hnas, "im schatten der mÖhre"
The first in a line of long unavailable HNAS LPs is finally available on CD. Originally released in 1987, this was the fourth album released by Christoph Heemann, Dr. P. Li Khan, and Andreas Martin as Hirsche Nicht Aufs Sofa and is a must have for any current or future fan. Remastered and restored, the music is broken into the two tracks, respectively each side of the original long-playing album. The music itself is an amazing adventure and has never sounded better. The random, comical movements within these songs run the gamut from a foreboding thumping pulse, through tinkling piano strikes, anthemic symphonics, mouth harp, tape cuts, pouring water, insane acoustic guitar, squelches, and whimsical 1980s German drinking music sounding songs just to name a few styles, all within relatively undefined five-part movements. There's never a dull moment as the blasting rock and roll takes you completely off-guard, the string movements are charged with angelic emotions, and the call-and-response singing can be quite hilarious. Fans of the campy analogue cut-up NWW musings who haven't yet experienced HNAS beware: becoming a fan of anything Christoph Heemann is involved with can easily get quite expensive. Luckily, this time around, this CD is available at a welcome price. Don't delay, however, because it could just as easily run out of print like all the other Streamline releases. Later this year, the second full-length album, 'Melchior' is due out on Steven Stapleton's United Dairies label. Start saving. Be sure to check out Mimir  also out this week: a review and sound samples were posted in the March 26, 2000 issue of The Brain when the vinyl was issued originally. - Jon Whitney
TRICOLOR, "Nonparticipant + Milk"
This Chicago-based trio, comprised of Tatsu Aoki (Fred Anderson Quartet) on upright bass, guitarist Jeff Parker and the multi-faceted drumming of David Pavkovic (Toe 2000) are exploring the improvisational means of a small collective on this live six-track recording with pleasant results. Motifs may have been worked out in advance, but it all comes down to exploring and supporting the musical possibilities while conveying them as a group. Since Parker and Pavkovic have played together in Toe 2000 their musical support is already familiar. Tunes start with an idea being presented right off the bat, or working its way from a solo with the rest of the group finding their part in making a groove for which to play. The track "Nonparticipant" opens with a bass solo which presents a line that is repeated throughout the entire piece with slight variance, propelled by some busy brush work on the drums. The guitar states a beautiful and sparse melody which gives way for some nice soloing. "Deceit" opens with a free form drum solo which turns into unison blasts of snare rolls and distorted wah-wah guitar with the bass laying down a syncopated rhythm and changes which the group will work with. Personally, this track captures the general atmosphere of the electric Miles Davis groups of the early 70s (think 'Live Evil') via Parker's signature sound and running lines against Pavkovic's nice, loose and funky drums, all anchored down by Aoki's solid playing. Recorded live at the Hothouse in Chicago in March 2001, the disc captures the energy of a great live performance with plenty of successful risk taking. Right down to the clinking of audience glasses during the show. - Gord Fynes
I must admit that although I consider myself a big fan of Laub, I was a bit put off by the title of their latest release, which initially seemed like just another electronic artist's gratuitous nod to trendy internet jargon. Upon further investigation, however, I learned that Antye Greie-Fuchs and Jotka, who comprise Laub, actually created most of the album in separate locations, infrequently together. Taking this into consideration, 'Filesharing' makes more sense as a title. Musically, it is as impressive as Laub's two previous albums: Antye's smooth vocals at first seem a vivid contrast to the jagged, stripped-down beats. Interestingly, a clean starkness, almost to the point of sterility, pervades this release, which has heretofore not been present in their work. This quality is even reflected in the album artwork, which pictures severe, sanitized portraits of the duo dressed in white on a white background. It is without doubt that the vocal stylings of Antye are the centerpiece of 'Filesharing', and thanks to this antiseptic approach, their subtlety can be fully appreciated. She runs the gamut from balladry (on the lovely "Wortspur") to exhibiting a heavy rap influence (on "Getriebe" and "Morgen"). Something for which I have always greatly respected Laub is their insistence on using their native German tongue in their music; whether or not it is comprehensible to the listener becomes irrelevant on account of the way the rhythms inherent in the language compliment the band musically. As a bonus, 'Filesharing' contains a CD-rom track which includes photos, discography and English translations of the lyrics (for those who can't bear not knowing what they mean). The really exciting addition, however, is the inclusion of audio file samples of several individual loops from each of the songs. Laub notes that their intent in providing these is so each listener may engage in some filesharing of her own. - Jessica Tibbits
