nurse with wound, "the man with the woman face"
Longtime NWW fans are going to be very very very pleased with this album. Shaved down to a mere duo featuring Steven Stapleton and Colin Potter, this is almost a tribute to the more ambient and free-form early to mid-period Nurse with Wound. The original mission statement from 1978 included a provision that Steven Stapleton didn't like "songs" and the last few full-length albums ('An Awkward Pause', 'Acts of Senseless Beauty', 'Who Can I Turn To Stereo' and 'Rock 'n Roll Station') have all been heavily song-based. Clocking in at under 40 minutes, this particular journey is comprised of three pieces: the two endpieces which linger around the 15-minute mark and the 8+ minute middle piece, whose title loosely translates to "Up in the Air, Singing" in Gaelic. Musically, it's perhaps the most intimate Nurse with Wound has been, with a particular, almost personal subtlety which I haven't detected probably since 'A Missing Sense.' The album opens with a warm underscore, scatterings of organic and electronic noises twitter and scurry by, accented with quiet, mumblesome voices, bees, finger piano or marimba (I can't tell) and various other sound effects -NOT- simply recycled from previous projects. It continues with an almost arguably surprising twist of events as the "band" jumps into full-force instrumental hyper Kraut-rock mode towards the end of the second track. The music and feel of the last track almost echoes the 'Musical Pumpkin Cottage'-era work from Stapleton with Tibet. The vocals repeat the title over and over again, comfortably easing any listener into utter bliss. This album can easily become one of my most listened-to records for 2002. - Jon Whitney
COIL, "Winter Solstice 2001" Special Edition CD-R
After months of agonized waiting and much hand wringing, Coil has mailed out all 300 copies of the special edition of "Moon's Milk (In Four Phases)" double CD set with a bonus, exclusive CD-R of brand new material. This bonus disc was recorded last Winter Solstice - December 21, 2001 ev. The special sets were supposed to be burned over that weekend and shipped out before X-Mas, however, all of us that ordered have had to show the ultimate patience to wait until early March to see the package. One begins to feel a tad pathetic, looking forlornly at the mailbox every day waiting for the treasure to arrive. The sinking feeling sets in that perhaps the music will not have been worth all of the build-up and anticipation; what if it's totally worthless and anticlimactic? Can you justify having paid $85 for this stupid CD-R? Have you become obsessively insane?
Then, all at once, the package arrives, like an enormously belated X-Mas present. You hold your breath as you tear open the package with the trademark Threshold House stamp affixed to it. Inside: a plastic sleeve housing the white cardboard slipcase the CD-R is housed in. On the outside of the package, thick mottled paint forms abstract patterns. Bright colored splotches and dark, veiny paint traces cover its surface. Each sleeve is an original artwork created by Coil. Inside each sleeve is a poloroid taken during Coil's Winter Solstice musick ritual. Yours probably contains a sunrise, a plastic reindeer, a church steeple, electrical high-wires, or maybe even a UFO...who knows? Each copy has a different name; mine is called 'It Dries Up Everything It Comes Across." Maybe yours is called "Harry Potter's First Dose of LSD" or "Marrakech Mouthfuls." So far, so good...
The CD-R is completely blank, no art or track names printed; just translucent iridescent plastic. Track one begins: your fear and anguish immediately subside with the rise of warm, attenuated bell tones. This sixteen-minute ambient track sounds like wind chimes slowed down a modulated for maximum pleasurable drone. Then suddenly, Jhon Balance darkly intones: "You look on it with a sense of dread." His voice shifts positions and replies: "Gazing upon it with a sense of dread." Then the bell tones are drawn out for an eternity, it seems, while Balance weaves his beautiful and disarming monologue about edible birds. The second track begins with profoundly haunting orchestral synthesizer drones overlapping as Balance dramatically interprets a mystical/existential poem by Angus MacLise. Incredibly haunting. Track three is all instrumental, with some playfully cosmic vintage synth melodies, reminiscent of Kraftwerk's "Spacelab." This track develops in a complex, kaleidoscopic way towards its ghostly conclusion.
