Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Nits - work (1981)

The Nits' existential synth-pop sounds magnificent on Work. Benefiting from baroque arrangements (verging on chamber) and indulging on suspenseful paranoid atmospheres ("Lodger", "Hobbyland", "Umbrella Army", "Hands Οn Τhe Watch"), extruding a charming playfulness ("Footprint", "S­­lip Οf Τhe Tongue", "Tables & Chairs", "Buildings"), or even an epic flair ("Empty Room", "Red Tape", "Man Friday").

This belongs more to theatre than music, their deformed pantomime being able to conjure a wide array of emotions.

Get it here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ui - answers (2003)

Ui remained in the post-rock atlas convincingly with Answers.

"Back Up" blended the neurotic funk practice with the convoluted structures of progressive-rock and the suave edge of post-rock, and while "Get Hot You Bum" was less abrasive, it was just as brainy and groovy, while "Mrs. Lady Lady" featured their most elastic basslines yet.

The contrasting micro-funk patterns and elegant jazz display of "Sunny Nights" showed how A Certain Ratio would have adapted to the post-rock age, while the minimal, feedback-ridden funk "Answers" used it's complex structure to emphasize a suspenseful mood (echoes of King Crimson circa Starless And Bible Black). Ditto for the Slint-ian mini-thriller "The Headache Boat", which was in contrast with the relatively lightweight "Boxer-Painter" (despite the ever present progressive structure).

The diversity just underlined Ui's capabilities.

The rest of the tracks, while not offering anything groundbreaking, were sleek presentations of their musical language (funk, jazz-rock, math-rock, electro), and "John Fitch Way" in particular was one of the most substantial progressive-rock workouts of recent years.

Get it here.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Astronauts - peter pan hits the suburbs (1981)

The Astronauts, one of the more eclectic bands of the punk/ post-puk era, debuted with Peter Pan Hits the Suburbs in 1981.

The album's range is gigantic: from dissonant punk a la Fall ("Everything Stops for Baby"), to epic progressive folk ("Protest Song", "Baby Sings Folk Songs"), ditties ("Sod us"), hard-rock ("the Traveller"), pop ("How Green was my Valley"), garage/ surf ("Still Talking"), industrial ("How Long is a Piece of String"), and set to arrangements that employ synthesizers, flute, saxophone, and stray into progressive or even free-form/ psychedelic sections.

The icing on the cake is the mature statement of the lyrics, a cynical and bitter exploration of the lives of simple men, miles away from the generic horror/ punk overtones that permeated most of alternative albums at the time.

Get it here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Dome - 3 (1981)

Ex Wire duo Dome hit some real highs with 3, a series of atavistic, dissonant industrial-jazz vignettes.

Actually, even more subtle influences are incorporated in the ethnic "Jasz", the factory mini-symphony "Ar-gu", the primitive party rhythms of "Ba-dr", the destructive minimalism of "D-d-bo", the suffocating firepower of "Na-drm", the subconscious menace of "Danse", the zoom chanting of "Dasz" etc.

Most modern post-rock bands fall short of the creativity found in this spartan 1981 album. Get it here.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Cocteau Twins - head over heels (1983)

The Cocteau Twins opened a new, fascinating chapter in their career with Head Over Heels. Their gothic-rock moved away from the paranoid tension of dark-punk and instead assimilated grand, theatrical, ethnic, ceremonial stylizations.

"When Mama Was Moth" signified the new approach with an almost new-age atmosphere, ceremonial drum-pounding, an ominous dense chamber background, Middle-Eastern chanting and medieval brass. Then "Five Ten Fiftyfold's" dramatic power owed something to the theatrical splendor of the progressive groups of the 70's (think Van der Graaf Generator), with airy passages that orientate the shape of gothic and dream-pop to come. Even better, "In Our Angelhood" soars like a dazzling ectoplasmic display of fireworks. The influence of Siouxsie And The Banshees is felt here (not the punk Banshees, but the Banshees that composed paroxysmal gothic dances such as "Icon" and "Playground Twist"). The ecstasy turns even more intense with "Glass Candle Grenades".

