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NO-MAN, "RETURNING JESUS"

Something I've learned over the past few years is to get anything withSteven Wilson's name attached to it - Bass Communion, Porcupine Tree,IEM and now No-Man. No-Man is the UK based duo of Wilson (instruments)and Tim Bowness (vocals, also of Samuel Smiles, Henry Fool) and this istheir 4th album in a decade. Here they are aided by 8 other playersincluding Colin Edwin of Porcupine Tree on bass and Steve Jansen (DavidSylvian) on drums and percussion on several tracks. The focal point isBowness' warm voice and poetic words, soft and heavy with aquintessential singer songwriter melancholy and yearning. This isadorned with piano, synth, saxophone, trumpet, flugelhorn, acoustic andelectric guitars and percussion, which is more of an accessory than adriving force. The result is a lush organic balladry with an ambientsheen, crossbred between acoustic and electronic sounds, and blessedwith perfect production. The songs are essentially pop but draw uponlight jazz, classical, psuedo-tribal and experimental influences. I'mespecially enamored with "Carolina Skeletons" (also title track of a1998 EP). It's utterly emotive with forlorn piano, crumpled sound loop,Floydian guitar and Bowness relaying the sad story of 'Cowboy Kate'(Kate Carpenter perhaps?) ... "it's carolina skeletons that make herstranger when she eats". "All That You Are" is another crowning jewel,ending the album on a note of romantic resolution ... "let me take yourhand and love all that you are". "Returning Jesus" is gorgeous,addictive and timeless. It's like a shared bed you never want to getout of ...

 

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3816 Hits

Jean-Michel, "New Medium Softpack"

Jean-Michel's second CD release is an excellent follow-up to Marshmallow Rooms (see the brain vol 3 issue 17),containing some pretty ambience mixed with electro-crunchiness, whackedbreakbeats, and old-school techno, providing a an aurally stimulatingexperience. Like most of my favorite intelligent-techno bands,Jean-Michel expertly oscillates his effects and adds and subtractssounds to keep things evolving, as if a story is being told. But whatsets him apart is his excellent use of acoustic guitar to set theelegent mood, juxtoposed with a seasoning of brief splashes ofhighly-processed, other-worldly noise, guaranteed to grab yourattention.
On the recording side, there is one gripe - his CD tracks frequentlyare at a level which is a tad too high and the overloading, whileperhaps adding character to some of the songs, is sometimes obviouslyunintentional. Perhaps his many vinyl releases do not share thisproblem? His very obscure German record label, Eleganz,seems to be primarily a vinyl shop, always releasing his songs first onthe esteemed 12" format. Good luck finding his stuff on this side ofthe atlantic.

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4132 Hits

CHRISTOPHER PENROSE, "AMERICAN JINGO"

Christopher Penrose is a thirty something Californian who has receiveddegrees in music composition at UC San Diego and Princeton University.He currently resides in Japan and works as a researcher, composer anddeveloper of audio software for Apple's Rhapsody operating system. Thetwo 20 and 24 minute tracks on this disc are likely products of thatsoftware, possibly his image to sound program. Penrose is obviouslymaking a statement on the Americanization of the world as the digipackfeatures clever artwork by him of Stars and Stripes flags with thestars replaced by other nations flags and corporate logos. The titlerefers to 'one who vociferously supports one's country, especially onewho supports a belligerent foreign policy', no doubt a phenomenon hehas experienced firsthand in Japan. The title track churns throughcountless processed samples and passages, far too many to detail oreven identify, but most are seemingly random snippets of sound andmusic interspersed with several spoken statements: "here is what youthink", "be a winner at losing", "I love my body", "she is America",etc. "MK/Ultra" features an 8 minute wavering synthetic drone, apanicked phone call to a radio station from a recently dischargedsoldier who believes aliens are among us, and a numbered list ofunusual life lessons and suggestions delivered in a digitized voice,culminating with "walk slowly, but kill that motherfucker if he triesto take your money" repeated ad nauseam. Penrose's compositions arejust plain odd, both in content and juxtaposition, but also interestingwith a well balanced mix of ambient, noisy, serious and humorousmoments. Though, without the artwork I'd be somewhat puzzled as to whatit's all about ...

