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Pelican – What We All Come to Need

(Southern Lord) What We All Come to Need is Pelican‘s first full length release on Southern Lord and and continues their elusive path of powerful instrumental rock. Southern Lord have also announced a tour with stable mates Wolves in the Throne Room, which has the makings of some must see gigs. Two fantastic but very different bands.

What We All Come to Need is a superb album. At turns effortless and drifting then dirty and heavy. Pelican take their post rock post metal sound into darker directions with more emphasis on riff. Ok, post metal, and post rock for that matter, are troubling genres. Or maybe they are just troubled. It’s hard to pin down bands that get labelled post metal. In the case

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Tortoise – Beacons of Ancestorship/Remixes

Thrill Jockey

Tortoise - Beacons of AncestorshipAre Tortoise feeling their age? Beacons of Ancestorship, their sixth album and first album proper in five years, is littered with references to age. Ancestorship is a reasonable pointer, with Tortoise being the ancestors of course. And the title “Prepare Your Coffin” is pretty explicit. Not that Tortoise are letting it show musically. Beacons of Ancestorship kicks out into a noisy fuzz-fest at points. It was introduced to me as being synth heavy, which is right on the money. Tortoise have augmented their sound with a fat bank of analogue synths and begun to explore the territories of electronica. The result is an odd eclectic album, at points noisy and reassuringly angular, then at others well … er … funky. Never really thought I’d be saying that

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Ellen Mary McGee – The Crescent Sun

Midwich Records

The Crescent Sun Ellen Mary McGee, founder of folk-rock band Saint Joan, has created a short but magnificently intense début album with The Crescent Sun. Its a dark lyrical collection of folk songs written, sung, and largely performed by McGee. She plays guitar, banjo, glockenspiel, drums, percussion and drafts in the help of other musicians ranging from organists to electric guitarists, which takes folk music into fascinating territories. At the same time The Crescent Sun sounds very traditional and very progressive.

At times McGee is reminiscent of folk legend Vashti Bunyan and her instrumentation tends towards the cornerstone instruments of folk traditionalism, but its a folk traditionalism that has taken on modernity on its own terms … unlike say NeoFolk, which strikes me as coming from the other direction: modernists discovering folk,

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Wolves In The Throne Room – Black Cascade

Southern Lord

Wolves In The Throne Room - Black CascadeBlack Cascade, the third album from Wolves In The Throne Room, is truly epic stuff, clocking in at four superb monolithic compositions. For me it ticks all the black metal boxes: big guitar riffs, big keyboard parts, triplets galore, and tempos that run from the majestically slow to death blasts and back again. Black Cascade is symphonic, but not as furious as, say, Emperor. Nor do Wolves In The Throne Room vanish into some kind of nasty neo-pagan Tolkeinesque kitsch favoured but some modern black metal bands.

Black metal has come a long way from the good old bad old days of church burnings, inter-band killings, and one dimensional road drill death blast. Its a whole lot more accessible and,

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Nadja (live at Bardens Boudoir)

NadjaNadja Bardens, London 22 March 2009

Nadja

Having missed Nadja in 2008 I was on a mission to get to Bardens in Dalston. Despite the whole of East London being inexplicably gridlocked this particular Sunday evening, I wasn’t going to miss Nadja a second time. Fighting my way through the traffic was worth it, Nadja were awesome.

Standing either side of a table of effects pedals, Aidan Baker and Leah Buckareff laid down a serious wall of drone, a perfect buzzing fusion of doom and shoegaze. Nadja began fairly quietly and throughout the performance Nadjagradually became louder until they had reached

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A Slow Rip – For The Time Being

A Slow Rip – For The Time Being Endgame

For The Time Being - sleeveFor The Time Being is a double CD compilation of ambience, taken from material originally released between 2004 and 2007 by A Slow Rip on 7 CDR albums. The Wollongong based trio take the name from the initials of their first names: Rob Laurie (guitar, percussion, vocals and wind instruments), Ian Miles (analogue synths, guitar and bass), and Phil Turnbull (virtual analogue synth). A pretty impressive list of instruments. A Slow Rip are definitely not laptop artists, which is fine by me; personally, I’ve always thought they were more suited for spreadsheets than music.

A Slow Rip improvise and record straight to tape. This approach leads to a warm organic soundscape of buzzing synths, long drones and prepared guitar. The first CD is predominantly composed of

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Burning Witch – Crippled Lucifer

Southern Lord

Before Sunn O))) there was Burning Witch, formed in the mid ’90s by Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson, although none of their recordings actually features Anderson who had started Goatsnake by that time. Crippled Lucifer is a reissue of their 1996 Towers… and 1997 Rift.Canyon.Dreams releases – two discs of fabulous doom. This release of Crippled Lucifer is expanded from the 1998 Southern Lord edition (subtitled Seven Psalms For Our Lord Of Light), which only featured seven tracks. It now has ten and an enormously thick booklet filled with gorgeous artwork … but don’t expect a novel charting the brief history of Burning Witch.

Crippled Lucifer - original sleeveListening to Burning Witch I

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Richard H Kirk – Earlier/Later

Label: The Grey Area of Mute Format: 2CD

Earlier/Later - sleeveAh, Industrial music before the word Industrial became synonymous with Heavy Metal! Earlier/Later is the second album of Richard H Kirk‘s archive tracks from The Grey Area of Mute, the first being Digital lifeforms Redux in his Sandoz guise. As with that album’s second disc, this compilation contains previously unreleased material, including a cover of Can‘s “I Want More” which is given the full Donna Summer/Giorgio Moroder Electro treatment.

