around the mix before the song gets into its stride, a moody and dramatic starting point (a bonus version of this track adds some heavy guitar that create a Hawkwind feel to the piece). Next up, the title track starts off in similar fashion before the rhythm drops out, taking us into deep space, twinkling electronic sound lighting the way for the bass note pulse that drives us forward and finally back into the melody. Having set the standard in the first two tracks the quality and innovation is maintained throughout with “Encounter” adding sax and guitar to a fast paced workout with some excellent keyboard flourishes that give the song a mid 70’s tangerine dream feel. Highlight of the album however, is the ten minute “Black devil’s Triangle” a Klaus Schulze inspired tour-de-force that crackles along, driven by a simple sequence overlaid with epic chords and all manner of electronic devices, producing a powerful and mesmeric work that should be a classic of it’s genre. Finally “We’ll Be Around” closes the album proper, with some heavily treated vocal, sweet sax melodies and a funky rhythm that sounds like Yello in retro mode. This more commercial sound is shared by the bonus track that were recorded for the never released fourth album “Abbey Moore”, including a version of “Peter Gunn” which is great fun, but hardly essential. Don’t let that put you off however, this is a worthwhile album that will grace your collection with its glorious hypnotic sentiments.
Also re-issued on Aztec music, and crammed with bonus tracks and a great informative booklet is “Something To Say” the 1974 debut album from australian rockers Buster Brown, a band that featured future AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd as well as Gary “Angry”Anderson later to find fame with Rose Tattoo, (Whose debut album is rightly regarded as a rock classic, and if anyone has a spare vinyl copy could you let me know as some bastard nicked mine many years ago), as well as writing the wedding song for Neighbours, a move which killed his credibility instantly, although boosted his bank balance, no doubt. Anyway, I digress, what we have here is a Faces inspired rock album full of passion and working class sentiments, that really hits the spot especially on “Buster Brown” the bands anthem, a well crafted and arranged tune that rocks hard, knows how to boogie and contains the immortal lines “buster brown is my name, rock and roll is my game” what more could you want. Elsewhere a raw and dirty version of “Roll Over Beethoven” is crying out for a jug of beer, whilst the title track could be The Faces, Anderson showing what a fine rock vocalist he is. The liner notes tell a sad tale of neglect, slashed budgets and plain bad luck meaning the band never got the chance they deserved, this re-issue goes some way to addressing the balance, and gives you the chance to pick up this minor rock and roll classic, yeah.
Rock music has moved a long way since 1974, a fact that Volcano! Demonstrate to perfection on their debut album “Beautiful Seizure” which opens with a gentle shower of bells and sound before exploding in a furious mass of energy as drums/bass/guitar/vocals all fight to be heard over the noise. Add to this a welter of laptop noises and effects and it’s easy to get carried away in the squall until, suddenly, it all ends, to be replaced by fragile vocals that offer brief respite, before we are taken again into the heart of the storm. This pattern recurs again and again, sometimes seemingly at random, the songs intense and complex, the playing precise and passionate, creating a dizzying and exhilarating ride that will leave the listener dazed and smiling, ready to go again, and trailing a line of corporate rock corpses in their wake. Sure, there are reference points here, Radiohead meeting King Crimson at their most crazy, a little bit of Buttholes perhaps, but Volcano! Are the real thing, original and dedicated to their art, go get some!!(www.theleaflabel.com)
“Orange Garage” The latest album by Japanese psychedelic group Miminokoto has been out for a while now, and it has taken an age for me to get around to writing about it, which is a tragedy, because this is a fine album that cements their reputation as one of the finest and most thoughtful bands currently working in Japans psychedelic underground. The slow velvets burn of “Dokonimo Ver2” is the ideal starter Masami Kawaguchi’s guitar ripping into your brain with fluid and devastating runs, which are beautifully anchored by the rhythm section of Koji Shimura (drums) and Hiroaki Takeuchi (bass), who synchronise together with great skill, allowing the guitarist to go wherever the mood takes him. Some people may find the mumbled vaguely off key vocals spoil their enjoyment of the music, but for me they complement the dark aura of the songs, especially on the stooges guitar attack that is “Tottemo ver2”, a song powerful enough to stop a rogue elephant, or the, oh so slow, final song “Kumononaka” where the band put it all together for 16 minutes of psychedelic bliss, containing some blistering fret-work that will leave you gasping for air. (www.lastvisibledog.com)
