In 1988, Steven Stapleton's United Dairies label released this one-off album by a trio consisting of Metgumbnerbone members Sean Breadin (aka B. Sedayne), Matt Watson and Richard Rupenus (also of The New Blockaders). A limited quantity was pressed and, for the most part, it was overlooked and fell into an abyss of collector-talk and rumors. Thanks to the reintroduction by the new label Psychedelic Pig, and the remastering job by Colin Potter, Masstishaddhu's Shekinah can be heard again and appreciated for its insanely mystical tone and occult allure. Everything about this release suggests esoteric happenings: the title, the cover, and the music all recall bloodied altars, unfathomable rituals, and mystical learning. The low and buzzing drone of secret instruments underscores a lava flow of nonsense chants, violins, grunts, and various percussion. The pulse of these sounds is simultaneously warm and frigid as though through the music the difference between life and death was seperated. Whatever words might be spoken during this procession of yearning melodies and utterly ethereal voices is perhaps best left for the Gods. The word "shekinah" is Hebrew and translates roughly as "the presence of God" or as that light which is visible in the presence of God (as God appeared to Moses and others, for example). The title is highly appropriate as the two twenty-plus minute tracks often shine in an inexplicable way. The music burns slowly and washes the space it occupies with sweet and smokey incense, but the interplay of the voices and instruments emanates a bright and insistent energy that escapes the world of words and can only be described, with caution, as a feeling or a presence. Whatever secrets the music holds, they are a fountain of spiritual beauty and unknowable terror. Though the album might burn brightly, it also conceals an old and patient terror. Listening to this record at night gave me chills more than just once. It's as though the character of the record changed with my dispositions: if fear was in my heart, then it was fear Masstishaddhu played for me. If I were happy, then the joy of the Gods shone down upon me and relaxed every fiber of my being. Releases like this feel incredibly special not just because the music is unique and excellent, but because the entire package works well together. For the first time in a long while, I wanted to sit down and go over the titles of the songs, the artwork, and childlike rhyme that accompanied the music. I was completely absorbed in the entirety of the album from beginning to end and there were times at work or when I was out and about with friends that I found myself hungering to listen to the music . Unfortunately, only 500 copies of this release were pressed by Psychedelic Pig, making it another far too limited release of this album. While it's completely sold out from Pyschedelic Pig, there are copies still available at various shops around the world and Internet. - Lucas Schleicher
The Album Leaf, "In a Safe Place"
Instrumental music is often the realm of expression that succeeds where words fail. The use of purely instrumental music, when used intelligently and passionately, can convey body language, emotions, and intensity in a more direct way than words could. This music bypasses the prejudices, associations, and limitations of language, skipping the analytical brain entirely and instead appealing to the heart, looking to provoke a physical reaction that will reproduce the experience for the listener. This is why instrumental music is so adept (and so frequently used) to capture the feelings produced by vast geographies and scenery. It succeeds where complex explorations of soil samples and geological studies on comparative ecosystems would be woefully unhelpful. Recorded at the Mosfellsbaer studio in Iceland at the invite of Sigur R?s and M?m, In a Safe Place seems to bear the starry eyed wonder of a first time visitor to a landscape radically different from any previous experiences. The opening track, "Window," unfolds with the bright, melodic sounds of an organ, keening in a deeply reverential manner, implying endless wonder the sights that are filling this new environment. The album is a mix of comfortable rock with crisp, electronic additions that cannot help but be evocative of a kind of pastoral peacefulness. "Another Day" churns and rolls with synthesized percussion along infinitely deep chimes of the organ, which sustain for a moment before dissipating like warm breath giving way to chilly air. There is a crystalline starkness to the song, however it comes off neither distant nor aloof, but as a pleasant journey when the song begins its crescendo and strings swell behind it, giving added weight to the delicate arrangement. Immediately following is "Streamside," rooted in