kinski, "airs above your station"
Sub Pop (CD) /
Strange Attractors (2xLP)
I'm now in my third year of hosting a regular "rock" show on a college radio station (I've been hosting various other experimental and non-thematic shows since 1986 mind you), and I have been finding myself increasingly disgruntled with the current trends of "rock" music. It seems that the best songwriters in bands who employ the guitar/bass/drums format play both very slowly and timidly, while the upbeat, more energetic stuff is mostly sloppy, painfully derivative, poorly written, or too damned wimpy. While an increasing amount of noisy, more experimental rock is feverishly exciting, none of it really fits in to the first radio show of the morningthe "morning drive"where I can provide a viable alternative to mall-rock and talk radio on the rest of the dial without getting too abrasive, weird or depressing. Bearing that in mind, it is no wonder that I find Kinski's third album (their Sub Pop debut) a long overdue, much needed, refreshing break from the mundane. Nearly all of the songs are instrumental, most stretch close to or over the ten minute mark, and all are fully developed with multiple movements and incorporate influences from a number of styles. It starts with the hum of a tone, and then another and another, patiently layering on top of each other until the first guitar comes in, and just when the song appears to have reached its identity, BANG!, the -real- meat kicks in. Get used to being surprised. While this Seattle quartet has been seen spending time with hippies and dronesters, thanks to performances at Terrastock and concerts with other strange attractors, their sound is neither introspective nor headphonic, climaxing with enough noise to please the inner child and a rhythm strong and solid enough to get the walls shaking to the beat. At times, there's a distorted wall of blurry guitar sound but nobody's gazing at their shoes. After the first two instrumental songs, bassist Lucy Atkinson takes to the microphone, with the fast-paced, aggressive "Rhode Island Freakout," which could easily make any Pixies fan cream their jeans. Add that to the echo-laden opening/white noise distortion ending of the following "Schedule for Using Pillows & Beanbags," the blissful drum-less gem, "I Think I Blew It," and the sitar-esque guitar sounds on "Your Lights Are (Out Or) Burning Badly," and Kinksi are clearly far from being a one-trick pony or easily classifiable. This album is gratifying enough with only eight songs that total nearly an hour. Remember their name: no doubt it will be dropped much more in the coming years. - Jon Whitney
Bonnie Prince Billy, "Master and Everyone"
Will Oldham's third full-length release as Bonnie 'Prince' Billy continues to develop the intimate, personal songwriting he's known for. The sparse, haunting tone of 'I See a Darkness' has given way to a much warmer, lush feel that began to emerge on 'Ease on Down the Road.' Billy's acoustic guitar is the center of the sound, and it comes across soft, clear and resonant against his reedy voice. The album's opener "The Way" shows that in spite of the more comfortable musical feel of the album, Billy is still not content, with its opening line "Winter comes and snow / I can't marry you, you know" and its string-backed chorus, "Love me the way I love you." The broken romance dominates the album. Bonnie Billy can be imagined sitting by a fire in a tiny wooden cottage in some Southern backwater, rehashing the heartache and penning bitter lyrics like "Constancy and love is a joke / I'm not afraid of meeting you / I'm fickle and I brag about it / neither will I cry for you." Perhaps the most stunning song is "Wolf Among Wolves" where Billy most closely approaches his past 'Darkness' ghostliness. In between occasional ambient gusts, Billy intones, "Why can't I be loved as what I am? / A wolf among wolves and not as a man / among men." At times, the album can drag, particularly with the repetitive chorus of "Joy and Jubilee," but for the most part, Oldham's words and arraignments are enough to keep you interested. "Master and Everyone" fleshes out Oldham's melancholy songwriting with the addition of female backup vocals and instrumentation like strings, winds, and accordion. Most importantly, they are not used needlessly or overbearingly, but sparingly and sound like a perfect fit for the quiet, folky atmosphere. Oldham has a knack for crafting soulful, emotional songs and 'Master and Everyone' demonstrates that he's only getting stronger. - Michael Patrick Brady
laika, "lost in space: volume one (1993-2002)"
