NOISE/GIRL (R.I.P.), "DISCOPATHOLOGY"
The second release in V/Vm's highly limited color-coded distressed-audio series has arrived as an orange/black splattered platter. Stockport's finest has delivered a top-notch selection of intense beefy noise cuts based on rawkus dancefloor anthems, with all due respects paid to Bernard Edwards and Nile Rogers. To quote the sleeve,
"On the 7th of July in Shibuya, Tokyo, Noise/Girl was officially pronounced dead. Cause of death: an overdose of bald guys in black t-shirts 'experimenting' at laptops for hours, too much time at boring 'art' events when there was a dance club next door, too many lame Merzbow CDs released by uncritical foreign record companies, too many live gigs where the audience thought the disco tracks were 'ironic,' too many dumb articles about the difference between 'noise' and other music.
Aside from an intro like that I don't know what more to say except I find this one of the finest pieces of shit I've heard in the last few minutes. Seriously, the intensity of the first track alone is enough to send my booty shaking crazier than in my hornier college days. Cute and loud are perfect ways to describe these four songs screaming for attention to blast at the loudest volumes while stuck on the freeway, slaving away hard at the office late at night or getting ready for a Friday night romantic dinner evening. Banzai! - Jon Whitney
Noise/Girl was NEVER a 'noise' band, it was just a band.
They were the cutest,
They were the loudsest"
COLIN POTTER "AND THEN"
Colin Potter works as a studio engineer at IC Studios in Preston, UK and is probably best known for his work with Nurse With Wound and Current 93. "And Then" is his first solo CD with 5 tracks cleverly titled "before", "...", "next", "and", "finally". The disc itself reveals the full message: "before it was inside, ... but now it is outside, next will come examination, and all will be revealed, finally however nothing is certain, and then?" Drones and curious percussive sounds dominate and are panned across the stereo field. "before" and "next", 11 and 20 minutes long respectively, feature contemplative ambient/noise drone work on par with NWW's "Soliloquy for Lilith". The former opens with a wind swept barrage then moves into a deep surging presence while the latter remains relatively quiet but churns with mechanical undercurrents. "..." begins with a bouncy spring like sound which is soon overwhelmed with drab beats and later dressed up a bit with twinkly bell tones and a preset effects wash I've heard far too many times prior to this. This track strikes me as brutish, amateur and just plain out of place. "and" is a clanky military march that slowly builds into a cacophonous climax and release. "finally" returns to ambiance with natural environment sounds and a constant surge underneath later giving way to strange metallic wire pings and pluckings. It's really a shame that the tedious 15 minutes of "..." are a permanent fixture of this otherwise fine disc. Hooray for the skip button! Potter will likely be involved with the slew of upcoming NWW and c93 releases due out later this year ... - Mark Weddle
FLY PAN AM, "SÉDATIF EN FRÉQUENCES ET SILLONS"
Ce groupe associé avec le collectif fameux québecois godspeed you black emperor! formula un disque des sons divers et rhythmes exotiques. Oh, to hell with a French review, as the sound on this release hits on a more global level. The title, which translates as "Sedative in frequencies and grooves" pretty aptly describes the album's atmosphere. Although only a short thirty minutes, the three songs on the album seem to coast effortlessly between cantering basslines and minimal electronic interludes. >From the beginning of "De cercle en cercle..." you are bombarded with what seems to be a simple jumping bassline and drum beat on which shards of guitar feedback, electronic glitches, and metallic drones are laid. It seems that these guys love their dichotomies, becuase they effortlessly fly from this form of noise-pop to beatless ambient atmospheres and experimental noise. They seem to take this formula and run with it, applying it to their second song, "éfférant/afférant" and then stepping back to view the album from a macroscopic level and ending it with "micro sillons," a four-minute noise work that slowly fades the album out into sonic oblivion. While the formula can be a little boring at times, the result is an album that shifts between various moods and atmospheres that produces cerebral visions of diverse grandeur. - Carter Adams
TROUM "TJUKURRPA (PART ONE: HARMONIES)"