Bottom line: Coil has not disappointed in the slightest with this release. They continue to reward their devoted listeners with some of the most innovative and inspiring electronic experimental music being made today. This CD-R is worth the money and the wait. Coil is very aware that the total exclusivity of projects such as these adds an extra, "occult" esotericism to the experience that makes the musick that much more amazing. Bravo. - Jonathan Dean
the notwist, "neon golden"
In the four years since their last album, 'Shrink,' the members of this German group have kept active with numerous other projects, including two astonishing albums from Lali Puna; two incredible full-lengthers and a remix disc from Tied and Tickled Trio; plus notable LP, EP and remix releases from Console; and various appearances on others albums. 'Shrink' was probably such a phenomenal pop/post-rock electronic jazzy breakthrough that I may have been expecting something similar. 'Neon Golden' has far exceeded my expectations, however. Pop elements are present with songs like the pounding debut single, "Pilot" and the peppy and infectious record label teaser, "One with the Freaks" (being given away in its entirety on City Slang's website). Songs like "Pick up the Phone" linger with me for hours, even days after I've heard the tune. As the members have been pursuant of other outlets, however, there's far less jazz elements, but organic instruments like various woodwinds, horns, banjo and strings are fully present and accounted for. Various other songs like "Trashing Days," and the title track catch the group experimenting with taking the tempo down a wee bit, allowing us, as listeners to savour the sound like a fine wine. Most of all, Marcus Acher's distinct vocals are the key which separates this band from the rest of the post-post-rockers and perfectly caps the signature Notwist sound. While I think I may have been unwarm during the first few listens, I have quickly learned nearly all of the lyrics and sing along quite enthusiastically whenever it's on. With the inclusion of Martin Gretschmann (a.k.a. Console), the group has gone from a metal-esque outfit from their early days to a top-notch electro-pop combo, pushing the boundaries of popular music standards, perfectly balancing electronics and conventional rock instruments into a sound which is untouchable. Laptop owners could take some serious notes from Notwist and force their way into some pop/rock outfits and stop doodling around solely with hacked software. Two music videos and an entire MP3 are located at www.cityslang.com. With any luck, a more affordable North American release of this will be out sometime this year. We'll keep you posted. - Jon Whitney
"Panacea Shares Needles with Tarmvred"
Panacea - German drum'n'bass legend. Needle Sharing - up-and-coming harsh-d'n'b German. Tarmvred - surprising new act on the "rhythmic noise" scene whose debut caught many off guard with its originality and excellence. Considering each act's pedigree, one would think that an album where they all collaborate would be a superb piece of work. Well... sadly... it doesn't really work out that way. This album is by no means bad, but it falls short of expectations and of itself, feeling somewhat limp, flaccid, and impotent. It never climaxes like it ought to. Okay, enough phallic references. As I was saying, however, the disc never really lives up to its potential. Panacea seems like he's considering going all-out a la "Low Profile Darkness" but never really does (though his aptly-titled track "Faggot House" is immensely entertaining). Needle Sharing's tracks are well structured and are fun to listen to, but they drag on and can't hold my attention past three minutes. Tarmvred, as usual, saves the day: I enjoyed all of his tracks, but one of them ("Kanyl") was an immediate standout: ominous piano melody, excellent sample (from an '80s horror movie.. I think?) and awesome drum programming which outshines the rest of the album. But the latter is all simply my opinion, and as I said, the album certainly is bursting with talent. Don't skip past it, but listen before you buy. - Chris Zaldua
Merzbow / Jazzkammer "Live at Molde International Jazz Festival"
Noise-based electronic music has been around long enough that now, like all musical idioms, you have progression on one hand and stylism on the other. Merzbow, having been a pioneer in noise and electronic music for more than twenty years, is one of the most important figures in the progression of this music. But this Smalltown Supersound collaboration with Norweigan electronic duo Jazzkammer seems quite predictable within the genre. That's not to say it's a bad disc; the music is interesting enough. But it's certainly doesn't make my jaw drop. Improvised and recorded live in 2001, the disc is a 40-minute set of processed samples and electronic noise, split into 3 long nameless tracks. The first two segments are characterized by layers of frenetic noise over a repeating processed melody or percussion loop; the final track is the least-structured and noisiest, with cut up samples of heavy metal guitar mixed in with the electronics. Of all three, the first track is the most interesting: A 5-beat repeating drum sample creates a bed for other drum samples to build upon, which are manipulated to the point where they sound like a free-jazz drum solo. But on the whole, the performance is a bit less than stunning. Obviously this is not meant to be the quintessential release for either Merzbow or Jazzkammer. But, like Pan Sonic's live-in-95 CDs released last year, it kind of begs the question, Why release this at all? How many live recordings of abstract electronic noise can a person listen to? The argument can be made that it's interesting because it's a collaboration. This may be true, but with the exception of Carsten Nicolai's recent studio collaborations with Ryoji Ikeda and Mika Vainio, most collaborations of this sort are less interesting than the artists' own works (for instance, Pan Sonic and Bruce Gilbert's "IBM" release from last year). And since it's impossible to tell which sounds are being created by Merzbow and which are being created by Jazzkammer, the purpose is somewhat lost. Though the disc is far from mediocre, unless you really enjoy listening to the intensity of Merzbow all day long, I can't imagine this being in heavy rotation in your CD player. There are a lot better discs of electronic noise improv out there, including by the artists' themselves. - Nate Smith
