COIL, "MUSICK TO PLAY IN THE DARK, VOL. 2"
The second installment of the Dark series has finally been shipped to the first subscribers, after a wait of more than six months in some cases. And in every way possible, it was well worth the wait.
A return to the almost-structured style of the first Musick is very evident, but there's less of the languid, poppy touches which cluttered its predecessor (namely the synthesizer wank of "Red Birds Will Fly Out Of The East And Destroy Paris In A Night" and the overly-pleasant "The Dreamer Is Still Asleep") and an even deeper sense of space and structure within their mixes. The entire disc flows from beginning to end - starting slowly with "Something" and a what appears to be a partially cannabalized version of the aforementioned "Red Birds," now called "Tiny Golden Books."
Coil (credited this time around as John Balance, Peter Christopherson and Thighpaulsandra, along with guest vocals by Rose McDowall) bring something very special to the plate when they step up with a worthy release, and this stands as one of their best. No matter what one's personal opinion of their occultish interests and thematics are, they make it work in a way that even the most grounded and dispassionate materialist can appreciate. Beautiful melodies and lyrics emerge from fractured beginnings - "Ether" begins with chopped-up noises, but what emerges is a shining, piano-laden tribute to intangible forces, something Coil seem to surround everything they produce with. Similarly, the haunting twang of a detuned guitar or jews harp threads its way through "Where Are You?" as the entire track unfolds and then collapses back upon itself.
"Paranoid Inlay" and the album's closer "Batwings (A Limnal Hymn)" are worth the import price by themselves. Both feature Balance's excellent vocals heavily; his voice is both gripping and disturbing, but he's capable of producing such a beautiful sense of mystery and wonder when the mood calls for it. "Paranoid Inlay" is an ode to the renunciation of both indulgence and abstinence, as Balance asks himself "what do I need to give up?/crystaline ladders/shiny things/mirror balls," while a theramin sings to scattered drum machine glitches and organ stabs in the background.
"Batwings" may very well be one the best thing Coil has ever produced in their long history. More synthesizers glitches and screeches open the track, but a sombre organ piece emerges to gel the entire track together. Balance's vocals become poetry behind an alien soundscape, and the entire track ends with a multi-language soup of achingly beautiful chanting. Otherworldly doesn't begin to describe it.
The first 500 subscribers also received CD copies of the live performance Coil did as Time Machines back in April as part of the Cornucopia Festival in London. While it's sure to become a sacrifice to Ebay, our modern god of greed, it's a great treat for fans who probably weren't able to make the long journey to the UK. Hopefully, half-rumors of more live performances in America will eventually come true.
In the meantime, "Musick To Play In The Dark Volume 2" is more than enough to tide us over. - Michael O'Connor
Brian Herman and Donna Dragotta have returned to NYC (from Florida) to launch the Diskosquid label and release their first CD as Kalma, a somewhat mysterious collective project recorded together with a bunch of other friends. Stunned at the professionalism and splendor of this debut release, there is most definitely promise for this new group and the label itself. The album's design and layout, first of all, are unique mirror-image minimalist photos of sandy and icy tree scenes. The music rivals old school Autechre with complex beat structures along with Aphex Twin's home-grown sound ideas. The opening track, "Foam Spraying," is a nice intro into the disc - droney foamy noises that build. The rest of the disc is a whole array of electronic reaches: beat-driven head-spinners, crackly soundscapes, and walls of curious liquidy noises. One flaw is that the does disc seems to go on for a bit too long, perhaps because there are thirteen different tracks, and a few clock in at around ten minutes, but it truly doesn't interfere with the quality of the album overall. If this sounds like your cup of tea, definitely support this release, though, and keep your eye on the Disko Squid label in the future. www.diskosquid.net - Daniel McKernan
MARK SPYBEY & AMBER, "SFUMATO"
This is the first installment of Hushush Records' "Threesome"
