Monday, 30 April 2012

DJ Yo-Yo Dieting - Regurgitation as Birth (2009)

The original concept of 'Chopped and Screwed' Hip Hop was developed by Robert Earl Evans AKA DJ Screw in Houston during the mid 1980's. His tracks leaked codeine-imbibed beats which slowed the BPM down to a crawl.  During the early 1990s, he invited some of Houston’s most renowned rappers from the south side of the city to flow on his 'Screw' tapes. What originally began as a small Houston scene, 'Chopped and Screwed' music started getting more widespread attention in the late 90s which ultimately led to DJ Screw becoming a much sought after Hip Hop producer.

Pat Maherr AKA DJ Yo-Yo Dieting first appeared on the radar with the dilapidated droneworks of his Indignant Senility releases in the late 1990's and again recently with the mighty fine Diamond Catalog album 'Magnified Palette'. But it was his ultra-slow, stodgy and wildly psychedelic take on Hip Hop as DJ Yo-Yo Dieting that brought him to the attention of more adventurous listeners. Maherr took the original ideas of 'Chopped and Screwed' Hip Hop but added his own lo-fi, deeply experimental agenda. What he created was a complete side-step away from the template set down by DJ Screw. The pace was dropped to a sludgy, crippled crawl and the samples time-stretched and pitch bent almost out of all recognition until the ghouls between their crevices were released in some kind of audio William Burroughs-esque edit technique. 

Maherr’s mysteriously inert, gravity crushed arrangements frequently reach such cataleptic tempos that you begin to become physically affected and totally hypnotised by them. Layers of fucked samples grind against flickering ripples of echo, various disorientating audio effects and cassette tape artefacts like tectonic plates. This is nothing short of the very furthest antithesis of everything created in Hip Hop since day one and truly has to be heard to be believed.

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend anything that his man has his name on as essential listening, irrespective of what music is normally your thing.

The album 'Regurgitation as Birth' was completed at the end of 2009 and self-released on C90 via the Portland Bad Date Line imprint. Like all releases under the name of DJ Yo-Yo Dieting, none of the tracks have any names letting you concentrate more on the music contained therein.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Ákos Rózmann - 12 Stationer VI (2012)

Ákos Rózmann is one of the most unjustly underestimated pioneers of electronic music. Originally from Hungary, he studied composition and organ at the Bartok Conservatory and Liszt Academy in Budapest before earning a scholarship to study electronic music in Stockholm.

During the day he worked as an organist at St. Eric's cathedral in the Swedish capital whilst at night he experimented with primitive electronic devices using recordings of that same organ as source material. Influenced by the pioneering works of Pierre Henry, Rózmann soon rejected traditional acoustic composition entirely – even going so far as to declare that instrumental music “had no future”.

Presumably influenced by his own Catholic weltanschauung and immersion in religious music, Rózmann sought to address big themes in his music, particularly that of the conflict between good and evil. “In Rózmann's imagined world,” Mats Lindström writes in his album notes, “No room was given to chance. Big powers, luminous or dark, would lie behind the most trivial every day events.”

Over time, Rózmann’s Catholicism ceded ground to Tibetan Buddhism. His most famous work, 12 stationer (12 stations), which took 23 years to complete, is a musical interpretation of the Tibetan Wheel of Life.

“During his lifetime he never sought, nor did he win any mentionable recognition,” Lindström continues. “As a true modernist, he didn’t compose with an audience or the critics in mind. His mission was to compose for the future. It was his conviction that the mystical energy for compositional work should derive straight from God.”

This album - the last four parts of 12 Stations - ’12 Stations VI I’, ’12 Stations VI II’, ’12 Stations VI III’ and ‘Dörr med tårar’, grouped together as 12 Stations VI – is released via Ideologic Organ, the Editions Mego sub-label curated by Sunn O)))’s Stephen O’Malley.

The album contains four long works of concrete and electro-acoustic devotion that navigate serene harmony and furious abstraction with unbelievable passion and authority, bringing to mind such greats as Messiaen, Parmegiani, Penderecki, Macchi, Stockhausen and of course Rózmann's hero, Pierre Henry.