VLADISLAV DELAY, "NAIMA"
Recorded at the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, Austria last September, Luukas Onnekas was one of the chosen to fill the OMV Klangpark near the Danube with live sound over six days. This disc compiles highlights into a single 42 minute track. Onnekas is most likely using material from last year's 'Anima' as a starting point, restructuring it on the fly as the remixed title 'Naima' suggests. Add to this Onnekas' own words, lyrics from his house project Luomo and an art mission statement of sorts, recited in foreign accented English by his girlfriend. Fascinated by femininity, who better to help him express this? But the most telling line, "I'm unable to address my sound, my voice with words", reveals Delay's dilemma and blessing: sound is his one true medium of expression. Like 'Anima', 'Naima' is a lukewarm, gelatinous pool where innocuous sound bits buoy and sink, seemingly at random. There are passages where the music lies dormant and just her voice remains, unaffected or folded into the mix, or vice versa, the music by itself sometimes trailing off into silence. Everything fluctuates between linear and non-linear movement, subliminal melodies and rhythms arise then disappear, music and words become simply music. Beautiful, simply beautiful. And that is why Onnekas remains my favorite contemporary electronic musician. - Mark Weddle
mouse on mars, "agit itter it it"
There are no rules against having fun in the field of critically-acclaimed electronica. On Mouse on Mars singles, the duo definitely let their hair out and try to have as much fun in as little time possible. Their latest EP is a total nod to their live experience. While over the years, the live crew has grown from Jan and Andi twiddling knobs behind a table to a slamming full-force band with live drummer and guitarist, there has always been one underlying theme - there should be fewer people scratching their chins than dancing to the music. 'Agit Itter It It' has captured that feel perfectly. The first track, "Spontaneous Reconstruction," is fully-equipped for car rides with the stereo up and windows down familiar twitters and organ-mimicing keyboards plus a killer thunderous bass sound and digital frogs. The second track, "Unt it led States of" opens with mad guitar samples and immediately launches into a killer 4/4 beat of hyper-charged organic drum samples. Other studio recordings on the disc like "Milleader" and "Repress-end" further explore their mastery of insane rhytmic elements matched with their brags as professional tunemeisters while the half-way point, "Moral Sack It," is a completely unnecessary 1+ minute moment of bass and mangled horn sound drivel. The disc ends with the beefy live track, "Introduce" which certainly more specifically adds more evidence to my assessment of the live influences taken into consideration when making the EP. I want a whole live recording now, damnit!! The moral of the story is this: don't let the music snobs take the fun away, go on and shake your butt in their face. - Jon Whitney
Prior to hearing this it seemed that the idea of remixing the dense juggernaut of an album which was Faust's 'Ravvivando' would be at best a bit tricky, at worst utterly pointless. That album from 1999 saw the 'krautrock' legends at the pinnacle of their powers and any remixer was always going to fail to equal the original's overwhelming apocalytic freedom. Whatever their difference in approach the thirteen remixers can't help but lighten the mood as they take turns in remodelling 'Ravvivando' in various shades of toetapping dancefloor friendliness. There's a definite tendency for chaos to be reigned in, as the sprawling goliath is chopped into neat digital byte sizes and spat out in a more ordered frenzy of a very different hue. It's appropriate that the cover is predominantly a becalmed green as opposed to the fiery orange glow of the original. However enough of the massive rolling metal percussion and layered keyboards and guitars remains to give most tracks a bit of edginess, even if some mixers such as Mathias Schaffhäuser and Sofa Surfers program happy stomps with the merest hint of a Faust shadow. Likewise the Kreidler and Funkstörung tracks don't give away many clues as to the original tapes and wouldn't sound out of place on albums by either artist, but there is a drone running through much of the Kreidler track which rises in intensity, pushing up from the underworld. Perhaps it's this often subtle use of the original Faust tapes that makes this such a surprisingly well rounded listen. The Gel mix of possibly my favourite Faust track ever, "Wir Brauchen Dich #6," performs the bizarre feat of making it sound like Neu! covering Can's "Mother Sky" and is frighteningly addictive enough for three versions to run together without tiring as they did on the single. The single also included the original, which showed just how the rolling thunder had been fine honed to a robotic precision.