kilowatthours, "the bright side"
After releasing a somewhat mediocre debut album, Louisville's Kilowatthours took some time
off, underwent a change in their line-up, reconsidered their direction, and then went into
Trevor Kampmann's (aka hollAnd) studio to record "The Bright Side." The result is a mature
sophomore release that is as full and as sophisticated as any album I've ever heard. Anchored
by the Ben Lord's bombastic drumming, the band gives every element equal weight in the mix, to
the extent that the vocals become lost in the mix. While this could prove to be a deathkiss
for some bands, Kilowatthours have consciously decided to place the lyrics on the same level
as the music. Becuase of this, I refuse to call the band's sound 'emo,' although this label is
often applied (mostly due to the fact that one of the members of the band was formerly in
Elliot). The instrumentation, which includes piano, organ, and various electronics to the more
standard guitar, drums, and bass, allows the band to experiment and push the boundaries of the music's space and depth. The beauty of "The Bright Side" lies
in its ability to meld influences from a variety of bands (different parts of the album remind
of bands from Radiohead to Lali Puna to Console) into a cohesive and seamless album. "The
Bright Side" is one of the first great albums of this year, each song amazing me with its
electrifying depth, its energy, and its sheer dynamics. - Carter Adams
MOUNT VERNON ARTS LAB, "THE SEANCE AT HOBS LANE"
Two contagiously enthusiastic men in goggles and lab coats coaxing some fun if fairly light rhythmic noises from a table of gadgets is the possibly erroneous memory I carry of witnessing Mount Vernon Arts Lab in a London pub a few years back. Since then they've explored slightly stranger performance spaces such as a nuclear bunker, a boat and a derelict building. This CD sees mainman Drew Mulholland plough a more esoteric furrow, into which he drops psychogeopraphic seeds that grow from pale saplings wincing in the light into a dark forest of tangled noise monorhythms. Opening with the 'Fog Detonator' sounding like a short field recording of doomed chickens lte loose on a minefield, it's immediately clear that this is going to be a bumpy ride.
The second track is a Coil mix / collaboration in homage to 'Hobgoblins'. John Balance asked Mount Vernon Arts Lab to contribute to an as yet unreleased compilation (possibly the elusive "Star Shaped Individual in Society"?) and in return Coil did this remix, a meandering quirky snakecharmer gothic synth melody over a simple medieval squelching pulsebeat. At first it seemed quite slight but grew into a more monstrous merry-go-round pervride as day became night. It's also one of the two most conventionally tuneful tracks here.
It's not surprising that John Balance should like the Arts Lab, as an earlier release "Warminster" in cahoots with Portishead's Adrian Utley actually sounded surprisingly reminiscent of Coil, and at the time I was playing it a lot followed by the elpH 20 to 2000' CD which it seemed to compliment very well. There's an excerpt from "Warminster" on here, although I'm not sure why. Maybe the original's deleted now and it was too good to leave behind?
There's also a collaboration with Barry 7 of Add N to X on 'The Submariners Song', which is an eerie moonlit descent to the bubbling depths of synth burble. It's a shame it's so short as the oxygen supply gets cut just as the vessel's penetrated the murky unexplored depths of the oceanic abyss.
'The Mandrake Club' pitches Norman Blake's guitar playing into far more tempestuous expanses than Teenage Fanclub could envisage in Alex Chilton's worst hungover nightmare. It sounds like heavy effects box shenanigens slung over a stylus stuck in a run out groove. Maybe they just found the most interesting noise on a Teenage Fanclub record... There is also a member of twee popsters Belle & Sebastien involved but there's no need to leap off the nearest roof as it's not the singer. Isobel Campbell's descending cello runs are showcased alongside some erratic harpsichord fills on 'The Black Drop'. This ode to the Victorian slang for opium brings fitting respite from the storm raging around it and seems to give the CD a structure like a tarnished alternate universe reflection of Coil's first "Unnatural History" compilation. Cut to 'Sir Keith at Lambeth' presiding over a furiously immolating satanic mindbrain noise generator, which continues it's turbulent thrum 'While London Sleeps'. When the Arts Lab adds Coil to X there's Hell and Sebastian in Mean Rage Bang Pub!
'Dashwood's Reverie' is an earlier spot of bother, radar blips indicating giant vampire lizards crawling up the beach by night. The influence of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop's groundbreaking soundtracks for 'Dr Who' certainly pokes through on this eerie soiree!
