Friday, 29 June 2012

Vladislav Delay - Espoo

Sasu Ripatti has operated under a variety of pseudonyms over the course of his fifteen year recording career. He has released material as Sistol, Luomo, AGF / Delay (with his partner Antye Greie) and is also a member of electroacoustic outfit Moritz Von Oswald Trio. The Finn's best known work however is under his Vladislav Delay moniker. Last year's Vantaa album, his first to be released by the much respect Raster Noton imprint was something of a revelation to me, an eight track collection of deeply experimental electronic works which managed to be as utterly gripping as they were abstract. Espoo follows on from Vantaa's sense of gleeful improvisation, minimalist tropes and squashed sonic aesthetics.  

Advance press stated that Espoo was to feature a doublet of "conceptual, rhythm intense tracks" complete with versions which were "close to Terry Riley’s minimalistic concepts" whilst sharing a "linear increase in density" and a "certain folkloric atmosphere" that benefits from the break in the usual 4/4 pattern. Intriguing to say the least.

First track 'Olari' spends the first few minutes of it's running time perpetually rearranging skewed beats and clipped blocks of sound in pursuit of a more formal structure before they finally coalesce into a stuttering rhythm. It's counterpart dispenses with the beats, tying the hiccuping audio snippets together with a sheen of translucent ambience instead.

On the flip, 'Kolari' has a much tougher rhythmic backbone, it's drums hammering throughout the track in a martial style. Once again, Ripatti coats these with a sickly layer of writhing loops and all manner of degraded audio artefacts. The propulsive foundations of the original version are subtly muted on the rework and are transformed into an almost dub-like pneumatic jack whilst the loops are gradually smeared into all the gaps.

With this release, Sasu Ripatti has once again shown his mastery of sound manipulation and compositional adroitness within a frequently over subscribed sub-genre of electronic music. 

Espoo is a precursor to his next album as Vladislav Delay; Kuopio, which will be released after the summer. A new Moritz Von Oswald Trio album titled Fetch has also just been released via Honest Jon's Records.

Both vinyl and digital download versions are available from Boomkat.

Stream a preview of this release on Soundcloud;

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Ugandan Methods (Ancient Methods & Regis) - Sixth Method

I recently picked up this release after downloading the incredible Adolescence: The Complete Recordings 1994-2001 by Regis on the Downwards imprint and was hungry to discover more. Karl O'Konnor recorded a slew of twelves under the Regis name over a seven year period and this three disc compilation does a stellar job of making these hard to find tracks available once more.

Ancient Methods are a duo consisting of Berlin residents Conrad Protzmann (Baeks) and Trias, although a statement on their website tersely informs promotors that they are no longer operating as such. Their eponymous label was established in 2007 and they began releasing a series of extremely high quality twelves. This is, as the title would suggest, their sixth emission.

'Beneath the Black Arch' starts the set with a clattering, metallic drum track cloaked in various delay artefacts over a rippling sub-bass drone and breeze block kicks. As it's six minute running time unfolds, the whole thing threatens to overload into dubbed out distortion on several occasions before it finally recedes. 'Between a Sleep and a Sleep' is ushered in on a blast of icy strings and quickly locks itself into a looped mesh of guttural kicks, buzzing synths and washes of sonic detritus. But the best is saved until last, 'She Belongs to Eternity' begins with the same kind of mutilated electronic noise that vintage Throbbing Gristle or early Cabaret Voltaire might employ. Things quickly get completely out of hand as a thundering kick drum pattern judders into life and is peppered with feedback and high frequency blasts. A garbled voice is also embedded in the moraine of noise intoning "step one, step one" before losing it's battle with coherence under the relentless surge of primitive effects and treatments.

That this release is so strong shouldn't really come as that much of a surprise given the strength of the previous five Ancient Methods emissions and Karl O'Konnor's impeccable pedigree. But, I really can't help thinking that the three tracks contained herein represent the apogee of the series thus far.

For listeners seeking a healthy dose of wilful experimentalism to go with their caustic beats. If you've found yourself obsessing over recent, industrially tinged releases by Ekoplekz, Forward Strategy Group, Vatican Shadow or Perc then this is a logical extension to that oeuvre.

Footnote - I would also highly recommend tracking down the previous five instalments in this series which were originally released on a variety of beautifully coloured, marbled vinyl editions. For the rest of us though, all six releases are now thankfully available as digital downloads through Boomkat and others.

