Van Delta – EP No. 1
Label: Groove Attack Format: 12″
Sometimes better known as Drum & Bass duo Monophace, Hannes Wenner and Christopher Klos have taken on the Van Delta monniker to experiement beyond the genre. Their first simply-titled EP takes an excursion into diverse territory, making the HipHop break of “Enlargen” move through some distinctly Ambient areas before settling into a mellow groove for the duration, pausing only for a simple drop-out before resuming the vibe. “Station 19” pumps up the tempo for a fusion of House with D&B technique without treading the dangerous waters of Speed Garage, preferring instead to make it hypnotic, like the old days, but with all the new wrinkles in place.
“White Cube” opts for a fatter breakbeat and bass sound, though still with that two-stepping skanking feel, while “Perfect Frame” is distinctly sleepy. The latter also is in danger of nodding off into Jazzy smoothness, though the bass of their other project interjects enough heartbeat arrhythmia to just avoid that perilous state – especially if played at 45rpm. Curiously pleasant, EP No.1 also manages to make sense of its melded sources and influences. Oh, and putting a hi-tech windmill farm on the cover was another good move too, and somehow appropriate.
Van Delta – Second Entertaining
Label: Groove Attack Format: 12″
Monophace‘s side project Van Delta takes their usual Drum & Bassiness down a notch or two as far as speed goes, with “Distant” showing that effective use of the characteristic bass slide with more Ambient manouvrings can be quite pleasant in a Downtempo kind of way. However, it’s a good thing the bass is so earth-shuddering and the synth melody so jarring, as the choice of tinkly keyboard plods is a tad uninspiring after the first few chords. “Retrace” suffers from a similar tendency towards reverbed piano settings, but has a more Housey beat under an eqaully warming bass and a stepping little groove which takes off into booty-shaking land with a mostly forgivable digital feel, thanks to its slightly sinister atmosphere.
“Adjust” continues in more Tranced-out manner, but lacks much to make it special at all, tending too much into House’s standard methodology. Last of the four tracks on the EP, “Way Back” is gently luxuriant at first, but again with that overly-digital feel which leavens the niceness with a sharp glint of technological coldness. Pleasantly ominous as it is, “Way Back” leaves little for the imagination to work on, and slips from the attention far to easily – probably because the bass is quite restrained, and this definitely seems to be the area in which Van Delta excel. More boom, please!
Darrin Verhagen – Hydra
Label: Dorobo Format: CD
Sounds that are so soft that they require some amount of headphone mindfulness. The kunstkopf is in full effect as the voices neighbour one ear, then the next. Transmission – but how exact can it be? The cover reveals a floating body in water. Pacific? Buzzing sounds a call and sublimates with rumbling.
What correlation does the artwork have with the sounds, vis-a-vis vice-versa? And, of course, the mutual invasion of other worlds that comes with space exploration shall kick up the spores of even more archetypes aligned with these sounds… A grinding, one-legged beat kicks ass until the echo tones interrupt. Then, the beat returns, summoning up similar spectres in a cavalcade of corrupting cacophony. The voices drift back in and out of the frame, running with the ever-present glitchticks of imperfection. The phantom lighthouse sounds its foghorn call and the final, inexorable sea washes it all into memory with one inevitable thud…
Vert – The Köln Konzert
Label: Sonig Format: CD
Taking inspiration from Keith Jarrett‘s recording with the same title, sometime Bovinyl label co-creator Adam “Vert” Butler‘s album was recorded in May 1999 at the White Noise Bar in the city the CD takes it’s name from. Something of a post-Jazz thing, The Köln Konzert has very little about it that sounds live (in terms of audience noise for example), but there is something of the spontaneity which even what is essentially sequenced music can allow seeping through here too; a neat trick.
