Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Chrome - Alien Soundtracks (1977)


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For fans of: Can, Swell Maps, Pere Ubu

This is some crazy psychedelic stuff! It's full of strange audio effects and sounds that give it an alien feeling, but it also has a very prominent electric guitar not far from what you'd find on any classic rock album. The guitar will lure many in, and some very odd beats and sometimes Iggy Pop or Damo Suzukiesque vocals make it surprisingly enjoyable, not just as a novelty, but as a sophisticated piece of music. Something to just sit there to and fryyyyy. - Matthew Foster

'With Creed recruited to replace original member Mike Low (though allegedly Edge initially turned Creed down after the latter appeared wearing a pirate outfit or something similar), Chrome started kicking into high gear at last. While Spain and Lambdin weren't out of the picture yet, cowriting half the songs with Edge, Creed's mind-melting guitar swiftly took prominence, turning a wiggy band into a total headtrip. Rather than just aiming at acid-rock styling, Creed stuffed his fretbending into an evil, compressed aggro-sound, at once psychedelic and totally in-your-face. Edge equals the activity by stepping into the vocal role himself, sounding like Iggy on a live wire with occasional attempts at weird, wailed crooning, while his electronics and drumming starts sounding a lot more vicious and totally scuzzed as well. It's not the short sharp shock of punk rock per se -- it just sounds like the title puts it, alien, sounds and TV samples firing out of nowhere and throwing the listener off balance. That many numbers are constructed out of short fragments adds to the weird overlay. Even the quieter numbers like "All Data Lost" play around with echo and drone to create disturbing results. The songs themselves allegedly were recorded as the soundtrack to a live sex show, which probably goes a long way towards explaining the sex and sci-fi combination of much of the lyrics. Not to mention the titles -- to quote some at random: "Nova Feedback," "Magnetic Dwarf Reptile," and the truly hilarious "Pigmies in Zee Dark" (there's some creepy crooning on this one) and "Slip It to the Android." The artwork adds to the weird effect -- a hand-colored late fifties 'cool' living room and busty babe setup with the band's and album name hand-scrawled in usual Chrome fashion over it, plus huge disembodied eyes and lips that make everything really disturbing. Overall, the combination of screwy sound and art on a budget placed Chrome as something like West Coast cousins of early Pere Ubu and Destroy All Monsters -- not a bad place to be." - AMG

Monday, December 27, 2010

Mclusky - Mclusky Do Dallas (2002)


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For fans of: Unwound, Shellac, The Jesus Lizard

Yet another Albini powerhouse. I don't want to give all the credit to him because it takes a good band in the first place to make an album like this, but I can't imagine liking it nearly as much as I did without the Albini sound that is all over this album. The thick bass, crunchy guitars, and loud drums sound great with this style of noise rock that's equal parts punk and indie. With this album, they just don't seem to care whatsoever about anything but the music, and have a much fun as possible keeping the energy at a peak. It's not the best music for the brain, but it'll keep the body as happy as can be. - Matthew Foster

"McLusky Do Dallas is a monumental leap from the somewhat uneven My Pain and Sadness Is More Sad and Painful Than Yours. Comparisons to the Pixies are still inevitable, but McLusky comes out of the closet as a group of extreme noise mongers here. Every bit as dynamic, thunderous, and accomplished as Relationship of Command, Come on Pilgrim, and Nevermind, the album is almost criminal in its continuous, joyous crunchy hooks and all-out sneer. If they were treading water a bit on their debut, they're now masters of sonic punch and, like the Pixies, they might just have producer Steve Albini to thank, as he mans the boards here with genius abandon. Every one of the album's 14 songs is a standout, and with only three of the songs going past the three-minute mark, the band makes its point, drives it home, and pulls out. It's a truly exhilarating listen across every one of its 34 smart, snarling, and loud minutes. The mad vocals of Andy Falkous make Black Francis look like a geeky school kid in comparison, as he rips into bizarre lyrical territory, screaming or whispering about being "naked from f*cking too much," torching restaurants, "cartoon monkeys," "going straight to hell," and having "crazy f*cking times, 'til our Visa card expired." Falkous acts like a mad maestro, conducting the maelstrom of fuzzy guitars that constantly swarm around his snide, sharp vocals. When he pauses midsong to announce "bring on the big guitars" or "my love is bigger than your love, sing it," he's onto something truly special and compelling. The band's sense of timing is stellar, and there's not a false note in sight, as each tempo change highlights a hook or an emotion to a T. "Gareth Brown Says" is a perfect example of McLusky's twisted charm, as Falkous sings, "All of your friends are c**ts, your mother is a ballpoint pen thief," and it immediately brings to mind Lydon's girl from Birmingham. The entire album captures the energy of Blur's "Song 2," only full of conviction, wit, and fury, and filters and rearranges it as if it's been performed by a mad hybrid of the Pixies, the Sex Pistols, Nirvana, the Jesus Lizard, and Joy Division. McLusky Do Dallas is a fascinating, addictive album that never grows old, never takes itself too seriously, and never grates despite its absolutely raging dynamics, and it's one of the best albums of 2002." - AMG

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Burger/Ink - Las Vegas (1998)***


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For fans of: DeepChord/Echospace, Porter Ricks, Scion

This has to be one of the finest examples of minimal techno out there. It's subtle and soft in it's approach, while deep and hard at heart. It's also slightly dubby and ambient, combining a seemingly endless groove with a rich atmosphere. If you want techno that is engaging and somewhat trance-inducing, while being easy on the ears, this is perfect. The shifting patters have are something really only possible in techno music, and this is surly a pinnacle of the genre. Matthew Foster

"Quite distanced from the legion of echo-chamber drumkick records in Mike Ink's catalog, Las Vegas presents a series of languid trance numbers that reprise the deep-sea dub of his Studio 1 recordings but without the straight-ahead four-four beats. Obviously, Jörg Burger must deserve much of the credit for Las Vegas, from highlight tracks "Flesh & Bleed," "Milk & Honey," and "Elvism" to the entire Roxy Music connections inherent in just about every song title on the record. If you buy just one Mike Ink record (alternately: if you can find just one Mike Ink record...), it had better be this one." - AMG

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Big Blood - Dark Country Magic (2010)


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For fans of: MV & EE, Natural Snow Buildings, Charalambides

Very entrancing and blissful music, this is. It's more drone-y than Dead Songs was, but at the same time has a wider variety of moods present. "Ringers in the Fold" had me captivated, then "She-Wander(er)" lifted the atmosphere a bit with a faster tempo and a simple piano melody, then later came "Coming Home Pt. III," which is just straight up beauty. This album is something to sink into and let drag you around it's strange yet joyful world. - Matthew Foster

Friday, November 26, 2010

Mark Fell - Multistability (2010)


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For fans of: Ryoji Ikeda, Thomas Brinkmann, Autechre

Here Mark Fell proves his mastery of creating intensely complex rhythms. It's just as sanitary and brain oriented as anything on raster-noton, but it has a strange accessibility to it at times. The sounds do not vary much, and are not particularly aesthetically pleasing, but work perfectly with the varying tempos. There are multiple layers of sound that slowly reveal a great beauty. The effect is like something that might be played in an alien nightclub, full of ecstatic built-ups and oddly funky beats. - Matthew Foster

