Friday, March 23, 2007

feeling/really feeling/not really feeling

almost a quarter the way through the year already, and having heard five albums I adore (OK, one of them a 2006 release, from a UK perspective, but "new" over here and to me) plus a bunch of others I like lots, I’d say 2007 so far 's been.... decent


gotta love a mix-cd that starts with Fripp/Eno’s “Swastika Girls”, swoops through Shocking Blue and Nitzer Ebb, then hits the home stretch with Death In June, Goblin’s “Suspiria” and Syd Barrett. biggest epiphany for me though was hearing “Walls” by Crass for the first time in 26 years (my younger brother was a fan, had all the fold-out poster sleeves), this was the group’s “Fodderstompf” moment, disco-punk with a guitar crunch that now reminds me of Lennon on Ono's Fly, the shrill soprano of Eve Libertine or maybe Joy De Vivre twittering “desire desire desire desire desire” over a walking bassline. Biggest revelation: discovering that early on at least Christian Death found the exact median point tween Buzzcocks and Bauhaus, and that's actually a pretty fun place.

The Glimmers, FabricLive31
another enjoyable mix-CD kicking off with their great re-edit of Roxy’s “Same Old Scene” (great cos you can hear all of the original) and along the way reminding me of the majesty of League Unlimited Orchestra’s dub of “Things that Dreams Are Made of” and the mischief of LCD’s “Disco Infiltrator”.

Jesu, Conqueror
listenable, likeable, at times almost glorious, but it’s like Broadrick’s immersed himself in shoegaze with a scholarly intensity, working out the genre’s idiomatic chord patterns and harmonic intervals and guitar-glaze textures, such that after a bit it starts to feel like the tunes are anagrams of each other, the same melodic coordinates reshuffled. indeeed by track 6 “Bright Eyes” I was convinced I was hearing a remix of the first tune, “Conqueror”.

The Klaxons, Myths of the Near Future
now, apparently -- perhaps inevitably--i am a
ctually in this band.

Infinite Livez vs Stade, Unbiased Reductionism in 21st Century Music Practices

WZT Hearts, Heat Chief
been lurking in my promo stack for a while so might be ancient, reprieved thanks to its wazzily psychedelic cover (some kind of Op Art/ethnic rug art installation, you can see it here )
but on finally playing it I enjoyed the lambent-ambient wooze of it all and especially the short final track which has a nice ghostified waver to it

Battles, Mirrored
at its least, a grotesque merger of Henry Cow, Michael Nyman and Primus, ie. still pretty fun. at its most, virtually indescribable—Sung Tongs AC goes math-metal?-- close to that giddy edge where sublime and ridiculous become indivisible. just when you’re thinking it’s aall bit jizz-whizz tech-flashy Mahavishnu-verging-Satriani, in come the helium voices, the whistling.

Subtle Audio compilation
featuring Alpha Omega, Equinox, Senses, Fracture & Neptune, Polska, Sileni, Fanu, Cloak and Dagger, Macc…. Offshore/Inperspective-style artcore d&b: exciting, inventive

Fujiya & Miyagi , Transparent Things
Kieran is obsessed with Pokemon cards so a couple of weekends back we went to 6th Street between 2nd and Bowery where there are a bunch of Japanese adult-toy type stores clustered together, like specialist stores sometimes do… and the first one, it really was like stepping into a store in Tokyo, absolutely nothing non-Japanese in the store, EXCEPT they were playing this album, and I did wonder, “perhaps they don’t realize that Fujiya & Miyagi aren’t actually Japanese” and almost asked the dainty Japanese waif-ette at the counter but refrained. Really like this record but don’t really know what’s good about it--there’s a sense that it ought to be faintly deplorable, this business of superimposing Damo over Dinger--yet it’s compelling, especially the first two tracks, and that’s got something to do with the way the hypno-groove aesthetic with its streamlined restraint dovetails with the perceptual acuity of those concrete-detail-attuned lyrics (this review goes some ways to tagging the sensibility,
which is foreign to me to the point where they might as well be from Japan). Elsewhere you sometimes think of Happy Mondays meets Stereolab (which in its way confirms the Can-vocal spliced to Neu!- groove breakdown and even doubles its redundancy).
They didn’t have any Pokemon cards, strangely. The hunt continues. Oh yes.

