Kenneth Gaburo – Five Works For Voices, Instruments, And Electronics
Label: New World Format: CD
Voices and instruments are phrased in very strange intervals, giving the appearance of the cut-up – but, as we all know, it’s all in how you say it. Horns, brass, voice, etc. Like wandering through a dark wood, the sounds pop out at odd angles, linger for odd times and is there a point at which perception of a work, and the intention behind it, can ever truly intersect for a harmony of understanding between listener and composer? As if to answer – “Yes”. Repeated, but as in a fog; unclear and removed from the rest of the sounds. A sudden and very energetic speaking of tongues and lips through the trumpet by Jack Logan in “Mouth-Piece: Sextet for Solo Trumpet (1970)”. One wonders what the initial reaction to the premiere of this piece might have been, as sound poetry is one of our most underrated and weirding-out forms of music around these days.
“Antiphony III (Pearl-White Moments) (1962)” bring sixteen voices and electronics into the equasion, measured and yet straining at the leash to be chaotic and unchained. It’s not so much a lament as it is the sound of neurons firing before an idea is brought into the mind. And yet the overwhelming word that can be picked out of the sargasso sea of voices is “kill”. Kill what? It is unclear. A drone soaks itself into near-test-tone status, in that way that creates a second symphony depending on how much you move your head through space. It’s “The Flow of (u) (1974)” for three voices. Three voices making 22+ minutes of drone? It would be interesting to know what manipulation went into the recording of this particular piece. Just voices. Beautiful and majestic thing, that human voice. But Kenneth Gaburo died in 1993, which is sad.
Gagarin – Abutilon/Sgurr
Label: Geo Format: 7″
It’s probably by association more than anything else, but Gagarin‘s “Abutilon” does sound like music for space stations, if not the tin can which sent their namesake into orbit. Slow electronic tones coast gently around a snuffly micro-minimal rhythm of clicks, while a subtle bass generator keeps the gravity intact down below where it’s meant to. “Sgurr” plots a bleepier, hissier course into slow-burning low fidelity Electro percussion and digi-Funk groove with all the instrumental Synth Pop associations that sort of thing can engender before realising that it’d much rather be a pleasantly ambient Drum’n’Bass track after all.
Gallon Drunk – Fire Music
Label: Sweet Nothing Format: CD,LP
Gallon Drunk. They’re back, they’re pissed, and they’re probably wearing suave suits. Or Hawaiian shirts. Something pretty damn cool, nonetheless. Smoking fags. Drinking whisky. Like some crazy Tindersticks forsaking a maudlin drunkenness for some serious aggro. Opener “Outside of Love” sounds like… well, you know what it sounds like. Remorseless bass underpinning a wonderful cacophony, suddenly surprising you with a chilled-out sax solo. James Johnston comes across more than ever as some kind of deranged preacher crossed with an understated Nick Cave, and suddenly it feels like Camden’s been teleported to the Deep South (and I’m not talking about Devon.)
It’s only when we get to “Things Will Change” that we’re in for a shock. Gospel, in a Spiritualized/Primal Scream kind of way. With Beach Boys harmonies, no less. Strangely affecting, and genuinely cool, though I can no longer rid myself of the image of Mr Johnston dressed like an old-style Puritan. Or maybe Solomon Kane. Overall, it’s a fuller, yet more restrained Gallon Drunk we’ve got here. Maybe just a bit older, but none the less mental for all that – and still as cinematic as ever, only the budgets for the movies seem to have increased. “Forget All That You Know” builds slowly but surely, and it’s hard not to see credits rolling as Jim starts his trademarked “somewhere between a whisper and a shout” and the backing vocals get seriously Ennio Morricone on yo’ ass. And the title track? Well, title TRACKS, to be honest- “Fire Music” comes in two easy-to-digest parts. Coming on like an instrumental Bad Seeds, all piano and hi-hat, “Part One” veers from Angelo Badalamenti-style sinister Jazz to the aforementioned Morricone’s spaghetti classics, before some jaunty (yes, jaunty) sax kicks off “Part Two”, wherein we find some seriously pornographic wah-wah action, and it feels like a whole brass section has come round to fix your fridge and ended up with no trousers on, before being busted by some TV cops from the Seventies. It rocks, quite simply.
The album closes with more Gospel – “Series Of Dreams” sounds like something Julian Cope or the Primals would end an album with, only with much more tribal drumming, if you see what I mean. Like looking at heaven through the bottom of a bottle, Fire Music demands that you get an extra couple in before last orders – and pray for a lock-in.
-Deuteronemu 90210, the most magical, the most beautiful, the most important… saggy old Goth twat in the whole wide world-
Ganymed – Music Takes Me Higher
Label: Craft Format: 12″
In 1979 Austrian Space Invaders Ganymed had a smash chart hit with their disco opus “Music Takes Me Higher”. It’s 1999 now, and the good people at Sabotage decided the world needs to be remdined that Austria has more to its modern musical heritage than Falco`s “Rock Me Amadaus”.
Having set upon this strategy, the next question was how. They rightly decided not to add another Disco-Pump ’99 Remix to the arse end of Revivalism. It was not enough to rerelease or remake “Music Takes Me Higher” – only a full remake would do the Disco great any justice. The call went out around the world, and The Ganymed Mixes was the result. Music Takes Me Higher comprises of four artists: Adult, Krok, The Parallax Corporation, and DJ Elin. Between them they’ve remade Music Takes Me Higher all right. Imagine what would happen if you put a Disco tune in the microwave, the sound would buckle and warp like a record. People would cry “my god, what have you done to it?” in shocked response to the Disco monster that crawls back out of the microwave.
This is roughly the treatment given to Ganymed`s epic when the artists on this record were let loose on it. The result is twisted Disco masterpieces for the Nineties. My favourite has to be Adult`s interpretation with its seriously Electro arpeggios and Linn drum sounds. If you listen carefully there is a sample of “Music Takes Me Higher” – quite how it was warped to the state it is I don`t want to think about. My best guess is that they fitted a record player inside a vacuum cleaner and attached a microphone to the suction nozzle.
