A wonderful, imaginative, insightful and comprehensive book written by my friend Jeanette Leech has just been published. It is highly recommended by me! I asked Jeanette to write something for the Coptic Cat website, which follows: David has offered me the opportunity to introduce my book, Seasons They Change: The Story of Acid and Psychedelic Folk. It’s a long narrative of the innovations in folk music from the 1960s to the present day, covering the artists often called ‘acid folk’, as well as the wider story of experimental attitudes to folk music over the decades. I interviewed over a hundred artists for the book including David Tibet/Current 93, and many with whom David has collaborated – Shirley Collins, Clodagh Simmonds, Bill Fay and Simon Finn. Other artists covered include Comus, Vashti Bunyan, Espers, Pearls Before Swine, Dredd Foole, Stone Breath, Devendra Banhart, The Tower Recordings, Incredible String Band, Alasdair Roberts, Donovan, Holy Modal Rounders, C.O.B., Pat Kilroy, Mark Fry, Josephine Foster, Islaja, Tim Buckley, The Sun Also Rises, Joanna Newsom, Fern Knight, Marissa Nadler, Simon Finn, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Perry Leopold, Sonja Kristina, Trader Horne, Bread Love & Dreams, Linda Perhacs, Trees, Sharron Kraus, The Owl Service, Mellow Candle, Will Oldham, Circulus, Jane Weaver, Vetiver, Forest, Susan Christie, Dr Strangely Strange, Lau Nau, Spires That In The Sunset Rise… and many, many, many more. The book can be bought from major booksellers across the UK and US, online retailers, Rough Trade and other record shops, and can always be ordered from your local independent bookstore. And below is the official press release by the publishers: In the late 60s and early 70s the inherent weirdness of folk met switched-on psychedelic rock and gave birth to new, strange forms of acoustic-based avant garde music. Artists on both sides of the Atlantic, including The Incredible String Band, Vashti Bunyan, Pearls Before Swine and Comus, combined sweet melancholy and modal melody with shape-shifting experimentation to create sounds of unsettling oddness that sometimes go under the name acid or psych folk. A few of these artists – notably the String Band, who actually made it to Woodstock – achieved mainstream success, while others remained resolutely entrenched underground. But by the mid-70s even the bigger artists found sales dwindling, and this peculiar hybrid musical genre fell profoundly out of favour. For 30 years it languished in obscurity, apparently beyond the reaches of cultural reassessment, until, in the mid-2000s a new generation of artists collectively tagged ‘New Weird America’ and spearheaded by Devendra Banhart, Espers and Joanna Newsom rediscovered acid and psych folk, revered it and from it, created something new.
Thanks partly to this new movement, many original acid and psych folk artists have re-emerged, and original copies of rare albums command high prices. Meanwhile, both Britain and America are home to intensely innovative artists continuing the tradition of delving simultaneously into contemporary and traditional styles to create something unique.
Seasons They Change tells the story of the birth, death and resurrection of acid and psych folk. It explores the careers of the original wave of artists and their contemporary equivalents, finding connections between both periods, and uncovering a previously hidden narrative of musical adventure.
Jeanette Leech is a writer, researcher, DJ and music historian. She writes regularlyfor Shindig! magazine, and as part of the B-Music collective she has DJ’d throughout the UK, including at the female acid folk events known as ‘Bearded Ladies’ and the Green Man Festival. She writes extensively in the health and social care fields. Seasons They Change is her first book about music.
A wonderful, imaginative, insightful and comprehensive book written by my friend Jeanette Leech has just been published. It is highly recommended by me! I asked Jeanette to write something for the Coptic Cat website, which follows:
David has offered me the opportunity to introduce my book, Seasons They Change: The Story of Acid and Psychedelic Folk. It’s a long narrative of the innovations in folk music from the 1960s to the present day, covering the artists often called ‘acid folk’, as well as the wider story of experimental attitudes to folk music over the decades.
I interviewed over a hundred artists for the book including David Tibet/Current 93, and many with whom David has collaborated – Shirley Collins, Clodagh Simmonds, Bill Fay and Simon Finn. Other artists covered include Comus, Vashti Bunyan, Espers, Pearls Before Swine, Dredd Foole, Stone Breath, Devendra Banhart, The Tower Recordings, Incredible String Band, Alasdair Roberts, Donovan, Holy Modal Rounders, C.O.B., Pat Kilroy, Mark Fry, Josephine Foster, Islaja, Tim Buckley, The Sun Also Rises, Joanna Newsom, Fern Knight, Marissa Nadler, Simon Finn, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Perry Leopold, Sonja Kristina, Trader Horne, Bread Love & Dreams, Linda Perhacs, Trees, Sharron Kraus, The Owl Service, Mellow Candle, Will Oldham, Circulus, Jane Weaver, Vetiver, Forest, Susan Christie, Dr Strangely Strange, Lau Nau, Spires That In The Sunset Rise… and many, many, many more.
The book can be bought from major booksellers across the UK and US, online retailers, Rough Trade and other record shops, and can always be ordered from your local independent bookstore.
