You know the quote, Arthur C. Clarke’s finest: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” You can only imagine how mind-blown people must have been when Conrad Schnitzler cranked up his machines way back in the early 70s but his influence has been written out of the major theses on the development of electronic music, perhaps because of his affiliation with the hair-synth of Tangerine Dream, perhaps because he slipped away from them just before they really hit the big time. He was also a founding member of Kluster, of course, before jumping ship just before everyone started pretending they’d liked them all along too. His influence continues, though and it’s entirely fitting that these two records are released at the same time, on the same label.
These two records, both released on vinyl thicker than your arm (the Schnitzler
Continue reading Conrad Schnitzler – Live ’72/Ekoplekz – Live @ Dubloaded [...]
Meltdown Queen Elizabeth Hall, London 19 June 2011
“Please take your seats in the auditorium, as this evening’s performance is about to begin.” Sent scurrying into the Queen Elizabeth Hall by Sir Ian McKellen’s stentorian tones, we bury ourselves deep into the QEH’s welcoming black leather seats just as the lights goes down. I bolt down half a glass of the overpriced pseudo-Coke sold to me minutes earlier, and instantly regret it.
The lights dim, and the tableau remains lit by only six small lights – five blue and one orange – as dry ice swirls around moodily in eerie little clouds. Out onto the stage strides Reinier van Houdt, a curious and beguiling mixture of diffident and confident. Pale, thin (picture Christian Bale in The Machinist without the Method humour by-pass) and barefoot, the Dutch pianist sits down at the black Steinway Grand and greets us with a disarming
Continue reading Current 93/Reinier van Houdt (live at Meltdown 2011) [...]
The latest album from Neil Mortimer is pretty ambitious. It’s a single track ‘concerned with cyclic patterns in nature while charting the movement of a weather system across southwest England’. Make of that what you will, but through the combination of guitars, synths, drums and field recordings he’s managed to get pretty close to his subject matter.
Drums represent thunder and cymbals lightning. Guitars running through octave fuzz and envelope phaser pedals lay on everything from howling wind to a light breeze. And why stop at approximating the sound of nature with instruments when you can include the real thing? Field recordings of wind and rain both pop up from time to time. There’s a lot of range in this music; from the most minimal single note refrain, through to Am-Rep style noise rock. The transitions are as natural and
Continue reading Urthona – Super-Heavy Hamoazian Reverie [...]
The Forum, London 16 June 2011
Returning to the London stage after testing the waters at Hellfest, Roadburn and the redoubtable Supersonic festivals (the latter of course taking place on their home ground in Birmingham), GC Green and Justin Broadrick make an admirable choice to not overdo their stage dressing at The Forum tonight. One modestly-large amp stack each, and a screen for projections, plus some smoke. Actually, a lot of smoke; not in the SunnO))) fashion, where the audience cannot see more than a metre in front of their faces, but enough to make for a constant swirl of thick atmospherics under the colour-switching lights.
Starting off as they mean to proceed for the rest of the night, “Like Rats” blasts out its vitriol and barely-concealed contempt for humanity, Broadrick’s guitar shredding in what is
Continue reading Godflesh (live at The Forum) [...]
Meltdown The Queen Elizabeth Hall, London 17 June 2011
A soaking rain in London tonight makes it thinkable to skip out on a trip to the South Bank Centre and opt for home movies instead. In New Orleans it can rain much harder and you’d never think of staying home when there’s good music to be heard, so I try to take on that spirit and trudge on. There are so many differences between achieving this in London versus New Orleans, mainly being that New Orleans rain would be warm and sexy and in New Orleans going out is easy. As easy as a quick walk through some pretty little streets with people you know giving you a nod and a smile. In London it’s cold, it takes an hour long smelly bus ride and the only nod you might get is a
Continue reading The Preservation Hall Jazz Band (live at Meltdown 2011) [...]