If you love disco, you`ll love this record. If you love warpedness, you`ll love it too. And if you love disturbing record covers this record is right up your street. Take my word for it. It’s Disco, Jim, but not as we know it.
GD Luxxe – Vendetta
Label: Suction Format: CDS/12″
On first listen it would seem that Gerhard Potuznik has dropped right back into retro Eighties mode, until it becomes apparent that some of the five tracks on Vendetta were actually written around 1986, though the entire EP sounds like it could easily date from that decade. “Reasons” is in the Soft Cell and/or New Order mould of bouncy yet melancholy Synth Pop with a nod at the likes of Visage along the way. Cyclical, clattery and running on a combination of arpeggiated sequences and reedy digital keyboards, and pretty much the same can be said for the later vintage “Words”, which brings in sampled loops and beats to the mix while retaining the feel of moody lyricism.
“Garden” is another Eighties tune, bringing matters in more upbeat musical directions, synthetic guitar washes and all among a unfolding squelchy Technoid groove and Potuznik’s deadpan vocal style. “Quiet life” is his remix of a collaborative piece with Solvent, which mixes emotional yearning with a floor-friendly smooch-beat which soon takes off into a whirl of layered digital rhythms and a somnolent dissolve as the vocals are left to hold the tune together over an extended recapitulation. Lastly, “Metawelt” runs through the instrumental blips, beats and percussion which sounds like it was played on the spokes of a bicycle wheel, and though the bouncy melody and ponderous bass chords do their best, but the tune is largely forgettable.
General Magic – Rechenkönig
Label: Mego Format: CD
Barney avows his love x2 and then little arrows are upon us. Tiny musical moments pop from the toybox of video games. The love of repetition and malfunction – at least it’s sex with someone you love. Veritable clouds of glitches practice kung-fu snafus, descending from seedy CD skies, bringing an alien world of fauna anchored to one beat or another. And the sounds erupt like blossoms lopped off at the stalks in the garden, followed by the sizzling zips of something indeed cooking…
Static barks, aping a popping machine rather than a human being. The guitar sound is sampled and exampled. Of course, one underrated question in the process of experimentation is what does one do with the experiments that “succeed” only partially? The hum throbs and vacillates across the spectrum. The pieces are very short – but remember: DJs agree that short songs rule. And now plays the spectrum of the plectrum – a voice hails all from the digital fog. Much switching of channels – frequenting the frequencies frequently…
This record is strictly dance floor material. It wants to be mixed, it wants to be loud – it doesn’t want to compete with lawnmowers on a Sunday afternoon. This kind of Techno can be dull as dishwater (c.f. a Techno compilation I had the misfortune to review, which shall go nameless) However, this is so deep and dirty sounding I can’t help liking it. It’s not clean, its not precise, but it is 100% functional.
This isn`t the first time I`ve run across Genie (a.k.a. Gene LaFosse) He’s been around for quite some time making Techno in New York. This isn’t the first time I`ve run across Tension records either, and the covers are as dodgy as ever. I’d scan it and put the picture in this review … but no, there’s plenty of that sort of stuff on the Internet already.
Gescom – MiniDisc
Label: Or Format: MD
When Sony invented the MiniDisc, they probably didn`t envisage a couple of Manchester’s finest noise sculptors messing around with the parameters of their shiny new technology in quite this way. Officially recognised as the first Mini-Disc-only release, this MD was released back at the dawn of consumer magneto-optical recordable media – all of two years ago now. As the Twenty-first Century shuffles into global (sub)consciousness, it does now look like MD may replace the clunky Compact Cassette after all – or until the next MPEG/DVD/crystal format appears on the market. Anyone care to recall the rich mans eight track tape, or the DCC?
What Gescom (Messers. Booth & Brown of Autechre) chose to do with the new format was not only take the limits of the compression standard of the MiniDisc as a limiting restriction, but also to make use of one of the few advantages this technology has over CD-Recordable apart from size. This lies in the read buffer, which means that when set to shuffle play a MiniDisc doesn`t skip with a noticable gap as a CD can do. Minidisc is loaded with 88 tracks of aural detritus of fairly trebly kind to suit the compression standards, designed to be played back randomly. The result resembles something akin to semi-programmed Free Noise, or a Techno take on Systems music, where the rules are a scheme for a score rather than being laid out as a series of notes. Regurgitating bursts of noise, tape rewinds, avant-skiffy Electronica and the occasional burst of overdriven HipHop breaks provide the raw material for a not-quite endless set of atonal configurations. Most people who have MiniDisc players thus far seem to favour the portable variety, so this disc is hopefully more listened to on the bus or street than at home from the settled comfort of an armchair, where experience shows its admirable suitability for meshing into the background atmospherics.
Like other discs suggested for shuffle play – Otomo Yoshihide‘s The Night Before the Death Of The Sampling Virus or Kaffe Matthews‘ CD Bea spring to mind – MiniDisc can spring some foruitous surprises on the listener, as the random cut`n`paste effects bring the Beats’ tape-loop experiments into a particular digital format. Of course, CDs do allow for multiple random play on multi-disc players; but MD rubs those little gaps away!
Ghost – In Stormy Nights
Label: Drag City Format: CD, 2LP
While topped and tailed by folksy melodies, In Stormy Nights has a thunderous heart beating at its centre in the vertiginous form of “Hemicyclic Anthelion”, a piece constructed from live improvisations welded together into a vibrant half hour of revolving, warbling atmospherics which ebb and flow with the meanders of Ghost‘s collective stream of consciousness. Flute trills and analoge synth squalls flutter with hallucinogenic irregularity, colliding with mellow recorder runs and the spasmodic tinkle of vibraphonic chimes, wrapping up scraped percussion and scrawling guitar feedback in a Zen paradox sure to delight the acid-eaters in the audience. Everyone else is recommended to take the headphone route to ghostly satori, as the freeform segues ripple from ear to ear, from delerium to relaxation. This is quality improvisational avant-noodling to be sure, but there is much better to come.
