Archives by month/year

Wooden Shjips – West

Thrill Jockey

Three young men sit in a small room. Around them lie discarded food cartons, an ancient black and white Telecaster, and several battered pairs of Converse All-Stars. The faces of the young men would normally be obscured by thick curtains of long hair, but on this occasion a fug of smoke hangs in lazy striations across the air, so dense and impenetrable that they can scarcely see one another anyway. The improvised bowl of the converted two-litre plastic Coke bottle gives forth its last wispy puff of smoke, and expires quietly. A voice – cracked and feeble – finally emerges from one of the young men, “Oh man, that really did my head in, I’m wasted. And Spine of God’s just finished. For fuck’s sake, someone put something else on.”

It’s a truly pitiable scenario. None of the three young

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Chris Watson and Marcus Davidson + Cross-Pollination


Field recording is, for me, one of those genres so fraught with problems I generally disregard it almost entirely. Natural environments have a worse habit for being sonically unruly than the average coked-up drummer. A friend reminded me of the rule of festivals recently: “remember it’s in a field.” Because most of us know that, as soon as you get any recording equipment out in the open air, it’s very likely to immediately decide its destiny is to be a pile of very expensive and pointless wires. I always admire sound artists turning to the field recording – but getting a result that’s anything more than holding back the tide of microphone atrophy is elusive for most field recordists.

Except for Chris Watson, who’s well-seasoned after God knows how many years on the job for the BBC. More than that, Watson

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Qluster – Fragen

Bureau B

Picture the scene: a dystopian future cityscape at night, vast, overcrowded to the point of rupture, a teeming mass of humanity thronging across its frantic streets. Enormous illuminated signs flicker, punctuating the darkness, their garish primary-colour glow reflecting off the chrome and glass surfaces of the skyscrapers and the rain-drenched pavements far below. The driver glides your Spinner™ hovercar slowly and smoothly through the air as you look out at the panoramic vista beneath you, the raindrops trickling down the Plexiglas window, each bead of water a tiny lens on the world outside. And there is music playing. It is glacial, electronic, beautiful…

But it ain’t Vangelis though. Oh no. In a musical analogue of the current European Union default crisis, a heavyweight German challenger is arriving to dethrone the Greek incumbent. He is Hans-Joachim Roedelius. After forty years of

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Keith Fullerton Whitman/Alien Radio – S/T


This is a work in progress about a work of progress. A split album in all senses.

Side A is Debussy’s La Mer played on sawtoothed (maybe snaggletoothed) electronics. Keith Fullerton Whitman’s latest Buchla synth missive, “101105,” comes with health warnings embedded; a strobe in sound rather than light, sending the audience (this was recorded live) into dead spasms. There’s rumours that a good few of the audience were high on LSD when he played this out. Let’s hope not, eh? It’s not as… breezy as some of Keith’s recent works, not as obviously de-tangling (insert here quote about Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizomatic structures, strangling the life out of the roots from tree of knowledge) and instead reminds me in form of Faust’s “Krautrock” opener from Faust IV, if less smooth than that suggests and less solipsistic. It’s a symphonic roar

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Guitar Wolf/Bo Ningen (live at The Academy)

O2 Academy Islington, London 8 July 2011

Two very different Japanese interpretations of the idea of rock’n’roll descended upon The Angel Islington.

Compare and contrast the constructions of rock’n’roll energy, of gtr-bs-dr dynamics between the leather-clad machismo of Guitar Wolf and Bo Ningen‘s more androgyne angle. Bo Ningen favour the Acid Mothers Hendrix approach, riffing and cavorting at an angle to the regular hard rock template at the junction where Flower Travellin’ Band, the Butthole Surfers and Keiji Haino intersect.

Guitar Wolf take on wholesale the template laid out by The Ramones of a hairy, shades-wearing confrontational power trio vigorously reinventing bubblegum pop and garage rock in a fast, harder and definitely louder version. They open bombastically, leaping from the drum riser and getting more uproarious from there on in.

Complete with pulling (apparently) random members of the audience onstage to play lead axe while Bass Wolf and

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Pseudo Nippon – Universal Pork Tai Chi


This started so well. Opening track “Gobachi” lets orie(m)ental toy tunes sumo each other out of the ring, while some crazy sub-Venetian Snares drums roll. It’s fresh (like a babywipe), funny (like someone falling down the stairs), even a little funky (as in Gibbon) and had me and the kids dancing our hair off. It’s silly and relentless (the cover has a guy – I’m guessing this is Pseudo Nippon himself – with a fried egg on his head) but then, well, it kind of loses heart.

By track two we’re into slightly dull electronic duck calls and spoken/chanting (not really the good kind of chanting, the kind you throw bread at from the window at four in the morning when your head feels like a kicked bucket of cumin) which mixes (or rather exists alongside) call and response drones and

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The Third Sound – The Third Sound


This is the kind of band where you can tell the shape of their guitars just by listening to them. The fact that they’re from Iceland (via Rome) won’t help here; they could be from anywhere but they especially don’t sound Icelandic. You know what I mean.

