Eardrum – Last Light
Label: Leaf Format: CD,LP
Eardrum is the percussion-led project of Richard Olatunde Baker and Lou Ciccotelli, and makes some heavyweight ventures into rhythm and texture, assisted by guests Nana Tsiboe, Gary Jeff, Matt Barge and Ike Leo. The live studio recordings are dubbed up into ten tracks of Afrocentric Electronica, following routes mapped out by the likes of African Head Charge, 23 Skiddoo and John Hassell.
The dense clouds of cymbal strikes and circling, shuffling polyrhythms are augmented with electronic squalls, Matt Barge’s trumpet, Tsiboe’s flute and Leo’s jagged sax lines at various points, the whole underlaid with a cursive pound of bass. Motion drags from the effervescent tinklings of the opening bars of “Lizard” into accreted folds of almost liquid forms and shapes, and while the effect has trance-inducing qualities, thay are quite removed from the more familiar Western shapes of 4/4 linearity. The complexity of composition catches one strand of rhythm linking itself to another, shifting the whole around in spiral manoeuvres of subtle intensity, and a track like “Plummet” can disorientate quite effectively through the application of queasy electronic slides and the tense jarrings of the tightly-restrained wind instruments.
Last Light is not necessarily an immediately enaging album, but repays frequent listens with the striking interplay of the rhythmic elements – and this is by no means an album of ten extended drum solos – with tracks like the brooding “From The Nucleus” combining edgy abstraction with an all-enveloping sense of half-dread, half-fascination. This album exudes an uneasy, almost seething, intensity, as if the energy Eardrum have invested in the music is held back from a full release – and if that release came, the explosion could be quite devastating. All of which makes Last Light a sometimes unsettling listen, but also makes for some dramatic moments of compelling unease thanks to the denial of easy, linear, conclusions.
-Antron S. Meister-
Eardrum – Side Effects
Label: Leaf Format: CD, limited 2LP
Oozing and dripping its way out of the Fourth World (or more specifically Clerkenwell in Central London), Side Effects shows Eardrum to be inhabiting and extending a soundscape where 23 Skiddoo and African Head Charge once trod with nimble global dexterity. Lou Ciccotelli and Richard Olatunde Baker draw on a pool of guest musicians from London’s pan-cultural village to whirl out s fine selection of percussive travelogues through the virtual domains inhabiting their studios; it’s a fertile journey too, skipping on the rattle of shakers and congas at the junction of electronic effects, swinging into and out of reach of the ears and stirring the ground under the feet with non-4/4 rhythms which owe much to Dub and Jazz and still more to the future and past sounds of West Africa.
Hallucinatory layers of rambled improvisation circle each other until a drum solo or complex configuration of synth, marimba or bell criss-cross the organic rhythms – there are all the sounds of the rain forest alluded to in “Two Strangers”, but not one which Sting
would find himself at home in, thankfully. But don’t be deceived into think that Eardrum’s music is in any way “authentic” of anything other than itself – a lurching confusion of echoed trills and clatters, the surge of bass and the commanding spasms of direction from the drums, all founded somewhere the Ashanti and Thames flow into the dreamworld Atlantic just off the sea coast of Tibet. Comparative ethnologists are welcome to their field day examining the significace of the hybrid music – everyone else can lose themselves in the miasma of several worlds in dynamic chaos, and come out slightly stunned by the hypnotic after-(never mind side-)effects too.
-Antron S. Meister-
Earthlings? – Disco Marching Kraft EP
Label: Crippled Dick Hot Wax! Format: CDS
Desert-dwelling part-time Queens Of The Stone Age and/or Goatsnake associates Earthlings? are one a Disco-Funk tip with the title track, synth strings and chunky percussion included. Building up a wall of sound from swinging synthetic pieces, laterally-distorted vocals and occasional electric organ melodies among the miasmic shimmer, the band produce a very odd number indeed. Sometimes it seems like they’re heading for the urban Brixton Soul of Alabama 3 , and then there’s the Glammed-up, acoustic guitar strummed electric Hippy singalong stomp “Waterhead” too, and the easier pastures of the smoochy trill of “Gentle Grace”. Despite their full sound, something is lacking in the bite department here as the squirmingly nice guitar propels the song into treacly directions, though some nice synth cycles redeem matters somewhat. Unfortunately, the crisp percussion and Funky groove of “Family Ford” is less than completely inspiring throughout, though the intoned “Ein zwei drei” breakdown adds an eerie and unusual twist to what soon picks up into a (still cluttered) stumble around the bones of Funkadelic.
Earthlings? – Earthlings?
Label: Crippled Dick Hot Wax Format: CD,LP
Strange things happen in deserts, so it seems. Fred Drake, apparently mayor of Joshua Tree, California, and Pete Stahl of Hardcore Punk bands Wool and Scream, here gather together a collection of friends to produce some off-kilter American rock from the wasteland. So Scott Reader (Kyuss), Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters) and Martina may not be the most obvious of supergroup members, but here they are, plugging away at the bones of Rock.
The opening track, “Nothing”, is a fine piece of psychedelic West Coast fuzz-rock, but after there is gets a tad comfortable too often. Yes, pieces such as “Saving Up For My Spaceship/Illuminate” have a certain mellow, laid-back stoner groove to them, but it takes more than a langorous drum machine and a sleepy vocal to make the grade these days. The overall mood is relaxed and playful, as is to be expected from what is essentially a group of friends hanging out together in a recording studio. Wide and expansive as the surroundings in which it was recorded, and occasionally kicking into driving Hard Rock mode on tracks such as “Cavalry” or “Stungun”, there’s still the lingering atmosphere of old-fashioned four-to-the-floor party music among the post-Country-Rockisms of “Conversing Among Misfits” with its folorn lyrics and plopping, tumbling electronics, or “Triumphant March of the Buffoons,” which closes the album in a downbeat, twangy shuffle.
-Antron S. Meister-
Earthlings? – Johnny B. Goode
Label: Crippled Dick Hot Wax Format: 7″
Inaugurating the label’s Crippled Singles Club (they really love good taste at CDHW, don’t they?) and previewing Earthlings?‘s upcomign album release, this rather disturbing picture disc treats Chuck Berry to the Suicide method of sloooooow pulsing, rotor-blade style electronics. With a laconically muttered vocal line and sparse amplifier reverbs sawing gently over the slap of an analogue synth loop, “Johnny B. Goode” almost achieves stasis despite its oddly short running time which is probably somewhere around the original’s.
“Pleasure Seekers” is an entirely different number altogether, kicking straight into anthemic Psychedelic Funk-Rock grooves from the outset – and someone is also credited as playing “”Eggstacymoanincheescakemonolith” on this track, whatever that might be. More conventionally, chickawacka guitars riffs, a skyscrapingly hedonistic attitude and a screeching, feedback-riding sensibility somewhere around Butthole Surfer‘s “The Lord Is A Monkey” may make a hell of a lot more sense in an open-topped (for some reason probably also solar-powered…) car driving down the Joshua Tree highway than in a rainy North London traffic jam – but you can dream, can’t you? Let’s find out…
Earthlings? – Human Beans
Label: Crippled Dick Hot Wax! Format: CD
Can one cross The Cramps with Devo? Stretching out almost comfortably to Pop music, Human Beans is a most enjoyable album filled with silly piss-take lyrics and more than adequate jingle jangle instrumentations. And, it is by the mayor of Joshua Tree, California. Having been there I would have expected something a little more disparate, and little more introspective, but clearly, some people are having right fun times in the desert!
Still, one should not take this all too lightly. There are serious electronics going on here. On “Lifeboat”, all goes spacey and quiet with meanderings of something soft like turbines and is a spine chilling pessimistic little song to knock off the clowning. Then there is a sort of Depeche Mode-like cover of “Johnny B. Goode”. Hmmm. And it’s on the CD as a video file too.
Eventually, Earthlings? seem to settle out their humour in the blackest ways and shift into some mean dance music with quite a ragged edge. I did get pretty confused again by track 8, “Moons Over Millenniums” and I am not sure if they mean to be Pop music again or if it is just more making fun of such. And if they are poking fun, they aren’t leaving out anyone. “From Beyond Space Valley” sounds like Kiss. Need I say more? Maybe grind your tongue into your cheek and spin? Perhaps alien invasions are not limited to Area 54 after all. A most amusing recording, defying singular explanation and sure to liven up Pop music if not utterly confound the Earth’s radio airwaves.
Max Eastley And David Toop – Doll Creature
Label: Bip-Hop Format: CD
Doll Creature is great, absolutely drenched in atmosphere. Ultra-minimal and stark. The music is slow, eerie, and haunting – the sound track for the asexual doll creature of the title. A broken doll crawling across a dark landscape of mud flats that wonders whether he is a she.
