Another year is upon us, and the constant stream of worthwhile music continues to arrive. Thanks as ever to everyone who sends stuff our way; it really is greatly appreciated.
Now I will hand you over to Stefan Ek, who will guide you through the sonic maze.
perfect soundtrack! On this late October evening I can see how the autumn’s leaves has gone from green to orange and red, then brown and yellow before they fall from the trees down on the ground. It’s cloudy and slightly raining. From the room I hear the dark ambient drones of Marielle V Jakobson’s alter ego solo project darkwinsbitch on her new album “ore”. Electronics woven together with her violin with tones in the lower register, and here and there you can hear the sound of some kind of piano seeking for a lost melody, you can hear the sounds from environmental field recording. I’m completely captured by the beauty of the slow music and even though the seven tracks melts into each other to a long, 45 minutes tune I never want it to stop. This is intelligent and sensitive music, it’s dark and healthy. And it’s the perfect soundtrack to whatever pictures you see in your head.
“why use a proxy?” is the second release from the Italian band Strongly Imploded, a quartet of sax, guitar, electronics and drums. The cover, tracks titles and design of the album are quite robot-ish and the group members uses alias like client asp 1, client asp 2, client osd and client sec_. Anyone interested in their real names have to go to their myspace site for further information. But, don’t bother, it’s not interesting who is who or who’s doing what. This is a true collective release, filled with free expression, instruments in search of a united language to use, sounds and music together in an attractive brew. The players seem to use more time to listen to each others playing than their own and then suddenly it all explodes in volcanic expressions. It’s non-rhythmic, but with a sensual tension and energy not too often heard nowadays. Noise, electro-acoustic moments and free improvisations melt in a happy marriage. This is the uplifting reward for being a reviewer.
In my hands and ears I have Jookabox’ third release, “Dead Zone Boys”, a charming piece of zombie pop music. The joyful and informative promo-sheet following the disc says it all, but it would be a bit too easy just to quote it. Anyway, Jookabox is based around Indianapolis-born David “Moose” Adamson, a guy who grew up in an area of a kind that Stephen King could have written a nice book about, an area plagued by constant recession, pandemic homicide and racial tension, something of a theme for both music and lyrics of the album. Jookabox members has left and been added and what’s most notable is the close collaboration with now-member Ostry Okerson, a drummer who’s playing influence the music in a way that makes me think of Liars’ use of drumming. The music is described as love story meets psychedelic zombie musical and with the two core members plus additional musicians this is what we get. It’s intelligent and bright pop music with a twist. One of the big surprises of the year on the pop scene was The Flaming Lips new release ‘Embryonic’. I can’t avoid thinking of connections and similarities of the two band’s approach to verses, choruses and arrangements. It’s very good and very well done. Uplifting.
Ambient sound/drone artist Ian Holloway (a.k.a. Psychic Space Invasion) has produced a lot of strictly limited albums over the last years. “She Loves To See The Sky” is the newest one coming out of his hands. It’s a one track album consisting of the 40 minutes title track. Starting with a very low register keyboard bass drone it very slowly develops into something else, partly music, partly sound sculpture instalments. Not only the moods of the album’s cover art gives me the feeling of visiting an exhibition, slowly walking between paintings, hearing the echo of my shoes touching the parquet floor, watching the non-figurative paintings of skies and nature, cities and buildings, the music and the sounds creates the feelings of being an observer of the environments around me. I really like how the tracks vary between harmonic drones and disharmonic sounds, how Ian H adds interesting samples to the sound picture. Could Brian Eno have made it better and more interesting? I guess not.
Small sneaking sounds surrounds us when start listening to “The Quiet Failings Of Geistfahrer”, a record constructed by organically created textures and layers of conventional instruments, manipulated or not, effects and field recordings. There are no computers or synths involved. The music and the sounds created by multi-talented Aubrey and Shae Freeman, a.k.a.the Geistfahrer duo, reminds of a mixture of 4AD artists of the 80’s, like Dead Can Dance and This Mortal Coil, and weird folk. The beauty and the presence of the music are obvious and reach directly into your heart. Even though the choice to consciously avoid some technical utilities brings an analogue feeling to the recordings the music really feels new and inventory. The successful mix of discreet melodies and minimalistic repetitive instrumental patterns and environmental combined with a huge amount of instruments sounds makes this to a joyful aural experience.
Released by their own Citizen Objects label and Backporch Revolution.