And below is the official press release by the publishers:
In the late 60s and early 70s the inherent weirdness of folk met switched-on psychedelic rock and gave birth to new, strange forms of acoustic-based avant garde music. Artists on both sides of the Atlantic, including The Incredible String Band, Vashti Bunyan, Pearls Before Swine and Comus, combined sweet melancholy and modal melody with shape-shifting experimentation to create sounds of unsettling oddness that sometimes go under the name acid or psych folk. A few of these artists – notably the String Band, who actually made it to Woodstock – achieved mainstream success, while others remained resolutely entrenched underground. But by the mid-70s even the bigger artists found sales dwindling, and this peculiar hybrid musical genre fell profoundly out of favour. For 30 years it languished in obscurity, apparently beyond the reaches of cultural reassessment, until, in the mid-2000s a new generation of artists collectively tagged ‘New Weird America’ and spearheaded by Devendra Banhart, Espers and Joanna Newsom rediscovered acid and psych folk, revered it and from it, created something new.
The new Natural Snow Buildings double-album Waves of the Random Sea may now be pre-ordered from Blackest Rainbow.
"Stunning new record from Natural Snow Buildings, the collaborative project between Mehdi Ameziane and Solange Gularte, the minds behind Twinsistermoon and Isengrind respectively. This new epic from the French duo is their first physical release since 2009's well received Shadow Kingdom, also issued by us here at Blackest Rainbow, and it follows on from 2010's download only The Centauri Agent and both Twinsistermoon and Isengrind full length LPs. So 2010 has been a relatively quiet year for Natural Snow Buildings in comparison to 2008 and 2009. Mehdi and Solange have been working on 'Waves of the Random Sea' for us for quite sometime, both in terms of art and audio, and it really has come together beautifully. Solange has created a truly stunning series of artworks that spread across the 4 panels of the gatefold sleeve, and the music is a gorgeous tapestry of dreamy drone blurred with their enchanting ethereal folk balladry. This release continues to show how important every aspect of a Natural Snow Buildings release means to them, I was blown away by the standard of the music and artwork. Pressed on heavyweight virgin vinyl, and housed in a beautiful gatefold sleeve featuring artwork by Solange. The vinyl edition features an extra track not on the CD and all tracks in their entirety."
'Artuad, Aktionkunst, Abreaction and Eb.er' : texts by Alice Kemp, accompanied by new drawings from Rudolf Eb.er, and a detailed 'Aktiongraphy'.
An extensive indepth interview with Gary Mundy, covering the career of Ramleh, the complete output of his legendary Broken Flag record label, and also featuring new interviews with the artists responsible for those releases, including: Maurizio Bianchi, Unkommuniti, Mauthausen Orchestra, Satori, Controlled Bleeding, Irritant, JFK, Mauro Teho Teardo ( M.T.T.), Con-Dom Sigillum S, Agog, Giancarlo Toniutti, Vortex Campaign, Le Syndicat, Krang and many more, plus unseen artwork and photographs.
Festival curator Carlos Giffoni talk about the New York festival's past, present and future, and covers his work with the No Fun Productions label.
The Rita's Sam McKinlay talks about the obsessive nature of the harsh-head. Includes a list of Sam's essential Wall Noise picks spanning the past two decades. An excellent introduction to wall-riding.
G.X. Jupitter - Larsen provides a personal history, as well as a delineation of his ideas, methods, and tricks accrued over three decades. The inside story from the man who has made entropy his life's work.
An interview with Mark Durgan, covering his twenty years in the UK's wilderness, from Birthbiter's heyday to the present-day. Includes reminiscences from Andy Bolus about their infamous duo project, Olympic Shit Man !
Sweden's loudest, Dan Johansson talks about his music, ideas, art and running a tape label. Interview by Mikko Aspa of Grunt.
An album -by- album look at the discography of this retired French noise legend, including brief commentary from Mr Zone Nord himself, Jean-Luc Angles.
An interview with Patrick Barber, the man behind the label. Covers the output of this legendary label who released Blowhole, Prick Decay, Small Cruel Party and others in the early 90's.
An interview with London sound-sculpter and all-'round sonic chameleon Phil Julian.
An interview with this Milwaukee-based Power Electronics lecher, including an album-by-album analysis.
A study of the non-careers of two early eighties UK outfits that were very much connected. Includes input from some of the key players, plus lots of vintage artwork.
A look at this influential UK fanzine from the mid-80s, plus an interview with its creator, John Smith.
G. X. Jupitter - Larsen tells us about his first memories in Vancouver of this volatile bunch.
An overview of the primary output of this American tape label, and an interview with its owner, Nicole Chambers.
A regular feature dedicated to both indepth analysis and memories of overlooked but not forgotten gems from yesteryear. Issue #1 features articles on The Lemon Kittens ( We Buy A Hammer For Daddy ), XX Committee ( Network ) and RJF ( Greater Success In Apprehensions & Convictions ). A collection of thoughts and interviews, including an exclusive interview with ex- XX front-man, Scott Foust.
A regular feature from a rotating pool of participatory players with the music they ponder. Includes John Olson ( Wolf Eyes ), Andy Ortmann ( Panicsville ), Mikko Aspa ( Grunt ), Steve Underwood ( Harbinger Sound ), Hicham Chadly ( Nashazphone ), Jonas Kellagher ( Segerhuva ), C. Spencer Yeh ( Burning Star Core ) and Mark Wharton ( Idwal Fisher ) amongst others. Covering artists including Masonna, Vomir, and The Black Phelgm, and ranging from Bizarre Uproar all the way to Christian bluegrass music !