 

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4400 Hits

AERON BERGMAN, "THE TALE OF THE UNHAPPY AMERICAN"

Aeron Bergman is a founding member of NYC based label Lucky KitchenRecords and this CD is his first for Germany's Tom. "The Tale of theUnhappy American" is a science fiction fairy tale told with words andsounds. Eleven short spoken word tracks are followed by correspondingmusical tracks, all less than four minutes, often to interpret theaction of each scene. The story follows the narrator's journey from thesurroundings of home to a futuristic battlefield and beyond via a hoverbike. There doesn't seem to be any sort of moral really, just a briefadventure then back home. The music is predominantly pretty ambientelectronic twinkles, waves, drones, static and gurgles, with theoccasional noisier passage. These sounds, despite being electronicand/or computer generated as I believe they are, feel very naturalalmost as if they are field recordings of the sounds of insects, powerlines, flight, water, battle, machines, different times of day/night,etc. There's a child-like naiveté to everything here: the concept,story, the music and the packaging. And it works. It's simply cute,fun, warm and relaxing. Next up for Bergman, as 1/2 of Alejandra andAeron, are "Kitchen" a split 12" on Fat Cat and "The Tale of Pip" fulllength on Autobus/LK in April and May ...

 

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3995 Hits

4AD RETRO: HEIDI BERRY, LUSH, PIXIES, MODERN ENGLISH

This year, 4AD's UK office has been reintroducing the public to thecatalogue of some of their former brightest stars. Heidi Berry'santhology "Pomegranate" gathers 14 songs from her three 4AD albums andadds a few extra bits. 4AD fans might not know her name but they sureknow her voice, as it's all over the final This Mortal Coil album,'Blood'. Her first album was released in 1989 but her first record for4AD, 'Love' was released in 1991 shortly after This Mortal Coil's'Blood'. 'Pomegranate' jumbles up her tracks in a non-chronologicalorder, with the basic folk-inspired acoustic songs interwoven withsongs with lush string arrangements and captivating swirling pianomelodies. There's something magical about that voice which shines invarious spots but can also get quite improperly placed when accompaniedby the Lost Girls in the collection's closer, "Needle's Eye".
"Life in the Gladhouse" collects 16 album and single tracks from ModernEnglish between the years 1980 and 1984. While most people in the worldwill only credit them for the mega retro feel-good 80s anthem "I MeltWith You," the group had a much darker, angry and artful repertoirestretching over the course of three notable albums. Program the CD toplay the songs in chronological order and you can see how the groupcame into existence during the punk movement and exited during theearly 80s wave of new romantics. While I don't usually agree to "bestof" compilations from groups who only have three albums represented, acollection like this or Heidi Berry's will be helpful to people who arefamiliar with the small slice, but interested in hearing more. InModern English's case it's the big hit, only popularized long after itsinception, Heidi Berry's case being the voice of 'Blood.'
"Ciao!,"on the other hand makes less sense. The group's popularity was muchstronger and to release a best of from a group also with a three-albumcareer like this is rather unnecesary. Unlike the past two collections,there is a chronological order executed here, in reverse however. Thedisc only grabs a few hits and some popular album tracks, heavy on thecatty most recent stuff (including the gratuitous Javis Crocker duetfrom 'Lushlife') and light on the beautiful two-girl harmonies onlayers upon layers of guitar wash, which captured everybody's attentionand love of the group in the first place. I fell in love with Lush'smusic over a decade ago and still hold much of their music dear to myheart, yet I'm not endorsing this collection. If they really wanted torelease a worthy retrospective, a collection of b-sides and compilationtracks would be wonderful. Over their short career, the group hasaccumulated an impressive non-album repertoire which couldn't fit onanything less than two lengthy compact discs.
ThePixies were arguably one of the most influential bands of the late 80sand also arguably the last truly alternative band to gain recognitionon a large scale. They intelligently and almost accidentally combinedsmart riffs with surf-punk and abstract lyrics with hooks catchy enoughto make Lennon and McCartney jealous. In 1991, following the band'sfinal album, Nirvana fucked everything up, thrusting recycled Pixiesriffs repackaged as 'grunge' into the mainstream, merging 'alternative'and top 40 radio, forcing them all to cater to the new incarnation ofpop music. Thankfully it also surpressed hair bands, until thefollowing year when Pearl Jam surfaced as a repackaged Winger. I couldgo on for hours on the subsequent decline in individuality andextinction of daring record companies whose risk-taking was high andrewards were somewhat honorable, but that's another essay. That asidethis collection, 'The Complete B-Sides' doesn't do much more than itclaims, collecting all the singles tracks which didn't appear on thealbums, in chronological order from the start. Absent however are acouple lingering other tracks which appeared on compilations like'Rubyat' and 'I'm Your Fan: Songs of Leonard Cohen.' As a bonus acouple of their music videos are included - their breathrough hit,"Here Comes Your Man" and "Alison," which sadly enough omits the entirefirst part of the music video, "Dig for Fire." The commentary byCharlie Thompson (currently known as Frank Black, formerly known asBlack Francis) is short and direct, not surprisingly so as he's alwaysseemed to be more enthusiastic about current projects than reflectiveof his glory days in the Pixies.