A friend of mine once said “Oh, Cabaret Voltaire, they’re like Depeche Mode aren’t they”. Yes and no. For a moment in the mid Eighties they crossed paths. The feeling is totally different, though. Even when God is given a severe ticking off on Blasphemous Rumours Depeche Mode are never as dark or aggressive as Cabaret Voltaire. The difference? Depeche Mode say dark things, Cabaret

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Sandoz – Digital Lifeforms Redux

Label: The Grey Area of Mute Format: 2CD

Digital Lifeforms Redux - sleeveDigital Lifeforms Redux is a reissue of work originally available on Touch from Richard H Kirk, the electronic half of Cabaret Voltaire. Unlike the Early/Later compilation simultaneously released by The Grey Area, this album represents a specific moment in time: the years 92-93. It is less representative of his work in Cabaret Voltaire, not that an Richard H Kirk album should be obliged to be representative. Kirk says that “the inspiration for much of this music came from a trip to Haiti in 1991”. It is “an attempt to fuse African sounds with machine music, or European electronics”. The tracks on Digital Lifeforms also take inspiration from Detroit Techno godfathers Juan Atkins and Derrick May, and the Redux edition includes an extra CD of mostly unreleased tracks.

The result is a relaxed

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Matmos – California Rhinoplasty EP

Label: Matador Format: CDS,12″

California Rhinoplasty EP - sleeve Taking as its sample base the sounds of plastic surgery operations, “California Rhinoplasty” does precisely what the title describes; only funkily. Not for Matmos the obvious route of ambinece as the bones rasp and the noses are broken with a hammer. Instead, every sound becomes grist(le) to their sampler’s mill to make a groovy shuffle of sprightly plops, squeaks and chugging bass. Part of the fun comes from trying to discern the drills in the fizz of a high tone or the smack of suction in the rhythm; the most obvious sound is that of the bleeping heart monitors. Just for laughs, MC Schmidt plays a mean nose flute to accompanying the nasal reconstruction; jaunty whictlings lead into the jolly noise that cauteized muscle makes. Never mind the sample-spotting though; what counts is the

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Matmos – A Chance To Cut Is A Chance To Cure

Label: Matador Format: CD,LP

A Chance To Cut Is A Chance To Cure - sleeve In their latest album Matmos use the bone crunching noises of plastic surgery for their samples. So if you’ve had a nose job be warned, Matmos might have transformed the noise of your nose being broken into a snare. Well, here it is … A Chance To Cut Is A Chance To Cure is a collage of sound recorded in clinics and operating theatres. There are copious medical dramas and documentaries to lift samples from. But that’s too easy. Matmos actually went into the hospitals to get their sounds, after gaining the trust of the surgeons and patients.

You might also think that an album with kick drums sampled from breaking bones would be dark at least, hardcore Gabba in all probability. You couldn’t be more wrong. That’s

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Biosphere – Substrata 2

Touch Format: 2xCD

Substrata 2 - sleeve detailTo call Substrata a good album is an understatement. It has been described as one of the finest Ambient albums of the Nineties. As far as I’m concerned you can scrub out the bit about the Nineties. Biosphere, a.k.a. Geir Jenssen from Norway, has created some of the most amazing Ambient music I’ve heard in a very long time. Substrata is an album to play at full volume in sub-zero conditions.

This re-release of Substrata is a lovingly-designed two CD edition containing two extra tracks that were released on the Japanese version of the album, along with the Man With a Movie Camera. In 1996 Geir Jenssen was asked to write a new soundtrack for Russian filmmaker Dziga Vertov‘s 1929 silent film of the same name, and hopefully one day the score and film will be placed

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Oh. – Upper Disker

Label: MDZ Format: LP

Upper Disker - sleeve label detail Here’s a House record with a difference – the tracks are based around a real drummer and bassist. This isn’t to say that Upper Disker should be listened to for the difference, it should be listened to for the music – which is something Oh. do very well. They didn’t give the track “We Rock For You” it’s name for nothing.

The five guys from Germany have created some great Electro drenched with antique analogue synths: Korg Polysix and Moogs as well as samplers of all kinds. Analogue tweaks float on top of a serious rhythm section. As Oh say: the second album is not only a yes to groovy basslines but also a big hello to club and dancefloor. Who am I to argue?

Upper Disker fulfilled my need for House, it fulfilled

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Various Artists – Flesh Records Presents

Label: Flesh Format: LP

Flesh Records Presents...- sleeve detailThis record is to House music what Digital Hardcore is to breakbeat Hardcore. Flesh Records describe themselves as taking “great delight in unveiling the stenched schematics of a long imprisoned beast.” And this is just what they have done. This is dirty and nasty music that comes in some of the most rotten, unstable, and schizophrenic forms imaginable. Moments of nice funk are brutalised with excessive bass distortion. This isn’t a pretty record, but corpses seldom are.

That aside, Flesh Records Presents is a collection of their up and coming releases. It features Cain 777, Zongamin, Sonovac, The Perversions and a whole host of others. You probably wont be hearing the decayed offerings of Flesh in your local night club, unless your local night club happens to be on Elm Street.

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Matmos – Quasi-Objects

Label: Matador Format: CD

Quasi-Objects - sleeveI respect any album that contains references to Harry Harlow‘s somewhat cruel tests on Rhesus monkeys. The album is Quasi-Objects by Matmos, and the track is of course “Cloth Mother/Wire Mother”. You may not be surprised to find that the baby Rhesus monkeys preferred the cloth mother to the wire mother. What is more surprising is the fact that someone felt the need to put it to the test.

Drew Daniel and M. C. Schmidt from San Francisco, prove that all the ingredients required for House music can be found in the kitchen. Quasi-Objects, as the name suggests, is made up of everyday objects and a few more exotic ones thrown in for good measure. “Latex” is made up of samples obtained from a stretched rubber tee-shirt, as you do. “Cloth Mother/Wire Mother” involves no monkeys, I

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