Archives by month/year

Loop (live at Doug Fir Lounge)

Portland, OR 16 May 2014

After several weeks of attending the vaunted interior of Mississippi Studios, it seem that the calendar had skipped from 1963 to 1968 or so. Maybe 1970. The flower power and idealism and utopia of bands like Acid Mothers Temple and Trans Am were replaced by benzedrine paranoia and velocity, as the intrepid Gary Oaks and myself set foot inside the infernal go-go den of the Doug Fir Lounge, right on Burnside Ave., Portland’s mainline, to see the reunited Loop’s first United States tour since 1990.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since Loop released their last full-length, A Gilded EternityLoveless hadn’t even been released yet, and it seemed that journalists were having a great time bludgeoning the burgeoning shoegaze scene. And while they termed it ‘The Scene That Celebrates Itself,” it might be more accurate to describe it as “The

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Zombie Zombie – Loubia Hamra OST


Zombie Zombie – Loubia Hamra OSTFor my first few listens of Zombie Zombie‘s soundtrack to Narimane Mari‘s film Loubia Hamra, I very deliberately didn’t make any attempt to find what the film was about, so I could do an experiment with myself and see what images the album brought to mind. Turns out it’s either a stunningly inappropriate soundtrack (which I doubt, somehow) or I’m just stunningly bad at judging films by their soundtrack, as it’s actually about children during the Algerian War of Independence, and not, as I had suspected, about either robots or beer, or possibly robots drinking beer. Perhaps I’m bringing too much baggage to this.

Suffice it to say it’s a bit of a departure for Zombie Zombie — well, to an extent, in

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London Contemporary Music Festival – Bernard Parmegiani

Second Home, London 21-23 March 2014

First off, a caveat: ever since I first heard Bernard Parmegiani‘s music, played across the speakers at the greatest and most idiosyncratic of London’s lost record shops, These Records, I have been completely hypnotised by and utterly in thrall to his strange, hypnotic sound worlds, so I apologise in advance for any further lapses into purple prose of the “sonic cathedrals of sound” variety, or for failing to observe the necessary decorum in the face of proper terminology and critical distance.

So yes, it’s with the baggage of self-consciousness and trepidation I come to this three day celebration of Parmegiani’s oeuvre, reviewing through the prism of an unabashed enthusiast and amateur theorist. Like an eager puppy at a chamber recital, so will I attempt to get to grips with Parmegiani in a spirit of wide-eyed psychedelic abandon such that the music seems to demand,

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én – op. 80530

Peripheral Conserve

én - op. 80530én‘s op. 80530 needs loudness, craves it. Minimal wares that require you to be encased in its edifice, the window-shaking physicality of its dronial weathers, a humble servant to the stretching dramatics, that bare corridor eating into the shadows like some Lynchian neurosis. Feels for the majority like a key slipping a lock whilst falling down the rabbit hole, forever dangling on hooks of expectation. It’s a classy act, the album’s screw continuously turning, the vocabulary shifting focus, perspectives turned inside out, cannibalistically burrowing deeper, bleeding with machine phantoms, suggestions that seem to dance on the bonfires of your memory.

Its atmospheres are beautifully executed, a throw of subtle umbilicals that lasso you in a slow-baked psycho shift of amplified climb and twisty

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Automat – Automat

Bureau B

Automat - S/TBerlin loves airports. Or it loved airports. Mm, I think on reflection it probably still does love airports, even if it no longer has quite as many as it used to. From the über-Zentral elegance of the now-decommissioned Tempelhof (once amongst the 20 largest buildings on Earth and key locus of the incredible 1948 Berlin airlift), to the international gateway of Tegel, the airy spaciousness of Brandenberg’s Schönefeld and the RAF base at Gatow (putative focal point of Operation CENTRE, East Germany’s plans for the invasion of West Berlin) it really does have the lot. And whilst it’s true that here in the UK we had Lorraine Chase and Luton Airport (mine’s a Campari please…), neither quite had the world-historic cachet of

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Un Festín Sagital – Kosmodynamos

Beta-lactam Ring

Un Festín Sagital – KosmodynamosIt’s hard not to reference Popul Vuh while attempting to describe the effect of the opening moments of Kosmodynamos, but that’s no bad thing at all. The chime of bells, an evolving ripple of flute, Michel Leroy and Alberto Parra‘s cycling clean guitar strings which coalesce in a slow percussive parade — all hold the same pregnant promise of Florian Fricke‘s singular, almost holy, vision. However, despite the affinities, and there are many, Un Festín Sagital present here four tracks of ritual music for space cadets which proceed, slowly but surely, to blow the tiny braincells of the listener by many and several different means.

So while the mood is often expansive and even mellow, there are little bursts of rapid-fire mania

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Hélène Breschand – Les Incarnés


Hélène Breschand - Les IncarnésHélène Breschand plays her harp in as wide a variety of ways as is possible to imagine (and some which might be less obvious), at times sounding like she is letting rip in an electric guitar, prepared piano, zither and effects pedals all simultaneously. What it doesn’t really sound like is the limpid waftings of angels serenading the hosts of heaven, unless said host happens to be in a very avant-garde state of mind at the time. As side A draws to a melancholic close, it plinks, bends and twangs with softly swerving resonances and reverberations, plus the occasional whack of the harp’s frame for good measure.

Side B opens with notes held in soft tension, Breschand’s breath becoming more

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Building Instrument – Building Instrument


Building Instrument - S/TIf there’s a defining quality to modern life – and hence to contemporary music – it’s perhaps hybridism. Everything which has come before has never been as accessible as it is now, and like those innumerable monkeys who’ve been toiling away at recreating the works of Shakespeare, humanity seems to be intent on taking the sum of its knowledge and slotting it together again and again in an endless recombinant game of mix and match, searching for the bits which work well together before slipping them into the box tagged “OK” before doing it all again.