Play 'She Belongs to Eternity' by Ugandan Methods;

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Forward Strategy Group - Labour Division

I first became aware of the Perc Trax label earlier this year through the rather excellent Westerleigh Works EP by Ekoplekz and was impressed enough to dig a little deeper. The label was set up around eight years ago in London, UK by Ali Wells and has put out a slew of quality releases, quickly establishing a name for itself amongst the techno cognoscenti.

Forward Strategy Group are a collaboration between Patrick Walker and Al 'Smear' Matthews, their first EP was issued in 2009 and has since been followed by a handful of seriously skewed twelves which are all well worth tracking down.

Their debut album on Perc Trax kicks off with 'Ident' which begins with a pulsing bass throb and adds a twinkling synth line clothed in delay, the two elements set against a backdrop of rain and static fuzz. 'Mandate' follows and uses a minimal, gated snare and kick to counterpoint the thick bass stabs. Once again, the track is coated with a grimy patina of audio contamination. 

Stark minimalism and a sense of decaying urban brutality abound throughout the whole album. Indeed, title track 'Labour Division' builds from a simple click / hiss rhythm and adds cavernous, tonally manipulated hits and a guttural drone swathed in reverb - nothing more. 'Fading Centres' is a caustic, rumbling drone set against a backdrop of metallic sounds and blurred field recordings whilst 'Metal Image' combines muted kick drums and dubby snares with all manner of industrially-tinged interjections. Final track 'Cultivar' loops a detuned, post-punk guitar sample and scribbles all over it with a trebly drum track which constantly teeters on the verge of distortion.

It's difficult not to use the word "industrial" rather literally when writing about this album as much of it contains so many sonic references and textural details which emanate from the factory floor as opposed to the dance floor. It's ringing, steely crashes and mechanised hisses are swathed in a crackling sheen of neglect and decay - a possible reflection of the stagnation and gradual decline of the British manufacturing industry following a programme of privatisation and closure during Margaret Thatcher's wholesale dismantling of Britain during the 1980's.

Highly recommended to anyone seeking a more challenging, nuanced take on the humble techno template.

The album is available through Bandcamp, somewhat fittingly housed in a metal tin and also as a high quality digital download. 

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Can - The Lost Tapes

I don't usually write about bigger, more well known releases here for a number of reasons; Firstly, there are plenty of other online resources which will cover them. First and foremost, I write about what I love and what I'm playing at any given time. I'm not here for the purpose of self-promotion or to try and earn a living, It's enough for me to recommend interesting releases to other like-minded readers based upon my own eclectic listening habits.

Secondly, major releases generally don't do anything for me as they're usually bland, homogenised constructs designed primarily to generate wealth for the multi-national labels and creatively bankrupt 'artists' involved. Can however are a different matter entirely.

It's no secret that, since discovering this band some thirty years ago I have a been a huge fan. I have spent much of my formative record collecting years hunting down everything bearing the band's name amongst mouldering piles of vinyl in dusty shops and at record fairs up and down the UK. I love Can, they provided the soundtrack to a certain, influential part of my teenage years. And so, when Mute records announced some time again that they were preparing this box set from a cache of recently recovered tapes, I naturally became incredibly excited at the prospect of owning so much unheard material.

Can were formed in Cologne, Germany during 1968 by keyboard player Irmin Schmidt and bassist Holger Czukay who were both former students of the legendary Avant Garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. The line-up was completed by free jazz drummer Jaki Liebzeit and a nineteen year old pupil of Czukay's, Michael Karoli. Vocals were originally handled by American sculptor Malcolm Mooney who left shortly afterwards due to psychiatric problems and was replaced by Japanese street busker Damo Suzuki. Their best known albums are from the Damo Suzuki period (Ege Bamyasi, Tago Mago and Future Days), but their two earliest releases (Monster Movie and Soundtracks) are essential listening too. The band continued putting out albums after the departure of Suzuki until finally calling it a day in 1978. 

I've spent almost every waking hour listening to these thirty tracks since Monday morning, hence the lack of site activity over the past few days. Here are some of my initial thoughts;

Disc one starts in fine style with 'Millionspeil' which was originally penned for a German TV movie in 1970. It pits a plunging, cyclical bassline, great slashes of guitar and Liebezeit's hypnotic drumming against a backdrop of pulsating amp hum. Next up comes one of the highlights of the first disc, 'Waiting for the Streetcar' featuring the unhinged, fractured vocals of Malcolm Mooney. The drums on this one are just incredible, loose and funky but also incredibly rigid in structure. Mooney repeats the title over and over as Karoli throws solos everywhere with unfettered glee. Mooney also lends his stuttering voice to 'Deadly Doris' - a tightly wound blast of bass and drum goodness. Damo Suzuki first appears on disc one during 'Bubble Rap', a nine and a half minute exercise in the kind of tight, no nonsense improvisation that Can excelled at. Another notable mention is 'Graublau', an astonishing seventeen minute instrumental which manages to include every single facet of the Can sound except vocals. It also features some of Holger Czukay's early experiments with shortwave radios and tape manipulation.

