The Hafler Trio, "No Man Put Asunder: Seven Fruitful and Seamless Unions"
Nothing musical has ever made me dizzy like this before. I don't know if I was just tired, if it was the music, or maybe a combination of the two but it's doing it again now. The walls were wavering and I felt as if I were suffocating, the light that should've been filtering through the curtains from outside were swallowed up by the sound. I'm feeling sick. My skin is crawling, I can't keep my eyes focused and my head simply won't hold up any longer. My skin itches; there's something under my skin and it fucking itches. I look at the clock and it's 3:30 in the morning. Ten minutes later I look again and it's 4:30. I'm losing my mind. I try to stand up but sitting back down seems like the best idea. There's something crawling up the back of my neck and I can't quite swat it away. There's lots of them, they're biting, and now my eyes are closing. I can't go to sleep but I want to, desperately. My arms are getting heavy, it's harder to breathe, my shoulders and back are starting to throb and ache. I know there's light in this room but I can't feel it or see it. I'm getting paranoid, I want to scream but when my mouth opens there's no sound. Then it's gone. I can breathe, the sun is rising up over the trees in my backyard and I suddenly realize that I'm sitting on the floor and not in a chair at all. I feel more awake; every sound in the room is amplified a thousand times, however. The hum of my computer is more obvious, the wind outside is disasterous, when I take a drink of water it is almost deafening. I did not go to sleep easily last night, the incessant chirping of the birds kept me awake until fatigue pushed me under. Now I'm going back to it like a little fiend. The lights are out and I'm breathing heavily again. - Lucas Schleicher
NURSE WITH WOUND, "SHE AND ME FALL TOGETHER IN FREE DEATH"
Far too much music being released these days seems to be utilitarian in nature. Albums are touted as "great driving music" or "after-club chillout music." I've actually heard certain critics suggest that an album is best heard in a particular time and setting: "Listen to this in the early morning hours after your girlfriend dumps you." Ever since Brian Eno developed the concept of ambient music, there seems to be a concerted effort to turn music into the equivalent of a backrub: something purely contextual that functions as an emotional salve if applied properly. Since the early 80's, Nurse With Wound has been pushing the opposite concept. Steven Stapleton's music is not made to make you feel better, or as something upbeat to play while doing crunches. Stapleton's music is designed for active, deep listening. You simply can't just play it in the background as you converse with friends. Even his most ambient pieces are not meditative; they are designed as a complex drama to make you FEEL something. Steven Stapleton's newest release is a full-length LP on the incomparably interesting Beta-Lactam Rings label. She and Me Fall Together in Free Death is probably the most approachable, largely "musical" album that NWW has released since Rock N' Roll Station. It's also one of his strangest concepts, a marriage of trance-inducing Krautrock grooves with a traditional jazz standard and some jarringly atonal musique concrete. Side A is the 20-minute title track: a slow-motion jam reminiscent of of one of Can's sidelong tracks on Tago Mago or the more avant-garde grooves of Tony Conrad and Faust's Outside the Dream Syndicate. The propulsive Jaki Liebezeit drumbeat is the foundation for a long jam session with what sounds like a dijderidoo and layers of guitar feedback. It's a massive, heavy sound, the kind that Julian Cope would devote a whole chapter to in his "Kratrocksampler." Side B is one long piece with three distinct movements. Beginning with those familiar, World Serpent-trademark windchimes, the listener is quickly ushered into Stapleton's singing debut (!) in a rendition of the oft-covered traditional jazz ballad "Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair." This was a favorite of the recently deceased Nina Simone, and also of the avant-jazz screamer Patty Waters. Nurse With Wound's version is backed by cello drones, repetitive guitar strums and tambourine, sounding very much like The Velvet Underground's "Venus in Furs." It's such a treat to hear Steven Stapleton's multitracked vocals cover this classic song, and this eerie version rates as one of my favorites. This song and the title track prove to the naysayers that Nurse With Wound is equally adept at rock n' roll songcraft as he is at demented sound collages. The creepy jazz cover seques into "Chicken Concret (For Missy E)," a truly warped tape-edit job that juxtaposes chicken squawks and sythesized birdcalls with random bleeps, speaker hiccups and gongs. Could this be Steven Stapleton's tribute to Timbaland and Missy Elliott's incomparable use of musique concrete techniques on their major label hip-hop anthems? Hard to say, but I like to think so. Side B ends with the hyper-sexualized "Gusset Typing," in which a mutated woman's voice describes her masturbation and orgasm in intimate, anatomical detail. Her monologue is set against an intense rhythmic throbbing that builds as she reaches her climax. At the end, she blows her load and the record ends. This certainly qualifies as an active listening experience, and it's also a great make-out record! - Jonathan Dean
