"the best of" fad gadget
If you own any records from The Faint, Ladytron, Fisherspooner, I am Spoonbender, Adult, or G.D. Luxxe, owning no Fad Gadget albums is completely unacceptable. Mute began releasing Fad Gadget (their first signing in fact) back in 1979, and over the course of four full-length albums, Frank Tovey managed to firmly establish electronic music as a new form of punk, combining abrasive synths, punchy drum machines, the occasional vibrophone or other organic instruments, and clever lyrics. Over the years, I have played Fad Gadget to many friends and have always recommended 'Frank Tovey: The Fad Gadget Singles' as a starting point, but that album was only ever available through mail-order in the UK as far as I can remember. There hasn't been a real interest in Fad Gadget in years. It's a shame, however, as analogue-synth punk has become all the rage with the hipster indie kids. Regardless, Tovey is clearly an original. This collection gathers everything from that collection (all the A-sides and a few more classics), adds a couple more b-sides and an entire second CD of remixes. Forceful power-synth gems like "For Whom the Bells Toll" and "Collapsing New People" (satirizing Einsturzende Neubauten or club-going industro-goths) will be recognizable to anybody who has visited goth/industrial clubs while "I Discover Love" is an easy pleaser for the swinging Foetus fans. My favorites include the much-overlooked single "Life On the Line" and incredibly haunting "Lady Shave". My only complaints about this collection are about the poor mastering job: the levels on disc one are so loud that there's an unavoidable clipping going on, while much of the material on disc two has been mastered from the records themselves. But hey, clicks and cuts are "in" as well, so many people won't mind as much as me. 'The Best of' is available now in Europe and will be released next week in North America. Add it to the Christmas list of your favorite analogue-synth lovin' punker. - Jon Whitney
ANTIPOP CONSORTIUM, "THE ENDS AGAINST THE MIDDLE"
For their Warp Records debut, Antipop present a 7 track EP that's done spinning in less than 17 minutes. Warp may seem like a strange place for an MC trio to be, but APC's hip hop is as electronic and forward thinking as anything else on the label. NYC's Beans, Priest and Sayid fastidiously flow mile a minute rhymes, as always, and are as involved in the sparse yet phat production as producer/engineer/arranger/mixer Earl Blaize. "Tuff Gong" gets right up in your face quick, Sayid letting you know within the minute that he "have the need to tell what I see". "Splinter" is as close as you'll get to verse chorus verse but like "Vector", it's a bit too laden with annoying synth notes. Moog and synth lines help propel the instrumental future funk groove of "Dystopian Disco Force". In "39303," Priest testifies, "I write like a man who can't read / feelin' the need / to seize his mind of reason / I spit treason / MCs in season / vets freezin' / I rap like there's nothin' left to believe in / clumsily uneven," seconds before his voice is panned to one channel and digital gurgles fill the opposite one. Next, "Pit," disorients with 2 minutes worth of veering tones, off/on beeps and ping pong ball percussion, then "Perpendicular" adds another 2 minutes of tasty piano and atmosphere enhanced hip hop beats. This disc is all over the place, much like an APC album, but it's all the more obvious in such a short time span. And unfortunately, I'd say only 4 tracks are really necessary (but hey, it's only ~$7) so here's looking forward to the debut album for Warp set to drop early next year. In the meantime, get "Tragic Epilogue" and "Shopping Carts Crashing" if'n you don't already have 'em. - Mark Weddle
volcano the bear, "five hundred boy piano"
The fourth full-length studio album from this English quartet is both their most vocal and most structured release to date, focusing moreso on songcraft and development than ever before. Fear not, however, as there's still a large amount of improvisational influences and playful fuckery on nearly everything, including sounds of the bathtub, cellular phones, and kitchen utensils alongside the intentionally mis-played standard rock instruments, classical and jazz wind instruments, strings, accordion, and numerous percussion tools. If there's one thing smoking pot teaches you, it's how to become a craftsman (how to make the best bong out of a melon, etc,...) and I have always considered Volcano the Bear to be a crafty group of lads. Over the few releases they've had, it's clearly visible how the lot is increasingly harnessing that craftmanship into a