a dexterous turn with the acoustic guitar and the accordion, the track brings the ethereal strains of "Another Day" back to earth, and elemental solace, like a warming fire. The Album Leaf (which is entirely the work of Jimmy LaValle) along with guest vocalists Jon Thor Birgisson (Sigur R?s) and Pall Jenkins (Black Heart Procession), occasionally segues into songs with vocals in an effort to make the journey more palatable, perhaps. These songs, while good, are lacking the undistilled emotion pronounced in the instrumentals. The possible exception being the coda to "Moss Mountain Town," which features a chorus of singers in the distance, a wonderful addition and fitting ending to the album. In a Safe Place is a delightful postcard from an exotic land, a love letter and an invitation, that is at times affecting and inspiring without falling into bashful clich?s. - Michael Patrick Brady
Laurent Garnier, "30"
For the most part, full-length techno albums suffer from two fatal flaws. They either sound like a slapped-together 12" singles collection or they shed harsh light on the weaknesses of the producer outside of their 4/4 forte. Reissued this year, 30, Garnier's 1997 artist album, dodges both bullets with a balanced assortment of dancefloor killers and bedroom groovers. This statement should come as no surprise to fans of his F Communications label, which boasts countless releases from this former Hacienda DJ along with other acclaimed dance acts such as Llorca, Mr. Oizo, and Jori Hulkkonen. The storming yet funky "Flashback" recalls acid house-era Psychic TV with its dominating bassline and repetitive echoey vocals. "Sweet Mellow D" has a certain Detroit charm, indulging in nearly four minutes of TB-303 bass and syrupy pads before the kick pattern emerges, only to drop in and out on Garnier's whim. On "The Hoe" Garnier lets a little humor into the mix, a quality that is uncharacteristic of most techno producers. What makes this album worthwhile is the inclusion of the classic "Crispy Bacon," an acidic warehouse stomper that both techno enthusiasts and DJ newbies alike should have in their crates. As Mute continues to reissue albums from industrial and experimental pioneers, I find it refreshing to see the same treatment being given to techno. - Gary Suarez
Hair Police, "Obedience Cuts"
Although the first track might suggest a sound that is going to be continually deadly and menacing, the whole of this record ends up smelling of atmosphere and deliberation. "Let's See Who's Here and Who's Not" kicks Obedience Cuts off with a shot of cocaine and too much pornography: the band sounds truly frightening behind their roar of percussion madness and feedback glory and the vocalist does nothing short of conjuring up images of domestic violence powered by unhinged anger. There's absolutely no rhythmic pulse to be found anywhere, there is no melody, and whatever lyrics are being spouted off are anything but intelligible, but the force of Hair Police's delivery is attention-grabbing enough to keep volume soaring and my Windbreaker at my side. Expecting another dose of meth-fuelled hate, I braced myself for "Obedience Cuts" and was surprisingly let down its brevity and lack of hair-raising assault value. Suddenly the trio of Robert Beatty, Mike Connelly, and Trevor Tremaine descended into the pits of their stomachs and began exploring the inner-workings of their lower intenstine. Apparently the band has been eating military equipment, pots and pans, and radars because the majority of the next couple of tracks are ruled by metallic jumbles, approaching aircraft, and sirens warning the world of nuclear fallout. The seven minute "Bee Scrape" might feature some high-frequency blasts of whining pipes and the rumbling of human souls being digested by unholy demons, but the attack is nowhere near as vicious as the first track had promised me. The rhythms simply aren't leaving bruises like they should and so I sit back and enjoy the chaos instead of getting up and tearing my room apart with an axe and chainsaw. "The Empty Socket" rounds out 5 tracks of well-organized noise with a continuum of gong strikes and dead animals flopping about in water. And then I'm greeted by the promise of snare-drum molestation when the pounding of "Open Body" begins... and I am satisfied by its sadism. Though it be short, the absolutely mindless gurgle of voice and feedback manages to coaelesce into a satisfyingly destructive explosion. "Full of Guts" and "Skull Mold" round the album out with a combination of the near collage-like "quiet" tracks and the raging homocidal mania of the abusive moments. "Full of Guts" is a particularly disturbing track where the vocalist yells through what must be an underground tunnel, ranting about who knows what but sounding absolutely torn between himself and his hunger for all things chaotic. I can only imagine some muscular and sweating man dressed in oiled clothing and marked by scars punching the walls around him until the whole structure he's contained in collapses about him and crushes is head in with a satisfying crunch. I've heard heavier and louder albums, but I can't think of another record that is anywhere near as disturbing. - Lucas Schleicher