I love Little Annie’s voice. It’s a time-stretched instrument; a voice wracked with melancholy, a voice you’ll find singing alone in a bomb-blasted, ex-colonial hotel at the outer edges of the Empire. The press release puts her way down in the mix, as if she’s on there in the same way she was on Coil’s Love’s Secret Domain, but this is misleading. This album isn’t hers but it is hers. Larsen are creeping around, Baby Dee is tinkling pianos, but this is her party and the other players are simply gracious (sometimes too gracious) hosts. She’s all over this album. It’s hers.
Throughout the album, even in the instrumental sections, Larsen seem hesitant, as if their music is meticulously designed not to infringe on Annie’s voice. They see that abandoned, bomb-shell of a hotel too, they see her alone at
Continue reading Larsen – Cool Cruel Mouth [...]
The Lexington, London 22 June 2011
What can be said about The Cesarians that hasn’t already been described, outlined, put into the public sphere? That Charlie Finke is one of the great cavorting besuited frontmen of the century? That Justine Armatage arranges tunes to set the heart pounding and the pulses racing while being cool and intellectual too? That the ever-evolving band can multitask like no-one’s business, swapping instruments from French horn to violin to glockenspiel as the moment demands? That they are, quite simply, one of – perhaps the – premier whatever it is that make The Cesarians unique among performers, artistes, bands (etc) – treading the boards in London and beyond today?
The answers come in black and white grains, in full-band swells, in percussive strikes and poetic interludes from Jan Noble; from
Continue reading The Cesarians (live at The Lexington) [...]
Gagarin’s sole member Graham ‘Dids’ Dowdall, has played with various cult and avant-garde and electronic musicians over the years including Nico, John Cale and Suns of Arqa. This polymath of musical activity may go some way to explaining the patch-bay electronica of Biophilia as it majestically slides through 11 tracks of uneasy ambience. At times it’s hardened-edge electronics seems to have more in common with Ben Frost’s 2009 By the Throat album than anything from more formal arts background. But this would do the album an extreme injustice as there is a greater depth here than maybe it first seems.
“Pripyat” opens the album, a dark doomy ride into what sounds like untreated synthesizer sounds that clarity bleeds through the speakers at you and is kept in place by staccato 80s drum machine sound. “3KA-3″ is a lilting piece that
Continue reading Gagarin – Biophilia [...]
The Valley Path is a spiralling one track mini-album that last just under 40 minutes (that would have been a full length album in the old vinyl days). The track opens with doom laden three note riff with sad sounding vocals that put it more in the vein of Boris and Om as it sludges its way to a wonderful psychedelic guitar solo that sonically uplifts the piece. Underlying string sounds begin to lift it from the dirge so that begins to blaze at nodal points and begins its forward momentum and the vocal becomes more powerful and almost angry.
Ten minutes in and the track breaks down into a dessert blues sound that is part of the USX style. Whirling synth and echoed guitar open up the sonic vistas to feel like they represent azure skies and drifting tumbleweed across
Continue reading USX – The Valley Path [...]
I’m in a marquee, somewhere in the midst of pre-Empire, pre fucking ‘Glasto’ Glastonbury. An odd hour. Somewhere just behind me, people are bartering over the price of admission to the Healing Pyramid: “Nah, mate; three quid each.” “Each? But it’s the same energy, isn’t it?” “If only it were, my son, if only it were (shakes head sadly)… you should see what the Orgone Accumulator guy’s charging…” There’s some variation of what might be a Hawkwind offshoot on stage (perhaps Nik Turner’s Fantastic Allstars, perhaps not) and they’re absolutely killing it. Sounds are being seared into brains, guitars and synths and even the goddamn saxophones are making the air swim. You’ve seen lots of bands attempt to wig out but these guys are doing it beautifully. The crowd are loaded with cheap pharmaceutical skullcaps, with mysterious packets of distilled
Continue reading Pikacyu*Makoto – OM Sweet Home: We Are Shining Stars From Darkside [...]