more organized, bridled chaos. Once again, the group recorded with Kev Reverb once described as "a ten foot tall cowboy with sunglasses, dressed all in black and possessing a voice like The Voice Of DOOM" who runs an appropriately named 'Memphis studios' out of Leicester, UK. The album contains punchdrunk surrealistic singalongs like the opener, "Hairy Queen" and parts of "Seeker" as well as lengthy drawn-out mostly instrumental everything-and-the-kitchen-sink pieces like the title track, with suggestive hints of traveling minstrals in the album's closer, "I am the Mould". If I could recommend any album to aquire and memorize only to bring to your school's art class only to play and sing along with and confuse the fuck out of those "artistes," this would be it. 'Five Hundred Boy Piano' is their second release for Steven Stapleton's United Dairies label, and features artwork from each of the members as well as Stapleton, himself. - Jon Whitney
Airport 5, "Tower In The Fountain Of Sparks"
#15 in the Fading Captain Series, this release from Airport 5 is the first LP Rob Pollard has recorded with Tobin Sprout since the latter left Guided By Voices to focus on his solo career. Given those key pieces of information, one could probably form a pretty solid preconception about the sound of this record and what they might find when listening to it. Let's face it: Pollard is one of those artists that you either love or despise. So those who don't Like any of Pollard's music with Guided By Voices or the plethora of other bands he's in, skip right over this review. The other camp will be happy to know that these two artists still make magic together, and it's in rare form all over this release. From the first track, "Burns Carpenter, Man Of Science," you're drawn in to that weird land where anything is possible, at least lyrically speaking. And it's an amazing thing, considering that the music and words were recorded separately (possibly even written separately). Sprout is an amazingly talented musician, capable of playing all the components that make up your average band structure, and writing melodies that hold great hooks and fantastic twists and variations. And Pollard is just plain weird. Any man who writes songs about bright paper werewolves or scientists creating liquid forms of love has some issues to resolve. But together it makes for fascinating music, as it has in the past. I'm glad theses two musicians are working together again, because these initial results are proof that thos combination still works. I hope to hear more from Airport 5 soon. - Rob Devlin
jim o'rourke, "insignificance"
The prolific, multi-instrumental and continually tasteful O'Rourke's latest release appears to be following in the direction of last year's "Halfway To A Threeway" EP but with a slightly rougher edge. Although the seven well-crafted tunes on "Insignificance" vary musically, drawing on 60's garage rock, 70's AM radio, a touch of tropicalia and alt-country with some damn fine pickin', they uphold the fundamentals of a great pop record. Song topics seem to be about frustration and self-degradation with "It's All Downhill From Here", depravity on the dark "Get A Room" and the weight of triviality on the title track. Tongue-in-cheek titles such as "Memory Lame" and "Life Goes Off" further augment the unique lyrical content. The musicianship is nothing short of complete. O'Rourke's choice guitar, bass, piano, Wurlitzer and vibraphone performances are consummated by a group of fine musicians including Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, great simultaneous drumming on some tracks by Glenn Kotche and Tim Barnes , bassist Darin Gray, pedal steel from Ken Champion and cornet and sax from Chicago jazzers Rob Mazurek and Ken Vandermark. The disc's order of tunes flows nicely from start to finish, ending in a glitch frenzy, which may be the bridge to the laptop oriented, soon-to-be-released "And I'm Happy..." disc. As with 1999's "Eureka", you shouldn't have too much trouble spotting this disc's artwork on the wall of your local vendor. - Gord Fynes
Venetian Snares, "Doll Doll Doll"
I'll be the first to say I'm not that big of a fan of Venetian Snares. He seems to be praised and lauded from every corner of the earth as a great innovator and musician, but most of his stuff bores the crap out of me. For the most part, he seems to be "experimental for experimentality's sake," with a sort of anti-rhythmic edict and an I-must-change-time-signatures-every-twelve-seconds attitude. That gets really annoying, in my opinion, and it's probably the biggest problem with this latest album, but nonetheless I like it quite a bit.
