Saturday, July 3, 2010

Pan Sonic - Aaltopiiri

Label: Blast First
Released: 2001
Style: Abstract, Minimal, Ambient

"Probably my favourite of all the Pan Sonic albums, this showed a slight departure from their previous efforts. Instead of focussing mainly on distorted technoid beats and extreme sounds, Altopiiri interspersed the hypnotic analogue techno mainstays with gorgeous atmospheric compositions reflecting influences from early electronic composers such as Pierre Schaeffer and Todd Dockstader. These tracks were all made without overdubs - live recordings pitched by Vaino and Väisänen in the studio and improvised as they went on. Listening through the tracks it is hard to hear how they managed such an accomplished finish by working in this way. Many artists never reach the heady peaks of tracks like 'Ensi' or 'Toisaalta' in a lifetime of output, and Pan Sonic manage it in one take. An incredible achievement in electronic music and an essential slice of history, this is an album you need in your collection, minimal or otherwise." - Boomkat


1 Ensi (0:38)
2 Vaihtovirta (6:38)
3 Toisaalta (0:31)
4 Johdin (5:46)
5 Kuu (1:26)
6 Ããnipãã (3:49)
7 Arvio (1:24)
8 Liuos (6:16)
9 Ulottuvuus (5:58)
10 Hallapyydys (4:42)
11 Reuna-alue (9:30)
12 Valli (6:19)
13 Kone (4:20)
14 Johto 3 (3:48)
15 Murskaus (1:37)
16 Rasite (0:51)
17 Kierto (6:11)

Walter Wegmüller - Tarot

Label: Kosmische Kuriere
Released: 1973
Style: Krautrock, Prog Rock

"This massive double album is cosmic Krautrock at its finest hour, as visionary Walter Wegmuller leads a tour through the entire major arcane of the Tarot deck while the Cosmic Couriers -- basically Ash Ra Tempel, Wallenstein, and whoever else producer Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser could rope in -- create a remarkable soundtrack encompassing space rock, folk music, funk, psychedelia, and electronic music. Wegmuller's album followed in the footsteps of Timothy Leary's Seven Up, Ash Ra Tempel, and Sergius Golowin's Lord Krishna von Goloka, backed by Wallenstein, the duo Westripp-Witthuser, and keyboardist Klaus Schulze. Tarot, with almost all these musicians on the roster, is the culmination, a bizarre roller coaster ride through sonic soundscapes, while Wegmuller intones in his deep voice, sometimes augmented by more effects, though he often remains silent for long instrumental stretches. From the opening track, a funky number with blazing guitar and rolling piano over which a circus-barker voice announces the band with grand élan, to the side four track's nonstop blast into hallucinogenic after-burn, this one is a monster all the way. Shimmering Ash Ra Tempel guitar freakouts blend with Wallenstein's more rollicking psych rock, Schulze's deep space keyboards, and Westripp's cosmic folk to create strange blitzes of electronic weirdness. This album provide an incredible pallet of styles that all seem to gel in a cohesive mass of pure mystical wonder." - Allmusic


1-01 Der Narr (3:55)
1-02 Der Magier (4:39)
1-03 Die Hohepriesterin (4:17)
1-04 Die Herrscherin (4:16)
1-05 Der Herrscher (2:58)
1-06 Der Hohepriester (3:10)
1-07 Die Entscheidung (3:52)
1-08 Der Wagen (5:16)
1-09 Die Gerechtigkeit (3:02)
1-10 Der Weise (4:02)
1-11 Das Glücksrad (3:37)
1-12 Die Kraft (3:28)

2-01 Die Prüfung (4:57)
2-02 Der Tod (1:20)
2-03 Die Mässigkeit (4:47)
2-04 Der Teufel (3:38)
2-05 Die Zerstörung (4:01)
2-06 Die Sterne (6:15)
2-07 Der Mond (2:50)
2-08 Die Sonne (3:03)
2-09 Das Gericht (2:06)
2-10 Die Welt (8:41)
Disc 2

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Jon Hassell - Last Night The Moon Came Dropping Its Clothes In The Street

Label: ECM Records
Released: 2009
Style: Jazz, Ambient

"...Last Night the Moon Came Dropping Its Clothes in the Street is Hassell's first recording since 2005's Maarifa Street: Magic Realism, Vol. 2; it's an assembled montage of sessions recorded in France and Los Angeles, and concerts are also woven into the rich fabric here. Hassell's music, even now, sounds alien, beguiling, mercurial, seemingly formless and airy but full of subtle washes, shifts of tone, and polyrhythmic strategies. The ten cuts here are mostly middle-length pieces that range between five and eight minutes, but three -- "Time and Place," "Clairvoyance," and "Scintilla" -- act as transitions segmenting, however seamlessly, the album into roughly thirds.

The band contains a pair of holdovers from his last outing in bassist Peter Freeman -- who doubles on laptop -- and guitarist Rick Cox, who has been augmented by no less than Eivind Aarset on the instrument. The other new players include Jamie Muhoberacon keyboard and laptop, drummers Helge Norbakken and Pete Lockett, Kheir Eddine M'Kachiche on violin, and Jan Bang on live sampling. Together they root and extend the aerial sound of Hassell's trumpet that flows everywhere and anywhere. Check the simple bass and guitar rhythmic attack on "Abu Gil," the album's longest track, where In a Silent Way's "It's About That Time" meets the desert blues feels of "Anouar Brahem" and the Master Musicians of Jajouka meet the noir-ish ambient funk of early Shriekback. The title track, by contrast, is a long, loping, beautiful number where moods of morning, marketplaces, and nocturnal sunsets all loosely entwine around the listener. The obvious postmodern jazz soloist's approach hovers all around the shapes and colors evoked by keyboards and trumpet in "Courtrais," as soundscape, loops, and ambiences all deepen and widen before being grounded by a subtle but unflinching backbone-slipping bassline by Freeman. Hassell moves toward everything -- samples, drifting sonics, hints of melody, and, for such quiet and subtle music, an impressive harmonic palette -- to create a montage that evokes the timelessness of the past with a firm grasp on the unknowable, perhaps even unspeakable, future. His jazzman's sense of time and phrasing is enhanced by his painterly sense of space and shade. This album is further proof that Jon Hassell inhabits a terrain of his own, and reflects the true vibration of poetry as it meets the human ear as something akin to pure sound." - Allmusic


1 Aurora (5:22)
2 Time And Place (3:48)
3 Abu Gil (13:04)
4 Last Night The Moon Came (11:15)
5 Clairvoyance (1:05)
6 Courtrais (5:44)
7 Scintilla (0:50)
8 Northline (6:43)
9 Blue Period (7:58)
10 Light On Water (7:59)

Svalastog - Woodwork

Label: Rune Grammofon
Released: 2006
Style: Abstract, Experimental, Ambient

"True story, as told by Per Henrik Svalastog himself: “I found an old Norwegian zither laying around my grandfather´s barn in the mountains. It appeared that he had been a fiddler before he lost all his fingers at the sawmill and convertet to become a hardcore pietist setting down a prohibition against music, dancing, card-playing and television. That made me want to convert as well, from digital medias to real playing. From electronica to folk music. Back to the sources. Heritage and environment.” So it goes that Per Henrik is playing and improvising on archaic folk instruments like the ram's horn and harpeleik, which is a Norwegian zither. He is then processing it all in the computer, resulting in a detailed and accomplished but soothing and quite hypnotic music. Taking the music out of the city and into the Norwegian woods, and not the arctic regions, as is the popular image if you come from Tromsø and is associated with electronic music. Per Henrik Svalastog is also a member of Information who released the excellent “Biomekano” (RCD2024) on Rune Grammofon in 2002. The previous year he did a stunning SPUNK remix for their “Filtered Through Friends” collection (RCD2022), a track that is also available on the “Until Human Voices Wake Us And We Drown” vinyl box set." - Label