Disc two contains a further four tracks featuring Malcolm Mooney, the best of which is 'Midnight Sky' and is frankly as good as anything Can have ever recorded. It's a raw, funky jam in the same vein as 'Outside My Door' from 1969's Monster Movie album with Mooney yelping "everything's gotta be alright" and "no money in my pocket but I'm living alright", his voice becoming increasingly deranged as the track goes on. Another highlight is the Suzuki-fronted 'Dead Pigeon Suite' which is constructed from soundtrack elements taken from another German TV movie called Tote Taube In Der Beethovenstrasse. What's interesting about this track is that it's essentially a looser, freer and longer blueprint version of 'Vitamin C' which appeared on the album Ege Bamyasi in 1972. When Suzuki finally appears after a six minute intro, he does so with a series of crazy yelps and whispers. Liebzeit once again sounds utterly focussed and Motorik creating a tight mesh of drums and percussion.

Disc Three presents several live tracks including 'Mushroom', 'One More Saturday Night' and the rather bonkers noise 'n' blues of 'Networks of Foam'. My personal favourite here is 'Messer Scissors Fork and Light' which is an eight minute jam utilising portions of another soundtrack piece incorporating sonic elements which would be further refined to become Ege Bamyasi's 'Spoon'. Washes of electronic ambience and Damo Suzuki's cooing vocals are again underpinned by a brilliant Liebzeit performance, the track dissolving into a spooked, tribal shakedown.

There are also a number of sound collages included across the three discs, something which Can used to best effect on Tago Mago which was originally released in 1971. The band always had a wilfully experimental edge and would often use such concoctions as bridging pieces, segues or even drop them into tracks when the listener least expected it.

It would be impossible to do this set justice in a few paragraphs due to it's three and a quarter hour running time, but also because of the strength of the material presented. A three disc box set of unreleased tracks, early jams, live performances and a few sonic experiments would, in the hands of a lesser band, be stultifyingly dull. But this is Can we're talking about here, one of the most influential bands of the last four decades and counting. What's most astonishing is that these tracks still have such a keen edge. They sound daring, fresh and above all - relevant.

I can't recommend this release highly enough. If you've already heard of Can then, chances are you'll have this in your collection already. If not, you owe it to yourself to check this band out as soon as possible. If you like your music original, exploratory, experimental or edgy then no matter what you usually listen to, Can may well be able to open up a whole new world of possibilities to you.

The Lost Tapes is available via Mute records as a three CD set in a limited edition numbered 10" square tape box with a twenty eight page booklet and also as a digital download.

This piece is dedicated to the memory of Michael Karoli who died on 17th November 2001.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Vatican Shadow - September Cell

Finally! Today sees the release of Vatican shadow's latest emission in the form of a digital download for those of use not utilising a turntable as their audio transcription method of choice. For this latest release, Dominick Fernow has initiated the Bed Of Nails imprint through Boomkat in the UK. Initial copies were available in a run of only 700 with an even limited number pressed onto clear blue vinyl. This one made such a noise on it's physical launch date a few weeks ago that I hoped a digital release wouldn't be too far away.

A pair of tracks, both called 'September Cell' get proceedings underway, the first is subtitled 'The Storm' and rides in on a sabre-rattling rhythm track permeated by silken synth drifts. The track is gilded with layers of industrial electronics, rising and falling in the mix until everything reaches an abrupt, albeit brief climax. The second part of 'September Cell', subtitled 'The Punishment' takes the same template but roughs everything up, dialling up the distortion and gradually covering everything with a layer of midrange compression.

On 'Cairo is a Haunted City', Fernow creates a tightly wound, sombre arrangement using sweeping synth pads and a drum track that AFX would be proud to call his own - all hissing hi-hats and metallic snares. The final track, 'One Day He Heard the Call' dispenses with the drums altogether and uses only clicks and rattles to underpin the plangent, Vangelis-esque blooms. 

After the successes of last year's Bermuda Drain album (as Prurient) and the more recently released Kneel Before Religious Icons, Dominick Fernow proves beyond doubt that, after 14 years of producing intelligent and uncompromising experimental music he still has a few tricks up his sleeve.

Incredible stuff - required listening!

