Monday, November 14, 2011

The Necks - Mindset (2011)


For fans of: Supersilent, Moritz von Oswald Trio, GAS

An awesome modern jazz album, it's very purcussive, but has piano chords landing here and there, a bass that pushes the tracks forward, and even some sound effects that really add to the thick atmosphere. There's somehow a lot going on, but also not much going on at the same time, it's full of sound, but also meditative. Excellent stuff! - Matthew Foster

"24 years and 16 albums into an estimable career, The Necks present two engrossing longform tracks, comprising their first major release since 2009s 'Silverwater'. On 'Mindset' Jazz, drone and electronic soundscaping coalesce into something far, far greater than the sum of their elements, creating a multi-tiered, organically shifting mass of piano, bass and drums knitted with subtle but crucial synthesis and FX to hypnotise and leave us frankly dazzled. The first of these two 20+ minute pieces 'Rum Jungle' is densely realised yet rendered with a minimalist vision, allowing each independent layer to swirl and swoon without friction in its own frequency space while still somehow managing to communicate freely with the other kinetic sections operating at idiosyncratic tempos. The effect is utterly magical, at once feeling fluidly improvised and highly organised in a manner achieved only by the most skilled, attuned musicians. In stark contrast, 'Daylights' is more richly textured, deploying filigree electronics around sparse, plangent keys and stalking bass recalling Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto, but also following a steady evolutionary vector which could only come from three master musicians in synchrony. Warmly encouraged to fans of Carsten Nicolai, Oren Ambarchi, Christian Marclay." - Boomkat

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Winged Victory for the Sullen - A Winged Victory for the Sullen (2011)


For fans of: Harold Budd, The Caretaker, Pan•American

One of the things that draws me to ambient music is its simple beauty, and like Harold Budd's music, this is filled with it, no noise, no strange effects, no loops. It sounds like it's just piano and strings, and I could imagine it fitting very well as a soundtrack to a silent outer space film, maybe just as well as Eno's Apollo. This must be one of the prettiest albums I've heard in a long time. - Matthew Foster

"Starting with the steady, contemplative piano and slight feedback on the opening "We Played Some Open Chords," A Winged Victory for the Sullen can't be called a barrel of laughs per se, but their song titles -- not to mention their band name -- suggest a knowing playfulness with the conventions of moodily beautiful 21st century drone/ambient. Given that the core members are composer Dustin O'Halloran and Stars of the Lid veteran Adam Wiltzie, it's little surprise that both those conventions, and how to work well beyond them, are within their grasp on this debut release. Much like some Stars of the Lid releases, the album and song names may verge on the wry, but without that context, something like the slow strings and feeling of suffused sorrow on the first part of "Requiem for the Static King," or the involving textures of "Steep Hills of Vicodin Tears" simply are what they are, and quite beautifully so at that. While the sonic connections to the members' past work are clear, so are the distinctions; if the duo is less about full-on beautiful drones than Stars of the Lid often were, there's a similar appreciation for the slowly unfolding and the calmly insular, touchstones ranging as far as George Winston as Eno ("A Symphony Pathetique," almost exclusively piano aside from some distant shading that appears a little more clearly toward the end, is arguably the extreme of this approach on the album, elegantly done every step of the way). Even with the titular or seeming snark brought to bear, the feeling often seems simply appropriate more than anything else -- "Minuet for a Cheap Piano" is almost just that, counting the extra layered tones in the background, while "All Farewells Are Sudden" doesn't close out the album on a quick, final note but a soft, string piece fade, a slow wheezing of tone and delay that's a conclusion and a half when it comes to wrapping things up with a gentle bow." - AMG

Saturday, October 1, 2011

John Heckle - The Second Son (2011)


For fans of: Virgo Four, Mr. Fingers, Omar S

This is a classic sounding house album executed just about perfectly, with a ton of raw energy and a seductive blend of synths and naturally falling beats. It took me a while to sink into the sound, but once I did it hit me like a brick. The tracks "Inside Me" and "Red Defender" are both fantastic, and are sure to please fans of dance music new and old, house, techno, or electro. It's one of the years best and is highly recommended. - Matthew Foster

"John Heckle delivers a truly incredible album with 'The Second Son', a release which vividly marks him out as a true and distinctive talent in what can (at times) seem an increasingly bland and unoriginal musical form.

The ten tracks presented here come across as some sort of missing link in Chicago House history - what might have happened if the frenetic pace of developments of the late 80s and early 90s had been somewhat tempered and the considerable creative juices of the day had been allowed to swash around more freely. But that, as far as I am concerned, is what Jamal Moss's Mathematics Recordings was willed into existence for, to build upon that era's sounds, ideas, feelings, philosophy and approach, and in this artist and in this album I feel this mission has reached a milestone.