It'd be very surprising if Mt Vernon hasn't heard and been heavily influenced by the stunning Evan Parker Disinformation collaboration 'London's Overthrow' that opened the second Ash International collection of Disinformation remixes "Al-Jabr". Evan Parker improvised some stellar sax over a repeating bludgeoning VLF radio recording. Mt Vernon must've thought it was a great idea because he pulls off a very similar trick on two tracks here, with Raymond MacDonald improvising sax over thudding electronic noises. There's no techhead breakdown of which device made what noise, so whether this is actually atmospheric electromagnetic radio storms just like Disinformation or severely distorted analog synthing remains a mystery, but Mullholland has revealed in interview that his gadgets are Moogs, a Synth VCS3, a theremin and a custom built Turbine Generator. Hats off to monocled mutineer 'Percy Topliss'! The tribute to the officer impersonator who led an uprising against WWI insanity gets an emergency siren synth blast for the sax to wail over on full red alert. Raymond has a good bash at Percy, however neither he nor the spookier 'Vauxhall Labyrinth' approach the intensity of Evan Parker, but what does? - Graeme Rowland
The Replacements, arguably one of the best rock bands ever, have always had rumor and innuendo surrounding them. One story tells of the band, upon hearing that Twin Tone, their first label, was going to re-release all their old LPs on CD, fooling that label's secretary into letting them in the vault. They then stole any master tapes they could find and threw them in the river. Secretly, they hoped that the tapes would wash up on the banks near Prince's house, where he would find them, listen, and change his musical direction. Now, almost twenty years after The Replacements left Twin Tone and 11 years after they broke up, Vagrant announced they had signed Paul Westerberg, and that his first solo release on the label, "Stereo," would include this CD, "Mono," by Westerberg's alter-ego, Grandpaboy. They also claimed they could not confirm the latest rumor, that Westerberg had recorded the album with some or all of his former bandmates. Rabid fans demanded answers, so much that it seems Vagrant decided to release the CD on its own in a limited pressing. So, are the Replacements recording again under the name Grandpaboy? Westerberg and his new label aren't saying, as all players listed in the liner notes are pseudonyms. But it's hard to deny on hearing the release that they may be there sporadically on some tracks. Here and there, the bass/backup vocals sound like Tommy Stinson, the drums could be Chris Mars or a reasonable substitute (Josh Freese, anyone?), and that "Superfluous Lead Guitar," as the liner notes say, might be Slim Dunlap. But who can say? And does it matter? Not really. True to its title, "Mono" was recorded in "Dynamic Mono," which sounds far better than any other Mono recording I've heard. And it is easily the best record Westerberg has recorded since the heyday of the 'Mats. A straight rock record in the best sense, there are no slow piano meanderings or ballads here. There are a few mid-tempo numbers, bust mostly it swaggers right along. And there are missteps, as Grandpaboy admits in the liner notes, like songs starting or ending awkwardly, and a few weird passages, notably the break in the middle of 'AAA.' The songs are worthy of merit, however, as they possess solid hooks, quirky lyrics, and that Westerberg wail, all true to 'Mats form. Who played it? Who cares. As the Grandpaboy says, "It feels right." And that's all that matters. - Rob Devlin
Finally returning from an unbearably long six-year hiatus, Scott Cortez and Melissa Arpin-Henry of Lovesliescrushing release their third album of complex and lush gossamer guitar-based ambience. The band departed from the Projekt label to join up with the Conneticut-based Sonic Syrup (on which Cortez has released material under his Astrobrite moniker). The label changeover becomes most obvious with 'Glissceule''s lack of the striking artwork which graced the covers of the band's first two records, 'Bloweyelashwish' and 'Xuvetyn'. Musically much in the same vein as some of Darla's Bliss-Out series releases, the 17 tracks (spanning just over 77 minutes) have an airy, meditative quality and not as much dirge as the album's predecessors. As a result, 'Glissceule', though no less enchanting, is somewhat less dynamic (although it manages to avoid lapsing into homogeneity). In any case, Cortez's emotive, delicate, blanketed layers of guitar and Arpin-Henry's soft, unintelligible siren vocals, electronically manipulated to the point of absolute unearthlieness, are still present. This is the first Lovesliescrushing release to utilize digital processing (although the album was recorded using analogue means). The effect this has on 'Glissceule' seems to be that of an overall smoothness in production that is not as evident in the band's previous work. I am at a loss to explain why I so often see Lovesliescrushing get lumped along with other "shoegaze" bands, as they have always made me think of what Main might sound like if they had a vocalist and put out a record on 4AD in 1985. As for 'Glissceule', it is not likely to disappoint the band's longtime fans, and will surely make some new ones.