"SND's Mark Fell makes a late entry for one of the electronic albums of the year with his latest solo opus: 'Multistability'. As one half of SND alongside Mat Steel and solo as 'H', Mark uncompromisingly operates on the bleeding edge of digital music production. He's in possession of a beautifully rare talent; the ability to make highly academic music with an innately Funky and dare we say, accessible, edge. He himself and many others may not agree, but there's something so listenable to his rhythmically-driven and melodically aware style that we can't help but hear him in that context. The conceit behind 'Multistability' is assuredly highbrow, referring to the notion of seeing two separate images at once, kinda like a Rubin face/vase effect. From the outset we're entangled in a meticulous mesh of ultimately chaotic, but incredibly well organised patterns and sonic topologies - essentially the result of experiments whose side-effects just happen to be the most extreme and stripped examples of digital funk imaginable. Believe it or not, Mark cites his collaborative efforts with friend and fellow musician Yasunao Tone as a major influence on these tracks, which is understandable when it comes to their constantly morphing aesthetic and deliberate intentions, but seriously, we couldn't ever imagine feeling as compelled to twitch like this when listening to a Tone CD. We'd be more inclined to compare his constructions with the fiercest UK Garage/Bassline or Footworkin' Juke, albeit filtered and reduced into the most minimal variant possible. Just imagine those hyper-concatenated rhythms zipped into more "conventional" dancefloor sounds - in a parallel universe Marcus Nasty is whipping up a hypestorm with blends of 'Multistability' and the latest Pantha dubplate. However, as the label correctly states, 'Multistability' should be understood in light of Fell's claim that "Music is a technology for constructing an experience of time", which really sums this album up more succinctly than we ever could, while leaving his whole oeuvre brilliantly unresolved and open to the wildest interpretations. We're not using this lightly - ESSENTIAL!" - Boomkat

Friday, November 5, 2010

Kno - Death Is Silent (2010)


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For fans of: CunninLynguists, Mos Def, Dessa

This is definitely one of the best hip hop albums of the year, however it doesn't contain the much of the year's best "hip hop." Understand? While it's far from bad, the rapping here is not the best. Rather, what makes this album great is its production and overall mood. There are no real hard-hitters here, it's all relatively soft and soulful. Unlike your average hip hop, this is lush, thoughtful, and elegant. There are guitars and singing throughout many of these songs, and there is never a shortage of aural captivation. The lyrical themes focus on death and life at large and are very contemplative. This is simply a fantastic and explorative piece of musical production that isn't confined by its genre. It's one of those lonely late night albums that'll take you away from your surroundings. - Matthew Foster

"My opinion on this album isn’t fixed. It’s not how we listen to music. You shouldn’t be listening to music through memory, it makes your ears secondary. Point is – what this album means to me will change from tomorrow, to next week, to years from now. It depends where my life is. The listener always brings a lot to the music. You will also interpret this album differently because it’s so honest and real. We have learned more about Kno on this project than his past projects combined. Some of you may not like his delivery choice on some tracks as he’s in character, but then you’re missing the point. Please listen to the lyrics and take your time with it. The dude is pouring his soul out.
Musically, Kno introduces his ear for synths. Combining samples with synth and creating a dreamy, break beat like project has made a great marriage with the topic of the project. It’s mature, yet it has its fun moments but for the most part it requires your favorite headphones and attentiveness. For me, it feels reviewing this because I’ve been thinking ‘what’s the fucking point?’ People care about honest music? Value and appreciation is seldom. Should I care about sharing what I think about this project and more importantly how could Kno even care about what we think after an album like this? Maybe it’s hope? Maybe this is the first in many steps in breaking the silence." - JTX

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Durutti Column - LC (1981)


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For fans of: Bark Psychosis, Young Marble Giants, Harold Budd

The Durutti Column takes an electric guitar made for punk rock and turns it into something almost otherworldly. The attitude and filth are replaced with tranquility and precision. Along with the guitar to create these musical sketches are piano, drums, and electronics. This album is ethereal and simply beautiful, while it still has prominent drums and a rock kind of structure, it acts like an ambient album. I think it is really ahead of its time, foreshadowing and likely helping to influence the shoegaze and post-rock movements of the 90s. - Matthew Foster

"After some abortive collaborations, Reilly hooked up with a regular drummer, talented fellow Mancunian Bruce Mitchell, to create LC, Durutti's second full release. Self-produced by Reilly but bearing the unmistakable hints of his earlier work with Martin Hannett, LC, named after a bit of Italian graffiti, extends Reilly's lovely talents ever further, resulting in a new set of evocative, carefully played and performed excursions on electric guitar. Mitchell's crisp but never overly dominant drumming actually starts the record off via "Sketch for Dawn I," added to by a simply captivating low series of notes from Reilly that builds into a softly triumphant melodic surge, repeating a core motif again and again. His piano playing adds a perfect counterpart, while the final touch are his vocals -- low speak-singing that sounds utterly appropriate in context, mixed low and capturing the emotional flavor at play via delivery rather than lyrical content. As great as Return is, this is perhaps even better, signaling a full flowering of Reilly's talents throughout the album. Mitchell proves him time and again to be in perfect sync with Reilly, adding gentle brio and understated variation to the latter's compositions. Nowhere is this more apparent than on "The Missing Boy," the album's unquestioned highlight. Written in memory of Ian Curtis of Joy Division, on it Mitchell adds quick, sudden hits contrasting against the low, tense atmosphere of the song, while fragile piano notes and Reilly's own regret-tinged, yearning vocals complete the picture. For all the implicit melancholy in Durutti's work, there's a surprising amount of life and energy throughout -- "Jaqueline" is perhaps the standout, with a great central melody surrounded by the expected Reilly elaborations and additions in the breaks. As with the rest of Durutti's mid-'90s reissues, the expanded version of LC appears full to the brim with intriguing bonus tracks galore. The first three capture an abortive collaboration with another Manc drummer, funk performer Donald Johnson. A contribution to a holiday album, "One Christmas for Your Thoughts," finds Reilly back with drum machines, while the very first Reilly/Mitchell collaborations, "Danny" and "Enigma," round out this excellent release." - AMG

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Simon Finn - Pass the Distance (1970)


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For fans of: Pearls Before Swine, Linda Perhacs, Current 93

This album is dark and psychedelic, with a progressiveness a bit akin to if Can were to try their hand with an acid folk album. It's all barely being held together with a great voice and melodies that wander left and right. Several of these songs show a great power that's somewhat unusual for music of this type, "Jerusalem" being the most notable. It's not the most cohesive album, but it's got some great highs and nicely combines the psychedelia of the decade before this with the progressiveness that was just becoming popular. It also seems to capture an existential longing that few artists are able to match. - Matthew Foster

"Simon Finn's Pass the Distance is a legendary acid folk recording from the psychedelic era. Originally issued on the Mushroom label in 1970, the LP was embroiled in legal hassles and withdrawn from circulation. David Tibet of Current 93 became obsessed with it upon hearing a bootleg copy in 1995, and along with Simon and the Canadian Jnana imprint, has reissued it on Durtro as a CD. Finn, a Canadian native, made the record in 1969 in Vic Keary's Chalk Farm Studios with some new jamming mates including David Toop and Paul Burwell!