I’m struggling because I kind of like this but it’s because I really loved Spacemen 3, bought every Jesus and Mary Chain single (okay, I got bored by Automatic, but I bought most of the singles that people still play), I play The Velvet Underground every now and then and even went to see quite a lot of Sarah Records-style mop-topped indie poppers during my time (I don’t like to talk about it).

I’m struggling because I don’t love it for itself because it’s not really for itself (yeah, you could argue that most

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Zeitkratzer – Whitehouse Electronics/Alvin Lucier


Since 1999 Zeitkratzer have done a sterling job of carving a particular niche for themselves in the under-explored hinterland between academic/serious music and the less academically considered world of noise/ ‘other’. I first came across them on the formidable 2002 release Noise \ … [Lärm], where they interpreted pieces by Merzbow, Zbigniew Karkowski and Dror Feiler. It’s been nine years since then, and it’s still an absolute monster of a piece. To a certain noise-inclined audience they’re possibly best known for their transcription of Metal Machine Music, arguably the seminal noise album. Or rather, the seminal noise album for a certain audience… Now.

You’re probably guessing that there’s a sub-text to this, so I’ll give that a little prod and see if it shakes. When I was 17, the idea of a ‘classical’ group doing Merzbow or any of the other noise luminaries of the day – CCCC, Incapacitants,

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Alpinist – Lichtlaerm/Minus.Mensch

Southern Lord

Though the golden age of alpinism – small, rapid mountain ascents with no additional oxygen, and minimal supplies and personnel – might, technically, be taken as the decade or so between 1854 and 1865 – there is no story in its history more tragic, inspiring and gut-wrenching that of the doomed 1936 attempt on the North Face of the Eiger. A truly terrifying and deadly piece of rock (it’s nickname the ‘Mordvand’, literally the ‘murderous wall’, should really give the game away), a four-man attempt on the mountain, featuring the two superbly gifted German climbers Toni Kurz and Andreas Hinterstoisser, ended in utter catastrophe, with three men already dead and Kurz, frozen and exhausted, dangling from the face of the mountain, only metres from a rescue team but unable reach them. His final haunting words, „Ich kann nicht mehr” (“I

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Cyclobe – Wounded Galaxies Tap At The Window


Wounded Galaxies Tap At The WindowThe vinyl version of Cyclobe’s long-awaited follow up to 2001’s The Visitors sneaked out a few months back as a limited edition pressing, but 2011 sees the welcome wider release of a CD edition. The album has inevitably drawn comparisons with Coil; not only did Stephen Thrower and Ossian Brown themselves both serve time in the group, but guests on Wounded Galaxies Tap at the Window include fellow Coil sidemen Thighpaulsandra and Cliff Stapleton. In the light of Sleazy’s recent passing, it’s certainly tempting to see Cyclobe as picking up the baton to continue the unique sonic quest that Coil initiated, and that Sleazy continued in his Threshold Houseboys Choir project.

The record opens with the lovely “How Acla Disappeared from Earth,” a shimmering and stately overture that invokes a

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Hanno Leichtmann – The African Twintower Suite


Soundtrack albums are troubled beasts – the relationship between visuals and music can forever colour how we feel about the music. Who can hear “Summer Loving” without thinking of that scene in Grease? Interesting, then, that this record doesn’t have the direct film-soundtrack relationship – while it was designed to accompany a film by Christoph Schlingensief, it apparently mutated into something else, and the film failed to materialise. So we have the odd case of the music having its inspiration in visuals the audience won’t see.

You can hear pretty clearly that it’s designed with a visual narrative in mind – the opening track’s wobbling sitar cascades, machine hum n’ throb and off-kilter music box motifs bringing to mind some woozy psychedelic jump-shots, fractured super-8 shots and static-not-static shots. “Patty burries the dog,” nearly halfway through the CD, has the

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Xibalba – Madre Mia Por Los Dias

Southern Lord

Xibalba are unhappy. You have invaded their space and their response is twelve tracks of letting you know just how much this has aggrieved them. This is music for pissed off, heavy-set men in their late thirties. Xibalba are massive of riff and tiny of melody. They make bands of a similar ilk, such as Hatebreed (to pick a name entirely at random), look like pansies. Xibalba would not have a video that features a put-upon teen who’s misunderstood by his abusive parents and bullied by jocks at school who call him a ‘fag’. Their videos would be akin to the waiting line at a casting session for a film biopic of Boo-Yaa Tribe.

What they do though, they do extremely well. The riffs are gigantic mid-scooped behemoths, the drums generally mid-tempo and punishing. The vocals are decidedly one-note and

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Planks – The Darkest of Grays/Solicit To Fall

Southern Lord

This album marks German three-piece Planks’ first CD release and brings together their two previous 12” records; last year’s The Darkest of Grays full-length and 2011’s Solicit To Fall EP. The two were recorded so close to each other that they join rather seamlessly into an epic hour of darkness and, occasionally, light.

Planks cover so much ground it’s almost pointless trying to classify them. Yes there are thin traces of black metal, and the shadows of Converge and Cult Of Luna lurk in the corners too. But like those bands Planks throw in a skip-load of diversity. “Fallen Empires Are Ruling” and “The Dead Return To War” both start with riffs that could soundtrack the gates of hell opening. “A Casket City” changes the flow completely with its spooky piano before throwing you into the album’s highlight “…and Rivers

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