Richard H. Kirk, "Earlier/Later"
For those trying to navigate the sea of material unearthed by Richard H. Kirk, it's worth noting that unlike the simultaneous reissue of Sandoz' Digital Lifeforms, Earlier/Later features a monsterous 32 of 33 tracks previously available to the public. Additionally, unlike the Unreleased Projects compilations, the music is all presented -as- Richard H. Kirk and ironically sounds more like a mix tape than a collection of recordings under various aliases. All material here was recorded during active periods of Cabaret Voltaire, between 1974 and 1989, and therefore, much of the music resembles CV material from repsected years. Recorded to cassette tape and mostly forgotten, the fidelity is showing a little ware. For any CV fans who remember riding public transportation home from the record shop listening to shoddy cassette releases on a walkman, the sound is remarkably familiar, and not unwelcome. The collection opens with the Later disc, and tracks from the "big funk" era (arguably 1982-1986), popularly characterized by beefy drum machines, electronic cowbell, and floods of vocal samples. The chunky 10+ minute "Never Lose Your Shadow" is a pleasant shock, as it features a rare appearance of Kirk's singing voice atop music that could have easily graced The Crackdown, as is the cover of Can's "I Want More," another vocal tune which fits more into the early techno post-Code period, where deep electronic bass sounds and smooth synths flourish with subtle, faster-paced drum machines. While tracks like 1985's "On Fire" resemble what could easily be an early prototype of CV's "Sleepwalk," the immedtiately following "Digital Globe," could be an early prototype of 1989's "Hypnotised." Latin piano & Miami bass style techno is the primary influence of 1988/89's "Latin/MYBM," a peppy track which is about nothing other than fun, but it's immediately followed by "Martyrs of Palestine," a track which is probably even eerier in 2004 than its original release on a Rough Trade 12" in 1986. It's easy to speculate what kept these tracks buried for so longeither contractual obligations to EMI or Virgin, Kirk's devotion to the CV umbrella, or his personal choicethe music's availability now for a die hard CV/Kirk fan is far more important. The second disc, Earlier is 20 tracks of early destruction, mostly between 1974 and 1981, challenging the institution of music with tape cut ups, non-musical sounds, distorted spoken samples, abrasive saxophone, and even a trashed piano. The tracks here are fantastic eye-openers, seamlessly threadded like a primitive mix tape where the compiler was too impatient to let the opening and closing silence be heard. Beats are created by hand cut loops and delayed effects rather than drum machines on earlier tracks like 1974's "Cosmic Override 1," and 1975's brief "Radio Silence," while the infrequent inclusion of a track from the mid-1980s, like 1985's "International Smashface Detective Theme," and "All Nationalities," are not typical beat fanfare, but more like various thematic instrumental CV album tracks from the time. Kirk's reluctance to new technologies and letting go of the noise is apparent in the odd track from 1981, "Immaculate Riot," where for one of the first times, the bridge is between the noisier earlier stages of the Kirk/CV timeline and the early beat period is strikingly clear. Along with the other recent collections of unreleased material, Earlier/Later is an essential key to the history of Kirk and Cabaret Voltaire. - Jon Whitney
bass communion, "ghosts on magnetic tape"
Late at night in the USA there's this syndicated talk show all over AM radio called Coast to Coast AM. It's all about the paranormal: making contact with UFOs, the dead and beyond, and other mystic things that science mysteriously avoids. Perhaps some of it is true, perhaps it's all a hoax, but it sure makes for some addictive entertainment. For the latest Bass Communion release, Steven Wilson has constructed a series of amazing sonic landscapes inspired by Konstantin Raudive's attempts in the 1970s to record ghosts. Similar to Coast to Coast AM, Wilson could be either completely serious about reinterpreting ectoplasmic audio or it could just be a hoax in its own way. Either way, the output is phenomenal and undoubtedly multidimensional. Wilson's interpretations of the dead are constructed from munching