Surgeon builds a slow guttural whirlpool vortex of sound that cuts dead for vocal sample snippets and is one of the few tracks that sounds unmistakably Faustian, being perhaps the only track that looks the dark apocalyptic heart of 'Ravvivando' right in the eye. Now that heart has many eyes all peering at different angles. Other remixers which spy the most sympathetic views of Faust's drum driven behemoth are the last three: the Residents, Dax and Pieper and Dead Voices On Air. It's telling that there are three very different tracks assembled from the solo organ spot "Carousel II." Adriano Lanzi and Omar Sodano seem to mix in chunks of noise from other parts of 'Ravvivando' and leave a large part of the organ motif untouched, icing the cake as opposed to the full scale retooling of most mixes. Trillian approaches the same track by homing in on one fragment of its fairground feel, whilst Sunroof take it on a low key stuttering cut up ambient loop trip. Howie B also opens out the hidden ambient side of Faust, making "Four Plus Seven Means Eleven" sound like an out take from Immersion's 'Low Impact,' pinging harmonising close ups of electron drones off of atoms. This is perhaps the album's most beautiful mix, although Dead Voices On Air give Howie some competition on that score. Dax and Pieper's take on "Four Plus Seven Means Eleven" is almost the opposite, stomping hyper-beats into focused spiralling mania. The Residents countdown to ignition with a rocket lift off that brings the circus to town in a warped vaudeville machine chrome showtune that made me grab the sleeve to find out who it was the first time I played the disc. That rocket blast is really the closest anyone comes to the sheer power of Faust in full flight, but whether this arose from Residents knowing cheeky cleverness or is just coincidence is moot. Dax and Pieper sound almost like they've remixed the Residents, even though they take on another track, as they follow the mood so perfectly. This is another strength of "Freispiel" - these mixes haven't just been slung together but it sounds like Faust keyboard player Hans Joachim Irmler, who is credited with production, spent a while making sure the sequencing flowed perfectly as an album. Dead Voices On Air summon the perfect mood to close 'Freispiel' accenting the intact hopefulness of "Du Weisst Schon" with slowed mammoth clomp drums. Don't let memories of all the deadweight on the Can 'Sacrilege' remixes put you off - this is actually that rare thing, a remix project without duff tracks. Then again perhaps that isn't so surprising as the only album I can think of to have a remix album made from it which is on a par with the colossal majesty of 'Ravvivando' is Ground Zero's 'Consume Red.' - Graeme Rowland
- There are downloads of the Residents, Howie B, Kreidler and Mathias Schaffhäuser remixes at freispiel.com.