Covering output from Ahlzagailzeguh, Angel of Decay, Astro, Bizarre Uproar, Blod, BT.HN, C.C.C.C, Cloama, Craniopagus, Jason Crumer, D.D.A.A, Dieter Muh, Thomas Dimuzio, Emaciator, Fckn' Bstrds, Dino Felipe, FFH, Fire in the Head, Carlos Giffoni, Griefer, Haemorrhaging Fetus, Hair Police, Hair Stylistics, Halthan, Russell Haswell, Haters, Hum of the Druid, Idea Fire Company, Illusion of Safety, Irgun Z'wai Leumi, IRM, Jazkamer, Jazzfinger, G.X. Jupitter - Larsen, K2, Zbigniew Karkowski, KILT, Koeff, Graham Lambkin, Lazy Magnet, Mammal, Mania, Daniel Menche, Menstruation Sisters, MNEM, M.O, Mutant Ape, Nerve Net Noise, The New Blockaders, Nihilist Assault Group, nmperign, Oscillating Innards, Prurient, Putrefier, Raglani, Richard Ramirez, Redglaer, The Rita, RJF, Damion Romero, Romance, Secret Abuse, Shift, Sissy Spacek, Spine Scavenger, Sharpwaist, Sickness, Skeletons Out, Howard Stelzer, Sudden Infant, Das Synthetische Mischgewebe, Third Door From The Left, Asmus Tietchens, Treriksroset, Tunnel Canary, Whorebutcher, John Weise, Wilt, Wolf Eyes, XX Committee, C. Spencer Yeh, Jason Zeh and many more.
Ossian Brown's first book “Haunted Air” is published by Jonathan Cape in the UK on the 28th October. Focussing on Ossian's phantasmagorical collection of early Hallowe'en photography, America c. 1875 - 1955, his unique and extraordinary book comes with an introduction by David Lynch and an afterword by Geoff Cox. “Haunted Air” is available for pre-order from the Random House website.
“The roots of Hallowe’en lie in the ancient pre-Christian Celtic festival of Samhain, a feast to mark the death of the old year and the birth of the new. It was believed that on this night the veil separating the worlds of the living and the dead grew thin and ruptured, allowing spirits to pass through and walk unseen but not unheard amongst men. The advent of Christianity saw the pagan festival subsumed in All Souls’ Day, when across Europe the dead were mourned and venerated. Children and the poor, often masked or in outlandish costume, wandered the night begging ‘soul cakes’ in exchange for prayers, and fires burned to keep malevolent phantoms at bay.
From Europe, the haunted tradition would quickly take root and flourish in the fertile soil of the New World. Feeding hungrily on fresh lore, consuming half-remembered tales of its own shadowy origins and rituals, Hallowee’en was reborn in America. The pumpkin supplanted the carved turnip; costumes grew ever stranger, and celebrants both rural and urban seized gleefully on the festival’s intoxicating, lawless spirit. For one wild night, the dead stared into the faces of the living and the living, ghoulishly masked and clad in tattered backwoods baroque, stared back.”
The photographs in Haunted Air provide an extraordinary glimpse into the traditions of this macabre festival from ages past, and form an important document of photographic history. These are the pictures of the dead: family portraits, mementoes of the treasured, now unrecognisable, other. Torn from album pages, sold piecemeal for pennies and scattered, abandoned to melancholy chance and the hands of strangers.”
Diane Cluck - Oh Vanille / Ova Nil
180g audiophile vinyl
Oh Vanille / Ova Nil has been reissued on 180g audiophile vinyl, pressed by 3 Syllables Records in Cardiff, Wales. The album has been mastered by the legendary Ray Staff at Air Studios in London and includes two unreleased bonus tracks.
The record is packaged in double weight card stock with embossed titles and a full color, double weight inner sleeve with song lyrics.
The records are in stock and are now shipping.
1. all i bring you is love
2. half a million miles from home
3. telepathic desert
4. easy to be around
5. the turnaround road
6. sandy ree
7. bones and born again
8. petite roses
9. held together (let go if you will)
10. yr million sweetnesses
11. wild deer at dawn
12. EZ demo*
A few years ago, when I lived in Boston, a WZBC DJ nearly made my head explode with his inspired decision to play a full 45-minute side of Natural Snow Buildings' crushing drone epic Slayer of the King of Hell in the middle of the day.¬† The band sounded like absolutely nothing that I had ever heard before and I immediately resolved to find out absolutely everything I could about them and track down all of their albums.¬† Both endeavors wound up being much more difficult than I had anticipated.
This latest collection continues Sublime Frequencies' impressive hot streak of releases this year, as Hisham Mayet has curated a selection of elusive instrumental pieces from "a towering figure in Arabic cultural history." Unsurprisingly, I have not knowingly encountered Hamdi's work before, as SF is always way ahead of the curve in digging up revelatory artists unfamiliar to most western ears, but Mayet and the songs he selected make a convincing case that Hamdi was indeed behind "some of the hippest music coming out of the Middle East from the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s." It was rare for Hamdi's work to surface under his own name, however, as most of his success and influence came from composing for a host of famous Arabic singers or scoring films, plays, and television. This collection, however, focuses on a very specific era of Hamdi's career in which Mayet believes the composer and his Diamond Orchestra perfected a modernized "international music" that elegantly combined "Eastern tinged jazz, theremin draped orchestral noir, and mid-east and eastern psychedelic exotica." Naturally, most of the original albums are exasperatingly elusive and expensive, but the rarity of these songs is secondary to their quality. This scratches roughly the same itch as other classic SF "pop" compilations like Bollywood Steel Guitar and Shadow Music of Thailand.