John takes those familiar feelings of classic early house and gives them his own kinda soul and energy. It all sounds familiar and brand spanking new at the same time, like you're rediscovering the intense joys of this music all over again. There is a naturalness to John's production and musicality that struck me as something like eternal Larry Heard meets classic Derrick May, served up through a Hieroglyphic Being style gritty aesthetic. And yet, his sound is very much his own distinct brand.

Whatever's going on here, this release puts a huge smile on my face and stirs something that first got stirred in me more than 17 years ago - so thanks for that Mr Heckle!!" - RonocNikcam

Sunday, September 11, 2011

David Thomas Broughton - Outbreeding (2011)

Link Removed

For fans of: Sam Amidon, Bill Callahan, Antony & The Johnsons

His voice is very strong, and fortunately he chooses to make music that just about fully expresses it. Other than an acoustic guitar, he uses all kinds of manipulation techniques that seem to fold parts of songs in on themselves, or branch other parts out into nowhere, but it all fits perfectly. Then the songs themselves are full of witty lines about different personalities and situations that really catch my attention. It's a great set of songs that are both more heartfelt and more adventurous than most, outwardly conventional, but inwardly experimental. - Matthew Foster

"He sees resentment, guilt and loathing, we see folk-song brilliance

The more David Thomas Broughton tells you what an awful bastard he is, the less inclined you are to believe him. The maverick’s third album streamlines the sprawling electro-dashed folk of its predecessors into a dual-pronged thrust of debased beauty and elegant despair (“I am a perfect louse, I bleed the goodness from your body”, ‘Perfect Louse’), but it’s his electrifying croon that lends this its wealth of weary charms – ‘Apologies’ longs wistfully to “set your body on fire”, while ‘Joke’’s regrets of a rocky relationship are tinged with a poetic, silver-tongued optimism at once deplorable and discomfitingly familiar.

Bleeding excellence from every pore, self-loathing never felt so worthy." - NME

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Move D & Pete Namlook - III: The Retro Rocket (1999)


For fans of: DeepChord, Drexciya, GAS

A very fine ambient techno release, with a great atmosphere, really nice sounds, a good flow, and lots of embellishments on the top. It definitely has a 90s techno sound, but doesn't suffer from being too dated. Synths guide spacey melodies through the electro rhythms and other machines quack and squeal as if alive. Superb stuff really. - Matthew Foster

"‘Remember the Days’ begins very quietly with sizzling drones then gentle synth pads. A rhythm starts to build and we get into a groove. Not in yer face but certainly infectious. Half way through a strange almost alien sounding lead line is used then as it disappears the rhythm is cranked up. It doesn’t try to be too clever but is superbly atmospheric, rhythmic and very accessible at the same time.

‘Schmock!’ starts off as another gently rhythmic number, rather trance inducing. This rhythm goes through a multitude of patterns though the basic sounds used remain fairly constant being a combination of bass, heavily processed ‘cracking’ snare and weird and wonderful hissing type noises. ‘Fur Friedrich, Oskar & Paul’ is beautifully atmospheric with a devastating, slow melodic motif. Very sorrowful somehow with simple rhythms added. It is only in the last minute and a half that the beat becomes prominent enough the challenge the melody.

‘Nite Out’ combines drum loops to produce a very hypnotic track with little detail added for the first three minutes. The lead then keeps playing the main theme and this too adds to the hypnotism. ‘Time to Go’ is the aptly titled short final number and really just acts as an atmospheric closer. If you are into Pete Namlook and the fax label in general you will probably like this as it fairly pleasant and trance inducing without any particularly weird or World Music moments that can sometimes be present on fax releases (and are not reviewed within our pages)." - SMD

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Various Artists - Cocoon Compilation K (2011)

Listen link removed by request.

For fans of: DJ Koze, Levon Vincent, Ricardo Villalobos

Not much really needs to be said about this, it's just a really great collection of finely crafted hypnotic techno and house tracks. The compilation series caught my attention last year with the fantastic J issue, and I think it's becoming one of my favorite examples of the sleek and minimal European style of EDM. With a heavy sound and nice vocal snippets here and there, this really gets me grooving, and keeps me there for an hour and 20 minutes. The pricy colored vinyl box-set it's available as is a bit out of my price range right now, but I may just have to save up for something of such quality. - Matthew Foster

"The Cocoon Compilation K, being the longplay flagship in the Cocoon catalogue, adequately starts the second decade of the label with a musical imperative. But don't worry: even if the letter K has sometimes been misused as an indicator for the degree of hardness of some sonic noise in the past of the Tech-House scene, "K" is definitely the deepest survey of contemporary electronic dance music that has ever seen the light of day on Cocoon Recordings.

The beginning is performed by the 20-year-old Berliner David August, who was able to establish himself as one of the most promising talents in the capital's scene with releases on Diynamic and Stil Vor Talent. With its sensual and melancholic SloMo-Disco and a short Acid insert, "True Romance" sets a first massive musical exclamation mark. After this, it gets profoundly hypnotic, thanks to the Siberian singer and DJ/producer Nina Kraviz, who already caused a stir with her releases on Radioslave's Rekids label and with being the host of Moscow's Propaganda Club. Her dreamy vocals and the streamlined Deep House of "W-Bleu" are for sure something that Baby Ford would have been proud of, too.