Certain General, "An Introduction To War"
Certain General were a living contradiction of a band. They were both ahead of their time and perfect for the time they were a band. They had punk rock energy for a post-punk alternative sound. And, as this collection shows, they were at the top of their game even when it seemed like it was all falling apart. "An Introduction To War," available at the Sourmash Records USA website, is a 2CD deluxe set featuring completely unreleased Certain General material. The first CD, "Dead Rabbit Gang," would have been the band's second album, culled from recording sessions that took place upon their return from a successful UK tour. This material was prevented from release by internal band turmoil, as the liner notes state, but you couldn't tell by listening to it. All fourteen tracks pulse and crack with raw energy: the mark of a band at their absolute peak. There's so much to hear in these tracks to prove what an affect Certain General had on the musical landscape of the time. You hear elements in these tracks that definitely reveal the Generals' influences, such as the Velvet Underground-esque melodies and basslines, but there's so much more in what influence the Generals had on bands of that timeframe. It's in the vocal delivery tried by just about every 80s band, and the power in the drums, and the wailing guitar. These bands may not be trying to rip off Certain General, per se, but after hearing this collection in comparison to other bands, it's hard to deny that they at least heard the music and appreciated it. It would have been a fine proper album at the time, and now it's a timeless classic heard finally. The second disc, "Savage Young Generals," captures the band live on tape at several shows at CBGB and City Gardens over a 13 month period. If the raw energy present on the studio material doesn't grab you, the live album will definitely blow you away. The showmanship on display for these recordings is the kind most bands would die to have. Sixteen of these songs have never been released in any format, and it's good to hear them alongside the odd cover and the traditional but higher energy interpretations of the songs off their releases. 77 minutes of pure sonic delight. Taken together, these two discs represent a fine document of a, as their website puts it, "criminally overlooked" band. Try out the sound samples if you don't believe the hype, but anyone would be impressed by what they'd find here. - Rob Devlin
samples from Dead Rabbit Gang:
samples from Savage Young Generals:
purrkur pillnikk, "Í augum Úti"
What we have here is a very important and amazingly entertaining artifact of early 1980s Icelandic post-garage rock and roll. It's no surprise that Purrkur Pillnikk was invited at one point to tour opening up for The Fall, as lead singer Einar Orn Benediktsson (you might recognize his name as the -OTHER- singer of the Sugarcubes) fronted a tactfully sloppy yet feverishly energetic rock band with bizarre scream/spoken storylike words. Some of their first releases are collected on this 2xCD set, which include 'Tilf,' a 10-song 7" single, recorded three weeks after their first gigs, and the very first release for Gramm Records (which later became what the world now knows as Bad Taste). Disc one features their second full-length-ish release, 'Googooplex' (a 2x12" set which followed their debut album, 'Ekki Enn' which is available separately). The second disc includes all of 'Tilf,' plus the LP, 'Maskína' which features live recordings from their first gig through their last gig. The last four songs come from the brilliant 'No Time to Think' studio EP recorded in London, released one month after their split in August of 1982. The band moved on, Einar formed a group called Kukl, and later got back together with Purrkur Pillnikk's bass guitarist, Braggi, and started Sugarcubes. In the tradition of a number of my favorite clean-cut post-punks, Purrkur Pillnikk were more concerned with making lots of fun noise rather than focusing their time on better chops. Unfortunately for me, however, all the liner notes are in Icelandic but the pictures sure are fun to look at. - Jon Whitney
ALVA NOTO / SIGNAL / BYETONE / KOMET, "MORT AUX VACHES"
For the first ever two disc Mort Aux Vaches, Raster-Noton's founding fathers - Carsten Nicolai as Alva Noto, Olaf Bender as Byetone, Frank Bretschneider as Komet and the trio as Signal - provide over 136 minutes of "live" digital minutiae for the ever-growing archive. Chances are, you've already decided what modern minimalism does or doesn't do for you and if the answer is "not much", there's nothing here out of the ordinary that's going to change your opinion. Alva Noto's 38 minute "Prototypes" diligently maps out searing waves, pops, clicks, pings and deep bass for a rather relaxing, almost funereal at times, piece. If you really concentrate on it, especially with headphones, it's fascinating how Nicolai skillfully arranges each little speck of sound throughout the stereo playground. Signal's three tracks are rooted more in repetition and comprised of the most curious but mildly annoying sounds, the fluttering low end throb of "Index Area" being the closest to Scorn these guys will probably ever come. Byetone's five ratio titled tracks flow as one. Bender loves quiet sparseness using swooping tones, soft pitter patters, hissing drones and simple techno beats. Komet's seven tracks gather up micro sounds into playful techno pop rhythms, beginning and ending with the ambient aura and appreciation of an audience, the only audible indication of a truly live experience on either disc. Not that that matters. Just consider this another compilation in line with the '20' to 2000' series, 'New Forms' and the '(O)acis Box'. - Mark Weddle