- Jessica Tibbits
TANYA DONELLY, "BEAUTYSLEEP"
I really couldn't bring myself to like Belly. I could never understand how Tanya could go from writing songs like 'Green' and 'Honeychain'and being a beautiful, if edgy, foil to Kristin Hersh's life-affriming but barely controlled maniato doing bland indie-rock pap and appearing on MTV all the time. Plusshe hasn't acquitted herself well over the years: her solo debut 'Lovesongs for Underdogs' passed by like a 45-minute Breeders b-side. And now she's writing songs about being a mother. It doesn't look so good for Tanya.
Well, actually it doesshe's finally come into her own, and 'Beautysleep' could easily sit along Hersh's 'Sunny Border Blue' or 'Hips and makers' as the finest non-Throwing Muses work since they broke up. "Life is but a dream" deftly turns mum-rock cliches into a series of spooky metaphors that flit in and out of earshot over a looped heart-beat and barely-there guitarsa million miles away from "Feed the Tree".
The single "The Storm" sounds like Patsy Cline crooning with Lambchop - it is, in fact, the weakest song here. "Moonbeam Monkey" seems to hold the key to the album's heart: featuring the ghostly, disembodied vocal's of Morphine's Mark Sandmanit segues directly into a recording of her daughter playing a toy piano, succintly connecting life and death, loss and love, creating an aura of dazzled, but far from docile, satisfaction. Then she rocks out on "Wrap-around Skirt" and you realise how watered-down Alanis, Tori and Dido actually are. Its just a shame we had to wait almost ten years for this (its been 10 years since TM's "The Real Ramona"!). Tanya might not have the same contorted dynamics or righteous fury as Kristin Hersh, but she's found her voice and has proved herself to be just as valid and neccessary as her wayward half-sister. - Terry Goughey
Templegarden's, "Done Rooms"
This album very pleasantly surprised me. I was a little skeptical coming into this album since 'Culture vs. Nature,' the earlier Templegarden's album, fell quite flat for me. And I've become very skeptical of Ant-Zen lately, since they have not been releasing quality material lately. But the extremely talented collective behind this multi-faceted act (Andrea Börner of Morgenstern, Andreas Schramm of Asche, Tim Kniep and Phillip Münch of Synapscape, along with some others) pulls through with a wonderfully deep ritual-ambient album. The first track on the album, "Lure," sets the stage: percussive drumming that slowly increases in volume, the repetitive chanting of a monk (I'm a sucker for that), and deep, engaging atmospherics. A couple tracks are a little dull (that is, the ones that aren't as "ritualistic") but the good points more than make up for it. In fact, the album kinda leaves me wishing that more of the tracks were those wonderful ritual-drumming ones... but hey, I guess a balanace is nice. Definitely a worthy purchase for those into this style of music, and something you might want to give a try if you've never heard anything like it before. - Chris Zaldua
Matthew Shipp, "Nu-Bop"
So - Matthew Shipp knows how to play traditional jazz and fusion. Which is to be expected, because what good is a free-jazzer who can't swing? But that doesn't stop 'Nu-Bop' from being pretty boring. This CD is part of the Thirsty Ear "Blue Series," which Shipp curates, and the band is primarily made up of the regular crowd - Shipp on piano, William Parker on bass, Daniel Carter on reeds, and Guillermo E. Brown on drums. Also on board is co-producer FLAM on "synths and programming." The styles on the album run the jazz gamut, from the fusion funk of "Space Shipp" (there's also a "Rocket Shipp," how clever) to the 'I'm-gonna-sound-like-Monk' solo piano piece "ZX-1" to the quiet moody jazz of the Carter/Parker duet "X-Ray." Everybody knows that Shipp and co. are all incredible instrumentalists, so of course these guys can play these pieces and make it work. But at their best, these songs sound like a pretty good house band at a hip lounge. At their worst, they sound like circa-1993 attempts at jazz-hop (though in Shipp's defense, at least he didn't go so far as to hire a guest rapper). We are made to think that the presence of FLAM (yes, it's always in all caps for some reason) on "programming" is going to take these earlier idioms of jazz to some sort of new horizon (hence the title 'Nu-Bop'), but his contributions mostly add up to a bunch of quirky squeaks and crunches mixed in with Brown's drumming. The most ridiculous FLAM contribution is "Select Mode 1," in which Shipp's playing is looped over a cheesy dance beat for a minute and a half. The most interesting part of the disc is the phasing between Shipp and Brown at the beginning of "Select Mode 2," ironically. This disc has been widely praised recently, and I'm not sure why. It may be that people think that if Shipp and co. made a more traditional album then it must be good, considering their status as gods in the jazz world today, but it's really not a very interesting listen and definitely not a high point for any of the musicians involved. - Nate Smith