It features Rózmann himself on piano and voice, with additional vocals by Iona Maros, Miklós Maros and Viveca Servatius. It was composed between 1978 and 2001 at EMS elektronmusikstudion in Stockholm.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Cupp Cave - Garbage Pail Beats (2008)

Belgian François Boulanger crafts broken, drugged out, experimental beats under his two currently active monikers; Ssaliva and Cupp Cave. His Cupp Cave sound comes across like a malformed hybrid of the Flying Lotus-patented Brainfeeder sound, the fuzzy ‘knackered house’ of Andy Stott and the psychedelic beat constructions of Prefuse 73 and his ilk. There are many other influences I could write about too - wobbly Boards of Canada production techniques, 8-bit sounds, 1980's video game soundtracks - but the list would be a very long one. It's his handling of all these disparate sounds, influences and techniques that makes this whopping 32 track, 70+ minute collection an absolute thrill to listen to. In the hands of a lesser producer this would have been a messy and overlong affair but Boulanger maintains a firm grip and lightness of touch that is extremely impressive. In somewhat crowded market, Cupp Cave has delivered an album that is bursting at the seams with creativity and experimentation.

Essential listening for anyone who feels any of the above mentions.

"His Garbage Pail Beats are a rump-shaking, head-nodding, feet-shuffling slap in the face, one for the crate-diggers and glitch-lovers. Think nice crunchy gravel. Think big, red, 8-bit family sedan. Think wearing sunglasses sitting in the passenger seat with the window open. Think sunshine. Thump, thump, clap; Cupp Cave is guaranteed Hennessy-free."

The CD itself is also worth mentioning here. It is wrapped in some of the most amazing art I have seen in a long time. Created by the Lovely Package design house, the humble CD housing has truly been elevated to a work of multi-coloured, screen printed art.

Cupp Cave release the new album 'Retina Waves' in April 2012. This is also an essential audio requirement as it represents a huge step forward in Boulanger's sound, essentially dropping his beats behind a billowing gauze of decomposition and saturation.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Throbbing Gristle - Special Treatment (1984)

What can I possibly write here about Throbbing Gristle and it's members that hasn't already been written? Nothing really. I will therefore keep this simple and to the point.

The band Throbbing Gristle and it's four members - Genesis P-Orridge, Cosey Fani Tutti, Peter Christopherson and Chris Carter - were nothing short of visionaries, pioneers and innovators both musically and culturally. Their impact on music since their formation in 1976 following the demise of performance art group COUM Transmissions has been profound to say the least. That impact can still be felt today in many strands of music, art and culture. It's hard for me to imagine a world without a band as influential as Throbbing Gristle. 

"The legend of throbbing gristle, in retrospect, was easily as important as the outbreak of punk."

David Henderson
26th November 1983

In 1999, author Simon Ford wrote the book 'Wreckers of Civilisation' which, to me, is the most complete, authoritative and insightful account of the band and it's members.

Wreckers of Civilisation tells the story of two interconnected groups: the performance art group COUM Transmissions and the music group Throbbing Gristle.

"These people are the wreckers of civilisation", exlaimed the conservative Member of Parliment Nicholas Fairbairn in 1976. His outburst was meant to describe four artists and musicians - Genesis P-Orridge, Cosey Fani Tutti, Peter Christopherson and Chris Carter. What "these people" had done to deserve such an epithet, and what they were about to do, is the subject of this book.

From the foreword by Jon Savage:

"Wreckers of Civilisation recalls a time which, despite volumes of print remains occluded, obdurate, even intimidating: that moment before the conservative reconstruction. To be awake in London in the late 1970s was to be plunged into turmoil: externally manifest in riot, internally within various forms of damage and depression and, if one felt brave or driven, extreme aesthetics. COUM Transmissions and Throbbing Gristle mark the furthest reach of that impulse: even more so than Punk, they plunged into a technological and personal examination of the dark side - the forbidden, the taboo, the dystopian future on the doorstep. Today this might seem like science fiction or deliberate shock tactics, but then it seemed like reportage, front line dispatches from a convulsed country."

I urge you to seek out this book and read it. It is one of the most important writings on modern music and culture you will ever encounter.

Cover of the book 'Wreckers of Civilisation' by Simon Ford, 1999.
As far as writing about about a discography is concerned, that too is an almost impossible task. Throbbing Gristle compulsively recorded and released pretty much everything they played - studio sessions and live shows alike. Ford's book contains perhaps the most complete account of their recorded output I have ever read but this runs into many pages. I have spent thirty years collecting Throbbing Gristle recordings but my library is still woefully incomplete such is the diversity, rarity and sheer volume of the output involved. There has been a recent reissue campaign of several early Industrial Records releases which have been remastered by Chris Carter. This is as a good a place to start as any but I would also recommend literally anything you can find bearing the TG name.

To this end, I have given a lot of thought about what to share with you both musically and on YouTube. The album I have chosen was never officially released by the band but, as with many other albums bearing the Throbbing Gristle name which appeared on other labels at the time, was sanctioned by them.