The digital download is available through Boomkat and it would appear that a few copies of the black vinyl are still to be had via Experimedia

Play 'Cairo is a Haunted City' by Vatican Shadow;

Sunday, 17 June 2012

The Advisory Circle / Belbury Poly - Ghost Box Study Series 08: Inversions (2012)

The ever intriguing Ghost Box imprint began their Study Series of 7" singles two years ago. These bite sized transmissions, inspired in part by BBC schools' albums from the 1970s have featured such Ghost Box luminaries as Belbury Poly, The advisory Circle and The Focus Group as well as likeminded associates Pye Corner Audio, Mordant Music, Broadcast and Johnny Trunk. It's always an interesting proposition to see what each band can do within the confines dictated by this antediluvian format.

Instalment number 08 welcomes back two previously featured label stalwarts to reinterpret each others' material.

First up, Jon Brooks' Advisory Circle cover 'Wildspot', a track taken from Belbury Poly's 2004 debut The Willows. The track begins with a flanged acoustic guitar and flute then quickly develops into a stomping John Carpenter inflected jam.

Next, Jimm Jupp's Belbury Poly covers 'Now Ends the Beginning' from last year's rather excellent As the Crow Flies album by The Advisory Circle. This one is steeped in retro analogue goodness complete with disco-fried handclaps and a '60s style female vocal interjection.

Once again, Ghost Box cement their reputation as being one of the most inventive, original and important labels in the UK both in terms of music and vision. Tiny, homegrown operations like this should be cherished, nurtured and supported by us as they provide the perfect antidote to the vast majority of today's bland, formulaic and utterly homogenised music.

The 7" vinyl version of this release is available directly from the label's online shopfront. Digital downloads are also available in mp3 or flac formats. Check out the rest of the Ghost Box shop as there are still previous instalments of the Study Series for sale as well as other, associated goodies to tempt you.

As always, essential listening.

Stream previews of this release on Soundcloud;


Thursday, 14 June 2012

Akkord - Persistence / Nexus (2012)

I love the stark sense of minimalism that surrounds the work of Akkord. From the cover art used on their two releases so far and laser-sharp label logo, to the lack of hard facts about who is associated with the Akkord name. I did some research online before writing this piece to try and find out a little more background information but, other than a few snippets, came up blank. I can't help but feel frustratingly satisfied by this to be honest, it's a refreshing trait to display in this age of information overload and media saturation that some people have no need to shout about who they are, what they are and what they stand for. It seems enough for the members of Akkord (if there are indeed more than one of them!) to let their productions do the talking.

All I do know about this outfit is that they are a Manchester collective who grew up on the rural outskirts of this great industrial city. Their blog contains references to the effects of frequency response on human physiology and some stunning photographs which were presumably taken around their place of origin.

After having been greatly impressed by their debut 12" titled simply Akkord001, I immediately grabbed this one and was struck from the off by how much their sound has crystallised and been refined in the four months since that debut transmission.

First track 'Persistence' is ushered in on a wave of environmental ambience, the wafting drone gives way to a rolling snare and kick mesh before the growling bassline emerges atop thick sub hits. A pitched down spoken word sample is used at two points in the track, the second time it appears it is punctuated by warped flickers of a middle eastern inflected vocal and what sounds like a Japanese flute.

On the flip, 'Nexus' builds it's minimal rhythmic framework on a lush synth wash and throws in stuttering vocal snippets. Another spoken word sample appears briefly, this time billowing in reverb and surrounded by dubwise pads.

Akkord use each of these sparse elements to stunning effect over the course of this release which clocks in just shy of 12 minutes making it so much more than the sum of it's parts. On the strength of these two emissions alone, this Manchester collective are definitely ones to watch over the coming months, highly recommended.

This release was initially issued on 12" and as a limited run of 10" solid white vinyl but both of these appear to have now sold out at source. A digital download version is available through Boomkat.

Δkkord have a blog on Tumblr which is worth checking out, there is also a link to download a free track - 'Submerged', which doesn't appear on either of their releases.

Stream a preview of the 12" on Soundcloud;

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Ursprung - Ursprung (2012)

Released on the Dial imprint in early June 2012, Ursprung is the first full length collaboration between Hendrik Weber (Pantha Du Prince) and Workshop's Stephan Abry. The album is, according to the press release, the result of recording sessions which took place against the backdrop of the "white out background of the Alps" and was inspired by a shared love of Krautrock and Kosmiche experimentalism, the Ambient music of Harold Budd & early Brian Eno, the work of various Avant-Garde composers and the minimalistic guitar sounds of Vini Reilly's Durutti Column.