While Hamdi is technically the star of the show here, he is actually only one of two legends on these recordings, as Sublime Frequencies favorite Omar Khorshid was one of the many luminaries recruited for Hamdi's Diamond Orchestra. Naturally, there are plenty of cool guitar parts as a result, but no one member of the Diamond Orchestra stands out as particularly virtuosic or essential. Instead, the beauty of these pieces primarily lies in their deft blurring of modern and traditional styles, their inventive arrangements, and the tightness and fluidity of the ensemble. The opening "Ghada" provides an especially impressive example of Hamdi's "modal pop" vision, achieving a delightfully propulsive and swinging blend of surf guitar twang, Bollywood dance party, and bittersweetly soulful Arabic melodies. Obviously, getting all of those elements to fit seamlessly together in the first place was the most revolutionary part of Hamdi's vision, but the execution is also rather dazzling in a general sense, as melodies are constantly traded between instruments while the band nimbly navigates exacting rhythmic variations without breaking a sweat.
For the most part, "Ghada" is very representative of everything that follows, so if that one does not connect, the rest of the album will probably hold no further appeal. Similarly, anyone who loves "Ghada" will likely be thrilled to find eighteen more bangers in a similar vein awaiting them. Within that rich vein lie some delightful variations, however, such as the swooningly romantic strings of "Mawal," which approximates the soundtrack to a imagined Bond film where he teams up with sexy Egyptian dancer/double agent. Elsewhere, "Chaka Chico" initially sounds like the theme for a Spaghetti western ghost story due to its theremin melody, but fluidly shifts tones until it sounds like a love story set in an Middle Eastern cabaret. The closing "Love Story" is another surprise, as Hamdi and his ensemble gamely spice up Francis Lai's famous melody with Arabic instrumentation and inventive fluorishes until it resembles an Egyptian mariachi band crashing an Italian wedding. Beyond that, I was also delighted by the pieces where the orchestra abandon rock rhythms in favor of more Arabic-inspired percussion, as they do on "Gazairia." Just about everything here is great (and fun) though, as Instrumental Modal Pop of 1970s Egypt sounds like some of the coolest and most forward-thinking musicians around teamed up to unknowingly make a flawless and hook-filled surf/exotica/Bollywood masterpiece. I can certainly understand how Hamdi came to be so revered in the Arab world if he brought this level of heat to even his non-hits.
Samples can be found here.
I am a bit late to the party with this project from "NYC-based, Iranian-Canadian brothers" Mohammed and Mehdi Mehrabani-Yeganeh, as they have been steadily releasing oft-killer music since 2017. This is their first album for Important, however, and it makes for a perplexingly unrepresentative introduction to their work, taking their more industrial tendencies in an unconventionally jazz-inspired direction with mixed results. That said, the brothers make a conscious point of attempting to "present new ideas" with each fresh release, so a truly representative album may never exist. Instead, each album is a snapshot of their thoughts and inspirations at one particular stage of their evolution. Similarly, the brothers are unswervingly devoted to making their music personal by rooting it in their own stories. Conceptually, that makes To Live A La West the Saint Abdullah album inspired by the time the brothers were allowed to attend a dance after their sixth grade graduation. The album is quite a bit harder to define stylistically, however. While the brothers cite Jon Hassell's Fourth World aesthetic as one major source of inspiration, I cannot think of any artists who explore similarly eclectic territory to this album‚Äôs curious mixture of free jazz and industrial-tinged experimentation mingled with shades of electronic pop and Iranian music. To my ears, this album could not be much further from the sights and sounds of a middle school dance (even filtered through psychedelic sensibility), but the best moments achieve a kind of strange beauty akin to Carter Tutti Void teaming with up some Egyptian jazz guys to record a very strange and unconventional film soundtrack. The other moments are considerably harder to explain, as they resemble industrial jazz vamps made by an AI whose primary influence is '80s arcade game sounds.
This is one of those albums that starts out extremely strong, then gradually unravels and yields diminishing returns as it unfolds. If To Live A La West began and ended with "A Lot Of Kings," however, it would be damn near perfect. The duo are joined by trumpet player Aquiles Navarro and someone named Kol for a wonderfully simmering and smoky reverie of industrial-damaged and static-strafed jazz noir. The first hints that something has begun to go awry appear as early as the second piece, however, as it sounds like someone is throttling a modular synthesizer over an erratic, subdued, and ramshackle drum machine beat. It still ends up being a strong piece, as it is achieves a kind of jabbering, go-for-broke catharsis of squiggling electronic bloops, but I definitely felt that lack of a solid melodic component. The brothers next hit the mark again with the stomping, mechanized juggernaut of "Like A Great Starving Beast," as guest John Butcher enlivens the proceedings with a fiery sax solo. From that point onward, however, the brothers are on their own and they definitely chose a mystifying sound palette. Historically, Saint Abdullah are at their best when they aim for something akin to an Iranian Esplendor Geom√©trico with a strong taste for dub and sample collage, but they largely repress those tendencies on To Live A La West. In more concrete terms, that means that this album has plenty of cool grooves and foundational motifs, but they are almost always pushed to the background to focus on trilling sprays of blooping and bleeping melodies that elude any familiar scales or patterns. While the mechanized dance menace of "Furthermost" is a notable exception, the rest of the album lies somewhere between "chromatic free jazz shredding on a keytar," "someone loudly playing theremin over a '90s Aphex Twin album," "a Herbie Hancock album jarringly interrupting an S&M show," and "a modular synth player trying to mimic bird songs." Strange choices one and all and rendered even stranger by the existence of companion cassette of the same name on Cassauna. I am not sure why the brothers chose to release two similarly uneven albums in the same vein rather than a single solid one or why they did not enlist more collaborators for their ambitious jazz foray, but I do not feel they put their best foot forward here. In any case, Saint Abdullah is a great project and "A Lot of Kings" is a great song, but this is probably not the best place to start for the curious.