NURSE WITH WOUND, "THE MUSTY ODOR OF PIERCED RECTUMS"
This special little nugget is a limited CD-R of rare archival material that was available at Steven Stapleton's recent appearance in Portland, Oregon to celebrate the release of his Beta-Lactam Ring LP. It's also available for a limited time from Beta-Lactam's website. The Musty Odor of Pierced Rectums contains thirteen tracks of never-before-released Nurse With Wound pieces, similar to 1989's odds-and-sods compilation A Sucked Orange. This release, although not unified by a single concept or containing a coherent flow between tracks, once again proves that Steven Stapleton's garbage is way better than 99% of the crap released by modern experimental musicians. There's a lot of different kinds of music here, most of it in the darker, more esoteric vein. Comparisons could be made to Nurse classics such as Large Ladies With Cake in the Oven and the harsher, more industrial noisescapes on early NWW records. Most of the tracks are typically absurd mixes of mutated sounds, bizarre samples, and dislocated audio dementia. Track two reminds me of Pink Floyd's "Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in A Cave and Grooving With a Pict." Stapleton seems to be experimenting with the "glitch" a little more these days. At random points, the sounds will unexpectedly stutter and drop out, leaving gaping holes or "wounds" in the composition. These thirteen untitled tracks make for a very engaging listen. Nobody is going to declare this to be Stapleton's masterpiece, but for Nurse completists, this CD-R is essential. And for the rest of those who are not obsessive Nurse With Wound collectors, what the hell is wrong with you people? - Jonathan Dean
JAGA JAZZIST, "THE STIX"
The latest release from Norwegian supergroup Jaga Jazzist sees the much-anticipated follow up to last year's brilliant A Livingroom Hush with a slightly different approach. On The Stix, it would appear that more of the electronic elements on both the instrumental and production sides have been employed, which in turn cements the multi-layered, at times complex compositions. Opening with the most interesting track I've heard in months, "Kitty Wu" blends melodic bass clarinet and vibraphone with dub bass lines, staccato guitar and synth patches to drummer Martin Horntveth's programmed beats and fusion-styled playing. "Another Day" is the perfect example of live instrument-augmented drum 'n bass with its plucked strings doubling the syncopated rhythms for an interesting modal composition. The choppy Afro-Cuban groove interpretation of "Suomi Finland" is anchored by rolling vibraphone and warm bass sounds in which several different melodies are introduced on keyboard, flute and guitar throughout various sections, eventually blending nicely into each other without becoming a jumble. "Reminders" kicks off with busy, up-tempo drumming and half-time bass and vibes for subtle, muted trumpet to play off, which then grows into a full-sounding orchestration of horns and a thick, multi-faceted rhythm section. The interestingly titled "I Could Have Killed Him In The Sauna" moves from middle Eastern flavored piano progressions peppered with synth blips and scratchy beats to 70s prog rock punches that are just this side of headbanging. Pretty, long-lined strings, vibes, synth squelches and weaving, treated bass clarinet fill out the spaces and have one's jaw on the floor. Although the group's name evokes the style of music in which instrumental soloists are the prime focus, such is not the case with Jaga Jazzist as they are a musical collective where the sum is greater than the individual parts. With such interesting compositions that marry up some creative instrumentation, several listens of The Stix are required to catch them all. - Gord Fynes
I'm Not a Gun, "Everything at Once"
City Centre Offices