Only very few of my fave bands can usher me in a trance-like state to completely different worlds like Laika. After ten years of recording as such, their first compilation has surfacedcollecting a number of favorites, rarities and unreleased things. While the obsessive/compulsive nitpicky side of me starts screaming bloody murder looking for other rare omitted or forgotten tunes, the calm/collected side of me is very thankful this came out. Thinking back to 1993, it was obvious from the first Moonshake recordings that their strengths were in the bass, female vocals and killer production. After releasing the 'Eva Luna' LP and a couple EPs, the bassist, female singer and producer broke free from Moonshake. (Unsurprisingly Moonshake's quality sharply went downhill.) Guitarist/vocalist Margaret Fiedler, a mid-westerner living in London and producer Guy Fixsen formed Laika with other Moonshake alum, John Frenett on bass guitar. The debut album, 'Silver Apples of the Moon' surfaced in 1995 and further pushed the best ideas put forth on 'Eva Luna,' deftly crashing the sounds of adventurous rock and rhythmic mayhem. The dangerously catchy tunes were saturated in electronic and organic percussion, whimsical loops, intoxicating repetitious bass guitar riffs and unoffensive vocals. I remember seeing Tricky open for Laika on this tour and was simply wowed by their deceptive simplicity. Frenett departed, Rob Ellis joined and their second album, 'Sounds of the Satellites' came out in 1997. With Rob's departure, Laika became more clearly defined a duo between Guy and Margaret. 'Good Looking Blues,' released in 2000, was easily one of my faves of the year: their instrumentation became less and less saturated while the feel became more and more galactic. (Sometimes it's amazing how the simplest of instrumentations can create the most compelling songs.) All three albums are represented by some of their band-picked highlights, while the bonus material includes non-album tracks like "Lower Than Stars," originally recorded for a Volume comp, the brand new song, "Beestinger," three Peel Session recordings, their cover of Wire's "German Shepherds," and a couple remixes including Jack Dangers' epic 9+ minute extension of "Looking for the Jackalope." Originally recorded for the Red Hot compilaiton, 'Off-Beat,' "Jackalope" is one of my fave Dangers remixes, rhythmically laden with what sounds like baby rattles and entertaining samples of psychedelic numerologists. Furthermore, an accompanying booklet has really cool stories and factual tidbits. For example: did you know singer/guitarist Margaret Fiedler has done more Peel Sessions for more bands than any other woman? (This is due to her performances with Laika, Moonshake, PJ Harvey and God is My Co-Pilot.) 'Lost in Space' is a two-disc set and is graciously priced only as a single and is worth every minute. - Jon Whitney
RHODES, "WAR DAY" 7"
Swim releases are always worth a shot, so after being a bit surprised that Colin Newman was releasing a single by a band who sounded on the surface to be some kind of reversion to punk rock '77, I decided to try it anyway and see if it didn't grow in. This was a good idea, as I'd heard compressed radio broadcasts of Rhodes prior to hearing the single, and some of the raw powerhouse energy had been shorn away. Colin's always been a big fan of process and this is why he liked Rhodes, a rock band born in a computer. He reckons that soon a lot more rock bands are going to be building tracks on computers from digitized building blocks, discrete chunks of recorded sound reconfigured furiously. Although this isn't nearly as distinctive as Wire's 'Read and Burn' EPs, it has a similar juggernaut crunch. "War Day" is a grimly appropriate a title for a song today, considering the idiotic destabilizing Middle Eastern situation, and the song rips, shreds and burns with a swagger not a million miles from the Saints second classic album 'Eternally Yours.' Despite a cocky attitude, the vocals are fairly weak and nondescript but that's not such a problem with a hotblooded ascending guitar riff driving the song to destruction. The computer also fuels ultraheavy crushing drum precision. On the flipside, 'The New' sounds like some long lost out-take from the Adverts first album, reshined and honed in widescreen moderninity. Rhodes deliver two quick blasts that leave me curious to see if they can transcend their influences when album time comes, because they've taken root in a killer sound bristling with needle-in-the-red digital distortion overload and it'd be a shame if something fresher didn't grow there. - Graeme Rowland
Kid Dakota, "So Pretty"
Chair Kickers Union