JAMES COLEMAN: THEREMIN, "ZUIHITSU"
Sedimental released this collection of theremin-based explorations from Boston improviser James Coleman last year. The theremin is not an instrument that has been associated with improvised music all that much in the past. Most often James plays alongside the finely focused elegant percussion of Tatsuya Nakatani, but there are also contributions from other improvisers singing and playing cello, trumpet and saxophone. James is curator of the lowercase sound email discussion forum, so it's not surprising that 'Zuihitsu' is a fairly quiet collection that works up to occasional skittering resolutions relying on fast paced interaction but mostly squeaks and gurgles in a playful but subdued manner. One track is titled "Zwittering Maschines" and zwittering seems a good word to describe the sound of 'Zuihitsu.' It's difficult for me to hear this CD without being reminded of the voices of classic cult BBC kids TV show The Clangers, the moon dwelling woollen puppets with squeaky voices. Perhaps that's appropriate considering the influence of bird sounds on James Coleman's improvising technique, and the image the theremin has as a kitsch sci-fi soundtrack tool. "This Castle Keeps Me" opens with a low drone that eventually swoops off over sparse and slow atmospheric drum beats. "Burial of the Combs" is a more dissonant follow up with slow scraping cello from Vic Rawlings. On "Katydid" the theremin conspires with Bob Rainey's sax to sound like a dog whining in curiosity at odd percussive occurrences. Greg Kelley's trumpet brings a strangled gurgle to "Muddy Kemaris" for bird like twitters to flit around, before launching drawn out keenings over drum rolls. "Lady of the Combs" adds some stuttering jerky vocals from Liz Tonne which instantly lifts the music into a more tense mode, as she sounds quite distraught. Her vocals on a handful of later tracks are much more subdued and merge organically.
Although the album is made up of fifteen tracks with various combinations of improvisers, with only the theremin constant throughout, the album merges seamlessly into a whole which could easily have been one long session. The final track "Released to the Stars" brings a low key resolution with Rawlings droning cello underpinning Tonne's choking ululations which seem to suggest death and rebirth as the sounds dissolve to silence.
The sleeve is a an imaginitively elegant affair which allows the listener to choose one of three covers featuring different abstract oriental style art under tracing paper and quotes from William Blake, Kimo no Chomei or Elizabeth Millard. The quotes are spiritually suggestive and compliment the intent of the music neatly. - Graeme Rowland
The Sunshine Fix, "Age of the Sun"
The recording acts that are part of the Elephant 6 collective all have their own idiosyncracies, their own elements that you either love or hate. I don't think I know anyone who loves all of these bands, including Beulah, Neutral Milk Hotel, and also the Olivia Tremor Control. The Sunshine Fix is the solo project of the latter's Bill Doss, and, included in the Elephant 6 collective or not, it's one of the recordings of that type of music I haven't really enjoyed. True, it's more straightforward pop than the OTC, and I never really liked them, either, but this release just seems like it's lacking something all the way through. From the opening title track, the vocal harmonies and treated guitars greet you and prepare you for the journey. And you would get the impression that this is what you can expect for most of the record, which would make it pretty boring. Unfortunately, that isn't the case here: it's worse. There are moments of other sounds entering the picture, but they are few and far between, and they don't last long. Then it's right back to the same old shtick. Layers of guitars and vocals that are treated with different effects, clearly recorded drums, and occasional bouts of handclaps. Ho hum, yawn. And the subject matter, mainly dealing with themes of light and the sun (a fixation with sunshine = The Sunshine Fix. How clever.), is very simplistic. It could be flushed out and explored more, but it's very surface level. Towards the end of the release, I realized what was missing: the rest of the Olivia Tremor Control. Now that that group is defunct, the members are revealing that their music was a great case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. There is a twinkle of hope on tracks like 'Everything is Waking,' and I can only hope they use that twinkle to greater effect and explore wider themes on future recordings. This got real stale real quick. - Rob Devlin