Wiley, Playtime Is Over

That Wiley’s on Big Dada nowadays confirms the sense that grime, its crossover dreams dashed, is going to settle into being the Other Britrap. Disappointing for those who hoped for so much more for it, but not that ignominous a fate I suppose. And Wiley sounds as cocky as ever here. Better than Treddin’.

retro feeling

The Black Dog, Book of Dogma

the first three EPs on one disc, the next three EPS on the second one.

The Camberwell Now, All’s Well

The Knife, Deep Cuts
, self titled

Andre Almuro, Musiques Experimentales
Anestis Logothetis, Hor!-spielNEKROLOGLOG 1961/FANTASMATA 1960
Edward M. Zajda, independent electronic music composer
Jacques Lejeune, Blanche Neige: suite musicale en 14 tableaux pour dire le conte et danser avec les enfants
Various, Creelpolation 1,2, 3
Various, Electronic Music: Experimental Studios in Prague, Bratislava, Munich, University of Illinois, Warsaw, Paris
Various, Musiques de L’O.N.F./Music of the N.F.B
Various , Elektronische Produktie Van I.P.E.M
(all Creel Pone)
Various, Electronic Music (Folkways )
Elektroakustická Hudba 1 (Slovak Electroacoustic Music #1)
Various, Siemens - Studio für Elektronische Musik.
Alireza Mashayekhi

Ilhan Mimaroglu, Tract
Trevor Wishart, Red Birds
Bernard Parmegiani, De Natura Sonorum

You’d think it was all extreme metal round these parts judging by the recent blogg output but apart from Khanate and Blut Aus Nord and a few other things I’m forgetting I’ve not been that slayed by what I’m hearing. (Still pretty much at the “it all sounds the same” stage, which of course really means “I’m not prepared to get so utterly immersed that it ceases to sound the same”. Then again, you can turn that back on the genre, because if the basic thing of what the genre offers isn’t enough to extract that compelled immersion from you then… Anyway, I’m not sure I’ll ever get to the point where I can make distinctions of signature and rank within blastbeat science the way I did with breakbeat science.) No, round here, the recreational listening soundtrack is largely avant-classical (the kids don’t seem to mind, really). I’m just starting to realize that this stuff could consume a lifetime, like being into the blues or into reggae, there’s no bottom to it. Every bleedin’ university and government in the developed world seemed to have an electronic and tape music laboratory during the Sixties and much of the Seventies, and a lot of them still do. Like Creel Pone though whose releases have this gold seal thing saying 'Unheralded Classics of Electronic Music: 1952 to 1984" i have an arbitrary cut-off point at the start of the Eighties, although it's not arbitrary, because as Mr Pone argues that was when the analog era was definitively eclipsed by digital and it became a whole different game and in some ways no longer quite such a heroic one. The fellow who sorted me with the Slovak/Siemens/Iranian composer stuff describes Creel Pone as “avant-crack” and he’s not wrong there. In addition to the utterly obscure but surprisingly high rate of "true lost treasure" sonic aspect, what’s intensely fetishisable about these non-official

CD-R reissues is the loving care with which the original vinyl sleeves have been miniaturized, including all the sleeve insert stuff with their somber technical and musicological descriptions of the pieces (the Creelpolation 3 cd anthology--which collates sundry one-off pieces from albums that aren’t worth salvaging in their entirety--has the album covers of each source record reduced to postage stamp size and comes with a neat little translucent plastic magnifying sheet thingy so you can sorta read them).

Nico, The Frozen Borderline 1968-1970
the sonic mise en scene of Marble Index tracks like “No One Is There” and “Lawn of Dawns” conjures a dank, draughty castle in Bavaria or Bohemia, with shadows, cast from guttering candles, flickering against the walls. You picture cowled figures chanting canticles, or a pale noblewoman cloistered in her chamber, black-clad and grieving, a falcon her only companion. The title comes from a passage in a Wordsworth poem inspired by a statue of Isaac Newton: “Newton with his prism and silent face/ The marble index of a mind forever voyaging through strange seas of thought, alone.” The significance for Nico of the lines most likely lay in the word “alone”. Her words do occasionally resemble Jim Morrison’s more cinema student (as opposed to blues stud) lyrics. The style is at once hieroglyphic and hieratic: “Julius Caesar (Memento Hodié)” is all pillars and stone altars, water lily fields and doves, while “Frozen Warnings” depicts a “friar hermit” stumbling over “the cloudy borderline”. With its imagery of “midnight winds… landing at the end of time”, “Evenings of Light” could be a portentous Teutonic rendering of Emily Dickinson’s “There’s A Certain Slant of Light”, a poem that glimpses the face of Death in a winter landscape as dusk approaches. Marble Index is the Achievement, the more extreme statement, for sure. I think I might actually prefer Desertshore, though....

