Processing Other Perspectives
AMATEUR RADIO OPERATOR
Sirens of Titan
[Aro Music, www.aromusic.com]
[Compost Records, www.compost-rec.com]
THE NO-NECK BLUES BAND
Nine for Victor
[Les Disques Victo, www.victo.qc.ca]
Blood on Satan's Claw - Original Movie Soundtrack
[Trunk Records, www.trunkrecords.com]
The Edge of Heaven Soundtrack
[Essay Recordings, www.essayrecordings.com]
[Glacial Movements, www.glacialmovements.com]
Salt of the Sun
Simple Truths and Pleasures
[Okka Disk, www.okkadisk.com]
STEVEN R. SMITH
[Digitalis Industries, www.digitalisindustries.com]
[Off / Stilll, www.stilll.org]
From the Ground Up
[Static Caravan, www.staticcaravan.org]
[DC Recordings, www.dcrecordings.com]
[Type Records, www.typereords.com]
The Antisocial Club
Hum Hum Hum
[Last Visible Dog Records, www.lastvisibledog.com]
The Welcome Kinetic
[Loose Thread, www.loosethread.com]
[Soft Abuse, www.softabuse.com]
[Helmet Room Recordings, www.helmetroom.com]
[Other Electricities, www.other-electricities.com]
Other than the fact most of these album arrived with a week or two of each other, I'm not sure there's very much any of these have in common that could tie them in a unified fashion.
Vienna-based Szely arrives with album number two. "Processing Other Perspectives" has Szely asking some of his musical friends to provide parts to be re-processed at a later time. The whole was put into the resulting album. Guitarist Martin Siewert contributes a ringing, blues guitar that is heard throughout, while percussionist Gilbert Medwed gives off a walloping wall of sound. Add to this Nina Erber's luscious voice on one track, along with Florian Schmeiser's floating keyboard work, Ulrich Troyer's electronic machinations, and countless other bits and pieces and you've got yourself a nearly groove-oriented, forward motion of music that sits in a land of electronica, field recordings, blues and rock. Weird concoction, I know, but it works on every level.
Washington natives Amateur Radio Operator stand in a strange swampland. While they're attempting to play rock, they're also pouring in elements of blues, and even remnants of hardcore. Throw in a cover of Minor Threat's "Screaming at a Wall" [which incidentally is done with a saddest voice and smells of resignation] and you've got yourself a band on a quest to bigger and better things. Vocals/guitar player Mark Johnson possesses a set of weary, experienced and even rough set of vocal chords, while Kevin Suggs adds swampy connotations on his pedal steel guitar. Jenna Conrad's cello adds further colour to a landscape that is at times a bit too bleak for its own good. Serious and pensive music that has to be taken as a whole of life's experiences. Barrenly rich and rewarding with every listen.
Following a 12" single of "Beats Like Birds", German outfit Marbert Rocel arrive with their debut full length "Speed Emotions". Smooth pop at its finest, the trio features the finely tuned vocals of Antje Spunk Seifarth. Marcel Aue sits at the mixing table, DJs and produces, while Robert Panthera Krause provides artwork and throws in productions and DJ services at no extra cost. Like a cross between Beanfield's earlier work and early Detroit techno, the band moves smoothly crossing genres at will. As they fly between techno, jungle and electro-pop, the most memorable tracks are those that feature vocals. Sticking like honey on toast, "Speed Emotions" is a stellar cast of tunes wrapped up and ready to go.
Given over to a total-abandonment mentality, No-Neck Blues Band is no stranger to psychedelic-folk-freak-out sessions. One example of their styling was seen at 2005's FIMAV where they entertained the crowd for well over an hour. "Nine for Victor" is a version of that concert, albeit edited down to easy-to-swallow pieces. In nine variations, the band flies through guitar mayhems, keyboard soliloquies, bass machinations and percussive freak-outs. On "Julius: Tainted by Ore", male and female voices sound as if they're stuck through a satanic processor and chants invoke spirits from a nether world. Stand-out track is the extended "Brain Soaked Hide". Complete with freakish chanting, Loop guitar riffs, the piece moves in a circular motion. Without a beginning or an end, it shows the finest part of No-Neck Blues Band, which is freedom and complete disregard for conventions.