For this project, John Tejada eschews his current aural trends and DJ work to collaborate with Takeshi Nishimoto, with the former on drums, guitar and bass and the latter on guitar and bass. Their music is jazz-influenced in time signatures and tones, and the electronics are minimal, there for effect and a little flavoring only. Tejada is an extremely capable drummerhe learned how to play as a child. Together, he and Nishimoto lay down bass grooves that snake and hypnotize under intertwining guitar lines that dance around each other playfully, like two people on a first date trying to find the perfect opportunity for that first kiss. "Jet Stream" opens the record with some clicks and burbles, and for a moment you think "Here we go again." The guitar leads you astray for a few seconds, but it's when the drums hit that you realize this is not the same ball of wax. The courtship of the guitars seems to be the centerpiece of this collaboration, as they take center stage on every track. Most tracks have a medium tempo, with only a few powering their way through the speakers, and that's just the way it should be. There's no need for hurry here, as both artists let the ingredients delicately percolate into whatever it wants. Highlights include "Search for Sleep," "Long Division," and the more electronic "Make Sense and Loose," which has some clever edits and effects. Everything at Once couldn't be a more appropriate title, as on their debut LP I'm Not a Gun pull out all the stops, and show that there's nowhere for them to go but up. - Rob Devlin
Squaremeter, "War of Sound"
Mathis Mootz writes evil, destructive music that is fun in a devilish way. Under the guise of Panacea he has released some of the nastiest, heaviest, and most spectacularly dark recordings I've heard. Squaremeter has, on the other hand, been something of a detour: the music is less rhythmic, more abstract, and not so much demented as it is creepy. The gap between these two monikers is beginning to close. War of Sound is an all-out melodic attack that churns out rhythmic pulses, middle-eastern flourishes, and an unrelenting air of doom. The entire album feels like a slow march through the desert. There are long stretches of beat-less music that are full of pulsing, Arabian-like sound. Once the tension has reached its boiling point, Mootz brings down his iron fist in subtle, measured movements. First comes the bouncing synthesizers moving in dramatic tonal shifts, then there's a hint of war-drums deep and full, and then all hell breaks loose. By the time everything settles down there's already a counterstrike building. There is a continuity that runs through every track that supplies a strong thematic base. This allows for each song to build off the previous one. Although nothing moves at a quick pace here, there is a density to every second of sound that makes it feel powerful and caustic. The vocal samples that run through it are a little annoying at first but with repeated listens they sink into and fit well with the musical themes. I think this album should come packaged with a viking's helmet and a broadsword, though: Mootz's evil has sunk into my bones. - Lucas Schleicher
Under the guise of Populous, 22 year-old Italian Andrea Mangia manipulates sampled drum loops, keyboards sounds and spoken word clippings to create a very relaxed setting that tends to motion towards the laptop genre. To avoid a sometimes sterile environment within the blue glow set, Mangia uses slower Hip Hop beats and subtle synth bass lines to create laid back grooves on most of the disc's nine tracks, while still keeping the skitter and crackle elements prominent in the mix. At times, the passive approach to synth and various module progressions comes across as near-soundscapes within the compositions, set to head-nodding rhythms. The sprawling time and one note upshot on "Ent-The Dexo" lays the foundation for underplayed keyboard motifs which weave about to form the bare necessities of melodic movement. "Clijster (Blepharo Edit)" clicks along with eerie synth swells that ease in to familiar Reggae keyboard accents, drawing in the long tones of a sampled horn and squelchy beats. The throwback to the 70's soundtrack groove of bright bass, Rhodes piano and loose drums on "Stretch Abuse + Snare" is so settled that several repetitions are welcomed for the drawn out keyboard padding to give the impression of some momentum. Quipo tends to be a disc where the beats and grooves are given a minimal melodic interpretation so as not to take away from the comfortable atmosphere created by the gentle waves of keyboards and assorted electronic elements. - Gord Fynes
I'm tired of all the bands that are obviously influenced by Spaceman 3 and/or Joy Division. Sure, they get a lot of the sound right: long, sprawling instrumental passages; psychedelic bass and guitar lines; pained vocals that sound reminiscent of Ian Curtis. After all is said and done, though, they add nothing new to the musical landscape, and their output is a pale parody of itself. Suntan are the latest new band to be acclaimed as though they are a vital addition to the psychedelic rock sound, when in fact their music is incredibly derivative. It's the same old thing: slow build with low volume synths or lightly-played guitar; add more guitars and drums; throw in echoed or processed vocals delivered lazily; once you're out of things to say, turn up the volume and rock out. On the first track, "L #249747," the meandering and repititious nature of the melody is only slightly less annoying than the need to extend