Following these two Compilation newcomers is Alejandra Iglesias aka Dinky, who was already able to give her career a big kick start with the unforgettable "Acid in my fridge" seven years ago. "Luvin" indulges the senses with a darkly shimmering Disco-House-Pop draft and some subtle Goldfrapp reminiscenses, and has thus what it takes to become one of THE summer tracks 2011. The Berliner-by-choice Henrik Schwarz from the Inner Visions circle is then uncompromisingly setting the course more to the dancefloor with his mythic-percussive Dub-House runner "Now This Way", while the Far-Eastern-like, hypnotic reduction of the "Blue Storm" by Matt John – one of the most important artists on the Berlin in-label Bar 25 – irresistibly takes our collective consciousness to Floor #7 after that. And so, literally each track of this standard-setting acoustic treasure chest deserves a detailed appreciation.

The meeting of the two House modernists Christian Burkhardt & Einzelkind ("Icon") as well as Sascha Dive's Minimal-Ska-influenced "New Frontiers" show that the Rhein Main area is still good for some damn innovative tracks. Maetrik shines again with his dirty Soul-Tech ("Caught Between), and with the mean high-frequency Wild Pitch "The Thrust", the Greek-born Argy delivers the inofficial successor of his "Unreliable Virgin". Besides that, the Dutch Rush Hour shooting star Tom Trago continues the long-lasting history of Detroit-sounding relations with our neighbour country in a congenial way, using a quite percussive organ motif ("Fifth Fase"). The Mainz-resident Butch doesn't need an introduction anyway, at least since "No Worries" came out – with his siren-like Deephouse jewel "Antique", he could hardly be ignored this summer.

The compilation is completed by our two favourite Swedes Sebastian Mullaert and Marcus Henriksson aka Minilogue from Malmø. Three years after the phenomenal "Animals", their 16-minutes-track "Blessed" is without doubt the most sensual and melancholic title that the two have ever produced together, and this track is a more than dignified finale for an edition of the Cocoon Compilation that is hardly to be exceeded when it comes to acoustic perfection and artistic richness. You can't get any closer to the pulse of modern electronic music culture, in a little more than 100 minutes." - Cocoon Records

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Ash Ra Tempel - Schwingungen (1972)


For fans of: Brainticket, Can, Pink Floyd

It's a far out psychedelic space rock epic. The first two tracks are really great jams not unlike those of Brainticket or Can, with longing vocals that don't make much sense and all kinds of heavy loose grooves gliding along. The second side is mostly a more mellow track, with spacey drawn-out guitar sketches and ending with a build of drums and bass. It's a really nice example of the more spaced-out side of progressive rock, created with as much energy as anything. - Matthew Foster

"Ash Ra Tempel's second album featured the first of several personnel changes, Klaus Schulze having departed for other realms and replaced as a result by Wolfgang Muller. A few guest players surfaced here and there as well, with one John L. taking the lead vocals -- another difference from the self-titled debut, which was entirely instrumental. The general principle of side-long efforts continued, though the first half was split into two related songs, "Light" and "Darkness." "Light" itself sounded halfway between the zoned-out exploration of "Traummaschine" and bluesy jamming, a weird if not totally discordant combination that still manages to sound more out there than most bands of the time. Gottsching's fried solo, in particular, is great, sending the rest of the song out to silence that leads into "Darkness." Said song initially takes a far more minimal approach that bears even more resemblance to "Traummaschine," fading out almost entirely by the third minute before a full band performance (including Uli Popp on bongos and Matthais Wehler's sudden alto sax bursts) slowly builds into a frenetic jam. John L.'s vocals become echoed screams and yelps not far off from Damo Suzuki's approach in Can, and the overall performance is a perfect slice of Krautrock insanity, sudden swirls of flanging and even more on-the-edge solos from Gottsching and Wehler sending it over the top. "Suche & Liebe" takes up the entire second side, the performers this time around concentrating on the quiet but unsettling approach, Gottsching's massive soloing kept low in the mix but not so much that it doesn't freak out listeners. The song concludes on an almost conventionally pretty band jam, something that could almost be Meddle-era Pink Floyd, only with even a more haunting, alien air thanks to the wordless vocal keening." - AMG

Monday, July 4, 2011

Ponytail - Ice Cream Spiritual (2008)


For fans of: Animal Collective, Deerhoof, Hella

Listening to this is incredibly fun, and while the vocalist may not be the most "talented," the musicians are certainly adept, and the nonsense yelps and squeals are like the icing on the cake. It's full of complex rhythms and guitar breakdowns that make me think of bands like Hella or Battles, but it's the pure joy that they deliver that makes me want to come back for more. I could understand why this wouldn't be for everyone, but if you've got an adventurous spirit and don't mind a lack of song structure, this should be a treat to the ears, a candy-coated pineapple. - Matthew Foster