 

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4097 Hits

"No Watches, No Maps"

While the Fat Cat people boast about their committment to introducingfresh new artists, they've played the game relatively safe for theirentire existence. A successful record label has to establish themselvespretty much before they can make bold moves like this one, releasing aCD comprised entirely of demos received by the label from completeunknowns. Fat Cat established themselves by releasing an assortment ofbuzzworthy 12" split singles, sneaking in a relatively unknown act onone side with an established act on the other side. In sales it'scalled the "foot in the door technique" — now that we've got yourattention, try this! The label's intentions are well and this techniquesure paid off.
Conceived over two years ago, this collection gathers 74 minutes ofpeople you most likely have never heard of, many of which will probablynot surface again. While Fat Cat have pointed out that they love all ofthese songs, limitations of the label have only allowed them time,budget and manpower to do full releases of a couple, two of which Com.Aand Duplo Remote have tracks appearing here. The collection issurprisingly impressive, starting off with the brief abrasive noise ofQT?, continuing on with glitch electronica Autechre worshipping soundof Phluidbox, the sci-fi death theme sounds from Jetone and pentatonicAsian taste of Zooey. By the time it reaches the slick production ofthe instrumental Fridge-ish jam, Ukiyo-E's "Val Doonican," the grandscope of the collection is shifted, transforming it from a collectionof random electronics to something more. At this point, the compilationof unknowns begins to strangely mirror a well-constructed soundtrack oran 80s-era cassette-only comp. Changes continue when the poundingabrasive head nodding track from Moneyshot bursts in, a melancholypiano piece from Beans arrives a few tracks later, followed by moreelectronic and organic contributions including the gorgeous low-temposubmission from Cytokine.
While each of the 19 songs on here are quality work, it's easy to tellthat all of these artists are still in the infancy of their careers,with much more to learn about originality, composition and production.Much like releases like the "Rising from the Red Sand" comps forexample, I'm predicting this disc will become one of those collectablereferences on discographies popping up years from now. On the horizonfor the label is a section on their website with exchanges of musiclike this and hopefully more collections.

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4296 Hits

NOBUKAZU TAKEMURA, "HOSHI NO KOE"

It isn't until the fifth track of 'Hoshi No Koe' that you hear musicstrongly resembling the majority of Nobukazu Takemura's previous work.In and of itself, this isn't such a bad thing. To continue to rely onthe same reverb-laden, scratched, looped, and manipulated CD soundswhich have come to be so closely associated with Takemura (as well ashis "Child's View" alias) would have been redundant, if still quitepleasant to listen to. With the release of the "Sign" 12-inch a fewmonths back, Takemura signaled a shift away from the avant-gardeindulgence of 15-minute tracks of skipping digital beats, and towardsan almost danceable mix of vocoder-enhanced vocals, 4/4 rhythms, andcatchy melodies - and which kept his trademark sound as coolornamentation to what was his most single-y track yet.
On 'Hoshi No Koe', Takemura shifts back into the avant-garde, whichagain, in and of itself, isn't such a bad thing. Unfortunately, themanner in which he does so is. Gone are the so fresh, so cleancompositions, walls of sound, and floods of echoes perfected on thelikes of 'Funfair' and 'Scope.' Instead, here we hear a handful ofwell-constructed and intriguing tracks separated by what comes off verystrongly as nothing but filler: throwaway Casio noodling on "One Day,""White Sheep and Small Light," and "A Theme For Little Animals";wanna-be clicky minimalism on "Honey Comb" and "Trampoline"; and slowmeticulous beatless repetition on "Stairs In Stars" and "In TheRoom-Roof-Wood". Some of these tracks are less offensivelynot-thought-through than others, but all display a startling lack ofcleverness and ingenuity, and what is most vexing, a seeming lack ofeffort on the part of Takemura, who plays all instruments and producedall tracks on the album. It is one thing to not exactly "get" the newdirection in which a musician wants to take you, but it is anotherthing to not understand at all why he wants to take you there. This isthe case with 'Hoshi No Koe' - there is a clear lack of directionthroughout the overly lengthy 78 minutes that would probably surpriseanyone who has tracked Takemura's work to this point.
This is not to say that his genius doesn't manage to shine through atleast a few times. "Sign" is on the album (the aforementioned track 5)and its the obvious winner of the bunch, and "Anemometer" is asimilarly terrific (if unnecessarily lengthy) melding of bouncy beatsand trademark Takemura sounds. "A Chrysalis" starts out sounding likeexperimental wanking, but slowly and beautifully evolves over its 17minutes into a downtempo exploration of rhythm and tone that wouldn'tbe out of place on 'Scope'. Finishing the CD is the wonderful "TheVoice Of A Fish," which is similarly subdued, subtle, and complex - allcharacteristics which are in short supply on most of the previous tentracks. For whatever reason, these traits - which made Takemura soexciting on previous efforts - are anomalies here.