subscription series featuring collaborations between Mark Spybey (Dead Voices On Air, Download), Mick Harris (Scorn) and Ambre (John N Sellekaers, C-drik and Olivier Moreau of Snog, Imminent Starvation, etc). Ambre and Spybey collaborated via mail late last year, the latter sending the former tapes which they then used in the 2 week recording sessions. Sfumato is a painting technique of blurring or softening sharp outlines by subtle and gradual blending of one tone into another to create a vague sense of movement. A perfect title for this album. The bulk of the 14 French titled tracks are composed of deep drones, found sound samples and ambient atmospheres. The music is primarily minimal, but not tediously so, melodic with gradual introductions and shifting of sounds. A few tracks add subtle bass programming while a few others are simply brief, bizarre sample collages meant to break up the flow. Spybey's patented reverb drenched environments are clearly evident on at least half the tracks. Although the album is best listened to start to finish, the 2 lengthiest tracks are standouts. "L'horloge de Calcutta" ("The Clock of Calcutta") is a mesmerizing pulsation that slowly builds up an intense tension for what seems like an eternity but is really only 9 minutes. "Le Printemps des Abīmes" ("The Spring of the Abysses") is a masterpiece of deep drone that dissolves into a beautiful melody cloud in the final few of it's 8 and 1/2 minutes, bringing the album to a gentle finale. Altogether, "Sfumato" is a very pleasant surprise since I had no idea what to expect from Ambre. They did a fantastic job of using Spybey's sounds with their own. Next up is Spybey & Harris "Bad Roads, Young Drivers" in July then Ambre & Harris in late summer. As of May 31st there were 15 of the 100 subscriptions still available, so if you're interested go to hushush.com immediately before they're gone ... - Mark Weddle
KID 606/THE REMOTE VIEWER, "WHEN I WANT A GUN, YEAH"/"A FIELDER"
The 606 side is a nice blend of noise and hard, fast electronic beats, although the noise seems to flow more melodically in the music than with Kid 606's usual work. It keeps around the same pace throughout the track, though at the end a few different noises and effects are added to make it extra tasty. It clocks in at a little under five minutes. The Remote Viewer side is a bit softer, with a unique, low-tempo electro-beat overlaying droney distant keyboard work. The track drops off after a bit, then picks up - then repeats this again. This is on a picture disc 7", with much Japanese writing and nice anime girls with guns and such. It's out on the 555 Recordings of Leeds UK label. - Daniel McKernan
KID 606/LESSER, "EUROPEAN TOUR SINGLE 2000"
As the title says, this 7" release was available at the recent Kid 606 dates throughout Europe. Again, a split release from 555 Recordings of Leeds UK, the Kid's side consists of three tracks - all very short, especially at 45rpm on a 7". "Start/over" is a droney melodic piece, as is the last track, "Relive yr unhappy childhood." However, the middle track, "attn:vat!" is very statically beat-driven, with subtle oddities going on through the background. Fun stuff. Side AA is Lesser, with two tracks: "epic act" and "awful way to go." It starts out with Lesser's shout out to Kid 606 and "those that don't like it, eat a bowl of dicks - those that do, blast these kicks." At which point the butchery of Faith No More's "Epic" blasts through with extreme, V/VM-styled beats and morphs of the original. The latter track is mostly noise and machine-gun-styled drumbeats. A very fun and release, as most 606 releases are. - Daniel McKernan
KAMMERFLIMMER KOLLEKTIEF, "INCOMMUNICADO" + "MAANDER"
Here's what happens when you go looking in a section from a band you've recently fallen in love with but know very little about. I found these two discs shoved in a section that had releases from the Notwist and remembered Payola's the label Console is on, so naturally I thought it was yet another side project from these guys who also spawned the Tied + Tickled Trio. Upon further research, I was surprised that I can't find anything tying the members together. The 'Shimmering Collective' (the German translation of their name) is a project orchestrated mainly by Thomas Weber - both of these releases came out about the same time on Payola from Germany (from what I can gather). Both discs are incredibly solid and an excellent listen. Maander is a jazz influenced jam combining loads of electronic beats with organic instrumentation. Incommunicado on the other hand is also jazz improv influenced, but is much more experimental in nature, it's considerably calmer with lower frequency sounds, trading in the clockwork beats for live drums and disregarding the stringent structure. Fans of Isotope, Chicago Underground and other 'new school' jazzy electronic groups would most enjoy these albums, well worth the find. - Jon Whitney
BUZZCOCKS, "SPIRAL SCRATCH" + "TIME'S UP"
The Buzzcocks formed in the summer of 1976 ... the big bang of UK punk. In October they spent less than a hundred pounds for half an hour of studio time to record the "Spiral Scratch" EP, the first independent, do-it-yourself, self released UK punk record. The 4 songs that make up the EP ("Breakdown", "Time's Up", "Boredom" and "Friends of Mine") were done live in the studio, most in 1 take, each with a single guitar overdub. They're exactly what you'd expect from the early days of punk ... simple, cynical, sarcastic, catchy, brief and explosive. Howard Devoto's lyrics are more personal than political, delivered in a nasally whine over the tight and talented (in punk terms) rhythm section of Pete Shelley, Steve Diggle and John Maher. The Devoto fronted Buzzcocks is the definitive line-up as far as I'm concerned.