"The wild trill Molly Siegel lets loose at the beginning of "Beg Waves" lets listeners know that Ice Cream Spiritual! is unmistakably a Ponytail album, even if it's more neatly groomed than their debut was. Kamehameha introduced the band's highly concentrated, highly combustible noise-punk-pop in saturated outbursts; it sounded like someone threw a few mikes into the fray and then got out of the way of the band's blazing onslaughts. Ice Cream Spiritual! sounds much more produced and premeditated, and its songs are longer and maybe a touch more involved, but none of this halts Ponytail's sugar-buzz energy -- if anything, the album's clarity gives a better idea of just how big the band's sound can be than Kamehameha did. "Late for School"'s joyous guitar flurries and the noise-surf of "7 Souls" breeze by like lost songs from Ponytail's first album, but "G Shock" -- which features fancy fretwork that sounds like sped-up funk, massive drums, and Siegel's vocalizations (which sound a little like an avant-garde cheerleader cheering the rest of the band on to wilder and faster musical feats) -- swells up, explodes, and drifts away like a cloudburst. Ice Cream Spiritual!'s longer tracks push Ponytail closer to the expansive territory of bands like OOIOO, though Ponytail's music is still more rock-based. Once their songs pass the four-minute mark, their energy becomes hypnotic instead of spastic. "Celebrate the Body Electric" runs the spectrum of Ponytail's prettiest and noisiest sounds, but its shimmering guitars give it a desert rock trippiness; "Die Allman Bruder" channels, yes, the Allman Brothers via Sonic Youth and Deerhoof. At times, the album's extended jams get a bit wearing, but Ice Cream Spiritual! shows that Ponytail's music is still equal parts challenging, melodic, and fun." - AMG

Friday, July 1, 2011

Mostly Other People Do the Killing - The Coimbra Concert (2011)

Listen Part 1
Listen Part 2

For fans of: Ornette Coleman, Anthony Braxton, Zs

This is a wild ride. They make a lot of noise, with the four members constantly adding to the jumbled mess of grooves and spontaneous interjections, not leaving much room for any soloing. It's like a jazz jam band. Despite its overall lack of form, they manage to come together at times with passages of bebop that are surprisingly fun. The musicianship is great, and they skillfully traverse many different styles of jazz and improvisational music. It's definitely one of the best modern jazz albums I've heard. - Matthew Foster

"Mostly Other People Do the Killing is proud to release their new live double-album on Clean Feed records. The two discs, made up of material culled from a three night stint at the Jazz ao Centro Festival in Coimbra, provide an excellent perspective on the way this quartet performs live. Unlike the previous four studio albums, all on Hot Cup Records, MOPDtK's live performances vary between short renditions of bassist Moppa Elliott's compositions, and sweeping suites encompassing many compositions. This free-association style of performing has developed over the seven years that the quartet has been performing and recording together.
The four members, Peter Evans, Jon Irabagon, Moppa Elliott, and Kevin Shea, have developed a style of performance in which each member is free to steer the group in any way they choose. The other members may or may not follow suit, creating a type of group interplay that often pits the individuals against each other. Within any given performance, an individual may try to cue a new composition, a return to the original melody, or other structural device, only to be vetoed, creating music that often features multiple chains of association simultaneously. In addition, the members of MOPDtK are not afraid to lay out and allow each other ample solo space." - Clean Feed

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Grauzone - Grauzone (1981)***


For fans of: Deutsch-Amerikanische Freundschaft, Chris & Cosey, John Foxx

This album is incredible. It's definitely on the more rhythmic side of punk or new wave, so much so that it could easily be considered dance music. The first track "Film 2" might as well be a techno song. This album is so ahead of it's time, it's no wonder that there are only 100 ratings as I type this. I'd think that a band going out of their way to create something so "forward," with electronics mixed seamlessly with what you'd find in any punk album, would end up creating something a bit more difficult to get, but this album comes of to me as a darker version of what John Foxx was doing. It's in need of another reissue. - Matthew Foster

"The fact that Grauzone tried to find a new way of expression by stepping away from standard guitar-dominated punk but didn’t have unlimited musical abilities made them angry. That combined with an anger about a society that’s even more stagnant seemed to have created the atmosphere for the album.

A track like “Film 2” (with vocals so unobtrusive it could almost be called an instrumental) is minmal techno/electro/disco as well as postpunk/wave and even has a touch of dub.
The synth-arpeggio (don’t really hear a bass here) sounds threatening, the beat keeps going while some percussive hits and what sounds like a harmonica are like a horrorfilm version of Jamaica-sounds. Then that guitar joins like a keyboard-motif by John Carpenter, completing the song. And rhythmically it’s just damn tight. For that matter the track’s been played by famous cosmic Disco-DJ Baldelli back in the eighties by the way.
Not many bands would chose such a tune as an opener for their full length album...