1 The Wood Metal Friction (5:13)
2 Snow Tracer (6:24)
3 Reconnecting Joints (4:52)
4 Mouse Tracking (5:58)
5 Centerline Reminder (4:18)
6 Reforestation (4:27)
7 Cow Goat Goat (3:17)
8 Slow Blowing Wireless (3:59)
9 White Oak White Pine (3:47)
10 Rework And Out (3:10)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Andy Stott - Unknown Exception

Label: Modern Love
Released: 2008
Style: Techno, House, IDM, Tech House, Electro, Dub Techno, Minimal

"Andy Stott has developed a unique sound since his debut for the Modern Love label back in 2005. His first demos were heavily influenced by the square-bassline techno variations of Claro Intelecto, a longtime friend, mentor and eventually labelmate and collaborator. His first release, ‘Replace’ featured a mixture of disciplines that took in elements of Detroit Techno and Chicago House which fast captured peoples imagination with intuitive, warm melodies and fathomless bass weight. From that point on Stott continued to shift and adapt his sound to take in ever disparate influences, from the driving techno of Dave Clarke’s ‘Red’ series through to Basic Channel, Dubstep, Garage and the minimalism of classic Sahko. His restless shift from traditional Techno blueprints through to the bottom-heavy signatures of dubstep and the steppers arrangements of garage have also placed him at the forefront of the dubstepXtechno hybrid sounds that have started to dominate the electronic music scene alongside the likes of Martyn, Peverelist and T++. This compilation brings together selected tracks dating back to Andy Stott’s debut back in 2005 and reaching all the way to his most recent material – with none of them ever available on cd until now. Tracks feature here from the ‘Replace’, ‘Ceramics’, ‘Handle With Care’, ‘Hostile’, "Bad Landing’, "Fear Of Heights’, ‘Massacre’ and ‘Nervous’ EP’s and stream through his fascination with deep, almost uncontainable basslines and ever inventive percussive shifts. The man really is a bit of a hero round these parts, and we consider ‘Unknown Exception’ required listening for any of you interested in the bass progressions and deviations where Techno, House, Dub and Garage collide to shift things to the next level." - Label


1 Fear Of Heights (6:20)
2 Bad Landing (6:10)
3 Handle With Care (4:50)
4 Long Drive (5:27)
5 Credit (7:07)
6 Massacre (6:57)
7 See In Me (6:07)
8 Made Your Point (6:04)
9 She’s Gone Wrong (5:31)
10 Fine Metallic Dollar (6:53)
11 Hostile (6:39)
12 Replace (4:43)

Stephan Mathieu - Radioland

Label: Die Schachtel
Released: 2008
Style: Drone, Minimal, Ambient

"Radioland is Stephan Mathieu's long awaited 5th full length studio work, following his acclaimed The Sad Mac CD from 2004. Exclusively based on real-time processed shortwave radio signals, Radioland takes the listener on a carpet ride across endless, majestic shimmering landscapes. Radioland is a mesmerizing reflection on the bubble of information thats all around us, all the time, by one of the truly unique minds in today's abstract digitalia." - Label


1 Raphael (10:04)
2 Gabriel (10:02)
3 Michael (10:08)
4 Promenade (5:06)
5 Auf der Gasse (5:03)
6 Licht und Finsternis zum Auge (8:20)
7 Prolog im Himmel (7:05)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Phonophani - Phonophani

Label: Rune Grammofon
Released: 2006
Style: Experimental, Ambient

"This is a rather beautifully packaged re-issue of Espen Sommer Eide's debut album, originally released in a limited run on Biosphere's 'Biophon' imprint in 1998. I must say although I am familiar with most of the Norwegian artist's output I have never come across this album before, and it is a pleasure to explore the murky depths now, 8 years after it originally landed. Unsurprisingly many tracks here bear relation to the early work of Alog (which recently featured on the killer 'Hold That Totem' collection), but they also manage to retain a life and soul of their own. Deep disorientating basslines punctuating filtered off-world instrumentation to create some kind of ambience, just not the kind of ambience we're accustomed to. I can see why Biosphere issued the record, while not obviously comparable to Biosphere's own output, this music could reside in the same overall ballpark, the same glacial beauty is trapped within Sommer Eide's work as within the work of Geir Jenssen. I think the most successful elements of the album come when Sommer Eide stops relying on electronic pulses and drones and brings in the distant sound of a guitar or another acoustic instrument - the merging of these two worlds becomes utterly involving and occasionally deeply moving. Another fantastic release on the Rune Grammofon imprint, I do wonder occasionally when these guys are going to slip up?? Highly recommended." - Boomkat


1 I.F.A. (4:20)
2 Ring (8:54)
3 Zurnas (6:08)
4 No Strangeclock (5:35)
5 Duration-Happiness (4:43)
6 Kaliphoni (3:54)
7 C (4:49)
8 Order Of Disappearance (5:08)
9 Sol (5:45)
10 Minne & Materie (5:36)
11 The Boy In His Bathtub (6:15)
12 Farger Rundt Hvitt (4:18)
13 Kreta (9:36)

Gavin Bryars - After The Requiem

Label: ECM Records
Released: 1991
Style: Modern Classical, Minimal

"After the Requiem continued Gavin Bryars' journey away from the more experimental work that made his reputation early in his career toward pieces possessing a more melancholic and romantic quality. In two of the works herein, "The Old Tower of Lobenicht" and "Allegrasco," one can hear echoes of his brilliant composing on the Hommages album. But where the romantic elements were stricter and more crystalline on the prior effort, here there is an expansiveness that sometimes succeeds and at other times verges on kitsch. Guitarist Bill Frisell performs on three of the four compositions, but his creamy, sustained chords tend to sound somewhat bland and occasionally subvert some otherwise very attractive melodic material. The standout track is a saxophone quartet number, "Alaric I or II," featuring the surprising presence of Evan Parker. In fact, Bryars' earliest musical ventures were as a member of the British free improvisation community, so the inclusion of Parker has some historical background. The composition is a very enjoyable melange of minimalist technique and references to Gershwin that manages to cohere into a satisfying whole. Fans of Bryars' more substantial work from the '70s or his improvising skills in groups like Joseph Holbrooke may find After the Requiem a little too sweet for their tastes, while listeners who are looking for something a bit meatier than Arvo Part or Henryk Gorecki may find their appetite satisfied." - Allmusic


1 After The Requiem (15:48)
2 The Old Tower Of Löbenicht (16:00)
3 Alaric I Or II (15:15)
4 Allegrasco (19:46)


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tom Opdahl - Black Smoker

Label: Biophon Records
Released: 2001
Style: Techno, Ambient

"Only the second release so far on Biosphere's Biophon label. Tom Opdahl of Bergen - a picturesque town nestled among seven hills on the west coast of Norway, where it always, always rains - is a hitherto unheard name among the plethora of excellent ambient and electronica coming out of that country. But his debut 'Black Smoker' should place him firmly on the map.

To call this music "chilly" would be to fall prey to the cliche about "Arctic ambient". It does however somehow jibe aesthetically with that sound which seems so specific to Norwegian ambient - that low, low pulse that seems almost endemic to the music, the predilection for monochrome tones.

