Irr. App. (Ext.), "Ozeanische Gef?le"
Matt Waldron's music as Irr. App. (Ext.) covers a spectrum from hallucinatory and intricate strings of sound that are broadcast from the universe of the wacky to found-sound recordings that share spaces with crunching glass, odd-ball vocal samples, and gorgeous guitar. Ozeanische Gef?le, however, comes as a complete surprise. Rooted in the experiments, philosophy, and beliefs of Wilhelm Reich, the term "ozeanische gef?le" translates, roughly, as "oceanic feelings." This term is wonderfully appropriate for the music Waldron has assembled on this recording. The self-titled and 42 minute opener is a consistently hypnotizing blend of bells, wooden drums (I think?), organs, submerged choirs, obscured hums, brushes, crickets, and solar flares. These references and images may seem fanciful, but one listen to the record will reveal that Waldron has somehow recorded life and placed it on a compact disc. Waldron's most exciting and captivating technique is his blending of completely opposite sounds into a whole. No matter how disparate Waldron's sound sources may be (horses trotting on brick roads, a poorly tuned ukulele, wooden boards crashing, rain drops and thunder, there are a ton of sounds I'm sure I'm missing), they sound entirely perfect together. The result is a strangely fascinating organism of living tissue, meterological events, and cosmic birth and death. The music isn't just fascinating though, it isn't just some exercise in academic sound collage. The sounds course and wind into eachother and make a heavenly soft bed out of the air. The combination of bells, buzzes, sonic burps, and resounding echoes is radiant and graceful and never fails to soothe or entertain. The second track, "The Demiurge's Presumption," carries over from the sonic dust of the first 40+ minutes and blows it up to the tune of expanding straws, static electricty, broken springs, and divine presence. There is a constant ring through the track that attempts to obscure the work of a stream of sounds that pulses steadily beneath it. On the whole, the final track is a much more dense affair than "Ozeanische Gef?le," but it is a fitting end to the quiet sanctuary that much of this album is. It fades away into silence as a stringed instrument is plucked randomly and softly out of existence. This silence lasts only a few moments before a strange collage of bird sounds, bubble-like distortion, and phased noises lap over and into themselves. As the music flows throughout this album, as it moves away from its center and produces newer sounds and more diversity, it becomes more and more addicting. Waldron is demonstrating another side of his musical personality that had been hidden from view for too long and the resulting musical tide is mind-blowing. - Lucas Schleicher
Pan?American, "Quiet City"
I always like knowing that Mark Nelson is involved in a new album. Whether he's involved in Labradford, in a collaboration with another musician, or is writing music as Pan?American, Nelson's compositions always come as welcome, quiet, and warm embraces. Quiet City, his fourth Pan?American album, is a much different recording than 2003's The River Made No Sound, but it maintains the calm and pacifying sound that has permeated all of Nelson's projects from the beginning. Alongside rainy pulses and misty keyboard flourishes are the seductive sounds of an upright bass, guitar, trumpet, and flugelhorn. Their presence in Nelson's writing only adds to the spaciousness of the songs; they never make the electronic peace too busy nor do they take away from rattle and wash of the near sub-conscious percussion. The entire record moves together like a creeping cloud, but there are standouts that can't go without mention. The 9-minute engagement that is "Wing" plays like a waterfall easing in slow motion towards an unending abyss. Its harmonious ring of low and subtle keyboards, tribal dub-rhythms, and erratic scratches and pops was intoxicating enough to keep me pressing the back button a few times before I was willing to move to the song. The folk-like "Inside Elevation" bares a fragile guitar that slow-steps in and out of a near-accordian complement and blends into the suprising and pleasing "Skylight." The opening is remiscient of deserts and folk-music to me, but the heart of the song is band-centered and has a certain nobility to its organization and melody. When I say band-centered I mean that there is a definite drummer, guitar, voice, and bass arrangement, but it is accompanied by what sounds like a full brass orchestra and Nelson's consistently supple electronics. Song after song is a relaxing and simple relief from the any and everything that is busy. While I expected this much from Nelson, what caught me off guard was how well-written every one of these songs are. The songs on here aren't just epic forays into estranged sound, they're pieces of melodic silk that breathe and twitch with a human likeness. A casual listen to a song like "Het Volk" will reveal exactly what I'm talking about. The poppy and child-like keyboard sounds grace along like a classical composition while the the flugelhorn plays like some slow jazz on a lamp-lit street corner. The combination is irresistable. This is the way that the electronic and acoustic combination should be done. After a while I wasn't even conscious of the fact that there were different elements being used. The product of their masterful fusing is greater than the parts being fused. - Lucas Schleicher