Without a doubt, "Blood on Satan's Claw" [or "Satan's Skin" as it's known in the US] is a horror classic. Featuring the devil, fair amounts of nudity and ritualism galore, it went off in the history books as the film people talked about, though rarely saw. For decades, it was known as an underground classic. Composer Marc Wilkinson drew up an elaborate score around the movie's main passages. Evoking orchestral grandeur, yet retaining spooky atmosphere, the score goes on a journey to induce the listener to follow the storyline along. Without the film, the score is even better. No visuals, means you have to train your ear and imagine, imagine and again, imagine the story for yourself. With the use of cimbalom, and the Ondes Martenot [an important electronic instrument at the time], the music travels through peaks and valleys. It's calm, yet with an eerie underlying theme that keeps popping in. Like an old radio play, the music sucks the listener in and swallows them whole.
Fatih Akin's film "The Edge of Heaven" is accompanied by a soundtrack that is rich in cultural travels. Cross-cultural explorer Shantel looks after the programming on the album's twenty two tracks. From Shantel vs. Kazim Koyuncu's mellow "Ben Seni In Dub", his more reflective endeavour "Blacksea Trip", onto the joyous "Kasap Havasi", the album is a mix of eastern and western influences coming together. Much great Turkish sounds to be sourced out in just about every one of the pieces. Each one is better than the next and the whole provides a good overview of what happens when physical borders are erased. A gem of a record. Though I've not seen the film yet, I'm waiting with baited breath for its theatrical release.
Italian sound artist Alessandro Tedeschi goes under the moniker of Netherworld. He also runs the Glacial Movements imprint that has so far released three ambient isolationist albums. "M?rketid" is a Norwegian word used to describe a bleak time of the year, when the Arctic winter cold is particularly severe and when the sun doesn't rise above the horizon. It's cold, dark and desolate, which could very well describe Netherworld's album of the same name. Music on the album was created with tiny fragments of sounds that were initially found in the Arctic. Netherworld then sampled these and made them into new sounds altogether. Resulting mix is an ultra-quiet concoction of seclusion and cold. Don't expect anything particularly warm in this music as the sounds are meant to keep the listener in a state of deep freeze. The ebbs and flows are minimal and the movement is next to nil. Done with conviction and extra patience, "M?rketid" is a lonely beast that hibernates all year round.
Jumping into the drone mode, Denmark's Family Underground put out a very solid release with "Salt of the Sun". Divided up into three twenty minute tracks, the band goes from solid drone, to noisy drone, to soothing drone and finally ending up at excruciating high-gloss, past-11-on-the-dial drone. Equal amounts of guitars, deep, bass-full lines and persistently satisfying textural motifs are put out on display. Best thing is these pieces could spread on for hours and the scene would only get better and richer. Hellish soundtrack to a trip-inducing head-game or a cavernous oratorio for a funeral. Guaranteed to satisfy both fans of drone as well as noise.
It's strange to see Michael Holland's record see the light of day on a German label that mostly puts out dub and reggae. "Simple Truths and Pleasures" is as far from those genres as night is from day. Perhaps the one common factor is that as much as dub and reggae require great songwriting to keep things interesting, similar scenario is heard in Holland's music. With John Garris's lively dobro, mandolin and fiddle playing, Carl Jones' masterful use of the fiddle and mandolin, Holland's music comes to life. Add to this, Robert Mitchener's relaxed bass playing and Holland's intensely satisfying blues-dripping guitar lines, and you've got yourself a real bluegrass record begging for attention. Holland's vocals are a treat too. Though drenched in tradition, his voice exudes an easy though never a flowery feeling. Sure, there are a few sad and even reflective numbers, but for the most past, this is music that is full of joy. "Simple Truths and Pleasures" is just that - simple, truthful and always enjoyable.
Founded as a trio in the spring of 2005, The Engines began as collaboration between three Chicago improvised music power-houses - saxophonist Dave Rempis, bassist Nate McBride and drummer Tim Daisy. A year later, trombonist Jeb Bishop was a guest at one of their concerts. Musical gel was so tight, he became the fourth member. The quartet's self-titled CD is quite a democratic effort. Each of the four members gathers two track credits. Each one is featured in equal amounts throughout the program. Too many stand-outs to point out but some of my favourites include the conflicting relationship between sax-man Rempis and Bishop on trombone. One attacks the other constantly and when the two come in union, it's a rare treat. McBride is especially forceful as his electric bass wallop takes things over the top on a number of occasions. Once he switches over to acoustic bass, the sound becomes more detail-oriented and reflective. Daisy's percussive machinations are loose and unobtrusive. An excellent release - one that introduces a new powerhouse ensemble with a loud bang.