There are unabashedly "Biospherean" moments on 'Black Smoker', but ultimately the work as a whole does not come off as the product of an epigone. Opdahl's compositions are as wonderfully gloomy as the artwork adorning the slipcover, proffering a sense of turning a grand, wild landscape into something claustrophobic, shrouded in mystic mist." -


1 Anthropomorphism (7:04)
2 Epispedural Soup (4:31)
3 Pinepulse (2:55)
4 Hybrid (5:38)
5 Black Smoker (4:04)
6 Mellow Limbo (1:56)
7 Skog (2:18)
8 Naut-O-Pilot (4:50)
9 Lake Vostok (3:15)
10 Pinepulse (Part 2) (1:41)
11 Sundrop (4:48)
12 Mental Xchange (0:57)
13 Dark Little Something (4:28)
14 Pecudesque Locutae (2:44)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Sickoakes - Seawards

Label: Type Records
Released: 2006
Style: Post-Rock

"Based in Stockholm, Sweden; Sickoakes are a six piece instrumental rock band and Seawards is their long awaited debut release. Since the release of an early recording of ‘Wedding Rings & Bullets in the Same Golden Shrine’ on the Pleasedosomething net-label some years ago there has been a bubbling interest in their next move, so it is an absolute pleasure for us to present their full album, and what an album it is. Taking the finest fragments of the ailing post-rock genre, and infusing this with vibrant orchestral flourishes, Seawards is a slow burning triumph.

Unsurprisingly for such an epic work, the band have based it around some kind of basic narrative. With their travels of the Eastern Bloc firmly in mind, they have realized the album as a kind of telegram; a message to themselves or a series of lonely photos. As non-participating viewers into something isolated and detached they can watch as the world slowly comes to an end, and then tries to pick itself up again. These sentiments are perfectly represented throughout Seawards, which reads from beginning to end flawlessly. Much more than merely seven anonymous tracks, it is a voyeur’s journey into an unconscious world.

The album opens with ‘Driftwood’, a majestic and wistful maritime letter to a long gone lover. This acts as the perfect prologue, short and very sweet before the swooping majesty of ‘Taking the Stairs Instead of the Elevator’ continues the story with cascading guitars, glockenspiels and militant drumming. Before long we reach the album’s clear highlight, ‘Oceans on Hold’ which hits like a freight train without brakes. Although we could go on about more of the epic beauty of this album – the most important thing here is that it rocks, it really rocks. ‘Oceans on Hold’ is simply huge, and the album’s longest work ‘Wedding Rings and Bullets’ which takes up almost half the record in its two parts is simply earth shaking.

This is a very special record for Type Recordings, with a band we have been working with for a very long time now so we urge you to explore the beautiful and peculiar land of Sickoakes." - Label


1 Driftwood (4:05)
2 Taking The Stairs Instead Of The Elevator (10:23)
3 Oceans On Hold (10:06)
4 Missiles And Mammals (2:57)
5 Wedding Rings & Bullets In The Same Golden Shrine (Part I) (4:41)
6 Wedding Rings & Bullets In The Same Golden Shrine (Part II) (22:47)
7 Leonine (4:12)

Food - Quiet Inlet

Label: ECM Records
Released: 2010
Style: Jazz

"Food has defined a new kind of lyrical electro-acoustic improvisation in the course of its twelve year existence. Founded as a quartet in 1998, since 2006 the group has been a core duo of UK saxophonist Iain Ballamy and Norwegian drummer Thomas Strønen joined by guests for diverse projects. At the Molde Jazz Festival and the Oslo Blå club in 2007/8 their guests were trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer, well known to ECM followers, and Austrian improvising guitarist Christian Fennesz, making his label debut. The resultant music, with melodic improvising, trancelike pulses, and shifting clouds of sound is highly attractive." - Label


1 Tobiko (7:08)
2 Chimaera (5:00)
3 Mictyris (5:41)
4 Becalmed (7:51)
5 Cirrina (6:16)
6 Dweller (6:20)
7 Fathom (8:39)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ryan Teague - Six Preludes

Label: Type Records
Released: 2005
Style: Modern Classical

"Residing in Cambridge, UK Ryan Teague has grown up with classical music. Learning classical guitar from an early age, and also becoming proficient in clarinet and a number of other obscure instruments, it was not long before Teague tried his hand at composing. However the trappings of standard classical composition were not of any interest to him, and he had already discovered the wide world of electronic music and experimental rock. Taking hold of Arvo Part with one hand and Biosphere with the other, Teague has gone on to create a record that crosses boundaries without ever resorting to genre stereotypes. He has managed to forge a record which sounds both timeless and startlingly fresh.

The opening track ‘Prelude I’ begins with strings enswathed in digital noise and drifting bells, before a haunting choral vocal is introduced into the mix. Bringing together the operatic with electronics in such a way has almost never been achieved successfully, yet Teague manages effortly to blend the genres and emerge with something beautiful and uncluttered. It at once becomes cinematic but never resorts to being over sentimental. As the strings crash and percussion drives our emotion, never once does it feel tiresome and it always keeps the imagination active. On the final track ‘Prelude VI’ it is hard not to bring to mind the finer works of Cliff Martinez as bass bubbles underneath an echoing piano and electronic distortions: a stunning widescreen finale to this captivating story.

It would be right to compare ‘Six Preludes’ to the work of Steve Reich or John Adams, as there are clearly similarities, yet Teague takes his sound to another place entirely. Sitting more closely with the more contemporary ecm catalogue and with artists such as Arve Henriksen or Marsen Jules, this is a marriage of classical and electronic rather than a mere experiment. Ryan Teague has begun a deep excavation into an exciting sound, and it is our hope that he continues to do so." - Label


1 Prelude I (5:39)
2 Prelude II (4:16)
3 Prelude III (5:11)
4 Prelude IV (5:12)
5 Prelude V (4:42)
6 Prelude VI (7:19)

Pendle Coven - Self Assessment

Label: Modern Love
Released: 2009
Style: Techno, Dub Techno

"Since their 2003 debut ‘Trouble At Mill’, Pendle Coven have produced seven exceptional, restless twelves for the Modern Love label, not including work undertaken by one half of the recording duo under the MLZ moniker and a handful of projects produced and delivered under the radar. Typified by an inability to rest on their laurels, Pendle have explored areas of Techno and electronic music as diverse as their interests, taking in early-90’s style ‘ardkore, drone, Basic-Channelisms, Drexciyan electro and warehouse minimalism along the way. This debut album features 7 exclusive and previously unreleased tracks as well as 5 killers from the ’£100 a metre’, ‘marriage of convenience’, ‘hex’ and ‘Iamnoman’ EP’s, spanning the last 5 years. The sound of ‘Self Assessment’ opens with the disembodied guitar treatment of ‘Aged Drone’, paving the way for the stripped menace of ‘Iamnoman’ – the title track of their most recent vinyl-only release. From there we drop in on the staggered proto-dubstep of ‘Unit 6’, an alternate string-driven version of the airy stepper ‘Uncivil Engineering’, the immense stripped reverberance of ’Optimal, pure bass pressure of “MVO Chamber” and, finally, the towering chord crescendos of the Berlin-inspired Exigen. All the tracks here have been lovingly honed and mastered at the hands of Dubplates and Mastering in Berlin, for added bass depth and space." - Label


1 Aged Drone (1:37)
2 IAMNOMAN (7:39)
3 Unit 6 (4:29)
4 Uncivil Engineering (Calm Mix) (6:28)
5 Optimal (7:45)
6 Modern Mode (5:40)
7 Chord Calculus (7:17)
8 Nice Moves (5:17)
9 MVO Chamber (8:11)
10 Golden Hadron (5:04)
11 Exigen (7:19)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Information - Biomekano

Label: Rune Grammofon
Released: 2002
Style: Glitch, Dub Techno, Minimal, Ambient

"Third and easily the best album from these veterans of arctic ambient electronica. A beautiful and razorsharp production with plenty of depth and detail, this is an album that should most definitely appeal to Biosphere fans. Information is Per Henrik Svalastog and Jørgen Knudsen." - Label