Samples can be found here.
I probably do not follow the contemporary psych-rock scene as closely as I should, so this 2019 side project from Sweden's Hills managed to elude me for a couple of years. On one level, the leap from Hills to Centrum is not exactly a dramatic one, as FoÃàr Meditation arguably resembles a Hills album with the electronic guitars and jammier tendencies excised. On a deeper level, however, the spell that Centrum casts is very different from that of most modern psych bands, as FoÃàr Meditation feels like a lost classic from the late '60s/early '70s nexus where hallucinogens, Pandit Pran Nath, and eastern religion collectively transformed the more adventurous fringes of rock forever. In more practical terms, that means that FoÃàr Meditation is full of droning, chanting, and raga-damaged psychedelia great enough to earn Centrum a place in my personal pantheon of Swedish psych/free music titans like Parson Sound and Tr√§d, Gras och Stenar. They clearly also learned a trick or two from more recent bands too though, as they do an impressive job of sidestepping the genre's more indulgent tendencies and beautifully channel the killer ride cymbal grooves of classic Om (albeit opting more for hypnotic repetition than muscular intensity and virtuosic flourishes).
The album's description begins with a quote from David Lynch about transcendental meditation and its tenet that "true happiness lies within," but Centrum seem to enthusiastically embraced the Zen ideal of ego death as well, as the band's enigmatic line-up is given only as "members of Hills and Weary Nous." That anonymity admittedly makes sense here, as the focus is not on individual performances so much as it is on the band members seamlessly converging in perfect harmony for a series of great droning grooves. Or, as the label puts it, "beguiling tapestries of drone-based hypnosis, mantric vocal chants and ritualistic folk along with field recordings" (the latter made by the band in India). The opening "Vid Floden" is a representative introduction to that aesthetic, as a slow, heady groove of pulsing Shruti box swells, muscular bass riffage, hazy chanted vocals, and a cool flute hook unfolds for ten straight minutes with minimal evolution. There are some subtle effects and a decent amount of guitar soloing (both clean and distorted), but the magic primarily lies in how the various musicians interact and embellish the groove without ever breaking the spell with indulgent missteps. Instead, elements like the smoldering guitar solo in the following "Sj√∂n" serve more of a textural and dynamic purpose than a cathartic or melodic one. That said, that solo does inject a soulful intensity that plays a significant role in making "Sj√∂n" one of the album's strongest pieces. Of course, the warbling wah-wah improvisations and heavy ride cymbal beat play crucial roles as well (especially once the tambourine kicks in).
The remaining two pieces are unsurprisingly devoted to variations on the same themes. The brief "Stj√§rnor" is the closest thing to a single, as it distills the Centrum vision to a tight five minutes and enhances it with a melodic violin theme, but it also breaks the hypnotic spell a bit with a very prominent wah-wah solo in its final moments. The closing "Som En Spegel," on the other hand, heads in the opposite direction and stretches out for twelve epic minutes with little threat of derailing. Initially, it feels a bit too fast and too muscular to quite hit the raga/drone comfort zone, but it gradually blossoms into a masterful slow burn with the addition of tambourine, serpentine flute melodies, and a very cool finale of dub-inspired percussion flourishes. Aside from the mixed success of "Stj√§rnor," F√∂r Meditation is a damn near perfect album in my book. While it is not terribly hard to find other psych-rock bands who look to the east for inspiration, very few are able to match the natural chemistry and sublime execution that Centrum bring to the form.
Samples can be found here.
This enigmatic Illinois collective has never been particularly keen on revealing much about themselves, but they do have something of an origin story in which the project was birthed when they fatefully discovered a section of a film trailer in an abandoned drive-in theater back in 1983. While I do not believe they ever specified which film they found, all signs point to a George Romero or Lucio Fulci film, as "sounds from films about fake corpses constitute some of the earliest material used by Fossil Aerosol Mining Project." In fact, the project nearly always sounds like a hallucinatory collage of badly distressed VHS tapes of Dawn of the Dead, but the project has also released several explicitly zombie-indebted releases over the course of their long and macabre career, some of which were eventually compiled on 2014's digital-only Zombi Traditions. As befits the subject material, those already remixed, remastered, and revised pieces have been cannibalized once more for this definitive edition. As the previous incarnations of these songs have been purged from existence, I cannot say how well these latest versions stack up against the earlier ones, but I can say that this is easily one of the best Fossil Aerosol Mining Project albums that I have heard. To my ears, this album is the embodiment of everything I love about this project, as it perfectly captures the imagined ambiance of a late '70s/early '80s mall where the only remaining signs of life are strains of kitschy muzak and cheery announcements of incredible bargains eerily reverberating around the ransacked, rubble-strewn, and desolate halls until the electricity eventually fails.
Given this project‚Äôs mystery-shrouded nature, I cannot say for certain what their working methods were back in 1983 or if they have evolved at all over the ensuing four decades, but it definitely seems like the collective has an extremely purist approach to how they use their material. It seems fair to say that one of the project‚Äôs self-imposed constraints is that all of the sounds they use must be scavenged, so the difference between a middling album and great one lies in how well the fundamentally non-musical material lends itself to musicality (and how ingenious the collective can be when the material does not). In practical terms, that means that the essence of Zombi Tradition's aesthetic is murky ambiance conjured from hiss, garbled samples, and industrial hum, but that foundation is often enhanced with enigmatic vocal fragments, snatches of ads, and bits of repurposed muzak.