The music is a wide range of sounds: the obviously electronic, processed sounds, and a variety of found sounds. Weather, insects, and abrasive surfaces all make up the textures that slowly drift in and out, like the tides on a broken doll. All sounds are used sparsely, somewhat reminiscent of Biosphere or C-Schulz & Hajsch – slow to the point of almost total stand still – a preference for found sound rather than overly processed sound. Doll Creature rarely falls beyond the electronic event horizon at which point everything, regardless of source, sounds like the ubiquitous processed-sound. Eastley and Toop‘s use of sound is also purposeful. It is the point where experimental music meets programme music. The pair tell their story through the sound as much as through the words of David Toop printed on the inside of the CD. I can close my eyes and visualise their landscape of flotsam and jetsam floating in the sea.
That the music is evocative is only half the story, though. The reason I love the gorgeous sound of Doll Creature is the reason I love Biosphere. Eastley and Toop control the flow of sound so damn well!
Eat Static – Back To Earth
Label: Interchill Format: CD,2LP
Back To Earth is the first album since Joie Hinton left Eat Static in February this year, but you wouldn’t know half the band had left. Or perhaps that should be a third, as Steve Everitt, the invisible third member of Eat Static, is as busy as ever. Back To Earth is a fresh, inventive, and surprising album that sees Eat Static exploring new sonic territories: eastern music, Latin, and jazz. Arabesque rhythms rub shoulders with glitchy granular noise and epic electronic dub. The songs are relaxed and chilled, and most are under 100bpm.
The first track “Tuned Mass Damper” is the fastest at 135bpm but it is hardly a huge floor stomper – glitchy clicky psychedelic electronica. Eat Static have come a long way since the early days of “Inanna”/”Monkey Man” and their gigs during the hardcore rave years. The more polished Eat Static get the more I hear the Ozric Tentacles coming out. Ironic as the ex-Ozrics originally wanted to ignore the technically impressive stuff they were doing, get the synths out, and act stupid. This time around Eat Static have produced an album to sit down and listen to as they weave through styles in an ambient mood.
–The Alien EPs
Label: Mesmobeat Format: CD
While busy recording their tenth(!) album the Eat Static duo of Merv Pepler and Joie Hinton have released two retrospective/classic cuts albums. They are separate – you can’t just pay for one and get both, sorry. However, I’m going to review them together. As they both chronicle parts of Eat Static’s past it makes sense.
This album, originally released in ’99 to celebrate Eat Static’s tenth year, is a collection of unreleased live and studio tracks that chart the development of the group between ’89 and ’99. There is a good mix of tracks on Decadance. There are analogue belters like “Synapse” alongside old school classics such as “Kazmir” – a favourite from ’94. Then there’s the breakbeat extravaganza “Inferno”, and the damn weird stomach-churning – literally – “Peristalsis”. This track was sampled from the noises Merv’s stomach was making after hours in the studio without a snack break.
The Alien EPs
This is a collection of rare EPs from the earliest years, 1991- 92 to be precise. The “Monkey Man”/”Habibeep” EP was Eat Static’s first ever release – way back in the days of Acid House. 1,000 copies were pressed and they stuck the labels on themselves. This was followed by Techno Trance thumper “Inaana”/”Medicine Wheel” which sold out in ten days. The third EP featured on the compilation is the Almost Human, which saw Merv and Joie exploring melodies. The tracks are closer to “Kazmir” on Decadance than the earlier Acid House and 303 numbers on The Alien EPs.
Put the two albums together and you get a great sense of Eat Static’s development over the last decade right from the very earliest days. The bonus track on The Alien EPs – “Alien” – predates even the Monkey Man EP. This is a tribute to Eat Static – the classic cuts sound as good now as they did then. True, “Monkey Man” or “Inaana” are very early 90s – but if the music’s good is there an expiry date?
Eat Static – In The Nude
Label: Mesmobeat Format: CD
In The Nude is Eat Static‘s eighth album, released on their own Mesmobeat label. This has given Merv Pepler, Joie Hinton, and their ‘invisible third member’ Steve Everitt the liberty to bathe in electronic eclecticism.
They move into the territories of Latin loungecore with the first track “Salon Kitty”, named after a banned 70’s film about the German SS planting bugs in brothels. At points In The Nude even rocks like a bastard, as you would expect any Vox Teardrop-drenched track called “Our Man in Nirvana” to do. There are quite a few punchy dance floor numbers on the album too. Occasionally a trace of Speed Garage bassline – that whumawhum whaa bassline creeps in here and there, but it’s just another style Eat Static visit along the way. Throughout, the album owes more to analogue than to Ali G – which is nice. The title track is my favourite though: that kind of quirky analogue Electro gets me every time.
Eat Static have been around for 10 years now and have established themselves as one of the UK’s best live Techno outfits. In The Nude is a good album with plenty of ideas and a nice line B-movie references.
EC8OR – Dynamite
Label: Digital Hardcore Format: CDS,12″
Taken from their One And Only High And Low album, “Dynamite” rides along a thundering trademark EC8OR thudbass beat, scorched up with sampled punky guitars. They’re open all night and wild wild wild apparently, and this seems about right. Not just dynamite but pretty dynamic, driving the bones of drum and bass into close contact with disdainful sneers from the prime anti-minister of social ennui, Gina V. D’Orio.
Bonus tracks for the single are from the Live 2000 tour of Japan, here being a throaty gurgle through “Wanna Peel” which makes the digital rhythms really work for their money. Best of all is when Patric C and Gina switch mic duties for a slammed-up burst of “Gimme Nyquil All Night Long” – a track which is shaping up nicely as the band’s show-stopper thanks to the nihilistic hedonism of the lyrics and splashed-up breaks. All this and the essential raucousness which makes it all so much punksome fun to bring the volume controls up to speaker-maximum. The live tracks fade out to a chanting crowd stomping out the band’s name, and the only real option is to turn around and play it one more time.
EC8OR – Gimme Nyquil All Night Long/I Won’t Pay
Label: Digital Hardcore Format: 7″
Two short sharp shocks from EC8OR – “Gimme Nyquil…” is a Punk Rocker of a song, speeding from New York ’76 to Berlin electronic noise 2000, courtesy of Patric C‘s demand for the strongest ‘flu relief available. What a cold the poor boy must have, keeping him and the gang up all night with a runny nose and a hoarse throat – Nyquil for them then.. “I Won’t Pay” has a nifty line in anarchistic dismissal by Patric and Gina D’Orio of the band’s bills, backed up by Drum & Bass fury of the sampled-guitar kind. Noisily fast fun for teenagers aged seven to seventy.
EC8OR – The One And Only High And Low
Label: Digital Hardcore Format: CD
More sonic terrorism from the DHR faction, this time from Patric Catani and Gina D’Orio, AKA EC8OR. And it’s a remarkably short album, but what it lacks in length, it makes up in volume. Beginning with THAT “A-Team” sample familiar to anyone who’s caught one of their gloriously fun’n’shouty live shows, it’s a rollercoaster ride through sonic oblivion and beyond. Less aggro than Patric’s Attitude PC8/Hitler 2000 (and yes, before you ask, the irony was indeed lost on some people), less – well, less weird than Gina’s “let’s go back in time and nuke the Sixties” Cobra Killer project, its relative straightforwardness doesn’t rob it of any of the trademark DHR energy (and yeah, I don’t actually know if there is such a word as “straightforwardness”, but fuck it).
Of course, the standout here is single “Gimme Nyquil All Night Long“, but that’s just ‘cos it’s fucking ace, not ‘cos of any shortcoming elsewhere. Only criticism – try drinking a bottle of the shit and see if you’ve really got the energy to do anything “all night long” except possibly watch David Lynch movies. But hey, maybe I’m just a cough-syrup lightweight. But it’s not all getting trousered – some fucking shit up has to take place too, and militancy is achieved with the robust (I know, I know, it’s a weird choice of word, but I couldn’t think of a more appropriate one and kept coming back to it) “Go Out” and the sheer punk petulance of “I Won’t Pay”. (Oh, and on the subject of militancy – Nice summit, mate. Sorry, bad joke, but I’m very tired from all this Nyquil and youthful exuberance.)
Of course. it’s terrifying to think what all this will be like when the DHR posse are all (gulp) old, but it’s a way to go yet, and all being well the revolution will have happened by then. No longer will students sit around smoking dope listening to Bob Marley ‘neath posters of Che Guevara and saying “man” a lot- they’ll be doing cough syrup while Alec Empire and Bill Hicks look down from their walls, and swearing. And EC8OR will be on the stereo.