1 Plot Ratio (Replug) (5:04)
2 Tropical Investigation (Leisure Recycled) (5:08)
3 Every Possible Artificial Condition (2:56)
4 Higher Densities / Maximum Choice (7:07)
5 Stacking Of Different Natures (7:20)
6 Sufficient Sunlight (3:45)
7 A Radical Co-ordination (2:45)
8 This Low-rise City (7:11)
9 Center By Celebrating The Loop (6:01)
10 Biomechanics By Accident (3:08)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Mark Van Hoen - Playing With Time

Label: Apollo
Released: 1998
Style: Abstract, Downtempo, Experimental, Ambient

"Fifth and best album of elegant electronica from the ex-Seefeel man.
From the breathy and mysterious opener Real Love to the marathon finale Love Is All, Playing With Time displays an impressive range of instrumentation and clever application of technology. Its 10 tracks draw on techno, trance and ambient influences without ever making you reach for the fast-forward button. There's even an extended Bobby Konders-style funky organ workout on Once When I Was Fourteen to stop the whole caboodle getting too airy and rootless. OK, Van Hoen occasionally gets a bit literal with the temporal allusions - music-box noises on Surrounder, clockwork cogs grinding away on Gifts And Prizes - but the results are so damn beautiful they take your breath away. Nine pieces of exquisitely crafted electronica set the scene and then Love Is All glides gracefully by and keeps the old-school ambient heads happy for 36 minutes. There's life in the old circuitry yet. Rob Chapman" - Mojo


1 Real Love (7:57)
2 Surrounder (3:15)
3 First Steps (4:18)
4 Closer Than We All Thought (3:42)
5 A More Light Past (2:58)
6 Once When I Was Fourteen (4:36)
7 Gifts And Prizes (4:13)
8 You And Me Inside (4:30)
9 When Tomorrow Comes (5:54)
10 Love Is All (4:45)

Arve Henriksen - Chiaroscuro

Label: Rune Grammofon
Released: 2004
Style: Future Jazz, Experimental, Ambient

"To get straight to the point, "Chiarsocuro" is probably the most startling and moving album I've heard this year. Arve Henriksen is a founding member of freestyle jazz experimentalists Supersilent, his inimitable trumpet playing and indescribable wordless vocalising has gained him a feverishly dedicated following, sparked off by the release of his debut album "Sakuteiki" back in 2001 and by several live performances that have left his captive audience gasping for breath. "Chiaroscuro" (taken from the Italian for "light and shade") is quite an unbeleiveable listen - cinematic in a way that words cannot describe, a vast panoramic ocean of sound reduced to the most silent, heart-wrenching string arrangements, delicate live sampling (courtesy of Jan Bang) and a whispered sweep of barely audible percussion (from Audun Kleive), hovering around Henriksen unique, mesmerising trumpet playing and broken voice. This is by far and away the most inspiring album I've heard this year, a completely wondrous listen that seems to defy categorisation or description. Sometimes you happen across a record by chance and it ends up changing your musical vocabularly forever - "Chiaroscuro" is one of those rare records. We implore all music lovers to check it out without delay. Incredible." - Boomkat


1 Opening Image (4:16)
2 Bird's-Eye-Vie (4:07)
3 Chiaro (3:28)
4 Holography (3:02)
5 Blue Silk (6:30)
6 Parallel Actio (4:38)
7 Circled Take (3:25)
8 Scuro (5:08)
9 Time Lapse (5:07)
10 Ending Image (2:27)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Robin Guthrie & Harold Budd - After The Night Falls

Label: Darla Records
Released: 2007
Style: Ambient, Instrumental

"A companion piece to 'Before the Day Breaks', 'After the Night Falls' is a gorgeous soundtrack to the twilight hours by two of the most gifted producers of blissed-out music the world has ever known. The last we had heard from Harold Budd was that "Avalon Sutra" was going to be his final album and that he was ready for retirement, but in a typically obtuse fashion we now suddenly find ourselves with two brand new albums from the great man released on the same day. It doesn't stop here either, the now 70 year-old musician roped in his friend Robin Guthrie to lend some effected guitar to the proceedings, and the results are predictably sublime. It's hard to speak about this album without referencing 'Before the Day Breaks', but I must say that the darker focus evident here imbues proceedings with a much welcome aural fog. Maybe I'm just more interested in post-sunlight albums, but there's a haziness to 'After the Night Falls' which is perfectly in tune with that very specific time of day - it's not midnight, it's not pitch black, but night has drawn in. Musically this is the perfect marriage of the sound of two consummate professionals - Budd's piano echoing over Guthrie's signature reverberating guitar sound. The pieces here are almost mirror images of those on the companion album, even down to the track titles, for instance the opening track is named 'How Distant Your Heart' in response to the opening track of 'Before the Day Breaks' which is named 'How Close Your Soul'. This in my opinion makes both discs totally indispensable, it is almost impossible to simply buy one and be done with it - to hear one dictates that you need to hear the other. Basically fans of midnight ambient music, shoegaze or the solo piano perfected by Budd should buy this without delay, it's frankly unmissable." - Boomkat


1 How Distant Your Heart (4:03)
2 Avenue Of Shapes (3:27)
3 Seven Thousand Sunny Years (6:19)
4 She Is My Strength (2:52)
5 Inside, A Golden Echo (3:24)
6 Open Book (5:17)
7 And Then I Turned Away (3:30)
8 The Girl With Colorful Thoughts (4:26)
9 Turn Off The Sun (4:58)

Robin Guthrie & Harold Budd - Before The Day Breaks

Label: Darla Records
Released: 2007
Style: Ambient, Instrumental

"To say we've been eagerly waiting for this pair of albums would be a serious understatement...These are two artists that should really need no introduction - Harold Budd, the legendary pianist who defined a whole genre with his peerless piano-led soundscaping and Robin Guthrie, the guitarist who as part of the Cocteau Twins introduced the term ethereal into modern music. The two musicians have crossed paths before, first on the stunning Cocteau Twins album 'The Moon and the Melodies' and more recently on the soundtrack to 'Mysterious Skin' - but its here on these sessions (recorded in 2006) that they have really created something unique. The first thing you notice about the music here is just how evenly balanced Budd's piano is with Guthrie's guitar, nothing feels at odds at any time. This is the biggest difficulty with a collaboration, and especially a collaboration between two very well known musicians who both have a 'signature' sound. The unique qualities of each musician are left intact, but are gradually smudged into each other to create an overall a haze of blissful ambience that leaves us somewhere in-between classic Cocteaus and Eno-era Budd, a place which I'm sure you can imagine is well worth visiting. This album is one part of a two disc set (we're still wondering exactly why it wasn't released as a double pack) and is titled very appropriately 'Before the Day Breaks' - I say appropriately because I can't really think of a better collection of music to usher in the new dawn. The record almost seems out of time, out of sorts with the world in its absolute honesty - there is no dense pop sound on offer here, no over-compressed loud hellish noise assault, rather this is the delicately handled sound of two musicians who have proven what they needed to prove and are simply here to enjoy the ride. It feels like a privilege that they have let us join them. Gorgeous stuff - and a massive recommendation." - Boomkat


1 How Close Your Soul (7:36)
2 A Formless Path (4:23)
3 A Minute, A Day, No More (5:21)
4 She Is My Weakness (3:41)
5 Outside, Silence (4:25)
6 Hidden Message (4:48)
7 I Returned Her Glance (3:43)
8 My Monochrome Vision (4:44)
9 Turn On The Moon (4:21)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cave - Psychic Psummer

Label: Important Records
Released: 2009
Style: Psychedelic Rock

"Mixing equal parts Can and Stereolab (who, of course, took more than a bit from Can themselves) with a grooving and cruise-worthy psychedelicism propagated by the likes of Funkadelic, Cave manage to sound at once immediately familiar and entirely original, a trait uncommon in today's increasingly oversaturated music landscape. Where many bands seem to be loosening their belt of late however, Cave is continually tightening, forging their jams into focused demonstrations of their collective potential.