The second-side eases off the pace somewhat, with "Multifoiled" (a mishap) flirting with lounge, soul and funk atmospheres, and "My Love Paramour" being more traditionally post-punk. But "The Tinderbox" (with oriental percussion) is a transparent sepia autumnal fairy-tale requiem, while "Musette And Drums" is another staggering bittersweet ceremonial vortex, burning itself brightly like a comet, with a mesmerizing Elizabeth Fraser performance and a dizzying proto-shoegaze guitar-solo in the end.

Get it here.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Robyn Hitchcock - black snake diamond role (1981)

Robyn Hitchcock's debut was above all a great pop record, as seen in the airy power-pop "Man Who Invented Himself", the sugary boogie "Meat", the disco parody "Do Policemen Sing". Occasionally presenting himself as the new-wave version of Syd Barrett, like in "Brenda's Iron Sledge" (Arnold Layne era), or Jim Morrison ("Lizard").

A more original recipe can be found in "Acid Bird" (Byrds-ian guitars, funk bass, martial beat, lysergic melody, choral background), "I Watch The Cars" (a hard rock, surf, psych and punk pastiche), or even the melancholy ballad "Love".

Psych or not, the common denominator between all the songs is the catchy singalong melodies. Get it here.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

In Camera - fin (1982)

Dark-punk underachievers In Camera's swansong, Fin (actually a Peel session), was released in 1982. The band excels in creating a claustrophobic atmosphere in "Apocalypse" (driven by industrial guitar distortions, a frenetic tribal beat and agonizing screams of anguish) and "Co-Ordinates" (with an even more fragmented, metallic and paranoid climate), culminating in "Fatal Day", one of the epics of the cold wave movement: eleven minutes of ominous tension (expressed with slow-motion droning mechanical thrusts) exploding in a paralyzing frozen dance four minutes before the end.

Get it here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Josef K - sorry for laughing (1981)

Josef K recorded in November 1980 what was to be their debut album. Test pressings, sleeves and everything were made, yet in the end the release was cancelled due to the group being unsatisfied with production & mix values. Ironic when considering that this is a far superior effort to proper debut Only Fun in Town.

The cleaner mix provides enough clarity to propel their manic hyperactive disco-punk freak-outs ("Fun'n'Frenzy", "Heads Watch", "Sense Of Guilt", "Crazy To Exist"), which also contain elements of funk, blues, pop, folk, atmospherics etc, and occasionally reaching industrial intensity ("Drone", "Varation Of Scene").

Get it here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Xiu Xiu - chapel of the chimes (2002)

Having proven themselves with their fusion of Cure's emotional turmoil and Einstürzende Neubauten's sonic terrorism, and updating the sound for the post-rock generation by incorporating ethnic percussion, brass, synth-pop, techno beats etc, Xiu Xiu peaked with Chapel of the Chimes. The likes of "I Am The Center Of Your World" (a lounge piano ballad for psychotics), "Jennifer Lopez" (Van Der Graaf Generator remixed by early Modern English), "Ten Thousand Times A Minute" (a martial hymn for ghosts), "King Earth, King Earth" (a depressed folk singer performing a mass in outer space) have a transcendental quality which makes this EP one of the few works that matches Nico's emotional vortex. Get it here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Virgin Prunes - ..if i die, i die (1982)

The Virgin Prunes' If I Die I Die is not the usual post-punk album.

Keyboard ambient suspense introduces "Ulakanakulot", as if something immense is going to happen. Tribal percussion follows, while a second keyboard-line weaves an anthemic melody over which the guitar paints it's medieval motif, and finally a third line of keyboards adds a truly submerging feel, menacing and disorienting. A stunning introduction to a stunning work.

"Decline and Fall" uses the same ingredients. It starts as a psalm of some mad priest, but adds an epic sad chorus and proceeds as a derranged melancholy piece. "Sweethome Under White Clouds" has the same feel of a litany out of control, Greek traditional funeral music, and also adds a disco backbeat over some truly inspiring guitar and saxophone work. "Bau Dachong", another masterpiece, a delirious decadent cabaret over a mosaic of guitar and piano distortions.