the track out to nearly eleven minutes. Everything interesting on this song happens between 1:00 and 4:30, so there's no need for it to have a long introduction and an angry denouement. "Bag it Up" is slightly better, though the dueling vocal parts with separate and different effects, meant to sound like a split personality, I think, got annoying real quick. Then when it should end, and it seems like it does, the music comes right back again, building from crickets or whistles to a noise fest that churns for another two and a half minutes. It's completely unnecessary, and adds nothing to the song. The final song, "Soak Up the Rays," may not sound original, but it shows real promise for this band. A solid melody, anguished but not grating vocals, and it's the first that justifies its length. For once the band seems in the pocket, playing together on something approaching beauty. I hope their debut album explores the strengths of the last song rather than the missteps of the first two. - Rob Devlin
ROGER DOYLE, "RAPID EYE MOVEMENTS"
It's hard to remember that the 1980'susually thought of as the decade of new wave, college rock and hair metal excesswas also the decade of a vitally important generation of underground experimental musicians. Post-industrial, noise and audio surrealism flourished during the 80's, and labels like United Dairies and DOM were the primary outlet for this unique crop of artists. A lot of this music has remained hopelessly rare and unavailable on the digital format. Luckily, last year saw some re-releases of HNAS' classic back catalogue, but there is a lot still left untouched. Where are the CD reissues of the Nihilist Spasm Band, Asmus Tietchens, Robert Haigh, Uli Trepte, Masstishaddhu and Two Daughters? How about Limpe Fuchs, Smegma and Algebra Suicide? Come on people, this is a goldmine of great musical esoterica! Now that I'm through ranting, I can revel in the fact that Roger Doyle's Silverdoor label has now re-released his United Dairies masterpiece. Rapid Eye Movements was originally released under the artist name Operating Theatre in 1981, and for me it is an unmatched classic of tape collage. No kidding, I like to refer to this album as the "Citizen Kane" of musique concrete. I first heard the United Dairies cassette nearly ten years ago when a friend played it to me while I was in an altered state, and I was baffled and awed by this strange construction of disparate elements and bizarre sound effects. Later, I listened to it again and again in an effort to decipher the seemingly narrative progression of the tape edits. The United Dairies release contained only two sidelong pieces: "Fin-Estra" and "Rapid Eye Movements." For this reissue, however, Roger Doyle has added two earlier pieces as a bonus: "The Piano Suite" and "Why is Killkenny So Good?" The former is a three-part, impressionistic solo piano performance by Roger Doyle. While the music is nice enough, it really sticks out like a sore thumb sandwiched between two lengthy, atmospheric tape collage pieces. No offense to Mr. Doyle, but I don't think that the inclusion of this piece was a very good idea. In contrast, "Killkenny" fits perfectly on the disc, an eerie cut-up of a 13-year old drug addict describing his addiction as dimensional sounds swoop and mutate in the foreground. "Fin-Estra" is a dark, mental voyage filled with unexpected drama. and Doyle utilizes sped up and slowed-down tape queuing in an ingenius way. The sounds of an orchestra, children at play, and strange alien tones are juxtaposed. The 25 minutes of "Rapid Eye Movements" is my favorite moment in avant-garde music. A man trudges through the snow screaming "Madeleine!", a room full of foreign shoolchildren recite words, someone plays scales on a lonely piano in an empty room. It's the aural equivalent of a disjointed, ephemoral dream, full of deja vu moments that seem even creepier and more evocative with each listen. I'm on at least my 100th listen of Rapid Eye Movements, and it still hasn't become boring or predictable. - Jonathan Dean
The Chap, "The Horse"
Named after Vic Darkwood and Gustav Temple's postmodern manifesto for the modern gentleman, London's The Chap began life as Karamasov guitarist Johannes von Weizsaecker's side projecta start documented on their debut, 2002's 10" Fun. Since then, The Chap have developed into a real band and added songs to the originally instrumental repertoire. Their sound is an arch blend of motorik rhythms, sharp riffs, languid solos, pop hooks, fat synth bass, and weird lyrics. Despite sharing with some contemporaries a fetish for new wave, post-punk, and krautrock, they manage to occupy a unique, futuristic position -- they just don't sound like anyone else. They'll occasionally break from song structures into experimentation, and they may baffle us with the strangeness of their subject matter, but there's no chin-stroking austerity about them: The Chap have their tongue in their cheek at all times.