-Deuteronemu 90210, who swears a bit-
Echoboy – Telstar Recovery
Label: Mute Format: 12″,CDS
Kicking in with a Space Rock workout title track, Echoboy‘s “Telstar Recovery” whoshes off at a tangent into the echo-drenched territories mapped out by the likes of Hawkwind and Stereolab. Ther’s some fuzzed-up vocals, a boogaloo groove and a compulsive enough melody to make slipping the rewind button or needle back to the song start a real temptation.
Diversity seems to be the key to the Echoboy method – “Moving” has dubbed-up reference points among the cyclical synths in yet more spacious mode, mixing up some restrained guitar feedback sweeps into an instrumental which somehow recalls the more relaxed moments of Doctor Phibes & The House Of Wax Equations. This EP is certainly one for the weed specialists and chemical heads of the world to make their collective eye patterns too. Trippy is the word, but not too hectic.
The same couldn’t really describe “Pressure Drop” and “Scarab Major 3000” – the former edging into Trance energtics and low-bass rumbles, though it’s not a cover of the noted Toots & The Maytals track. There’s a vocal line to this one too, and it’s one which could get those hands a-wavin’ in the air thanks to a large dose of the Moroders and some stupendoudly crowd-pleasing synth chords and drop-outs among the whorls of echo box speed control judders. This rewound selector has defintiely got something of label-mate Moby‘s touch to his feel for a really BIG tune. “Scarab…” is the most bizarre mashed-up track to conclude the EP in a frantic uptempo ride through the bones of a beat or three, drifting of serenely with a nice chimingly-extended Kosmische guitar and organ comedown. Conclusion: massive!
-Antron S. Meister-
Echoboy – Volume 2
Label: Mute Format: CD
Diversity is a crime few bands can be accused of these days. A Techno album solely consists of Techno, a rock album consists of guitar music. A Pop album consists of Pop. Echoboy, A.K.A. Richard Warren , is proof that you don’t get struck down by a bolt a lightning if you make an album with songs that don’t sound like clones from an original source.
Volume 2 runs through many styles, from some nice analogue Electro to The Doors. Yes, at points Volume 2 comes very close to The Doors. Now, I`m not the greatest Doors fan in the world, but generally Volume 2 is a good album. My favourite still has to be the manic Hawkwind-esque epic “Telstar Recovery“.
A re-release of what is apparently a twisted Nineties Disco classic, “Telefunken” appears firstly in hands-in-the-air ecstatic “Live in Helsinki” guise, pumping out the beats like there’s no yesterday, never mind tomorrow, pushing all the dancefloor buttings of sping-shivering keyboard tears, stomping beat and shifting layers of flanged Funky groove. So joyful and yet so cheesy, it’s also extremely infectious and quite, quite disposable. The same applies to the original version included here, but the live energy makes all the difference. Michael Mayer‘s mix muddies the waters with some Trance maneouvrings and ominous analogue thrills and beeps which are altogether less fun and far more straight-faced, if entirely adequate.
Further edits by DJ Koze and Christian Morgenstern result in some scratchy hard-disc rejigging and four-square pounding respectively, but Schlammpeitziger opts for a more murky intervention, turning the track upside-down into a constantly reworked and revisited set of Cologne-style complex versions of itself. By this point “Telefunken” is no longer a highly-danceable slice of instant artificial happiness, and has evolved into the realms of the semi-abstract.
Ekkehard Ehlers – Politik Braucht Keinen Feind
Label: Staubgold Format: CD
Ehlers is a musician and sound artist and what he produces on this CD makes me think it would work best as part of an art installation, which doesn’t mean I dont think it works as purely music. For example, the opening three part “Maander” has a curious, dream-like quality which puts me in mind of walking through an empty gallery as manipulations of bass clarinet ooze from hidden speakers. I love bass clarinet and what he does to it doesn’t detract from the guttural, grainy noise of the instrument, it grafts on new layers. Sometimes it sounds like the human voice or a slurred trombone. It can even sound like an amplified engine poised, menacingly, overhead.
What he does with the cello on the four part “Blind” is equally unusual. Several cello parts are manipulated into a quintet performance where there are drones and layers of dark bowing. Sometimes there are merely minimalist scrapings and pluckings along with what sounds like someone sucking the strings. I’m sure theyre not. On Part 3 the assorted cello parts become more elegiac, as though Ehlers is attempting to articulate an abstract sense of sorrow.
The final piece, “Woolf Phrase”, is another dreamy series of looped phrases that circle endlessly around themselves, a bit Terry Riley-ish, I guess. Again I thought of a vast white art space as a suitable context for the music, though I think it was actually composed for a ballet. Well, I can see that too. Whatever context you imagine it in its well worth taking the time to give it several listens.
Electrobolt – Stay Tuned
Label: Intoxygene Format: CD
Stay Tuned is a good solid mixture of breakbeat styles and Funky Electro from the Swiss duo Vincent Yerly and Jacques Roubaty. The pair met by chance at a studio session where they were working as producer and sound engineer. The rest is history, as they say. The album contains tracks that range from Downtempo HipHop numbers, to fat analogue bass floor fillers. Along the way Electrobolt drop in the odd enigmatic piece of Electronica like “X Master”. Once again Intoxygene show their liking for artists with a sense of diversity and originality.
ELF/Attention Disorder – Attention Industries
Label: Heimelektro Ulm Format:
A collaboration between former Gabba promoter and producer Karsten Drohsel and Jazz and Rock musician turned sound sequencer Mike Zimmermann, ELF like to combine all kinds of avant-garde turntablist shenanigans with their Electronica – medical technology, wood and other materials, plastic lids with grooves carved into them, all performed live. Their half of this split LP was recorded at the DrKern2 illegal party, and while knowledge of any or all of the above doen’t make much of a difference to the appreciation of the music they produce, it’s an interesting variation on the usual theme.
Overall, the limited number of tracks on this release give it the feel of an EP, but it’s none the worse for that, with just ELF on the A-side. Beats pulse slowly in minimal style, only really starting to take off as the needle fades out – there’s a lot of incidental voice material, speaking in what sounds like Polish or Czech, and everything proceeds at a meandering pace with an improvised air which works pretty well. It’s not earth-shattering, but it’s pleasant. Much the same could be said of Zimmermann’s two tracks in Attention Disorder guise, which are taken from the Ester Tracks double CD. Electronic strings introduce some pulsing drum machine plops, soft-shaken rhythms put through the Electronica blender to come out slightly glossier, but equally also quite relaxed and pleasant.
In fact, these two pieces are really quite nice, with trickling or shuffling motions working over the persistently warm bassline on “Track 9,” and the use of whistling synth bleeps has faint echoes of Ambient Electro to make everything slip down in a chilled manner. “Track 10” has a greater sense of urgency, moving along the top scale with the rapid precision of the smaller gears in a piece of clockwork with the bass meshing into the depths, before skipping into a quite Funky, even danceably dynamic Techno pace for the duration. As it fades out into digital Gamelan, everthing get progressively more hissy, and ends with the sense of a job well done.
Electric Orange – Cyberdelic
Label: Delerium Format:
Essentially the work of the Electric Orange duo of founder Dirk Jan Mller and Dirk Bitner plus numerous guests, Cyberdelic sees them head off into more distinctly electronic territory than previous albums from Mller alone. There’s Trip Hop and Trance Techno, breakbeats and ethnodelic samples, whirls of spaced-out groove and the fascination with drone and pulse. In other words, trippy, funky manouvrings in the post-Modern soundscape, where Kosmische meets Dub and Drum & Bass is never too far from the sequencer.
The sound is positive, upbeat even on most occasions, slipping down easily with the comforting gurgles courtesy of Messers. Hammond, Rhodes and Farfisa ever on call for atmospherics. Tabla and clanging metal? No problem, that’s on “A Vapourized Dance”, to a slow-motion Reggae groove. Kitsch Sixties-references? Check the remodelled and pastiched adverts of yesteryear which adorn covers and inserts alike (along with requisite analogue gear-shots). Tracks emerge from sampled gramophone discs and shortwave radio scans, bounding into breezy Summer top-down drum loops in LA cruising beat-style could decorate club spaces and bars from Hoxton to Pasadena or Tokyo with cocktail accompaniment without raising too many eyebrows either. There’s even some soaring guitars and coruscating analogue synthesis with a driving thud-beat for those Rock-out or Raved-up moments on stage when the strobes go into overdrive, so all bases are covered on one CD – and “Steal No Egg” attempts the fusion of Damo Suzuki-era Can with onrushing Arthur Brown electric pianos to boot.
