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Bobby Conn (live at The Lexington)

London 23 June 2013

There is a particularly caustic line in “Losing My Edge,” LCD Soundsystem’s scathing critique of changing musical fashion, that sums up perfectly much of what happened between the mid Nineties and the early Noughties:

I hear that you and your band have sold your guitars and bought turntables. I hear that you and your band have sold your turntables and bought guitars.

After 1994, with Cobain dead by his own hand and Sonic Youth showing the first signs of possible early-onset senility with the lacklustre Experiment Jet Set, Trash and No Star (thankfully a rather premature diagnosis), guitar music seemed to be everywhere in retreat. In so many places it was in a sorry state, lying in the gutter with a stake through its heart. As nature abhors a vacuum, it became instead an era of massed turntablism, of solitary combat-trousered figures hunched

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Colleen – Weighing of the Heart

Second Language

Colleen - The Weighing of the Heart Every now and then, when I need to kill sometime on the internet, I have a checklist of web sites that I’ll go through and have a peek at. The website of Cécile Schott’s project Colleen is one of them. From my sporadic infrequent checks I’d noticed that it had been notably gathering cobwebs from the web spiders (bad cyber-spiel joke). Then a post appeared in August 2011 that was titled “A long account of why I’ve been Silent” Amongst other things, it explains a moment, while on tour where Mrs Schott lost all recognition of where she was.

“It was one of those moments when suddenly you realize that something has to change.”

Personally speaking this happens to me on

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Master Musicians Of Bukkake – Far West

Important

Master Musicians Of Bukkake - Far WestMysterious Seattle collective Master Musicians Of Bukkake return to the fold after the conclusion of their highly regarded Totem trilogy. Comprising of largely Eastern-tinged soundscapes and ‘ritualised’ music, Totems One, Two and Three are albums that I repeatedly return to, such is the quality and diversity of sounds and ideas on each.

The concept behind new release Far West is the idea that the traveller seeking new sounds journeys so far East that he finds himself West. “White Mountain Return” opens proceedings with a burst of almost Lightning Bolt-esque electronic noise and it’s immediately evident that we are no longer in Totem territory here. Ominous synths appear like some ’70s soundtrack (MMOB have admitted to taking inspiration from various soundtracks from that era,

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The Ex with Brass Unbound – Enormous Door

The Ex

The Ex with Brass Unbound - Enormous DoorTo say that Enormous Door is a classic Ex record, combined with a mighty Afrobeat brass section, would be accurate, but it would also be a copout. What, you might ask, comprises a classic Ex record? Well, one would expect furious, churning polyrhythms, courtesy of drum windmill Katherina Barnefield, married to Andy Moor‘s atonal, cheese-grater guitar, with alternating barked/sung and sing-song nursery rhyme vocals, typically of the anarchist/post-Marxist school. See, The Ex are probably the most brilliant scintillation to explode from Crass’ roman candle, changing everybody’s perception of what it meant to be a punk. Free jazz, folk songs, spoken-word poetry, performance art… anything goes. You make yr own rules.

The first paragraph of the press release

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Pieter Nooten – Haven

Rocket Girl

Pieter Nooten - HavenI’m loving the sustained landscaping on this, those puckerings of melodious highlights and zithery arpeggios seemingly shivering out of a slowly clearing mist. That highly composed filmic vibe that transcends time, as if caught in the yearning crystallisation of the moment. A perpetual dawn with contemplative glints of sensation magnified on accents of piano, cello and some rather unusual if subtle processing.

Born completely from a computer, this unique brew seems to have effectively erased its binary origins, to produce a warm and overtly human three way of neo-classical, ambient drone and electronica that can’t be easily pigeonholed. There’s obviously a lot of work gone into this, even if it all seems so effortless… natural… as if it just fell into place rather

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Günter Schickert – Samtvogel

Important

Günter Schickert - SamtvogelWhere do I begin – with a simple statement perhaps? Like “this is one of the most important Krautrock albums made during the ’70s,” perhaps? It certainly stands singular amongst most of it contemporaries at the time (1974); it is unique and it’s difficult when reviewing it to find cultural points of reference to allude to. But here goes…

“Apricot Brandy” starts the album. The track is unbelievably subtle and quiet, almost ambient in its mood (this before Brian Eno came up with ambient music as a genre). Its soft vocals lure you into a strange world. Guitars rattle, but through so much echo that they clatter around the walls sounding like particles from space hitting the atmosphere. The bass stays low and almost drones in

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Rovo and System 7 – Hinotori EP

A-Wave

Rovo & System 7 - Hintori EPWhen I first slipped the disc into the player I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this collaboration between Japan’s psychedelic jam band Rovo and the wonderful blissful dance tunes of System 7, but it was certainly nothing quite like this.

The opening track “Hinotori” (in its single edit) is a drum-pounding freak out. Mystical synths hangs in the background and sometimes swirl space rock style. Steve Hillage’s guitar work is monumental and caresses the track in the only way he can. But it’s those beautiful rhythmic drums that shoulder the piece and the amazing bass riff lodges nicely underneath the psychedelic mayhem. The music has an uplifting, almost transcendental feel to it and I can imagine when it’s played live

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The Handsome Family (live at Islington Assembly Rooms)

London 29 May 2013

The Handsome Family tour poster 2013Recently refurbished and nicely polished, the venue presents a fairly comfortable setting for seeing The Handsome Family. The audience is calm and collected, fairly covered in beards and almost certainly here straight from work. One gets into an involuntary beard comparison routine right away and my own observation is that they’ve definitely outdone Brett Sparks, who seems to have had a pretty neat and tidy trim compared to his recent publicity photos. I wonder if all those other guys are disappointed.