Having played these songs live for about a year, it's good to see that on record, rather than just laying down their live sound, they've indulged in a bit of studio manipulation, with both striking pan effects and microscopic sample tweaks to listen for, once again setting them at a distance from other guitar outfits. They've also indulged their more contemplative side, as on "Volumatic Spacer Device", which ponders sagely the relative merits of sex and asthma. This album doesn't have a bad song on it, but the stand-out track for me is the pseudo-operatic rocker "(Hats off to) Dror Frangi" (a forthcoming single), which combines a simultaneously charming and irritating "rah rah rah" chorus with a driving riff, to tell the romantic tale of one person's need to find "samples in SMDI format, for my Peavey SX Expander." - Andrew Shires
Monster Movie/Dreamend, "Preface"
At the outset, this seems like a very strange matching of artists for an EP. Monster Movie craft more electropop for the shoegazer set while Dreamend concoct droned instrumental music with a very improvisational feel if not creation process. Together on the same EP, they sound worlds apart, with their only common element being drone; but considering the fact that this is the first Graveface Records wide release, it becomes apparent that this is more for them than either of the artists. Graveface show impeccable detail with Preface, much as they have with any of the limited releases they've put out in the past. Cardboard packaging with detailed cover art and a collage or piece of artwork by one of the two bands as the CD sleeve are just two of the characteristics of this EP that show you what care Graveface takes with their product. As for the music inside, it's a mixed bag, and not just because of the two artists making two different types of music. Monster Movie is becoming one of those "it's almost perfect, but" bands. Their first track, "Beautiful Arctic Star," is a glorious keyboard-based piece. The melody is infectious, the lyrics and vocals complement it well, and it builds just right then fades away. Then the second song goes and mucks it all up for them. "Nobody Sees" is also keys-based, but the vocals are processed through a horrible echo effect, plus they're just off-pitch in enough areas to drive me up the wall. They need to make a leap forward, and soon, because this sound and its cracks are starting to wear. Dreamend's tracks, or "...Ellipsis..." which is split into three tracks, is gorgeous. Drone guitar and bass, solid drumming, and pretty guitar lines over the top push the composition to a very space rock conclusion. Fans of Mogwai would not be disappointed. This is a real triumph for Graveface, but now all I want to hear is more from Dreamend. Rob Devlin
In a time when folks often tend to expect small independent labels to specialize in a particular sound, style or sub-sub-genre, Ghostly International is definitely an anomaly. When they debuted in 2000 with Tadd Mullinix's Winking Makes A Face album, they were viewed as a new addition to the cluster of American labels such as Schematic and Isophlux that were concentrating primarily on Aphex- and Autechre-influenced IDM. However, with each subsequent Ghostly record (not to mention their dancefloor-orientated sublabel, Spectral Sounds), the imprint has continued to blur the lines between genres, releasing everything from downtempo instrumental hip-hop to minimal techno to neo-synthpop and electro. This latter category has become what many people know them for, thanks to the success of last year's great Disco Nouveau compilation that came out just in time to catch the tail end of all of that "electroclash" foolishness. Unlike that carefully planned and strictly curated collection, Idol Tryouts has no theme or concept aside from being a traditional label sampler, featuring tracks from previous and upcoming releases alongside a few exclusive bits. As you might expect, the result is a bit of a stylistic mish-mash, but since most of the tracks are pretty damn good, it feels more like a slightly schizophrenic but still cool mix-tape rather than the lazy promotional tool that these sort of projects often turn out to be.