Follow me now into the forest of noise where Kites are busy playing their latest offering the nine songs in twenty minutes 3” CDEP “Superior Moon”, bouncing sounds around the atmosphere, and sounding like an old episode of Dr Who gone mad. Played on home-made instruments, this is the work of comic artist Christopher Forgues, who creates music with intensity and depth, working with frequency rather than notes, and occasionally annihilating everything in great swathes of white noise that are paranoid in their effect, especially when they arrive unexpectedly in the headphones causing the reviewer to jump several feet in the air and rush for the volume knob. Investigate with caution, but do investigate. (www.mtncia.com)
Right enough leaping out of my chair, it’s time to relax with the beautiful and languid songs of Caroline, a Japanese songstress, living in the U.S. whose debut album is a heady mixture of electronic beats, drifting instrumentation and absolutely gorgeous vocals that coat the songs in a breathtaking sweetness. Opening track “Bicycles” sounds like Bjork covering The Red House Painters, the lyrics painting pictures in the mind, invoking memories of childhood games. Third track “Sunrise” continues the good work, the vocals almost a whisper, making the listener lean in to hear the words. In fact, it is the words as well as the voice that make this album special, creating imagery for the listener, as the musical arrangements complement them perfectly. This album is a ray of sun on a dark rainy day, a smile in a cold room, and we all need that sometimes. (www.temporaryresidence.com)
One of the things I have learned since taking over as Reviews Editor is that traditional songwriting values are far from dead, as the musical mainstream would have it, you just have to look further to find them. So to ease your search may I suggest you check out Steven Mark, whose second album “Aloneaphobe” is a striking collection of classic songs full of harmony, melody and fine arrangements that bring the song to life. For proof, look no further than “Lazy Sunday Afternoon” a song that could have been penned by George Harrison, or the haunting piano ballad “Yesterdays Smile” which has some wonderful playing from the whole band. Elsewhere the band take on a more modern feel, but always the melody is king, the band complementing the song at all times rather than trying to thrash the life out of it. A classic singer/songwriter album and proud of it. (www.stevenmarkmusic.com)
Featuring two stalwarts of the underground indie scene, Rob Crow (Pinback, Goblin Cock, and Thingy) guitar/vocals and Zach Hill (Hella, Goon Moon, Nervous Cop,) drums/vocals? The Ladies – “They Mean Us” is a glorious mixture of tunes, noise, surrealism and some remarkable drumming that pushes everything up several notches. With the majority of the songs under two and a half minutes, there is a schizophrenic feel to the album, just as you adjust to a song, the damn thing changes (sometimes this happens in the same song), and it takes a while to reach the right headspace to listen properly. It is well worth the effort to do so however, as repeated listens reveal the ridiculous beauty of this album, which brings us to the last track “Mandatory Psycho-Freakout” which is twelve minutes of early Zappa/Krautrock for skinny punks on amphetamine, jumping, without warning, from frenetic guitar/drum explosions to acoustic snippets and drone like textures, like someone had thrown a group of hyperactive children into a music store with a tube of orange smarties and pressed record. This is the sort of thing that should be heard live, go find them. (www.temporaryresidence.com)
Finally from me, two singles from the ever-reliable Static Caravan. “Horizon Seven-Seven” is a brooding instrumental from Fort Dax that slowly build the tension the ominous pulse being joined by creeping percussion and soft piano before everything explodes in a dense wall of noise the piano taking on an urgent tone as the world collapses around, second track “A Beverly Mythic” is much lighter in tone, sounding like insects dancing on the water, and is a welcome contrast to the first side. Lastly, Inch-Time relax our weary souls with “Icicles And Snowflakes” an enchanting piece of ambience that sparkles and shimmers as its name implies, simple and effective. B-side “Almond Eyes” is very similar in feel and construction, a gently paced slice of electronica that drifts by in a charming way. www.staticcaravan.org (Simon Lewis)
The other reason for this edition of Rumbles is that the last selection managed to omit a chunk of reviews from the pen of Alan Davidson, so here they are, and sorry about that Alan!!