really feeling

Arctic Monkeys, Favourite Worst Nightmare
Triumphs through sheer force of sound, through the bright, brash confidence and vigour of the playing and (naturally) through its embarrassment of melodic riches… that said, lyrically/emotionally it doesn’t quite connect to the extent that the debut did. (incidentally I’d made that slightly-daft seeming Alex Turner/Dizzee Rascal comparison on the blog last year when the debut came out, and then whaddya know, they’ve only become pals and Dizzee collaborated with the Arctics on a track)

Black Moth Super Rainbow, Dandelion Gum

not sure I can claim much for this in terms of innovation or originality or challenging the listener, it’s just one of those near-perfect record that enchants and transports, the kind that actually gets listened to far more often than records you “admire”… it’s a bit like some American indie-rock band heard Boards of Canada and that one great Royskopp tune and maybe some Chemical Bros in their psychedelic-rock mode and just had their heads totally flipped around. Analog-electronic but songful in a non-obtrusive sort of way; lots of vocoderized and electronically processed vocals that aren’t cheesy, but fit the sunlight-dappling-through-leafy-canopy-overhead summer-blissed vibe (“sun”-words recur to an almost fixated degree in the lyrics, as much as you can discern them through the FX). Now and then a bit like the Blue Orchids if they’d formed in a post-Daft Punk universe. One tune has a synth-sound exactly like the that great kosmik one in the end-phase of Scritti's "Absolute".

Panda Bear, Person Pitch
the religious aura of this wondrous record (the best album from the AC camp, some are saying, and they could be right) obviously owes a lot to the whole Beach Boys/”God Only Knows” area that Lennox is deep into. But the choral effect of multitracked Panda-vox also sometimes makes me think of that 1960s craze for “Missa” records, Africanized versions of Catholic masses (as heard most famously in If-- y’know, the scenes where Malcolm McDowell and fellow boarding school dissidents lurk in their dorm room sullenly plotting revolution, Missa Luba on their record player). There’s also a track—“Take Pills”—that’s framed with splashy aquatic sounds and purposefully or not creates this vibe of tribal people in a row-boat or giant canoe (I picture Maori settlers voyaging into the Pacific unknown in quest of some Polynesian island), which makes it a bizarrely synchronous counterpart to Klaxons’ “Isle of Her”.

Lily Allen, Alright, Still
I’d managed to avoid hearing this album, not precisely on purpose but certainly
encouraged by the feeling that she was verily devil-spawn.* Then the CD arrived in the mail unexpectedly and I thought, “well, why not see what the fuss is about”. Five or six songs in, the thought, perfectly formed, popped into my head: “anybody who could dislike this record would have to be sick in the head”. I had to revise that opinion when it occurred that probably most people I know probably have reasonably well-thought or honorably-felt objections to it, but still, I think to dislike this album on the basis on some kind of ideological principle, because you’re opposed to “this kind of record”—that’s deranged. Apart from the tunes and the spirit of it, what grabbed me was how it illustrates beautifully how reggae runs through UK pop music like jam in a Swiss roll--from Desmond Dekker "Israelites" at #1 in the charts to the skank feel in 2step like Doolally ‘straight to the heart,’ via the Police's “Walking on the Moon”, Specials “Ghost Town”, Madness’ “Grey Day” , Musical Youth and all those one-off reggae crossover chart-toppers that seem to happen every couple of years at least when i was a youth--such that Jamaican music is simply part of any British person’s pop birthright. (Has America ever had a reggae song at Billboard #1?). Alright, Still is basically a lover’s rock album, the missing link between Janet Kay and Kirsty MacColl, between “Uptown Ranking” and “Dry Your Eyes mate". It’s lover’s rock, with all the yearning, resilience, femininity, autonomy--but contemporarized for an age where young women are less lady-like (I won’t say ladette-like) in the way they carry themselves and express their feelings. Top tune: "Not Big", although the cookie-crumbles, can't-get-mortgage one is close behind.