Originally self-released as a five-song EP in 2001, Kid Dakota's expanded version (his debut full-length) arrives with three new tracks on Low's Chairkickers Union Music. (Low's own Zak Sally even joins the Minneapolis duo on bass on several tracks.) For a two-man outfitChristopher McGuire on percussion and Darren Johnson contributing vocals, guitar, and all other instrumentsKid Dakota is electric. Jackson's songwriting and unvarnished angst break forth with surprising ferocity given that most of his songs feature two- (or three- or four-) part vocal harmonies and languorous guitar solos. These decorative touches emerge like hard rock-inspired indulgences over otherwise straight-forward, sparse arrangements. It's as if you stripped the orchestra from the heavy metal power ballad, and then most of the heavy metal, but still found songs that were slightly glamorous, not a little trashy, perhaps even desperate, but definitely beautiful and raw. Jackson's voice, like that of an anemic angel, floats between humming guitars and sparkling cymbal crashes. Sweet, lazy, and clear, almost every trembling note is about pain. Lyrics touch on substance abuse and betrayal but inevitably return to the dull, debilitating conviction that one has become a cipher. Jackson, whose bloody face stares from the album cover in a candid snapshot from darker times, has said that while he is now completely sober, 'So Pretty' is a testament to the darkness of his worst years. But what great hooks! With several tracks actually waltzing into lilting crescendos, the music sustains humor and warmth if not hope throughout all sorts of miserable scenarios. Thus, although on the way there's a cheating girlfriend, getting dumped, alcoholism, heroin addiction, more alcoholism, meaningless sex, and murderthe last song, "The Overcoat," is emblematic of it all. Ending on a slightly higher note (detox), Jackson is still morbidly fatalistic ("maybe better but more likely it's worse") but even if nothing changes and even in the face of nothing itself, one has to keep moving: "And it's New Year's Eve / There's nothing to do there's nowhere to go / So I get a pass from my counselor to walk in the snow / Maybe going in circles again but it's hard to say / 'Cause my tracks keep filling up with snow and they fade away." - Diane Wei Lewis
STRAY LIGHT, "CAREERS"
Stray Light are the Manchester (UK) band I've enjoyed most in recent years. After seeing their earliest gigs I invited them to support Bardo Pond and Stars of the Lid when I put on gigs for those bands. Their debt to Sonic Youth has always been apparent, but they play up a more mannered and thoughtful side of that influence than most detuned rockists. When they first started gigging around Manchester amongst a sea of turgid Oasis clones they stood out a mile. Stray Light are all about slowburning intertwined guitar melodies, bolstered by sweet violin drone and skittering drums. 'Careers' consists mostly of finely wrought instrumentals which gleam elegantly, but it's a shame Kat Moor doesn't sing a little more as she can bring a heartfelt longing to her semi-mumble singing that's quite stunning at times, and her duet with bassist / violinist Ellen Poliakoff on "Sarcasm On The Move" has a strange playground nursery rhyme feel that's both cute and sinister. Vocals don't force an entry until the fourth track, "Hearing Shapes," which brings a buried folkiness to the byre. Whilst they open the album with all strings blazing in the psychedelic cloud swarms of the very appropriately titled "Haze & Your Arm," mostly guitarists Kat and David Bennett pick careful arpeggiated flutter, swirling around in ever deepening pools, building carefully considered sunrise momentum. When they do unleash a little six string fire, its always been carefully stoked. It seems rhythmic thrust is painted in by the guitar melodies, and Dan Dunbobbin's drumming tends to punctuate. The final track "Kitty's Blues" finds Kat describing pent up rage brilliantly in a sparse lyric, "Every time you shut your eyes, you burst into flames," and the album careers to a langourous anti-climax, cutting off a heartrending yearning elegy just as it seems about to explode. 'Careers' follows up the CD-R release 'Mile 7' with similar shimmering quality, but with perhaps more obvious contribution from their newest member Ellen, whose violin has become ever more central to their sound. You can hear tracks at the Doubtful Sound website. - Graeme Rowland
JGrzinich/Seth Nehil, "Confluence"
Intransitive Recordings has released one in a pair of discs by John Grznich and Seth Nehil that explores their prolonged colaboration of the last several years. 'Confluence' opens with an extended, airy drone and a slight whisper that leads into a repeated clanking rhythm that grows until another, deeper drone can supplant the first. Slowly, microorganisms made purely of sound begin to swell and collide as the opening piece, titled "Pneuma" in a vaguely scientific artspeak creates a self-sustaining colony of sounds as beings. Of course, the sound-organisms don't have to abide by the physical laws and social rules that real beings would, and so the analogy ends there. But Grznich and Nehil have set out to create organic sound systems with 'Confluence' and the differentiation between an organic system and a symbol of one is important. The prose that fills the liner notes is coldly detached as it describes processes, and experiments more than sounds and feelings. Of course, not all music is set to resonate on an emotional level, and "Pneuma" is a good example of that.
