Archives by month/year

Various Artists – Eurovision Song Contest Copenhagen 2014: Official Album

With the annual festival of all things Europop upon the screens of a continent and beyond, Kev Nickells runs through the entries.

Eurovision Song Contest Copenhagen 2014 - Official AlbumEurovision – a cherished institution. Writing this has been a bit of a nightmare, to be honest, because Europe’s a lot bigger than you think it is. Spreads all the way over to Azerbaijan. And for all the tack/awesome stage-setting, it’s a timely reminder that Europe, as a concept, is a weird thing. And a thing in which popular culture is, y’know, pretty indistinguishable.

I’ve mentioned the ‘world music’ caveat before, where it’s easy to write yourself into knots talking about unfamiliar traditions, but that’s not really the problem with Eurovision. The problem with Eurovision is that

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Various Artists – Mountains of Tongues: Musical Dialects of The Caucasus, 2012-2013

LM Duplication

Mountains Of Tongues - Musical Dialects of The CaucasusThis music is presented to the world via the extremely productive LM Duplication label, the LM standing for ‘Living Music’, which couldn’t be a more appropriate association for the music recorded here. Life is full of grit and dirt, no matter how much we in the west try and get away from and sanitise it. Some of this mess is captured on the album with tracks fading in and out only after a few seconds. Other tracks contain brief talking or a knock of the microphone, but all this only adds to the listener’s journey and reminds us of its living content, for it’s important to note that these recordings aren’t some obscure Alan Lomax recording made in

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International Rhythm Stars – Add Rhythm Sampler


International Rhythm Stars - Add Rhythm SamplerBack in the day, there was tape-trading. Conducted by post, y’know, when there was a postal service rather than a mausoleum of “a good idea we used to have”. I used to do a fair amount of it. It was a great way to find out about stuff you didn’t know about. Someone would put together a selection of stuff they liked, and you’d do one in exchange. There was also the thing of finding out about a load of the weirder side of things — it’s how I found folk like Merzbow and Masonna, but (perhaps more crucially), all those groups no-one remembers (Botanaphobia, anyone?). Then the internet came along and it was much less of a pain in the

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Various Artists – The Outer Church

Front & Follow

The Outer ChurchYou enter a dark theater. Yr not entirely sure where you are, or how you got there. You don’t know what’s going on. You walk into the flickering shadows, the interior of a theater swims into halflight, shadowy patrons whispering, pockets of activity in the corner. A young man beats a bone drum in a ceremonial dirge in the corner, a woman in blood is speaking Baudelaire on a raised platform. Over the loudspeakers, the textured rub of raw granite, snippets of sing-song, recordings of the London Tube. A car chase flickers to life on the vellum canvas of an enormous movie screen; the music rises to a fever pitch. A detuned fiddler arises from nowhere, adds her discordant bow to

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Various Artists – 70 Years Of Sunshine


70 Years Of SunshineOkay. Let’s get the press over with; as a press release, this is actually pretty sweet:

Given the bleak times we find ourselves in today, Cascone felt that another (he’s referencing the 50 years of Sunshine DBL on Silent) tribute to Herr Hofmann was in order. To celebrate the 70th anniversary of the first LSD trip, a batch of etheric lysergic soundscapes were contributed to this project by Kawabata Makoto of Acid Mother’s Temple, Robert Wheeler of Pere Ubu, Legendary Pink Dots, Andrew Liles (Nurse With Wound), Andy Rantzen (Pelican Daughters), various artists from the Silent label and some newer sound artists as well. Consider 70 Years of Sunshine to be a much anticipated software update. One that will hopefully make your auditory operating system run smoother and more

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Long Division With Remainders – Collision/Detection

Front & Follow

Long Division With Remainders - Collision DetectionThere’s buckets of finely congealed empathy here, beautifully presented. Front And Follow is an unusual, old-fashioned label, not quite made for these times. And thank God for that.

This box set is a collection of nie EPs from a host of incredible artists, all working within the confines of some strange call & response routine which sees invited artists submit audio clips into a central pot, which is then distributed around the group for them to do with as they see fit. At least, that’s what this box set is supposed to be. In another reality this is Front and Follow’s collective phantasy, an arc of triumph. This is the illusion of a series of collected EPs, an illusion so pervasive/persuasive

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Various Artists – Your Victorian Breasts


Various - Your Victorian BreastsI love compilations; you never know what you’re gonna get. But not only that. I hear a lot of new experimental music, and some of it has as a sound or quality that will wear you out if you listen to full albums. Not necessarily on account of the music itself, which can be very interesting and varied, but some experimentalists tend to use the same approach to the soundscape or palette of sound throughout an album. If this is the case, and even more so if the music is very minimal, or in lack of layers or frequencies, I find myself getting tired after a while. Not so with compilations, as I hear so many varied-sounding tracks that it comes

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Various Arists – Allies and Clansmen: The Next Descendant

Monty Maggot

The second compilation of artists from the Monty Maggot label is another eclectic mix of music. Put together again by Lee Potts it’s wonderful that the [post=allies-and-clansmen text=”first release”] was such a hit that it warranted a part two (and maybe a part three is in the pipeline). The love and time and energy put into these releases and the quality of the overall product means that you are getting recordings from this label to treasure. Anyway, let’s climb aboard the stairway to the stars and see what’s twinkling out there in the cosmos.