When they hit the mark, the results can be wonderfully creepy, immersive, and hallucinatory in a very unique and distinctive way. In the case of this album, those moments mostly tend to be the longest pieces. For example, the seething slow burn of "Damaged Years Ago" steadily swells to a haunted crescendo of inhuman-sounding backwards voices and a promise of "all the most popular brands." Elsewhere, "Italian Resurrection" evokes the swaying industrial ambiance of a massive engine slowly churning in an enigmatic miasma of footsteps, tape hiss, and eerie vocal fragments ("help me") that bubble up from the depths. Later, "The Shopping Mall Has Long Since Flooded" sounds like a broken radio playing flickering, unintelligible, and creepily reverberant emergency dispatches to a long-abandoned and partially submerged food court. A couple of the shorter pieces are excellent too though. I especially love the hiss-ravaged muzak phantasmagoria of "1983," which has the creepy, sad, and playful feel of some recent Aaron Dilloway albums. That said, the whole album casts a wonderfully unbroken spell and the execution is unusually strong for FAMP (presumably because the material has been reworked so many times). Given the grisly and oft-schlocky source material being repurposed, I was pleasantly surprised by the bleak beauty and subtly morbid humor of these pieces, as they never err into oppressive darkness or easy kitsch (even when a cheery voice is encouraging me to "visit often"). To my ears, this is one of the true jewels of the Fossil Aerosol Mining Project discography (if not the project‚Äôs culminating achievement).
Samples can be found here.
This latest release from Aleksandra Zakharenko is a "selection of soundscapes created by throughout various stages of last year" described as "subliminal moments, suspended fragments, caught between time zones." While that description could admittedly fit quite a lot of Perila's music, 7‚Äã.‚Äã37‚Äã/‚Äã2‚Äã.‚Äã11 has a far more intimate and informal feel than this year's previous release on Smalltown Supersound (How Much Time It Is Between You And Me?). That uncluttered, sketch-like approach suits Zakharenko quite well, as it brings out a bit more distinctive character than her more layered and produced work. Given that Perila is one of the more consistently intriguing artists in the ambient-adjacent abstract electronic milieu, there is plenty to like (or love) about that more produced side too, but I found this more stark and simple side easier to connect with on a deeper level, as these six songs distill Zakharenko's vision to its most pure form without sacrificing any of the beauty.
The opening "long dizzying air through a balcony door" sounds exactly like I would expect Perila to sound when filtered through the beautifully murky melancholia of Vaagner's house aesthetic (or at least curated with that aesthetic in mind). It is one of the more minimal pieces on the album as well, as it is essentially a spoken-word piece over a little more than a ghostly hum that rises and falls like a slow exhalation. The words are compellingly poetic and vaguely confessional, as it Zakharenko seems to be haltingly recounting fragmented and enigmatic memories from a past spring burned deep into her psyche. It strikes quite a mesmerizing balance of eerie and sensuous and is easily as strong as anything I have previously heard from Perila. In fact, I would have been thrilled if it was followed by five more pieces in the exact same vein, but only a fool would expect that, as Zakharenko's music has long featured a strong element of unpredictability. In keeping with that theme, the following "amorphous absorption" sounds like deconstructed dub techno sourced from dripping stalactites and chopped, hallucinatory voices, while the blearily melodic reverie "haven't left home 4 4 days" evokes the melancholy of a rain-soaked and cloud-darkened afternoon. A similarly drizzly atmosphere returns for the two pieces that close the album, but "this story doesn't make any sense" detours into a gently seething and bubbling experiment in disjointed, deconstructed, and unconventional percussion that feels like it is fading in and out of focus. It is an enjoyable piece, but the two pieces that follow even more impressive. I especially enjoyed ‚ÄúCrash Sedative,‚Äù which feels like a stoned and stumbling twist on classic Bill Evans-style jazz piano. "1 room" delves into a similarly noir-ish jazz vein, but feels too haunted and texture-focused to exist outside an especially creepy David Lynch film.
Nearly everything on the album is both good and distinctively "Perila," however, which makes this modest release an unexpectedly satisfying and absorbing album. On a related note, Vaagnar has also issued a considerably shorter sister EP (Memories of Log) that compiles strays from one of Zakharenko's stronger collaborators with Ulla. I expect anyone who likes 7‚Äã.‚Äã37‚Äã/‚Äã2‚Äã.‚Äã11 will enjoy that one too, as I certainly did (particularly Ulla's sublime closer "falling water lullaby").
Samples can be found here.
Newly reissued with different artwork, Porter Ricks' second album is a fitfully compelling and somewhat perplexing mixed bag that I somehow managed to never hear until now. My befuddlement is largely due to the fact that the first Porter Ricks album (Biokinetics) is an all-time dub techno classic, so I would have expected Andy Mellwig and Thomas K√∂ner to expand further upon the formula that they had perfected to great acclaim. Instead, the duo took a more stylistically fluid approach, occasionally returning to Biokinetics-style dub, but also dabbling in dark ambient and some unexpectedly funky strains of house music. That said, it is probably wrong to view Biokinetics and this album as intentional statements or clearly delineated phases of a linear artistic evolution, as both releases are compilations of singles and EPs and Biokinetics got all the great Chain Reaction ones from 1996. This one collects all the Force Inc. EPs from the following year, so these pieces could be anything from Chain Reaction-era outtakes to stylistic experiments to a stab at greater accessibility (though that is hard to imagine, given the cold bleakness of K√∂ner's solo work). In any case, there are still enough strong pieces to make this an enjoyable album, but anyone hoping for the focus and distinctive vision of Biokinetics will probably want to moderate their expectations a bit before diving into this one.