Packaged in some of the niftiest layered translucent CD sleeve designs seen in a long time, the album consist of five parts, the second and fifth of which are Jarrett compositions. Part One is a lengthy variation on a cyclical piano motif, and brings the performance forward in relatively conventional form before things start to get really interesting. Butler works at the interface between glitch, re-sampled material and composition/improvisation to bend his sound sources from the identifiable into the generously abstract with disarming slyness; one moment there’s a melody to hand, and then it eddies away into more distraught areas. As with many of his fellow A-Musik and related laptop-slicers, Vert’s pushing of music though a digital cheesegrater demands somewhat more attention than may at first appear. Certainly it can be dropped into the background, yes, it can probably be dismissed as non-music by those too lazy to listen, but utlimately it has its own internal logic, even if that sometimes gets chopped up more than a little bit.
To hear some Steve Reich-like repetition emerge in breakbeaten style during Part Three is stirring enough, especially when the fuzz of microvariations on the Jarret fragments drops into the void – the effect is unusual to say the least, somehow peripatetic in its own distended way. Not to say that there is much on this record which is noisily jarring, as Butler is generally more subtle in his distortions, more that he gives over the impression of a heads-down noodler of the sequencer making ends meet middles and the whole flow with a curious stuttering rhythm. Fluctuations, diminishments, electronic blips and vibes, and the recursive melodic elements take off on gentle drum machine patterns towards the conclusion. And the answer?
Part Five is where something is allowed to really stretch out, something of the order of digital gargling, swirling all the previous elements under and around each other, but with every other beat or wave form seeming halved on each line. The shimmying results are allowed to ferment which the piano returns, gradually marking out a strenghtening tune amongst the dissolution. The conclusion is crystal, and the whistles and clapping of the formerly silent audience appears at last to confirm this recording’s status as live, as if to authenticate the process itself. The Köln Konzert is at once simple in its transition from states of tune to noise and back and forth, and equally complex in its effectivness. QED.
Vert – Moremooseicforme
Label: Sonig Format: 12″
A twinkling 12″ release, Moremooseicforme opens with the brightly-coloured “To Doo Is To Be”, where sparks of trebly top scuttle their way across a wallowing bass line which is never so much heard as makes itself apparent in passing at the lower threshold of feeling. Glitches intrude, extrude and deconstruct themselves in a middle eight which could as easily be seventeen or a pseudo-random number; the bouncily extracted rhythm wants feeding with more energy, so it crisps up the radio-static device until the bleeps become sweeps. “Schpountz” walks cheefully into the sound of virtual glockenspiels and repetitive squeaking, swinging to a relaxed motif of a thoroughly spasmodic kind.
“La Tierra Es De Nosotros” offers a mouth-popping intro into a accumulating stream of blip dicontinuity, making the microsounds shuffle in Latin style to the beat of a dissected Samba tune while the melody goes digitally crazy. “Store Not Singing” checks out with in refracted rhythmical style, as cutlery, electronics and their sampled descendents churn into an off-kilter (or is that -key?) miniature to conclude a rather distractingly odd EP.
Fidel Villeneuve – Kill Life
Label: DHR <20 Format: CD
Think about everthing which has ever existed in Punk Rock, Ragga, Jungle, all out noise asaaults of darker Drum and Bass from the No U-Turn to Ambush labels in terms of dynamics, energy and bash-the-head against the wall just for the fun of it nihilistic glee. Then turn it up to eleven or twelve at the hands of a self-loathing teenager in his bedroom at the parental house, and Hate Life is the result. A stormer, a stonker and a rip-roaring ride into chaotic noise and bass confusion in other words, all belted out in just over half and hour at breakneck (and arm, and ribs) speed from Fidel Villeneuve‘s sampler until the ears burn and the pulses race.
What joy there is in simple acts of anarchy like including a “steal this” note on the CD case or titling the opening explosion “Go Fuck Yourself!!!!”. As he’s on Digital Hardcore‘s Less Than Twenty imprint specially for teenage musical rebels dragged up unther the thrashing breaks of the parent label’s signature sonic pollution, he’s entered fully into the spirit of the gang by adding as many exclamation marks as possible to track titles – “Fix Tha Guitar Shit!!!”, “Fully Loaded Overloaded!!!” and “Ganja Cancer” all get the point across as much as the music. Which seems to be – make some fucking noise, and all the better if it’s sampled and streched to pieces in the process. It’s a little like being plugged into the mains current at the ears.