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4988 Hits

The Angels of Light, "How I Loved You"

The Angels of Light are the current song writing device of Michael Gira of Young God Records. How I Loved You, follow-up to 1999's superb debut New Mother, commits to tape many of the songs from the now legendary first tour and others written since. It is a collection of love songs of sorts with references to various women and Gira's parents, whom grace the front and back cover of the digipack.

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3785 Hits

scratch pet land, "solo soli iiiii"

The debut full-length from Belgium's Scratch Pet Land resembles what anaudio Rorscharch Test might sound like. Fans of the quirky Sonig soundfrom groups like Vert, Mouse On Mars and Wang Inc. should be warnedthat the proverbial happy blippy sounds don't really jump in until thefourth track and don't stay very long as this German duo seems to havean amazingly short span of attention. Given the chance however, thisfull-length debut is quite pleasing, with creative crack addict-likemelodies and noisy audio scribbles. There are spots where the soundsappear to be strange mutated samples of kids hiccuping in a playground,short tunes of randomized aural splotches, or a musicallyimpressionistic walk across a stained glass carpet crunching betweenyour feet. When the melodies do arrive they stand as shining moments ofan almost Kraftwerkian tributary nature. Forty-two minutes of randomtest tones, pots, pans, circus animals, babies and flying saucer soundslater I'm left somewhat confused, but rather satisfied. 

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4721 Hits

Thomas Brinkmann "Klick"

Thomas Brinkmann is a prolific producer of numerous minimal/experimental techno platters, both digital and analogue. His tools here are simple but unique: a knife, a pile of old records, 2 turntables, a mixer, an isolator and an effects unit. If I'm to understand the process correctly, Brinkmann literally cut the locked grooves into the records and then played and mixed them to create the 10 4-7 minute, binary titled tracks.

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4839 Hits

tied & tickled trio, "ea1 ea2 rmx" / console, "yourself"

Taking a break between albums, the Tied & Tickled Trio have released a brief 8-song collection of remixes from last year's "EA1 EA2" album. The disc is released through Morr Music in Germany and features remixes by Console, Kandis, Max.Ernst and others. For the most part the remixes basically go one of two ways. Some of the tracks are pumped up discotheque versions of the songs while others take a route accenting the more jazzy elements. The Max.Ernst cuts are quite watery with obnoxiously repetitious horn loops while the Console mix flows nicely with an element of technological mastery.

EA1



Console, a.k.a. Martin Gretchmann a.k.a. 'that guy in the Notwist who -isn't- in the Tied & Tickled Trio' has also released a disc of remixes, but this one's from the other side of the mixing board. 'Console Yourself' is eight tracks of other peoples songs remixed by Gretchmann, over the course of three years, including an overlap from the Tied & Tickled remix disc. Also featured on the disc are remixes of Isan, Barbara Morganstern, Ammer/Hage and even a Console song remixed by Console. Gretchmann's mixes stand out as he's got a keen ear for when to keep a loop going and when to kill it. While both of these discs are good to have for collectors, they're nowhere to start for people who aren't existing fans already. I personally recommend the most recent full-length albums from each of the three, Console's "Rocket in the Pocket", Tied & Tickled Trio's "EA1 EA2" and of course the Notwist's "Shrink." With any luck at least one of these entities will release something excellent later on this year.

