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Tal National – Kaani

FatCat

Tal National - KaaniBlurbgloss: Niger, cheap gear, poor part of the world. Seems like Tal National are more like a big band (shifting members) than a group/band per se. As with proper parts of the world with a decent live music culture (e.g., everywhere other than the UK), they play five hours sets most nights. It seems like they’ve been popular for a fair while and, as with a million places the world over, the world stage is none the wiser.

Now. With a lot of stuff from traditions outside of Europe, there’s a bit of a critical gap when talking about the music – the sort of stuff that’d orient my talking about it – knowing the cultural background and the geo-political status of traditional music is missing. Here though, it’s not as missing as it was with

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Mainliner (live at The Thekla)

Mainliner - Thekla 27 September 2013Bristol 27 September 2013

This trio were incredible! The noise flowing from them was full on, bouncing with a rip cord of incentive and bold colour. A lock-horned, tri-cornered combo of gristly riffs going off into wah-wah Hendrix hedonism. Drums becoming bass, guitar chiselling percussion; a bewildering soup of pure energy, blissfully heavy in the repetition department, spurring off into delicious landslides of angles and tempos.

Just as you thought you had a handle on Mainliner, they’d slip out that frame completely and dose you from a different perspective. Cutting back into a plodding mellow gothicness, the drums peppering the swinging forecourt of bassy flesh and Kawabata Makoto tang with a doomic expectant heart. A lush sensibility swaayyyyyying like a python round a half bottle

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Comus/Shirley Collins/Stephanie Hladowski & Chris Joynes (live at Islington Assembly Rooms)

London 21 September 2013

It is a mild, early autumn Saturday night and Upper Street is the very picture of modern urban revelry. Outside the doorways of fashionable bars and clubs, the pavements are clotted with thick knots of drinkers and smokers, the ‘dun-tsch, dun-tsch, dun-tsch’ beat of anonymous dance music bleeding out from their dimly-lit interiors into the warm evening air.

There is scarcely a free chair around the outside tables of the chi-chi restaurants, every surface groaning under cornucopia of plenty: pan seared scallops, herb roasted pork tenderloin and quinoa-crusted plaice, chilled Chablis and Blue Mountain double espresso. Everywhere stand men with casually unbuttoned striped shirts and hair thick with extra-hold gel, whilst women with glowing blonde hair and micro-skirts totter atop their high heels. An enormous shocking pink stretch Hummer glides past, one of its darkened rear windows lowered as a girl clutching a precarious flute of

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Zombie Zombie (live at Birthdays)

Etienne Jaumet of Zombie Zombie live at Birthdays September 2013London 18 September 2013

Zombie Zombie is an enigma. They are neither straight ahead progressive rock like near-namesake Zombi, nor either are they jazz or even space disco, but somehow an odd amalgamation of all three. Yes, they are a synth- and percussion-based band, but there is so much more in there. This was reflected in the audience that turned up tonight; there were prog rockers, synth nerds, someone wearing a Jean Michel Jarre t-shirt and yes, some hipsters as well.

For this tour (as with the last one as well) drummer Cosmic Neman is augmented by a second drummer to add extra power to the percussion and push the songs forward with more force. Etienne Jaumet stands behind

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Stephan Mathieu – The Falling Rocket

Dekorder

Stephan Mathieu - The Falling RocketOn The Falling Rocket, sound sculptor Stephan Mathieu weaves a deft tapestry of astral drones, using a rather rudimentary array of Farfisa organ, mechanical gramophone and radio waves, all punched into a MAX/MSP patch and slurred up nicely. These musical drones will leave you seeing stars.

So what is a drone? In music, it is a note or tone sustained continuously throughout a piece, and drone music is a minimalist musical style that emphasizes the use of sustained or repeated sounds, notes, or tone clusters. LaMonte Young called it “the sustained tone branch of minimalism”. In short, very long ‘songs’ where very little happens, shifting subtly and nearly inaudibly. It is a listening experience far-removed from the melodies and hookiness of pop, and needs

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Banco de Gaia – Ollopa: Apollo Remixed

Disco Gecko

Banco de Gaia - OllopaThe moon is a strange mistress. She is the one object in the universe that controls more of what happens here on Earth than any other celestial body. She controls the tides on our planet and has been worshipped by many in the past and even still today. The remix of Toby Marks’ last album sings hymns to the lunar where the original album joyously chanted to Sol.

Tripswitch’s remix of the original album’s closing tune “Acquiescence” is quite sublime. It is a night time chill out; it is the soundtrack to watching the moon rise above the Parthenon. Warm synth pads ooze over hand drums and soft vocals call out into the warm night air. Tripswitch has made the track seem

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UnicaZürn (live at The Horse Hospital)

UnicaZürn Horse Hospital September 2013 London 14 September 2013

Loving this place, that subterranean cellar-like vibe; cobbles, cast iron pillars, oozes a Dickensian charm that no doubt Messers. Thrower and Knight approve of. On arrival, their musical wares are already set up on three tables, a tidy synth and keyboard sandwich a percussive jumble filling, the screen flickers with the slo-mo refractions of underwater legs and creamy ceramics.

UnicaZürn Horse Hospital September 2013 - 3There’s a long pre-show wait, having cut through London at a surprisingly swift pace. We amuse ourselves. Spurred on by spotting Karl Blake on the guestlist, the dizzy array of bearded

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Oh, Yoko – I Love You

Normal Cookie

Oh, Yoko - I Love YouA brushstroke painting of a cherry blossom landscape/ dance floor abandon = = > “i need a christmas tree”

Will Long and Rie Mitsutake create a slice-of-life synth folk sound collage on their own label, Normal Cookie.