Special Treatment is a live recording made at The Cryptic One in London UK on November 11th 1978. It was the first issue by German imprint Mental Decay Records in 1984. I remember buying this album at a record fair in Nottingham UK in 1985 and immediately leaving for home to play it without any other browsing. The album contains four long improvisations which I think encapsulate the Throbbing Gristle ethos perfectly. It is by turns soothing, unsettling, abrasive, unnerving, incredibly experimental but never once dull. This is a seriously difficult album to track down but well worth the effort, I hope you get something of the nervous, sickly thrill playing it as I did 27 years ago.

Similarly, I waded through hours of material on YouTube to find a clip to neatly summarise the TG experience but this proved an incredibly difficult task. I eventually came across an official film of a live recording made at San Francisco's Kezar Pavillion on the 29th May 1981 - their final performance before issuing the statement "Mission is Terminated" via a series of postcard mail outs. It's around an hour in length but seriously worth making the time to view.

For more information about Throbbing Gristle, the following website may help;

This piece is dedicated to the memory of Peter 'Sleazy' Christopherson who died at home in Bangkok on 25th November 2010 aged just 55. The cause of his death has never been revealed.

Peter 'Sleazy' Christopherson 2005
"Indisputably one of the most controversial, certainly among the most influential, and in my view one of the most misunderstood hero-units of our times is Throbbing Gristle, progenitors of much of what hits the alternative charts in watered down forms by less adventurous and extreme aggregations."

Sandy Robertson
11th October 1980

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Luke Vibert as Amen Andrews and the Cultural Impact of the Amen Break

I love music. Everything it about it. I like to listen, think, feel, discover and research music in all it's many forms. I'm also incredibly interested in the development, origins and influences of not only bands but sounds, scenes and genres themselves. I came across a documentary through a friend some time ago which was made by a chap called Nate Harrison in 2004. The video is a meditation on the ownership of culture, the nature of art and creativity, and the history of a remarkable music clip. That clip was a 6 second drum break taken from the B-side of a single released in 1969 by a funk band called The Winstons. That 6 seconds of drums changed the course of music forever and spawned a whole new sound, scene and genre which persists to this day. Once established it quickly developed, mutated, multiplied and eventually moved into the collective audio unconsciousness such was the power of the innovation that was applied to it.

Nate's documentary says far more about this break's impact on music and culture than I can and is therefore required viewing. I firmly believe that documentaries like these should be added to the National Curriculum and show in schools as part of music lessons, such is their cultural importance.

In 2005, Nate also created a fascinating documentary about the impact of the Roland TB-303 bassline generator on modern music and culture which, like his previous work is indispensable. 

Cornish electronics wrangler Luke Vibert released a series of five vinyl only EP's on the Rephlex imprint in 2003 under the name of Amen Andrews. The name being a rather amusing mashup of the Amen break and late British TV personality Eamonn Andrews who adorns each of the covers. The tracks contained on these 12"s were all fantastic examples of what could be done with the humble Amen break. Sliced, diced and pasted back together in ridiculous combinations with all of Vibert's influences running riot - no boundaries, sometimes at insane BPM's. It's all here really; ultra thick bass drops, screwed up junglist samples, sickly easy listening strings, ambient textures, early rave synths… and course, that 6 second drum break from 1969. There have been many, many fine examples of the use of the Amen break over the years but as an introduction to one of it's most innovative practitioners, the Amen Andrews series is essential listening.

Want to hear more? Seek out Vibert's two albums under the Plug moniker ('Drum 'n' Bass for Papa' and 'Back on Time') which collect together a plethora of previously issued, vinyl only tracks recorded a few years after the Amen Andrews series. The Amen break is still present but, two years down the line, Vibert clearly has many more ideas of how to develop it's sound, structure and versatility within his own eclectic framework of influences.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Ekoplekz - Intrusive Incidentals Vol. 1 (2012)

All bands approach the recording of each new album in a different way. Some will gradually evolve, changing their overall sound as new influences seep in or line up changes take effect. Occasionally, a band makes a quantum leap forward throwing all of their new found sounds, skills or influences into the mix simultaneously. Others are cautious and make little change to their signature sound which, if it's original and great in the first place then what's wrong with that? Then there are those bands who have a very specifically defined set of influences - some as narrow as a single band from the past maybe or even just an album as a reference point. There are a few great recent examples of this modus operandi;

1. Burial. His first release - 2005's astonishing 'South London Boroughs' 12" - was a revelation at the time and still is to these ears. Mournful, dripping with equal parts melancholy and menace but always experimental with it's sounds and construction. His latest - 2012's 'Kindred' has changed little from that original blueprint. His influences and operating methods appear to be exactly the same from those employed 7 years ago. It's almost as if he's constantly tinkering with the same tracks, attempting somehow to find his own idea of what he hears in his head. It makes each subsequent release no less thrilling and exhilarating.