 

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  • Hip Young Things - 1¬Ω - Console remix
  • Barbara Morgenstern - Das Wort - Console + Hometrainer remix
  • Tied & Tickled Trio - EA1 EA2 nr. 10 - Wechsel Garland remix
  • Tied & Tickled Trio - Utrom mix - Kandis remix

 

4921 Hits

Phill Niblock, "Touch Works, for Hurdy Gurdy and Voice"

Phill Niblock is a drone specialist. Everything he composes pursues the same drone idea but he varies the textures drastically by utilising different musical instruments. His pieces are supremely mind altering, and this release on the continually engaging and intriguing Touch art label is the most hallucinogenic dense and intense recording I've heard from him, or anyone else for that matter.

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4786 Hits

PIGFACE "THE BEST OF - PREACHING TO THE PERVERTED"

Ah, the obligatory 'best of' album! Chances are you've sampledsomething from, but perhaps not something from each era of, Pigface'sdecade deep oeuvre. The history of Pigface is inextricably tied todrummer / ringleader / Invisible Records head honcho Martin Atkins withsome 100+ members (as listed in the insert) having passed through therevolving door. The talent amassed on stage and in the studio isstaggering and includes most everyone in the rock and 'industrial' rockunderground. The musical result is varied and impossible to pigeonhole,taking in elements of punk, funk, noise, dance, etc. Disc 1 collects 20(!) re-edited, re-mastered tracks representing the 4 studio albums,emphasis on "Fook" and "Notes From the Underground", and a few of theremix/live EPs and albums. The editing merely tightens up everythingfor maximum disc capacity and the remastered sound is most clearlyevident on the most dated studio material, "Suck" and "Point Blank"from "Gub". It all sounds great and flows well through the years with afine track selection courtesy of fan submissions. Disc 2 is the realincentive for long time fans with 9 of the 15 tracks being previouslyunreleased nuggets: brief interviews (Atkins, Ogre, William Tucker),songs either aborted or in an infant form ("Dribble", parts of whichbecame "Empathy", "Taiko" which became "Asphole"), re-mixes (includingnew versions of "Chickasuarus" and "Hips, Tits, Lips, Power"), and anamusing radio ID. These include Dirk Flanigan, Astrid Welz, Jim Marcus,Andrew Weiss/Ween, Black Francis and Robert Santiago of The Pixies ...some accomplished pieces and others spontaneous, fun and loose jams."Preaching to the Perverted" does just that but does it with style. Anincarnation of Pigface will likely tour later this year.

 
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4082 Hits

pan sonic "live in london, 1995"

The second release in the over-priced under-packaged series of livediscs on Mute's Jenny Divers label is another concert from Panasonicrecorded in 1995. This recording however was from one show in London,(as opposed to the two-show in NY release reviewed a few weeks back).The sound is much different as the group knows how to cater to thedifferences in fans and concert goers in both cities. While the NY showwas full of meaty bass-heavy beats, this disc is littered with moreintrospective art-school class "A" electronica, with much aim to pleasethe stuffy London chin-scratchers searching for irony in an electronicconcert. The disc is considerably shorter, totalling only 53 minutesbut thankfully is indexed track-by-track. Once again, only the seriousfans need to worry about shelling out the stupid cash to pay for thisslab of black plastic accompanying the CD, each without artwork. 

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4134 Hits

Matmos, "A Chance to Cut is a Chance to Cure"

Kid 606 wasn't far from the truth when he claimed that "Matmos are the A-Team of electronica" — the new full-length album is a triumph for this San Franciscan duo. Their fourth album follows along the progression taken with 'The West,' moving even further away from random technological fuckery on their first two to create a cohesive, conceptual, organized result.