I love the precision tooled, minimal techno stylings of Pantha Du Prince but am not really familiar enough with Workshop material to know exactly where this outing stands between the two. Either way, this is certainly an album that sounds nothing like Weber's last few releases as it eschews his rigorously programmatic approach for a looser and wholly more organic method of composition.

On first listen, I was absolutely smitten by the delicate acoustic textures created using a combination of acoustic & electric guitars, electric bass and the subtle use of field recordings. 'Chruezegg' is three minutes of bowed acoustic guitar manipulation set against a rich drone and sparse found sounds. 'Kalte Eiche' begins with a twinkling synth arpeggio then adds a sweeping vocal harmony before making way for a bassline that Joy Division / New Order's Peter Hook would be proud of. But it's on 'Ohne Worte' that the Durutti Column influence comes to the fore, clean picked guitar notes and harmonics bounce around the track as a plunging bassline ushers in a shuffling rhythm track and more synth arpeggios. The track which immediately caught my attention however was 'Exodus Now', ten minutes of bruised Krautrock-heavy improvisation worthy of anything that the great Holger Czukay has ever put his name to.

This another of the year's releases which leans heavily on it's influences without descending into either insipid facsimile or lazy pastiche.

Excellent stuff and recommended highly to anyone identifying with any of the above reference points.

Both CD and vinyl versions of the album can be ordered through, the digital download is widely available.

'Exodus Now' taken from the album Ursprung (2012);

Friday, 8 June 2012

Demdike Stare / Andy Votel - KRAAK Gallery UK, 30th June 2012

The KRAAK gallery in Manchester, England has just announced it will be hosting a one off audio visual performance by the mighty Demdike Stare on Saturday 30th June 2012. A run of limited edition tapes made specifically for this show will be on sale at the venue. 

The event will also feature the considerable record spinning talents of Mr Andy Votel, one of the chief psychedelic librarians over at Finders Keepers Records.

Just added to the lineup is N. Racker of Pre-Cert Home Entertainment, an imprint dedicated to the release of limited edition vinyl artefacts as curated by Demdike Stare and Andy Votel.

The KRAAK gallery was founded by local artists in 2009 and is located in an old textile warehouse on the fringes of the Northern Quarter, the live venue is situated adjacent to this and regularly hosts a variety of underground club nights.

Tickets cost a mere £7 (plus the usual booking charges) and are available online from the wegottickets and Skiddle sites.

More details can be found at the KRAAK gallery website.

'Suspicious Drone' by Demdike Stare, taken from the 2009 album Symbiosis;

Roly Porter - Aftertime (2011)

As one half of seminal UK dubstep pioneers Vex'd, Roly Porter is certainly no stranger to experimentalism. When he and Jamie Teasdale released their debut album Degenerate on Planet Mu back in 2005, it's combination of whip-crack beats and scouring electronic textures was something of a revelation. After putting out a hugely disappointing follow-up album Cloud Seed in 2010 which presented a wholesale stylistic volte-face, Vex'd were no more.

Given Porter's reputation, Aftertime could certainly be tagged as an important and much anticipated release in certain quarters. 

The album's first sounds are high frequency tones which quickly mesh with a rumbling, industrial drone quickly followed by harsh electronics. Tellingly, this first track is entirely beatless and is riven by monumental strafes of ragged bass pressure. Second track 'Tleilax' expands on this template but adds random, pummelling snare fills and a heavily doctored snippet of voice - an aggressive shout whose only intelligible line seems to be "who the fuck". The thinly veiled air of violence gradually recedes and is finally given over to a pair of tones which sound for all the world like treated flutes. As the album progresses, each punishing bass drop hangs perilously on the verge of distortion as it threatens to rupture your woofers, layers of drones are slashed at mercilessly by a gale of dilapidated frequencies and outright atonality. This is a beautifully stark, unflinching and uncompromising listen.

It's worth noting at this point how much Porter makes use of heavily doctored string samples throughout this album - 'Kaitain', 'Hessra', 'Corrin' and 'Caladan' all feature such sources. Further expanding on this approach to the incorporation of influences of Western classical composition, 'Al Dhanab' has a distinctly Middle Eastern cadence whilst 'Ix' contains traces of what sound like some kind of Asian stringed instrument.

This is a stunning set from start to finish, an incredible statement of intent from an artist who has previously worked within a fairly tight set of genre-specific constraints. That Roly Porter was capable of producing one of the heaviest and texturally suffocating albums in quite some time shouldn't be too much of a surprise given how groundbreaking his debut with Vex'd sounded seven years ago. 