2. Dirty Beaches. Specifically the first four tracks on his latest album 'Badlands'. I recently played these tracks to my very good friend and all-round musical sage Teece who swore blind they were undiscovered demo recordings by legendary US proto-punk pioneers Suicide - right down to the lack of fidelity used liberally in the recording. Suicide haven't recorded for many years so why not take their sound in all it's scuzzed up '77 glory and write some new songs? Nothing's wrong with that idea of course if those songs are good… and 'Badlands' is an album you need to hear as soon as possible (if you haven't already) because it's indispensable.

So what has this to do with Ekoplekz? Well, Bristol's Nick Edwards certainly has honed his influences down to a very specific set of sounds. Think the earliest transmissions from one of Sheffield's finest innovators - Cabaret Voltaire circa '78 to '82. Think also Industrial and punk legends Throbbing Gristle (without whom so much of the music we listen to today simply wouldn't be here!). But Edwards doesn't just reference wholesale here, he plunders all the most interesting, unusual, original, unsettling and downright queazy bits to use as his starting point. He is a true mangler of electronics rather a musician per-se. His set-up consists of all manner of malfunctioning analogue electronics, effects units, pedals and so on which he uses to improvise and conduct his compositions upon. People have written much about his sound and mentioned all kinds of descriptions but nothing really seems to do it all justice. I can see where it's all coming from but it's where Ekoplekz takes each track that makes it so damn exciting to listen to. If either of these reference points mean anything to you then you should have this one on your hard drive as soon as possible.

Postscript - Ekoplekz are appearing at The Faktion curated evening at Sacred Trinity Church in Manchester UK on Sunday, May 6th. You should go and see him if possible (I most definitely will be!) and support him. Also worth seeking out is his mighty 'Memowrekz' collection on the always wonderful Mordant Music label - almost two hours of essential guerrilla audio deconstructions.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The Music Poster in Popular Culture - Mr Martin F. Bedford, Sheffield UK

The Genius of Mr Martin F. Bedford.

A biography of the great man from his website;

Born in 1955, Martin grew up in the Thames riverside town of Gravesend in Kent. From the early age of 12 he attended saturday morning art classes, first at Gravesend's own school of art and then later at the Medway Art College. After leaving school he did a foundation course at Canterbury Art College, before coming to Sheffield in 1976 where he gained a fine art degree at the now defunct Psalter Lane College of Art & Design. Although he started as a painter he transferred to the Photography course and spent a major part of his time documenting live gigs around the city and ultimately further afield. As a result he joined The Damned and The Adverts on their first Uk tour and also produced many promo shots for performers such as Roy Harper, Ronnie Lane and Nils Lofgren.

After leaving college he worked as a graphic designer for Sheffield University for about 3 months before, along with John Redfern, Chris Andrews, Adrian Vincan and Phil Mills, he became a founder member of The Leadmill. Taking on the role as 'house' artist, he began creating the silkscreen posters for which the venue, in those early years, became known. Initially started as an 'arts lab' The Leadmill promoted Theatre, Dance, and Multi-media shows, various musical genres that most other clubs (at the time) wouldn't touch such as Punk, Reggae and Industrial Noize bands, Jazz, Blues and many older acts who were still having a hard time in the post-punk era. The complex also housed band rehearsal rooms, art studios and a fanzine, 'Properganda', ran community workshops, had a wholefood cafe and eventually a real ale bar and was run collectively by a motley bunch of hippies, punks and anarchist's. It played a significant role in the city during the miners strike in the '80's when it hosted many benefits for both the NUM and the Forgemaster's strike. However as times changed so did the Leadmill. The political stance was gradually squashed and the centre became a more commercial club, and after 12 years (1980-92) of creating posters and the public image of The Leadmill, the organisation and Martin, amicably, parted company. Martin maintained his studio for a further 2 years, but also moved on.

In 1990 he was invited by the Soviet Unions Artist Union to be guest of honour and to exhibit, at a festival of poster art in Odessa, Ukraine, where artists from all the (then) Soviet countries attended. During this, very interesting, time he visited Moscow, St Petersburg, Doneskt (once twinned with Sheffield), and Kiev, as well as Odessa, and says he lived on illicit vodka and tomatoes for 3 weeks.    

In 1992, still based at his Leadmill studio (which in the '60's had been the location of the Esquire club), he presented a multi-media event called 'Songs of Antlers' in both the Leadmill and Scotia Works (at that time a derelict 'little mesters' complex located next to the club). Drawing on and exploring ancient myths and shamanic beliefs, it featured not only Sheffield circus performers, musicians and artists but also Native American, French and Russian artists he had met on his travels. In this year, while the city hosted the Student Olympic Games, he also brought over Ukranian poster artist and musician, Valeri Viter, to take part in a dual poster exhibition in Sheffield's Crucible theatre, as well as holding several of his own painting shows.