Troum are a Bremen, Germany based duo formerly of the 'ambient-industrial' band Maeror Tri. "Tjukurrpa" is their third full length cd, follow-up to a Mort Aux Vaches and first on member Stefan Knappe's Transgredient Records. It is also the first in a trilogy under the name (meaning "dreamtime"), this one concentrating on 'harmonies' and the next two on 'drones' and 'pulsations'. And that is Troum's objective: to put the listener into a dream-like state of unconscious exploration. The 7 pieces range from 6 to 16 minutes and are comprised entirely of guitar, bass, accordion and voices without the aid of computers or samplers. It's a big blurry drone in the same sort of vein as Stars of the Lid, James Plotkin and some Eyeless in Gaza/Martyn Bates (in fact, "Mirrored in You" is dedicated to Bates). The opening track "Wrota Sfer" is the lengthiest and offers the most obvious, yet gradual and heavily obscured chord changes. "Skaun[ei]s" draws back the heavy effects curtain enough to clearly decipher pretty guitar note patterns. "Mirrored in You" builds a tense wall of noise then finally releases near the end. Overall Troum's work is good and makes for a nice ambient background but it's not as emotionally engaging for me as the others I've listed above. Their sound is very 'same-y' considering the different instruments being used and the harmonies a bit unimaginative or too buried to hear. But, I am still interested enough to see how parts 2 and 3 turn out. The packaging is simple but intriguing with full color paper circle bookends for the disc. Troum will be contributing to the Beta Lactam Records "Lactamese" 10" subscription series later this year and briefly touring the U.S. later this month ... - Mark Weddle
MATMOS, "CALIFORNIA RHINOPLASTY" EP
While the lightning and thunder originate at the same time, we see the flash first it's bright and immediately grabs our attention, from the intensity we can make a good guess as to the thunder's magnitude. This EP preceeds a large milestone in Matmos' musical career and the flash is indeed quite intense. Following last year's tour with dates in Europe and shows in the USA with the Rachel's, Matmos soon are forking over an incredible album cleverly based on and constructed from uncountable sounds of various surgical gear and practices. The "California Rhinoplasty" EP introduces us to a stunning 10 minute 'cut' from the album in its original form and then follows it up with an honorable cover tune of Coil's "Disco Hospital" and two remixes of the title cut. Not only will the following full-lengther "A Chance to Cut is a Chance to Cure" be their first release on Matador worldwide, but they're currently in New York finishing up the production on an album from a young relatively unknown up-and-coming female singer from Iceland who goes by only one name (hint: her name almost rhymes with New Yörk). The original version on this EP grooves pleasurably with a flawless, clean precision, while the remixes could almost be given completely different names due to their bold retoolings of the original. Get this thing now before Matmos put everybody else out of business. - Jon Whitney
L'ALTRA, "MUSIC OF A SINKING OCCASION"
The follow-up to L'altra's 1999 self-titled EP comes on strong with sweet and somber pop, chilling with an intensity that well exceeds its slow and simple arrangements. Whether or not you're looking for music to languish to, Music of a Sinking Occasion is itself good enough reason to let the stereo blare while you lie in bed all day. Opening track "Music of a Sinking Occasion" is hardly ideal cocooning music, but once you get past its jazz jangle, there's nearly an hour of solid tunes that are simply to sigh for. "Little Chair" layers mellow strings and guitar over rolling bass and drums that evoke a duskier Sea & Cake. Short and glowing "Slow as Cake" and "Handwashing for Good Health" feature layers of keyboardist Lindsay Anderson's vocals, which on most tracks intertwine with those of guitarist Joseph Costra. Towards the middle of the album, "Lips Move On Top of Quiet" starts as a quiet sway that swells into an icy swirl of piano and strings. Each song evokes a distinct shade of introspective longing that blends into the next for a whole set of uninterrupted atmosphere. The album also features Rob Mazurek (Isotope 217, Chicago Underground Trio) on trumpet and Fred Lonberg-Holm (Flying Luttenbachers, Pillow) on cello. L'altra's European tour, kicking off in April in Brussels with Tortoise and the Sea & Cake, will finish up with a single stop in the States at Chicago's Schubas, May 11th. In the meantime, it's hard not to resist learning all of Music by heart, with plenty of blankets nearby. - Diane Lewis
The first surprise comes before you've even played the second Silo album - Swim have launched their first illuminated 'digipack'. I have well over half the CD's Colin Newman and Malka Spigel have released on their label since they realised back in the early 90's that they could do a better job of getting Malka's 'Rosh Ballata' album to the ears of those who wanted to listen than anyone else, and this is the first 'digipack' I've seen. I much prefer them to brittle 'jewel cases' and the cover photo of rows of glowing light bulbs resting on green grass is well served by cardboard.