“Water Door Yellow Gate” steps up the pressure, with Masaki Batoh‘s vocals declaiming ominously while Michio Kurihara lets his guitar do the frazzling as the band thump out a ponderous rhythm. Swelling into a choral flume of wavelike cymbals, the intensified percussion of “Gareki No Toshi” brings frame drums, metallic crashes and megaphone excorcisms to the fore, with results channelling the combined mania of the Butthole Surfers, Einstürzende Neubauten and a group of Taiko drummers, Ghost style. But if a band were to decide to blow the minds of their listeners by dint of covering a lost Sixties psychedelic classic, there are few to equal the deranged bagpipe and drum arrangments of Cromagnon‘s orcish ur-stomp “Caledonia”, and this is the next shattering stage of an album which by now is living up to the promise of its title. In the hands of Ghost, the cave-dwelling original is faithfully replicated, then made bigger, louder, more spine-shiveringly epic, with the percussion welling up in a martial surge to simultaneously thrill and scare the living bejesus out of anyone whose stumbles across its path. The immediate response is to flip the rewind button, as it’s one of those tunes which pummel their way into glory on a backbrain-sizzling drone and the sheer windswept fury of its delivery. Moments like this don’t come that often, and Ghost have excelled themselves – and probably every other psychedelic band on this or any other planet in the immediate vicinity.
So it’s a relief that there is a cyclical return to their wistful side to the gentle accompaniment of an acoustic guitar and Ghost in swaying, singalong mode. As Kurihara’s soaring electric guitar reaches for the clearing skies, Batoh sings with heartfelt emotion “you know the time fades away… stormy nights are memories” and it’s like the sun’s come out once more, and sanity has been restored – until “Caledonia” gets played again, that is. Which as it happens, it can be, at least on the double vinyl edition, where a lyric sheet and the “Sing Together Mix” allow for an element of listener participation, which is nice.
Bruce Gilbert and Ron West – Freqency Variation
Label: Säkhö Format: 12″
It’s somehow only appropriate that the results of a workshop run by Brian Eno on the abuse of reel-to-reel tape recorders at a Watford’s art college should turn up twenty-five years later on Finland’s acknowledged home of minimal electonica, the esteemed Sähkö Recordings. Feedback and vari-speeded tape loops get the treatment they seem to be destined to to conjoined in as tones fade, rise and slope off with a hum and a whistle. There’s an actual sense that these were truly experimental recordings made by students of the future of music – and even if those results had been obtained before – which they most definitely had – then Gilbert and West were confirming the test outcomes of the processes which Cage and others had set in motion.
As with a lot of rediscovered electronic work, pioneering or otherwise, the sounds are both dated and contemporary, peeling back a few strands of linear history as recorded sound has a tendency to do, stepping outside the moment to make a link which verges on a time-travel experience. These pieces are not going to stand out as much more than an interesting fragment by themselves – nor if all the tapes from the workshop were released by labels from Helsinki to Tokyo and back – but it certainly helps crack away at the divisions between home-produced and commercial product, which if anything is certain, is going to be a big part of the future of music.
-Antron S. Meister –
Glover Gill/Tosca Tango Orchestra – Waking Life: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Label: TVT Format: CD
It’s funny-you see a movie like Waking Life, and while you’re watching the movie, the soundtrack seems like such a minor element in the production. It’s only later, when you’re sitting at home listening to just the music from the movie that you realize the important role a good soundtrack (like this) does play in setting mood, adding depth to scenes, etc., etc. This music is heavy, comprised of strings-rich chamber orchestra instrumentals that are tense and disturbed, controlled expressions of out-of-control emotions. The music is hard to stick in one particular category, since it flows so easily from acoustic Jazz into Classical-sometimes mid-song-but fans of either genre should enjoy this disc equally.
Frode Gjerstad Trio – Last First
Label: Falï¿½ta-Galia Format: CD
Starring Mr. Gjerstad (on alto sax, alto flute, and bass clarinet), Ovind Storesund (acoustic bass), and Paal Nilssen-Love (on drums). The flute rises slowly into the twilight of the piece, ferried by the gentle underpinnings of the bass. And, since it’s Last First, twilight is a perfect description of the sounds because twilight comes after sunset and before the dawn. Now the frenzied skronk of the sax and mania of the drums, galumphing bass besides and behind. Then the cooling-down period, and the tones fall from their respectively respectful instruments in languid splendor. The sounds creep along the carpet, searching searching searching and playing off one another until there is a harmony of action and purpose. And now, like a cat, the drums and horns and basses leap fast and furry, like Mel Brooks dancing homeless in Life Stinks, tail twitching to and fro across the ride cymbal into further watchfulness now.
The Jazz inherent is the feeling of being closely watched as one drives down darkening streets to a future that is unclear and untrue, as sodium lights turn on and off, faulty wiring moving them to their own odd time signatures and crimes
Frode Gjerstad & Nick Stephens – North Atlantic Drift
Label: Falï¿½ta-Galia Format: CD
With Mr. Gjerstad on alto saxophone and Mr. Stephens on double bass, the contemplative footfalls of walks in the woods are brought forth for the faraway listeners. The notes rise and fall, playing with each other and following a particular purity of a current as they’re imbued with the sense of the eponymous drift. The tones are reasonably gentle and assured, but move (at times) as if under a spell or hypnotised by their own inevitable return to rhythms. “Becoming Cyclonic – for Tony Williams” summons an elegy for the deceased drummer, whose passing was revealed on one of those selfsame walks. Full-circle?
Is the legacy of Jazz to bring all times – past, present and future – into an enlightened whole, an eternal now that draws many lines into one circle?