*actually I’d started coming round to the idea that Allen pere had turned intoa pretty decent character actor, specializing in pompous/repellent/obnoxious types, but then the other night saw his mincingly mannered and positively vaude-villainly Sheriff of Nottingham in the new Robin Hood**.
** a delicious anachronism in this episode—when Robin decries the Sheriff’s “sadistic treatment” of villagers—cutting out tongues to encourage them to offer up information re. his whereabouts. De Sade was a good four hundred years or so from being born at this point, let alone become the name of a perversion.

The Good the Bad and the Queen, The Good the Bad and the Queen
inching ahead of Panda Bear as my favourite album of the year so far and I’m as surprised as you are, having not been a particular fan of Albarn’s work hitherto. This is a really rich record, melodically, texturally, emotionally, and even the occasional lyric sets off some ripples. Makes a good counterpart with the Lily Allen lp, in terms of the subliminal reggae thing running through it: Paul Simonon’s rootical bass, but also the generally psychedelia-as-dub-as-psychedelia organization of sound approach. I’d described it here before as “Waterloo Sunset” in dub, but the implications of that didn’t occur to me later, which is that this is Britpop corrected, its narrow understanding of musical Englishness now opened wide. (Tony Allen’s presence adds a further element of post-colonial chickens coming home to roost, and to those who say he’s under-used, I say it’s all about the ensemble, from each according to what the song needs, and if he was any more prominent the whole project maybe would take on a more world-y/wanky vibe , who knows. Plus the amazing things he does with the beat on “Three Changes” make up for any low-profile elsewhere). The other parallel with Alright, Still is that they’re both LDN records, but Allen’s is a young person’s metropolis, much more alive to the possibilities and pleasures of city life, whereas Good the Bad and the Queen is an older person’s London, attuned to the sadness, the defeats. The contrast--that journey between then and now--becomes vivid to me when you think about how Albarn carried himself circa 1995 e.g. the “Parklife” video--cocky, perky, irritatingly upright--and the figure seen in more recent years (as in the Britpop documentary Live Forever), with his slumped posture and semi-unshaven stubble and mumbling voice, and most of all that depressive aura of stale weed-smoke, the kind that certain people (think of Mezzanine period Massive Attack, the front man in Stereo MCs) carry around them.

not really feeling

LCD Sound System, Sound of Silver
just can’t get into it for some reason. Preferred how his voice used to sound before, that itchy-techy dry sound.

Avey Tare and Kria Brekkan, Pullhair Rubeye

Not to play favourites with Animal solo jobs, but what were Avey and mum-friend thinking of, all the backwards voice stuff. As vocal science efforts goes, Panda’s is light-years ahead.

Wake Up! (Uncut free cd of the New Amerindie)
Arcade Fire, Neon Bible
listening to the Uncut giveaway CD, with the exception of Final Fantasy (a hoot), Broken Social Scene (pleasant enough) and TV on the Radio (who don’t belong in this company at all), I had to conclude that, nah, not really feeling this New(ish) Sound of North American indie. (But then I never cared for Elephant 6/Olivia Tremor Control/Neutral Milk et al either, the nu-AmeriIndie's ancestry). All these groups -- Shins, Decembrists (what terrible names for bands!), Dears--they’ve got this non-killer combination of overblown/thin and overwrought/scrawny. A proggish expansive impulse crippled by indie frugality. Textures that remind me of the scaly skin on elbows for some reason. Meagre fare, gussied up, like Violent Femmes' yeeeuchy “American Music.”

On the third play I started to half-like a few songs on Neon Bible but overall the same reservations apply to Arcade Fire. It’s all a bit windy, sonically and especially lyrically. Epic yet skiffle-y. Like they’ve aiming for the Bigness of rock without the actual rhythm mechanics of rocking (which is why Springsteen circa Born comes up as a reference I expect--that record's heft-less guitars, thin keybs, the choppy unrocking rhythm of “Glory Days”). Talking of Bigness, i'm specifically reminded of the Big Music genre--there’s moments here that recall the Waterboys , the Bunnymen of “Never Stop” and Ocean Rain (and I love Ocean Rain but I’d rather it stayed a record as opposed to a genre). I’ll give it one more go but I’m not hopeful.

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