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4738 Hits

THE RESIDENTS, "ASSORTED SECRETS"

The band that made aname for themselves by loudly invoking their own anonymity andobscurity since 1972 is not really about secrets anymore. Many of theirprojects from the late 1990s up until now have been very high-profile,with backing from large software companies, international tours, andtons of product ranging from the typical t-shirts to little statuettesand build-'em-yrself model kits. Even the faces and identities of theband members — once the carefully guarded secret around which theybased their marketing — are apparent enough to the fan who does alittle bit of research. 'The Residents' has become, quite deliberatelya brand that is applied to a range of product. That's why the groupwants to be sure that the product with their brand name on it is up totheir quality standards. When it isn't, as in the case of this CDreissue of the "Assorted Secrets" cassette of rehearsals from 1984,when they lose a bit of that control, is when the music gets the mostinteresting.
The band is obviously very interested in its appearance, not just withregards to identity-obscuring costumes, but in the release only ofconcept albums of the highest technical sound quality. Ideas that nevermade it into album form are hardly ever made public or even discussed,and rehearsal tapes are almost unheard of. Their material from the1970's is perpetually being re-recorded on newer electronicinstruments, remastered according to their ever-higher standards, infive-speaker surround sound. The Residents immediately regrettedreleasing something that was as unfinished and poorly recorded (thetunes were, after all, only for their own rehearsal) as these tunesfrom "Fingerprince", "Mark of the Mole" and "Tunes from Two Cities".These songs would eventually become overdubbed, EQ'd, and edited andcleaned up, but the imperfection evident on "Assorted Secrets" linksthe songs more to the post-punk and DIY bedroom-electronic music thatwas happening at the time. One complaint about the Residents' post-1979output is that it's too sterile. That is certainly not the case here.Thus the reissue exists due to massive pleading by their fans, and notbecause the band is proud that it exists. The original tapes werescrubbed as much as possible for the reissue, but hidden in a cardboardwrapper printed with warnings like "Please go away" and "They hateit!". The band's name does not even appear on the wrapper, but theireyeball-in-a-tophat logo does, albeit with the iris covered with alarge black bar of the type that government informants use to protecttheir identity on TV news programs. The reissue is printed in arelatively tiny pressing of 1200, perhaps with the hope that only thatthe die-hard fans will hear it and stop asking about it, and thegeneral public won't even know of its existence.
The last thing the band probably wants is for some reviewer to suggestto his readers to run out and buy this CD, one of the most excitingdocuments of the band yet. The low recording quality and the rawness ofthe playing makes the Residents sound like a performing band comprisedof real people, as opposed to the slick and streamlined, high-techhi-fidelity group that the band wants you to hear. Four distinctplayers can be heard making mistakes, standing too close to themicrophone, saturating the tape at times, sounding rough and alive in away that's been uncommon for the last two decades of the Residents'recorded career. After all, the Residents are a band that printed awarning right on the back cover of their debut CD, "Meet theResidents", to not buy it if you hadn't already heard the subsequentalbums! Clearly, they shouldn't be the ones to judge. In most cases, Iprefer the versions of the songs on "Assorted Secrets" to the ones thatmade it onto the records. The reason they don't want you to hear"Assorted Secrets" is the same reason why it's great. It contains thepassion of a band that's playing simply to hear themselves, not caringabout what their audience will think. When the band started out, theylaboured under their "Theory of Obscurity", which stated that anartist's best work was done without an audience in mind. Their attemptto downplay "Assorted Secrets" proves that they don't really believethat anymore. Available only at their website, www.ralphamerica.com.
6956 Hits

V/VM TEST RECORDS PRESENTS "NEGATIVE NORTH"

Somewhere way up north,an Opera is coming together featuring Stockport's finest. V/Vm wasthere in secrecy at the scene of the crime: the Crown Inn, MD in hand,stealing the sounds coming from the stars. Little did they know thattheir secret revolutionary plans were to be documented, exposed,reproduced and distributed. Four contributions from five of the starshave fit on this slab of thick black wax, seven inches in diameter(where would the music community be if everybody turned to metric,huh?) Meatgrowth, Miss Bill Apauling, Mrs. Attitude, and a stunningduet between White Sox and Sandals have all made their appearances.Select audio transition periods have been carefully inserted withlittle intervention from the V/Vm Test Records label. Listening, Ithink I've heard Sandals before on the AuralOffalWaffle - recordingoriginally as CC White, this stellar singer is now performing duetsunder a sneaky new guise. I don't know what the full opera is going tosound like but it's destined to become one of the year's best of theworst.