Pass the Distance is not a drippy peace and love record. It is a nocturnal, nightmarish album full of extremes as well as aesthetically beautiful textures and subtleties. Finn was obsessed with Christian themes (both redemptive and apocalyptic), history, the environment, and strange, oblique love songs. The centerpiece is the epic "Jerusalem." With maniacally strummed acoustic guitars, a swirling church organ, hand drums, and a muddy bassline, Finn iterates the vision of Christ as he walked through the city and was crucified by the very people who praised his name, and he equates Christ with the 1960s counterculture ideals. The crux of the song is the terror and rage that Christ would feel were he to return and be crucified in the current millennium by those who profess his name. Finn begins softly, sadly, and soon begins ranting and screaming as the music gathers in intensity and menace until it becomes utterly frightening. It is followed by "Where's Your Master Gone," a song about Satan, articulated with Toop's electric guitar lilting in the backdrop with Burwell popping the accents with his tables. Finn croons sweetly and confusingly about the transformation and redemption of Satan. And so it goes -- whether Finn is singing about love found and lost, sex, new age revelation, or Gnostic Christianity; there is in his gentleness, a darker, more sinister edge, one that can set one's teeth to grinding or make one see things in the dark. But there is also great tenderness and vulnerability as well, as evidenced by "Patrice," or "What a Day." Taken as a whole, it is creepy and beautiful and poetic and crazy and utterly wonderful. It is a maverick recording from a time far wilder and more imaginative than our own. The CD contains the ten-track original album, an unreleased single, and two completely unreleased studio tracks -- one of which is a recording of the first song Finn ever wrote. It has extensive liner notes by Finn, Toop, Tibet, and Keary. Pass the Distance is available from either Finn's or the Durtro web sites. While Pass the Distance may not be for everyone, those who dare to step out on to this ledge will be immeasurably rewarded." - AMG

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Silkworm - Firewater (1996)


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For fans of: Pavement, Dinosaur Jr., Mission of Burma

Full of slacker energy, this music doesn't seem to care about having a clean or cohesive sound, but throws ideas around freely and sounds like some of the most natural indie rock there is. They're always on the edge of excellence here, swinging back and forth from really good to great and mustering up some exiting and memorable melodies here and there within each song. Loose guitar solos rage over the top of consistent drums and a meandering bass. It's noisy, honest, and gloriously wide-ranging. - Matthew Foster

"It's a difficult thing to have too many cooks in the kitchen, especially when all of them are iron chefs. Joel Phelps' semi-forced exit made a big difference. On one hand, it was bad: Phelps was an integral part of the band since its inception. And on the other, it was good: the pared-down sound fit the band well, and that's quite evident on the four-sided Firewater. Left to two voices, the band produces its most cohesive and precise set, despite it being their most broad; Firewater clocks in with 16 tracks at an hour long. Not a minute is wasted, and everything sounds more measured and relaxed. Lyrically, the themes of each song tie in with a couple concepts in mind, not suffering from the somewhat schizo topics of previous LPs. As the lone guitarist, Cohen spreads his wings, turning in some lengthy solos. At times, his scorchy leads seem twice as loud as the bass and drums, but it's called for each time. Midgett's thick bass becomes more of a centerpiece than an anchor, sounding its thickest yet. Stripped bare to the degree of sounding awkward on the first few listens, a couple songs rely mainly on light rhythms and little else. The record's themes of alienation and inebriation are balanced by spells of dark humor. Cohen is always reliable for the occasional zinger, and Midgett's woes-of-the-road "Miracle Mile" provides many yuks at the band's expense. Also, the occasional cathartic yelping and complex structures seem to be done away with, in favor of more classic influences (the Stones-y "Lure of Beauty") and decreasing tangential incidents. Though one hates to say it in the wake of Phelps, Firewater sounds like a band that's just lost its training wheels -- fuller yet less cluttered." - AMG

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Georgia Anne Muldrow - Kings Ballad (2010)


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For fans of: Erykah Badu, Madlib, Janelle Monáe

This woman's taking neo-soul higher and farther, combining the hip-hop and soul with some fantastic modern beats and instrumentation. If you wish hip-hop had more singing and well-written lyrics, or if you wish soul music had more oompf and funk, this is what you're wishing for. There's a great feeling of experimentation and adventure here that is really inspiring, yet it also has plenty of accessibility and doesn't suffer from over-indulgence. Influences seem to come from anywhere and everywhere, just listening to "Thatch," with it's electronic squeaks and dance beat, I know this is something special. Along with Erykah Badu, this is opening a big door of discovery for me. - Matthew Foster

"Kings Ballad, following Umsindo by only six months and released on Ubiquity instead of her and husband Dudley Perkins’ SomeOthaShip, is Georgia Anne Muldrow's most direct, least idiosyncratic release, if only by a shade or two. Once again, Muldrow the do-it-all provides an organic, modern brand of psychedelic funk, a sample-less fusion of several black music forms that, depending on the song, could provide the backdrop for children playing double dutch or a political rally. Less sprawling than Umsindo (it’s 25 minutes shorter), its centerpiece is the title track, a gracious tribute to family friend Michael Jackson that carries a deep bass rumble, an elegiac organ, and a cascading piano line that enters -- stunningly so -- as Muldrow joyously sings, “We love you, Michael/We needed you, Michael.” The energy is, as ever, uniformly positive, albeit with a spirit that is more commonly playful, as on “Simple Advice” (loaded with so much kinetic percussion that it resembles a go-go band’s warm-up session), “Summer Love” (a lighthearted duet with Perkins over crawling, “Cutie Pie”-like machine funk), and “Room Punk!” (45 seconds of happily throwaway pop-punk). Even the songs packing a message can be enjoyed without deep concentration. Brief instrumentals are interspersed, and they are typically as replay-worthy as the full-blown songs, highlighted by the eerie and cosmic “Industrial Bap.”" - AMG

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Gastr del Sol - Upgrade & Afterlife (1996)


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For fans of: Tortoise, Bark Psychosis, Slint

Imaginative creativity is put to the forefront here. The songs range from acoustic avant-folk guitar explorations to electronic experiments that are sometimes combined to create lush pieces of hypnotic minimalism. In a conventional sense, they can be somewhat dull, but they successfully rely on dynamic atmospheres that set a dark and wondrous mood. At times it can simply reside pleasantly in the background, or it can creep up on you and amaze with it's unique and intricately crafted post-rock beauty. - Matthew Foster