Followed by the song “Schlachtet” – one of the three best tunes on the LP.
I listened to that song recently while the tv news were on. Comments about Hartz IV (state funded poverty in germany) combined with pictures of what I see around me everyday and then lines like “Die Kranken werden geschlachtet, die Welt wird gesund” (“The sick will be butchered, the world will be well”) left quite an impression.

“Hinter den Bergen” sounds like Dark Wave with a dubby touch (a bit similar to the effect Bauhaus achieved with “Bela Lugosi’s dead”).

“Kunstgewerbe” is another cool, short & minimalistic piece of electronic music.

“Der Weg zu zweit” always reminded me of Abwärts.

„In der Nacht“ is the very abstract end of the album. Again the vocals are mixed much in the background with reverb floating around the track." - DJ_Phoney

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Lucy - Wordplay for Working Bees (2011)


For fans of: Actress, Demdike Stare, Pole

This trend of experimental techno makes me think back to jazz in the 50s and 60s. After performing at a jazz club where people payed to be entertained while getting together to dance or eat and drink, the jazz musicians would sometimes play through the night, making music for themselves, music that wasn't necessarily made for a live audience. This is techno for people who are interested in the textures and odd rhythms that push the genre into new territories, for people who as much as anything just want to explore what is possible.

the art of being a slave is to rule ones master - Matthew Foster

"Wordplay for Working Bees is not only Lucy's debut album, but also the debut full-length release for Stroboscopic Artefacts, and as such it acts as a de facto mission statement for a label that might have been previously associated with brooding and punishingly functional techno. In a word, that's decidedly not what you get with Wordplay; rather, the album is a fluid ecosystem of club-ready tracks and disparate sketches, dark Berghain-aping techno reanimating hazy memories of early '90s IDM (it even has the nonsense track titles thing going for it). Its refusal to conform to even its own label's defined aesthetic is just one of the reasons that Wordplay is one of the most personal, affecting and diverse techno albums since Shed's The Traveller.

The album often swings wildly from gorgeous interludes to foreboding atmospheres, where low frequencies bud and spore spontaneously. The beats are rarely predictable, sometimes not even danceable: the off-kilter thump of "Tof" struggles through amniotic fluid, and the creeping beat on "Mas" is buried under ice. Sometimes they're barely there, as on "Eis" where the drums are squeezed into a ghostly pattern that sounds more like flashing light than anything physical. That's not to say that Wordplay is all downcast weather and ruminative rumblings: The album's pumping midsection can be just as suffocating as it is warmly embracing, particularly the hissing field of locusts that surrounds the floating breakbeat in "Bein" or the aural cement mixer that grounds "Lav."

Wordplay's defining feature is its immense and overwhelming sound design. Texture dominates over structure and rhythm. While definitely not an ambient album, it's easy enough to get lost in what's happening in or around the beats. It's something that anyone who loves electronic music, sound and sound manipulation, can fall in love with; when those microscopic fireworks burst blazing out of the percussion on "Gas," no one's going to care about time signatures or genre conventions. As techno continues to suffer through a bipolar identity crisis, fractured down the middle between minimal and, well, not minimal, it's producers like Lucy that prove just how far beyond those arbitrary boundaries the medium can be extended." - RA

K-S.H.E - Routes Not Roots (2006)


For fans of: Moodymann, Levon Vincent, John Roberts

As one would come to expect from Terre Thaemlitz, this is a social commentary filled journey through different sounds and feelings. It's much closer to the deep house of DJ Sprinkles than to the ambient of the releases under his real name, and actually wouldn't sound out of place next to the Detroit house of Moodymann et al. Two fantastic 13 minute tracks (Hobo Train and Crosstown) stand as pillars, with several similar sounding but shorter dance tracks and social sketches filling in the space around them. The tempo is mostly quite high and keeps your attention, but on a couple tracks, there are no beats, and he instead chooses to present an issue or idea, such as the six minute comedy bit Stand Up, where he talks about a time he was dragged by his hair out of a NY subway by a gang of Puerto Rican drag queens. If you're looking for very evocative and funky house music, this should be one of the first to look for. - Matthew Foster

"Much-needed reissue of Terre Thaemlitz's (aka DJ Sprinkles) K-S.H.E, or Kami-Sakunobe House Explosion album, originally released in 2006 in a limited, bespoke run on his Comatonse label. A good proportion of the tracks have been reissued over the last 12 months on a series of Skylax vinyls but this is their first full reissue on CD, including exclusive mixes of 'Fuck The Down-Low (What's Your Secret Mix)' and 'Double Secret'. There's something about Terre's productions in this mode that really strike a deep, mystical, rarely-touched chord and fans of the deepest, most esoteric House music should invest without delay. Recommended!" - Boomkat

Saturday, March 19, 2011

James Carr - You Got My Mind Messed Up (1967)