EINST?ZENDE NEUBAUTEN, "Kalte Sterne"
The two latest Mute releases from the vaults of Einst?zende Neubauten both conveniently fill spaces before and after the series of self-issued remasters as well as they each represent beginnings. Kalte Sterne collects some of the first Neubauten recordings from 1980 through 1992, in Berlin first as a duo of Blixa Bargeld and N.U. Unruh through 1982 where the long running steady quintet was established with F.M. Einheit, Mark Chung, and Alexander Hacke. It's because of this rapid growth spurt that the music is that of a band trying to find their sound. From the beginning, however, it's clear that compromise isn't something the band wanted to do: they weren't going to make music within rigid pop structures nor were they going to make their songs more commercially accessible outside of Germany by singing in English. For the first few tracks from 1980, Neubauten actually sounded like a punk group completely disillusioned with the empty promises of punk: traditional rock instruments like drums, guitar and bass were used to make the noises, but these weren't songs written with the pop template as most 1970s punk actually did. Rhythms pound as Blixa shouts over wailing guitar effects and a pulsing bass on "Fuer den Untergang" and its B-side, "Tan-Ze-Dub," unfortunately mastered from a record. Electronic drills and other unconventional toys and electronics trickle into the mix with each track but at the timethis early in EN's developmental stagesound effects are still being used more for decoration than composition. This is, of course, until FM Einheit joins in 1981. In 1981, with the addition of Hacke on guitar, it's almost as if the band became both more of a rock band AND were able to use their signature metal, drills, and everything else and the kitchen sink as an integral piece of the rhythm backbone. The aggression drives much of the music until the arguable climax of this disc, the epic 9+ minute track with Lydia Lunch, "Thirsty Animal," with a patiently drawn out rhythmless opening of their groundbreaking homebuilt pipe machine. Everything drops out after more than two minutes in for a restrained beat backing Lydia's forceful vocals, mixed low enough to force any listener paying attention to raise the levels, pushing that hypnotic drum pattern to unavoidable levels. Gritty guitars are matched with screeching sound effects, backwards noises, and a brief vocal appearance from Blixa. Unfortunately "Thirsty Animal" and its B-side "Durstiges Tier" are mastered from records but it doesn't make the music any less intense. While this compilation is undoubtedly essential to all EN fans, I would honestly recommend newbies to get some of the more monumental albums first, because I can guarantee Kalte Sterne will eventually make it into the collection. - Jon Whitney
EINST?ZENDE NEUBAUTEN, "Tabula Rasa"
Tabula Rasa, Neubauten's first album of the 1990s, is one of my favorite albums of the decade and Mute's expanded reissue generously comes with a bonus disc of nearly all the tracks released on the Interim and Malediction singles. It's an important point in their career, as, for the first time, the group seriously explored their more quiet, pretty, and introspective side. Even the album cover and lavish booklets suggest that Neubauten's intentions were to move the public perception away from being a noise/rock/ post-industrial outfit to more of an art band. The intentions could also have been to pursue the art of songcraft as intensely as their craft of building instruments themselves. While it opens with the powerful "Die Interimsliebenden" and closes with the cacophonous 15 minute "Headcleaner," nearly everything contained between is a demonstration of a group using an amazing amount of restraint unwitnessed before. "Blume" is a gorgeous lullaby, rich with powerful imagery and the gentleness of a feather. On the original Mute release it's in English with vocals by Anita Lane, but on this reissue, the French version appears with vocals by Diana Orloff. Despite the swap, the mood isn't different, but it is a weird thing to hear after being used to the other version being there for so long. Blixa's voice is tame here and elsewhere on the creeping buzzing "12304 (te Nacht)," and moderately paced "Sie," and quietly whispered on the gorgeous orchestral "W?te." After years of mastering the amplification and recording of springs, taps, and other quiet noises, it seems appropriate to utilize some of these techniques on an almost inaudibly quiet voice. While it ushered in new movements to Neubauten's music, the vigor wasn't completely left behind, as the album ends on the four movement mini symphony of noise, "Headcleaner," opening