"Somewhere along the line, Upgrade & Afterlife's original concept -- a set of conventional song made up of "normal" chords and accessible melodies -- must have been abandoned. Instead, David Grubbs and Jim O'Rourke's fifth album as Gastr del Sol abounds with elliptical melodies, broken by silence and noise, that avoid resolution. The antithesis of a pop lyricist, Grubbs' elusive wordplay and vague, surreal imagery matches his music, particularly on "Rebecca Sylvester." Random noise interrupts throughout the album, bursting and seeping through song surfaces, wreaking havoc on the compositions. A fanfare of destructive screeches announces "Hello Spiral." On "The Sea Incertain," they emerge from the stops and starts of the piano's careful explorations, pushing the instrument out of focus and out of the picture. A paranoid hum underpins "The Relay and "Crappie Tactics." There is beauty throughout Upgrade & Afterlife, but it's almost entirely on Gastr's terms. Grubbs' gorgeous vocal melody on "The Relay" carries some of his most cryptic imagery. "Cooked corn in formaldehyde/Popcorn in an airtight jar," he sings, backed by a dissonant piano. The album's biggest surprises are its bookends: "Our Exquisite Replica of 'Eternity'" (an absurd opening statement) may someday be recognized as the perfect piece of film music, capable of communicating as much paranoia, suspense, and terror as a director could with his/her camera. It's an ominous drift fractured by shards of electronic feedback, breaking through and breaking down like static between alien stations before closing with mournful trumpets. Meanwhile, Jim O'Rourke's performance of John Fahey's "Dry Bones in the Valley" ends the album with pure fresh air, resolving every awkward moment offered up in the preceding 37 minutes. Joined by Tony Conrad, the pair embark on an exploration of the violinist's micro-tonal drones that follow the album into the sunset." - AMG

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Eleven Tigers - Clouds Are Mountains (2010)


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For fans of: Burial, James Blake, Scuba

These songs are packed with sound. When one beat begins to die, and you start to fall, there'll be another one waiting to catch you and guide your steps back into motion. It's all done with such grace, it has a great flow, and once I got into it, it never let go. One complaint would be that the sounds could have been produced a bit better, sometimes the mix sounds a bit flat, but if you can get into the variation that's here, it's one hell of a ride. It really explores the dubstep genre in a way few others have, expanding on the atmosphere that Burial introduced with fantastic rhythms that'll make any beat lover happy. Full of energy and innovation, this one should be quite a treat for all the craved dubstep fans. - Matthew Foster

"Breaking with nearly all tradition of its nominal peers, this album has a dramatic heft, an operatic rise and fall structure demanding front to back listening – with the surgical precision of some mythical perfect trance mix to keep everything on a consistently gasp inducing flow. Every time an exquisite groove is discovered and locked into, a new element arises to subtly shift context until a sudden left turn imperceptibly shuffles the entire journey onto yet another new level." - Optimistic Underground

Monday, September 13, 2010

Amp Fiddler/Sly & Robbie - Inspiration Information (2008)


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For fans of: Erykah Badu, Dâm-Funk, Raphael Saadiq

I've never been much of a soul fan, but recently I've been on a huge Erykah Badu and Sade kick. I came into this album having heard another from the Inspiration Information series and hoping to expand on the little soul I've heard, and I'm enjoying it much more than I could have imagined. The bass is really great in some of the songs here, digging a groove within the groove, and Sly & Robbie's reggae influence adds a really nice element to the music. Amp's soulful voice and the interesting and groovy production make a great combo and results in a very unique sounding and enjoyable set of songs. - Matthew Foster

"Arriving at Anchor Studios in Kingston, Jamaica, armed only with a handful of acoustic vocal ideas, Amp and the Riddim Twins recorded the album in just three days during June with overdubs laid down a week later in Detroit. “We work fast,” says Robbie. “Time is money!” The result is a confident, laid back set that brings a whole new twist to Amp’s trademark vocal style: Sly builds innovative digital and live rhythms, Robbie underpins the tracks with solid bass foundations and original generation guests “Sticky” Thompson (percussion) and Dalton Browne (guitar) add plenty of colour. Back in Detroit, Amp knitted together the finishing touches, adding extra keys and backing vocals.

The tracks are never predictable, at times echoing Sly & Robbie’s ‘80s days with Island Records at Compass Point studios, at others structured around more mood-based keyboard pads and new patterns re-inventing the established dancehall template. “It’s been amazing – the level of musicianship is sky high,” explains Amp. “Sly & Robbie work so well together – everything has happened really smoothly.” Within the sessions, the trio honed both new compositions and covers, including a pertinent re-work of a George Clinton-era classic, ‘Paint The White House Black’ re-titled by Sly as ‘Black House’. They also revisited select tracks from Amp’s ‘Waltz Of A Ghetto Fly’ album from 2004, with Amp favourites like ‘I Believe In You’ re-worked over a lilting reggae base. The album was mixed in London by another original Island Records studio regular, Godwin Logie, complete with extra dub versions of selected tracks worked live off the desk." - Strut Records

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Dean & Britta - 13 Most Beautiful: Songs for Andy Warhol's Screen Tests (2010)


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For fans of: Spiritualized, Yo La Tengo, Robyn Hitchcock

These songs are indeed beautiful. I haven't heard the originals of the cover songs that are here and I haven't seen Warhol's screen tests, but this stands up as an album greatly. It's spacey, arty, psychedelic, and at times has my spine tingling. They incorporate a wide range of instruments, keeping it from becoming boring, and even add electronic beats and bleeps to some songs. It all works really well and never annoys or tries to go beyond itself, just simple songs that hit the spot perfectly. - Matthew Foster

"Renowned pop artist Andy Warhol swapped canvas for celluloid and made 13 short black-and-white silent films between 1964 and 1966, all of which followed a single subject (person), usually within the confines of his Factory studio. Luna veterans Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips were commissioned by the Warhol Museum to provide a soundtrack for the film, and the resulting two-disc set, 13 Most Beautiful: Songs for Andy Warhol's Screen Tests collects all of those pieces, along with a handful of remixes. Tapping one third of the late-'80s pop outfit Galaxie 500 was a no-brainer, as Wareham’s made a career out of building dreamy, minimalist, Velvet Underground-style jams for over 20 years, and instrumental cuts like “Silver Factory Theme” and “Herringbone Tweed” feel like audio postcards of the late-'60s Factory scene. Phillips’ sexy, plain-jane voice dutifully echoes Nico on a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Keep It with Mine,” Wareham’s “It Don't Rain in Beverly Hills” (for the Edie Sedgwick screen test) rolls down the road on a foundation of spacy beats and blips, and a rousing take on the Velvets’ “I'm Not a Young Man Anymore” feels both sad and triumphant. 13 Most Beautiful ends fittingly with the languid “Sweet Jane” and the Paul America-inspired “Teenage Lightning (And Lonely Highways)”." - AMG

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Carla Bozulich - Evangelista (2006)


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For fans of: Swans, Kate Bush, Land of Kush

Carla Bozulich is a sculptor of tension. With her backing band and an incredible voice, these songs rise and fall with a greatly dynamic power. It's a bit like if Kate Bush experimented in noisy post-rock. Much of the music somewhat resembles post-rock in structure and tension, but is much more experimental than any post-rock, using many orchestral instruments in unconventional ways and favoring more folky melodies and influences. The album is beautiful, haunting, and adventurous at the same time and is highly recommended. - Matthew Foster