This isn’t to say there’s a lack of self-deprecating humour, as a little girl voice implores “It’s too fast”, the BPMs go into overdrive and later down to sludge-speed. As for sampling the title music from Only Fools And Horses on “Fire Man!!!”, what a bleedin’ laugh!!! Especially as Villeneuve sings the refrain in wavery teen-rapper style too. All this and a reworking/sampling of Ed Rush‘s seminal “Bludclot Artattack” which, despite correcting the spelling and being the only track to lack those !!!s, is just as fast and furious in its exuberence. Refreshes the parts that other breakbeats can’t reach, probably because they’re too busy being musical and not spending enough time wired to the speaker cones with all hell being let loose.
Violet Indiana – Choke EP
Label: Bella Union Format: CDS
Robin Guthrie and Siobhan De Maré woo a listener into a purple heaven slowly and so agonizing that tears and copulation are really all I can think of to describe this EP. I saw the pair in this recent incarnation at Labradford’s Festival of Drifting at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in June of this year, and was moved to a point of hystrionics which made me foolishly tell Robin that “she sounds like Liz Fraser“, much to his horror. I think what I meant was that Siobhan feels like Liz, a little, and their union is surely as evocative as The Cocteau Twins. Together they capture the sound of when a heart breaks, the exact moment when lives shatter under the sharp blade of devious love, the trickster, the serial ender.
Violet Indiana is a commiseration tonic which makes you want to be ruined, makes you crave and yern to be destroyed if it means being that hurt can feel so good. Ms. De Maré sounds like loads of people: Bjork, Edith Piaf, all little girls crying, and yes, at times a little like Ms. Fraser. Guthrie’s guitar finds the perfect home for her sad and tortured voices and the coupling is dynamic and utterly painful. This EP is only just over 12 minutes long, and each second tears and splinters the romantic heart. I only wish all music was made with this amount of power. I love when songs can go right into my soul’s spleen and when it can lure me nearly to fainting with the simple beauty of it all.
There is one other song available, “Liar” which is from the upcoming album, and is currently available on a sampler CD from Bella Union, the label devised and operated by Robin Guthrie and Simon Raymonde (also from Cocteau Twins) which seems intent on putting out music to swoon to. “Liar” even more fully explores the vocal ranges of Ms. De Maré, showing her off from one end of the shatter spectrum to the other. I am terrified at the prospect of a full length album of Violet Indiana, and even more terrified that I might have to wait very long to hear it, and feel this appreciative of something new again. “Choke” is available in early November. Do buy it and do listen to it when your heart is shattered beyond repair, and loneliness becomes your resting place.
Violet Indiana – Roulette
Label: Bella Union Format: CD
Perhaps it is appropriate that I waited for an unseasonably hot day to hit London to listen to Roulette, for its steamy eloquence goes perfect with this weather. Robin Guthrie‘s tropical guitar layered in with Siobhan de Maré‘s heat-stressed voice blend and match concisely with the mild hotness of this May day. I know that a more technically minded noise lover might not appreciate the sentimentality of all this warm rumouring, and I know this because one of those types recently pulled this disc out of my player and left chocolatey smudges and crumbs carelessly on the inside of the beautiful digipak, but Violet Indiana provokes a realisation that what we sometimes need is a bit of the melodic.
And perhaps my friend should have waited it out a bit longer, for there is the slightest hint of Stereolab quality on (thankfully only) one track called “Sundance”. Most of this album sticks to highlighting the wonderous voice of Ms.de Maré. Rich and dark and spooky, she can sound a little like Billie Holliday singing through a radio broadcast, or as clear and present as if she were in the room with you. Of course it hardly needs to be mentioned that Mr.Guthrie is in top form, his skill seering out of every song with his own specific drawling strumming. Together they have written a most evocative collections of songs, some of which previewed on the mini-cd album Choke, and feeling and sentiment and even a little bit of fear of burning are the elements they play to. Roulette is perhaps the most appropriate piece of equipment to get for this summer.