Goatsnake – Flower Of Disease
Label: Man’s Ruin Format: CD
Fans of old school metal (Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Spinal Tap, etc.) will be overjoyed to find that there are, yes, there are, still bands out there that are still true to the art of punctuation via heavy bass lines, super-fast twiddling lead guitar licks, pounding and predictable percussion, and lyrics about skulls, getting high, cars, God, and gals. The few deviations to the standard Heavy Metal formula in here are the surprising use of a mouth harp (which is not what my dad used to call that particular instrument, but I’m the more politically correct out of the two of us), a violin, and some nice piano music. But otherwise, this is the same music we used to get fucked up to when I was a kid, and it’s nice to see that kids today have the option to getting to that same dark and depressing place themselves without having to resort to listening to the oldies station.
Gilles Gobeil – …Dans Le Silence De La Nuit…
: Label: Emprientes Digitales Format: CD
These four journeys into the realms of Electro-acoustic music were first created in the composer’s Montreal studio and subsequently revised into their current states. They draw on literary resources such as Proust, Jules Verne and H.G. Wells as well as images from Italian travel though I’m not sure that having that as background information is any help when listening, except on “Projet Proust” , a track where the narrative is drawn from the first pages of Swann’s Way.
For example, the partially visual images from which “Derriere La Porte La Plus Eloignee” takes its genesis are very specific, albeit images which are also rooted in sound. How then do they translate into Gobeil‘s own sonic terrain ? He lists “the trickling of the ‘pozzo etrusco’ in Perugia” and “the hum of the ‘vaporetto’ in Venice” among the sounds which inform the piece and, to me, they create an entirely different ambience to those realised in the composition. Whilst there are occasional ‘trickling’ or ‘humming’ sounds it is more suggestive of an unlit journey, punctuated by near and distant crashing, through a more threatening soundscape. It is never a dull one, however, and leads into his Proust influenced piece. The narrative voice of Marc Beland offers short passages amid the metallic drones and disturbances that form the territory of this track. It is described as a ‘personal reading’ of the Proust pages and, again, you can hear what you want in the sound, whether or not you are familiar with the text. At one point a ghostly choir and bells drift into the foreground only to be submerged by a welter of grinding metal. Later electronic birdsong floats past the narrator and more forlorn metals announce a distorted voice/instrument. That too is suddenly truncated as are many of the sections throughout the piece.
I suppose H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine lends itself to the kind of ‘free adaptation’ that Gobeil has composed here on “Point de Passage”. Again, it is a journey through a very metallic zone as the sounds speed up and slow down in a dark territory where you can not predict what will happen next. The final track “Nuit Cendre” carries on the explorations of the previous track. The journey continues underground which, since it is an adaptation of A Journey to the Centre of the Earth, was to be expected. Gobeil constructs a threatening series of aural images and, as on all the other tracks, makes use of a variety of dynamics taking the listener from silence to dark rumblings in unfamiliar places. These troubled voyages are worth repeating because they draw the listeners in and allow them to make personal interpretations of what is happening. It may or may not correspond to your expectations or those suggested by the source material but in the end I don’t think that matters.
Franco Godi – Signor Rossi
Label: Crippled Dick Hot Wax Format: CD
There have been soundtracks aplenty from Crippled Dick – it’s part of their râison d’etre to re-release more or less obscure German and Italian film and TV show music from decades back, but Signor Rossi combines the quite insane elements of both – a Germano-Italian cartoon series about a character in a brown straw hat and suit (complete with bow-tie) and his surreal animated adventures, themed by the funky choral bliss-out “Viva Happiness” (present here in English, alternate vocal, extended and even acapella versions).
Unfortunately largely absent from screens these days, at least in the UK, foggy memories of strange weekday afternoon adventures on Channel 4 seem to be the British experience of Rossi. The music, however, is about as insane as any to score a TV programme ever created. Echoed vocal guests, sub-Buddhist chants, Bossanova dementia, and “Ba-Ba-Bas” abound in classic Easy Listening style, but as it was intended for children, presumably the producers thought that the weirder the better would be the best policy. There’s “Rossi-Polka,” the hilarious “Qua Qua Qua” and the smokey lounge-noir of “Krimi-Slop” – all underscored with spring boings, comic criminal gurning, and sonorous cats in the case of the manic “Gatto Blues.” As for the cod-orientalism of “Arabia” or the oompah-opera of “Salamek Zumpalla” – imagine the most clichéd barber shop choir lifting off into Scottish Klezmer territory without any form of safety harness.
The snatches of dialogue don’t help much as they’re in German, but the impression comes across of a cast and composer in fits if laughter between takes. At least, that’s the best hope for their sanity – if they were deadly serious – but that really doesn’t bear thinking about somehow, particularly after hearing the yodelled “L’allero” – complete with thigh-slapping lederhosen effects, or the underwater gurgling of “Fish Song” – which is a stone-cold classic of indescribably bizarre vocalisation.
Goem – Mort Aux Vaches
Label: Staalplaat Format: CD
Setting down Goem‘s live set to disc, this session was recorded for VPRO radio in The Netherlands and helps reconfigure the notion of repetitive beats with a air of determined tenacity. An obscure array of sample sources are looped and chopped into urgent rhythms, beats and pops, shearing off into an urgent series of recursive tracks.
Prismatic dynamism is the order of the day – sounds which start off in the higher ranges warp down the scale, phasing around each other and pushing the envelope of tranced-out hypnosis – by the end of each piece, the disorientating effect is complete and what was initially defined becomes a barely-remaining echo among the constant pulse of the central loop, whether warmly vibrating bass, rivet-gun percussion or liquid synth swarm.
Goem are setttling in nicely on this CD at the interface of click plus cut microbeats and the outer reaches of minimalist Techno. It’s danceable, in the way that Panasonic can be, where the body is taken into itself by the dynamics; and equally suited to immersive listening, building with single-minded purpose into the sort of music which beats away at inner space with an exhaustive, exhausting even, run through the possibilities of distortion and accretive rhythm.
Goem – Punik
Label: Staalplaat Format: CDS
First off, the packaging: Staalplaat have done everyone in the music world, whatever its shape or form this week, proud with their dropping of printed booklets and suchlike in the Material series. Instead, the CD jewel case is etched with the title and artist info (a bit of a pain if it get broken, mind), and all artwork is incorporated into the plastic. In Goem‘s case, it’s some nifty orange card punched with holes, and a two-tone CD to boot, transparent yellowish orange on the outer ring and filled in the centre. Such are the dreams of collectors fulfilled!