Where Cave stand out is in the band's ability to do this without ever losing the intricacies and feeling afforded to in-the-moment creation. Rather than sterilizing their sound into a palatable and time-wary take on the extended, horizon-minded style they practice, the group takes full advantage of both studio and approach to craft each piece into a work the form of which only elevates the group's output.

Such is clear from the very opening, when the rich guitar line of "Gamm" is built from the ground up into a thudding instrumental. After a patient intro, the unit explodes into pure energy, each instrument contributing to the throb and shape of the whole. No note is superfluous here, and the focus gives the piece an even clearer trajectory. The following "Made in Malaysia," with its hyper synth lines and clacking drum work, fuses a nearly punk chant with an absolutely undeniable and deranged riff whose effect is garnered from the construction of the lines themselves rather than the overall effect. This is an immensely precise spaciness being conjured.

Elsewhere, the group displays the subtle mastery of form they have. The dancey funk of "Encino Men" emanates outward while the brooding post-punkisms of "Requiem for John Sex" built towards a kind of post-rock vocabulary that eschews any sense of wanky self-indulgence in favor of pure group energy wielding. The result is a special disc that easily represents the strongest statement from this group yet. Great material and great production rarely coalesce in such a clear and fertile vision as this." - Brainwashed


Gamm (6:23)
Made In Malaysia (3:38)
Encino Men (3:12)
High, I Am (4:36)
Requiem For John Sex (6:36)
Machines & Muscles (3:57)


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Greg Haines - Slumber Tides

Label: Miasmah
Released: 2006
Style: Modern Classical

"Hearing the expertly constructed and deeply sensitive post-classical pieces featured on ‘Slumber Tides’ it is difficult to comprehend that the musician is only a mere 18 years of age. Harking from the boredom filled lands of Greater Surrey in England, Haines quickly tired of school life and found himself immersed in music, and in a move indicative of the current trend of our disillusioned youth, became obsessed with the intrigue of experimental sound. Travelling through Europe whenever he could and sleeping on the floors of musicians he would contact by email he quickly built up a network of friends, most importantly in Oslo, Norway where he spent time with Deaf Center’s Erik Skodvin (who also runs the Miasmah imprint) and his collaborator Kristin Evensen Giaver who contributes her haunting vocals on a number of Haines’ tracks. In Sweden Haines met up with Lampse’s Dag Rosenqvist (Jasper TX) who kindly provided his pump organ skills and was another important musical influence in Haines’ journey, helping him to return home with a sense of Europe and a sense of unity far more mature than his years would suggest. This nomadic existence is represented beautifully on the album, which opens majestically with ‘Snow Airport’ a slowly building work of looped cello sounds played by Haines himself. The structure is similar in sound to the phasing experiments of Steve Reich or the electronic/acoustic works of Ryan Teague but Haines has injected enough of his own personality and experience to give the compositions a distinct sense of gravitas and a refreshing narrative. The second piece ‘Submergence’ builds over nine minutes with Kristin Evensen Giaver’s shimmering vocals drifting over waves of cello and subtle electronic structures until it reaches an almost cacophonous peak and dips into breathless squeaks and groans. By the time we reach the album’s centrepiece and highlight ‘Arups Gate’ we have already been on a rich emotional journey, but Haines doesn’t let off yet, instead he takes us even further into epic territory with xylophone and glockenspiel tones serving as the backbone of the track as those signature cello sounds swoop overhead. This track feels as if it could be married with any number of films or stories – yet Haines shows an incredible sense of restraint never letting the music get too melodramatic or overdone. For a debut album ‘Slumber Tides’ is a simply remarkable accomplishment, and a clear indication that we will be hearing a great deal more from Greg Haines." - Label


1 Snow Airport (4:59)
2 Submergence (9:51)
3 Tired Diary (Revised) (12:59)
4 Arups Gate (10:41)
5 Caesura (7:39)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A Made Up Sound - Sun Touch

Label: A Made Up Sound
Released: 2009
Style: Techno, Dubstep

"Dave Huismans aka 2562 unloads the second release for his A Made Up Sound imprint. Compared to the outright Detroit ebullience of AMS 001, this plate acts as an outlet for his more esoteric leanings, constructing three tracks that don't feel like immediate 'floor hits, but burn with a more cosmic and atmospheric abstraction while still driven by incredibly efficient and well-tuned rhythmic engines. 'Sun Touch' scopes the scene's minimalistic radar bleeps and Radiophonic synth textures carried by an itchy Shake-styled rhythm, while 'Drain' enters a sombre zone of hazy grey drones and spring loaded steppers rhythms for the more adventurous DJs. Finally 'Shortcut' gives time for some ruff drum machine experimentation harking back to his 'Archive' release for Clone's Basement series. He's still way out on his own, which makes each and every one of his records worth checking." - Boomkat


1 Sun Touch (6:31)
2 Drain (5:13)
3 Untitled (Shortcut) (2:30)

Steve Gunn - Sundowner

Label: Digitalis Recordings
Released: 2008
Style: Folk Rock, Psychedelic Rock, Experimental

"Steve Gunn is probably best known as a key component to the mighty GHQ with Marcia Bassett (Double Leopards) and Pete Nolan (Magik Markers), but his solo efforts have been even more impressive. With a couple limited & hard-to-find CDRs under his belt and a few offerings under the moniker Moongang, Gunn is ready to step out of the shadows and into the spotlight with his first proper CD. This music is finely tuned and expertly crafted by Gunn's capable hands, showing his skill not only as a guitarist, but as a songwriter as well.

"Sundowner" may short & sweet, but it has an epic feeling. Gunn reaches deep into the vaults to line the walls with hypnotic acoustic guitar dirges, organic drones, and banjo ditties. And unlike any of his previous work, he also unleashes his voice on three songs, showing that not only can he play with the best of them, he can sing too. When he's not wowing the listener racing around the fretboard, his simple but effective vocal hooks are sinking themselves deep into the confines of your memory." - Label


1 Concrete Beach (3:42)
2 For The Horse, Etc. (4:07)
3 Imi The King (6:14)
4 Money Train Blues (3:56)
5 No Atlas (6:33)
6 Over The Hill (4:13)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Concern - Truth & Distance

Label: Digitalis Recordings
Released: 2009
Style: Drone, Experimental, Ambient

"Gordon Ashworth is Concern and this is his manifesto. "Truth & Distance" is a mini-epic, a minor masterpiece. Within these sonic walls lies a stunning landscape, adrift in golden tones and silver siren songs. Ashworth creates beautiful, shimmering music that defies categorization. It stands on its own, droning away into the furthest reaches of the night. Using only acoustic instrumentation, Ashworth conceives pieces of music in which resonance and timbre mutate and in the air and unfold naturally, organically.