You can find the structures, observe the growth and be completely involved in listening to the system, but it's not likely to affect you in a personal, emotional way unless you are normally moved by the kind of rigidly scientific approach to the world that this track seems to entail.
"The Distant Edge," however, treads a very different terrain that is full of voices and the aural signifiers of human activity. The atonal choral drone that builds with the agitated activity of a beehive is reminiscent of the György Ligeti themes in 2001, and is accompanied by location recordings of crowd noise and honking car horns that evoke the confusion and dissonance of a demonstration in Belgrade. The album's closer, "Lohme" is a fluttering, cyclic drone workout that sees a sonic system in stasis, wrapping around itself in a pulsating whitewash. "Lohme" lacks the tension of "The Distant Edge" and the clinical precision of "Pneuma," but works on it's own as a worthy foray into musical structures that take an almost extreme amount of patience and time to digest. From the pen and ink drawing on the cover to the last fading tones of recorded tones, 'Confluence' is an observable sonic petri dish. Just like looking through a microscope at amorphous shapes colliding in the protoplasm, approaching this record can be difficult and rewarding depending on what you expect to find. - Matthew Jeanes
Seth Nehil/JGrzinich, "Stria"
If 'Confluence,' the other half of this duo of releases from Grzinich and Nehil requires patience, then 'Stria' requires downright fortitude. It would be easy to put this record on and go about your day of paying bills, cooking supper, and feining interest in electro acoustic music, but it takes a real will power to dive in and let the slowly moving drones work their magic. Like 'Confluence,' 'Stria' is composed of three tracks: long bookend pieces to start and conclude the album, and a middle piece that is considerably shorter. Here, the middle piece, "Arboreal" personifies its name with the sound of crunching leaves that are the product of a group recording of no less than nine people. The recording and composition are pristine, allowing for a clear mental image of fingers squeezing dried leaves into dust. This may or may not be the actual source of "Arboreal's" sounds, but it is, nevertheless, something tangible and real to hold on to. However, "Arboreal" is the closest anything on the disc comes to sounding like a recording of the natural world, or even an intentionally manipulated sound source. The rest of 'Stria' is contained in long, mesmerizing drones that stretch out at glacial speed as if the recordings themselves had been stretched the distance between Grzinich and Nehil. The 20 plus minute piece, "Tome Gather," has the faintest clicks in the distant background that suggest the presence of a person in the room as the massive swell of humming continues to envelope space. Ambient music (which this is or is not depending on your prefered nomenclature) has often been called sonic wallpaper, but moments here seem less like sound acting as wallpaper than the sound OF wallpaper, amplified a million-fold and played back into a dense reverb chamber. There are long stretches of the album opener, "The Mirrored Corner" that sound like nothing at all is changing, that is, unless you listen carefully and notice that the changes are in fact taking place thousands of times per second as the waveforms crest and pulse to form a continuous, volitile drone. This kind of careful listening, and the cautiously exploritory methods of these composers obviously aren't for everyone, and I've had equal bouts of really appreciating this record and really wondering what, if anything, the sound was there to do. I think the sound is just there because it can be, and there's a beauty in that. "Stria" is a meditation in sound, that compliments its sister recording while managing to sound nothing like it.- Matthew Jeanes