Sometimes the information is a bit…eehh short, but some investigation regarding Moonbeams tells me it’s a solo project of Ryan Lescure (vocals, guitar, bass, drums, soundeffects & percussion) assisted by some friends on harmony vocals and slide guitar. In my hands I do have a 4 track EP. Lo-Fi production and charming shoegazing pop as we were used to hear it with instruments covered in echoed walls and vocals mixed a bit low in a way Jason Spaceman made to pure art. It’s short, it’s good pop music.
Brief info at thedharmatransmission.blogspot.com
The deep diving into the oceans of Lo-Fi territories continues with Danish Morten Barfoed’s release “No Sign Of A Sign”, a collection of eleven songs recorded between 1986 and 1988. Morten belongs to a tradition where the master is Syd Barrett; odd melodies and peculiar lyrics. Parts of it remind me even of The Incredible String Band in their most weird moments. The recordings are simple, just an acoustic guitar, a metronome and vocals, sometimes some of it overdubbed once. All of it recorded on a 4-track recorder. Even though I’m a huge fan of eternal tunes of mysterious sounds, eternal solo’s and electronics beyond belief, sometimes listening to a record like this brings it all back to the essence of what once good music consisted of: strong melodies and clever words. Nothing can beat that.
Two releases from the hands of Mark O’Leary on the desk: “Fabrikraum”, which is a solo effort and “Skyshifter”, which is a collaboration with Günter Müller. The last one first: “Skyshifter” is a suite in 6 parts. The music and the sounds are mostly very dark ambient and minimalistic, sometimes with an echo occurring in big factory rooms. It could be the soundtrack to a dream sequence in a Tarkovskij movie. Mark O’Leary is mainly a guitarist with an impressive CV. He count himself as a jazz musician, something which isn’t heard here, where electronics and samples occupies the spaces together with various manipulated guitar sounds. Günter Müller has an equal interesting and impressive background, as a drummer playing a unique, electronically modulated set, which includes minidiscs and iPod.
On “Fabrikraum” Mark O’Leary continue the exploring of sounds that could have had its origin from factory environments. It’s still minimalisms and ambient and even darker this time. It’s easy to imagine workers welding together metallic pieces into whatever they are welded together to. It’s a thin line between the environmental touch and musique concrete. Both these records are partly demanding, but as I always have said, it’s no harm being challenged. Give it a fair try.
Lean back, open up your ears, your senses and, in case of some need of extra breathing – your mouth: Here’s The A Band, the wonderful absurd bastards from Leeds, presenting two loooong tracks (46 & 28 minutes) on “Andrew Lloyd Webber”/”An Ole Crab”, a 2CDR set covered in wild, funny and anarchistic home-made cut-up covers with stuff contributed by the band members. I just enjoy and sigh equally. The music is mad, improvised, and free (in the true terms of FREE) in a way that reminds a bit of trademarked AMM, Vibracathedral Orchestra (which members sometimes guested) sound. Beepings, dronings, hisses and squeeks with or without rhythmic patterns. The two long tracks are from two different live sets in 1992, The Adelphi, Leeds (“ALW”) respectively Nottingham Rock & Reggae Festival (“AOC”), and if the first of them is a bit impressionistic, the second is more of expressionisms and according to band member Stewart it ended up with them being attacked by a chainsaw-wielding man, never seen before or afterwards. A bit low-fi sound picture, like a good bootleg, but I love it, it really puts the music up in front of you here and now, and even though some years has passed there’s nothing dated about it, no-no-no, definitely not. At the end of ‘An Ole Crab’ you can hear an audience of 5 – 10 people applause and someone says “Who were they then?” It’s marvellous.
And who are the guys doing all these sounds? To avoid any confusion limit I quote Wikipedia: “The line-up of the group has never been fixed with the following people all credited on various A Band releases as participants. Many are known only by single or nicknames: Stream Angel, Tim Barker, Neil Campbell, Jean-Emmanuel Dubois, Vince Earimal, Andrea Fletcher, Andrew Fletcher, Megan Fletcher-Cutts, Sticky Foster, Ginge, Stewart Greenwood, Dave Higginson, Mick Horton, Billy MacLennan Irvine, David Large, Dr.Neil Lent (a/k/a Lenty), Niggle, Neal Pates, Greta Pistaceci, Jim Plaistow, Barry Rothery, Sarah, Isabel Scott-Plumber, Richard Thomas, Stewart Walden, Chloe Wallace, Dave Walters, Karl Waugh, Andrew Williams, Sharen Woodward, Richard Youngs”
Dig deep and dive!