Cyberdelic does precisely what it’s name proposes, even if both title and music are somewhat familiar – this is a decidedly pleasant record, swarming with references and pick’n’mixed techniques, but all done so deftly it makes for a diverting salmagundi of everything it means to be musically out there on a prismatic plane.
Electric Sound Of Joy – Daughters Of Destruction
Label: Foundry Format: CD
A joyful noise unto the bored? Well, that is a little harsh indeed. This is an interesting bit of instrumental music. The EP may not set any records on originality, but does kind of make one smile. Very upbeat, almost jolly in fact, it seems to take off from some sort of traditional, folky sounding arrangements, done all in electronics. “Daughters of Destruction” conjures up title sequences of TV shows or back tracks for happy consumer commercials. All four tracks have a memeory touching element like playing a Casio as a kid accompanied by a kazoo and some toy drums.
Very Pop in its sweet simplicity, “Daughters Of Destruction” does stop short of being too saccharine to enjoy. I will be interested to hear the forthcoming album due out in 2001, as it will be good to know if Electric Sound Of Joy are really this jolly all of the time. One can imagine their electronic dexterity taking other turns, perhaps more Ambient ones, or even perhaps darker ones, but this remains to be seen. As for this EP, I don’t personally hold out much hope that it will last long off the advertising circuit, but it is a handy thing to have about for unexpected teas with the neighbours.
Hanin Elias – In Flames (1995-1999)
Label: Digital Hard Core/Fatal Format: CD
In Flames is a collection of recordings from Ms. Hanin, from 1995, onwards through 1999. Noticeably assisted by Alec Empire, Hanin’s own music could be just some more Atari Teenage Riot rants, but isn’t. This album specifically marks out the difference that Hanin wants to make for girls, and she’s so girl she almost glows pink, so the revolution tumbles forward and beyond just being about change, into being about carving a place for women in music, especially electronic music, especially Digital Hardcore (and not just the label either).
Hanin does scream, and Hanin does whisper; whatever it takes to get the point across that she is She presence, and that is important. “…When something isn’t right- fight against everything that is oppressing you!…” Apparently she feels the music industry is oppressed in extremes by male dominance, male ideologies of male fantasy women, and male-driven corporate idiocy. Hanin is right. So how to fight against this? She has created the Fatal aspect of DHR to carve a place for girl music that has little or nothing to do with shortest skirts and plasticene models lip-synching bobble songs, computer-generated to be best-selling . There is also nothing here of the equally-stereotyped penis-hating lesbian butch mentality. Hanin seems to want to get along with the boys, and in her words, “…create a natural balance – I’d like to see as a model for society…” She is sending out the greatest message, feminine equality, not better, or stronger, or more valid, but equal to the now-dominated by boys world of electronic and experimental music. Hanin doesn’t tell me to be a boy or to get rid of them, but to do what I want along side of boys, and to better my own efforts because I am human, not just a gender. A quick series of e-mails around the globe to girlfriends near and far, prove her influence. Girls are listening, and justifiably, so are the boys.
Everyone who has ever seen or heard ATR knows that Hanin can scream, she looks good, she’s clever and she’s informed. Songs on In Flames punctuate these facts, and reach a little further. It becomes the platform where upon Hanin proves she can sing too. “I sleep in my own bed”, beautiful words from “You Will Never Get Me” sung Siouxsie-style and so, so fetching! In fact, it may be a fair assessment that Hanin is a lot like Ms. Sioux, replacing Psychedelia with political awareness. Hers is a voice that reaches, up and down scales at an alarming speed, utterly female, never sexless, as full of sound when contemptuous as when she whisper sings, “I love you.” She is a voice of promise for girls, and for music. I cannot wait to see how she develops and grows as a vocal presence, as well as a composer.
Some Hanin fans I know who happen to be male, which may be irrelevant, expressed their thoughts on In Flames not being as loud and hard as they would have expected. Fair enough, but it is hard enough, and loud enough, and quiet enough as well. This is not ATR after all, but a woman exploring music as varied as you like it, and I doubt it would put anyone to sleep. Sixteen tracks, nine of which were previously unreleased, should be all just right to wake you up by contrast, keep you interested, even perhaps inspire you to think things through some more. Hanin Elias reminds me that I love being a girl. In Flames reminds everyone that girls can play too, and hopefully Fatal will achieve its ends by the promotion and support of female drive within the music industry, and one day little girls will grow up with synths on their laps instead of just remote controls, flipping through all the MTVs.
Hanin Elias – In Flames Remix EP
Label: DHR Fatal Format: CDS, 12″
Hanin Elias‘ excellent track “In Flames” from the album of the same name gets the makeover treatment, as do the same record’s “Girl Serial Killer” and “Slaves”. Kathleen Hanna and Johanna Fateman of Le Tigre make the former track into the strangely poppy “Dear Hanin” mix, all wavering keyboards and clunky cheap drum machines. Very lo-fi, and their extra vocals give it all an eerie tinge. Fellow Atari Teenage Rioter Nic Endo puts “Slaves” through the mincer, letting the beatless results ooze out in a welter on flange and echo with queasy, sludgy consequences.
Back to “In Flames” itself, and with Christoph de Babalonat the controls, digital assault and battery would seem to be the order of the day – except, it isn’t. In fact, there’s a lot of scuttling noise underpinning the syth-symphonic keyboards instead, with the vocals emerging occasionally as keywords rather than the shouted lyrics of the original. Oddly mellow. And what do Audiowhore do to the track? Make it even more ambient, Isolationist style, filtering the mix into a rising blast of digital delay and more of those vocal cut-ups until it collapses under the wight of the echo box, that’s what. Hanayo goes for the most distended mix of them all, turning “Girl Serial Killer” into an accapella rap track, accompanied by sundry vocalisations and electronic whistles of feedback. All very disturbing indeed.
Congratulations are due to all the remixers on this EP for avoiding the easy option of battering the tracks into killer Gabba/Drum & Bass floor-shakers and instead going for some occasionally quite difficult listening instead. And don’t forget, the CD’s got Mediakill‘s storming video of “In Flames” on it too, in which Lolita Storm star as cyber-ninja assassins…
Rob Ellis – Music For The Home (Instrumental, Mechanical And Electronic Music 1994-1999)
Label: Leaf Format: CD
Sweeping ur-klang tones ring out, sing out – travelling across the watercrests to find their own level. This is a compact disc, details in the title. There is no other information at hand. They float up onto an island of dulcet tones and organic organry. Pianissimo lives in there – that vast verdant veldt of outtakes and mistakes. Sounds pool into lakes and streams, spattered to the shores by this curiosity splashing one way or t’other. Insects in sound buzz past more somber beasts that wait and watch for something they know is coming – but presently remains unrevealed.
Music For The Home – but whose, exactly? One’s desire to have one’s music heard is an invitation of sorts – but to do what? To go where? Or just what is it? Is the music itself a home – in which one lives, spends a certain amount of time with an implicit welcome from the owner? Or is it a room – large and separated from a wider entity, and explicitly meant to stay that way?
El Monte And Aranos – Allied Cooking But Not As You Know It!
Label: Pieros Format: CD
Stroked into prowling life by the wriggling strings of Aranos and El Monte‘s reed and woodwind glossolalia, Allied Cooking But Not As You Know It! plonks itself down as a very curious party guest intent on expounding with surrealist glee to the befuddled. With track titles such as “Think Like One-pan Twostep!” or “Think Like Veering Toads and Rude Proons!” and music which brushes, honks and wriggles to match, this is a record which probes and pinches the subconscious with disarming subtlety.
There are mood swings and reflections, self-propelled rambles through nodding gongs and frog-chorus creakiness played on what sounds like ratchets and electronics which prompt to “Think Like Little Green Fellow!”, though quite how the uncomfortables drones of “Think Like Hot Tree Halitosis!” would relate literally is perhaps best left as a poetic image… Their music sometimes drifts off into uncomfortable places, as Aranos and El Monte let themselves fall headlong into disturbance and horripilating violin dementia, whisking up an anti-polka or rhythmic disturbance from their fiddling while the wider world might as well be burning. The accompanying folded sheet of manipulated images which forms the sleeve to Allied Cooking… provides a visual counterpoint to the music – groping stone angels abut squashed insecitle remains and dancing teachers fizz to the avant string duets cutting a drunkard’s reel into lucid atonalism, struggling with the sounds to express the furthest backwaters of consciousness.