The music – 6 tracks taken from something called a Student Simulator, a device (broken in this case) used for training medical people in some manner, and (appropriately enough) a broken Dr. Rhythm drum machine, plus some antique Buchla synths. This nice set up is used to produce loping, slow-moving squitters, ponderous loops, glitchified shards of sound, low-end tones set upon by emergent buzzing. Heartbeat murmers suggesting tachycardia, wheezing Industrial klangbeats, somnolent, breathless synthesis; it all sounds very medical in its own way, and the squeak of the instrumentation adds a little edge of unsettling irritation.
All the best kind of electronic noises then, but without the distrait fracturing such music can tend towards. Punik is more obvious than some of this sort of thing perhaps, less microscopically processed, but divertingly adrift nonetheless.
Gold Chains & Sue Cie – When The World Was Our Friend
Label: Kitty-Yo Format: CD
The liner notes in this album say “File under Pop, Electronica” which while being perfectly true is also a little misleading. There’s no denying that Gold Chains (a.k.a. Topher LaFata) and Sue Cie make Pop music, with all the associated catchiness and emphasis on sugary harmonies, sing-along melodies and upbeat rhythms in place. But it’s the kind of quirky, idiosyncratic Pop that will never make the charts. Aside from their hard-to-pigeonhole eclecticism and unpredictability, they’re just a bit too clever for the mainstream audience, too good at programming their instruments and too lyrically inventive. The masses these days don’t like a smartarse. But then they’re on a fairly obscure electronica label in Germany, rather than Sony or Warner, so there’s a good chance they don’t give a flying fuck.
My problem with this album though is that I really don’t like Pop music. The paradigm doesn’t work for me, even when it’s being cheekily subverted. That’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of bits here that do appeal. The sinister disco of “Come To Cali” and the Le Tigre-esque Techno Punk of “Shoot Straight” work very well, and would go down a storm on the Electroclash club scene, assuming such a thing still exists. The claustrophobic and dissonant rhythms on “Multifear” have an almost Industrial edge to them, off-setting the cheery vocals nicely, and the white-brat Hip-Hop interludes on “Show Us Your Heart” and “Crowd Control” work very well, yet the same idiom struggles against an altogether too saccharine chorus on “Better Together”. It’s a shame; I find myself having to work hard to overcome my natural aversion to the more twee aspects of this kind of music in order to appreciate the quirky and idiosyncratic bits properly. Having said that, I still caught myself tapping my foot here and there. I think maybe it’s growing on me. And the artwork’s lovely.
Holly Golightly – Little Stars
Label: Damaged Goods Format: 7″
Want to know what a bad girl Holly’s been this year? ‘Course you do. Holly Golightly, if you’ve just tuned, in is the new queen of Garage lo-fi Blues trash. A timeless voice from the bottom of the coolest ashtray, and of course from the original Medway beat girl band Thee Headcoatees.
The Christmas 2002 single features two new tracks: “Little Star” and “I Don’t Hear You”. “Little Star” plays the Holly bad-girl persona to the hilt – she’s so bad that even Santa knows that she shouldn’t receive any presents this year. Here is proof, if need be that Santa is tonedeaf because Holly is on good form here with The Greenhornes playing syrupy Sixties Pop with a touch of Country twang and the obligatory Xmas sleigh bells and xylophone.
On “I Don’t Hear You” Holly is in Pop Punk mode. Festivities are over and she’s back to what she does best: berating ex-partners for their crapness. Its not a Christmas track. But hey! Like we give a shit! It stomps big boots all over those men who dun Holly wrong. But at the end of the day, this is a promo sampler: but one that’ll certainly make anyone with ears explore Ms Golightly’s bewildering oeuvre further. And for those who already know her: your Xmas won’t be complete without this.
Holly Golightly – Slowly But Surely
Label: Damaged Goods Format: CD,LP
Holly Golightly has trip-toed over my heart. This latest album of twelve songs in 39(+) minutes, starts immediately with a showcase of Ms. HG’s absolute butter-scotch voice. I do mean proper butter scotch too; French clarified butter, 12 year old scotch and the best unrefined dark brown sugar. Rich and sweet. Of course Holly Golightly makes use of every musical style she can and has effectively appropriated influences from about eight various decades. There’s a little bit of Holly that would appearl to nearly every kind of enthusiast one can imagine. There’s a riff in there somewhere from the Velvet Underground, a whole lot of Doors and Peggy Lee and Nina Simone and a special inclination (OK maybe just a nod) towards Grateful Dead (fans). Then, “On The Fire” seems the dream anthem of every mountain country’s Hillbilly bride.
“Keeping On” is shockingly written by Holly herself, as it is the most Connie Frances song I’ve heard since Connie herself. Patsy Cline even, could have been the author, though not the singer. Holly’s voice has a little more threat behind it and much more confidence of self assertion than the wounded women of old days. The super clean – but still lovingly warm and analogue – recording tells on itself with slick perfection whereas Ms. Cline would’ve had to sing out over the clicks and pops of vinyl retribution 50 years ago. Still, with all this derivation and appropriation, HG still manages to make it all her own and it’s as if none of the predecessors ever predecessed.
Maybe it’s the switch off of styles but this record keeps grabbing me back in. I have listened to it intensely all day, through the chores and the visitors and other such foolishness, and although I have lost the sound from time to time, it feels remarkable how quickly and satiatingly my attention has snapped back. The lyrics are clear and easy and instantly stick or settle in the mind. The instrumentation is classic and well done before but still executed very sweetly and is ever so familiar.
It’s all a very simple album really. I believe my favourite song is “Dear John”. Another masterpiece of Ms. Golightly’s, again reminicent of the daydreams of all disenfranchised junkmen’s daughters; this is possilby the best song I’ve heard in 6-10 years. Â It’s a song which makes a singer want to sing. It is a song that makes a girl want a broken heart, just to get to use it to soundtrack her own “Dear John” scenario. I guess one gets the idea. I really like this record. I don’t think I can be objective about it at all. But I bet you could like it too.
