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Thor & Friends / Kite Base (live at The Lexington)

Thor and Friends live May 2017

London 2 May 2017

What makes the difference between just another gig and a profoundly uplifting experience? This is the question that I am left pondering in the wake of Thor Harris‘s (erstwhile Swans) percussion and noise collective Thor & Friends show at The Lexington last night.

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Kelly Moran – Bloodroot

Telegraph Harp

Kelly Moran - Bloodroot

Sanguinaria canadensis, or bloodroot, is a perennial flowering plant native to the north-eastern United States. The root and the juice of the root are characteristically red and has been used medicinally, but is highly toxic.

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Jherek Bischoff – Cistern

Leaf

Jherek Bischoff - CisternJherek Bischoff‘s new record Cistern is beautiful. I was already expecting this, knowing as I do that he is the master of melody and a conjurer of clever arrangements that can tug the heart and ensnare the senses. I loved his first record, Composed, and so I was ready to be beguiled by Cistern. It is a very different record, entirely instrumental and beautifully orchestrated: it has an intimacy; it is very personal.

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The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary Edition

Capitol

The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds1966: A fixed point in time; a distant place, another country, an alternate reality. People had yet to walk on the moon, the American civil rights movement was only just gaining momentum, there were no home computers, no email, people wrote letters, sent telegrams, long-haul travel was a luxury most could not afford and The Beach Boys were a clean-cut, all-American pop group.

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Bonnie “Prince” Billy – Pond Scum

Drag City (Americas) / Domino (Europe)

Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Pond Scum“My job is just to sit here and sing these songs that have no purpose.”

And yet Will Oldham, aka Bonnie “Prince” Billy, aka Palace Brothers, aka Palace Music, has been singing these songs for more than two decades, and whether his purpose is found still remains only in the hearing of the listener.

Oldham’s back catalogue is an intimidating place to navigate. With an extreme work ethic and a prolific output to match, it can be difficult to truly know everything he has done. I have listened to more of his albums and collaborations than those of any single artist and still have only heard about a quarter of what I know is out

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Vessels / William Arcane (live at XOYO)

London 21 October 2015

I have found it quite dispiriting lately to read so many”death of live music” pieces when my experience is of a scene that is exciting and fresh as ever. I can only surmise that the people who write this stuff are not going to the gigs I’m going to, because I’d defy anyone to go to a night like this and not come away with a sense of optimism.Vessels live October 2015

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Laura Cannell – Beneath Swooping Talons

Front & Follow

Laura Cannell - Beneath Swooping TalonsThe inscription inside the cover of Laura Cannell’s beautifully packaged CD reads “Beneath swooping talons we choose to be brave, or else to edge the shadows of open spaces, Silent wings come upon us in a strobe of feathers, we choose to be free, or else let the unknown control us.”

There is a pleasing sparseness to these single-take recordings, made in a mediaeval church in the wilds of East Anglia, played on fiddle, overbow fiddle and double recorders, and originating from scraps and fragments of mediaeval music — with echoes of Hildegard von Bingen and Guillaume de Machaut (among other sources) ringing through these improvised pieces to create something quite extraordinarily beautiful.

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The Sugarcubes – Life’s Too Good

One Little Indian

The Sugarcubes - Life's Too GoodIt is more difficult to write about The SugarcubesLife’s Too Good than I had anticipated. Although I know the record well, played it endlessly throughout my mid-teens and still find it to be a really good listen, it is hard to say any more about it than has been said elsewhere.

It is a great album, a great first album and a record that stands up very well considering how much has happened musically in the intervening years. It is a big record, it is bouncy, exuberant, fun.

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The Doomed Bird of Providence – You Brought The Knife

Front & Follow

The Doomed Bird of Providence - You Brought The KnifeMark Kluzek‘s project The Doomed Bird of Providence began in London in 2009 with the aim of telling the stories of early colonial Australia. This latest offering, You Brought the Knife, is a haunting five-track EP that recounts the tale of Maria Murray (née Middleton) — a runaway slave, convicted murderer and transportee, largely forgotten by all but a handful of academics.