The album that followed, "Time's Up", has slower, less abrasive versions of the 4 EP songs plus 7 more songs including the classics "Orgasm Addict" and "I Love You, You Big Dummy". If you're a fan of any early UK punk (such as the Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Damned, etc) these two discs are just as essential as "Never Mind..", "Damned, Damned, Damned" and "The Clash". Kudos to Mute for giving a shit about the past and re-issuing them ... this is really important stuff for historically minded music aficionados such as myself and gives everyone a chance to discover vital music. The "Time's Up" disc also includes the "Breakdown" video with footage from the first gig and both discs have really nice inserts chock full of pictures (most from Devoto's personal collection and previously unseen), liner notes, interviews and lyrics. My only complaint: why 2 discs? The EP is a whopping 10 minutes and the album less than 30, so why didn't they just put it all on 1? Oh well, both were reasonably priced. Thanks again Mute ...
- Mark Weddle
ECHOBOY, "VOLUME ONE"
This is the debut album from this band whose fans now seem to be growing exponentially. Though judging by the instrumentation alone, this album seems to have no real consistency to it, there is definitely a certain "Echoboy mood" that glows through the whole disc, in instrumental and vocal tracks alike. The single of the album, "Kit and Holly," is a lovely blend of pleasant sounding keyboards and a nice guitar melody that mix very well with the lyric, "I've got to keep on running..." Great music for the road or for walking around town with headphones, dancing to yourself. There are many tracks that consist of simple keyboard programming with guitar or bass strummed down on top, making a nice, quaint sound. The album is really well produced and constructed, especially for a debut. Echoboy will soon be playing in Barcelona at the Sonar Fest 2000, as well as other European dates. www.echoboy.com - Daniel McKernan
DEPARTURE LOUNGE, "OUT THERE"
The debut Departure Lounge comes in the form of a 7-track EP in the UK from Bella Union and an 11-track LP in the USA through Flydaddy. Songs like "The New You" and "Johnny A" get treatments from Simon Raymonde and scream for attention from fans of more intelligent Brit-Pop, while the "Starport" and "Late Night Drive" add a dimension of deeper listening with improvisational sounding dreaminess. One of the fun additions on the US version is a cover of "They Don't Know," made popular by Tracey Ullman in the mid-80s. It's a wonderful release in both forms but I'd highly recommend going for the more complete release.
- Jon Whitney
THE CLIENTELE, "A FADING SUMMER" EP
Pretty and charming, the Clientele release their first piece of optical plastic, with two new songs and two pulled from older 7" releases. It's a gentle breath of Gerry and the Pacemakers-influenced mod-pop. Even the production hints at a time when equipment didn't make the sound as crisp and clear as us modern day audiofiles are used to. While it's nice to add to my growing collection of 7" singles of this band which are now next to impossible to find, I would prefer a full-lengther from these guys, even if it was a collection of everything that's been released so far. - Jon Whitney
MELTED MEN, "I DRINK BLOOD" 7"
"A ridiculous display of personal hygiene through over-sampled funk and breathing problems," according to their label's insert. I saw this band live about 4 years ago as one of five people in the audience, completely stunned by their insane and delightfully tasteless performance. I hadn't heard anything about them since, so needless to say, I was very surprised to see this 7" turn up. The music is incredibly amusing, and highly innovative in its own ways. Using a plethora of eccentric samples, they combine a kind of extreme congo dancin' funk to create this surreal music. This release also comes with a free ingrown toenail! Definitely for fans of Negativland, Nurse with Wound, Volcano and the Bear, and the likes. They have several other releases available through their record label, Nerve Rust, which you can contact at Box 211, Athens, GA, 30603, USA. Tell them Brainwashed sent you. - Daniel McKernan
CHRIS CUTLER AND THOMAS DIMUZIO, "QUAKE"
Recorded at live performances in Maine and Massachusetts last March, this disc combines the tape loops and experimental noises from Thomas DiMuzio with the live drumming of Chris Cutler. It's scratchy and irritating at times, almost completely rhythmically void, but evolves and changes with loud crashing beats sounding in, breaking the feel. The use of silence and pauses combined with loud chirps and bangs is effective at the beginning, most definitely playing the role of the calm before the storm. In due time, the sounds all come together in a soup of abrasive audio. Gone on this recording for the most part is the low-end drones from previous studio recordings of DiMuzio, leading me to want to couple this disc with drones from another source (try Windy & Carl or Main). While it is an excellent listen, it does often at times sound like a couple guys just making noise without any true direction. - Jon Whitney