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4884 Hits

THREAD, "ABNORMAL LOVE"

Thread is essentiallyJames Izzo and "Abnormal Love" is his debut for Middle Pillar.  Izzohas obviously put much effort over the past year into making this albumdynamic and diverse with a strong sense of continuity.  Each song flowsinto the next, several with the aid of brief segue tracks, to make onecohesive whole out of all the pieces.  We shift naturally throughpassages of sample collage, electro/ebm, orchestra, dub, pianoarrangement and ambient soundscape.  Three songs have vocals.  Izzo'sare a bit pallid on their own, as on part 2 of "The Horror of theUndeserved Gift", but more functional alongside those of former SWANSmember Jarboe.  "Biomechanical Intercourse / The Malformed Heart" getsthings pumping with a steady electro heartbeat rhythm.  "In SweetSorrow (Duet Version)" differs from the single version (see Thread "In Sweet Sorrow")in that it's shorter and adds Izzo's low pitched masculine voice ascounterpoint to Jarboe's light feminine vocals.  "Blue Darkness(Orchestral)" blurs unintelligible voices amongst foreboding orchestralsynth melodies.  "God's Morse Code" is a groove-y 9 and 1/2 minute livejam of  underwater alien dub featuring the help of two extra players. "Contours" is a bizarre and somewhat difficult mix of percussion andduet vocals, Jarboe especially taking on a more devilish persona. "Saudade" (Portuguese for 'homesickness') is a beautifully sparse solopiano piece.  And "Skyscrapers and Sand" and "New Horizons" bring thealbum to an optimistic close with over 8 minutes of mellow ambiance. Altogether "Abnormal Love" is Thread's most accomplished and impressivework to date.  This is not merely a haphazard collection of randomtracks, but instead a carefully thought out and arranged album.

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3589 Hits

DUMB TYPE, "MEMORANDUM"

Part experimentalcommunity theater and part Ryoji Ikeda, this disc is the studio versionof what has been performed around the world since October, 1999. Fromthe start, much of the music seems to be built on sounds and conceptswhich appeared first on Ikeda's "Time and Space" CD set. Rhythmicpatterns are constructed from a small collection of electronic bytes,on top of this are added various other drones, squeals and abrasivenoise, along with the occasional spoken word from Simon Fisher Turnerand Rene Eyre. Much like a disc from Ryoji Ikeda, special attention ispaid to sound depth and spacial conceptions, but there's a magical,almost human element of surprise. Unexpected jolts of energy strikelike a flash of lightning, bringing almost completely unbearable whitenoise sounds. Subsequently, other tracks move away from the familiarIkeda sound, incorporating drum-machine generated beats and truemusical compositions. Short pieces provide atmospheric yet sonicallychallenging aural matrixes, weaving patterns perhaps constructed forinfinite repeats while well-crafted light displays illuminatepost-industrial backdrops so artspotters can scratch their chins insilence. Keep in mind, this disc could very well be somewhatsouvenir-like of the live installation, something of which I haven'tseen and can't really comment on, but there's diagrams available ofstage setup and requirements listed at the Dumb Type website.

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4480 Hits

EXHAUST

I must admit that Ihonestly don't remember this record being this good when I got it onvinyl two years ago, but now that it's on CD I feel it's worth amention. The Montreal trio known as Exhaust consists of Gordon Kriegeron clarinet, bass and guitar, godspeed's Aidan Girt on drums andvarious other things and Mike Zabitsky in control of reel-to-reel tapecut-ups. Their first release from 1996 was only on cassette, threesongs from that were remixed and appear on this eponymous release. Thetrio not only know how to interact well with each other on this disc,creating moderate tempo grooves and spacey cuts from improvisedsessions and limited sources, but they know when to quit and start thenext track. The ten tracks on the disc just barely squeak in over 30minutes, which is perfect for something as enjoyable yet somewhat thinas this. On each track it seems as if the recordings are going straightto the tape without overdubs of more instruments and effects. Aiden'srhythms are simple yet beat-box influenced and hyper-manipulated inparts, Gordon's musical contributions change from track to track andcan be a dub-sonic bass loop, squelching guitar or calming clarinet.Almost taking center stage are the samples and tapes, which unlike inthe godspeed setting carry no profound message and seem to be used forthe sole sake of their sound. Godspeed fans shouldn't jump into thisrelease expecting to hear something similar to A Silver Mt. Zion orMolasses, Exhaust is much different.

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3793 Hits