Nothing short of essential.

The album is available through Juno on vinyl, CD and MP3. For more information and updates, check out Roly Porter's website.

Stream a preview of the album on Soundcloud;

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Mordant Music - Post-MorteM / ModeM (2012)

The redoubtable Mordant Music return to the audio unconscious on Friday June 8th with this sterling brand new 12" and digital download. The good Baron's last full length transmission SyMptoMs was way back in 2009 and other than a few compilation inclusions and a beautifully pastoral turn on the third instalment of Ghost Box records essential Study Series, all has been relatively quiet.

Until earlier this week that is, as on Sunday June 3rd I received an email titled simply "MM053..." which gave release details for this two-tracker. In typical Mordant anti-prose, the linked press release offers the following statement by way of explanation;

"Skeletal shards of static tropes spew from the Pro-One as dead prog druMMers join the dots with heroic infrasound-tinged intervention provides a non-dropsy intermission bass binge... a Graf Spee of a tune, long-scuttled in the woofers... MMahler."

But what does this all mean?

Post-MorteM begins with an almost militaristic shuffle which is gradually interrupted by bursts of sonic detritus swathed in grimy reverberation and huge, rolling drum fills. The track then becomes opaque with quivering electronic modulations, found sounds and a variety of musique concrète ephemera. After around five minutes or so, the sound of grainy footsteps come to the fore as a tone generator threatens to loosen your fillings. The final minute is taken up by distant, tortured screams before a final death rattle of electronics issues forth. ModeM retreats further into the echo chamber and forges a series of raw, metallic shapes against a scree of wilfully unhinged oscillations. These are two genuinely compelling pieces that masterfully combine Mordant's keen ear for texture with the more experimental bent of his psychogeographical ruminations in the Travelogues series.

This is without doubt, utterly essential listening as is anything issued so far on this indispensable imprint. I can only hope that a follow up to SyMptoMs is close at hand and, if these two tracks are to be taken as any mind of indicator as to where Mordant Music is right now, then let me be the first to say; Welcome back Baron!

Visit the website for more details of current and forthcoming releases and order the vinyl or digital download directly from the online store.

'Post-MorteM' taken from the Post-MorteM / ModeM 12" and digital download (2012);

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Die Jungen - At Breath's End (2012)

Whilst researching links for yesterday's piece - Dreams by Run DMT - over at the LebensStrasse Records site, my interest was piqued by another of their recently issued albums. A little bit of digging ensued and the following, rather intriguing quotes were unearthed;

"Superb, subtly realised side of ghostly fifties/sixties hypno-pop with a real Lynchian charm."

"This is the soundtrack that David Lynch would have ordered from Phil Spector if Twin Peaks had been filmed by the beach."

Being a huge fan of Messrs Lynch and Spector it didn't take me long to hit up the download button, several minutes later the album was sitting on my hard drive awaiting my attention. This one doesn't disappoint from the off, first track 'I Pray to You' blasts in with that classic rumbling Spector Wall of Sound. An occluded sax embeds itself in the mix to play the chorus hook surrounded by festive, jangling percussion. Klaus Von Barrel's vocal is spare and sounds as if it has been recorded in a broom cupboard.

Elsewhere on the album, 'The Way Down' introduces a buzzing, monophonic keyboard melody whilst a sexually indeterminate singer delivers a vocal worthy of Nico. 'I've Been Glad' serves up a spectral take on Doo Wop whilst 'Discretely' loops female vocal harmonies into a echoing Rock 'n' Roll ballad.

The set ends with the appropriately titled 'In the End', another beautifully realised 50s style ballad boasting a swooning female backing, piano flourishes and a lead vocal that sounds like a sedated Bobby Vinton or maybe even Roy Orbison, on valium. The lyrics are sublime too, Von Barrel mournfully croons the lines;
"I'm through with my old life, I love her yes I do 
I'm searching for a new home, could it be with you
But i don't know just where I'm going and I don't know just where I'll be in the end"

The album seems to have been produced in the same lo-fi, straight to tape manner as the recordings it so lovingly harks back to which lends the proceedings a glowing warmth and luminosity lacking in it's digital counterparts.

It would be easy to dismiss this album as an empty pastiche or throwback curio but, given the recent success of Alex Zhang Hungtai's Dirty Beaches in roughly the same area, these are lazy comparisons. It's obvious that Klaus Von Barrel loves the original music and sounds he references here so explicitly, something which shines through on every track making this an absolute joy to listen to.