"Evangelista is a sound that you can open your chest with, pull out what’s inside and make it change shapes. Make it open more times and, even more… til the sound inside has finally sealed the hole where your vile/beautiful heart belongs… loved and safe even when you think you’re totally alone. Even if you believe in nothing. good or bad, I must report: there’s really no such thing as empty space. Even inside this void there is sound. You will hear it. You will see. You will be cradled and near deafened by love and mercy sounds and the sound of your own pulsing blood which used to drive me mad as a child when I would try to go to sleep…" - Carla

Friday, August 27, 2010

Various Artists - Cocoon Compilation J (2010)***


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For fans of: Basic Channel, Thomas Brinkmann, Marcel Dettmann

With the Moritz von Oswald name attached to it, I expected the first track here to be as great as it is, but to my surprise, the rest of what follows is nearly just as incredible. These tracks are packed to the brim with elegance, power, and subtlety. They relentlessly and shamelessly attack the listener with repetition. Deeply hypnotic, these blizzards of beats don't hold back anything and entrance like a great shoegaze album. This compilation features many of today's top notch techno/house producers and is like a bounce house at night with ghouls laughing behind the walls, it's trippy and immensely funky. - Matthew Foster

"When the then still young Frankfurt label Cocoon Recordings discovered the long-playing format with its Compilation A in Summer 2000, probably nobody could have, even approximately, foreseen the success story of this series. For ten years now, the cocoon-style declination of the alphabet is a guarantor for high-class and exclusively produced floor burners by the international Techno and House elite, and, beyond that, a reliable indicator for the stylistic bandwidth of contemporary electronic dance music. And even with the previous editions A to I having set the bar damn' high, the J edition starts with a true musical sensation, as the opener "Cocoon Dark Dub" comes from nobody less than Moritz von Oswald. "Those who – even just rudimentary – have followed the evolution of electronic music over the last twenty years, know about the outstanding importance of von Oswald's timeless classics like "Domina", "M-4" or the whole Basic Channel series. Insofar, "Cocoon Dark Dub" is maybe the nicest birthday present at all, and an absolute honour for our label." (Sven Väth) So, initially, it's the heartbeat of Dub Techno that pulsates through a lonely piano and noise fractals, and club world keeps its breath for a good eight minutes. However, the Compilation J literally puts out all the stops over the following 110 minutes playtime and shows what modern electronic dance music has to offer in these times. Mathias Kaden's intuition for the crowd and location is legendary, his music is both distinctly ambitious and refreshing, and so is his contribution "Rave Strikes Back". The Dial impresario Pantha Du Prince from Hamburg is celebrating crystalline ice dance ("Bolder"), while Cécille label head Nick Curly, with his sensual Tribal House, is feasting the most compact form of Disco Boogie that one can imagine ("Keep On"). With "SBooty", the Kompakt ambassador DJ Koze, also from Hamburg, is flabbergasting the audience by combining virtually incompatible elements. Improvised horn licks are whirring through a flickering resonating body while the bass kick is filling up the tropic ambient air. However, the invariably Cocoon policy to always support interesting newcomers becomes visible in the contribution of Basti Grub from the Rhine Neckar area, whose label Höhenregler is well-known for several musical insider tips in the past. "Sick" is ascending into your brain immediately with its melodic high-frequency hook line and mysterious vocals, matching perfectly to the melancholic playfulness of the tracks by Guy Gerber. Deep Dish member Ali Shirazinia aka Dubfire and the Parisian Popof are the ones to prove impressively that you virtually can't go wrong with stringent Hypno Techno and a diaphragm-shaking bass drum. Besides the above-mentioned, the J compilation holds such well-known producers like Loco Dice, Extrawelt, Reboot and last not least long-time Cocoon companion Ricardo Villalobos, whose 12-minutes-long dance on the echo-filled "Humusweg" once again draws the bow to the Basic Channel sound from another side, and leaves much room for own visions in between the pulsing metronome of the bass line. In any case, the history of electronic dance music has not been outtold so far." - Cocoon Recordings

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Arandel - In D (2010)


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For fans of: Moritz von Oswald Trio, Redshape, Pom Pom

Like that of Burial before 2008 or Pom Pom, Arandel's identity is shrouded in mystery. Also like that of those two artists, Arandel's music is super-contemporary and acknowledges what came before it to create something that can only exist in the 21st century. In D is a reference to the classical minimalism of In C. The album is a minimal techno album in sound and feel, but was carefully created organically with analog synths and real instruments including strings, horns, percussion and vocals, and is much more an avant-garde album in attitude. For something that has an appreciable classic beauty and the ability to make you move ecstatically, this is perfect. - Matthew Foster

"ARANDEL is a secret entity whose only function is to let the music take centre stage. Arandel is a proposal for variations “IN D” - a nod to Terry Riley’s seminal In C and to the American Avant-Garde scene.

+Arandel is a political commitment, the quest of an authentic and organic sound.

+Arandel is a sound dogma, where the rules are deliberately strict – only resorting to his own recordings (no MIDI, no plugins, only analog synths), only his own instruments.

+Arandel is an experimental hub, where creation stays flexible. A Contemporary Classical Music in the broad sense of the word, with no stylistic boundaries. An original concept, a whole unheard-of sound." - Arandel

Friday, August 13, 2010

Terre Thaemlitz - Soil (1995)


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For fans of: GAS, Thomas Köner, Alva Noto

In this fast-paced modern world where information is instant and everything we do seems to be for a greater good, Soil will allow you to return to the core of yourself in a way few ambient albums can. These six tracks contain a variety of electronic effects and recordings that will relax the body, but challenge the mind. The recordings include radio transmissions, militaristic chants, and an episode of domestic violence, and when combined with the spacey ambient textures, can be like viewing human life from some kind of an isolated bubble. More than your average music, this is an introspective experience and response to this political world. - Matthew Foster

"A flowing, shifting, almost timeless statement incorporating equal parts confusion and calm across six tracks of entirely beatless ambient. Thaemlitz' ability to infuse elements of immediacy and physicality into a measured, slowly evolving style traditionally bogged down by either disinterested elitism or faux collectivist spirituality figures him as one of America's most important contemporary composers, and a singular voice in new ambient." - AMG

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Wilderness - Wilderness (2005)***


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For fans of: Public Image Limited, Liars, Interpol

A very rhythmic album, with punchy drums that seem to circle around the ranty vocals and elevating guitars. The songs are very much construed like any of today's popular anthemic indie rock songs, but something sets this band apart. Maybe it's just connecting with me more than your average indie rock, but every piece of the music is done very well here and it all fits together in a very pure and groovy way. It's almost like a jazz album in the way each instrument has its distinctive role in a complex, yet coalesced whole. It is a meticulously crafted, clearly post-punk influenced album brought up through a modern indie rock context that deserves to be thought of as one of the decade's highlights. - Matthew Foster