the sounds of choral voices, scratchy old vinyl, wind, piano, guitar, flute, and various unrecognizable things into a dense soup of thunderous roars, crackles and landscapes that are rich with visual imagery. Speakers warble, objects in the room vibrate, earwax loosens, roommates come wandering in, but nothing can disturb the serenity. Of course, it also helps that Wilson's been hanging out with Jonathan Coleclough and Colin Potter recently, two of the Jedi Masters of modern drone. What Wilson brings to the drones is a rich musical history, as he's "played" music in bands like Porcupine Tree and No Man. Calling this album a work of drones is somewhat limiting, as melodic movements permeate the disc. Whether it's a sparse one-note melody on "Part 1" or symphonic-like grandness on "Part 4," never does the melody simply sit idly and sustain. The music can be so quiet however, it's effective to listen either with headphones or high volumes in complete darkness. Ideally, a visual component to be projected on a large screen with superb digital sound would be a great place to experience this amazing album, but for now, we can lie back and dream it ourselves. - Jon Whitney
Mitchell Akiyama, "If Night is a Weed and Day Grows Less"
Although I've still found much to enjoy on the new Fennesz record, I had to sympathize with Lucas' review in last week's Brain. I too have been struck by just how much of the artist's output seems to rely squarely on the simple act of obscuring his sound sources. Fennesz's continuing reinvention of shoegaze does throw his guitar to the front of the mix, but places it immediately in the service of the walls of distortion and powerbook fuckery that exist, it would seem, only to inflate the instrument into the shimmering pools of sound-dust that coat his recent work. Funny that the guitar, the instrument that has come to define Fennesz's style and grant him immediate mention anytime stringed instruments go digital (this being no exception), has been the one thing to suffer most in his work. What I think Lucas was getting at is that all of the opulence, all the "dressing" on a Fennesz record, has taken the place of technical innovation and, sometimes, even compositional discipline. And while I find both parties equally irresistible, I can't help but think that Fennesz has taken guitar, for the electronic medium, where Stereolab took it within the rock/pop domain, their interchangeable driving two-chord anthems now as predictable as the Viennese's grainy, melancholic churn. Mitchell Akiyama is a Canadian musician often granted the Fennesz comparison because of the way he works through a similar method of sound disintegration, a practice made explicit in the title of his last release as one half of Desormais, Iambrokenandremade.... Lucas liked that record a lot, the reason (I gather) being the complexity and risky nature of duo's rigorous reassembling process. Akiyama and Joshua Treble (whose solo disc on Intr_version is another recent wonder) took what would have been impressive lines of naked guitar, piano, and percussion and set about an intricate splicing method, reshaping their parts into elegant, labyrinthine hulks of sound that opened up onto the process of their construction (or previous deconstruction) but were also propelled by a new logic, bigger than any one constituent. Akiyama's newest solo release doesn't pack quite the epic sweep of that prior work, but it does show a similar interest in allowing each instrument a unique and resonant spot within the sound palette, regardless of the digital manipulations applied. If Night is a Weed could be Akiyama's vision of chamber-glitch, the music growing out of minimalist trumpet, piano and cello patterns, lent enough room to let their own often rigorous compositions show. The production keeps certain lines tactile and wonderfully present while others bend wildly into sunny aerials, this time glimpsed within quiet door and window frames rather than Iambroken's jagged, industrial-scaled foundations. The majority of the tracks feature a surprising openness in which instruments engage in call-and-response with the effects-laden ghosts of themselves. Subtle builds lead from barren piano and cello interactions to carefully-melded noise ascensions. One piece, dedicated to Steve Reich, beautifully suggests his Music for Large Ensemble, its clipped, cyclical melodies rendered weightless by only a fine dusting of static. That Akiyama can so readily duplicate his elder's delicate technique, place (even create) it within the record's "manipulated" context, and not have the result sound tired by either era's standards is testament alone to the beauty of this record. - Andrew Culler
Bosetti/Vowinckel, "CHARLEMAGNE, LA VUE ATTACH?E SURE SON LAC DE CONSTANCE, AMOUREUX DE L'?BIME CACH?"