Gonzales – Take Me To Broadway
Label: Kitty-Yo Format: CDS,12″
When Gonzales puts his Pop hat on, he can certainly whip up a storm of left-of-center groovesomeness, and no mistake. As the title track proves, even if his throway line “I’ve got an extra testicle/But you’re sceptical about spectacle” might just keep him from Top Of The Pops success – though, that’s no given these days, and would definitely be a sight to witness. As the tune pumps along in a Electro-Jazz manner which puts Gonzales somewhere in the same sleazy league as Jimi Tenor, Bobby Conn and even somehow Eminem in equal measure, it’s good to reflect that when he does things right, Gonzales can really swing as well as croon. So does the throwaway rendition of “Return Of The Sugar Plum Fairy” takes Tchaikovsky into outer space on a thumpingly stolid Electro rhythm, while the densely-packed miniature “Concerto In E Minor” hints briefly at The Exocist‘s theme in an analogue synth-led virtual orchestration to make Tomita swoon.
Goodnight Star– Goodnight Star
Label: Plastiq Musiq Format: CD,LP
Opening with a promising swirl of analogue pitch-bends, Goodnight Star‘s self-titled debut soon eases into post-Human League synth-Pop of the soul-searching variety. Bubbly, bouncy keyboard lines always seem to get overlaid with a vocalist who sings in the strangely flat tones of the English Midlands, despite actually coming from the Mid-West of America, and no matter how hard they try it’s probably still too soon for an early Eighties revival, at least for those of us who still regret the first time round.
It’s fair to say that Goodnight Star have the advantage of ten to fifteen years of developments in production values and technology – the sound is crisp and the electronic squiggles arranged in a sensuous enough manner, the drum patterns even break out of the Electro four-step into a sub-Techno thump on occasion. There’s even, surprisingly, the Housey helter-skelter of “He’s My God,” the almost-Swingbeat of “Everyday” and the vaguely-Reggified backing of “Dub Party” or “3-D Heart” for rhythmic variation, but something monotone underlies even the most slithery tone-generator sprawl. It’s as if the whole album was one long song; not a problem in itself, but when the lyrics of the song are invaryingly delivered in so dreary a manner, listening soon becomes a chore. Now if only it were an instrumental album…
Alex Gordon– Small Craft Warnings
Label: Tone Casualties Format: CD
Small Craft Warnings is a seriously laid back recording. At points the tracks sound reminiscent of early 90s ambience, but Drum and Bass is just as much an influence as The Orb. The album is packed with breakbeat loops and attitude. It moves from the spacious ambient epics like “Ether”, through more detached and distant tracks like “Stealing Seven”. Eventually Alex Gordon drifts towards relaxed Post-Rock guitar drones of “New Love”. This is where he shows his Sonic Youth-inspired roots. He came up through the L.A. independent scene in the 90’s and was a member of the guitar band Loomer. All in all a good ambient album.
Gorodisch – Thurn & Taxis
Label: Leaf Format: CD,LP
Operating somewhere between Folk lyricism and fashionably electronic Jazz textures, Thurn & Taxis shifts gear from the pastoral picked guitar on the opening couple of tracks into mellow bass grooves of “A Time To Listen” and “The Strangest Feeling”. These couple nod along with a light touch, chilled being the operative word, in the manner of both Brubeck and Can. “Homeward” provides a gently assured ending in an evocatively wordless slow cascade of guitar notes and a wash of waves.
Add in cello, horn and gently-phased guitar work, some upbeat Funky trills on “Blues For Pablo Money” and a walking bass line or two throughout and in all this mini-album has the requisite ingredients for being entirely relaxed. It’s above all non-invasive and the sort of thing to accompany light conversation, light beer and a light lunch.
Grain – Untitled
Label: FatCat Format: 12″
Grain has supporters ranging from Techno giants like Jeff Mills, Robert Hood, and Richie Hawtin to the Housier likes of Armand van Helden and Danny Tenaglia. Quite some range. After listening to the record it isn’t hard to see why, it totally rocks. As House it rocks, and as Techno it rocks. It’s House made with the Techno reductionist aesthetic, funk stripped down to the bare essentials.
His long awaited LP is due out in July 2002, rumour has it.
Gram – Simple Funk EP
Label: Underscan Format: 12″
Flecked with dirty digital debris, the scattershot breakbeats of “Incest Intro” stagger out of a whirlpool of shifting, flanged electronics shuddering with misplaced filename chaos, heralding Gram‘s particular take on microsound composition. Graham Love‘s sound falls well within the current expectations of software music, though with a suitably off-kilter feeling which can happily incorporate silliness among the clever layers of programming.”Simple Funk” itself is a brightly wandering collation of uprising chords, twinkling stabs of trebly light and inhaler bass rhythms, while “Ah Yeah” wibbles to itself in rapidly-sketched glitch phrases, and even includes a stuttery vocal sample shoved through delay FX spirals.
“Pussy Jazz” fizzes in a collage of spoken TV snippets and some frantic hyperspeed Drum & Bass mania which soon twists itself into soundcard synth evaporation. Last up on the EP is “A Strange Feeling Of Fulfilment”, where some further FM dabblings lead nowhere very much except flatly circuitous discordance with more of a head scratching than satisfying impression left behind.
Grand Magus – Iron Will
Label: Rise Above Format: CD,LP
Metal (or, should I say, METAAAAL) seems to have undergone something of a renaissance in recent years, at least in the way it’s popularly perceived. Until very recently, metal was looked at like the creepy, socially-maladjusted child who sits at the back of the class reading Fangoria and plotting the next Columbine massacre. If a band were to be accepted by anyone else, they had to hyphenate or hybridise the genre- you couldn’t just be “thrash metal” or “death metal” or something that actually WAS metal, you had to be something with metally bits, or worse, “nu-” or “funk-” metal.
