Monday, December 12, 2011

John Foxx - the garden (1981)

The Garden is a return to Systems of Romance's futuristic romantic pop, running the gamut of elegant atmospheres, from the epic flair of "Europe After The Rain" (modeled after The Names' Spectators Of Life), to Roxy Music-like post-modern glam ("Systems of Romance"), sci-fi suspense ("When I Was A Man", "Fusion-Fission"), Orwellian religious music ("Pater Noster", "The Garden"), bombastic symphonic synth-glam ("Night Suit", "You Were There") etc. The general impression is of a European aristocrat dandy transported to the future. Get it here.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

BPeople (1981)

The Bpeople were one of these Post-Punk/ Art Punk bands that inherited the theatrical atmospheres of the Progressive Rock of the 70's (similar to Magazine and UK Decay) as depicted in the dense and frosty "Can Can't" and "I Am The Sky" (modeled after Magazine's "Definitive Gaze" from Real Life), the epic and grandiose "In The Mind" and "Time" (again modeled after Magazine's "Cut-Out Shapes" from Secondhand Daylight), but also the pretentious and boring "The Dark" and "Song Of The Children". The most impressive tracks were actually the brief gothic atmospheres of "Betrayal" and "Masquerade". Get it here.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Nekropolis - musik aus dem schattenreich (1981)

Peter Frohmader's Nekropolis pioneers a number of genres, and also creates a highly original stylistic fusion in Music Aus Dem Schattenreich.

"Holle Im Angesicht" and "Fegefeuer" predate slow-motion doom-metal (and also pair it with the hyper-psychedelic vortex of the keyboards), while "Krypta" predates the dark ambient of bands like Brighter Death Now. At the same time, "Unendliche Qual" uses a kraut groove (but the eerie keyboards submerge it in the realm of the dead) and "Ghul" oozes with disintegrating symphonics. The ever unpredictable Frohmader even uses proto electro beats in "Inquanok".

This is a different kind of horror to, say, Throbbing Gristle's. Whereas TB's is psychological, this is physical: a descendant of the Teutonic Gothic spirit, German expressionism, of kraut rock, HP Lovecraft, of the occult. The resulting atmosphere evokes images of endless time in some kind of netherworld, of a forbidden mass taking place in a cathedral there.

Get it here.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Vyllies - velvet tales (1985)

The Vyllies' synth-punk already reeked of catacomb atmospheres, but the inclusion of string arrangements in the Velvet Tales EP added a whole new dimension to their music.

The witches' incantation starts with the litany "Ahia". "Sky Is Full Of Stiches" introduces the black magic ceremony, that leads to a frenetic waltz accompanying a story of murder. Then the witches' voices introduce the intoxicating medieval atmosphere of "Agrainir", finally culminating to the metaphysical vortex of "Exquisite Carcass".

This majestic record feels more like a metaphysical thriller. Get it here
(vinyl rip, includes photographs of the sleeve and vinyl).

Friday, September 9, 2011

Eskimo (1985)

This forgotten EP by this forgotten French new-wave band starts with "Cannibal", which reveals a fascinating brew: cold-wave, manic funk, fragmented jazz rhythms, cosmic synthesizers. Using the same basic recipe, "King Kong Talk" plunges in a tense and paranoid atmosphere, while the performance hinges in a cubist deconstruction. "Tsi Zawa" is pure groove, a paralytic tribal dance, the epitome of cold-wave. "Ioti" features the most dense and climactic atmosphere yet: a robotic ceremony which slowly explodes and hangs by a thread. "Manana" retains the tension, but in a more mournful way. "Nageuse" is pure intrigue: thick layers of theatrical suspense and elegant tippy toes, until it expands in an ever denser threatening pantomime. Get it here (vinyl rip, includes photographs of the sleeve, inner sleeve, and the vinyl).

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Dream Syndicate - the days of wine and roses (1982)

The Dream Syndicate were arguably the quintessential Paisley-Underground band. You could say that all they did was fuse acid-rock with the decadent rock of Lou Reed, but that wouldn't do them justice. The Days Of Wine And Roses contained at least 5 masterpieces and the common ground between them was how the guitars of Steve Wynn and Karl Precoda combined to present fatalist tones and fitful atmospheres.

"Tell Me When It's Over" is a timeless ballad of rare elegance, somewhere between acid-rock and dream-pop (clearly Mazzy Star have listened a lot to this). A truly poetical guitar-part exalts the raga-rock litany "Halloween". The interplay between the 2 guitars in "When You Smile" is once again chilling; one guitar indulging in a drugged dirge, while the other hisses in unsettling distortions. The anemic ballad "Too Little Too Late" (modelled after the Velvet Underground's "New Age") is, again, elevated by the acid guitars. The anthemic rocker "Days Of Wine And Roses" is infused with a monolithic jam that reminds of the Chocolate Watchband's supersonic boogie "Let's Talk About Girls".

The rest of the album is not so good, but still exhibits a vast knowledge of the history of rock music. The problem is that it doesn't always transcends it's roots. Yet the punk blues "Definitely Clean" (somewhere between the Gun Club and Lou Reed), the 60's garage "That's What You Always Say" (nodding to the Blues Magoos) and the orgiastic blues-shuffle "Then She Remembers" (a la Rolling Stones and the Velvet Underground) complement the album nicely.