– Drumz, Bass & Double Cream
Label: Intoxygene Format: CD,LP
Parisian DJ and composer Olivier Abitol (a.k.a. Virtuart, a.k.a. Virtual Olive) is something of a chameleon, constantly appearing under different aliases. He spends his time between his own musical projects, DJing at international festivals, producing, and remixing for world artists. So, you won’t be too surprised to find that he is releasing two albums simultaneously. Drehkar is a thumping Techno-Trance epic fuelled by spiky Acid tweaks and our old friend the 303. It is geared towards launching dancefloors into the stratosphere amidst big trance-outs and Goa-isms Now, banging Trance isn’t always my thing, but Drehkar is very nicely constructed, immaculately polished, and has all the right formal tricks at all the right points.
The first thing you’ll notice about Drumz, Bass & Double Cream is just how much the album resembles a pot of yoghurt. This isn’t surprising, as the cover was adapted from “Doppel Cream” packaging. This is much more my thing. Drumz, Bass & Double Cream earns its title. Analogue bubbles and big sweeping synthscapes drift above the twisting and turning rhythms. At points the album is high speed Jungle, at points seriously chilled out ambience. “Milko Milca” is a blissfully slow breakbeat vocal track, followed by the washes of guitar and unending crescendo of “Fantomas”. Yes, Drumz, Bass & Double Cream is easily my favourite of the two albums. It is just so wonderfully smooth. Who couldn’t like it? The Jungle is spiky and chaotic enough, the ambience is relaxed enough, the synths are spacious enough, and the scope is epic enough. However, just as you think the cream is never going to end, Virtuart hits you with the furiously serene “Crime of the Millenary” or the epileptic “E. Vaporetto”.
Two albums doesn’t mean that there are just two sides to Olivier Abitol, though. Virtuart’s next release (if he is still using the same alias) is likely to be different again. And why not? An artist isn’t compelled to have their genre tattooed on their forehead.
Cristian Vogel – Busca Invisibles
Label: Tresor Format: CD,2LP
There’s any number of electronic weirdos out there (or Out There even); Cristian Vogel my not be the hardest, wackiest or even the most experimental, but his tracks on Busca Invisibles have a cheery sense of the absurd while usually remaining in the area of pounding, diesel-engined beats. Any old Techno producer worth their salt can take a straightforward beat and plunge it in a bath of phased distortion and liquescent analogues – if they could’t, it just would not be Techno in the first place. The trick is to keep it interesting over a whole track, let alone an album’s worth of material, and Vogel’s got the knack right here.
It’s all in the mix, naturally; how to judge the exact amount of depth-bomb bass, when to pitch up the hihats or drop in an unexpected, isolated bleep (just one, maybe two, not too often). Shuffling sheets of pebble-dashed percussion interact with plain old 303 squitters (some like tippling water) and electric pianos, spine-tingling threads of echo and the stepping up of a syncopated snare rhythm help out with the generation of a sequence of musical events which lead up the path of hypnotic groove, around the block a way and back again, or just melt themselves out of a sea of sub-bass and synth-shimmer onto a strangely wobbly shoreline, like the suitably wavy “Nelson Park Beach” (Vogel is from Brighton). Funky beats get the treatment too, splattered as mercilessly through the sampler’s ever-hungry maw, ending up rinsed but not quite dry, but refreshingly bouncy after a trip through the spin-cyle.
Some tracks don’t want to be just four-floored stomps, with “Shoe Renounce Soul” taking the beats for a step or two out of the rigid format to queasy effect, before throwing it all back up as glitched, murky detritus. It’s not particularly chaotic, more literally eccentric, orbiting off-centre around the concept of dance music at varying rates of elliptical dissonance. Is it danceable? Probably, for rubber plants and Space Hoppers… Is it clever? As a sneaking elephant… By the time the album closes (on the CD only) with the multiply-resurgent, beat-strangling “Wider Cracks,” Vogel has stamped out his trademark on Techno with energetic glee.