Recommended to those who appreciate the references to twisted 1950's Americana in the work of David Lynch, the Phil Spector wall of sound and the decaying grandeur of lugubrious Rock 'n' Roll balladeering.

Available on vinyl and CD over at the LebensStrasse shop or in all formats via Bandcamp.

'In the End' taken from the album At Breath's End (2012);

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Run DMT - Dreams (2012)

Run DMT's Michael Collins seems to be one unlucky guy. A couple of years after a successful debut cassette release in 2009, he completed work on the album that would become Dreams and set about finding a label willing to put it out. Around that time he garnered press attention from such high profile sources as Pitchfork and even the New York Times in a piece about the now defunct DIY concert space known as Silent Barn. Following the closure of Silent Barn and an aborted deal with Jeremy Earl's Woodsist imprint, the album release stalled. Things were further complicated when the Run DMT name which Collins had been using for some years was copyrighted by a Texas Dubstep duo after the release of just one track on a compilation album. Collins decided to regroup and in the process relocated to Baltimore where he set up his own cassette and home video label, Culture Dealer.

Dreams was Culture Dealer's debut release back in 2011 but this amazing album has recently been issued on vinyl for the very first time through German label LebensStrasse Records.

The album alternates between tripped out Kosmiche synth experiments, ambient drones and dreamy psych-pop stylings, all the while displaying a love for, and deep understanding of classic 1960's pop construction. 

'Romantic' is a mournful ballad straddling a reedy bassline and laid back way-wah guitar, the whole thing is enveloped in grainy tape hiss. 'Dreaming' begins with a minute of cyclical guitar drone which then transforms itself into a beautifully lush, gently psychedelic arrangement. 'Cash for Gold' embeds ringing guitar lines in reverberating loops and 'Montana Mountain Groan' is a series of mutated vocal harmonies gradually underpinned by a sparse kick drum and tambourine.

Throughout the album, snippets of dialogue from people recounting their experiences on DMT are used, mostly to hilarious effect. There are various ruminations on such far out topics as dancing to a kaleidoscope, crystals as living beings and a man who now believes in Gypsies after his psychedelic experiences.

This is a truly great find and will most definitely appeal to anyone who has recently fallen in love with Dirty Beaches' Badlands album or has a well-worn copy of Panda Bear's classic Person Pitch lurking in their collection.

As the Culture Dealer website puts it; "The album starts on the shore of a reservoir in MASSACHUSETTS then plunges into oblivion with a taste for tennessee fried DOO WOP for the RAINBOW GATHERING."

Run DMT's first album Bong Voyage is still available as an officially sanctioned free download.

'Montana Mountain Groan' taken from the album Dreams (1012);

Monday, 4 June 2012

Evan Caminiti - Night Dust (2012)

It's been a while since I've written about a release featuring the humble electric guitar as it's main sound source, but that's about to change after spending a few days soaking up the music on this stunning album by Evan Caminiti.

Out on Immune Records in May this year, Night Dust is simply one of the finest guitar-based albums I've encountered in quite some time. I almost missed out on picking it up too having not realised that Evan Caminiti is a member of both Barn Owl and Higuma, two of the finest drone outfits to emerge in recent years.

According to the press release, the album was recorded in it's entirety onto a 4 track cassette machine, an approach which is refreshing these days given the availability and low cost of digital equipment. Despite it's resolutely lo-fi origins, the finished album was mastered and cut to high quality heavy vinyl stock by esteemed engineer Andreas "Lupo" Lubich at his Dubplates & Mastering plant in Berlin. This seems to have given the whole sound a luminous, beautifully saturated richness that makes for a totally engrossing listen when played through a good system. The press notes also state that Caminiti's inspiration came from "smokey blue hues and washed out lights of some of the 80’s best vampire movies." Those influences are conveyed upfront on the gorgeous album artwork.

First track 'Near Dark' begins with a rumbling drone, building in volume and resolving into a coil rattling series of finger picked notes prickling at the clouds of static and reverb. 'Moon is the Hunter' presents a more intricate flurry of picking before a wonderfully pointillistic guitar solo steps in briefly, all bent notes and overdriven amp hum. The opening blast of guitar on 'Last Blue Moments' sounds for all the world like a dissonant foghorn, the rest of the track is played out as a series of analogue electronic fugues, decaying drones and a web of semi-submerged notes. The album closes out with a pair of tracks - 'First Light I' is a short study in glissando harmonics whilst 'First Light II' cloaks it's mournful guitar lines in a miasma of tape hiss and cassette artefacts.