the chicks on speed/kriedler session
Those hungry for a new knock-em up/knock-em down Chicks On Speed product might be slightly let down by the laid back nature of this four-tracker. The album comes out of what appears to be (from the accompanying video) a day-long session in Kreidler's studios. Musically, this is probably the most advanced and intricate stuff their vocals have accompanied, but the lyrical context seems rather unplanned and uninspiring, however. Could it be possible the Chicks have run out of things to say so soon? The opener is probably my fave track on the disc, noted as "Polar Love," I think it's actually, "Sliding Down Your Rib Cage" as the girls graphically describe close, intimate experiences up against a distincly Kreidler low-cool moving tune. The third track, "Frequent Flyer Lounge Song" is perhaps the most irritating original song on here with the overrepetition of "dance music, dance music, dance music" completely ruining the track. The last song will surely make a number of people severely hate them, as both Kreidler and the Chicks horribly sing on a cover of Nick Cave's "Where the Wild Roses Grow." Their singing voices are so incredibly unbearable at this point, the 17+ minute disc can't end soon enough. While I'm a fan of both Kreidler and Chicks, their styles seem somewhat mismatched, almost like the Freddie Mercury/Monsterrat Caballie catastrophe. For me, the Chicks seem to sound most natural with thumpy bass, tacky keyboards and dancefloor parody, not necessarily introspective popcorn beats and timid sounds. Fear the video component as the included software "PROJEKTOR" will most certainly crash any non-German PC. - Jon Whitney
ANDY MOOR / KAFFE MATTHEWS, "LOCKS"
Guitarist Andy Moor is best known for frenetic harrangues in the Ex and Dogfaced Hermans. His idiosyncratic six string scratchings get reprocessed via Kaffe Matthews computer on these recordings of improvised encounters. Matthews mutates the raw angular attack and chime of Moor's guitar into loops, drones and static buzz which Moor responds to in turn. Matthews sometimes just loops a two tone fragment, at others crushes the guitar into thin spidery high pitched digi-screech. Veering from rattling unwinding machine cog splinters through short patches of sparse plucking hum calm to loose freeform thunderous excavation textures, they stay just ahead of thrumming abstraction with some odd but simple rhythmic moves that skip merrily around complex dissonant edges, unfurling repetitive patterns, coalescing and fragmenting. They make a fine unfettered noise and know how to effectively build and release tension. Whilst "She Is Nice" charges forth in hectic flux, "Builder Bloomsberg" opens with a repeated dipping strum over click clack loops that slowly morph into a fluctuating bipolar drone where the sound sources seem to merge. Then Moor builds an ever more discordant fractious guitar onslaught over Matthews' pulsating loops. The track climaxes with the computer ripping the strings from the guitar and strangling an unsuspecting studio engineer. So that didn't really happened but since this is a recording imagination can color the events it portrays. Kaffe Matthews' last solo recording to reach these ears 'CD Cecile,' seemed to dispense with the violin that she'd previously used as a sound source, at least in any recognisable form, so it's quite good to hear her take on the guitar here. Mostly guitar remains recognisable as such, but occasionally, as on the low drone eerie ambience that concludes "Here Is Your Coat," the laptop textures seem to hold sway. This would probably be much more fun if you could see how Andy Moor's attacking the guitar as he's quite a visual performer if his days in Dogfaced Hermans are anything to go by. Something I find a little strange about recordings of improvisation is that they often grow with repeated listenings. This might seem to contradict the essence of improvisation, which is instantaneous action and reaction, but perhaps makes sense of the point of actually releasing improv recordings in the first place. At first this CD seemed to out stay its welcome at almost the full seventy minute mark, but after a few plays seemed to be over in a flash. Maybe the machine cogs were the atonal sounds of time compacting and unravelling. Occasionally, as on the Instant Chavires gig segment of "Here Is Your Coat," it's almost like a lighter fleet footed cousin of the heavy record shop emptying storm of the FM Einheit / Caspar Brotzmann encounter preserved on 'Merry Christmas.' If you ever wanted to hear the spikiness of the Ex in a much less anchored setting then this is something you should hear and I'd also recommend that fans of Sonic Youth's more wayward freakout tendencies check this out. - Graeme Rowland
- For sound samples go and have a look at unsounds.com as Graeme's feeling especially lazy this week.