From 1990-94 he ran 'Stuff and Nonsense', a small company, selling badges, t-shirts and stickers of his designs, aimed at the 'new circus' community, his biggest selling sticker being 'Shit Happens', and he organised 3 national juggling conventions in the city.

In '94 along with Chris Cooper, and quickly joined by Keith Lauchlan, Jimmy Stone & 'J.Baki', he set up 'The Loft'. Another small community arts project with a plethora of volunteers, it was highly productive in its 4 year lifespan. It offered office and band rehearsal space, with the largest area reserved for creating club decor. Promoting local band nights at the legendary Hallamshire Hotel, once a well known muso pub in Sheffield, with nights called 'Off our heads and in your face', they were reknown for their individually themed nights with decor to match. Soon they were regularly designing other club's promotions and went on to work alongside outfits such as Megadog, and various underground collectives across the country, organising 'Chill out' rooms with decor, Dj's, musicians and performers, and their own large scale events. In 1995 Martin designed and organised the 25th anniversary celebrations for Glastonbury festival. Drawing on his own contacts with the festival, circus and of course The Loft, he took a crew of 100 (mainly from Sheffield, but also Scotland, Bristol and London) to the site for 3 weeks pre the event to build huge articulated models and design costumes for one of the festivals most famous years. It was the year Pulp took the festival by storm and it seemed the whole of Sheffield was there. From this success Martin & The Loft designed the set for Sven Vaths 'Cocoon' german tour in '97' with which they went on the road. On their return they found their base, a dilapidated building they rented, had been sold for flats, and they were locked out. Always a very loose and anarchic collective at the best of times, the group disbanded and went their separate ways.

From '97 to 2008 Martin managed, co-managed and house managed pubs and clubs, managed bands and solo artists, and promoted gig nights, while continuing to design posters. Since then he has concentrated purely on his poster work, designing limited edition prints for artists such as Patti Smith, Heaven 17 and his old mate Richard Hawley among many, many others.

In 2008, having visited the USA many times since the early '80's, he achieved a lifelong dream by designing posters for the Warfield theatre in San Francisco and met many of his poster artist heroes at the TRPS (The Rock Poster Society) Festival in the Hall of Flowers, in Golden Gate Park.

He has published two books of his posters, 'Up against the wall' (the Leadmill posters) and 'Stick 'em up' which covers much of his work since 1992 to the present Day. Over the years he has exhibited his posters and paintings, in both solo and joint exhibitions, in Sheffield, London, New York, Vancouver, Paris and Odessa.

You should seek this man out, he's often to be found at small gigs up and down the UK selling beautifully designed, limited edition silk screen posters for very reasonable prices. You should buy him a pint or two and ask him to tell you some stories of the old Sheffield days, his travels across America on foot and pretty much anything else he has to say. It's all gold my friends. Visit his gallery and then maybe buy one of his beautiful posters or books, people as intertwined with music, art and modern culture as this need our encouragement and support.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Naked City - Torture Garden (1989)

Naked City was a band led by saxophonist and composer John Zorn. Active primarily in New York City from 1988 to 1993, the band was initiated by Zorn as a "composition workshop" to test the limits of composition (and improvisation) in a traditional band lineup. Their music was to incorporate recognizable elements of basically every single genre you could possibly imagine.

Torture Garden was originally released in 1989 as a vinyl EP lasting just 26 minutes and containing a total of 42 tracks. I remember ordering this from the old WARP shop in Sheffield and on it's arrival, asked my buddy behind the counter to stick a few tracks on whilst I browsed. The shop was empty in 3 minutes flat. I knew from that short preview and the reaction it got from Sheffield's Indie / electronic cognoscenti that I'd like this record a lot.

Sure, the stats are interesting enough. Shortest track is 12 seconds long, track titles range from 'Jazz Snob Eat Shit' through 'Sack of Shit' to 'Osaka Bondage' and the cover art was allegedly taken from a Japanese S&M / snuff movie and subsequently withdrawn from sale but what about the music?