Why was Steven R. Smith's "Owl" recorded in mono? Was it to maintain a dreadful, dry feel? Was it to highlight Smith's guitar mastery that is concrete and blaringly human? What I get from this record is a guttural feel. It's stomach-churning but not to the extremes. You're faced with Smith utter nakedness and what he's got on offer is his soul. When he starts to intonate in a meditative tone, he's reminiscent of Richard Youngs barren vocals. His guitar picking is a bit more reminiscent to that of Loren Connors, in that his heart is spewing out onto the strings of his instrument. This is gut wrenching music for those with ears perked in the right direction. Sit and listen. "Owl" may be demanding but it's worth every single minute of your time.
It's been a while since I've heard trumpeter Toshinori Kondo. Last time was a few years back when he played the role of a sideman in Peter Brotzmann's wall-crunching Die Like a Dog project. "Silent Melodies" gives us an opportunity to hear him play in a different setting altogether. This is Kondo going solo. All that is used here is his electric trumpet and some delay pedals. No overdubs were used in this recording. Music is clean and crisp. Kondo's trumpet rarely sounded this relaxed. With an awesome display of agility and flexible approach to his horn, he's firmly treading on spiritual ground. Most of these pieces sound like prayers to a higher being. It's as if he's calling out to the forces below and above to hear him out. Never does he scream. These melodies are after all "silent" in the fact that he's purposefully hushing himself. It's in Kondo's persistence in exploring the silence that his greatest strength and potential lies.
You wouldn't think Stefan Betke would produce a better album than "Steingarten", but here it is. Originally pressed as a series of four coloured 12", "Steingarten Remixes" CD re-works Pole's already solid album into something other-worldly. Each of the tracks attacks Betke's concept from a slightly different angle. While Shackleton works on a spacey vibe on "Achterbahn", The Mole's "Pferd [Lost in the Woods remix]" works against a solid bass-line and break-beat concoction. The most delectably dubby mix award goes out to Gudrun Gut and the "Madchen [ABC Mix]". With its electrifying echo-chamber rave, and the ultra-hyper percussion, it goes straight for the gut. If anything, this re-mix project is all the more solid as a result of the fine bunch of producers involved.
Shady Bard is a British five-piece that fits perfectly in with the folk music revival, though there's a lot more to them than just that. Their debut "From the Ground Up" is heavy on simple melodies, sing-along choruses and deceiving appearances. "You painted all the trees / didn't know that they would die", sings Lawrence Becko in a desperate voice, while Jasmin Hollingum attempts to prop him up. Dire song about climate gone haywire done up in a punk style. Though their music is instantly recognizable and the listener tends to fall in love with it in an instant, a dire aspect boils underneath. These five wear their social conscious politics right on their sleeves, which means you either subscribe to their way or you're left to enjoy the music alone, on its own terms. Equal amounts of folk music, rock and DIY esthetics fuels the fires of Shady Bard. May these never burn out.
Following a long hiatus, Kel McKeown returns to the fold as Kelpe. On "Ex-Aquarium" he's tackling the world of electronica that is heavily infused with instrumentation - guitars, drums and bass. The strangely warped "Whirlwound" gets things off to a promising start. Its warbled rhythmic pattern is quite intense. "Pinch and Flare" stops off at a reflective space that is neither a ballad, nor is it pure aural experimentation, while with its constantly evolving backing pattern, "Yippee Space Ghost" is simply vibe-alicious. McKeown's flirtatious progressions on "Cut It Upwards" are commendable. All over the map and dancing wildly in my head, "Ex-Aquarium" is a rare gem in a pile of dull stones.
Soundtrack music can either be moving or lifeless. Luckily, French composer Sylvain Chauveau's work belongs in the first category. His latest opus "Nuage" consists of two soundtrack scores - both of which are Sebastien Betbeder's films - "Nuage" and "Les Mains d'Andrea". His music is pensive and much of the time pays tribute to the art of pure stillness. Delicate hints of viola, violin, piano, with Chauveau playing electric guitar, the sounds are pristine but very precise. Fact is, all of the pieces are quite brief in length. This only means the composer has to be agile enough to cram all the ideas into a short physical space. The melancholic aspect prevails throughout entire album, while a sense of unrushed motion is heard all around. Rarely do you hear minimal work that has such great resounding effect. Bravo!
