Archives by month/year

Magma – Retrospektïẁ Volume I + II and III

Southern Lord

Magma - Retrospektiw I + II and IIIRetrospektïẁ I, II and III are the crown jewels of the Magma empire. You’ll get told elsewhere that those jewels are located in the 1970s studio albums by Magma. You will get told that by people who cannot tell you why Christian Vander waited until 1980 to bring the key players of Magma back together at Olympia to record “Theusz Hamthaak”.

If you don’t understand why “Theusz Hamthaak”, and a full-spectrum revitalised version of “Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh” on Retrospektïẁ I & II, is not the most fundamental set that Magma can play in 1980, you need to go back and immerse yourself in the Magma canon and then come back to this review. It’s okay, it’ll be worth it.

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I am not wearing sunglasses as much any more – an interview with Robert Sotelo

Robert SoteloAhead of the launch of Robert Sotelo‘s début album, Cusp, Iotar interviewed Sotelo while he was in Buenos Aires from his new abode in Graz, Austria. They talked about the drift away from a London-centred culture, the glorious meaninglessness of great pop and much more that is pertinent.

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Arrow Films

Zardoz blurayIf you were to look for a definition of the term “cult movie”, you might find the huge stone face of Zardoz staring back at you from the page, bellowing “the gun is good, the penis is bad”. Because it is for this and dozens of other images of batshit unheimlich that Zardoz has earned its cult status.

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Magma – Šlag Tanz

Jazz Village

(Before we go any further, a word about the title: you saw the caron on the s, didn’t you? Yes, of course you did. And that immediately suggested to you that Šlag Tanz is pronounced Schlag Tanz and you didn’t have a silly schoolboy [or girl] moment, did you? Good, and furthermore you get the Germanic sense of the word that indicates something like Shock Dance, so we don’t need to waste any further time on this now, do we? Good.)

Magma - Šlag TanzThere are two things immediately noticeable about Magma’s Šlag Tanz. Actually maybe there are three: the first being its relative brevity, what the label describes as a mini-album, but perhaps that is not to the point: Šlag Tanz is a single piece of music. If you are unfortunate

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The Miles Davis Quintet – All of You: The Last Tour 1960


The Miles Davis Quintet – All of You: The Last Tour 1960The 1960 tour of Europe of the Miles Davis Quintet is a significant moment in jazz. It stands at a fulcrum for the development of John Coltrane as a musician and as a distinctive voice. The Quintet here is essentially the Sextet featured on Kind of Blue, but with Bill Evans swapped for Wynton Kelly on piano and without Cannonball Adderly.

Coltrane had played with Miles Davis since the 1955 Sextet, on the albums Cookin’, Relaxin’, Workin’ and Steamin’, before being sacked for substance abuse issues. When he was accepted back into the fold in 1958 he made important contributions to Milestones and the seminal Kind of Blue, but at the moment of these radio recordings of the

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Trans Am / AK DK (live at Baba Yaga’s Hut)

Trans Am Baba Yaga's Hut November 2014Elektrowerkz, London 8 November 2014

One can learn a lot about two bands from their inter-set changeover. Here in the black box of Elektrowerkz, surrounded by dressed-down men with beards and a few women too, we are watching AK DK remove a lot of equipment.

There are two drum kits in there, a couple of synths with reassuringly wooden sides on tables covered in lots of other associated junk; and then behind them there’s that big modular system with a fetishistic dial-like module that has been cycling all through the set. We’re not even sure that it did anything but it looked kind of cool, so you definitely would leave it running if you’d bothered to drag that piece of furniture along to a gig.


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Trans Am – Volume X

Thrill Jockey

Trans Am – Volume XWhen we look back to the ’90s, back when something that was called post-rock was as vital a part of the musical landscape as Britpop or grunge, we might find ourselves wincing at the apparent uselessness of this subgeneric category, or we might find ourself wincing at the uselessness of all subgeneric categories, or we might find ourselves just not caring either way.

Post-rock was described somewhere apocryphal as what happened if you ditched your vocalist and hired John McEntire to produce your album. And as far as it goes, some of this was true of Trans Am; the McEntire production credit was there, also the lack of songwriterliness and the lack of a singer too; at least initially. Back then, if we were

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Magma – Epok 5: Mythes & Legendes


Magma - Epok 5: Mythes & LegendesFive DVDs into Magma‘s series of live sessions at Le Triton,we find the pioneers of Zeuhl way out there beyond the Theusz Hamtaahk trilogy and exploring some of the stranger byways of their œuvre along with some dazzling new material. The entire programme runs to about two hours. There are a few interludes during which audience members, including Steve Davis, are interviewed about their relationship to the Magma legend, but mostly what you get is an all you can eat feast of pitch-perfect Magma.