"Baby Turns Blue" is in comparison pure gothic disco, with the discordant electronic chorus et al. In another surprising twist, "Ballad Of The Man" is almost easy listening, half parody and half genuinely anthemic. Ditto for "Walls Of Jericho", but which stands as a tad more Virgin Prunes-ian. And finally, a return to form with "Caucasian Walk", with it's atavistic childish chorus and repetitive intensity, and also with the industrial music-hall "Theme For Thought". >

Throughout the album, the personality that shines the most is singer Gavin Friday, a chameleon that can adapt to any role and give that extra flavour to each song. But the band are no mere sidesmen; under the guidance of producer Colin Newman they provide taste and depth with the instrumentation.

In a sense, the masterpieces of the album all feature in the first (brown) side, while the second indulges in mainstream parodies.

Get it here. Kindly contributed by Nexd.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Mecano - subtitled (1980)

Mecano created one of the great new-wave records with this Subtitled EP. Like Tuxedomoon before them, they created a new form of futurism by assimilating the past (the baroque magniloquence, the theatrical atmospheres, the psychedelic overtones, the progressive spirit) prominently into the basic ideas of futurism (the dance of the machines, the neurosis of industrial society, the eternal ballet of constant movement) and then turning them upside-down by presenting them within the back-to-basics context of the punk movement.

The result sounds timeless; we get the galloping cybernetic waltz "Meccano", the eloquent sarabande jamming "Note Of A Stroll In Spring", the neurotic sonata "Links" and so on. Unfortunately, this fantastic mini-album languishes in utter obscurity.

Get it here.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Circle X - prehistory (1983)

Circle X's Prehistory was the most far-out psychedelic album of it's time, if not of all times.

It started with "Current", a delirium depicting a primitive scene in a jungle - consisting of a buzz of swarming guitars, a dizzying polyphony of tribal-drums, an offbeat funk bassline with faint Middle-Eastern echoes, wild electronic noises and guitar-feedback, and semi-chanting vocals. The textures never stayed the same; the layers and density kept interweaving and were continuously rearranged.

The future-primitive (and thus subliminal) dance continued with "Prehistory I", that started with tame electronic noises and added apprehensive cries, fragmented tribal beats and manic guitar-strumming, bells-percussion, razor-like feedback, and then all the elements combined in a ritual-dance frenzy. The singer completed his suggestive psychoanalysis by delving into the subconscious of a menacing pagan sub-reality.

A disruption in the continuum was evident in "Culture Progress", where the nightmare took a vividly real form of a menacing abyss of wild dissonances, which then materialized in a cyclical industrial-dance of monstrous reflections in a mirror of ancient ornaments. Back in the shadow-world of the human subconscious, in "Underworld" the ancient land "beneath" is torn by miniature volcanoes of electric shocks, only for the Freud-ian id to take a non-form barely contained in colossal spasms.

More than just music, Prehistory's catharsis reached beyond.

Get it here. Thanks to Nexd. Included are pictures of the cover, back-cover, booklet, and two vinyl sides.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tuxedomoon - no tears (1978)

No Tears
is even more engaging than Pinheads On The Move. "New Machine" is equally synth-punk and a romantic futurist anthem, while "Litebulb Overkill" transformed the new-wave song to an austere chamber sonata, "Nite And Day" to a depressed robotic surreal mini-symphony, and "No Tears" to a lycanthropic yell drone dance. With this release Tuxedomoon merged the punks with the intellectuals.

Get it here.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Mothers Of Invention - burnt weeny sandwich (1970)

Zappa and his Mothers Of Invention struck again with Burnt Weeny Sandwich. The recipe this time ranged from lounge parodies ("WPLJ"), bust circus music ("Igor's Boogie Phase One"), soaring 60's soundtrack themes ("Overture To A Holiday In Berlin"), to epic acid-rock with wild percussion ("Theme From Burnt Weeny Sandwich"), unorthodox cosmopolitan jazz-themes ("Holiday in Berlin Full Blown"), exotic rainbow splashes ("Aybe Sea") and so on.

On top of it all lay the 18-minute "The Little House I Used to Live In", that starts as irrational piano sonata, turns to triumphant prog-jazz theme, and then to a colossal jam: frenetic, cacophonous, with acid, slavic-folk and lounge overtones. But the epic isn't over. It then transforms to a minor orchestral fantasia, and then turns to one last spectral delirious jam. This track is a wild celebration of the free creative spirit of this great band.