The 2CDR album is limited to100 hand numbered copies
Marc Richter’s alias project Black To Comm’s new offering “Charlemaigne & Pippin” brings us one wonderful single note drone piece lasting for 36 minutes. His own characteristic farfisa organ’s growing sound creates the ground for additional tape loops, electronics, voices and metal percussion. For this release he also uses inputs from Renate Nikolaus (violin, metal percussion, toys, water, shruti box, bells, whistle) and Ulf Schütte (feedback, electronics, pictaphone). It’s hard to describe with words something that’s so much aural experiences; the beauty of the single note drone, how much texture there is to be found within it, how close it must be to the original sounds of the creation of mankind, or any specifics of nature at all, the small details in added sounds and instruments, the concentration of listening as well as the suitability of being just an environmental soundtrack to what’s happening in the room right now. In my room the loudspeakers shivers with joy, patting my shoulder as they wanted to say: “Yes, you’re right, Stefan, we know what you mean, we like sending out these sounds to you”.
Released through Digitalis Recordings in their Arts & Craft Limited series.
Shoegazing post-rock meets kraut meets Velvet U meets…. Well, themselves. “White Splinter” is an EP released by Londoners Electric Assembly. Four tracks presented by members David A McHugh, Steve Brown, Paul Murdoch and Amos Memon. One might suggest they travel in well-known footprints of other artists, but wtf, who doesn’t? As long as anything is as great as this it’s definitely ok. After a rather anonymous 3 minutes opener we directly jump into the awesome highlite of the record, the 19½ minutes “11:43”, not only a wonderful and confusing title, but also a post-rock anthem not heard since the hay-days of Godspeed You Black Emperor, it goes on and on and you wish it still would. The mini album ends with two slow and laidback 5-6 minutes pieces, the first of them the only track with vocals, in kind of - of course – Jason Spaceman mood. Not any big gestures, but an EP of good and serious work worth all its respect.
A release limited to 100 numbered copies
Another piece of great environmental sounds from Digitalis Recordings. This time it’s Taiga Remains “Wax Canopy”, the alias of Cincinatti’s Alex Cobb (guitars, electronics, organ, field recordings, tapes). An album consisting of six pieces, two of them 2 minutes, four of them 8 –11 minutes. Dark, electronic waves flooding over us, sometimes in a traditional dark ambient way, but mostly with an industrial none-melodic feeling when walls of interesting electronic sounds fills the air of the room. It’s kind of minimalisms and it’s kind of droneish. It’s kind of good.
With an industrial pulse of machines working, Social Junk’s new album “Born Into It” sets off. The first track, It Just Isn’t The Same, is an 11 minutes jump straight into the action of great Suicide minimalisms, with darkness and a low mixed voice mumbling and singing in a most inviting way. Social Junk is the duo of Heather Young and Noah Anthony sharing electronics, guitar, vocals, tape loops, percussion and a bit sax, on a few tracks with the little help from some friends. The six tracks of the album is made with a great electronic and industrial DIY punk attitude, it’s modern, it’s interesting and it’s goddamn good, it’s free freak form, pure medication for ears and mind. Thank you!
Soft distorted sounds entering the room. Then slow pulsating noise waves. After two minutes beats are added and off we go. This is This Train Is A Rainbow, the first track on Fieldhead’s new album ‘They Shook Hand s For Hours’. Paul Elam from Leeds use to be heard as a member of The Declining Winter, but when recording solo works he releases it as Fieldhead. The music varies between airy ambient tracks with some dusty flavour and minimalisms and some kind of experimental trip hop. Sometimes the structures seem to be loose and party improvised and sometimes strictly composed. No matter what kind of tracks presented they’re filled with a lot of attractive small details, sounds and ‘miss-sounds’, purposely made. It’s electronic and it’s laid-back, it’s not of the common mainstream sounds and hisses often heard from lap-top:ians. It’s much better than that, complex with bright arrangements. And I love the titles of the songs, as the train track mentioned before, Half Names, the title track, He’d Found The Sea and I’m Fond Of Maps. As well as the music, the humour is laid back as well.
I don’t know if I’m stupid, naïve or just a weird person who sometimes is lazy as hell, sometimes so ambitious that I’m impressed myself. I don’t know if it’s accidental or by purpose, but when receiving this package of music to review there was two CDR in a terrible state: No cover, no info but a few words written down on the home-burned CDs, no nothing. The lazy part of me would throw them away wondering wether the artist/s cared anything for their music or not being heard or reviewed, the ambitious part of me started instead listening. The words written on both the common paper CD covers (you can buy them anywhere) said Andean Lands. A band name? I Googled. Nothing. What the heck! I already regretted I had even put the first CDR into the player. There was also written down a Gmail address. One part of me said: Never in my life I write a mail to anyone who want to be reviewed and ask for info, it must be up to them to promote their music, not mine. The other part of me wrote a mail (?!?!). An answer arrived from a Nicolas Moore, who shortly wrote that the ones heard of the two CDRs are him and a Zach Straight. He also mentioned a myspace site (which doesn’t say too much…).