Brokeback, "Looks at the Bird"
The defining moment of an album is frequently its closer. It's the last chance to make a lasting impression on the listener that can turn a good album into a timeless classic. Looking back on the 1990s, 'Millions Now Living Will Never Die' ended with the lasting impression of "Along the Banks of Rivers," a tune which differed so much from the others on that record but was strong enough to leave many breathless. Without that unpredictable variety and solid strength that came with the borderline out-of-place "Banks," it's almost unsurprising that when asked about Tortoise, their subsequent albums, 'TNT' and 'Standards' rarely are mentioned as being as globally important. Sure, critics blamed it on the times and trends of instrumental "post-rock" music, but listening to any album Doug McCombs leads as Brokebackexploiting the familiar soft, delicate, low-rumbling sound as heard on "Banks"I can safely say that this type of flavor was surely left too far out of the mix. As the core duo of Brokeback (McCombs and Noel Kupersmith) are bassists, it's unsurprising that Brokeback recordings are bottom-heavy, with the distant thunder-esque a double-bass matched with the sound of a twanging baritone guitar or six-string bass. The duo rarely stop at only the low end, often allowing the songs to be colored with simple chimes, electronic rhythms, found sounds, guitar melodies, subtle horns, or angelic voices. On the whole, Brokeback albums consistently remain hovering in a point of serenity from start to finish, not entirely unlike an almost motionless bird, gracefully suspended in the wind (although the cover image has a lot of birds that look like they're crashing!). This album is no exception, and no surprise, as it maintains the serenity despite the stylistic changes from song to song. 'The Bird' is garnished with electric glitch beat-driven songs, beat-less pieces like the albums's all-too-quickly-fading opener, "From the Black Current," which combines a bowed double bass, bowed cymbal sound and twanging bass 6, and the voices of Stereolab's Mary and Laetitia in "Name's Winston, Friends Call Me James," and the catchy "In the Reeds," whose la-la melody can easily run around the head for hours. While there seems to be more experimentation this time around, there's nothing shocking about it, and this isn't a bad thing. The high quality of well-crafted melodies from previous releases is thankfully intact. If it's even more variety that's sought, program the songs between Tortoise tracks, but if something peaceful and lulling is more desired, this album can take the lead just fine. - Jon Whitney
We know that sometimes these CDs are somewhat challenging to find, which is why we have a community section which can be used to obtain nearly everything available on this site.
WEEK OF JANUARY 26 - FEBRUARY 1
This is simply this week's highlights from the NEW RELEASES provided by Greg and Feedback Monitor.
Accelera Deck/Slinger - (21:15)/Fire Maps CD (Skylab Operations, Austria)
Jay Alansky [A Reminiscent Drive] - Don't Go 12" (F Communications, France)
Alejandra and Aeron - Bousha Blue Blazes CD (Orthlorng Musork, US)
Antigen Shift - implicit structures CD (Frozen Empire Media, US)
Beefcake - „003 + „024 + 2X = „727 CD (Hymen, Germany)
Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - Master & Everyone CD/LP (Domino, UK - Drag City, US)
* Butthole Surfers - Butthole Surfers/Live PCPPEP CD [reissue of the first two EPs from 1983/84 with bonus tracks] (Latino Bugger Veil, US)
* Calla - Televise CD (Quatermass, Belgium)
Comtron - What We Sell 12" (Blacklabel, The Netherlands)
* Current 93 - The Seahorse Rears to Oblivion CDEP [CD edition of previous 12" release - limited to 1000 copies] (Durtro, UK)
Current 93/Antony - Live at St Olave's Church London 2002 CDEP (Durtro, UK)