> Print this

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Various Artists – Head Music

Fruits de Mer

Krautrock is a brilliantly meaningless term, full of meaning. Head Music attempts to show why. There’s motorik music (there’s some on here) which is often what people mean when they say krautrock (they mean it sounds like Neu! or the way Can’s drums flip over one another) and there’s the dense wiggy kosmische space music (which means it sounds like Klaus Schulze or Tangerine Dream). But a lot of krautrock is also a lot like heavy metal (in the sense that, say, Hawkwind, are heavy metal, with the emphasis on heavy rather than metal). You’ll hear the phrase ‘krautrock’ all over the place and it’ll mean nothing much. This compilation, this fantastic conceit, attempts to skew things further.

Most of these

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Various Artists – Out of Silence: Reflections on Samuel Beckett’s Work


In 1961, Harold Pinter was in Paris, attending rehearsals for the French production of his play The Caretaker. Pinter’s critical reputation was starting to gain serious traction at this time, and the literary establishment were beginning to write about him as the natural successor to Samuel Beckett in the same way that they had once referred to Beckett himself as the successor to James Joyce. The play’s director, Roger Blin, was a friend of Beckett, although the two men had experienced something of a falling out, and when Pinter expressed a desire to meet him, Blin used the opportunity to affect both a rapprochement for himself and Beckett, and a necessary meeting of literary old master and young pretender. Pinter later spoke of that night with utter wonder, of hours of talk that encompassed the whole sweep of Western drama, of

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Various Artists – Allies and Clansmen

Monty Maggot

OK, let’s start up here with a massive amount of respect to Lee Potts for putting this together. For not only does this CD look great and has some marvellous music on it but it’s absolutely free from the above website, all you have to do is pay the P&P and the disc will wind its way to you from the cosmic reaches of outer space to brighten up your day.

The album starts with the Omenopus track “Call Your Name,” a beautiful melancholic song touchingly sung that taps into the same vibe as some of Led Zeppelin‘s acoustic numbers until it punches in with big power chords and sends you skyward. 1912’s “Please Take Me Away From Here” has lilting piano that hits a more prog rock vein and reminded me of recent releases by Opeth in its execution

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The Karindula Sessions: Tradi-Modern Sounds from Southeast Congo

Crammed Discs

To borrow the imprecation that Debbie Harry once sang so passionately in 1978, “Picture this.” However, rather than a sky full of thunder, or for that matter Debs’ telephone number (wistful sigh…), try instead a giant sit-on banjo constructed from an oil drum, a goat, an empty bag of powdered milk and some strings. For a finishing touch, decorate the neck and body of this Heath Robinson musical contraption with band names (in the manner of a rock band’s kick drum), slogans and even designs like a near Magen David. With me so far? Good, because what you are now holding in your mind’s eye is known, in southeastern Congo, as a karindula. Over the border into Zambia they call it a kalindula, but it seems rather churlish to worry about a single stray consonant when we’re so deep into

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Various Artists – Bloody War: Songs 1924–1939

Tompkins Square

Bloody War - Songs 1924–1939The ordinary soldier’s tale is a lamentable one full of dark humour born of hardship and kinship in barracks and battle. Here are 15 such laments ranging from the period 1924–1939 from the USA; in Europe a sometimes overlooked participant in the First World War, with its own continental conflicts and a civil war to draw subject matter from.

A CD of songs taken from private collections of out of copyright 78s, starting with Zeke Morris‘ “Just As the Sun Went Down” and featuring the amazingly named Red Patterson’s Piedmont Log Rollers telling of “The Battleship Of Maine,” an event of sabotage or subterfuge controversially precipitating the Spanish-American War; its inclusion tempting comparisons with politics behind the Gulf War. Scanning past the flags and eagles on the artwork and showing the record company’s sympathy with the

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Various Artists – In Search of Hawkwind

Critical Mass

In Search of HawkwindIn Search of Hawkwind is a tribute album, whereby nine venerable old battle hymns originally cranked out by the veteran psychedelic cosmonauts are re-interpreted by younger, hipper bands, mostly from the US (at least I think so — I’m not actually hip enough to have heard of all of them). There have been other Hawkwind tributes, but they’ve tended to be low-budget releases featuring deservedly obscure free festival-type acts, though the likes of Acid Mothers Temple (of whom more below) and Wire’s Colin Newman have popped up on them too. This looks to be a bigger-league affair, nicely packaged and featuring a couple of biggish names in Mudhoney and the aforementioned Acid Mothers, alongside established neo-psych stalwarts Bardo Pond and a clutch of younger acts: Kinski, Mugstar, White Hills, Magoo, and Wooden Shijps

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Various Artists – Grind Madness at the BBC


Grind Madness at the BBC

This takes me back. Sometimes innovations can be pinned down to very specific musical moments. In the same way that Eddie Van Halen‘s tapping on “Eruption” spawned a legion of followers, Mick Harris‘ death blasts on “Scum” set the pace and tone of metal drumming for decades to follow. Its hard to overstate the impact of “Scum” and late 80s UK hardcore. Suddenly everyone was listening to it (well maybe not the 80s pop dullards with their heads burried in the sand) because it was just so extreme. Napalm Death and E.N.T. records (yes records) cropped up in unlikely places like the collections of goths and indie kids, as well the collections metalheads and punks. It was

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