The whole album has such a hazy, faded and downright degraded feel to it yet each track is so incredibly textured and spacious, almost tactile. On Night Dust, Evan Caminiti has created a set of songs that are impossibly fragile and nebulous, yet are imbued with great power and resonance.

This is a breathtaking album that I can't recommend highly enough. For lovers of deep, evocative drone manipulations and of course, the humble electric guitar.

'Returning Spirits', taken from the album Night Dust;

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Nastro - 300mq (2012)

I'm constantly amazed at the truly incredible music I somehow manage to keep on unearthing after around thirty years of compulsive exploring. I've never subscribed to the accepted wisdom that a person should just stop listening to new releases when they reach a certain age, nor do I feel the need to retreat into a cocoon of safe listening habits built upon the bands I love the most. No, for me music has always been about originality, experimentalism, envelope pushing, expansion and progression. I love those bands who are constantly striving to make new sounds, whether using the latest recording techniques, obscure reference points or just simply trying something different for the sheer hell of it!

Nastro are an Italian duo comprising Manuel Cascone and Francesco Petricca. According to their press release, the title 300 mq (300 squared meters) alludes to the size of their recording space in Rome which they were contractually obligated to tear down "with their bare hands" some twelve months after starting work on the album.

As Nastro is an Italian word meaning ribbon or tape, its only fitting that this album sounds like some kind of audio tape collage, a head-spinning mesh of disparate sonic sources - fractured loops, slices of various musics, found sound splinters and an array of electro-acoustic experiments.

The album contains two untitled tracks, both clocking in at around sixteen minutes but it would be unnecessary to take each piece as a separate entity. Indeed, this is a release which demands a more holistic listening philosophy.

The approach here is simple, a complete de-structuring of the accepted norms of musical composition. Sounds ricochet and collide with each other whilst fractured loops hang from a decaying framework of rhythmic tics and electronic pulses. The percussive elements are particularly strong throughout the set, many of which sound like samples lifted from the B sides of lost post-Punk 7" singles or antique library music albums.

Upside Down Recordings has delivered something of a small scale masterpiece here, an album that should be heard a lot more widely than it probably ever will be and championed for it's diversity and sheer experimentalism.

Strictly limited physical copies of the album are available from the label and feature clever, die-cut packaging and tessellating artwork insert plus a download code. A digital download version is also available directly from their Bandcamp page.

Recommended listening for adventurous sonic explorers.

Stream Side A of the album on Soundcloud;

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Pye Corner Audio - Black Mill Tapes Volume 3: All Pathways Open (2012)

Last year, Pye Corner Audio released two extremely intriguing albums in a series called Black Mill Tapes. The concept of this series was described on their website as a transcription service wherein the nameless Head Technician has been transferring variously sourced quarter-inch and cassette tapes since 1970. This release is number three in that series and anyone owning or hearing the first instalments should know exactly what to find here.

The whole series is a carefully constructed blend of vintage synthesizer electronics and various radiophonic obscurities that display a cool-handed grasp of cinematic narration and mystical analogue production values. They at once evoke the soundtracks of mid-1960s Doctor Who episodes, half-remembered Giallo missions and the home-smoked ambient techniques of early Boards of Canada.

On Volume Three, we find the Head Technician presenting several short sketches which are sometimes labelled pathways, themes or transmissions. These tracks have the distinct feel of outtakes from  vaguely sinister, avant-garde educational films or obscure public information broadcasts from the 1970s. Alongside these snippets are more fully realised pieces, three of which are prefixed 'Electronic Rhythm' giving them an air of archive library music material. 

Artwork taken from the accompanying digital booklet 
These eerie, pseudo-Hauntological sounds that are the signature of the Black Mill Tapes series align Pye Corner Audio with other luminaries in this field such as Moon Wiring Club, the Cafe Kaput roster and Ghost Box figureheads Belbury Poly, The Focus Group and The Advisory Circle. Indeed, 'Electronic Rhythm Number Eighteen' was "Retransfered" by John Brooks under the Advisory Circle moniker. Listening to this album I can also hear traces of 1970s Italian horror soundtrack supremos Goblin and a touch of all-round musical legend Ennio Morricone.

This is music that occupies those liminal nether zones found at the peripheries of occult sonics and Hauntology, conducting eldritch experiments in the twisted arts of audio alchemy, electronic synthesis and memory transcription to create phantasmic hollow drone spaces haunted by the apparitions of flickering tonality. 

A most highly recommended series of recordings.

More information on Pye Corner Audio and their releases can be found at their website and for digital downloads, head over to their Bandcamp page.

'Hexden Channel', taken from the album Black Mill Tapes Volume 3: All Pathways Open;