The closing 60's pop "Valarie" is one last joke by Zappa, the great prankster, and also adds to the surreal feel.

Get it here.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Public Image Ltd - flowers of romance (1981)

Public Image Ltd's fusion is one of the most huge in the post-punk canon.

We find African percussion/ Middle-Eastern litanies/ horror electronics ("Four Enclosed Walls"), atonal folk set on irregular rhythms and acid Eastern strings ("Track 8"), horror mantras/ exotic funereal percussion/ hallucinogenic atmosphere/ Arabic psalmody ("Phenagen"), subliminal fear/ voodoo drums/ Eastern invocations/ accordion cadence ("Flowers Of Romance"), African rituals/ tape manipulation/ oriental dance ("Under The House"), symphonic march ("Hymie's Him"), drone dance-punk ("Banging The Door"), catastrophic funk on amphetamines played by a free-jazz band ("Francis Massacre").

And all underlined by Lydon's lyrics, a sort of manifesto for post-industrial alienation. Essential.

EDIT: Dead link because of complaints to Rapidshare.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Fra Lippo Lippi - in silence (1981)

Yet another facet of the dark-punk sound was exhibited by Norway's Fra Lippo Lippi. The usual characteristics are there: bass-prominence, cold atmospheres and tribal drums. But Fra Lippo Lippi's sound runs deeper than that. Their songs seem as if they come out of a catacomb, out of some alternate Middle-Ages dimension.

"In Silence" is built around a delicate melody carried by the bass and drums, while the guitar diffracts through mirror melodies of it's own, chanting vocals appear here and there in the background - as if to express the menace that plagues the medieval land, while the singer's ghostly baritone enhances the cursed surroundings.

"Recession" goes even deeper, 4 minutes of bass-heavy morbid monotony, slow besetting ritualistic drums and faint vocals, for an elegiac melody to finally appear through doom-laden synthesizers (as if a spectral presence is taking over), only for the song to end as it began with it's minimalistic cold-wave patterns.

"The Inside Veil" goes for a very effective slow/ fast dynamic and contrasting feel between the anaemic and the epic; "I Know" goes for a symphonic coda, and in "Quiet" a humble synth line underlines the singer's feeble cry.

Without a doubt, the album reaches it's apex with "Lost", that starts as a cosmic black hole, then tribal drums kick in and the dark priest chants his ritual, the medium vortex appears courtesy of the choral vox, sub-symphonic keyboards and ecstatic guitar, only for the ceremony to end without a logical conclusion, just everything fading quietly in the brooding horizon.

Get it here. Ta Nexd.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Ugly Casanova - sharpen your teeth (2002)

This is a project by Isaac Brock (Modest Mouse), Brian Deck and Tim Rutili (both from Califone), Paul Jenkins (Black Heart Procession) and John Orth (Holopaw). It feels like a post-modern study of American music by an autistic robot, and elegantly quotes from different genres and time-lines, as in the folk/ blues/ electronica "Barnacles", the post-industrial blues/ gospel "Spilled Milk Factory", the ghostly hallucination "Pacifico", the acid/ country/ folk/ electronica "Smoke Like Ribbons" etc.

In the meantime, the anthemic melody of "Parasites" has a childish feel to it (in contrast with the epic horns in the background), the restless manic funk/ blues "Ice on the Sheets" remembers Pere Ubu, "Beesting" recalls Syd Barrett, while "Hotcha Girls" is a tranquil folk lullaby. This is more than a series of experiments. The album never feels artificial, never loses it's sense of purpose. An amazing work.

Get it here.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Nico - the end (1974)

Nico achieved the perfect synthesis between the futuristic and the archaic with The End, a set of medieval incantations from another dimension ("It Has Not Taken Long"), manic-depressive liturgies for some deserted future land ("Secret Ride"), ectoplasmic tangos ("You Forgot To Answer"), rituals from the ancient priestess ("Innocent And Vain"), funeral music for demons ("Valley Of The Kings"), astral projections through catacombs ("We've Got The Gold").