First this - The line-up was composed as follows;

John Zorn - saxophone
Bill Frisell - guitar
Fred Frith - bass guitar
Wayne Horvitz - keyboards
Joey Baron - drums
Yamatsuka Eye - vocals

These guys were all extremely accomplished players in their own right - Yamatsuka Eye was a visual artist at this stage more than a musician but went on to form the legendary Boredoms in the early 1990's. Check out any of the above names and they all have a serious pedigree. It was just so strange that a bunch of such talented musical visionaries could come together and create an album that initially sounded like a bunch of random noise, but that on further listens revealed an incredible amount of considered composition throughout. Every second brims with invention, different musical genres come and go within a matter of bars, Yamatsuka Eye's insanely unhinged babbling became a finely tuned instrument. The sheer relentlessness is truly exhilarating. 

The other thing that blew me away about this album was how well it was recorded. I had a very good hi-fi system at this time - stupidly expensive but capable of reproducing vinyl records to almost transcription levels. I couldn't believe how beautifully recorded, arranged and engineered this thing was. The soundstage was wide and perfectly arranged, the space between each frenetic note was captured perfectly - hell, you could even hear Zorn's fingernails tapping on the keys of his sax as he played. 

Ok, I'm aware I've waxed lyrical about every aspect of this album for long enough now but there's a perfectly good reason. There aren't many records I'd call indispensable but this is most certainly one of them. It's a classic. A must-have. Call it what you will.

Aaron Dilloway - Modern Jester (2012)

Aaron Dilloway is one interesting guy. Recording music since he was 16 years old, former member of seminal Detroit noise / power electronics band Wolf Eyes, he left that band in 2005 to live in Nepal. Whilst there he obsessively recorded everything happening in the streets around him. Since returning to the states and relocating in Ohio he has released a variety of CD-Rs and cassettes on his own Hanson Records imprint.

Modern Jester was originally put out on Hanson as a CD-R in 2008 but has apparently been completely revised and expanded for a 2012 re-release. I'm not sure what the original tracks, re-edits or new pieces are but it doesn't really matter on a record this damn good.

The album covers a wide range of disciplines, textures and tripped-out avantisms; eerie tones on 'Tremors', eleven minutes of sheer digital loops on 'Eight Cut Scars', smudged tape loops on 'Labyrinths & Jokes', then a brilliantly blown-out tract of dishevelled drones and blooming amp distortion sculptures on 'Look Over Your Shoulder'. Nothing here is wasted, every inch of sound and space is used and twisted into constantly evolving shapes over the entire course of it's 83 minute plus running time. I'm sure I can hear threads of those precious Nepalese field recordings at times too - dogs, water, wind, bells, animals, speech - but nothing on this record is that explicitly obvious. It requires a healthy dose of concentration to appreciate what's actually going on and that's why this is so much more than just another noise album.

If you like your music by turns adventurous, loud as fuck, disconcerting, soothing, odd, painful, confusing but always interesting and thought provoking, then you need to check this one out as soon as possible.

Seriously, a masterpiece.

Footnote - If any album cover sums up the oddness, confusion and possible revulsion of it's contents better than this then please do enlighten me!

Aaron Dilloway Live in 2010

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Loops of Your Heart - And Never Ending Nights (2012)

Axel Willner has so far released three fantastic albums as The Field taking his love of loops to rather incredible heights. I've always had a thing about loops from the German synth masters of the 70's, William Basinski's breathtaking classical Disintegrations, Spacemen 3's lock-groove guitar explorations to… well everything really.

But I wasn't expecting this. You'd expect an album by a band with the word loops in their name to feature, well… loops. I mentioned the German synth masters above and this most definitely has more in tune with them than anything else Willner has recorded. I'm talking of Tangerine Dream, Ash Ra Tempel, Klaus Schulze, Kluster and so on. These are beautifully textured pieces showing a man happy to find a good sequence and let it run whilst he manipulates and improvises with the filters. 

For example, 'Broken Bow' kicks off with a great guitar clang, lots of decay and space, repeating over the course of three and half minutes before the sequencer begins and everything starts sounding like Edgar Froese circa 1974. Fabulous stuff.

This is an album that makes no shit about it's influences but who cares? No one makes music like this anymore and it's great to be able throw on something other than my trusty old Kosmiche albums that I know inside out.

If you've heard of any of the German electronic pioneers I've mentioned then approach this one with an open mind. If not, you should play this album whilst doing some serious research. 


Sounds From The Other City 2012 - Manchester UK

I have a lot of readers from around the world - USA, Russia, Europe and some even more far-flung places. But if you're in the UK and anywhere near Manchester then this is something you should definitely take a look at. It's a mass happening on the Bank Holiday weekend, May 6th. There's some great bands on, far too many to list here so hit up this link and have a closer look;

But don't leave just yet, I haven't told you about the best bit yet. The Sacred Trinity Church will be hosting without a doubt the most interest event of the whole shebang. The wonderful people at Faktion are putting on an evening featuring Mordant Music, Ekoplekz and Vindicatrix. These are three of the most consistently inventive, astounding, original and downright essential outfits working in music today. No shit.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Porter Ricks - Biokinetics (2012)

Dub Techno is a funny beast.