Here's another gem of miniature electro acoustics from Bowindo, the Italian label that, within only a few years of activity, has become a bright beacon on the Mediterranean front, producing a modest string of thoroughly uncompromising releases, all of which will be featured on the Brain in coming weeks. Bowindo 03 is an uneven split dominated by two tracks from Alessandro Bosetti who will be better known for his challenging sax-playing as a contemporary of John Butcher and Bhob Rainey, working in a similar strained style of ultra-dry landscaping and small, human-scaled tensions. His first piece, the 18-min. "Sardinia and Japan are Islands," however, does not offer the sun-kissed change of pace that its title might suggest. Though expansive, even "breezy" sounds such as wind chimes and bird calls do find their way into the mix, Bosetti's islands could be just as easily represented using ink dots on a blank page. The piece is a bizarre trip over chemical waters, adrift on sharp pure tones and the odd analog crackle with enough extended silences to keep the mood cool and detached. No saxophone will enter at all, the only organic sounds limited to faraway thumping (barrels afloat, knocking?), the ghostly chimes, and some abrasive voice sampling, a section of which includes a text listing island names. While there doesn't seem to be much of an internal logic behind this work, its drift is quite effective in creating feelings of discomfort that seem vaguely oceanic, a paralyzed-at-sea, Ancient Mariner-type vibe for sure. An interesting comparison could be Nurse With Wound's Salt Marie Celeste, music that works towards a similar effect but through different means. Bosetti's other contribution, the 22 min. "Kitchen Piece," likewise is not the sort of embracive or heartwarming creation expected from, say, Yoko Ono if she'd chosen the cooking area as a setting for one of her many "pieces." Sourced using sounds from an in-kitchen improv by labelmates Guiseppe Ielasi and Renato Rinaldi, the track is, at first, a monster of crudely cut-up noise sounding like average dish-clatter folded over-and-over on top of itself. Just as brutal are the quick stops and starts of Bosetti's cuts, the interjections more damaging each time, allowed little release in the piece's long and slow descent towards the chorus of layered pure tones and murky static that forms its conclusion. The third and final track belongs to German experimental dramatist Antje Vowinckel, and, at barely half the length of the other two, it feels a bit unnecessary, though certain comparisons exist, especially in the stunted, silence-ful pacing carrying over from Bosetti's works. Hers, however, suffers from a sound palette that feels too varied for its own good, allowing only cryptic referencing to be made and causing the certain bold, even humorous inclusions (like sped-up martial arts grunting) to clash broadly with any kind of mood emerging elsewhere. The Bosetti pieces, however, were not such easy sells either, and the fact that they feel as strong after several listens gives hope that this disc might prove more well-rounded upon future consideration.
- Andrew Culler
Edison Woods, "Seven Principles of Leave No Trace"
If I were to see this second album by Edison Woods in a record store, I would buy it based on the album title or song titles alone a process that has served me well, despite the occasional misses ("Bowling for Fuckers" sounded like a good song, but I was wrong). Even though the band name sounds like a character from a soap opera or Everwood, this Brooklyn-based band is far from a caricature or a parody of itself. Seven Principles was released in October last year, but I just got around to listening to it, and it floored me. Led by sultry vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Julia Frodahl, the band is one that carefully considers every aspect of their being, like the placement of a real feather under the CD tray. More of an artistic collective than a band, their music is still paralyzing in its raw beauty, and the simplicity of its design. The arrangements are sparse, with most songs featuring one main instrument and several others added almost as accents only. Guiding it all is Frodahl's voice and poetic lyrics on a variety of subjects where everyone can find something personal. "So now let me go," she sings several times on the opening track "Secrets," and honestly it's easy to understand why someone wouldn't want to just from the way she sings it. Empassioned, naked, and full of emotion, it's the mark of a person who knows how to love. Even when she warbles away from the melody a little ("Like a Jewel"), it sounds so assured and planned that it doesn't grate like it would from most other artists. As the album progresses, the songs venture more into jam territory, as the band members let it out a bit and improvise for effect. On the few songs where there are no vocals, the songs still soar, unencumbered by anything that might bring them down. Edison Woods are an impressive band with a unique sound, and this album shows there's plenty of strengths and variations to keep them going for years to come. - Rob Devlin
Nitrada, "We Don't Know Why But We Do It"