The second surprise is the cover. Although it looks like a Jon Wozencroft design, the light bulbs were captured by the lens of Mikkel Tjellesen and layout is credited to Christine Cato. It looks quintessentially Swim though; at first glance I thought the lights were sunkenly illuminating a sea bed.
The image is so perfectly matched to these three Danes' slowly unfurling beatscapes that one hardly needs the clue of the title - an alloy being a mix of metals to create a new, more useful or resilient metal. The musical adventures of Soren Dahlgaard, Frederik Ammitzboll and Mikel Bender are all mixed up into something which doesn't sound quite like anything else. The closest comparison I could field would be German avant-pop synth trio Kreidler, but Silo employ heavier beats which seem to slide almost imperceptibly across diagonally rather than forward. Much has been said about the absence of 4/4 beats in this 'Alloy'.
Once the CD was in the CD player, the first track wasn't such a surprise. 'Bulk' had already appeared as work in progress closing the 'Swim Team 1' sampler and suggested that Silo might be pursuing the extended hypnotic elements of their debut 'In Star'. They've polished up the 'Bulk' with some melodic additions, but maybe because the title seems to suggest it, it seems to have the feel of a large ship cutting slowly through calm waters. And the hypnotic elements are certainly on board from fore to aft. There's an all-time great segue into the faster 'Prime Movers'. A lot of thought appears to have gone into the track sequence, so that the album flows in an addictive mesmeric stream of off-beats and techno informed slow rock. It's 'real head nod shit' according to Colin Newman. I couldn't guarantee any lasting laxative effect, but it may well move you!
The nine tracks often give the impression that they've been worked on concurrently and elements from one seem to reappear as echoes in another. Vocals are sparing and atmospheric and the only one word sticks in my mind after repeated spins but is a lyric which seems oddly apt and descriptive: 'Structure'.
The last couple of tracks break away from the rest of the album somewhat but still sound of a piece. 'Those adopted by people' is the fastest and probably most danceable track, sounding almost like Immersion. 'Repose' closes 'Alloy' with a deep bass drone and revolving higher pitched (guitar?) sample, and proves that Silo don't need a beat to hypnotise. It'd be nice if its four minute lifespan was increased threefold.
Silo have surpassed themselves with an essentially unique beat-driven mix that sounds at once organic and machine chrome tough. - Graeme Rowland
AUTECHRE, "PEEL SESSION 2"
Ae trainspotters around the world are aware that it's been some time since new material has surfaced from Sean Booth and Rob Brown. In mid-1999 they released the difficult, confusing "EP7," which left quite a few people nonplused, others either irritated or delighted. Consequently, rabid Autechre fans (such as myself) are very curious about this new release: a second set of Peel Sessions to complement the first set recorded in 1995.
Describing the way Autechre sounds hasn't been easy since their mind-blowing 1995 release, "Tri Repetae." As far as anyone can figure, the closest Autechre get to occupying a genre is probably electro or detroit techno. But Autechre have a seemingly bottomless bag of tricks when it comes to sonic manipulation: blender-style waves of distortion, sliced-and-diced vocal gibberish, bursts of deafening static, too-fast spidery percussion, low-pitched hums and thumps and occasional delicate, lucid-dreaming melodies made from synths or strings.