That's right, I like the album quite a bit. The atmosphere and samples really work well (not to mention the *awesome* Trevor Brown artwork) - "we be friends with a child killer..." but of course the main attraction is the percussion. Which is the best part of the album as well as the worst part of the album. Like on the last track, "All the Children Are Dead"... that is insane percussion. And I mean *insane*.
But then, as on the first track, "Pygmalion," the percussion can hold so much potential and then fall completely utterly flat. Crazy awesome buildup, as if everything were going to explode right in your big stupid face, and then - it stops - and doesn't start again. What a GODDAMNED let-down. And these same kind of moments occur throughout the album... points where you THINK you should hear a break, or a drum, or something - but no! Aaron Funk is experimental! He is not drum'n'bass - this is not dance music! Yeah, whatever. Go have sex with Kid 606. - Chris Zaldua
to rococo rot, "kÖlner brett"
I wish I could properly credit whoever once said, "Talking about music is like dancing about architecture." To Rococo Rot have assembled a collection of music about architecture that, could very quite easily be danced to. The group return to the core trio for this unique release, out now on the German Staubgold label. The disc features twelve new, unnamed three-minute tracks which provided the sound for an architectural exhibit earlier this year. The music is meant to represent the building of the same name, which consists of twelve equally sized single units, efficiently designed for both living and working space. (Gosh those Germans sure do love their crafty designs.) While the group consciously chose to work within the 3-minute framework for each track, the tracks are far from identical. Everybody gets the same amount of space but can do whatever they want within that space, essentially. While it may not be considered a bonafide, typical full TRR release, many of the songs are quite clearly TRR, using a healthy variety of electronic beats, organic bass and guitar, and warm synths. The songs vary from mid-tempo multi-instrument interplays to beat-less software-based aural wallpaper. While it may have been designed for a more chin-scratching artsy acceptance, it's a great listen in, ironically enough, the home office. - Jon Whitney
M. GIRA / D. MATZ, "WHAT WE DID"
Two years in the making, Michael Gira (SWANS, The Angels of Light) and Dan Matz (Windsor for the Derby, The Birdwatcher) casually created and recorded a dozen songs together in the relaxed setting of Matz's homes. Both men are simply credited with various instruments and vocals (plus engineering by Matz) and generally alternate lead vocals track to track save for a lone instrumental. The instrumentation is actually quite extensive, approaching the ornate fleshing out of an Angels album: acoustic and electric guitars, bass guitar, organ, piano, synth, drums/percussion, drum machine, harmonica, banjo, a few samples and some guitar by James Plotkin and background vocals by Anna Neighbor. If you're coming to this disc via Gira and/or Matz's other endeavors, you won't be surprised but will probably be as pleased with the results as I am. These are 'simple', spontaneous 'pop' songs as affected by Americana as they are the avant-garde. And the pair's voices, poetry and basic song writing skills and styles complement one another well. The sound and feel is mostly slow and subdued, the mood in varying degrees of what I like to call 'uplifting melancholy'. Brief comments on a handful of tracks: "Pacing the Locks" beautifully mourns the passing of time, "Is/Was" becomes soaked in shimmering synth bath and bell tones, "Lines" is pretty pop steeped in blue grass roots, "Brown Eyes" and "Waiting Beside Viragio" are sparse, seemingly solo love songs, "Forcing Mary" will nod your head with driving guitar stabs and "Sunflower" is the peculiar instrumental, a droning hum with sprinkles of piano, guitar and whistling. Though I'm not (yet) as taken with "What We Did" start to finish as I am The Angels of Light's "New Mother" and "How I Loved You", I'm still more than happy with what they did. Gira is currently on tour with The Angels of Light in North America through mid December. - Mark Weddle
Finally... Ant-Zen has returned to form. Or, I should say Cold Meat Industry by proxy of Ant-Zen, since Azure Skies is a new project combining both males (or just one? I'm not too sure) of Sanctum and both Durling brothers of Mental Destruction, two CMI mainstays.