I've never closely followed keyboardist Alan Pasqua's musical career. Other than his work with Tony Williams, I largely kept a distance to his work. Surprising then that his "The Antisocial Club" has been such a great personal revelation. His work on the Rhodes is truly mesmerizing. Add to this some fine players - trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, saxophonist Jeff Ellwood, bassist Jimmy Haslip and percussionists Scott Amendola and Alex Acuna - and the music sparkles with a definite vibe. Did I forget to mention guitarist Nels Cline? In fact, I'll credit Cline for some of the album's brightest moments. His continuing fine axe work [especially when he's rallying up against the horn section and the leader's fat keyboard grooves] makes him a stand out. Pasqua's key tapping is truly soulful and moves the other six players into some rhythmically solid territories. Sure, some of this music reminds me of what Miles Davis was doing around the time of "In A Silent Way", but so what? Sometimes to get a grasp on the future, it's good to look back as well.
Loose collection of Finnish musicians makes up Vapaa. From out of nowhere, these four musicians are capable of extolling a loose, drone-inducing sound that is full of psychedelic flavours and acid head-trips. Each track leads the listener onto a journey of self-discovery. "Varjoista" is centered on a repetitive guitar groove that locks the ear firmly into place. As percussion gets heavier and heavier still, the drifting guitars stay loosely in place. "Naky Alas" is centered around a flute and guitar-heavy drone that is both massively tribal as it is reassuringly earthly. Visions of Uton and Keijo come to mind, as the band explores their surrounding space in a very natural manner. "Hum Hum Hum" is anything but hum-drum. It's a head-trip worth taking in generous doses.
I've no idea what to make of Morning Recordings? I suppose the closest paradigm in which to describe them in would be pop music massively smothered in jazz and electronic syrup. Their second effort "The Welcome Kinetic" sees three vocalists trade off duties - the ultra-soft Edith Frost and Venessa Gonzales and more sturdy vocals from Barry Phipps. The band's sweeping musical savvy and their persistence to work out the tiniest details in their sound is what impresses me most. Chris Erin's trumpet shouts are controlled and kept as means to colour the larger canvass, while Pramod Tummala's huge collection of instruments [from guitars, vibes, organs, shakers, musical saw and field recordings] is what draws the listener back to the band's musical fold. In a sense, this is orchestral pop music that is soft, hushed and even underplayed. Pleasing in every sense, "The Welcome Kinetic" will hopefully draw you in as much as it did me.
I adore bands that print lyrics inside album gatefolds. What's more, I also love outfits that sound like Belle and Sebastian or the long forgotten Young Marble Giants [Alison Statton was actually member of YMG]. Coming straight out of Cambridge, Pants Yell! is a trio of bassist Sterling Bryant, vocalist/guitarist Andrew Churchman and percussionist Casey Keenan. What they do best is serve up short glimpses into everyday life. Little ditties about colours, rejects, personal failure, growing up, and favourite places are included. Churchman's voice is simple and really nothing to write home about. All the while, Marcie Ellis and Camille McGregor guest on back-up vocals, along with Greg Kelley who provides some fitting trumpet blasts and Dave Gross who fills in few spaces with saxophone wonder. Joyous in that ultra-giddy way and melancholic all the same, Pants Yell!'s sound is mesmerizing and addictive. This is music that we all should've been listening to in the 80's, while it looks back farther, to mid 60's. Its frenzied pop-rock mentality and ultra-hyper honesty is refreshing in this day and age of stale consumerism and music gluttony. Here are two thumbs up to "Alison Statton", wherever she may be.
Moving from the US to our friends in Sweden, we find quartet who go by the name of Sambassadeur. Simple pop melodies, infused with the sweetest female vocals and a folk sensibility is what is at the core of this band. You may mistake Anna Persson's voice for one of the women in Lush, though that's quite alright. It's tender and luscious. It soothes and rocks. All the while, the band spews out an orchestral concoction of pop-rock music that harkens back to distant past. Pianist Per Larsoon and saxophonist Fredrik Eriksson add some bright colours to the band's repertoire. From the lyrical perspective, the band remains fairly constant - melancholy themes seem to persist. Their take on Brian Wilson's "Fallin' in Love" is done up in a tender and haunting way. Dinner music or ideal music for a summer picnic, "Migration" is a winner all around.