Enough of this. The music, the sounds? It’s dronish, it’s ambient, it’s beautiful, you hear instruments, you hear samples, it’s lo fi, it’s probably very serious (or just made with a big smile), but it’s good, very good. The only reason for me to write all this is that it brings me back to the essence of what it’s all about: some people enjoying their creativity, recording some weird and great sounds. The main reason for them is just to do it, not to release it, but as for anyone, when it comes back to basics: when you once have made the recordings it doesn’t hurt if anyone else listen to it and you send it away, let’s say, to Terrascope, and this time it landed in my mailbox.
One album is called
“Shesaidshesaidshesaidshesaidshesaidshesaidshesaid”, six tracks lasting for about 70 minutes, with a 40 minutes center piece, and the other one “The Master Musicians Of Mental Illness”, 13 short tracks of totally 40 minutes, which also is the name the myspace site refers to. And, for God’s sake, don’t ask me for track titles, I don’t know if there are some.
Do you want the albums? Nicolas says it’s just a case of writing an email to
More confusion on
Being interested in experimental music of all kind you often get stuck with drones, field recordings, ambient, noise, none-rhythmic hisses, whatever. It’s interesting, but can be a bit too much and therefore it’s also sometimes a relief hearing bright pop-kind of tunes with steady beats. Here’s the most charming music of I Love You, a duo from Kansas City consisting of Justin Randel and Charlie Mylie, and their album “Bell Ord Forrest”. It’s rhythmic and polyrhythmic, it’s like Talking Heads or B52 being converted into this millenniums Now People. It’s happy and it’s inventive. It’s Party! You can dance to it. They sing! And they do it well. The tunes have names like The Colloquialism Is Simple “Gas”, Making Snow Angels In Angel Dust, Graceland Is Better Without Elvis. Easy to like.
A decent conclusion of this section of reviews is three very limited releases by Book of Shadows, the productive combo of improvisers well known to those who carefully follow the Terrascope reviews. The music is mostly drone-ish, with guitars and keyboards building beautiful fields of ghostly and gothic sounds over which voices freely floats, drifting in various directions, soft or intense, sometimes as a part of the drone, sometimes up in front.. The tunes are all long and hypnotic and they put you into moods of stillness. With careless listening you might think it’s a bit monotone, but as with all vital monotony there are loads of details. This band has huge experiences of performing their music live and it’s mostly all improvised with very few exceptions. For me their music is like a good painting; when you first knock it up on the wall you look at it very distinct every time you pass, but after a while it will become more of a part of the whole wall, as well as the room environment, than just a painting. Book of Shadows’ music work in the same way for me. When playing it first it’s a bit obvious and notable, than it more and more becomes a part of the room, like an aural painting and when it ends you realize something’s missing and you have to put it on again.
“Metrognomes”, five tracks, 80 minutes (Sharon Crutcher, Carlton Crutcher, Jason Zenmoth)
“The Bear Queen”, six tracks, 78 minutes (Sharon, Carlton, Aaron Bennack, Jason Boulourline-Travis, Amanda Boulourline-Travis)
“The Veil”, six tracks, 80 minutes (Sharon, Carlton, Aaron, Jonathan Horne, Johnny McCollom, Matt Thies, Steve Marsh, Lori Barga, Eric Archer)
www.myspace.com/labelkeben (Stefan Ek)
Thanks for that Stefan, no doubt there will be another pile on its way real soon...
Next up yet more vinyl that has found its way here thanks to the efforts of the postal service, bless them all. To start, a quick apology, those hoping to pick up some of the gems mentioned last issue may have noticed that at least one link was incorrect. So, big apologies to L’Animaux Tryst, who can be found here (http://www.lanimauxtryst.com/) . Check them out.
First up, a charming seven inch from those nice people at Autumn Ferment Records, the next installment of the seasonal sevens series, this time featuring Pamela Wynne Shannon and The Magickal Folk of the faraway Tree. Taken from her wonderful ”Courting Autumn” album, Pamela evokes all the beauty of the season on ”Woolgathering” a charming song as fragile as a falling leaf. On the other side, the Magickal Folk utterly seduce the listener with the haunting beauty of ”The Blackthorn Tree”, a gorgeous folk song with lilting flute and vocals from David Colohan.