The debut Morr Music release from this quartet of Danish wanna-be cosmonauts takes the form of a marvelous six-track EP. The instrumental quartet is atypically more guitar-based than most Morr releases but isn't any less emotionally-charged as a number of the other acts on the label. Spacious, swirling guitars and electronic beats and noises are almost remeniscent of the 'Pygmalion'-era Slowdive material. Combine those with galactic keyboards that could easily have been chosen after staring for long hours at clear star-lit skies. It's no wonder they're receiving high marks with Darla, as Limp sound like a strong contender for a future Bliss-Out volume. Further tracks see their drummer taking more of an active role, laying grounds for some powerful instrumental jazz-influenced rock tunes. At six songs, this provides a great introduction to the band, almost like a stunning demo which -had- to be released. It showcases a competant range of tunes which can be both college radio-friendly, charming, and attention-grabbing. These songs strongly hint that a future full-length release form these guys would be something to seriously look forward to. Keep your fingers crossed for an essential, solid LP which could tie together wonderful songs with a trained ear for much appreciated sound workmanship. Limp is definitely a group to keep your eyes on. - Jon Whitney
Cruelty Campaign, "Distressed Signals"
Cruelty Campaign is one of the newest signings to the ever growing and increasingly more popular German label, Tesco Organisation. The Californian duo emerges from a Hollywood milieu and this background lends a cinematic quality to the recordings of mostly found sounds, such as the subtle rhythms of Roger Karmanik's refrigerator. Pardon the pun, but the sample is a good indication of the entire album, cold and stark, at times interrupted by dark fluctuating rumbles with the slightest hint of a beat. Intriguing vocal samples, like a German domestic argument in "The Arguement" and old recordings of secret agents in the title track, pop in and out of the recordings, all expertly timed. The music glides effortlessly from electronic drone and noise to what could very well be actual instruments such as organs and violins, but are most likely sampled, and the album still manages to retain its penchant for peculiarity. Cruelty Campaign's strength lies in illustrating the oddness of the modern world. They distill sounds and noises that are part of the every day, and often taken for granted, and incorporate them into dark and gripping pieces best described as a soundtrack for the Earth of a parallel dimension. 'Distressed Signals' is without a doubt an exceptional postmodern pastiche as it cobbles together numerous found sources, including the cd's artwork, into a document that many electronic bands would do well to learn from. - Richard SanFilippo
XINLISUPREME, "TOMORROW NEVER COMES"
Imagine an alternate universe in which all the so-called 'shoegazer' bands didn't just water down the all pervasive influence of My Bloody Valentine but upped the noise crescendos to the next level. Japanese duo Xinlisupreme just beamed in from that place! There is certainly enough guitar feedback screaming from this stunning Fat Cat Splinter to convince most people that Xinlisupreme are familiar with at least one level of musical excess, which is appropriate considering that their name could be shortened to xs. They consider their music to be tender, strange, spiritual and violent. It's also hypnotically mind altering. It's a rollercoaster ride drenched in headcleaning melodic feedback that'll very likely satisfy anyone who still hankers after a mythical follow up to My Bloody Valentine's benchmark 'Loveless'. There are also nods to the dense freenoise of Sonic Youth's early rock, but Xinlisupreme have distinctly over the top tendencies which somehow could only have arisen in Japan. They often centre tracks on one monstrous looping distorted guitar riff around which lighter rapidly shifting sonic satellites spin. Stir in primitive hotwired drum machine rhythms, some deliciously discordant piano runs and occasional buried mumbled vocals and you have a recipe for the most exciting popnoise of the first quarter of the year.