As far as unusual instrumentation goes, Bela Karoli have it all mapped out. Along with Carrie Beeder on violin and cello, the trio includes Brigid McAuliffe on vocals and accordion and Julie Davis on vocals, bass, glockenspiel and "soft instruments". As a unit, they make music that is sultry, persuasive, acoustic and hushed with an electronic afterglow. These women are serious about their craft. Standards such as "Summertime", "Ol' Man River" and literary stabs at T.S. Eliot's "Prelude 2" and Emily Dickson's "Some Things That Fly There Be" are interpreted in very respectful manner. Davis' vocals are those of someone who is down, though her crispy chords are layered with a fine sheet of life experience. There's much humility in the band as the leader's bass guides the way, while the string instruments provide a lush soundscape that is further accentuated by McAuliffe's accordion, which sounds sad and depraved. The subtle electronic treatments add just the right amount of shade to the proceedings, which make the music a tad more lively. "Furnished Rooms" is very serious listening intended for those who enjoy a more reflective set of tunes.
Third release for Baja [Kerstin Griesshaber] "Wolfhour" sees him in a relaxed mode. Electronic barrage is still evident from beginning to end of this release, but more acoustic elements make it into the mix. Additional percussion, electric and acoustic guitars courtesy of Daniel Vujanic and wind instruments that are present throughout, played by Heiner Stilz make the sound more fuller, more filling in nature. Occasional vocals don't distract from the music per se, but the best numbers are instrumentals [which happens to be an overwhelming majority]. Flow of the sounds is nicely arranged and for the most part, the mood is tranquil and superfluous. Neo-ambient, folk-electronic slabs for the mind and soul, "Wolfhour" comes out as a clear winner in giving the listener challenging music in an easy-to-digest format that will hopefully appeal to larger masses.
+ Murmur - Undertone
+ AGF - Words Are Missing
+ Martinez - A Chemical Imbalance
+ T.Duby - Friends - Lost Soundtrack
+ Sascha Funke - Mango
+ Great Carnival Stuff
+ Makoto Kawabata - Osaka Loop Line
+ Acid Mothers Temple&The Pink Ladies Blues - The Soul of a Mountain Wolf
+ Sun City Girls - Jacks Creek / Sun City Girls - Piasa... Devourer of Men
+ Musica Dispersa - Musica Dispersa
+ MV&EE with the Golden Road - Gettin' Gone
+ Henry Flynt - Ascent to the Sun
+ Faust/NWW - Disconnected
- - - - - - - - -
+ VARIOUS ARTISTS - Extract - Portraits of Soundartists
+ STEVE LEHMAN QUINTET - On Meeting / STEVE LEHMAN QUARTET - Manifold
+ RICHARD LERMAN - Music of Richard Lerman 1964-1987
>> SZELY - Processing Other Perspectives / AMATEUR RADIO OPERATOR - Sirens of Titan / MARBERT ROCEL - Speed Emotions / THE NO-NECK BLUES BAND - Nine for Victor / MARC WILKINSON - Blood on Satan's Claw - Original Movie Soundtrack / VARIOUS ARTISTS - The Edge of Heaven Soundtrack / NETHERWORLD - Morketid / FAMILY UNDERGROUND - Salt of the Sun / MICHAEL HOLLAND - Simple Truths and Pleasures / THE ENGINES - The Engines / STEVEN R. SMITH - Owl / TOSHINORI KONDO - Silent Melodies / POLE - Steingarten Remixes / SHADY BARD - From the Ground Up / KELPE - Ex-Aquarium / SYLVAIN CHAUVEAU - Nuage / ALAN PASQUA - The Antisocial Club / VAPAA - Hum Hum Hum / MORNING RECORDINGS - The Welcome Kinetic / PANTS YELL! - Alison Statton / SAMBASSADEUR - Migration / BELA KAROLI - Furnished Rooms / BAJA - Wolfhour
+ BIOTA - Half a True Day
+ NELSON FOLTZ / TOM LYNN - Still Life - Volume Two / Still Life - Volume Three
+ IDRIS ACKAMOOR - Music of Idris Ackamoor 1971-2004
- - - - - - - - -
WYWIADY / RELACJE
+ TOP 7 - 2007
+ Nie jesteśmy prorokami - Rozmowa z Pablopavo [Vavamuffin]