I love Dub, Lee Perry is one of my all time heroes and people like the brilliant Blood & Fire and On-U Sound labels have released some totally mind-blowing stuff over the years. There's so much good stuff out there from the last fifty years or so that any self-respecting music fan should hunt some of it down. Bob Marley this is not!

I love Techno too. Invented almost single-handedly by Juan Atkins in Detroit back in 1982, it's constantly mutated and moved on, taking in cues from everything it touched like an audio virus. Of course, some of it was inevitably shit but you can't deny the influence Techno has had on modern music.

And then came Dub Techno. I'm not entirely how it all started to be honest. I know it came out of Detroit (that city again) and that labels such as Echospace were it's principle purveyor. Major players were Rod Modell, Quantec and a whole host of people dropping incredible 12"s. In recent years there have been many other folks picking up the sound and doing great things with it - another mutation.

So what the hell is it all about? Lots of ambient washes, found sounds, field recordings, static and vinyl noise. Those classic 4/4 Techno pads, kicked down a few notches away from the 'aggressive' setting and lots of dub-like effects. It sounds very otherworldly. Immersive, widescreen and almost sub-aquatic.

Ok, so now it comes down to this album. Originally released in 1996 it has just been given a new lease of life by the Type label with new artwork. I've spent the last week falling asleep to this which I always think is praise indeed for any album. It's also great to drive to but best of all, it seeps into you and takes over your concentration like a fever.

This is a fantastic album and should be heard by a hell of a lot more people than it probably ever will be.

You know what you have to do here.

Check out all the above clues too, I promise you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Altering Illusions - Various (Echospace) (2012)

I posted this on Facebook after it first came out before I started the blog, but since then I've spent more and more time with it so I guessed it was time for a revisit.

Detroit/Chicago's now legendary Steven Hitchell and Rod Modell mark 5 years of sub harmonic deep space explorations in some seriously out-there Dub Techno quadrants. From a sprawling nebula of etheric sounds made as Deepchord, Variant, CV313, and Intrusion, the duo have culled a rack of dubs, reworks and brand new material on this, their most substantial release in quite some time. Over two discs, you'll be treated to 13 tracks of purified groove reductions made on vintage analog equipment, teasing out the infidelities of archaic equipment and blending with field recordings which render their sound at its most diffuse and opiated. Lush listening, early morning ease-in or late night fade-out. In a word - awesome.

Massive recommendation.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012


Over the years I've been through dozens of pairs of headphones. From those big cans in the 1970's with mad curly wires to the discreet in-ear models of today.

I remember those days as a happy carefree singleton spending hours each night (sometimes with a small, like- minded group of friends) listening in quiet reverence to the latest batch of vinyl. I'd always had good separates hi-fi systems so headphones never really mattered.

Then along come partners and kids. No more quiet reflection in front of the hi-fi when there's bloody TV on, nappies to be changed, homework to be completed etc. so headphones became an important part of any self-respecting music fan's set up.

Vinyl came and went for me, CDs replaced those and after a while I decided to take a few years out and digitise my entire collection. iTunes was a revelation to me and my first iPod truly did change my life. But it was always those gorgeous looking buds that let the whole deal down. I experimented with a few different models and was as happy as I could be at the time.

Then I bought my iPhone. Once again, everything changed. I bought the largest capacity model and began to create playlists that allowed me to make some kind of sense of the huge amounts of music I add to my library on a regular basis.

When I upgraded to the 64 GB iPhone 4S I knew I needed the best 'phones I could get my hands on. After lots of trying out stuff from the Apple store in Sheffield, I eventually bought a set of professional in-ear monitors from a US company called Westone. They're commonly used by musicians on stage instead of the old front line monitors.

They're beautifully made, braided cables, sturdy connectors and the in ear portions are clear plastic so they look brilliant. But sound quality is everything and my god these are astonishing. They are dual drivers, a separate woofer and tweeter in each unit which elevates the clarity, soundstage and precision to heights I'd never thought possible from a humble pair of headphones.

Ok, so these things didn't come cheap. I contacted the company direct and got a discount but they still came in at around £100.

The thing is though, if you're going to buy an iPod, iPod Touch or an iPhone then you really should invest in some better 'phones. Sure, those little white buds look cool but they're not for a second doing your precious music any justice.

Go to your local Apple store and browse. Ask those lovely people questions - tell them your budget and they'll help. You can buy, try and if they don't suit you they'll be happy to give you a refund. Check the internet, there are loads of resources out there - just remember that we all have different ears so good solid research is paramount.