Husband and wife Brett and Rennie take the stage without any long delays, (I suppose there were no puppies backstage this year) and delve directly into “Octopus.” They play it somewhat faster than on record, with Rennie making

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Date Palms – The Dusted Sessions

Thrill Jockey

Date Palms - The Dusted SessionsThe name of the band and the album gives the game away, as perhaps it should, and the cover image of two musicians walking away towards a line of telegraph poles near-hidden in a dustcloud certainly helps too. The music by Date Palms is immediately suggestive of the desert fringes, of the places where sandy dryness meets welcome verdant relief, of Joshua Tree or the scrublands of Southern California, the Sahel of north Africa and the encroaching dryness of the Mediterranean basin: the interstices where there is enough water to support life but not enough for greenery to rule.

As with the dustbowl introspection of fellow-travellers Om, Date Palms like their tones low and slow. Mournful bass and windswept cello weave their

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Graham Bowers and Nurse With Wound – Parade/Diploid

Red Wharf

Nurse With Wound & Graham Bowers ‎- ParadeOnly listened to this twice so far, but I must say its miles more entertaining than the previous Graham Bowers collaboration Rupture. Gone are the studious symphonics, favourably replaced by liberating wonky oompha chip-chop that scatters the wares more psychsomatically without labouring any fixed point..

“Off to Hell on a Handcart” (seriously loving these track titles) is stereophonically awry, a slippery mess of Michael Jackson moonwalk on a blancmange pavement of pomposity. An erroneous comedy monkeying around with your cranium like old-fashioned ‘Wound used to, before everything got protracted and drone swept. There’s too much going on, not that I’m complaining, Mr Stapleton and company haven’t been this satisfyingly doodah since The Surveillance Lounge. A welcome return to form me thinks, as my head feels that it’s swimming in too

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Life Coach – Alphawaves

Thrill Jockey

Life Coach - AlphawavesPhil Manley will already be known to fans of Total Music as a key member of the groups Trans Am and The Fucking Champs. To those of you who really keep your eye on the ball, you will also know that he released a solo album in 2011 called Life Coach. It is not that Life Coach but his new band Life Coach and their début album that we are concerned with in this review.

As the name might suggest there is an overarching journey running through this album. This journey is human potential, optimisation, excellence and a free gym pass when you sign up for a whole year of the programme. Manley is joined for the duration by drummer Jon Theodore of Queens of

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oMMM – Re-Animator Vol. 1

Exotic Pylon

oMMM - Re-Animator vol 1One year, for Christmas, due to extreme poverty, I had no choice but to make all my Christmas presents. I had finally got my hands on some rudimentary recording equipment, and set about making my friends homemade, heartfelt, brutal noise recordings. I made a CD-R of close-mic’ed electric tea kettle recordings: 12 minutes of churning ferric cacophony. When asked, my friend replied: “Yeah, it’s good, but it’s not really the kind of thing I LISTEN to.”

With Re-Animator Vol. 1, the question lingers: do you like to listen to machines? Edmund Davie takes the listener on a guided tour of three decades of underground electronic sounds, as filtered through an introverted, nocturnal lens. These are the sounds of a lone soul, caressing the oscillators

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Savages/Bo Ningen (live at The Red Gallery)

London 29 May 2013

Savages ask for no picturesIt’s a Wednesday night in London’s hideously wanky Shoreditch, and we’re in an art gallery, and nobody’s really sure what to expect. Current music media darlings Savages and the achingly hip Bo Ningen have united to give us what they describe as a “sonic simultaneous poem”, and “a unique EXPERIMENTATION inspired by the early DADA concept of SIMULTANEOUS POETRY”. Seems like the only thing- well, two things, really – that can save this from being a terminal arsefest are the twin facts that, despite being cursed with both hipness and critical acclaim, both Savages and Bo Ningen are really, really good bands.

All dressed in black, they take the stage, part-adversarial (the bands are, for the most part, lined up

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Nochexxx – Greatest Record

Nochexxx

Nochexxx - Greatest RecordI could use Nochexxx to teach Freud and ambivalence. Everything I’ve heard seems to be gnashing against the groove, as if he’s almost willing to let fly and be techno, disco etc but there’s a thick seam of Super(fly)ego holding him back at the last moment and sending him spinning off into far more interesting territories. Nochexxx is close to being a superstar DJ but these twists and turns he puts his music through make the distorting mirror of the Self something he can’t escape. Nochexxx would be rich and famous if he wasn’t Nochexxx.

The fact that this is a tape tells us everything; this isn’t a loose engagement with fashion, an attempt to go retro; the tape is Nochexxx and always has been. Nochexxx is a singular entity, immune (or trying to stay immune) to the

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Brainticket – Cottonwoodhill

Cleopatra

Brainticket - CottonwoodhillThe sleeve of this release says: “After Listening to this Record, your friends may not know you anymore” and you can see what they meant, at least in 1971 when this was first released. Cleopatra seem Hell bent on making Brainticket a thing, re-releasing their classic albums, pushing them onwards, trying to find a space for them in the world.

I always loved Celestial Oceans but didn’t actually own Cottonwoodhill, which seems a little less odd whilst retaining the “Intastellar Overdrive” era Pink Floyd groove (you can almost hear the oil projections). In fact, what I like a lot about Brainticket is the very thing that I feel holds them back from joining the Can(on) of other Krautrock ‘legends’ – they sound like they don’t really know what they’re doing and are just… doing it anyway. In

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