Now it seems to be de rigeur to be as metal as possible – bands like Lair Of The Minotaur and Mastodon have no qualms about wearing their spikes on their sleeve, and are spearheading the drive out of the Age of Irony – at last you can be into metal and not have to pretend you just think it’s funny.
Sweden’s Grand Magus are most definitely not ashamed to be metal. And power metal, at that. Although the tolling bell that opens the album, coupled with the fact that they were once on Southern Lord (not to mention the sleeve artwork), might give you the impression that they’re a doom outfit, this is nine tracks of intertwining solos, chunky riffs and Iron Maiden-style vocals. And while it may be determinedly old-fashioned, it’s damned enjoyable. It may not be breaking any new ground, but it doesn’t need to- there’s still a lot to be made from the old. A must for fans of old-skool metal. And headbanging.
-Deuteronemu 90210 from the frozen wastes of the Northlands-
Willard Grant Conspiracy – Everything’s Fine
Label: Rykodisc Format: CD
Willard Grant Conspiracy writes beautiful songs that invoke images of open country roads, desolation, and small town decay, fueled by loneliness and melancholy and an absolutely amazing cast of musicians that change with each album, apparently depending on whoever wanders through the door of frontman Robert Fisher and songwriting partner Paul Austin‘s studio. Everything’s Fine cast includes Edith Frost, Chris Brokaw, Vic Rawlings, and Pete Sutton, among others, and, despite the songs being about guns, gambling, and getting drunk, is by far the most borderline-joyful-sounding WGC release yet, as though resignation with the world is about to give way to absolute blind surrender.
As always, Willard Grant Conspiracy remains one of my favorite bands and consistently releases some of my favorite records. Mojave is yet another of the band’s exploration into loneliness, open countrysides, flat fields interrupted only by telephone lines and highway, and just the vastness and emptiness of the world. The rootsy music is gorgeously punctuated by accordions, violins, and bare percussion, adding to the feeling of desolation that permeates (without being overbearing) this ensemble’s body of work. The one big surprise on the disc is the addition of a hard Punky-Rock tune with noisy electric guitars and distorted vocals-amazingly, while this track seems like it should interrupt the flow of the album, it actually feels like it belongs with the rest of the pieces.
Gravitar – You Must First Learn To Draw The Real
Label: Monotremata Format: CD
This is like the anti-matter flipside behind every Tony Iommi riff. It’s there if you listen to close, and Gravitar have been listening far too close. Its the unrealized possibility behind every Sabbath power chord, a bit like the Chtulhoid spaces between angles. And its all done on the spot on a 4-track. The singer sounds like Iggy Pop being eaten alive by a crocodile on crack. “Blues for Charlie” rawks my brain as if it was put in a centrifugal clothes drier. “Night Dub” rather exemplifies the “spaces between angles” approach, and manages to be more introspective.
“…vortices of dust and fire, swirling out of the ultimate spaces and heavy with perfumes from beyond the worlds.” – H.P. Lovecraft
I don’t really know why this music reminds me of Lovecraft, but the above quote sums up “Night Dub”. I think it’s that claustrophobic cosmic paranoia that can grip us all when we least expect it, that makes this music communicate on human level. Nonetheless these Anti-Walker brothers (it really is their shared surname), give us a surefire ride to somewhere very interesting.
The Great Depression – Forever Altered
Label: Fire Format: CD
Forever Altered, third album from Denmark-based Americans The Great Depression, is a huge, lush, and symphonic album that drifts effortlessly between chamber psychedelia and shoegaze folk. The scale and ambition of the record is impressive – an album of intricately crafted and beautiful songs, haunting lyrics and vocals, and brooding and melancholic textures. Emotionally infectious, tragic and sad, Forever Altered never wallows in self-indulgent grief. Their sound lends comparisons to Radiohead or early Spiritualized. Another comparison that comes to my mind is Mothlite, but with a little less volume and more pathos. Both bands are rich and symphonic in scope, lovingly crafted, and haunting.
The Great Depression is a superb name for an indie band. Lets face it, that could describe indie music. Boomkat summed Forever Altered up by saying “This is the way indie rock should be” They have point. Forever Altered just feels right. The music, lyrics, emotion and overall musical experience are stunning. And despite the scope and complexity of their music The Great Depression make it feel totally natural. They put songcraft back on the map. Great album.
Grinderman – Grinderman
Label: Mute Format: CD/LP
Ever wondered what would happen to the Bad Seeds if they slipped out from under the watchful eye of Mick Harvey for a few tracks? It appears they would go to a very strange place, get really drunk and have a party there. That party would, if you could remember anything afterwards other than the sore head and even sorer genitals, in all probability sound something like Grinderman.
There’s been a fair bit of speculation that this is Nick Cave‘s mid-life crisis – sick of being a domesticated Bible reader, he’s necked a couple of gallons of booze and jumped astride a younger man’s motorbike. This is not, on current evidence, true. Nor is the suggestion that this is Cave’s Tin Machine – that one’s easily blown out of the water by the simple fact that Tin Machine were rubbish. Grinderman definitely aren’t. A boozed-up, priapic groove monstrosity, Grinderman are the sound of sleaze, of a truck full of testosterone crashing into your local off-licence and bursting gloriously into flames. Gorgeously dirty, wonderfully hedonistic, Grinderman are the very essence of Rock’n’Roll in all its seedy beauty. Opener “Get It On” may as well be called “The Essence Of Rock’n’Roll In All Its Seedy Beauty”.
From anyone else, some of this would be distinctly unsavoury. Take, for example, “No Pussy Blues”. On first hearing, a queasily misogynistic cock-waving endeavour, until you realise the unnamed female is pulling ALL the strings, and not in some bullshit “all women are bad” way – there’s nothing devious or malevolent. No, she just doesn’t want to fuck him. And that’s all there is to it. Even here, even while digging away to get back to the primal nature of Rock and Roll, Cave’s lyricism is stunning, and it’s his gift for self-deprecation that stops this all tumbling into some horrible Nick-Hornby-Does-Fight-Club morass of paranoid masculine arrogance. But this isn’t Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds. It’s not Nick Cave And The ANYTHING. Grinderman as a band are tight enough to make your eyes water, but loose enough to drink a bottle of whisky through. “Electric Alice”, a real change in tempo, has more cool sounds than you could shake your John Thomas at, sounding simultaneously meticulously planned and made up on the spot.
