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Archives by month/year

Balaclava – Crimes Of Faith

Southern Lord

Oh, Balaclava…can you come into the study for a minute? How are you? Seems like we never talk any more these days!

Look…ahem…well. Your mother and I are worried about you. No, look, hear me out. You’re not in trouble, I just wanted to chat, y’know…man to man. And, you really are growing into a man now. It seems long since you were running around the garden in your pants pretending to be Tarzan. Sorry, I don’t mean to embarrass you. Honestly, just give me a couple of minutes.

We just wanted to know how you are really, you just don’t seem very…happy.

What do you mean I wouldn’t understand? Try me! It wasn’t that long ago I was your age you know, heh.

It’s your songs you see, they’re just so negative. I mean take “Victims,” you know, the

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Neurosis – Sovereign

Neurot

Do you know where’s an interesting place to listen to this record? A chain coffee shop, in London’s Square Mile, at 8:15 on a Wednesday morning. If anything really throws a spotlight on the primitivism of Neurosis‘s music, it’s watching a steady stream of suits walk past the window, off to do important and responsible things. I suspect none of them are listening to Neurosis as they dodge buses on their Boris Bikes – Neurosis don’t lend themselves to this sort of urban drudgery.

Not that there isn’t an abundance of drudgery on offer here but it’s a much more organic, Fair Trade, drudgery. This is the sound of the ‘renaissance caveman’; conceptually quite thoughtful, but executed with Neolithic brute force. Sovereign was an EP originally released in 2000, smack bang between their Times Of Grace and A Sun That Never

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Pombagira – Iconoclast Dream

Black Axis

I was never a fan of slow music. I have tried to get a kick out of Sunn O))), and my enthusiasm lasts for a while, but then I get bored. Same again if they have some interesting guests, but usually it never helps. But then I heard Kollwitz and their debut Like Iron I Rust. They really made me open my ears to doomlike music the way they managed to slow down, but not entirely, black metal, and also still keeping it deep down, dirty and rock hard. With Iconoclast Dream Pombagira manages this to an even wider extent. They create something even more dirty, with deep dark sludging guitars, and outstanding hard, and not slow (!) work on drums.

Pombagira started in 2006 originally as a three-piece band. This fourth album is done by the two remaining members,

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Savaging Spires – Savaging Spires

Critical Heights

Imagine that Animal Collective could be reformatted like a hard drive. Imagine some mad urfolk indie scientist, their senses dulled by slow cracks and too good weed, decided that the shimmering pop tarts of Merriweather Post Pavilion was just too much to bear, too damned hummable and so somehow found a way to just suck the Baltimore boys back to a time, circa Spirit They’re Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished, when they were just raw potential, just vaguely primal yelps and fratboy folk tics and snaky little synths and gentle guitar mangles and tiptapping milkbottle drums. Imagine that the same, slight, indie scientist somehow got his calculations just a tiny bit wrong and ended up taking the boys back but changed, so that Panda Bear has become a girl and Avey Tare has sort of gone, well, English and Geologist has

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Zion Train – State of Mind

Universal Egg

I originally received a copy of this album a few days after the end of England’s summer riots. The town where I grew up had been one of the worst hit; I watched a business that had been there for over a hundred years burn to the ground as I frantically tried to contact family and friends who still lived there. An element of fear still hung in the air even as the perpetrators were being rounded up, and listening to any kind of ‘new’ music was far from my mind as other deadlines loomed. But then I spun this album and wished that I had listened to it at the end of that week. Zion Train’s bubble of positive vibes hit the air and made recent events evaporate in my mind.

The opening horns of “Great Leap Forward” herald

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Hawkwind – Leave No Star Unturned

Easy Action

Over the years there have been innumerable live Hawkwind releases, of varying degrees of officiality and legality. The majority of the officially sanctioned releases are worthy of attention, even those put out by latter-day, non-classic line-ups. The unofficial releases range from essential documents of the psychedelic warlords in full battle cry, to recordings so laughably poor that they were quite plausibly recorded on a dictaphone by someone loitering outside the venue. During a force 10 gale.

