Archives by month/year

Swans (live at Koko)

Koko, London 15 November 2012

Following their new album, The Seer, Swans first live performance in London for two years was genuinely eagerly awaited. The second album from the ‘reactivated’ Swans had shown that despite, or indeed because of, the long break they were still capable of producing innovative music that defies comparison with any of their contemporaries. Swans reputation as live performers goes before them, and a performance including material from the demanding and yet uplifting new album held the promise of being a particularly special event.

I have never been to a gig with such a palpable sense of anticipation. Every corner and balcony at Koko was packed and the nervous excitement of the crowd communicated an intense expectation of a spiritual experience, rather than just a gig. Sir Richard Bishop’s low key but powerful warm up set the bar high and served to crank up the

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An interview with Silver Apples

Freq talks to Simeon Coxe of Silver Apples

Eastern Bloc Records, Manchester, 1988.

Quietly, amidst the bursting green shoots of the newly emergent dance music culture, Suicide have just released the magnificent A Way of Life, their first new album in eight years. It may as well have been 80 years, so long ago does 1980 now seem. A callow 20-year old, I am queuing in Eastern Bloc Records – at that time teetering on the cusp of its time as arguably the hippest record ship in the UK – clutching a fresh vinyl copy in one hand, and some specially-withdrawn bank notes in the other.

The shop’s owner Martin Price, a prime mover behind local heroes 808 State, was justifiably famed for the often scathing judgements he would pass on buyer’s purchases when serving them at the counter. Many an embarrassed punter slunk out of the shop, emasculated and

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Nektar – A Spoonful of Time


Cover version albums are always an odd thing. People will either complain if tracks don’t sound close enough to the original songs or sound too different from the original versions, so bands who do them are always in a no-win situation. The best things to do is to try and ‘own’ the tracks themselves and make them yours – after all, some bands covers have outstripped and outsold the originals. Are these sorts of albums necessary? Probably not, for instance most people don’t hail Bowie’s Pin Ups album as work of genius. But these records do give bands a bit of breathing space (and to be fair probably a lot of fun) in between recording their own material. Some of Nektar’s takes on

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Circle – Hissi/Fraten


Following on from their debut album Meronia (originally released in 1994) come two more remastered and re-released albums from 1997. For a goodly chunk of Meronia, Circle seemed to be wanting to show themselves as Finland’s very own Loop-worshipping post-metal dudes on a mission to out “Arc-Lite” the template of heavy-riffing guitars in collision with the metronomic sound of Munich, Cologne and Düsseldorf some twenty years earlier, all wind-machine vocals and burbling synths riding on a thundering surf wash of fuzz and wah. However, the later Circle showed themselves to be on a far stranger trip, bringing in strings and other things (such as latter-day vocalist Mika Rätto‘s strangulated operatic vocals, which could equally soar as throttle gutturally) to complement the pounding toms and

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Agitation Free (live at the Jazz Café)

The Jazz Café, London 10 November 2012

Anyone who knows anything about Krautrock will already know that Agitation Free were one of the most significant bands during the early ’70s in Germany. They will also know that both Manuel Göttsching and Christopher Franke are included amongst their alumni, and that the three albums that make up the core of their discography, Malesch, Second and Last, are some of the most accomplished psychedelic music ever to come out of Germany. Everyone else will mutter incoherently about something called a motorik drum beat and analogue synthesisers and other stuff that is more relevant to the ’90s bands that aped Neu! than about the progressive music that was coming out of Germany during this period.

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Photek – KU:PALM

Photek Productions

I was surprised to hear that Photek had released a new album – somewhere along the line I had heard that he had hung up his Sennheisers. When Freq asked for a review it was with some trepidation that I took it on. When someone has withdrawn from the scene at the top of their game, the inevitable question is whether their return will be triumphant or ignoble. The return of Photek takes us back in time, not to the drum and bass era which he did so much to shape, but even earlier to mine a rich seam of electro, house and techno grooves, invoking classic dance music vibes but with the same originality and technical excellence that marked his heyday

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Mugstar – Axis


Anyone wondering what kind of album Mugstar would follow up the far-out and extra solid Lime and the soundtrack to Ad Margineum can now find out. Lime was the point at which all the ideas heard floating around (and sometimes above) …Sun, Broken… and Mugstar coalesced into something greater than the sum total of the band’s reference points (of which let’s just mention Hawkwind, NEU! and The Heads for starters).

A surge of what have by all accounts been mind-blowing live shows has obviously strengthened Mugstar’s musical musculature, because Axis kicks off with an oiled tone on the guitars and smoothly-pulverising bass rumbles as the drums propel the workout into the supremely weighty “Black Fountain;” just the bass guitar here alone is

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Fushitsusha/John Butcher/Temperatures (live at St John at Hackney)

London. 5 October 2012

Keiji Haino’s trademark wall-of-guitar noise, with its many layers and overtones, often puts me in mind of church organ music at its loudest and most resonant. so this mightily atmospheric and imposing place of worship felt like an oddly appropriate setting for his fabled power trio Fushitsusha’s headline slot at this triple bill.