Following his self-recorded O+ EP, Christophe Stoll aka Nitrada decided to invite guest musicians for a more collaborative approach on his debut album. The resulting collection of songs is a varied and intense soul-searching experiment drenched in ambience and trickery. There is an almost uncomfortable feeling of anticipation that surrounds each song, like waiting for someone to flick on the lights and discover what was hidden before. The lights do get switched on in every song, so the release that follows is also heard, and it's a complex emotional exchange that I've never heard crafted and executed quite so expertly. Literally I was on the edge of my seat listening to most songs. Stoll has used the formula to create something truly wonderful that, while not entirely unique, is full of life and songs worth listening to. Where the first track is a bit mellow and vacant, with very little going on, each subsequent track has a strong melody, catchy beats, and a steady build and deliver process. "Everthing Is Not Alright" has a classic but muted dance beat and faded field voice samples to start. When the echoed keyboards join in, suddenly there's a new life to the song, and the beat changes slightly but accordingly to compensate. The songs evolve to become better structures as they progress. Vocalists provide meaning and variety, becoming true practitioners of the collective vision. Even the quaint recitation on the title track has some umph to it, and adds an interesting new taste. Although Nitrada is a fairly new artist, he has a classic vision and concept, and as his debut full-length shows it's not a bad combination. - Rob Devlin
THROBBING GRISTLE, "NOW"
Now represents the first new music recorded by Throbbing Gristle in over two decades. It was available in a limited edition of 500 CDs and LPs at the recent live recording session event in London, which was done in lieu of the cancelled RE~TG weekend festival. The disc consists of four lengthy tracks, which appear in shortened form on the LP. It's fascinating to hear new material by TG, after twenty years of listening to each member's musical evolution with their own projectsChris and Cosey, Psychic TV and Coil. It is immediately apparent listening to Now that each member has brought more experience and maturity to the table, and are not content merely to rehash or resurrect the familiar old strategies of the original incarnation of TG. In fact, Now fits quite nicely into the current underground scene. The music is not miles away from the new wave of young, TG-influenced acts like Black Dice and Wolf Eyes. "X-Ray" rides in on a cold tractor beam, canceling all thought with its refrigerator drones and oscillating distortion. It's somewhat similar to early TG material, but it's also refreshingly new, taking in all of the developments in noise, experimental and industrial music in the last 20 years. "Splitting Sky" is my favorite of the new tracks, a 12-minute dub-influenced journey into the dark heart of electro, with Genesis providing gravelly, mutated vocals. The song invokes the looming figure of Detroit Techno, viewed through the transgressive lens of four of the most talented luminaries of underground music and culture. Chris, Cosey, Peter and Genesis seem willing to confront their legendary status head-on, and confound any expectations or controversy that their reunion may have sparked off. Some may be disappointed by the relative tameness of the material on Now, but could anyone really have expected them to recapture the fierce, political aggression of their earlier material? That might have been a little calculated and pathetic coming from a group of musicians now pushing 50. It's tempting to hear echoes of recent Coil and Chris and Cosey (or Carter-Tutti?) music in the mix on Now, and it's certainly not an unwarranted comparison, considering the hallucinogenic, distended disco-dub of "Splitting Sky" and the atmospheric jazz of "Almost Like This." The stand-up bass and xylophone, and Genesis' tortured croon on "Almost Like This" delivers on the promise of their parody of Easy Listening LPs on the 20 Jazz Funk Greats sleeve. The fourth track, "How Do You Deal?" comes the closest to recreating the dark urgency of early TG live performances, with its distorted basslines and metallic guitar swipes, Genesis screaming: "Life is a vacuum pump/Strangeness/Sucking in/Wasted time/You can't win." This dystopian negativity is a refreshing salve to the hokey personal-empowerment sermons that Genesis has been boring us with for the past twenty years. The song builds to a series of noisy, apocalyptic crescendos that each try to outdo the last for sheer industrial-strength aggression. Whether or where exactly Now fits into the TG canon could be discussed and argued at length, but in the meantime, I'm going to enjoy listening to it. It's a truly impressive record by a band that until recently seemed like the least likely candidates for a reunion. - Jonathan Dean
THROBBING GRISTLE, "THE TASTE OF TG"