I’m not sure whether this particular release is approved by head Hawk Dave Brock and his current cohorts, but it is brought to the world by Easy Action, a label that has previously put out a slew of more than worthwhile MC5, [post=iggy-pop-california-hitchhike text=”Iggy Pop“] and [post=stooges-action text=”Stooges”] live releases, and even before playing the CD the signs are encouraging: the presentation, at least,

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Prince Rama – Trust Now

Paw Tracks

“Rest in Peace”, the opening track of the latest Prince Rama album opens with a slightly strangulated House howl, the kinda thing you might have gurned circa 1990, which is then savagely dismissed without a thought, a discarded, non-devotional whore… the drum rumbles begin and then the Dead Can Dance Indian sweeps and suddenly we’re deep into what might be a psychosexual memory of Sinbad movies… a primary imprinting on chiffon and chant and painted ladies inside golden pots, concealed by red smoke… I should be clear, this isn’t intended as a slight… I’ve been playing this album a lot, perhaps because I’m imprinted that way too…

No punctuation, or at least no full stops…only accurate way to understand where this record is coming from… it’s breathless dandyism, artful sabre-tossing and ultimately a little melancholic because the sounds of the

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Lustmord – Songs of Gods & Demons

Vaultworks

Following his return to live performance over the past year, Brian Lustmord’s increased activity shows no sign of slowing down. He has clearly been spending some time in the dusty vaults below Castle Lustmord rummaging for lost treasures and well-matured morsels to toss to his hungry followers. Last year’s Heretic was a fascinating alternative version of his classic 1990 album Heresy and now further exhumations bring us Songs of Gods and Demons.

On the face of it, the album is a rag bag collection of bits and pieces – mostly commissioned “day-job” music from Lustmord’s alter ego Brian Williams, featuring work for various films, TV shows and video games. What promises to be an interesting stopgap release however, turns out to far more, thanks to Lustmord having reworked all the material into a cohesive album that belies its disparate sources. Presumably

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Factory Star – Enter Castle Perilous

Occultation

In The Fall and The Blue Orchids, Martin Bramah founded two of the greatest British groups of the punk and postpunk (or indeed any) period. Any man responsible for Live at the Witch Trials and The Greatest Hit could happily retire in the certainty that they had contributed more to the world by the age of 23 than the rest of us will do in a lifetime. As far as the wider world was concerned, that appeared to be pretty much what he did, apart from the occasional reappearance with either group.

The creative urge isn’t that easily retired though and Bramah resurfaced solo in 2008 with The Battle of Twisted Heel, a collection of timeless acoustic songs that filtered traditional English folk through psychedelic impressionism and austere post-punk minimalism. Every song was a gem and the need to perform them

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The Wild Swans – The Coldest Winter for a Hundred Years

Occultation

Paul Simpson is the Adam Adamant of the music world, a gentleman adventurer awoken from a twenty year slumber to find himself in an unfamiliar world that both disgusts him and spurs him into action. The Coldest Winter for a Hundred Years finds him back to resolve unfinished business, sparking his swordstick on the banes of modern life and fearlessly banishing its villains with deftly soaring melodies.

The original Wild Swans peaked prematurely: “The Revolutionary Spirit” was everyone’s top single of 1982; Bill Drummond and John Peel identifying them as Liverpool’s finest group of the period. Apart from sessions for Peel and Janice Long though, little more was heard of the original group and they split soon after. Further incarnations appeared in the late eighties, releasing two LPs whose incandescent songs were cruelly compromised by the major label production values of

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Ellen Southern and Ensemble – Of The Brilliant and The Dark

Ellen Southern

Well it’s 1969 OK, we got a war across the USA. As The Stooges were unleashing their debut album amidst the campus chaos unfolding in protest at the ever escalating Vietnam conflict, the Led Zeppelin was slipping its mooring to begin its stratospheric rise into the Rock firmament with the release of I and II, and Pete Townsend’s story of a deaf, dumb and blind kid that sure played a mean pinball was rewriting the Rock rulebook, there was opera of a different, yet equally unconventional, sort happening along Kensington Gore.