Things get started a little slowly with "Making it Pay" by Dabrye (one of several pseudonyms used by Tadd Mullinix), a head-nodding hip-hop piece that is pleasant but doesn't leave much of an impression. A little more meat can be found right afterwards in the storming electro-disco of Charles Manier's "At The Bottle". Midwest Product then come in with a pair of chilled and cinematic downtempo tracksone of them a spacey remix by Telefon Tel Avivthat will put you back on the couch with a smile and spliff (should you be so inclined). And so it goes from there, whiplashing back and forth from the cold industro-funk of Kill Memory Crash, to the crisp minimal tech-house of Matthew Dear and Osborne, to the lush and melodic IDM of Outputmessage, to the completely unexpected but very cool psych-pop cover of Wire's "Map Ref. 41° N 93° W" by Dykehouse. By the time the album comes full circle with the set-closing Prefuse 73 "megamix" of Dabrye, the listener has not only been taken on a tour though the world of Ghostly/Spectral, but they've also been given a more general taste of the current state of things in the American indie electronic music scene. If the general quality of the material on this disc is any indication, things ain't looking half bad. - Greg Clow
Yuko Nexus6, "Journal De Tokyo"
The various field recordings, found sounds, and narratives that compose this album somehow add up to a satisfying listen despite their seemingly random order. The liner notes suggest listening to the CD in random order and also relate the fact that much of the material was originally recorded on a cassette tape. There are some points where this is clear but for the most part the fact that this was originally recorded to cassette tape is unimportant. The sounds are a mishmash of strange tones, almost danceable beats, non-English narrations, and short blurs of speech and machine sounds. Yuko Nexus6 captures many of the every day sounds that I find fascinating and runs them along not so common sounds that might be discovered while manipulating stretches of tape or a turntable. Many of the tracks are under one minute in length and are simply short sound portraits. Other tracks are just over two minutes and a rare few run over five minutes long. The longer tracks are sound collages that run the gamut from exciting to boring and drawn out. However, they have moments spread out within themselves that somehow revive my interest in them despite the rather bland interruptions. I often get the impression that I'm listening to a radio that is being tuned to several different frequencies at irregular intervals and enjoy the disparity. There are elements of early electronic composition on Journal De Tokyo. There's not an air of academia, but instead an air of adventure and curiousity that keeps me listening. - Lucas Schleicher
- La Nuit de Pluie
- Berlin 1936
Icarus, "Six Soviet Misfits"
After a week of spending some time almost every day listening to this double CD set that compiles three previous releases by Icarus, there are some bits that I've grown to really like quite a lot, but there are also some bits that I like less with every listen.
For example, the three tracks from the UL-6 EP (originally released on Output Recordings in 2001) that take up a good chunk of the first disc are initially quite impressive in their complexity, featuring off-kilter combinations of scattershot breakbeats and sounds that seem like the final creaks and clanks of dying machinery. On repeated listens, that complexity begins to take on an air of aimless noodling, especially on the track "UL-6" which could definitely bear a bit of shaving down from its 10+ minutes. Disc one is saved, however, by the excellent pair of closing tracks (taken from last year's Soviet Igloo 12") which tone down the hyperactive elements and bring in a melodic side that bears some resemblance to Telefon Tel Aviv. The entirety of disc two is taken up by the 2002 album Misfits (previously available on the Not Applicable label), and the six tracks manage to strike a decent balance between the skittery-clattery bits and the mellow-melodic bits. Aside from one lovely track that appears to be called "Xot Zioks" (sorry, the track listing is really small and in a fucked up font), none of it is quite as pleasing to my ears as those two Soviet Igloo tracks from the first disc. I also can't help but wonderconsidering that the eleven tracks on this release have a total combined length of around 75 minuteswhy did this have to be a double disc? - Greg Clow
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.