There are two numbers from 1978’s Attahk album, “Dondai” and Maahnt,” as well as an opener entitled “Attahk (Retrovision)” which was not actually part of that album but is a composition from the same period. Digging further back there is “Rïah Sahïltaahk” from the 1001° Centigrade album from 1971, and

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Life Coach – Alphawaves

Thrill Jockey

Life Coach - AlphawavesPhil Manley will already be known to fans of Total Music as a key member of the groups Trans Am and The Fucking Champs. To those of you who really keep your eye on the ball, you will also know that he released a solo album in 2011 called Life Coach. It is not that Life Coach but his new band Life Coach and their début album that we are concerned with in this review.

As the name might suggest there is an overarching journey running through this album. This journey is human potential, optimisation, excellence and a free gym pass when you sign up for a whole year of the programme. Manley is joined for the duration by drummer Jon Theodore of Queens of

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My Bloody Valentine – m b v


In an era of bands reforming, reappearing and generally revising, sometimes apparently out of the blue, few albums have been as eagerly anticipated as My Bloody Valentine‘s third; and after twenty-two years it finally appeared on their own website with barely a breath of warning to the waiting throngs – and on YouTube when their servers crashed too. Freq offers three opinions on the mbv brouhaha.


My Bloody Valentine - mbvI couldn’t figure out how to buy the mbv download, because the site was so abstract and weird.

Consensus here, some of it sounds like two hairdryers with someone trying to play a guitar solo. It keeps promising to stop, then lurches back into itself. Then a hoover comes in, along with a lawn

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Malcolm Mooney – The Sound Of White Columns

The Sound of White Columns

Malcolm Mooney - The Sound Of White Columns EPUnlike Star Trek fans, Can enthusiasts never have to choose between the two key vocalists of the Can oeuvre. Partly this is because Damo Suzuki and Malcolm Mooney both found idiosyncratic ways in which to interact with the rest of the band. It is also because Can enthusiasts are not necessarily Star Trek fans.

Mooney’s sojourn with The Can initially manifests as one and a half albums. Further material is revealed on (Un)Limited Edition and then later we were treated to a full album of Mooney-era material with Delay 1968, the slightly unfortunate Rite Time in the late 80s; and the recent unearthing of The Lost Tapes reveals more of the Mooney legacy.

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Agitation Free (live at the Jazz Café)

The Jazz Café, London 10 November 2012

Anyone who knows anything about Krautrock will already know that Agitation Free were one of the most significant bands during the early ’70s in Germany. They will also know that both Manuel Göttsching and Christopher Franke are included amongst their alumni, and that the three albums that make up the core of their discography, Malesch, Second and Last, are some of the most accomplished psychedelic music ever to come out of Germany. Everyone else will mutter incoherently about something called a motorik drum beat and analogue synthesisers and other stuff that is more relevant to the ’90s bands that aped Neu! than about the progressive music that was coming out of Germany during this period.

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Low – C’mon

Sub Pop

Low - C'monThere’s always a tension going on between artists and their audiences growing up. Back when we first encountered Low they were playing deliberately quietly, persistently black and white. As if something of a damp night in Manchester at the end of the 70s had been caught and refracted in a puddle in Minnesota. In a few years we all stopped being so bloody miserable; us, them, everyone. Although God knows there was plenty to be miserable about.

Some people went off and had kids. We thought that was the last we’d see of them, but no, they carried on doing the things they tended to do. A bit more colour came into the world. Although when we look back there had always been flashes of it like tawdry costume jewellery lost and forgotten in the coal cellar.


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Prince Rama – Shadow Temple

Paw Tracks

Prince Rama – Shadow TemplePrince Rama‘s ecstatic mantra-core would have smacked of mere exoticism hailing from any other clime than the Florida Hare Krishna community where this trio met. What we hear in their Shadow Temple album, more so than any of their previous releases, is an expression of a domestic American syncretic Hinduism, which embraces a core Saivism that is at first glance at odds with the Vaishnava Krishna-bhakti we might have expected. Meanwhile thundering out of the local spirit realm a distinctly Vedic Indra is gelded by a bizarre cowboy Mithras, and all of this before we even contemplate the cosmic repercussions of the Bodhisattva Avalokitasvara making out with Guru Nanak. That this is pursued with such vigour and intensity across the eight petals of Prince Rama’s temple with fiery budget-synthesiser action, tom-heavy

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Holly Golightly/The Pipettes (live at the ICA)

London 11 May 2004

Since leaving Thee Headcoatees, Holly Golightly has been carving her own idiosyncratic niche in Garage Blues, lo-fi R&B in a retro Punk vein. Eschewing the vagaries of digital technology for the immediacy of vintage Vox amplifiers, Hofner guitars and a voice turned to honkytonk leather by bourbon and bar room smoke. Bearing all this in mind it is perhaps surprising to find Holly playing at the ICA: land of square glasses, new media and progressive Drum’n’Bass DJ sets. So with some trepidation, and an irrational fear that she has swapped her Medway Delta Blues band for a couple of nerds with laptops, we find ourselves in this hallowed bastion of culture.

We are somewhat reassured by the support act, The Pipettes, who romp their way through a half hour of Sixties girlband Pop complete with eccentric organist and female trio in op-art frocks. Top marks to

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