Cristian Vogel – Rescate 137
Label: Novamute Format: CD
A strange concept album about an imaginary island, Rescate 137 explores the topography and geography of the place through the music and some very clever packaging. The sleeve folds out into a map of the island, mimicking perfectly the cartographic nuances of a tourist guide, even including linked photgraphs of points of interest, grid references and a legend of information icons and the like. It even has the typical glossy wipe-free sheen, which is a nice touch.
The music is a hallucinatory combination of funked-up Latin rhythms and burbling aquatics, as is only appropriate, witth grafted-on vocals of frequently absurdist character. Sometimes they sound like they were recorded through a bubble machine, as a track title like “Rescate Freeform Giggles” might indicate, and is matched in its liquid electronic improvisations. “Whipaspank” has an urgent groove, but at such a rate that anyone dancing would no doubt be in danger of rapid exhaustion, and “Bursthead” has the capacity so sound just like it says as it crashes out destabilised breakbeat Funk. Elsewhere, the tumbling “La Isla Piscola” provides an interesting comparison to the faux-South American moves Burnt Friedman has been throwing down on his “Con Ritmo” release, though Cristian Vogel does have the bonus of his Chilean ancestry to call upon.
Slap-Funk, trickling polyrhythms, electric piano riffs and runs abound on a record which falls somewhere outside the usual mishmash of digial Bossanova and techno-exotica in a lateral mode. Rescate 137 manages to include the scratchy HipHop of “Wind From Nowhere” or the pootling “Me And My Shadow” with its stop-start Discofied rumblings in an imaginary travelogue around the island. It’s like the soundtrack whirling inside the head of a chemicalised explorer meandering from point to point, skipping from format to genre reference as they make connections and then lose the original idea in a welter of new input. Perhaps Rescate could be a virtual counterpoint to Ayia Napa or Ibiza, one where imagination and experiment are the defining characteristics rather than simple hedonistic E-imbalance?
Cristian Vogel – Whipaspank
Label: Novamute Format: 12″,CDS
Cristian Vogel is back again with a Funk driven sound salad. “Whipaspank” is a nice chunky slab of noise that somehow manages to hold itself together. What is a Whipaspank? Well, judging by the geographical information included on the CD cover Whipaspank is a location on Cristian Vogel`s latest album Rescate 137. Cyclob and Tube Jerk add some extra noise to the EP with a couple of good mixes. The record is rounded off with “A Nice Night In With B.A. Barrocker”, a slow chunk of Techno not to be found elsewhere.
Ultimately, Cristian Vogel produces Techno in the style of Cristian Vogel. Whatever a Whipaspank is, it’s pretty damn good.
Voice Crack – Ballchannel
Label: Meeuw Format: 7″
The speed at which this bright-oranged recording is to move is not specified.
The sound moves in a similar manner. It is unclear if it is an installation of violence – a voice, a crack, all of that or none of it. It’s slightly reminiscent of verbal abuse – or, perhaps more succinctly, the moment at which one knows the words will come. Difficult to read the Jane Bowles collection by, you know. It demands attention – and fades out, but what is the reason why this is so? They used to call these sorts of things “barn-burners” – not to be confused with a “potboiler”, p’raps…
Voks – Vaks Vanskab Ak
Label: Dekorder Format: 3″CDS
Lurching like a toytown drunkard from busking clockwork robot to a freeform Improv group composed of wind-up toys left to play their instuments at random, Voks‘ sound is simple yet quite deranged. the ten tracks on Vaks Vanskab Ak hold a fascinating melancholy despite their jolly, enthusiastic lo-fi electronic sound. Beamed from somewhere in the distant past of childhood TV programmes, where mysteriously archetypal cutout figues parade to the rippling glockenspiel and dribbled pipes of Pan junior or the distantly-paced reeds and drums of “Obo Omo”, this is a music which is strangely nostalgic for an imaginary past when the world really was new and strange.
