Archives by month/year

Ozric Tentacles (live at The Academy)

O2 Academy, London 23 May 2012

Ah, the British summertime, the time for festivals, too much sport on the TV, beer gardens and BBQs. But not this year, for the past month it had rained everyday, festivals would have been mud baths, sporting events cancelled and beer gardens and BBQs were just a faint and distant memory as rivers of water run through the streets. Then the Ozrics came and so did the sun…..

Due to delays on our wonderful transport system I arrived at the venue to catch only the last few minutes of Champignon. What I did see was perfectly wonderful and

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Trapist – The Golden Years


The press blurb says “If Morton Feldman, John Cage and David Tudor had formed a rock band, they might have sounded a bit like this.” Now. Far be it from me to pick holes in press releases [and to be fair they were quoting a review of an earlier record– ed.] – everything needs a bit of fluff to buoy it up – that’s a bit of a far stretch. This is far too busy a record to get anywhere near Feldman, and far too tonal to be anything like Cage. That’s not to say it’s anything like (say) Naked City but it’s a far cry from the frozen vertiginous inertia of Feldman.

It’s unfair of me to say that as the opening salvo though

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Erdem Helvacioglu – Timeless Waves

Sub Rosa

Timeless Waves apparently started life as a ‘sonic work’ for a multi-channel installation of some kind (though the notes are unclear as to whether it was a conventional performance or gallery deal). I can get a bit sceptical of these things translated to disc, but luckily, Erdem Helvacioglu’s done a good job of making it into a more album-shaped whole. It’s loosely themed around a set of common emotions, but it’s thankfully ambiguous in that intention – there’s enough mettle to this to keep it aside from something comparable to ‘this is using the colour blue because blue is a sad colour.’

Opener “Fear” has some lush (and gorgeously recorded) fritter and textures, and plenty of layers dipping in and out; moments of repetitious,

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Tortoise re-release series, part 6 – Beacons Of Ancestorship (revisited)

Thrill Jockey

After the, quite frankly, cheesy and banal efforts from Tortoise on their previous album It’s All Around You, it was understandable if one found themselves without their hopes raised for Beacons Of Ancestorship, released in 2009. However, it comes as a relief to report that this is a vast improvement on the album beforehand; and is also a work that sees the band branching out into new territory without the tendency to repeatedly fall back on familiar tropes like they did on Standards from 2001.

They open confidently with “High Class Slim Floatin’ In,” all La Düsseldorf-esque motorik drums and fuzzy guitar riffs. The Krautrock references don’t end there as the synth melodies resemble Harmonia. In fact it appears that Tortoise had dragged

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Tortoise re-release series, part 5 – It’s All Around You

Thrill Jockey

Tortoise’s fifth album, It’s All Around You from 2004, tells the listener from the outset that they are in for no surprises whatsoever. On previous albums; and especially with the proceeding Standards, Tortoise showed that they were a band who could take off into several directions. Unfortunately with It’s All Around You they made it absolutely clear that they chose the most tedious and uninspiring one.

The album cover is a dead giveaway as well, recalling the awful Athena poster look of the artwork on albums by bands such as Weather Report. The music also resembles the smug Jazz Fusion of Weather Report. Cloying guitar melodies nuzzle up with an over-familiar use of the vibraphone in what is

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Tortoise re-release series, part 4 – Standards

Thrill Jockey

The way Tortoise opens Standards, their fourth album, suggest that they want to have some fun with the listener’s possible preconceptions. The buzz and hum of a guitar amp makes way for a bombastic passage of music wholly unlike what Tortoise are known for. It could be that they’re poking fun at their own reputation for subdued, restrained compositions. Or indeed it could be a wider swipe at the whole ‘post rock’ genre in general; a term that makes the band bristle.

This anthemic opening sequence of “Seneca” sounds more like MC5 or The Stooges; a large dose of psychedelics mixed in with garage rock fuzz. However, it is a false start; which cements the notion

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Earth – Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light II

Southern Lord

It’s long been traditional for “psychedelic, stoner, trippy, headfuck or whatever you want to call it” music, for the most part, to deal in Space. From Sun Ra to Chrome Hoof, from Sunn0))) to Hawkwind, the imagery’s been of space travel, or the void, or Heavenly light. And to be honest, Earth have also dealt in this, their monolithic and lazy-but-intense pace conjuring up visions of the planet rotating in that void. But even as their music becomes more palatable, more “mainstream”, if that’s even a thing, they’ve chosen to go underground in the most archaeological sense of the word.

The clues have been there, of course. From the very name of the band (which

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Shackleton – Music For The Quiet Hour / The Drawbar Organ EPs

Woe To The Septic Heart!

I miss Coil.

If that seems like speculative disrespect in this context then it’s not meant to be. Lots of this might even be Coil, since I’ve never been convinced that they’ve gone. The meat may have died but the spirits remain, flying. I hate the phrase channelling because it’s not true; those that think they’re channelling are often merely copying, repeating spectral phrases without spectral phrasing but… there’s a touch of Coil around the eyes. Someone else missed them too, perhaps.