Sombre angular pop heroes The Dead Science are back with their third (I think) release, and it's another good one, with Sam Mickens' 'diva in a straightjacket' vocals and urgent Morse-code guitar adding just the right degree of hysteria to the jerky rhythms. There's a nice feeling of space, maybe even an ominous emptiness, between the trio's instruments......great music to wallow in despair with, in the best possible way! (Absolutely Kosher Records AK 050 http://absolutelykosher.com )
Animal Collective's latest, 'Feels' veers away from their recent forays into folksier sounds, and strikes a path towards the land of pop in confident and successful manner. I seem to sense an influence of Roxy Music/early Eno, (which is never a bad thing!), with the songs being clever mixes of styles and sounds......like a 'sonic kaleidoscope’ that never loses its coherence. Lyrically, there's plenty of weirdly simple but effective imagery delivered in sometimes languid, sometimes frenetic style. Thumbs most definitely up!!! (Fat Cat Records FAT-SP11 www.fat-cat.co.uk )
Matt Shaw's TEX LA HOMA have a new limited edition (100 copies) ep out. It's called 'Oh Peace! Get a little!', and it's a very pretty thing, with gentle soundscapes of tremeloed guitar and electronics topped by Shaw's compressed, laid-back delivery. The third song 'look up to the horizon' is a beautiful and positive creation, and the whole disc deserves to be heard by a big audience, so try and get a copy before it's sold out. (The artwork has been done by the Terrascope's own Iker Spozio, too!) (Moonpalace Records www.moonpalacerecords.com)
Area C includes members of Urdog and Death Vessel, and has produced a fine album of ambient electronica. It's mostly dreamily seductive keyboard or washes of guitar, although there's a bit of radio dial 'scratching' here and a sampled choir there on the centrepiece track, 'Dark radio/Light waves'. All in all there's plenty happening, with lots of light and shade, but somehow it sounds effortlessly low key, although always engrossing. (Last Visible Dog LVD 098 www.lastvisibledog.com )
Frogtoboggan describes himself as a 'primordial transmutation specialist' who engages with a wide range of musical disciplines. This latest release, 'Frogtoboggan meets the unpaid professionals' is a document of a live show from 2000 where his gamelan patterns and prepared piano are augmented by more conventional orchestral instruments, plus the voice of Jennifer Van Dyke and spoken poetry of Kerul Devi. At times the music sounds like a modern mass, but created through a pot-pourri of jazz, experimental electronics and classical chamber music. Often quite beautiful this is a very commendable release. (AntiClock Records AC0001 www.anticlock.net )
Brooklyn based Rebecca Pronsky's new ep, 'The Early Hours' sees her in folk/jazz crossover mode, backed tastefully by her band. Perhaps they're a tad too tasteful, and a shock or two wouldn't have gone amiss, but for a second release this is pretty good, with Pronsky's vocal inflections similar to Joni Mitchell's in her jazzier moments. The songs sound as if they'd be great if allowed to stretch out in a dark, late-night setting, with 'Everything is free' the standout for me. (Www.rebeccapronsky.com)
Until next time....
Editor: Simon Lewis. Principle contributor: Alan Davidson Producer: Phil McMullen.