With Oh, Yoko the pair were interested in exploring the openness of creativity in captured moments of a simple home and city life. Towards this goal, Long and Mitsutake began by playing about on vintage instruments, mostly analog synths but some rickety strings and toys as well, and letting that control the direction the ‘songs’ (read:sound movements) would take. A lot of the sounds that would make it onto the record are used more as interesting textures, or noises, than simply for their melodic content. Because of this, I Love You feels more like

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Chris Watson – In St Cuthbert’s Time

Touch

Chris Watson – In St Cuthbert’s TimeIf you have ever scanned the technical credits of television programmes as they glide slowly past in the wake of the action, chances are you will have seen the names of either Ken Morse or Chris Watson, or both. Morse is sometimes reckoned to be the most credited cameraman in history, so often have his rostrum camera skills contributed to the jewels that fall from the small screen. Watson’s incredible close-mic sound work, similarly, has appeared across a staggering continuum of radio and television broadcasting, particularly in arena of natural sound, from Bill Oddie’s Springwatch to David Attenborough’s The Life of Birds. Truly Watson has an embarrassment of riches: generally regarded as one of the most gifted and creative sound recordists in the business, not only are his wildlife recordings techniques without peer,

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Rovo and System 7 – Phoenix Rising

G-Wave/Cleopatra (North America)

Rovo and System 7 - Phoenix RisingAfter reviewing the Hinotori single earlier this year I’ve been looking forward to the album release as the tracks on the EP blew me away. So it was with trepidation that I placed the CD into the player and pressed play. I certainly didn’t expect to be instantly transported to another galaxy.

The album begins with an extended version of “Hinotori,” and from the opening cosmic synth pads twittering as if they are a satellite to a giant planet to when Steve Hillage’s signature psychedelic guitar hits in you are already to blast off to another world. The drums scatter around as the guitar takes up a rather grandiose melody. The whole thing sounds uplifting; almost an ode of joy to

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Mythos – Surround Sound Evolution

Sireena

Mythos – Surround Sound EvolutionSurround Sound Evolution finds Mythos making music the size of planetariums, and this is an album filled with massive synths that take you on a tour of the universe.

Following on from 2008’s Surround Sound Offensive, opening track “Surround Sound Passion” builds its layers of synths into a strong melody as electronic glitches add percussion beneath. The track feels like the opening titles of a sci-fi movie and hints well at what is to come. “Roots and Rocks” is the sound of travelling over a vast plateau on the moon. Its tune, vibrating off the rocks around, giving the forward momentum of moving amongst this vast landscape. “Mythosiaka” bubbles with energy, but yet again Stephan Kaske concentrates on melody over everything else. The track sweeps

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Unicorn Hard-On – Weird Universe

Editions Mego

Unicorn Hard-On - Weird UniverseUnicorn Hard-On is a solo project of one Valerie Martino. She’s a great rhythm chaser, tugging those dry arithmetical presets in a piranha splattered synapse of pulsing inputs. Now, I’ve got to admit, I’m not the greatest dance music devotee but Weird Universe is certainly throwing enough solid hooks and neon-splashed chameleons to satisfy my curiosity.

It seems to be diving straight out of the charity shop door with a trolley full of ’80s extended mix culture surprised to find itself on a future high-street of déjà vu backslashes and trance-like blisters. A heady gyro-infatuated joy to the ears, twitching with vitality. Those layered-up beats and pulsing percussions all tentacle wrapping in oily skating hues, like some liquidised rainbow of sensation, every

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Godspeed You! Black Emperor/Gate (live at Musicfest NW)

Roseland Theater Portland, Oregon 6 September 2013

The double-billing of noise guitar legends Gate, the solo project of Michael Morley of The Dead C, and the newly rejuvenated Godspeed You! Black Emperor on a Friday night at one of the United States’ largest music festivals was an act of bold and challenging programming that should further Musicfest NW‘s reputation not only as a world class music festival, but also as a cultural force to be reckoned with.

Lady H. and I arrived early, after a Foods Stamp dinner at Whole Foods, and engaged in the time-honored tradition of standing around watching the punters, sprawled out on the wide-open floor of Portland’s Roseland Theater. I hadn’t been to the Roseland since my first few days living in the City Of Roses this time ’round, when I reviewed the mighty Neurosis at Musicfest NW two years ago. My head was swimming with

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ANTA – Centurionaut

Thrones & Dominions

Anta - Centurionauttl;dr – the sort of prog album that’ll tickle prog-fanciers silly, and the sort of album that sounds enough like not-prog to get the less proggy involved.

ANTA, née Snakes on a Plane, which I’m sure they’ll appreciate being reminded of. Second album, but they’re all been around Bristol and Bath for something like a thousand years in something like a million bands, many of which were brilliant but under-recognised (Loxondonta anyone? Thought not)

I’m in the position of being aware of the various members’ work for a fair while now, and I’m while much of their work was great, Centurionaut is a MASSIVE step up for them. It’s always been a case of “yeah, that’s alright, I’d punt a fiver on that,”

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The House In The Woods – Bucolica/Maeror Tri – Meditamentum

Exotic Pylon/Zoharum

The House In The Woods – BucolicaThese are separated by time and space (never separable, never suited) but are nevertheless kin – in Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color they would be pigs and people, skin-bonded, worm-tailed, consciousness-sharing. I guess they are both broadly branches of that jagged, never truly existing, tree called ‘dark ambient’ (a tree that confounds at every twist, that seemingly can’t die because it has roots in the infinite itself) but don’t let that put you off; there’s dark magic in these woods.

There’s a lot of terrible music released in this genre and lots of normally pretty good dark ambient bands put out the odd duff release (yes, you could say this about every genre but in my world, where this

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