Hints of piano glisten like night shadows whispering through the leaves. Strings are bowed and plucked into oblivion. Everything is turned into a pile of reverb. Everyone is a ghost. Concern will shine a light on it all. "Truth & Distance" indeed." - Label


1 Truth And Distance (16:51)
2 Young Birth (4:17)
3 Heartsink (8:45)

Bohren & Der Club Of Gore - Dolores

Label: Ipecac Recordings
Released: 2008
Style: Jazz, Ambient

"Everything, as David Lynch would say, is never quite what it seems. Bohren and Der Club of Gore are a real connoisseurs band, their intense blend of heaving doom reductions and late night Badalemanti style midnight jazz has bought them a fanatical following in both the Avant-Metal and Jazz communities. Their sound really can be best visualised with reference to the 'Bang Bang' Bar in twin peaks, all sleaze, unease and glamour in the archetypal Lynchian sense. The members of Bohren started out in various Hardcore outfits, but when the band formed in the early 90's they soon settled on a blend of Metal, Ambient and Jazz that confounded and confused most listeners. Almost two decades later and Bohren enjoy something akin to a secret members following, with the likes of Mike Patton being so into the band that they are now signed to his own Ipecac imprint in the states. 'Dolores' is their first album since 2005's 'Geisterfaust' and is their most beautifully realised album yet, oozing mystery and atmosphere with a more muted take on that super luxurious sound. Opening track 'Staub' unfolds with a solitary mournful organ, eventually coupled with that unmistakable, spine-tingling Fender Rhodes played so ably by Christoph Clöser. The track continues with spacious, staggered percussion and Vibraharp, whirling through 8 minutes of mystery and wonder. At the other end of the album 'Welten' closes off proceedings with a monkish drone most suitable to a Sunn 0)) opening, before once again those shimmering keys create that kind of immeasurably addictive confusion between darkness and light that could be said to be Bohren's calling card. 'Dolores' is a stunning, mesmerising 60 minute journey into that sh*t that lurks beneath the surface, confusing, confounding and oddly uplifting all at once. A wonderful album that comes to you with our highest possible recommendation = ESSENTIAL PURCHASE!" - Boomkat


1 Staub (7:51)
2 Karin (3:37)
3 Schwarze Biene (Black Maja) (8:11)
4 Unkerich (5:31)
5 Still Am Tresen (3:58)
6 Welk (6:18)
7 Von Schnäbeln (3:56)
8 Orgelblut (6:13)
9 Faul (5:56)
10 Welten (6:53)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Growing - The Soul Of The Rainbow And The Harmony Of Light

Label: Kranky
Released: 2004
Style: Drone, Minimal, Ambient

"Recorded by the band in Olympia, WA from 2003 to early 2004 and mixed with Rex Ritter (Jessamine, Fontanelle and SUNN) at Magnetic Park in Portland, OR in March and April 2004, The Soul of the Rainbow and the Harmony of Light takes Growing's expansive palette, blurring and disguising instrumental points of origin to a point where sheer sound defines itself with authority. Now a duo with Kevin Doria on bass and guitar and Joe Denardo on guitar, Growing have pushed into the manipulation of feedback, hiss and static; wringing out waves of delay from their amps while retaining an earthbound mastery of crushing riffage. These grainy textures contrast with a clean, pulsing lushness that carries traces of bird song and touch on natural environs and the passing of time." - Label


1 Onement (18:32)
2 Anaheim II (7:21)
3 Epochal Reminiscence (17:49)
4 Primitive Associations / Great Mass Above (12:35)

Demdike Stare - Symbiosis

Label: Modern Love
Released: 2009
Style: Dub, Experimental, Minimal, Ambient

"Demdike Stare is a long-in-the-making hookup between two shady characters operating at the fringes of Manchester’s fragmented music scene: Miles Whittaker and Sean Canty. Miles has been a longtime affiliate of Modern Love as one half of Pendle Coven and under his own MLZ alias, while Canty is one of the city’s most recognisable vinyl collectors, carrying an obsession with everything from obscure Nordic Doom records to Anatolyan funk albums, fuelled by his dayjob helping out at the Finders Keepers label. The project is named after Pendle’s most famous witch: Elizabeth Southerns, aka Demdike. The tracks on ‘Symbiosis’ are drawn from elements of Turkish, Indian, Iranian, African and West Indian film soundtracks alongside Norwegian drone records, classic House templates, punctured dub, modified techno and the arctic noise perfected by Mika Vainio. Original sources and dense analogue experiments weave around eachother with little care for convention or stylistic expectation, instead throwing the pair’s extensive musical knowledge into a set of tracks that, quite brilliantly, defy categorisation. The album opens with ‘Suspicious Drone’, a dense 6 minute opening that chugs along like a malfunctioning mechanical beast, honing in on Lancashire’s dark industrial landscapes before moving onto more exotic, balmy territory. ‘Haxan Dub’ (named after the film narrated by william burroughs about witchcraft) deploys fragmented dub echoes infused with displaced horns and African signatures, taking its time with one of the jerkiest rhythms you’ll have the pleasure of hearing, before ‘Jannisary’ tangles in and out of an Iranian hook and a squashed Congolese rhythm that creates an asymmetric, geniusly constructed dancefloor killer. By the time the album comes to a close with ‘Ghostly Hardware’ an hour later, the cycle is complete with a return to icy tundras and chugging machinations steeped in the traditions of Scandinavian machine music and pure analogue frequencies, expertly handled by those masterful technicians over at Berlin’s Dubplates & Mastering." - Boomkat


1 Suspicious Drone (6:34)
2 Haxan Dub (5:14)
3 Regressor (5:04)
4 All Hallows Eve (3:54)
5 Jannisary (6:09)
6 Haxan (6:18)
7 Extwistle Hall (3:25)
8 Trapped Dervish (1:12)
9 Nothing But The Night (6:10)
10 Conjoined (4:07)
11 Ghostly Hardware (6:35)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Evan Caminiti - Digging The Void

Label: Students Of Decay
Released: 2009
Style: Acoustic, Drone, Experimental, Ambient

"We've been trying to get these in stock for a while now, solo record number two from Evan Caminiti, one half of psychedelic doom drone duo Barn Owl. The other Caminiti solo record, Psychic Mud Shrine, introduced us to a world not all that far removed from Barn Owl, or Elm, the solo project from Caminiti's partner in Barn Owl Jon Porras (who just so happens to work at aQ!), and Digging The Void does indeed delve even further into that same blissy druggy void.

Long, low, slow tones, throb, and pulse, layered tones emit subtle overtones, melodies are spidery and barely there, visible through the gauzy whir of the droning guitars, a series of spaced out otherworldly ragas, super minimal and intimate, but at the same time, sweeping and epic. Unlike Elm's, and to a lesser extent, Barn Owl's tendency to get HEAVY, and to dabble in some SUNNO)))-like density, Caminiti keeps it hushed and scaled back, these sonic rituals are not meant to conjure up the same sort of blackened mystery, instead they drift through soft clouds of hum and whir, fragments of Appalachian folk hover over deep rumbles, the sounds are ghostly, the arrangements spectral and ethereal, laced with twang, but just as likely to smooth all the notes and melodies into softened streaks of monochrome blur, and on at least one track, the drone is jettisoned, and an acoustic guitar unfurls long tendrils of steel string buzz and classic folky melody, a darkly mysterious coda, to an already haunting and murky songsuite. So gorgeous. " - Aquarius Records


1 II (6:35)
2 Weaving The Great Smoke Loom (12:33)
3 Glowing Corpse (9:24)
4 Ice Marj (3:01)
5 Midnight Naked Swim (4:57)
6 I (3:31)

Hush Arbors - Hush Arbors

Label: Digitalis Recordings
Released: 2006
Style: Folk Rock, Acoustic, Experimental

"Self released albums often get overlooked by most media outlets. This is a crime, especially considering that there is a lot of high quality stuff being put out by people with no money. You burn the CDs at home, you make the covers yourself, and you send out copies just hoping someone will listen. And I know from experience how discouraging it can be when seemingly no one pays attention. Hush Arbors, the solo vehicle of Keith Wood, is such a project that is plugging away in Northern Missouri. Despite attention from local admirers, you probably won't read much about Hush Arbors in many magazines across the globe. This is no indication of how good Wood's music is.