As the brooding depths of track eight suggest as they lurch and crawl with dizzy anguish, perhaps is is after abest to “Think Like Thick Carpet!”, to let the waves of nauseous delerium work their chemical reaction on the body and mind, to give in to the imbalance and enjoy the sensation of control collapsing under pressure. The drills, squeaks and buzzes which rattle accompaniment to the mournful eloquence of “Think Like Her Madly Projected Fleshcups!” are equally delerious in their vibrant celebration of joyful noise in conjunction with a minor-key meander. They sign off in upbeat psychedelic mood, confiding repeatedly with fixed intensity that they used to be both a penny whistle and a magic mushroom in a flurry of scraping, scat and pizzicato confusion. El Monte and Aranos draw their captivated audience into a parallel dimension where up may be a light at the end of an oncoming train, down is queasily inviting, and sideways the rule.
ELph – Zwölf
Label: Raster-Noton Format: CDS
Is the express inclusion of the element of time in a recording – a way to destroy the sound by human meddling? Is the perception of that time element damaging to a fuller listening to the recording itself? Another perception – fading gently but still present – is the scent of maple syrup that wafts from the disc itself. Getting closer, boys… A movement of winds passes through and around and diagonally gone – filtering through the philtrum of the clock’s face. Is the idea to conquer time through measuring, and then to approach from behind with the soul of the artist? Perhaps it isn’t as strategic as all that – but there is a sense of winding-down, of nostalgia, of winding-up nostalgia and moving on, recuperating by returning. Re cycling. Re Coil-ing.
A slightly human keening pops up, here and there – but only just; perhaps it was hiding in the space between the “t” and the “h” in “there.” The chattering natters on, and there is… something moving – a rodentia? Does time keep its eggs like animals? The sounds grow, afflicted with giantism, expanding sand in/out the hourglass. Each grain falls with the beat of a groovy guru, hypnotising and pushing that slow motion into measured treasures. One. After. An. Other. Is waiting a music in itself? Not on the street or in public, but… the tapping of the foot, and the looking-out for something. The keening returns, and a song from earlier in the century is slown, shambled and sharded…
Alec Empire – Futurist
Label: Digital Hardcore Format: CD
Just when you thought it was all down to Panic DHH to fly the Digital Hardcore flag (not that they were doing a bad job of it, mind you), Mr Empire returns to remind you just who’s the Daddy. Dedicated to “the time when British rock music was straight and fearless”, and in particular to Joe Strummer and John Peel, this is a much rawer, much more organic work than Intelligence and Sacrifice. If that was a bullet in the head, this is a steel toecap in the bollocks. Where Intelligence and Sacrifice tended towards a kind of electronic death metal, “Futurist” is much more Punk.
Hang on. “Much more” punk”? Bollocks is it. It’s Punk as fuck. Opening duo “Kiss of Death” and “Night of Violence” (yes, you could tell it was an Alec Empire album even if all you did was read the track listing) have the youthful energy of Rancid (themselves harking back to the golden age of Brit Punk) but with the sheet-metal onslaught and squiqqly electronics that let you know you’re slap bang in the middle of DHR territory. And it’s a long way home. Oh, and the cabbie’s a psycho who drives a big fuck-off juggernaut. REALLY fucking fast. Nic Endo again provides the wonderful noises through which Herr Empire fires his blastbeats, vocals and take-your-face-off riffs, and, as you’d expect, the whole has that unique combination of messy and tight which seems to encapsulate that “DHR sound”. By the time we hit “Point Of No Return” breathlessness is the order of the day, so, ever obliging, he slows it down a bit, with a rhythm section recalling “Addicted To You”, but with less of that track’s concessions to such bourgeois notions as catchiness (although it does have “dancefloor filler at a certain tyoe of club” written all over it). It just rocks a great deal.
“Terror Alert: High” rides in on a wave of Sabbath-esque riffage, like they’d ditched those shitty Matrix sequels in favour of a couple of movies about Tony Iommi fighting robots. Yes. It sounds like Tony Iommi fighting robots. Very sexy robots. With molotov cocktails. (Actually, why didn’t they make two movies about Tony Iommi fighting robots instead of those Matrix sequels? That’d have been much better.) Oh, and with a very angry German man shouting over the top. Does it for me, I have to say. There’s more than a touch of Filter, or Downward Spiral-era Nine Inch Nails to the closer, “XXV3”, all whispery vocals over bass and drums until a kick-ass boot in the face chorus of “Freedom! It’s coming your way!”. But strangely and wondefully, somehow there’s a touch of Funk to the proceedings. It’s hard to isolate, but it’s there. This really is a fucking magnificent riffbastard motherfucker of an album. It may lack the experimental nature of Intelligence & Sacrifice‘s second disc, but it definitely improves on the already wondrous template of the first, giving it a lot more space, a lot more dynamic- dare I say it, a lot more soul?
I know I say this every time, but THIS is what they’ll be playing at the barricades when it all comes down. So you may as well buy it now, just so’s you know the words.
-Deuteronemu 90210 getting all up in your shit-
Alec Empire – Intelligence And Sacrifice
Label: Digital Hardcore Format: 2CD
From the opening rumble of bass and ominous keyboard chord with a somewhat pessimistic spoken intro, it’s apparent that Intelligence And Sacrifice is going to be a shitkicking trip theough Alec Empire‘s dissatisfaction with the state of the world. This is confirmed when the pounding hyperspeed percussion breaks into a vituperative frenzy, largely dominating the rest of the first CD of the album proper with noise, electronic fury and a little bit more chaos for good measure.
Alec is in chatty mood, observing “Everything reactionary is the same” on the aforementioned banging cyber Punk spasm of “Path Of Destruction”, before going on to provide an antidote through the simple medicine of loud brutal beats and fizzing distortion. This particular brand of cathartic noise enema will doubtless find itself many friends in the Metal scene as much as the Industrial or among lovers of speedy noise everywhere. As is only to be expected, there’s a close affinity with Atari Teenage Riot‘s shouty aesthetic, but somehow when left to his own more polished electronic devices, Empire (and noise and FX collaborator Nic Endo) gets the rabble-rousing message across with a starker poignancy. Spitting stream of disgusted consciousness lyrics on a crest of megaphone ranting and occasional melodic chords, he knows the dynamics well. There’s Thrash and Drum & Bass, crowds roaring to the bleepy synth stutter of massively distended Gabba Metal fury, loping HipHop and above all, the ire of vicously twisted noise and pounding Riot Beats.
The album even includes a passionate love/hate song of sorts in the shape of “Addicted To You”, which harks back to the steaming Rawk of “I Wanna Be Your Dog” to a prowling 4-4 stomp sparked off with shards of metallic grind and doomy drones; the glorious moshpit-igniter “Everything Starts With A Fuck”, ever so suited to energetic explosions of pogoing and slamdancing – complete with toytown sleepytime sample interlude before the return to a huge guitar riff which would make Ministry‘s day. So would the title track, which unwinds into another combined Hardcore (Punk,Techno and general hardness) and digital Thrash assault, while “Death Favours The Enemy” adds observational HipHop breakdowns to the piled on riffing and throat-brurning vocal tirade.
“Buried Alive” brings the noise yet further up into the roof of the skull to a controlled arc-welded frenzy of stop-start noise and pauses for lungfuls of breath offset by huge beats. “Killing Machine” brings the ever-effective sounds of jet fighter bombers into the mix, kicked off with a “1,2,3,4” intro and a treble-set Punky guitar line before a breakbeat diffusion into spasmodic Electro jerks and a rifling through seemingly every combination of effects settings. By the time “New World Order” closes the first disc in a flood of sampled crowds, lurching powerchords and chugging Industrial rhythms, complete exhaustion sets in to the welcome sign off of ten minutes of sprawling digital noise which serves the same closedown function as extended guitar feedback at a gig.
Accomapnying Intelligence And Sacrifice in its limited double disc edition, CD2 is packed full of Empire’s more experimental sounds, as rumbling analogue synths meet abstracted rhythms and instumental noisescapes. Dissonance, lengthy explorations of the burbling sound of oscillators and myriad effects units set on collision course are the order of the day for the disc. The off-kilter avant-soundtrack synth pieces “The Cat Women Of The Moon” and “Alec’s Ladder”, the wibbly “Parallel Universe” and the downtempo bleep and bass Electro of “Silence And Burning Ice” all serve to counterpoint the speedy aggression of Intelligence And Sacrifice in comedown mood. What is basically a separate album is usually too involved, discordant and intricate to be described exactly as Ambient, especially with groovier tracks like the descriptively-named “Two Turntables And A Moog” and the jacking Eighties-styled boogie of “Electric Bodyrock”. With the filtered chugs of “Vault Things Of The Night” with its accumulating breakbeats and the spluttering echoed rhythms of “2641998” to bring the dynamics in and out of phase, CD2 provdes a wealth of woozy fun from the playful side of Empire’s music.