The cover of "The End" (The Doors) is the least successful track here, but still fits well with the images of fallen future empires the album evokes. An intense rendition of "Das Lied Der Deutschen" is an appropriate finale. This trilogy of albums (Marble Index, Desertshore, this one), simply-put, belong among rock music's crowning achievements.

Get it here. Ta Nexd.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

DNA - a taste of (1981)

DNA pushed the no-wave sound like no other act at the time. The result ("New Fast", "5.30", "Blonde Redhead", "32123") is a bunch of free-funk, in which the guitar, the drums, the bass and the voice (that imitates the bluesmen), indulge in micro improvisations that break the compositional form into razor-sharp pieces. That they are able to get a groove, or provide suspenseful ambience ("New New", "Lying On The Sofa Of Life") amidst the carnage, is an achievement in itself.

Get it here. Ta Nexd.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Cabaret Voltaire - three mantras (1980)

An astonishing album by the Cabs. Above all this is a tremendous psychedelic record, with "Eastern Mantra" being a crossover between Eastern litany, industrial, acid psychedelia, improvisation, electronics and dance music. All the while "Western Mantra" features an even looser form of psychedelia (Eastern elements abound here as well), assuming the guise of a hypnosis and subsequent delve into the collective subconscious of modern society, as well as an exorcism which reveals it's pagan roots.

Get it here. Another contribution by Nexd - thanks.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Comsat Angels - sleep no more (1981)

If the first Comsat Angels album (Waiting For A Miracle) was a fractured take on English new-wave, then Sleep No More features a more unified, condensed and powerful sound, one based on tight performances, claustrophobic ambient atmosphere and acerbic grooves.

The more successful numbers, the ones that focus in the atmospheric vortex of the keyboards ("Sleep No More", "Light Years"), the martial nightmare ("Dark Parade", "Restless"), the rock punch of the post-punk band ("Eye Dance", "Goat Of The West"), are enough to give you goosebumps. Theirs is a music that bridges post-punk, Gregorian chant, martial pace, psychedelia and sonic layering. Get it here.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Vainio Vaisanen Vega - endless (1998)

In this 1998 collaboration between Pansonic and Alan Vega, Pansonic create a desolate soundscape over which Vega chants his incantations. The glitch-noir futuristic disco "Medal", the noise-techno "Incredible Criminals", the factory pulse of "Motor Maniac" and "Sick Sick USA", the frozen cyclone "No Home Kings" (with delirious vocals), the free-form dadaist collage "Outrage for the Frontpage", the thriller-soundtrack of "Endless", the electric radiation of "Desperate Fa Tha Miracle", the homage to the original spirit of Suicide "Red Lights Down", the percussive/ minimalist "Fun In The Wonderland", the suspenseful electro "Baby Lips", the monolithic cardiogram ambience of "Disgrace" etc are more than simple songs; they are a visionary depiction of cyber-neurosis.

Get it here.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Wah! - nah= poo, the art of bluff (1981)

Pete Wylie was unjustly neglected amidst the neo-psychedelic scene of Liverpool, where Ian McCulloch and Julian Cope stole the limelight. Nah=Poo is certainly a splendid album.

Check the dark-punk ritual "Wind Up" (similar to Modern Eon), the glacial mixture of power-pop and dark-wave "Otherboys" (with the Wagner-ian synths), the hysterical new-wave "Why D'You Imitate The Cutout" (akin to the XTC), or "Mission Impossible" (akin to a more gothic Teardrop Explodes), occasionally reaching paroxysm levels in it's wall of sound ("Seven Thousand Names"), and sabotaged by discordant sections ("Somesay").

Actually, this is a very creative record that surpasses both the debuts of Echo and the Bunnymen and the Teardrop Explodes. It's not often that someone can combine the melodic and the neurotic element so effortlessly.

EDIT: Dead link because of complaints to Rapidshare.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Anne Clark - the sitting room [1982]

Anne Clark was never really a singer, more of a reciter, albeit a powerful one. That's the case with this 1982 EP, though the music is quite exceptional.

We get recitations over synthscapes that are kosmische, symphonic and dreamy ("The Sitting Room"). Actually, this particular formula predates dream-techno by about a decade.