The opening salvo 'Kyoro' sounds like a cousin of 'Death Valley '69' swamping an overloaded drum machine battling with an imaginary TV theme for the Feedback Olympics. 'Goodbye For All' slows the pace with a massive loping riff that drops out to two small repeated notes before lurching back full on. Vocals appear for the first time on the fourth track, the yearning 'All You Need Is Love Was Not True' which previously appeared on a 7" late last year and marks perhaps their poppiest tendencies. The album title comes from the only song with decipherable lyrics, 'Amaryllis' which is relatively reflective, the calm in the eye of the hurricane. The standout tracks emerge towards the end. Both open relatively calmly before big noise breaks out. The eerily discordant 'You Died In The Sea' is only topped by the longest track, 'Fatal Sisters Opened Umbrella' which starts out dark and tired with submerged emotive vocals then lights a long fuse which ignites skyward fireworks for the biggest noise eruption yet, a feedback fairground bliss out. 'Nameless Song' winds out with sparse tabla percussion and some two tone wind instrument but nevertheless can't resist a rush of guitar pyrotechnics latterly. The only new album I've played as much as this so far this year is the Elders of Zion's "Dawn Refuses to Rise". Both bands use very different means to the end of rocking out big time minus cliché, and both embody very different aspects of the apocalyptic. - Graeme Rowland
This album was produced in conjunction with Tarmvred's North American "Subsnow" tour, and features Tarmvred as well as a host of other acts, most (or all? I think?) of whom he played live with on this tour. It's a very strong compilation with only a few weak tracks throughout, and would make an excellent purchase for industrial/electronic/IDM/whatever fans. The star of this compilation is Tarmvred, who contributes two excellent tracks: "Subsnow" and "Drifter," both of which are great tracks, but not as cool as those on Subfusc simply because they're shorter and SIDstation-less. Oh well... I was very pleasantly surprised by Antigen Shift, whose track "Epoch" was a nice electronic-tribal thingie which was very entertaining. Same with V.O.S., who contribute an excellent dark ambient skull-f*ck piece that, like all good dark ambient tracks, seems to just swallow you whole. Wilt's tracks are interesting, and sound somewhat like an intergalactic space-rat trying to nibble and claw its way through your bedroom walls. (No drugs were used in the listening of this album or the writing of this review.) I was disappointed, however, by Kreptkrept, Re:pro vs. Acclimate, and C2, who all contribute substandard beaty-industro-techno-type tracks that failed to catch my ear. A well-rounded compilation, however, and definitely something to keep an eye out for. - Chris Zaldua
Nagisa Ni Te, "Songs For A Simple Moment"
Shinji Shibayama has a bit of a legacy in the Japanese music community. First, his work in the bands Nagisa Ni Te and The Hallelujahs earned him recognition as a superior singer/songwriter. In addition, he is the founder of the Org label, responsible for the most well-known experimental Japanese rock music of the '80s. This release, on Glasgow's Geographic imprint, is meant as a retrospective of Shibayama's music, released around the same time as Nagisa Ni Te's new album, "Feel," was released in Japan. Listening to "Songs," it's clear why Shibayama is so well-liked in his home country, and so worthy of notice here. The music of Nagisa Ni Te is often thrown in with the genre called folk-psyche, and although I hate labels, it's a fitting one. Slow, languid guitar lines develop a firm structure, building to a dramatic crescendo of voice, guitar, and drums. It's a productive pairing, Shibayama and his partner in Nagisa, Masako Takeda. The music is soaring, powerful, and the vocals are haunting, though I can't understand a word. The melodies are impressive, too, reminiscent of American post-rock music without copying or being derivative. The Hallelujahs, by comparison, are more psychedelic rock, but equally as accomplished for the time they were recording (1985-88). The unreleased track included here, 'I'll Follow Soon, No Matter Where You Are' is a surreal number, sounding like CSNY mixed with the theme to Top Gun, but still a great little pop tune. A great introduction to those who have never heard of Shibayama or his music, "Songs" is the kind of legacy any musician would be proud of, as well as a strong collection of unreleased tracks for true fans. - Rob Devlin
Somatic Responses, "Dying Language"
These prodigious musicians from Wales have gained quite a reputation thus far, and with this newest album on Ad Noiseam, they have managed to carry the torch yet again. However, they seem to suffer from the same old problems, but do manage to innovate as well. I'll get started by stating my basic problem with Somatic Responses: they never really change. After hearing their first album, 'Circumflex,' I eagerly picked up some earlier 12"s and such by the Healy brothers, and they all sort of blended together. Their sound is unique, but almost to a point where all their songs sound the same. However, I did say they managed to innovate, and that is a very good thing. Melodies and strings come into play, including a few beatless ambient bits, which help to break up the album. The beats tend to be a little bit harsher and more complex than before, and are as schizophrenic as ever. Beat-wise, these guys are impeccable. When it comes down to it, though, this album doesn't really present anything new. If you're a fan of Somatic Responses, you will adore this album; if you enjoy them but aren't fanatic enough to wolf up the entire discography, I'd recommend just sticking with 'Circumflex.'