like a horror movie, evil and foreboding, and eventually giving in to the relentless bashing and pounding of metallic and electronic percussion under the now signature screeches from Blixa. The bonus disc opens with a shortened English version of "Die Interimsliebenden," condensed with more harmonic guitars and synth layers, perhaps created with the goals of a hit single in mind, but it simply doesn't feel right in English, and with the additional instruments, the gripping pulse is somewhat reduced. "Salamandrina," which has become a popular live track, is a wonderful singalong, and has always confused me why it didn't appear on the album in the first place. "3 Thoughts" is an English reconstruction of "Sie," and the English and Japanese versions of "Blume" appear, while the disc ends with the fast-paced (but somewhat forgettable) upbeat singalong "Ubique Media Daemon." The important meat remains the first disc and listening now, 11 years after its original release, it has stood every test of time, sounding completely undated and equally as challenging as it was on its release. - Jon Whitney
Jesse Malin, "The Heat"
On this second album from the former D Generation frontman he proves that his debut was not a fluke, and even betters it wherever possible. Maybe it's the fact that he produced it himself, or maybe because he distanced himself from Ryan Adams on this release more, but Malin's songs have more power, more flavor, and definitely more presence than before. This may also be attributed to the stellar guests that contribute, from Eli Janney of Girls Against Boys to former Replacements and Guns N' Roses bassist Tommy Stinson. Where his last record concentrated on self-destruction, this record seems to center more on self-healing through sympathy. Malin reaches out to himself and to others on this record with equal strength, much in a way of identification, but also as a cry for help so that he doesn't go down alone. Anchoring it all is a sometimes plaintive, sometimes gale wind force of country-fed rock, with Malin's unique voice front and center. He's always been adept at telling stories, and this record is no different, with tales of beauties and delinquents alike, successful or not. There are concerns about the way our country is going intermingled with the story of the girl who left a mark, and there's never a jarring moment. Malin does rely a bit too much on couplets in his songs, and it does annoy after a while, but the quick rhymes are all part of his appeal. Where Springsteen was all about songs for and chronicling the working man, Malin's are for and about the freaks and castaways, the late night lounge lizards and the men who dress up in their mother's clothes. The beautiful thing is that there is no judgment in his words: he simply presents things as they are, and with a quasi-endearment which embraces while it informs. Already more successful solo than he ever was in a band, Malin is proving to be one of the new rock and roll poets, whether he likes it or not. The Heat is on, all the time, and the streets are ripe with more to tell. - Rob Devlin
Cerveris, "Dog Eared"
It's rather hard to believe that a Tony-winning actor can record an album of indie rock this affecting and heartfelt, but that's exactly what Michael Cerveris manages. A featured actor in several successful musicals, including Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Assassins, for which he got the Tony, Cerveris is probably more known for that vocation, and less known as the lead singer of the band Retriever. Along the way in his career, he has also performed with Pete Townshend and Bob Mould on albums and tours. All of these experiences inform his debut solo album, a global-jaunt recording project with all the musician friends he's made over the years. And where his vocal stylings onstage are more presentational, on these songs he sings from the heart more than from the lungs and diaphragm. It's almost typical troubadour stylings at first: let the music and the imagery do the talking, but understate the vocals. Surprising, given Cerveris' other job, and the soaring notes he presents there. Then, "SPCA" hits, and everything changes. There's bombast, there's agression, and there's projection of a pure emotional state. The song is a moment that defines the record, even though there's nothing else like it to be found. While some might call this a "break-up" record, and "SPCA" certainly supports it as do other songs the vinettes here have a more general view on love, as well as feelings on other subjects. Sometimes it's outside looking in, sometimes it's after the fact looking back, sometimes it's before the first kiss; and sometimes the imagery is too heavy-handed, too saccharine to handle. When Cerveris hits on all levels, though, it might be necessary to stand back. One part that confuses me: there are actually twelve tracks on the CD, and they are all listed in the liner notes, though the back of the CD only lists ten. These are not "hidden tracks" in the typical sense, then, and the music in both don't actually seem to fit with the rest of the record, though "Eleven" is one of the best tracks on it. Why Cerveris wanted to keep these somewhat a mystery is part of the puzzle, I guess, and the next piece could be the one that brings it all into focus. - Rob Devlin