First up were Temperatures, a bass/drums duo who took your jaded been-there-heard-that correspondents by complete surprise. Put simply: they don’t sound much like anything else, rather they seem to occupy some ruptured gap between genres, and they are brilliant. Astonishing fluid polyrhythms topped off with chanted underwater vocals, locked tight in a shambolic shudder, grounded with precision bass kicks. The best new band either of us have seen in a very long

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Ahmed Abdul Malik/Chick Ganimian – Oud Vibrations


Oud Vibrations. It’s a pun, you see? You do? Good. So, the fluff is that these are two of the earlier ventures by jazz hands into Arabic lands and this is a two LPs on one CD of two chaps who worked with Arabic stylings. There’s a faint sense that they’re both jazz sorts borrowing from Arabic ideas, but it’s essentially two fairly different records.

So, I’m sure everyone really enjoys the caveats around authenticity, but let’s ignore that momentarily – these were among the first ventures in the late ’50s and, while there’s mild intercessions of chintzy easy listening, there’s enough full-blooded material here to keep this CD away from the faffier side of your collection. Some of the tunes have Western tonality on Eastern instruments, some of

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Nurse With Wound – A Sucked Orange/Scrag


Really glad to get a proper chance to listen to this again – disc rot, the scourge of so many early World Serpent gems (the un-initiated should see here) and barmy auction prices have totally scuppered my chances to get re-acquainted with its Frankensteined charms until now. Dirter, those bastions of the unusual, have done a sterling job of dragging A Sucked Orange back into the light with silky packaging that feels almost fetishistic, paring the bitter sweetness of the original together with the Scrag cassette on a second disc, another compilation (or should that be complication) of mis-shapes from around the same period. Overlapping content that acts like a remix of the first disc, embellished in extra wilting petals…

Like a Nurse with

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Günter Schickert – HaHeHiHo


VCO is a label that specialises in limited cassette-only releases. They have released tapes by Zombi, Majeure, Steve Moore and Jonas Reindhart, with most of these editions running between the 50 to 100 copies mark. This edition of music recorded in 1996 by Schickert has had a hundred copies made.*

The album opens with “Morning,” tablas and percussion building a steady rhythm under an eastern-sounding guitar fugue to make the piece sound like an early morning raga. Günter Schickert’s guitar is crystal clear and gives the feeling of temples at dawn. “Sieben” starts with a vicious synthesizer arpeggio while other electronic noises bleep over the top and the guitar hits odd flanged notes – the sound is not unlike Ash Ra Tempel’s later

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Kemper Norton – Carn+Collision / Detection v6 EPs

(self-released)/Front & Follow

It makes sense to review these together, since whatever the actual chronology of these songs, one begat another. They are linked to each other by a strange umbilicus, a slurry wurm of flesh. The self-released Carn shows us the Coilish side of Kemper Norton’s sound; the voices here are muttered, liminal (everything’s liminal these days), lurking around in the dark. One track in and the loops are occasionally intersected with electronic scribbles and then leavened with added orchestral drone and beautiful hums. This all makes a perfect kind of sense if you imagine this is as a direct extension of the attempt at folk on Coil’s Solstice releases. “Dorcus” is a premonition of the Collision/Detection EP, a song I first heard

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Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra (live at Koko)

Koko, London 23 October 2012

When I said I’d review this gig, even though I have seen Amanda Palmer several times before, I really didn’t think through what I was letting myself in for.

Let me explain. I pre-ordered the tickets for this show on the first day they were available. I like music, a lot. I like going to gigs. But this was different. I am a big fan of Amanda Palmer. I really wanted to be at this gig. I backed the kickstarter. I’d been at Heaven In September 2011 when the proto-Grand Theft Orchestra had made their first stage appearance in London. I was psyched to be doing this.

And of course this was not just a gig. Amanda Palmer is a true curator of her shows. I’m not trying to use that hipster-faux term in either a derogatory or flippant way. This is art. This is

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Magma – Félicité Thösz


In a time when most CD albums stretch beyond the 60 minute mark, to receive an album with only two tracks that lasts a mere 32 minutes seems rather odd. But what we have to remember here is that this is not any ordinary 32 minutes, it is 32 minutes of Magma, which is the equivalent to 70 by a lot of other artists. From its opening you soon realise that you are going to be transported to another planet for the next half an hour.

Félicité Thösz is a 28 minute epic split into ten parts that presents Magma at their most monumentally cosmic. “Ëkmah” opens with ethereal vocals chords before the drums and voices hit in to make you jump from

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Isis – Temporal


A lot has been written and said about the importance of Isis, that rare breed of heavy band who not only garnered widespread critical acclaim in the metal world but also succeeded as a crossover act, appealing to fans of shoegaze, post-rock, avant-garde and beyond. This crossover appeal, combined with vocalist/guitarist Aaron Turner’s (now sadly soon-to-be defunct) label Hydra Head Industries introduced the more curious fan to a whole new world of serious heavy music and did a hell of a lot to add some much-needed credibility to these oft-ridiculed genres (anyone with some spare change should visit their webstore to help them pay remaining bands/bills before they close for good).

The announcement of their intention to split in 2010 was met with shock by

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