This uneven and eclectic collection of songs makes a lot more sense if one considers how they were originally released, as the album is essentially four stand-alone singles and their flipsides. And in classic dub fashion, the B-sides tend to be variations of the raw material from the A-side, so there are basically four separate thematically unified clusters of songs here. There is one notable exception, however, and it is the album's longest and strongest piece: "Scuba Lounge." I do not believe it ever surfaced on a single before appearing on this full length (the Trident EP featured a different "Scuba" piece), but it definitely sounds like it should have been on Biokinetics. It opens in deceptively formless fashion, elegantly blurring together burbling scuba sounds and ominous industrial ambiance, but soon coheres into a killer menacing groove of gurgling bass and seething, slow-motion crunch. The other pieces closest to the Biokinetics vein are "Redundance" series from the Vol 1 and Vol 2 EPs. My favorite of the lot is "Redundance 3," which combines the relentless forward motion of its shuffling beat with an impressively gelatinous and gnarled sounding synth motif. The remaining four "Redundance" pieces are a surprisingly varied lot, taking roughly the same themes in very different directions, as K√∂ner and Mellwig alternately veer into hissing, coldly futuristic ambient ("Redundance (Version)"), a sensually kitschy vintage burlesque show groove ("Redundance 5"), and‚Äîweirdest of all‚Äîa Bo Diddly beat ("Redundance 6"). Similarly wrongfooting are the pieces from Explore/Exposed and Spoil/Spoiled. For example, "Explore" sounds like a New Jack Swing groove augmented with a very insistent wah-wah guitar theme, which the flip resembles guitars from The Church mashed together with a hypercaffeinated, percussion-heavy, and out-of-control strain of synth pop. That said, "Spoil" is inarguably the biggest shock of the album, as an unrelenting house thump barrels along with a very in-your-face funk bass line and some jangly guitars. It sounds far more like a purposely ham-fisted house remix of an A Certain Ratio single than anything I would expect from Porter Ricks. The smeared, hallucinatory, and submerged-sounding flipside ("Spoiled") is right up my alley though, approximating a building-shaking rave as heard from a neighboring alley. While I wish I loved more than a handful of songs here, I am delighted that this reissue called my attention to a few old classics that were new to me, as Porter Ricks has a tragically lean discography for an influential project that has now spanned a quarter century.
Samples can be found here.
In my review of Cantus Figures Laurus last month, I half-jokingly noted that Sarah Davachi's creative arc seems unavoidably headed towards composing a full-on Mellotron-driven prog rock opus. While she has not quite reached that dubious culminating achievement yet, Antiphonals is arguably another significant step in that direction, as it is very Mellotron-centric and the vinyl release features a sticker comparing it to a prog album with everything removed except the keyboard parts. For the most part, however, the change in instrumentation did not inspire any particularly dramatic stylistic transformations, as Antiphonals mostly picks up right where Cantus, Descant left off, which is somewhere best described as "like a blurred, stretched, and deconstructed organ mass." In keeping with that theme, both an electric organ and a pipe organ are featured (along with plenty of other instruments), yet the resemblance to an organ mass is more spiritual than overt this time around. In more concrete terms, that means that Davachi's sound palette has broadened a bit from Cantus, but she is still very much focused on somberly meditative moods, glacial melodies, bleary drones, and subtle harmonic transformations.
As was previously the case with Cantus, Descant, Antiphonals' title plainly states the compositional theme of the album. The term is usually applied to liturgical or traditional choral music and roughly means that two choirs are singing different themes that interact with each other. While there are not any choirs here, the album‚Äôs overarching aesthetic seems to be sketchlike compositions in which Davachi brings together two simple motifs to rub up against one another in interesting ways. I say "sketchlike" because she does not seem particularly interested in crafting strong melodies or complete compositional arcs for most of these pieces, opting to instead zoom in closely on harmonies and textures that tend to come to an abrupt end when a piece has run its course. That said, the album does feature one (somewhat) fully formed and melodic centerpiece ("Gradual of Image") that combines minor key acoustic arpeggios, a quietly gorgeous organ melody, and fluttering, dreamy layers of Mellotron. That is Davachi's most "prog" moment and it executed beautifully. For me, however, the album‚Äôs zenith is the ghostly drone of "Magdalena," which sounds like a spectral brass ensemble conjuring slow motion waves of aching melancholy. It is a masterful slow burn, gradually revealing shifting patterns and warm harmonies. In fact, it may be one of the most perfect pieces that Davachi has composed to date, so the album's primary allure is "one killer drone piece and a very promising prog detour," but a couple of the remaining pieces are compelling as well. For example, "Border of Mind" initially sounds like a murky tape of a small string ensemble trying their damnedest to acoustically replicate Sunn O)))'s gnarled and blown-out drones, but it quickly dissolves into a hallucinatory coda of smeared flutes and uneasily dissonant harmonies. Elsewhere, "Rushes Recede" takes the opposite route, as bleary flute-like Mellotron drones gradually blossom into something resembling a sublime organ mass. For me, "Rushes Recede" feels like the third and final highlight of the album, yet fans who are more enamored with Davachi's recent indulgently minimal "ancient cathedral" direction will likely find Antiphonals to be a worthy successor to Cantus, Descant. While this is admittedly not my favorite side of her work, I can still very much appreciate the way she is slowing down and burrowing deeper, as though she is tenaciously peeling away layer after layer of craft to get to the pure essence of her vision.