The curious faux-Middle Eastern Techno of “Tuuie” picks up a halting rhythm with the frenetic enthusoiasm of an autistic juvenile intent on making their own music, regardless of the formula; it must be said, sometimes with as irritating a tendency to nag away repeatedly too on some pieces, like the patience-trying wheezing of “Ankergang”. Plinking and wandering from one idea and track to the next, Vaks Vanskab Ak is a triumph of idiosyncrasy, magpie insertions and crazy arrangements fitted carefully together like a towering sprawl of Lego – simple to discern what it’s made of, but not necessarily so easy to understand – or enjoy – without a willing supension of (adult) belief.
Volapük – Polyglot
Label: Cuneiform Format: CD
Another gloriously driven offering from the quartet from southern France. The unusual instrumental combination of the original trio : cello/bass clarinet/percussion has been augmented by violinist Takumi Fukushima, who also adds vocals on one track. The other band members have added further instruments to their repertoire; especially haunting is the taragot played by Michel Mandel, clarinettist, on sanza. Percussionist Guigou Chenevier also plays a ‘sanza’ on this track. It is a weirdly fascinating mixture of the wailing taragot alongside the more earthy marimba and, I guess, the sanza!
Much of the music features tight intricately woven group work with all four players creating a dynamic that has echoes of Jazz, Chamber and Folk music from Eastern Europe. You can hear how a band plays together yet gives room for each voice to be clearly identified. They don’t offer many solos, their strength is in the ensemble playing, with one instrument briefly rising above the others then re-immersing itself in the total sound. They don’t sound like anyone else. On one track there is a sort of ‘tribute’ to the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. “Nusrat” contains whirling lines of melody, just as the great man himself produced when in full, devotional flight. Fukushima’s vocal does not try to replicate the power of Nusrat, fortunately.
Though much of the music is frenetic and rhythmically powerful there are moments of calm as the tuneful facets of Volapük surface. “Valse Chinois”, a track not written by the band, is a memorable example and features a deft, light clarinet swooping over the keyboard and violin. It is airy and melodic and is all the more effective when followed by the dark combination of cello/violin/clarinet on the chamber-like opening of “Pablo”. I like the contrast between these tracks. “Marimba”, which features that instrument, is full of changes and contrasts. The clarinet and cello create lines of pure melody against plucking and strumming of strings and the soft tones of the marimba. All instruments merge in one section to sound like a small orchestra before coming back to the melodic statement of cello and clarinet over restrained percussion.
Volapük have built and developed a unique sound over their four CDs. This instalment is definitely one you shouldn’t miss.
Volume – Dr. Salt’s Massive Lung Trombone/Parallel Paranoias
Label: Expanding Format: 7″
The delightfully silly title “Dr. Salt’s Massive Lung Trombone” doesn’t really describe the music as such, but it’s a good one anyway. There is something of a trombone to some of the instrumentation, but if’s a real one or electronic is moot. What comes out of the speakers is a gently synthetic blend of some faintly Reggae dynamics and freshly-squeezed Electronica, chuckling away on an Electro undercarriage and surrounded by a pleasant wreath of blips and middling tweaks; very pleasant it is too.
“Parallel Paranoias” has a little bit of lateral swing to its hovering atmospherics, chuckling watery undercurrents and feeling of analogue electronic stasis. Just when it seems like it’s going to be an Ambient washover, the voices of Babel sneak up among some fruitily-built bass wobbles, and the immediate semi-comparison to be made is to the solo psychedelic synth bubblings of Harvey Bainbridge in his post-Hawkwind daze.
Volume All*Star – Alpo Boy EP
Label: Too Pure Format: 12″,CDS
Posessing all the elements required for over-hot summery afternoons, preferably those involving long drinks and longer cigarettes, “Alpo Boy” has an old-fashioned phat beat hook (including regulation instrumental break, plus organ riff – nice), and catchily opaque lyrics (“Use the special shampoo/It’ll keep the fleas away”) weighing heavily in its favour. Volume All*Star’s own remix is the same as the faster mix on Close Encounters Of The Bump And Grind, and the already laid-back “Final Exam” becomes even more so in the hands of the aptly-named Beatnik. DJ Dynamite D takes a similarly langorous approach with “Girl’s Town,” while by contrast “Puzzle Rock” becomes a stop-start Electro pinball game which inclines in Ui directions, thanks to the banjo sample. The 12″ has an extra self-remix included, “Bubble Yummy (Ape Shall Not Kill Pony)”, which steps the tempo up a gear into bleep and beat scratchadelic mode, completing a very pleasant set of variations indeed.