For fans of: Otis Redding, James Brown, Aretha Franklin

James Carr has a great voice and singing style, one that is undoubtedly classic. With the unfaltering rhythms behind him, this is a greatly powerful and enjoyable listen. I can't help but feel a bit happier when listening to this. I'm not a lyrical person, but the songs here somehow make everyday life seem much more worthwhile, and I'm left with a better perspective on tomorrow. - Matthew Foster

"If ever there was a soul singer who rivaled Otis Redding's raw, deep emotional sensuality, it was James Carr, and the proof is in the pudding with You Got My Mind Messed Up. Carr was one of the last country-soul singers to approach any chart given to him as if it was a gift from God. Carr was Redding's rival in every respect if for no other reason than the release of this, his debut album recorded in 1966. The 12 songs here, many of them covered by other artists, are all soul classics merely by their having been sung and recorded by Carr. Among them is the Drew Baker/Dani McCormick smash "Pouring Water on a Drowning Man," George Jackson's "Coming Back to Me Baby," a handful of tracks by O.B. McLinton, including "Forgetting You" and the title track, and the Chips Moman/Dan Penn hit "Dark End of the Street." And while it's true that few have ever done bad versions of the song because of the phenomenal writing, there is only one definitive version, and that one belongs to Carr. In his version he sings from the territory of a heart that is already broken but enslaved both to his regret and his desire. This is a love so pure it can only have been illicit. When he gets to the beginning of the second verse, and intones "I know time is gonna take its toll," he's already at the end of his rope; he knows that desire that burns like this can only bring about ruin and disaster, and it is precisely since it cannot be avoided that his repentance is perhaps accepted by the powers that would try him and judge him. He holds the arrangement at bay, and unlike some versions, Carr keeps his composure, making it a true song of regret, remorse, and a love so forbidden yet so faithful that it is worth risking not only disgrace and destruction for, but also hell itself. As the guitar cascades down the fretboard staccato, he can see the dark end of the street and holds it as close to his heart as a sacred and secret memory. By the album's end with the title track, listeners hear the totality of the force of Memphis soul. With Steve Cropper's guitar filling the space in the background, Carr offers a chilling portrait of what would happen to him in the future. Again pleading with the beloved in a tone reminiscent of a church-singer hell, he's in the church of love. He pleads, admonishes, begs, and finally confirms that the end of this love is his insanity, which was a chilling prophecy given what happened to Carr some years later. This is one of theMemphis soul records of the mid-'60s, full of rough-hewn grace, passion, tenderness, and danger. A masterpiece." - AMG

Friday, February 25, 2011

Colin Stetson - New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges (2011)


For fans of: Supersilent, Land of Kush, Barry Guy

Colin Stetson uses a bass saxophone in a way somewhat similar to Albert Ayler on Spiritual Unity, although this is 2011, and the music here is far from mid-60s avant-free jazz. There's a lot of extra-saxular sound, not in the form of drums or piano, but in the form of noisy electronics (I think) and vocals provided by artists such as Laurie Anderson. Most of the tracks put Stetson's incredible sax playing to the front, but several of them are more like electronic drones with interesting layers and rhythms. I don't think I've ever heard anything quite like this album, and while my jaunts into experimental music often leave me uninterested, this one does not. If you enjoy both avant-jazz and noisy modern electronic music, this is highly recommended. - Matthew Foster

"Colin Stetson's 2008 album New History Warfare, Vol. 1 showcased the saxophonist/multi-reedist's phenomenal multiphonic improvisation style and circular breathing technique. Released in 2011, New History Warfare, Vol. 2: Judges features a similar exploratory solo saxophone approach that is nothing short of mind-blowing. Stetson uses the circular breathing style, recorded in single takes and occasionally with overdubs, to create atmospheric and hypnotic loops that sound like layered analog keyboards more than saxophones. In that sense, the tracks here often bring to mind something along the lines of Jean Michel Jarre crossed with Roscoe Mitchell. These tracks allow Stetson to skronk and pulse, wheeze and then soar with white jet-engine noise that is never purposeless and always controlled. Also featured here are a few spoken word sections with avant-garde icon Laurie Anderson -- including the poetic "A Dream of Water" -- that lend a cinematic quality to the proceedings. Elsewhere, vocalist Shara Worden delivers a haunting lead on the spiritual "Lord I Just Can't Keep from Crying Sometimes." Primarily, however, it is Stetson's transcendent and muscular ability to layer sound, breath, and rhythm in a meditative compositional style that sticks with you long after Judges is over." - AMG

Monday, February 7, 2011

Harald Grosskopf - Synthesist (1980)


For fans of: Oneohtrix Point Never, Klaus Schulze, Manuel Göttsching

This album starts as a downpour of synths and percussion, and ends as a soft and flowing wave of sound. Although it comes from a prominent member of 70s Krautrock, along with Manuel Göttsching's and Klaus Schulze's work it fully embraces the possibilities of electronics as a primary instrument. On the cover it says "New Age Music," and I couldn't disagree, but it's not really ambient, and isn't something to just put on in the background. In short, it contains a few really fantastic tracks that are very much ahead of their time. - Matthew Foster