Samples can be found here.
One of the many surprises of the last few years has been the current pipe organ renaissance unfolding in the experimental music world (your days are numbered, modular synths!). Thankfully, we still seem to be in the honeymoon phase of that phenomenon, as the vanguard of Kali Malone, Sarah Davachi, and Lawrence English are all fairly consistent in exclusively releasing strong and/or interesting albums. This latest release is English's second (after last year's Lassitude) to focus entirely upon pieces composed on an 19th century organ housed in Brisbane's The Old Museum. This is a very different album than its predecessor, however, as Lassitude was comprised of homages to √âliane Radigue and Phill Niblock. On Observation of Breath, English instead derives conceptual inspiration from Charlemagne Palestine's "maximal minimalism" as well as the mechanics of breathing (quite relevant when pipe organs are involved). There is one more favorable similarity to Lassitude, however, as this album also features one stone-cold masterpiece that spans an entire side of vinyl.
As English amusingly notes in his album description, Observation of Breath was composed and recording during a soft lockdown in which he "spent many days playing to an empty concert hall." He also states that he considers these four pieces a collaboration between himself and the pipe organ, which is not intended a mere nicety, as he viewed their interaction similarly to the mind/body dialogue of breathing (hence the album's title). In essence, English was consciously "breathing" for the pipe organ, as he strove to achieve a compelling balance of power (exhalations stacked in unison) and "elegant uncertainty" (the moments when breath becomes unsteady and fading). Knowing all of that failed to fully prepare me for the harrowing "The Torso" though, as English unleashes deep bass drones augmented with plenty of hiss, industrial ambiance, and nightmarish whine (I especially enjoyed the parts that sounded like a seasick air raid siren). The following "A Binding" is considerably less radical, lying somewhere between "textbook drone done well" and "multiple drones with differing oscillation patterns ingeniously intertwined." To my ears, it is the least strong piece on the album, but I still like it. And I love ‚ÄúAnd A Twist,‚Äù as it feels like a hallucinatory organ mass that keeps tying itself into murky knots of dissonance. Sadly, it clocks in under three minutes, but is easy to imagine an extended version rivaling Catherine Christer Hennix‚Äôs The Electric Harpsichord for the crown of "best album that sounds like a vampire on hallucinogens blasting out a sinister solo in his lonely mountaintop castle."
Fortunately, the closing title piece makes a great consolation prize for that missed opportunity. "Observation Of Breath" initially sounds like a viscous fog of dread oozing across a deep sustained drone, but English gradually enhances that with more harmonic color as the piece glacially unfolds. The truly inspired part comes when English begins to "explore the sonic qualities of different frequency spectra," however, as the piece blossoms into an all-enveloping and seismic drone juggernaut that feels like it is tuned to the resonant frequency of the earth (or at least of my apartment walls). As such, the primary appeal of this release for me is that it contains one of the greatest drone pieces ever recorded, but it is a damn strong album as a whole too. English is in peak form here.
Samples may be found here.
Anthony D'Amico lives a quiet life in New York's Hudson Valley. He lives vicariously through books, music, and film. He used to subsist primarily on Indian and Thai food, but he has recently decided that ice cream is also enjoyable. He enjoys making photo and video collages. He has been writing for Brainwashed since 2008, but was a reader of the site long before that, as he has been a huge Nurse With Wound and Current 93 fan since his teens.
He has recently changed his "dear god, please do not send me any more fucking promos" stance to "feel free to send or recommend any albums that he might like." He loves that there is a thriving and supportive community of underground music fans, artists, and labels all over the world and decided it would be a good idea to be more accessible and open to unsolicited emails, even if it comes at great cost to his fragile sanity. There are some caveats, however:
1.) He gets A LOT of email and is terrible at responding to people. I do not believe that he is particularly unique in this regard. Nevertheless, you may rest assured that he feels low-level guilt at all times. He DOES read it all though and will listen to anything that seems particularly interesting or original.
2.) There is always a mountain of stuff that he personally wants to cover. In a perfect world, he would exclusively cover albums that he believes are amazing (regardless of when they were released or what label they are on). However, he also tries to cover as many "major" albums as he can within the Brainwashed milieu. It's a delicate balance and a lot of great albums fall through the cracks. Heartbreaking, yet unavoidable.
3.) He tries to be as open minded as possible, but he unavoidably has some deeply held subjective preferences. It is generally ill-advised to send him anything bombastic, intensely angry, toothlessly New Age-y, or jammy and meandering. He also can't stand improvised/abstract music that could be reasonably described as "a bunch of honking and clattering," unless someone is extremely good at it.
4.) Conversely, he generally loves the weirder fringes of psychedelia (Natural Snow Buildings, Ak'chamel, My Cat is an Alien) and the more melodic side of tape music (Tape Loop Orchestra, William Basinski). He also has favorable feelings about mangled guitars, drone, dub, and classic Jamaican, Thai, and African music.
He can be reached here:
email: misplaced_sandwich at hotmail.com
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