(P.S. - the entire album is available at http://c8.com/c8/tunes/tunes-misc.html - buy it if you like it!) - Chris Zaldua
kammerflimmer kollektief, "hysteria"
The latest release from Thomas Weber's Munich-based 'Shimmering Collective' is somewhat of a crossover between the previous two full-lenthers recently issued in North America by Temporary Residence. The six-song EP continues with Weber's love of both organic jazz/improv and affinity for electronics, almost split down the middle between the collective playing and Weber's solo electronic journeys. The tunes range from a slow-paced but steadily moving opener led by a hypnotic double-bass loop, through battles with electronic glitchery, organic improv and screechy horns and to an atmospherically-enhanced electronics and drums track, "Auguri, Auguri" which I'd easily consider a dead ringer for a 21st century tribute to Sun Ra. If that's too far-out, the mood comes back to earth for the next track, "Du siehst hoch; du siest 'Wolken'," deceptively improvisational, but digitally created with looped drums and percussion, electronic beats and bassline with sampled and layered strings. The disc closes almost in the same way it opens, with a sultry double-bass melody in the foreground; subtle, atmospheric electric guitars most likely played with kitchen utensils; a repetitious acoustic guitar melody organic drums and a non-deafening saxophone. - Jon Whitney
ExOrder, "War Within Breath"
ExOrder is the power electronics side-project of underground dark ambient heroes Inade. 'War Within Breath', released on the excellent Malignant Records, is mostly a reissue of a long out of print cassette release, 'Law of Heresy', with some unreleased and live tracks thrown in to round it out. Pounding, heartbeat-like drums, scathing, heavily treated vocals are reminiscent of other bands in the genre, but 'War Within Breath' does not rely on typical power electronic tropes, such as impenetrable walls of noise that sound like television tuned to static. ExOrder uses rhythm (often militaristic) and bass to their advantage, to heighten a sense of tension and to hint at conventional song structure, only to rip it apart and blow it up. The noise is nuanced and the band uses repetition to their advantage, as you feel stuck at times, controlled, intensified by drones and fluctuations with an almost hypnotic affect, especially on "Crawling From The Ground". Every track, however, is distinct, you never feel like you're listening to one long tedious song. 'War Within Breath' examines war, genocide, fanaticism, and resistance, the de facto themes of most power electronic projects, but they never come down in favor of any single ideology. ExOrder's 'War Within Breath,' rather hopes to express the violence inherent to humanity. ExOrder typifies all that is best in the current, and glutted, European power electronics scene. - Richard SanFilippo
Stewart Walker, "Reclamation: 1997-1999"
It is incredibly difficult to make techno music that isn't incredibly boring. Being a person who has never really enjoyed/embraced the rave culture, I would find these events stale and uninteresting. I would enjoy dancing to the work of some of the DJs, because they were doing things that were innovative, different. And they weren't cluttering their music with annoying keyboards and house-girl voices that make you want to run for cover. Stewart Walker, a minimalist techno efficianado, released this set last year, partially to start his own label and to tide fans over until his second proper LP. A collection of previously released material available on the rare 12" EP or odd release as well as new material never released, "Reclamation" is pretty good. Walker is part of the school I like: minimal sounds, mainly percussive beats and minimal keyboards, with little or no added flourishes that detract from the overall mix. Unfortunately, the sonic palette limits the music somewhat, as is found on this release. A lot of the work is repetitive, with the same beats per minute and tempo, though it is a cut above the rest in terms of composition. Walker makes the most of every track, throwing in interesting samples and making them part of the beat rather than sitting by hoping they make an impact on the listener. The standout tracks are ones where Walker breaks the mold he usually sets for himself, manufacturing stuttering beats of fancy and grooves that alternate bass notes of the lowest frequencies to get your ass moving. As a collection of previous work, this is definitely worth hearing, but I look forward to hearing what Walker produces next, as well as the new releases on his label, Persona. - Rob Devlin
casiotone for the painfully alone, "pocket symphonies for the lonesome subway cars"
This has got to be the worst CD I have ever listened to ten times in a row. Strange but true, this disc of juvenile adventures on cheap 18-year-old keyboards in late night bedrooms is fucking terrible yet somewhat addictive. I think he's even singing through headphones! Half-way between pathetic and endearing is the mood as between tracks, clicks are clearly heard as plugs are pulled from keyboards which are all too recognizable from nearly all of our youths. (Seriously, either you had a cheap Casio yourself or had a friend who did.) Owen Ashworth, clearly a bored Californian dork (now living in Portland) with high enough connections to get him distributed, sings songs about lost sweaters, boyfriends, Lil' Kim, The Cure, working as retail clerk, and a whole mess of things which make you want to smack his face upside the head for. He sounds honest though, and I think that's the hook that's got me confused the most. In a setting like Magnetic Fields, songs like this might work well between full-band songs, especially if the songwriter wasn't half bad, but if I was stuck on a desert island with only this disc, I would surely kill myself. This guy is destined for a mild amount of novelty indie-kitch stardom. Pass me the puke bucket. Let me go on record by saying "cassingle" has to have been one of the worst inventions of the 1980s, along with "Reagenomics" and "Wham". - Jon Whitney
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