Alec Empire – Miss Black America
Label: DHR Limited Edition Format: LP/CD
Blimey, but Alec Empire knows how to churn them out – churn being the operative word, as here he presents a bunch of spare-time recordings from around the time of the latest Atari Teenage Riot sessions, apparently dreamed up while waiting for the rest of the band to do their stuff. So there’s Punk electro throbbings to kick off with “DFo2”, which bashes away like a angry bass-guitar solo, but Techno style, of course.
Empire’s favourite record for a while it seems is a bootleg of a riot at a Black Sabbath gig in Milwaukee 1980 – so he takes key moments from the dialogue between the stage manager and the enraged crowd, plus the soudn of rigs and amps crashing all over the place, and sticks it over the trademark riot beatsTM – and it sounds great, all the pent-up anger anyone ever had splurging out of those clattering breakbeats and flatulent bass eruptions – and so much better than Khan‘s use of the same material (though ’nuff respect to him for releasing the riot section in the first place), and the untitled digital breakbeat chaos which Track 9 lets loose with nihilistic glee.
Meanwhile, back at the sharp end, Empire goes HipHop in discordant, fractious Anti-Nazi mood, or alternately in misanthropic downbeat style as on “It Should Be You Not Me!” or the catharsis offered by “We take Your Pain Away”. There’s also the more atmospheric side of his sound in the helpfully-titled “They Landed Inside My Head While We Were Driving In The Taxi Up To 53rd Street And Took Over!” (Empire is also fond of his exclamation marks, as a quick read through any ATR lyric sheet will show – and makes them sonically present too…) and “I Can Hear The Winds Of Saturn”, which circles ominously around a chillingly chilled keyboard riff. There’s also a development of the Nintendo Teenage Robots project, with added vocoder (Yeah!).
The almost random collision of fast and slow tracks makes for a more varied listen than some ATR or Empire solo releases, and this record is all the better for it. Kicking ass or brooding contemplation alike sounds just about right here.
Alec Empire – The Ride
Label: Digital Hardcore Format: CDS
Available as two entirely separate CD singles, each with different versions of “The Ride”. CD1 has the “Clean Version”, which apart from sounding brighter in general, isn’t that much different to the “Dirty Version” on the alternate disc. Both roll along on a surround-sound reverbed keyboard chord with sampled crowd cheers floating over the chunky breakbeat while Alec Empire offers a lift to destinations extreme.
It’s in the bonus tracks that the two EPs differ, and of course the hardcore fans (and are there any other kind for DHR releases?) will end up collecting the set. CD1 has Part II of “Addicted To You” from Intelligence And Sacrifice in a as a slowed-down, dirgified “Perish To The Beat Of The Dead”, and it certainly sounds good as a menacing beat crawls through the intro into a chundering main riff rendered at Gloom Metal tempo. Likewise, Empire’s vocal contortions end up being even more strained and wretchedly angry when the tune takes its time (seven minutes) with the noise. Last up is a newly-refreshed and scratch-laden storm through the bassy synthetic spasm of “DF02” off Miss Black America at breakneck speed with snarling nihilist vocals adding yet further ire to the mix.
First up on the other disc’s extras is a full-on live version of “Death Favours The Enemy” which cranks the aggression and guitar grind up to maximum rockout effect, only letting the pounding HipHop beat have a chance to be heard through the sheets of furious distortion when the chorus relents from its ear-bending assault. “It should be You Not Me” builds layers of digital noise detritus around a dissipating percussion loop as Empire mutters ominously through a megaphone and whispers about Satan arising from the dead while the discordances unfold and disintegrate around him into timestretched arrhythmic entropy.
Alec Empire – Squeeze The Trigger
Label: Digital Hardcore Recordings Format: CD,2LP
Do I need to say anything? This record speaks for itself. If you haven`t heard of Alec Empire? I suggest you leave your hermitage and rejoin civilisation. Only, does Alec Empire produce civilised music? Surely not. Mixmag said he was the artistic end of Gabba. Now this may be true, but don`t start thinking in terms of React`s dishwater Drum and Bass series Artcore. This is Gabba meets Jungle in a high-speed collision, and that’s before Alec Empire’s had chance to drag it backwards through a barbed wire hedge kicking and screaming. It’s industrial, it’s noise, it’s fucked up Jungle breaks to the nth degree.
The track “Squeeze the Trigger” has moments of hideously distorted HipHop before descending into Jungle whirlwind. Its viscous: if you heard this track approaching you in a dark alley you`d run the other way. Generally I think sides C and D are better, they just seem to grab me more. “Silver Pills” is the other great moment on the first disk. its the only track that isn`t Jungle fury, but it isn`t straight slamming 4-beat either: BANG BANG BANG, BANG BANG baBANG with a wall of screwed-up samples behind it. Class tune. Sides C and D, oh yes. The Drum and The Bass may be a little too complex, but the rest are stars. “Generate” is another Jungle to the hilt experience, while “Euphoric” seethes with acidity. Mr Empire comes up trumps; calling this Gabba sounds almost insulting, while calling this Jungle or Drum and Bass just seems inaccurate.
Enduser – Run War
Label: Ad Noiseam Format: CD
Run War is a compilation of tracks previously produced by Breakcore maestro Enduser. Produced between 2000 and 2004, the tracks here go from the pretty and coherent, “Choppin’ Lamb”, through to the cut up and reconstructed gangsta rap of “Blastin Muthafuckaz”. This presents a problem, as a good proportion of this album really demands to be played loudly, while the rest could actually be listened to carefully in order to really appriciate the extreme sonic density achived by cramming so many broken beats into the soundscape.
That aside, it’s obvious that this guy has a serious fascination with pop culture, specifically R&B, Gangsta Rap, and it would seem Ragga. This is no bad thing as elsewhere it’s lead him to create things like the Bollywood Breaks EP, which was a great bit of cross cultural unlikliness. The tracks on Run War where this approach is taken, however sound a lot like what would happen if you gave Gangsta rappers, R&B and Ragga MCs a very large amount of methamphetamine and PCP, and then managed to record the resulting psychotic noise, twitching, etc.. This is all well and good, and in many cases fun, but Enduser has covered this stuff in much harder form elsewhere.
To sum, this album does a not too shabby job of showcasing Enduser’s capabilities, but being the owner of a few other works, I would have thought that a better choice of tracks would have been possible if it was intended as an introduction to Enduser for non-Breakcore enthusiasts. It’s confused, but I guess thats only appropriate given the nature of the material.
The Entropy Circus – Go Hï¿½g
Label: 8-Leggy DeLongy Format: CD
Here we have it, the Entropy Circus‘ (apparent) swan song. The final release by these Walthamstow cruisers. But do not despair, the primary elements of the Circus are transmutating into a new glorious state called The Benelux. What about the music then? Well, it is something of a more focused and more purely forged impression of the Entropy Circus vision. To get an idea of their place in the general musical continuum I can refer the reader to my review of Paddington Hardstare. Hï¿½g is a very fitting climax to the Entropy Circus discography. It is more thought out and polished creation. But do not think that any of the Lo-Fi glory of old is lost, no; the production values only help us see clearer.
The first standout moment is “Ribble Manilla”, it has this slide-guitary Sand (the German Seventies electronic-Folk experimentalists by the way) vibeology even though it’s instrumental. Like previous releases, the record is a mix of intrumentals and Troubador in Space kinda songs. “Ultra-Mundane” is another great instrumental with it’s lazy-Jazzy beat and more sweet guitar exercises. It portrays a surreal urban promenade, in my book. “At the Terebinths of Mamre” also has an urban atmosphere with a really cool silent break in the song that makes you think its over… but then it isn’t! “Benelux” might be a song to herald the new ways of Archie Donkor, Spiro Arker and the rest of the boys. Having said that it starts with NEU!-like skankin’, but then takes that crucial step and soars into a fractured heavy place. “Verdigris Cupola” also resides in a heavy place, but is more contemplative and emotional.
There is actually quite a lot of instrumentals on this offering but there are also those quirky sing alongs like “Gatport Airwick” with it’s galloping teaspoons beat. The concluding and very catchy “Royal Theodesic Dome”, has a very final and epic ambiance. It leaves the listener with a content feeling, content at knowing that The Entropy Circus truly are the true over-lords of the Walthamstow post-Pub Rock scene.
Entropy Circus – Paddington Hardstare
Label: (Entropy Circus) Format: MC,CD
Let me begin with saying that Entropy Circus is comprised of B.G. Ramachandra, Craig Moulinex, Luther Blisset and Maurice Donne guided by the totalitarian leadership of Zali Krishna. Craig has been rumoured to have said that the sub-atomic tonic of Orpheus can only be distilled though the the sacred medium of the casette and a four track. Consequently, this treat will not be released on 8-track. I don’t think we can hope for a cohesive musical expression of Paddington Bear’s notorious “Hard Stare”, but we do find a dazzling journey into the minds of this Walthamstow crew.