The subtitle of this new collection from Mute, A Beginner's Guide to the Music of Throbbing Gristle, is a fairly accurate description of what the disc provides. The problem with a group as culturally significant and influential as Throbbing Gristle is that the music is only half the story, and that other half is what this disc can't provide. Released to coincide with the glut of Throbbing Gristle reissues and reformations surrounding the cancelled RE~TG event, this disc showed up in bins at the same time as Mutant TG, Mute's pointless collection of tepid remixes. I suppose this disc was created for the legions of curious who have read the enthusiastic, worshipful praise heaped on TG in various publications, but have no obvious entry point into the daunting discography of the so-called "wreckers of civilization." To that end, the compiler of this disc (the suspiciously named Olivier Cormier Ota?o), has done a fairly decent job of putting together a wide cross-section of TG's recorded output. All of the major phases of the TG sound are present; the ominous industrial soundscapes of "Industrial Introduction" and "Cabaret Voltaire;" the agitated, screamed provocations of "We Hate You (Little Girls)" and "Zyklon B Zombie;" the jagged psychedelic mutations of "Dead on Arrival" and "Hamburger Lady;" and the proto-techno experimentation of "Distant Dreams, Pt. 2" and "Hot on the Heels of Love." There is a decided emphasis on more-or-less "accessible" material, although with a band as abrasive and uncommercial as TG, accessible is truly a relative term. Taken together, the tracks present a good argument for TG as musical innovators, with a few well-chosen live recordings that evidences their legendary talent for provocative live performance. My main complaint with the CD lies with the packaging. The total lack of any historical notes or perspectives on TG is strange, especially for a release purporting to be a Beginner's Guide. It is impossible to separate TG from their historical and social context; to do so is to misunderstand the scope of their significance. Further, the band's visual presentationin costuming, symbolism, record sleeves and the various "reports" and missivesis at least as important as their sound on record. I suppose beginners could seek out this material elsewhere, but would it have killed Mute to reproduce some of it along with the disc? Adding to the problem is the cover art by Peter Christopherson. While I appreciate its powerfully grotesque, Salo-esque brutality, it doesn't mesh with the visual strategies of early TG artwork, with its clinical style relating the activities of the band like some classified document from the KGB, slyly satirizing and attacking the status quo of music and culture. I can guardedly recommend The Taste of TG for its musical content, but for beginners, further study will be required. - Jonathan Dean
COIL, "BLACK ANTLERS"
Jhon Balance and Sleazy are no longer partners. Sleazy's moved to Thailand, and Jhon's moved to London. The physical location of Threshold House, where Coil used to live and record their music, has been abandoned. Jhon Balance has a new lover and collaborator, artist Ian Johnstone, he's grown a D.H. Lawrence-style beard, and seems to have fallen once again into a vortex of substance abuse and insanity. Both Jhon and Sleazy have announced that they are now working on non-Coil side projects. Despite all evidence to the contrary, however, Coil have continued to insist that they are not breaking up. The first evidence of this came with their recent mini-tour through a handful of European cities, their so-called "Even An Evil Fatigue" tour. At each of their concert dates, they've been selling this CD-R entitled Black Antlers. With the exception of a new version of "Broccoli" and a song called "Tattooed Man," (apparently destined for inclusion on the long-ago scrapped Dark Age of Love LP), the songs on this disc mirror the setlist of the recent concerts. In fact, the barebones packaging and low-fidelity recording of Black Antlers leads me to suspect that it is nothing but a glorified concert rehearsal captured on record. According to various sources, Coil have plans to re-record and re-mix this material, and will eventually give it an official release. Therefore, I should probably withhold final judgment on these songs. However, it's hard not to notice the under-produced, impromptu nature of the music and vocals. There is a loose, improvisatory feel to these tracks that I'm not altogether convinced is the final word for these songs. Jhon Balance's vocals are given too much prominence in the mix, overwhelming the Sleazy's laptop programming and Thighpaulsandra's vintage synthesizer squalls. However, approached as a series of "works in progress," the album has quite a lot to recommend it. "The Gimp (Sometimes)" is a spooked, melancholic lament by Balance, set against an eerie backdrop of distorted synthesizers and scattered percussive elements. "Sex With Sun Ra (Part 1 - Saturnalia)" is the best song on the album, Balance narrating an erotic fantasy partly based on Sun Ra's "black folks in space" prophecies as explicated in John Coney's film Space is the Place: "He dreamt of color music and the machines that make it possible/He took me for a ride on a space ship powered by natural music." The music bears no resemblance to the cosmic free jazz of Sun Ra, veering closer to Musick to Play in the Dark-era Coil: gurgling synthscapes with slow, percolating rhythms. "All The Pretty Little Horses" is an unexpected cover of the traditional British folk song made famous (to Brainwashed readers) by Current 93. Coil's version is quite lovely, with expertly played marimba as accompaniment for Balance's best attempt at crooning. "Teenage Lightning (10th Birthday Version)" resurrects and expands the LSD track, giving it a more open-ended, organic feel than the original. "Black Antlers (Where's Your Child)" ends the disc on a high note, a druggy rave-up full of queasy samples and chopped, distended vocal samples. With a little finessing, this album has the potential to be one of Coil's finest. - Jonathan Dean