PRIMAL SCREAM, "XTRMNTR"
Well-respected friends have been repeating over and over to me about this one, claiming "you gotta get it!!!" While it does include some production from My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields, the album as a whole doesn't impress me. The music is produced phenomenally, but boy does this guy's voice get on my nerves. I do find my head bobbing to songs like "Exterminator" and "Swastika Eyes" but the vocals bother me like a haunting from the past, screaming every time I heard Shaun Ryder of the Happy Mondays. The beats are heavy, the sounds are all coherent yet the melodies become a bit too cliche and repetitive at points. I get the impression listening to this that the band didn't really focus much on writing the music - with an intention to leave the music alone for a production job to take it over the top. No matter how you color it, it's still the same substance at the core. Perhaps a "remix album" of this with the vocals stripped dry might do it some justice. We can only hope. - Jon Whitney
STEREOLAB, "FIRST OF THE MICROBE HUNTERS"
For just under 40 minutes, Stereolab bring us the latest offering of all new material. This 7-track EP picks up some of the feel left over from the last album, taking more liberty with jamming in the studio and less focus on writing song-oriented tunes. It gets a bit repetitive from the first minute with the 9 1/2 minute "Outer Bongolia," the rest of the tracks continue with a brightness and prettiness, which is okay to listen to, but once again, Stereolab hasn't given anything I believe will be getting heavy rotation in my CD player. Thankfully, the price sticker is reasonable enough to justify getting it. Fans of older Lab stuff who have been disappointed with the last few albums might want to refrain from purchasing this and being disappointed again. As one disgruntled old fan put it, "they've recorded the same album 3 times in a row now!" - Jon Whitney
We know that sometimes these CDs are somewhat challenging to find, which is why we have a RECOMMENDED STORES section which can be used to obtain nearly everything available on the site.
I've gone from millions of years up to present day with the selection of
films I saw this week. Usually I only see one film, but this week, I saw
five. The first is Disney's new film Dinosaur. After seeing the long
form trailers for this months and months in advance I had no choice but
to see it. When I first saw the trailer I said to myself what a waste, I
know what's going to happen at the end. But every time I went to the
cinema I saw the trailer and it got me hooked. The story of Dinosaur is
very average, nothing happening really spectacular, nothing out of the
ordinary. The computer effects were kind of cool, especially when the
meteors hit. It's a Disney film, geared towards children, although most
adults will enjoy it, some won't. I enjoyed it very much, but it's no
Jurassic Park. - John Beck
The second film I saw was Gladiator, it was nice to see a film about
this forgotten era. Even though the story is much like any other roman
gladiator film, I.e. Sparticus and Fall of the Roman Empire, the effects
and battle sequences were outstanding. Well acted by Russell Crowe as
General Maximus, and nicely directed by Ridley Scott. It was a good
film, excellent action scenes, lame story. You make the call. - John Beck
The third film I saw was Road Trip, yes, I know, why did I see that? Why
not? It was surprisingly a lot better than I had anticipated. The story
follows four college kids from Ithaca to Austin Texas, not Boston. Most
of the time Tom Green is very rude and annoying, but this was a perfect
role for him, not in it too much, but when he was it was extremely
funny. I thought this film would have been good for the high school or
freshman college kids but it turned out to be a gag for everyone. - John Beck
MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 2
I also saw Mission Impossible 2, I love Tom Cruise, but I thought the
movie wasn't that great. A very slow and confusing beginning adds up in
the end, but by that time you're already asleep. Some very cool and
unbelievable action scenes directed by John Woo. If you like Tom Cruise
you'll dig seeing him kick a lot of ass, if not, you'd be better off
seeing one of the other films I suggested. - John Beck
SMALL TIME CROOKS
Finally, I saw the new Woody Allen film, Small Time Crooks. I actually
saw this one twice. Now, it seems most people either love him or hate
him. I'm neutral, I think he's a weird guy, but he's an exceptional
writer. Small Time Crooks follows Ray and Frenchy Winkler, played by
Woody Allen and Tracey Ullman respectively. Ray thinks of a mastermind
plan to open a cookie shop to tunnel under ground into a bank and rob
them of two million dollars. Things take a nasty turn when a police
officer buying cookies follows them into the tunnel. Instead, the
officer markets their wonderful cookies and open up a huge cookie chain.
With a few cameo appearances this film is the best film I saw this week,
cleverly written, well acted and constantly funny. If you like Woody
Allen it's one of his best in years, if not, tough. - John Beck