The foundations of the music lie in the guitar splashed with waves of electronics, and echoes of NEU!, Beefheart, The Residents and Hawkwind resound. But this definitely not derivative. Entropy Circus are surely digging their own canals and building their own dams. A lot of the compositions on this offering are instrumentals, and the first highlight on the tape is “The Rulers on the Edge of the Table”, a kaleidoscopic instrumental quite clearly inviting all genuine psychonauts to leave this planet once and for all. When “Rulers” is doing the space-bop, the epic “Precog Ratchet” is reminding us of our earthbound angst in a grandly playful way. “Slow Plough” is melancholy and has that bitterwsweet flavor we all love.
But Entropy Circus is not a one trick pony, and Mr. Krishna does pick up the mic and the 12-string on a few tracks to delivers some charming tunes, such as the hummable “Piece of Shit”, the intensly surreal council estate rawk of “Ferry Lane Estate” and the minstrel-like joy of “Mister Soleil”. “The Granular Decay of the Nation States” is a interesting track because it does not inhabit the hermetic Dada realm of a lot of this material; instead it relates directly to the world in a melancholy and quirky way that is characteristic of Entropy Circus, with Zali Krishna vibrating his vocal chords on the phrase “silly boy” in a lysergic-crooner kinda way. Enough said. Jump this train.
-Dag Luterek –
Erase Erata/Numbers – split
Label: Tigerbeat 6 Format: 3″ CDS
A spilt CD EP from Tigerbeat 6 showcasing Electro-Punk sounds from San Francisco. First up are Numbers, who’s singer Eric L observes “My room is very small” on “Goin’ Insane” through a distortion pedal to a discordant shuffle of scuzzy bleeps, squarks and clattery beats. Scrawled guitars ream themselves out to a fractured electronic bassline; yes, there really is something of Chrome‘s influence left alive after all. Not easy to digest, and “Palo Alto” takes the choppy riff and bleep frenzy along further stumbling follolops straight down into a ditch.
Erase Errata have a more melodic approach at first, chugging and wriggling with all the energy of kids of the Post-Post-Punk era, driven by tin-box beats and a prowling, clanky bassline on the brightly-sparking “Reatreat, The Most Familiar,Extensive I Bet!”, cowbell finish and all. Their second song “Thief Detests The Criminal”, is equally vibrant, with an extended guitar-mangling opening for the jerky choruses where things shimmy into some kind of sense from the tangled mass of rhythms and teeth-crunching guitar lines before everything collapes at last.
Escapade – Due To A Faulty Premonition
Label: Mother West Format: CD
On hearing the opening acoustic guitar you could be forgiven for expecting a gentle excursion into Folk territory. Of course, it doesn’t turn out that way. Escapade instead build shape-shifting improvisations, or collective compositions, using a wide range of sources but not, they state, with overdubs.
“When A Squall Line Beckons” is good example of their methods, using metallic percussion, distant howling guitar and keyboards they create a sound not unlike Faust. It is difficult to tell what instruments are being used, apart from the drums, but it all forms an amalgam of powerful, shifting noise that is harsh and disturbing. The plucking and tapping that opens “I See Things” constructs a watery soundscape that is full of strange, delicate forms. The combination of acoustic and electronic sounds balances the track, mixing some pellucid sounds with other more sharp and splintered ones. Elsewhere, they mix abstract sound with stronger rhythmic entities, as on “Singe” with its electronic wash at the start building into some jagged guitar and drum patterns. It is slightly reminiscent of earlier forays into the field, like Barrett era Floyd‘s space excursions. Guitars repeat motifs and the electric keyboards graft on dark swathes of distortion. Howling electronic storms are counter-balanced by plucked strings and tapped cymbals.
The final piece, “Postscript : A Flickering” is ‘an excerpt of a rehearsal recorded direct to two track’ and is perhaps the most mellow offering here. A hovering cloud of keyboard is pierced by echoing guitar and the whole track shimmers, in a warm haze, to a conclusion. At times the improvisations can appear shapeless but that’s the risk with music of this sort. Mostly Escapade do sustain interest through the constant variation of mood and texture.
Escapade – Rule #3
Label: Submergence Format: CD
Determinedly hallucinogenic, Escapade‘s latest album finds the group charting a psychedelic course through their spontaneously-composed improvisational Rock-based music into the outer reaches of free-flowing Trance music. Enhanced with burbles and cavortions of myriad synths and other electronics, the band build lengthy tracks which follow the guitar-bass-drums formula as more of a starting point of refernece more than anything.
Rule #3 is a record entirely suited to recumbent, relaxed listening, taking on cinematic, trippy aspects when left to its own mysterious devices to drag the listener out-of-bodily into the dreamlike space it resides in with considerable conviction. The nineteen-minute “A Symphony Of Sirens” brings glockenspiel and a range of trilling, swooping keyboards and effects into play among the accreting melange of the core instrumentation, bending space-time in the process as each musician explores the interplay of the sounds they gradually manipulate into strange fields of stasis, passages of crisp groove and places of tense reflection in between. Escapade’s cover of “Interstellar Overdrive” is as faithful to the original as anyone needs to be – which is not much, as the band set controls for the heart of improvisation on a Pink Floyd theme, jamming ecstatically into the galactic void on twin-guitar scrawls with similar verve to fellow out-there groovers Cul de Sac.
“Mysterious Utterances” is almost a quickie by comparison, clocking in around five minutes of electronics and guitar wibbles, plinks, reverberations and slow switchback drones, punctuated by whammy bar handbrake turns to edge-of-the-roof and looking down effect. The pace picks up to the purposeful drum rhythm of “Circumference”, where a circling insectoid synth and choppy licks prefigure a bout of hyponosis induced on a rolling groove of seemingly unstoppable aspect, some increasingly disturbed electrical interruptions and subtly emergent harmonic guitar skyscraping and a slightly jarring drift into faster tempo for the conclusion. The fed-back rise into grinding piccolo bass chaos of “Eclipse In Carbon” brings disturbance and noise in equal measure, the insistent spirals of bright guitar running sparks over the pathologically-repeated low end vibrations in a back and forth struggle for dominance among the shimmer of effects units. Once a happy cacophony has been reached, the mood becomes ecstatically-charged as the conjoined instrumentation surge together into a post-climactic judder and reprise.
Finally, the gentler drum rolls and marimba rattling which introduce “And Then All Silence Was Crushed” are soon overtaken by looming synthetic screams and moans as the percussion ups the rhythmic drive into a steamy cauldron of rumbling bass tectonics, tribal drums and pressure-valve electronics. A martial coup de etat follows, banishing restful listening on a wave of guitar nervous breakdowns as the group shift gear into hyperspace. Once Prog Rock cruising speed is acheived, when synth squitters and soaring guitars have flicked from speaker to speaker while the rhythm section seem set to explode, the stepping down into shuddering quietude is lengthy and triplet-laden.
Growl of horns and the languid, germaine German pronouncements of Michael Gira herald a clash of cymbal and gathering storm. The brass winds and threads its way through the scatternig rain, and a swirl of wind at times overtakes the words. But then the weather passes overhead, and fades into the colours of the next; another kind of brass hovers, above the percussion boiling beneath the surface.
Michael Gira’s singing idly passes between the sonic forces at play, at work – and is the modern sentiment to expect violence whenever certain sounds are put together? Is it a leaning towards over-contextualisation to expect a knife in hand to stab from the fog? And a patch of dust transcends into dustdevildom – a taste of honey and a swirl of flies? The pieces move slowly but deliberately, and the voice mirrors the sounds in method. Is this a mirror of the cadence of Georg Trakl‘s words, upon which these sounds are based? The attendant liner notes are printed on fine paper. Is the texture of the paper a mirror of the cadence of those words, as well?
Metallic resonance and more horns – the impression of a voyage is at hand. But one – if by land? And two – if by sea? It is unclear. And it is at this point that the question of clarity must be addressed. Can music based on literature uncover nuances that were not revealed by the words, originally? What relation could words have to sound – and how deeply can one complement the other? Is the reading of a piece music – music enough, in itself?
Exist – Exist
Label: D-Trash Format: CD
Exist, collaborative project for Jason Schizoid and .Miq (of noCore, Zymotic, towhomdoweowe and Clipfit, the latter also putting out an album on D-Trash soon) takes a slightly slower (perhaps measured would be a better adjective here) approach to its beat constructions than the full-tilt chaos’n’noise of, say, Schizoid. The rhythms, when in use at all which is about 50% of the duration of Exist, are loping, shuddery and/or taken to extremes; like they hit the start button on the drum machine every now and again, then fucked around with the results and let the detritus spew out. All this and some squealy little piggies warping into cyberspace, and it’s a lurching, regurgitated sound and one which will have the discerning (i.e. spoon-fed in this case) dance floor fans rolling in agony and demanding the guts of the DJ.