Daedelus - The Quiet Party 12"/CDEP (Plug Research, US)
Deceptikon - Lost Subject 12" (Merck, US)
Displacer - Moon_Phase CD (M-tronic, France)
Dither - Summit CD (M-tronic, France)
Echoboy - Automatic Eyes 7"/CDEP (Mute, UK)
Einsturzende Neubauten - 9-15-2000 Brussels CD [live] (Underground Inc., US)
Electric Company - It's Hard to Be a Baby CD (Tigerbeat6, US)
Erasure - Other People's Songs CD/LP (Mute, UK/US)
* The Faint - Danse Macabre CD/LP (City Slang, UK)
Dino Felipe - Spreadder/Sprigg 7" (Schematic, US)
Frank & Bill - MaOx 7" (Merck, US)
Hajsch - 1992 CD (Sonig, Germany)
Hellfish vs Producer - Round III 12" (Deathchant, UK)
Herrmann and Kleine/Hausmeister - split 7" (Esel, Germany)
Hexstatic/Various - Solid Steel: Listen & Learn CD (Ninja Tune, UK/Canada/US)
* Human League - Reproduction CD [remastered reissue] (Caroline, US)
* Human League - Travelogue CD [remastered reissue] (Caroline, US)
* Human League - Dare/Love & Dancing CD [remastered reissue] (Caroline, US)
Laika - Lost In Space Vol. 1 2xCD [anthology release] (Too Pure, UK)
Loose Fur [Jim O'Rourke] - Loose Fur CD/LP (Domino, UK - Drag City, US)
Luomo - Waltz for Your Eyes 12" [limited one-single single] (SST, Germany)
Majesticons - Beauty Party CD/LP (Big Dada/Ninja Tune, UK/Canada/US)
Melvins - Dr. Geek/Return of the Spiders 7" (Ipecac, US)
Melvins - Black Stooges/Foaming 7" (Ipecac, US)
Minny Pops - Secret Stories CD [anthology of singles and unreleased material] (LTM, UK)
Minny Pops - Sparks In A Darkroom CD [first time on CD - includes bonus tracks] (LTM, UK)
* Nightmares on Wax - Carboot Soul CD [reissue] (Warp, US)
Norken - Blue Divide (remodelled) CD/LP [remix album] (Hydrogen Dukebox, UK)
Novy Svet - Envenenado 7" [ltd to 300 copies on coloured vinyl] (Klanggaerie, Austria)
Gary Numan - Scarred: Live At The Brixton Academy 2xCD (Eagle, UK)
The Orb/Various - Back to Mine CD/3xLP (DMC, UK)
Perspects - The Third & Final Report 12" (Interdimensional Transmissions, US)
Phasmid - Her Friend The Blue Star 2xCD [one disc of original tracks, one with remixes by Bochum Welt, B.Fleischmann, Figurine, Frederik Schikowski, Headphone Science, I Am Robot And Proud, Isan, Printed Circuit, Snospray, Sweet Trip & Tim Koch] (Skylab Operations, Austria)
Pigface - Easy Listening CD (Invisible/Underground Inc., US)
Scene Creamers - I Suck On That Emotion CD/LP (Drag City, US)
Janek Schaeffer - Black Immure CD (sirr-ecords, Portugal)
Soft Cell - The Night two CDEPs (Cooking Vinyl, UK)
Solenoid - The Lotus Eater 12" (Orac, US)
Sonar Lodge - Sound Effects 2xLP (Music For Speakers, The Netherlands)
Stakker - Eurotechno CD/LP (Rephlex, UK)
Mikael Stavostrand - Lite 12" [mixes by John Harding, Hakan Lidbo, Rechenzentrum & Andreas Tillander] (Mitek, Sweden)
The Stereonerds - HD Endless CD (Rather Interesting, Chile)
Jimi Tenor - Higher Planes CD (Kitty Yo, Germany)
Terre Thaemlitz - Lovebomb CD (Mille Plateaux, Germany)
* This Morn' Omina - 7 Years of Famine CD [reissue] (Ant-Zen, Germany)
* Asmus Tietchens - Nachtstücke/Adventures in Sound 2xCD [reissue of 1980 album with bonus tracks, plus a disc of unreleased material originally recorded in 1967 - first in a series of archival reissues by Tietchens] (Die Stadt, Germany)
Tosca - Wonderful 12"/CDEP (K7, Germany)
Various - Active Suspension vs Clapping Music 2xCD (Active Suspension, France)
Various - Bare Essentials Volume 2 CD (Naked Music/Astralwerks, US)
Various - Icons: Volume One CD [with Future Beat Alliance, Russ Gabriel, Jeff Samuel, CiM and more] (Emoticon, Scotland)
Venetian Snares - Winter in the Belly of a Snake CD (Planet µ, UK)
Jah Wobble - Fly CD (30 Hertz, UK)
Xela - For Frosty Mornings And Summer Nights CD/LP (Neo Ouija, UK)
* Young Gods - Second Nature CD (Ipecac, US)
Zorn - Apnoe 12" (Lux Nigra, Germany)
For a more detailed schedule stretching into the future, please check out the site,
since release dates can and will often change.