Volume All*Star – Close Encounters of the Bump and Grind
Label: Too Pure Format: CD, LP
Harnessing beats of the Old-Skool flavour to a definite pop sensibility and a sample selection worthy of Coldcut, Steven N. and Lady Mallard are cut and paste artists of the first order. With a taste for cinematic dialogue snippets (a particular favourite being what sounds like Bogart and Hepburn on “Death Race”), speed-adjusted loops and low-intensity scratching, Close Encounters of the Bump and Grind is a decidedly laid back album suited to lounging with long drinks and even longer cigarettes in a warm garden with excessively stacked bass bins booming.
Played in a boom-boy’s car system, Close Encounters would provide the perfect antidote to the usual Swingbeat or G-Funk pumped out by those roadsters. The beats (and pieces) have such a warm, crackly fuzziness to them, they positively ooze from the speakers, filling all available corners and crannies. Topped by the samples, squiggles and occasional vocals, the tracks stumble, slouch and even crawl though a haze of audio smoke and echo chambers, leaving a pleasantly woolly afterglow in a manner reminiscent of Drain’s similarly-befuddling Off Speed And In There.
The album’s poppiest moment comes in the two mixes of the single cut “Alpo Boy,” a catchy blend of guaranteed 100% funky break and Lady Mallard’s Lida Husik-style obscurantist vocals, which also crop up on the laid back “Girls Town” and “Bubble Yummy”. The most ambient and disturbingly funny part is the concealed extra section on the CD scanned from a West Coast couple’s mobile phone conversation which descends from sickeningly saccharine lovey-doveyness to whining, abusive, incipient road-rage. Usually content with making a pleasantly weird soundscape, Close Encounters has very few overt pretensions, concentrating instead on a solidly enjoyable and determinedly relaxed mix of musical and cinematic references. Despite the apparently lethargic production (which is by no means the case), this is an album of considerable subtlety which reveals futher depths with each listen.
Von Thronstahl – Imperium Internum
Label: Cold Spring Format: CD
I have to confess to having very little knowledge of German. All I can tell you is Von Thronstahl dress kind of like Laibach, or maybe Rammstein on a good day, and call their tracks stuff like “The New Empire”. However, I don’t know whether this makes them Nazis or not, so I’ll leave that consideration aside (but would appreciate any info anyone out there may have, `cos I quite like this, and I don’t want to feel that familiar Death In June guilt every time I listen to it. Oops… I think I made something of a confession there…) Anyway, hoping they’re not, I’ll return to the point.
The point is, what does it sound like? Well… I’d put it in the Will/In The Nursery/Laibach category (if indeed there is such a category, and if not, there bloody well should be) or possibly a better version of Mortiis without the stupid goblin ears and pointy nose. Washes of strings, nice pianoey (pianoey? I’ll get back to you on that one) phrases over the top, kettle drums and “ooooaaahhh” chanting bit. Some of the more acoustic moments have a kind of Death In June (there’s those words again) edge to them, but on the whole it’s that kind of electronic Wagner/ military drumming thing. (With possibly a touch of the slower :Wumpscut: instrumentals to it.) Growly vocals top it all off, and I can’t tell from the picture but , hey, they all look pretty scary, so whoever’s singing, it is safe to say, is looking scary while they’re doing it.)
As with In The Nursery, it kind of needs a movie to accompany (or possibly an invasion of some kind), but I think it’s safe to say that whatever the movie, it would be fairly unpleasant and possibly ideologically unsound. However, I’d still probably watch it. Or at the very least buy the soundtrack. I’ll give this one a guarded thumbs up – it sounds fucking great. I just wish I knew what they were saying. (But then, that’s no-one’s fault but mine for my own linguistic ignorance.)
-Deuteronemu 90210 in a long black leather coat a bit like Snake Plissken’s off Escape From New York–