In The Brain of Moebius, Moebius – his mind now encased in a hairy Frankenstein-style monster body – responded to taunts from Conrad Schnitzler, and the two Kraut Lords battled it out in a mind-bending contest which saw Moebius eventually chased out onto the mountains, plummeting over the cliffs to his doom…
Now I admit I could have that wrong. It’s possible that 1971 in fact saw Schnitzler part company with Moebius (and Hans-Joachim Roedelius) quite amicably, leaving their band Kluster, which had recorded three milestone recordings since their formation in 1969 – Schnitzler for a low-profile but startlingly innovative solo career, and the remaining duo to reconfigure as Cluster and produce some of the stand-out German recordings of the 1970s. And the mind-bending content? Hmm, that might actually have happened five years later to Tom Baker on the planet Karn.
Continue reading Moebius – Ding [...]
Bruce Cawdron (Godspeed You! Black Emperor) and Becki Foon’s (Thee Silver Mt. Zion) latest release as Esmerine (now expanded to a quartet, with harpist Sarah Page and percussionist Andrew Barr) is dedicated to Lhasa de Sela, the Montréal-based singer-songwriter who succumbed to breast cancer in 2010. I know nothing about Lhasa, but I’m guessing this is a fitting and heartfelt tribute. The tones are uniformly elegiac and mournful, with the slight exception of the bobbing harp motifs of “Trampolin”, and some of the Antonyesque vocals (I really thought it was him on “Snow Day For Lhasa”) would be heartbreaking even if they’d appeared on the soundtrack to a Vin Diesel film.
Godspeed fans expecting their creeping gusts and slow crescendos will be disappointed here; this music here is generally linear, akin to Philip Glass or, especially, the mallet textures of Steve
Continue reading Esmerine – La Lechuza [...]
Two sides of Mr Hignell’s oeuvre-coin here – first, his math-rock (ish) band affair, and second his more ambient/home listening outings.
Some Cartographers is the hopefully final name the band previously known at various points in the last six months as (deep breath) Bygrayvpartynmyrytarm, Tourist killed in Shark attack and Mockery Goggles. I’m not sure if it’s me being a miserable bastard or if the song titles don’t do the actual songs justice – to be honest, I do wonder if there really is any reasonable excuse for calling a song “(As long as there is evil in this world I will destroy it with my) bird missiles.” I can understand taking the piss out of over-wrought post-rock/math-rock bands. This doesn’t do that though.
Anyway. This is all immaterial, because it’s the songs that count, not the titles, right? Yes, right.
Continue reading Some Cartographers – On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings EP/Daniel Alexander Hignell – A Goddamn Amusement Park [...]
I saw someone head-butted over an album like this. Well, I say headbutt but I’m guessing it was more an headglance, a floppy-haired headslash, a vaguely embittered coming together between two Kosmische fans with half an eye on the past and a bellyful of animal tranquilisers. I’m paraphrasing, but it seemed as if Kosmische Fan 1 (you know what he looked like) was angry at Kosmische Fan 2 (he looked the same, if you could ignore the lazy eye) for suggesting that the likes of Oneohtrix Point Never, Emeralds, Arp et al were an improvement on the original synthesiser legends; that they’d distilled the essence of the original, removed the troublesome prog associations and come up with something altogether more transcendent.
John Eliot (Emeralds) and Sam Goldberg’s (Radio People) latest double-album sized dunking into their synth buckets is going to
Continue reading Mist – House [...]
Hangin’ Freud‘s Sunken has been lurking around like an illicit bruise on the interwires for a while now. And now it’s got a proper release on a CD, the sleeve all soft-focus dirty purpley hues and malevolence. The release made me quite pleased, for two reasons: first, I forget to listen to things if they’re not physically in front of me; second, it’s too good to be languishing in the aesthetic no-man’s-land of hard-drives
It’s one of those records that feels like you’ve heard lots of, put can’t actually remember anything that sounds like it specifically – I keep wanting to write ‘PJ Harvey meets Oval‘ or ‘a less shimmery, more skaggy 4AD group’ but essentially those are both bollocks comparisons. It’s one of those records that makes me want to whip out some of my best purple prose, viz: “skag
Continue reading Hangin’ Freud – Sunken [...]