This disc is almost like a renaissance for .. er .. "rhythmic noise" (I loathe that term, but I'm at a lack for better words). It was rather unexpected on my part, but it pulls no punches and places Ant-Zen back on the roadmap it was beginning to explore with the early rhythmic noise releases... it reminds me of one album in particular, Imminent Starvation's "Nord," a classic album. But it goes beyond that.
Sprinkled throughout the album are achingly beautiful structure and melodies (no doubt written by the Sanctum member[s]), which add untold amounts of character and replay value to a genre like this. The harsh, drilling beats in "Crater" are offset by a warm, calming melody ... which is literally a breath of fresh air. "Bring Nothing Back" is obviously influenced by Jan Carkelev's (Sanctum) sideproject Parca Pace, which was a 50-minute masterpiece of beats, chants, and violins - they're all here, but the beats are made even better by the Durling brothers. Brilliant.
Though, the album does get a tad bit repetitious at points... but does it ever go so far as to be boring? Nah. You also should stay away from this release if you're expecting dance music - it has beats, but this is mood music. The album is beautifully packaged in a jewel case with warm, cool tones throughout and a picture of - what else? - beautiful azure skies gracing the cover. For anyone who felt betrayed with Ant-Zen's recent releases (PAL's "Release".. *cough*), this album is a return to form and a must-have. - Chris Zaldua
A few months after Earache released a 2-disc retrospective ("In All Languages"), Godflesh is back on a new label (Music For Nations/Koch Records) with a record of all-new material, a new band member (ex-Swans, ex-Prong Ted Parsons, who did live drums on the "Songs of Love and Hate" tour is now a full time 'member') and another progression in sound. While in 1999 Broadrick and co. moved to a more 'electronic' dub-ish sound, with heavy use of drum machines and some synth-work on their album "Us & Them", this new record sees them going back to the mostly guitar-based work they did early in their career. I don't know how hard it was to make this record for the band, but it is worth mentioning that bassist G.C. Green left Godflesh soon after the release of this record. The main difference between this record and the early stuff is Parsons' drumming, which gives "Hymns" a more open, spacious feel than say, the claustrophobic "Streetcleaner". Which is not to say that this is light record in any way -- if that's your worry, don't sweat it, when the Black Sabbath-like "Voidhead" and it's outro/bridge of "why am I such a void?" or the absolutely crushing "Antihuman" crawls out of your speakers, there can be no doubt that this album is still heavier than almost anything else you heard this year. Broadrick has really made good progress vocally, and variety in his vocals is a high point of this disc; many of the tracks have clean (but unintelligible) vocals. While guitar pyrotechnics was never what Godflesh was primarily about, if you're a fan of heavy guitar, you'll get your money's worth on this disc. - Dave Piniella
"THE ESSENTIAL CHRIS & COSEY COLLECTION"
Chris and Cosey - like their only real peers, Coil - are a band whose ideas have been mercilessly pruned from a succession of increasingly astounding albums by all sorts of different folk, whose tenacious influence is similar to the ghost in 'The Haunting of Hill House' - barely seen, but profoundly felt. This double CD set manages to serve up about two hours worth of why they were and are such a powerfully unique unit, a duo still militantly convinced by their own vision, still working outside even the smugly comfortable world of experimental dance, and coming up with pure gold every time.
All of the albums are well represented here, particularly key releases Heartbeat (the thunderous 'Put Yourself in Los Angeles' and abrasive/ludicrous 'Hairy Beary'); Trance (the stunning and vastly influential 'Cowboys in Cuba') right through the stunning string of mid to late eighties albums Songs of Love and Lust, Techno Primitive and Exotika up to their ultimate statement of intent to date, Skimble Skamble. One minute they sound like Nico covering Barry White (on 'Dr John'), the next minute they're serving up oceanic waves of sound, buried pulsing beats and oscillating electronica...and they just take another swig of Martin Denny and roll out the joy some more.
