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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