The Hush Arbors self-titled debut CD-R is 43 minutes of blissful forest folk with a heavy drone influence. Wood's vocals lie somewhere in between Jewelled Antler kingpin Glenn Donaldson and international man of mystery, Will Oldham. Musically, I am most reminded of the former's Birdtree project, but there are a range of influences audible all over this record. Those so endeared to the oragnic nature of many groups on the Jewelled Antler imprint will find much comfort in these warm and inviting tracks.

Wood opens the album with the haunting "Magic Wood." It's a slow, meandering piece that hums under the heat of the summer sun. His voice swims in ocean's of reverb, and his acoustic guitar sounds like it's being played in an underwater cave. This song makes me long for laying in the grass under a giant oak tree in an abandoned field. These songs have so much warmth flowing from them that the listener can't help but get drawn in. This is especially true with "Magic Wood." Each note seems carefully placed and each word chosen for a purpose. After one listen, I feel like I've been whisked away to a dream world. Wood's high-pitched voice meshed with the bright and roomy guitars gently lull your eyes shut as the music infects your entire body. "Magic Wood" sets the perfect mood for the rest of the album.

This album works so well because of it's combination of songs that are straight-forward and other tracks with heavy leanings in the drone area. The best example of this is on "The Same Tree Forever" which is followed by the short, innocent ballad "Wait for Awhile." "The Same Tree Forever" is a seven minute drone using some kind of bowed stringed instrument as the foundation. Hearing this, I feel like I'm in a cathedral and light is pouring through the brigthly-colored stained glass. As I am bathed in light, a choir of angels is barely audible through this thick musical haze. This is ethereal in every sense of the word. Just when it seems like he might let up, Wood builds the wall of sound higher; he doesn't let up. Spirituality is rarely expressed in such an empowering way.

Now, the real brilliance here is how "The Same Tree Forever" is followed up by the short, sweet, sun-kissed longing of "Wait for Awhile." Based around acid-folk guitars and bowed dulcimer (I think), Wood sings simple verses about the simple, beautiful things in life. "If we could find a place to wait for a while, to make sure there's a smile on your face," he croons. There is such longing in his voice that I can't help but be moved. This is a song that might not work in another context, but here it is perfect. It's sweet, and maybe even a little sappy, but every time I hear it, it's nothing short of beautiful.

Each track here is a winner, but my favorite is "I Took a Watch on the Sea Wall." By using a lot of bass when mixing the acoustic guitar track, Wood gives this song vague punk rock undertones. I know it sounds strange, but I feel a great deal of energy emanating from this piece. This song, like so many on here, is based around acoustic guitar and his voice. Under the surface flows a river of dense ambience. These atmospherics give the track an open-air feeling, like he is trying to embody the vast expanses of rural Missouri. On the chorus, Wood's voice is cathartic, and his reverb-laden background vocals are vaporous. The last chorus feels like one last breath of fresh air before the song descends into a minute of distorted electronic noise. "I Took a Watch on the Sea Wall" is a minor masterpiece.

Keith Wood is an immensely talented songwriter, and his ability to make his recordings feel raw and organic really sets him apart from likeminded artists. Perhaps I am most reminded of Ben Chasny and Six Organs of Admittance; there are definitely similarities, especially on the 11+ minute "Smoke Burn - Eyes So Sore." With its subtle Eastern influences and gentle guitar picking, Chasny and other Fahey followers would be proud. This is music that comes straight from the earth. It's a shame that this won't get the same attention as any of the recent recordings from Chasny, because this is just as good. 9/10 --" - Foxy Digitalis


1 Magic Wood (3:53)
2 The Same Tree Forever (6:48)
3 Wait For Awhile (2:27)
4 The Werewolf Om (4:18)
5 Red Horse (4:10)
6 I Took A Watch On The Sea Wall (6:19)
7 People Died Today (3:37)
8 Smoke Burn - Eyes So Sore (11:19)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Gong - Gazeuse!

Label: Virgin
Released: 1976
Style: Fusion, Jazz-Rock, Prog Rock

"Gazeuse! was the first in a successful line of strictly jazz-rock sessions for percussionist Pierre Moerlen and company -- compositions that stressed jazz more than rock and which generally strayed away from lyrical content. This 1976 recording, also released under the title Expresso, was the band's first completely instrumental album, a companion piece to the later, somewhat warmer Expresso II, which is quite similar in sound and structure. To say Gazeuse! is percussive is an understatement. Drummer Moerlen is accompanied by brother Benoit and Mirielle Bauer on vibraphones with Mino Cinelu playing other assorted percussion. "Percolations" is a showcase for this foursome: Part one, a display of beautiful vibes and xylophones; part two, a technically superb drum solo. Pierre's playing is fierce in this second part, exhibited by some truly volatile drumming near the close. Allan Holdsworth is the sole guitarist on the album and contributes two of his own compositions. His "Night Illusion" is a standout and reminiscent of Bill Bruford's Feels Good to Me on which Holdsworth collaborated around the same time. Longtime Gong member Didier Malherbe adds spice to the proceedings with jazzy flute on "Shadows Of" and prominent sax on the slightly funky "Esnuria."' - Allmusic


1 Expresso (5:58)
2 Night Illusion (3:42)
3 Percolations: Part 1 & 2 (10:02)
4 Shadows Of (7:48)
5 Esnuria (8:02)
6 Mireille (4:11)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Earth - Hibernaculum

Label: Southern Lord
Released: 2007
Style: Experimental, Avant Garde

"'Hibernaculum'is the next chapter in Earth's revitalised story, and interestingly it sees the band (fronted by founding member Dylan Carlson) re-visting some of their old classics and bringing them bang up to date with the fresh 'Hex' style. Fittingly, the opening track is a rendition of 'Ouroboros is Broken' which first appeared on the band's 1991 debut album 'Extra Capsular Extraction' and broke fans into Earth's droning manifesto. Originally almost twenty minutes in length this track showed the world that heavy rock music could take a few pointers from La Monte Young (one of Carlson's heroes and primary influences) and still retain everything that made rock music so appealing in the first place, and here Carlson has truncated the track to a mere eight minutes yet retained all the glory. This is almost a pop version of the original tremblingly heavy piece but for some reason, beneath the country-flecked riffs and simple, pounding percussion the drone is intact and the power is carried absolutely. This sentiment is carried into the second track, 'Coda Maestoso in F (Flat) Minor' a track that some of you might remember was reworked by none other than Autechre on Earth's fantastic remix record. One of their most recognisable moments, the classic distorted riffs are taken down a notch or two to become perfect, chiming plucked strings accompanied by piano and Hammond organ for that extra bar-room sound. The best rendition is saved for last though, a version of the lesser known 'Dissolution II : Miami Coming Down' from an early Ash International compilation, this shows Earth's sensitive side with the piano taking centre stage as Carlson gently plucks over the top. Possibly Earth's most restrained track to date this finds the band capable of mastering two warring sides and coming out the better for it. As if all this isn't enough, Southern Lord have bundled these tracks up with a new version of the phenomenal 'Plague of Angels' which was released on the 'Angel Coma' split 12' with Sunn O))) which some of us managed to grab on the recent tour ' a breathtaking piece, this is sixteen minutes of narcoleptic bliss. It doesn't stop here either, this is a two disc set with the second being a documentary (filmed by Seldon Hunt) combining live footage and interviews with Dylan Carlson which give a surprising amount of insight into the reasons why Earth are so important right now. Carlson talks openly about his influences, his likes and dislikes in modern music, and we get to see highlights from the tour. I don't think there's any way you can miss out on this stunning package - it's got everything you could want and is the perfect stop-gap before the imminent next album proper. Essential Purchase." - Boomkat