The final year of the 1960s saw the Royal Albert Hall play host to four performances of a truly remarkable vocal cantata entitled, The Brilliant and The Dark, with a libretto written by Ursula Vaughan Williams – wife of the composer Ralph and score by Australian composer, and future

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Roll The Dice – In Dust

Leaf

I didn’t hear Roll The Dice’s first album Live In Gothenberg but a quick bum around the blogs finds mentions of Tangerine Dream, Cluster, Kosmische slop in general (I’ve already written at least four reviews on this site where I reference Klaus Schulze, so this time I won’t). You can imagine. People either do this stuff well (Emeralds) or they don’t (insert unfave here). In Dust, their second album, doesn’t really sound cosmic; it’s a murkier proposition entirely. Space to Earth. Astral to ashes. The sleeve sets the tone, visually echoing slaveships and factory drones. The band’s name in baroque writing but with the colours drained out and washed away. If it’s been tea-stained by broken-kneed sweatshop children, I wouldn’t be surprised (it hasn’t).

This time, the synths are still rolling but left to grumble and gently seethe and, to

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Cave – Neverendless

Drag City

It’s fair to say that the motorik template is now so firmly embedded into popular music that a waft of Klaus Dinger‘s beloved rhythm can trickle over the PA in an mid-range department store pretty much anywhere from John Lewis to Galeries Lafayette via Macy’s and no-one browsing there will blink an eye. But as the shoppers drift on to finger the latest seasonal offerings longingly and compare the three for two price possibilities, the canned music will doubtless drift into more harmonised glitch-pop fodder; whereas Cave have got their timeclocks set to a somewhat weightier musical motion, and yes, they have been listening to a spot of Kraftwerk among the NEU! too.

“WUJ” is a great opening, and it rollicks as well as roils, sweeping in on that percussive 1-2-3-4 before shifting into full-tilt guitar-widdle and springing forth

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Miminokoto – Hitoyogiri

Important

You might have heard this record before. If you’ve scuttled and scurvied around various Asian cities, found bands playing deep into the night in Ho Chi Minh cocktail bars, Tokyo splatterfest beer halls, Bangkok’s secret lock-ins. You might have stumbled on this band, late late into the evening, their heads down, playing despite you rather than for you, playing because it’s the only thing keeping them up at this late hour. You’ll have seen them through a gauze of over-the-counter codeine, maybe sucked your consciousness through Mai Tais or Red Rums or Saigon Slings or a slew of $3 Long island Iced Teas. You’ll maybe already have been transported by this band, by the hour, by the context.

And therein lies the problem. While Miminokoto are ostensibly part of the ‘classic’ era Tokyo-Underground PSF canon (which was itself patchy, to be

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The Opiates – Hollywood Under The Knife

Disco Activisto

Like many, I came across Billie Ray Martin, other-styled “Queen of Electronic Soul”, via Electribe 101 and, especially, the Throbbing Gristle cover “Persuasion” with the smooth electrogliders Spooky. At the time, we needed a new Queen and Billie Ray Martin fitted the bill perfectly, investing a thick vibe of ether (not aether) into the boys in a bedroom techno scene. She stood, stately, aloof at the crest of what would soon become a wave. People shuddered. Here was a voice that cut through the smoke, a voice that could sing the heart into stopping.

The voice is still there but now she’s hooked up with Norwegian musician Robert Solheim in The Opiates. The CD packaging is lush, the lyrics obliquely cruel and bleak and dense but… Billie Ray Martin isn’t on her own out there now and people have caught

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