"It took Wilderness three years to complete their self-titled debut album. Spending that much time crafting a complex yet intriguing soundscape that has nothing to do with alternative rock, period, is not only beyond impressive, but also brilliant. It's smart in the sense that Wilderness maintain a stance away from the classic three-chord formula. They create their own post-punk-inspired shuffle without falling into the kitsch of their peers. Wilderness is led by the chaotic vocal warbling of frontman James Johnson, an obvious comparison to John Lydon's Public Image Ltd., but also an eerie vocal resemblance to Yan of British Sea Power, quickly establishes the band's disciplined approach. While the ten-song set is an elaborate adaptation of ominous guitars, thunderous drums, and sneaky basslines, Wilderness itself delivers a melancholic nervousness. Songs such as "Arkless," the blighted hopes of "End of Freedom," and the slow burn of "Fly Farther to See" press hard in such a vein. Some could have lost scope of an album's natural psyche with taking such an extensive amount of time recording it; however, Wilderness are a group of extreme perfectionists. This album never had a chance to be anything but good." - AMG

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Big Blood - Dead Songs (2010)


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For fans of: MV & EE, Steven R. Smith, Josephine Foster

Genuine sounding psychedelic tinged folk rock. Ignoring modern technology and using traditional instruments to make what they know how to make best, good ol' pure guitar songs with a variety of percussion. It also has elements of drone in it, making it hypnotic, while keeping an energy that contemporaries like MV + EE sometimes lack. Colleen Kinsella has a great voice that makes the music very easy to enjoy. The combination of this voice and the folky guitars is simply great. - Matthew Foster

Monday, August 2, 2010

Ian O'Brien - Gigantic Days (1999)


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SoundCloud
BandCamp

For fans of: Cobblestone Jazz, Derrick May, Herbie Hancock

This is some great funky and jazzy electronica! It's full of soul and class and is not off-putting at all, but it also stays bright and energetic, never really venturing into downtempo. It's full of drums, synths, and at times what sounds like a flute, which could get cheesy, but it actually works really well. The space between the funky jazz of Herbie Hancock and the techno of Underground Resistance is an exiting place where Ian O'Brien and few others venture, let alone produce something as progressive and enjoyable as this. - Matthew Foster

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Razor X Productions - Killing Sound (2006)


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For fans of: The Bug, Bogdan Raczynski, M.I.A.

Perhaps some of the hardest electronic music I've ever really enjoyed, this album is full of heavy crunchy bass, feedback, and lots of heavily processed electronic drum beats. It's as dense as an Autechre release and hits like an intense drum and bass album. On top of it all are various dance-hall raps, which are very good, but it's The Bug and The Rootsman's production that really shines here. It is made up of two discs with 10 tracks each, the first includes a variety of rappers, and the second includes instrumental dub versions of the 10 tracks. - Matthew Foster

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Holger Czukay - Movies (1979)


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For fans of: Can, Silver Apples, Brian Eno

The former Can bassist shows off his experimental, progressive, and funky chops with this album. Full of samples which, based on the title, I assume come from various movies. It is very dubby and laid back, laying out a framework with his bass guitar, and filling the remaining space with electronics and samples. It really seems to foreshadow much of the great electronic and sample based music to come out in the last decade. A greatly enjoyable listen. - Matthew Foster

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Bark Psychosis - ///Codename: Dustsucker (2004)***


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For fans of: Talk Talk, Disco Inferno, Slowdive

Music simply doesn't get much (if any) better than this. It's absolutely astonishing, incredible, beautiful, and puzzlingly awesome! The different elements in the music seem to function like organs, each serving a certain purpose and helping to create a living thing. Like Frankenstein's, the organs here may come from many different places, but when configured correctly, anything is possible. In this case, the organs are configured perfectly, and what results is evolutionarily far superior than anything previously known. When listening to this album, my mind is wholly consumed by it's beauty and mysterious power. If there is anything like a The Velvet Underground & Nico for 2004, this is it. - Matthew Foster

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Rechenzentrum - The John Peel Session (2001)


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For fans of: Demdike Stare, Vladislav Delay, Autechre

To me, this is the epitome of experimental electronic music. Soundscapes in which you really have no idea what you are going to hear next. It embraces the ideas of minimal and experimental music and does so while keeping the joyful desire to create in the first place. Artists such as Demdike Stare are now following in the same vein. Using techno music as a foundation, they take theoretical possibilities to the extreme. The result is a sometimes fruitful, sometimes not fruitful, but an always edge-of-seat fascinating listen. Listen to this when you can't decide on anything else to put on and follow the intriguing path of pure creativity. - Matthew Foster

Friday, July 23, 2010

Ilitch - 10 Suicides (1980)


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For fans of: Throbbing Gristle, Legendary Pink Dots, Suicide

While rooted in experimentation, this album embraces the synth, punk, and krautrock of the 70s. It is a relentless exploration of musical textures and ideas that can only be compared to artists like Throbbing Gristle or Nurse With Wound. If you're looking for something beyond the synth punk of Suicide, with a bit more of an ambient or psychedelic feel, this could be just the thing for you. - Matthew Foster

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tim Buckley - Starsailor (1970)


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For fans of: Scott Walker, Nico, Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band

Fantastically and divinely experimental. It features a heavenly tenor voice over free, sometimes folky, sometimes jazzy instrumentals. The strange combination borders on insanity, but the great voice and a few more conventional songs hold it together beautifully. "Monterey" and "Starsailor" are the pillars here for me, merging the unknown with the known. At times the album gets close to sounding over experimental and unrewarding, but when it works, it works incredibly well, and does so throughout most of it. - Matthew Foster

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

R. Stevie Moore - Clack! (1980)


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For fans of: Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, XTC, Half Japanese

Along with Phonography, this is surly one of the best places to start at in R.S.M.'s catalog. It was the first of his albums to be recorded in a professional studio and contains many of his greatest hits including personal favorite "Part of the Problem." Absolutely nothing can prevent some of these songs from being the wackiest, yet also the happiest and funnest you may ever hear. Anyone enjoying Ariel Pink's music has a big reason to thank R. Stevie Moore and should look into his music very soon. Check out some of his videos:

Chantilly Lace
Conflict of Interest
Sit Down
Part of the Problem
- Matthew Foster

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Foetus - Gash (1995)


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For fans of: Swans, Coil, Nine Inch Nails

Simply some of the most intense music I've ever heard, not in an extreme Merzbow noise fashion, but in a funky, experimental, industrial, and riff-filled way. Usually I don't particularly like this kind of harsh-alternative sound, but I can't deny the power contained within in the case of Foetus. There are so many styles meshed together here that it can seem jarring at times, but it's all done very well and nothing really ruins the flow. This is an album that can fairly be compared to a roller coaster; there are moments of pure adrenalin and excitement, there are others that simply serve to build up to those other moments, and there are those that change direction. For a sound that is like Nine Inch Nails's, but more adventurous, noisy, and powerful, I'd imagine there's nothing better. - Matthew Foster

Friday, July 2, 2010

Lusine - Serial Hodgepodge (2004)


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For fans of: Boards of Canada, Deru, Echospace