1 Ouroboros Is Broken (8:17)
2 Coda Maestoso In F (Flat) Minor (6:52)
3 Miami Morning Coming Down (5:15)
4 A Plague Of Angels (16:21)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Jóhann Jóhannsson - And In The Endless Pause There Came The Sound Of Bees

Label: Type
Released: 2009
Style: Modern Classical, Score, Ambient

"You might be surprised by the number of film soundtracks Jóhann Jóhannsson has completed over the course of his career. While his hugely popular and influential catalogue of work for labels like Touch and 4AD tends to dictate how we think about his music, the volume of documentary, short and feature film scores he's penned is prolific to say the least. Even his most widely celebrated work to date, Englabörn, was conceived as a theatre soundtrack. It's surely a testament to the standalone power of this man's output that despite so much of his material having been designed to accompany other people's projects, it's still so much a part of the modern classical canon in its own right. This incredible album for Type was composed as a soundtrack for Marc Craste's award winning animated film Varmints, and draws on the signature elements of Jóhannsson's compositional style: utterly jaw-dropping widescreen orchestration, beatific choirs and the most finely crafted electronic backdrops imaginable - all colluding for some of the most intoxicating and unashamedly beautiful music you'll hear this year. It doesn't take Jóhannsson long to delineate the tone of what's to come, establishing an introductory theme for strings, backed with lyrical piano keys and a soundscape of seabirds and thunderclaps emerging from the mix in the latter stages. After these evocative, scene-setting beginnings comes a burst of celestial melodrama through 'City Building's choral passages, giving an indication of the lofty, unearthly extremes this composer has a penchant for. Within a matter of moments the more abstract and textural leanings of 'The Flat' take us somewhere entirely different, flooding the track with phased, airy noise atmospheres and weightless plumes of strings. 'Rainwater' continues to sew processed electronics into the fabric of the music, reminding you that this is after all an artist who has shared a label with the likes of Fennesz. The recurrent rumbling of deeply ingrained background static only reinforces how cinematic this music is - there's a tangible sense of place and (at the risk of sounding a bit pompous) mise-en-scene, but even beyond that, the album follows a kind of undulating structure that's very much in-keeping with the notion of a beginning-middle-end narrative; you can feel the music slipping into a sombre, minor-key mode by the end of 'The Gift', entering into the desolation of 'Dying CIty', with its processed field recordings and lone voices. 'Escape', with its dark-ambient drones and broad solo cello strokes only reinforces the suggestion of peril, but by the album's final leg glimmers of optimism creep into the denouement, first imbuing 'Inside The Pods' with a magisterial, reverberant grandeur and then reaching outright jubilation over the course of the end theme - a dose of euphoric crescendo that could only have come from the same part of the world as Sigur Rós. The music on this album has already been awarded first prize for 'Best Original Score' at the Rhode Island International Film Festival, and for our money is the finest thing he's done since his debut. Jóhannsson's just on exceptional, moving form here - miss out at your peril." - Boomkat


1 Theme (3:22)
2 City Building (2:53)
3 Entering The City (0:54)
4 The Flat (3:27)
5 Rainwater (2:10)
6 Pods (3:14)
7 The Gift (2:46)
8 Dying City (3:42)
9 Escape (5:44)
10 Inside The Pods (1:51)
11 End (Snowing) 6:39)

Animal Hospital - Memory

Label: Barge Recordings
Released: 2009
Style: Abstract, Rock, Post-Rock, Experimental

"The people behind Brooklyn's Barge imprint have clearly spent the last six months trying to work out how to follow up last year's jaw-dropping "Baby, It's Cold Inside" album from the oddly monikered 'The Fun Years', one of the most satisfying and immersive releases of the year. Their response? Why they've only gone and produced this astonishing, multi-layered epic from Kevin Micka, aka Animal Hospital. "Memory" is a record that engages with familiar techniques and proceeds to completely f*ck with the programme. The album starts with a shimmering duet for music box and guitar, laying the foundations for what's to follow. Except things don't quite develop in the manner you might expect if you're into this sort of delicate, engrossing home listening, "His Belly Burst" is up next and slowly evolves from the sound of a mournful, solitary Cello (beautifully played by Jonah Sacks), to a rumbling, droney, sometimes distorted mass of sound that brings to mind the post-post-rock of, say, the Constellation label, or Mogwai's quiet/loud blueprints but with a completely unfamiliar backbone shaped by electronic, experimental and classical traditions. By the time "2nd Anniversary" sweeps in it becomes hard to really identify what sort of album you're listening to, finding yourself in the presence of distilled, affected guitar noises that lie somewhere between late, treated John Fahey and Neil Young's amazing soundtrack for the film "Dead Man" - the dissonance at once jarring and deeply moving. In turn, "A Safe Place" sounds like a cross between Oval, Tortoise, Mika Vainio and Radiohead, rearranging and rewiring human sounds inside reverberating bass and malfunctioning electronics before Micka's voice resonates through the sparse elements to ground the music in a deep, mournful clearing. Fuelled by coffee and heartache and recorded in an old bank, an antiquated movie theater lobby, and various apartments around Virginia and Cape Cod, It's left to the 17 minute title track to close the album with perhaps its most astonishing and heart-wrenching segement. The opening once again seems indebted to Tortoise, but the unusual, wordless vocal layering introduces entirely different dimensions. 8 minutes in and things become quietly colossal, merging sweeping strings, twangy, edgy drops with extraordinary arrangements that keep you at once transfixed and disturbed. And that's the thing about this amazing album - it has all these different, wildly incompatible ideas that somehow come together and merge into eachother, making use of electronic devices, shelves of effects, delay units, as well as shiny guitar tones, vocal washes, and dramatic build-ups that create a unique sound you're unlikely to come across again despite all the familiar elements squeezed in. It's the realisation of one man's messed up vision, held together by things that shouldnt work but somehow really do. Just awesome." - Boomkat


1 Good Times (2:25)
2 His Belly Burst (17:31)
3 2nd Anniversary (4:28)
4 ...And Ever (12:33)
5 A Safe Place (4:43)
6 Nostalgia (1:42)
7 Memory (16:50)

Elm - Woven Into Light

Label: Blackest Rainbow
Released: 2008
Style: Experimental

"Wow! Two minutes in and I'm thoroughly taken by 'Woven Into Light' by Elm which is the solo project of Jon Porras who is half of duo Barn Owl (Not Not Fun). This was recorded at home in San Francisco during the summer of 2008. Porras uses guitars, vocals, harmonium, harmonica, drum and flute combined with a huge amount of talent and imagination to create his own mysterious world. 'Rising Smoke Woods' is very cinematic and dramatic sounding with it's epic drones and deeply haunting guitar.'Fog Water Shroud' is a very moving piece of music. There's a kind of underlying menace and bleakness but there's light shining through with gorgeous tones that I find very uplifting. Phil is reminded of the celestial vibes on the recent Ekca Liena album on Dead Pilot albeit this is more organic. A mighty fine 7 track album that I can't recommend enough. Getting lost in this stuff is a real joy." - Norman Records


1 Rising Smoke Woods (6:32)
2 Fog Water Shroud (5:06)
3 On Golden Wing (8:25)
4 Solemn Night Prayer (5:39)
5 Long Winter's Howl (8:20)
6 Mist Left To Hide The Ashes (8:35)
7 Waves Break Into Beams Of Light (4:11)


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