There's one of these right at the start of the 9-minute "Gelk," the first of four tracks on "Peel Sessions 2." Accompanied by a tentative tapping, it grips you by the hair and pulls you all the way down the scale into a pair of earth-shaking bass tones, then repeats itself, and after a few seconds of this everything starts echoing in the most interesting way. It's classic Autechre, straight off of "Chiastic Slide" or "LP5" but then, three minutes in, the song shifts without a hitch into what sounds like a lunatic plucking at a detuned grand piano, those thick hums stuttering and twisting as the pace slows, does a pirouette, and turns itself into a blunted breakbeat. At the seven minute mark, the beat disappears, gongs ringing as a totally different melody is eked from the high strings.
Irritatingly, this masterpiece is followed up by "Bifil," a juddering, thumping juggernaut of a song improved only by the eventual inclusion of an alien whimpering and babbling behind all the noise. Hit fast forward and save yourself the mental effort of trying to make sense of it. Next comes "Gaekwad," which demonstrates Autechre's unique ability to fashion a groove out of the sound of a bag of marbles dumped out onto a glass tabletop. Synthetic chimes and bells ring in the background while the beats skitter all over the place, speeding up and slowing down, growing louder and softer at random. The track gets a creepy edge as warped samples of dogs barking and laughter filter in towards the end. Lastly there's "19 Headaches," another bit of unfathomable, or perhaps improvisational ("Quick! We need another track to round out the set!") Autechre jitteriness. Lots of finger-walking up and down keyboards and weird, shuffling percussion, completely bizarre and almost unlistenable.
For folks who already like the duo, this bargain-priced EP is worth it just for "Gelk" fanatics on the other hand would probably something more from the other tracks as well. Those new to Autechre, "LP5" and the insane masterpiece that is "Tri Repetae" are waiting for you buy one of them instead and save yourself the trouble of sitting through the filler. - Alex Krieger
CROOKED FINGERS, "BRING ON THE SNAKES"
Perhaps inspired by Springsteen's "Nebraska," "Bring On The Snakes" finds Crooked Fingers (Eric Bachmann of Archers Of Loaf fame, who recorded a track for Sub Pop's "Nebraska" tribute "Badlands") recording a largely scaled down affair. Quite a contrast from last year's self-titled debut, this release features Bachmann on acoustic guitar and vocals on all tracks, accompanied by various atmospheric sounds and noises. This may cause some to call the release bland, or comment that all of its songs "sound the same." If the same was said of "Nebraska" upon its release 20 years ago, few say it now. The songs are more mature while sparse, and the lyrics complement Bachmann's half-Springsteen/half-Tom Waits growl. The album reaches its apex on "Doctors Of Deliverance," where a pounding House-like electronic beat drives the track as Bachmann sings of lost hopes and dreams and cheated/defeated love. Crooked Fingers may have changed from the last release, but the song remains somewhat the same. Thank goodness. Bachmann is proving to be one of the great bards of our time, deserving of your ear. Listen: you won't be disappointed. - Rob Devlin
RAPOON "COLD WAR : DRUM 'N' BASS :"
Robin Storey, a founding and former member of Zoviet France, has endeavored for nearly a decade as Rapoon. With "Cold War" he explores new means of expression while reflecting upon the burgeoning war induced technology in the otherwise 'beautifully stark' British countryside of his youth. The drum n bass portion of the title is somewhat misleading ... Storey has indeed embraced and implemented drums and bass as rhythmic elements but only a few tracks are as frantic as the d 'n b of, say, Squarepusher, Plug or old Photek. And judging from the few other Rapoon CDs (of which there are dozens) I currently own, this is still very much signature Rapoon. 21 tracks ranging from less than 1 to nearly 12 minutes are spread over 2 discs. A thick and entrancing mix of ethereal/ghostly atmospheres, voices, samples and brief radio transmissions are melded well with the drum loops. In most tracks the ambiance enshrouds the rhythm (or dispatches of it completely - always a plus for Rapoon) while in some others the opposite is true. The results are positive save for 2 particular tracks that sound too 'canned' and/or tedious for my liking. A copy of Sonic Foundry's ACID 2.0 for Windoze comes on disc 2 so you can remix to your heart's delight. The next slated release from Rapoon is a re-issue of the 1997 album "Messianic Ghosts" on Klanggalerie Records ... - Mark Weddle
JACK DANGERS, "¡HELLO FRIENDS!"