I got this as a solid, bandwidth-worrying lump of MP3s so didn’t come to it in the ‘right’ order; I don’t think it matters. Each piece slides in

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Tortoise re-release series, part 3 – TNT

Thrill Jockey

When TNT came out, some of the band members mentioned whilst interviewed that using Pro Tools had given them too many options, and that they had feared at one point that the album would lack direction. Lacking direction would be a harsh criticism for TNT, however it could definitely be said that it’s a sprawling album, and can become aimless and like something akin to sonic wallpaper from time to time.

By now listeners knew what to expect from Tortoise, and indeed the opening track “TNT” delivered their trademark sound. Relatively upbeat, pretty serious and muso, it opens with jazzy drum frills which give way to a guitar riff straight from the band’s workbook. Dubby effects and muted horn riffs come into play in what

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Tortoise re-release series, part 2 – Millions Now Living Will Never Die

Thrill Jockey

By the time the second Tortoise album appeared on the scene, there seemed to be an inordinate amount of time dedicated to the discussion as to whether they were in the spirit of Prog, or Krautrock.

This debate seems a little perplexing now, especially when one remembers that Tortoise started operations in the early to mid 90s. However, it’s important to remember that the year Millions Now Living Will Never Die was released, 1996, was just a year after Julian Cope released the Krautrocksampler book; and it had become de rigueur for rock albums with a leftfield bent to be compared to the radical music that hailed from Germany during the late 60s and early 70s.

It seemed that much

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Tortoise re-release series, part 1 – Tortoise

Thrill Jockey

The arrival of Tortoise brought along a discussion surrounding the widespread use of a new genre term that described a supposedly emerging musical genre. The term was ‘post-rock’ and, at the time, seemed to be the focus for as much debate as the band were themselves.

Supposedly coined by music journalist Simon Reynolds, the term appeared to be much maligned at the time. Deemed as po-faced, as was much of the music which fell under the banner, it shared space in the musical room of shame alongside IDM (intelligent dance music); surely the most irritating of all genre titles.

Reynolds first used this term when reviewing the Bark Psychosis album Hex for The Wire; and indeed post-rock was initially attributed to the British underground

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Bong – Mana-Yood-Sushai

Ritual Productions

The drone is king, it calls from the high mountain tops, it echoes in the valleys, it is the sound of ancient ritual or the smell of incense from temples, long may the drone exist.

Bong have had number of releases over the past couple of years, many of them in limited editions; this is their second release on Ritual Productions and consists of two tracks that last about 46 minutes in total.

Track 1 “Dreams of Mana Yood Sushai” starts with a low sitar like drone like a voice humming from the Himalayas calling people to prayer. A heavy bass riff begins to take over; this is joined by a clattering of drums, all keeping a funeral procession pace swathed in reverb from the

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Maria And The Mirrors – Gemini Enjoy My Life

Exotic Pylon

Jonny Mugwump’s label is throwing up some breathless oddbits. Every release is a tabula rasa, a slash and burn policy. Exotic Pylon is as fidgety as the radio show, a spastic in space and time and genre (never truly separated). He’s releasing stuff like a psychedelic squid. So far (and this is just the stuff I’ve managed to keep up with) there’s been the sweetly benevolent soaring of Gentleforce, the ‘kangaroos loose in top paddock’ hip-slop of Infinite Livez, the mental jungle concrete of Ronny Juzzle, a resurgent Band Of Holy Joy (he kept hearing them when others turned away; and he was right) and now… this.

Maria and The Mirrors have been described by Johnny as “two

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Lee Hazlewood – The LHI Years: Singles, Nudes & Backsides (1966-71)

Light In The Attic

The Seventies’ favourite candy-coloured California cowboy, Lee Hazlewood stands alongside the likes of Leonard Cohen and Serge Gainsbourg in his stature (if not physically) as one of those perennially louche raconteurs of the counterculture whose influence has accumulated and expanded over the passing decades. The throaty baritone, the whiskey and tear-stained sheets, the twang and strum of a full-spectrum pop sound which still managed to be imbued with a quintessence of the stories which the American pop-cultural elite (and they were an elite) told to and about themselves and spread across the wing-collared, bead-fringed world until it became the accepted face of what the Seventies meant to the popular imagination.

This collection of solos and duets

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Comus – Out of the Coma

Rise Above (12″)/Coptic Cat (CD)

It was 1974 when Comus, after two truly blood-curdling albums (1971’s First Utterance and 1974’s To Keep From Crying), retreated to his woodland bower, lay down in a mossy hollow and went to sleep. Those recordings had been barely understood at the time, their power and strange attraction undeniable, yet somehow they remained too demonic, too priapic, to be embraced by those frightened of the twisted, leering face and the danse macabre melodies. The time of Comus had not yet come.

Before the decade was out, though, the landscape around the forest had changed beyond all recognition, whether through the angry thunderhead of Punk ripping apart Rock’s progressive trajectory, or the emergence of Chaos Magick leading away from the old

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