Giant Sand, "Cover Magazine"
Giant Sand's second release on Thrill Jockey, a record designed to see just how well this configuration are connected musically as well as a chance to bring in more diverse guest collaborators. As always, the ringleader is Howe Gelb, this time with his rhythm stalwarts in Joe Burns on bass and John Convertino on drums, and, as the title suggests, covering other artists' songs except for one new track. All songs get the Giant Sand treatment, though, which makes for capturing music. No one likes a cover album where the artists try to sound just like the original, and Giant Sand do anything but that. Black Sabbath's 'Iron Man' is realized as a loping lament about a lost soul rather than the shredding document of heavy metal it once was. 'King of the Road' becomes a modern lounge track, Nick Cave's 'Red Right Hand' sparser than the original and therefore infinitely scarier. Every song sounds like the world Gelb lives in: shifting sands in the dark light, dirty cantinas, and hunted men. It's quintessential Arizona desert music, the soundtrack to the misunderstood outcast movie of our time. As always, there's Gelb's haunting voice, somewhere around the darker part of Bruce Springsteen and the more understandable Neil Young, making the most of every note. And the revolving cast of characters this time includes Polly Jean Harvey, whose 'Plants and Rags' is also covered, and Neko Case. The last three tracks are recorded live, including one composition from Gelb's album "Confluence" featuring Jim Fairchild (Grandaddy) on guitar and running well over nine minutes. It's a very exciting record, full of interesting sounds and songs. It's also one of Giant Sand's strongest records, showing the innovation and range they are capable of, even with music that isn't theirs to begin with. - Rob Devlin
THE WAILERS BAND / RHYTHM & SOUND, "HIGHER FIELD MARSHALL / NO PARTIAL" 10"
Mysterious UK based reggae label PK Records have somehow dug up a classic and coupled it with a modern classic on 10 inches of vinyl. The A-side is a previously unreleased instrumental by The Wailers Band, produced by Clive Chin at Randy's and featuring Peter Tosh on melodica, thus dating it to the early '70s I believe. "Higher Field Marshall" is a simple, slow bass groove with snare and Tosh's melodic meandering for just under three minutes, followed by a more forceful but unfortunately even briefer dub version. Simple but nice. On the B-side are Berliners Rhythm & Sound, founders of the Basic Channel / Chain Reaction school of thought. "No Partial" (also found on their recent self-titled CD) gives us the contemporary effected flavor of dub. It may or may not be a re-working of or tribute to the Wailers' track, but it's certainly similar and complementary and catches the same spirit. Are these tracks essential? Not really. But it's still nice to have, especially on vinyl. Just don't stray too far from the turntable because despite the time lapse effects of this music, each side is over before you know it. - Mark Weddle
Lionel Marchetti, "Knud Un Nom de Serpent (Le Cercle des Entrailles)"; M. Behrens, "Elapsed Time"
These two limited edition releases on Cambridge, MA's Intransitive imprint both suffer from putting far too much stock in their concepts and processes than in the music itself, and as a result they are both mediocre efforts. Marchetti's release, an audio collage of world music and, to quote the artist himself, "citations" of well-known experimental music pieces, hides under the guise of being an "exploration of Shamanism and ecstatic states of mind." Much more offensively bad than the M. Behrens' disc, the pastiche of music that is not even Marchetti's own is pretentious in concept and an unenjoyable listen. Though I understand the irony of using the tool of an audio collage, which is an important part of the history of experimental music, and comprising this collage partially of experimental music itself, I find very little value in the year 2002 by listening to this sort of experiment - if it were created 40 years ago, perhaps, but not today. The disc's pretentiousness is increased by making the 9-second silences between pieces their own indexed tracks with titles like "Silence Simple" and "Silence du Chaman Blanc." Marchetti writes, "For a while, I have been reading 'Shamanism and Archaic States of Ecstasy'...in which I found descriptions of rituals...these were not far from a place of spirit that I have wanted to share. The composition is able to make the listener live with my mythology, more aware of the world's potential forces." I understand Marchetti's wanting to convey his own world to the listener, but by listening to musics that aren't his own, I don't feel enlightened by Marchetti's world, nor do I feel like I want to be.