Typically, a 'DJ Mix' record will be a selection of other people's cuts strung together by one semi-popular artist in a continuous mix, sometimes the DJ will be using their own remixes to somehow give the impression that their name on the record makes it rather personal, in this case however, Jack Dangers has spun together a multitude of material that has been swimming around on Tino Corp releases, all of which include production in various capacities by Jack Dangers. Old collectors and new fans would each find great things in this collection. Clocking in at over 61 minutes, this collection pulls together not only some exclusive Tino breaks, Meat Beat Manifesto songs, Loop Finder General tracks, remixes and other appearances, but the exclusive video "Tino's Factory" directed by Ben Stokes (DHS) adds the finishing touch. Also unlike tons of other DJ mixes, many songs are included in somewhat close to their complete form with a refreshing varied tempo. For those who own the Tino vinyl, this makes a perfect compact collection for bringing around on the walkman or for long drives. Others who have not yet heard the Tino Corp records, a disc like this provides a great introduction to the breakbeat experiments, collecting great dub, latin and tropical breaks along that have a flavor distinctly Jack Dangers. - Jon Whitney
PANOPOLY ACADEMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS, "CONCENTUS"
Fans of Pere Ubu will definitely want to check out the latest from Panopoly Academy of Engineers. Complete with David Thomas-esque shrieks and squeaks, Panopoly Academy's third full-length release paints (or splatters) an off-kilter post-punk soundscape. Pounding basslines and grinding guitars divert into watery, wandering interludes before lurching back into jittery assault. The album's nine songs are grouped into threes, each its own suite, so that one track and the next often collide. However, each song definitely has an unpredictable arc of its own. "Tsk Tsk" begins with a ticking twisting together of drums (Ryan Hicks), chewy bass (Pete Schreiner), and guitars (Marty Sprowles) that unravels as soon as Darin Glenn's vocals intervene, "Your culture co-opt, contain." After only a brief return to the tension of its opening strains, the track explodes into a funky twitch that subsides into silence before winding up for a final handful of crashing chords and an unsettling chorus of chirpy, layered vocals. The entire album is dense with twists, jerks, and unexpected directions, every musical spasm producing its own bizarre pleasure. Mm, battering rhythms...bleating guitars... Depending on your usual musical inclinations, this sort of thing can also be exhausting. While it's possible that such jagged terrain could use some more developed passages, it's more likely the band's frenetic style just takes a little getting used to. Check it out. Previous Panopoly Academy releases can also be found under Panopoly Academy Glee Club, and an upcoming album will sport the name Panopoly Academy Legionnaires. Schizophrenia by any other name... - Diane Lewis
MARK KOZELEK, "WHAT'S NEXT TO THE MOON"
Following the AC/DC kick started with his EP, "Rock 'n Roll Singer," Red House Painters' front man, Mark Kozelek has completely re-rearranged an entire album's worth of tracks for solo voice and acoustic guitar. Once again his choice of AC/DC cuts come from the old Bon Scott-era, including reinterpretations of tracks that appeared on last year's EP. The tracks are original in the sense that any fan of Kozelek's knows he has a knack of completely rewriting the music while keeping the lyrics intact, a trend going way back to Red House Painters' eponymous third album from '93. While this album is a homage, and shows a side of him even softer and more sensitive than the frequent distortion-filled guitar solo-stretched label-dropping songs from RHP, I'm really aching for a new trick. To his credit, he has essentially made these songs his, as the conviction is resounding true from his voice. His talents as an acoustic guitarist and arranger are shining bright, as these hard-edge rock and roll classics have almost become endearing love songs. One of my complaints is that these ten songs, which total exactly 30 minute, could have easily been released on the same disc as last year's EP. Other than that, longtime fans shouldn't feel let down, 'Old Ramon' is scheduled sometime very shortly. - Jon Whitney
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