Also, there's tormented musique concrete ("Swimming", "The Power Game") which then transforms to moody and robotic ambient-oramas ("An Ordinary Life") and then to transparent requiems ("Shades"). Finally, there's fragile synth-folk ("Short Story"), and futuristic adaptations of traditional dirge-music ("All We Have To Be Thankful For").

An excellent EP that languishes in obscurity. Get it here.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Mission Of Burma - vs. (1982)

Back in the day, the Mission Of Burma's VS had few equals.

"Secrets" is a post-punk blazing star, which steals the manic energy from hardcore. The bouncy "Train" betrays the influence of the Gang Of Four, but the structure borrows from progressive-rock as well. The phosphorescent march "Trem Two" shows that they've listened to Martin Hannett's productions (think Joy Division's "New Dawn Fades"), while the discordant guitar-patterns in "New Nails" owe a lot to the MX-80 Sound. "Dead Pool" reinterpretes the Velvet Underground's "Venus In Furs" through the elaborate structures of progressive-rock, and the neurosis of the post-punk climate.

Like an avalanche, "Learn How" bulldozes everything in it's way, while the guitar displays pure mania in it's staccato noise fabric. "Mica" adds an anthemic progression, and "Weatherbox" adds vibrant concrete electronics. The catastrophic intensity of "Ballad Of Johnny Burma" is also increased by a spastic middle-section. Nevertheless, the geometric structure of these spasms proves just how influential the Burma were to the math-rock movement. The elegant "Einstein's Day" bridges the most dream-like acid-rock, post-punk and hardcore. Ditto for the guitar-solo in "Fun World" (whose basis is an industrial boogie) which is mesmerizing.

Simply put, a masterpiece. Get it here.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Tuxedomoon - desire (1981)

Tuxedomoon pushed their sound to the limits with Desire, a colossal work that contained sinister electronic waltzes ("East/Jinx"), syncopated dances for androids ("Victims Of The Dance"), musique concrete fantasias ("Music#1"), noir synth-punk with string arrangements ("Incubus"), pantomime psychodramas ("Desire"), synth-jazz collages with passionate crooning ("Again"), out-of-tune demonic ballets ("In The Name Of Talent"), etc.

And all drenched in a decadent existential tone, played with the austerity of a chamber orchestra, and arranged by post-modern futurists.

This is a new language for music, the fusion is monumental. Get it here.

Monday, March 10, 2008

El Guapo - super/system (2002)

Amidst the disco-punk fad of the early 00's, El Guapo's Super/System actually offered more than just new-wave revisited.

"My Bird Sings" is a Devo-esque hiccup, while "Elguapolis" a spastic electronic vignette. "Inevitability" takes a basic anthemic rock motif and adds quirky electronics, not to mention some samba percussion in the end. The obsessive bassline in "Rumbledream" reminds of Faust's "Jennifer", and the hammering beat in the end pays tribute to Neu, yet the basis is a psychedelic blues number a la Syd Barrett's "Rats". Another vignette, "Time Crisis II", goes for suspenseful ambience and finishes in a free-jazz tinged coda.

Minimalism prevails in "Rhyme Scene", which could be 80's synth-pop if it wasn't for the enigmatic horn section and the dub-drenched production values. "As In" is one of the most elaborate tracks here (breakbeats, spooky ambience, chant-like vocals, accordions). The paranoid grooves of "Buildables" again hark back to 80's wave (think Eyeless In Gaza), but the digital production is pure 00's. The catchy melody in "Scientific Instruments" is grossly disfigured by a barrage of industrial sound-effects and weird instrumentation.

Yet another vignette, "Faith-Based Music", sounds actually like derranged robots playing circus music. "Disappointment Spelled With V" presents the usual menacing synth-pop, this time sabotaged by brass which is half free-jazz and half bucolic Balcan ethnic. "Laser Eyes" (part disco and part electro chant) soon turns to musique concrete mayhem, but then turns again to distorted disco, only to turn again to abstract avant-garde noise. In "Clock", doo-wop vocals counter a cranky lullaby as played by a progressive-rock band. Finally, "Being Boulevards" is a free-jazz band covering The Fall (or the opposite), but then midway through transforms to sinister kosmische ambient.