"Synthesist also rhymes with sequential here on, where Grosskopf's powerful pleasure goes deep into dynamic, fizzing electronic compositions, the combination of fairy melodies, cycling keyboard sounds and (last but not least) the percussion infusion being probably dubbed over several rehearsals and synchronized recordings. The taste of these tracks flows exactly like Ashra's un-sensational, but intense and cheerful glimpses (a la Correlations or a bit of un-fluesy Belle Alliance). The soil for this style is nowhere near rich, but it's no pop or grease either, Grosskopf preferring at any time an ambitious and curios dance over fine art or complex looping. On some moment, the drumming is convincingly superior, alternating upwards to some Nietzsche fast taps, or downwards to a split end of lite-disco. The contrast is set by focusing entirely on keyboards and organs (B. Adrian, Trauma), the result being nothing but ambient, lofty and un-smashing, but yet again enjoyable and un-superficial. There's a weak spot in the album, down precisely the last two tracks, which slip deeply and unforgettably into pop-electric/new-age simple hopping music (a la Baumann and other 80s minor soloists)." - Ricochet

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Fluxion - Bipolar Defect (2000)***


For fans of: Echospace, Pole, Vainqueur

I don't think it's possible for me to not love a single thing from the Chain Reaction collection of deep, dubby, and supremely atmospheric ambient techno. Fluxion's music has me lost in a world of endless reverberation and beats that I don't quite feel comfortable describing with words. A few years ago when I was still new to techno, this kind of sound immediately appealed to me in the form of Pole and Basic Channel, and looking back after exploring many different EDM sub-genres, I realize this sound is central to my appreciation of it. Fluxion took it further than most, throwing the atmosphere to the top with no inhibition. Similar to a psychedelic experience, this has a simple beauty to it that I don't think I can ever deny. If you're a fan of ambient music as much as you are of techno, this is a must-hear. - Matthew Foster

"Fluxion's fourth and most otherworldly Chain Reaction EP, Bipolar Effect, sprawls as Largo did onto two 12"s. But by the time the artist released Bipolar Defect a year after Largo, his sound had become increasingly ridden with disorienting reverb and had also become increasingly vacant, alleviating itself of most clear-cut percussion in favor of just bass and raw tones. In fact, if not for the glimmering traces of reverb filling the space of these tracks, little would remain except for a heavy, yet ultimately simple, dub bassline. It's remarkable to listen to these tracks and relish the idea that such a limited amount of sounds can trigger such surreal sensations. Of course, if the sounds weren't so deformed with ambient reverb, they wouldn't be nearly as effective. Though probably the least accessible Chain Reaction EP by Fluxion, Bipolar Effect remains his most stunning listen, as the producer continually crafts hallucinogenic aural experiences with an unbelievably minimal palette." - AMG

Friday, January 21, 2011

Braids - Native Speaker (2011)


For fans of: Animal Collective, Glasser, Neon Indian

An Animal Collective comparison is inevitable; the ambiance at many times recalls Feels, the crescendoing electronics recalls Strawberry Jam or Merriweather Post Pavilion, and the vocal stylings of Raphaelle Standell-Preston often sound like Avey Tare if he were to suddenly to lose his adam's apple. Nonetheless, Braids do a great job taking what's so great about An. Co. and employing them in new ways. I'm a sucker for these powerful female vocals, and all the instrumentation is carefully laid down and very atmospheric a la Fever Ray, albeit much more upbeat and organic. You won't find the most amazing chord progressions or impressive drumming or anything like that here, but they make up for their possible lack of experience by making use of some great ideas and influences. - Matthew Foster

"Depending on whatever aspect of Braids' music captures listeners at any moment, they call to mind widely varied influences. Over the course of their debut, Native Speaker, shades of Animal Collective, Björk, Karen O, the Cocteau Twins, Siouxsie Sioux, and Yeasayer pop up in the most improbable combinations, making for unpredictable -- and sometimes thrilling -- listening. Opening track “Lemonade” defines the band’s sound, from its intricate instrumentation to its free-flowing structure to Raphaelle Standell-Preston's angelic voice, which coos surprisingly profane lyrics like “Have you fucked all the stray kids yet?” Standell-Preston's singing and the band’s playing are both forces to be reckoned with, but for most of Native Speaker they work together instead of competing with each other. “Glass Deers” suggests a less-weird Sugarcubes (even with Standell-Preston's insistently trilled refrain “I’m fucked up”), while “Same Mum” gives the band’s sound a tropical lilt. Still, some of the album’s best moments happen when Braids calm down a little. The album’s sensual title track shows how ably the band can make eight minutes feel like half that, with softly encompassing drones and erotically inclined vocals. “Lammicken” takes the band’s sound in an enticingly different direction that sounds like filter disco and dream pop blurred together, as Standell-Preston sings “I can’t stop it” in countlessly different ways. As intriguing as Native Speaker is, it’s not perfect: Standell-Preston's vocals can border on grating, and sometimes the band’s approach feels formless instead of abstract. Nevertheless, Braids' uniquely feminine experimental pop is largely a success." - AMG