Do yourself and your friends a favour - let this compilation burn a hole in your Christmas stocking this year, and then wait a few moments for your life to change. - Terry McGaughey
"The Cosmic Forces of Mu"
No, it's not a much-needed tribute to the KLF/JAMMs, it's another 2xCD collection of electronic music from friends of a musician who runs his own label. It might not be as varied or densely packed like a Tigerbeat6 comp or thematically tied as a Morr comp, but it does contain some fine moments of both label-promoting and friend-promoting. Hrvatski's guitar and click "Lullaby" contribution reminds me all too well that there aren't enough Hrvatski albums in the world, Mike Paradinas' alias Kid Spatula serves up a dish tastier than any Mu-Ziq release I own, and the thoroughly entertaining collage of illegal hip hop samples, "Turntable Savage" by Hellfish. However, there are a few very weak spots: like the Vincent Gallo-lite contribution by Dykehouse and the obvious oversampling of Coil's "Hellraiser Themes" in the drum-and-bass-by numbers "Defluxion" by Venetian Snares or the over-predictable, skippable Tusken Raiders track, "Pansy". In all honesty, this collection would have probably been much more noteworthy if released in 1997. In the end I'm left affirmed by my affection for Electric Company and my interest in whoever this Joseph Nothing character is. Must research deeper,... - Jon Whitney
FLANGER, "OUTER SPACE / INNER SPACE"
What if Tito Puente, Kraftwerk and electric Miles Davis had jammed ... what
would that have sounded like? German electronic duo Bernd Friedmann (aka Burnt Friedman) and Uwe Schmidt (Atom Heart, Seĝor Coconut, etc.) may provide the answer with their Flanger collaboration, this being the third album in just a few years for Ninja Tune. Their music is thoroughly jazz - warm, spacious, latino jazz - where every sound glows with clarity and every song comfortably glides over the eardrums, even when it's frantic. Vibes, electric and upright basses, guitar, synth, organ and some saxophone and vocoded phrases provide the palette, framed within often complex and rapid rhythmic layers. It's an international affair all around with many live players recorded in Santiago, Copenhagen and Cologne, some track titles in French, Spanish and German, and the album title inspired by an essay by British sci-fi author J. G. Ballard. Uwe and Burnt seem to enjoy obscuring the line between what is programmed and what is 'played', only revealing the digital enhancements and editing here and there, when they choose to. Not that it really matters mind you. The all important question is 'does it have soul?' and the answer is a resounding 'yes'. It's another stellar 46 and 1/2 minutes worth of Flanger, more focused than ever. - Mark Weddle
Kammerflimmer Kollektief, "Incommunicado"
After a fascinating re-release on Temporary Residence earlier this year ("Maander"), the Kollektief return to reinterpret some of those songs with a live band. and add a few new compositions. The results are a mixed bag, but never dull. It's said that Thomas Weber, Kammerflimmer Kollektief's central figure, gave the members copies of "Maander" and then asked them to come into the studio to play them as best they could. Considering "Maander" was beat-driven electronic music, it's hard to see how a live band could rework that and come out with similar or better results. The Kollektief manages just fine. I found the reinterpretations to be better than the originals, but still lacking in some sense. Maybe it's that I like the music but it doesn't affect me all that much. But two of the last three tracks on this release, new material by Weber and the Kollektief, are well done. I liked them much better than anything else I'd heard from the band. The ambient wonder of "Kissen," for instance, is spooky in feel and in the way it builds but never quite achieves anything destructive or shocking. It's almost aural teasing, but in a good way. "Venti Latir" is hauntingly gorgeous, with violins and bass and keyboards that can cause the heart to soar. All in all, a solid release, even though two of the tracks are under minute, and really did nothing for me whatsoever. Weber got some amazing results on "Incommunicado," and it would serve this group well to try a whole release of original material. - Rob Devlin
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