This is of course in fact what humans have been doing forever and a day — so much is obvious — but in this now it’s easier, faster, wider-ranging. Building

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Shonen Knife/Smallgang (live at Dingwall’s)

Shonen Knife live at Dingwall's May 2014 (Picture: Elaine Kingett)London 18 May 2014

So the economy’s screwed, the world’s still on the brink of war, and far, far more of the people you admire are dead than alive, while everywhere you look there are more racists, fuckheads and idiots than it would be practical to Freepost shitty bricks to. And, as if all that wasn’t bad enough, the bastards have gone and cancelled Community. But you know what? I don’t give a shit. Because Shonen Knife are in town, and that’s all the reasons to be cheerful all at once. Take that, Ian Dury!

The vibe’s good at Dingwall’s as Smallgang blast out their demented take on psychedelic surf-punk. As they finish I’m reminded of a less grumpy Jesus And Mary Chain,

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Rudimentary Peni – Death Church


Rudimentary Peni - Death ChurchRudimentary Peni always seemed like a ticking clock of dystopias to me, a psychotic scaffold of tri-chords and drums, pyre-building a grinding axe of vocals, ranting at the greed miestering stink that (still) ruins, contaminates.

Death Church, their first proper long player, spews out a gothika of crucifixes to nail society’s ills to – world hunger, hypocritical religion, the two-faced cancer of celebrity, vivisection and more. The guitars wheeling around the thematics like that bad taste roadster on the Birthday Party‘s junkyard. Nick Blinko’s voice has a leer of Andi SexGang about it, as if milking those obsessive scabic lines of his pen-and-ink drawings, cross-hatching the black, chewing at your ears like a frothy-faced hyena, cobra-cramming the air with repeat choruses you could venomously sing along to.

It’s a

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Swans – To Be Kind

Young God (North America)/ Mute (Rest of the world)

Swans - To Be KindI always thought there was some kind of law, like a law of physics rather than one drafted for use in courtooms, like the Universal Speed Limit or something, that stated that it was physically impossible for a band to come back from the void of non-existence and still be at the top of their game. You know what I mean. Your favourite band reforms and, in a best case scenario, makes an album that’s pretty good – almost as good, in fact, as their old stuff. But never any better than that. It’s just not allowed.

Which means I must have imagined the last few years of Swans, which is pretty cool,

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Acid Mothers Temple / Perhaps (live at Mississippi Studios)

Portland, OR 9 May 2014

A burly dude writhing on the oscillators wearing a plastic Viking helmet is pretty much what you hope to greet you on stage when attending a psych rock gig.

Portland’s best and beardiest turned out to the barn cathedral interior of Mississippi Studios for a killer psych double-header: Osaka, Japan’s legendary Acid Mothers Temple (and the Melting Paraiso U.F.O., for the occasion), along with Bostonian math-rock eccentrics Perhaps, who were creating the helmeted sludge metal spectacle when I entered the room.

> Print this

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Bass Clef – Raven Yr Own Worl EP


Bass Clef - Raven Yr Own Worl EPA slab of 12” electronic whoomph and wibble which brings forth the gloopy analogue joys of sequenced machinery bowing and scraping before the altar of the DJ booth. “Self-Perpetuating Fun Loop” does exactly as it says, whirling around a central set of repeated motifs with the terpsichorean energy of a pilled-up dervish in search of the perfect gyre. Synthesised sounds chirrup and slop until the breakdown comes, but here – again, as the title confidently stated – the swing is decidedly and expansively upwards rather than just on the horizontal plane, Bass Clef taking the mood into widescreen jubilation before an eventual dissolution.

At the heart of Ralph Cumbers‘ sound is a BugBrand modular synth*, lovingly hand-made by the legendary

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Rafał Kołacki – Ninkyo Dantai

Huta Artzine/Noisen/Zoharum

Rafał Kołacki - Ninkyo DantaiIntroduced by the shorter drones and electronic shimmers of “Alpha, “Beta” which rise up in a revenant scrawl of threat and ominous sounds (including some fine rabble-rousing samples which set the mood of the album as one slightly apart from the merely abstract and instrumental) the centrepiece of Ninkyo Dantai rests on the form of the twenty-minutes and more of “Alpha+”. But first comes “Gamma,” whose rattling metallic sounds at shot through with distorted voices calling through the static like transmissions from beyond the reach of the listener, extirpated and unknowable: are these conversations, movie dialogue or radio communications, the chatter of astronauts, emergency services or CB enthusiasts? They seem to be in English, though otherwise unintelligible; and perhaps they’re simply cut-ups for texture rather than holding any

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Various Artists – Eurovision Song Contest Copenhagen 2014: Official Album

With the annual festival of all things Europop upon the screens of a continent and beyond, Kev Nickells runs through the entries.

Eurovision Song Contest Copenhagen 2014 - Official AlbumEurovision – a cherished institution. Writing this has been a bit of a nightmare, to be honest, because Europe’s a lot bigger than you think it is. Spreads all the way over to Azerbaijan. And for all the tack/awesome stage-setting, it’s a timely reminder that Europe, as a concept, is a weird thing. And a thing in which popular culture is, y’know, pretty indistinguishable.

I’ve mentioned the ‘world music’ caveat before, where it’s easy to write yourself into knots talking about unfamiliar traditions, but that’s not really the problem with Eurovision. The problem with Eurovision is that

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