Friday, January 7, 2011

Red - Felk (2000)


For fans of: Jandek, David Grubbs, John Cage

Of all the strange music I've heard, this could very well beat them all for the strangest. It's an experimental mix of blues and minimal electronica that somehow manages to fit together quite nicely. The track "Dyin' in the Wine" even features what could be a complete dub techno track behind the guitar strums and barely comprehensible vocals. As if the strange genre blend isn't enough, there are random background sounds throughout including baby cries that give an interesting contrast between everyday life and the bizarre music in the foreground. I'm not sure this will hold up well to multiple listens, but if you like music that blends diverse styles and sounds like nothing else, you're sure to be awestruck by this. - Matthew Foster

"France's Red (aka Olivier Lambin) comes across as the aging soul that is fortified by strong wine and an innocent but overactive imagination. It is as if the man had just discovered music and the wonders of a recording device and decided to incubate himself in his garage to record one strange, chilling, yet wonderful album. The creepiest element comes from the contrast made by the sound of a very young child that can be heard crying in the background throughout a good portion of the disc while the older Lambin eerily rambles, croons and babbles away, like the ghost of Elvis Presley fused with the voice box of a horse. The rough guitar ballads (including covers of Hank Williams' "I Saw the Light" and McKinley Morgenfield's "Baby Please Don't Go") screech with honesty and passion, while other tracks are awash with loops of drones and other makeshift electronic noises. His pathological version of Talking Heads' "Road to Nowhere" is enough to make one think (and possibly worry) about what else is out there to enjoy. The next time you see a light on in someone's basement in the middle of the night, just pray that they are doing something productive like Lambin does. It is always nice to be graced by damaged beauty." - Exclaim

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Robert Hood - Omega (2010)

Listen link removed by request.

For fans of: Jeff Mills, Omar S, Redshape

I was resisting this because of the Soundtrack tag, but it's really more of a concept album inspired by a film rather than something meant to be heard while watching a film. While I can't speak for how exactly the music relates to "The Omega Man," I can say confidently that this is a fantastic piece of techno. Surprisingly, I think this is my favorite thing I've heard from Hood yet. I really enjoyed both Waveform Transmission Vol. 2 and Minimal Nation, but neither really wowed me like this one (I should give them more listens though). It's propulsive and builds with several layers that interact in an undeniable groove, and also subtly shifts through these layers revealing a new sound that seems to come out of nowhere. If I hear more like this, Robert Hood will become one of the first names that come to mind when I think "Detroit Techno." - Matthew Foster

"Omega is a concept album of sorts from Robert Hood, the “godfather of minimal” and a founder member of the shadowy Underground Resistance, the political wing of Detroit's electronic music scene, of which he was appointed Minister of Information.

In the vein of fellow former UR member Jeff Mills' groundbreaking project in which he wrote his own re-imagined soundtrack to Fritz Lang's dystopian vision Metropolis, Hood has based his latest digital excursion on The Omega Man, the 1971 sci-fi classic starring Charlton Heston, which in turn was based on Richard Matheson's 1954 novel I Am Legend (the legacy of which is unfortunately tainted by a more recent, woefully substandard vehicle for Will Smith). Like Metropolis, it is also something of an unsettling version of the future, but one devastated by science unleashed, biological war and populated by marauding psychotic survivors, something that Hood is mindful of in using the film as inspiration (it is not strictly a soundtrack) for his latest work. “It’s definitely metaphoric,” he says, “and if we don't heed the signs, this is where we'll end up. We live in a society where we just consume. We just take.”

As inspiration, it has proved valuable. From the eerie layered vocals of opening track Alpha (The Beginning) and the glitchy, ambient electronics of The Plague (Cleansing Maneuvers), Hood's scene is evocatively set. Towns That Disappeared Completely introduces a throbbing 4/4, punctuated with a stabbing synth. Alpha is firmer still, industrial and threatening, machine music and evidence of his deft skill in making hypnotic minimalism captivating. Think Fast is funky and flowing, while Are You God? pulses before building to a clattering, almost arrhythmic crescendo. The Family Watches and War in the Streets are on the surface chugging, stripped-down club tracks offered substance by Hood's sinister subject matter. Saved By the Fire and The Wheels of Escape twist layers of bleeps and bizarre effects over urgent, pulsating percussion, while the charging, hypnotic synths of album closer Omega (End of Times) are genuinely unsettling.

In affording his stripped, mesmerising minimalism a jarring, apocalyptic context, so it becomes all the more engrossing." - BBC