The M. Behrens disc is less pretentious than Marchetti's, but still very self-absorbed. The pieces, which follow some sort of World War II era technology battle theme, are comprised wholly of Behrens' older works that he's re-evaluated and re-processed for this project. The extensive, personal liner notes by Behrens explain a good deal about the processes used to create these pieces and the concepts which he's intertwined within them - mostly coming from a book called "The Secret War." But since most listeners haven't read this book, and a good deal of listeners don't know the early M. Behrens pieces that he's sampling from, the concepts and processes become much less important to the listener than they are to the artist. The music itself is less annoying to listen to than Marchetti's collage, but on its own it's not very gripping, and its unclear how it fits in with his elaborate concept. A large part of the disc is so quiet that it requires serious attention and concentration for long stretches of time. When sounds finally do rise to a normal level, they're not interesting enough to be worth the effort. Intransitive should be commended for releasing conceptual works like these, and much of the rest of the Intransitive catalog is quite interesting, but these two discs are too entrenched in the artists' personal worlds to be very interesting, even to a listener who's willing to give them a try. - Nate Smith
- M. Brehens - 1939
- M. Brehens - 1941
- M. Brehens - 1943
- Lionel Marchetti - Cinq
- Lionel Marchetti - Sept
- Lionel Marchetti - Un
papa m, "three songs"
It's always weird writing about friends records. Papa M stayed with me on September 9th last year following the show with Pullman (Bundy K. Brown and Dave Pajo in the same room, it was once thought impossible). It was a Sunday night and I remember staying up and talking with Dave and his band partner for a bit. We may have had breakfast at the infamous Arlington Diner around the corner the following morning. Monday night was their gig in NYC and they ended up staying overnight in Brooklyn. Tuesday morning, the western world changed forever. Looking at this cover with the burning building behind Dave is a rather bitter reminder and brings back one of my most vivid worries on that day during those hours, hoping that they were okay. Likewise, this appropriately-titled three-song collection is probably the saddest recordings I have ever heard from Pajo. Oddly enough, there's almost a sense on here that despite hardship, people move on. "Rainbow of Gloom" is a tale about what seems to be a longing anticipation for the release of death under the metaphor of miserable weather while "Lo the Rose Cease to Bloom" is about trying to keep good thoughts for ex girlfriend's wedding day, both 'mountain-song' style tunes feature simply acoustic guitar, harmonica and voice. The middle piece, "O Kentucky" is a monumental, almost completely instrumental bit which despite the title and buried words, almost sounds like an homage to George Harrison with the lead guitar effects and sliding style on top of the acoustic guitar, piano and lush strings, unfamiliar to most Papa M music. Unfortunately with the closing of Other Music in Boston I have no idea now where to get his split 7" single and other CD single. A singles collection is due out from Pajo in the near future, however, but I reckon most of the hard to find vinyl-only things will be included. - Jon Whitney
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