Originally formed in 1982 and now reformed and revitalised, The Wild Swans, hail from Liverpool and can claim lineage with some fine bands including, The Bunnymen, Julian Cope and Spiritualised. One listen to their latest releases suggest that with a different slice of luck they could have been contenders, with the seven inch ”Liquid Mercury”/”The Wickedest Man in the World” containing a brace of fine tunes, the first a glorious jangle-drenched pop song, whilst the b-side is a rambling monologue set to some wonderful flowing music, the guitar echoing with words with charm and emotion. Even better is the ten inch ”English Electric Lightning”/”The Coldest Winter for a Hundred Years...”, the band straying into Teardrop Explodes territory, with the b-side another long ramble about drug addled nights and cramped living space, quite brilliant and well worth tracking down. (www.occultation.co.uk). On the same label, and with similar sonic tendencies, The Granite Shore are as charming as hell on their ten inch ”Tomorrow Morning 3 a.m”/”Workhouse”, the a-side a splendid slice of psych pop loveliness with a Julian Cope feel, whilst the other side has a more downbeat feel but is just as good, a song about growing old and the sadness that surrounds it, the lyrics creeping inside your head like drifting snow. Also worth noting is the care and quality that has gone into the packaging of these disc, complete with lyrics and excellent art, good work all round.
Like some strange Gothic-Prog hybrid, the music of Ballo delle Castagnehas an epic grandeur and a hint of metal within its grooves. Dealing with the sacredness of the number 108 and the earthly temptations that we must overcome, there latest ten inch is lavish and often confusing affair with the music as likeable and ascarefully thought out as the packaging. Over two side, guitars riff, synths burble and the italian lyrics keepme guessing, excellent stuff, but I am really not sure what they are on (about). (www.hauruckspqr.com)
With some wonderful tones and textures, the music of Bright Shuttle, is drifting,haunting and occasionally rocks out, at which point the band sound like Crazy Horse, without Neil Young singing. Genrally, moving between these points on their album ”Cold Nice Gold”, the nine songs flow together with a cohesive vision, the albu m weaving its magic with flecks of Galaxie 500, Dinosaur Jr, and A quieter Mono, glinting in the sonic sunlight. With the opening track ”Mountain City” leading you in softly, the album grows slowly until side one ends in noisier fashion, as ”Smatterings” shows the musicians control and power, free flowing yet perfectly judged. A similar feel is present as side two plays, the music washing over you until the final track ”Caves”, the music becoming even more distant and delicate, the perfect closer in fact. (www.laboratorystandard.com)
More guitar orientated, instrumental music can be found on ”Dreams”, the latest album from Chris Forsyth, best known as a member of peeesseye. Here the guitar creates minimalist loops and rhythms, these sounds layered, with more guitar textures, noise and dissonance, the resulting sounds created being hypnotic and very intense. On ”Soft History”, the addition of a mournful trumpet, is a touch of brilliance, the sound levitating the track to a whole new level. Slowly changing from tingling guitar to distorted drone, ”String haters” is another fine piece, the guitar playing both free form and sympathetic to the storm around it, the track reaching a finale in a haze of distortion, white noise and enlightenment. Side two opens in a more peaceful manner, the gentle guitar tones of ”Long Warm Afternoon” soothing the listener, not for long though as experimentation and confusion are a constant undercurrent, the piece becoming a pulsing and unsettling slice of music, the threat of a storm coming, the tension controlled with ease. Finally, ”Dream Number One” is a tour de force, half remembered dreams,cut-up spoken word and explosive metallic shards, colliding in an ever rising drone, the guitar wailing in joyous pain, the whole piece taking over the room for fourteen glorious and unsettling minutes. (www.evolvingear.com)
Finally for this edition of Rumbles, ”Twenty One Pieces” is an expansive double album from Taming Power (AKA Askild Haugland), that collects together pieces recorded over the last ten years. Ranging from field recordings, casio tunes, guitar based pieces and more, there is a sense of style running through the album, a cohesiveness that bonds it all together, creating a rich vein of sound that is a pleasure to discover. With each piece given a date, rather than a title, it is hard to dissect them individually, suffice to say that people who enjoy, experimental, personal music will find much to enjoy amongst the stillness, icy beauty and variation in tone that this package offers. Amongst, the melodies, there are also hidden some field recording of the wind howling (I presume), the sound of which is startling and takes your breath away, see the 4th track on side A, for further details. Possible my favourite side however, is side B, filled as it is with low end rumbling drones, music to get lost in, as comforting as total darkness, or a blanket of snow on bare trees. An album that is full of small suprises, delightful textures and possibly a tinge of regret. Almost essential, for a minority at least. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Rumbles written by: Simon Lewis and Stefan Ek
Artwork, Layout & Direction: Phil McMullen