James Orr Complex, "Chori's Bundle"
Ba Da Bing
Signed to Mogwai's Rock Action Records overseas, this unique project from Chris Mack finally sees the shelves of the US, where listeners may not be guite prepared for this brand of Scottish nigh-bluegrass. Nevertheless, Mack has crafted an easy to listen to thirteen tracks, about half instrumental, that approach a burgeoning awakening, and a new style along with it. It would be absolutely gorgeous if more Scottish bands latched on to this style and went for it, starting a new craze. So far Scotland has only had very limited genres to offer to the rest of the world: bagpipes, bland pop music, blistering instrumental rock, or the twee-ness of Belle and Sebastian. There have been others, but these are the only ones I can think of that actually went anywhere. Personally, I think indie Scottish twang could take off rather quickly with James Orr Complex as a leader. Here is their platform: Chris Mack is an amazing guitar player, like Django Reinhardt good, and people would gather from miles around just to see his pickin' and grinnin' (reports of him actually grinnin' could not be confirmed at press time it is Scotland after all). Second, the songs are fairly minimalist in their approach, and extremely catchy. "Mouthpiece" is a brilliant song, about drinking and needing someone else to talk for you, and it makes anyone want to tap their toes. Lastly, the songs contain lyrics that would go down with any bluegrass or country fan: the pursuits of the downtrodden. There is some positivity, but for the most part the songs outline a general force out to get the little man, with titles like "Happy Adversary" and "Fade Grey to Fade Blue." In the event that it doesn't take off, no matter. Just leave it to the James Orr Complex and let it ride, because these guys have got it all. - Rob Devlin
THE REVEREND LESTER KNOX OF TIFTON, GEORGIA, "PUT YOUR FACE IN GWOD: THE 366th REVIVAL"
The Smack Shire
The most recent evidence of the enduring peculiarity of the human condition comes in the form of this collection of on-air sermons by the self-proclaimed "Reverend" Lester Knox of Tifton, Georgia. Lester Knox is a radio personality of questionable religious pedigree, but with enough hootin' n' hollerin' holy-ghost ferocity to more than compensate for his lack of Biblical acumen. Knox was something of an eccentric who felt his message was important enough to buy airtime, out of pocket, every week for more than 50 years to broadcast his demented God-type message to Southern Georgia, despite his rather noticeable speech impediment. Recorded straight off the airwaves between the years of 1982 and 1992 by cult rocker Tom Smith (of To Live and Shave in LA), Put Your Face in Gwod offers 71 minutes of the more unhinged moments of Knox's broadcasts. The recording quality varies from endearingly low-fi to annoyingly shitty, but Lester Knox still comes through loud and clear, delivering his hellfire-and-brimstone message of sweaty-toothed allegiance to the spirit in the sky. Knox is frequently joined in the studio by a revolving cast of blithering hayseeds, powhitetrash and hill people, many of whom are invited to warble a gospel number or two, and their performances give new meaning to the term neo-primitive. Astute listeners of The Incredible String Band will recognize "The World Is Not My Home" as the coda to "Ducks on a Pond." Many of these gospel tunes are in the classic repertoire of devotional folk hymns, as documented in Harry Smith's Anthology of Folk Music, but you're never heard them like this. Unorthodox guitar tunings and hilariously off-key vocals contribute to the real-people/outsider feel of this material. But Knox himself is the main attraction, whooping wildly and feverishly whipping up religious fervor: "Amen, I FEEL the power of GOD! Somebody is in this radio station besides us! Do you HEAR me out there in radioland?" A chorus of measured amens from the in-studio flock can be heard throughout the disc. Despite this apparent support, at times, Knox seems to be suffering from severe bipolar mood swings; howling and speaking in tongues one minute, quietly crying and bemoaning his own frustrated existence the next. One particularly fragile segment has Knox desperately yelling vain threats of divine retribution to whatever imp is making the lights go on and off in the studio during his broadcast: "Somebody in here is a-messin' with this light, goin' off and on...You mess with a man of God, and God'll knock you down! Do you hear me, women and men?" Put Your Face in Gwod is everything I could possibly want from an outsider document; simultaneously funny and sad, bizarre and charming, completely unhinged yet utterly human. - Jonathan Dean
We know that our music picks may be somewhat challenging to find, which is why we have a community section which can be used to obtain nearly everything available on this site.