I'm surprised this is from 2004, it has a very dubstep feel to it and sounds a lot like something that would get a good amount of attention in 2010. It's rhythmically complex like IDM, yet still retains a nice danceability to warrant a techno label as well, and at times borders on microhouse. Within the beats there are vocal snippets and nice warm pads. It's all done very well and in my opinion rivals much of Boards of Canada or Aphex Twin, though a bit more straightforward. My only complaint is that some of the tracks should contain full vocals, it seems to beg for some singing. - Matthew Foster

Old Time Relijun - Witchcraft Rebellion (2001)


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For fans of: Captain Beefheart, Erase Errata, The Residents

Enjoyable strangeness and wonky pop. It's punk, experimental, free, noisy, and bluesy. It's like a wall with projections extruding in and out here and there. The singer croaks out in a kind of alien voice about mysterious creatures and mystical happenings. If you took Captain Beefheart and Pere Ubu, squished them together and let them ferment underground for a few years, this might be what you'd end up with. - Matthew Foster

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Books - The Way Out (2010)***


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For fans of: Laurie Anderson, Animal Collective, The Avalanches

After just falling in love with their previous three albums a couple months ago, The Books' fourth comes at the perfect time for me. It is definitely the same Books five years since their last album, but they do seem to have changed a bit since their early years. The Way Out seems more musical than the others, and sounds much more like a strange electronica album. The music is able to evoke nostalgia and imagery like no other with it's sampling of playful child voices. When the children are absent, there are thought feeding musings about how and why the human feels and thinks the way it does. While keeping their sample-based food for thought, they've made something much more melodic and musically satisfying, it could be their best yet. - Matthew Foster

Alasdair Roberts - No Earthly Man (2005)


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For fans of: Richard Youngs, Josephine Foster, Richard & Linda Thompson

Alasdair Roberts is a Scottish folk singer who writes stripped-down songs that are subtle and beautiful. This set of songs is haunting and intense at times with a variety of instruments coming into the mix and great production to do it all justice. The overall theme here is one of loss, and the tales told keep me interested and attent the whole time. The synthesis of traditional song and modern sound is a winner. - Matthew Foster

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sleepytime Gorilla Museum - Of Natural History (2004)


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For fans of: Univers Zero, Mr. Bungle, Kayo Dot

"As it has been said, this album is almost impossible to describe. Not everything becomes evident to ones ears right away, and even now I'm still hearing new parts in songs. The excellence of the songs does not become clear right away either. At first, 'Babydoctor' may seem like it has a first half that is almost uninteresting or 'skippable'. But after a little while, it becomes a very much needed part of the song.

The use of instrumentation on this album is phenomenal as well. There are even some homemade little beauties to be heard. The bowed spatula just being an example of one. For anyone that has ever said that drums and percussion are only for rhythm and are otherwise boring or pointless, this album will change that. For anyone that has ever said that the bass is an unnecessary instrument, used only as a backbone in music, this album will change that. The musical talent of this group is tremendous; a force to be reckoned with.

As far as the songs go, they build up and up until the they implode and then explode, causing a post-apocalyptical euphoria of sound to sweep over the grounds of the listener's mind. It's truly incredible.

This album is not to be understood at once, but with time, it reveals itself to be a truly astonishing masterpiece" - Nathan

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Land of Kush - Monogamy (2010)


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For fans of: Evangelista, Bark Psychosis, Natural Snow Buildings

The robotic voice here almost ruins it for me, but, the explicit stuff that the robot's saying adds a good amount of hilarity. If you can get past that voice, this album does indeed have a lot to offer. Like their first album, it offers a uniquely psychedelic blend of rock, jazz, and middle-eastern/north-african music that keeps me captivated throughout. There is an incredible number of musicians associated with this project, which explains why it contains the power of an army ready to march to war. It's an orchestra jamming like there's no tomorrow. - Matthew Foster

Demdike Stare - Forest of Evil (2010)


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For fans of: Oneohtrix Point Never, The Caretaker, Vladislav Delay

The space in this music seems to me as important as anything. It allows the build of an atmosphere that, once acted upon, is unlike anything you can get without that space. It's very natural, as if you're on a hike while under some kind of psychedelic influence, and you randomly come across some interesting creatures. You don't know if what you're seeing or hearing is really there or if it's just your imagination it, but whatever it is, it's incredibly intriguing. There are nice stings in the music and an ambiance that is followed by and added upon with dubby percussion and electronic drones. It's an exiting exploration of ideas and new possibilities that has me anxiously awaiting their promised next two 2010 releases. - Matthew Foster

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Echospace - Liumin (2010)


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For fans of: Vainqueur, Monolake, Pole

A techno dragon, the fusion of technology and organic fantasy. The beats cut and the atmosphere swallows. Then when there's nothing left, it leaves you cold and empty, like after staring into the night sky for hours upon hours. Us humans will die, but the mechanical will "live" forever. I don't know what I'm talking about, but once again, Echospace delivers a devastating ambient dub techno exploration that is euphorically transporting. - Matthew Foster

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Marcel Dettmann - Dettmann Remixed (2010)


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For fans of: Efdemin, Redshape, Pantha Du Prince

Marcel Dettmann works in an area outside of most electronic music. His music is based in dance music, but seems to have something else going for it that you won't find on most dance floors. Like Basic Channel, what he creates is hypnotic and mind altering. Many interesting sounds can be heard within, as if the techno beats are really just a shell in which many little tasty sonic surprises are hidden. I can't speak about how these remixes compare to the original tracks, but if you are enjoying Dettmann's debut album, this is a good place to go to for more of those same massively hitting beats and dynamic sounds that you can wrap your mind around. - Matthew Foster

Oneohtrix Point Never - Returnal (2010)


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For fans of: Emeralds, The Knife, Yellow Swans

Synths bounce near and far, up and down, left and right. The songs "Returnal" and "Peryouandi" add some creepy vocals that remind me of the best of The Knife. Oneohtrix Point Never have definitely created a sound of their own, and it's electronic synth drone/noise at its best. It's like traveling at the speed of light in a futuristic flashing light filled spaceship through the universe while gazing at the stars and planets whiz by. While maybe not something that will be easy to connect to and enjoy quite like a good pop album, it can provide a journey like no other, where what you know to be true is thrown into question. - Matthew Foster

Six Organs of Admittance - RTZ (2009)


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For fans of: Natural Snow Buildings, Steven R. Smith, John Fahey

Do you think music should demand something from the listener, like full attention, or should it not demand anything and be able to easily entertain without much thought involved? Here is a set of songs that don't do much for me when I don't give them much attention and just let them hover in the background, but when I really focus on the drones and chimes and such and let the chanting and guitar strums glide over, it can be absolutely exhilarating. There are many great moments within this set of nearly 20 minute long songs that make it a prime example of drone or psychedelic folk that will certainly be one to return to when I want something that can act as a sort of meditation. The first 5 minutes of "Punish the Chasms With Wings" blew me away, it's a fantastic ambient/drone intro that I would have liked to see expanded into something much longer and larger. RTZ is full of despair and seems like a hint as to what the end of one's life might be like. - Matthew Foster

Monday, June 14, 2010

Brendan Perry - Ark (2010)


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For fans of: Cocteau Twins, Scott Walker, Bel Canto