In general, the method is to take the fatalist tone of, say, Bob Dylan or Neil Young, the decadent spirit of Lou Reed, and infuse it with the frenetic rock'n'roll of 60's garage, acid-rock, the post-acid guitars of Television, and voila, you get a record that covers the transition from the hippy culture of the 60's, to the urban neurosis of the 70's, through the industrial angst of the 80's. Get it here.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Tram - frequently asked questions (2000)

Tram's slowcore recalls the disquieting folk of Nick Drake, the more conventional moments of Low, and the more haunting moments of Ladybug Transistor. This form of chamber indie-pop, highlighted by classy jazzy playing and subtle string arrangements, has the quality of a bittersweet contemplation on one's life, as in the shimmering drama "Are You Satisfied", the haunting flare of "Yes But For How Long", the sparse reminiscence "This Sacred Day", the Tim Buckley cover "Once I Was", the fragile threshold of "Giving Up", the nocturnal anemia of "Underneath The Ceiling", and so on. Get it here.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Black Dice - creature comforts (2004)

This second Black Dice album initializes with the disconnected mass of "Cloud Pleaser", and already you know this is not gonna be a regular listening experience. The 6-minute mini-fantasia "Treetops" confirms this, displaying an evolving fabric of electronic gurgling, rambling rhythms, guitar strumming, random noises, and naive vocal ditties presented in an elliptical manner. The 9-minute "Creature" further raises the stakes, exhibiting an ectoplasmic avant-delirium made out of a vibrant hum, vocal outbursts, bleeps, random rhythms, whose harmonic and rhythmic density keeps being tweaked, keeps forming different configurations of the elements at bay, eventually resulting in a shrill Industrial rhythm.

The centerpiece is the 15-minute "Skeleton", the apotheosis of their biological music, a specter of ghostly noises, a fragmented living tissue that dissolves in other living tissues which in turn unite and form other living tissues, an algorithm that calculates three-dimensional synthetic possibilities. This mind-blowing track represents a peak, it's as simple as that. The 7-minute "Night Flight" is more two-dimensional, but still represents an orgy of chaotic sounds intent on disrupting the harmonic continuum. Get it here (includes pics of the CD).

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Passage - pindrop (1980)

begins with "Fear", which is tense and neurasthenic Electronic Post-Punk, whose closest relative is probably that first monumental album of Suicide (without the rockabilly). But "Troops Out" is surprisingly upbeat and poppy (could be an Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark outtake), while "Carnal" is theatric and pounding. "Watching You Dance" returns to the spirit of the first track, albeit in a calmer setting, that of the nocturnal threat looming around taut senses. Taut senses that overshoot in the paroxysm of "Hunt", the paranoid rampage of "From The Heart" and the unhealthy disquiet of "Locust", as well as another exercise at building intensity in "16 Hours". Finally, a relative release is found in "Carmen" (that sounds like The Fall would sounds if they played Synth Pop). However, "A Certain Way To Go" revisits the lunacy in a calmer, almost ethereal, but still threatening scenery, while the icy-cold somber calmness of "Prelude" fragments into agonizing outbursts, presenting the icing on the cake of this masterpiece. Get it here.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Nico - the marble index (1968)

Nico's sophomore effort was a dive into the void, a descent to a bottomless ocean, a hypnotic state which awakens the mind through life, reincarnation and beyond: "Lawns Of Dawns" introduces the hypnosis, the mesmerized mind reciting an incantation amidst a cacophonous maze of mirrors. "No One Is There" recalls 18th century romanticism, in what is basically a funereal chamber piece with the strings clashing with each other.

"Ari's Song" is a feverish psalm, "Facing The Wind" an obsessive liturgy and a psychotic cabaret piece, while "Julius Caesar" travels even further down the past (the chorus of some ancient tragedy, the ecstasy of a dervish). Eventually, the last two songs reach a terrifying apex. "Frozen Warnings" sets the icy sunset, through which the Valkyries' catastrophic call of "Evening Of Light" heralds Armageddon. Get it here.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Glenn Branca - the ascension (1981)

Glenn Branca's The Ascension is played by an ensemble of 4 guitars, bass, and drums. It starts conventionally with "Lesson No. 2", which is elastic punk-funk, with the 4 guitars giving it a "symphonic" sound, but the track ends with crashing monotones, which speed up, slow down, speed up again etc. The 13-minute "The Spectacular Commodity" starts with Stravinsky-an ebullience, a sort of Rock in Opposition meets No Wave meets Chamber Music hybrid, but the continuation is quite anthemic. A series of movements follows, forming what is essentially a highly fluid mini-symphony, though a bit of pomp isn't avoided. "Structure" is an interlude which returns to cold, geometrical, glacial repetitions, layered in such a way so that they sound enormous.

The 8-minute "Light Field" is a perverse military-march of sorts, with the ensemble's typical huge sound. The movements are more subtle, with guitar lines that hide behind other guitar lines, until they align and "move" the track forwards, which itself represents a plexus in constant motion blur. Ambiance comes to the fore in the 13-minute "The Ascension", with reverberation creating a resonating sound, much more cosmic and religious than any of the previous tracks, with vibrant streams that represent an antenna that picks up spiritual forces; by 6:00 minutes, with the introduction of percussion, the track does indeed constitute a hymn of catastrophic intensity, until it freezes (7:30), re-starts, re-freezes, and then the track resumes on a slightly different harmonic scale, still representing a tortuous flow of cosmic forces, until they unite to form a spectral supernova and the track ends. Get it here.