What really stands out amidst these very creative tracks is not the dadaist spirit, the cubist arrangements, or even the post-modern production values, but rather the demented grooves.

Get it here.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Boxhead Ensemble - two brothers (2001)

Michael Krassner assembled yet another version of the Boxhead Ensemble to record the amazing Two Brothers.

"From This Point Onward" (11 minutes) is an abstract chamber-requiem as performed by a fusion band. The instrumental interplay often gets discordant within the track, but is then covered up by the resigned melancholia of Jessica Billey's violin in particular. The sleepy pace recalls slowcore, the tight improvisation recalls jazz, while the austere nature recalls chamber music.

The most epic is "Two Brothers" (18 minutes) which starts as a Slavic folk-theme adapted to the slowcore sensibility, over which further guitar is deployed in Fahey-ian landscapes and dissonant picking. To add to the intensity, electronic effects cast further dejection and disharmony to the lonely and ghostly scenery of the track.

"Requiem" (10 minutes) features a prominent melody which the band exploits at will, covering an extensive range of moods as the track progresses, from majestic, to mournful, to romantic, to tragic, to playful, to introspective etc. "Come Again No More" is perhaps the most impressive, with the strings radiating their unearthly energy in what at times appears to be a cacophonous sea of sound, and at times a soaring ultraviolet hymn.

Yet despite the epic length of these tracks, one shouldn't neglect the humble 3 minutes of "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" (a sad winter meditation, with the radiant strings giving it an almost demonic tone in the end), the suspenseful 4 minutes of "The Half-Light" (a desolate jam with tense horns, metallic percussion and haunted electronic effects), and the 3 minutes of "Sba" (echoes of a faint contemplation amidst a cursed landscape).

Get it here.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Eyeless In Gaza - pale hands i loved so well (1982)

Eyeless In Gaza created one of the best ambient albums of the time with
Pale Hands I Loved So Well, though it wouldn't do it justice to call it just an ambient album. Their instrumental vignettes were plunged in a spiritual fervour, and had the quality of fragile bitterwseet contemplations or of metaphysical longing.

"Tall And White Nettles" combines gentle guitar strumming, found sounds and eerie female vocals to great effect. The chamber music of "Blue Distance" is built around mysterious organ-drones, piano ripples, and imperceptible chanting. The mystical dance "Sheer Cliffs", which is half-gypsy and half-Indian, is truly a magical moment. "Falling Leaf/ Fading Flower" is a concerto for brass wails and gentle tones, part free-jazz and part electronic-experiment. "Lies Of Love" is another numinous dance, eventually expanding in a mist of metallic percussion, longing voices and Middle-Eastern brass. Beautiful.

"To Ellen" is possibly the most transcendental moment here; a spectral hymn of haunted organs and sublime vocals by a siren. "Pale Saints" is a fusion of free-jazz and musique concrete. "Letters To She" is an ecclesiastical chant combined with subsonic drones and unsettling electronic effects, culminating in hysterical celestial voices and orchestral ultrasonic frequencies, before finally settling for a pensive tone. This is the soundtrack to man's reincarnation as pure energy in outer space.

In comparison, "Light Sliding" sounds timid and shy, though still deployed like a philosophical reminiscence. Then "Big Clipper Ship" is yet another stunning eclectic moment, partly kosmische, partly European-folk, partly chamber, partly ethereal, partly exotica perscussion, partly militant march, and played in their usual recondite way. A fantastic ending to a fantastic album.

Get it here.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Ex Models - zoo psychology (2003)

Question: How do you update a movement that was renowned for it's sonic ferocity and spastic maladjustment (the no-wave of the late 70's)?

Answer: By turning it even more ferocious and spastic. Here the Ex Models go through 15 songs in about 20 minutes, and the icing on the cake is that they add intricate harmonic progressions to their DNA-fueled hurricanes of songs.

Thus this is no-wave via math-rock, spanning 2 decades worth of madness. It doesn't really sound as if the album contains 15 songs, but rather one big elaborate composition (Slint covering No New York).

Get it here.