It's been more than 10 years since Brendan Perry's last album, and even longer since one from Dead Can Dance, but as Scott Walker's proved, it's better to wait and create a fully fleshed out album, then to rush through it and release something that's lacking in some way.  The former seems to be just what Perry's done here.  Several of the songs themselves are not really new, but were written throughout the last decade, some of which were created for Dead Can Dance's 2005 tour.  His singing is as ethereal as ever, and the instrumentation behind it really soars.  It's very orchestral with beautiful melodies that build with power as the tracks progress.  The album was created fully by Perry in isolation, which can explain why it sounds so "pure" or "full" to me.  I think this is close to as great as anything he or Lisa Gerrard have produced. - Matthew Foster

Harold Budd - Abandoned Cities (1984)


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For fans of: Brian Eno, Steve Roach, Robert Rich

"Harold Budd's Abandoned Cities contained two very ambitious pieces of music. The 20-minute 'Dark Star', collocating drones and symphonics, abstract and moving in slow-motion in no clear direction, felt like a somber nebulae hovering over a dormant city, a threatening mirage of a world dead for thousands years, icy and hostile but deluding you into believing that it can be warm. The 23-minute 'Abandoned Cities' went even deeper into hibernation, and even deeper into existential despair; this music was pure anemia, resembling barely audible emotions that implode towards the abyss; a requiem for a star that dies and vanishes into eternity, and only it's memory is left. At some distant world, you can still see the star, it's flickering light still traveling a hostile universe, but in actuality the star has died." - ILY

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Balaclavas - Roman Holiday (2010)


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For fans of: Liars, Pere Ubu, Thee Oh Sees

Rhythmically complex and heavy, this is some noisy post-punk that reminds me of Pere Ubu. At many points I think the singing sounds a lot like that of Thee Oh Sees. There's also a saxophone thrown into the mix on "Night Worship." There are clearly some diverse styles being mixed here, but it all comes together very nicely and doesn't feel disjointed at all. I could name a bunch of great bands that come to mind when listening to this (Liars, Morphine, Wire), but Balaclavas don't really sound quite like any of them. Their unique mix of attractive sounds is a fantastic addition to 2010 that I will definitely enjoy hearing again. - Matthew Foster

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Before Today (2010)


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For fans of: R. Stevie Moore, Neon Indian, Animal Collective

This is Ariel Pink's first release for a well-known label and the Haunted Graffiti really seem to have upped their game for their 4AD debut. I've plenty enjoyed their music in the past, but never has it hit me quite as greatly as this one. All of their music has an aura of 80s retro, but while in the past it's been really hazy and lo-fi, Before Today is a big step up production wise. Some may see that as a compromise, but I don't think so at all, they use the production to bring out the best of what's in their music. Rather than sounding like a bedroom recording that idolizes the sounds of the 80s, this one sounds like it actually uses the improved production technologies that were often employed in that decade. As for the songs themselves, they should be pop hits, they're filled with joy and I can't help but grin from ear to ear while listening to them. Not all of the songs here are fully new ones, but the way they are meticulously recorded here make them all sound new. This is certainly the Ariel Pink album I'll be listening to most, until their next one at least. - Matthew Foster

Aboombong - Asynchronic (2010)


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For fans of: Natural Snow Buildings, Yellow Swans, Emeralds

Incredible! Yet another fine drone/ambient/noise release for the modern age. This one includes a great mix of drumming and various percussion with lengthy and flowing drones. It sounds just about as "free" as music gets, something that could have come from another planet. It's certainly not something I'd want to hear very often, but when you just feel like letting your mind wander to unknown and exiting places, this can very nicely fit the bill. This is what I imagine might come out of a jam session with Sun Ra and Natural Snow Buildings. The last couple tracks however drop the crazy percussion and just focus on the ambiance. Fortunately, they don't need the drumming to keep my attention, and even without it, it would stand as a very nice drone release. - Matthew Foster

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Mission of Burma - Signals, Calls, and Marches (1981)


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For fans of: Shellac, Wire, Gang of Four

This set of songs shows off Mission of Burma having as much fun as seemingly possible with their post-punk sound. The beats are almost krautrock like in the way they keep the energy up throughout the songs, and the guitar playing fills them with catchy riffs front and back. The tracks seem at times to be rather straightforward, but there's actually a lot going on, even guitar solos here and there within this wall of sound. The vocals are quite standard punky rants, but they work with the music perfectly. Overall, the music is extremely cathartic and enjoyable. - Matthew Foster

Sam Amidon - I See the Sign (2010)


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For fans of: Jack Rose, Vashti Bunyan, Sufjan Stevens

The first thing to hit me with this one was the off-kilter guitar playing. It's very avant-garde and beautiful in it's uniqueness. There's a male and female voice here, and both sound great with the music. Unfortunately, the songs near the end aren't quite as good as those near the start, but those near the start are fantastic. Also, some of the lyrics are a bit repetitive, but these are small qualms that only make it a 4/5 instead of a 4.5/5. Highly recommended. - Matthew Foster

Friday, June 11, 2010

Koss - Ancient Rain (2010)


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For fans of: Gas, Markus Guentner, Yagya

An ambient album you can dance to.  Like the ambient artists of Kompakt, Koss likes to add a tempo to his soundscapes.  It is most definitely first and foremost an ambient album, and a very good one at that, but the tempo keeps it from sounding like a Brian Eno knockoff.  Rather than getting lost in a wash of hisses and waves, here there is more of a sense of being grounded.  While that may sound like it loses some of the beauty of ambient music, I don't think it does; the rhythm just allows the music to be more active if you want it to be.  The beats here are not too large or obtrusive and blend nicely into the sound.  Certainly one of my favorite ambient albums of the year, and I'm surprised at how little attention it's received. - Matthew Foster

Konono N°1 - Assume Crash Position (2010)


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For fans of: Boredoms, Fela Kuti, Black Dice

A fast and non-stop percussion explosion! Though at the same time, it's very soothing in a way. Like good techno music, it'll make you dance and feel very "elevated." It also sounds a lot like the funky afro-jazz of Fela Kuti at times. I could just imagine standing in a circle of people stepping forward, back, and forward again while slapping our thighs and having the time of our lives. There are even some nice ethereal sounds to be found here, making it a relatively diverse album. With the popularity of extreme percussion artists like Boredoms and Dan Deacon, this album has a perfect place to sit in today's music. - Matthew Foster

Friday, May 28, 2010

Actress - Splazsh (2010)***


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For fans of: Basic Channel, Autechre, Ricardo Villalobos

Wowzzers! This is the very tip of what I could imagine of music in 2010. I like that microhouse is the top genre, these beats are filled. I've always thought of microhouse as music that uses the space between beats to inject melodies, samples, or mini-beats to create what could be thought of as frames between each beat. Akufen and Moritz von Oswald Trio come to mind. Actress seems to be doing that do a certain extent, but what makes me love this album so much is the way the beats seem to bounce off each other and build, like each beat is trying to one up the last. I could be way off in trying to describe these sweet sounds, but that's an attempt. Like Scuba's Triangulation, this is really proving to me that electronic music has so much more to offer and has me on the edge of my seat to here the next. - Matthew Foster