You can easily spend £30 and get some 'phones that will blow those stock Apple buds out of the water. Spend a bit more and you will seriously begin to rediscover albums you've had for years and think you know inside out.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Sven Schienhammer - Altostratus Translucidus (2012)

I've had this kicking around the hard drive for some time now and only recently decided I should move it into some sort of rotation. I'm glad I did. I knew nothing about it at first, it had a vaguely architectural looking cover and the title was a kind of cloud formation. Those two references alone speak volumes about the music contained therein.

I subsequently did some research and came up with this;

Luxurious album of dub-techno ambience from Sven Schienhammer, who's probably best known for his Quantec releases on Echocord. As the title suggests, 'Altostratus Translucidus' is a meteorological metaphor for Sven's subtle convective diffusions, focussing on the processes of volume - concentration - discharge shared in Dub and weather systems. The first third of the album builds a misty mass of shimmering, effervescent dub chords, precipitating the gently padded 4/4 release of 'Sound Signals For Other Planets'. At the centre of the album is the the gorgeously evocative sound scenery of 'Night Over Mojave Desert', before the mood begins to feel more clammy with the closing chords of 'When Night Meets Day.

Well, I have to say I'm a huge fan of Quantec's output, the whole Echospace label stuff and Rod Modell but this has knocked me sideways. a beautiful album of ambient reductions, incredible textures and wide open spaces.

Recommended for pretty much any occasion, i've fallen asleep to this incredible album all week which is damn fine praise indeed.

Altostratus Translucidus cloud formations

Mo Kolours - EP2: Banana Wine (2012)

A couple weeks ago I got an email from the rather excellent One Handed Music label which read;

Download Mo Kolours' New EP For Nowt.

Have a gift from us. Mo Kolours' EP2: Banana Wine is out today and it's free.

We take great care with all our releases, but this one feels extra special. Mo Kolours' new EP is an intoxicating blend of soul, dub, hip-hop, house, afro-latin percussion, Mauritian Sega music and much more. It's a real step forward from his first EP and should establish Mo as one of the most individual artists around. So tarry no more and get listening.

It went on.

Half-Mauritian singer-percussionist Mo Kolours returns with his second release: EP2: Banana Wine. Last year’s EP1: Drum Talking saw his blend of soul, dub and various electronic styles with the Sega music of his ancestral home celebrated far and wide. As the UK’s FACT Magazine remarked, “The wonderful Mo Kolours laces his loping, hashed-out Madlib-meets-Theo Parrish beat confections with melodies from the folk music of his homeland”, and while those Mauritian influences still give Mo Kolours’ work an otherworldly feel, EP2: Banana Wine is more evocative of the his current home in South London than his debut release.

They had me at free music.

I couldn't argue with the above description. This is such a chilled out set, a laid back listen but with a fabulous Caribbean twist. I enjoyed this so damn much I headed straight over to the label and bought the first EP which is just as damn good and a steal at just a few quid. I suggest you do the same.

Perfect for those lazy spring days in the garden with a beer and stuff. (If it's not snowing that is!)

Monday, 2 April 2012

Vatican Shadow - Kneel Before Religious Icons (2012)

About three weeks ago I wrote about an album called 'Bermuda Drain' by Prurient and was pretty knocked out by it's use of controlled noise, dark ambience and texture. I did a little digging and found that Dominick Fernow had been releasing limited release cassettes under the name of Vatican Shadow for the past few years. Tracking these things down was a nightmare until I discovered his latest album was to be given a full release by those lovely folks over at Type Records. Naturally I was all over it, I mean - if this stuff was anything like 'Bermuda Drain' then I'd be a happy man.

The album in question is called 'Kneel Before Religious Icons' and referencing the sinister iconography associated with the Iraq war, all of his track titles - and much of his artwork - are gleaned from newsprint cuttings. Far removed from their original source material, and taken alongside Fernow’s bleak soundscapes, the imagery takes on a nightmarish and fevered intensity - a hellish Orwellian vision fittingly adorned with doublespeak and murky agendas.

This is absolutely nothing like Fernow's previous output, I couldn't help thinking a little bit of early Aphex Twin - those knackered drum tracks overlaid with beautiful textures and just a hint that things might take a strange turn at any minute.

I've played this album in every conceivable situation - half asleep, writing, in the car, in the bath - you name it. works great on headphones too. I have since spent hours tracking down pretty much everything else under the Vatican Shadow moniker and all of it is required listening.

UPDATE - Just found out that the entire Vatican Shadow back catalogue is up on iTunes and Amazon so I could have saved myself a fair bit of time but, hey - it was a worthwhile exercise in the end.