CURRENT 93, "SIXSIXSIX: SICKSICKSICK"
This release ties up some loose ends, collecting the studio material from a few elusive Current 93 releases: Looney Runes, Lucifer Over London, Tamlin and Misery Farm. It's a welcome release for those who didn't spring for these limited-edition EPs back when they were released, or for people who are just now getting up to speed with Current 93. What immediately sets SixSixSix: SickSickSick apart from other Current 93 compilations of previously existing material is the superior quality of the music. Specifically, the songs from 1994's Lucifer Over London and Tamlin EPs, are among the best that Current 93 has produced. The epic song "Hitler as Kalki (SDM)" from Thunder Perfect Mind was the first time Tibet collaborated with Nick Salomon of The Bevis Frond, an oft-overlooked cult British brand responsible for psych-rock masterpieces like Triptych and New River Head. Nick Salomon's mindbending electric guitar soloing lent a heaviness and majesty to Tibet's crepuscular musings that is without equal in the Current 93 catalog. David Tibet's oft-expressed affection for 70's progressive and heavy metal acts like Uriah Heep and Judas Priest was finally given an outlet, to startlingly powerful effect. On the title track of Lucifer Over London, Salomon again contributes psych guitar, this time aping the famous riff from Black Sabbath's "Paranoid," spinning it out into a hypnotic, cyclical refrain, as Tibet unfolds one of his more chilling visions of Apocalypse. The material on Lucifer and Tamlin, (along with the Of Ruine or Some Blazing Starre LP, which was recorded during these same sessions), seems to represent a pinnacle for Tibet's lyrics, effortlessly weaving deliriously rendered Gnostic symbolism with precise poetic imagery: "All tiny blue pain/As the Mother Blood emerges/Then the Mother Grief/And the Blue Gates of Death/Open armwide/Open teethwide." "Sad Go-Round" is a Groundhogs song from the album Solid, Tibet and Solomon using the achingly beautiful minor-chord guitar loop to accentuate the circular motion of the lyrics. Tamlin's B-side "How the Great Satanic Glory Faded," also features a stunning performance by Salomon on guitar. Recorded over the phone line, Tiny Tim introduces the track by relating his vision of the devil as "a beautiful angel...telling the world's biggest lie," Tibet launches into a densely lyrical paean to the double-gendered form of Lucifer. "Tamlin" is a long-form traditional ballad from the British Isles, relating the story of a noblewoman impregnated by a wood sprite. The music is another gorgeous medieval setting by Michael Cashmore, and Tibet's menacing whisper is flanged and multiplied to chilling effect. The material from 1990's Looney Runes has not held up terribly well, a collaboration with Steven Stapleton that results in a raucous industrial tune filled with perversely mutated nursery rhymes and wacky cartoon sound effects. "The Seven Bows Are Revealed At the End of Time..." is Tibet in prophet mode again, unveiling a hallucinogenic William Blake-style endtime scenario that wears thin after the first few listens. Finally, "Misery Farm" is pure novelty: a music hall sing-along with barnyard animal noises. It's quite amusing, but it feels strange coming at the end of so much deeply wrought poetry. - Jonathan Dean
Icelandic newcomer Orlygur Thor Orlygsson creates primarily short but sweet instrumental guitar pieces, and on his debut album he displays a wide range of emotions and styles. ?lvis has the good sense to concentrate on the good moments and not dwell too long on pieces, which makes for a streamlined debut that introduces his handiwork without needless filler. Recorded and played by Orlygsson with a few guests on drums and synth only, the album is also a self-made man kind of achievement. There are moments where it's hard to believe that one man created all these lush and pleasant soundscapes, so on that level, mission accomplished. Unfortunately, there are some areas where I could not avoid the feeling that certain elements were particularly annoying. First, "mostly" instrumental means that there are vocals here and there, and they are so drenched in effects and faded in the mix that they're hardly noticeable. However, occasionally they are audible just enough to know that they are ever so slightly off-key, and that makes them unnecessary and off-putting. Instrumental only would be preferred on those tracks, since the music itself is quite pleasing. Here and there, though, even that has its moments of what I like to call nails-on-a-chalkboardness, such as when the music is a bit too repetitive with not enough variation. Switching to the other section earlier would have saved these tracks for me, but as it stands I would more than likely skip them on repeat listens. These are minor complaints on an otherwise well-rounded debut, however, as Orlygsson has all the other bases more than covered. Memorable melodies, a good mix of instruments, peaks and valleys, and the incorporation of varied rhythms and styles make this a debut full of things to like. There is room for improvement, but that's all in good time; for now, there's plenty more present to make up for it. - Rob Devlin
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