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Holly Herndon / Amnesia Scanner (live at XOYO)

London 10 June 2015

It is good to remember why you came. How the reverberation of the bass through every cell is like the lift of a wave that carries you. How each staccato re-teaches your heart to beat. Percussion is life, rhythm is the first language and with it we make sense. Every sentence you’ve ever read and truly felt has had its own cadence to keep it in place.

These are my first thoughts when I wake up the morning after Holly Herndon‘s packed-out show at XOYO remembering the threads of the night before. Remembering why I came.Holly Herndon live at XOYO June2015Electronic music has become ubiquitous and the club scene is so well established as to have amassed whole generations of followers. Techno has become

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Swans (live at The Roundhouse)

London 21 May 2015

Swans live at the Roundhouse– The Conscious Pause –

It is daunting to write about a show that was attended by so many Freq contributors because I know they’ll all read this and I am sure they will all have things to add (or deny). But what does that matter? It is daunting to write about a Swans show, because – Swans –

This was my second time at a live Swans show. And of course as I write that I realise live swans makes it sound like some Tudor feast centrepiece and really that’s not it at all. I had forgotten I was even going until last week, although perhaps that’s not quite accurate — it hit me last week that the show

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Holly Herndon – Platform

4AD (UK)/RVNG Intl (USA and elsewhere)

Holly Herndon - PlatformAbout two thirds of the way in to Holly Herndon‘s Platform, on the track “Lonely at the Top”, there comes an intimacy so disarming that, on first listen, I was unsure of what I was hearing.

Platform is Holly’s second album; I reviewed her first album, Movement and, though I liked it a lot, I found it a little too disjointed, calling it “admirable geekery” that needed “more substance to be fulfilling”. And perhaps this is why I am so enamoured of Platform — it is more joined-up and coherent as a singularity — more than a collection, it has something of the narrative shape that I associate with the idea of an album.

Whilst Platform carries many of the same motifs of Movement — the disjointedness is a signature, and Holly’s use

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The Lonely Life / ((SOUNDER)) – The Howlingest Call

Monofonus Press

The Lonely LifeThe Lonely Life is a 27-minute film written and directed by Mike Aho and starring Will Oldham, the erstwhile acting persona of the musical genius also known as Bonnie “Prince” Billy. The film was crowdfunded using Kickstarter in 2012 and filmed just outside Austin, Texas.

Billed as “A low-fi sci-fi psychedelic journey of a man trying to understand his past,” The Lonely Life contains animations by artists Travis Millard, Mel Kadel, Jeremy Fish, Michael Sieben and the Okay Mountain Collective and was made on a shoestring budget of $9,305.

It is a delightful visual spectacle from the outset, filmed on hand-held cameras and utilising the exceptional natural light of the region, creating a dreamy delicacy that offers a pleasingly jarring contrast against the themes of the story. The film

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Heldinky – Miles To Go Before I Sleep

Turquoise Coal

Heldinky - Miles To Go Before I SleepHeldinky‘s Miles To Go Before I Sleep intrigued me — anything referencing Robert Frost has to be worth my time, right? And an influence list boasting the likes of Tim Buckley, Elizabeth Frazer, Annette Peacock and Kate Bush was enough bait to get me to put my hand up to hear the debut LP from the Welsh trio.

The vinyl I received in the mail all the way from Ynys Môn (Anglesey) is very beautiful. The sleeve artwork is all abstract blues and greys on a white background, a painting by the artist Peter Hollaway. Simple yet attractive, the vinyl itself gratifyingly heavy. On first listen I am drawn to say that Heldinky are a very accomplished live band, and this recording exemplifies the allure of that raw-edged late night sultriness that a

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Elizabeth Anderson – L’envol

empreintes DIGITALes

Music to write science fiction to.

Elizabeth Anderson - L’envolL’Envol is the first solo album release from American-born, Brussels-based composer Elizabeth Anderson. She is a prolific artist and teacher, and when I hear the opening of L’envol, I feel somewhat like I am at the beginning of a lecture on electronic music.

The sounds are perhaps what you might have expected from the title of the record, (L’envol is French for The Flight), but only if you have spent a lot of time watching science fiction films from the Nineteen Sixties. I know these soundscapes because they furnish my dreams. It is a vernacular that as a reader and writer of science fiction — stories of space and space travel — I know very

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