Other folks will demand the lights be turned out, the doors locked, and the volume turned to maximum in the best traditions of Harder Faster Louder. For peole who like their noise to have some structure, even if that consists of rapid-fire machine rolls and distressing children’s wails among the sampled skiffy FX and odd orchestra stab. Exist murmurs loudly rather than rants, and what it’s whispering among the minimalised (though occasionally hyper-speed nonetheless) digital clatter is lysergic, dark and sometimes overwhelming. Those rhythms do like to take odd turns and scrapes; fusillades rattle off into the open air, fall over, wash off shore on a raft of excessive reverb and float back into range, somehow refreshed and tarnished at the same time. The sense of vertigo can become immersive; ear-bending; chaotic, all at once and around again until the urge to tear out clumps of hair (perhaps other peoples’?) suggests itself, especially when enduring the 31-minute plus of “Noize”.
The imagery on the cover and implied in the music evokes 2001 and the Apocalypse; scorched earth policies have been applied in a clinical manner to the raw acoustic sample fodder, and then pissed on from a great height. What once was Techno and even the cheesiest of Pop musick (plus the odd bit of post-Muslimgauze Islamotronica on “Hooyee” or the vertiginous chords, Kung-Fu yelps and nauseously squelched drum fills of “”Jem”) may never be found again in their samplers and drum machines, but Exist like to make the beats shudder and work for their fucking living… no wonder it sometimes seems to give up audibly on this CD in response to such abuse.
Exist – The Tension And The Darkness
Label: DTrash Format: CD
While still exhibiting the characteristic DTrash aesthetic of DIY digital noise and visual design, The Tension And The Darkness takes an almost Free Jazz approach to its composition. So keyboards and programmes stumble around each other; beats pick up into cartoon-style frenzies before a rapid fade into word collage and slow motion undertows of pitched-down grumbles, where the process of stretching the samples renders them grainy.
The heaving motion of a track like “Custom Made (All Over)” staggers from trilling loops brought in collision with the cheesiest of electronic presets rubbed up raw by some devilishly nasty tweaking until the timecodes shudder under the strain. This is not really music anymore, but sound probed and distended into unhealthy shapes for the purposes of examination and revision – any melody or drum loop given more than a few bars of linearity is soon sent packing. Sludgy morasses of liqufied digital matter and pureï¿½ human voice wheeze and groan into electronic quagmires; but Exist do manage to pack a bang-hard cyber porno Drum & Bass interlude into the midst of the unwell-sounding bowel rumbles and gutted Pop queasiness in the shape of “When You Least Expect It (Hit You Like A Truck)”
Each piece is like a miniature treatise on the mangling of pop culture: one second rhythmic, the next filtered to fuck and back with the cathartic glee of seemingly randomized outbursts. The Tension And The Darkness holds all the deceptively simple anarchic fun of pouring thinners on a collection of random charity shop albums and playing the results, but done virtually instead.
Exos – Strength
Label: Force Inc. Format: CD
Force (Inc.) and Strength; grrrr, from the title it sounds like we`re heading back into the realms of Nitzer Ebb, but that isn`t the case at all. Techno doesn`t get much more minimal or streamlined than the variety produced by Exos. This is the kind of driving music that would keep a dance floor going all night, but would be equally at home on your stereo.
A curious feature of this album is the track titles. Exos seems to have a knack for names that end mid sentence. For instance Strength has the following tracks: “In The”, “Where Is”, and “With The”. But surely nothing can beat “Birds in Bedroom”. This seems to be a conversation between songbirds and one of Exos’ oscillators.
Like all good minimalism, Strength does very little, but it does it rather well.
Extol – Undeceived
Label: Solid State Format: CD
Here we have a perfectly good Christian Death Metal record ruined by the culprits listening to their big brothers’ Rush records one too many times. Geddy and his Canadian pals play a big part in this offering but probably a bigger part is played by At the Gates, which is always a good thing.
When they indulge in a epic dose of melodic grind a’la Gothenburg all is well. Then that Rush influence manifests itself, and that would have been fine too if the vocalist would have stayed clear of singing like Geddy Lee. I just can’t stand Death Metal with melodic vocals, it’s just not right… But don’t get me wrong,these Norwegians know how to write some whoopin’ riffs, it is just the complete concept and approach of Extol as whole that doesn’t quite do it for me.
For someone that would be turned on by a synthesis of At the Gates and Rush this is a dream come true. Unfortunately I am not one of those people.
Eye And Ear Control – Pushing At The Door
Label: Consume Format: CD
Awkward silences + sounds: Neck Doppler and The Render General; remote transmissions: Pet Tombola. An initial stretching and warrrrrrrrping of a song of Shostakovich and his son – apparently conducting. And, in a far-removed sort of way, the name of his son actually does compose this particular piece. High tones and backward-playing of the phrase, as if sifted time and again by someone older and very forgetful, faster and faster until they become a blur of raw sound, stripped of meaning and context.
“And They re Pushing At The Door Of Our Fridge” features some excessively high tones vanishing into the air as occasional beats slap their way against the cold. A changing of channels on British broadcasting slips in and out of the proceedings. A live action at Glasgow’s 13th Note Café, it would be interesting to discover how the sounds were all done there and hot on spot. Advertising jingles and phrases and programmes jumble the air – jumble, that scrambled word game! Beats strike in unexpectedly and there s a bit of Chris Isaak (and many others, I suspect) in there – just then! Hectic, hectoring, hassling and happy – it’s all there.
“Mosquito Tambourine” brings together weird and weird and weird and weird, now wait, I m doing it! Cunt cunt cunt cunt cunt, and so on. An inter view with a pop band, cut up and served again to formerly disinterested listeners that now will sit up and take notice of the deft sound manipulations and control of eye and/or ear. To twist the appropos phrase, “Take it to other dimensions/levels, higher” like Billy Joel said, “We didn t start the fire!”
Eyeless In Gaza – Song Of The Beautiful Wanton
Label: Soleilmoon Format: CD
And who/what is the beautiful wanton? A richly neurotic set of songs have been divined for it, who/whatever they might be. In fact it seems maybe a complete mythology may have been made up. True to the rumors, Eyeless In Gaza do come across as ambient Folk music, with a fireside bard-like vocals and tales. The lovely little stories are however so disconnected and, I suspect, personal to someone, that without more information the listener may be left out. Left out, but curious, which is one of the best things to ever expect from musick. Is there more to the stories? What are the dynamics of this mythology, and in what future fantastical sci-fi other world are the songs being passed on and on?
A little bit Eastern sounding, ultimately modern and with much technology on hand, sounds are crafted together from electronics and acoustics, and played out in restrained strengths, rather like beautiful tethered horses pulling against their bindings, all gentleness in their eyes. One hears that there could be an ineveitability in the swelling, to crashing loudness and distorted feedbacks, but with much implied repression the whole is kept soft and melodic and smooth. Controlled in a velvet rope kind of way. Martyn Bates sings like an enchanted Celtic bard, and at the same time has a voice so similar to that of David Sylvian it seems comparisons to Japan will doubtless be involved in the future of Eyeless In Gaza.
Another gratifying thing about Song Of The Beautiful Wanton is that the listener seems to be let in on more and more each time the disc goes on. Implying again, and with intentionality that a bit of neurosis may be behind it all, I can hardly wait to let this listen sink in and get on with another absorbtion. In some ways, Song… feels very Gothic, very brooding and dark. In another session, visions of illicit veiled dancers twirling about liscentious tassled trappings overrides anything melancholy. Another time, I want to be the dancer and feel quite calmly moved through my day of domestics, the musick taking on more of a soundscape background to my own tedious thinking. Any musick which can add a touch of rhythmic sensuality to household drudgeries must be applauded indeed.
This is the first album from Eyeless in Gaza in five years, and allegedly their least bitter one since their beginnings in 1980. Peter Becker and Martyn Bates have a great resume with credits as long as your arm of other musicians they have worked with from This Mortal Coil, to Genesis P-Orridge and beyond. This is my first experience with their musick and I must say it is such a pleasant one that I will go and look for their older works. I like the idea that a little meanness could be added to all this richly gorgeous sound. Still, it is obvious that the years have produced in Messers Bates and Becker a maturity and intelligence which gives Song Of The Beautiful Wanton a mesmeric power to pull listeners in many directions, and with splendorous repitition.