Frankly, the whole thing’s glorious. The title track sounds strangely Neubauten-esque, all clunky metallic guitar sounds and harmonics that could take your teeth out. “Go Tell The Women” is like a very straight-faced Palahniuk story, all bruised male pride and barely-salvaged ego, but “straight-faced” only in the sense that it’s hiding an enormous toothy grin behind that sombre facade. “Depth Charge Ethel”, who we first meet “angled across some dude’s knee”, is the subject of another stompy rock-out-with-yer-cock-out Bluesy bonanza, complete with whoo-whoos, grinding bass and insistent punch-in-the-face snares. By now if you haven’t realised that Nick and the boys are having a fucking wild old time, then you have something wrong with your ears, brain or central nervous system. Possibly all of them. This is the sound of people having FUN. FUN with a capital FU. If you want the Bad Seeds sound, then look no further than “(I Don’t Need You To) Set Me Free”. If you want to live in a parallel universe where Nick Cave fronted The Stooges, then head straight for “Honey Bee Let’s Fly To Mars”. Replete with “bzz bzz” noises, this is going to be the cause of several moshpit injuries if the live shows are even half as good as they should be.
All of a sudden, we get one of the most beautiful songs these dudes have produced in years. “Man In The Moon” is as heartbreaking as anything Cave’s ever written, and the sparse backing (yes, even with that Chris DefuckingBurgh piano sound) only adds to it. Somewhere in all this masculine bravado, we’re given a glimpse of real vulnerability, and the loss of the father. Hugely symbolic, I guess, but there’s no time for that, because WOW. A scratchy, windswept and relentless soundscape pushes “When My Love Comes Down” right into your face. YOUR face. RIGHT INTO it. With the pushing and that. A pulsing bass that keeps erupting into “From Her To Eternity”-style glory underpins this most mantric of Rock’s hymns. But it’s “Love Bomb”, a balls-to-the-wall stomper, that provides the most fun on this, the funnest album released yet this year. For me, it’s the lines “I been listening to Woman’s Hour / I been listening to Gardener’s Questiontime / But everything I try to grow / I can’t even grow a dandelion” that make this the bestest of the bestest. Cave and the guys are all grown up now, and all domesticated and Radio 4-friendly. But still within them lies what Nietzsche probably wouldn’t have called the Will To Rock.
Y‘know, I was hoping this would be a decent stopgap between Bad Seeds albums, but it’s turned out to be a masterpiece in its own right. I can only hope that this amount of greatness, when combined once more with the undoubtable genius of Mr Harvey, will produce something above and beyond anything I could ever imagine. Becausethis is absolutely fantastic.
-Deuteronemu 90210, with help from Butch McGuire off the Sheila’s Wheels advert-
Set up as two repetetive-beat sides to flow into each other with the aid of two copies of the 7″, “Moonbase Omega” launches straight into a welter of Hammondy Kosmische Rock out swirls, slurried analogue synths and some trilling flutes inna Sixties mode. Very much the music to be accompanied by oil-projections, lavalamps and prodigious quantities of whatever takes yr clubbing fancy, the only problem is its brevity – but let the DJ take care of that.
“Moongroove” continues the swelling of phased funkiness with hints at Brainticket-style psychedlia, and is essentially the same track without the flutes, but with more echo reverberating around the shop and down the stairs to the street. This single is a nice taster of things to come; swinging.
-Antron S. Meister-
David Grubbs – Rickets & Scurvy
Label: Fat Cat Format: CD
A catchy title for a guitar led set of ten fairly Poppy songs. And the guitar is often the most attractive feature of the CD since the lyrics don’t necessarily make much impression and David Grubbs‘ voice is a bit wearing in its rather toneless way. For example, “A Dream To Help Me Sleep” features some bright rippling acoustic guitar and subtle piano lines but his voice doesn’t always seem sure of the tune. I kept wishing I could erase it. Some might like it but I just find it too nondescript. “The Nearer By And By” also has ear-catching acoustic and electric guitar along with buoyant bass and limpid piano but then he sings !
I prefer Grubbs’ voice on “Pinned To The Spot”, a more urgent song which doesn’t allow the voice much space to meander. It also drifts into a couple of intriguingly spacey sections for guitar and cymbals, unlikely as that may sound. There is also some judicious use of electronics to add variety of texture on “Precipice” and “Crevasse”. These tracks don’t sound out of place amid the predominantly song- based format. The album ends with “Kentucky Karaoke”, is a promising title that doesn’t entirely disappoint. Far from being a drunken Hillbilly singalong, it features some pellucid piano and a pleasing, if minimal, vocal contribution. The piece seems to hang suspended in the air and is an appropriate closer because it made me want to go back and see if I’d done Grubbs’ voice an injustice. I don’t think I have. But I would still like to hear more of his work featuring the colours generated by the guitar, keyboards and electronics.
GwEm – FYMW/Frank Sinatra
Label: Shitkatapult Format: 7″
Introduced by a blatantly shoe-horned Lemmy live in concert and dedicated to IT managers everywhere, “FYMW” – Fuck You Management Wanker – is a lo-fi Punky Electro rant against working for The Man. Drum machines charge full-throttle, cheap-stylee, accompanied by an equally low budget synth guitar riff, while Gareth Morris vents his spleen at a former boss in a geeky monotone. Right on.
The AA side is a cover of Miss Kittin And The Hacker‘s classic piece of nasty Techno “Frank Sinatra”. Buzzing with a cheesy Rave chord-stab melody and snarled out in a far more venomous vocal style, the tune staggers with vitriolic energy, as Morris yells “Suck my dick, lick my arse” to the bleepy hyperspeed beat. The geeks may not inherit the earth, but they can sometimes assume the position.